Sitting in the darkness of the car parallel parked beside a row of sleazy porno shops. The interior of the car occasionally lit up by the flashing monstrosity of a neon sign advertising Nina’s Peek-a-Boobs strip club. Two men. Both draped in heavy over coats and wearing thin leather gloves. Both staring into the night. Each looking in a different direction down an empty street and an empty sidewalk.
Snow falling. A breeze rudely blowing the anemic looking white flakes around in a kind of bored disinterest.
Only the sound of the car’s engine and small heater running in overdrive breaking the silence. Until the man behind the wheel turns and looks at the black silhouette of the man sitting across from him.
“I asked to meet you here because of a mutual friend of ours wanted this. Wanted me to give you something. Something you’ll find interesting.”
Impossible to see but the eyes of a King Cobra . . . eyes as black as sin itself . . . stared at the man behind the steering wheel and said nothing. Said nothing but waited in the darkness to hear more.
“Listen to this,” the man with the heavy dark wool trench coat and wide brimmed fedora covering a bald head said as a gloved finger punched the button of a small digital record he held in his right hand.
“‘ . . . I don’t care what it takes. He’s got to be taken out. He knows too much. Knows where all of our skeletons are here in the States. If he’s caught and grilled he could spill everything.'”
A hard voice speaking softly yet faintly, eerily, with a kind of echo effect at the same time. Like someone talking in a hallway of a government building. With polished tile floors and unadorned, white painted walls.
As he listened he could hear two distinct clicks of the heels of shoes briskly moving across the tiled floors. And in the distance the soft murmurs of other voices to faint to understand.
“‘That isn’t going to be easy, director. We know nothing about the man. Other than he’s good at what he does. Maybe he’s an asset we should keep around.'”
“‘That’s what worries me, Hargrove. We know nothing about him. Who is he? What’s his background? Where did he get his training? Is he ex-FBI? CIA? Military? He’s an enigma, Hargrove! A chimera. An unknown asset we have no control over. Some of our friends in the mob recommended him. That’s all we know. That’s all they know. Hell! We don’t even know where he lives, for chrissake! How the fuck do we control an asset when we know jack-squat about him?'”
“‘But director. We have no reason to suspect him. He’s done exactly as we asked. Takes his money after each assignment and disappears. We contact him when we need him. We give him the assignment. And we step away. The job gets done and there’s no evidence to show that we were involved at all.'”
“‘That’s the point, dammit! That’s the point!'” the hard voice of the man known as ‘the director’ shot back heatedly. Angrily. “‘He can point his finger to us! And with as many kills as he’s racked up, if the sonofabitch is ever caught and starts singing, I can guarantee you there are government agencies around here who’ll listen with intense interest! It’ll be our necks on the chopping blocks, Hargrove! Our necks! Do you want that?'”
To the right of the dark eyed man a nightclub door was thrown open and a shaft of light and the sounds of blaring music filled the snowy night air for a moment. Two people . . . a man and a woman . . .both drunk, staggered out of the door arm in arm laughing their heads off and pointing fingers at each other. Neither paid any attention to the black sedan nudged up against the curb in front of the nightclub. Nor at the men sitting inside the car. Turning, both began their uneasy, uncoordinated shambling down the sidewalk still laughing wildly only drunks laugh about at this time of the night.
Both men inside the car watched the two for a few more seconds, hands inside their coats, fingers wrapped around the grips of cold steel. When it was obvious to both the drunks were indeed drunk and posed no threat they relaxed their grips and slipped their hands out of their coats.
“Who is this Hargrove?”
The voice was a soft, almost gentle, whisper coming from the passenger side hidden in darkness.
“My boss. Deputy Assistant to the director. The guy who thought up the idea of using you as a surrogate agent. His boss, they guy that sanctioned the hit, is brand new. A political appointment from the head of the Department of Homeland Security. He transferred over from the FBI and is making waves. Lots of waves. And you, my friend, are on the top his list of things to be swept under the rug as soon as possible.”
“Why is he so concerned? Why are you giving me this heads-up?”
“Apparently there are some people in both the House and Senate asking questions about what our agency does inside the confines of the states. Apparently they have heard some rumors. Not so much about you. Well . . . maybe a little about you. We think someone in the mob said something to a particular House member about our agency using contract assassins. Your name wasn’t mentioned, I’m told. But the impression was the incident mentioned was one you worked on for us last year.”
Last year. Two contracts. Both about taking out foreign assets quickly and quietly before an international incident could happen. Both contracts well paid. And no questions asked.
Yet, somehow someone knew . . .
“What does your boss want me to do?”
“Find a way to disappear. Stay alive. But disappear. And somehow convince the two agents coming down from Washington assigned to take you out they were successful. Simple!”
In the darkness the thin lips of the man called Smitty stretched into a half grin. Simple. Convince two killers they’ve eliminated their target. Leave no evidence around to suggest otherwise. Simple.
A piece of cake.
Yet the half smile on the dark eyed man’s lips lingered. He saw the difficulties of the assignment. Saw the challenges. Found his interest piqued.
“What happens afterwards? When this all blows over?”
“Your talents are . . . uh . . . still required. The boss has just got to find a way to use you without arousing any suspicions. That’s all.”
Smitty turned dark eyes away from the man beside him and stared thoughtfully down the wind-strewn streak of snow of an empty sidewalk. Above him the giant neon sign in all its garish splendor kept flashing on and off. On and off. Revealing for a moment the sharp outline of Smitty’s face before plunging again into complete darkness. For a moment or two he sat in silence and stared into the darkness. The silence, for the both of them, seemed deafening.
“Okay. Consider it done. Congressmen will be pleased to hear their concerns have been addressed. The director will heave a sigh of relief. And your boss’ neck will be spared from the chopping block. Everybody will be happy.”
“But how . . ?”
“Tut tut,” Smitty said, lifting a gloved hand and shaking his head. “What’s the term you spooks use . . . plausible deniability? The less you know, the safer you’ll be.”
The door opened and Smitty rolled out of the car before the other man could say another word. In two steps the small man in the long black trench coat was gone. Disappeared into the night.
Six hours later Smitty, sitting in a comfortable chair pushed into the corner of a spacious bedroom of a palatial home on the outskirts of town, heard the car slide into the wide driveway. In the darkness of the bedroom, one leg crossed over the other comfortably, the ugly mass of a six inch barreled Model 14 Smith & Wesson .38 cal. revolver lying expectantly in his lap.
When the tall man with wide shoulders and an athletic body walked into the bedroom and flipped on the lights he didn’t see Smitty sitting in the chair. The man had thick, curly black hair. A finely chiseled faced. Wearing a tuxedo that looked very good on him. Walking across the soft carpet of the bedroom the tall men slipped off the tux’s jacket and tossed it on the bed and then began slipping off the solid gold cufflinks one at a time. When he stepped up in front of the wide dresser and glanced into the mirror and saw Smitty sitting in the chair directly behind him the color in his face drained and he froze. Became as motionless as lump of freshly poured cement.
Smitty was smiling. No. Not smiling . . . it was that curl of the lips. That snarl. That one. That one that made Ruby’s blood run cold.
“You’ve been a bad boy, my friend,” the soft, incredibly menacing, whisper of Smitty’s voice drifted into Ruby’s ears. “You broke our contract. I told you what would happen to you if you ever mentioned my name to anyone.”
“But . . . but . . . Smitty! I . . . I . . . didn’t . . . !”
“Now, now. Don’t deny it. I know you did. A friend of mine told me a government agency has two men looking for me. About a job I did a year ago involving a terrorist. The friend said some politician got word I was involved. Didn’t use any names. But somehow I was implicated. Only one person I know has ties with congressional politicians. That’s you, my dear Ruby. So let’s go. We don’t have much time left.”
“Where . . . where we going?” the tall handsome made asked, terror filling his face.
“Why . . . off to pay the piper, Ruby. Where else would we go?”
Two hours later. On a side street two blocks away from the Downtown Holiday Inn. The hotel the two government hit men were staying at. The dark eyed man stepped into the middle of the snow packed street and stopped. Turning, he looked at the black Caddy CTS sedan sitting at a desolate curb behind him.
And snarled a grin of death.
The suave young mobster who loved to dabble in big time politics sat in the driver’s seat of the CTS , head turned looking at Smitty . . . eyes wide with unfiltered terror. Unmoving. Awake. Alert. But unmoving.
Frozen in life behind the wheel of the Caddy, one hand curled around the leather of the steering wheel, the other stuck out of the open driver’s side window hanging limply down the side of the door.
Smitty turned, stuffed hands into the pockets of his heavy trench coat and started walking. The drug he had used on Ruby would keep the mobster that way for the next two hours. An hour more than what was needed.
The walk of two blocks over to the Holiday Inn didn’t take long. When he turned a corner and saw the tall building in the middle of the block he pulled a hand out of his coat pocket, pealed the leather glove back to reveal the Rolex strapped to it and check the time.
The pedestrian traffic coming in and out of the five star hotel was heavy on this cold, snowy night. Street traffic was bumper to bumper. It would be a dicey shot he knew. But the Model 14 Smith & Wesson an accurate weapon.
When he saw the two agents step through the revolving glass doors of the hotel and move to the edge of the curb to hail for a cab the dark eyed man smiled. From underneath his trench coat appeared the revolver.
Just as a yellow cab pulled up in front of the two agents one of them, as he was opening the door, looked up and saw the black trench coat clad man across the street with an upraised gun in his hand. He yelled something and ducked just as a gunshot exploded into the night. A deafening roar that sent people scurrying like frightened chickens in every direction. The bullet slipped through the gaps of the heavy traffic moving on the streets and slapped into the thin metal of the left rear passenger door of the taxi.
Both agents came around the taxi with guns in their hands and firing. Bullets chipped away the brick of the buildings behind where the dark image had been standing. But the dark image had moved. Paused. Raised his gun one more time and fired. And turned and disappeared down a narrow, dark alley.
The agents pursued. Guns in hand. Cautiously they entered the alley and made they way carefully down the dark corridor looking for the man who had shot at them. There was no thought of waiting to call the police. They were agents sent out to ice a hit man. The last thing they wanted was police interference. So, determined, they moved to find the dark eyed man they had no distinct description on and hoped they could find him and eliminate him before the police arrived.
Through the alley they moved. Finding nothing. Coming out on a deserted side street . . . .
The agents ducked, lifted their guns, saw someone sitting in a black Caddy with a one hand on the steering wheel and the other sticking out of the window with a gun in hand. They lifted their weapons and fired. Each firing off an entire clip into the car and the man. The roar of guns blasting away was deafening.
But they got their man. The hit man was dead. Very, very dead.
Up against the curb in front of a club called Nina’s Peek-a-Boobs. A man sitting alone in the dark car, smoking a cigarette, eyes taking in the wind, the snow, the emptiness around him.
In the darkness beside him a cheap cell phone rings suddenly. Reaching for it the man clicks it on and lifts it to his ear.
“Well?” came the familiar hiss of a soft, almost kind, whisper.
“Done. Don’t know how you did it. Don’t want to know. But the heat is off. The director is pleased. My boss is pleased. I’m . . . . for some odd reason . . . pleased to hear you’re still alive. Don’t know why.”
There was a soft, amused chuckle from the other side of the phone. And then the phone went dead.
“Sonofabitch,” the man growled, shaking his head, tossing the phone into the middle of the street and driving away.
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4 thoughts on “Simple by B.R. Stateham”
Beautifully Noir. Bryant you write them with nails.
Wonderfully vivid writing.
Nice,neat very effective and efficient, just like your Smitty. I loved the phrase, “Frozen in life”.
Impressive write. I’m not a short story person, but this held me till the end. Good one with details that imbibe the reader to the story. 🙂