If you're familiar with Smitty who know he wasn't always a killer. So what got him started? Wouldn't it be curious to read about his very first professional 'hit?'
I thought so. So I wrote and entitled it, 'First Kill.'
And remember me talking, in the last post, about surprise endings? Uh huh . . . well . . .
The story (you'll have to go over to the right and get both collections of Smitty stories to fill in the gaps) begins only hours after the incident which made a guy once called Johnny turn into a creature called Smitty. You'll find that story--about Johnny turning into Smitty--in a story called, "There is No Johnny. Just call me Smitty." (you can find it in Volume One of the series here)
So here's 'First Kill.' Hope you like it.
He was the only customer in the bar.
Just him and a kid for a bar tender.
Sitting in a both in the far corner, back against the wall, a cold glass of beer sitting on the table in front of him. As he sat staring at the glass huge beads of condensation slowly slid down the dirty glass in some kind of hypnotic trance. Just him and the kid. No jukebox playing. No radio blaring. The silence of this man-made tomb broken gently by the soft hiss of city traffic moving back and fourth on the city street outside.
The kid was humped over the bar resting his head on a propped elbow, working today's crossword puzzle in the New York Times. He looked bored. He looked too young to be working in a bar. Especially this kind of bar.
Reaching for his beer a thin snarl of a smile played across the lips of the dark eyed man. The place was exactly the same as it was the first time he saw it. Nothing had changed. Even the three-tiered rack of booze behind the kid looked exactly the same. To the right of the bar was a dark, urine stained hallway leading back to the restrooms. From his booth he could see the same smashed in indention in the far wall where some drunk, ten years ago, got angry and threw a punch at him in a drunken stupor.
Nothing had changed.
Except . . . maybe. Him.
Ten years ago today he began his current career. Contracted out his first kill. Sitting in this very booth. Ten years ago today . . .
He was sitting in a bar. Some bar he stumbled into after dumping his wife off at the railroad tracks. After . . . after.
Grabbing the glass of beer sitting on the table in front of him he tossed the liquid down with one gulp and glanced at the black man standing behind the bar. The man nodded and turned to reach for another glass.
His guts rolled. His hands shook. He could hardly breathe. He had almost done it. Almost slapped a fresh clip into his .45. Almost blew her brains out. The bitch. The whore. All these years. All these years!
Playing him like a patsy. Yet really in love with his twin brother. The two of them. Screwing behind his back. Taking money out of their joint back account. Laughing at him all this time.
Just by chance he discovered their little game. On the spur of the moment standing in front of bank teller and asking her to write down how much money was in the bank account. When the girl slid the paper with the amount written on it with a clean, feminine hand, he almost blacked out. Almost retched.
Thirty thousand dollars! Gone.
Driving home in filled with a furious, black anger, he found them. Found them on the living room divan. Screwing each other. Like rats. Like hyenas.
Something happened to him. Something died. Snapped like a twig. Disconnected. He wasn't furious any more. He wasn't angry. Well . . . not the type of anger he was used to. He was cold. His mind was sharp. Clear. Like a frigid, cloudless Artic morning. Colors were bright. Almost glowing in their brilliance. His hearing somehow became more acute. Standing on the lawn, watching the two rut like feral pigs on the living room divan, he could actually hear them. Hear them giggling. Hear them whispering to each other. Hear the lovemaking.
It was if he was standing on the lawn watching his brother and wife . . . yet . . . somehow . . . he was watching himself standing on the lawn watching the two making love. Feeling the sun on the back of his neck. Idly aware that behind him his neighbor was standing on the drive with a lawn hose in his hand, puffing on a cigarette as he watered the green grass.
But he it was him watching himself. Yet . . . strangely . . . it was not him. It was someone else. Someone different.
Someone who wanted to be called Smitty for the rest of his life.
He almost killed them. Came within a fraction of an inch of killing his brother with a tire iron. Dragged his wife into the car and drove out to some desolate, abandoned railroad track and put a gun to her head. Pulled the trigger twice on the .45 caliber Colt.
Both time the hammer fell on an empty chamber.
For some reason . . . some reason he couldn't fathom . . . he didn't slap in an ammo clip into the handle of the gun. Made sure he didn't jack a round into the firing chamber.
Glancing up his eyes fell on the plate glass door of the bar's entrance. She came in through the door like a sudden gust of wind. Came in dressed in a blue summer dress with a red leather belt around her narrow waist. Sandy blond hair wind blown. A tanned goddess of stunning beauty. Looking remarkably like his wife.
Yet a woman with fear clearly written all over her.
Yes. He remembered. His first contract. His first kill.
She hurried into the bar, glanced at him sitting in the very same booth he was sitting now, and then turned her attention toward the bar tender. His was an older man back then. Bald man. Black as coal with startling white teeth. Named Val. Val Arthur. Knew everyone in this town. Or, at least, knew everyone who worked on the other side of the tracks. Worked their trade in the night and hidden from the prying eyes of the cops.
That's why she was here. To talk to Val. She wanted to hire someone. Someone only Val would know. Someone with a specialty.
She hurried to the bar and leapt onto a barstool with one knee and leaned over close to Val's ear. Val hadn't even looked up when she came hurrying into the place. Standing at the bar drying shot glasses, towel in hand, he leaned an ear closer to the beautiful woman's lips but kept drying the shot glass in his hands.
"Did you find him? Did you find out how much he wants?"
"I found'em," the bar tender nodded, his voice a soft Jamaican accent. "He not in'trested."
"But . . . but he has to be! I mean . . . I mean, if he doesn't help me who will?"
"No can help you, missy. He says he don't know you from Adam. Won't touch your money."
She looked devastated. Crushed. Her eyes tearing up and threatening to spill over. Pale as a fresh wrappings of a newly entombed mummy. She slumped down on the barstool and stared off into the distance. Val, the bartender, glanced up once at her and then down at the towel he was using to dry the shot glasses. And then glanced toward the small figure sitting alone in the booth.
"Maybe he help you," he said the woman nodding his head toward the dark eyed man. "He got the look. Bad man, missy. Bad man."
"You know him?" she whispered, leaning toward Val but unwilling to glance toward the man in the booth.
"Nope. Don't know'em. But know his type. He either a cop or a killer. Can't say which. But maybe he's your only chance. Won't hurt to talk to'em.”
She looked at Val for a moment, frowning, then turned to stare at the man sitting in the booth. Not a large man. Not a small man. With high cheek bones. A thin, straight nose. Dark brown hair. His hands were almost delicate looking. But he didn't look delicate. The way he sat in the booth . . . the way both hands wrapped around the tall glass of beer . . . and those black, black eyes.
Biting her lower lips, worry written all over her face, she glanced at Val again and then slid off the barstool. Hesitantly she took a step toward the silent man. What was she going to say to him? How was she going to say it? Should she tell me her real name? What if . . .
That's when cold black eyes came off the table and looked straight at her. Like the eyes of a King Cobra staring directly at his next meal.
"Good evening, Mrs. Sloan. Care to join me?"
The man's voice . . . a faint, soft whisper . . . like Death itself . . . physically made her jump back. Color drained from her face. She felt faint. Her heart seemed to be beating so fast she was afraid it was going to explode.
"You . . . you know me?"
A faint, cruel smile played across gray lips. And the eyes . . . the eyes so black. So bright. So intent.
"A famous actress marries the richest man in the city. A man many believe owns most of everything in the state. I doubt anyone in the city doesn't know you by now. Please. Come sit down. Let me buy a drink. Tell me what is bothering you."
She hesitated. Something in her told her to turn and run. Run as far away from this strange man as she could. Yet those eyes . . . those eyes . . . pulled her to the booth and compelled her to slide into the seat directly opposite of him. Hands worked furiously on the table in front of her. She found it difficult to breathe. To speak.
"You . . . you see, I . . . I think my husband is in trouble. Terrible danger. I . . . I think there is someone trying to kill him!"
The dark eyed man remained silent. Black eyes played across the woman's face in front of him. Played across her soft, white hands. She was nervous. She was terrified. Terrified at whatever it was which made her believe her husband was in danger. Terrified at sitting in this booth with him.
"Take a deep breath, Mrs. Sloan. Start from the beginning. Tell me everything," the dark eyed man whispered softly.
And she did.
Told him an intricate, deadly story.
Someone was blackmailing her husband. Was threatening to harm her husband's two young daughters from his first marriage if he didn't pay the three hundred thousand promised to him. Two years ago his first wife died of cancer. Or so what was said in the papers. For two years he was the only parent of two beautiful young daughters, ages eight and six. Devoted to them.
As the current Mrs. Sloan said she was. Devoted to them. To her husband. To the children. That's why she was so terrified. The man blackmailing her husband was dangerous looking. She overheard her husband and this man one night in her husband's study. Heard his accusations. Heard what he would do the children if the money wasn't paid.
In the end, when she fell silent and stared down at her hands like a young, frightened gazelle, fear gripping her soul, he knew what to do.
"I'll take care of it. I promise. Go home now. Go back to your husband. To the children. Nothing is going to happen to them, Mrs. Sloan. Nothing."
His first kill. His first hit.
Turned out to be quite simple. One night, sitting in an old pick up truck he had politely 'borrowed' from a kid, he sat underneath a large oak tree on the street leading down to the palatial estate of Barnabas Sloan. A few questions. A few inquiries and he found out who the blackmailer was.
Mrs. Sloan was quite correct. The man was a very bad man. A killer in fact who killed both for the money and for the pleasure of it. A man who didn't deserve to live. So he planned the hit. Waited patiently for the right moment. Knew from the beginning it would be successful. Even felt a growing sense of excitement as the time approached.
One night the killer visited Barnabas Sloan's home. In the early morning hours when the neighbors and servants would be asleep. It was payday for him. Sloan had given into his demands. Given in yet knowing in doing so he was trapped. The man would be back. Again and again. Demanding money.
When the dark eyed man saw the lights of the killer's automobile pull out of the gates of the Sloan estates he turned on the lights to the pickup and pulled out into the middle of the street and stopped. Getting out of the truck, leaving the door open, he walked to the front of the truck and lifted the hood just as the killer's big Ford SUV rolled to a halt behind the truck.
"Hey, get that piece of shit out of the way! I'm in a hurry!"
"Fuck you, old man! I've got troubles of my own!" Smitty yelled back from underneath the hood of the truck and sounding exactly like a teenager who had been drinking too much.
What happened next was precisely what Smitty anticipated. The killer, whom his contacts informed him had a blazing hot temper, came out of his Ford SUV in a flash. Slamming the door closed the big man strode toward the kid underneath the hood of the pickup, rolling hands into fists in the process. He was going to teach the fucking loud mouth kid a lesson! He was . . . . !
The 'kid' stepped away from the grill of the pickup. In the darkness of the early morning hour the killer thought he saw something big and bulky in the kid's hand. He heard a 'Puffft!' Felt a sharp stinging sensation in the thigh of his left leg. Looking down he saw the bulky looking syringe of a tranquilizer jutting out of his leg as he took one more step.
"Why you sonofa . . . . . "
That was it. That was the man's last words.
With a hard thump the man fell first into the pavement of the street. Dead before his face hit the asphalt. Lowering the dart gun Smitty eyed the form lying on the street between the SUV and the pickup for a moment before removing the syringe from the dead man's leg. Gently closing the hood of the old pickup, Smitty threw the dart gun into the front seat of the truck and then quietly walked back to the dead man's SUV.
In the passenger side's wide bucket seat was a plain looking athletic canvas bag. A heavy one. Three hundred thousand dollars heavy. Not touching anything in the SUV Smitty reached over and retrieved the bag and walked back to the pickup truck. Climbing in he started the old engine up and drove away.
The next day the papers had a huge headline proclaiming the death of a known criminal who apparently died of a massive coronary in the early hours of the morning. Died in the street only a few hundred yards away from the gated estate of Barnabas Sloan.
His first kill . . . .
Years had come and gone since then. Years and death. How many bodies? How many hits? Too many. Too many. Reaching for the beer in front of him paused when the kid behind the bar shook his head, grunted, and stood up.
"It's hard to believe, ain't it? I mean . . . Barnabas Sloan dead. First his wife dies. Then he remarries that bitch of a new wife. And then his two daughters die in that fire. Now he's dead. He's dead and that bitch inherits all those millions. She fooled us all, fella. Fooled us all. There ain't no justice in the world. No justice!"
The dark eyed man slid out of the booth, turned, rolled dollar bills onto the table, turned again, and started walking. Moving past the young bartender he said nothing as he walked out and into the bright light of a late afternoon. Glancing to his left and then to his right, black eyes surveying the street casually, he moves to the rear of his black
CTS Cadillac. Unlocking the rear lid of the car he lifts it
up and looks down.
She stares up at him with terror filled eyes. Gray duct tape covering her lips. Her arms and feet secured tightly with layers of gray tape. Her beautiful sandy blond hair in a rumpled mess. For a moment or two he stares down at her silently. And then, with a finality he should have done ten years ago, he lowers the lid and closes it tightly.
Yes, Mrs. Sloane. You fooled us all.
If he had been better at it, if he had taken the time to do a little more research, the children of Barnabas Sloan and Sloan himself would still be alive today. Too late to save them now, pilgrim. Too late.
But Justice could be served today. Belatedly . . .