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.