Party Of Four

He sat at the lunch counter, sipping a mug of hot, strong coffee and ravenously devouring slice after slice of freshly-baked apple pie. Waiting until the obese trucker next to him had waddled out the door and climbed, huffing and puffing, into the parked eighteen-wheeler, he lifted the discarded newspaper from the empty stool and thumbed to the "Situations Vacant."

He scanned the section every day now, searching and seeking. It didn't really matter whether it was a local publication or a national daily...whether his current location be some sleepy, backwater hamlet or the garish neon lights of a bustling city...they would know how fashion the pitch in a way to best grab his attention. He had no qualms on that score. In all honesty, he wasn't exactly sure how they'd go about wording it, but he'd know it was meant for him as soon as he read it.

Lately, the world in general had been going down the tubes at an alarming speed...the human race almost pathetically eager to leap into the handbasket on a hellbent rush toward annihilation. It wouldn't be long before his specialized services would be needed...and then utilized to their full potential.

The sojourn had been interminable, but he prided himself on being no slouch. The waiting period had not gone totally to waste, or been completely unfruitful. Of course, that statement could act in reverse, dependent upon which side of the fence you happened to have taken a stand. It was gratifying to note that the others had not been idle either. He saw signs of their handiwork wherever he happened to wander in the course of his part-time employment; nevertheless, he yearned to sink his teeth into a real job for a change, instead of the penny-ante stuff he'd been forced to undertake while biding his time.

He didn't need to be told that his finest hour was rapidly approaching. That fact was blatantly obvious, even to those who weren't maintaining a constant vigil. Instinctively, he sensed the others had already gathered at the rendezvous point. If so, then that would be even better. It meant they were probably working on the advertisement together, which would undoubtedly make it easier for him to recognize. Somehow, he'd always known he would be the last to reach the appointed place, being much more a malingerer in character than any of his cohorts. It just wasn't in his nature to hurry. "Slow but sure" had been the credo he'd once adopted, and such it had remained.

As it happened, the announcement wasn't difficult to spot in the least, taking up the entire lower half of a full page. His pale irises glittered with delight and anticipation, but he restrained himself and savored the moment by first pouring over the news stories nestled above. A knowledgeable grin played about his narrow lips. Yes, they had gone to great pains to ensure that their call to arms would catch his callous eye.

He barely raised a wispy eyebrow at the account of the scrawny high school kid who'd gone on a grisly rampage and blown away half the football team with a deer rifle stolen from an unlocked gun cabinet. He nodded knowingly at the statistical report indicating that AIDS fatalities, among both gay and straight communities, were not decreasing after all. He shrugged his bony shoulders at the lurid details of a flash flood that had carried off a vast majority of the inhabitants in a tiny Kenyan village, leaving a trail of blighted crops and demolished dwellings in its wake. It was all too familiar.

Unable to contain his excitement and curiosity a minute longer, he crammed the thick stogie between his decaying molars and ran a yellowed fingernail over the columns of newsprint. Holding his thin rib cage, he roared with laughter until the tears coursed down his emaciated cheeks.

God only knew just how much he'd missed those three guys with their cutting wit and dark humor:

"WANTED: Veteran equestrian to make up a party of four. Consummate benefits with supreme organization. Looking for someone who is experienced, an expert in the field and hungry for work. The horse will be provided."

Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse

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