“Look, you can work me over as much as you like, but you won’t get what you’re lookin for. I run a tight business and I have rules. Rule number one, I never lay eyes on the employer. Rule number two, I don’t quit until the job’s done. Period. That’s the way I run my shop. If I end up strapped to a chair, getting tuned up by some cheap suits, I can’t rat. Bein a rat’s bad for business.” I said. I needed to kill some time; create some space to think. My hands were bound behind me so tight I couldn’t feel anything from the elbow down. Tony’s boys had worked me over pretty good and I couldn’t see out of my left eye. I wasn’t sure if it was gone or just crusted over with dried blood. There were two of em; about two hundred and fifty pounds of stupid a piece. I could tell by the way they threw a punch they were hacks, all knuckles and no finesse. No imagination.
“So here we are. You want somethin I can’t give you.” I said spitting blood on the concrete. “I don’t know who put the hit out on big Tony. You can roll out your shiny bag of cutlery, and fire up the power tools, but I’m telling you, I don’t know. Cause I don’t need to know.” The one I called Nancy, on account of his soft hands, laid a haymaker on me. I guess he didn’t like my tone. I get that a lot. I spit another mouthful of blood on the floor and flashed a toothy snarl. “I’m a cleaner, independent and a damn sight more efficient than the butchers runnin around these days. It’s a matter of dignity you see. It’s about a job well done.”
The other bag of shit, I called Frosty cause he kept pretty chilly during our little tango. I noticed his hands didn’t shake a bit while he was jabbin a thumb in my eye. Not too shabby, but it was still amateur hour.
“I get it.” I said. “Your boss won’t let you come back with nothin to show for your time. How bout I tell you how I got the job, then you can work me over some more. Maybe that’ll be enough to keep you outta the trunk of that Continental outside.”
Frosty leaned in “This ain’t a joke wise guy.” He gave my eye another poke for emphasis. All I needed was to keep these two busy; wear em down. They knew they were out of their league, and soon enough one of em, probably Nancy, would put in a call to the boss. I just needed to tell em enough to buy some time.
“I keep some P.O. boxes around town under bogus names. If somebody wants my services they probably heard of me through a former client. I don’t advertise. My work speaks for itself. Somebody wants some wet work done they call in to Floyd’s barbershop down on 126th. You ask for Lou. You say you want a straight razor shave. Now Lou was a one of the old guys from back in the day. If you wanted a good shave he was your man. A fuckin Michelangelo with a blade I tell you.” Frosty laid a jab into my ribs. I could tell by lookin at his stubbly face, that he didn’t appreciate a good shave.
“You see Lou died about fifteen years ago. So if you call in askin for him, the guys know to give you an address, and a number. It’s a pay phone down on 33rd, one of the few that still work. You go there and dial the number they gave you. You let it ring three times and hang up. You wait and I call back. Now I know what you’re thinkin, but don’t bother with the guys at the shop, cause they don’t know me. They just follow the instructions old Lou left with them before he died. Fucking cancer! Now you can’t get a decent shave in this town. So I call you back, and you tell me what you want done, and I tell you the price. Half up front and the other half when the job’s done. All sent to a P.O box. I never see you, or ask your name. I do the job, collect my money and life goes on, well at least for some of us.” I continued to blab on like a school girl buying time and then as predicted, Nancy stepped away to my blind side and I could hear him on his phone. All I could make out was “Asshole” and “not getting anywhere”. He hung up and the ‘Brothers Dim’ let me be for a while.
Before long I saw shadows on the warehouse wall appear and then get chased away by a pair of headlights. The engine stopped and I could hear someone walkin up behind me. The shoes sounded like good leather, and the stride was somebody tall and heavy set. Big Tony was in the house. I hung my head and let some bloody drool run down my lip. I wanted to look as out of it as possible. I wanted him to get close.
“So this is him?” I heard a voice say.
“Yeah, he’s the guy.” Frosty said. Big Tony walked around so I could see him with my good eye. I didn’t react, I just sat there slumped over and droolin. Big Tony took the white pocket square out of his jacket and wrapped it around his fingers. He grabbed my chin and lifted my head so he could see my face better.
“You thought you could take me out? You piece of dog shit. Tell me who paid you and I’ll kill you quick. Fuck with me and I will cut your fingers off and feed em to you. Am I clear?” He dropped my head from his hand and tossed the white pocket square on the ground. My face left a bloody design across the fine silk. Big Tony had Nancy hold my head up while Frosty tuned me up some more. He hit like a little bitch, and I had to try hard not to grin. Soon Frosty got winded so Big Tony told him and Nancy to go outside and take a smoke break. The big man wanted some time alone with his stalker. Perfect.
“Ok tough guy, I can tell by lookin at you that we can go all night like this. You see, I ain’t got all night. So tell me now who put the hit out on me and we can end this like gentlemen. There’s no need to get all messy.”
I lifted my head and mumbled quietly, just barely movin my lips. Big Tony leaned in, careful not to get blood on his jacket. “Go head, there’s no shame my friend. Just say his name and this will all be over.”
“Rule number two.” I said a little louder.
“What the fuck is rule number two?”
I jerked up and nailed Tony’s chin with the top of my head. He staggered back but before he could get any distance, I wrapped my legs around him and pulled him down to the concrete. He kicked and struggled, but before he could get his bearings, I had his neck between my thighs. Earlier, while Frosty was working my ribcage, I managed to break the thumb of my right hand, leaving room to slip it out of the thick plastic zip tie. I pulled my hands loose and reached into the waist band of my boxers. I pulled out the mini straight razor that I kept in the lining; the one those fucking amateurs didn’t find it.
Tony heaved and gasped for air. He beat the sides of my legs with his fists until he could barely lift his arms. I loosened my death grip on his neck just slightly and he ejected a hoarse scream. “Vito! Stevie!”
“Your boys are already dead Tony. By now my buddy Lou the barber has already given em a close shave. Now it’s your turn. Rule number two my friend. Never quit until the job’s done. It’s a matter of craftsmanship.”
J David Jaggers is a Tullahoma, TN based investment advisor and member of the Fiction writers group and Horror writers Facebook group. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Western Kentucky University. He and his wife enjoy ballroom dancing, skydiving, and hiking with their Australian Kelpie Crackerjax. He is currently working on a collection of short crime fiction.