Aim to Please, Shoot to Kill

It’s been about a year since Dave the Marketing Director told me I was out of a job, that I wasn’t going to make it out of my probationary period at Northeast Health Care. I can still see that smug piece of shit with his frat-boy haircut, sitting behind his desk toying nervously with a pen, his little piggy eyes darting between my open HR file, his computer monitor and the clock on the wall. That cocksucker didn’t even have the guts to look me in the eye when he told me.
+++++“I’m just not convinced that you’re keeping our brand values top of mind,” he said.
+++++I didn’t bother to argue. It had been abundantly clear for some time now that the prick had made up his mind weeks ago. I never had a chance. I handed over my ID, packed up my shit while a security guard watched, and got escorted out of the building.
+++++That night I killed a bottle of rye. In the morning I slept in while the wife went to work. That afternoon I filed for unemployment and started looking for another gig.
+++++They say unemployment’s down, that the economy’s recovered, but it sure as fuck hasn’t recovered for me. Dozens of applications sent out, all my connections around town tapped and retapped, and nothing to show for it but a handful of interviews that went exactly nowhere once the jerkoff behind the desk figured out I was on the wrong side of 50.
+++++Over the next few months, the booze never seemed to run out but the health insurance did and the unemployment checks stopped coming a month or so after that. The wife kicked me out a few weeks later. I don’t blame her. Truth be told, she could do a lot better than me. I’m just surprised it took her so long to realize it for herself.
+++++I got a room in some fleabag up on Munjoy Hill and that’s where I’ve been ever since, drinking hard and trying to stay relevant.
+++++The idea had been growing in my mind for a while.
+++++I think it had always been there, in some form or another, since the day I got canned but I can’t say for sure when it first took hold and blossomed into something more – sometime after the soft pillow of despair gave way to crystalline shards of anger, I guess.
+++++Eventually, things got to the point where I spent more time thinking about it than I did not thinking about it. I dreamed about it at night and my mind continually drifted toward it during the day, an oasis of calm in a growing hurricane of rage – wiping that smug fucking look off Dave’s face once and for all. Bringing as much fear and anguish to him as he’d brought to me.
+++++Violently.
+++++Painfully.
+++++But ever so slowly, so I could enjoy every minute of it and he would know deep in whatever pile of shit he had for a soul that he had fucked with the wrong guy.
+++++The only question was, how?
+++++They say that when God closes a door, he opens a window and I guess that must be the case because a few nights ago, I ran into Eddie down at Sangillo’s. We had a few and got to talking. He opened his leather and showed me a piece. Said it was clean. Untraceable. And that I could have it for $100.
+++++Problem solved.
+++++On Thursdays, like clockwork, Dave worked late to, “get his ducks in a row,” for a standing breakfast meeting with the executive team the next morning. So that night I filled my hip flask with some shitty bourbon and packed my old Converse bag with a flash light, a roll of duct tape, some zip ties and the piece I got off of Eddie, fully loaded. I took the bus over to Northeast and in the growing darkness, I drank whisky and watched as my former colleagues went home, one by one, until only Dave’s Volvo SUV was left in the lot.
+++++Soon enough, out he came, cell phone pressed to his ear and talking loudly.
+++++“Absolutely, Larry. That’s definitely top-of-mind messaging, but you can’t make a chicken salad out of chicken shit, am I right? I mean, is this the hill we want to die on? My thought is, let’s not go there now. Let’s buy a ticket and go there later … right. Okay. Fair enough. See you in the morning.”
+++++Dave ended the call and got behind the wheel, still staring at the screen in his hand. He never even knew I was there until I slid into the passenger seat next to him.
+++++He jumped in his seat when I slammed the door. He started to say something but I cuffed him hard on the back of the head and told him to shut the fuck up. He started to flap his gums again, so I showed him the gun. That shut him up.
+++++I told him to take a left out of the lot and make a right on Washington. When we passed the Cumby’s I had him head out Presumpscott.
+++++After a few minutes, he asked where we were going. He was trying to play it cool, but I could hear the fear in his voice. I smiled and told him to shut the fuck up or we’d pull over and I’d put a bullet in his head right here on the side of the road.
+++++I took a pull off the flask and flicked on the radio just in time to hear ol’ Zach Martin roll into a double shot of REO Speed wagon on ‘BLM.
+++++“You a classic rock guy, Dave? Of course you are. That’s fucking perfect. Who’s your favorite band? You know what? Never mind. I really don’t fucking care. Take a left.”
+++++We pulled into Quarry Run – ten acres of forest and field with a few miles of trails winding through what used to be Portland’s dump. This time of night it was deserted.
+++++We got out of the car and it began to rain.
+++++I clicked on the flashlight, making sure Dave got a good long look at the gun. I told him that if he tried anything, anything at all, I’d drop him right here like a rabid dog. I made him kneel and zip-tied his wrists together, making sure I tightened that shit up as hard as I could. Then I duct-taped his mouth.
+++++I think that up until that point, Dave had been able to successfully tell himself that I was just trying to put the fear of God into him, but when the duct tape closed over his mouth and wrapped tight around his head, he must’ve realized that shit was getting real. He started begging and pleading, his eyes wild with fear, trying to talk his way out of what he surely knew was coming – at least, that’s what it sounded like. It’s hard to tell what someone’s saying when his mouth is taped shut.
+++++I motioned with the gun.
+++++“Get up. Let’s go. You first, shit stain.”
+++++We crested the hill and I pushed him off the path into the woods. He stumbled but kept his feet. In front of a large rock, I told him to stop.
+++++“Take a good look around, asshole. This is where the magic happens.”
+++++I put a round into his knee and the left leg of his khakis exploded in a mist of blood and bone. He fell to the ground hard, his screams muted by the duct tape over his mouth. He tried to press his hands to the wound to stop the bleeding, but the zip ties made that difficult, I guess.
+++++“How’s that feel, Dave? Does that exceed expectations, you fucking cocksucker?”
+++++He whimpered and I kicked him in the face, hard. His head snapped back and bounced off the rock.
+++++“I dunno, Dave. I think we need a deeper dive on this.”
+++++I squeezed off another round and a little puff of feathers shot into the air as the slug passed through his down vest and bit into his shoulder. He screamed again, but not as loud this time.
+++++“How’s that working for you, Dave? I’m giving you a chance to be pro-active here, but I’m thinking we just need to go ahead and pull the trigger on this.”
+++++I shot him again, in the other shoulder this time, and took another drink from the flask.
+++++“I don’t hear a single, Dave. We really need to pick a lane here and just bowl on it.”
+++++I fired again.
+++++I put the gun in my pocket and pulled him off the ground, leaning him up against a tree. He’d lost a lot of blood and he was most definitely in shock.
+++++“Stay with me, Dave. Stay with me, you prick. I need you to own this project.”
+++++I poured the last of my bourbon over his head and slapped his face a couple of times.
+++++He groaned.
+++++“Jesus, Dave. You’re a fucking mess. Well, we’re almost done here. I know it’s a shit sandwich, but we all gotta take a bite, right?
+++++I pulled the gun from my pocket and held it up in front of his face.
+++++“There’s just one more thing I want you to keep top of mind, Dave.”
+++++I stepped back and pulled the trigger. The top of his head erupted in spray of blood and brain, and Dave’s lifeless body slumped to the ground.
+++++Now, I may not be the smartest man in the room but I sure as fuck know my ass from my elbow and by my count, I’d put five slugs into him. That left one round for me.
+++++Because at the end of the day, it is what it is.

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F. J. Gallagher is a former reporter, columnist and editor whose non-fiction work has appeared in a variety of local and national outlets. His fiction has appeared in Out Of The Gutter, PunkGlobe and other outlets. Find more of his stuff at www.fjgallagher.com.

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