Short Crime Fiction Writes: Second Bite

The Professional

Once upon a time … I killed a man. His name was Henry Hyde, III. That’s the name engraved on his headstone—gray marble to be exact. I didn’t know Mr. Hyde; I never met him. But it really doesn’t matter because as the saying goes, ‘A bullet finds a target regardless of the aim; a knife is meant to cut regardless of the grain’. And so it was done. Ashes to ashes, dust to death.

Of course I was disappointed that I missed my intended target. I was embarrassed. How can I claim to be an expert marksman—markswoman, actually—if I can’t eliminate a common city cop? I know no one is perfect. Yet, my sense of failure has lingered for days—like the smell of scorched chowder or the taste of soured melons. Forgive the food analogies, but cooking is a hobby. Like I said, the thought lingers.

In a small way, I’m pleased that I fell short of my client’s goal. Midwin Miles is the cop’s name, if you’re curious. My client’s name is less important. But as for his occupation, let’s just say he deals in a high-profit, high-risk product that’s always in high demand. ‘Pure powder, pure money,’ he likes to say. How clever.

According to my client, Captain Miles has cost him a pretty penny in lost merchandise—lost meaning confiscated and therefore not generating any money for him or the recipients of his generosity. That’s a polite way of saying the corrupt city cronies won’t get their usual slice of the pie.   

But I digress. The fact is I have to redeem myself. I have to complete the job or refund my client a sizable fee. And I never give refunds. Never. It won’t be easy, though. Captain Miles is now on high alert, and her guard is up. But that only makes the challenge more attractive to a professional like me. Sometimes, the second bite is the sweetest.

***

The City Cop 

Dear, Lord, save me from my own mistakes, grant me the wisdom to correct them or at least the humility to admit them.

That’s a prayer my daddy taught me when I was a kid. He used to say it every evening when he came home from work as a beat cop. He’s retired now and fishing in the Outer Banks, come rain or shine. Mama secretly hates cooking fish but loves that she’s got the house all to herself every morning for hot yoga workouts. I’ll never understand why anybody in their right mind would jack-up the thermostat to a hundred and one just to bend, stretch and pose.

My wife Sasha and I are into boxing which is kind of funny because she can’t stand to see anybody get hit, and I cringe at the sight of blood. Thank goodness I became a cop instead of a doctor like my baby brother Charlie.

Charlie was the first one to call me when news of the shooting hit the papers: Man shot while attending charity boxing match. Unknown if victim was intended target.

Sasha and I were invited to the match by our boxing instructor but didn’t arrive until the second round and wound up sitting in the tenth row—two rows behind the vic. It didn’t take a genius to put the pieces together. We cops always assume we’re the target. A quick background check of the man confirmed it for me. He was just an ‘average Joe’ supporting a good cause. The timing of the shooting further sealed my suspicion. My squad had recently busted up a cocaine shipment that sources say belonged to Jimmy ‘Lucky Jay’ Williams, a knuckle-dragging brute who had the luck of being born to a rich daddy and a beauty queen mama. Money and looks could even make a skunk attractive, I guess.

Word on the street is that ‘Lucky Jay’ threatened to burn everything and everybody to the ground once he got word that we seized his stuff. Losing two million in product can do that to a man who showers the community with charitable gifts while poisoning it at the same time. I got no love for the fraud he is. And by the looks of it, he’s got no love for me or anybody else this side of the law.

I don’t have concrete evidence that he’s behind the shooting—just hearsay and a damn good gut feeling. If I had my way, I’d haul his ass in and interrogate him till he dropped dead from exhaustion. But the powers-that-be won’t tolerate that, and his lawyers would descend on the precinct faster than flies on a dumpster.   

So it comes down to a cat and rat game. We’ve got to catch the rat—and all his nasty little fleas—before he can hurt me or anybody else. Game on.

***

The Client

You can’t trust a woman to do shit! Professional my ass. I could’ve sent my damn chauffeur to do the job if I’d known she’d try to burn the cop at a goddamn boxing match. With the freakin’ mayor and DA sitting in the front row! Now the cops are pressin’ harder than ever.  On top of that, my so-called ‘Amigos South of the Border’ want their money now, or it’s my head down a toilet—after they cut it off.

That shipment was my ticket to owning this city—every single block. I could’ve had every dealer and his mama working for me. Those fake-ass politicians would be kissing my ass harder than they do already. Ain’t nothing like the power of money to make a man get down on his knees for you.

But I’m real hard-up now. Between the wifey spending like I’m King Midas and me bailing my pops out of an IRS jam, I’m barely hanging on. Even worse, I’ve got a useless-ass hit man whose got the balls to think I’m still gonna pay her for screwin’ up the job. You can’t trust a woman to do shit!

***     

The Professional       

My client called … again. He’s getting antsy, and that’s not good for business. I won’t be told how to do my job, and I won’t go around ambushing targets in public like some sloppy mafia thug. The second time has to be better planned and without mistakes. I admit it’s been three weeks since I missed at the boxing match. But it was a clean miss—just damn unlucky for Mr. Hyde when he stood up and blocked the shot. That’s no reason to change methods. The nerve of that drug-dealing Neanderthal giving me only two days to get the job done or else. Or else what? I told him again, ‘No refunds. No regrets.’

I’ve been watching Captain Miles closer than ever. She’s changed her routine to throw me off. I expected that from a smart woman with a smart crew. They’re watching each other’s backs twenty-four-seven. They’re also interrogating every low-life they can find and even put word on the street to all the cheap snitches: A couple of hundred for any information on who’s behind the hit and who’s the trigger man.  

She’s changed things in her personal life, too. The boys in blue are watching over the Mrs. when she’s not around. Not that I would ever do anything to a target’s family. It’s not my style. Besides, I’m starting to enjoy watching the domestic side of the lady cop. She’s very protective—always holding the Mrs.’ right hand when they have to be out together which keeps her right hand free just in case she has to draw her weapon, and always carrying a backup revolver tucked in her right ankle band. I can tell these things from experience.

Their morning kiss after coffee is kinda quaint, if you ask me. But who am I to judge. It’s not like cupid and I have been on good terms, at least not since my ex, Diane, and I—there I go, rambling about personal stuff. Working for this client has lowered my guard and probably my IQ. It’s time to wrap it up. I make my move tomorrow night and get the hell outta of town.

***

The City Cop

Sasha is impossible sometimes. A drug dealer has a hit out on me, but she still wants to have date night in the basement like everything’s okay. Nothing changes that woman’s mind—absolutely nothing. She says she won’t give hoodlums the satisfaction of disrupting our lives, come hell or high water.

Honestly, her stubbornness is what I love the most about her. I couldn’t imagine life without her. She’s taking this better than I expected which is more than I can say for me. Part of me wishes I could build a mile-high fortress to protect us. The other part wants to go and kick the shit out of Luck Jay Williams.

We’ve made some quick progress in the investigation thanks to a couple of snitches with expensive cocaine habits. They’ve heard rumors that the hit man is a professional from out of town—somebody recommended to Williams by his Columbian connection. I never thought I’d be worth the time or the money. But here we are.

I’ve had a knot in my stomach all day, and I know it’s a sign that something’s about to happen. I hate feeling like a sitting duck. So the hell with it, it’s time I threw the next punch.

***

The Client

I’m suing the shit out of this city the minute after that cop is dead! She’s got some damn nerve draggin’ me out of bed for some bullshit theft charge. I paid that waiter before I left the damn restaurant, and they know it! I dare this city treat me like some bum-ass nobody. After all the money I’ve put into those bastards’ pockets and the favors I’ve done, they owe me.

Tonight is the night. She makes the shot like she told me she would, or I’ll have somebody put a bullet in her.

***

The Professional

Diane called—at exactly midnight. Her timing was perfect. She knew I’d be wide awake—and she knew I’d answer. She used to say that midnight was my witching hour. It’s when I replay in my head a kill shot—the shot that got the job done. And this job is done.

Diane apologized and wants us to try again. I’d already forgiven her for walking out in a huff. It’s not easy living with someone in my line of work; you get tainted doing other people’s dirty deeds and keeping their secrets. Too bad love doesn’t come with an instruction manual. It sure as hell would make this whole ‘being in love’ thing easier. I promised her that this was my last job, and I meant it. It’s the right thing to do—for Diane and for me. It’s back to the humdrum life of corporate security—playing bodyguard to CEOs who spend more time on their mega yachts than in their corner offices.   

But I have to be honest, I’ll miss it—the thrill of the hunt, the view to the kill, the squeeze on the trigger. The money isn’t bad either. I sure as hell earned it on this job. Like I said, no refunds, no regrets.

***

The Pastor

Dear family and friends, thank you for gathering here on this somber day. Let us remember that every life has a soul, and here lies a soul that touched many lives. To the family, I offer my deepest condolences and pray that your heavy hearts will ease with time, and that good memories will brighten your spirits and carry you through the rest of your days.

As we commit this body to the earth, we know that our loss is thy Father’s gain. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Amen.

***

The City Cop

I’d laugh if it wasn’t so freakin’ sad. The entire funeral procession looked like an arrest lineup on steroids. Every two-bit dealer and hustler in the city must have shown up to pay their respects. It’s crazy how death makes people more considerate toward the dead than toward the living. I gotta hand it to Lucky Jay’s widow, though. She looked good—as if she was ready to stroll down a fashion runway instead of into a cemetery to bury her husband.

What a helluva way for Lucky Jay to go out—struck by a ricochet bullet while target shooting at a gun range. That’s the official version. But the streets tell a different story. Lucky got cocky; he threatened to put a hit out on his own hit man. That’s like playing with matches and hoping you don’t get burned. Short of a miracle and a few Hail Marys, nothing could’ve saved Lucky.

The hit man is supposedly retired now. I guess it’s kinda hard to get clients after you’ve murdered one. Like I said, I’d laugh if it wasn’t so freakin’ sad.

So it’s back to the grind—a grind that I love. There’s something special about serving and protecting a community. Sure, some days are trying, and some are brutal. But it’s a sacrifice I make for people who’d do the same for me. Besides, it’s the unexpected that keeps it interesting—like a hit man offing his own client. Who the hell saw that coming? Not this city cop. And I bet neither did Lucky Jay.

Copyright© April 2021 A.M. McKnight

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