Hitman 2 has plundered from our shores before, but this time, has it taken the story and likeness of our most notorious South Auckland MP, Judith ‘Crusher’ Collins? Adam Goodall goes down the rabbit hole.
I’m a Hitman fan. A Hitfan, if you will. But more than that, I’m a fan of New Zealand. I’m a true blue patriot and I love to see us represented on the world stage. Whether it’s watching Valerie Adams winning a gold medal at the Olympics, seeing Taika Waititi at the Oscars, or hearing the name of our little country that could in the dialogue of Ben Affleck’s Academy Award-winning Argo, my chest swells and my heart fills with pride whenever the rest of the world pays attention to our Land of the Long White Cloud.
So obviously, I was thrilled when IO Interactive announced that one of the destinations in Hitman 2 would be the Hawke’s Bay. I love to do the hits, but the chance to do the hits on my home soil? I was there. I bought it, I played it, I was a little disappointed with the generic mansion on the coast and the lack of New Zealand accents (“Kee-a aw-ra it’s Ari from Keewee Repair”) but I had a good time! It’s Aotearoa! We’re on the world stage!
I’ve been dipping in and out of Hitman 2 since then, playing through the story and trying my hand at the rest of the content they’ve been rolling out since. IO Interactive has been really generous with the post-launch content – each month, they release a range of Challenge Packs, Escalations (contracts that you can play multiple times, each play adding a wild new complication) and Elusive Targets.
Elusive Targets are targets that appear in a destination for a limited period of time. You only get one shot, one opportunity to take each target down – if you miss, that’s it. You lose. And this week’s Elusive Target is a doozy for someone who loves New Zealand as much as me. The briefing video lays it all out: she’s a Kiwi (!!!) politician, a former Minister of Trade and Foreign Affairs who’s been exposed for siphoning money from a charity to her private offshore bank accounts. She’s covered it up by pinning it on the charity’s meek director, but she’s got blood on her hands: she had to have the director killed to keep her silent.
Now she’s preparing for her public comeback, muddling around her Hawke’s Bay beach house with her guards and a body double she’s hired to keep her safe from the possibility of being – wait, hold on…
… hold on
… hold the damn phone
Is that Judith Collins?
THAT’S JUDITH COLLINS. THE NEW ELUSIVE TARGET IS JUDITH COLLINS.
I get it, it’s a ridiculous notion, maybe it’s just the patriot in me overreading New Zealand into some well-worn genre tropes. But the deeper I get, the more the evidence piles up.
Dame Keating’s parents are “from a modest working-class English background”; Collins’ parents were modest working-class dairy farmers in the heart of the King Country.
Dame Keating is married to a businessman; Collins is married to a businessman. Dame Keating has a reputation for being “tough and ruthless”; pundits absolutely love to call Collins tough and ruthless. Even ‘Crusher’ herself once tweeted: “Funniest phone call to the Papakura Office today from a good Labour supporter. She’d like me to ‘stop backstabbing Jacinda’. 😀 No problem. I stab from the front 😉 #Stronganddecisive.”
And can you think of any other former Ministers who have been recently embroiled in a scandal about how they allegedly exploited their office for their own personal benefit? (I mean, one literally happened this Monday but bear with me.)
I drop into the mission, do a bit of recon – it’s important to do recon before you go after the Target so you know where everything is and how everyone moves – and eavesdrop in on some conversations. I listen in on Dame Keating’s body double practicing her – their – her comeback speech:
Do you know who else came back into the political sphere as though a mythological bird famed for its capacity for resurrection, talking about how she’d been revitalised by her setbacks? Then-former Minister of Justice, Police and Corrections ‘Crusher’ Collins, who told Heather du Plessis-Allan on Q&A in 2015, some time after her fall from grace:
Later, I encounter the real Dame Keating on the stairs and hear her talking to a trusted associate on the phone:
Thankfully, the similarities stop here, as Collins has a strong track record of being complimentary about other people’s fashion choices. Wait, sorry, I’m being informed that my previous statement is inaccurate:
This is too much, I thought. It can’t just be a coincidence. I run Collins’ and Dame Keating’s face’s through a face comparison API to see whether or not my eyes are tricking me:
“Probability normal” seems like a pretty good probability to me. So I reach out to IO Interactive for clarification. IO doesn’t respond, which fair enough, they’re probably busy. Or maybe… maybe they’re silent for some other reason. Maybe there’s something more here.
When I first watched the briefing video, I’d tweeted: “Hahaha this new Hitman 2 Elusive Target, can you imagine if any New Zealand political scandal was this intense?”
But maybe there was a New Zealand political scandal this intense.
Maybe IO had uncovered the greatest political scandal in New Zealand history, something more scandalous than a thousand Oravidas, and this was the only way they could get the word out. I put on my little fedora with the piece of card that says ‘PRESS’ in the rim and I hit the footpath looking for answers, and by footpath I mean Gmail.
A quick response on a Sunday afternoon – maybe damage control, maybe trying to put out the fire before it roars too loud and too wild. But also maybe innocent? Maybe Collins has never hired a body double, maybe this was never about her.
Maybe I’d been distracted by the superficial similarities – I’d not considered that those signifiers could be a red herring, hiding the fact that this crime was perpetrated by someone else, someone higher up the ladder. I couldn’t tell. I was in too deep, I knew too much to back down. I had an obligation to my readers to dig for the truth. So I went digging, the only way I knew how.
And more digging, only to hit a dad joke:
A lot of denials. A lot of shifty eyes and hands in pockets. In Winston Peters’ case, not even a response. Maybe we’ll never get to the bottom of this.
Maybe we’ll never know if one of our politicians stole a whole lot of money from a charity, engineered a cover-up that included at least one cold-blooded murder, and then made a comeback while using a body double at all their public events.
We have a right to know, certainly. But how can we know, in this godforsaken world?
All I know is that never again will I get excited when I hear an American talk about Flight of the Conchords. Never again will my heart beat faster when someone in a television show says they’re moving to New Zealand. Never again will I scour the coverage of a disaster overseas looking for the local angle. My faith in my country has been shaken to my core. This is not Godzone. There is no God here.
RIP, Dame Barbara Elizabeth ‘Crusher’ Keating. Your secrets, and your truths, die with you.
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