by Herschel Cozine
Enjoy this never before published mystery short story by Herschel Cozine with a different sort of twist. You can find more of his stories, and others in out Terrific Tales section.
They were all out to get him, but Mitch knew it was nothing personal. They were only doing their jobs. They were pros, just as he was, working for one man, but he wasn’t a member of their organization. He worked for somebody else.
He took a swing as one of them made a threatening gesture toward him. There was nothing left to do but run. If they were going to get him, he wasn’t going to make it easy for them. And he had the advantage of being on his home ground. It was a small advantage, but in this business you needed every edge you could get.
Mitch spun on his heels and ran as fast as he could. He hated running. It was against his nature, but he was one man against all of them. He knew the rules they played by. And in this case it wasn’t cowardice that made him run as he was doing now. He knew there would be times like this when he took the job.
He veered sharply to the left, put his head down and ran faster. He could feel the adrenaline surging through his body, spurring him to speeds he never dreamed he was capable of reaching. Out of the corner of his eye he saw one of them pointing to a spot just in front of him. He turned again, not missing a step. The maneuver wasn’t fooling any of them. They knew he was going home and they knew exactly where it was. Big Al, their “stopper”, would be there when he arrived, as surely as night follows day.
Maybe he wouldn’t go home. He considered the idea for a fleeting instant and then put it out of his head. He’d be safe there, among friends; nobody could touch him there. And if he didn’t go now, he may never get the opportunity. These guys played for keeps.
If he had to do it all over, would he get into this line of work? It was all he knew, and the excitement, the challenge, the money made it all worthwhile. At this very moment, pitting his cunning and skill against theirs, knowing what was at stake, he felt euphoric. He was a good hit man and his reputation preceded him wherever he went. He was on the run often, and when he stopped to think about it, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
But Max, the man behind him, was good, too. He had gunned down a lot of guys like him in his time. He was one of the best in the business. The hairs on the back of Mitch’s neck stood up as he sensed Max behind him taking aim. Mitch ducked instinctively, knowing all the while that Max had aimed over his head. There were better ways than that to get him. Max was leaving it up to Big Al to do the job.
Mitch looked up and saw Big Al standing in front of him, blocking his way. He was a giant of a man, with huge forearms that appeared capable of tearing one’s head off with a single blow. Mitch’s trained eye took in the scene. He realized Big Al wasn’t ready for him. He had taken his eyes off Mitch for a fleeting instant. Mitch had to use the distraction to his advantage. He decided to charge right into the man, hoping to catch him off balance. If he failed–well, he would go out knowing he had done his best.
He steeled his body and threw himself against Big Al. Mitch felt every bone in his body crunch as he slammed against the bulk of the bigger man. Big Al grunted and reeled away. The object in his hand dropped harmlessly to the ground. Even as Mitch rolled over in agony he started to laugh. He had made it!
He looked up at the man standing over him with his hands spread, palms downward.
Mitch struggled to his feet as his teammates gathered around him, slapping him on the back and offering their congratulations. Big Al Marino kicked at the baseball angrily and cursed. Max, the left fielder, walked dejectedly off the field.
A game winning hit! And in the World Series at that. Mitch limped to the dugout as sixty thousand fans came to their feet with a thunderous ovation.
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