October Moon

By

Joe Ciano

Ol’ Yeller

     The scent of the bar was the first thing I noticed. It’s like a punch of cigarettes and bourbon. I was early for the job and took a seat. The client told me he’d be wearing light blue jeans and a brown-stripped polo shirt. He wasn’t there yet, and that was fine by me. The establishment itself was nice enough, with billiards tables in the back and a nice crowd of people. A younger crowd than I had been expecting. The building wore its history on its wall. Newspaper headlines about Pearl Harbor. An oil painting of Theodore Roosevelt. The crowd of young professionals almost seemed out of place. In a strange way I imagined that in a fifty years, clippings of Iraq and Obama would become the Pearl Harbors and Roosevelts of yesterday. In that moment, I prayed I would be dead by then.

     “What’ll it be?” The barkeep finally asked me. He was an older man, probably fifty years older than anyone there. He seemed well esteemed and in a way stoic. The hardships that lined the walls of the bar could have been endured by the man who had asked me for a drink. But then again, it was my first time.

     “A Blue Moon.” I slide a five across the table. The drink seemed fitting for that night, the second full moon of October.

     “Coming right up.” He said and left to get my beer. 

     At that moment I noticed the client walk through the wooden door, brown-stripped polo and all. He seemed calm, which was a nice change of pace. Most are nervous. He took a seat a few tables behind me, and watched men in business suits ogle girls out of their league. He was waiting for me.

     The barkeep came back with my beer. The glass was cold, almost numbing, yet I didn’t feel a thing.

     “Aren’t ya gonna take those off?” The barkeep asked me. I was wearing gloves. It was a cold night in October.

     “Prefer to keep them on, actually.” I took another sip of my beer. “It’s a bit chilly tonight.”

     The barkeep nodded and went about his business.

     From the mirror on the liquor rack, I could see the client take out his cell phone and check the time. He seemed either impatient or nervous, or maybe he just wanted to get it over with. Either way I thought it would be best to get started. I took my beer and made my way over to the table.

     “Mr. Williams?” I asked. He looked up from the table and chuckled.

     “Well I was getting worried. Almost didn’t think you’d show up,” he said. He was younger than I expected. A twenty-something that had his whole life ahead of him.

     “Your deposit cleared last night.” I said to him. “So how would you like to get started?”

     “You,” He stuttered for a moment. “You mind if we wait for a second? I’m not quite ready to go yet.”

     “Certainly.” This didn’t shock me. People like talking. It makes them feel better about it I suppose.

     “Tell me, Jesus, I don’t even know your name. How fucked up is that?”

     “Warren will do.” I tell him.

     “Warren? what the hell kind of name is that?”

     “The kind that’s fake.”

     The client exhaled. The alcohol on his breath could have started a fire.

     “Have you been drinking?” 

     “Been? Shit, I haven’t stopped in four months. Tell me, have you ever been in love?”

     His question took me by surprise. No one ever got that personal. “Why do you ask?”

     “Liza, that bitch.” He stumbled as he got up from the table and I caught him. He placed his arm on my shoulder. “Love that fucking bitch.”

     “Maybe you’ve had a bit too much to drink.” I put him back in his chair.

     “You don’t understand. I love her.” He grabbed my collar and whispered “Listen man, I’m gonna go get some air.” He patted me on the back. “Meet me outside.” The client awkwardly moved to the back door, bumping into every table along the way.

     After he left I went back to the bar. “Another one.” I told the barkeep.

     “It’s nice of you to help out your friend.” He said as he dropped off another one.

     “Oh I don’t know him. He just caught my ear.”

     “Well he seemed pretty shitty.” The barkeep polished his glass.

     “He’s just having a rough time. Something about love.” I told him. Something about love.

     I finished the beer in five minutes and left out the front door. The client was leaning against the dumpster out back. He gave me the strangest smile.

     “Oh well if it isn’t you,” he said looking up at me.

     “Control yourself, or I’m out of here.” The job was supposed to be discrete. He wasn’t supposed to show up and create a scene.

     His mood went from happy to upset as quick as only drunk’s mood could change. “Hey I don’t fucking need you.” He told me. The defiance on his face was like a little kid disobeying his mother.

     “If you could do this on your own, you wouldn’t have called me.” The drunken silliness and defiance became somber. He knew I was right. He had reached the end of his line.

     “We, we did everything together.” He didn’t look at me. He stare was against the brick wall across from him. I think he could have looked at anything and it wouldn’t have mattered. “You tell yourself that there will be time. Oh I’ll tell her tomorrow, or Friday. Friday, I’ll bring flowers and tell her I love her. Oh I’ll wait till she breaks up with her boyfriend. It’ll only be a month, a year, two years.”

     “Did you tell her you loved her?”

     “I’d give anything to have her look at me like that. Like I was something more that what I am, which is nothing.”

     “Did you tell her you loved her?” I don’t know why I asked the second time.

     “Never got a chance. Her wedding invitation came in the mail four months ago. She doesn’t love me.”

     “Stand up.” I pulled the pistol out from my jacket pocket. The silencer was already screwed on.

     The client got to his feet. He didn’t look me in the eye.

     “You ready?” I lifted the gun to his head.

     “Before I go.” The client’s knees shook. “You never told me what you loved.”

     “The Mona Lisa.” I told him.

     He chuckled. “Well don’t wait too long. The Mona Lisa ain’t gonna be around forever.” He closed his eyes. “Cindi…”

     The silencer turned his cry of agony into a whimper. The dead man fell to the floor. All was quiet in a city eight million.

     I left the behind the bar and went for a walk down the street. The air was as cold and crisp as the leaves gathering on the side of the street.

     A vibration came from my pocket. I pulled out my phone and answered it. “Hello.”

     “Hello.” The voice said back. It was soft.

     “What can I do you for you, miss?”

     “I,” She pauses for a second. “I have need for…for a favor. I was just wondering,”

     I cut her off. “Miss, people don’t call this number by accident.” I told her. “How can I be of service to you?”

 

The Goodnight Kiss

I knocked on the door. It had been an hour since the woman called. The walk had taken long than expected, but I didn’t mind. I always liked the fall. I look down at the scribbled address. Apartment 810. A chill shivered down my spine. I told myself it was from the walk outside and not from the dead man lying behind the bar. You can do something a million times but the nerve never goes away. It just dulls a bit, like a butcher knife that’s cleaved too much bone. I knocked on the door again. The door creaks for a second, like her voice over the phone. I couldn’t see it, but I knew she was checking the peephole. She was scared.

     The door opened. The woman from the phone call answered. Her voice was calmer now. “Would you like to come in?”

     “Yes please.”

 I walked in. None of the windows were open in the apartment although looking around calling it an apartment didn’t really give the place any real justice. Penthouse seemed more appropriate. The place was furnished to an extreme. Paintings not prints. All the sofas looked unnatural. It was flawless. Everything was too perfect. The place felt less like a home and more like a fake display in a store.

“Is-is there anything I can get you?” She was nervous. Stunningly good looking, but not the kind bought through means of cosmetic surgery. There was a familiar charm to her. Fair skin, deep dark black hair. She was a portrait of classic beauty. She was elegant as the moon, which shined through the window overlooking central park. New York in autumn.

     “I’m not sure of that would be a good idea.”     She had manners, knew how to treat a guest.

“Please. I insist,” she said as she poured a glass of wine. One for me and her.

     “Ok.” I agreed against my better judgment. I didn’t like drinking so much, especially when I was on the job. The two beers from the bar hadn’t left yet. And there’s a fine line between losing edge and recklessness. I held the wine glass firmly. My gloved hand struggled feel the fine texture of the crystal. It was no substitute for real contact.

     “Italian,” she said noticing my admiration of the glass. She seemed to be woman of wonderful taste.    

“But of course.” There was a craftsmanship to the glass, the kind of art that’s all around us yet we never really notice.

I noticed her fiddle with her ring. “You married?”

“Engaged. A few months. I don’t love him.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No I am. I don’t know why I’m telling you these things,” she admitted.

“Please, don’t feel bad. This sort of thing happens more often than you think.” At that moment I realized that I was far to deep into this. I was there to do my job and leave. Nothing more. “How do you want to do this?”

     “You want to get to business so soon?” She sipped her wine not looking at me. Her gaze was instead focused on the lovely night sky. She was upset. Understandably.

     “I’d prefer not to drag this thing out. You understand?” I had a sinking feeling inside. That scared me a bit.      

“Yes…yes, you’re right.” She placed the glass down and took seat on the sofa. “Would you care to join me?” She motioned for me to sit.

     I sat across from her, fully leaning back against the leather. The sofa was like sitting on a cloud. She did her best to act comfortable.

“So shall we talk price?” She asked.

     I sipped the wine, doing my best not to touch the glass to my lips. The taste was sweet compared to the beer from the bar.

     “I was thinking around $20,000.” She said. “Wired to an account of your choosing, of course. I understand your need to keep things-”

     “$50,000.” I took another sip of the wine. She was talking a lot. Over compensating for the fact that she doesn’t know what she’s doing. There was something naively wonderful in that.

“$50,000?”

     “Miss, I offer a service. One that is not easily found.” I placed the glass down. “There are an number of risks you’re asking me to take. I don’t usually do house calls” Or two jobs in one night. But her voice over the phone had a sense of urgency to it. She told me it could not wait until tomorrow.

“Yes. You’re right.” She picked up the laptop from the table. For a moment she typed.

     “Your account?” She asked. I hand her a business card. A moment later she shuts the computer and hands the card back to me. She stood up and downed the rest of her wine. “There. It’s done.”

     “Any preferences?” I reached into my jacket pocket for the pistol.

     “Not the face.” she said. “Anywhere but there.”

     My hand remained in my pocket. “You understand that the head would be-“

     “Just not the head!” she yelled. Despite the fact that I wanted to make this merciful, the client was always right.

     “Ok then.”  I left the pistol in my jacket. My stomach knotted. “How do you want to do this?”

     She grabbed the wine bottle and whipped it against the wall. The bottle burst, leaving broken glass scattered across the penthouse. She then tossed the wine glass across hitting the painting, shattering the glass and knocking the frame to the floor.

     “You understand?” she asked of me.

     I nodded as I kicked over her coffee table. She handed me a knife from the kitchen and I left a slash in the sofa, the stroke slicing through the leather skin. “Is that good enough?”

     “Yes, that should be convincing.” She said. She moved towards me. She struggled to speak. Mouth was open but no words could come out. It was her eyes that told the story. Brown, full of longing and bad choices. “It’s just that…I don’t want to go…”

     “No one ever wants to go alone.” I said back. I placed my hand on her face, lifting her head towards mine.

     She kissed me. Passionately, like she would long lost lover.    

     “Is this what death taste like?” She asked me sweetly.

     I plunged the knife in her stomach. She gasped, struggling to make a sound. Drowning above water. She grasped my arm looking for support. I pulled her close. I wanted to tell her that it would be over soon, that it wasn’t all for nothing, that the life she lived mattered. I didn’t and twisted the knife deeper. She breathed softly and slowly until her life had left her and spilled onto the carpet. I pulled the knife out and kissed her goodnight.

 

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