The voice on the phone said there was a meeting he needed to go to. A car would be out front in fifteen minutes, be ready.
The caller was waiting for him at a table near the back of the restaurant. It was early, the place was empty. Tommy sat down, waited to see what this was about.
“We’d like you to go see a guy in Niagara Falls. Piece of cake—it’s all set up for you. You walk in, walk out. Only take a few minutes.”
Tommy didn’t let on he wasn’t falling for the line. “How much?”
“I’ll go thirty-five on account it’s outta town.” The look saying he was being more than reasonable.
Tommy was quiet for a bit, then said, “I’m thinking it might be worth more.”
That got him a questioning look, and raised eyebrows. “How much?”
“I think a hundred’s a better number for this one.”
The eyebrows came down, the rest of the face with it. “That’s kinda steep D. What, you treating me like I’m a tourist now?” He took a sip of his espresso, his eyes locked on Tommy’s the whole time.
Tommy asked, “This guy at the Falls, he one of us?”
He shrugged his shoulders, “What difference it make who it is?”
“It makes a big difference if it’s who I think it is.”
Guy gave Tommy a look, said, “And here I thought I was doing you a favor, sending work your way. Maybe you don’t need it.”
Tommy shrugged—he grew tired of doing their dirty work for peanuts a long time ago. He did a lot of jobs for them in his early years for next to nothing—paid his dues, hoping to earn their respect. After a while, he got tired of chasing respect and decided he’d be better off asking for more money. He learned the hard way—you let them think you were a pushover, give them the wrong impression about who you were, you’d never get paid for what you did.
Tommy said, “I’m thinking this guy in the hotel might be somebody important—somebody might be missed by people that matter.”
The man was quiet for a bit, then said, “Fuhgeddaboudit, we never had this conversation.”
“Hey, it don’t matter to me. I’ll do the job—I just don’t want to get stiffed. This ain’t just some guy you want to get rid of, am I right?”
The guy smiled like he’d just been playing games. Now the bullshit part was over. “You always were the smart one D, not like those other guys do this kinda work. That’s why I called you. I got no problem paying a bit more, but this needs to be done quiet, you understand? No one can know why it happened … or who wanted it done. Capisce?”
“Don’t worry, I already forgot I saw you today.”
“A hundred’s a lot of cash. How ’bout seventy-five? Things been kinda slow lately—people don’t come in like they used to.” He looked around the empty restaurant.
The place wasn’t even open yet, and Tommy knew the guy’s money didn’t come from the restaurant, but he didn’t bring it up. He was in and out quick when he did a job—only amateurs hung around to make speeches or gloat.
“He’ll be in the penthouse suite, room 2700 at the Fallsview Casino Resort, corner suite. It’s all set up for day after tomorrow, ten-thirty in the morning.”
“I just walk up and knock on the door?”
“There’ll be a girl with him. She’ll let you in.”
“Un-huh. And what do I do with her?” Tommy knew all along there had to be more to it—the guy agreed to seventy-five too quick.
“Whatever you want, D. The girl’s not a concern to nobody. Fifty now, the rest later. We good?”
“We’re good.” Tommy started to get up. A hand came out, held him there.
“One more thing. I got a favor to ask. It’s for a friend of mine, but you’d be helping me out if you took care of it for me.”
Tommy was already pretty sure he wasn’t going to like it. “What kinda favor?”
“This friend of mine, he’s got a nephew could use someone to show him the ropes. Kid’s got a lot of nerve, but he’s impulsive—does things without thinking, keeps getting in trouble. You know how it is.”
Now Tommy knew for sure he wasn’t going to like this, run around with some punk, wet behind the ears. “You know I’ve been working alone for a long time. I’d like to help, but—”
The guy held up a hand, the look on his face more serious than it was a minute ago. “I guess you missed the part where I said I was asking as a favor.” The look he gave Tommy saying he didn’t want to hear No.
Tommy sat back. “Jesus. For how long?”
“Two, three weeks … a month at most.”
Tommy looked down, rubbing his forehead with his left hand, then looked up. “Two weeks tops. This kid puts me in a spot … I’m going to pop him. You understand?”
“Hey, somebody puts you in a spot—that’s a different thing. If it’s a case of him or you, you do what you got to do.”
“Okay. As long as we’re clear on that. Most punks got a short life expectancy in this business—they end up getting busted or dead.”
The guy nodded. “I owe you one. Vinny’s got something for you in the car.”
Tommy got up, followed Vinny back to the car for the ride home.
The Italians called him D on account of his last name was DeCarlo, from his adopted parents. No one knew his real name. These wise guys drove big fancy cars, wore expensive suits. They’d been dangling the carrot for years, saying he could be a made guy one day, he did enough jobs for them. Tommy knew it wasn’t going to happen. His adopted father was Italian, but he wasn’t blood. Tommy felt in his gut his real parents were Italian, but couldn’t prove it. The Italians put a lot of stock in blood.
Back in his hotel room now, Tommy looked over to the dresser where a bottle of single malt sat waiting, whispering to him, saying it was time for a drink. Unlike other people, Tommy knew why he drank. He drank because he needed to forget. He thought, sure, I’ll have one.
On his second drink now, thinking about the job, he knew the girl would be young. She’d probably be scared too, even if they told her all she had to do was open the door for a bunch of money. What Tommy needed to worry about—would the guy notice the girl was nervous? You didn’t get old in this business missing signs.
Tommy started planning the job, saw himself walking into the fancy casino wearing his dark blue suit. He had three, but they were all tight on him when he buttoned them up. He was swollen and bloated from too much drink and lack of exercise. The blue one looked conservative on him, would make him look like he slipped out of the office for a few minutes. He figured no one would notice him, place like that, people spending their rent money hoping to win big. Most never did.
* * *
The girl was the picture of cool and detached when she opened the door—like she was letting an old friend into her house. Maybe she was too stupid to be scared, or maybe she thought someone was protecting her. She was tall and shapely, looked about eighteen, with long blond hair hanging down past her shoulders. She looked at him, turned and did a sexy walk back to the bedroom—left the door open for him to come in. He heard her say something, then he heard the shower come on.
Tommy walked over to the wall of windows, took in the nice view of the Falls. He stood to the side, by the open curtain and turned to face the room.
The guy came out of the bedroom a minute later, wearing one of the hotel’s housecoats—bright white against dark skin. Tommy had guessed right. The guy was somebody. He was one of the casino owners—a silent partner. He looked Tommy’s way, squinting to shield his eyes from the glare coming through the windows. It took a few seconds before the look on his face changed, recognition setting in. They’d never met, but the guy knew who Tommy was.
He asked, in a thick Italian accent, “How’d you get in?”
The answer came to him, and he looked toward the bedroom and the sound of the shower in the ensuite, then back to Tommy.
“You gonna tell me who I got to thank for this?”
“I think you know.”
“Coglione. Fucking partners.”
Tommy nodded. The guy wasn’t stupid, and he wasn’t going to beg for mercy or lose his dignity after figuring it out.
“I don’t suppose we could make a deal?”
Tommy shrugged. “You know how it is.”
The old man cursed, “It’s that fat son-of-a-bitch owns the restaurant in Toronto, isn’t it.”
Tommy nodded, raked the slide back and put one in the chamber. It was time. He pointed the gun and pulled the trigger. Just one—that’s all Tommy ever needed.
Walking into the bedroom, he could hear the shower running beyond the closed door. When he pulled the shower curtain aside, the girl turned to face him, her body glistening wet.
“You all done?”
Tommy said, “Not quite.” He watched her expression change when he pointed the gun at her. Funny how so many of them didn’t see it coming. What happens when you don’t see the signs.
Shoot or Die – available on Amazon
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