Monday, September 20, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 581 - Dana King


It’s not like in the movies. No one makes a living as a hit man.

It’s a nice supplement. Presents for the wife or girlfriend or both. A vacation or a car if it’s a big enough score. Some guys will do a hit for a couple hundred bucks, ruin it for everyone else. Or you run in a crew and the boss says he wants someone clipped. Maybe he pays you and maybe not. You can’t play potential customers against each other like buying a car: “This other guy wants him dead, too. We close the deal now and I’ll kill him for you.”

Hitters need day gigs. Muscle, usually, enforcers most effective when just their presence gets the slow pay to come around. Rumors of hits past can be an advantage then. If you’re pretty sure he killed Rusty Thomas, what makes you think he won’t clip you? Even government agencies don't keep their assassins sitting idle, waiting for the one time all year someone needs to go. They have real jobs, probably not behind a desk. Paperwork and wet work don’t go well together.

Take Frank Jombach. A respected pro, good for one hit a year, sometimes two. The rest of the time he collected for Marty Chappell, reminding guys who got behind on their juice loans of their obligations. When Marty didn’t need him, Frank freelanced out to insurance salesmen who felt the need to remind prospective clients how dangerous and unpredictable life can be. It’s amazing how many small businesses underestimate the necessity for undocumented insurance.

So when a guy he knew knew a guy who knew a woman needed some work done, Frank saw an opportunity to get his wife off his back and pay cash for the new bathroom she’d been bitching about. Things went flaky right from the start when the broad approached the wrong guy in the bar where they were supposed to meet. Guy thought she was coming on to him and about shit when she asked did he paint houses, which is the accepted way of asking about getting some work done. Frank painted houses and did his own carpentry - disposing of the remains - and conveyed that with a look to the interloper, who wisely took his drinking home that night. Frank almost walked away - a third party knew and could place them together - but stayed because he wanted that goddamn bathroom behind him.

She paid the deposit, but wanted to set the guy up herself. Frank’s usual procedure was for her to point out the mark and disappear; he’d contact her when the job was done. She caught him at a bad time - a storm rearranged parts of his roof, her deposit already committed to the bathroom contractor - so he said okay, so long as she did what he told her. She threw in the blow job out of gratitude.

She handled herself okay, all things considered. Got the guy to a vacant building - Frank didn’t ask how - moved aside when Frank stepped out of the shadows and popped him once in the temple, then again in the forehead after he was down. He didn’t want them to leave together but she came in with the stiff and his car had to be left there. The hummer she gave him in the car set his mind at ease for the time being.

Frank got a bad feeling when she left the second message for him. Two in a row for the same person was unusual - broad was a fucking crime wave - but he was still a little short on the roof, so he took it.

The woman - Doris - wanted in on the action again. She’d call the mark from out in the woods, say she had car trouble, let Frank shoot from a hundred yards away. He didn’t like her taking over the job, started to argue till she said he could take it or leave it. He almost left it; what was she going to do, as short on time like she claimed to be? Not like she could go down to the corner and pick a contract killer out of bunch of guys standing around like illegal immigrant day laborers. It also worried him that she seemed like she was under a lot of pressure. Amateurs make mistakes under pressure, and he didn’t want to do time because someone else wasn’t careful enough. If he stayed, he could finish paying for the roof then do something for himself for a change. Atlantic City maybe, shoot some dice, get laid, let his wife run the Water Pik between her legs, she loved that goddamn bathroom so much. So he stayed. But he didn’t like it.

In place an hour early, hunting jacket and old Timberlands and his .30-06 in a carry bag. Found a spot where he wouldn’t be seen from the road, arranged some deadfall for a firing support and pulled fallen leaves over his legs. His car a quarter mile away as the crow flew, other side of the hill, he’d be driving away five minutes after the shot but no one would associate seeing him with what happened a mile down the road.

Rain started as he finished arranging the leaves. A drizzle at first, then harder, a cold October rain that soaked him through inside of five minutes. The longer he laid there in the rain, the less he trusted Doris. He’d eliminated as many chances as he could in the short time he had, but a million things could still go wrong. He could pay for the roof over time; what she owed him was gravy. Cash to put in the bank or blow in AC wasn’t worth natural life if something went wrong and Doris rolled over on him.

She would, too. The longer he waited there, the wetter he got, the more he convinced himself. She went slumming on the first one, got off on the idea of her pet hit man actually killing somebody. Something must have gone wrong for her to need someone else clipped three weeks later. Frank had heard nothing, he was clear, it had to be a loose end she hadn’t anticipated and had to be dealt with quickly.

A panic killing. Frank wouldn’t kill a wasp in his house in anything other than cold blood. He never got carried away when encouraging payment or throwing fear into someone. When he killed a guy, he left the house for that purpose. Nine jobs and he’d never spent a night in the can. He didn’t plan for Number Ten to break the string.

This Doris broad was trouble, digging herself a deeper hole when she should be throwing out the shovel. Every drop of water that fell in his eye reminded Frank he didn’t need her money.

Doris disrupted his train of thought when she pulled into the little turnout he was sighted on. She got out and raised the hood, rushed back inside out of the rain. Put on the flashers.

Frank was wet everywhere, laying in a puddle of his own runoff, looking down to the car where Doris sat warm and dry. He knew her type. She'd wouldn’t just cut a deal; she’d volunteer one the first time a cop asked anything relevant. Plead to whatever she had to while giving Frank up on Murder for Hire, natural life only because the governor refused to execute anyone.

Coming back was a mistake he couldn’t just walk away from. She owned enough of him - only he pulled a trigger - to keep him on a string. He could give her the benefit of the doubt for now, take her out later if he suspected anything. Problem was, once she mentioned his name - even the phony he gave her, even in passing to a cop - he’d be the first person they talked to. She’d describe him and just because he’d never been arrested didn’t mean the cops didn’t know what he’d been up to.

The plan would work just as well on her.

Wait for the about-to-be-reprieved mark to show up. She gets out of the car, Frank moves the sight picture a couple of feet one way or the other, squeezes one off and beats feet for the car. He’d lose the last payment, but that could have been the set-up if she rolled over, arrange for a cop to see him accept money.

An SUV pulled up ahead of her car in the turnout. Flashers came on and the driver’s door opened. Frank took the covers off his scope lenses and pulled the stock into his shoulder. Doris’s door opened. She got out and Frank caught a break. Her hood shielded most of the supposed target; Doris’s head bobbed just above the roof of her car.

Frank slowed his breathing, let his heart rate stabilize. Shoot at the end of an exhalation, between heart beats if possible. Timing it, adjusting his aim as her head bobbed, talking to the guy behind the hood. The rain fell hard and steady on fallen leaves. One eye closed, all his vision and concentration focused through the scope, picking the spot a couple inches above her right ear. Took one last breath, let it out slow.

Frank Jombach’s best attribute as a shooter was his ability to concentrate. That’s why he didn’t hear the man approach from behind, his footsteps covered by the rain pounding on the leaves. His mind didn’t have time to register the sound of the gunshot before the bullet rammed itself through the base of his skull. The second shot was insurance.

He’d been right: Doris brought him here so she could clean up a loose end.

BIO: Dana King’s short story, “Green Gables,” was published in the anthology Thuglit Presents Blood, Guts, and Whiskey, edited by Todd Robinson. Online, his stories have appeared in Powder Burn Flash, Mysterical-e, and New Mystery Reader, where he has also written over one hundred reviews and interviews. Dana is also a regular contributor to flash fiction challenges on blogs, including Pattinase, Going Ballistic, and Do Some Damage.


R.S. Bohn said...

I was trying to figure your angle all the way to the end -- who was Doris, what was really going down. And I had to grin at the end -- yep, loose ends.

I like an organized woman.

AJ Hayes said...

The big wheel turns then clicks to a stop. You never know whose numbers coming up, even if it's your own. Puts a whole new light on "Can't live with 'em. Can't live without 'em." Who'da thought a bathroom could cost so much. Nifty tale. Told sharp and fast. Cool.

Naomi Johnson said...

People always underestimate what a bathroom is gonna cost.

Paul D Brazill said...

Life and times of a small business man. Loved that. My breakfast story.

Jack Getze said...

Tough job to make a tale keeping pulling me in with no dialogue. You did it, Dana. Nice.

John McFetridge said...

"Paperwork and wet work don’t go well together."

Great line. A lot of great lines. They add up to a great story, thanks for posting it.

Joyce said...

Oh, really a slick story, Dana. Loved this one. Terrific characters too.

pattinase (abbott) said...

And it is a great juxtaposition reminding us that no one is beyond the prosaic details of life.

Dana King said...

Thanks to all who commented. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

And, once again, thanks to Christopher for the opportunity.

Charlieopera said...

Hey, I know these people ... very clever stuff.

M. C. Funk said...

I liked the pacing and realism of this: The exploration of what a hitman's life and skills would really be.