Monday, November 12th, 2001 | 23:00
The Commoner's Guide To Suicide (pt. 3)

Step Three: Strange things happen to ordinary people and visa versa...

If he had become a cop or a soldier I could have stomached it a little easier. But there was no way that I could ever come to terms with the fact that he actually killed people for money. This was the same guy that hadn't spoken for months on end. He was one of those people that looked like he wouldn't hurt a fly, let alone another person. But that's exactly what he did. He killed people for money. He had found his one true worldly gift. And to Eli that's all that mattered.

The ridiculous thing about it was that he didn't much like what he did. He didn't enjoy his work and didn't really have the mentality to go with the profile. But he had convinced himself that there was nothing else in the world that he could do as well. And, like so many others, he just simply accepted it. It might sound strange to you but it really isn't all that weird. People spend decades doing the nine to five thing and hate every second of it. But they never do anything about it. Why? Because they convince themselves that there isn't anything better out there. They're comfortable with the fact that they know their job and can do it well enough to remain somewhat unconscious day in and day out. The problem with that kind of thinking is that it always ends up creeping into every other aspect of your life. Now I'm not saying that there aren't exceptions. In lower class situations you do what you have to do. Most of the time you just don't have any choice in the matter. That may be difficult for some of you to swallow but it's the hard truth. All those lofty dreamer types out there that disagree have the luxury of disagreeing because they've never been in that position. Like the saying goes 'walk a mile in someone else's shoes before you open your big fucking mouth'. There is no dishonor in spending a life providing for your family. There is no dishonor in doing work that others might consider beneath them or trivial. There are hundreds of millions that do those jobs and are happy that they have them. That's the stoic simplicity of the blue-collar existence. Making the word go round never was that easy. But someone's got to do it.

So that's how I found Eli. Trapped in a line of work that he didn't particularly like but was good at. Besides that he hadn't changed much. When work came in someone would give him a call and he would go and pick up a package somewhere. Usually there was just a couple of photos and an address. Sometimes, if he was lucky, there was a reason provided. But Eli didn't much care about reasons. As far as he was concerned he had found his one true gift. And that was good enough for him. But as I sat there I couldn't quite put all the pieces together. How does the introverted son of an egomaniacal engineer go from a life of quite redundancy to one of a hit man? For the life of me I couldn't figure it out. So I decided to be blunt and just asked Eli to tell me. So he did.

It all started the year my father died. Eli was still living with his dad and was working part time at the shooting range. From what I could gather he took the job simply so that he could shoot after work for free. Later that year Leo Lemski suffered a stroke and Eli was forced to put him in a home. It never ceases to amaze me how things always even out in the end. I'm sure that if Leo had given a damn about his son then maybe Eli would have taken care of him. But Eli had no reservations about dumping his dad off in some home. As far as he was concerned he was just some stranger that yelled at him. So Eli ended up getting a job stocking shelves at a supermarket in Houston and got a small place of his own. And that's what he did for the better part of a year. He stocked shelves. At the end of that year he had saved up enough money to buy a used car and decided to give up his apartment in favor of living in the car. He said he did it primarily to save money but I would venture to guess that it was either the apartment or the car. So Eli was working at the supermarket and living in his car. Ain't it just like fate to make that decision seem poignant when it was nothing more than a fluke.

So here's how it happened. One night Eli left work late and was searching for an acceptable place to pull over for the night and sleep. He was driving around at about 2am when he came to a hard stop at a red light. This caused a great deal of crap to come flying up from the backseat and fill the passenger side of the car. So Eli started to throw stuff into the backseat. And that's when it happened. Parked on the other side of the street there was a van. And in the van there was a big guy sitting in the driver's seat. The rear doors of the van were open and just as Eli's eyes came upon them he saw another man hit a women and then throw her into the back of the van. Eli's first reaction was to say something. But remembering the whole dog incident from his youth he decided not to bother. Maybe the girl would be alright if he kept his mouth shut. He was good at keeping his mouth shut. It was his specialty. Unfortunately the large guy sitting in the driver's seat of the van noticed that Eli had seen what was going on. So he decided to get out of the van and walk over to the passenger side window of Eli's car. Now, any normal person would have hit the gas and gotten out of there. But Eli just froze. The guy started banging on the window and kept yelling 'you didn't see nothin' you little shit! Nothin'!' Now if Eli had simply nodded his head it would have been over right there. But Eli didn't do anything. He just sat there looking from the guy pounding on the window to the other guy standing at the back of the van. And that's when the big guy decided to smash Eli's window. The rest happened so fast that Eli couldn't really go into any detail. All that he could recall was that he went for his gun in the glove box, chambered a round, and fired through the broken window. The big guy fell to the ground and the guy behind the van went for something. What that 'something' was turned out to be was an AK47. Eli didn't know that of course. He was lost in some strange mental time warp that had taken control of his body, superceding the authority of his rationale. His primary reaction to the man's movement was to get out of the driver's side door and stay crouched behind his car. Luckily it was the right call. After producing the machinegun, the guy at the back of the van proceeded to empty and entire clip into Eli's car. But seeing as the guy couldn't shoot for shit he didn't hit the gas tank. He just took out all the windows and put some rather attractive holes in the quarter panels. Eli was hit in the leg by a bullet that ricochet off the pavement under the car and caught him in the upper thigh. So Eli's reaction was to come straight up and return fire through the blown out backseat windows. And because van boy was trapped in that 'I've got a bigger gun than you so I'm invincible' state of mind, he didn't think to take cover while reloading. And like I've said throughout this story, Eli was the best shot I've ever seen. He took the guy with a single bullet to the side of the head and that was that. The light turned green, a variety of sirens popped up in the distance, and Eli realized that there was a rather unattractive hole in his leg. So he did the decent thing. He passed out.

So here's the kicker. The girl that had been thrown into the back of the van was the runaway daughter of a New Orleans gangster. It seems that daughter and father had had an argument several months earlier and she had left New Orleans for Houston with some biker. Broke, and accustomed to feeding a hefty drug habit, she soon turned to prostitution and wound up working for the wrong guys. As it turns out, the same two guys that Eli shot dead. So when the police showed up they questioned the girl and she basically made Eli out to be her savior. The whole thing was chalked up to self-defense since the cops were familiar with the two dead pimps and didn't really give a damn either way. Eli's gun was conveniently misplaced by an officer and the girl, after being identified, was sent back to New Orleans. So now you've got this gangster that's been reunited with his only child after several months of worrying and wondering where she was and on top of it all he learns that some complete stranger saved her life. The fact that she left out the part about being a prostitute had little to do with the fact that the man felt indebted to Eli. So he decided to do something about it. And you know gangsters. When they set their minds to something, well...

The world of crime works in a very specific way. If you've got enough pull you can find out just about anything you want in a matter of hours. So all it took was a phone call from New Orleans to Dallas and then from Dallas to the Houston PD to find out the actual specifics of that night. Another quick call to the hospital that treated Eli revealed his place of employment (as he obviously had no fixed address). So after the gangster soundly beat his daughter for lying to him (and disgracing his family by whoring herself) he sent a couple of guys to Houston to pay Eli a visit. It was as simple as that.

When Eli was released from the hospital a week later he was met by two men that ushered him into the back of a limousine. At first Eli was a little concerned that the men were affiliated with the two guys that he had shot and it was curtains. But after one of the men explained the whole thing to him he found it considerably easier to relax. Eli had no thoughts either way about organized crime. During the time that I spent with him it seemed to me that he always gave people the benefit of the doubt, no matter their position in life. So he wasn't all that against the fact that he was being flown to New Orleans mere hours after being wheeled out of a hospital door. After all, we're talking about a guy who stocked shelves at a supermarket and lived in his car. So Eli got on the plane, flew to Louisiana, and met the gangster. And that's where his life took a swing for the worse. As it turns out, the gangster's idea of repaying Eli was to give him a job. And, because it paid better than stocking shelves, Eli wasted no time in accepting it.

So Eli spent some time in New Orleans doing odd jobs for the mob. At first he did menial things like opening car doors, transporting goods, what have you. It wasn't until the summer of the next year that he was invited along on a 'special assignment' with a couple of the boss's regulars. So it was in Baton Rouge on a rainy night that Eli Lemski took part in his first professional killing. He was merely the driver but that's all it took to get him started. Once his knowledge of guns became apparent to his co-workers he started taking part in more 'special assignments'. By the winter of that same year Eli was one of the boss's favorite triggermen and feared by almost everyone that surrounded him.

Like I said earlier, the world of crime works in a specific way. There were those in New Orleans that didn't like the fact that an outsider had moved from errand-boy to hit man in a little over a year. They were concerned that the boss was becoming too attached to this kid who, it has to be said, would never be a candidate for real membership. So, after the boss was tipped off that someone was going to try and rid the organization of Eli Lemski, he decided to so the decent thing. After all, Eli had saved his daughter's life and that meant more to the boss than it did to those around him. So he sent Eli to Chicago and set him free.

It was in the windy city that Eli became an 'independent'. Because of his affiliation with the mob in New Orleans he got enough work to build up a decent sized clientele. And, like any business, that's how the cream rises to the top. Eli was efficient and extremely thorough. And because he tended to keep his mouth shut most of the time, those that employed him got the impression that he had been doing this sort of thing for much longer than he had been. See, Eli's lack of verbalization gave him that whole no nonsense hit man kind of quality. It made him seem more professional and dangerous. Not that anyone in their right mind would ever consider Eli dangerous if they saw a picture of him, but if you knew what he did for a living and met him you'd understand. So his business flourished as word spread and, like some hip new bistro, Eli became the go-to-guy for all the jobs that no one else would touch. And he pulled them off. Every single one of them.

So that's how he ended up in New York. After his profile in Chicago got a bit too large (so much so that the police were watching his apartment at night) he decided to pack it in and move to New York. And that's where he was when I met up with him. Standing quietly in the middle of a shit storm observing the clouds of his eventual demise.

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