By Amos Damroth
Vincent was a good guy, they said. Vincent deserved better, they said. He took care of his mom, he always avoided violence, they said. But they also said Vincent wasn’t cut out for this line of work, with his soft body, good nature, and below average intellect. Maybe if he had worked harder in school or at work when he was younger, he wouldn’t have been pigeonholed into this type of job. The type of job where you break down doors, storm into people’s houses at their most vulnerable moments, and demand money they owe your employers for drugs, prostitutes, and other such vices. They made jokes about Vincent, about how he would probably chat up his assignments, and maybe brew a pot of coffee before he timidly asked for Boss Terrence’s money back. They laughed.
Vincent laughed nervously with them, his eyes darting side to side. This was usually done sitting around the table in Uncle Tony’s basement where the family had their meetings. They played poker. Vincent was not very good at poker. Once he went all in on a 7 with a 5 kicker. Vincent lost twenty-nine dollars. They all laughed.
But right now, Vincent was not in the basement at Uncle Tony’s, right now Vincent was preparing to enter someone else’s home and collect money from them. He was told she was a widowed former police cybernetics factory worker who had been married to a militia lieutenant. He felt sorry for her; this was not a good start. He stretched on his black gloves and withdrew his semi-automatic shotgun from his trunk. He didn’t want to use the shotgun and almost never had to. It still ate away at him, having to grip it with a gloved hand. He seemed to loom over himself. His outline menaced his own soul.
Vincent heard stories about how Little Jimmy made his grand entrances. Once, Little Jimmy rode his hoverbike up to someone’s window, shotgun in hand, and jumped right through, screaming to high heaven in the name of Boss Terrence and his debtor squad. Needless to say Little Jimmy came home with a large haul for Boss Terrence that day. They all clapped him on the back and he was paid handsomely. Vincent had never really been paid handsomely, mostly in small-to-medium amounts, just enough to get by. He spent his money on Airtram trips to see his mother.
Presently he walked up the steps to his assignment's house. He read the rusted nameplate on the door: Carla Maloney. He rapped his knuckles on the door and waited. He hated waiting because it allowed him to imagine all the things he might have to do to this poor woman. Things like yelling, threatening, breaking, shooting, and god forbid, killing.
He had killed once before, but it was out of self-defense. The man, for it was a man that Vincent had killed, left him no choice. He was going about collecting the debt from the soon-to-be-dead man’s safe, when he felt a sudden searing pain in his back. He yelled and swung around, shotgun in hand. The man didn’t back down and he had another knife in his hand. He ran at Vincent, and Vincent fired, removing his head. He finished the job and left, silently. He told no one, so they didn’t congratulate him when he went home.
Carla Maloney opened the door. She wore a blue nightgown even though it was only 10 o’clock, and her eyes had bags underneath them. Her hair, disheveled, fell in unbrushed curls around her shoulders. She was middle-aged. Sorry to bother you is what Vincent said first, but he needed to have a talk with her. She nodded. They went in.
Sorry to bother you? They would’ve laughed at that, it was weak. They would have sat around the table in Uncle Tony’s basement and laughed, pointing fingers, and nudging one another. He shook his head, cleared his mind, it was time for work.
She sat him down at the kitchen table and he looked up at her, sympathetically. Look, he said, I’m sure you know what this is all about. Yes, she said. She did. Vincent continued that she could then make this a whole lot easier on the both of them if she paid her debts and let him be on his way. No one needed to get hurt.
Her lip quivered on the verge of tears, Vincent saw. Not this, he thought. She sat down across from him, and wept. He fidgeted, he was uncomfortable but not surprised, she was a widow after all. While she wept, she explained. After her husband died, she began drinking and gambling, and her life became a shell of its former self. Vincent nodded along. She had cured one addiction first, drinking, but continued gambling. She went to therapy for that. For everything. She finished last month and was pronounced cured. Boss Terrence was the only debt she had left, if only he could give her more time, she had an honest job now. He sighed, told her he couldn’t do that. She understood.
Vincent pressed, where was the money? Where was it? Eventually she gave in; first door to the right on the second floor, safe tucked behind her bed stand, combination 23-56-87. Vincent thanked her, got up, and walked upstairs, eager to finish this.
He pushed the bed stand aside, and unlocked the safe. Crouching, he peered in. Nothing. His brow furrowed. Not good. He felt down at his side. Where was his shotgun?
Vincent’s mouth opened wide, gaping, like the hole that appeared suddenly in his chest. Bits of him flew forward, some on the bed stand, some on the bed, some in the safe. He would have screamed if he still had lungs. He collapsed in a heap, silently admiring the paint job he had done on the wall, wondering, when he got back to Uncle Tony’s what they would have to say.
- - -
Amos Damroth is a high school student living in the Boston area. He writes fiction and poetry, is a member of the somewhat successful music group A/J\E (http://soundcloud.com/a-j-e), and enjoys filmmaking. He hopes, sincerely, that you enjoy his work.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
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