When Joe turned to leave the small, dim lit room, he knew he had about three steps until a bullet would tear apart his back. Even though he knew it, he still had to turn around and walk. Maybe it was the years of being in the business, but Joe swore he could hear the gun rubbing against the soft inside pocket of the other man’s jacket as it was being pulled out.
Joe simply let his knees give out so the first bullet would go by him. It hit a picture and sent glass and tiny wood splinters into the air. Before Joe could reach his gun and counter shoot, he sensed the man was going to fire again. Sometimes in these tense situations, people would freeze up if they missed. It wasn’t like the movies where triggers were easy to pull. Joe had nothing against this man and this man had nothing against Joe; they were just both doing a job. It sometimes took people hours to prepare to take that one shot and when they miss, it confuses them. Especially since Joe dropped before the shot, giving away that he knew it was coming.
But this guy, he must have watched too many of those gangster movies. His finger was like a magnet against the trigger.
Joe launched himself forward. The second shot missed. He threw himself up with his hands and sprinted behind a pillar in the room as shot three flew by and shot four hit the post. The post shook and the wood seemed to moan in pain.
Chances were the guy was just taking shots, hoping to get lucky with one of them. If he had to go back to Mr. Ronald without finishing a job, he’d get killed. On the spot. No questions asked.
The same didn’t hold true for Joe since he was the one who was supposed to be pinched off.
Joe was amazed at the stupidity of his boss, Mr. Ronald. Heistin’, robbin’, murderin’, pinchin’ – whatever anyone wanted to call it – there was a simple rule or question to ask before completing a job. . . “what’s in it for me?”
If the answer is nothing, it was pretty much given that you’re going to get whacked. Joe knew that better than anyone; he had sent plenty of guys on jobs that had no point other than the person never coming back. So when Mr. Ronald asked Joe to deliver a briefcase to this guy in a dark room at the end of town, he was concerned.
When Mr. Ronald told Joe he wasn’t allowed to see the contents of the briefcase, and when he said it, he looked away while shaking his ice cubes in his drink, Joe knew he was being set up.
Joe wasn’t afraid of death or dying, he knew his time would come. He was thrown back as to why Mr. Ronald was going to pinch him off. Sure, Joe was in his forties, but age doesn’t dictate capabilities. Joe had just proved it by dodging bullets from this guys gun. The guy Mr. Ronald was paying to whack Joe.
Joe knew how to play the game. One, never ask questions. Two, never turn around – just assume. If you ask questions, you die. If you turn around, you’ve wasted your one second of free time to move from the bullet. And if the bullet wasn’t from behind, by the time you turned back around, the bullet would be eating your heart. And if there was no bullet at all, front or back, you were just too damn paranoid to be heisting.
In Joe’s case, he risked turning because he knew this guy was an amateur. An amateur with terrible aim. Joe took a small handgun from his waste band and shot three random shots. He was hoping to scare the guy and get him to run out of the room and leave.
Instead, the guy returned with another shot into the wooden post.
Joe turned to his right and dove forward. He heard the pop of the gun and closed his eyes hoping he wouldn’t feel that terrible burning sting of a bullet. He ended up landing behind a couch. Two more shots hit the couch. Puffs of cotton shot into the air. Joe raised his gun and shot three times. He heard the guy move and then heard him yell.
A fake yell.
The guy dropped to his knees with an overzealous thud and he hit his gun a few times off the floor.
Just like the movies.
Joe was pissed now. This wasn’t a movie, this was real life. And if this guy was going to replace him on Mr. Ronald’s crew, it was nothing more than an insult.
Joe reached behind and felt something. Soft. Cushiony. He slowly lifted it into the air so it would appear like he was standing up. As soon as the not-so-dead guy caught a glimpse, he’d start shooting again. The pillow didn’t even make it a quarter of the way above the back of the couch and it went flying out of Joe’s hands as three bullets took it for a ride.
Taking a chance, Joe jumped up and shot three times at the man. He was able to roll out of the way and under a table. Joe took another shot at the floor – who knows, maybe it’d be like the movies and the bullet would somehow bounce and hit the guy. No such luck.
Joe stepped over the couch with ease keeping his eyes at the table. He could see the guy’s shadow huddled under it. He slowly moved left and was hoping to get around the table and shoot the guy in the back. Let him see what it’s like.
Before he could move to the end of the couch, Joe saw a shaky, silver gun move out from underneath the table.
Joe smiled. The guy had no idea what he was doing. Joe reached to the end of the table and pulled the lamp shade off the lamp on the end table. He moved with precision and stealth. He kept his legs locked and made sure they didn’t move. The guy under the table was looking for sound or movement. Joe tossed the lamp shade to his right and it hit the floor with a soft sound. The guy under the table pulled the trigger and Joe ran and circled the table.
He reached under the table and shot two times. Then he felt something that made him shiver. Something metal touching his neck. Then he heard the sound of someone laughing. He turned and was face to face with the guy and looking at the tip of the gun. The guy smiled and let out a long, well deserved sigh. Joe at that point had decided maybe it was time to retire. And in his business, retirement meant death. He had been around death since he was a kid – most of it not natural death – so it did not bother him that this guy was going to shoot him. It didn’t bother him that he didn’t know the guys name. It did bother him that he’d take to his grave a wondering of why Mr. Ronald pinched him off.
The best kills were the ones without words. They just happened. Again, unlike the movies.
Joe watched as the gun shook in the guy’s hand. He was afraid to pull the trigger. He hesitated because he knew that a flick of his finger would take Joe’s head and make it mush. That hesitation allowed Joe to raise his gun.
Two guns. Two different men.
Joe didn’t want to stand there and take forever to pull the trigger like they did in the movies. There wasn’t time for it. He pulled the trigger without blinking and without remorse.
Joe felt his face lose all color. His mind began to take an imaginary crayon and draw back his steps from first shot to last. Twelve shots. Twelve bullets. None left. He thought about the last two shots under the table that hit nothing but floor. Those could have been the two bullets buried in this guy’s chest right now.
Joe closed his eyes and waited for the bullet. Instead, he heard a click.
Opening his eyes, Joe saw the guys face. It was white. Empty.
The guy looked like he was in deep thought. Joe knew the look. He was planning. He was going to make Joe a counter offer. An offer to truce and go after Mr. Ronald for setting them up. Of course he’d say the word ‘them’ because he wouldn’t want Joe to know the offer was only so Joe didn’t kill him and because the guy had no other way to kill Joe.
While the guy was thinking, Joe pulled a second hand gun from his waistband and shot the guy three times in the chest. The guy fell slow with his face still in a thinking pose.
Joe stuck both guns back into his waistband and started to leave when the briefcase caught his eye. It was against the rules to look, but since Joe was supposed to be dead, what did it matter? Joe opened the case and saw it was packed with cash.
Joe closed the briefcase, turned and saluted the fresh corpse, and left. He estimated at least a hundred thousand in the case which would give him plenty of time to figure something out. Or maybe load up on bullets for a little pre-retirement rampage.
Short bio: Visit Jim’s writers blog at www.writersnwriters.blogspot.com – visit his personal blog at www.wizworld.wordpress.com – and visit his podcasting blog to hear some of his stories, novellas, and novels at www.jimcast.wordpress.com. Jim writes short stories, novellas, novels, and poetry. . . and music. Listen to some of his new songs at www.1album1month.wordpress.com. When he isn’t writing, he is thinking about writing.