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“Ya got a name, Freckles?" the bartender asked as I threw myself onto a stool in the nearly empty bar and ordered nice, frosty whiskey on the rocks. The only folks who thought it’d be clever to show up at the bar in the early light of the day were myself, the bartender, and a wrinkled older woman with baggy under-eyes snoring in the corner. She had probably been bundled up in that same spot for a week, drowning her life away in alcohol and one-night stands.

"Do you people usually ask for a man's name when he orders something strong early in the morning?" I inquired, fingers tapping rhythmically on the wood of the bar.

"I only want the names of the pretty boys," the bartender winked in my direction. I rolled my eyes back to him.

"Sorry to disappoint, but I ain't gay," I broke to him.

"Too bad, you’re getting your beverage on me anyway," he snickered as he brought me a glass and filled it to the rim, "Don’t go and argue, either; it’s just a little whiskey. Now, what do they call ya?"

"Well, right now, I'm going by Ryder,” I explained, “Simon Ryder. What about you?"

"Jamison Scott, but you can call me Jamie if you'd like," the bartender giggled, tone of voice rather peppy and energetic for such a painfully slow morning, "What's your story, Mr. Ryder?"

"Most people don't interrogate me about myself."

"Most people don't come into a bar at eight in the morning," Jamie fired back, a sweet smile on his lips. He was such a friendly young man to be running a run-down, dusty bar like The Hideout.

I checked my watch, and Jamison was right: it was 8:00, meaning I was running late. Of course, it was the one day I wanted was to enjoy a chilled whiskey before I went to work, but I guess that smooth-talking bartender held me at the bar longer than I’d planned.

"Damn, sorry, I gotta go. Thanks for the drink, Jamie," I said, heaving my sluggish body from my seat and throwing back the rest of my drink, nearly choking on an ice cube.

"Alright. Come around again sometime, Mr. Ryder! I can't wait to hear your little tale," I could hear him chirp as I rushed out the door, pulling my grey “give me beer or give me death” sweatshirt from around my waist and throwing it over my rat’s nest of hair.

I rushed to my car, throwing it into gear and racing down the street (as legally fast as I could go, anyway.) I was sure lucky that my boss didn’t call for me to report to him on that already awful and unfortunate morning, because if I did, I was sure he’d have my head on a silver platter once he caught a whiff of the Proper Twelve on my tongue. Instead, I found my way to my favorite colleague, Christen Smith.

 I sped through the small, ancient town, avoiding the obviously traffic-bound routes, and then finally arriving -- ten minutes later than planned. I hopped from my seat and hastily made my way to my friend’s urban doorstep.

I raised my fist to knock, but the door was yanked open before I could try. Christen was standing on the other side, arms crossed and face painted in disappointment. 

“You’re late, Stone,” he said.

“I told you already, Christen. I go by Simon Ryder now,” I pushed past him, going straight for the kitchen. There was already a flask of rum sitting atop the counter, calling my name and shining like the pearly white gates of heaven. I could even hear the angels singing as I picked it up and took a long swig. 

Christen snickered behind my back. 

“Why’d you call me here?”

“Boss sent me a list of people he wants to kick the bucket. You knock half of ‘em off the map and we split the cash.” Christen told me, leaning against that marble counter of his with a smug smirk across his lips.  

“How many?”

“Only six this time. I get three, you get three. Capiche?”

I thought over his words. “Capiche,” I nodded.

He handed me a list of names with pictures of faces, houses, and addresses from streets I’d never been down. I recognized one of them immediately: Jamison Scott. 

“I’ll take the top half,” Christen said, but I almost didn’t hear him speaking. Jamie was number four. There was no way I wanted to kill that sweet, smooth-talking bartender. Sure, this wouldn’t be my first rodeo, but doing away with somebody I’d warmed up to? Besides, what did the old man even want from the guy? What could he have done to piss him off like this?

“Ya know, I consider myself a top,” I cracked a little joke.

“Ha-ha, very funny.” I could feel the sarcasm radiating, but even then, I knew he liked it. “You’re even more of a bottom than me, idiot.”

“Can I just have the top half?” I pleaded. Jamie was just a friendly small-town bartender! He didn’t deserve a bullet in his brain and I didn’t want to bring him to a fate so awful and untimely. 

“Just ‘cause of that, nope. Why does it even matter to you? You’ve never been shy pullin’ the trigger! I’m shocked that you didn’t want to check off every name on y’er own!” Christen laughed heartily, slapping me on the shoulder blade. I’d never, ever had friends besides Christen, especially not ones who appeared on the big chief’s special hit list. 

“Boss wants ‘em all dead by tomorrow mornin’,” was what was explained to my sorry ears next. I nodded. I knew what would happen if the boss didn’t get his way, and nothing was pretty besides what scarlet remains of my body he’d leave behind. I didn’t want to turn down his demands of death, but I didn’t want to kill Jamie either, finding myself at a crossroads that seemed like a pair of tightropes.

“Alright, I’ll get to it,” I said as I finished up the last of my flask. Alcohol was the only thing that could make me feel better at this point in life, anyway. If only there was a dash of vodka to top everything off before I killed my only friend who didn’t murder for a living.

I bid adieu to Christen after he gave me my own laminated copy of the list, trying to make fun before I stabbed who he didn’t have a clue was someone I knew existed before the hit list. I walked back to my shiny, coal-colored car, head hung low. As I slipped into the driver’s seat, I peered down at my half, figuring it would be better to save Jamie for last.

I wasted no time as I reached under my seat and grabbed my special knife. Before pulling out of the driveway, I took a moment to marvel at the previous victim’s pretty red blood. I parked about two blocks away from the white suburban home, strapping the knife to a holder under my sleeve like I learned to do when I was young. It was around the same time that I got my fingerprints scared to a point beyond repair, changing them for as long as it’d take me to die and rot away in my grave.

No, not a grave. Nobody would care to give me a proper burial. I’d be dropped in a dumpster or chopped up for Boss’s mutts, most likely. I walked up to the address and knocked on the door. It was about 9:00, so sneaking in would be close to impossible. The door swung open to reveal the young brunette woman from the photo: Megan Flex.

“Sorry to disturb you, but I have a meeting with your husband, Logan.”

“He never told me anything about a meeting, but if you’re really sure, I’ll go get him from upstairs. Please, wait right here.” Megan told me, turning and beginning to make her way up a creaky set of ancient, dusty stairs.

I walked inside and closed the door behind me. Gullible people always made my job easy, and luckily for me, the world was filled to the brim with them. As she stepped, I drew my blade and pulled my Chloroform rag from its designated little case. If all went to plan, their deaths would be quick I could get on to the hard part.

When my work was done, I left the bodies and took my knife along. The easy part was over with. I dragged myself by the feet to the bathroom, washing the blood on my palms down the sink. My stomach started to churn as I realized who was next on the chopping block, whose neck I’d have to swing my ax’s blade at next.

Once I was cleaned up, I left the house wondering when the bodies would be found. I reentered my car and hid the knife back under the seat, beginning to drive to The Hideout. It was still early in the morning, but I wasn’t feeling the effects of the alcohol quite yet, myself being no pathetic lightweight. One more drink before I had to murder Jamie wouldn’t be such a bad idea, would it? 

I drove to the bar and walked in, nothing changing except for the lack of a woman in the corner. Jamie was washing dishes, but he stopped to smile at me when I arrived to the quaint little bar.

“Back so soon?” he asked. 

“Yeah, I can’t remember if I finished my whiskey or not.” I smiled a little as I took a seat. I knew it wasn’t the best idea to start bonding with Jamie before I had to kill him, but I couldn’t help myself. Jamie smiled that sweet, gentle smile, pouring me a new glass. He filled it to the brim and told me once again, “On the house.” 

“Thanks,” I said as I took my first sip. There was nothing stopping me from killing him right then and there, despite the fact that I’d forgotten my knife back in the car.

“So, I think it’s time you tell me your story, Mr. Ryder,” Jamie said as he came to the other side of the bar and took a seat next to me. 

I wondered how he would react if I told him the truth. Would I even be able to tell him that I worked for the mafia? How would react if he knew I killed people to make a living? What if I told him that he was the next one that my boss wanted dead?

 “You first. Where do you come from?” I asked. 

“Basic life. Grew up in Indiana, moved here roughly two years ago with my boyfriend. We had some…”

He hesitated, chewing on the inside of his bottom lip. “... Some complications, you know? Relationship stuff that happened a few months back. I never saw him again after that, either.” he explained, “I thought about going home, but I had a good job here and my parents were never really that supportive of my sexuality, so I stayed and suffered through it all instead.”

“What’s the name of your ex?” I asked, curiosity flooding my throat and leaking through my words. 

“Noah. Noah Williams,” he told me, something about his voice seeming choked.

Noah Williams? He was my boss’s son. He hadn’t been seen in about three months, right around when the couple had their ‘complications.’ Did Boss think that Jamie was responsible for the boy’s disappearance, or even his death? Jamie was just a bartender! He wouldn’t harm anybody, not even somebody like Noah. 

“Do you know what happened to Noah?” I queried. Silence followed. “Jamie?” I pushed, tapping him on the shoulder with not but the tip of my finger.

His heart visibly skipped a beat, “Huh?”

“Jamie, what happened to Noah?” I asked for the second time, not meaning for my voice to become so harsh and demanding.

“Listen, I was in a bad mood, and I really didn’t mean-”

“Jamie, did you kill Noah Williams?”

There was a long pause. A single tear hit the floor.

“... Turn me in, why don’cha?” he sobbed. I stared at his wide blue eyes as they filled up with tears.

“Why would I turn you in?”

He glanced up at me, frozen still. “What do you mean?” He asked, hiccuping between his words.

I stood up, shuffling around behind the bar to fill up my glass once again.

“I’m an assassin,” I told him dryly, pausing to chug down my fresh glass of Fireball, “I work under Mister Williams. As in, Noah’s father Mister Williams.”

I moved closer to him, so close that he had to lean back against the whiskey keg to keep his face from touching my own. I could feel his warm, shaky breath against my cheek, watching his fearful stature with a pained grimace. 

I’m sorry, Jamie.

“The boss knows it’s you,” I choked out, but I was unable to shed any tears like he did. I never knew how to cry, and never would.

“I knew he’d- he’d find me out one of these days,” Jamie whispered, eyes never unlocking from my own. I reached back behind his throat, grabbing the hose of the keg and pulling him forward by the hair to tug it around his throat in a matter of moments. I yanked it tight, finally breaking my gaze as I heard the sounds of him struggling for air, fighting for life. I flinched as I felt him kick at me, trying to scream but failing miserably. I waited painfully for all of the noises to stop, the gasping and struggling and the creaking of the floorboards.

“If it makes you feel any better, Jamie, I never wanted to do this,” I whispered in his ear once he’d quiet down. 

The last of his tears streamed. The last of his oxygen floating away into the dusty night air of the bar. The last of his blood pumped from his heart. Jamie was gone, dead, limbs falling to his sides and now lifeless body sliding down to the ground.

I just sat there for a minute, staring at the mess I had made. Not even a drink could make me feel better.

“I’m sorry, Jamie, I really am,” I whispered. 

 ___

The next morning, I got up and drove myself to Christen’s house. He and the money were waiting for my arrival. I plopped down onto the couch, waiting for something to tell me it was all a joke and that Jamie was alright. 

“Nice work, Simon,” Christen gave a nod of approval. 

“I go by Jamie now.”

February 01, 2020 04:54

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