Last Orders

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Tell A Tale
In R J Dent's Last Orders, a professional killer is given his toughest assignment - an execution in a public bar.

Submitted: April 24, 2016

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Submitted: April 24, 2016

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Last Orders

by R J Dent

 

Arlington had been in Eddie's Bar for an hour and still couldn't work out who his hit was.

There were four contenders: the barman; a long-haired arty type who looked a bit like the actor Scott Glenn; a small, plump accountant type with round rimmed gold glasses; and a tall, cropped-haired, bearded man who – due to his khaki shirt – looked like a sixties political activist.

Nursing his whisky and ginger, Arlington surveyed the rest of the patrons, wondering if he'd missed anyone significant. After a quick, but thorough sweep, he was convinced that everyone else in Eddie's was exactly what he or she appeared to be – Thursday night drinkers and daters and company-hunters.

His name wasn't really Arlington, of course – that was the nomenclature given to him by Constance, his sole contact for this, his first job for his new employers.

When he'd left his old company and put himself back on the market, the word had quickly gotten back to the biggest company in the city. Within a day he'd been contacted at home by Constance.

The insistently ringing telephone had annoyed him, for he'd thought it was his ex-employer trying to get him to go back by offering a better pay-packet and a bit of time off in a warm country. So he'd picked it up and muttered the word that was both a question and his current name: “Watt.”

“This is Constance from JayCee Syndicated,” a woman had said, causing Watt to drop the surliness from his voice and pay attention. JayCee Syndicated was Jerome Collini, the most elusive rich man in the country. Made all of his money from sex and drugs. Sometimes, Watt wondered whether Collini really existed, or was just a fictional front invented by a few very successful businessmen.

“Good morning Constance,” Watt had said. “What can I do for you?”

“JayCee Syndicated would like to know if you're available for some free-lance work?” Constance said.

“Possibly,” Watt responded, knowing JCS were giving him a chance to prove himself. “My fee is fifty thousand per consultation, half up front, the other paid upon completion of the consultancy,” Watt stated.

“JayCee Syndicated find that to be very reasonable,” Constance said immediately. “May we call you later today with some of our requirements, Mister Arlington?”

“That will be fine,” Watt, now Arlington, said, knowing he'd just been hired. Sometimes a reputation was a work permit.

Constance had called him back at three.

“Could you meet our client in Eddie's Bar on Third Avenue, Mr Arlington?”

“Could I have a date and time?” Arlington had asked.

“This Thursday. Last orders.”

Arlington consulted an invisible diary.

“Yes, I can. And will.”

“Thank you,” Constance said. “And now, with regards to payment of your fee, Mr Arlington, could I have some banking details?”

Arlington gave her the name of a hotel he used for picking up mail, and then hung up.

The next morning, he made his way to the hotel, picked up his mail - one solitary buff envelope and examined the twenty five thousand in non-sequential bills and a slip of paper that had the one word: ROBINSON printed on it. Then he went home and prepared for Thursday night.

On Thursday afternoon, Constance had called him again.

“I'll call you at Eddie's and give you the client's details,” she'd said. “We haven't any further information at present.”

Arlington was not happy. It had the hallmarks of an amateur job. Where was the meticulous pre-planning, the solid information – photograph, bio, the works – that would identify – and give depth to – the client? Then he realized that he was on probation – his new employer was seeing how resourceful he was – whether he could work well under pressure. Well, he'd show them exactly what he could do – what he was very capable of under pressure.

And now it was Thursday night and he was here, in Eddie's Bar, Ceska Zbrojovka CZ27 in a holster under his left armpit, ready to off another human being for money because that was what he did. Well.

The bar phone rang and Arlington tensed. He hadn't realized just how keyed-up he was until then. He swallowed the remaining whiskey and held the glass tightly.

“Edward Arlington!” the barman called. “Is Edward Arlington here?”

“Yep,” Arlington called, getting up and going to the bar, his glass in his hand.

“Whiskey and ginger,” he said to the barman as he put his glass down and picked the receiver up.

“Hello,” he said, watching the barman put his used glass into the dishwasher, then take another from under the bar and start to prepare his drink.

“Your client is wearing a brown suit and gold round-framed glasses,” Constance said. “He has light brown, receding hair and is sitting on a stool at one of the mirror pillars. There is a briefcase on the stool next to him. The briefcase is ours. Could you retrieve it?”

“No problem,” Arlington said, as the barman put his fresh drink in front of him. 

The accountant, Arlington thought, as he put the phone down and paid for the drink with a five. Leaving the drink where it was, Arlington turned and made his way to the john, needing a few seconds to prepare. He stood at the sink and dabbed his face with water. Then he pulled a paper towel and dried himself. The door squeaked open behind him. He checked in the mirror and nearly laughed out loud.

It's him! The fucking hit! I don't believe it! Talk about the fucking golden goose that lay... Jesus... it could have laid anything -or anyone- it wanted.

At that moment, Arlington was ready - more ready than he'd ever been for a hit. He watched the brown-suited man go into a cubicle and shut the door. It would be simple. He'd just wait until brownie was on the crapper, then kick the door open, fire, take the case and get the flock out of there, as the shepherd said. Simple. Easiest job in the world.

Arlington thought about the man dying on the toilet – ignoble, really, but then he remembered that Elvis had recently died in the same place and figured that if it was good enough for the King, then it was good enough for this particular brown-suited shoeshine boy too.

And then the cubicle door opened and brownie came out with silenced Unceta 400 in his hand and beckoned Arlington into the cubicle. Arlington went. He was good at close-quarters stuff. Brownie looked out of condition. Anyone who favored a handgun made in Spain deserved all they got really.

“Don't worry, Mister Arlington,” Robinson said, as he shut the door. “If anyone comes in, we can simply pretend we're homosexuals.”

Arlington looked at him quizzically. Was that a joke?

“Please sit down on the toilet seat,” Robinson requested. The steadily pointing gun made the pleasant-sounding invitation an order.

“How did you know?” Arlington croaked. As he sat down, Robinson smoothly relieved him of the Ceska. Suddenly Arlington was afraid of this rumpled-looking man with the mild manners.

“Know what?” Robinson asked.

“That you were the hit?”

“I wasn't. You were.”

Arlington let that one sink in. So it had been a set-up. JCS had got him here to be offed. Robinson was their man really. They just wanted him – free-lance competition that he was – out of the way.

“Any way out?”

Robinson shook his head.

“Bite down on the muzzle please, Mister Arlington,” he said. His voice was a razor.

Arlington gulped and opened his mouth. Robinson made him lean forward a bit. Arlington wanted to cry. Then he heard the squeak of the outer door opening.

It was all he really needed.

He powered into action, standing up and nudging the Unceta away from him. At the same time he drove his knee into Robinson's bollocks. At the same time as that, he bellowed: “GET OUT OF HERE YOU FUCKING PANSY!” and pulled the door catch open.

Robinson crumbled – only a little, but enough. The handgun flailed. Arlington grabbed hold of it and twisted hard. He heard a finger bone snap. Robinson let go. Arlington kneed him in the face. Robinson dropped. Arlington pulled the cubicle door open with his left hand and slipped the clumsy Spanish handgun into his jacket pocket with his right.

Three startled faces looked at him as he barreled out of the cubicle, so he slipped Indignant and Angry Hetero onto his face to cover Murderer and said: “F'Crisake! Can't even take a dump now without some goddam fag climbing into your cubicle and hitting on you. What the fuck's wrong with this country?”

Repeating the same line over again, he headed towards the door, then remembered the briefcase. Should he or not?

Might be something I can sell back to JCS in it!

He turned and went back. Robinson was sitting up against the left wall, nursing his balls and his bloody nose. He saw Arlington and twisted to one side. His right hand reached for his jacket.

Arlington drew and fired. The pistol made a soft phut sound and Robinson died with a tiny red hole in the front of his forehead and a huge red exit hole at the back. Arlington picked the case up.

“Police Officer!” he yelled. “Stay right where you are, all of you!”

Then he crashed out of the door, along the corridor, then made his way smoothly through the bar, pistol inside his jacket. No one gave him a second glance.

Out on the street, he slipped the handgun into his shoulder holster and closed his jacket. Then he hailed a cab. In the back of the cab he opened the case. He didn't need to count the contents to know it was a lot of money – a hell of a lot of money. Enough money to retire on, Arlington thought. Which meant that the next few hours would be crucial. Use them wisely, he told himself. Go home, get your passports, money and a bit of hand luggage, walk down town and get a cab to the airport, then fly to somewhere warm – and stay there.

Could he do it? Could a bear...? Of course he could – he was freelance.

“I've changed my mind,” Arlington said. “I need to pick some things up from home.”

The cabby nodded.

Arlington gave the address and the cab turned off and raced into the night.

 

*

 

Last Orders

Copyright © R J Dent (2016)

 

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