Tag Archives: Roy Dorman

Retirement Planning

Adam Dobson knew that by this time tomorrow it would be over. He’d either be in San Jose, Costa Rica, or he’d be dead.

+++++Nursing a beer at 3:30 in the afternoon in a dive bar off State Street, he was going over the options available to him.

+++++Waiting for whoever was sent and then dealing with them was the first option; they would probably find him before his flight left tomorrow afternoon. The second option was to not wait to take the scheduled flight out of O’Hare, but to bus to someplace like Cleveland or Pittsburgh tonight and leave from there as soon as flight arrangements could be made. A little sleight of hand might buy him the time he needed.

+++++Chicago was a big city, but the type of people who would be sent after him could find him easily enough. There were a couple of times earlier in the day he felt he was being watched. Over the years his survival skills had been honed and they served him well.

+++++But when he saw her walk in the door, he knew option number two was no longer on the table. It takes one to know one. He knew he was found.

+++++She casually scanned the bar, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the dark. Her eyes rested on him for just the briefest moment and then continued to more carefully survey the shadowy nooks and crannies.

+++++Satisfied, she walked up to the bar, put her purse on it, and sat on the stool next to Adam.

+++++“Buy me a beer, Adam?” she asked.

+++++“I’m thinkin’ it should be you buyin’ me a beer,” he replied.

+++++“You’re right, of course. I’m Anna; I thought you should know,” she said.

+++++“Professional courtesy?” asked Adam.

+++++“Something like that.”

+++++“So, tell me, Anna, why do women carry such big purses?” said Adam.

+++++“Well, I don’t know why “women” carry big purses, but I’ve got a glock with a silencer in mine and two extra clips.”

+++++The bartender finished up his conversation with the only other two customers in the place and wandered down to Adam and Anna.

+++++“What can I getcha, Miss?” he asked.

+++++“I’ll have an IPA and give my friend a new one of whatever he’s drinking; the one he has there is probably warm as piss.”

+++++The bartender raised an eyebrow to Adam, and Adam gave him a wink and a nod.

+++++“I told Greenfield two years ago I was gonna be retirin’ to Costa Rica and he should get his mind ready to be good with that,” said Adam.

+++++The bartender set the beers in front of Anna and Adam, took the twenty Anna had put on the bar, and returned with her change. “Happy Hour,” he said.

+++++When Anna and Adam just stared at him, he shrugged and went back to the other customers.

+++++“Greenfield apparently doesn’t think you’re old enough to retire,” said Anna.

+++++“I’ll be forty in December,” said Adam. “That’s old for this business.”

+++++“He probably thinks you’ve still got a few hits left in you; you’re good, you know.”

+++++“Did Greenfield tell ya that you’re the fourth he sent to get me?” asked Adam. “One in New York, one in Atlanta, and one last week in LA. I’m thinking your orders are not to bring me back; he just wants show who’s boss now, right?”

+++++“I did hear through the office grapevine about Eddie and Billy; who was in LA? Hector?”

+++++“Doesn’t make any difference. How come ya didn’t just walk in, shoot me, and leave? Trying to gimme a fightin’ chance?”

+++++“Oh, hell, no. Giving you a chance would be suicidal,” said Anna, taking a drink of her beer. “I just wanted to meet you, share a beer and a couple laughs, and then do you. Now that I think about it, I guess killing you in here would be more civilized than in the alley out back.”

+++++“Don’t suppose I could talk ya into sayin’ ya just missed me, is there? I’ve got over three hundred grand in a bank in San Jose. I could send you a present when I got there.”

+++++“Not a chance,” said Anna. “I figure if I play by the rules, I might live to be your age.”

+++++“And then what?” asked Adam. “Retire? There ain’t any of us that ever make it to Medicare age.”

+++++“You’re probably right about Greenfield being pissed,” said Anna. “He offered me double pay for this job and a whole year off in Paris. Frankly, I didn’t think it was going to be this easy; are you even armed? If you are, it must be a pretty small piece.”

+++++“I’m also a little disappointed in you,” said Adam. “Did you really think I’d give you enough time to get your glock outta your purse? Actually, Wally, the bartender, has my Sig Sauer.”

+++++As he said this, Adam raised his hand to Wally as if to order another beer. Anna grabbed her purse and rolled from her bar stool to the floor, but she wasn’t fast enough. Wally shot her twice in the head and then shot the two other customers.

+++++“Very well done, Wally,” said Adam. “If I hadn’t already pretty much burned my bridges, I’d recommend you to my former employer. I’ll take my piece and you can have this fat envelope. I’ll empty the register and you can tell the cops the story we decided on.”

+++++Adam took the glock and clips from Anna’s purse so they wouldn’t raise worrisome questions. Wally handed Adam the Sig Sauer and Adam shot him in the forehead.

+++++“I really do appreciate what you did for me, Wally, but I don’t leave any loose ends around.”

+++++Adam locked the front door and then arranged all of the bodies so that when discovered it would look like a robbery. He washed the two glasses he had used and wiped the bar to remove any prints. He then went out the back door, disposed of Anna’s artillery in a Chinese restaurant’s dumpster, and hailed a cab back to his hotel.

+++++He climbed the fire escape in the alley to get to his hotel room window, shot Anna’s back-up who had been waiting just inside his door, and then climbed in and packed his bags.

***

+++++Adam flew to San Jose, but from there immediately to Quito, Ecuador, where he had a house and money in the bank. It was enough for a comfortable retirement.

+++++Because of the pesky airline regulations, he had to buy new weapons when he got to Quito. But that wasn’t a problem for someone with Adam Dobson’s experience; he hadn’t made it to retirement by being inept. If Greenfield still hadn’t had enough, he’d be ready when they came.

A Yarn Shop Yarn With A Bit Of Noir

It was one of those really beautiful sunny summer days on State Street. Shoppers, many of them just window shoppers, ambled up and down the street enjoying the day and sometimes going into one of the many little retail stores to browse.
+++++“Hi, I wonder if you could help me find some yarn,” said Meredith Simpson to the clerk in THAT’S QUITE A YARN.
+++++“I’m sure I can. Is there something special that you’re looking for?” asked Beth Miller, whose name tag proclaimed her a “CUSTOMER SERVICE SPEICALIST.”
+++++“Well, I’m planning to knit a suit of long johns for my boyfriend for next winter; he’s always cold…”
+++++“Hey, who does a guy have to kill to get a beer in this joint?” came a call from the checkout desk up in the front.
+++++“Excuse me just a minute, please” said Beth. “I’ll be right back.”
+++++“Oh, do you serve beer here?” asked Meredith. “I could sure use a beer.”
+++++“No, we don’t serve beer,” said Beth. “I’ll just go and see what the misunderstanding is.”
+++++Beth walked up to the front where a tall good-looking thirty-something was leaning on the checkout counter. Even though the question he had yelled out had sounded fairly aggressive, he had a smile on his face and Beth didn’t feel afraid of him. Not afraid, but still cautious. She’d had some experience in her personal life with guys who seemed harmless at first and then later had turned out to be real jerks. She thought she would play the “customer service specialist” role and see if she could get him out the door without too much disruption.
+++++“Hi, I’m Beth Miller. May I help you?”
+++++“Well, maybe ya can,” he said. “Ya see, I’m a character and I’ve hit a bit of a rough patch recently.”
+++++Beth didn’t doubt that for a minute; he sure seemed like a character, all right. “This is a yarn shop, Mr. …?”
+++++“Smith. Spencer Smith. My folks named me Spencer rather than something like John or Robert so that I wouldn’t have trouble with other people having my same name. Besides, John Smith kinda sounds like an alias, don’t it?”
+++++Geez Louise,” thought Beth to herself. “Whacko City right here in the ol’ yarn shop.”
+++++“Well, Mr. Smith, this is a yarn shop. We sell yarn and knitting supplies. This is not a bar; no beer here,” said Beth in a patient professional manner. “Now, there are a couple of nice bars in the next block if you just walk out our front door and take a right….”
+++++Just then, Meredith Simpson walked up from where she had been waiting. She eyed Spencer and gave him small smile.
+++++“Buy a girl a drink?” she said.
+++++“Well, hello,” replied Spencer. “If I told you that you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?”
+++++“Now wait a minute,” said Beth. “What’s going on here? No cheesy pick-up lines, please.”
+++++“I told you I was a character, didn’t I?” said Spencer. “I’m a character in a lot of bar stories. A lot of writers are having trouble lately finding literary sites that accept bar stories. Says right in their submission guidelines: ‘No bar stories.’ Bar stories are fun. They’re loud, rough and tumble slices of Americana….”
+++++“I’m sorry,” said Beth. “We are not going to have a conversation about submission guidelines. This is not a bar and this is not going to turn into a bar story. This is a yarn shop and this is a yarn shop story. At least it was before you came in. I don’t know if yarn shop stories sell or don’t sell, but you’re an out of work barfly and you have to leave. This story has already had more bar references than knitting references as it is. Somebody’s going to have to do a major rewrite before it gets accepted anywhere.”
+++++Beth looked at Spencer and Meredith with her hands on her hips as if daring one of them to disagree.
+++++“Come on, Spencer,” said Meredith. “Let’s blow this pop stand and go have a couple of beers.”
+++++“Sounds good,” said Spencer. “And Beth, ya didn’t really think a story about a yarn shop was gonna go anywhere, did ya? Why, there’d have to be somethin’ like an armed robbery to save a story with a setting that lame….”
+++++“All right, you three, down on the floor. This is a stick up,” yelled a tough looking character holding a large caliber handgun. “Just don’t try anything funny and nobody gets hurt.”
+++++“You’re holding up a yarn shop?” asked Spencer, as he, Beth, and Meredith lowered themselves to the floor. The robber, Max Smith, no relation to Spencer, ignored Spencer’s sarcasm and put his efforts into opening the cash register.
+++++While he was working on it, a clown came in the front door. “Do you have a restroom I can use?” he asked. The gag flower on his lapel then squirted a stream of water into Max’s face. Max coolly leveled his pistol at the clown and shot him once in the forehead. The clown crumpled to the floor next to Beth who quickly scooted over a bit to make room for him.
+++++“God, I hate clowns,” grumbled Max as he started stuffing wads of bills from the now open cash register into the pockets of his trench coat.
+++++Beth turned her head to face Spencer and Meredith. She had taken a .22 from a holster in her boot and had it pointed at the back of Max’s head.   “Noir, anyone?” she stage whispered out of the side of her mouth.
+++++Spencer and Meredith both smiled broadly and gave her the thumbs up.

The Job Interview

The sax player had come on at 9:00 and bar owner, Eddie Monroe, was pleased the guy was actually better than he had expected.
+++++At 8:45, a cab driver had opened the door for Charlie Vincent and had led him up to the bar. Charlie wore sunglasses, wielded a white cane with his right hand and carried his instrument case in his left. Eddie had paid the cabbie and had led Charlie up to the little stage. He told him about the surroundings and introduced him to Benny Erskine, the house drummer, who sat in as accompanist for anybody who needed back-up. Eddie had then gone back to the bar and had left Charlie and Benny to talk about the first set.
+++++Now Eddie was wiping the bar and he once again checked the front door as if he might be able to will people to come through it. It was 9:30 on a Tuesday night and he had exactly eight customers. There were three couples at tables and a man and a woman sitting at the bar. The two at the bar weren’t together; there were three stools separating them.
+++++“Inez,” called Eddie to his waitress who sat reading a book at the end of the bar. “Get orders from the couples at the tables and tell ‘em this one’s on the house. Maybe if we keep ‘em here the next folks through the door will think the place has somethin’ goin’ on.”
+++++Eddie went over and stood between the two sitting at bar. “Drink up folks; I’m buyin’ the next round. Whadda ya think about the sax player? Pretty good, huh?”
+++++The man, Johnny Briskie, raised his glass to Eddie as if to toast him, and then raised it to the woman sitting a few seats down. She nodded, smiled, and toasted him back. They both finished their drinks and Eddie went about getting fresh ones for them.
+++++“I’m Bonnie Martino,” she said.
+++++“Johnny Briskie. Nice to meetcha.”
+++++The sax player was playing a pretty good cover of Coltrane’s “Blue Train.”
+++++“Actually, he is pretty good,” said Bonnie. “I like jazz. You?”
+++++“Yeah, I do. I like jazz when I’m in a mood for reflectin’. I like blues when I feel like actin’ up.”
+++++“So you’re reflecting tonight?”
+++++“Yeah, I’m thinkin’ about whether I should follow up on a job opportunity.”
+++++Johnny reached inside his sport coat and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. Bonnie caught a glimpse of a shoulder holster and wondered what that job opportunity entailed. She pulled her purse a little closer to her. She opened it and made sure her .32 was within easy reach. Bonnie was thinking that maybe there was a chance she was the job opportunity.
+++++Eddie put an ashtray on the bar in front of Johnny. “If anybody complains, you’ll have to take that outside.”
+++++“Sure thing,” said Johnny as he lit up.
+++++Eddie had also seen the holster under Johnny’s coat. He had seen Bonnie move her purse closer and open it. Eddie had been around the block a few times and didn’t miss much. He took his .38 out of the drawer and put it on the ledge under the bar in front of him. He nodded to the drummer and pointedly looked at Bonnie and then Johnny.
+++++The drummer acknowledged him and said something to the sax player, who moved from Coltrane’s “Blue Train” to Louis Jordan’s “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?”
+++++Bonnie noticed the smooth transition, recognized the tune, and raised an eyebrow at Eddie. Eddie cut his eyes at Johnny and patted his chest as he did so. Bonnie smiled and said, “Hey, Johnny, could I have a cigarette?”
+++++“Sure,” said Johnny. When Johnny reached for his pack of cigarettes, Bonnie pulled her gun from her purse and aimed it at his face.
+++++“Give your gun to the bartender, Johnny,” said Bonnie. “He’s going to hold it for you for fifteen minutes while I take my leave.”
+++++Johnny took out his revolver and made like he was going to hand it to Eddie. Instead, he backed off his barstool and pointed the snub-nosed Smith & Wesson at Eddie.
+++++“Put your piece on the bar or he’s dead,” he said to Bonnie.
+++++Johnny hadn’t noticed that the sax player was now playing solo. Benny Erskine had stopped drumming and had picked up a sawed-off shotgun from behind his drum set. He walked up to the bar with the shotgun close to his leg, shielded from the audience, and leveled it at Johnny.
+++++“Hey, you,” he said. As Johnny turned to face him, Benny pulled the trigger and sent Johnny into the stools and onto the floor. He put the shotgun on the bar and walked back to his drumset.
+++++The six people at the tables gathered their stuff in a hurry and made for the front door.
+++++“Hey, hey,” yelled Eddie.   “Ya don’t have to leave; everything’s under control. The house is buying another round.”
+++++Two of the couples decided to stay and took a table together. The other couple left without looking back.
+++++“I heard him say somethin’ about a job. Whadda ya suppose that was all about?” said Eddie to Bonnie after he had called 911.
+++++“Yeah, he said he was mulling over a job opportunity. I’m in town because I was recently offered a job opportunity too. I think we may have been competing for the same job. Thanks to you and your drummer, I think I did pretty well on the initial interview.”
+++++“I best put your piece and mine in the drawer back here. In a few minutes some of New York City’s finest will be in askin’ lotsa questions. You okay with that?”
+++++“The guy pulled a gun and threatened to kill you if you didn’t give him all the cash. The drummer saw what was happening and shot him. The drummer okay with that?”
+++++“Sure. Benny knows the cops and they know him. Should be no problem.”
+++++There were sirens in the distance and Charlie Vincent was now into the Billie Holiday classic, “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do.”

An Odd Thing To Say

Bobby Lindstrom was napping on his ratty old couch when he got the call. Whenever he talked about it later, which was often, that was how he always referred to it: “The Call.”
+++++“Hello, who’s this?”
+++++“It’s Bobby, Charlie. What’s up?”
+++++“So, you know me, right? Is that who I am? ‘Charlie’?”
+++++“Just a sec,” said Bobby. “I just woke up and either you’re talkin’ nutso or I’m still comin’ around. Now let’s start again. What’s up, Charlie?”
+++++“How did you know it was me before I said who I was?” asked the person on the other end.
+++++“Well, my ringtone started playing its really cheesy rendition of “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” the little Caller ID box said ‘Charlie,’ and ‘Bango’, I said to myself, ‘that’s Charlie.’ Have you been smokin’ somethin’ that you should have shared, ol’ buddy?”
+++++“I just picked the first number on ‘Recent Calls’ and it said ‘Bobby.’ I’m in some kind of trouble; I don’t know who I am. I woke up and don’t know who I am or where I am.”
+++++Bobby let that sink in for a bit before he answered. “You’re puttin’ me on, right? I think that I was right the first time: You’re at your place with Eddie smokin’ somethin’ and you guys decided it’d be fun to mess with me. How’m I doin’? Pretty close, right?”
+++++“If this is my phone and you’re Bobby, then you must know me. But I don’t know me and I don’t know you. And another thing; sittin’ on the couch next to me is a guy who looks like me.”
+++++“Ya mean like your brother, Tommy; he kinda looks like you.”
+++++“No, not kinda; I mean exactly like me. Before I called I took a piss. When I looked in the mirror over the sink, I didn’t recognize my own face. But this guy next to me on the couch has that same fuckin’ face. He looks just like me.”
+++++“Put him on,” said Bobby. “Let me talk to him.
+++++“I don’t think he can talk. He’s just sitting there with his eyes closed.”
+++++“Ya mean like he’s unconscious? Or like he’s dead? He ain’t dead, is he, Charlie?”
+++++“Not dead; more like he’s not powered-up.”
+++++“Not powered-up? Now that’s an odd thing to say….”
+++++“What? What did you say, Bobby?”
+++++“Nothin’, nothin’. Sit tight; I’m comin’ over there.”
+++++“Over where?” said Charlie, his voice rising a little at the end. “I don’t even know where I am.”
+++++“Look at the coffee table in front of the TV. Are there a lot of beer bottles and empty pizza boxes on it?”
+++++“There’s beer bottles, but no pizza boxes. There’s some empty Chinese take-out boxes, though.”
+++++“You’re at your place; I’ll be right there.”
+++++It took Bobby about ten minutes to drive over to Charlie’s. When he knocked on the door, somebody answered. Bobby always says “somebody answered” when he’s telling the story.
+++++“Hi…, um, Bobby. How are you?” the somebody asked.
+++++Bobby nodded, and after stepping into the apartment’s small living room, he pulled up short when he saw the coffee table. The usual mess was gone and the table looked like it had been polished. There were two magazines on it that were positioned like they’d be if the table was on the cover of “House Beautiful.” The magazines, however, were cheap sex magazines; not “Good Housekeeping” or “Reader’s Digest.”
+++++“I’m really busy right now; you can’t stay.”
+++++“I’ll just make sure that you’re all right; you didn’t sound so good over the phone,” said Bobby.
+++++The Somebody Charlie grabbed one of Bobby’s biceps and started to lead him to the door. When Bobby tells this story, usually at a bar with somebody else buying the drinks, he swears that this Somebody Charlie had an iron grip; there was no resisting him.
+++++“I don’t know,” said Bobby. “You don’t seem like your old self.”
+++++“Why, Bobby, what an odd thing to say.”
+++++Having been ushered out into the hallway, Bobby stopped and looked back at the closed door. He tried the knob and found that the door was now locked. He knocked for a bit but nobody answered. Then from inside the apartment, he heard Charlie scream, “Bobb-eeee!”
+++++Bobby lifted his right leg and was just about to kick in the door when he heard something hit it on the other side so hard that it loosened the woodwork. Plaster dust drifted down from the ceiling like snow. Bobby lifted his leg again but stopped when he saw blood start to seep out from under the door into the hallway. Then, as Bobby stared transfixed, leg still in the air, the blood no longer seeped, but actually flowed for a few seconds. Two teeth that were mixed into the blood sailed out from underneath the door like two tiny ships on a placid crimson ocean. Bobby slowly lowered his leg and quietly started down the hall toward the stairs.
+++++When he got down to the street Bobby used his cell phone to call 911. “Send some cops to 1452 Elm Street right away; I think somebody’s gettin’ murdered.” The 911 operator asked him to stay on the line trying to get more details, but it wasn’t very long before Bobby could hear the wail of the sirens so he hung up. Three black and whites pulled up in the street and six officers ran up to Bobby.
+++++“Upstairs, fourth floor, apartment 3; my friend Charlie’s in trouble. He’s either hurt real bad or maybe even dead.”
+++++Four of the officers ran into the building with their guns drawn. The other two stayed with Bobby and started asking questions. While they were talking to him, something happened that Bobby never mentions when he’s telling the story. The cops had their backs to the building and Bobby saw himself walk out the front door, down the front walk, and then turn to go down the street. As this Somebody Bobby walked past Bobby and the two cops, he nodded and smiled at Bobby giving him an exaggerated wink. Blood was spattered all over his face and all over the white T-shirt and jeans that that Bobby had last seen Charlie wearing. The cops never missed a beat; they just kept talking to Bobby like they never even saw the Somebody Bobby.
+++++“There’s a helluva lot of blood up there by the door, but there’s nobody in that apartment,” said one of the returning officers. “The other guys are starting with the apartments on the first floor and moving up. They should come up with something.”
+++++“Is there a back door to this place?” asked one of the officers who had stayed with Bobby.
+++++Bobby wanted to yell at him, “He walked right past ya, asshole!”, but instead just mumbled, “I don’t know; I don’t live here.”
+++++The cops took Bobby downtown, listened skeptically to his story two or three times for an hour or more and finally told him not to leave town. Right then, there was nothing Bobby wanted to do more than to leave town. Something very strange had happened at Charlie’s place and he didn’t want that “something” to happen to him. Just by the action of grabbing his biceps the Somebody Charlie had been able to morph himself into Somebody Bobby.
+++++He kept the story to himself for a couple of weeks, but gradually came to see that it could be good for a few beers and now he tells it every chance he gets. But when Bobby gets to the end of the story, he has his own reasons he doesn’t tell the part about the Somebody Bobby passing him and the two cops on the street. To him, that would be like tempting fate; jinxing himself. He ends it with the cop saying that there was nobody in Charlie’s apartment. Bobby then throws in some dialog that could have come right out of The Brothers Grimm.
+++++“…..and I never saw my buddy, Charlie, again.”

An Unscheduled Appointment

A late Friday afternoon acupuncture appointment has Robert Jamison lying face down on a comfortable massage table with a half dozen needles positioned expertly in his lower back. Somehow seeming both close and yet also very far away, soft Asian New-Age music is competing with rambling, disjointed thoughts for the possession of his consciousness.
+++++Neither is the victor…, he dozes.
+++++Robert is snapped back to full wide awake by a woman’s scream that is cut off somewhere in the middle by a “pffft” sound he has heard only in the movies or on TV. This is followed by the voice of his acupuncturist pleading for someone to “please don’t do this.” And this is then followed by two more “pfffts.”
+++++Still lying there, Robert has now turned to face the closed door of the eight by ten appointment room. He feels he should do something; at least get up and see what’s going on.
+++++Somebody’s killin’ people out there, Robert, that’s what’s goin’ on. Killin’ the people who are bein’ loud or who are in the way.
+++++Robert thinks maybe he could go out and see about calling 911.
+++++And probably get yourself shot.
+++++He wonders why someone would rob an acupuncture clinic. There certainly wouldn’t be all that much cash around.
+++++Maybe it isn’t a robbery; maybe somebody got caught messin’ around.
+++++Only a few seconds have passed. Robert decides to stay put at least for a few minutes; maybe the guy will leave. His thoughts drift to Catherine. Maybe he should break it off with her; she’s been kind of clingy lately. Jenny isn’t dumb; sooner or later she will find out and then there will be a real mess…
+++++Catherine? Jenny? You need to focus here if you want to get out of this alive.
+++++Robert hears the doorknob mechanism click as it’s turned and pretends to be sleeping. Seconds crawl by and he struggles not to open his eyes to see if somebody is standing in the doorway. Except for the soft music from the room’s CD player, it’s completely quiet. He starts to count to sixty…
+++++Better make that a hundred and twenty, Robert. At least a hundred and twenty.
+++++…hoping by the time he gets to sixty the killer will have decided to leave the building before …
+++++Are you listening to me?
+++++… he gets caught.
+++++At sixty, Robert opens one eye and sees that the door is open about six inches and the barrel of a gun with a very large silencer is leveled at him.
+++++“Pffft!” “Pffft!” Pffft!”
+++++Robert knows he’s probably dying. He’s then startled as he feels a breath and what must be his assailant’s lips touch his right ear.
+++++“Oh yeah,” comes a whisper after a second. “Jenny and Catherine said to say ‘Hi’.
+++++Somebody was messin’ around; I was right about that, wasn’t I, Robert?
+++++“Fuck off,” whispered Robert through a mouthful of blood. “Just fuck off.”

To Be Opened Upon My Death

“Two hours ago your husband gave me $25,000 to have you killed.  He’ll give me another $25,000 when the job’s done,” said Johnny Baxter.
+++++Johnny was meeting with the wife of Michael Farley, a local real estate wheeler-dealer, who was doing pretty well now that the housing market had finally started to turn around.
+++++He and Jessica Farley were in a dark little working class watering hole a few blocks off Rush Street in downtown Chicago.  It was 2:30 in the afternoon and they were the only customers in the place.  The bartender was watching the Cubs game and barely looked at him when Johnny picked up drinks at the bar and carried them back to the booth.  The volume on the TV was turned up loud and that worked just fine as far as Johnny was concerned.
+++++“This briefcase right here has the $25,000.  I was thinkin’ that maybe you’d like to up the ante,” said Johnny, pointing to battered black leather briefcase on the booth’s table top.
+++++“Actually, since Illinois has some marital property provisions, I think that probably half of the money in that briefcase is technically mine,” said Jessica with a little smirk.  “What if I gave you $25,000 plus that to kill Michael?”
+++++“That’s still only $50,000.  I was lookin’ to come out of this with a little more.  That’s why I asked if you wanted to meet,” said Johnny.  “To give you the chance to save your life.  Michael’s got connections in town, ya know.  There’d be some risk takin’ him out instead of you.”
+++++Jessica had made some connections of her own recently.  Just after they sat down she had taken a pistol equipped with a silencer from her purse and had it cradled in her lap.  “I could go another $10,000, but that’s it.  If you were going to kill me for $50,000, I don’t see why $50,000 wouldn’t be enough to do Michael.  Risk must be a big part of your business.”
+++++“Hey, I could kill you or Michael, I don’t care.  Or even both of you if I feel pissy.  Hell, I could just keep the $25,000 and let your estate sue me for breach of contract,” said Johnny, laughing at his own attempt at humor.
+++++“So, you could kill me, or Michael, or both of us.  I think that you left out one other option,” said Jessica as she shot Johnny point blank in the forehead.  “You forgot neither.  Neither is another option.”
+++++At the sound of the muffled shot, the bartender looked around the bar with a puzzled look on his face but then went back to game.  After putting the gun back into her purse, Jessica arranged Johnny so that he was sitting up straight in the booth and looking away from the bar.  She picked up the briefcase and walked out.  The bartender didn’t even see her leave.  It wasn’t until a walk-off double knocked in the winning run ending the game in the bottom of the ninth that he finally came over to see if more drinks were needed.

***

Later that evening, Jessica was standing in the kitchen drinking a glass of wine when Michael got home.  If he was surprised to see her, his face didn’t show it.
+++++“So, how was your day, Michael?” asked Jessica.  “Your dinner’s in the microwave; I’ll nuke it a bit while you wash up.”
+++++Now Michael did show a little bit of confusion.  He wondered why she was being so nice to him; so “wifey.”  She hadn’t made him dinner in weeks.  “Oh, I closed on a couple of properties and made offers on a couple of others that looked good,” he said.  “Same ol’, same ol’.  What about you?”
+++++“Oh, we can talk when you sit down to dinner,” said Jessica.
+++++When Michael returned, Jessica had put his dinner on the table in the place he had usually occupied back when they used to eat meals together.  Jessica was sitting opposite him in her usual spot.
+++++“Aren’t you going to have something to eat?” asked Michael as he started in on the fettuccini alfredo.
+++++“No, I had a late lunch; I’m just going to drink my dinner tonight.”
+++++Michael saw that she had refilled her glass.  He shrugged and continued to eat.  He then watched as Jessica picked up a briefcase from the floor by her chair and set in on the table.  She then aimed the pistol she’d had on her lap at Michael.
+++++“I met with a business acquaintance of yours by the name of Johnny this afternoon,” said Jessica.  “He wanted me to give him money to kill you.  We couldn’t come to an agreement and I’m afraid I had to kill him.”
+++++“Now hold on, Jessica,” said Michael.  “You don’t have all the pieces to the puzzle.”
+++++“Oh, I think I know as much as I need to; I know you pretty well.  I made out three  letters and gave them to people I trust this afternoon.  Just in case you get any more ideas.  Ya know, you should probably do the same; how do ya know I didn’t put something in that fettuccini?’
+++++Johnny grimaced and set down his fork.  “I think I know you better than you think….”
+++++Just then, the doorbell rang.  “Expecting company?” asked Jessica, standing up to get the door but not letting her aim waver from Michael’s chest.
+++++“Yeah, I am.  I think you’ll be surprised by who it is,” said Michael.
+++++Jessica opened the door to an attractive young woman carrying a briefcase.
+++++“Come in, come in,” said Jessica, waving the pistol toward the kitchen.
+++++“I can come back later if you folks are in the middle of something,” said the woman.
+++++“No, Brenda, come on in,” called Michael from the kitchen.  “I was just about to tell Jessica about our little business arrangement.”
+++++Brenda sat at the table and gave Michael a “What the hell are you doing?” look.
+++++“Just put the briefcase on the table next to that other one, Brenda,” said Jessica.  “I can hardly wait to hear what you two cooked up.”
+++++“Well,” started Michael.  “Brenda here is, or was, Johnny’s wife.  She wanted somebody to get rid of Johnny for her, but was afraid that whoever she talked to would take it back to Johnny.  Brenda and I met when she was at an open house I was giving on the north side a few weeks back.  We had a couple of drinks afterward and she let me know about her dilemma.  Between the two of us, we came up with a plan that would work for everybody.”
+++++“Everybody except Johnny, that is,” said Jessica.
+++++“Right, right, everybody except Johnny,” laughed Michael.  “I was to hire Johnny to kill you. When I met with Johnny and we settled on $50,000, I joked with him that I was getting by cheap; you would probably give him more to kill me.  I knew that you had that pistol and that you probably wouldn’t be able to come with a deal you liked with Johnny.  The rest is history, right?”
+++++“Except, asshole, what if Johnny had just killed me?” asked Jessica.  “What if he hadn’t taken the hint?  Never mind, it’s done.  So what’s in the briefcase, Brenda?”
+++++Brenda looked at Michael and he nodded that she should go ahead and tell Jessica.  “I offered Michael $50,000 to kill Johnny.  Johnny’s briefcase there has the $25,000 down payment that I gave to Michael and he gave to Johnny to kill you.  My briefcase here is the final $25,000 for killing Johnny.”
+++++“It would appear that the money in these two briefcases belongs to me.  After all, I killed Johnny, right?  Now I might be stating the obvious here, but can either of you think of a reason that I shouldn’t just kill you both right now and move on with my life?” asked Jessica.
+++++“Now that’s why I asked Brenda to come over tonight,” said Michael.  “You and I both know that you haven’t been happy married to me for quite some time now.  Brenda and I have been seeing each other and would like to be together.  Ya know, get married.  I’d give you a really great divorce settlement, plus the $50,000 is yours to keep.  So whadda ya think?”
+++++Jessica thought about it for about five seconds and then shot both Michael and Brenda.  With their unsavory business connections, the police would probably tie their deaths to Johnny’s.  Since Jessica only knew a couple of small-time street thugs, they wouldn’t be likely to connect her to this mess.  She just had to find a believable place to put the bodies so that they could be “discovered.”
+++++“Let’s just hope these dopes didn’t have the sense to leave any “To Be Opened Upon My Death” letters,” said Jessica to herself as she closed the trunk of Michael’s Cadillac.

One of The Regulars

“So this guy walks into a bar with a pair of jumper cables around his neck. The bartender looks up from behind the bar where he’s washin’ glasses and says, ‘Hey, Mack, I hope you’re not plannin’ on starting somethin’ in here’.”
+++++“Very funny, Tommy, now get outta here unless yer gonna behave,” said Ed Gleason, the bartender and owner of The Quiet Owl, a dive bar on the north side of town.
+++++“I’ll try to behave, Ed,” answered Tommy, a meek little man of an age somewhere between fifty and seventy. “You know that I always try to behave.”  Life’s rough patches had taken their toll on Tommy and they showed on his weathered, wrinkled face.
+++++“Not good enough, Tommy, ya have to promise to behave, goddammit.”
+++++“How about I promise to try to behave?” said Tommy, putting his right hand on his heart.
+++++“Hey, barkeep, how about cuttin’ the guy a little slack? He doesn’t seem to be botherin’ anybody,” said the fellow sitting near Tommy at the bar.
+++++“I’ve got no beef with guys like you; ya have your drinks and shoot the breeze and go home happy at bar time. But guys like Tommy’ve been comin’ in here causin’ trouble for as long as I’ve owned this place.  Ya give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile.”
+++++“I’ll stand ‘em for a couple of drinks and watch ‘em for ya. I got a bus to catch at 11:30 and I’ll walk ol’ Tommy outta  here for ya then.  So, what’ll ya have, Tommy?  I’m Mel, by the way.”
+++++“Thanks much, Mel. Nice to meetcha.  Is a double-shot of peppermint schnapps and a tap beer too much?” asked Tommy, looking down at his hands.
+++++“Naw, that’s fine. If that’s what ya want, that’s what it’ll be,” said Mel.
+++++Ed Gleason set the drinks down in front of Tommy. “I’d say ‘I hope ya know what you’re doing,’ but I already know ya don’t,” he said to Mel.
+++++“So what sort of trouble do ya cause?” Mel said to Tommy, ignoring Ed. “Pardon me for saying so, but ya don’t look tough enough to be doin’ any serious bar fightin’.”
+++++“Well, sometimes I see things. I mean I know somethin’ is gonna happen and then it does.  It happens.” Tommy whispered.  He then started humming a Beatle’s song that Mel couldn’t put a title to.  For some reason, that bothered him.
+++++“Oh, cut the crap, Tommy!” said Ed. “A couple times; a couple times it happened.”
+++++“So what happened, Tommy? Did ya see somethin’ or not?” asked Mel.
+++++Tommy continued humming. It was a different song now, Eleanor Rigby, Mel was sure of that, and every once in a while Tommy actually sang a little bit of it.  Again, Mel was puzzled when he found himself a little unnerved by Tommy’s humming and singing.
+++++“I’ll tell ya what happened,” Ed cut in again. “There was this hardass who’d  been givin’ Tommy a rough time all night.  Callin’ ‘em simple an’ stuff like that.  Well, Tommy just took it.  He just hummed his tunes and drank his beer.  When it comes time for the guy to leave, Tommy stops ‘em and then puts his head to one side like he’s listening to somethin’.  The guy asks Tommy what he thinks he’s doin’.  Tommy holds up one finger as if to say “wait a sec,” and has a look on his face like he’s thinkin’ real hard.  Then he says, ‘Okay, you can go now.’  The guy gives Tommy a shove and heads out the door.  All of a sudden we hear a horn blaring, a squeal of tires, and a thud.  It was summer and just like tonight the door was chocked open.  We see this guy come flyin’ from the direction of the street and landin’ in a heap on the sidewalk in front of the door.  Tommy has his back to the door and is just drinkin’ an’ hummin’.  That was on a Friday night and I had ten or twelve customers in here.  They’d all seen the exchange between the dead guy and Tommy and they one by one left the bar.  I don’t think any of ‘em have ever been back.”
+++++“Are you trying to tell me that Tommy killed that guy by settin’ him up to have a well-timed accident?” asked Mel incredulously.
+++++“I ain’t trying to tell ya nothin’. I just told ya what happened, that’s all.
+++++Tommy looked at Mel like he just remembered he was there and motioned to his two empty glasses.
+++++“Do it again,” Mel said to Ed. “Anything like that ever happen again?”
+++++“Once or twice,” Ed mumbled as he refilled Tommy’s glasses.
+++++“What! Whadda ya mean ‘once or twice’?  You mean other people have died because of…,” he looked at Tommy out of the corner of his eye and lowered his voice, “…because of Tommy?”
+++++“Well, actually it was three,” Ed started.   “But hold on now, they didn’t die.  They just hurt themselves.  One pretty badly.”  He said the last in a stage whisper with his eyebrows raised as he walked to the other end of the bar.
+++++Mel looked around and saw that he and Tommy were the only customers in the place. It was 10:00 on a Sunday night, but there should still be a few more customers than just the two of them.  It bothered him that he couldn’t remember if there had been any other customers when he came in here a half hour ago.  Mel had been around the block a few times and it irritated him that a number of things that had happened in the last half hour had shaken his usual calm demeanor.  He decided that maybe the bartender and Tommy were messing with him and had just handed him a load of bullshit.  He also decided it was time to get back to why he originally had come into this bar.  If he was right, the weekend’s receipts should still be somewhere behind the bar.
+++++“If you take what’s not yours, bad things may happen to you,” said Tommy seemingly to himself.
+++++Mel had been about to draw his pistol, but now stopped and put his hand back on the bar. Where had the bartender gone?  He had been down at the end of the bar a second ago.  He then glanced in the mirror behind the bar and saw that behind his reflection was the reflection of the bartender holding a large pistol with both hands.  The pistol was pointed at the back of his head.
+++++“Time for you ta leave, Chumley,” said Ed. “And don’t ever come back.  If ya know what’s good for ya, that is.”
+++++Mel started to get up from his stool, but then stopped. He looked at Tommy sitting there humming more Beatles and licking the inside of the glass that had held the schnapps.
+++++“Can I go now, Tommy?” Mel asked almost reverently.  “I mean, is it safe to go now or should I wait a bit?  If I should wait, how long…?”
+++++“Leave now,” said Ed, raising his voice this time. “Move it.”
+++++Mel had raised both of his hands over his head earlier and now kept both of them raised as he walked slowly to the front door. Ed watched him go out the door and look up and down the street.  Tommy continued to lick the inside of his glass.  The sound of a speeding car brought Mel back to just inside the front door.  Four shots from an automatic weapon shattered the quiet night followed by “Gotcha, asshole!” from someone in the car doing the drive-by.  Three of four shots hit Mel in the chest, sending him back into the bar.
+++++“I think they thought that was you, Tommy,” said Ed.
+++++“Yeah, I suppose they did,” answered Tommy dreamily. “Or maybe they thought it was you, Ed.”
+++++“We’re quite a pair, ain’t we, Tommy,” said Ed. “We make for good theater.  You an’ me an’ ol’ Mel were quite entertaining tonight.  Ya know, I think I might lock up early.  After the cops take care of that,” he said, gesturing at Mel.  “Should probably call ‘em even if they’re probably already on the way.”
+++++Tommy scrunched up his face and hummed a little. “No, Ed, you have to stay open ‘til closing time tonight.  I can see it.”
+++++“What? I don’t see anything,” answered Ed with a look of concentration on his face.  “Oh, yeah, there it is.  Thanks, Tommy, I mighta missed that.  Do ya think I should call the super of my building and tell ‘em that that ol’ boiler’s getting ready ta blow?”
+++++“No,” said Tommy. “There’d just be a lot of questions as to how you knew somethin’ like that was gonna happen.  That’s the second thing you missed tonight, though.  This guy had ‘rob the place’ written all over him.  How’d you miss that?  You’re losin’ it, Ed.  Hey, I know, whadda ya say we go to the track tomorrow and see if we can pick a few winners.  A couple of long shots would make up for the slow business we’ve been havin’.”
+++++“Not ‘we,’ Tommy, it’s me that’s seein’ the business go down the toilet. My business.  Yer the reason for that, ya know.  I could have a full house again if it wasn’t for you.”
+++++“Aw, come on, Ed, knock off the martyr shit. You’re as bad as me and you know it,” said Tommy.  “You’re gettin’ to be a real drag.  Maybe you’d like to play the wino for a few years and I’ll be the impoverished bar owner.  It’s gettin’ close to bein’ my turn on top, you know.  Or tell you what, just forget you.  I’m thinkin’ I’d kinda like to open a floral shop.  You know, a better class of clientele.”  Tommy had a grin on his face that Ed didn’t care for at all.  When he tried to look into the immediate future, it was blocked.  That had never happened to him before.  No, he definitely didn’t care for this at all.  Too late he realized that he should have been blocking these thoughts from Tommy.
+++++“I think you should go outside and get a little fresh air, Ed,” said Tommy. “It would do you a world of good.  Maybe walking home tonight’s the thing to do.  I’ll close up.”

When the police arrived, they found a gunshot victim just inside the front door. There was nobody behind the bar and there were no other customers in the place.  A couple of months later the place had a new owner.  The previous owner had died in an apartment fire.  After considerable remodeling, Tommy’s Flower Shoppe held a gala grand opening.  Because it was a rather scruffy neighborhood, Tommy didn’t sell a lot of flowers.  That really didn’t bother him as he made a few profitable stock picks now and then and kept the business afloat.  It didn’t take him long to find a new partner; people like Tommy recognized each other quite easily.