As a thinker, Goupil knew the danger of over-thinking. There are times to shut the mind off and float downstream on the river of life. Having done that, the world shifts on its axis, Goupil seeing a planet of prisoners dying to be free, knowing they must be free to survive. Put all calculations aside, time to do the Human Thing.
Goupil reached out to Parker, an old contact, despite prudent caution - he had to. Parker and Tokyo Tim were only two contacts he trusted - as far as you can trust a professional killer anyway. The news was bad.
"Tokyo Tim is dead? Can't be! He was a fucking fanatic, smoothest professional I ever came across. He was way more into this than I ever was. Mon Dieu!"
"He had a shot ricochet and kill a kid. Lost his edge after that." Parker - the only name he ever used - was still active in the game, an obvious lifer. His squat demeanor and bad haircut belied a man of extreme determination. In his mind it was hot tar roofing or killing. And since one was certain death it made any consequences for the other entirely acceptable.
"But you knew his motto: 'First order of business is survival'. Shit, I even use that myself when I get into tight spots. That time I got arrested by the cops, took everything I had not to panic. I thought of Tokyo and what he would do and I bluffed my way through with broken English and a French accent until I got free. Fuck, what does it mean when a guy like that gets it?"
"Guilt. He closed his eyes, lost his judgement, became gullible. Self-punishment never helps. He said to me the only way to take that sin out of the world was to take himself out. But life balances the books all on its own - every damn time." Parker blew smoke through his cool gray eyes, never showing his cards to anyone. Goupil wondered what that man used for a release - or if he had a release. Dangerous game you're playing there, boy.
Then Goupil started to chuckle until it broke out into a full blown laugh.
"What? What's so funny?" Parker had been surprised and shocked by Goupil's initial email reaching out to him. Word was out and now the hottest mark in the country wants to meet up? Doesn't make any sense.
"I was just thinking, if this was a movie, first we'd have this intimate conversation like we are now then Boom! you pop me the minute I walk out the door! I feel like I'm stuck in a stupid movie script all the time!"
"Ah! You're crazy, you know that?"
"You seen that movie, 'Grosse Pointe Blank'? Saw it first time 'bout six months ago and watched it maybe 25 times since. There's something I can't put my finger on that gives me hope."
"Never seen it." Parker was not much into pop culture entertainment, being a dry sort of fellow.
"I want to drive away with Minnie Driver and feel the sun on my face! I want a Shockabuku!"
"Man, you really are nuts!" bristled Parker as he always did at the mention of love. This did not go unnoticed by Goupil. "All I know is the spooks want you deader than dead. You got so far up their ass they got blood in their eyes. They can taste it, man. Don't trust anybody. What did you do, anyway?"
So I was right. Goddam, really can't trust anyone! Not that I blame him. No telling what kind of pressure the Feds put on him. Love and relationships always make Parker blow his cool. "Blood in their eyes". And just how would you know that, mi amigo? Nice try changing direction at the end.
"It's not what I did, it's what I know."
"And what exactly’s that?"
What? You're wired too? Goupil bent down to whisper in his ear. "That this whole goddam world is a fucking fraud right down to the bone."
"Like that's news!"
Goupil stood up from the table, pushing out his chair. "Let's just say I saw a UFO. Whether I talk about it or not, either way I'm fucked. Sort of like the pain after a killing."
Suddenly, Parker didn't want to know any more lest he too become radioactive. Despite himself, he did the Human Thing too, acknowledging Goupil's predicament with a silent nod, letting go. Goupil walked out the door towards a nearby taxi stand. Parker's cell rang violently.
"What?...Fuck you, he was on to me. Can't you read between the lines?...You don't know this guy. He gets into your head, makes you drop your guard. Of course it looked easy, that's exactly when he wants you to strike!...Then go kill him yourself you doucher pricks...Come get me if you don't like it. I'm not running away. You heard him, quoting some stupid movie! He's cracked! This is the guy you're afraid of?...Whatever, you still got your extraction team. Don't ever contact me again. I don't like feeling dirty."
One piece of intel unknown to both Parker and the government agents was Goupil's disavowal of all weapons and killing of any kind. That disavowal was the only connecting strand keeping him alive (for better or worse). The only defense left to Goupil was his mind.
When Goupil re-entered the restaurant, Parker froze in helpless, wide-eyed fear, cursing himself for having been caught off-guard. Goupil flashed a relaxed smile, forming his right hand into a mock gun. "Bang," he smirked with a twinkle in his eye. Only to fools greater than he did Goupil seem strong. He raised an imaginary hat to his colleague and disappeared through his pre-arranged escape. Two hours later 17 agents still prowled the area in frustrated fury.
"I'm tired of trying to catch this asshole," spoke a resigned voice inside a large institutional building.
"You're just going to give up? That's it? That asshole's out there somewhere laughing at us."
"So what? I got a life too."
"You're kidding me! We just let him go? I don't care what you say. I'll catch him on my off hours if I have to. That sonofabitch is going down if it's the last thing I do!"
The reaction of his less mature coworker cemented the decision. "Don't be so blind. You heard the tape. He wants to drive off into the sunset with a woman. He's not running anymore. He's going to settle down, relax and come out into the open all on his own. He's got nowhere else to go. Work smarter, not harder, Adams."
Adams, the dedicated Christian, blinked. "No woman would have him! All I got to say is you better be right."
"Oh, I'm right alright. Plus I know something that poor bastard does not: it's too late for his pathetic little love dreams. He'll fall right into our laps, helpless as a baby. His life isn't worth living, and he's scared out of his mind to admit it. This thing's coming to a head at last."
Goupil pressed his face to the mirror, waves and waves of pain driving him closer. The last three years had been tough on him. The stress had turned his skin red, breaking out all over his body. And while he could dance around the losers of the world, he knew he was still not fit company for the winners. He too believed it was too late for his pathetic little love dreams.
In a state park 400 miles away from his meeting with Parker, Goupil sat on a open bench, it unknowing of who he was or his past deeds, happy just to provide a place of rest. A squirrel spread eagled its way up a tree as a family unpacked noisily in the distance at an overnight cabin. At that moment, eating a bullet still made as much sense as anything. Who knows, maybe guilt had bested him like it had Tokyo Tim and a rifle had zoomed in on his skull as he sat in dejected despair.
But there was no rifle - this time.
"You run you die." Goupil had wanted that talk with Parker against his better judgement. The Feds could have set a tighter trap for him, made it impossible for him to escape. But they didn't. Like him, they need to know. Goupil and his trackers were one in the same, lost souls yearning to find their identity, to know what they are missing in life. They had to let Goupil talk, to maybe hear a clue to their salvation. In a sense, it was like magic knowing that, watching the karmic wheel in motion.
As long as he rode the wheel, no loser could ever catch Goupil and no winner would ever care to. But staying on is not so easy. Where he'd end up he knew not where.
As he often did anymore, Goupil spent the night in his car. The freedom of it, the total detachment from the world, aroused him with a misplaced stiffness. At last he was in a position where he did not have to lie. But what good did it do him in a deserted parking lot? "I'm only ready to join when I'm alone!" Many were the bodies left behind by Goupil who would never speak to him again - some still alive. Seems assassins only live happily ever after in the movies.
So he'd done the Human Thing. Maybe Tokyo Tim was right. So many ways to die, so few - if any - left to live.