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“I’m a writer, not a killer.”

Perhaps I should have said that when I first met Sal. Then I wouldn’t be in this basement learning how to mix chemicals and saw off shotguns. The thought of sawing shotguns made me wince, and I looked down at my left hand, the hastily wrapped bandage still seeping blood.

“Hey, look, I’m sorry,” Sal said, when he saw me look at the hand. “The saw slipped. Sometimes it happens. You gotta watch out for these old saws. Sometimes, they slip, especially when they get old and rusty.

“It’s good you learn that lesson early.”

A rusted saw? Even better. Why not get a side of tetanus to go with this new life I ordered. 

Sal returned to his mixtures of poisons, while I stirred the pot with my right hand, trying not to think about how I got into this mess. 

“The best part of this mixture, is that it’s completely untraceable,” Sal called to me over his shoulder. “It’s the Sal Special. If the cops know what they’re looking for, they might find it. But it looks so much like a heart attack, no one thinks to look for it. 

“But you know about making things look like an accident, don’t you?” 

Sal let go a hearty laugh and reached for the paprika. 

“Paprika?” I asked curiously.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “I forgot I wasn’t making dinner. I got to make sure I clean up real good before I start making our dinner later.” 

He put the Paprika back, and watched his mixture. 

“How you doing on the other stuff?”

I set down the stirring spoon and looked at the green gunk. 

“It’s green,” I said.

“You can turn the heat on now, but don’t breathe any of it, or you’ll be dead before you can call 911.”

I turned to him with what was probably a look of horror, and whined “I can’t breathe it? And you’re just now telling me?”

Sal laughed a full, throaty laugh. “Nah, I’m just yanking your chain. But you really don’t want to get any on you. It will burn.”

I wasn’t sure whether to believe him or not, so I just grunted and turned back to the pot. I picked up the wooden spoon to give it another stir, and noticed the handle only remained. The end of the spoon I had been using to stir was gone, only a smoldering nub remaining. I threw the rest of the spoon in the pot and turned the heat on medium.

I sighed and walked over to the ratty couch, sitting under the basement window. Sunlight sneaked in around the cobwebs and exoskeletal remains of bugs from years of uncleanliness. 

I thought back to my previous life, one that was somewhat normal only three days ago. Well, normal for me, lately. My real previous life was when I was working at a newspaper, traveling the state to cover various sporting events, from major college football to junior tennis tournaments. 

But that life has been over for a while, with newspapers continually circling the drain. My more recent normal life was a constant string of unfulfilling but ultimately low-paying jobs that satisfied neither my bills nor my zest for life. 

So that normal life was still with me three nights ago, as I stared at a blank computer screen after hours of applying for jobs. Despite spending the night with my faithful friend Johnnie Walker, I couldn’t find any sleep. So I went walking around in the early morning, looking for inspiration. 

I had been walking a while, trying to avoid eye contact or anything of the sort, when I saw and old lady struggling to carry a package. It was a large black reusable grocery bag, and it appeared to be pretty heavy, because she kept setting it down after every few steps. She only had one hand free, the other clutching her walking cane. 

Might as well do some good for somebody, I told myself, and walked over to her. 

“Hello ma’am,” I said as I approached, smiling broadly. “Can I help you with your bag?”

In hindsight, I should have made sure she heard me before reaching for the bag, because before I knew it, she swung her cane at my head, and I felt a sharp “thwack” as the metal conked against my skull.

“You can’t have my money,” she shrieked, delivering several thwacks to my head, while pulling heavily on the bag. 

I released the bag to raise my hands to cover my head and protect myself from the repeated blows. Apparently, the sudden lack of tension from me releasing the bag caused her to stumble, and she toppled into an alleyway and down a flight of stairs. Several thumps of her body against the stairs later, she lay dead at the bottom of the stairs, her bag’s contents falling out everywhere. Merely a few groceries and a pocketbook.

I stood there smarting from my head wounds, feeling the lumps on my head, and trying to figure out what happened. I rubbed my head, checking for blood, and started to pull out my cellphone, when I felt a large arm around my shoulder.

“Excellent work,” said a large Italian man, his whole body shaking in a joyful laugh. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you did it that way on purpose, to make it look like an accident.”

I looked at this man with a confused look, and he just kept talking. 

“You know, the boss will be real happy,” he said. “It looks like an accident, so there won’t be any blowback.”

He reached into his pocket, fished out a wad of $100 bills -- 10 to be exact -- and said, “As we agreed. Now, come to my house and you’ll learn how to do it better.”

I started to protest, but then I noticed a man in a dark hoodie staring at me. He held a handgun with a silencer, and he glared at me. I looked at the mystery man, then the $1,000 in my hands (I considered rent was due), and I smiled at the big man.

“Call me John,” I said stupidly, because John is my name.

“Sal,” the big man said back, and shook my hand.

With that, we walked down the street back the whence we came. 

Eventually, I pieced together that Sal had put an ad on Craigslist for a special assignment, and he was looking to train an underling in his “extermination business,” as he called it. He was getting old and fat, and didn’t want to do the heavy lifting anymore. 

A few people had answered the ad, and he gave the assignment to one fellow who was supposed to take out the old lady that morning. Just my luck, I happened to be there first. Mistaken identity led me to a decent payout, and a chance to train with an expert hitman. In a few hours, I went from killing split infinitives to learning how to kill people. Fun.

I snapped out of my reverie to take stock of where I was now. The green concoction on the stove was starting to simmer, and even traces of the wooden spoon were no longer visible. The first two days had been the basics of knives and guns, and today we were supposed to go to the shooting range, until Sal nearly severed my hand showing me how to make a sawed-off shotgun.

So we skipped ahead to poisons and bombs. Sal seemed to get extra excited about them, so the lessons went smoothly. I just wasn’t good at the actual process. I got the theory of murder for hire, but the practical lessons were difficult. 

“We used to practice on dogs, cats, squirrels,” Sal said. “But the animal rights guys are more vocal than the human rights guys, so we have to be careful.”

Sadly, I understood him. Whenever we ran a front-page story about child abuse, the newspaper heard relatively little. But put a picture of an abused dog on the front page? We were overwhelmed with responses. 

But Sal seemed pleased with my progress, one handed though it was. 

“Hey, you ready?” Sal asked

“Yeah,” I replied, hoping he’d remind me what I was supposed to be ready for.

“Good. We gotta go visit the boss.”

Crap. I had forgotten that. The boss wanted to thank me personally for getting rid of the potential witness in such a favorable way. The police had already declared it an accidental death, so there wouldn’t be any investigation. Cleanest kill the boss could remember, Sal said. 

Sal put on his coat, and I gingerly did the same, taking care not to hit my sore hand.

“Make sure you don’t get any blood on your coat sleeve,” Sal cautioned. “The boss hates to see blood evidence.

“That reminds me, we gotta get a better saw. We’ll pick one up on the way home.”

August 12, 2020 01:47

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1 comment

Madisson James
05:07 Oct 03, 2020

Amusing. Keept me smiling. Nice!


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