Heck's MarksMature

Everyone has a thing. You know. Collecting stuff. Whittling, stargazing, birdwatching, whatever.

Hector Drogan’s thing is following. He follows people he sees on the streets, in restaurants, in bars, in laundromats. Heck worried, at first, that this could be a symptom of some dark, deep-seated behavioral issues, maybe some sociopathic tendencies he’d developed as a kid that had been dormant for years.

But no. He’d seen it in a movie once. He’d been bored, so he started doing it. And now he can’t stop.

Still, Heck knows that it’s something of a creepy hobby. So he justifies things to himself by only following people if there’s a specific reason to do so. Like if they could potentially be in danger, maybe. Or if it’s possible that they could be up to no good, to some nefarious plan. Like if he sees a suspicious-looking guy somewhere, you can bet your ass that Heck is going to follow the living hell out of that guy, just in case he’s up to something that is actually suspicious. Or if he sees a drunk couple giggling down the street at two in the morning after a party, something like that, Heck is by all means going to follow them too. Because, you know, two in the morning? That’s when all of the crackheads and the muggers and the ninjas come out. The streets are dangerous.

By all other accounts, Heck is pretty much a normal guy. Bland, even. He keeps his hair trimmed short. He works out, stays in shape. He has no visible markings on his face, no moles, no scars, no piercings. His only distinguishing facial characteristic is a slightly upturned pug nose, a souvenir from repeatedly getting punched in the face during a very brief stint in his alma mater’s boxing program. He’s a rebate analyst for a company that produces rubber materials: mostly condoms, pencil erasers and balloons. He dresses neatly. Solid tie, pressed white shirt, brown pants, brown shoes, brown belt. He pays his bills on time. His neighbors like him. His colleagues like him, too. He plays poker with five of his buddies on Wednesday nights and usually wins.

He just has this one little quirk, something that’s more of a noble pursuit if you think about it, really.

Generally, though, the people Hector follows—he calls them his marks—don’t go anywhere or do anything notable. There are exceptions: he’d stopped a burglary once, without resorting to violence. He’d just sauntered out of the shadows, walked right up to the perp and flexed his biceps menacingly. Narrowed his eyes and gave the guy a really withering stare. The would-be thief (who was dressed up in black, plus a black ski mask accessory, like he’d been planning to break into the Louvre to make a run at some ancient Egyptian urns, maybe) blanched, turned tail and fled.

And one other time, he’d been following a woman home from the supermarket when she tripped, stumbled and dropped her bags all over the sidewalk. Heck helped pick them up. After she’d thanked him and left, Heck waited for fifteen seconds and followed her the rest of the way home. Just in case she dropped the groceries again. It could happen.

But mostly? Heck’s marks go to work, they go out to eat, they shop. Later, they go home. That’s all there is.

Hector has a list of good following locations that he keeps in his wallet—he’d used this list to select his current venue, a diner known for its Friday night crowds. If you were to look at him, you’d figure he’s just some guy sitting alone in a corner booth, picking his way through a Cobb salad and reading A Farewell to Arms.

But he’s actually surveilling his current mark, a haggard, scruffy looking guy who is wearing sunglasses indoors. Sunglasses has been staring blankly at a laptop for the last hour, occasionally typing something, clicking something. There is something off about him. His hands shake constantly. Hector suspects illicit drug use.

After thirty more agonizing minutes of watching Sunglasses type, then click, then stare off into the distance, Hector observes as he pops a couple of strange blue pills into his mouth. Hector nods to himself. Sunglasses’ clicking and typing become more frenzied. Eventually, he finishes his business, rises, snaps the laptop shut and dumps it unceremoniously into an orange backpack. He limps toward the exit, favoring his right leg.

Heck smiles. It’s easy to follow orange.

The End

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