This book was originally entitled The Angel of Death because of the way that the main character saw himself but I decided to change it because there are so many things out there with the same name. Believe it or not Whoopie Goldberg was my inspiration for the novel, and as much as I hate to say it, it was a comment that she made while my wife was watching The View that made me start thinking about the book. That day the ladies on the panel were discussing the idea that if gay marriage was illegal than why wasn’t straight marriage? That prompted the ever thoughtful Miss Goldberg to chime in the thought that maybe divorce should be made illegal as well.
That idea interested me greatly and my brain began to throw out different scenarios that would be dire enough to make the federal government enact such a thing. Of course, divorce has been illegal in other countries before, but not wanting open a religious hornet’s nest, I left that angle alone. Instead I opted for the speculative writers best friend and made the cause a global pandemic that so decimates the population that to remain a viable country with a competitive population base not only was marriage strictly protected but a couple was required to have at least for children.
How in the world could such an edict be enforced? It could not be done outwardly without great backlash from society, and there would be certain cases where a partner or their children were being put at risk where the innocent parties must be protected. In those rare circumstance a super secret government agency was tasked with the investigation and enforcement of such cases. They would be responsible for removing the guilty and carrying out a death sentence upon them.
Our main character is one such agent, and since he is a strong believer in the evils of divorce, and has his own Messianic bent, he becomes a top company man. It’s only when he finds out that he and his fellow officers are being called up to be assassins without due process does his whole world come crashing down around him.
This was my first attempt at speculative fiction and it was also an experiment to see if I could write a full length novel in three week’s time. I came in just under the wire, but I wasn’t totally pleased with the first run through so I am going to revisit it and make some changes to the tone to make it a bit edgier than it turned out to be.
Excerpt from Company Man
Alex had been waiting for hours. Clad all in black, he was invisible. The curtains rustled slightly from a breeze that had interrupted the stillness of the night beyond the second story window where he now sat. There was a storm coming in. The room would have been festive in the day light; toys and books were spread willy nilly from one end to the other. Posters of several different cartoon princesses preened in their designated spots on the brightly colored walls. At the moment though, all was as black as pitch. Even the tiny light bulb that usually served as the last defense against a monster attack had been disabled by the brooding man that sat silently, a toothpick jutting at an angle from his lips. The room smelled faintly of cinnamon.
Alex didn’t mind waiting. Like every other big game hunter, a good portion of his life was spent waiting. As the brooding man sat in the child’s room slowly chewing his toothpick there was no deviance from the task at hand. Things could sometimes get messy if the subject decided not to cooperate, but that was when things got interesting. There was a dark part of him that longed for the confrontation, for the violent outcome. It was satisfying to his sense of justice in a way. As Alex matched the rhythmic breathing of the little girl in the bed next to him the longtime agent was reasonably sure that the outcome would be less exciting that evening. As a duly appointed officer of the committee there could be no room for loopholes, and he knew that all too well. Everything must be by the book. They all owed the family that much.
Although Alex knew very well what time it was, he glanced quickly at the luminescent dial of his wrist watch; it read three thirty. Last call had been announced at the Lamplighter just up the block, and by now Bill Marcum would be staggering his way home. It was the law man’s practice to get the subject’s house early so that the scene could be set and each detail hashed and rehashed before the fun started. It wasn’t really necessary since he had done his homework so thoroughly on Mr. Marcum’s movements that he could recall them by rote.
Bill would be stumbling in any minute, drunk as the proverbial pole cat. The inebriate would come directly to this room, shuffle to his daughter’s bed and wake her. He would whisper his whiskey laden speech to her, the sickly sweet stench of his excess pouring from his body. The terrified girl would lay still and nod daring not to move a muscle as the degenerate touched her and her skin would go cold and prickly. Overloaded with pain and guilt the victim would switch her brain off and run to somewhere in her twelve year old mind; somewhere sweet and lovely where the princesses took her gently by the hand. He would invade her and terrorize her, but she would never know it.
Alex glanced again at his standard issue watch; it read three thirty five. At that instant a key fumbled in the lock of the front door, was eventually placed, and Bill Marcum shambled into his home. He stomped to the kitchen, opened then closed the refrigerator. Alex heard the tell tale sigh of a fresh beer being uncorked. Alex’s fingers crept to the twin nine millimeter pistols that were slung at his sides, his arms crossing as he gripped the smooth rubber handles. Bill was now slowly traversing the stairs, uttering a quiet curse as he tripped on every third one. Soon the door of the child’s room swung open and Alex could smell his quarry.
The drunken man flipped the light switch by the door several times before giving up. Alex sat still, a wave of nausea washing away from him as he swallowed to urge to end Bill Marcum that very instant, but there would be paperwork and myriad of forms to fill out if he gave in to his urges, so the agent remained still and watched. Marcum had given up on the light and was now kneeling by the girl’s bed, his arms outstretched, feeling for the helpless child. Her steady breathing was unabated.
“She really is a beautiful girl,” Alex began, his voice like the crack of a rifle to the utterly surprised man who now stared wildly into the darkness. The drunk’s gut was twisting into sour dough as lightning strikes of fear gripped him. He felt that he would reverse his night’s intake of rot gut at any moment.
“I sincerely wish that I didn’t have to be here this evening. Unfortunately, your actions have put the wheels in motion. A complaint was lodged with us on March the third of last month, and a thorough investigation into your conduct has been finalized. Your offenses have been recorded and are now being acted upon. Thusly I must now advise you of your rights,” Alex continued, trying his best to keep his emotions under control. There was a part of him that wanted to rip the spine from this abomination that was now frozen to the child’s bedside. Bill Marcum would receive his due process though, the law must be served.
“As a duly appointed officer of the United States government, I hereby advise you that your life will be terminated this night, in accordance with statute 123-12b of the Marital Enforcement Act. Your wonton disregard of said act has placed you in this jeopardy. Signed affidavits by Mrs. William Marcum, as well as conduct witnessed by myself have been duly sworn to the Council of Marital Affairs. This governing body has issued the writ of your termination this third day of April two thousand twenty three,” Alex knew this speech by heart. He need only remember which name to put upon the dotted line of the documents that were tucked neatly inside his vest pocket.
“Now, my duty has been done. If you will accompany me down stairs I will need your signature on some forms before we can proceed,” Alex said, then slowly rose to his feet. His arms were still crossed, his hands in contact with the gun butts. Bill Marcum’s liquor soaked brain now began to understand what the voice in the dark had been saying. This was always the most dangerous time; the moment when the mind tells the body to fight or flee.
“Mr. Marcum, I advise you to cooperate,” Alex said between gritted teeth, “I can finish this without your signature, but I would rather not have your grey matter sprayed all over this lovely girl’s duvet cover. The extraction team gets so upset when they have to clean up brains, and I would rather not have them up here this evening.”
This contrived speech was enough to resign the sobering man to his fate. He inched his way back toward the hall and slowly made his way down the stairs into the kitchen. Alex followed, still wary, but now his hands swung freely at his sides. He motioned for the man to sit at the table. Alex took a seat across from him. It was now time for the confession; Alex knew the signs of acceptance all too well. Soon there would be tears and begging, and Alex would throw him one final chance at redemption. To his surprise, the man just sat there picking absentmindedly at the fruit bowl in front of him. Alex couldn’t tell if he was deep in thought or just too inebriated to care.
“I deserve this,” Marcum said, “I knew it was wrong, everything that I done I knew was wrong. I could blame it on the drink or the way I was raised, but that’s a cop out.”
This was not the normal beginning for the confession, but a good start none the less. Alex sat still waiting for the man to continue. Most of the time at this stage of the preceedings he became the unwilling Father Confessor, as there was not a real priest handy, and the stony agent would be the last person that Bill Marcum would ever talk to. It was then time now for Alex’s standard gesture; one that the committee would be none too pleased with fi they were to find out. Greased cat quick, he slipped his guns from their shoulder holsters and placed them gently on the table. He wasn’t sure why he always did that, but he liked the effect that it produce nonetheless. Perhaps it was to show them that he was disarmed and they could continue with what they had to say. Maybe it was to remind them to get it all out because their time was up. Either way, Bill took the hint.
“I knew that it would come to this, but I’m just so weak. I remember the times when I would hate myself for doing what I did, and I would swear that I would never step foot back in this house to keep them safe from me. But I just kept on. Tina should have turned me in a long time ago,” he paused after blaming his wife, a hint of bitterness in his voice, “No, she didn’t do anything wrong. She took my foolishness for way too long. I just hope that they can forgive me someday.”
The doomed man now trailed off into a fit of tears. Alex knew that they were as much for himself as for his deplorable actions to the innocents now asleep upstairs. He slipped an official looking document from his vest pocket, and spread it out on the table. After fishing out a black box from the opposite pocket and laying it beside the paper, he pointed at the small screen that blinked back at them.
“Now Mr. Marcum if you would please sign the pad there and initial next to the highlighted areas on the document,” Alex continued, now resuming his business-like manner. He pressed a shiny stylus into the man’s trembling hands. Bill did as he was instructed.
“Mr. Marcum I am going to offer you something that I have done personally. My office knows nothing of this, as it is not standard protocol. I have here letters that have been written in your handwriting. One will be left on the lamp stand next to your wife; the other in your daughter’s room. They both will express how sorry you are for the pain that you have caused them, and will explain why you have left them and will not be returning. They will only be aware of your absence and will never know of your termination,” Alex continued, now unfolding the two letters and handing them to the puzzled man across from him. Bill took them and read over both of them slowly, his head nodding slightly as he agreed with what was written. Upon finishing, he signed both of them at the bottom and handed them gingerly back to Alex.
“Thank you for that, officer. I couldn’t have said it better myself” he said, now a peaceful smile spreading across his face. “Just one thing though, can I at least know your name before you do me in?”
“My name is Igor Bagdonovich,” Alex easily lied, staring the man squarely in the eyes.
“Bill, you know you deserve an agonizing death for the harm that you have caused, don’t you?” Alex asked, still holding the man in his gaze. Bill slowly nodded his head, as his fear now rose steadily in him.
“But since you admitted you were wrong and were willing to try to make amends, I will kill you as quickly and painlessly as I can,” Alex said, his voice pitched in an almost sorrowful tone. He gathered up the papers and returned them to his pocket. He reached inside his vest and pulled a large hypodermic from the lining.
“I only reserve this certain chemical to those that I deem truly deserve it. You will feel warmth, then drowsiness, and then you will fall to sleep. I have no delight in taking your life, I hope you understand that,” Alex finished. He uncapped the large needle, held it erect, and tapped all of the air out of the syringe, expelling it in a with a tiny stream of the liquid from the needle’s tip. He motioned for Bill to extend his arm with a slight beckoning of his finger tips. The doomed man complied.
Alex, as he always did, sat there in silence as Bill Marcum breathed his last. He replaced the needle, as well as his guns, checked the dead man’s jugular for any sign of life, and then slowly walked toward the door. The extraction team would be along shortly.
He climbed the stairs once more and entered the master bedroom, leaving Tina Marcum’s note on the bed side table. He then quietly crossed the hall to the girl’s room. He placed her father’s last correspondence to her beside her on the bed. He gently bent over and stroked her silky brown hair, then softly kissed her on the cheek.
“I’m sorry for what I have taken from you,” he whispered in her ear. Alex knew that she would not hear him, since the sleeping gas would not wear off from her or her mother for hours. With tears in his eyes, Alex turned and left the girl purring in her sleep.