The Ruiner "That American Life" Pt. 1 Boundaries

I. Boundaries

Troy New York 1:13 am

The Ruiner didn't get paid to justify or question the reasoning behind his orders and he had a strict internal policy about working for free, but he often found himself thinking about why he was doing what he was doing. Why did these people need to die? What crime necessitated a visit from someone like him?

It was rare that he felt what he was doing was as important as he was told it was. Many of his targets seemed to receive the death sentence because it was the easy, lazy choice and not so much because the fate of the nation, world, or universe depended on him killing someone for acting a little bit weird. It was something that never really made sense to him, but it seemed to be getting worse.

For example, last week he was sent to kill a man named Chuck Johansen for the crime of accidentally receiving mis-delivered mail. Yeah, the mail was from a highly important intelligence asset, and yeah, it contained some pretty wild information about a small third world country's attempt to get a nuke, but it was encoded, encrypted, and written in some sort of invisible ink. It meant nothing to anyone other than the intended recipient and it also looked like a piece of junk mail offering a low-interest credit card. There was no reason anyone one sane could assume this situation was a high level threat.

None of that mattered though, not to the people who told Harris who to kill. To Harris it was senseless to kill someone who accidentally got a hold of something they had no idea was important, but his thoughts about what constituted sensibility were never asked for. It would have been less messy to wait for Chuck to toss it in his recycling bin and have some Agents dressed as trash collectors come by and pick it up before the usual trash guys came. That was less messy by spades, but sending Harris in was cheaper, and either way, the result was the same to those upstairs. He was starting to feel like a Stradivarius that was exclusively being played by a tone-deaf toddler. He was the magic eraser for a bunch of power hungry creeps who could no longer tell the difference between becoming a monster and fighting one.

Yet for all his griping and disagreeing, Harris still killed who he was told to kill, more often than not. He wasn't sure why. Maybe he just liked killing. Maybe he enjoyed thinking himself smarter than those running the country. His motivations were a mystery to him, and it was starting to grind on him a bit.

Harris shook his head to clear his thoughts and returned his attention to his work. He was on his third stop of the evening and should have had this wrapped up a while ago. He silently opened the door to the master bedroom of a house he didn't live in and entered. He stood for a second, observing. His orders were to "Neutralize Jennifer Parlence and spouse. No stains. Take child (alive)." He was also given a photo of the target and an address, but it was incorrect. He found himself finding his way into three houses before finding the right one. No one at the office could be bothered to double check his orders. This wasn't the first time, either.

Another head shake, another internal sigh and then Harris got to work. Jennifer Parlance's neck snapped and like they always do, it made a sound like muffled knuckles cracking. The Ruiner shut her eyes (she had been sleeping when he murdered her, but eyes tend to pop open when the neck is shattered.) as a common courtesy. He then turned his attention to Jennifer's wife, who was currently unaware she was snoring next to a dead body and repeated the process he had just completed. He wasn't even told her name and he didn't even wonder what it was.

At least there wasn't any blood this time. That would make the bodies easier to dispose of, even though it wasn't his job to get rid of them this time. Usually, it is, but tonight he was just a murderer and a kidnapper, not a housekeeper.

He left the bedroom and softly closed the door behind him. He looked at his shoes for a few seconds before quietly sighing then proceeded to find the bedroom of John Parlence, a four-month old infant recently adopted by the recently deceased, newlywed couple. Harris dipped a cotton swab into a tiny glass vial he pulled from the inside pocket of his jacket. It was a sedative to keep the child quiet until Harris delivered it to the drop off point. He swabbed the baby's nostrils and lips with the liquid and carefully picked him up and placed him in a backpack. He left a gap at the top when he zipped it up, so the kid could breathe. Harris was new to being a nanny. He wasn't new to being increasingly disgusted with his assignments. Having secured the orphan he just created, he checked a list written on a napkin in his pocket. There were four stops total for tonight's work, but he thought it was only three.

"Shit, thought I was done," he thought as he saw one more name below Jennifer Parlence's. His mood shifted from disgusted to disgruntled as he considered the complications sneaking around with a baby strapped to his back would add to his evening's activities.

"Who am I? Lone Wolf and Cub? This is getting ridiculous," he mumbled as he navigated the living room and slipped out of the front door, careful not to bang the baby into anything along the way. His next target lived above a bar about a half mile from here. Last call would be soon, which meant potential witnesses. Shit faced witnesses, but witnesses none the less. He didn't need that. He was already behind schedule by about an hour.

It was entirely his fault. The being behind schedule, that is. Not everything was, not yet. He lost some time because he let his first assignment, one Dr. Carter and his wife, Dr. Kelly-Carter, finish eating dinner and waited until the evening news was over before walking through their front door and 'neutralizing' them both. Afterwards, he rummaged through their refrigerator and finished a leftover salad he found resting under a pizza box before moving on to the second stop.

His second stop was routine, uneventful, border-line mind-numbing, and over in five minutes. Harris used the bathroom and sat longer than he needed to on the toilet, having gotten engrossed in a newspaper article about a local politician's DUI scandal. After that, he was off to kidnap a baby.

He left the home of Jennifer Parlence and Spouse significantly more irritated than when he entered. It was a warm for the middle of February sort of night. The crisp, cold air seemed to make things appear more focused, more clear than usual. Harris noted this phenomenon many years ago, long before he was a top secret government assassin. He didn't know why it happened, he was content to simply enjoy it when it did.

He checked the backpack to make sure there was still a living baby in it before making the walk to his last target of the evening. Usually, he only went out on these sort of killing sprees every few months, but the frequency of these assignments was quickly increasing. This being the third time in as many weeks that he was handed a list of names, addresses, and a key to a hotel room in some godforsaken corner of the middle of nowhere and instructed to erase the existence of those named on said list.

Since all he ever received from his superiors were names and addresses, Harris recently began doing some research into the people he was so casually expected to take care of. Usually, it didn't do him any good. The reasons beyond his assignments were so obscured, just about anything could trigger an order to kill.

What he was able to learn about the people on tonight's list was that they were all members of a UFO hunters club. They had the misfortune of witnessing a supposed-to-have-been-secret U.S Air Force test flight involving a craft designed from and constructed with alien materials and techniques. As the craft lost its ability to hover and began to crash, some of its bits and pieces came loose and fell to the ground. It was unknown whether or not any of the debris was collected by the group; that didn't matter. They saw it and may have had the opportunity to get a chunk of it. One of the members, Ken Toring, took a video and posted to his blog "" and now he had about twenty minutes to live. Less maybe, depending, but definitely not more.

It didn't matter to his higher-ups that no one really believes small-town UFO investigators. It wasn't a concern that the group may or may not have seen/acquired anything of value or interest. It only mattered that there was a very small, almost invisibly small, less than the percentage of impurities found in a bar of Ivory Soap small chance that a secret weapons program was compromised. It was a textbook cover your ass maneuver that lacked any sort of grace or aplomb.

Harris arrived at Doolings Irish Pub and looked at the second-floor apartment from across the street. The lights were out upstairs and the bar seemed quiet- meaning that he couldn't hear drunk people yelling from across the street. There was a solid chance that his target was asleep, or not home. Either of which would have suited him just fine.

He crossed the street, ignoring the glances of the drunk smokers huddled to the right side of the bar's front door. He pulled his hood up and walked up to the apartment's entrance like he lived there. He even took a set of keys from his pocket and made like he was unlocking the door. He wasn't, he shoved his finger through the door jam, twisted the knob, and entered the building.

What he found was a prematurely dead body sitting in an easy chair. It was his last target. A small table lamp did what it could to illuminate the room, light spilled onto the body highlighting a stream of blood that went down the man's wrist and gathered into a puddle at his feet. A small black lockbox rested in his hands. A razor was at his feet, half covered in blood.

The Ruiner placed his backpack on the ground and checked its contents before approaching the corpse. He reached for the lockbox but stopped when he noticed it was attached to a wire that ran behind the chair and through the wall behind it.

"Oh man, I hate booby traps," he said to the baby in the backpack.