Shepherd followed the bodyguard through the gate and round the side of the house to the swimming pool out back. Kranz was sat at a table leafing through a thick manila file. He wore sunglasses despite being hidden from the sun by a large table umbrella. There was a large bucket under the table, filled with ice and long neck bottles of beer.
Kranz looked up and smiled as Shepherd approached. “Ah, Mr Shepherd.”
Shepherd reached down and grabbed a beer before Kranz had a chance to say ‘help yourself’ and opened it by pressing the top over the edge of the table then slamming it hard with his hand, which would have been impressive if it had taken less than three attempts. Beer sloshed onto the floor but most of it stayed in the bottle. Shepherd sat down and drank half of it in one go.
Kranz cleared his throat. “There is a bottle opener on the table.”
Shepherd gave Kranz the kind of look he usually reserved for people who put ketchup on hot-dogs. “It’s already open.”
Kranz’s smile seemed like it was taking more effort to maintain than it had two minutes earlier. He looked around, seeming unsure of himself, then regained his composure and looked down at the file. “I must say, you do have an impressive background. Five years in the army, rising to the rank of-“
“Are you going to read all of that?”
“Well, not every word, but-“
Shepherd threw his empty bottle into the swimming pool, causing Kranz to grimace slightly, then picked up another, using the same table-bashing technique to open it. “Why bother? You don’t need to tell me my own background. I was there when it happened. Unless it’s for his benefit.” He nodded at the bodyguard, who was now busy trying to get the empty bottle out of the pool.
Kranz shook his head. “I just- just wanted you to know how thorough our background research is.”
“Am I joining your research team?”
Kranz watched the second bottle fly through the air and splash into the pool, then turned back to Shepherd, who had already opened the third. “No, of course not.”
“Then why would I care?” Shepherd stood up.”You know what? Forget it. I’m not looking for long term employment.”
“Bu- but this isn’t a long term operation!”
“Then why do I get the feeling I’ll be nearing retirement age before you get to the point?”
Shepherd turned around and was halfway to the house when Kranz called out, “I want you to kill some one!” He stopped, turned again and walked back to the table.
“Who, when and how much?” he said as he sat down.
Kranz picked up another file, this one a lot thinner, and placed it on the table. “Everything you need to know is in here, including payment details.”
Shepherd looked down at the blank cover, then opened the file. The top sheet inside was a photograph of the target, with his name printed underneath it: Gene Duracell, a.k.a Dirty Blue Gene. Shepherd smiled for the first time that year. “ I think I’m going to enjoy this.”