Pen For Hire

Here is my second story for the 2020 12 stories in 12 months challenge. The prompt was “For Hire” and the word count was 1,000. This one was a bit of a struggle for me. My January story was about an unemployed guy, and, even though that’s what the prompt prompted for me, I didn’t want to go that route again. Instead I went for a little bit of silliness. I hope the humor comes through.

“I need a fixer.”

“Why don’t you just use Tony? He never lets you down.”

“I know, but this is different. I don’t want Tony, or anyone in the family, to know about this.”

“We’re all discreet.”

“Sure you are. It’s not a matter of trust. This isn’t family business. And don’t ask me what it is. I won’t tell you.”

“I’d never.”

“Good. So, how do I find a fixer from outside the family?”

“I dunno. Did you try the internet?”

“I want to keep the cops out of this, too.”

“That’s what the dark web is for.”

“Show me.”

He stood up and let his nephew have the seat in front of the computer. A few keystrokes later and they were looking at a list of classified ads. Hitman. Enforcer. Executioner. Hitman. Hitman.

“Jeez, it looks like something out of a bad Mafia movie. You’re sure this won’t get me arrested.”

“I’m sure.”

“Leave me, then.”

His nephew left the room and he sat back down at the computer. He scrolled through the listings. How many hitmen does one city need? Then he saw one that said, “Pen for hire.” He chuckled. Like a pen would do him any good.

He kept scrolling. They all looked alike. The only one that was different was that pen one. He went back up and clicked on the pen for hire:

The pen is mightier than any sword, gun, or tank. I can fix any problem, solve any conundrum, or rehabilitate any reputation. And unlike all the other listings on this site, I can do it legally. Just tell me your target, give a few days for some research, and BAM! problem solved.

This couldn’t be real, could it? He clicked the link. It took him to a standard looking website called Pen For Hire. It had a picture of a quill in a bottle of ink at the top and under that was home, about, contact us, and frequently asked questions. He clicked on frequent asked questions. The first question was, “How can what you do be legal?” He thought, Good question, and clicked on it:

My methods do not harm anyone physically. While it is possible that I hurt their reputation or pride, I only write what is true. So, I don’t run afoul of any slander or libel laws.

Fair enough, but how effective can it be? He clicked the back arrow. The third frequently asked question was, “Is this method effective?” He clicked it:

Unfortunately, due to the nature of this work, I cannot provide testimonials. However, my clients are always satisfied. People’s reputation and relationships mean more to them than their physical bodies. By manipulating them, I get the desired outcomes.

He clicked the back arrow again and scrolled through the list of frequently asked questions. He came across one that asked, “What if the target is too good?” He clicked it:

I’ll answer your question with a question, can someone be too good? But I take your meaning. What if the intended target has not said or done anything that can be used to damage their reputation or relationships? First of all, it is rare to find someone that good. Most people have skeletons. However, if the target does not, I will not lie or fabricate stories. In other words, I will not take the job. You will get a full refund and you should reevaluate your grudge against the target.

Who is this guy to tell me to reevaluate anything? He clicked the back arrow and scrolled back to the top of the frequently asked questions. He only had two more questions. They must be here somewhere. He found the first, “What, exactly, do you do?” He clicked it:

Every case is different, so I don’t have a single method. Generally, I run negative publicity about the target. If you want a leader removed from power, I undermine the confidence in her leadership abilities. If you want revenge on the target, I will humiliate him for you. There is a lot of flexibility. I will tailor each job to fit your needs.

He clicked the back arrow and started scrolling again. He got to the very bottom of the list before he saw it, “Why should I choose an ethical hit?” This was the real question. He clicked it:

There are several reasons for choosing an ethical hit. First, it is at least equally effective and more ethical than a traditional hit. If you have two options that have the same results, you should always choose the more ethical option. Second, because it is legal, you won’t take any heat from the fuzz as a result of the hit. Third, it is harder to trace back to you. In a traditional hit, there are weapons and fingerprints and DNA and a money trail, all of which can be used by your enemies to trace it back to you. That creates an unending cycle of retaliation. Using the truth as a weapon means that the target can only blame themselves. If a marriage falls apart over an affair, the target should not have had the affair or should have hidden it more carefully. You cannot be blamed for that. Unlike a traditional hit, an ethical hit can be the final move in a battle.

Definitely intriguing. He reread this answer a few times. Could he avoid retaliation? And the cops? That would be nice. How much does it cost? He clicked on the “contact us” link:

No job is too big or too small, but since every job is different, we will have to negotiate payment. Submit the information about your target and a contact number to begin.

He didn’t like the idea of leaving a number, but he could use one of the burner phones. It was tempting. After a moment, he clicked the back arrow until he was on the classified page again. He clicked a hitman. I guess I’m just old fashioned.

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