Authors: Simon Wood
Over time he needed the applause after a superior performance.
In the beginning, as soon as his mark was dead, he was out of there before the body was even cold.
These days, he had little to fear cop-wise and he hung around the kill zone for awhile.
The ultimate praise came from the mark’s family and friends.
On several occasions he had attended the funerals of his targets in person or viewed them from afar with listening devices.
He loved hearing the target’s loved one discuss the circumstances of the death.
An overwhelming pride filled him every time.
Oh yes, he loved his work.
His work was his life, but it did come with its downsides.
The hit man’s life was a loner’s life.
His contact with the real world and the people in it was scant.
Most of the time, the people he really saw were through the crosshairs of a gun sight.
After years of practicing being unseen, practice became perfect and no one saw him.
His career made his life very impersonal.
Even after two years of dealing with the same employer and over half a million dollars in fees, he’d never met the man face to face.
His home in Boston was like the motel room he sat in now.
There were no photographs of him or his family, books, CDs or other material possessions.
If someone walked into his house they couldn’t tell if he had moved in, let alone lived there.
He snapped out of his thoughts before he depressed himself.
He had work to do.
He removed one of the three cellular phones from the briefcase.
This one, like the other two, was the “pay as you go” type, unregistered and purchased with cash.
This phone he used for his employer.
He disposed of the phones regularly to prevent a regular record building up against any one person.
He selected the number preset and listened to the phone dial.
The call was picked up immediately.
“Yes,” his employer said.
“I have an update on the situation,” the professional said.
“The Michaels assignment was unsuccessful.”
“What the hell do you mean?
You told me it was completed yesterday.”
“Your mark suddenly discovered he could swim.
Your files were wrong.”
The professional emphasized that the blame wasn’t his.
The employer put his temper on a leash, but it wouldn’t take much to set it off again.
“Is there any police involvement?”
“Yes, but they’ve got nothing to go on.
I’ve been monitoring police dispatches on my scanner.
I’ve caught a couple of transmissions and there are no further actions planned unless anything else comes to light.
Which it won’t.”
“It better not.
What’s your next move?”
“I’m going to do some more research on Michaels, get involved in his life.
The closer I am to him the easier it will be.”
“I don’t want you exposing us,” the employer said.
“What about the other project?”
“To be dealt with over the next few days.
I see fewer problems with that one, she’s less active than Michaels.”
“Let’s hope your next call reports success and not failure.”
“Have I ever failed before?”
The professional heard the burr of the dial tone and switched the phone off.
He bore no resentment to his employer.
The man was a greedy asshole who believed he was in control.
That was fine with the professional.
That thinking made his employer vulnerable, making it easy for the professional to eliminate him if the occasion arose.
He replaced the cell phone in the briefcase and removed another of the phones and an address book.
The professional flicked through its pages.
The names and addresses it contained didn’t belong to friends, family or business contacts, but victims.
Each name was the name of a person he’d killed on behalf of his current employer.
He felt obliged to record their names for prosperity.
All craftsmen kept records of their work, so why shouldn’t he?
He knew carrying the book with him was highly risky but he couldn’t help himself.
He stopped at the M’s.
It listed only one name.
The names of Michaels and Macey were to be added very soon.
He tapped the page and said, “Not long now.”
He returned the book and the files to the briefcase and locked it.
Taking the case with him, he left the motel room for his car.
He got into the Ford Taurus, the Explorer’s replacement.
He knew the police didn’t have a make on the license plate but it wasn’t worth taking risks.
Opening the case again, he removed the 9mm semi-automatic pistol.
He checked it and holstered it under his jacket.
“Let’s see what Mr. Michaels is up to tonight,” the professional said to himself.
Josh walked into the sports bar and scanned the room for someone he knew.
The bar was cool and the after work crowd was just arriving.
The level of conversation was set on simmer, but Bob Deuce’s voice could always be heard above the level of any conversation.
There he was, two hundred and twenty-five pounds of happy man.
His size was the product of beer, junk food and a voracious appetite for sports.
Any sport would do, he had even developed a taste for soccer in recent years.
Sitting at the bar, Bob objected loudly to a baseball umpire’s decision on the television.
He expressed his dislike to a man sitting next to him that Josh didn’t know.
Knowing Bob, he didn’t know the man either but he had a way of picking up a conversation with a complete stranger.
Bob’s disgusted look turned into a broad grin when he saw Josh looking in his direction.
“Hey, glug, glug, Captain Nemo,” Bob boomed across the room.
Everyone turned in Josh’s direction and his face felt hot with embarrassment.
He raised a hand at his friend and crossed the room, trying to avoid the unwanted gazes.
“Barkeep, a glass of your River City water for my good friend,” Bob demanded.
“What can I get you, Nemo?”
The barman failed to show the slightest interest in Bob’s reference.
“A Sam Adams,” Josh said.
The barman cracked open a bottle and put it in front of Josh.
“This is the man who climbed from his sinking car in the Sacramento River and swam to shore even though he can’t swim,” Bob expanded, while paying for Josh’s drink.
“You’re the one,” the barman responded flatly, then moved on to the next customer.
“I saw that on TV.
You’re a lucky man,” the man sitting next to Bob said.
“Something like that,” Josh said, before turning to Bob.
“With your level of subtlety you should work with the terminally ill.
You have a great bedside manner.”
“Hey, man, you looked as though you needed a little tail pulling.
Your face is longer than that jump you made into the river.
But seriously, I’m glad you’re okay, pal.
You scared us for awhile,” Bob said and slapped Josh on the back.
“I’m glad to be around and thanks for looking after Kate and Abby, I appreciate it,” Josh said.
“You’re not going to tell me you love me and get all metrosexual on me, are you?”
“Bite me,” Josh said, smiling.
“That’s my boy.”
Josh swigged his beer and watched the game with Bob to allow a moment to compose himself before broaching the subject of his problems.
Bob ruined his plan by speaking first.
“So why did you want to meet here?”
Bob gestured to the bar with the bottle.
“We haven’t been in a bar together for some time.
“Come on, let’s sit down where we won’t be overheard.”
Bob made his farewell to the man at the bar.
As they crossed the room, Josh felt the tension build between them.
They took up residence in a quiet booth by the restrooms.
Josh tried to prepare himself, putting all the facts in order before speaking.
“I think I’m in big trouble.”
“I don’t believe my accident was an accident.
I think it was deliberate.”
I think you came across Roger Ebert without his Prozac.”
Bob gave a limp-wristed thumbs down.
“No disrespect intended but you aren’t that special.”
“But I think I am.
I did something that makes me special.”
“I don’t think I’m going to want to hear this.
So you’d better tell me before I get the hell out of here,” Bob said.
“You know that insurance policy I got you to cash in for me about eighteen months ago?”
“The money was for a payoff.”
She was blackmailing me.”
Finally, he’d said it.
It was out.
He’d admitted his predicament to someone.
He found relief in confession.
It made the problem less foreboding, although he imagined this relief would be short-lived.
What was she blackmailing you for?”
“We had an affair for a year when things weren’t too good between Kate and me.
When I broke it off she said she would tell all.”
“I got you over fifty thousand.
You gave it all to her?”
“Yes, but it wasn’t just for the affair.
I gave her the money for what I told her during the affair.
I took a kickback on a building project in Dixon after Abby was born.”
Bob sat back and struggled to comprehend what Josh was telling him.
“You know Abby had complications after her birth and I didn’t have the insurance to cover the bills.
I was inspecting this construction project in Dixon and the construction company knew it wouldn’t pass because they’d cut corners.
So when it came to the inspection, they offered me ten thousand to turn a blind eye.
At the time it seemed like an answer to my prayers and I took it with both hands.”
“Christ, what a train wreck,” Bob said.
“Where are the other bodies buried?”
“Thanks for making me feel better,” Josh said bitterly.
“Christ, Josh, I can’t believe you never told me.
Jesus, I’m your best friend.”
“It’s not something you tell.”
Bob shook his head.
“Did Kate ever wonder where you got the money for Abby’s treatment?”
She never knew my medical plan didn’t stretch that far.
Unfortunately, the problem got worse when I moved on to the next project the company was building.
They wanted to arrange a similar set up.
I had done it as a means to an end and not as a career enhancement.
I couldn’t squeal on them, so I got out of the building trade and became a buyer.”
“And Bell knows all this?”
“The whole thing.
My dick got the better of me.
I wanted to show off.”
Josh went silent for a moment, reliving the events in his head.
“Later, I realized I was an idiot for cheating on Kate and I told Bell it was all over.
She wanted to get even.
She wanted money to keep the details from Kate and the press.”