The fat man slid a small fold of paper across the desk to me, his fingernails as shiny as the mahogany desktop. I picked up the slip, memorized the address, crumpled it and popped it into my mouth. After a few dramatic chews, I swallowed loudly. The big man smiled. He always loved that part.
“This hit’ll be a snap, Moran,” the fat man said. “It’s just a citizen.”
By citizen, of course, he meant some ordinary Joe not involved in our world of gambling and drugs and love-for-hire. And by hit he meant, well, hit. That’s what I do. I hit people. And when I hit ’em, they never hit back. I’m good, too, and because I am, I get paid pretty decent money for my services. Usually by the fat guy in the overstuffed Naugahyde chair across the desk.
I hadn’t done a hit for the fat man in six months, and I was surprised when he called me. The last one—a small-time hood with big-time aspirations named Toscano—hadn’t gone as smoothly as mine usually do. Toscano had sneezed just as I pulled my trigger. The bullet rode across the top of his brain instead of through it, sending him into a coma. I had to go to the hospital a week later to finish the job. I knew the fat man wasn’t pleased.
“This one’s a favor for a friend,” the fat man said.
I dabbed a speck of drool from the corner of my mouth with my little finger. “Don’t matter to me. Less I know, happier I am.”
“Well, she lives alone, I do know that. Ain’t got no husband or boyfriend or nothin’.”
So, it was a dame. I nodded and stood up. I preferred not to have prolonged conversations about my jobs.
“Usual amount?” I asked.
“Of course, but there’s one more thing.” He sat back and steepled his fingers. “It’s gotta be tonight.”
That didn’t really present a problem, but I decided to press my advantage. “Don’t give me much time to get ready.”
“I promised the guy. Like I said, he’s a friend. A good friend.”
“I gotta charge extra, then,” I said. “You know, like the post office when you want it delivered overnight.”
The big man laughed and all three of his chins jiggled. “Is that right? How much?”
I pushed back the bill of my ball cap, crossed my arms and gazed at the ceiling, pretending I was calculating. He and I had been through this routine before. “Ten large.”
He shook his head, but his smile stayed. “Four.”
“Seven-five,” I said and stuck out my hand. After a brief hesitation, the fat man shook it.
“But it better be tonight.”
He walked over to the safe in the wall behind the desk, checked me over his shoulder, and then dialed the combination. The heavy door swung open with a muffled whoosh and I could see stacks of cash piled all the way to the front. The big man lifted out one wrapped pack of bills and shut the safe. He turned and tossed the money to me. “There’s half. You going up north to your cabin after, as usual?”
“Three days, like always. I’ll be back Sunday for the other half.”
“Don’t worry,” I said. “Tell your friend it’s in the bag, so to speak.”
“In the bag! That’s a good one, Moran. I like that.”
“Yeah,” I said, then walked out of the office.
The address the fat man gave me was an apartment complex in Bay Ridge, not far from the entrance ramp to the Verrazano Bridge. Across the narrows, Staten Island was lit up in the orange-pink glow of sunset. I parked across the street and waited for it to get full dark. The apartment building was part of a cluster of medium-rent, three-story walk-ups; the kind that tried to sound upscale by calling themselves a “community.” This was the type of place where your average, unmarried working stiffs came home to their cocker spaniels and television sets and convinced themselves they had meaningful lives.
I slouched in the seat and adjusted the rearview mirror so I could watch the building. I knew my mark lived on the top floor. Not long after I’d arrived, a light had come on in the window. I didn’t usually hit dames, and the first couple of times I found it hard, but I guess I’m like doctors and nurses who have to see blood and people’s guts all day. You get used to anything after a while. And, anyway, I figured if someone was willing to pay so much to have her done, she must deserve it.