29 October 2017

Conscience Bows to the Weight

There is nothing so heavy as a gun still warm from the firing. Riley could feel it radiating through the wool lining of the pocket in which his hand curled around the pistol. The oily smoothness of the backstrap contrasted by the tiny diamonds of the grip scratching his fingers. A cool wind rippled the slow swell in the harbor. The gun, Riley worried, might pull him off the wharf to drown.

No sirens or police cars on the cruise, so far. “Good sign,” Riley muttered. His usual MO was to use a silencer, but the red ball nature of the latest assignment left no time to scrounge one up. The usual sources were good, but not that fast. The wet work man reckoned a combination of pillows and thick cellar door had muffled enough.

But in his line of work, one could never be sure.

Slow Tuesday at the wharf. Erratic sunlight and a nip in the air maybe held back some of the typical crowd. Riley turned to look over his shoulder. The park behind was sparse with people. A mother and toddler, plus a stroller. Toddler clutching a half-eaten giant pretzel. Baby snoozing on the stroller. A few couples taking selfies or snuggling with hands wrapped around cups of boom town coffee. Two old guys wearing windbreakers, shorts, and topsiders, engaged in an animated discussion of boat minutia.

Riley swiveled his face back to the harbor. Nobody seemed to be paying him much attention. Some tension left his back. His hand still clutched the gun tightly, shaking, hot, sweating despite the fall air. Another gust skirled about, bringing to Riley’s nostrils the combined odors of cold saltwater and cordite. The crisp tang made him cough. He hawked and spat into the water.

Movement from below. A swelling in the water as a fish nipped at the sputum. In a recursive swipe at the universe, the fish spat it back out and disappeared back into the depths. Riley laughed. It sounded odd to his ears. A rusty, warbling croak showing the weight of disuse. He recalled how his ex-wife had loved his laugh, back when they were a thing and the world was very different. No way that she would like it now, assuming they had been face to face.

She would have no truck with anything he was now.

Ping, went the watch on his wrist. He twitched at the sound, having forgotten it was there. Letting go of the gun, he pulled back the cuff of his pea jacket to look. Ten minutes, said the message. Cold blue-green letters flashing the faint promise of salvation, or at least escape. Ten minutes until the car took him away. That left the small matter of the black hole in his pocket.

The gun had to go. This much was clear. Carrying it through downtown while dodging tourists and the beat cops was not an option. Too risky, he wagered. Still no sirens, so that was good. The nearest trash can was too close to people, plus too much risk it would be found. He would save the gloves for that. Riley looked down past his feet dangling over the low tide. Slow undulations of the glassy green water lapped at the pilings. It was the harbor that would swallow it up.

Riley turned his head, scanning the harbor. No movement of people out on the boats at their moorings. The tourist cruiser to his right was idle. He saw no crew. Twisting around, acting as if he were stretching his back, he looked over his shoulder at the park. No one close. Three loners engrossed in their smartphones. Riley huffed in relief.

Moving faster, he carefully palmed the pistol from his pocket. One hand would not cover it, but he hoped the sleek black metal would blend in with the gloves he wore. All he needed was a few seconds.

He slid the gun onto his lap. Another quick glance to assure no prying eyes, he leaned over the edge of the wharf. He pretended to be intensely interested in something in the water. The gun slid between his legs. It bounced off the edge of the wood decking with a loud thunk. Reflexively he snapped his legs together and kicked backward with his right foot. His heel caught the gun on the way down. The impact knocked the gun back towards the bulkhead, where it slid into the water. Riley was surprised it made so little noise as it slipped under the surface.

There were ripples, then nothing. The hitman straightened up. Breath whooshed into his lungs, air sharp and cool. Ten minutes to go. He had to make it uphill towards the church in that time, or his escape route was lost. A quick turn and he hoisted himself back up to his feet, facing the park.

One of the loners was looking at him. Half quizzically, half blank stare. Riley stared back. His heart raced, thinking that what if Loner was an agent, come to reel him back in? He pretended to check his watch. Loner blinked slowly, closed his mouth, and went back to scanning his phone.

Riley breathed out, breathed in. His heart slowed. Looking up past the marina, he could see the church spire up at the head of the street. Sunlight shone on it, a near solid bar of light piercing the clouds. The stores shouldering the street, the park, the traffic circle with its buzz of cars, all remained in nacreous half light. The faceted cone and cross blazed in white gold. His vision blurred.

Sharp whoop of a police siren snapped him out of his daydream. Shaking, Riley forced himself to march on past the moorings, beginning to fill up with ego boosters in anticipation of the weekend. The police car was nowhere in sight, but the dopplered cacophony of it filled his ears with haste and anxiety. 

He shouldered his way into a throng of people at the foot of the street. Six minutes to go. The car would be close. The pair of gloves were discreetly removed and deposited in different waste bins as he made his way up the hill. Another siren split the air. Riley thought they were headed in the general direction of the scene he had left, with its macabre tableau in the basement. But in this business, he reminded himself, you could never be sure.

Four minutes to go. The spire was mottled with cloud shadow and sunlight. Riley turned his collar up against the wind. A prayer crossed his lips unbidden. Night was not far away. He walked faster, uphill, headed for salvation or damnation he did not know.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you very much! A little noir is good now and then.

  2. " headed for salvation or damnation he did not know." Aren't we all! Keep writing and inspiring!

    1. I know which way I'd want to go ::grin:: I'll keep at, thank you for reading.


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Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

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