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Waldo, Stealth Assassin

March 22, 2007

I need you to believe me. I’m in danger. There’s this man, he has a striped red shirt, glasses- Hey! I’m serious here. OK, OK, I’ll start at the beginning.

It was a joke, an innocuous, harmless little joke. My friend Rudy, he sent it to me. How could anyone expect it to be taken seriously- a guy named Waldo who, for a “nominal fee”, said that he could take out anyone, anytime, anywhere. Even his logo was absurd, a little drawing that was clearly in violation of the Where’s Waldo copyright. That’s right, you remember him, searching through page after page trying to find that naive tourist.

So we flipped a coin, and Rudy won. Or rather, as it turned out, lost. The page was surprisingly smooth, and it was only a couple of minutes before we had taken a hit out on him, with me agreeing to foot the bill.

Don’t look at me like that. How could we have possibly known what would happen?

Fast forward a few days, to the weekend. Rudy and I are sitting at a little burger joint called Mo’s that overlooks this odd little enclosed park in Downtown San Francisco. The two of us were finishing our shakes and talking about the Literary Theory class that Rudy was taking when he stopped in mid sentence.

“What the . . .” he said as his hand shot up to his neck. He winced as tugged at something, and his hand came away with what looked like a tiny dart.

I was about to ask what it was when Rudy’s face went stiff, eyes wide, and his head crashed down, forehead shattering the plate that now only held a couple of fries. I jumped back and out of my seat, panicking and looking for someone to help.

That was when I saw him. Red striped shirt. Glasses. Fuzzy hat. And that ubiquitous sign of tourism, a camera around his neck. It was Waldo. He was smiling and putting what looked like a pen back in his pocket.

It wasn’t like the movies, thankfully, I was treated well by the cops. When they found the dart they let me go.

I don’t exactly know how I got back to my apartement, but I did. I was still in shock when I opened the door, and at first the note on the floor didn’t register. I don’t know how long I just stood there before picking up the envelope. Inside the envelope was an invoice.

I owed Waldo $5,000. Unfortunately, the vast majority of my worth was located in the twenty in my pocket, which I only had because Mo’s didn’t charge for the meal.

Still on autopilot, I changed my clothes so that I wasn’t spattered with ketchup before leaving the apartment. I didn’t want to be around when Waldo came to collect. Slowly, it all came together. Those books that I had so eagerly pored over as a child, they weren’t just entertainment, they were advertisements. I sprinted down the hill to the Borders, and started poring over the books.

The more I looked, the more disturbing it got. Something was going wrong in every one of the pictures. Letting animals out at the zoo, probably paid for by PETA. Sabotaging commercial airliners. In some cases, it even appears that he is directly involved in the enslavement or genocide of entire races and peoples.

Then I got to Waldo World, and my throat went dry. There they were, thousands of the killing machines, an unending tide of Waldos. I hesitate to even think of the implications.

That’s why I’m here. You see, I know your secret. You’re his handler. You have to understand, this was only a joke, a joke that went bad. Let my work something out with you, an installment plan or something. I can have you paid off in a year or two, and-

What do you mean that he’s gone rogue!

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