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Phillip Thompson
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Art by John Lunar Richie 2015



Phillip Thompson


I don't usually kill anyone before noon, but since Vance was drinking whiskey in the passenger seat at nine o'clock in the morning, it didn't feel like morning anyway.

Even in Iraq, for some reason, most of my kills came in the late afternoon. Maybe the light, or the habits of the targets. Who knows. In any event, the hotel parking lot Vance and I sat in sure as hell wasn't Iraq.

Vance—Richard "Dickie" Vance—had hired me to kill his wife. And he wanted to be there when it happened. For the satisfaction of the moment, he said.

"She did you wrong," I'd said to him across the picnic table at a park outside of town two weeks earlier. He wasn't drinking then, but damn if he didn't look like he needed a drink.

"Yeah." He shrugged in his lawyer's suit—gray, white shirt, pale blue tie, all business—and cut his eyes back and forth, surveying the dying fall grass on the adjacent ball park. "You know the story. She's having an affair."

I nodded. It was an old, tired story. "And you know my price," I said. I sipped my coffee from the convenience store paper cup. He nodded.

"So how do you know she's having an affair?" I asked.

He looked startled. "I just do."

"Any proof?"

"You mean other than her admitting to it? No, I don't have any fucking proof."

"You know the guy?

He was getting annoyed. He jammed his hands in his pockets, pulled them out. Blew out his breath. "She didn't tell me his fucking name, for Christ's sake. Look, man, why all the questions?

I glared at him hard, let him chill a second or two. His eyes were bloodshot, the red lines a crazy mess around washed-out blue. Too much booze, too little sleep and a shitload of worry will do that.

I took another hit of coffee. "I prefer to know as much about the target as possible," I said. "Habits. Routines. Associates. This guy she's fucking. For all I know, he's a cop, or a banger, somebody who might hold a grudge if I kill his girlfriend. Might come after me. Might come after you."

I let that sink in. Usually, this is the point where they run scared. But he didn't. He just nodded, processed the info, then realized he was acting like a douchebag. "Right," he said. "Sorry. I've never done this before."

I smiled. "I know. That's why you hired me."

That's when he brought up the requirement of being with me. I almost told him to fuck off right there. But money has its own language, and Vance spoke cash. I agreed to let him, but only if he did what I told him, and no questions.

Bugged me, though. Besides the fact that he came off as ghoulish, even for a guy like me, I don't like people around when I'm working. Especially when work means a potential date with a death row needle.

I looked at him now, sitting across from me in a rented Ford—I never use my own for this shit. He took another pull off the flask of Wild Turkey he'd brought along. He looked like hammered shit, trousers wrinkled all to hell and covered in lint, his one-time white shirt limp and sweat-stained with a couple of random food stains across the front. He hadn't shaved in a couple of days.

I'd cleaned up for this gig, or at least this part of it. As much as I could, anyway. I'm 6'4", 230. I tend to get noticed. Not a good thing in my line of work, so I try to mitigate the risk whenever I can. I'd shaved, ditched the earring. Black blazer, white dress shirt. Jeans. Black leather shoes, matching belt. With my hair parted and combed back, I might have been a real estate guy or a car salesman.

"So," I said to Vance. "What's your take on this?"

He turned toward me, confused. "Take?"

"Yeah, inheritance, life insurance policy, your own career-ending dirt? Your take."

He blew out his whiskey breath, and I tried not to wince. I looked through the windshield, across the parking lot at the Radisson Hotel that I tailed Mrs. Vance to. "No, nothing like that," he said. "Just satisfaction, like I said. Revenge, I guess. Why?"

"Just curious. That's a little more Shakespearean than I'm used to." I checked my watch, then the silenced .22 under my left armpit. "No, that's a lot more fucking Shakespearean than I'm used to. Why don't you just divorce her? You got money. You won't go long without another woman."

He snorted, out of disgust or dejection I didn't know. 

"I divorce her, she gets half. Don't you know that?"

I shook my head. "Never been married. Never had money, either."

Now he shook his own head. "Yeah, well, if you did have money and if you were married, you'd know."

I grinned as it dawned on me. "She gets tossed, she gets a load of cash. I'm guessing more than what you're paying me."

"A lot more."

I stared through the windshield. "The love of money," I said.


I glanced over at Vance. "It's the root of all evil. Didn't you learn that in Sunday School?"

He snorted again. "So, he's in there?" He glared at the hotel like he wanted to kick its ass.


"The guy she's fucking."

"Oh. Yeah, he's in there."

Vance sat upright, flask still in his right hand. "Yeah, what does he look like?"

I shifted my weight toward him and pulled the .22. "A lot like me," I said.

I shot him twice, in the heart. A lot less to clean up than a head shot. He slumped forward, face frozen with a permanent "What the fuck?" look on his face. I shoved him back against the door, closed his eyelids and laid a newspaper from the floorboard across his chest. Just some drunk sleeping one off in his car.

I cased the parking lot, eased out and locked the door, then walked back inside the hotel, straight to the elevator. Room 1038.

Carol Vance opened the door on the second knock.

I gazed at her, remembering her smiling at me like that about two hours ago, in the bed behind her, her green eyes full of sex and murder then, too. The auburn hair was wet from the shower, and she wore one of my dress shirts. Nice tan lines. Great rack, nipples the same color as the hair. And no carpet to match the drapes. She stepped over to the bureau and grabbed an envelope, held it out.

"You sure I can't get this one on the house?" she said.

I took the envelope, thumbed it open and glanced at the thick stack of Dickie Vance's money. "Man's got to make a living," I said.

Phillip Thompson is a combat veteran, journalist, speechwriter, and gun owner, among other things. His fiction includes three novels (Enemy Within, A Simple Murder, and Deep Blood) and short stories published by the O-Dark-Thirty; Out of the Gutter Online; Thrills, Kills 'N' Chaos; The Shamus Sampler II, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.

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