Derek was the epitome of average. He was bland looking, but not so bland that you would notice. However long you looked at him, by the time you turned around you would not recall one feature about him.
As he’d passed through school getting average grades with middling sporting ability, it was clear he would be neither a success or failure. If he could have, he would gone on to have 2.4 children.
One day fates conspired to throw a swerve ball, or at least paddle one, at him. As he walked around the cricket pitch the broad shouldered school captain thwacked his bat through the line of a good length delivery and smiled with satisfaction. The ball proceeded to pass out of the field of play at a great rate of knots, somehow staying parallel to the ground. It was an impressive six, met with whoops from adoring school girls. The ball accepted the pull of gravity only after it had struck Derek, who’d been walking home along the outfield, on the back of the head. As he lay pole-axed on the ground, he could swear bright birds were flying around his head, but all he could hear were the boys.
“Is he alright?”
“Who is he? Anyone know who he is?”
“I’ve never seen anyone lifted off their feet like that.” “Isn’t he in your class?”
“Don’t think so. I thought he might be in yours…” “Perhaps he’s a new boy?”
Whether it was the bang on the head, or it was listening to his class mates each professing to have no idea who he was, something changed that day. He decided to use his gift. It was not one of invisibility, nothing so supernatural, but it was almost as useful; he had the gift of being completely unmemorable.
Over the next few years Derek spent his time flitting between gangs learning the tricks of the trade, starting with stealing sweets from the local store, graduating through pick-pocketing, burglaries, muggings, and robberies. None of the gangs seemed to mind him joining or leaving, no-one knew who had invited him in, or noticed when he had gone. He was so unmemorable he soon found that he didn’t even have to be that good at the jobs. No need to hide, he could almost be cocky – as long as he wasn’t physically caught – for no-one would remember a thing about him.
After he left school school Derek decided not to bother with anything as mundane as a job. He could have had the pick of the gangs, what they would give for his gift for the in-your-face bits; nothing makes you stand out in a crowd as much as a balaclava on a summers day. He preferred to work alone though, it was too frustrating having to introduce himself to his gang every time they met.
Assassination became his trade of choice. It was well paid and didn’t involve too much interpersonal interaction, the only time he was up close and personal conversation was not on the agenda.
Derek’s expertise was all about planning, timing and buckets of patience, but it was not great for his diet. There was a lot of hanging about. Early on he had discovered Cornish pasties, he reasoned if miners could do a full shift deep underground on one, he was pretty sure he could face sitting around waiting in all weathers for that brief right moment. It was also handy having a whole meal in one hand – it freed up the other for a weapon.
Now, twenty years later, he was deep in the woods on his way to the cottage to pick up the details of his next target. Derek sat down for his second pasty of the day, as planned he had half an hour to kill. Two bites into the cold pastry as he licked his lips the trans fatty acids swung slowly around the sweeping curves of his arteries, finally landing with a satisfying plop into the years of coagulated grease, this time creating an impenetrable dam. He grasped his side, realising exactly what was happening, but still somehow raised a smile at the last joyous taste of the perfect pastry. He even attempted another bite as he fell head over heels, off the path into the deep, dense undergrowth.
The woods accepted the free gift of 15 stone of fertilizer and hid Derek from view, never to be seen again.
Meanwhile several miles away, in dire need to sit down, Eddie the only just ex-accountant walked across to a fallen tree trunk and hauled himself awkwardly on to it. His feet were throbbing after a days walking, he was lost and hungry beyond his experience. He sighed deeply, then smiled.
Until the previous day, for twenty years precisely – or to put it another way 5,000 days or 40,000 hours – the quiet lanky dependable Eddie had worked tirelessly for Sound & Pound Accountants. Nobody had noticed the anniversary, or all the round numbers, but for Eddie. It had hit him like a sucker punch when he arrived in the morning and noticed the calendar on his desk. He had never had the most colourful of complexions, but even his grey pallor had drained away from his face when it dawned on him that he faced another twenty years (5,000 days/40,000 hours) simply counting other peoples money – then doing his best to hide it for them – for his week’s holiday a year. Was this it? Where had the time gone and what had happened to his dreams?
Sat at his desk he finished the account he was working on, and conscientiously wrote some notes for his colleagues. He wrote his resignation for Mr. Pound – who helpfully had left early as usual, so he simply placed the letter on his desk. He had not been that spontaneous since the works Christmas party 15 years ago and that infamous melon ball incident.
Eddie went across the road for a celebratory half of ale. The public house had not changed at all since he had last been in, which he pondered was at least two Prime Ministers ago. Back in the day he used to be there every week, the life and soul of the party; when he was young of heart and accountancy was fun. Nobody there knew him now, or took a blind bit of notice. He had no idea what to do next, but it felt like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. He supped the drink slowly trying to recall at exactly what point Pound & Sound had sucked the life out of him, but he couldn’t remember.
Leaving the bar with a wave to no-one in particular, he decided to turn left at the junction, he’d never been down there, but now he was free to explore.
Eddie had left without thought or supplies and now twenty four hours later the rumbling from Eddie’s stomach was beginning to frighten the wildlife. His smile had gone half an hour ago and he sat glumly looking at the woods and river around him. His mind morphed the tall trees into chips while the bushier ones became broccoli. A briefly inquisitive rabbit hopped into view and didn’t need to morph into anything but cooked. The noise from the river sounded like frying bacon. He could almost smell the bacon.
As darkness descended, it took him a further ten minutes to realise he really could smell bacon. His nose led his head around erratically, like a confused drunk waking up in a strange place, as he searched for its source. With a gust of wind the forest of chips and broccoli opened up briefly and the light from a small cottage winked at him. He slid down the trunk smearing emerald green moss and lichen onto his hands and clothes, giving his grey clothes and skin some unusual colour.
When he got to the cottage he found green paint peeling off the lopsided wooden door. Before he had a chance to knock it was opened by a short young man who simply nodded at Eddie and gestured for him to come in. Eddie was a little taken aback by this welcome, but walked in, he wanted a warm place to rest for a bit and ideally some of that bacon.
“Hello, thanks,” said Eddie a little uncertain, holding out his hand, “It’s cold out there.”
The man gave the hand a single limp shake, it was evidently not something he was well practiced at. His small frame was at odds with the beak of a nose on his weasel face. He looked at his hand, intrigued by the slimy green stuff now on it, he was sure it wasn’t there before, then he slicked back his lank greasy hair.
“You’re a bit early. Anyway, Tony the Pick at your service.” said Tony with a little nod and an elaborate flourish of his hand.
Eddie realised there was some mistake, “Early? I think you…” “Hold on,” said Tony striding off, “just got to rescue the bacon.”
Eddies mouth salivated at the mere mention of it. He inhaled deeply, enjoying the salty aroma like a guilty pleasure.
A couple of minutes later Tony thrust a plate into Eddie’s hand, “Get your chompers around that. There’s tea in the pot if you want.”
Tony’s forefinger was half way up his right nostril as he looked absently at his sandwich.
“Spot on. It certainly satisfies the nose doesn’t it?” said Eddie bringing the plate up to his face, trying not to make eye contact with Tony.
“Is that some sort of cheap crack?” said Tony, subconsciously crossing his eyes. “No, no!” said Eddie defensively, “It’s just bacon. If it didn’t exist someone would have to invent it wouldn’t they?” He looked at Tony for reassurance. It was a big nose.
Tony looked at Eddie, shook his head then took a bite of his giant sandwich.
After a cup of tea strong enough to stand a spoon in, Eddie tried to re-start the conversation.
“How long have you lived out here then?” he said, surveying what he could in the darkness.
“Live here? You’re an odd one you,” said Eddie, “You must be damn good at your job. Can’t see it myself though.”
“My job?” said Eddie. “An accountant?”
Tony looked at the angular man inquisitively, he did indeed look like an accountant. “Good name that, kind of double edged meaning. You look like an accountant and
yet it’s more about the man going around taking names and accounting for things I guess. Would it not have more gravitas calling yourself ‘The Accountant’, rather than an accountant?”
Now it was Eddie’s turn to look puzzled, “But I am an accountant, and there are lots of us.”
“OK, I get it. You’ve said too much. Surprised you’re this talkative in your line of work.” said Tony, this time with a bent little finger somehow forced all the way up the left nostril.
Eddie was beginning to feel even more unsettled, and it had nothing to do with the nose – at least he knew where ‘the Pick’ was from now.
Tony suddenly stood up and threw his metal plate into what may have been a fire place.
“Let the rats clean that up, eh? I’m off. Instructions were to feed you and make sure you got the bag. That’s on the table there, the note in there will tell you where to pick up the second half of the money after you’ve popped the Councillor.”
Now at the door, Tony looked at Eddie for one last time, “I dare say we won’t meet again. Good luck with your accounting though.” he chuckled, and with that he was off.
Eddie hadn’t said anything for a while now and was feeling a little light headed after the way the conversation had turned. Tony had been sent to meet someone here for some sort of unsavoury task and evidently Eddie had been mistaken for him, that much was clear. If that’s the case then that person could arrive at any moment and he wouldn’t be happy. Eddie had eaten his bacon butty for a start.
After several minutes sat alone in the dark Eddie shook himself out of his stupor. Here he was, in the middle of nowhere, having just jacked in his long if not illustrious career, and now someone had left him a big bag of money and given him a job, without so much as an interview. Could be a result.
He opened the bag slowly, sure enough, on the top was an envelope with the instructions, and beneath was a solid cube of cash. He forgot to breathe. He’d only dealt with figures before so this was more real money than he had seen in his life.
“This is half! I’ve been in the wrong job,” he exclaimed, talking loudly to himself.
He knew he should just leave, and leave fast, but he didn’t. After years of doing his job, he’d forgotten who he was; he’d become his job. Mr. Pound had treated him like a fixture; reliable and faithful as an old family dog. What had happened to his youthful exuberance, and more importantly his forgotten dreams, his loves?
He’d felt more alive in the last 24 hours than he had in the last fifteen years. While that had included being cold and hungry, and now a little scared, even these feelings had made him feel vital.
He found himself opening the envelope. In a neat hand the letter read: ‘Sir,
`Enclosed is the 10,000 (if there is any less feel free to take it up with Pick). Can you please use your skills to deal with Richard Robinson from Bartonville. He is a Councillor, while of course corrupt he is too expensive to continually deal with, and a one off payment for your services seems to be the best practical solution for my business. The next council meeting is on May 2nd, and I do not want him to attend that meeting, or any subsequent meetings.
Enclosed is a picture and some details on his common where-and-when-abouts, which should assist you in finding him. I will get the second payment to you in the usual way once you have fulfilled the project.
Eddie’s wiry eyebrows rose high. Whilst money in advance, the opportunity of travel and apparently very limited hours was attractive, Eddie had always considered himself essentially as a moral man – but this was tempered as he thought about his wasted years, and Messrs. Pound and Sound.
A new life could begin here, he could do anything. ‘The Accountant’ – it certainly had a ring to it, but taking a bag full of a crook’s money was one thing, extreme accounting – a different matter entirely. Wasn’t it?
He took a few minutes and imagined a page of lines and columns. Breaking the question down into simple numbers. Swiftly completing the job at hand the bottom number left him the answer.
And so it was that Eddie then shuffled quickly down the path under the weight of the bag slung over his right shoulder. The sudden rush made him burp the salty burp of a bacon sandwich and he noticed that the trees and bushes were no longer chips and broccoli. He didn’t think he’d need to eat again until the evening although he thought that maybe he was still a little hungry as he could have sworn he’d seen a half eaten cornish pasty at one point. Obviously a trick of the light. Anyway the numbers looked good and tonight he’d have steak with the finest wines known to humanity.
by A.J. Walker from the United Kingdom