Have you ever wondered about those henchmen who work for evil mastermind villains in action movies? Where did they come from? What do they do all day? How did they get their jobs?
Find out in the darkly comic short story, “Henchmen Wanted,” about a group of mercenaries who are guarding a secret mountain base when an unexpected visitor shows up.
Available now on Amazon. Read a free sample of the story below.
“This is one odd job, ain’t it?” asks Vargas.
We stand strapped to alpine skis on the top of a snow-covered mountain staring at a breathtaking view of the Swiss Alps. I can see for hundreds of miles in all directions. There’s not another soul in sight.
“Odd, yes,” I say. “But I’ll be damned if it’s not the best job in the world.”
“Amen to that.” Vargas takes a swig from his flask. He and I just finished a run down the north face of the mountain—nothing but powder. Now we’re staring down the south face, also covered with fresh snow as soft as cotton. We basically have the entire mountain to ourselves and get to ski all day long, never having to wait in any lift lines. Best of all, it’s free. Actually, it’s better than free. We get paid to do this. It’s our job.
“Want a shot?” Vargas offers me the flask and I take a swig of vodka so cold I can barely taste it. “Twenty bucks says I beat you to the base!” Vargas launches himself off the cliff.
“You dick!” I tighten the top on the flask then tuck it into my jacket pocket. Stabbing my poles into the snow, I launch myself off the cliff to chase Vargas down the slope.
* * *
The Craigslist post was titled “Armed Guards Wanted.”
I was sick of my job at the time (shopping mall security guard) and was looking for something with a little more action, so I clicked the link.
“Experienced security guards wanted for remote research institute.”
I had three years of experience as a security guard, and “remote research institute” sounded a hell of a lot more intriguing than “suburban mall.”
“Must be proficient with firearms (long and short-range).”
I’d been playing paintball every weekend since I was nine years old. They called me Banksy because I painted so many people with my gun.
“Military training preferred.”
I’d logged thousands of hours of Call of Duty on Xbox—close enough.
“Must be willing to relocate abroad.”
I had no girlfriend, and I was itching to get away from my parents, who were constantly nagging me about my lack of girlfriend.
“Risk of injury or death. Must sign release form.”
No big deal. I had to sign one of those release forms every time I played paintball. I even had to sign one to jump around at an indoor trampoline park.
“Client’s name and research are confidential. Must sign non-disclosure agreement.”
I had no problem with that either. The secrecy only made me more intrigued.
“Pay is minimum wage, but food and lodging are provided for the duration of your service.”
As it was, I was barely making minimum wage at the mall, and most of my paycheck went toward food and rent. With that now provided for, anything this new job paid me on top would be gravy.
“Must know how to ski.”
That was the clincher for me. I didn’t know how it related to security, but the only thing I loved more than paintball was skiing.
I typed up a cover letter and emailed my resume on the spot. Two weeks later, I got a phone call saying I’d been accepted for the job, and they flew me out to their “remote” headquarters in the Swiss Alps.
* * *
Thanks to his head start, Vargas beats me down the mountain. I spot him waiting at the midway tram station, staring up the slope at me with a smug grin.
“You’re slow!” He laughs.
I speed down the hill then turn sideways to skid to a stop a few feet before him, spraying snow all over his smug face.
“You’re snow!” I laugh myself.
“You son of a—” Vargas pulls the AK-47 off his back and aims it at me. “Who’s laughing now?”
I stop laughing and stare down the barrel of his automatic rifle. “Still me.” I resume laughing. “Your safety’s on, genius.”
“Shit…” Vargas laughs along with me. “Like we’re ever going to have to use these things.” He slings the rifle over his shoulder. “Give me that damn flask.”
* * *
Over the two years that I’ve worked at this job, I haven’t had to fire my gun once. I mean, I’ve fired it plenty of times—just for fun—but I haven’t had to fire it. Not at a person. Not even at a wolf or a bear.
They made a big deal about the injury and death risk when I signed the release form, but that was probably only because of some legal requirement. My boss was just covering his ass for the one-in-a-million chance something bad actually happens.
So far, the only injury I’ve suffered was while skiing a few months ago. I got a little too fancy and tried to do a three-sixty jump off a cliff, but I fell on the landing and sprained my ankle. I normally never fall while skiing, but it probably didn’t help that I was drunk at the time. The injury kept me off the slopes for a few days, but I’ve been fine since.
As for my boss, I still haven’t met the guy. I don’t even know his name. None of the guards do. Details about the company are sparse. Word is they’re involved in researching allergy medication. Anyway, the boss stays locked inside his research facility at the peak and travels up and down the mountain via the tram. Which I don’t get at all. Why put your headquarters in the Swiss Alps if you don’t even ski?
We security guards stay in a separate facility at the base of the mountain. There’s seven of us, and we alternate shifts to cover the twenty-four-hour operation. The work hours are long, but you can hardly call skiing and riding snowmobiles “work.” All we have to do is patrol the mountain, armed with AK-47’s, and make sure there are no intruders. Yet during the two years I’ve been here, I haven’t encountered a single intruder once. Easiest job in the world.
* * *
“Vargas. Grant.” A voice speaks over our radios. “This is Hans, over.”
“What the hell does he want?” Vargas takes another swig from his flask.
“He’s on radar duty,” I say.
One guard is always stationed to sit inside the radar facility at the top of the south face. That shift is one of the few downsides of this job. You’re stuck inside alone, staring at a screen for hours on end. Though when I’m on radar duty, I just drink beer and watch movies all shift long—can’t complain about that.
“Hans—that bastard—is probably just looking for someone to swap shifts with him so he can ski,” Vargas says.
I take a swig of vodka, which is even colder than before, then say, “Screw that.” I love movies, but on a day like this, with the sun shining and the powder fresh, you’d have to kill me to get me out of these skis.
“What the hell do you want, Hans?” Vargas says into his walkie-talkie.
“I just saw—”
“No one’s switching shifts with you,” I say into my radio, cutting him off.
“No, guys, this is serious,” Hans says. “I think there’s an intruder.”