By Thomas Falater
The call came at 3 p.m.
“Hello. Moss Plumbing,” Harold answered.
“I have a customer for you. He’s got a leaky pipe that needs fixing.”
“Yes, sir. I can do that for you. Shall I schedule you for a service call tomorrow, or does it need to be fixed right away?”
“Right away. The pipe looks like it’s going to break any minute.”
“What’s the address?”
“It’s the Coochie Coochie, the purple bar next to the freeway. You know it?”
“Yeah, I know it. I’ll come right away.”
“Ask for Jimmy. And one more thing. Be careful; I can’t vouch for the client.”
“I will,” Harold said as he hung up the phone.
It was unusual for his handler to warn him about a client. Usually, he verifies all of his jobs and has never given him a warning. Harold put a bulletproof vest on beneath his plumbing shirt as an extra precaution.
Harold loaded a few hot water heaters into his plumbing van and left for the club. The plumbing business was a perfect cover for his work. He could come and go all hours of the day and night without attracting suspicion.
The Coochie Coochie was a 45-minute drive from the shop. Everyone in town knew about the club, and they either loved it or hated it; it was responsible for all the fights, prostitution, half the crime, and half the divorces in the city. It was run by organized crime, and they made their money by offering drugs, girls, cheap liquor, and illegal gambling.
When he arrived, only a dozen cars were in the parking lot. Most were all-day drinkers; the rest were husbands pretending to work late at the office. The heavy hitters don’t come until the poker games begin at night. Strip clubs and bikini bars are made to look cheap, but the Coochie Coochie took this idea to the extreme. The entire building was painted purple, even the doors. The only other colors were an obnoxious neon sign above the door and large, white security cameras on every corner.
Harold parked in the back and knocked on the delivery door. A few minutes later, a man in his twenties wearing an outdated suit answered.
“I’m here to fix your plumbing problem,” Harold said.
The man looked at him, puzzled.
“We don’t have a plumbing problem. Take a hike,” he replied.
“I’m here to see Jimmy. Didn’t he tell you I was coming?”
“Oh, yeah. Come in—he’s waiting for you.”
He opened the door and led Harold through a long, purple hallway, past a bathroom and a kitchen, until they reached the boss’s office. Jimmy was a large Italian man in his fifties, and he stood up immediately when Harold entered the room.
“There you are!” Jimmy said jovially. “And look at you. Like a real plumber. You got the name tag and the boots. You look like a plumber; they told me a plumber would show up.”
Jimmy reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of whiskey.
“Here, have a drink with me.”
“No thanks,” Harold said as he sat down. “Can you tell me about the job you want done?”
Taken back by his abruptness, Jimmy paused for a moment.
“I like that. I like that!” Jimmy exclaimed. “Let’s get right down to business. Saves time.”
Jimmy poured himself a drink and sat down. His desk was a mess of half-eaten sandwiches and empty liquor bottles. Beside him, on a large shelf, was a row of monitors hooked up to cameras outside so he could watch the parking lot from his office. He leaned back in his chair. Harold wondered why it didn’t break from his weight.
“I want you to get rid of a patsy for me,” Jimmy began. “He’s about to snitch. His name is Rowan. He’s got to go, and I’d do it myself, but it’s got to look like a suicide. I don’t want the cops poking around asking questions.”
“Why do you have to get rid of him?” Harold asked.
“He got into a big gambling debt with us, and to pay it back, he’s been helping us out by getting some loans approved at the bank he works at. He must have made some mistakes because the cops came around to ask him some questions, and now he’s running scared, hiding out somewhere.”
“You think he’s going to snitch?”
“Yeah, that’s about it in a nutshell. You’re smart for a plumber.”
“Suicide is a complicated thing to do. I’ll need more information about him.”
“Hey, boss, why don’t you just let me push him off a cliff?” the man standing behind Harold chuckled.
“Look, Louie, you let me handle this,” Jimmy said.
“Is there anyone I can talk to about this? Someone who knows him?” Harold asked. “Usually, when you put someone on the hook like this, you have a girl watching him.”
“Yeah. You can talk to Lana. She’s been with him for us since the beginning.”
He snapped his fingers at Louie.
“Louie, go get Lana from the bar and bring her here, will ya’?”
Louie smirked but left the room to get her anyway.
“Do you know where Rowan is right now?” Harold asked.
“No, we don’t know. Lana’s trying to find out. All I know is that he took off with his wife and kid.”
Harold heard two loud knocks on the delivery door; Jimmy turned in his seat to look at the monitor. There was a man at the door waving to him. He reached under his desk and pushed a button that made a buzzing sound, and unlocked the door. The man came in and walked down the hallway toward the office.
“Hey, Sammy. Did you get the cold cuts and cheese?” Jimmy shouted.
“Yeah, boss. I got them.”
Sammy came into the office carrying a package and looked down at Harold.
“Nothing. It’s nothing. He’s just here to fix something, that’s all.”
“Is there a leak or something?”
“Yeah, something like that. Put the meat in the kitchen and go back out to the bar.”
“Okay,” he paused. “The cold cuts were thirty-five bucks.”
“Okay.” Jimmy waved him on. “Go back out to the bar.”
Sammy shook his head and left.
The door to the bar opened, and the unmistakable sound of high heels came toward the office. Harold had already pictured the woman in his mind just by the sound of her walk: tall, elegant, confident, and street-smart. Not the typical woman you would expect to find in a sleazy bar.
She came into the room with Louie, and Harold’s intuition was correct, although she was even more attractive in person. She had blonde, curly hair, a slender figure, and dressed in a feminine, old-fashioned way that Harold admired. Both men stood up when they saw her.
“Lana, honey,” Jimmy said, “come in and have a seat.”
She gave Harold a quick look-over and sat next to him.
“You’re here to kill Rowan, aren’t you?” she asked Harold.
Jimmy cut in, “Lana, listen. Business is business. Rowan got sloppy; that’s not our fault.”
“Because you pushed him too much!” she fired back. “You screwed it up just like you screwed up all the others.”
“Here, have a drink.”
Jimmy poured a drink for her and shoved it across the desk.
“I hope it’s not the cheap booze you sell at the bar,” she said.
Lana took a sip of her drink and leaned back in her chair.
“I had a good thing going with Ronan, I had him wrapped around my finger, and you screwed it up.”
“What’s done is done, so let’s move on,” Jimmy said, “This is Harold. I need you to tell him everything you know about Rowan.”
“So, you can kill him?”
“The more you help me, the better it will be for Rowan,” Harold told her. “If I don’t do it, one of these clowns will, and it won’t be as nice.”
“Why don’t you let me find him and flush him, boss? No pun intended, plumber,” Louie laughed.
“Why don’t you go back into the bar with Sammy and keep an eye on the place, okay?” Jimmy snapped back.
Louis shrugged and went to the front bar, leaving the three of them alone.
“Look,” Harold began, “if you want this done, I need to know where he is and what he’s thinking.”
“Lana,” Jimmy pressed, “One more time. Do you know where he is?”
“No, I told you before. He took off with his wife and kids. He hasn’t called me since.”
Harold sensed that she wasn’t telling the truth.
“Lana, let’s go someplace private and talk,” Harold told her.
Lana looked at Harold, contemplating his offer.
“Fine, you give me a ride home, and we’ll talk on the way. I’ll get my jacket from the bar and meet you in front.”
Lana gulped her drink and left the room.
“Is that all you need from me?” Jimmy asked.
“I get a hundred grand when the job is done. Do you have the cash on hand?
“Yeah, I got the cash on hand. What do you think I am? A schmuck? When you getting the job done?”
“In a day or two.”
“A day or two?” Jimmy laughed. “Are you kidding? First, you gotta find him; then you gotta make it look like a suicide. No mistakes.”
“I’ll do my job. You make sure you have the money.”
“I got the money.”
“Where are you going to be?” Harold asked.
“I’m always right here.”
The two men stood and shook hands. Jimmy’s hands were slimy with grease, liquor, and mayonnaise. Harold didn’t like him and was happy to leave.
He drove his van to the front of the club to pick up Lana. The look of his plumbing van made her laugh.
“You’re kidding, right? This is what you drive?”
“You want to be undercover, don’t you?”
“I hope no one sees me in this old crate,” she said as she got in.
“Where are you staying?”
“The Maya Hotel. You know it?”
“Yeah, the fancy place. I know it.”
Harold pulled out of the lot and headed toward the hotel.
“You don’t get along very well with Jimmy,” Harold said.
“No one does. You have to be careful around Jimmy. He’s always up to something.”
“How do you figure in all of this?”
“Rowan showed up at Jimmy’s place about a year ago. He started gambling at the poker table and had a lot of cash. When he was winning, I became his girl. He gave me jewelry, gifts, cash—anything I wanted. We had it good for a while, but then Jimmy found out he was a loan officer at a bank and sent his goons out to cheat and get Rowan in debt. They were real pros. They had him up and down, winning one week and losing the next. After a few months, he was in the hole by a hundred grand.”
“Did they use any muscle on him?” Harold asked.
“Yes. When he missed two payments in a row, Louie beat him up, and then they forced him to sign off on bad loans to pay them back. Turns out, that was their plan all along. They make more money on bogus loans than they do gambling.”
“What went wrong?”
“Jimmy went too far and got greedy. The paperwork got sloppy, the loans were for shady characters, and eventually, the cops got suspicious and came to Rowan’s bank asking questions when he wasn’t there. He found out about it and ran. Took his wife and kid to a hideout. He’s been holed up there for three days now.”
“Who is he worried about? The cops or Jimmy?”
“Both. He doesn’t want to go to jail, and he thinks Jimmy’s going to kill him,” she replied. “It’s a race to see who gets to him first.”
Harold sped up to get through a traffic light at the last moment to see if they were being followed. A few seconds later, a dark sedan ran the red light to keep up with him.
“What kind of car does Louie drive?” Harold asked.
“He drives a black Continental. He thinks it makes him look like a gangster.”
“Any reason why he’s following us?”
Lana turned in her seat to look out the back window.
“They’re trying to get to Rowan. They’re going to follow you until you find him,” Lana said
“You know they’re going to kill him and his family, right?”
“Why would those goons kill Rowan’s family?”
“To make an example out of him,” Harold said. “They don’t want anyone to snitch to the cops.”
“What if he doesn’t snitch? What if he does his time and keeps his mouth shut?”
“They don’t care, and they won’t believe it. They’ll kill him anyway to send a message. But if I do it, he’ll go quickly, and his family will live.”
They pulled up in front of Lana’s hotel. Harold hoped she would tell him where Rowan was hiding.
“You promise to do it quickly and not hurt the family? He loves his kid; she’s all he ever talks about.”
“I promise, Lana. It’s the right thing to do,” Harold said. “You want to save the kid, don’t you?”
Lana took a deep breath.
“He’s in a cabin at Chemung Lake. He took me there a few times. Cabin fourteen. Across from the miniature golf course.”
“Good, I’ll take care of it the right way. You sit tight and stay here. One last thing: What’s his kid’s name?”
“Melody. Her name is Melody.”
Lana turned toward Harold.
“Will I see you again?” she asked.
“I doubt it. You going back to the Coochie Coochie after all this?”
“I doubt it,” Lana smiled.
Lana got out and went inside. Harold liked her, and he hoped to see her again.
Louie’s car was parked across the street, watching them both. When Harold left the hotel, he went the wrong way to throw Louie off the trail. A few blocks later, he doubled back to get rid of him. Louie was easy to shake loose.
Chemung Lake is a medium-sized lake about a two-hour drive north of the city. It’s surrounded by cabins and a large resort with attractions for people to visit. This time of year was slow; people usually don’t come in the late fall.
Harold wasn’t sure what to do once he got there; somehow, he had to separate Rowan from his family. He also had to work fast in case one of Jimmy’s men showed up to do the job themselves.
There was only one way to get to the lake: a long road with no turnoffs and a bridge about halfway there. Harold stayed below the speed limit and got there just before sundown. Since this was the off-season, the entrance gate was open and unguarded. He drove through the empty streets until he found Rowan’s cabin. It was two blocks from the lake and directly across the street from a miniature golf course, just as Lana described. At the end of the block, against the shore, was a boathouse used to repair, clean, and maintain the resort’s rental boats. The doors and windows were open and unlocked, and Harold could see it was empty inside except for a few tables, chairs, life preservers, and rows of coiled rope hanging on the wall. The building looked rustic to blend in with the rest of the resort; it had wooden rafters across the open ceiling and outer porch area. There was a camera directly across the street aimed at the front door; since the windows were open, it could also record the inside of the boathouse.
He parked near the golf course entrance between two rows of bushes and beneath a ten-foot-tall miniature windmill. From there, he could watch Rowan’s cabin and any activity on the street. Rowan picked a terrible way to hide; he parked his car in the driveway and sat in the front room with his family watching television with the drapes open. Anyone could have shot them through the front window, and no one in the resort would know until the morning.
Harold sat in his van across from the cabin. By watching what they did inside, he had a basic idea of the cabin’s layout: two bedrooms upstairs with a bathroom in between, a living room, kitchen, dining room, and another bathroom downstairs. Rowan got up once to go to the bathroom and again when he put his daughter to bed in the upstairs bedroom.
When Rowan returned to the living room, Harold went across the street to get a closer look at the cabin to see what he could find. The front door was locked, and nothing was left on the porch. In the back, the fire pit and barbecue were cold and unused. The only signs of activity outside were fresh cigarette butts on the side of the cabin beside the door; one was still smoldering. When he checked the door, it was unlocked. He knew Rowan would be coming out at least one more time to smoke before going to bed.
The unlocked door gave him a chance to go inside; he opened the door quietly and went up the stairs to the second floor. The girl’s room was just a few steps to his left, and when he entered her room, she was breathing slowly and steadily, fast asleep. He stood over her bed and watched her. She looked young and innocent in the glow of the street lights, unaware of the danger lurking above her.
Harold reached into his pocket, took out his phone, and got a picture of her sleeping. When the flash went off, it stirred her a little, but not enough to wake her up.
He went back down the stairs and out the side door, carefully closing it behind him. He leaned against the cabin in the darkness and looked up into the night sky.
Fog crept over the ground as the air cooled. The street was quiet, and the only sound was the electric motor of the windmill across the street that someone had forgotten to turn off. The windmill’s blades sliced through the mist against the darkness above. There were no clouds or moon—a dead calm had come over the resort, and all he could do now was wait.
After an hour, the lights went out in the living room, and Rowan’s wife went upstairs to the second floor. Rowan would be coming out soon. Harold stayed in the shadow near the wall and held the handgun in his pocket.
Suddenly, Rowan opened the door and stepped outside. Harold grabbed him by the back of his collar and shoved the gun against his head.
“Don’t make a sound, Rowan. I’m not going to hurt you. If you don’t make a sound, I won’t hurt you.”
Rowan dropped his cigarettes and put his hands up.
“Don’t kill me,” he stammered. “I won’t say anything. I won’t tell.”
“Listen closely. Keep quiet, and I won’t hurt you. Lana sent me. Let’s go where we can talk.”
Harold shoved Rowan toward the cabin next door. When they were far enough away and hidden within a row of bushes, he let go of him and stepped back.
Rowan turned to face him. His eyes were red and fatigued; he looked like he hadn’t slept for days.
“Lana sent you?” he asked.
“That’s right. She told me where you were. She wanted me to get to you first.”
“Who else is after me?”
“Everyone,” Harold said. “The cops want you to rat on Jimmy. And Jimmy wants to kill you and your family. You’re not in a good place right now, Rowan.”
“Where’s Lana? I want to see Lana.”
“She’s not coming. She works for Jimmy. They set you up.”
His face went blank.
“It was all a trick?” Rowan stammered.
“Right from the beginning. And now it’s the end of the line.”
“What are you going to do?”
“You’re going to die. The only question is how you’ll die,” Harold began. “You can wait for Jimmy’s men to find you; they’ll tie you up and make you watch as they kill your family. After that, they’ll chain you to an anchor and throw you in the lake to drown. Not a good way to die. You can go to the cops and turn yourself in, but Jimmy will kill you in prison and then go after your family. If you snitch and go into witness protection, they’ll find you. They always do.”
“What if I keep my mouth shut and go to prison?”
“They’ll kill you just to make sure you never snitch.”
“Why did Lana send you?”
“She went a little soft on you. She doesn’t want to see your kid hurt, so she sent me.”
“What are you going to do?”
“There’s another option, a third option. It won’t be easy for you, but if you do it, your family lives.”
“What is it? I’ll do it.”
“You have to kill yourself, Rowan. You have to go to the boathouse and hang yourself. It’s the only way your family lives. I’ll tell Jimmy that when I got here, you were already hanging, and the cops were swarming all over the place.”
Rowan wiped his face, stood up straight, and squared off against Harold.
“Don’t try anything. If you do, I’ll kill all three of you. I get paid either way. That’s all I care about,” Harold said.
He cocked the hammer back on his revolver, ready to shoot Rowan in the face.
“You won’t do it. You can’t kill a child. You won’t.”
“Let me show you something.”
Harold reached into his pocket and took out his cell phone.
“Here’s how easy it is,” Harold said.
He turned the phone around and showed Rowan the picture he had taken of his daughter sleeping in her bed.
“You didn’t even know I was in Melody’s room, did you?”
Rowan’s shoulders slumped; his hands trembled.
“This is what’s going to happen if you try playing action hero with me,” Harold began. “I’ll shoot you in the face. You’ll feel like someone hit you on the head with a baseball bat. You’ll fall to the ground, and the last thing you’ll see is me going back to your cabin to finish the job. I’ll go into Melody’s room and hold a pillow over her face. She’ll wake up confused and scared. All she’ll see is darkness and feel the weight of the pillow holding her down, and her lungs will ache as if a torch was burning inside her. She will only know fear and pain when she dies; I’ll make sure of that. Then, I’ll drag her down the hallway, throw her dead body in your wife’s bedroom, and tell her this was all your doing. How you left them alone at night while you went out gambling, drinking, doing drugs, buying prostitutes, and making deals with the mob. And finally, when you were given a choice, you were too much of a coward to spare their lives. The last thing she’ll think about is how you betrayed her.”
“You evil bastard,” Rowan cried.
“No, Rowan. You’re the evil bastard. You married her. You promised to love and protect her, but you spent your time gambling and getting mixed up with the wrong people.”
Rowan looked down at the ground and sobbed.
“Turn around and get moving. For once in your life, do the right thing.”
Rowan nodded, unable to talk.
“There’s a boathouse two blocks away. You’re going to go there, put a chair under the beam in the middle of the room, throw a rope over it, and hang yourself.”
“I don’t know how. I don’t know what to do.”
“Listen to me, Rowan; stop thinking about it and do it. Get a rope off the wall, throw it over the beam, get on a chair, tie a slip knot around your neck, and kick the chair out from under you. It’s that easy. The blood will drain from your brain, everything will go black, and you’ll fall asleep.”
“What happens after that?”
“You’ll meet God with a clear conscience.”
Rowan turned toward the boathouse.
“Get moving,” Harold said. “It’s the only way to get out of this. Do it for your daughter.”
Harold watched as Rowan walked toward the light of the boathouse, almost disappearing in the fog. Harold never knew what a person thinks about in their final moments of life. Perhaps Rowan’s life was rewinding in his mind, or he was thinking about his daughter, or maybe, he was too overwhelmed to think about anything. Harold followed behind him to be close enough to see him through the fog. He watched him step onto the chair, tie the rope around his neck, and after a short pause, kick the chair to the side and hang himself. After a minute or two, he stopped struggling, and his legs swayed from side to side. It was over.
Harold was glad it was over. He walked back to his van to go to the club and pick up his money.
“Not so fast, plumber.”
He heard the distinctive click of a revolver’s trigger locking back in the firing position, and he turned to see Louie emerge from the bushes beside his van. He was holding a gun in one hand and dragging Lana by the arm with the other.
“He made me tell him where you were. I didn’t want to!” Lana yelled as she struggled against Louie’s grip.
“Shut up, bitch,” Louie snapped as he threw her to the ground. “How did you do it, plumber? How did you get him to hang himself?”
“What are you doing here, Louie?”
“I’m here on a little mission of my own. It’s time for you to get flushed,” Louie chuckled.
“If you kill me, the mob will kill you.”
“Who do you think sent me? Jimmy sent me. You think we care about the Roto-Rooter man?”
“Don’t do it, Louie; you’re making a mistake,” Lana pleaded.
“Watch closely, honey. This is how a real killer does it.”
Louie leveled the gun at Harold, preparing to fire.
Lana swung her arms through the grass, looking for a weapon to use against him. Harold stalled for time.
“You don’t have to do this, Louie. We could go back to the club, take care of Jimmy, and you could take over the business. Keep the money; I don’t care,” Harold told him.
“I’m going to do that, anyway. What do I need you for?”
Lana found a golf club in the grass and rose to her feet behind Louie. Just as he was about to fire, she swung down hard on Louie’s hand, knocking the gun to the ground. Rowan quickly took a step forward and kicked him in the groin. Louie doubled over and fell in front of Lana. She stood over him and continued to beat him with the club.
“You son of a bitch!” Lana yelled.
She pummeled him over and over, even after he lost consciousness. She worked herself into a frenzy of revenge and bounced the iron club off his head like a cantaloupe, splitting it open and splattering his blood into the air.
“That’s enough, Lana,” Harold said as he reached out to stop her.
She let go of the club and cried in his arms.
“He said he would cut my face up if I didn’t tell him where you were,” she sobbed.
“I know, honey. I know.”
Louie was badly beaten but still alive. Harold wasn’t done with him yet.
“We need to get him out of here,” Harold said. “Where’s his car?”
“It’s parked around the corner,” Lana said.
“Okay. We’re going to put him in my van and then go back to the Coochie Coochie. You take his car, and I’ll follow you. Get the gun and the club.”
Harold opened the back doors of the van.
“I’m going to show you why I’m a plumber.”
Lana looked on as he put Louie in the back of his van and tipped a large, hot-water tank on its side. It looked like a standard tank at first, but then Harold unhooked clamps on the top and took it apart, revealing a hollowed-out interior.
“We’ll put him in here and dump him in the river on the way back. The holes will let the water in to drown him, and the tank’s weight will hold him at the bottom.”
“What will you do when we get to the club?” Lana asked.
“We’re going to take care of Jimmy.”
Harold took off Louie’s jacket and got his keys before stuffing him into the water tank along with the gun and golf club.
“Here’s the keys to the car,” Harold said. “We’re going back to the club. Stop at the bridge on the way there so we can dump Louie in the river. Drive carefully, and don’t go over the speed limit. I’ll follow you to make sure you get there.”
Harold followed Lana as far back as he could while still able to see her tail lights in the fog. Everything went fine until they got about halfway to the bridge; a police car pulled behind Lana and turned its lights on to stop her.
Harold turned off his engine and let his van roll close enough to listen to them but far enough to not be seen.
“Well, ma’am, it’s just unusual for me to see someone out here this late. You say you were visiting your boyfriend?” the cop asked.
“That’s right. Sometimes we go here, so his wife doesn’t know,” Lana replied.
“Nothing wrong with that. I’ll go check all this out and then let you go. Sit tight for a sec.”
The cop went back to his squad car. Harold climbed over the seat to the back of his van and pulled a sniper rifle out of an old pipe. He leveled the scope and aimed at the cop’s head, ready to shoot him.
After a few minutes, the cop got up and went back to Lana’s window. Harold tensed his finger over the trigger.
“Here’s your license back. You’re free to go. Just be careful in the fog.”
“I will, officer,” Lana replied.
Relieved it didn’t go further, Harold put his rifle away, started the engine, and drove carefully past the cop. He was parked on the side of the road and watched him but didn’t try to stop him.
The bridge was five miles away, far enough from the cop and around enough curves to keep them out of sight. It was a good place to dump Louie; the river was deep and never dried out. When Harold arrived, Lana got out of the car and stood beside the bridge. He pulled up beside her.
“Did you get a load of Barney Fife?” Lana laughed.
“Yeah, I saw him. I was ready to take him out if he tried to arrest you.”
“Do you think anything will come of it? He knows who I am.”
“I doubt it,” Harold replied. “You’ve been up here before, and it’s nothing unusual. If they ever ask you about it, just say you were looking for him, and when you got here, you saw he was with his wife, so you left.”
“Give me a hand with the tank. Let’s dump it and get going.”
Harold backed the van to the edge of the bridge and opened the rear doors. Lana climbed in, and together they tipped the tank over. They heard groaning inside when it hit the floor with a loud thud.
“No, don’t do it. Don’t kill me,” Louie groaned from inside the tank.
“Shut up,” Lana said as she kicked the tank with her heel.
Harold rolled the tank to the edge of the van.
“You son of a bitch! You’ll die for this. Let me go!” Louie pleaded.
“What are you yelling about? Don’t you want to be the Tidy Bowl Man?” Harold laughed.
He shoved the tank over the edge with his foot. It splashed when it hit the water, floated for a few seconds, and then disappeared, sending up bubbles and the last sounds of Louie’s screams as it sank.
“Good riddance,” Lana said.
“Let’s go back to the club. I’ve got some unfinished business to do. When we get there, park a block away so we can switch cars.”
He closed the van door as Lana drove away, feeling better now that Louie’s body wasn’t in it anymore. Somehow, he had to satisfy himself that Jimmy sent Louie to kill him. He had a loose plan but wasn’t sure it would work. But he did know one thing: no one would get away with trying to kill him.
When they got near the club, Lana parked, and they switched cars. Harold put on Louie’s jacket and told her to wait in the van. The club was closed, and only two cars were parked by the delivery door; he assumed one belonged to Jimmy. He pulled the collar of Louie’s jacket up to hide his face and when he got out, he slumped over like Louie and knocked twice on the door. It buzzed and opened almost immediately; so far, his plan was working.
Harold cautiously opened the door and looked down the long, purple hallway; it was dark except for the faint blue light from Jimmy’s office. At first, he thought it was a trap until he heard Jimmy call out.
“Hey, bring me some mayo from the kitchen, will ya’?”
Harold went into the kitchen and got a meat cleaver and a large jar of mayonnaise from the shelf.
“Did you flush the plumber?” Jimmy laughed. “I bet he’s in the shitter right now.”
Harold now knew for certain Jimmy sent Louie to kill him. It was time for revenge.
He burst into Jimmy’s office, threw the jar of mayonnaise at him, and jumped behind him to lock him in a choke hold with his tie.
“You son of a bitch. I’m the boss,” Jimmy grunted, fighting for his breath.
“Not anymore, you’re not,” Harold said as he grabbed Jimmy’s hand and laid it flat on the desk.
“What are you doing? You’re crazy!”
“Where’s my money?”
Harold raised the cleaver above Jimmy’s hand, ready to cut it in half.
“I’ll cut you to pieces. Where’s my money?”
“Go to hell, you son—”
Harold slammed the cleaver down on Jimmy’s hand, cutting off two fingers.
“Ahhh, you son of a bitch,” Jimmy screamed. “I’ll kill you for this!”
“Where’s my money?” Harold insisted.
“In the kitchen. In the freezer.”
“You better be right.”
Harold shoved the chair over and left to get his money. Jimmy crawled on the floor, trying to collect his fingers and stop the bleeding from his hand.
Harold found the money in the freezer, all one hundred grand in a paper bag earmarked for the hit.
He grabbed the bag and returned to the office, but as soon as he rounded the corner, Jimmy shot at him and missed. Somehow, he had managed to fire the gun with his left hand. Immediately, Harold threw the meat cleaver at Jimmy and struck him in the forehead, slicing it into his head. As he fell, Jimmy shot again at Harold, this time hitting him in the chest. It knocked him to the ground but didn’t kill him; the bulletproof vest stopped the bullet.
Sammy came into the hallway from the bar with his gun drawn.
“Just hold on there,” Harold told him, “Jimmy tried to kill me and take the money from the job. You don’t want to get involved in this.”
Sammy stepped closer and saw the mess in the office. Jimmy’s body lay in a pile of liquor bottles, half-eaten sandwiches, blood, and severed fingers. He shook his head and put his gun back in his holster.
“I never liked the fat bastard,” Sammy said.
Relieved, Harold picked up the money bag and gave Louie’s coat to Sammy.
“Louie won’t be coming back. I guess that leaves you,” Harold said.
“You got him too?” Sammy asked.
“Good, I never liked him neither.”
“I think I’ll see you around,” Harold said. “Looks like you’re the boss now.”
Sammy looked over the mess in the office.
“I’ll get rid of the body,” Sammy said.
“Louie’s car is outside. I’ll leave it there, keys are in it.”
Harold left out the back door, surprised to see Lana waiting for him in the van.
“Need a ride?”
“I told you to wait for me. What are you doing here?” Harold asked.
“I heard the shot; thought you might need some backup.”
“Well,” Harold pondered, “I guess I do.”
She opened the side door.
“Don’t you want me to drive?” Harold asked.
“No, I kind of like this van now,” Lana smiled.
“Where you headed?” Harold asked.
“Let’s go to your place. Maybe you can teach me a thing or two about plumbing.”
“Yeah, I would like that,” Harold said.
Harold got in the passenger seat.
“So tell me,” Lana asked, “are your jobs always like this?”
He thought for a moment and smiled.
“Yeah, I guess they are.”
Bio: Tom is a freelance writer from Southern California. His most recent work appeared in ‘The Chamber Magazine’, ’50-Word Stories’, and ‘Half Hour to Kill’.
Read more hitman type stories stories at The Yard: Crime Blog