Dave is a perfectly suitable name for any marked man.
This is a piece of flash fiction I wrote in 2015. It was never published. It was, however, passed around under a pseudonym among friends who understood the technical and socioeconomic premise of the story. That year, I was reviewing submissions for an anthology project, and I included this story to be critiqued, along with the work of other writers. I invited brutally honest feedback. One of my review buddies probably suspected that I wrote this story. I remained silent. I continued to credit the pseudonym. Later, I wrote a continuation of the story that doubled its word count. It also included a few much more disurbing elements. After passing the elongated story to the same group for review, it was clear that the continuation I had written diminished the story’s overall impact. Today, in hindsight, I believe that I had unintentionally made the story worse because I failed to focus on the premise of the original and moved on to something different. There was a lot of enthusiastic feedback from the original. However, for better or worse, the elongated version has become lost. I post the original version here to Medium, edited for modern online readability, in hope that at least one more person will enjoy it. Any credit or praise, I now humbly accept.
“Please, put down the gun, sir!” The police captain exhibits a certain well-rehearsed command in his voice as if he had said it a thousand times — which I’m sure he had, after all — during his thirty-five years on the force. But this time, it’s different. This time, he isn’t in control. I obviously caught him off guard.
“The bad guys must be really responsive to that request. Bet it’s served you well over the years,” I say.
A few moments of awkward silence pass. I already had him on his stomach, disarmed, with his hands behind his back, zip-tied — a position he was obviously familiar with, but not a position he was accustomed to assuming himself.
I’m sure he’s already thinking of ways to disarm me. Sometimes, for a few moments, I’m tempted to let them do it, just to add a little more excitement to the evening. But I never do.
“That’s odd,” I say. “You said those same words earlier, and nothing happened. I wonder why I’m not putting the gun down?”
At this point, I always look at my gun with a puzzled look on my face, half expecting a laugh from… someone.
Once again, I sigh.
After a few moments, I force out a chuckle — if anything, in order to break up the silent awkwardness.
“I’ll tell you what I’m going to do,” I say. “Since you asked so nicely, I’m going to put down the gun. But first, you have to do something for me? Can you do something for me first, Dave?”
“Wait… wait a minute! My name isn’t Dave!” Dave yells. “There must be some misunderstanding. You’ve obviously got the wrong guy!”
I am toying with him, of course.
I call them all Dave.
Even the women.
This time Dave’s real name is Richard Dawson.
I look at the back of Dave’s head and tap it with the barrel of my gun.
“It doesn’t matter, Dave,” I say with a rehearsed chuckle. “You’re going to die anyway.”
Pausing for a moment, I almost chuckle at the thought — for real — and wonder why it hadn’t occurred to me before. The name Richard, that is.
Maybe I should start calling them all Dick.
No, no. Just need to call them Dave.
Dave is a perfectly suitable name for any marked man.
I did my homework. Enough to get the job done anyway. Dave is fifty-seven. Married twice; divorced twice. Father of four grown children. Five if you count a one-night stand at his first bachelor party in Vegas thirty years ago. That marriage was doomed from the beginning. And the kid? I’m almost positive he doesn’t know he exists. He does spend time with his grandkids though. Family, no matter how screwed up, is always important during these moments. The rest of life becomes background noise. In the end, if they have family, a healthy dose of facing their own mortality helps them to realign their perceptions.
“You know what Dave,” I say. “It takes a lot of nerve to come into a man’s home and hold a gun to his head. And someone of your importance? Someone of your stature in the community? Well, that would take cast iron balls, wouldn’t it? As I am sure you understand, holding a gun in my hand and pointing it at your head gives me certain advantages that I otherwise would not have if I were to put it down as you have so politely asked. I’m sure that as a sworn officer of the law, you’ve been trained to sympathize with this situation. You’re obviously trained to use deadly force. And there’s a good reason for that.”
I pause for a moment, letting the moment marinate for proper effect. This scene always requires the prudent use of a properly placed pause.
A perfectly timed moment passes.
I continue, but this time, I add a more dramatic inclination to my voice.
“But, I wonder what you are trained to do if I were to… shoot off your cock and balls,” I say.
I lower the gun and shove it just under his ass and in between his legs, targeting the most likely culprits responsible for what is — nine times out of ten — the primary reason I was hired to do this job in the first place.
“I’ll bet you twenty bucks that I can get it all off in one clean shot.”
“W-w-wait… wait a minute!” Dave yells. “I told you, my name isn’t Dave! What is it you want from me? Please put away the gun! Just tell me what you fucking want me to do!”
“Well, Dave. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a grown man piss his pants,” I say.
“Oh, come on! You’re fucking joking, you crazy sack of shit!” Yells Dave.
I try to look surprised at this point. I should have asked him to do the Irish Jig or maybe sing me Happy Birthday.
I actually did that once — have Dave sing me Happy Birthday. Of course, on that particular day, it really was my birthday. Sadly, that day wasn’t today. This guy was obviously too proud to piss himself, even with a gun to his head.
“You know, when I was a kid, my mother always told me I should become a comedian, and I tried it for a few years, but it just didn’t pay the rent,” I say. “Maybe it’s because I’m only half Jewish.”
“Fucking crazy-ass cocksucker!” Dave yells. “Did Morison hire you!?”
“A man like you has plenty of enemies,” I say. “I’m glad you’ve made this deduction already, Dave. Really, I am. But, I can honestly say that I have no idea who hired me. After all, we're in the throes of the Information Age. It would seem that over the last few years while you’ve been busy refining the finer points on good old fashion police work, some psychopathic dropout from MIT came up with everything anybody needs to Bitbump you out of existence. Don’t ask me how it all works. I only know that I won the lowest bid on your contract. But honestly, Dave, you probably could have lived a full life if you just kept your head down and stopped pissing people off.”
At this point, I half hope that they don’t offer me money. They always offer me money.
“God dammit man! What the fuck are you talking about!? What the hell does anyone from MIT have to do with me?! Look! Whatever they’re offering you, I’ll double it!”
So predictable. Again with the money.
This is so disappointing because it’s so damn unprofessional. I have a five-star rating on my profile for a reason. If I get even one negative review, I’ll miss out on the exclusive five-star contracts.
Most of the time, I get six figures for a five-star exclusive. But regular contracts? Fuck that — I’m not working my way up through the system again; too much work. I’d rather live in poverty than grind through the bargain basement cheating spouse track again.
Fucking low-hanging fruit-grabbing assholes.
The competition is completely undignified! You have to accept a contract to knock off some loser cheating on his wife for as little as twenty bucks a hit — just for a shot to climb up in the rating. And if you get even one negative review, the best you can hope for is a low-profile gig for middle-class professionals that want revenge on their boss.
I swear, I’m never going to take another contract like that again.
God fucking damn it.
One of these days, some Dave is going to have enough Bitcoin on him for me to retire on.
One of these fucking days, I might actually think about taking it.
Where was I?
Dave insulted me by offering me money.
As I slowly tilt my head to the side, my voice shifts and begins expressing obvious disappointment. “In that case, I’ll take a personal check and be on my way,” I say.
Less convincing this time?
Too much sarcasm?
I really need to work on that.
“I’ve got twenty grand saved up in the bank. It’s all yours if you let me go.” Dave says.
“Tempting offer Dave, but I only accept Bitcoin. And even if you had enough Bitcoin to cover my base fee, which I know you don’t, it wouldn’t save your life. Your life was over the moment I was paid.”
Copyright © 2015, 2022 — Mark Randall Havens
Mark Havens is the Founder and Executive Director of Dallas Maker Community (DMC), a nonprofit organized to bootstrap Dallas Makerspace, the largest all-volunteer makerspace in the United States. DMC continues reformed efforts to provide maker-focused marketing and makerspace leadership education to other maker-centric organizations throughout North Texas.