Sunday, May 11, 2008

New Short Fiction: The Lies We Tell, Part 2.3

The hired killer and his handler met the next day at a downtown, upscale, although wholly vacant pub at 11 the next morning. Already seated at the bar, Casing – the handler – wore a tan over coat, eye glasses and a somewhat conservative blue suit. He sweated miserably, fidgeting with a glass of bourbon scotch in front of him, occasionally glancing over his shoulder towards the door.

Roughly ten minutes after he arrived, his agent, an athletically built, top-heavy young man walked in wearing sunglasses, a black jacket and jeans. He sat next to Casing and said nothing, and when the bar tender finally came over, he simply ordered a water with lemon.

“Helluva night last night, huh?” Casing offered after a long and agitating silence. The man next to him said nothing, only picked up his glass and sipped, looking forward at the rows of bottles in front of him. Over their heads a tv was playing on low; an anchorman from some sports network going over highlights.

Casing reached down and pulled up his brief case and set it on the bar top. The man next to him glanced over at it as Casing opened it and pulled out a copy of the Globe, unfolding it and laying it flat on the bar in front of his hired killer. On the front page, center above the fold, a full color photo of the narrow alleyway behind the club, the shot up SUV, body bags, blood, blown apart bricks, shattered glass, all front page news. The headline: BAGHDAD IN CHELSEY?!

“When my clients look to hire you,” Casing started. He glanced down at the other end of the bar, and the bar tender - a 12 year veteran of pouring drinks over shady meetings – was well enough away and acting uninterested in the conversation. “When my clients hire you,” he continued “they come to me expecting some level of professionalism and quality work.” His voice dropped down to just above a seething whisper, “they don’t expect sloppy messes that make headlines!” The killer flipped the paper over to under the fold and scanned the headlines there. He then removed the Sports section and started reading an article about Red Sox pitching prospects.

“Yeah, be a cool character, see if I care when my phone stops ringing for you,” Casing said as he sucked down the rest of the bourbon.
“Where’s my eighty,” the killer says from above the Sports page. Casing rubbed his face and loosened his tie. “You know, they should give me a bonus for doing this guy way ahead of schedule.”

“Ha, you didn’t do anything worth a bonus. We could’ve hired a crackhead, given him a hundred bucks and a machine gun, and he could’ve done what you did. And he probably wouldn’t have lived long enough to have to pay,”

“But you didn’t hire a crackhead,” and the killer put his paper down and turned in his stool towards Casing. He took his sunglasses off and stared straight into the eyes of his handler. This made Casing extremely uncomfortable and he shifted on his stool. “You hired me, and I’m known to get the job done, now where’s my eighty?” Casing took out a pen from the brief case and jotted down a series of numbers on a bar napkin and handed it over to his agent.

“Call your bank and have them set up a wire transfer from that account at St. Henry’s Bank in Glasgow,” and he pocketed the napkin into his jacket pocket and took another sip from his glass of water. “And there’s another job waiting for you,” Casing said with a thick voice. “Same client.”

“Oh really, are you sure they don’t want to hire a crackhead with a machine gun?” The killer said. Casing looking at him for a long pause and then continued.

I don’t have a file, however you’re to fly to London, England and meet with a Scot by the name of Gideon Madden, who will clue you in on the score. You have five days to get to this address in the West End,” and Casing slid another piece of paper over to his hitman. “Call that number when you get there, he’ll set up a meeting,” and the killer slipped that into his pocket as well.


She hates the guns.

When we first met, she approached me, if you believe it. It was a bar thing, I was alone at the end of the bar watching a Red Sox game on the over head television when she sat down next to me and ordered a glass of wine. I kinda glanced her from the corner of my eye and noticed she was checking me out. I shifted a little on my stool and cleared my throat and asked:

“So you like baseball?” There was a long pause, she even took a sip of her wine before answering.

“No, do you?” And I mean, what could I say, I’m a huge baseball fan.

“No. Wanna go someplace?” And from there, we were together.

It never bothered me that I had to change who I was to fit in to certain situations. I mean, I do it accordingly for my job, it’s who I am. You need a guy to kill a prominent local celebrity, I can be whoever you want and go anywhere I want.

But with her it was different. I liked her, so I changed. It wasn’t until a few weeks into seeing each other she caught me basically red handed with a gun.

We were going out to dinner or something like that and she walked into my bedroom from the living room and saw me half dressed in a suit, stuffing a chrome .380 Sig Sauer into my pants. She kinda blinked and said something like

“You’re kidding, right?” I looked up, feeling kinda stupid about the whole thing, cleared my throat and came back with this gem:

“What do you mean?” She rolled her eyes and walked out of my room. With the gun still at my waist I followed her out into the kitchen.

“What kind of banker carries a gun around with him?” She asked as she poured herself a glass of wine.

“A very successful banker,” I say back. She’s got an ice cold stare and she’s not even meeting my eyes.

“I just don’t like guns. If you’re around me, I don’t want you to have it,” and I compromise again. I pluck the weapon from my hip, by my finger tips, and let it dangle downward. I lay it on the counter top and keep my steady gaze on her face. She still won’t match my eyes.

“What’s the matter,” I say. I tilt her chin up and she’s got that hate in her eyes, a hate that makes me burn for her in ways that I don’t think I’m comfortable sharing with anyone, even her. I bite my lip and press my thumb against her chin. “Talk to me, luv,” but she won’t.

Dinner is tense and I feel like a total asshole the whole night. But she knows that and is probably glad. What she doesn’t know is that when I get up to go to the bathroom halfway through our meal, I kill the man sitting in a booth on the opposite side of the restaurant with some carefully placed cyanide powder in his chicken l’orange.

My flight was long and uneventful. It gave me plenty of time to watch a tiny-ass movie on my ipod, sleep, and read this book I’ve been meaning to finish (when I picked it up from my night stand there was a perfect ‘footprint’ of a dustless rectangle left in it’s place). The flight lasted just over eight hours, so I was grateful to deplane and get my bag.

I met with my contact and picked up a cheap looking – and feeling – nickel-plated pistol and a chopped to hell double barreled shotgun. When he handed over the weapons and the case file on the target, I looked at him for half a beat before saying:

“You’re serious with this?” And I hefted the shotgun. He looked at my blankly and shrugged.

“Mate, shooters are hard to come by in these parts,” and frowned. I signed and packed the guns, which I was dubious of their working condition, into a small bag and made way to my hotel in the middle of touristy London.

After getting accustomed to the room, and that means checking all the windows, the closets, the bathrooms, under the bed, for anything out of the ordinary, I gave her a call back stateside. It’d be about 9pm on the east coast, and she’d be just getting out of the shower.

She picked up on the third ring.

“How’s London,” she says to me. In my mind I see her wrapped my robe, hair up in a towel, wet and lose. I’m sitting in the middle of my king-sized bed in my trousers and nothing else.

“London’s London,” I tell her. “There’s not much too it.”

“How’s the weather,” I pause, knowing that this is the type of question someone asks when they have nothing relevant to add to the conversation and are desperately seeking some conversational turn of topic.

“Do you miss me?” I say into the phone. There’s a pause on her end now.

“Of course,”

“You sure, you don’t sound sure,”

“I’m sure James,” she says back. She’s the only one who calls me James. No one calls me James. She started calling me James the night we met. I even introduced myself as ‘Jimmy,’ but she didn’t bite.

Just then she starts talking about her day, working at the place she works and I half pay attention; the other half of my attention spent on the tv at the end of my bed. BBC4 is airing something about the Chechens and I wonder if my target is watching the same thing right now at his place. There’s footage of a building being crushed by a tank and suddenly I’m hit with a flashback.

I contracted out in Iraq during the war. Well, it goes back slightly further than that. I was a soldier and I was damn good at what I did. So good that my name got floated around to the people who would go on to hire me to do contract work in the region when my enlistment was over, and that’s what I did. I was so good at doing contract work that I started to see offers to do contract work in other areas of the world, mostly the US and Canada, with the occasional jaunt overseas. My life basically transitioned from killing insurgents to killing Iraqi and Iranian VIPs, to killing lawyers and businessmen.

“James?” She says into the phone.

“Hrm?” I say back. “Sorry, there was something on tv that caught my attention for a sec, I’m sorry sweetheart,” and she huffs on the other side.

“I guess I’ll be getting to bed then,”

“Ok, well, I’ll call you tomorrow, ok?” And she says bye, love you, and hangs up. I click my phone off, turn over and go to sleep. It was almost morning.

I walk into a barber shop on Dutching Street, in the middle of what most Londoner’s consider to be the Russian neighborhood. Little Odessa.

The place is traditional in the sense that there’s a stack of well-read newspapers piled on an empty chair printed in Cyrllic, two old men in the corner talking about something in Russian while hovering over a chessboard, the barber, about fifty-something years old patiently cuts a few strands of loose white hair off the top of some other Russian’s head, and they too converse in Russian.

In other words, they have me pegged as a fucking yankee the moment I walk in the door. This obviously isn’t good.

I’m well dressed, black suit tailored well enough that the tiny nickel-plated pistol is concealed on my hip and doesn’t bulge when I sit down away from everyone and pick up a copy of The Mirror. I glance the four men in the tiny barber shop where they’re only two chairs, two big mirrors, one sink, and a heating duct over everyone’s head. It’s the last place you’d think a master of the Red Mafia would be hiding out.

He’s the barber, my target. He’s Mikail Grasnav, file says he’s fifty-seven, rapist and murderer and according to the file, big in the white slavery game. The client asserts that when Grasnav was only 16 he killed his first prostitute after raping her repeatedly over the course of a few days. He likes knives. That’s all I know.

Oh, I also know that they’re watching me. All of them. And they seem like a group of old men, but I’m fairly certain that these three other men, … well two of the three at least, are probably armed body guards, despite their appearances.

“Be right with you,” says Grasnav in heavily accented English. I look up from my newspaper and smile from over the rims of my eye glasses. In short fashion he finishes and dusts the loose hairs away from his patron and clears the seat for me. He gives me a grandfatherly-like smile and invites me to sit. I do so, leaving the paper behind. “So where are you from,” he asks as he sets the apron around my neck. He tilts the chair back to start a shave. I tense a little, feeling myself go backwards like this, puts me at a disadvantage, but it’s too soon to blow my own cover. My back’s towards the two chess players and I can’t see them in the mirror. I have to wait this one out.

“I’m from the States,” I say. He nods and goes to the counter top by the mirror and selects a straight razor. I use this time to pull the tiny cheap crappy pistol from my waist band and set it flat on my thigh in my loose grip.

“And you have family here?” He presses on, sliding his straight razor across the leather strap by the counter. I lie and say I do.

“What are they’re names, maybe they come here, and I cut their hair, yes?” He asks. I think quickly and mentioned the name of the kid I killed a few days ago. Grasnav tenses for a second at the sound of the name and turns slowly holding the blade in his hand.

He walks past me, mumblings something in Russian to the two chess players as he dispenses some hot lather on to his free hand and then proceeds to apply it to my face and neck. I can hear the two men getting up from their chess board. I tense as well.

“We give you nice shave to start, yes?” And he begins to lower the blade to my Adam’s Apple. My hand tightens on the pistol. I tense and he’s looking back towards the wall where the other men had been sitting a second ago. That’s when he strikes.

He yells something in Russian, loud and guttural. I feel hands grasp down on my shoulders and arms surprisingly tight and strong. He, Grasnav, goes for my throat with the straight razor.

Here’s a tip, if anyone’s ever trying to cut your throat: Most often than not, they’re not going to do it the right way: The proper way to slit someone’s throat is to jam the point of the blade into the side of the neck and thrust the blade forward, effectively cutting the jugular and windpipe at the same time.

No, more often, the guy cutting your throat is going to do what this old Russian asshole did, which is to start on the far left hand side of your neck, and try to drag the blade across your Adam’s Apple. To defeat this you need to crane your head back into the cut so you protect both your throat and the jugular vein and all you get is a deep gash on your left neck.

That’s what I did and spun in my chair, trying to fight off the old men grabbing me and holding me down. Under the apron, feeling the blood start to course it’s way down my neck and under my shirt, I point the small barrel of the pistol away from me and let off a shot.

This was enough to startle everyone in the room and buy me just enough time to wrestle free of their grasp. I pop up from the chair, tossing the apron over my shoulder and fire again at the barber, catching him in the elbow. The gun is cheaply made and the trigger pulls hard, but I fire again from my hip and lodge a small caliber round into the solar plexus of one of his body guards, knocking him backwards. I turn slightly to my right and find the other older man charging me with a fucking shoe, so I shoot him in the chest, my right arm fully extended, and he goes down in a heap.

The barber is back to his feet, holding the razor in his left hand because his right arm is all fucked up from the elbow down. He has this crazed look in his eye that’s pure life-saving adrenaline. I’ve see the same look in coke addicts. He charges me slashing the razor in a giant X through the air and I try to pump some rounds into him but the fucking gun jams so instead of mindlessly trying to work a broken trigger assembly I simply whip the gun end over end at the man like I would a throwing knife. The handle of the small pistol catches him over his left eye and he stumbles but keeps up his charge, now with a fresh cut oozing blood into his eye.

We lock together by the big mirror and his counter full of instruments. He pushes me hard back against the mirror and it smashes around us. I grunt, finding him somewhat stronger than I expected, but it’s only because he’s trying to save his life. I switch my grip and jam my thumb into his blown apart right elbow and he howls in pain, slashing harder at my suit, turning it to ribbons like a thresher. I kick at his balls but nothing's stopping him, not even the blood running into his eyes and mouth. I cut my hand on a large piece of glass and pick it up, slamming it into his spine over his shoulder. He starts to gasp and curse in Russian, and his breath smells like cabbages and tobacco.

I break the glass shard off into his back and kick him away.

He’s going to charge again and I see my own blood on the razor blade. My body burns and I can’t get enough oxygen into my lungs. All I can taste is the lather that's still on my face and blood. He comes again, only this time I’ve picked up a pair of shears and when he closes in, when it’s too late for him to stop short, I ram the scissors into his chest, driving him up on to his heels and back into the chair I was once sitting in.

I don’t stop there. I keep ramming the scissors home, screaming a death scream. I lose complete control over my professionalism. It’s total rage as I dig a four inch hole into another human being’s chest.

When it’s over, he’s leaned back gaping at the ceiling and I’m wiping a sweaty mess, a mix of tears, blood, lather and sweat from my face with a butchered sleeve. I leave the barber shop shaking, and find a quiet spot in a back alley where I puke.

1 comment:

Angry Ballerina said...

Reading this shit really makes me wonder if I'm really the unstable one.....