The two cops, beat officers dressed in their winter dark blues, sat saucers and cups of hot coffee on the table and then slid into the booth and sighed.
Worn out cops.
Cops who had seen too much and kept mouths shut for too long.
On the other side of the plate glass window sat their mud caked, battered black and white. A black and white with numerous dents and bruises from the constant daily grind of the job. An old, tired piece of metal which, on this night, somehow painted a portrait of the two officers who drove it. Leaning over the table with a silently shared groan of exhaustion both turned in silence, reaching for their java, and stared gloomily at the dull rain coating their vehicle. The rain would turn to sleet later tonight. That meant they’d be fifty or sixty traffic calls to attend to before the shift was up. Another long night.
In the booth behind them a young couple, college kids from the junior college just down the street, were holding hands and leaning on each other. Their faces were bright. Eager. Filled with puppy love. Odd it seemed to them as they glanced at the two when they came in. On a miserable night like this how in the hell could two people actually fall in love?
No one knew. It just does.
At the long bar which ran the length of the all night diner sat four of five college kids wolfing down hot food. Eating plates of French fries and burgers as if they hadn’t ate for a month. Which, from the looks of a couple of them, perhaps they hadn’t. There were also a couple of cabbies sitting on barstools drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and staring off into space. Just another night for the diner.
“You two hungry?” Marti growled in her odd husky whisper from behind the bar. “Got some fresh pie up. Coconut crème. Just cooled off and ready to pop into a freezer. Want some?”
“Sure Marti, you know me. I can’t say no to coconut crème. Big piece,” one of the cops answered, a tired smile playing across his lips as he nodded.
The big boned woman nodded and moved through double swinging saloon doors and disappeared into the kitchen. When she disappeared the other officer sat his coffee cup on the saucer and looked at his partner.
“That last call we were on . . . you know, Jimmy Mango’s wife. How many times have we gone over there and pulled those two apart? You know what’s gonna happen, don’t you? She’s gonna get another beating, Ed. And maybe the kids as well. But the wife first. Sure as hell. He’ll work her over like he did the other time. But maybe the next time it’ll be worse—maybe next time he won’t stop.”
The corners around Ed’s lips compressed into a frown as he stared down into the black pool of java staring up at him. Yeah. He knew. She’d get a beating. Like the time before. And the time before that. Jimmy Mango will come home, hyped up on drugs and booze and fresh from some burglary heist with cash in his wallet. He’d come home like the prick his was, take one look at his wife and bust her in the face with a fist. That would be the beginning of a thorough working over. By time he was finished with her he’d be a sweating, heavy breathing, mindless drone passed out on the kitchen floor. And Connie, his wife, would be a fucking bloody mess.
“There’s nothing we can do. Connie Mango won’t make an official statement and refuses to talk to any counselor or to the DA. Jimmy’s tight with a local crime boss so every time his ass is thrown in jail he’s out on bail in less than twenty four hours. So what the hell can we do? I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We’ll sit and wait. That’s all. Sit and wait until we have to pull out a body bag and call for a meat wagon.”
“Christ, it ain’t right, buddy. It ain’t right.” growled the younger officer, shaking his head in disgust.
Both turned and stared out at the rain falling and sat in silence. The waitress moved silently up to the table and slid the pie over to Ed. As she turned to walk behind the counter one of the cabbies lifted himself off a barstool and turned to walk toward the cash register.
“The usual?” she asked, smiling, lifting an eyebrow at the tall, thin man with the cabbie hat pulled low over his face.
“The usual,” he whispered softly, nodding and laying two twenties on the counter before walking out into the night.
She walked over to where the two love birds were noodling in the booth. Her big hand swept across the table and grabbed the ticket lying face down on the glistening surface.
“Hey, we can pay that. Honest,” the curly haired, good looking boy said, lifting his head up from his girlfriend’s neck and looking at the waitress.
“It’s already been paid,” she said, tearing the ticket up into neat little strips and stuffing them into an apron pocket.
She walked over to row of college kids huddled over their plates and coffee cups and swiped their tickets as well before turning and walking back into the kitchen. Every Friday night. The same thing. The strange cabbie with the amazing black eyes pays the tabs.
“Hey, Marti. Who was that guy?” the older of the two cops asked when she came back through the double swinging doors and stepped up to the cash register.
“Dunno, really. Calls himself Smitty. Drives a cab. Comes in here once a week. That’s it. That’s all I know.”
The street veteran of a thousand such rainy, gloomy nights nodded and turned his head to stare at the door thoughtfully.
Two hours later Jimmy Mango threw open the back door of the kitchen and staggered into cold, unlit room and angrily kicked the door shut.
“Bitch! Where’s my food? Why are the goddamn lights out? Where the hell are you?”
He screamed. He roared. He raged. He tore through the house, room at a time, tearing each room to pieces. Lamps were hurled into the walls. Chairs were kicked over and then stomped into a thousand ragged pieces. The set of fine china dolls his wife so cherished he threw on the floor and worked them over with his feet until they too were nothing but white powered invalids.
Finally he worked himself into the small room used as the family room. And stopped in his tracks. His eyes, unfocused and blurry, blinked and blinked at the image he saw in front of him. A figure sitting in his favorite chair. The one lamp turned on low. The figure’s waist, arms, and crossed legs illuminated. But the man’s face strangely masked in dark shadows.
“Who the fuck are you? And where the hell is my wife!”
“Gone, Jimmy. Packed their bags and left. All of them.”
“Gone? Whatta mean gone? Where would that whore go? She’s got nothing to go to. Nothing, do you hear me?”
“She won the lottery, Jimmy. Bought a lottery ticket last week. A million dollars. The lottery people came by tonight to give her the money. Someone suggested it might be the opportune time to leave. Take the children and leave. Make a new life somewhere else. Somewhere far away where you’ll never find her.”
“A million dollars! You gotta be fucking kidding me. I’ll find that bitch. I’ll find her. And slap her around until she gives me the dough. Nobody is going to take a million dollars away from me. Nobody!”
“Oh, I’m afraid I disagree, Jimmy. Very much so.”
Smitty’s right hand lifted up from his waist. In the dim light from the lamp Jimmy saw a long barreled .22 caliber semi-automatic with a stumpy, cylindrical shape attached to the end of it. A silencer. Jimmy, a hot blaze of insane rage gripping him, staggered back as a hand reached behind his back and gripped the 9 mm Beretta stuffed into his slacks. He started to yank . . .
There was two quick, almost inaudible ‘pufts.’ One right after the other. Two bullets smacked into Jimmy’s forehead just above the bridge of his nose. Two bullets so closely spaced apart one could cover the holes with a dime.
Death smiled as he came out of the chair, his hands removing the silencer from the end of the .22’s barrel. Slipping the bulky looking device into a pocket Smitty walked over to the dead from of Jimmy Mango and knelt down. Taking the man’s right hand he put the gun in the dead man’s hand and then pressed the dead man’s index finger onto the trigger of the gun. Prints . . . Jimmy Mango’s prints . . . had to be the only ones found on the weapon. Satisfied with his work Smitty stood up and pulled from inside of his jacket a neatly typed note.
She’s left me. She and the kids. I know I’ve been a terrible husband.
A terrible father. I can’t stand it. I can’t live in this house anymore.
I’m going to end it all. End it tonight.
Unsigned. Untraceable. But with Jimmy’s fingerprints all over it. Smitty grinned, took his time going through the house to make sure he had removed all traces of his presence, and then left by way of the kitchen. Stepping into the night he didn’t look back.
When the job is done—never look back.
B.R. Stateham is a sixty-one year old writer who unabashedly writes about mayhem and murder. And maybe someday he’ll be successful at at.