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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Donald Glass: Family Business

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Art by John Thompson 2024

FAMILY BUSINESS

 

By

 

Donald Glass

 

          As Paul cracked another beer there was a knock at the door. Glancing at the TV he smiled. The Ravens were up by three touchdowns over the Steelers. Baltimore looked like they would easily cover the three point spread. He got up off of his recliner, muted the television and put down a slice of the pizza delivered by mistake. The delivery boy said it was already paid for. With a free dinner and winning a thousand dollars on the game, it was turning out to be a good night.

A small huddled figure stood on his porch with snow swirling around him. Even bundled in a large coat and with a scarf wrapped around most of his face he recognized him instantly. His soon to be father-in-law, Hank. This struck Paul as odd. He didn’t really like Hank and he didn’t think Hank had liked him. The man, always distant around him, rarely spoke a word when he was near and gave Paul the feeling that he was always being judged. Linda had said not to worry, her father was that way with everybody.

Paul owned a successful used car dealership and he saw Hank as a weaker individual, someone who he would eat alive in a business deal. But he was Linda’s father, so he begrudgingly put up with him when he had too. Hank was the last person he thought would show up at his door unannounced.

“Linda’s not here,” he said immediately upon opening the door, hoping Hank would get the hint or at least the tone in his voice and leave. Hank only smiled.

“I know. I came to see you and maybe watch some football.”

“I didn’t think you liked football, or any type of sport, for that matter.”

“Normally I don’t, but seeing as we are going to be family soon, I thought we might have a drink and chat a bit, you know, bond”

“Bond…us? Listen Hank, we don’t have anything in common. I run a successful business and you… well if it wasn’t for your daughter we wouldn’t have anything to even talk about, let alone bond over,”

          “That’s okay, I’ll do most of the talking. All you have to do is listen.”

Hank, who also considered himself a salesman, sold insurance, over the phone. He didn’t write up policies but worked at a call center irritating ninety percent of the people who actually picked up their phone. People like him genuinely annoyed Paul. He’d had more than his fair share of telemarketer calls.

“Aren’t you going to invite me in?”

“Sure why not,” he sighed stepping wide with an exaggerated flourish of his arm.

Hank smiled, stepped past him, took off his coat and walked to the dining room. Picking up a slice of the pizza he pulled out a chair and sat down, making himself at home.

 “Like I said, I’ll do most of the talking.”

          Paul stared at him blankly for a moment, a bit confused, then shook his head. He followed him into the dining room and sat down across from him at the table.

          “Okay, what’s this about?” Paul questioned, not hiding his irritation.

          “What are you doing about Michael?”

         Michael was Linda’s ex-husband, and a first class asshole. He’d been trying to get custody of their daughter Emily for the past two years, all the while making Linda’s life a living hell. The mental abuse he was putting Linda through had her almost to the breaking point. Vague threats and intimidation had been recently stepped up to claims of physical abuse. The court had ordered mandatory physical examinations of the girl. All of which had come back negative. Paul was paying for the best lawyer in town, but Hank thought he should do more.

“Michael? There’s nothing I can do, the lawyers are handling it. In fact, I had good news this week. My lawyer thinks he can get the whole affair thrown out of court. Every other day he has some outlandish claim. It’s beginning to piss the judge off.”

Hank shook his head.

“It’s been two years, the lawyers aren’t doing shit. This whole Michael thing is taking a toll on the girl. Emily is going to be your daughter. You should be doing something about this.”

“Listen Hank, I understand how you feel but I’m not like Michael. I love your daughter and she loves me. And I would do anything for that sweet little girl of hers, but my hands are tied.”

“Loving someone and doing right by them are two different things. Sometimes you have to make the hard choice.”

Paul couldn’t be sure but he thought he noticed a slight quivering in Hanks body when he spoke, as if a fire inside him had been stoked. He knew it had taken a lot for him to come over tonight. The man sitting across from him had changed. Hank sweated a confidence Paul had never seen in him before.

 

           “Would you like a beer?” Paul asked, attempting to extinguish the flame before it began to ignite.

          “You have anything stronger…bourbon maybe?”

          “I didn’t think you drank the hard stuff?”

          “I do tonight.”

Paul got up and went to the bar. He filled two glasses with ice and a generous amount of Clyde May’s Bourbon. Returning to the table he sat the drinks down and took his seat. Hank picked up his drink and swallowed it in one gulp.

          “Whoa, slow down buddy. I know you’re in a bad place right now, we all are, but getting hammered isn’t the way to deal with it.”

          The alcohol burned in Hank’s belly and spread out from his center, radiating throughout his entire body. The sensation relaxed and calmed him. He took a deep breath.

          “When you have a daughter you’re extra protective. You notice things…little things others might miss. It took a while but I’m seeing things in full light, and I know what needs done.” Hank paused a moment and took a deep breath before continuing. “Michael has got to go,” he finished, his voice the calmest it had been all night.

          “Go…I don’t understand, go where?”

Hank slowly stood and reached across the table. He picked up Paul’s drink, took a sip and sat back down placing the drink in front of himself.

“You have to step up. Be a man and handle business…family business.”

There was a hint of something in his voice that Paul couldn’t put his finger on. Weak was the word Paul would have used to describe Hank before tonight. Sitting in his dining room Paul saw a strong man sitting across from him. It made him uncomfortable. Like he was about to lose a lot of money on a deal he thought was a slam dunk.

“I’m tired of waiting for lawyers. How much longer will they drag this on? How much more will they put that little girl through. Tonight, I’m clearing all paths and making things right. You need to do the right thing too, you need to kill Michael. With him gone all this shit goes away and everyone lives happily ever after.”

Paul let out a small half choked chuckle. He couldn’t believe what Hank had just said, but the look on Hank’s face troubled him.

“So you want me to drive across town and just kill him. How would I even do that?” he asked, trying to humor Hank.

“With this.”

Leaning back in his chair he pulled a Smith and Wesson revolver out of his waistband, gripping it delicately between his thumb and forefinger as if he was afraid of it and placed it on the table between them. With a hard push he slid the gun toward Paul. Instinctively he reached out to stop it and quickly yanked his hand away.

“Pick up the gun,” Hank said his voice louder.

Paul’s eyes darted from the gun to Hank and then back again. He noticed the scratch marks where the serial number had been filed off. Paul suddenly realized two things. One was that the man wasn’t joking and the second and was that, even though what he wanted done was completely outlandish, Hank wasn’t crazy. He was deadly serious. Gently Paul reached out and picked up the gun. With a slight tremor he raised the weapon and pointed it at Hank.

“You’re crazy old man. I’m not doing anything. In fact, I think it’s time for you to leave.”

Ignoring the gun pointed at him, Hank reached out and picked up his drink. He took a small sip and sighed when he sat the glass back down.

“I really hoped you would do the right thing. I didn’t think you would do it when I came here tonight. But I had to find out. Deep down I knew I would have to handle things myself. I’ll be needing that gun back.”

“You’re not getting this back. In fact, maybe I should call the police.”

          Hank reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a Glock 19, not gingerly as he had done before, but with the confidence of a man familiar with his weapon. He pointed the gun at Paul. “If you don’t give the gun back by the count of three, I’m going to have to take if from you.”

           Paul noticed the tiny smirk on Hank’s face, as if he was enjoying this, and for the first time ever he felt afraid of the old man.

          “One.”

          Staring down the barrel pointing at him, sweat began to bead on Paul’s forehead.

          “Two.”

“You don’t want to do this, Hank,” he said, his voice almost pleading as he noticed the muscles in Hank’s forearm tightening as he gripped the gun harder.

          “Bang,” Hank yelled.

Instinctively Paul’s fight or flight response kicked in and without thinking he pulled the trigger. The dry click of the hammer hitting the spent shell, although barely noticeable, seemed to reverberate in the room.

“What the fuck?” Paul shouted and looked at the impotent weapon and back at Hank.

“The gun isn’t loaded, but let me assure you that this one is. Now put it down and slide it over to me. There’s still business to finish.”

 

His hand shook as he placed the gun on the table and slid it back to Hank, not knowing what he would do next. Carefully Hank pocketed the weapon. He then reached out and took a slice of pizza from the box. He leaned back in his chair, ignoring Paul, and began to eat. The Glock lying close, easily within reach.

“I never wanted you to kill Michael. I only wanted you to want to kill him,” Hank said, pulling a thick piece of melted cheese off of the slice. “You know I’ve always loved Sal’s Pizza. But they don’t deliver to my neighborhood. So I had it delivered here.”

Hank had ordered the pizza. It would look like he’d been here all night.

          “You already killed Michael?”

          “Yes,” he replied finishing the slice.

          “And you think I’m gonna be your alibi?”

          “You don’t have to be. You can call the police the minute I walk out of here, but I wouldn’t recommend it.”

          “And why is that?”

          “Because you were never meant to be my alibi,” he said picking up the Glock and pointing it at Paul, “I’m yours.”

Understanding fully crept into Paul. Hank didn’t kill Michael with the gun he was holding. He killed him with the gun Paul had picked up, the gun with his fingerprints on it, the gun that was now in Hank’s pocket.

“Some people choose the path they’re on while others are pushed in the general direction. My daughter chose you, she chose her path and I’m showing you yours. I know you’ll do the right thing, be a good father and husband. Don’t make me ever have to use this,” he said patting his left front pocket, “or this,” he finished raising the Glock.

Paul slumped in his chair.

 “One way or another Michael had to go. This,” he said, patting his jacket pocket again, “is just an insurance policy. My daughter is a good person who always seems to make bad choices. She has an awful track record with men, always has. You’re on the right path now. I wouldn’t stray from it if I were you.”

          Hank stood and walked towards the door, putting his overcoat and scarf on along the way. As he Pocketed the weapon he glanced at the muted television. The Steelers had come back, 28-21 with three seconds to go. One kneel down and it would be over. He cracked the door feeling the cold winter air blow across his face, and felt younger than he had in years.

Donald Glass lives in Altoona, PA with his encouraging wife Roxanna and a gassy boxer named Baylee. He writes mostly crime fiction and horror stories about the underside of life that dwell in every city, including yours. He’s been published in all the usual places online, including Shotgun Honey, Yellow Mama, The Flash Fiction Offensive, and Near to the Knuckle, among others. His works have appeared in the Dead Guns Press hard boiled crime series and most recently the HALLOWEENTHOLOGY Trick or Treat.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2024