Tag, You're It

I woke up in the pitch blackness of nighttime early Wednesday morning. I had a nagging suspicion that someone was out to get me, that I had been targeted. As I lay under the white covers of my old squeaky box-spring mattress, I remembered the situation - someone had put a hit on me. It's nothing new in this business, but it's always unsettling when you know that someone's after you. I wanted to just lie there, under the covers, for the rest of the decade, but I had an assignment waiting for me at HQ that couldn't wait until tomorrow. I had a target too, someone I was supposed to hit, but I had to get the dossier from The Center before I knew who he, or she, was.

I forced myself out of bed. Showered and shaved and ate in fifteen minutes. I stole a glance in a mirror and realized I couldn't go out looking like that. I looked like myself, same clothes I wore yesterday. If I was targeted like I was supposed to be, I needed some new duds. I went back to my closet and pulled out an old second-hand black trenchcoat that I picked up a few weeks before. I swapped my jeans for black slacks and donned a black shirt. In the bathroom I slicked my hair back and tied it off in a ponytail in back. Better than nothing. I grabbed a pair of my flatmate's sunglasses on my way out the door. The sun was coming up in the east, and my own shades were a little too trademark of me.

My truck started on the third try and I took it into town. The Center's at the University, which is where I was taking a few classes too. Most of the time, I was a student, except when I had an assignment, which I was going to get that morning. When I got to the University, there weren't many people around, but there never were this early in the morning, going on 8am.

I kept an eye to my back as I made my way to the Center and up to the third floor. The dame behind the counter glanced at my ID and handed me a blank white envelope. Her face remained as cold and hard as granite in a rainstorm, so I nodded and left the way I came. I was safe inside, no goon was going to try and off me in the middle of the Center. I flipped open the envelope and pulled out the dossier they had given me. I was disappointed to find that all I got was a 3-year-old old ID of his. It had a really bad photo of the joe, and a name, Doug Applegate. Never heard of him, but he was here somewhere. I wasn't going to get anything from that mug shot of his, I'd have to get him by name alone. Maybe find someone who knew him who was lush enough to lead me to him. It was heading on 8:30, and I had a class, so I pocketed my piece and the ID and headed outside, where someone was walking around with an old ID of mine with a bad photo and my name on it in small black letters. One thing's for sure, they aren't going to recognize me from that photo, no way.

I kept to the edges of the sidewalk as I made my way to my first class. Watching reflections and shadows, I made sure nobody was following me. Inside I was safe, too bad I couldn't stay there all day. I rode through Spanish 101. Yo hablo con Carmen. Donde esta mi libro? Nine-thirty came too soon. Had to get to another building, across campus, for my next class. I took the long way, around and back, in case someone knew what my schedule was like and was lying in wait on my usual route. No tails yet, in fact I didn't see anybody until I was inside. No faces were watching, no eyes following. I made my way up to the second floor and sat through French 101. Bonjour, madame. Oui, j'adore les bonbons. I adored ma vie too, so I was extra careful when class ended and I was headed back outside. Ten-thirty, time to go to my place of legitimate work, that puts bread and potatoes on my table at night. HQ pays for a job well done, but my track record hasn't been what it could be. I'd be safe at work, too many people around. I still hadn't seen anybody tailing me, and I was starting to get worried. Either they're good, or I'm not being tailed. It's the latter kind of thinking that gets people in trouble, so I redoubled my efforts to escape unnoticed from my class and get to work.

By 12:45 I was off work and home inside my office in the Smullin building at the University. It wasn't really my office, but it's always closed from noon to one, so I usually appropriate it before the real office personnel come back from lunch. I never eat lunch, gives me more time to think during the day. I was going over what I had on Applegate, which was nothing so far. Now that I had some time to think, I grabbed last year's University phone directory and scanned for Applegate. Someone had doodled all over the cover, but I found Applegate, Douglas. A room number, and a building - Beta Theta Pi, one of the Greek halls at the University. I knew that he wouldn't be in the same room this year. In fact, he was a senior, so he was probably living in an apartment somewhere this year. I called Beta Theta anyway, on a long shot.

"Hey, have you seen Doug Applegate? This is Tim" I said.

"Uh, no, haven't seen him today" the other side said. He didn't sound intelligent enough to be covering up, so I left a message and hung up. If he's living off campus, he may not even have had any classes today. The word "classes" rang through my brain like a .22 plug. I retired from my office and strolled over to the "R", where I had a friend or two.

The "R" was better known as the Registrar, where they kept tabs on all the kids at the University. Only problem is that is was confidential info, stuff they weren't supposed to just hand out to anyone who asks. But that's if they don't know you, and the suits over at the "R" knew me plenty. They recognized me as I came through the glass electric door. "Can I help you?"

"I need some information."

"Name?" Her voice was monotone, and deep

"Doug Applegate, senior."

That was definitely my best shot of the whole day. I left with more info in my dossier than the FBI had on John Lennon - full schedule, address (off campus, like I suspected), and where he worked. Admissions, at the University. This was too easy. I only had one problem, I still wouldn't have recognized him from Nixon. It was time to pull some more strings.

I asked around at one of the big meeting places at the University, and found a dame who said she knew him. She was tall and blonde, and I believed her. I took her with me to the Admissions office, where Applegate was supposed to get off work in about 5 minutes. She'd point him out to me, and then I'd follow him until we were alone and then tag him. Easy. We waited outside the office for 5 minutes, then 10, then 15. People were all around us, but nobody entered or left the office. I got tired of waiting, barged in and in my best "won't you be my friend" voice asked the desk secretary if Applegate was there. She said he left about 10 minutes before he was supposed to get off work, to deliver something, then he was going to go to class. That put it about 20 minutes earlier. I left the office and thanked the dame for the help, but I'll have to catch him later. I wouldn't have minded catching her later, too, but in my line of work you don't have time for that kind of thing.

I still had Applegate's schedule. He was in class until 3pm. It was barely 2. I hate waiting, but it gave me a chance to think more about my own situation. Still no one after me. I'd been outside more often than a cop car in LA, and they would've had plenty of chances to pick me off. I visited my haunts, but nobody'd been asking about me. I was beginning to feel too safe.

At 2:55 I made my way to the Spark, in through the back door. It was noisy in there, but not many people. Took me a minute to find the right classroom. But I still didn't know what this joe looked like. I'd have to recruit someone in the class to finger him for me. A few minutes late, the kids started shuffling out of the room. I caught up with the first person out the door and asked him if Applegate was in that class. Yeah, he said, so I asked him if he could point him out to me. He was suspicious, but followed orders anyway. He went back in to the room and took forever in pulling Applegate out. "Here he is."

Tall and blonde, kind of like the dame I'd recruited earlier, but not quite as fresh. He was tall, taller than I was. Looked like a football player, but I knew from his dossier that he played soccer. That meant he could run. I'd have to play this one cool.

He was looking scared, so I had to calm him down or he'd never come with me. "I'm a freshman at the University, and I was thinking about joining a fraternity in the spring" I lied. "I talked to Residence Life, and they said to talk to you, because you're a senior. They said I could find you here. I was wondering if I could ask some questions?"

That put him more at ease. I started to lead him out a side door while he talked. "I was afraid you were here to kill me. So what did you want to know?" I made up a dumb question as we left the building. Nobody around once we were through the glass doors. I let him get in front of me and pulled my piece out of my trench.

"Actually, Doug, I am here to kill you."

I fired, he fell. Tag, you're it. I left him there and ran out into the afternoon sunshine. Donned my shades and headed back to the Center to let the boss know Applegate's out of the way. He wasn't there so I left a quick message in his box. The secretary stared at me with those stone eyes. "Even I have standards" I told her and she looked away, finally.

Downstairs and outside, the sun was brighter than it had been all day. The trench was getting hot, needed to get out of there, back home. I took the long way around the back of the University to my truck. Across the street to the parking lot, too many cars going across to pay attention to. As I waited for the light to change, they sped past, I couldn't even make out the faces in them. Then I was in my truck and safe as a lamb. I was still hot, so I rolled my window down. The truck started on the first try. I pulled out and headed for the street. As I neared the entrance, a small green sedan was pulling in from the street. Suddenly it swung around and blocked the whole driveway. It didn't dawn on me what was going on until the kid jumped out of the passenger side and ran parallel to me. I was reaching for the clutch when he fired through my open window and everything started going black.

Tag, I'm it.

Tyler Jones, November 28, 1993