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Art by Steve Cartwright 2020

Murphy’s Law


Edward Ahern




Murph the Mooch had attained senility after decades of racketeering, contract murders, and spousal abuse. Worse, he was cheap.  Murph had required underlings to pay for their meals together, occasionally having them offed later that day.

And I needed to make Murph my best buddy.

I’d been approached by Dave Walters, with whom I’d worked undercover. “We need you on an assignment, Liam.”

“Bad joke. I’m seventy-two years old, and you’re not much younger. I can barely get it up, let alone get it on. Why are you really here?”

“For this job we need decrepit Irish. We need you to drug and interrogate a retired mob boss who’s been consigned to an elder care facility.”

“What a bad idea, Dave. If his goons don’t kill me when I make the play his associates find and kill me later.”

“Hear me out. He’s senile and has short term memory loss. Even if he remembered your talk nobody would believe it wasn’t another delusion. And there’s benefits.”

Dave looked around my run-down condo. “It’d be three or four weeks staying at one of the most expensive nursing compounds in the country.”

“How expensive?”

“The cheapest unit is three quarters of a million dollars, and maintenance fees are seven large a month.”

I was trying to live on forty thousand a year. “What the hell costs that much?”

“Snob appeal and amenities. A golf course where the caddies are health professionals, a fully equipped and staffed rehabilitation gym, two gourmet restaurants and dine in ordering, masseurs and masseuses who fondle to taste, you get the idea.”

I stared at him. “You can’t afford those kinds of operating expenses.”

“No, we can’t but fortunately the resort president has large tax problems we’re willing to overlook in return for installing you and covering your expenses.”


Dave looked pained. “Isn’t that enough?”


“Okay, we pay you two month’s salary.”

“Chump change. Two months for the attempt, the rest of a year’s salary if I succeed.”

Dave looked even more pained.

“Where’s your esprit de corps?”

“You cored it out with your crappy retirement package. Yes or no.”

“Okay, yes.”

“Who do I play?”

“Murph the Mooch.”

I winced. “I want more money.”

Dave smiled. He never could smile sincerely. “Too late.”




Some people age into craggy distinction. Murph had the complexion and consistency of rice pudding. His short-term memory was a window screen with holes in it, but his long-term memory had held up. He had enough chemically enhanced virility to keep a dowager resident named Danielle occupied.

Getting chummy proved easy. No one other than the well-endowed Danielle could stand him, so Murph’s only other companion when I got there was an orderly named Steve who was built up and bulged out like the armed bodyguard he was.

Murph liked to play gin rummy. When functional he cheated and I pretended not to notice.

“That’s twenty-four dollars I owe you. Cash or on the tab?’ I asked.

“Cash, you shanty Mick, you could be dead before I can collect.”

Murph wore Depends, and figured he could let fly when it pleased him. I wondered if Steve tended to his cleaning, a chore about as kinky as having sex with a woman atop her just-murdered husband.

“No problem, Murph. Here’s twenty-five. You got a single?”

He didn’t check his wallet. “Nah. I’ll owe you.”

“Another game?”

“Nah, Steve and I got something to take care of. Besides, yah bog-trotter, I’d just kick your ass.”

Murph stood up using his silver-handled cane as I forced a smile.

“I’ve got a bottle of Middleton Very Rare Irish Whiskey at my villa, Murph. You want to come by later for a snort?”

A look of suspicion and anger hit Murph’s face, subsiding into his usual sneer. “Middleton hah? The good stuff?”

“Three hundred a bottle.”

“Tell you what, bring it over to my place around six and we’ll have a pop.”

“Done. See you then.”

Steve had been hovering upwind, and moved in to help Murph into his golf cart. I showed up on Murph’s ornate porch at five after six. Steve let me in and then went out to the pool. Murph didn’t like him inside the villa, either because he didn’t trust him or because he didn’t want to have to give Steve food and drink.

Murph stayed in his easy chair and asked to see the bottle. “Looks Kosher,” he grunted. All right, pour. Neat.”

The stick of butter sloshed in my gut as I walked over to the bar and got our drinks. Murph guzzled while I sipped.

The chemicals kicked in quickly and I began recording Murph on my phone. We started with Louis Falcone.

“Oh yeah,” Murph said, “Lingerie Louie ordered Sam the Chef to cleaver Pimples Artie.” I got fifteen minutes before things went to hell.

Murph came to cursing, grabbed his cane, twisted the handle and pulled out a three-foot blade. He lurched up and at me, sword pointed.

I jumped up grabbed a green sofa cushion, and swung it at the blade. The cushion got skewered as its swing carried the point back toward Murph. Murph’s feet slipped out from under him and he flopped forward onto the floor, the point ramming into his chest. Murph the Mooch had fallen on his sword.

He thrashed, squealed and flopped over onto his back before expiring. He looked like a mound of pudding with an olive stuck on top.

I pocketed the recorder, rinsed the glasses, and called out to Steve.

Steve ran in, gun out, and looked down at Murph. “About time, ya rank bastard!”

“He tripped, Steve, it was a terrible accident.”

Steve shrugged. “Just tell the cops that. No way an old fart like you could ram that sticker through him.”

Dave called two days later. “You can leave tomorrow.”

“Yeah, thanks but I think I’m going to stay the week.”


“There’s a woman named Danielle who assures me she needs consoling.”



“Murphy’s Law” originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of Havok.

Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty-odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He’s had over two hundred fifty stories and poems published so far, and six books. Ed works the other side of writing at Bewildering Stories, where he sits on the review board and manages a posse of six review editors.

It's well known that an artist becomes more popular by dying, so our pal Steve Cartwright is typing his bio with one hand while pummeling his head with a frozen mackerel with the other. Stop, Steve! Death by mackerel is no way to go! He (Steve, not the mackerel) has a collection of spooky toons, Suddenly Halloween!, available at Amazon.com.    He's done art for several magazines, newspapers, websites, commercial and governmental clients, books, and scribbling - but mostly drooling - on tavern napkins. He also creates art pro bono for several animal rescue groups. He was awarded the 2004 James Award for his cover art for Champagne Shivers. He recently illustrated the Cimarron Review, Stories for Children, and Still Crazy magazine covers. Take a gander ( or a goose ) at his online gallery: www.angelfire.com/sc2/cartoonsbycartwright . And please hurry with your response - that mackerel's killin' your pal, Steve Cartwright.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2020