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The Good Wife: Mystery Short Story

IN THE April 30 ISSUE

FROM THE 2016 Articles,
andMysteryrat's Maze,
andTerrific Tales
SECTIONS

by Paul Lees-Haley

Enjoy this never before published mystery short story.

Joey Bam and his boss knew I did contract kills in my twenties, so even though I hadn’t seen him for years, I understood what was going down the second Joey set his drink on the bar and sat beside me.bar scene (2)

“No.”

“We’re talking a lot of money, Jake.”

“I’m married now. Two kids and a regular job.”

“A lot.”

“It is a lot. A lot more than money.”

“I mean—-”

“I know what you mean. I don’t want your money.”

Joey gulped the rest of his drink and motioned to the bartender, made a circle over our glasses with an index finger for another round.wine

“Nothing for me,” I said.

“Big Ed don’t like it, a guy says ‘no.’ ”

“Tell Big Ed I respect him, but my arm got torn up in that thing with Bo Losey. I couldn’t hit the ground shooting at my feet.”

“So do it up close.”

“My arm, man. I can’t pull a piece fast enough to take a kid.”

“A lot of cash on this, brother.”

I threw up my hands and shook my head. He waited as if I were on the verge of changing my mind and saying something he wanted to repeat to Big Ed.

“Try the Rock boys. They’re always looking for work.”

“You’re kidding.”

I put a blank look on him without saying a word.

“Skinny’s doing twenty and his brothers are dead. Where you been?”

“Have you seen me in years? Heard about me taking any action? I’m not here anymore.”

He eyed me skeptically. “I gotta tell Big Ed what you say.”

And then he’d come back, I knew. Ten years, but I’d known from the moment I left the life. Big Ed’s a force of nature. A bad freeze and a long hot summer. Sooner or later, the fat guy’s coming.

———

“What are you doing?”

“Thought I’d sell some of these at the gun show.”

“You’re giving up your guns?”

“I never use them anymore.”

“Still, it’s like a collection. Your babies.” She pointed at an old single barrel with an exquisitely polished stock. “That one’s a beauty.”

Margaret made faces at the AR-15, which she said looked like a warehouse tool, but she admired the sleek sheen of the finer rifles.

“You told Johnny—-”

“I remember,” I said. I tried to hand her the shotgun I’d promised our son, but she did an exaggerated recoil with her fingers in a cross to ward off a vampire, and laughed. I propped it carefully in the corner across the room. “But not till he’s sixteen.”

“Eighteen. We agreed on eighteen.”

She watched me clean one of my 9 mm pistols, an S&W Shield. She always claimed to like the feel of the compacts, but she still refused to carry, no matter where she was going.

“Are you worrying about money again?”money

I shook my head. “These are money in the bank, and with the president pushing tougher gun control laws, they’re selling way over market.”

——

But instead of going to the gun show, I went to a shooting range that was halfway to the next town. I chose one that catered mostly to rich women, so none of Big Ed’s boys would be seen anywhere near it. As a precaution, I walked to the last booth on the line at the back anyway.

The .45 revolver was strictly a heavy backup. I’d use the M&P 9 mm, but I practiced with both.

I sighted, took a deep breath, let it half out, and squeezed off seven rounds. Three center circle, four on the edge.

All well within center mass on a chest the size of Big Ed’s, in case I couldn’t get behind him.

A hollow point in his head, to be thorough, and a second for the pure satisfying meanness of it would settle old scores. Overkill, so to speak.

——-

The thing is, nobody gets to say no to Big Ed,
so if he saw me anywhere he wouldn’t expect to, he’d order his boys to open fire before he blinked. I had to go to him and talk, to buy myself some time for planning. I called and arranged the meet at Big Ed’s Place, the name he thought clever for his café.

Meeting Big Ed on his turf would be suicide if I didn’t hand over everything I was packing a couple of feet inside the entrance. So I said the hell with it and went unarmed.

After his front-door tough guys patted me down, they led me in and told him I wasn’t carrying, and he said, “What’s this, you some kind of civilian?” He smirked and his two-hundred pound all-beef lackeys chuckled at his great sense of humor.

“Have been for ten years. I’m a family man now.”

“Good. Botch won’t expect nothing from you.” He smirked again. “Element of surprise.” His lackeys chuckled on cue, pretty much in sync with the jiggling of the rolls of fat on Big Ed’s belly.

So the target was Botch the Scotch. No one mentioned any reason, and I didn’t ask. Maybe he’d refused to kill someone.

For the record, I tried to talk my way out of the contract on Botch, but everyone in the room yawned at the waste of time. At least I yawned last. When I tried the part about my injuries and lousy aim, Joey Bam said again what he’d told me at the bar: “So do it up close.”

Big Ed scowled and looked suspicious when he heard that. “You never done it no other way.”

He was right. Not that I ever said it aloud, but my policy had been ‘close enough to shove it down his throat.’

Technically this was metaphorical because I shot my target in the back of his head whenever possible. No guilt trippy last words or whining, and they don’t duck. A better experience for both of us.

——-

I found one glimmer of hope; when I asked the only guy I trusted within ten miles of town, he said Big Ed had controlled his turf for so long he’d gotten lazy around the edges. My friend named examples and it sounded like he might be right. Strolls on the street at dusk. Coffee and wine at sidewalk cafes. Ball games. A regular at his own café. But always surrounded by his people. No way to get in close to do my thing. So much for the target practice with handguns. If it had to be that way, out in the open from a distance would work. Coming from me, Big Ed might call it an element of surprise.coffee to go

For two weeks I surveilled Big Ed’s haunts from rooftops. No buildings lower than four stories, to keep out of sight. If he found out and questioned me, my explanation was that I was planning the job. No, I’d say, I won’t take any shots while you’re in the neighborhood or near your businesses, but I haven’t been around, and I’ve got to know Botch’s moves.

——-

At dawn Saturday I drove to my brother’s farm. He’s a reclusive sort so I go up there a few times a year to help him shoot coyotes. It’s the only way I ever get to see him.

Our father was a deer hunter and taught us both rifles from the time we could barely hold them. But he taught us well. He used to say I could have been a competitive marksman if I’d practiced. I decided to settle for being an excellent shot by ordinary guy standards. I could drop a coyote consistently with a head shot from a hundred and fifty yards with a .22 long. But because I had in mind something more Big Ed’s size, I took one of our father’s deer rifles, a .300 Remington Ultra Mag. house

I tried a lot of angles from hilltops. Not as steep as from the roof of a city building, but it let me work out the drop and the most probable angles.

——-

Running out of time grew more of a problem. Big Ed had no patience and never listened. I had to make my move.

Without telling Margaret, I took a week off from work.

I chose the flat top of the abandoned Jackson Shoe building across from Big Ed’s Place. He wouldn’t be seated in sight like at an outdoor restaurant, but he went there virtually every day. And during my surveillance from the rooftops, I’d discovered he’d retained one of his habits from the old days. He always paused when he stepped out to the sidewalk, pretending to straighten his collar or tie while he glanced up and down the street. I only needed him stationary for a couple of seconds.

I rested my rifle in a jagged break in the parapet and lay on the roof in the sun, hoping he’d show before the temperature rose much higher. A damn fly buzzed around my face when I peered through the scope.

From behind me I heard the unmistakable sound of grit under a shoe. My last thought would be of my wife and son. Whirling around from lying flat with my rifle would only lead to a messier corpse. I didn’t want my wife and son to see me that way. I thought of fun times the three of us shared.

“Hey, Jake.”

Then I did whirl around, without the rifle.

“Margaret. What are you doing here?”

“Didn’t make sense, you talking about selling your guns.”

We’d been married all those years, and there I was lying on that gritty roof in the hard sunshine, holding a rifle, and I’m thinking how terrific she looked. Tight jeans, tight white blouse with buttons unfastened at the top, and her hair was still that fabulous thick blond I’d loved running my fingers through ever since we made out in movie theaters in high school.

“Yeah, I guess not.”

She flicked the ash off her cigarette and took a drag before she spoke.

“Well?” She said it in a tone like she was waiting for me to do something.

“Well?”

“You’re doing Big Ed, aren’t you?” It was a statement, not a question. She always was way ahead of me.

My mouth felt full of cotton. I looked at her feet, her face, off to the side, and back at her face.

“I’m too old for this shit.”

Her expression hardened. I searched for something more intelligent to say. Couldn’t find anything.

“It’s him or you, honey.” She gestured at my rifle and over the wall, down toward Big Ed’s Place.

My mouth opened like I was stupid.

She smiled, bittersweet, flipped away her cigarette, and put her hands on her hips. “You won’t have all day.”

I hesitated, processing what I was seeing and hearing, but it was clear enough. I resumed my position and waited for Big Ed.

The wind flowed gently, nothing to affect my aim.

In my pistols I always favored soft hollow points for maximum internal damage. But with the rifle, my aim was truer with hard cast bullets, which don’t expand the same way inside a human body.

That’s why the blood-brain splatter on the wall of Big Ed’s Place was so small.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section.

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Award-winning author Paul Lees-Haley has previously written for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly Magazine, The Alabama Writers Conclave’s Alalitcom, Voices, G/C/T, Hypertrophic Literary, Fifty Word Stories, CoEvolution Quarterly, Trial, Spectrum, and many dozens of psychological and legal journals and magazines.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 David Roberts April 30, 2016 at 9:31am

He’ll hath no fury like a truly good woman!

Reply

2 Larry Chavis
Twitter: @lchav52
April 30, 2016 at 9:46am

Excellent story!

Reply

3 Elizabeth April 30, 2016 at 11:40am

A different kind of misdirection … great story!!

Reply

4 Kathleen Costa April 30, 2016 at 5:36pm

It’s nice to see a relationship that includes love and…support! Nice final twist, Paul.

Reply

5 Earl Staggs May 1, 2016 at 9:13am

Excellent story with good characterization. The author apparently knows lot about guns.

Reply

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