It has been a busy September. This is a story I wrote a long time ago that I’ve re-edited. Hope you enjoy it.
By Robert C Price
I hate the Sixers.
They play like a Varsity team playing like a JV team. That’s how much they suck.
I’m listening to the game on my digital radio, and as usual, they can’t make a freakin’ jump shot against a team like the Pelicans. What the hell? And on the coldest night of the year, I’m freezing my ass off waiting for this putz to come into my line of sight.
A $500,000 down-payment to eliminate the target and another after completion. It’s not that I need the money. I do pretty well for myself. I have a condo here in Philly and a townhouse in Boca Raton (me and the cold don’t get along too well.) In fact, I turn down more jobs than I accept. But this particular client offered a substantial amount than what I usually charge and it had to be tonight.
Last minute jobs cut into my prep time. It’s a big deal to me. Things unforeseen can lead to mistakes, jail time, or worse, Death Row. But a million does help out with retirement.
I make the necessary adjustments.
Mr. Bartholomew, my liaison, gave me a complete dossier on Christian Stosser: 5 feet 11 inches. Caucasian. Blue eyes. Dark hair. Nice looking guy from the photo. He had that male model image. Y’know the type in those overly chic fashion magazines that look prettier than the awkwardly posed women standing next to them.
I wasn’t surprised that the Intel mentioned a gay bar he would frequent on 15th and South called Bob and Barbara’s Lounge. I would’ve been more surprised if he wasn’t gay. Not that I really give a damn about his sexuality. I don’t judge. I just solve problems.
I had staked a claim on a piece of rooftop real estate, across the street from the lounge. As I line up my scope, I view the patrons hopping from bar to bar on infamous South Street searching for the ultimate thrill. I’m pretty sure some will even walk that lonely road of despair after a few drinks. It all looks the same to me. Empathy was never my strong suit. Besides, it’s not a job requirement for what I do.
Perched on the pigeon stained rampart, I go over the reason behind this hasty termination. It seems that Mr. Stosser was having an illicit affair with our illustrious Police Commissioner, Martin Haig.
It’s something that a potential mayoral candidate wouldn’t want getting out since he’s a one woman, two kids kind of family man. At least that’s what he portrays. It doesn’t look good on the resume. No matter how much he cleaned up the city. Powerful men and their secrets
He should really stop lying to himself and his wife and just come clean. Then, he wouldn’t need me. Who am I to argue?
I take a bite out of my protein bar that I stashed in my Dickies coveralls when I hear the swishing sound of the rooftop door opening behind me. A slim man with oversized combat boots trudged through like a drunken clown searching the rooftop from corner to corner.
He could hardly see out of his half-closed eyes but managed to spot a dilapidated mattress in the corner of the roof and plopped down on it with a thud. Totally missing my presence, I gather my rifle and equipment and rolled over to the far corner disappearing from view.
His long skinny fingers shake as he takes a drag on the cigarette hanging loosely from his thin lips. Skinny man reaches in his military-style trench coat and a grin appears on his worn face. He pulls out a syringe with a small sack of brown substance.
“Shit,” was my response at this drug addict interfering with the plan. Now, I could take him out and nobody would notice, but I don’t kill for free. That would make me a murderer. Not a capitalist.
Most superintendents and custodial workers wear the typical light blue work shirt and navy blue work pants, or my personal favorite, coveralls. They blend in nicely and no one ever notices the hired help.
While my addicted intruder prepared for the highway to heaven, I quietly break down my rifle and set it in the stow-away section of my toolbox that I use for my cover.
He slides the needle into his vein and his whole world disappears into a heroin-fueled oblivion. I walk by him, unnoticed, with his head leaning to the side and bouncing like a Phillies bobblehead. I don’t think he’ll make it off this roof intact. That’s his death wish. It won’t be by me.
I hurried down the three flights of stairs and out the back of the old apartment building where I sat up shop. A little annoyed about the distraction, I head to my beat-up Ford Econoline to regroup and proceed to my next plan.
It just couldn’t be a simple job. One to the throat severing his spine. Now I have to get up close and personal with the mark and I’m not in the mood to be sociable this evening.
I leap into the van and hastily slip out of the coveralls thinking about shucking the whole thing and cut my losses. But, you don’t tell a police commissioner you couldn’t get a good shot. I’m pretty sure there’ll be someone out there that’ll get a good shot on me.
Plus, it’s a million dollars. I, August Brandt, can’t pass up a chance for a client to pay more than my going rate.
Emerging from the alleyway to the bustling street, dressed in a brown leather jacket and jeans, I proceed to the lounge to view my target a little closer than before. It’s a plan I worked out in advance, but I had hoped to make this easy from the overhead shot.
From the outside, you would think this place is a complete dive with its black lacquer sign and martini glasses dancing in neon. Then you step in and realize that it is. Folding chairs and cigarette smoke occupy every square inch of the place. I felt a dull pain begin in the back of my skull and I knew this was going to be a long night.
I scour the area looking for the mark in a sea of boas and sequins laced gowns on six feet tall men. Drag Queen Night at the lounge and me without my camera.
It was a mix of ultra-chic, business types and weirdness all mingling and conversing in banality. The house DJ was playing “It’s Raining Men” and at that moment I knew I needed a drink. I heard a Heineken call me and I followed. I’m not the type to leave beer waiting.
The brew went down cold and smooth, enough to take that annoyed edge off. I sat on a red leather bar stool taking it all in and letting my patience guide me to the prey.
It wasn’t a big place, but big enough to get its fair share of business. I searched for Mr. Stosser, from the comfort of my stool, in every corner and for the life of me couldn’t get a glimpse of him. I begin to wonder if the client gave Bartholomew the wrong info. It wouldn’t be the first time nor the last.
I take another belt from the Heiny and out of the corner of my eye a nicely dressed gentleman, who looked a lot like Christian Stosser, appeared on the bar stool next to mine. We exchanged pleasantries while I downed another beer and he ordered a Mojito.
Another chink in the plan. He got a look at me. This night is not going well. I keep my head forward so he doesn’t study my face, but he starts talking to me. Damn.
“Sorry to bother you, but, um, would you happen to know the score of the Sixers game? I left my phone at work so I can’t go through Bleacher Report” asked the mark with a smile on his face.
I don’t want to answer him, but people remember douches just as much as they remember non-douches so I give him the info.
“Last I heard it was 77 to 82. Sixers losing in the third quarter, as usual,” I said with downcast eyes.
“I’m not surprised. They can’t make a jump shot worth a damn.”
I had to agree with him. They do suck sometimes.
The bartender passed him his drink. He turned to me again and introduced himself. What the hell?
“Hi, my name is Chris,” he said
I shake his hand and said my name is Steven. No sense in giving him my real name just on the off-chance he survives, which, when I think about it would not be in my best interest. Definitely double-check when done.
“I’ve never seen you in here before. First time?” asked Chris.
“Yeah,” I said. “I needed a beer. This was the closest place.”
“Well, you definitely picked an interesting night to stop in. I usually come on Fridays, but tonight I wanted to drown my sorrows, y’know?” he said.
“Relationship issues?” I blurt out. Why did I ask that?
Before he could answer, music started blaring from the back of the lounge with the queens performing “I’m Too Sexy” which made my eye jump along to the monotonous beat.
Stosser saw my reaction and stated, “I take it you’re not a fan of the song?”
“I hope you’re not. It’s the crappiest song ever made. I don’t want to have to lose respect for you.”
“No, I agree. It’s a shitty song. But then looking at big strapping men in drag singing it does give it a bit of poetic justice. Don’t you think?”
I laughed at the observation. The man is as sarcastic as I am.
We converse for a while and we find that we have a lot in common. Big sports fans. Love to read anything we get our hands on. Huge movie buffs. I swear if I was gay, I’d probably date him.
For a moment, I felt a connection. It was two guys talking about nothing and everything at the same time. I don’t seek relationships. I can pathetically say that Mr. Bartholomew is the closest thing I have to an actual friend. Somewhat. It’s complicated. Anyway, after an hour of conversation, I had a very subtle question asked of me.
“I don’t want to assume,” he said, “But are you family?”
That’s when reality kicked my ass back into the game and the lofty thoughts of a “bromance” recessed into my consciousness. I pause before giving him my answer to make it more dramatic. I watch his face sag at the possibility that he might have wasted his time.
“Of course,” I said, as I lay my hand on top of his.
I start to count my money.
A light snow starts to fall, sticking to the concrete and macadam, not halting the revelry of its citizens. We exit the lounge and I glance up at the rooftop across the street. Not two hours ago, I was waiting to execute him with a single shot. Now, I’m walking beside him and talking about getting a bite to eat at a diner not far from here.
Our hands entwine and I turn his way to instill confidence in my intentions. He laughs nervously like people do when they like someone. I almost felt bad.
Count the money. Count the money.
We head West on South and cut left on 17th Street wandering down a neighborhood of row houses. No one’s out in this inclement weather and this is a better chance than any.
There’s a narrow alleyway between two sections of row houses where garbage piled towards the backyards. I ushered him into the alley and placed my back against the wall out of the glare of the streetlight. Stosser smiles approvingly with his perfectly capped teeth.
I take his face in my hands and stare into his baby blues until I see comfort wash over him. He closes his eyes and leans in to kiss me. Before his lips touch mine, I twist his neck halfway around his body. Quick and easy. He slumps in my arms just as a passerby pounds across the alley entrance. If that person did see anything, they were too much in a hurry to acknowledge it.
I quickly drag the body to the backyard and strip him of his ID and money. The snow is coming down harder now and by the time I leave from here, my tracks will be covered along with his. But for safety’s sake, I pile garbage bags on top of the corpse. It’ll take a while before anyone finds the body. I check his pulse one more time. Double checked.
A day later, I’m at my townhouse in Boca Raton washing my car in the driveway and drinking a Heineken. My cell phone rings and Mr. Bartholomew is on the line. He informs me that the deposit’s been made and his usual fee deducted from the final payment. I hang up and sit down in my lawn chair next to the vehicle.
A neighbor walks by with her big German Shepherd waving and saying “Hi” to me. I wave back and show a faint smile. She keeps walking but turns back, smiles again and heads to a house two doors down.
I’ve never seen her before, but then again, I don’t know any of my neighbors. Maybe it’s time I do.