First Time by Megan Good

            Lawrence could barely read the bright red numbers that glared at him from the alarm clock’s digital display. He rolled over, pulling the gray comforter with him, and tried to fall back to sleep, but the queen sized mattress was too soft for him and he lay there tossing and turning for some time before he finally gave up all together. Sitting up, he noticed that the clock read 3:46 am. He ran his hand through his disheveled hair and looked around the room. Expensive paintings and art works by some no doubt infamous painter hung from each white wall. All the furniture was made of a lightly colored wood and the floor was a mess of beige. The bed was a simple gray with too many pillows for Lawrence’s liking. Anyone else would have thought the room beautiful, but it just made Lawrence uncomfortable. He was used to sleeping on spring a mattress tied down to an old murphy bed and on uncomfortable car seats. If someone had told him two months ago that he would be spending his first few weeks after once again gaining employment in an expensive condo overlooking the ocean, he would have laughed and called them crazy.

            Lawrence stood up and popped his back, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep. He had to be up in two hours anyway to start work. The situation wasn’t exactly crazy, just highly unlikely. He changed out of the sweats he had worn to bed and pulled on a pair of deep brown slacks. As he rummaged through his suitcase for a pair of socks, his conscious reared its ugly head again, bringing doubt with it.

            “You won’t be able to go back to living a normal life if you go through with this,” it warned him. “You’ll get hooked on the thrill again, you know you will.”

            The first time Lawrence Monroe had killed someone, he had been fourteen. It hadn’t been an accident either.

            For his twelfth birthday, his father had bought him a Marlin 22 caliber lever action rifle with a 3 power scope attached. The three power scope was good for when you wanted to shoot small rodents like squirrels, and for the first few months Lawrence owned the rifle, that’s what he did with it. Every weekend he would go into the woods behind his parent’s house and shoot squirrels for a few hours. He was a natural with the rifle and once his father found out, the two of them started to go on hunting trips.

            Shooting came easily to Lawrence. Tracking and hunting prey, once he learned how, came easily to him as well. Hunting was the first thing Lawrence felt like he could do better than anyone else. He had never been great in school and it was hard for him to make friends. The latter remained true even after he discovered his talent, but that was alright with him. Lawrence didn’t mind the solitude. In fact, he enjoyed being a loner.

            Two years after receiving his first rifle, Lawrence started to become bored with hunting. There was no challenge to it anymore for him, no thrill. He was tired of hunting rodents and going deer hunting with his father. Lawrence wanted more of a challenge, but he couldn’t exactly go to the zoo a few towns over and start shooting at their animals. Though the thought had crossed his mind. A plane ticket to Africa or Australia was out of the question as well. He was only fourteen and his parent’s couldn’t afford it.

            The details of that first day were burned into Lawrence’s memory. It was the third Tuesday in May, 75 degrees out and partly cloudy. He was walking out of school, his backpack slung over his shoulder. Lawrence was wearing a button up plaid shirt and his only pair of jeans without holes in them. He had just passed the third intersection past the school, only seven more until he was home, when a black sedan pulled up to the curb in front of him and a kid about his age in a red pinstriped suit and fancy dress shoes stepped out of the car. As the kid adjusted his tie and looked around, Lawrence recognized him as Henry Arone, the only son of the richest businessman in Cooltin County. The Arone’s had their hands in just about everything, and as Henry began approaching him, Lawrence suspected that he was about to become part of their collection.

            “Lawrence Monroe?” Henry asked him. Henry’s tone was that of a stuck up rich kid, snobby and full of loathing for the lower class. There was a hint of an accent in his speech, though Lawrence couldn’t identify where it was from.

            “What do you want?” Lawrence asked, genuinely curious.

            “The land behind your house is owned by my parents.” Henry stepped closer to Lawrence, though not close enough to invade his personal space. Lowering the volume of his voice, Henry continued. “My father has taken notice of your talent in handling firearms. He has a job for you, if you’re interested. You’ll be paid five upfront and then ten after it’s completed.”

            “Five dollars?”

            Henry frowned. “No, five thousand dollars. Cash.”

            To 14 year old Lawrence, thirty dollars was a lot. Five thousand dollars seemed like a million to him, and his family could really use the money. If one simple job could get him fifteen thousand, he would do it in a heartbeat.

            “Hell yeah I want the job!”

            Henry nodded. “Good. My father felt that you would agree, so we’ve got everything all set up for you. If you’d just get in the car, we’ll get going.”

            Lawrence didn’t know that the job would require him to kill someone. However, he figured it out quickly when he was given a beautiful Mosin-Nagant sniper rifle with a ten-scope, which only weighed about ten pounds or so, a picture of a man with an unkempt blonde beard, and told that the man in the photo would be his target. Lawrence hadn’t been told much more than that, other than when someone took off their hat that was Lawrence’s queue, before they started pushing him up the rungs of the old water tower, the rifle strapped onto his back. There was some part of Lawrence telling him that this was wrong, this was illegal, this was murder. There was another side of him though, the side he eventually decided to let win, that was telling him, “Hey. This is what you wanted, right? A challenge?”

            Lawrence reached the top and settled down. The Arone’s were dealing in dark business, and probably had risen to power that way. As Lawrence waited for his target to arrive, he imagined that the Arone’s were like the mafia or some other underground crime syndicate and they were going to make a deal with some other criminals, though they didn’t plan on losing anything. Why they would have a meeting like that in broad daylight on the deserted side of town was behind him. He wasn’t getting paid to think. Lawrence was the silent assassin getting ready to earn his next paycheck.

            Two groups arrived ten minutes apart from each other. The first group consisted of the two suits who had been in the car with Lawrence and Henry and a third, unknown man who was not Lawrence’s target. The second group consisted of two men Lawrence had never seen and the target. Bringing the scope to his eye, Lawrence began waiting. The wind stirred and the shadow of a cloud passed over the whole place. The meeting commenced.

            There was probably a lot of talking going on down there. The men were about 600 yards or so away from Lawrence and he couldn’t hear any of it, though with the scope on his rifle he could see it all just fine. Two black suitcases were brought out and the whole scene took on a cheesy movie vibe. When Arone’s men opened their suitcase, the target took his hat off his head and put held it to his chest. Lawrence was filled with a rush of adrenaline just then. It was a feeling unlike any he had felt before. He took the shot and hit his mark. The target’s men were taken care of quickly. The rush was gone just as soon as it had come and Lawrence wanted more. Much more.

            He worked for the Arone’s for four more years before his parents found out. His mother was heartbroken and his father disowned him on the spot. They were the only people in the world who Lawrence cared about and they no longer cared about him. It broke his heart, so Lawrence spent his money on therapy and traveled, trying to put his past behind him and recover. He put himself through college and came out debt free with money to spare. Lawrence finally got to go to Australia and Africa, but he never touched a gun. He hadn’t touched a gun for thirteen years. And then Henry found him.

            Lawrence was renting a one room apartment in Bee Cave, a small town in Texas. He hadn’t had a steady job since his time with the Arone’s, and that night he had just been fired from another one. He unlocked the door to his apartment and stepped inside, tossing his keys on the counter and flipping the lights on. Lawrence grabbed a beer from the fridge and headed into the small living room. He nearly had a heart attack when he saw the figure sitting in the lazy boy by the lamp. The figure reached up and switched on the lamp.

            It was Henry. He was wearing a red pinstriped suit that was too similar to the one he had been wearing when they had first officially met for it to be a coincidence. He had grown a lot since Lawrence had last seen him. Lawrence hadn’t seen Henry since he had turned his life around to the best of his ability. This had ‘bad sign’ written all over it.

            “No,” Lawrence said before Henry had a change to say anything.

            “Yes, well hello to you too.” He spoke with a light French accent, and Lawrence vaguely remembered hearing something about the Arone’s moving to France for a while.

            “I don’t care why you’re here. The answer’s no. Now get outta my apartment.”

            Henry frowned. “I can’t just drop in to see an old friend with out there being some other intent behind my actions?”

            Lawrence cracked the beer open. “We’re not friends. We never were. It’s been thirteen years. I ain’t about to start playin’ this game again.”

            “Fine,” Henry got up from the chair, “then we’ll skip the games and get right to business.”

            “No!” Lawrence took a swig of his beer and nearly slammed it onto the counter. “There ain’t gana be no business.”

            “But you’re in need of a job, oui?”

            “There will be others.” Lawrence wasn’t all that surprised at Henry’s statement. Henry was a spy. It was his way of being involved with the family business. Henry’s older brother would become the head of it all, so Henry had to settle for the next best thing, which was having a job knowing about everything and everyone ever involved or currently involved with the Arone’s family business. Henry had probably been planning this whole thing for a few weeks, if not months, now.

            “Be honest now, Lawrence. You haven’t been able to hold a steady job since you’re time working for my family. You’ve been through extensive rehab and haven’t touched a gun in years, yet your parents still refuse to accept you. You have no friends to speak of. You’ve tried and tried to fit into society’s mold. But there’s something wrong and you can’t seem to puzzle out what it is. Why can’t you get your life back on track?”

            Henry walked over to the counter and picked up the beer. He sniffed it and scowled, opting to set it back down than to take a drink of it. “I’ll tell you. It’s because you were not made for this society of morals and laws. You have a magnificent talent that you’ve thrown to the side, and for what?” Henry gestured to the entire room. “For a crummy apartment in Hick Town Texas? You know what you want. You’re just too hesitant to seize it. I thought you, of all people, would know what happens to those who hesitate.”

            Lawrence brought his right hand up to his face and traced the scar that ran from the top of his jaw, across his cheek, and ended right at the bridge of his nose. He knew very well what happened to people who hesitated even a second too long.

            “So what will it be: A life of boring jobs and places, with no friends or family, or a life doing what you love to do, what you’re best at?”

            Lawrence hated ultimatums, but he hated Henry even more for being right. This life he was living, or at least pretending to live, wasn’t what he wanted at all. It was normal, though. Unfortunately, that was all it was. Lawrence wanted more out of life than just a monotonous existence. He wanted a challenge, fear, excitement, everything that Henry was offering him now and more. Lawrence had tried, he had tried for thirteen years and failed, to live how society said he was suppose to live. But he was done with doing what was expected of him.

            “Who’s the target”

            Lawrence silenced the nagging of his conscious as he thoroughly cleaned his Winchester 243 in preparation for the day’s work. He didn’t want to go back to a normal life anymore. That wasn’t for him. The rush of adrenaline, the fear of being killed, the thrill he got when the target did something unexpected, all these things were what he had been craving and soon he would be in his element again. He might be a bit rusty, but the rifle felt so familiar in his hands and his muscle memory was as sharp as ever. If Lawrence had mentioned his occupation to anyone, they would have labeled him as crazy. But crazy isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes, crazy can be fun.

–Megan Good

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