Red Cain awoke on the 18th of December, in the year 2001, at around 11:06
AM. He had a bit of coffee, put on a pair of underwear and bathrobe, slipped
on his horn-rimmed glasses, and went down stairs to check his mail. The porch
of the apartment building was lightly glazed with snow, and Red’s bare
feet stung when he re-entered the building. Once back in his three-room apartment,
he sat on his recliner, untied his bathrobe, and began to open the three items
The first was a Christmas card from Alison. Alison was just about the only
friend he ever had. She was definitely the only person who cared enough about
him to send him a Christmas card. He read the card. The front featured two
cats wearing Santa hats shown through a window, with a wreath on the window
encircling the cats. "Happy Holidays," it said. Inside was printed, "Wishing
you the best of the holiday season." Alison had written her personal
message on the opposite page.
"Hey there, Goggles," she said. She had always made fun of his
thick glasses. "Wanted to wish you a happy Christmas and New Years. The
cat on the left looks just like my Chaser!" Red flipped back to the front
of the card. The cat in question was gray with white around his feet and mouth.
He flipped back. "I hope you’ll get a chance to come down and visit
this year. I miss you. I can show you the ropes- just like in the old days.
Love, Alison." He thought about going down to the city to visit her and
smiled. Perhaps he’d call her soon. Maybe he’d wait ‘til
after Christmas, though… no point in getting in the way of people’s
celebrations just because he had no plans.
The next letter was about a payment towards his student loans being due.
He had graduated about six months before, but he still didn’t have a
real job. He’d ended up with an English Literature degree mostly because
it was easy enough to get. No job offers had been knocking down his door,
but he hadn’t been knocking down any employers’ either. He had
enough money from his inheritance to get by for some time, and he figured
he’d eventually get around to working. He put the reminder back in the
envelope and chucked it across the room towards other things he was supposed
to remember to do.
The third envelope had no return address. The upper left corner simply read "DI&R
International". His name and address appeared to be hand written in perfect
script. He turned it over in his hands a few times before opening it. "Mr.
Cain," the letter read, "After reviewing many possible candidates,
DI&R has decided to enlist you and your services into our rank and number
both immediately and indefinitely. It should be approximately 11:18 AM when
you read this. In five minutes a car will come to your building to pick you
up, at which time all remnants of your previous existence will be nullified.
You may use this time to gather up any personal effects that you would like
to bring with you as you join our bold endeavor. We here at DI&R would
like to offer both our congratulations and our thanks for your cooperation.
We look forward to many years of working by your side. All of mankind is in
your debt." It was signed by Gerald Hayden, Department of Conscription
and Enlistment, DI&R International. This too Red returned to its envelope
and threw in the general direction of "To Do." He then rose, leaving
his robe behind but bringing Alison’s card, and went into the bathroom
to take a dump.
He missed Alison, too. They grew up together, went to the same schools up
through High School. When she went off to New York for college, he had thought
about going too, but ended up staying relatively close to home. He’d
never been down there, even though it was only six hours away. She used to
come home for the holidays, but her family moved to Long Island, so it had
been about two years since Red had seen her in the flesh. He looked at the
card again. Chaser? Red had always wanted a cat, but had never gotten around
to buying one. Another in a long list of things he hadn’t bothered to
"That’s it," he thought to himself, "I am going to go
down to the city to visit Alison. Maybe I can even be there for New Years,
go down to Time’s Square. I’m going to meet her cat, and then
I am finally going to get one of my own. Who knows, maybe I’ll even
like the city so much I’ll move down there, get a place, find a job." This
would have been a particularly motivated thought from someone who couldn’t
remember the last time he’d left the three-block area around his house,
were it not that he’d decided something similar every week for the past
He wiped himself thoroughly, pulled up his Fruit of the Looms, and exited
the bathroom, much to the shock of the young couple on the couch in his living
room. Red, for his own part, was shocked as well, for not only was he not
expecting a young couple, he was not expecting a couch. In fact, all the furniture
looked unfamiliar. Gone was his recliner and home entertainment system, gone
too was the ever accumulating pile of mail. In it’s place was a tasteful
living room set made up of couch, love seat, a coffee table, two end tables,
a bigger TV than his on a nicer stand, and a couple whose wide-eyed stare
seemed to imply somehow that Red was the pervert in this situation.
Red looked back into the bathroom. No other way out, he’d come the
right way. He turned back to the intruders. The couple was clearly afraid
of him. The woman hid her face in the man’s arm. "What do you w-want
with us?" the man asked, his voice quivering. Red glanced toward his
bedroom. He didn’t recall having such a fancy comforter, either.
"Please," the woman said, crying, "Please, just leave us alone…"
He felt guilty. He thought it odd that he felt guilty, since it seemed these
two had somehow broken into his apartment, moved out all of his things and
replaced them in the last five minutes, effectively stealing his home, but
he couldn’t deny that seeing this woman cry at the sight of him made
him want the sight of him to make a hasty retreat. He ran.
Out his door and down the stairs he went, then out of the building and off
the porch. The sight of the limousine registered in his mind, but did not
slow him. When it honked it’s horn at him, however, he turned. The back
door of the limo opened, and it honked again. He wondered at the wisdom of
getting into a limo that was willing to pick up a man wearing only underwear,
but the snow was killing his feet and he was starting to become self-conscious.
He jumped in and closed the door behind him.
The limo took off. The interior was quite posh, much more than Red would
have expected, had he ever expected anything even remotely like this to happen.
A young man with smartly coifed and lightly frosted hair was the only other
passenger. He wore a suit that was vaguely purple and looked remarkably expensive.
He looked surprised, but not what one would traditionally call an ‘I’ve
just picked up a man in his undies’ surprised, more of a ‘I didn’t
think it would rain today’ surprised. "I’ve never seen anyone
bring so little before," he said. "At any rate, congratulations,
Mr. Cain. My name is Francis Argento. Is, ah… is anything bothering
Red, for his own part, was kneeling on the back seat, watching as his stolen
apartment faded farther and farther into the distance. "Yes," he
said absentmindedly. He turned to face his companion. "Um… Who
"As I said, my name’s Argento," he said, taking out his cell
phone. "Give me Robby. Yes, Robby, Mr. Cain and I will be arriving in
a half-hour or so. Meet us out front with my gym clothes. No, it’s not
for me. Yes. Yes, thanks, see you in thirty." He slipped his phone back
into his belt holster. "I’m not sure if they’ll fit you,
but we can’t have you going about in your jockeys. I suppose it is a
new beginning for you, but most people don’t go quite so far in trying
to leave it all behind them. But I see you brought something, what’s
that you have there?"
Red looked down to find that he still clutched Alison’s Christmas card
in his hand. "Oh," he said, "A Christmas card. From Alison.
A friend, a friend of mine."
"Oh, your girlfriend, eh?" asked Argento.
"No, just a friend."
"Really? Oh, well, then, there you are. At any rate, I’ve been
instructed to show you this video." He held up a VHS. "It should
help to introduce you to the world of DI&R."
Argento was slipping the cassette into the limousine’s TV/VCR. "Hopefully,
this will answer all of your questions. If not, I shall do my best to tell
you anything you ask, but if you would watch this first. Thank you."
At the press of a button, color bars filled the screen, accompanied by a
flat tone to which Argento adjusted the volume. In a moment the screen went
black, and then an unobtrusive but pleasant bit of music faded in, as did
a blue background. The song reminded Red a bit of an unidentifiable 70’s
TV theme song. A logo flew into center screen, reading "DI&R and
As that image faded, in came the perfect businessman walking through the
perfect office. "Hello," he said, "And welcome to the exciting
world of DI&R, where man is made in God’s image. Congratulations,
for you have been chosen as the newest member of God’s army here on
Earth. I’m sure you must be feeling a lot of thing right now – confusion
most of all, and perhaps even fear or anger, but don’t worry! Your life
has just taken a turn for the better, and the kingdom of heaven is now assured
to grant all of its splendor unto you from this day forth. Let’s see
if we can’t clear up some of your confusion."
The office disappeared and the man was now shown in front of bluescreen,
with images and graphics appearing behind him to illustrate his points, starting
with the letters D, I, and R appearing down the left hand side of the screen. "DI&R
stands for Divine Intervention and Retribution. We’re a non-profit corporation
founded many years ago by concerned good standing Christian citizens for the
betterment of all mankind. For some time now, God has been hesitant to state
his will be directly to his children here on Earth. We at DI&R have made
it our mission to make sure God’s will is done in his absence. From
punishing the wicked to granting mercy to the pious, DI&R does all that
we know our loving God would do had our science-crazed, disbelieving, secular
age not tied His holy hands.
"As a new member of our team, there are going to be many changes in
your life," the shot shifted to a close-up of the narrator. "I’m
sure your recruitment notice informed you about our previous-life erasure
policy. Because of the highly sensitive nature of our work here at DI&R,
it was decided that all evidence of our team member’s existence prior
to recruitment be erased, to avoid inquiry into our members whereabouts. The
good news is that from this moment forward, DI&R will make sure that your
every need, and indeed, your every want, will be taken care of."
The shot changed to an arial view of what Red assumed were the DI&R buildings
and grounds, then proceeded to show him a video tour of the facilities. "Everything
you need can be found here at the DI&R compound. Our housing facilities
have every comfort a relaxing executive in God’s Corporation could wish
for. When you arrive, you’ll find that your quarters have been specially
furnished by a team assigned to know exactly what you want- even before you
do. We also have an on-site supermarket, ten restaurants, three of which received
five stars from the DI&R Dining Review, a first run movie theatre, a gym,
bowling alley, and there are many other fine entertainment choices available
just waiting for you to discover them.
"Only a minute or two away by underground monorail are our DI&R
working facilities. There as well you will find that your workstation, cubicle,
or office has been customized to maximize the efficiency of your personal
ergonomic workspace. Next door to the office buildings is our first class
Medical and Psychiatric Help Center, and another gym, available for your use
during lunch hours.
"There’s much more to be found in the DI&R compound, far more
than a video could tell you about, and a lot that I can’t show you,
like the love and care each team member puts into their, and God’s,
work. As you become accustomed to your new life with us, we’re confident
that you will come to realize just how lucky you are to be one of God’s
own chosen. So let me welcome you once again, give you my congratulations,
but most of all, let me thank you. From our janitorial staff t our top ranking
officials, we know each and every one of you is important- and needed. If
there’s anything we can do to make your assimilation into our team easier,
please don’t hesitate to ask. Here at DI&R our employees’ wishes
come second only to God’s. Have a great day, and God bless you." The
music rose to a swell, and the DI&R logo reappeared on the screen, along
with text reading "Making Man in God’s Image," and "Copyright
1995 DI&R International."
Argento smiled as he hit the stop and rewind buttons on the remote control. "I
trust that helped," he said.
Red sat staring, barely noticing that his bare legs were sticking to the
leather seats. His jaw hung somewhat open. After a moment of quiet contemplation,
he said, "What?!"
"I’m sorry, Mr. Cain," said Argento, "Is there a problem?"
"I’ve… I’ve been kidnapped by a bunch of psychotic
Christian fundamentalists. I’ve been kidnapped by a bunch of psychotic
Christian fundamentalists who want me to join their secret holy corporation." He
tried the door handle, but it had been locked when he wasn’t paying
"Calm down, Mr. Cain, it’s nothing so sinister as that," said
Argento, moving himself to a seat closer to Red. "You’re not being
kidnapped, you’ve been chosen. You’re the best man for the job
we’ve selected you for. And it’s not as though you had anything
better to do, is it?"
"That’s not the point!" said Red, "I have a choice,
don’t I? Maybe I was just about to turn my life around. Maybe later
on today I would have gotten a real job, or saved a life, or become rich."
"You’re going to do all of those things here! Listen, I’ve
seen your file, I know what you’ve been doing- nothing. What we’re
offering you is the chance to do good in the world, all the while having everything
you could want supplied for you, not to mention serving the will of God. What
could be wrong with that?"
"I don’t even believe in God! And what’s all this life-erasure
stuff? How did you get those people into my apartment so quickly? Where are
"Ah," said Argento, "This part is always the rough part. As
it said in letter you received, you life prior to this day has been erased.
Your ‘things’ are gone. Those people were there because it’s
their apartment, it always has been. No one you’ve met will remember
you were born."
"Ok," said Red, trying the door handles again, "Ok, now I
see. You’re just all crazy."
"I assure you, I’m not crazy. Neither are you, if that’s
your next theory."
"One of us must be. How else could this be possible? How could you erase
"It’s a miracle."
"So am I."
Red slowly leaned back in his seat. "A miracle. You really believe this
God stuff, don’t you?"
"The world has become mired in science. God cannot fully assert himself
if not enough people believe he exists. We are here to do as he would were
he fully able, and that includes miracles. We’re not bad people, we’re
Red stared Argento in the eyes, but he could not help being the first to
look away. "What do you want from me?" he asked.
"We’re going to make you a Saint. We’re here."
The limo pulled to a top in front of what Red recognized from the video as
one of the Work facilities. "Make me a-"
"Please," said Argento, "I’ve said too much." The
door opened, and Argento climbed out. When Red joined him, a man he could
only presume was Robby handed him a gym suit. "Put that on," Argento
said, "We’re going to go meet Mr. Hayden. He can tell you more
about your new life." Red pulled the shirt over his head and it seemed
to fit alright, but the pants had an elastic waist and apparently Argento
was a bit thicker about the middle than Red was. He had to hold the pants
up with his free hand in order to keep them on.
Argento lead him into the building and Red soon found himself right inside
of the perfect office he had seen in the video. As they snaked through deeper
into the complex, cubicles gave way to hallways with real offices. Everything
was colored very lightly, nothing dark, and everything was very well lit.
Red was hard pressed to find his own shadow. Eventually they came to a door
with a full-length glass window labeled "Gerald Hayden, Vice-President,
Conscription and Enlistment". They entered and Argento told Hayden’s
secretary to inform him of their arrival.
"He’ll be right with you," she said, hanging up her phone.
She was blonde and wore a woman’s suit that walked a fine line between
respectable and sexy, threatening to go over either side depending on the
way that she moved. Her desk’s nameplate read "Georgie Martin".
She had already gone back to whatever she had been doing on her computer,
but Red couldn’t see her monitor from where he was sitting. She was
also humming to herself, a tune Red couldn’t pick out but reminded him
of Burt Bacharach.
The office itself was nice, although a few odd things drew Red’s attention.
The door to Hayden’s inner office had not yet been finished, nor had
the border around it; they looked like regular wood. Also, the walls on either
side of the doorframe had been plastered in a line coming out from the door
at about chest height, and had yet to have been repainted. It was as if someone
had gouged out part of the wall. He also noticed a can of wood finish near
the glass door. The color matched the wood around the glass.
In a moment, Georgie’s phone buzzed and after she answered, she told
Red and Argento they could go in. Hayden’s office was very large, but
had practically no furniture. There was his desk, quite a large one, the chair
he sat in, and two in front of his desk. The only other things in the room
were some boxes that were sitting behind him. They appeared to contain files,
and perhaps some personal effects. Hayden himself was older than Red or Argento,
looked more in his forties or so. He was bald except for a fringe of hair
that went around the back of his head from ear to ear, and he had very thin
glasses with gold frames. He too wore an expensive looking suit, but his looked
far more expensive than Argento’s, something Red might not have considered
possible before. He had a very friendly smile, and he stood and offered his
hand as soon as they entered. He must have noticed Red’s perplexity
at the decor, because the first thing he said was "Forgive the appearance
of my office. I just got this desk in today, not quite settled into it, and
the rest of the furniture won’t be here till tomorrow. Welcome, Mr.
Cain, I’ve been expecting you." Argento indicated to Red that he
should sit, which he did. Argento stood off to the side.
"Then you’ve got the advantage on me, " said Red, "I
have no idea what’s going on."
"Did you not show him the video?" Hayden asked, eyeing Argento.
"I did, sir," Argento answered.
"Well, then," Hayden continued, "At the very least you should
know who we are, and what we are trying to do, correct?"
"I suppose," said Red.
"Good. Then the most important thing is who you are and what you are
going to do. It is very much my pleasure to meet you today because you, Mr.
Cain, have a very special destiny mapped out for you. You…" he
paused, for dramatic effect, "Are to become a Saint."
"So I’ve heard. Sounds kind of ridiculous to me. We don’t
have saints nowadays."
"I’m sorry sir," said Argento, "He didn’t seem
to be taking me very seriously and I was trying to impart to him that we were
"That’s alright, Francis, it’s alright."
"What I don’t understand," said Red, "Not including
the whole idea of this ridiculousness, is why you want me to be a saint anyway.
Who am I? I’ve never done anything special."
"Trust us," said Hayden, "We know that you are the best man
for the job. You will become a saint and do God’s work. It’s a
very exciting project and one I am proud to be a part of."
"What exactly does a saint do?"
"Many things. You would be a primarily interventions rather than retributions,
meaning you’d be sent more to help those deserving rather than to punish
the wicked. You’d be a sort of… Holy Secret Agent. You’ll
be given missions, through Argento, he is to be your liaison, and you’ll
go out into the world to… do good, basically."
"A Holy Secret Agent? You do know how crazy that sounds."
"Perhaps to the uninitiated. Soon enough you’ll be a part of it.
"Don’t saints have to do miracles?"
"You will," he said, "We’ll see to that. Miracles are
not so hard to do as everyone thinks, it’s just that they don’t
actually believe in them."
"And don’t they have to die a martyr?"
"Ah…" he said, looking down at his desk, "Yes, well… you
will. But there’s no way of knowing when that may be; it could be decades
from now. What matters is that when you leave the earth, you’ll have
left it a better place and you’ll be granted a place of honor in the
Red sat and stared out a window. There was quite a lovely view from here,
lots of trees. He turned back to Hayden, who was smiling at him expectantly. "You
know what?" Red said at last, "There is no way. I’m not taking
this job, no way. You’re going to have to find yourself another saint."
Hayden glanced nervously at Argento. "Well, unfortunately," he
said, "We can’t. It’s already been set in motion. I’m
sorry if it’s not what you’d have planned on doing, but you’re
already going to be sainted. You’re going to die a martyr now no matter
what, all that matters is what you do before that. Now I think a man like
you will do the right thing- you’ll join with us and together we can
make the world a better place."
"Ok, let me take stock of this situation," said Red, "I was
kidnapped from my home in my underwear by a group of crazy fundamentalists
who have wiped out my entire life except for a Christmas card written by a
girl who doesn’t even remember me anymore and now I sit in an oversized
pair of sweats while they tell me I’m already doomed to horrible death
so I should make the best of my time left?"
"Well, I… don’t think I’d have put such a derisive
tone on it myself, but… I suppose that’s the long and short of
"Let me ask you this," said Red, looking Hayden in the eyes, "Do
I have a choice?"
Hayden looked down again. "No one has ever turned us down before you… but
I suppose the real answer is no. The rest of the world doesn’t know
you exist anymore, we’re all you’ve got. But it’s not so
bad, really! We really are a wonderful organization, and you can have basically
anything you’ve ever wanted through us. We have everything you could
ask for here on our compound, and when you’re away on your missions
your expenses will be covered. You’re going to come to enjoy it, I know