Above me, Kevin Prescott yelled, “You like that, bitch? Huh? You like that, you little cunt?”
The little cunt replied, probably with her teeth clenched and her feet above her head, “Oh, Mr. Prescott! Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me…”
Kevin Prescott was 38 years old, was married 13 years to a lovely wife, had two kids—an 11-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl—enjoyed reading spy novels in his free time, ate a bowl of Raisin Bran cereal every day for breakfast, and was banging his secretary, a cute, young 20-something-year-old who was probably right out of college. Mr. Prescott’s wife wanted me to kill him and the skank he was screwing. Well, not me specifically (I never met my clients), but she knew a guy who knew a guy who new a guy who knew Jimmy the Cock, and Jimmy the Cock wanted me to kill them—at least that’s how it usually went.
As Mr. Prescott and his secretary were copulating loudly in her small apartment, I lay perfectly still beneath the bed, which was shaking quite violently. My nose had been itching for almost an hour (Mr. Prescott’s longevity was impressive for a man his age), but I didn’t scratch it, because I was a professional. I was wearing jeans and a light jacket over a T-shirt with Bart Simpson saying “Don’t have a cow, man!”, and while this was more comfortable than the stereotypical assassin attire of a black topcoat over a black suit, I was still getting pretty damn hot under there, and the heat generating above me wasn’t helping. But I remained patient, because a professional was patient, and I was no fucking amateur. I could have finished the job right then, just crawled out and blasted the mothers, but Mrs. Prescott had requested something special. Special requests always cost extra and usually demanded extra effort on my part. So I waited patiently, listening for my cue, acting the way a professional should.
Mr. Prescott woke at 6:30 this morning as he always did on weekdays. He pissed, brushed his teeth, took a shower, and put on the usual suit and tie. His wife pretended to sleep in the next room, her back to the bathroom door so her husband would not see the smirk on her face. He crept down the stairs quietly, careful not to wake his sleeping children on either side of the hall, and retrieved the daily paper from the front porch. While sipping his coffee and eating his Raisin Brain (the extra crunchy kind, of course), he skimmed the newspaper’s headlines, looking for any stories that might interest him. Upon finishing his breakfast, he put his empty coffee cup and cereal bowl in the kitchen sink and washed his hands of the filthy black ink the newspaper had left behind. At 7:20, he emerged from his house, tossed his suitcase into the passenger seat of his black Acura, and backed out of his driveway. I could have killed him right then, but I didn’t.
Mr. Prescott worked on the twenty-seventh floor of a building downtown, and he arrived there at 7:45. On the way to his office, he nodded and said good morning to everyone, including his secretary Christina, whom he casually stroked on the shoulder as he strolled past. To anyone watching, it would have merely looked like a friendly gesture, but Christina knew what it meant and tried to contain her excitement. Mr. Prescott went into his office and shut the window blinds looking out into the sea of cubicles. Ten minutes later, his secretary entered with a stack of folders and locked the door behind her. He tossed the folders aside and kissed her neck, stroking a clothed breast with one hand and fondling her buttocks with the other. He avoided kissing her on the lips, because last time her red lipstick had rubbed off, and he had to explain to one of his superiors that a jelly doughnut had been the culprit. Christina rubbed the front of his pants and bent down to give him fellatio, but he forced her back on her feet and told her to save it for later. She agreed reluctantly, tidied her clothes, and gathered together the folders scattered on the floor. She asked when he was leaving his family, and like usual, he said soon. He gave her a wide grin and a nice smack on the behind before she left.
Most of this is conjecture, of course. Filling in the blanks to make the story more interesting.
The rest of the day was normal routine for a businessman: signing papers, making calls, holding conferences. He checked his watch frequently, and when a colleague asked if he had an appointment, he said he was just wondering what time it was. At 4:30, Mr. Prescott called his wife and told her that he would be home late, some guy fucked up, and he had to fix it as usual. Mrs. Prescott said okay, dinner would start without him then. He gave her an empty I-love-you, hung up the phone, noticed that his secretary had already left, gathered his things together, made small talk with Sam Winston in the elevator, and hurried out into the emptying parking lot toward his car. And I could have killed him right then, just a walk-by bang-bang-bang, but I didn’t.
I wondered how Mrs. Prescott had found out about the affair. Was it lipstick on his underwear? Was it the smell of perfume on his clothes? Was it the late nights at the office? Did he accidentally call her Christina from time to time? Did he refuse her sexual offerings, claiming that he was too tired or wasn’t in the mood? Or was it just intuition, that sixth sense all women had that told them when something was wrong? And when she did find out, when everything clicked and suspicion turned into certainty, what drove her to this? What pushed her to the point of calling a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy who knew Jimmy the Cock? What was feeding the rage that slowly built up inside her? Was it the way he played with his kids like nothing had changed? Was it every fake smile, every empty I-love-you, every little lie that made her intolerance click up a notch at a time like a rollercoaster approaching the top of a hill until finally she couldn’t take it anymore? Was Mrs. Prescott the kind of person who repressed her emotions, who bottled them up until the cork shot off? What drove her to the point of wanting her husband, the man whom she vowed to love forever, dead? Not a divorce, not a slap across the face, not even a confrontation. She wanted death—the only punishment she thought worthy enough to compensate for the pain she had suffered. And not just any death. A special death, one that cost extra.
“What if he doesn’t come on her face?” I had asked Jimmy the Cock during our last meeting.
He had smiled and, in his coarse voice, said, “Oh, he will. The wife is certain he will. He’s a facial guy.” He hugged his two beauties closer to him. One was rubbing his chest, and the other was licking his ear. “And so am I!” he suddenly exclaimed. Then he had burst out laughing, and his beauties had laughed with him.
I was already under the bed when Christina arrived home. She took a quick shower, slipped into something comfortable and see-through, and opened the door for Mr. Prescott at 4:50. He didn’t even say hello. He just picked her up and threw her on the bed and went to work. I couldn’t see what was happening from where I was, but judging from the creaking of the bed and all the moaning and screaming, it seemed like the two were having a splendid time. They sounded like two animals locked in a cage, fighting over a piece of meat after weeks of starvation. An amateur would have been aroused by all this, but I remained unaffected, because I was a professional. I lay on my back with my head at the foot of the bed, my nose itching and my body sweating. My gloved hands clutched my gun against my chest, the silencer already attached. From what I could tell, Christina was on her fifth orgasm, and Mr. Prescott was still patiently working on his first. He, too, was a professional.
I was always amused by their ignorance. They were about to die, and they had no fucking clue, but I somehow did. They were screwing like savages, having the time of their lives, and they had no idea their lives were going to end any minute now, and I would be twenty grand richer. In my mind, I imagined everyone’s lives as clocks counting down from a predetermined time set at birth. Jimmy the Cock had once told me that it was my job to deliver certain people to Judgment when their clocks touched down to zero, and that was the only way I could think about it. We weren’t murderers. We were delivery men. God was the one who decided when they would die.
Two feet above me, Kevin Prescott, 38 years old and married to a lovely wife, grunted and said, “Oh, baby, I’m gonna come. Oh, fuck. I wanna come all over your fucking face.”
“Yeah, all over my face, baby,” said Christina, catching her breath. “I want to taste it.”
That was my cue.
I crawled out from my hiding place and stood at the foot of the bed, gun in hand. The secretary lay naked with her eyes closed and her hand working between her legs. Mr. Prescott was next to her head, bent over, dumping his steaming load onto his mistress’s face, wearing nothing but socks and an undershirt. I shot the secretary first—the standard two in the chest and one in the head (Pew! Pew! Pew!)—and surprised to see a bullet hole suddenly appear on the forehead he was ejaculating on, Mr. Prescott turned and saw me, and before he could finish saying “What the fuck?”, he was slumped backward over the side of the bed in a comical position, still holding his twitching member. Eventually, someone would find them—the adulterer and the secretary caught in the act with semen on her face and a fat dick in his hand—just as Mrs. Prescott had requested, just as she wanted the world to remember them.
I tucked the gun in the front of my pants, scratched my nose, walked out casually, and didn’t look back. Their clocks were blinking zero, and I had delivered them right on time as always. And it didn’t take any more than three seconds.
I was, after all, a professional.
Jimmy the Cock was called Jimmy the Cock because he supposedly had a boa constrictor for a pecker. Twelve inches was the rumor, but I had a feeling he was the one who started it. Those who worked for him addressed him as Boss Cock. “Jimmy” was actually more of a title. We were the Jimmy gang, and across town was the Richie gang, a group of ruthless Chinamen headed by Richie the Tongue, who supposedly ate a mean pussy because, as Jimmy would say with his trademark laugh, his small Oriental prick wasn’t up to the challenge. Jimmy always had a good sense of humor, but when he was serious, he was serious. He prided himself on being a professional, and he preached constantly that it was the most important thing about our line of work. “If you’re not going to act like a professional,” he had told me in the beginning, “you better get the fuck out right now.”
The discovery of Mr. Prescott and his secretary appeared on the news two days after the hit. The reporter at the scene of the crime looked uncomfortable and had to clear his throat before mentioning the word “semen.” Mrs. Prescott put on a good show before the cameras, sobbing and wailing and then burying her makeup-smeared face in a cop’s shirt. The police naturally suspected her, but there wasn’t a shred of evidence linking her to the murders. Even if they caught a whiff of the trail, it would end long before it got to me and Jimmy the Cock. Jimmy was smart like that. He turned sixty not too long ago, but his mind was still sharp, and he could still bang a good beaver without popping a pill. At least that was the rumor.
I met the Boss over a decade ago, back when people still called me Isaac. I was just a kid, a smalltime dealer trying to make it by. I didn’t even know who Jimmy the Cock was, only that I was at the bottom of a long food chain, and at the very top was the Boss. One day, a couple of punks beat the crap out of me and fucked me over on a deal. Normally, when you get all your shit stolen, and you’re out two grand, the first thing you think about is being terminated by your superiors. But I was pissed. Real pissed. I didn’t care about the drugs or the money. I cared about how those motherfuckers made me a fool. They fucked me, and I didn’t like being fucked. A ferocious rage immediately built up inside me, the same rage that probably built up inside Mrs. Prescott when she realized she was being fucked. It’s that feeling of betrayal, that feeling of trusting someone and then being stabbed in the back, that feeling of wanting to kill and destroy.
And that’s exactly what I did. Within an hour of getting a black eye, I tracked down the two assholes to a basement where they were getting high and jerking off, and I stabbed each of them at least fifty times. With every jab of the knife, my rage gradually dissipated until I finally felt satisfied. More than satisfied. Almost ecstatic. I grabbed the drugs they had stolen and whatever cash they had on them, and I walked all the way back to my post covered in blood and grinning like a jackass, not giving the tiniest bit of shit about who was looking at me.
News of what I did got out, and Jimmy the Cock wanted to see me shortly after. Our first meeting would be like every other meeting we had. It always took place on his stone patio. He always wore a white suit and sat behind a small breakfast table, which supported a meal and an ashtray. Two sexy women wearing tight skirts always sat on either side of him, and they were replaced periodically. They were always constantly touching him—running their hands back and forth from his chest to his crotch, licking his ears, kissing him on the neck—even when he was talking or eating or taking a puff from his cigar. It always struck me how nonchalantly he regarded them. When he was in a meeting with someone, he would go about his business as if they weren’t even there. I guessed that was what made him a professional, what separated Jimmy the Cock from Boss Cock.
When I saw him for the first time, he was with an Asian and a Hispanic. One hand was under the Asian’s skirt, and the other held a lit cigar. A half-eaten steak and a half-empty glass of scotch rested on the table. He seemed happy to see me and told me to take a seat. Afterwards, my fellow dealers would ask if I had been afraid, but I had felt more uncertainty than fear. It was like going to the dentist for the very first time; you didn’t know what to expect, and later you realized it wasn’t so bad after all.
“I heard about what you did,” he said in that raspy voice. “Killed two junkies that fucked up your face and ran out on the bill.”
“Yes, sir,” I said looking him in the eye to show respect.
“I’m impressed. Most dealers would go crying to their mommies, but you took control of the situation. I like that. I would have killed those motherfuckers myself. What you did was right, but how you went about it was wrong. You let your emotions overcome you, and that’s not professional.”
I nodded, anticipating a harsh reprimand.
“Do you know where my finger is right now?” he asked. I glanced at the hand moving in the Asian’s skirt. I wasn’t sure if he was being serious or not. “It’s up a gook’s ass. And do you know why it’s up a gook’s ass?” I shook my head. “Because I’m a professional. And soon, you’re going to be a professional. And maybe one day, your finger will be up a gook’s ass.”
I never found my finger up a gook’s ass, but I did become a professional. I had many meetings with Jimmy the Cock since then. He taught me how to kill, not out of passion, but out of business. I came to admire the way he put things into perspective, the way he could turn your views on the world inside out. He wasn’t just a merciless gangster like Boss Tongue and his chinks. He was a philosopher, a father, a mentor. I loved him in a way I had never thought possible.
A day after the Prescott hit went public, I got a call from the Boss. The day after that, I went to his house to pick up my reward. The procedure was always the same. His mansion was isolated by woods, and the only way you could reach it was through a series of unmarked dirt roads. If you took a wrong turn, you would either meet a dead end or find yourself traveling in a big circle. The house was surrounded by a thirty-foot concrete wall one hundred yards away, and the only entrance was a thick steel door that slid open if you typed the correct code in a nearby console. At night, the gate was inaccessible, and the house itself was guarded by a state-of-the-art security system. All of this was a bit unnecessary, however. Nobody had ever attempted to take Jimmy’s life, and I doubted anybody would ever have the balls to try. But Jimmy and the Jimmies before him preferred to be extra safe.
The butler recognized me through the peephole and opened the door for me. He bowed and said, “Good morning, Mr. Spade.” I nodded and walked down the main hall, which led from the front of the house all the way to the back patio. Halfway through was a metal detector, like one you’d find in an airport. On the other side were Little Tony and Big Joe, who had worked there since I started. I suspected they were nephews or cousins of Jimmy, but I never bothered to ask.
“Hey, Mr. Spade!” they greeted at the same time.
“Hey, guys,” I said.
As usual, Big Joe frisked me while Little Tony pointed a gun in my face in case I tried to pull anything. Then they checked my briefcase, empty as expected. I continued down the hall and through the patio doors. Boss Cock was sitting in his usual place, eating a bowl of Captain Crunch and reading a folded newspaper, similar to how I imagined Mr. Prescott on his last morning alive. A brown paper bag lay on the floor beside him. He was with two girls I hadn’t seen before, a voluptuous redhead and a slender blonde. I always wondered where he got his new pussy and what happened to the old, but I never bothered to ask that either. I knew very little about his personal life. It wasn’t any of my business, and delving into it didn’t seem professional.
Jimmy’s eyes lit up when he saw me, and he wiped the corners of his mouth with a cloth napkin. “Ah, Mr. Spade,” he said in his gravelly, slightly-accented voice, “right on time as usual.”
“Hello, Boss. Hello, girls.” I took a seat in front of them. The blonde looked at me seductively and smiled. I smiled back.
“Fine job on the Prescott hit,” Jimmy commended, tapping the newspaper article he was reading. “Jizz on the face and everything. That Mrs. Prescott is one sick broad, I tell you. Picky as shit, but pays well. Any hitches?”
“Nope. They fucked longer than I expected, but other than that, it went real smooth.”
“That’s good to hear,” he said, and laughed his cheerful grandpa laugh, revealing his yellow, tobacco-stained teeth. “Heidi, can you give Mr. Spade his money? Twenty thousand, I believe.” The redhead reached into the bag and pulled out bound stacks of freshly cut bills, placing them on the table three at a time. I put them neatly in my briefcase, counting mentally even though I knew it was all there. I snapped the case shut and got up to leave, but Jimmy held his hand out.
“Hold on, son. I got another job for you.” He handed me a manila envelope that had been hidden beneath his newspaper.
“Another one already?” I sat back down, curious. Rarely did I get two jobs in a row.
“I know it’s soon, but all my other guys are busy. Plus, this is a big one, and I want you to handle it. The abort code for this job is ‘honey pie.’” The abort code was a word or phrase the client could use to cancel the hit if he or she had a sudden change in heart.
I opened the envelope and pulled out a photograph. My mouth dropped open in disbelief.
“The guy’s name is Abe Leonard,” Jimmy said. “Big-time stockbroker and rich as fuck. He just married his third wife Angela, a 26-year-old gold-digging waitress he met three months ago. Like a dumb ass, he puts her in his will, and now she wants him dead. Next Saturday to be specific. That’ll give you plenty of time to scope the—” He stopped when he saw the expression on my face. “Something wrong?”
I swallowed a couple times before answering. “He’s my father.”
“Your father? Are you sure?”
“Positive.” He looked older, of course, and his hair was shorter than when I last saw him, but it was definitely him. That, or it was a guy who looked like him and had the same name and the same job.
“Well, fuck. Small world isn’t it? I guess that makes it easier, since you already know him.”
“I’m sorry, Boss. I can’t do it. You’ll have to give it to someone else.”
Jimmy’s face suddenly changed as if I had just expelled an offensive fart. His grin melted into a grimace, and his eyes appeared to grow darker. It was an expression caught between disappointment and anger. Perhaps he couldn’t decide which, or perhaps he felt both simultaneously. For once, I feared Jimmy. I was afraid he would jump across the table and strangle me, afraid he would scoop my heart out with his spoon. The redhead and the blonde must have sensed it too, because both had paused what they were doing, and stared at one another nervously. Thankfully, the expression was gone as quickly as it had come, and the girls continued stroking their master. Jimmy smiled, but it was a fake smile, and I could tell he was trying to conceal his true emotions.
“Now don’t let me down, son. When I give you a job, I expect you to do it. I don’t care if it’s your dad or the Pope or the fucking Easter bunny. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir, but—”
“But what? I thought you said you hadn’t talked to your father in years. You said your father was a fucking son of a bitch. What the fuck do you care about him? He’s just a person and not even a very good one. I’m more of a father than this jackass ever was. I took you under my wing. I taught you how to be a man, for Christ’s sake. How many hits have you had?”
“Counting Prescott and his secretary, thirty-six.”
“Thirty-fucking-six. All of them perfect. This one isn’t any different. You’re a professional. A delivery man. What do I always tell you to remember?”
“That’s right. Amorality. Abe Leonard isn’t your father. He’s a name, a job like any other. Now, are you going to act like a fucking professional?”
“Good.” The tension seemed to lift at that point. He shoveled some cereal into his mouth, and when he swallowed, his familiar Jimmy smile, the real one, reappeared. “As I was saying, the wife wants you to whack him next Saturday. Apparently, he likes to stay home and unwind on the weekend. At noon, the house staff will be on their lunch break, and Angela will be taking a bath. That’s when you’ll make your move. She’ll go downstairs, discover the body, scream, and you and I will each be half a million richer. Half-a-fucking-million!”
“That’s wonderful,” I said, sounding less excited than I should have been.
The redhead named Heidi slipped a part of her dress off, revealing an abnormally large breast. She winked at me and twisted the hard nipple of a fake tit. I considered flashing her a fake smile in return, but instead I ignored her; there had been enough artificiality for one meeting. I watched Jimmy the Cock guzzle down the rest of his milk and then turned my gaze to the photo of the man I was supposed to kill.
All I could think about was something called amorality.
I should have sensed something was wrong, and if I hadn’t been distracted by thoughts of my father, I probably would have. After meeting the Boss and depositing my reward at a storage facility, I headed back to my apartment. When I pulled into the small parking lot, I noticed a black limousine out in front, and for a brief moment, I thought it unusual, but my mind didn’t push it any further. This was a rookie mistake. Professionals were supposed to absorb details and analyze them, not dismiss them offhandedly. As I approached the front door, I saw a tall Asian man in a grey suit waiting outside, and it finally clicked. I reached for my gun, but before I could even grip the handle, I felt a barrel press into the small of my back.
“Don’t even think about it, Mr. Spade,” said a voice behind me. It had a light accent that was unsurprisingly Asian. A hand came around me and grabbed the gun from my pants. I turned to find someone I recognized from photographs but had never met. He was Richie the Tongue’s right-hand man, a chink with short hair and dark sunglasses who rarely left his boss’s side.
The tall man in the grey suit grabbed me by the elbow, jerking me toward the limousine while his companion kept his gun jammed in my back. He opened the back door and forced me inside. The short gook waiting across from me was no doubt Richie the Tongue himself, a notorious gangster known for his ruthless tactics. He sat motionlessly and didn’t appear to acknowledge my presence until I was seated before him. His unblinking stare chilled my bones, and I tried desperately to hide my unease. Despite his smallness, he emanated a disturbingly creepy sense of terror. Jimmy the Cock had always described him as insane, a total psycho who dipped his victims in boiling water and cackled like a hyena while he did it. But the man in front of me wasn’t crazy, at least not in the conventional sense. He was calm, precise, patient. Even his appearance reflected his meticulous nature—his hair was neatly combed, and his posture was perfectly symmetrical, his back straight and his hands resting on his knees. His dark chink eyes didn’t show any sign of malice or sadistic delight, but rather bored into me, piercing my psyche as if scanning my brain for pertinent information. It made me feel horribly uncomfortable, but the professional part of me told me to stay cool, and the intuitive part told me I was going to live.
Richie’s two henchmen joined us, the shorter one sitting next to me, jabbing his gun into my ribs, and the taller one sitting next to his boss, pointing his own gun at me. The former tapped on the glass behind us and told the driver to circle the block. Then he shifted his focus back to me.
“My name is Dr. Jung,” he said. “This is Dr. Simm, and I assume you already know Boss Tongue. Rest assured that we don’t plan on killing you, so please don’t give us any reason to. On the contrary, we need you, Mr. Spade. We have a proposition for you, and I think it would be in your best interest to accept it.”
The so-called doctor turned to his boss. I expected Richie to begin speaking, but his expression remained the same as did his unwavering glare. To my surprise, he began gesturing with his hands, signing like a deaf person. The rest of his body didn’t move, however, as if his hands were completely separate entities. I could feel him thinking his words at me, trying to project his thoughts mentally but instead expressing them through his hands and fingers, almost inadvertently.
“Many years ago, I took a major drug customer from the one you call Jimmy the Cock,” said Dr. Jung, and I realized he was interpreting, acting as his master’s medium. “It was fair business. I offered the customer a better deal, and he took it. Your boss did not take the news lightly, however. He came into my home—this was before I increased security, of course—and ordered me to return his customer. When I refused, his men restrained me while he cut out my tongue and fed it to my cat. I believe he said, ‘I guess you will have to use your fingers now, you fucking gook.’”
I was shocked but doubtful. This didn’t sound like the Jimmy I knew. The Boss was a professional; he didn’t hold grudges. If it really had been a fair deal, he would have let it go. Personal revenge wasn’t in the policy. I knew I couldn’t trust these chinks. Richie the Tongue was probably making all this shit up. He probably licked a diseased pussy and had to get his tongue amputated. Even if Jimmy had cut out his tongue, I was sure he had a legitimate reason. He was a proper businessman through and through. Wasn’t he?
My disbelief must have shown. “Surprised are you? Did not think your boss could be so crude? Does it not sound what he calls ‘professional’? My methods may be harsh at times, but they are fair, more or less. What Jimmy the Cock did to me was not in good sport. I have been very patient over the years, waiting for the right time to…even the score, shall we say. And that brings me to you, Mr. Spade. I require your help in rectifying this injustice. Jimmy the Cock’s security is tight, as you already know. I need someone on the inside, someone he trusts, someone he would not expect; I hope that someone will be you. I have been watching you throughout the course of your career, and I believe you are the perfect candidate. I am asking you to kill him, Mr. Spade. You will be paid handsomely, of course. Afterwards, you can join my gang, and we will protect you. What do you say?”
“Fuck you,” I replied without hesitation.
Richie’s demeanor did not falter. “I am not surprised by your answer. I admit what I am asking is a very difficult matter. But let me remind you that your boss is a man like any other man, and this is a job like any other job. Purely business. I hope in time you will come to realize that.”
An eerie feeling of déjà vu washed over me like a wave of cold water, and I suddenly felt nauseous. Was this really happening? Was the world conspiring against me? First Jimmy wanted me to kill my own father, and now Richie the Tongue wanted me to kill Jimmy. I needed some fresh air. I needed to clear my head. Fortunately, the limo was just pulling back into the parking lot of my apartment building.
“Here’s your stop, Mr. Spade,” said Dr. Jung in his own words. He removed the clip from my gun before handing it back to me, and then slipped what appeared to be a business card into my breast pocket. “In case you reconsider.”
I stumbled out of the car and took a deep breath, watching Boss Tongue and his henchmen speed away. I went up to my apartment and splashed some water on my face. It wasn’t the offer that disturbed me; I would never consider whacking Jimmy. It was the fact that twice in one day I had been asked to take the lives of people I knew, as if God Himself was testing my professionalism.
The card in my pocket had nothing but a phone number printed on it. I was about to throw it away, but something inside me decided to hold onto it. Maybe it was that question lingering in the back of my mind, like an itch that wouldn’t stop itching: how come Jimmy never mentioned what happened to Richie’s tongue? I wanted to call the Boss and ask him that and tell him about my encounter with his archenemy, but I didn’t have his number and never did. It was procedure for him to call me. I would have to wait until after the hit on my father to talk to him.
Instead, I called Mandi. She picked up on the second ring. “It’s John,” I said. This was the name I used with her. “You busy?”
“No, I’ll be right over,” she answered, and hung up.
I plopped down on the living room sofa and stared at my blurry reflection in the new big-screen television I had purchased recently. With the money I had stashed away, I could have bought a nice house and some expensive cars, but I didn’t care much for such things. I was rich but not a rich man, not like my father. I used my money to buy the kind of junk other people wanted to buy but couldn’t afford, because they were too busy paying bills and feeding mouths and sending their kids to college. A vibrating leather recliner, a fully loaded entertainment system, a top-of-the-line computer, mountains of DVDs, CDs, and videogames. An autographed Mickey Mantle baseball here, a Darth Vader lightsaber replica there. The shit people glance at in magazines and window displays and then forget about. And behind all these little toys and gadgets were the lives of people I’d killed, people who must have really pissed off someone somewhere and were now reduced to one of those stainless steel refrigerators with the pointless TV built into the door.
I took out the manila envelope tucked in my back pocket and examined my next mark, my stereo-system-to-be, smiling awkwardly at what was probably a DMV camera. I left him when I was twenty-one, and seeing him again conjured up painful feelings, yet I couldn’t bring myself to look away. My father hadn’t always been a bad guy. I had vague memories of him taking me to the park and playing catch with me, buying me ice cream, tickling me until I cried. It all fell apart, however, when my mother died of cancer when I was eight. He was a different man after that. He would drink more, yell more, lose his temper more easily. When I was eighteen, he remarried to a young bitch who only wanted his money, just like the young bitch he was banging now. He was happy again, but I was miserable. I didn’t like her, and she didn’t like me. I just didn’t understand why he would fall in love with someone like Mom and then fall in love with someone like this; it was insulting. After high school, my father sent me to one of those rich pretty boy colleges where I was supposed to be majoring in Business. I dropped out in my second year and told my dad to go fuck himself. A few years later, I met Jimmy the Cock. My father faded into the past.
Except he wasn’t my father. Jimmy was right. He was just a man like any other man. Just a job like any other job. Yet in the back of my mind, a nagging voice insisted it wasn’t so. Growing up, people would always say how I looked just like him, and it always annoyed the shit out of me, but it was true. I couldn’t trick myself into seeing a stranger. I saw my father in that picture, and in my father, I saw myself hiding behind his eyes, his nose, his smile. As much as I hated him, as much as I had tried to push him into a dark corner of my mind, he haunted me. I saw him whenever I looked in the mirror, and I saw myself when I looked at this picture. He was a part of me. He was me. How could I kill him? How could I kill myself?
“Amorality,” Jimmy had said in one of his many lessons. I remembered him being with a Negro and a Hawaiian at the time. “A professional doesn’t care about what’s right or wrong. He doesn’t care about good or evil. Those things don’t matter to a professional. Contract killing is merely an occupation. People seek our services, we do our job, and we get paid. That’s all it is. We’re messengers. Delivery men. We don’t judge the senders, and we don’t judge the recipients. We only handle the packages. God takes care of Judgment.”
“And what gives us the right to send people to Judgment?” I had asked naively.
“God does. Think of it this way. Even though we have freewill, everything is ultimately God’s will. If I push this glass off the table and let it shatter on the floor, it’s because I wanted to, but it’s also because God wanted me to want to. If God doesn’t want the glass to shatter, he can swoop in and make it bounce off the ground undamaged. That’s called a miracle. It works with human beings as well. Two people with the same disease—one lives, one dies. Two people in the same car accident—one lives, one dies. Two people jump off the same building—one lives, one dies. It’s not because God loves one more than the other. It’s because one has fulfilled their purpose in life and is ready to be judged, while the other still has shit to do.
“I had this job one time. This guy was supposed to testify in a murder trial. I snuck into his house at night and shot him once in the head and twice in the chest. Went real smooth, no problems. The next day, I was watching the news, and guess what? The motherfucker lived! Not only that, he was out of the hospital in a week. Can you believe that? Now, I could have tried again. I could have riddled him with bullets and stuck a grenade up his ass, but I didn’t, because I knew it wasn’t his time to be judged. God wanted him to stick around. Why? I don’t have a fucking clue. Maybe his great-great-great-grandson was going to invent a soda that never goes flat. Maybe the great-great-great-grandson of the guy he put behind bars was going to be a ruthless dictator. Maybe the great-great-great-grandson of a guy he was going to save from a falling piano the next week was going to be the fucking Christ. Or maybe it’s just so I can have this story to tell you, so you’ll understand what the fuck I mean. Whatever the reason is, that motherfucker wasn’t supposed to die, not then. We all have a designated amount of time on this earth, and when that time is up and only when that time is up, we are up. We may be the delivery men, but God is the fucking post office. He can reject a package if He wants to, but if He doesn’t, it means our will is His will. Our only duty is to fire those three shots; after that, it’s up to God to decide. That’s what gives us the right. That’s what amorality is.”
There was a knock at the door. I tossed the photo and envelope onto the coffee table and let Mandi in. She wore a pink shirt and tight jeans, the sexy kind that hugged the waist and didn’t have back pockets. She was a natural blonde, her long golden hair slightly curled at the ends. Neighbors would sometimes ask who she was, and I would say she was my little sister, and they would believe me. She certainly looked more sophisticated than her profession, and it was still a mystery as to why she had chosen that profession in the first place. I supposed it had chosen her, just as mine had chosen me.
She smiled her bright smile, said hello, and went directly to the bedroom. I sat on the edge of the bed, watching her undress. Sex always comforted me. Some relieved their stress by taking baths or working out or taking long walks at the park. I preferred being ridden by a cute girl. Even contract killers need some every now and then.
“How do you want it?” she asked, stepping out of a purple G-string.
I groped one of her small, perky breasts. “You on top. Go slow. I have a lot on my mind.”
“Do you want to talk about it?” She unzipped my pants and slid her fingers inside.
I brushed a strand of hair away from her face. “No.”
She laughed. “You never do,” she said.
She went slow, and my worries gradually drifted away.
Abe Leonard was 63 years old, was married three different times, had one forgotten child—a drug dealer turned hit man who worked for Jimmy the Cock—enjoyed reading Dean Koontz in his free time, ate a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios every day for breakfast, and was banging his newest wife, a 26-year-old gold digger with fake tits who wanted him dead.
At 10:30, he took his coffee into the library of his home, sat in a comfortable leather chair, and began reading where he had left off in his book. The room was perfect for such an activity; it was well-lit, quiet, spacious. Bookshelves lined the walls and extended up to the high ceiling. Expensive furniture on a large Oriental rug was symmetrically arranged before the gigantic, unlit fireplace. It was certainly a suitable environment for relaxation.
At 12:00, his wife Angela poked her head in the doorway and said she was going to take a bath.
At 12:05, he got up to take a shit.
At 12:10, he returned to the library and jumped in surprise at the sight of a man sitting in front of the fireplace, holding a gun in one hand and a picture frame in the other. “Who the hell—” he began, but recognition quickly settled in. “Isaac? Is that you?”
“Hello, Dad,” I said. “Take a seat. I want to talk to you.”
He sat down tentatively in the chair across from me, a confused and frightened expression on his wrinkled face. “What the fuck do you want?” he asked, trying unsuccessfully to sound authoritative.
“To be honest, I came here to kill you.” His eyes suddenly widened. “Don’t worry, Dad. I’ve done a lot of thinking, and I’ve decided not to. I really should. You were a lousy father, and I think you’re a piece of shit who doesn’t deserve to live. Plus, your lovely wife is willing to pay me half a million dollars to do it.”
“Angela? You’re lying. She wouldn’t do that.”
“Is this her?” I showed him the picture I had found on one of the side tables. It was him with his arm around a voluptuous young blonde, both of them smiling in front of a large water fountain. “What are those? Double-D’s? I mean look at her and look at you. Do you really think a sweet piece of ass like that is going to fall in love with an old fart like you? How can you be so fucking stupid?”
He grabbed the picture from me. “You shut the fuck up. Don’t you fucking dare talk to me like that. You haven’t changed one bit. You’re still the same disrespectful little brat. You don’t know shit about us. I love her, and I know she loves me.”
“Oh, yeah? Just like you knew the last one loved you?” His eyes turned down in embarrassment. “Look, Dad, I’m telling you the truth. She wants you dead so she can take your money. I’m here to save your fucking life, because if I don’t kill you, someone else will. The only way out of this is if you kill her first.”
“That’s bullshit. You’re making all this up. You’ve done a lot of dumb-ass shit in your life, but this is by far the worst. You’re a sick son of a bitch, you know that?”
“I’m not lying. Just listen to me, okay? I’m a professional killer. Your wife put a contract on you, and my boss just happened to take it. If I don’t finish the job, and I leave right now, someone else will do it instead, and I’ll get into a lot of fucking trouble. That’s why you have to pay me to kill her first. If she’s dead, the hit is off, and my boss still gets his money. Everybody wins.”
He shook his head and chuckled in disbelief. “Even if you are telling the truth, why the hell would you care about me?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t want to; it just happened. I’m supposed to be a fucking professional, you know. I’ve killed over thirty people in my life, and I never hesitated once before. All I had to do was think about amorality, and I could pull the trigger. This is different somehow. Don’t get the wrong idea. I don’t love you, Dad. I really hate you actually. But for some reason, I can’t kill you, and I can’t let anyone else kill you. Maybe it’s some biological father-son connection shit—”
I saw a figure appear in the doorway in my peripheral vision and instinctively ducked. A bullet whizzed past my ear, shattering a glass vase beside me. My father dove to the floor screaming and covering his head. Angela stood across the room, wearing a yellow bathrobe and holding a pistol with both hands. Before she could take another shot, I aimed my own gun at her chest and fired. She twisted away at the last second, and the bullet punctured her left breast. She fell to the floor clutching herself and wailing, and I quickly ran over to where she was. A clear fluid was squirting out of a bloody hole in her bathrobe. She groaned loudly and grasped her enormous tit, rocking back and forth on the ground with tears streaming down her face. She had dropped the gun on the floor, and I kicked it away, but she was in too much pain to notice.
“You fucking cocksucker!” she yelled. She gaped at her wound with both sadness and anger, as if I had just murdered her little dog Toto. I pointed my gun at her head, but she seemed more concerned with her leaking melon. “Oh, fuck! Jimmy’s going to kill me. These cost six grand.”
My finger paused on the trigger. “Did you just say Jimmy? Jimmy who? Jimmy the Cock?” She ignored me. “You’re one of Jimmy’s girls?! What the fuck is going on here?”
“Fuck you, cocksucker!” She turned away from me.
I pressed my foot into her stomach, pinning her against the floor, and aimed my gun at her right breast. “You better start talking, or I’m blowing off the other one.”
She held out her free hand in terror and desperation. “No! Please, don’t! I’ll talk!” she pleaded. She spoke between hiccups and gasps of breath. “The job was set up—I was supposed to seduce your father—and get him to marry me and put me in his will—then Jimmy gave you the job—you were supposed to kill him—except he wasn’t really going to let you go through with it—I was supposed to walk in at the last second and yell ‘Honey Pie’—that’s what I call your dad—and you were supposed to abort the job—but if you weren’t willing to kill him—I was supposed to kill you.”
“Why? Why would he do that?”
“I don’t know. It’s some kind of test.”
I lifted my foot off her belly, and she rolled over, sobbing uncontrollably. What could he be testing for? How could he do this to me after all these years? Tricking me into thinking I would kill my father? I felt something building up inside me, something I hadn’t felt in a very long time. It was the same feeling I had gotten when those two punks swindled me so long ago. It felt dirty, unprofessional, but I couldn’t stop it from seizing control of me. It flooded my mind like warm liquor, drowning out my thoughts. And then it clicked, like the way Richie the Tongue clicked when I saw the limousine and the tall chink almost a week ago. It clicked, and I suddenly remembered what that awful feeling was: rage. The same kind of rage that drove people to stabbing junkies in dark basements until they were bloody lumps of Swiss cheese. The same rage that drove women to killing their cheating husbands while they ejaculated on their mistresses. It was that feeling of betrayal, that feeling of trusting someone and then being stabbed in the back.
“Jimmy fucked me,” I whispered to myself, and hearing the words out loud made the bubble burst. This wasn’t about my father anymore. Oh, no. This was about Jimmy and how he lied to me.
I looked over my shoulder and saw my dad cowering behind a chair, poking his head over the top like a prairie dog. “Take your fucking wife to the hospital,” I said, and left the room.
I ran back to my car two blocks down, and with every step, my resentment for Jimmy grew. With every step, I came closer to knowing what I had to do. I took a card out of my wallet and called the number printed on it with my cell phone. Someone picked up immediately.
“I’ll do it,” I said.
“You’ve made the right decision, Mr. Spade,” said Dr. Jung. There was a pause as he relayed the information to his boss. “Bring me his cock.” These were Richie the Tongue’s words. “I want to stuff it and hang it on my wall. Make sure you remove it before you kill him. I want him to be alive when it happens.”
I started the car. “Special requests cost extra,” I said.
Little Tony and Big Joe saw me coming down the hall. “Hey, Mr. Spade!” Joe said. “I didn’t know you had an appointment.” I walked through the metal detector, and it immediately started beeping. They looked at me curiously, and I shot both of them before Tony could even reach his gun.
I swung open the patio doors and found Jimmy the Cock where he always was. The blonde and the redhead were gone, replaced by two petite brunettes that were probably sisters. Jimmy was eating salmon for lunch. He looked genuinely surprised to see me.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Spade. I don’t believe we have an appointment. That’s not procedure—” He saw the gun in my hand and suddenly realized what had happened. “Ladies, can you leave us alone, please?” His beauties looked at one another, looked at me, and then hesitantly scampered into the house. I opened his jacket, took the gun from his shoulder holster, and tossed it into the bushes behind him. I sat down and kept my gun pointed at him. “What happened to Little Tony and Big Joe?” he asked.
“One of her tits sprung a leak, but she’s okay.”
He sat back in his chair and wiped the corners of his mouth with a cloth napkin like he always did. “You disappoint me, Mr. Spade. I really thought you were the one. Thirty-six hits. All of them perfect.”
“What the fuck is this all about, Jimmy?”
“Isn’t it obvious? I wanted to see if you were a true professional. I wasn’t really going to make you kill your father. I just wanted to see if you could do it. I wanted to see if you could follow orders indiscriminately, if you could properly conduct business, if you could just fucking trust me. But you failed. Apparently, you care more about your son of a bitch father than you do me.”
“You’re a sick asshole.”
He laughed his Jimmy laugh. “Yeah, maybe I am, but I had to test you somehow. How do you think I got to where I am? I used to be a contract killer just like you, and one day my boss told me to kill my father. But unlike you, I loved my old man. He was a great guy, better than my boss, better than anyone I knew. But I took the job anyway, because I knew being a professional was more important, and up until the hit was aborted, I was ready to kill him without a moment’s hesitation. I hoped you would follow in my footsteps. I’m getting old, son. I was planning to retire in a few years. I thought you could take my place, but I was wrong. You let me down, kid, and I don’t tolerate disappointment. If it wasn’t for that busty cunt, you would be dead right now.”
“I guess it just wasn’t my time. Maybe God wanted me to stick around.”
Jimmy smiled. “I’m glad you remembered something I taught you. I only wish you remembered how to act like a professional.”
“Like a professional? I had a little chat with our friend Richie recently. He told me how you cut out his tongue. Doesn’t sound professional to me.”
He chuckled. “I don’t know what you heard, but that gook is a fucking liar. I had my reasons, and I had my reasons not to tell you about it. I assure you I’ve always acted like a professional, just like the Jimmy before me, and the Jimmy before him. If you trusted me, you would have known that.”
“I did trust you. I trusted you to always be honest with me, but you fucked me, Jimmy. You let me down, and I don’t tolerate disappointment either. Put these on.” I threw him a pair of handcuffs I sometimes used to restrain marks during special requests. He looked at them for a moment and then reluctantly bound his wrists behind his back.
“What are you going to do to me?” he asked, and for the first time, I sensed panic in his voice.
“Richie the Tongue offered me a job, and I took it like a professional. Stand up.” I put my gun down and came around the table. I unbuckled his belt and pulled his pants and underwear down to his ankles. His dick wasn’t twelve inches, erect or flaccid, but it was big alright. With my gloved hand, I grabbed the end and stretched it out against the table. Jimmy realized what I was going to do and began jerking away, but I held him firmly by the pecker. I took a switchblade out of my pocket and flipped it open.
“You don’t have to do this,” Jimmy pleaded. His eyes blinked rapidly, and streams of thick tears began rolling down his aged face. His short white hair glistened with sweat. He continued fidgeting in place, like a little boy who really had to go potty and couldn’t hold it for much longer. For once, he truly looked frightened, and I almost felt pity for him. “Mr. Spade—Isaac, please. Whatever he’s paying you, I’ll double it. Triple it. Anything you want. I’m sorry I lied to you. I promise I’ll never fuck with you again. Please. Don’t do this.”
“I’m just a delivery man. I handle the package, and God takes care of the rest. When your time is up, your time is up. Isn’t that what makes amorality work?” I held the knife above the base of his cock. He whimpered like a dog and squirmed back and forth frantically.
“Please,” he begged. “You know you’re not going to get away with this. I don’t know what kind of protection that gook promised you, but my men are trained killers just like you. You’ll be dead in a couple hours. Stop fucking around. Remember all that I’ve done for you. I took you under my wing, for Christ’s sake. I taught you everything you know. I’m sorry for what I did. Really, I’m sorry. Please, don’t do this.”
“You’re letting your emotions overcome you,” I said. “And that’s not professional.”
I brought the knife down.
At 1:15, Mr. “Spade” Leonard pulls into the driveway of Richie the Tongue’s home. A tall Asian in a grey suit checks his briefcase and then pats him down thoroughly at the door. A man called Dr. Jung leads him to Boss Tongue’s office. Richie sits perfectly still behind a desk, piercing his guest with his familiar unwavering glare. Mr. Leonard sets his briefcase down on the desk, opens it, and reveals an object rolled in a bloody cloth napkin. Richie the Tongue unwraps it gingerly, picks up the object, and holds it close to his face like one holds a priceless artifact. His lips suddenly break into a grin, which suddenly breaks into a feminine giggle, which suddenly breaks into the cackling of a hyena. He lifts his head back and laughs, and Mr. Leonard can see that he is, in fact, missing a tongue. “I ess oo half oo use yo finguhs ow!” he exclaims, and continues cackling.
Two servants enter the room, each holding two large suitcases. They lay them on the floor and open them, revealing stacks upon stacks of green bills. “Five million as promised, Mr. Spade,” says Dr. Jung. “You’re still welcome to join us, of course.” The hit man shakes his head, and the doctor appears surprised at this decision but does not press it. The servants re-zipper the suitcases and carry them out to Mr. Leonard’s car. Mr. Leonard leaves without saying goodbye. The sound of chink laughter gradually fades away behind him.
At 1:40, he stops at a storage facility and deposits his reward.
At 1:50, he parks in an empty space on the side of the road, walks two blocks to a newsstand, buys a pack of Juicy Fruit, and walks another two blocks to a bench at a bus stop. He sits there for a while, chewing a piece of gum, and then sticks it underneath the bench. As he gets up, an elderly man holding a plunger and a football sits down. For a brief moment, Mr. Leonard finds this strange but quickly dismisses it. This is a rookie mistake, but he doesn’t care anymore.
At 2:15, he returns to his apartment and plops down on his comfortable couch, staring at his blurry reflection in his big-screen television, haunted by the ghosts of people whom he killed but never knew. He dials a number on his cell phone and gets the answering machine. “Hello, Mandi,” he says. “I guess this is the part where we drive off into the sunset together and live happily ever after. We’ll live on an island and have spectacular sex, and afterwards, you’ll ask me who I am, and I’ll tell you, and I’ll ask you who you are, and you’ll tell me, and our answers then will be different from our answers now. But that’s not going to happen. There are men coming for me, and by the time you get this message, I’ll probably be dead. Running or hiding will only delay the inevitable. Please do not reply to this message or come to my apartment unless you want to die as well. I know all of this sounds like a load of shit, but you have to trust me.
“Now listen to me carefully. There’s a bench at a bus stop on the corner of Moriah Street. Underneath the bench, you’ll find a key stuck to a wad of gum. This key opens unit number 439 at a place called Mike’s Storage. There you’ll find millions of dollars in cash. Money cannot buy you happiness, but it’s a start. We’re both prisoners of our professions, Mandi. We’re good at what we do, but we don’t care about what we do. We do them anyway, because we convince ourselves that they are necessary. We contrive excuses to justify who we are. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I want you to think back to your childhood, back before you even knew what sucking a cock meant, and I want you to remember what you wanted to be when you grew up, and I want you to try your best to become that person. If you succeed then you succeed, and if you fail then you fail. If you think I’m full of shit, and you want to continue on this path, that’s fine too. I’m merely giving you an option you didn’t have before. I’m expanding your freewill. Right and wrong are subjective. We make the choices we want, and then all we can do is hope that God’s will is the same as ours.”
He pauses for a moment, unable to think of what to say next, and then closes his phone and lies back down. Jimmy was right, he thinks. Soon, he will be victim to professionals like himself. Who will they send? Mr. Heart? Mr. Diamond? What did they want to be when they were growing up? How do they live with what they do? What are their stories?
Isaac Leonard is 33 years old, enjoys listening to ‘80s rock music in his free time, eats a bowl of Fruit Loops every day for breakfast, and is the murderer of thirty-six people who unfortunately ticked off someone who knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy who knew Jimmy the Cock. He works under the Law of Amorality, which states that moral distinctions are nonexistent, and all actions are justified until the time of Judgment, because freewill is overshadowed by divine will. Mr. Leonard shuts his weary eyes, and in his mind, he sees a clock ticking down to zero. He cannot see the numbers, but he knows that they are nearing the end. There will be no miracle for him. The glass will shatter, and he will be judged.
He drifts off to sleep for the very last time, waiting in his dreams for the delivery men to take him away.