Two men meet on borrowed time. The survivor is haunted by all too familiar questions.
| The man’s heart was frozen solid. However, unlike the frost that clung to the trees, the frost around his heart had not appeared overnight. It had slowly appeared through the days and years that made up his life. Through this time, layer after layer formed around his emotions until, death and despair were both nothing to him. The man let out a depressed sigh as he put the pieces of his project together while reviewing the steps in his head.
Satisfied that everything was in place, the man scooped up his bag marched out of the hotel room. He walked down two flights of stairs and made a beeline for the front desk.
“Checking out, sir?” asked the woman with a well-practiced smile.
“Yes,” the man confirmed.
She nodded and typed something into the computer.
“Alright, Mr. Davis. Do you have the room key?” she requested.
He nodded and produced the key. She accepted it and the rest of the check-out went uneventfully. Mr. Davis -as he was presently going by- walked outside into the frozen January afternoon. Davis made his way down the city block and made a right. After that he walked three more blocks and ducked into a fast-food bathroom.
There, he promptly stripped out of his business suit, placed it in the larger of heavy cloth bags and changed into a long sleeve shirt and coveralls. Over that he put on a navy-blue jacket marked up with a layer of dirt and grime. On the chest was a name patch that also said “Davis”.
After changing, he slipped out in an outgoing group and made his way further into the city. After walking a few more blocks, he came up on the building in question. It was a towering structure full of upper end flats. From what he had read, the cheapest place here cost north of 500,000 dollars.
He took a deep breath and pushed open the doors to the lobby. Getting into the apartment wasn’t too hard. He had the words and papers to get inside. However, getting out would be another story. He had to make it down nine stories and out of Upper Manhattan without raising alarm bells.
The man checked his watch and made his way into the kitchen. With a shrug, he slid on his leather gloves and sifted through the fridge. He couldn’t eat it here as there was too much risk of leaving evidence behind. However, he wouldn’t mind the meal after he was out.
He slipped a banana and half a sandwich into his tool bag. Then, true to his cover, the
man began doing a couple small repairs on the person’s kitchen light. He had the time and knowledge to fix the necessary wires. Besides, management was going to have enough issues renting out this place as it was.
He had just put the cover back on the light when his watch chimed. He turned his wrist; silenced his watch; and nodded to himself. It was a quarter to ten. The man should be walking in soon. Knowing this, he made his way to the smaller of his two bags and produced a silenced 9mm before replacing his other tools. He clutched the cold pistol in one hand and hid his bags, before retreating into the heavily shadowed hallway.
His breath caught as the deadbolt snapped back. It was followed by another, soft click as the front door knob was turned. The man of the hour pushed the door open before stepping into what he thought was an empty place. As the man shut and locked the door, Davis smirked.
The man was in trouble and he knew it. His steps were quick but uncertain, while his eyes darted back and forth. He confirmed Davis’s observation by muttering to himself.
“The money… Damn it! Think George… You need to get the cash and get it quick… well, what about Maria. Can’t forget her either.” George frantically muttered.
“I’m afraid that collective ship sailed a long time ago,” Davis spoke up.
George spun around armed with a kitchen knife and a wide-eyed expression. The intruder resisted the urge to roll his eyes as he stepped out of the shadows with a pistol in hand.
“That won’t do you much good, here,” he declared as he tapped the wall with his pistol.
“Miguel, send you?” the man asked with a wavering voice, “because if he did. Tell him-“
“There is an eight and a half million-dollar bullet in this chamber. The expressed purpose of it is to teach you not to steal from the firm, frame Miguel for said crime, or cheat on your wife during the process,” Davis interrupted coldly.
George’s eyes turned to saucers. There was a metallic clank as the knife hit the floor. The exact depth of the man’s troubles was finally understood.
“How- What- They all hired you!” he stammered.
“Three from Miguel, five from the firm, and half a million from your wife. She was a bit of a late comer to the party, but I wasn’t going to argue with extra money,” Davis confirmed as he raised the pistol.
“No! Wait I can get-”
The pistol coughed, and his cry cut off as his head snapped back. The man dropped to the floor with a thump as the blood trickled out onto the tile. Davis slowly shook his head. It was always amazing how quickly someone this well off could fall. One month ago, George had been on top of the world, the world was a fragile one, but he was on top nonetheless. Now that he had destroyed that world, George was just another dead man freed of his troubles.
Keen to leave the existential questions alone, he collected the man’s key and his single bullet casing. Davis pocketed the casing; snatched up his bags; and ducked out into the hallway. He resisted the instinctual urge to look around while locking the apartment door. Then, while continuing to keep his face away from the cameras, Davis walked down the hallway and exited out the same lobby he had entered from.
As he disappeared into the night, Davis’s mind refused to let go of the man in the apartment. While he looked for a place to change, his mind was wandering to places he really didn’t like. Over time, it had cruelly traded the thought of George’s fate for his own. He could feel the eyes picking him apart. New York City had thirty-six thousand officers—many of which didn’t wear a uniform, but all of which had access to a radio. On top of that, there were a million plus citizens who would be happy to report anyone remotely looking like him to those same officers.
As he made his way down the ever-darkening street, Davis found himself looking over his shoulders and up the towering office buildings. They were there somewhere. Every eye was on him- waiting for one misstep. Davis knew it. His gut churned, and he began dissecting every person with his eyes. Davis resisted the urge to sigh in relief when he finally ducked into a bathroom to change. Once the door was shut and locked, he dropped his carefully fitted mask of comfort.
“Stop it,” he hissed to himself, “Paranoia kills.”
There was much to do and little time. If he kept moving as slowly as the nerves demanded, he would be caught for sure. A murder in upper Manhattan wasn’t going to go unnoticed. That body would be found by morning and his face would be in every relevant circle by dinner. For now the fragile state of his nerves was unwarranted. Tomorrow, it would be a different story. Much to his disdain, Davis didn’t get to leave yet. He still needed to collect the second half of his payment. There was something to be said for caution, but one still had to move with speed and purpose.
In all his years doing this work, Davis had learned that empires built on blood never stood for long. His personal kingdom was no exception. Simply being alive at age fifty labeled him as a rare breed. Eventually, his luck was bound to run out. He could only hope that old age took him before a bullet did.
“How long until my house of cards comes down?” he asked himself as he changed clothes and names once again.