Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Old Man with a Cane

So, in my copious spare time, amidst all the other books I probably won't live long enough to write, I've come up with another idea. I'm thinking of calling it The Retirees.

Here is an opening scene -- and the question: Is it compelling enough to make you want to read more?


Reilly, who was twenty-six and who thought of himself as a real bad-ass, looked at the InFocus image the computer projected onto the conference room's screen. “This is the target? This old guy with a fucking cane?”
“That’s him,” Wilson said. “Arlo Hull, age sixty.”
“And you brought six of us in for this?” He looked around the room at the others. Most of them were like him -- young, fit, and full of self-confidence to the point of arrogance. “Sheeit, way I see it, two guys, max. One to drive the van, the other to walk over, grab the old guy and toss his ass into the back, bam! end of story.”
Not all of the other ops were young lions, there was one veteran: Hersch was in his mid-forties and had been with the organization for fifteen years. Wilson looked at Hersch, who smiled and shook his head: What are you gonna do? They are children. They are all gonna live forever.
Wilson said, “Hersch, you want to tell him?”
The man nodded. “If Hull sees you coming -- and he will -- the first couple-three to reach him, if they are barehanded, he will beat the shit out of with that walking stick. Heart of hickory, made by a martial arts master in Incline Village, Nevada.
“After he breaks it over somebody’s head and splashes brains all over the street, the next couple guys to get within range he’ll beat the shit out of with his hands, knees, and elbows, and then he’ll be heading to the van to do the same thing to the driver.”
Bullshit,” Reilly said.
“Who was your hand-to-hand instructor?”
“Could you take him unarmed?”
Reilly was still young and foolish enough so that he had to think about it for a few seconds, but at least he came up with the right answer. “No. He’s old, like forty, but he’s in shape and he’s got the moves.” He looked around. “Nobody here could dance with him and win.”
“Maybe you aren’t as stupid as you look,” Hersch said. “You know who Marlow’s combat teacher was?”
Hersch nodded at the image onscreen.
“Yeah, and go ask Marlow if he thinks he could take Hull. Or save yourself the trip, because he doesn’t think he can. Hull knows martial arts I can’t even pronounce, and he can kill you with his hands without raising a sweat.”
“And that’s if the man is in a good mood. If he isn’t, he can pull the .357 Magnum double-action revolver he has under that sport coat, strong-side, and plink you before you finish stepping out of the van onto the street.”
“Hey, I got a SIG I can shoot pretty good.”
“I’m sure you can. Who was your handgun instructor?”
“Agent Wilson here.”
“Can you outshoot him?”
“Wilson, who was your handgun teacher?”
Wilson grinned as he looked at Reilly.
“Jesus,” somebody said. In a quiet voice.
“Hull can shoot the nuts off a fly at ten paces, and you pick which one, left or right. He can pull the trigger on that wheelgun faster than your SIG can cycle automatically. I saw him knock aspirin tablets off a fence rail at five meters once, and he never scratched the wood, nor missed a shot. He can fire six rounds before you can clear your holster. Sounds like one continuous boom.
“If his primary sidearm runs out of bullets, he has a .38 Special snubbie on his left hip, and he can shoot that one as well as he does his primary weapon. And he can shoot both guns at the same time at different targets and tag all of them.
“If he runs out of rounds in his backup piece, he carries at least three knives -- a neck knife, pocket folder, and a boot knife strapped under his right sock, and he can fillet you like a trout with any of those without batting an eye.”
Hersch stopped, looked back at Wilson.
Wilson said, “Hull was our number one wetwork op for almost twenty years. He was killing bad guys when you were still a gleam in your daddy’s eye, and while somebody could snipe him at long range, we don’t want to do that, we want him alive. So you need to keep all this in mind. This guy can kill you if he wants -- he has the ability and he won’t hesitate to do it if he thinks it is necessary. He’s a better shooter, a better fighter, more experienced and -- no question -- smarter than you. Once action commences, he won’t stop until he wins or he is neutralized completely. He could take all six of you out and then go have pancakes and eggs for breakfast.
“So you might want to start thinking about ways to collect him that don’t involve you walking up and grabbing him by your lonesome. You might make a pretty good agent someday, but not if you stick your finger into a light socket or use jet fuel to light your barbecue grill.”
"Christ Jesus," Reilly said. "Why are we willing to risk taking him? Why do we need him that bad?"
Wilson shrugged. "You don't need to know that. What you do need to know is, if he kills most of you while you are collecting him, he won't suffer for it -- in this case, you are all expendable. He isn't. If you accidentally smoke him? Your career is over, and you're dead anyway."
"What are you talking about? The organization -- ?"
"Not us. Hull has a wife."
"A wife? So fucking what?"
Hersch and Wilson exchanged looks again. Some people just didn't want to learn.
Wilson said, "Whoever takes Hull out will have to deal with her. And she is every bit as deadly as he is."
"Holy shit," somebody said.


eponymous said...

Q: "Is it compelling enough to make you want to read more?"

My first inclination, after reading the piece, was to respond with something clever (at least to me... come to think of it, probably *only* to me), perhaps referencing something in the Matador books or somesuch. That would have been wrong at the very least. Quite possibly that would have been full on stupid.

My next inclination was to simply answer in the affirmative. Then I remembered my manners...

A: Yes, please.

[Aside -- Steve, have you watched any of the History Channel series "Human Weapon"? I only caught the Eskrima one so far. I thought it was okay, if a bit gimmicky with its seemingly obligatory "reality TV" nature in general and the sensationalism of the match at the end of the show. Looks like they are doing Silat in an upcoming episode.]

Brad said...

I second the "yes, please" and add to it, you are a tease, sir. With an unwritten Matador book piece and this, I say again, you are a tease.

Steve Perry said...

I have seen the Human Weapon. I can't say I'm impressed.

I know a guy who is pitching a similar show to, I think, National Geographic Channel, and his idea, while similar, is better:

His idea is to go, document the art, get information from the players, history, philosophy, etc., and show experts doing it. None of this fake death match crap.

Say, let's train for three days and then go one-on-one with a real expert!

Oh, please!

I find this as believable as the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. So far, the local champs have been far too kind to the boys.

Chambers -- the little guy -- supposedly has been studying different arts since he was six years old -- and yeah, he's playing to the camera, but some of his questions make me want to slap him. Guy with twenty-odd years of MA training doesn't need to sound quite so gosh-wow-gee-sensei as he does.

Oh, a punch, and I hold my wrist this way? How amazing!

Spare me.

Duff is just a big strong kid and there as a punching bag. In arts where muscle and size and toughness matters, okay. But the karate episode where they stand and deliver punches to the chest? Oh, yeah, that's realistic ...

That stickfighter going up against Chambers? He phoned in his responses, he could have pulped the kid at any time, he wan't even blinking, much less flinching. In a real match, I'd have given Chambers ten seconds, max.

It's a silly idea. I can't wait to see how they screw up the silat episode ...

Steve Perry said...

Tease? Moi?

Not at all. I merely want to keep my fans in the loop as to what might or might not happen. The Matador story was a legit stand-alone, albeit would be the first chapter in a book if I could get to it.

The old man with a cane is an idea I've had for a long time, nothing new about it -- the old gunslinger forced out of retirement. Been a thousand variations on it -- done several myself -- and I think the aging baby-boomer market might find it appealing.

The old guy still has some moves left in him.

I find that appealing. Anybody can write a book with a thirty-year-old jock who kicks ass and takes names ...

Tiel Aisha Ansari said...

Well, I'd love to read more of this. Too bad I'm not a publisher...

Jason said...

Please Sir, may I have another?


I like it. As you say it is a standard plot line, but it is one I am fond of and one I am sure you would do well.

Heck I remember the Albino Knife, though I know Khadaji wasn't particularly old there, he was certainly the old dog working with the young dogs.

Mushtaq Ali said...

You hooked me in the first paragraph, and now I want to know about his wife :-)

So put another tic in the "yes please" column. There needs to be more stories about bad-ass old guys with canes.

Ximena said...


Irene said...

I wanna hear more about the wife. I bet she's short.

Steve Perry said...

Actually, Hull's wife, Ruth, is a Jewish lady, a former IISO (Mossad) assassin. Younger than Hull -- she's only fifty-eight to his sixty -- and not that short -- maybe five-six.

Their story would be a flashback thread throughout the book -- how they met, what they did when they were on the same side, or, as it happened, on opposite sides. How they got together. Like that.

These are people who have forgotten more than Jason Bourne knows ...

Tiel Aisha Ansari said...

"These are people who have forgotten more than Jason Bourne knows ..."

What, like their own names? Come on, Steve, raise that bar up where the audience can see it.

steve-vh said...

My wife and I saw an elderly couple at the races Saturday. She in a wheelchair, he with a cane pushing.
She asked me with a smirk, "is that going to be us someday?" I said "maybe, but I'll have one badass of a cane!!"

charles said...

More PLEASE!! I love it!


Mike said...

Oh, yeah! 'Course I have to admit that I'm of an age where seeing an old guy kick butt is a treat, but I still think this has some great potential. And BTW, you can light your grill with jet fuel (jet A, JP-4, JP-5, etc.): it's about the same as charcoal starter with a touch of oil added to lube aircraft fuel pumps. Gasoline, which is far more volatile, now that's another story...

Steve Perry said...

Having lost a few eyebrows in my misspent youth by using gasoline to start fires, I understand that. It ever gets to serious writing, I'll fix the jet fuel reference. Maybe dimethyl ether ...

Don't need a bunch of old pilots sneering at me ...

Tiel Aisha Ansari said...

Ask Todd to send you the thing about the grill-starting contest. A guy used liquid oxy-- there was nothing left of the grill except a black spot on the concrete...

Michael said...

Much as I hate to be heretical, might I suggest showing some off his badass-ness instead of just telling a bunch of snot-nosed kids all aboout it?

Just a thought ...

(48 hours until the big show)

Steve Perry said...

Of course, it is better to show than to tell; this is but a prologue, to establish attitudes amongst the young ops, not showcase Hull's actual abilities.

When we actually meet him, he's going to be arranging flowers or playing with a puppy or a kitten or somesuch. In the biz, they call this a reversal -- you do a set-up that leads you to expect one thing, then you reverse it -- irony, which, if you do it right, gets a big smile from your reader.

You know this. I mean, I hope you know this, otherwise we are in trouble ...

I realized, too, that Hull's wife can't be Israeli and Mossad -- too much like Barry Eisler's assassin's girlfriend, so I'm thinking she should be Palestinian, or maybe Iranian.

Toby said...

That's called a "reversal"? I'd always figured it was just class with Guru. ;)
First we fall down in a bunch of wonderful/horrible ways and then we play with babies.

To the clip - yes. yes, Please. Please Please. Please!!!