Simple Pleasures

By Glen Bush

He reached inside his shirt and felt the polished walnut grip of his Smith & Wesson .357 revolver.  It felt good.  Satisfying.  Just as easily he removed his hand and reached for the pack of unfiltered cigarettes in his shirt pocket.  Tapping the corner of the pack on his left palm, one cigarette slid out.  Still watching the door of the bar across the street, he put the cigarette between his lips and lit it.  The tobacco tasted good.  Relaxing.  It was nearly 2130 hours.  The Crescent Moon Bar did not close for another four and half hours.  How long would Red hang out in the bar?  He knew Red fancied himself a pool hustler and a ladies’ man.  It could be a long four and half hours.  Of course, a real shark could hustle the wannabe or a leggy skank could open his nose in the time it takes to do a shot of house bourbon.  One way or the other, it did not make much difference.  Red was going to walk out of the bar, and he was going to let his .357 do the rest.  It had to be that way.  He had made a promise.  And a promise is a personal contract, something he never went back on.

Standing in the doorway of the closed pawn shop, he leaned against the door jamb and smoked his third cigarette. The night coolness brought a sweet, crisp breeze. Nice. A clean cool wind was a simple pleasure. He liked simple pleasures. The feel of the walnut grip of a revolver, the firm Portuguese cork handle of a hand-made bamboo fly rod, the taste of eighteen-year old single malt scotch, and the compact curvature of a woman’s buttocks. Simple pleasures. Standing in this doorway was not a simple pleasure. He took his cellphone out and looked at the time. 2245. Replacing the phone in his inside jacket pocket, he sucked in a deep breath and let it out easy, slowly. He had been trained for this night as he had been for the other days and nights that had led him to this dark, pawn shop doorway, staring resolutely at the mirrored front door of the bar waiting for Red, a man of little consequence, to emerge– drunk, confident, unsuspecting. Red would cross the street toward him, and then walk to his black Lincoln SUV parked in front of the next doorway. Red would never see him step out of the doorway. There was only one question,

What if he walked out with someone?

It would not matter. It would be simple, not as in pleasure, but simple as in the past. A task. No more, no less.

In Caracas it had also been night, but a hot, sweltering night, not like this cool crisp night. The Colonel had walked out of the brothel, a slim hooker clinging to his right arm, his gun arm. There he had been leaning against the flowering araguaney tree, waiting for the Colonel. His aim was quick. The shot loud. The Colonel slumped to the broken brick sidewalk, he never had time to reach for his H & K 9mm. The drunken hooker collapsed on top of him, splattered with blood, screaming, struggling rapidly to regain her balance, to stand up, never once thinking of looking at him. Instinctively, like a frightened forest critter, indistinguishable from its surroundings, she raised herself up, knees firmly planted on the rain soaked broken brick, trying to wipe the blood from her blouse and face, slipping, pushing, grabbing all at the same time. Hysterical. He slid the .357 into his waistband, looked at the fragments of the Colonel’s skull in a rain puddle, and walked into the alley and the darkness and out of Caracas. Simple.

He reached down for the bottle of water next to the pawn shop door.  It was still cool.  The taste of the cool water soothed his lips and throat.  I need to stop smoking.  These cancer sticks are going to kill me someday.  Replacing the cap, he set the bottle back in the corner of the door.  As he was straightening up, he saw the Crescent Moon door opening and a woman walk out.  Laughing loudly, carrying a go-cup in her left hand, she took a few steps out of the doorway and waited on the sidewalk.  Red walked out, whispering something in her ear.  The couple talked for a few seconds, and then Red pulled her toward him, holding her tightly, kissing her drunkenly.  After the whiskey kiss, she latched on to his arm and pulled him toward her as she tried to walk down the sidewalk in the opposite direction of the pawn shop.  It looked as if Red may follow her, but then he stopped, and pulled his arm from her grip.  This time he could hear Red’s Southern drawl, “Nah, gurl, I gots me something goin’ on that I can’t let slip by.  I’ll call ya when I gets this done.”   Then, without waiting for a reply, Red turned and went back into the Crescent Moon Bar.  Red was already back in the bar before the woman realized she was walking alone to her convertible.  She stopped and turned around and saw she was alone.  A sloppy wave good-bye, and she gulped the rest of the booze from the go-cup and tossed it awkwardly toward the Red’s direction.  She clicked her key to open her car door and start the engine.  In a moment, the red Mercedes convertible was a memory.

At 0020 he lit another cigarette.  0020.  Coincidence? 

Asal Darya sat in the driver’s seat of the twenty-year old Range Rover, her hijab covering her head and lower face.  Her tattooed hands rested casually on the lower part of the steering wheel.  There was a full moon, and the moonlight reflected off the clean bits and pieces of the Range Rover’s dash.  The bearded man sitting next to her listened intently as Asal Darya spoke.  It was obvious to the most casual observer that this woman was not the typical Afghan woman, much less Taliban fighter.  No woman had ever worked her way up the Taliban chain of command, and, yet, here sat Asal Darya telling, not explaining, what she expected this Taliban fighter to do the next morning.  He had never had a task quite like this one.  When the water was boiled away, and only the salt remained, it was still a job for his .357, but the surrounding circumstances were different.  An Afghan woman? 

His driver pulled up next to the Range Rover, both he and his driver wore traditional Afghan headgear and beards.  Asal Darya stopped talking when their Mazda pickup rolled even with her vehicle.  She turned and stared at him, not fully understanding if they were enemy or Taliban.  Before her mind could calculate the conditions, he pointed the Smith & Wesson at her head and opened fired.  He shot her twice and her companion twice.  Before their heads were at rest, the Mazda pickup had turned the corner and was headed toward the mountain. 

The driver smiled.  “Perfect timing, double-aught twenty.” 

At 0130 hours the Crescent Moon Bar was nearly empty.  He could see the bartender wiping down backbar.  Red and the four remaining customers were standing around the pool table.  When someone stepped outside to take a smoke, he could hear the junk box playing a country western song.  The hip hop and Arianna crowd had already left.  Only the country westerners remained to fill the junk box.  It would not be long now.            

Nearly five hours of waiting.  Not really a long time when one put it in the proper perspective.  Two Humphrey Bogart movies, an extra innings baseball game, a half day of Gulf fishing.  Five hours was simply that, five hours.  He still had four sips of water in his bottle, and a half pack of cigarettes.   Once again, he measured the bar’s door from Red’s black SUV.  There was an open gangway directly in line with the SUV’s driver door.  The corner was thirty, thirty-five meters.  Forty meters if he had to come back toward the pawn shop.  He felt confident about his options.  Dropping his final cigarette from his cupped hand, preventing any light from the glow to escape, he rubbed the butt out with the toe of his shoe. 

“Thanks, Red, for the drinks.  I’ll catch you up on payday.”

“No problem, Jag.” 

Jag walked away from the pawn shop, and Red hesitated a moment to light a cigar.  The deep inhaled breaths caused the flame from the wooden match to flare up twice, catching the trimmed end of the cigar in a bright glow. 

As Red reached for the SUV door handle, the .357, six inches from the back of Red’s head, exploded in a burst of noise and flash.  The street was empty.  It took the bartender several minutes to realize the shooting had really taken place outside of his bar.  Opening the bar door, the bartender saw Red lying in the street, motionless, the SUV door open, casting enough light on Red’s body for him to identify the still body.  The bartender called 911.                                                                          

                                                                                        ***

Three knocks at the front door signaled that his appointment had arrived.  Opening the door, he saw the same Black man he had seen for the past two years.  Dark skin, close cut hair, sunglasses, dark suit, white shirt, black tie, and an 8 x 11 manila envelope in his right hand.  There was a slight bulge under the Black man’s left arm. 

Mr. Wilson, your package.”  With those words, the Black man extended his right hand and handed him the manila envelope. 

“Thank you, Black.  Go with peace.”

“Yes, sir, as well as you.”  Wilson nodded, and the Black man turned and walked away.

Walking to his leather wingback chair, he reached down to pick up the fly fishing magazine and set it on the Chippendale end table.  He then eased himself into the comfortable leather, placed the manila envelope on his lap, and pour himself another three fingers of Glenlivit scotch.  Taking a slow sip of the single malt, he let the scotch sooth his palate.  Putting the glass next to the fly fishing magazine, he opened the envelope, and removed the papers.  A news clipping of Red’s murder was on top of the paper.  He read the clipping carefully for any signs of concern.  None there.  In a beige letter envelope were twenty used, wrinkled one hundred dollar bills.  The next piece of paper, an 8 x 11 white sheet with a series of coded letters and numbers, in seemingly unorganized manner, confirmed the remaining of Wilson’s payment.  The last piece of 8 x 11 stationery was a hand-drawn sketch of a walking man dressed in a conservative three-piece suit wearing a bowler hat carrying a briefcase.  Below the sketch were the words, Thank you, in cursive followed by the uppercase letter Zed.

Just as Wilson was putting the papers back into the envelope sans the hundred dollar bills, his cellphone rang.

“Hello?”

“Wilson, I want to see you.”  The woman’s voice was soft, silky, with a slight hint of Virginia aristocracy.

Eight o’clock.  Renaissance Room?”

“See you there.”

Wilson clicked the button on his cell and finished the Glenlivit.

The End


Bio: Glen Bush is a retired teacher living in the Missouri Ozarks. He enjoys writing crime noir short stories and novels. In his spare time he teaches as an Adjunct Professor, walks his Lab, Ty, and reads.

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