“What the-?” I said through a milky cloud of cigar smoke. My face followed the nearly opaque cloud as I leaned forward to examine the photograph between my hands.
The photograph was of a man with shaggy brown hair. He wore a black blazer and sunglasses. When I recognized the man in the photo, my mind flashed back to the scene in which I’d agreed to kill one of my employers’ antagonists.
“I want it to look like an accident,” he said.
I didn’t immediately respond. I only stared at my employer from the corners of my eyes. “…Where is he?” I finally asked.
“New York City,” he told me.
“When do you want it done?”
“Next week. I’ll have your plane ticket and half-payment on Thursday.”
“Sounds good,” I said, grabbing my coat and rising from a seated position. I began walking toward the door.
“Still don’t have a photo. My guys are working on gettin’ a good one…He’s an architect.”
“Mmhm. Okay,” I said, turning the door handle to make my exit. “See you Thursday.”
“Wha wi na oo o or face?” I heard.
“What?” I asked, giving my head a light shake to clear the thoughts that were clogging my ears.
“What’s with that look on your face? You know this prick or something?”
“Uh..No. Just kinda looks like someone I know,” I answered, tossing the photograph onto the desk in front of me. “Who is he?”
“Name’s Boregard Birch. He lives at this address,” my employer said, handing me a piece of paper with a name and address scribbled on one side.
“Huh,” I said, glancing at the paper. “So what’s the occasion? Why do you want this guy killed?” I asked casually.
“Eh, he’s fuckin’ up one of my contracts over in the lower east side. He’s trying to save some bullshit old building because it has historical value.” His hands air-quoted while he said ‘historical’ to represent a lack of historical respect for the building. “Nobody cares about the place. I got people calling me all day asking when I can sign over rights for these apartments..This is what people want. A fifteen story condo with an indoor pool and a bar. Not some bullshit old music cafe.” he said, pounding his fist on the table he leaned against.
“Yeah. That’s probably true,” I agreed.
“So take care of it,” he said tossing me a thick envelope.
I opened it to find a first-class plane-ticket to New York City and a smaller envelope filled with crisp one-hundred dollar bills.
“Ahh, an upgrade. Last time you gave me a shoebox full of tens,” I mentioned, flicking through the bills.
“Yeah, well business ‘s been good,” he said, picking at one of his fingernails.
“Right on…I’ll send you the SMS when it’s done,” I said, swiping at the photograph on the table, grabbing the coat at my left then heading for the door.
“Give Jezebel a kiss for me, would ya?” he called to my back. His voice’s clarity changed mid-sentence. I assumed he was looking up from picking at his fingernail while saying it.
“Will do. Have a good one,” I said, exiting.
I went down to the ground floor and unlocked my bicycle. Then I hopped on and began riding home. On the way I contemplated the job. A big problem was that my new target was also my brother. This fact had been overlooked by my employer because when I’d gotten into the killing business my name and identity changed to Karl Burk’s, cutting the Birch connection.
Another problem was that I had a 100% job-completion rate. And once that percentage drops, killing-careers fade. I don’t know how, but that shit becomes public quickly. And people don’t hire hitmen with less than perfect records.
I should’ve declined the job, but I didn’t. I wanted to go to New York and improvise.
I tried conquering the 1-inch edge of my driveway without touching my handlebars. But because I’m a pussy, I kept my hands hovering above the bars in case disaster needed averting. And it did. A quick jolt of my front tire required a two-handed mini-lunge to stabilize.
I locked my bike and climbed the stairs of my apartment building to my flat’s floor. I unlocked my flat’s door, entered, and flicked on the kitchen light. I got a shot glass from the cabinet to pour a hefty fluid ounce of Becherovka into it. “Hmmm…” I said, thinking to myself just before drinking the shot.
After taking 2 or 3 more shots I lit a cigarette and did a slew of sit-ups. Having taxed my abdominal muscles, I lay on the floor of my living room and stared at the ceiling. As I appreciated the light sensation of the rug beneath my bare back, I noticed a small crack in one of the room’s corners. Staring at it I took a drag from my cigarette.
I tried to focus on the present. The cigarette’s effect. My surroundings. But my recent assignment weighed heavy. Thoughts and memories of my brother and the fact I was supposed to kill him kept seeping into my mind.
When finished with my cigarette, I got up and briefly jogged to the bathroom. I’d bought a new kind of toothpaste earlier that day and was interested in seeing its result. So I put a nice dollop on the brush’s bristles and started brushing as I studied the toothpaste tube in my left hand. The outcome was nothing special, but certainly satisfying.
After brushing my teeth, I went into my bedroom and fetched my suitcase from the closet. I refrained from turning on the light because I knew my girlfriend would be in bed. So I haphazardly packed my suitcase in the dark then slid into bed next to her.
“Baby…I’m going to New York tomorrow,” I whispered into her ear as I gently pressed my genitals against her hip.
She moaned for just under 2 seconds, then rolled to my parallel and slid her right arm over my neck. “Okay,” she said slowly.
After staring at me for 10 seconds she asked, “When are you coming back?” as she kissed my lower lip.
“Mmmhm,” she responded, sinking deeper.
“Hey, how did that exposition go?” I asked.
“Yeah, it went well..There were plenty of people, but I only sold two pieces.”
Jezebel made and sold artwork with multi-colored sand glued to canvas. The images were generally abstract with some form of realism.
“Two pieces. That’s pretty good..Did you hand out any business cards?”
“Yeah,” she answered.
“Well, something could come from that. Why not? Especially with the freshly renovated website,” I said, kissing her.
“Mmhm.” She kissed me back.
Our kiss matured. My left hand lightly stroked the length of her torso. My right hand slid between her thighs then up to her vagina-
Jezebel and I kissed each other goodbye in the unloading lane of the airport’s departure terminal. I walked away, turning to wave at her as I approached an airport security guard standing on the curb. When I reached him, I asked the man, “Can you tell me where the bathroom is?”
“Yeah. Just head through those doors,” he said, pointing to the airport’s entrance. Then you gotta go to the back wall an’ it’s all the way to the right.”
“Alright. Thanks a lot,” I said, smiling.
I walked to the back corner of the airport’s reception area, found the restroom, and entered. I cleaned my sunglasses in the sink until I was sure I was the only one in the restroom. Then I opened the stall-door closest to the restroom’s exit/entrance and threw my suitcase onto the tank of the toilet. I locked the stall door.
I opened my suitcase’s lid to withdraw my Walther PPK handgun and an empty sack. I put the gun into the sack then threw the sack onto a stack of neatly pressed clothing inside my suitcase. I watched as the sack’s cloth faded out of sight. The suppressed clothing beneath the fading sack re-inflated as the sack disappeared and I swung the luggage lid closed.
I hoisted my suitcase from the toilet mumbling to myself, “Dunno why I didn’t do that before I got here.”
I exited the restroom and walked to the end of the x-ray inspection/metal-detection line to queue. Once I reached the x-ray machine’s conveyor belt, I put my suitcase onto it and went for my wallet. My fingers grabbed hold, noticing one of its faces was covered by thin plastic.
“Shit,” I thought to myself as I realized I’d forgotten to take the dime bag of marijuana out of my pocket. At my position in line, I could see that security personnel were frisking everyone. The hairs on the back of my neck stood and my scalp tingled.
I took a deep breath then hissed the word, “Fuck,” as I put my keys, cell phone, and wallet into a plastic container. I put the plastic container onto the conveyor belt, leaving the dime bag in my back pocket. I decided it would look too suspicious breaking from the line to throw the baggie away. And there was probably less than a quarter-gram of flattened weed in the bag. So I chanced it.
I went through the metal detector with great timing. The security personnel were busy frisking others so I got the nod to pass, untouched. I pocketed my keys, wallet, and cell phone then hoisted my suitcase to the ground.
I found my departure gate and waited until the first-class boarding call was made. I found my seat and fell asleep before the plane took off. It’d been a long night of goodbye-sex and anxiety-induced insomnia. I was exhausted.
The plane landed in New York. I got off the plane and found my way through the exit doors of Laguardia airport. I didn’t have any checked luggage, so leaving was easy. I hailed a taxi-cab once outside. Inside it I said, “Canal and Church Street, please.”
“You got it,” the cab-driver replied.