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Never, Ever Bring This Up Again

By: Shane Kennedy

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"We really should tell someone."

"Shut your cry-hole and finish your drink."

Even for a place like Harry's, this wasn't a typical exchange. Not that Harry's was all that bad for a bar in D.C., although Kenan, the current proprietor, who had never met the establishment's namesake, had beat the class out of the place. Still, Harry's served its function. It was an out-of-the way spot where, if they weren't cheap, the drinks were at least not watered down, and you could get a decent sandwich while watching forty-year-old dancers on their last stop before forced retirement. In fact, because it was crowded, it was a perfect meeting place for Badger and Leary, except that Badger had drunk too much and was now getting emotional which annoyed Leary.

"Mark Felt, he came clean," Badger continued his whine.

Leary winced then reached over and took Badger's glass away. "You know what? Forget the drink. Have a sandwich and some water." Leary looked around, spotted a waitress, and signalled her over.

"We'll have a couple of Pastrami sandwiches and some glasses of water."

"We're out of pastrami, how about Monte Christos?" suggested the waitress.

Leary glared at her and muttered, "Whatever," then turned his attention back to Badger.

"Here, I need you steady today."

"I am steady," Badger snorted back.

Leary considered this; there were two empty glasses on the table and before his intervention his companion had been nursing a third drink. Badger, the name suits him, decided Leary. Badger was pudgy with a round face, thinning hair, and a bow tie and short sleeved dress shirt which screamed cheap. He wondered what Badger would have thought if he found out just how much Leary knew about him. Somewhere, Badger had a wife and some kids, apparently even a grandchild. Leary had met Badger during the war, and when they started to work together, Leary had made it his business to find out what he could about this strange little man. Today's assignment was the tenth project on which they had been partnered. While they were well compensated for their work, Leary suspected that Badger had never managed to save even so much as a nickel, instead choosing to spend everything on keeping his family happy. He's a lifer with the firm, not me, thought Leary. After today, I'm out. Foot loose and fancy free. Which was true, he had already picked out a nice little island in the Caribbean and his suitcases were stuffed with, among other things, the Gieves & Hawkes suits that he favoured.

"I'm curious, doesn't it ever bother you?" Badger garbled his words.

"Does what bother me?" Leary snapped.

"Well, what we did."

"Why do you keep bringing that up? Any time I see you, you never mention any of our other projects. Why does that one bother you so much?"

Badger sighed, "Because he didn't deserve it. All the rest did."

Leary thought about what Badger had said, then replied, "You remember what the officer said, they needed two volunteers. Was it our fault that we both put our hands in the air and then got shipped back home? How old were we at the time, what? Twenty-two or twenty-three? Come on, do you remember how many of our guys died over there? We're both lucky we had a chance to get out, a legitimate way of getting out. Don't tell me you wanted to stay in Vietnam?

"No, that's not what I mean at all."

"Remember our unit"


"Did you know that only two other guys made it home besides us?"

"I didn't know that."

"Well you do now."

Badger glanced around the bar. It was a nervous habit that he liked to keep tabs on anyone who might attempt to eavesdrop on any of his conversations in public.

"You get my point?" Leary continued.

"I do, but those two guys who survived can go anywhere they want and do anything they want. You and I are stuck with the firm."

"We're not stuck, you might be, but I'm not," answered Leary.

"That's what you think my friend. And now with this new guy in the White House and all this talk of change, the firm doesn't know which end is up. It's not a matter of if it's going to be broken-up, but when. And when that happens, where does that leave us?"

"I don't know where it leaves you, but I've been saving my pennies for a rainy day and I'm calling it quits after today. I figure I've got another fifteen, maybe twenty years of life in this old body and I better enjoy what's left." Leary thought about his island.

'They'll never let you go," Badger insisted.

"Says you," sneered Leary.

"Here are your orders."

The waitress had returned and was putting two large plates on the table that held mountain sized sandwiches along with piled high fries. Leary pulled out a twenty and dropped it on her serving tray.

"Keep the change…" He wanted to add "sweetheart," but things were different now. Thirty years ago he could have patted her on her ass, but if he did that now, well, things were different. She didn't even grunt a thank you; just swept their empty glasses onto her tray and left.

"Look, it's Pineapple," Badger grunted as he chomped into one of his fries and motioned towards a plasma screen that was displaying a special news report from CNN about the impending arrival of a South American President.

"That goof deserves to have his head blown off," Leary said, paying more attention to the female anchor giving the report.

"He thinks that Obama is going to buy into his B.S." Badger said while continuing his attack on his fries.

Leary ignored Badger's comment, and watched as the coverage switched to the White House, where the president was speaking about how important it was to strength ties with US trading partners. Leary ignored the president and instead focused on the First Lady. It would have been easy for anyone to get ahead with a woman like that at his side. Brains, looks, and ambition, rolled into one package. He wondered if things might have turned out different for him if he had just met the right woman and then asked himself if staring at the First Lady was an act of treason. He looked at Badger and pictured the type of woman that would have settled for a man like him. They continued to be the only two people in the bar listening to the news broadcast and when it was confirmed that the president would be greeting his guest at the White House and not at the airport, as had been rumoured, the two men shot glances at each other.

"How did your meeting with Quid go?" asked Leary.

"I bought him a drink," responded Badger which made both men chuckle.

"Let's move towards the stage," said Leary.

Badger complied, picking up his plate and glass of water. They circled till they found an empty table that was close to the stage, but not too close. Once they were seated, they each wrapped up one half of their sandwiches in paper napkins. Badger took charge of the halves and placed them carefully in his briefcase. They looked around and polished off the rest of their sandwiches, then, when all the eyes in the crowd were on the stage with hands clapping to welcome 'Cindy,' Leary picked up both of their plates and dumped them along with the fries into a garbage can. When he returned to the table, Badger pointed at the beer shaped clock that read 12:01 p.m. It was time to go; the ride to Andrew's would take about forty minutes, maybe a little more with traffic. They split up and left Harry's a few minutes apart.

Once on the street, they didn't speak, just walked briskly up the sidewalk until Badger stopped beside a dark blue pick-up truck that was outfitted with racks to hold gardening equipment and had the name of a non-existent landscaping firm decaled onto the side.

"This is it," he said blandly before dropping his suitcase in the back of the truck's bed. He produced a key, opened the truck, and pulled out a pair of grey overalls, checked the sizes and handed the smaller pair to Leary who walked a couple of feet into a nearby alley and hid behind a garbage container. As he bent over to pull off his shoes, he felt his heart racing. The sudden, unpredictable pain snapped him upright. As quickly at it had occurred, the feeling subsided, but not without leaving Leary feeling disoriented. He waited and then dismissed the attack as nothing more than nerves. He emerged from the alley a few minutes later, dressed in the overalls and holding the dress suit that he had rolled into a ball and handed it to Badger who pushed it into a garbage bag. Leary waited beside the truck while Badger left to take his turn at the ritual.

"Hot day," he called after Badger, "hot like Memphis" he added.

Badger stopped in his tracks, hesitated and then continued walking towards the garbage container. Leary began rustling through the equipment in the truck when Badger returned.

"Where's the Barrett?" Leary asked.

"I shoved it inside the vacuum hose," Badger responded. Leary simply nodded his head. Badger put his clothes into the same garbage bag and placed it behind the driver's seat.

"Your clothes better not be sweaty," said Leary.

They climbed into the truck with Badger driving and were soon negotiating their way through the streets of Washington. Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild" came on the radio and, with Leary's approval, Badger turned up the volume.

As Leary had suspected, as soon as they merged onto the Suitland Parkway, Badger began dragging up the past again.

"How come we keep meeting up in places with first names? This time it was Harry's bar, forty years ago it was Jim's Grill."

"You know what?" Leary interrupted.

"What?" asked Badger startled by the anger in Leary's voice.

"Why don't we just keep our minds on the task at hand? I just want to get through today and then I'm riding into the sunset and you can go play with your kids and grandkid."

Badger looked at him sideways, "You shouldn't have said that. I was just making conversation because I know we won't be working together again, but you just made a personal comment."

"Well, why do you keep bringing up the past?"

"Doesn't it bother you that we brought down someone who has become a historical figure, someone who even has a holiday named after him?"

Leary snorted, "In 1968 he was just another civil rights leader. Why do you feel guilty? You had a choice; you could have opted to stay in Vietnam."

"I've had time to think about it. In another month I'll officially be a senior citizen and I am starting to feel like hell for framing that cracker."

"Speaking of framing, did you make sure Quid got the Black Arrow?"

Badger tapped the brakes to avoid a car that had cut in front of them before answering, "Yes, I got the M93 to him, which is kind of my point. Why does there always have to be a fall guy?"

"Dead men don't tell tales"

"What are you talking about?" Badger looked at Leary confused.

"It's a joke, lighten up a bit. I mean, if they find a fall guy, then they get lazy and never go digging for the truth, which covers our asses."

"Sometimes the wrong person gets blamed, look at that auto mechanic," said Badger.

"Well," Leary hesitated until he came up with an answer, "forget about the cracker and the mechanic; think about King. He became a martyr and paved the way for this new president. When you think about it, I feel like I helped Obama get elected."

"You voted for him? I thought you said you voted for the Republican." Badger asked.

"I voted Republican because he's a vet, but what I mean," Leary hesitated, then having forgotten the point he was trying to make, blurted out, "Oh just forget it. Let's stick to today."

"If you say so."



"You have to realize that most people were coming around to what King was saying, right up the point where he started his Poor People's Campaign. Hey, talk about equality, talk about ending discrimination, but start saying that American has too many poor. That's when he started to lose people."

"But," Badger paused, "for the firm to be doing what it does? Operating without the authority of the president, who doesn't even know we exist?"

"They say that Washington was going to pardon Benedict Arnold, but his troops hung the guy first. We're no different today. The current president would never okay today's project, so we look after his interests without compromising him. We're patriots. After today, he wouldn't have to deal with some commie wing-nut, but a sensible general who understands how to play ball with good old Uncle Sam."

"Well, some day," Badger mused, "I think I'll write a book."

"Pull over for a moment," Leary demanded.


"Pull over!"

Badger brought the truck to a stop in the emergency lane and was about start to complain when Leary yanked his Para-Ordnance 14-45 out of his pocket and jammed the muzzle of the handgun against Badger's temple.

"Now you listen, you fat, old clown."

"Calm down Leary, get a hold of yourself," Badger implored him.

"Never, ever bring this up again."

"Alright, alright," Badger conceded while noticing that Leary's face looked pained and that his forehead had suddenly become covered in perspiration. Leary pulled the gun away and put it back into his pocket before wiping his face with the sleeve of his overalls.

"You need to learn to keep your mouth shut," said Leary.

"You flap your gums too," Badger sulked, "Going around telling everyone in the firm that you're quitting."

"Let's get a move on," Leary barked and sat back hard in his seat.

"You're sweating," Badger answered.

"Ever since we left Harry's I've been feeling sick. Those sandwiches must have been old. I have two attacks of the shakes."

"You still carry that piece?"

"Ever since Montreal"

"Do you miss the place?"

Leary gave Badger a hard look.

Frightened, Badger said, "I'm finished, I won't say another word," then he checked traffic and pulled back onto the Parkway. They continued their drive to Andrews Air force base as though nothing had happened.

Just south of Perimeter Road, Badger drove the truck off into the bush and started sidetracking until they came to a gate that had been left open. Once through the gate, they continued driving until Badger stopped the truck on a small peak.

"This look good to you?" he asked Leary, who grunted his approval. Exiting the truck, both men started pulling equipment out of the bed of the truck. Badger opened a case and pulled out a pair of high-powered binoculars, while Leary pulled out the vacuum hose and extracted the Barrett M107 sniper rife. Though Leary had never handled this particular rife, he was familiar enough with the model that he was able to assemble it in couple of minutes.

"Let's roll," he said.

Leary followed Badger until they came to the position that had been stalked out two days earlier. Slight bush would ensure that they were camouflaged.

Badger sat down, crossed his legs in front of himself and scanned the airport with his binoculars. Leary put down the Barrett and then spread himself out onto the ground before gripping his weapon. When Leary was in place, Badger shifted so that he would be looking over top of Leary, and would view the target through his binoculars, the same way Leary would see the target through his scope.

"Know what I don't like about growing old?" Badger mused.

"I don't know; what? Going to the washroom?" Leary answered, but his mind was on setting up his shot.

"Close, I can't get comfortable when I sit anymore."

"Try losing some weight."

Badger ignored Leary's comment and looked around the airport. "Do you have a fix on the plane's cabin door?" Badger asked.

"I'm good. They're just rolling the stairs into position."

"Time is 12:57 p.m."

"How do you take the wind?"

Badger trained his binoculars on the area around the plane, to see if there were any signs of movement from flags or other markers.

"Wind is neutral," he finally decided.

At just under a mile and half from their target, both men knew that any calculations they made would be not much more then a guess.

Leary took a cube-shaped piece of gum from his pocket and jammed it in his mouth then squeezed on it with his back teeth. Inside his boots he curled his toes. He tightened his shoulder muscles. When he finally settled, every part of his body was tight. He wanted to be perfect for his shot. He didn't want to take a chance on flinching. Badger calculated the Pineapple's future position and gave the quadrants to Leary.

"There, the door is opening, wait," he whispered.

Leary ranged the target, taking into account the distance and angle, before adjusting for other variables that might affect the shot.

"I'll shoot and then we get the hell out of here," Leary said.

"Clear," responded Badger.

Leary squeezed the trigger three times, the first time taking aim, the second and third shots he let the bullets land where they would. The ensuing panic among the crowd would help them with their departure.

Badger tracked the vapour trail of the first shot. The air appeared mixed-up and distorted as the high-velocity; long-range round flew towards its target.

"Got him!" yelped Badger, "took the goof's head clean off."

Hearing Badger confirm his kill, Leary jumped up from the ground and started breaking the Barrett down. He was about to remove the barrel when he froze. Badger was standing just a couple of feet away holding something reflecting the sunlight. It was the Tokarev pistol he had brought home as a souvenir of the war. Badger was pointing it at Leary.

"What the hell have you got there?" Leary asked, he felt a premonition and started to move quickly to the truck when he felt another attack of illness, this one much more intense than the last two combined.

"What's going on?" he asked Badger, but his companion didn't say a word. Badger started to back away. Leary yanked on the truck's door handle, but it was locked. He started towards Badger, but stopped when he noticed a small truck coming in their direction. It came to a stop and its driver opened the door and dropped one foot to the ground, while still staying half inside the truck.

It was Quid.

"Badger is he done?" Quid called out.

"Not yet, I just want to make sure," Badger called back.

"Sure of what?" Leary yelled before taking a couple of steps forward. His pace was cut short by another attack. Leary dropped the Barrett and grabbed at his chest. Standing became impossible and he dropped to his knees.

"Badger, what the hell?" he called out.

"You said there always has to be a fall guy. Quid decided he would switch places with you."

"Badger, we're friends," Leary whined.

"No. We just work together," Badger answered him.

Leary pulled out his handgun, but Badger came forward and yanked the weapon from his hand. In his condition, it was futile for Leary to put up a struggle and he simply asked, When?"

"After I drew your attention to the news broadcast. I dropped the thallium in my glass of water and simply switched the glasses while you weren't paying attention."

Leary nodded because it was a good manoeuvre, but the pain had become so intense that he was now forced onto all fours. Whimpering he started crawling towards Badger.

"You're going to work with Quid? You're making a mistake Badger old buddy," Leary struggled to get the words out.

"You made the mistake of opening your trap. Quid wants to stay with the firm. Who knows, in a couple of years when you're broke, you might start selling secrets," Badger answered him.

Leary paused in his tracks and then it was over.

"Isn't he dead?" Quid called out impatiently.

"Hold your bloody horses," Badger answered and walked over to Leary to check his pulse. When he was satisfied, he waved Quid over. Together they pulled Leary out of his overalls and replaced them with a pair of worn jeans and a checked shirt. The fit wasn't as good as Badger had hoped, the shirt was too baggy and the jeans were too short, but in a way they added to the meagre image that they were trying to create for Leary. They wanted everyone involved in the investigation to come to the same conclusion: angry loner working on his own. They propped Leary behind the wheel of Quid's non-descript black truck, re-assembled the Barrett and placed it in the seat beside Leary. The first conclusion that would be drawn when the truck was found would be that Leary had suffered a stroke from too much excitement after committing his crime. While Quid and Badger were putting together their crime scene, another team was working away inside Leary's apartment preparing it for when the investigators would eventually find it.

"Time?" Badger asked.

"1:11 p.m.," came Quid's answer.

"We've been too slow, let get a move on." He jumped into the truck he and Leary had ridden in, waited till Quid was in the seat beside him and hit the gas hard.

Badger emerged from the alley dressed in his cheap clothing and stuffed his overalls into a garbage bag and threw it into the bed of the truck. He recovered his briefcase, opened it, and pulled out a parking ticket which he preceded to place on the windshield of the truck.

"Time?" He asked.

"1:52 p.m.," answered Quid, who then asked, "After the truck's been towed and it's been in the tow-yard for a month, won't the tow company start phoning?"

"They'll get a message that the company is no longer working. Let's go," Badger said.

Quid followed Badger down the street. Just as they started down the steps that led to Harry's bar, Quid asked, "You met Leary here?"

"It was convenient; why?"

"I'm just surprised that a guy of his convictions would agree, after all the commotion in the local papers about this place for the last couple of weeks."

Badger stopped, "Why is there a problem with this place?"

"It was the last saloon in Washington to remove the color bar. Old Harry himself was an avowed racist. Local civil rights groups want the current owner to change the name so that Harry's memory is wiped out. Forty years ago Leary wouldn't have been allowed in the place."

Badger shrugged, "I guess he didn't know."

They continued down the steps then Badger grabbed Quid by the arm and said, "Never, ever bring this up again. Leary is now persona non grata."

Quid yanked his arm free. "You think I'm stupid? I want to have as good a run as you."

"Fair enough, just remember that my run isn't over. Here," Badger reached into his briefcase and pulled out one of the wrapped sandwiches, "put this in your pocket. When we get near the stage, take it out and eat it and make sure to tell whoever happens to be sitting near you that you love the food here."

Quid took the sandwich, pushed open the swing door, and walked into the pandemonium of the bar.

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