I won't preface this with yet another meandering "sorry I haven't been regular...etc." Without belabouring, I expect the "sporadic" to be the norm for a little while until things completely settle down around my recent relocation.
How've you all been??? Hope the holidays (whatever your chosen celebration/non-celebration) gave everyone the chance to spend some great time with friends and family.
Now, should the taste of gingerbread be currently making the annual transition from "wholesome" to "cloying" and the rum-spiked eggnog be nothing more than a faint and sickening coating on your teeth, then allow me to provide a little entertainment that is a little less sweet, and a little more Old Nick than St. Nick.
This piece was first published over at Thrillers, Killers n' Chillers, and it's a favourite. Thanks to Matt, Col, Lily and David for giving this little tale a home on a cold and wintry day back in 2010.
All the best once again, and looking forward to reading amazing work from all of you in 2013!
Fitch watched the apartment across the street, and ground his teeth. This job was completely beneath him. Still, an order was an order, and the sap would be getting home soon.
He’d raised his objections to Gerard, when he’d been given the plain yellow envelope detailing this worthless waste-of-time hit. “I’m a specialist Gerry. Why is he still sending me out on this low level garbage? I can hit a moving target with a sniper rifle from three blocks away and I can put an explosive in a pack of gum that will do the job. So why am I expected to barge into yet another defenseless idiot’s apartment and put two in his head, like I was fresh meat? Huh?”
The rail-thin man in the immaculate tailored suit was quick to reply, “Because we tell you to, Fitch. Your job is whatever Mr. Dallas says it is. My job is to tell you what he said, so he doesn’t have to waste time talking to overconfident little hit men who whine.” He gestured at the packet. “There is a perfectly legitimate reason to want this woman dead. ‘Why’ is not something you’ve ever needed to worry about, so don’t start now. I suggest you get going. As you’ll see in the packet, your best chance is fast approaching.”
Gerard turned then, and strode toward the door of the seedy little tavern where he often did his business with the hired help. It was the kind of place that, as long as there was money going one way over the bar, and booze the other, no other talking was required or expected. There was a pathetic wreath on the door, that said “M rry Chris mas and a Happy 1978”. The only other nod to the season was the jaunty Santa hat that Murray the bartender had on, creating an image so incongruous, it bordered on obscene.
“This is bullshit Gerry.” Fitch muttered, at a level he assumed wouldn’t be heard. Unfortunately for him, he was.
With a silent speed that his lanky frame belied, Gerard was back in front of him before he could blink. He stood over Fitch, who was sorry just then that he was sitting. Feverish spots of colour stood out on his cheeks, and his steel gray eyes flashed, “Let’s get one thing straight Fitch. You wanted respect; I gave it by not bringing this up. But if you’re going to piss and moan, I’ll give you the truth. Dallas hates using you. You get the job done surely enough, but it’s almost not worth it when you’re involved. Every single contract you’ve had, there’s been screwups.”
Fitch opened his mouth to protest, but Gerard held out a hand, and gave him a look that said silence wasn’t just golden, it was all he had going for him right now, so he’d best keep his stupid face closed. Gerard went on, “How did Mr. Dallas put it? ‘If I wanted to send a hitter AND a cleaner every single time, that’s what I’d do from the start’ So yes, you’re very good when you actually hit the button, but everything before and after? You’re hopeless. No class at all. You know what Dallas told me, when this job came down? He said ‘give it to Bumblefuck.’ And here we are. Get busy.”
The voice of the boss turned to leave, and then swung back one last time, “Oh, Fitch? If you ever call me Gerry again, I’ll rip your tongue out and shove it up your ass. Merry Christmas.”
Then he was gone, and Fitch was left with the manila envelope and burning cheeks.
Now Fitch was camped out in the rotten hotel room just across the street from the sap’s apartment, he was looking at the dark, dull windows through the high powered binoculars, with the special filters that didn’t give off tell-tale reflections. Gerard’s epithet reverberated in his skull, Bumblefuck.
He knew what Dallas had been thinking of, and it was a totally unfair assessment. The previous jobs had had snarls, no question, but none of it had been his doing. Flossy Banyan, for example. He’d been instructed to make it look like an accident, so he’d pushed the old bat down some stairs. Who possibly could have foreseen that she’d survive? Unfortunately, fourteen smashed bones and a knife wound was still one knife wound too many for an “accidental death.” Fitch had taken her purse and made it look like a mugging. It had passed the sniff test, barely.
The second incident, at “the pet house” as he still referred to it when he was drinking deeply with his few colleagues in the know, had been a comedy of errors. The lock-pick had snapped off, forcing Fitch to bust in the door. He immediately stepped on a hissing, spitting dervish that sank needle teeth deep into his calf. He’d pulled the trigger on the silenced Walther once. Unfortunately, he took out Pinkie Toe at the same time as the cat, and he’d screamed despite himself. Before the vic-to-be could wake up, a huge slavering mutt had skidded into view along the hardwood floor, and with a vicious snarl went right for his balls. Why? Why did mutts always go after the crotch? He kicked out at the dog and connected, but it was with his bleeding foot, and it hurt him twice as much. Two more pulls on the trigger, and the dog went down. He’d caught it in mid-jump, and it left a pathetic little trail of blood and fur as it had come down. There was a piercing chirrup to his left, and he spun to see a Parakeet in its cage. Taking no more chances, he pulled the trigger, and birdie disappeared in a cloud of feathers.
Fitch had had it. The sap peeked his head out of the bedroom door, phone receiver to his ear, doubtless already on hold with 911. Fitch said nothing. He just pulled the trigger, and a smoking hole appeared above the man’s eyebrow. Fitch reset the receiver, and called “The Cleaner” This was going to require additional finesse.
That was the one that had earned him the name “Bumblefuck.” He was convinced.
His thought process was shattered by a yellow light suddenly coming on across the street. The sap was home. This changed the entire plan. Suddenly, the man himself came into view, and Fitch was astonished again at the similarity. White hair, white beard, could stand to lose a couple pounds? Check. For whatever reason, Dallas’ current sap was the spitting image of Old St. Nick. Not that that mattered, business was business after all. Fitch may have griped about the lack of challenge, but there was nothing wrong with the nine large he’d be putting in his stocking this year.
Now it looked like he’d have to act fast. He shifted his bulky frame up from the leather seat he’d been perched on, and exited the hallway, stopping for nothing.
Thankfully, these older buildings had next to no security, and after pulling a simple buzzer bluff, he was inside. Apartment three seven four. He was determined to make a clean job of it. He screwed the silencer on in the elevator. There were no cameras there either, this was cake. He’d knock on 304, wait for the old guy to pull open the door, even as far as the chain, then put two in his face before he could so much as ask, “Who are you?”
Fitch pulled the slide to chamber a round and almost had a heart attack on the spot. In his flustered surprise at finding out the sap was home, in his haste to quickly get across the street, he had neglected to put bullets in the gun. Part of his stakeout ritual was to clean his weapons thoroughly, and give them a last scrutinizing glance for anything that would leave a trail. He’d broken the Walther apart, wiped it down with oil, and had been in the process of reassembly, while looking through the binocs on their tripod, when the vic-to-be had started the game early. Not a single bullet had made it back into the piece. Well now. He’d been aching for a challenge.
He knocked on 304, no reason to change everything. Stepping back, he readied himself for a kick that would smash any brass chain out of its mooring. The door swung open, and there was the sap. All six foot nothing, four hundred pounds of him. Not wanting to waste a good kick, Fitch stepped into a textbook forward straight-leg kick. The genial expression on the tenant’s face disappeared on the rough exhalation of air. Still, it only knocked him back a foot or two, and he remained composed enough to try to slam the door. Fitch was as quick as ever, and rolled his shoulder into it just before it closed. He kept the roll going, which drove the doorknob right into his hip.
“Shit.” He grunted. Then the vic-to-be was on him, swinging the closest thing to hand, which had been a decorative red velvet strip with bells all along it. The brass bells raked across his face, immediately bringing tears to his right eye. The fat man whipped him again, and Fitch lost it. He dropped his shoulder and drove forward, only to trip on a low bench that Tubby obviously kept handy when putting on his shoes. This situation was going from bad to worse, and now the sap did the only other thing that he could. He sat on Fitch. Four hundred pounds of potential income was settled firmly on his pelvis. Fitch was immobilized. The fat man pulled a mobile phone from his pocket and began to dial. He looked down at Fitch as he did so, and said, “Not too good at this, are you?”
Hearing such derision coming from behind that big white beard, past the big, no, jolly mouth drove Fitch into a frenzy. He pistoned his left hand out and squeezed the massive man-tit for all he was worth. Far from the baritone of legend, this simple bugger had a thin, petulant voice, especially now that he was screaming. Having put the man off balance, Fitch drove up and over with his hips, and “Santa” fell off.
It was Fitch’s turn to be on top. Coming down with his knees to either side of the vic-to-be’s barrel chest, he started to squeeze the huge throat closed. His expert thumb found the small dent that marked the edge of the trachea, and he shoved forward. Two minutes final struggle, and it was over.
He got up, straightened his clothes, and arranged the apartment a little. He might still be able to make this run-of-the-mill job look it. When he heard sirens, however, he dropped the fastidiousness, and took off for the fire escape. His reputation he could resuscitate. Jail time was not an option.
As he walked briskly down the hall, trying to maintain an aura of calm, cool, professional composure, he heard it. It was the tinkling, jingling bells that fatty had been beating him with. Every step he took, there they were. He didn’t go in for superstition, but he wasn’t deaf. He’d just killed a man that looked like Santa, and now he was hearing phantom jingle-bells? This was nuts. He quickened his pace, and the sound of the bells picked up too.
He finally gained the staircase at the end of the hall. Its hydraulic arm hung dead out in the hallway, so when he banged it open and ran through, it banged shut on the ricochet from the wall. The door closed for just a second, but it was long enough to catch the end of the velvet ribbon that had attached itself to Fitch’s leg, which in turn threw him off balance, and though he pinwheeled valiantly, he still pitched headlong down the stairs.
He landed in a broken heap at the bottom of the landing, his useless, empty pistol had clattered to a rest well out of arms’ reach. Looking up, he saw the tail of jingle-bells still caught in the door.
As the voices of the cops coming up the stairs grew louder, he had time to think, before he passed out, Bumblefuck? Damn. That’s about right.