Tiny Little Twists
“Come on in, kid. Close the door.”
Being called ‘kid’ at the age of thirty-four rankled. He let that one slide, though.
The door shut with a gentle click as he turned and took in the details of the bar’s back room. Venetian blinds draped the one small window through which the day’s dying light filtered, painting the opposite wall with alternating stripes of heavy, almost-solid shadow and reddish-gold light.
In two steps, Myron crossed from the door to the desk that dominated most of the room and nodded respectfully to the man on the other side. Sixtyish, paunchy and gray-haired with a deeply-lined face, Dominic Malori sat hunched forward with hands clasped before him on the desk. In contrast, Myron stood rail-thin, with a still-boyish face and chocolate-brown hair, waiting for the other man’s leave to sit in the single, thinly-cushioned seat on his side of the desk.
After a moment, Malori nodded and waved a hand nonchalantly. “So you’re Nicky’s brother, huh?”
Myron sat. “Yes, sir. I’m Myron, sir.”
Malori stared with heavily lidded eyes across the desk, studying the younger man. “You got his look, kid, I’ll give ya that.”
Myron narrowed his own gaze and cleared his throat. The condescension was getting to him already. “Begging your pardon, Mr. Malori, but I ain’t a kid and I don’t appreciate being called one.”
Nick always called him ‘kid’, too. Had for as long as Myron could remember—going back to when they were both kids. It was just another way of reminding Myron who held the power. Maybe he’d even told Malori to call him that. That’d be just like Nick; demand a favor of his little brother while getting someone to twist the knife just that tiniest, painful bit. This, Myron promised himself, would be the last time his brother ‘asked’ any favors of him.
Deep in the old man’s throat, a wet, gurgling laugh half-formed before turning into a hacking cough that became a minor fit and continued for some moments before subsiding. Myron remained silent, waiting, his gaze fixed. He didn’t want to blow this opportunity, but the road to self-respect had to start somewhere and this seemed like as good a place as any.
Finally, “You got your brother’s balls, too, ki— I mean, Myron.” Malori cleared his throat and hocked into the wastebasket near the desk. When he turned back towards his guest, he smiled thinly. “I hope you’re smarter than he is, though. I mean, I admire balls under most circumstances, but your brother…he owes me a hell of a lot of money. Did you know that?”
“So you know why you’re here.”
“Nick said for a job.”
Malori snorted. “Yeah, a job. But do you know why?”
Furrowing his brow, Myron showed a moment’s confusion. “Nick said you got a job needs doing, but he can’t do it himself cuz his face is a little too well known around this neighborhood. But if I do this, his debt disappears and on top of that, if I do well, there’s more work for me.”
That wet laugh rumbled to completion this time. “’Disappears’, he says? That’s rich.” Malori leaned back in his chair, resting his hands on his ample belly. “Nicky owes me a lot more’n one job, so he was half right, at least; there’ll be more work for you if this goes well. Not that I’m letting that sack of shit off without getting his hands dirty, but, uh…” He trailed off, apparently deciding he’d said too much. “Well, never mind.”
Myron shrugged. “Just what he told me.” He paused, then added, “Nick’s never steered me wrong yet.”
“Yeah, I bet. You ever do this kinda work before?”
Allowing himself a little smile, Myron admitted, “Mr. Malori, times bein’ what they are, I haven’t done any kinda work in quite a while.”
Standing, Malori turned to the cabinet alongside his desk and opened a drawer, his back to the other man.
Myron continued, less confidently, “But, uh, Nick said it’d be a cinch.”
Malori plopped back down into his chair, placing a worn-looking, semi-automatic handgun on the desk, closer to Myron than himself. “Should be, which is why I’m giving Nicky’s untested little brother a chance, but you’ll still need the right tool.”
Eyes widening, Myron whispered, “Shit.”
Waving a hand dismissively, as if swatting Myron’s concern from the air, Malori countered, “You’ll just have to show it, not use it. Job’s a scam and the ‘victim’ is in on it.”
“Huh.” Myron raised an eyebrow.
“Insurance scam. Another deadbeat who owes me money owns a little mom’n’pop jewelry store. You rob the place, jewelry comes to me; insurance pays off, and of half that comes to me, too—debt cleared.”
Testing the feel of the weapon in his hand, Myron asked, “Sounds good. So you got one of them things, you know, makes the gun quiet?”
“A silencer?” Malori scoffed. “You ain’t gonna even need to shoot the thing.”
“Ya wanna make it realistic-looking, right? Place’s gonna have cameras and shit, I assume.”
Malori shook his head, but reached into the bottom drawer of his desk and a moment later tossing a black, steel cylinder towards Myron, who caught it handily. “Whatever gets you off, kid. Sorry—Myron. Just do the job right, no fuck ups.”
Screwing the silencer in place with a practiced motion that wasn’t lost on Malori, Myron nodded. Weapon in hand, the younger man’s entire demeanor changed, as if he had suddenly grown taller and more self-assured. The change was so sudden, so unexpected it unnerved the loan shark. He tried to hide it, clearing his throat and adding, almost as if it himself, “Should be easy.”
Myron nodded. “You’re right, sir. Easy as pie,” and with the smooth motions of a practiced shootist, drew down on the older man and fired the silenced weapon twice—pop, pop—directly into the center of the chest of the man who held brother Nick’s debt.
Myron stood, slipping the gun into his jacket before sidling around behind Malori’s desk. It only took a few minutes to locate the file containing the photographs Nick had asked him to retrieve—the damaging collateral for the unknown sum Malori had shelled out. Allowing himself the tiniest smile, Myron exited the office, and made his way quickly out to the street, manila envelope cradled protectively to his chest.
Nick was right when he had said that the job would be a cinch, but he had been mistaken about one thing: his debt wasn’t cleared, it had simply shifted owners.
Smiling broadly, a little zip in his step for the first time in a long time, Myron wondered what pet-name he could call Nick that’d annoy him the most. Malori had been right when he’d said that Nick wouldn’t get off easily; with his new-found leverage Myron would most certainly make sure of that, but sometimes, he reflected, those tiny little twists of the knife were the most satisfying.
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Brandon Barrows lives by a big lake in Vermont writing comic books, prose and poetry. His story collections The Altar in the Hills (Raven Warren Publishing) and The Castle-Town Tragedy (Dunham’s Manor Press) are available now and his first novel is forthcoming. His detective comic series “Jack Hammer” is published by Action Lab Comics and he was a recipient of the Ghastly Award for excellence in horror comics in 2013. Find more at www.brandonbarrowscomics.com
KJ Hannah Greenberg new book, Friends and Rabid Hedgehogs, just launched. This collection of short fiction includes a work initially published in Flash Fiction Press; “A Line Producer’s Beneficent Notes”. It is available at Amazon in Kindle and print.