Being a hit man like the hardest gangsters you see in movies never had a thing to do with it. That shit’s always been just glamorous in films, and whether an escape or not, that remains only a form of entertainment. It might teach you too, no doubt about that, movies that is. Those small lessons manage to show up from film to film. Still, at the end of the day it’s just entertainment, not a guide to live by. It’s the kind of thing I can delve into pretty deeply when I’m not aiming my pistol, or forcing someone to take their own pistol—or whatever gun they own—and shoot themselves. Yeah, the latter is obviously meant to stage a suicide and force those suited, over coat donning, hot shot detective motherfuckers to focus their sites on another case.
See, this whole thing, this life I live, is so scary to a person like you, because I don’t look like you’d expect. With the exception of being black, which despite having a black president still puts some white folks up in arms, there’s nothing that gives me away. Nothing that would make you say—if you have been unfortunate enough to have this early sixties, half bald man on your side of town—‘hey, that’s the guy that they’ve probably sent after me’. When you get knocked off by me, you’re getting knocked off by an elderly nigga that has to stick himself with a needle four times a day to keep up with his diabetes. And based on my year old prognosis, following a cat scan as part of all that incredible shit that hit man money buys, I tested positive for dementia. It was caught late, but with pills, I’d still be able to keep it together for a little while.
There’s a point I’m making here, with all of this background info. These things about me—including the green sweats and black extra large tees I wear to encompass my overweight frame—make me invisible to you. Your eyes pass over me like that spot of dirt on a black shoe, or that homeless guy that gets on the bus with all his teeth missing. Being invisible out in the open is my greatest asset.
Before we get into the hardest target, the one that for the first time brought down full weight of just how old I was, you need to know that nothing is official until there is a face to face. Extensive conversations and texts on the phone, just isn’t the way that things become official. You can never really know who is listening. I have someone that brings me the word on each job. He’ll text me from out of state, with something along the lines of hit me back when you can. It’s always kept simple, nothing anyone can draw anything from. I hit this nigga up and he only confirms that he has something, says a price, and the rest is discussed in person where I’m needed. Got it?
I met up with my connect in the city of Houston TX for my thirty-first hit, after a long drive from New Mexico on a devil hot day in July. I stepped out of my car after I pulled into the lot of a popular Mexican eatery, and shoved a worn Houston Texans hat on my head. It was a fine addition to the prescription sunglasses shading my age-weakened eyes. But I was in my signature green sweats and black T—this T-shirt ironically one of Bob Marley—so I wasn’t trying to make a fashion statement.
The middleman, my consultant, my connect—whatever name you like—sat in the back of this fancy place, in a booth with a view of the parking lot. He had probably watched me come in. He was comfortable, I could see, noticing a perspiring Heineken bottle and an iced glass cup filled half way with the golden brew. I sat down, and he looked at me, this mid-thirties black man with a tan T-shirt, and what looked like a tramp stamp on his brown neck. A small smile curved his lips.
I sighed, going for the menu almost at once.
“Trip okay Ronnie?” my connect asked.
The trip wasn’t okay, but I told him it was. Speaking of the days discomforts wasn’t going to get us anywhere.
“All right, so what do you got for me Roger,” I asked. I removed my hat and put it on the table, then rubbed a hand quickly over the bald center of my head.
“You want a drink,” Roger asked, ignoring my question. He called the waitress over—a cute, thick-hipped blonde girl with a thick southern accent—and I ordered a Budweiser draft.
“Wait until your drink gets here first,” he said, taking a drink from his glass. He clasped his hands under his chin and looked studiously at me. I didn’t know this at first, my eyes on a grilled chicken platter for about twelve bucks.
When I finally looked up at him, I asked how the family was doing. He said he might have gotten another girl pregnant, and that you know how that goes.
“They have this thing called contraception,” I told him. “Why don’t you look into it brother?”
“Heard of every kind,” Roger said with a smile. “Doesn’t change the way you feel when it’s all going down.” The waitress brought my beer over and we ordered our meals.
I poured the beer into the cold glass and took a drink. “All right young blood,” I said. “You going to tell me what you have for me or are you going to wait until I have to stick myself with another needle?”
“How do you like Houston,” Roger said, with the same small smile.
“It’s good man. I’ve been here before, Roger.” I exhaled. “Now come on brother, tell me, what do you have for me?”
“This city, Downtown. That’s where you’ll be doing this.”
“And the target?”
I scratched at my scruff of gray beard, then took off my sunglasses. “And,” I said, moving my hand in a hurry up motion.
“There’s a hotel room reserved for you,” Roger answered, sliding a receipt across the table with the address and room number. Under the receipt, I noticed the room key, enfolded in a piece of custom glossy cardstock. I shoved both items in my pocket.
“All right,” I said, taking another drink of my beer.
“She’s ten blocks down, in an apartment. The place she’s in is your average project apartment; doesn’t stand out, but you’ll notice the bus that heads past your room every day. You have forty-eight hours. Shouldn’t be an issue.”
I finished my beer.
“Now,” Roger went on, sliding a picture of the next job across the table. He didn’t need to tell me what he told me next. It was obvious. “As you can see she’s really pretty. Young too. Just twenty-two. Do yourself a favor and don’t think of how much she reminds you of one of your daughters or a niece, or something.”
I looked closely at the girl in the picture. She had a wide smile on her face, and straight hair that went to her shoulders. She had a nice shade of skin, medium brown. And no surprise, she did remind me of someone. That someone happened to be my first wife from forty something years past.
“And who is this being done for?”
“Doesn’t really matter now, does it?”
“No, it does. Come on Roger, you worked with me the last ten years, about half my career. You know how I work.” If I didn’t find it passed muster, I would walk away. At least that’s what I’ve been claiming. I’ve never done it once though.
“Word is she had her boyfriend killed by another dude. Mad at him because he liked to be at the clubs more than he liked to be home. Maybe he hit her a couple of times is the word. That boyfriend was some white boy, by some ultra white boy sounding name of Thomason Matthews. She didn’t know he was connected, so she won’t see this coming.” Roger finished his beer, and turned to the highlights of last night’s Miami vs. Oklahoma game. It was the finals, and from what I’d last heard Miami was up. Roger watched this for a couple of minutes then turned back to me.
“All right,” Roger went on, “you—”
The waitress came out the kitchen then, using her butt to push open the double doors. Roger had his back to her and only noticed because of the shift in my eyes. When she put our food down—for Roger a plate of Quesadillas and for me, cut grilled chicken with a side of tortillas and salsa to make fajitas with—I began to eat.
Roger leaned in close when the waitress left, his food temporarily ignored in front of him. “All right, Ronnie. She’s connected, kind of. Not anything like us, but she has her little gang of wannabe thugs that are always around her place. You need to get her somewhere where she’s alone and blah blah blah, where no one’s looking. After you’re done, you know the deal. You’ll meet me at a spot that is yet to be determined, you’ll get your bread, you leave. Now—”
“Okay, wait, wait,” I said putting my hand up, feeling a bit irritated. It was about time for one of my insulin shots. “How many niggas we talking about? The niggas packin?”
Roger gave a shrug. “They probably are. Look, you have forty-eight hours Ronnie. You’ll see her. She’s always out and about, around with her bunch of hooligans. But they’re trouble in a pack, so make sure you find a way to separate her from them.”
“Okay,” I said, and took a large bite of my second fajita. These people knew how the cook. As usual, Roger had chosen an excellent meeting spot.
“She takes the bus. You get on the bus with her. Don’t get caught staring. Or actually, you could, I guess, because you’re just going to be dismissed as a perverted, horny, old man.”
“Okay.” I was finished my second fajita with a total count of two and a half bites. I was hungry as hell today, and hadn’t really known it until the food had come.
Roger finally started on his meal, taking a couple of bites before he started to wrap things up.
“She’s pretty, don’t forget,” Roger said. “And that picture you have has nothing on what she really looks like is what I heard. Word is she’s sweet until you get on her bad side. She turns into a crazy cunt mighty quick. A bonafide bitch out to rip off a nigga’s nuts. Not to be taken lightly. So you’ve been warned. If she gets an upper hand, even with you being a man, she’ll have the advantage because of her age and because of everyone around her.”
“I’ll be careful,” I said.
“Yeah, you better be. Get it done in less than twenty-four hours and there might be a bonus in it for you too.”
I only nodded.
“All right,” Roger said, with a smile. “You have GPS, so I’m guessing you won’t have trouble finding the spot. If you do you know my number. Don’t forget to burn the picture when you’re through with it.”
“Yeah, it’s funny that you think I’d forget.” The instant I said that I thought of last year’s prognosis of dementia. Roger knew a lot about me, more than he should. But he didn’t know where I lived and didn’t know about my condition. If he did know that I wouldn’t get any more work. Roger, in good faith, wouldn’t have let me do it. He would’ve found some other young, but far less reliable source. I was the guy for this, and as long as I felt I was, my dementia was going to stay a secret.
“All right,” Roger said, wiping his large hands together, then grabbing a napkin. “Any questions?”
“No,” I said. Though I’d already forgotten the name and the face of who I was supposed to be killing. Yeah, it could happen just like that. I knew it was a girl but wasn’t sure if she was white or black. Wasn’t sure about the age either. But I had the picture, and wasn’t going to let Roger know, no sir. When Roger left for the bathroom I snuck a peak at the photo, saw the girl, and remembered what Roger had said about her good looks. Yeah, she was a very pretty girl indeed.
Sitting here, looking at the shape of her wide eyes, and the curve of her lips, I couldn’t help but think she reminded me of my late wife of forty years. The thought felt new to me.
I drove out to the hotel, down near the outskirts of downtown Houston, as I’d been told. There was work to be done, but first I had to grab the one bag I came with, and check into my room. The girl’s face—never failing to amaze me when I looked at the photo—hadn’t left my mind since the restaurant, which was good. There was a moment of fear when her image first slipped from my memory, a moment when I didn’t think her face was going to come back and thought I’d forget I even had the picture to remind me. Dementia can be scary like that. What’s worse is when you make a commitment to keep certain thoughts, certain important numbers and information in your memory day in and day out, while promising that no matter what you’ll never let go of them, it goes anyway. What I’m beginning to get is glimpses of what having the disease is going to become at its worse, and what I can tell is that it will all eventually go. Every memory essentially. Come back to me—maybe—then go again.
I took the pills the doctor had prescribed me for my dementia in the car, grabbed my stuff and went to my room. It was a nice hotel—I always have to have something nice I tell them. One of the first things I noticed was a long, diamond-stitched, red carpet that spanned the length of each floor. My floor was number twenty, and I went right up.
My room had a floor color different from that of the hotel hall; it was covered with a tan carpet. The kitchen and bathroom area were made up of hardwood. I didn’t waste time. Feeling weaker than I had started to feel in the restaurant, I pulled a fresh syringe pre-filled with insulin out of its plastic bag and stuck the half-inch needle into my abdomen for swifter absorption. I wiped the small bit of blood that seeped out with a piece of tissue and put the needle back into the bag. I tossed the bag along with the tissue into the trashcan.
Melanie Jackson, my next job, supposedly strolled in and out of view of my window every day, obviously the reason I was given this specific room. I strolled through the living room, past a couple of landscape pictures on the wall—one was of a guy with a wide tan hat walking a horse through a misty meadow—and past a leather sofa, then stepped through a sliding glass door that led out to the balcony. It was nice, seeing this city from this high up. It relaxed me, this view and the fact that my insulin shot had hit quickly as expected.
When you make it to middle age and beyond you need your sleep more than ever. Yeah, older people sleep less, but when they need their sleep, it means they really need their sleep. And yeah, you suffer from something called relapses. The term usually evokes the idea of rehab, and addicts isolated from the rest of the world to be put into group sessions. That’s not what I mean though. No, not at all. A relapse for me is when one day I have energy and then one day, out of nowhere, I don’t. The energy is gone. Taken from me like age eventually takes life. Like age is taking my mind.
I hadn’t been energized this whole day and after the large lunch, I had hit the wall. Nothing was going to get done without lying down and getting a good three hours in, I figured. It would be five by then, and I could shower, put on another outfit not soaked in sweat, and step out on the balcony and get to work. The work would start outside, waiting for Melanie to come into my line of sight.
But I needed sleep. I took my clothes off down to my underwear, and once I laid down on the king sized bed I felt like I was in heaven. I slept for hours.
The first sign that I had slept too long was how my room had dimmed considerably since I’d first laid down. I wasn’t worried, but I knew that I had probably missed a couple of shots to get a look at Melanie Jackson through my binoculars. The binoculars, the best pair I was able to find in an EZ pawn years back, was what I had brought with me for the job.
Sweet dreams of my wife had taken over my sleep, and the dream was so nice that I would’ve chosen to die if I could have stayed in it forever. Sadness swept over me when I realized that it was just a dream and that I wouldn’t get a chance to revisit it until tonight.
I rolled out of bed, showered, and dressed in fresh clothes that looked a lot like the ones I had taken off. I flipped the TV on and turned it to the game. Right now, from what I could see, Miami was going to work, Lebron getting his second chance with Miami to get a championship. I wasn’t rooting for him. Oklahoma needed to go on and teach Miami what being a real team was about. As Lebron went for a dunk, I grabbed my binoculars off the coffee table and stepped out onto the balcony. It had cooled a little, but the humidity hadn’t change much. I hated Texas. Really, I did. With damn near all of my heart. Why did I hate this state? Because of the heat, the heat, the damn heat. Bugs are no fun to deal with either (this was far from the first time that I’d been here and experienced them.)
I was in a nice room though, so I didn’t think I’d have to worry. I put the binoculars to my eyes and adjusted the dial to get just the view I wanted. Looked down at the street that passed the front of the hotel and noticed a white car—probably a Camry—pass by at an easy ten miles an hour. A moment later a red pickup truck passed in the other direction. The hood and the side of the vehicle were dinted and the paint chipped.
I’d just stepped outside, so I didn’t expect to see much. I was really looking for people walking on the sidewalks. There was a great view of the bus stop from where I stood, right across the street and down a few blocks. If Melanie went to this bus stop, like Roger said she often did, I should be good. I centered my binoculars in that direction. Behind the bus stop bench—an ad on the back rest reading Cheap Bargain Prices at www.pawncheap.com—was a stretch of grass that spanned an entire length of fence that ran all the way down the block. Behind the fence I could see tall mounds of dirt, yellow tractors parked indiscriminately throughout the construction site. I spotted a white twenty-something couple walking down the sidewalk on the side of the bus stop, the girl with blonde hair running down to her shoulders, and her boyfriend’s head as bald as an egg (some skinhead shit, right there, I thought, knowing that Texas was home to many racists.) They stopped in front of the bus stop bench and shared a kiss, the boyfriend’s hands sliding easily under the girl’s shirt, onto her bare waist. The girl, laughing, simply rested her head on her boyfriend’s chest.
“Obviously not who I’m looking for,” I muttered, beads of sweat already collecting on my forehead. I kept the binoculars pressed to my sockets and centered the glass lenses somewhere else. Down to the right, a block and a half from the sight of the young couple, I spotted three black teenagers, in different colored stocking caps, their pants sagging, strolling toward the bus stop bench. One of the boys, the shortest of the bunch—and all high school students by the look of them—playfully shoved the taller boy to his left. The taller boy laughed and shoved him back. He said something to his friend, and if I could read his lips right, he’d said, “Quit fucking around nigga.”
Still, there was no sight of Melanie. The search went on like this for some time. My plan was to spot her ahead of time, then get my ass downstairs before she was out of view. If she was taking the bus I’d have until it arrived, and if I didn’t see it before I headed down, I’d have time to catch up with her.
I thought of the girl and how she looked. Put the binoculars down on the outside table and took the picture from my wallet. I was supposed to burn this thing at one point, wasn’t I? Looking at it, I couldn’t help to notice how much she looked like my wife of forty years ago. I was surprised that I hadn’t noticed this before.
I picked the binoculars back up from the glass table, and continued my search. So far I’d been searching for this girl for close to half an hour. When I reached an hour I would take a ten minute break, then come back out and try to do two hours straight. That was my plan.
As I looked down at the sights of the city, I couldn’t help but think that I was forgetting something. My insulin came to mind, and though I would need to use it soon, I was probably fine for the moment. It was something else. I continued my search for Melanie and racked my brain trying to remember, but it wouldn’t come. After a couple of minutes I let it go. I was sure I’d recall it before long.
Thirty minutes later I sat at the bar-side of the island kitchen counter, eating food that I had taken from the restaurant in a doggy bag. I munched on chicken and tortillas until the remainder of the food was finished, and stood up and tossed the styrofoam tray into the trashcan, stepping on the lever to open the lid. My break had been over ten minutes ago, and for all I knew, Melanie might have come and gone by now. If worse came to worse, I was going to have to go downstairs and park outside her house. I didn’t want to get that close though. Not unless I was about to strike. This was the spot to catch her. This was the safest place.
Night time had begun to fade in, and the Miami game had long since ended, Miami winning yet again, and well on the way to their first championship. I watched the highlights, realizing that I was going to have to call it a night. Yeah, I wanted to get this done early, but there was a reason that I’d been given forty-eight hours to complete the job. And as old as I was, chances are I would need most of it.
I asked around and found a bar that was a fifteen minute walk from my hotel room. I didn’t have to drive, which was the best part. Whenever I visited a bar I liked to drink—sometimes to excess despite my age—and I liked not to have to think about what would happen if I got pulled over drunk. On the radio coming out here and from the countless people who lived in Houston that I’ve talked to at one point or another, DUI’s were serious business out here. Yeah, I suppose they’re serious business anywhere. But Texas, to me, is a state that seems to take its DUI’s personally. And to pay upward of ten thousand dollars in fines, nah, no thank you. That’s a quarter of what I’m making for this job. And no, forty thousand is not a lot of money for this job, though there are those that would most likely think it is.
I stepped into the bar with my Houston Texans hat and a pair of sunglasses on. Almost at once I liked the environment, and I hadn’t as much as made eye contact with a single person. Sometimes when you walk into certain places, you can kind of pick up a vibe, and that’s what it was like with this place. It was a black bar, mostly, from what I could see. I was one of the older gentlemen in here. Even with this, no one paid me any mind. Not much more than a couple of glances in my direction before they went back to their drinks, or knocking the cue ball into a triangle of numbered balls on the table.
The place was laid back, my preference. It was all I asked for when I went out on any night, was a place that was calm. My age begged for it. I went straight to the bar and took a seat, and the instant my butt hit the stool I went back to thinking about what I had forgotten in the hotel. It wasn’t my insulin shot. I had dealt with that before I came out here.
“What can I get you man,” a deep voiced, buff brother asked me, his large hands flat on the bar before me. A white towel hung over one enormous shoulder.
“Just give me a Gin on the rocks,” I told him, and looked around with shaded eyes, taking everything in.
The bartender left wordlessly, grabbed my drink, and asked me if I was doing tab or paying cash. I said cash, and slid him a ten.
“Keep it,” I told him. I’d start a tab but I didn’t need anyone staring at an ID or debit card while I was here. That might make me easier to remember if someone came here asking questions.
The bartender didn’t thank me for the tip, only strolled away to help someone several stools down. Young brothers these days. A bunch of ungrateful assholes. Back in my—
The voice, clearly a female, came from my left, and I turned to face her. My right hand clenched my drink; I had been a split second away from taking my first sip. Then the next second, the drink was the furthest thing from my mind.
“You look like my granddad,” a young black girl said. She was very pretty. Had the Texas accent. Definitely homegrown. Right in the middle of thinking this the strongest inclination that I was forgetting something hit me again. It hit me so hard I had to push it away to keep my mind on track with the conversation I was having with this girl.
“Is that a good thing or bad thing,” I said.
The girl, wore a halter top and had medium brown skin. She was hard not to look at. She looked like someone I knew, looked like—
“That’s a good thing,” the girl said, bleary-eyed. She was unsteady on her feet, almost swaying. “I love my granddad. He’s no longer here though.”
I leaned forward slightly, taking off my sunglasses. Yeah, it might have looked weird to her, but there was something about this girl, and I needed to know what that thing might be.
“What,” she said, furrowing her brow.
“I swear girl,” I said. “You look like someone I know. Yes, you do. I’m just trying to think of it right quick.”
Her eyebrows went up, her smile fading a bit. “You trying to think of it, huh?”
And like that, I remembered everything. First, I had forgotten to take my pills to deal with my dementia—really Alzheimer’s at this point—and this girl was Melanie Jackson, talking to me like I really was her granddad or something.
I decided not to let her know who I thought she looked like. I didn’t think that it was going to do me any favors. Remembering what Roger had told me about her clique, I looked over her shoulder to see if anyone was with her. I looked over my shoulder next. She said nothing about this odd behavior.
“You here with anyone,” I asked her.
She looked nice, this girl. I’ve met a lot of scandalous people, and they come in all different shades and expressions, but this girl could’ve fooled me had I not been told about her ahead of time.
“Nah,” she said shaking her head. She flapped a hand drunkenly in the direction of the door, her eyes remaining unsteadily on mine. “A couple of niggas I know—they’ll be showing up soon. They ain’t here yet. They—” she put her thumb and index finger together to mime smoking reefer, “—you know?”
I nodded, then bared my yellow teeth in a smile. I had to wonder why the hell this little girl was talking to me. Naturally, my mind considered the idea that she might have been on to this old man. I wasn’t as sharp as I used to be, and that had to do more with bad health choices than aging. Aging, to be honest, played a very small part in it. If you exclude the dementia anyway.
“Take a seat,” I said, facing forward. I had no idea if she was going to take the stool next to me, but I thought I should at least ask.
She sat down on the stool, and clasped her small hands together in front of her, all properly. She had class, I could see, though most of it was masked with the drinks sloshing around in her belly.
Did Roger know what he was talking about, I asked myself. Is this really the girl?
But I had to remind myself that I’d dealt with other nice looking girls before. Girls that looked like they’d graduated high school five years ago and had their hopes and dreams ahead of them. Well, they didn’t. I made sure of that. And this girl, sitting next to me had no dreams to look forward to either. She may have looked sweet, but that didn’t mean anything. And I wasn’t going to forget that.
“You think when your boys get here,” I asked, “that they’ll hook this old man up? Give an old man, you know a little something?”
Melanie burst into laughter, and touched my free hand briefly. “What do you want?”
I didn’t mind her laughing. Young people were stupid as shit this day and age anyway.
“Seriously though,” she said, when I didn’t answer, seeming to sober up. “What do you want?”
“You can get all businesslike real quick, can’t you?”
“You tell me what you want I’ll make sure they get you.”
I took a moment to think, not sure exactly what I wanted to ask for. I hadn’t actually wanted to smoke or snort anything. It was supposed to be half-hearted conversation.
“Just a little old dime bag,” I said. “Nothing more than that.”
She scooted closer, and put her hand on my leg. Calmly, I picked her hand up and put it back on the counter. A girl that looked like her, as young as her, shouldn’t just be putting their hand on any old man’s thigh like that. It was strange, but when she did it, I saw my wife from forty years ago, approaching a random guy in the bar and doing the same thing. The thought scared me.
“They have Swishers too,” Melanie said, talking faster. She chuckled briefly. “I can get you that, a dime sack and Swishers. My nigga coming in, he just sell sticks to if you want to buy one off him.”
I nodded automatically, saying yes just to simplify the situation.
“We’ll do that,” I said. “When are your boys getting here?”
Of course, I didn’t care about when her friends were arriving for the sake of purchasing weed from her. I was looking for an opportunity to get this job done early and get on home. But then again, I couldn’t just leave the bar with this girl, not with everyone around. They were all witnesses waiting to happen. I needed information for where she was going to be, and would have to show up at an unexpected time. Of course, I knew the building she stayed in, but doing it right in her neighborhood, out in the open was an easy way to end up in a Texas jail. I had to think this out.
The girl put her hand on my leg again, and instead of moving it away like I had before, I asked myself what this could mean. I was an older man. Not the kind she’s going to come on to because of real attraction or something like that. Was she—
“Girl, are you working?”
“Working?” She didn’t seem to understand, the space between her eyebrows narrowing.
She shook her head, but before I could feel self-conscious about what I had said she squeezed my leg tighter.
“Of course that can change,” she said, biting her bottom lip.
Yes, this girl was young and very attractive, and if you could take fifteen years off my age I might have taken her back to my place for a fuck before killing her. Then again, no I wouldn’t have. I would have been seen alone with the girl on camera, and hotels were full of them.
“Change for what?” I asked, taking a considerable drink of my gin. Drinking any amount of liquor, especially with my mental condition, was probably not the best decision. This was supposed to be a night to relax. I hadn’t planned for all of this and I was already starting to mess it up.
Melanie scooted her stool closer to mine, leaned in and whispered into my ear, the hand that had been on my thigh now back on my free hand. I could smell the minty aroma of what couldn’t been Peppermint Shnopp’s on her breath.
“I could do, like, three hundred for some head and six hundred for a half hour fuck. A thousand and I give you the night.”
I looked at her like she had lost her mind and wiped the expression off my face the second I realized what I was doing. She could charge half a mil for some head, a full mil for some sex and by the time I left Houston, it all wouldn’t have amounted to shit. For the sake of not arousing her suspicion—though she seemed a bit too tipsy and high to recognize anything—I acted like I was thinking hard about this.
Melanie watched me closely with her wide, bleary eyes. Suddenly a deep feeling of sadness came over me and I didn’t want to do it. I’d been doing this for years, and the last time I hadn’t urges against doing the job had been with my second time out. Why my second job but not the first? Because the first hit had been one evil motherfucker. And after I got used to it. I pushed the feeling away and smiled at her.
“Okay,” I told her. “The whole night. But I don’t want to leave together. You never know who’s watching.”
“Nigga, ain’t no one watching,” she said, and cackled loudly, her small brown hand finding my wrist.
“Then why’d you scoot closer like you were looking out for someone. Don’t play that shit with me. You know how this works girl. I know this isn’t the first time you’ve done this.”
I’d expected a colder response than the one I got.
“Yeah, you right,” she replied with a smile. “So what do you want to do granddad?”
“Like I said, let me leave first. Anyone asks, you going home. But meet me outside of uh…” I had to think about this for a moment. I couldn’t send her to my hotel room, unless I wanted my face on the news a couple of days from now.
“All right. I saw a grocery store a block from here.”
“You talking about the Family Dollar?”
Again, the possibility of store cameras. Then I thought of the bus stop across the street from the hotel. A spot several blocks down before its next stop would be perfect. There’d be no cameras. That was the location I gave her, telling her to meet me there in an hour.
She accepted this without issue, leaned in and kissed one of my rough, age-seamed cheeks. The dime bag that I had agreed to purchase seemed to have been forgotten.
“All right granddad,” she said, putting a piece of gum in her mouth. “Looks like we are good.”
“I never got your name,” I said, though I was fully aware of it.
When she didn’t say anything else I asked, “Don’t you want to know mine?”
She flashed her broad, gorgeous grin. “You’re granddad,” she said. Still smiling, she added, “I’m going to need some of the money up front, so I know you have money and ain’t just trying to rape me or choke me out.”
Not going to save you, I thought darkly, but extracted my wallet, opened it, and fished out a single hundred dollar bill. I handed it to her, and she made it disappear into her shirt.
“You get nine hundred more you show up,” I said. I considered giving her a warning not to try to jack me, and then thought better of it. I trusted this girl. Some crazy shit right.
Melanie nodded. “All right, you go ahead and go then. And I’m going to try to leave before my boys get here.” She seemed to have sobered up a little. She had her cell phone out, and was scrolling through numbers.
“You texting someone?”
“Don’t you worry,” she said. “Just checking my texts. Not telling no one nothing. Go on granddad.”
I finished my drink instinctively, and was kicking myself right after for not leaving the remainder in the cup. I left the bar and headed straight to my room to get ready.
When I made it back to my room I took only twenty minutes to get ready, grabbing all my stuff so I could make a quick getaway when the job was done. I didn’t want to be anywhere near this hotel after I popped this girl. Staying around too long only caused bad luck. No, the plan was to pop the girl, set up a place to meet with Roger, and get the hell out of town. The bag I carried with me contained a gun, and a couple of changes of clothes. It contained duct tape—I always brought that everywhere and almost never used it—and a small red box of bullets.
I left the hotel room, my duffel bag in hand, and my prescription sunglasses and Houston Texans hat back on. The sunglasses made it harder to see sure, but I’d forgotten my regular glasses at home. I’d taken another shot of insulin up in my room, so at least that lovely issue wouldn’t pop up to mess up the night.
I shoved the key into the ignition, turned and started up my 95 Lexus with rusted green paint and drove to the bus stop a couple of blocks down.
Final part on J. Marshall's home page