The ashes from the cigarette
flicked off and landed on the tabletop, dissolving into powder clumps upon
impact. Judy Shields did not notice as her hand nervously trembled across the
counters surface, leaving long grey streaks. She placed the filter between her
lips and inhaled another hit. The stranger sitting across from her observed. He
could feel her leg bouncing uncontrollably under her, making the floorboard’s
squeak. The Snack and Rack Diner was nearly empty, and their booth was located
in the rear of the establishment. The waitress, the only one working the night
shift, had just placed two cups of fresh coffee before returning behind the
counter to dry off the rest of the dinner trays.
“What is that, your third
“What?” Judy replied. She ran her
hand through her neatly kept hair, trying her best to avoid direct eye-contact
with him. A hundred thoughts raced through her mind.
“Cigarette,” he pointed at the plastic ashtray next to her. “I
believe that’s your third straight. Do you usually chain smoke them like that?”
She looked down at the half-smoked cigarette between her fingers, and quickly
put it out. The butts were stained with her bright red lipstick. A feature the
stranger thought she could do without.
“No. Of course not.” She said. “I’m
just…a little on edge.”
“Yes. I can see that.”
She adjusted herself in her seat.
“Are we here to get down to business or to discuss my smoking habits?” The man gave
her the chills. He did not take his eyes off her, looking her over with an unsettling
smile on his face. But she promised herself she would not show her fear,
regardless of how he came off. They had only spoken over the phone once a few
days before, the rest of their interactions, had been over text messages.
“I don’t wish to be here any longer
than I have to be,” she continued. She drew out another cigarette from the pack
in her bag and fired it up.
” So, can we please just get this
“Sure lady!” he said. “As long as the money is
right, I’m all ears!”
Judy did not appreciate his wit.
Looking over her shoulder, making sure no one was within ears-reach, she leaned
in cautiously and spoke.
“Like I said on the phone,” she said
in a low voice. “I would like this to be done fast. The person I mentioned to
you before –”
“Yes. My husband. I want him
A long pause.
“Yes,” she said, finally. “He needs
to disappear. I don’t want him found. Can you guarantee that?”
“Lady, for fifty-thousand dollars, I’ll grind
that poor bastard into fine powder. Don’t you worry, you’ll never see him
“Please,” she insisted. “keep
your voice down! Someone is liable to hear you!”
“You been watching too many murder
mysteries! We’re practically the only ones in here.” He leaned over and caught
a glimpse of the waitress preoccupied with the stack of food trays. He nodded towards
her. “I doubt that bitch behind the counter will hear us kicking up a fuss.”
“Even so,” she maintained. “Let’s
keep this conversation as low as possible.” He raised his hands, submissively, his
“Alright, you got it,” he whispered,
mockingly. “Let’s get this over with. If I’m not mistaken, I believe we
agreed on half the payment now, half when it’s done.” He looked her over, disappointed.
“I don’t see my twenty-five thousand. Is it in that fancy bag of yours?”
“No! It’s not.” She drew the bag
near to her. “I don’t have it with me. But don’t worry, I assure you, you’ll receive
every penny. I must be sure I have the right man for the job first.”
“You don’t pay, we don’t play,” he said. “This
isn’t a hitman department store. I don’t see any other kill-for-hires standing
around. You want to stop fucking around, and stop wasting my time?” She swallowed
hard, leaning back in her chair.
“I meant to say, I just needed to
make sure we both were on the same page.” She drew a lengthy hit from the cigarette.
“Shall we proceed?”
“That depends,” he said. “Will I be
walking outta here with the first payment?”
“Yes,” she said. “It’s in my car. Forgive me,
I had to know…”
The man lowered his brow. “Know I
was the right man for the job?”
She took a deep breath.
“Whatever,” he said, exhausted. “What’s the
plan?” She smashed the cigarette on the ashtray and rubbed her hands together.
“He’s taking that skank to a
Broadway show tomorrow night. Hamilton, I believe. Fucking hypocrite! He swore he’d
never see that show as long as blacks portrayed the founding fathers. I guess
cheap pussy did wonders on his racist views, huh?” Her knuckles grew white at
the tips from tightening her grip.
“What can I say,” he said. “Men are
pieces of shit! But then again, you did marry him, So there’s that.” He raised
his cup, blew on it, then took a cautious sip. “Nevertheless, I don’t have a
problem getting rid of such a character. It isn’t my first time.”
“Good,” She approved. “The show
starts at 7:00pm, and they should be getting back to her apartment around
10:00pm or so. That’s plenty of time for you to sneak in and wait for them to
arrive. Then you…do what you have to do.”
“You’ve really given this some
“Enough. I’ve given it
“Okay, then, Tomorrow night. Did
you remember to bring a picture of him? And her?”
Reaching into her bag, she pulled
out a photograph, a yellow post-it-note attached to the back. She placed it
face down and slowly slid it to him. He shook his head, amused, and picked it
up. He flipped it over and analyzed it.
“I pictured him more of a… sleaze
bag. But I gotta say, this guy looks half decent. What the hell did he
do to deserve an early death?” He threw the image down on the table.
“What difference does it make? I’m
paying you to get rid of both of them. If this is going to eat at your
conscience, let me know and I’ll find someone who — “
“More coffee?” the waitress said,
walking up behind Judy. Startled, she quickly placed her palms over the
photograph, veiling it from view.
“I’m sorry,” she said,
apologetically. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I just wanted to see if you two
wanted any more— “
“NO!” Judy stopped her mid-sentence.
“WERE FINE, thank you!” The waitress sensing her rudeness, pressed her lips
tight, holding in words she wished not to say out loud.
“I’ll have some more, sweetheart,”
the man said. He pushed the saucer towards the edge of the counter. “Fill her up
to the rim this time, would ya?”
She poured the hot coffee into the cup;
her presence created an awkward moment between the two of them. When she
finished, he smiled and winked at her. She smiled back hesitantly and went on
her way. He stared at her ass with approval as she walked away, then slowly focused
“You really need to relax, lady.
Your starting to make me nervous. In fact,” he straightened. “I’m starting to
think you might be a cop. You isn’t no pig, is you?” His smile disappeared and
his face turned ice-cold. She looked at him, befuddled, unsure of what to say. Immense
fear washed over her.
“I….no, I’m not a cop. Jesus! I’m
just nervous that’s—-“
He belted out a laugh.
“I’m fucking joking with you!
Loosen up a little!” He took up the photograph, still unable to compose
himself. He peeled off the post-it-note.
“This is where she lives?”
“Yes,” she replied. “45th and Sloan. Apartment
“I’ll give him this much; he
certainly has great taste in ass!” He stared at the image with admiration,
rotating the image as if trying to look up her skirt.
“Can we get serious?” she said.
A pause followed.
“And what shall become of her? Will
she be disappearing as well?”
“NO.” She paused. “Death would be
too merciful for her. I want her to suffer!”
“Suffer? Like what, kick the shit
“YES! I want her to remember the
day she chose to fuck with me! Even if she’ll never know it.”
“Wow! Fucked him that good,
“She destroyed my life! My
family! He’s divorcing me and threatening to take away my kids. AND THAT I
will not allow!” The stranger ran his finger around the rim of his cup.
“So why kill him?” He said. “Take
him for half of everything he’s got! Custody. Child support. The courts always
side with you broads! I’m telling you, lady, you want to make him pay? That’s
the way to do it.”
“Are you suggesting I reconsider? You’re
willing to lose out on all that money for this piece of shit?”
“Woah take it easy! Let’s no go
that far. I’m just saying, sometimes revenge is sweeter when you stick the court
system up ones ass.”
“No! He has to die!”
He observed her hatred and knew she
was set on seeing it carried out her way.
“It’s your dime,” he continued. “So,
I beat her to a bloody pulp. Then what?”
“Acid,” she said, promptly.
“I want you to pour battery acid all over her face! Every inch of it!”
“HOLY FUCK, are you serious? That’s
kind of fucked up. Even for me!”
“Don’t grow squeamish on me now. Can
you do this or— “
“I’ll do it, I’ll do it! Don’t start
that up again.”
“Very well. How will I know it’s done? I don’t
want you calling my cell or showing up at my home. These text messages are bad
He raised the cup and took the last
“Get yourself one of them pay-as-you-go
phones, then give me a call on it. I’ll call you on that number when the job is
done, then get rid of it immediately. Understand?”
She nodded in agreement.
“Now, about that money?”
“Yes. Of course.” She looked around again. “Wait here while I
go get it. I trust that you can take care of the bill?”
“Lady, it would be my uttermost
She left him and headed towards the
She sat on the passenger side seat
of her vehicle, looking around for any sign of him. When she saw no one, she
reached down the side of the seats fabric, and dug her fingers into a slit she
had made the day before. It was large enough to fit a medium sized envelope
stuffed with cash. She struggled to pull it free, when she did, she opened it
and scanned through the brand new hundred dollar bills that were stacked inside.
“Is that my payment?”
Judy jumped and turned. She saw him
towering over her in the darkness of night. His eyes did not wander from the
money in her hands.
“…I thought I told you to wait
“I did. Then I didn’t…and now…
I’m here.” He stretched out his hand, gesturing for the envelope. “Twenty-five
thousand. That was the price.”
She hesitated, clutching the
envelope tight, making the paper crinkle. After a moment, she loosened her grip
and placed it in his hand. He quickly snatched it away and opened it, skimming
through it carefully.
“It’s all there,” she said. “I
He gave her an unsettled glance.
“All the same, I’ll have a look anyway.” She lowered her head and looked off to
the side, clutching her keys into several spears.
After he finished, he said, “Looks
to be okay. So far so good.”
“Good,” she said, hurriedly. She
pressed the lock down on the driver side door and began rolling up the window.
“So? Were good then?”
His demeanor relaxed as he stuffed
the thick envelope inside his coat pocket.
“What do you mean? What else is
there to discuss?”
He took a step forward and bent
down to meet her at eye level. He placed his hand on the top of the glass
window, keeping it from rising. She leaned back in her seat, the fear returning
to her. She raised the keys sticking out from between her fingers. He chuckled.
“It’s gonna take more than that to
stop someone like me, lady. You go ahead and take a swing if it makes you feel
Her posture did not change.
“What else did you want to say? I
would like to leave as soon as you’re done.”
“Alright,” he said. “You should
know, the next time you go looking for a hitman, the last place you’ll want to
do it is from a computer the way you did.” He reached and pulled his coat
aside, revealing a revolver tucked in his waist. Her heart sank into her
stomach and her eyes grew wide like a corpse.
“No!” she said, frantically.
“Please, don’t hurt me!” Thoughts raced through her mind, but she quickly
managed to compose herself.
“…if you do…you won’t get the
other half of the money! You wouldn’t want that, now would you?”
“Oh, I think twenty-five thousand
is enough for a guy like me. No need for
greed, my daddy used to say.”
He straightened. She panicked and
screamed, fearing he would go for his weapon. Then, with his other hand, he
pulled back the other side of his coat, waist level, revealing a shiny police
badge looped around his belt. Her eyes grew even wider and her heart pounded.
“What’s the matter?” he said. “You
look as if you wanted somebody killed?”