It was five forty in the morning when I hung up the phone. I know
because I checked my watch. After checking my watch, I picked my
cell up phone off the bed-stand and checked the time. Turning on
the television, which sat atop my dresser, I confirmed the time.
Five forty in the AM.
I had two hours. That's what Vinnie had said. Two hours. My feet
hit the floor and I padded to the dresser, pulled out a pair of
pants and slipped them on over yesterday's skivvies. I pulled on
socks and slipped into the first T-shirt I laid hands to. Casting
a glance towards the clock, I slipped from my bedroom.
In the kitchen, I waited long enough for a pot of coffee to brew.
No sense in leaving the house groggy. In fact, it was a damn bad
policy in my line of work to ever go out on a job anything less
than awake and aware. So I sat at the kitchen table and cleaned
my .32 caliber revolver while the coffee brewed.
At five fifty eight I pulled the front door shut behind me, keyed
the dead-bolt and walked to my car with a full thermos and travel
mug of java occupying my hands and the small pistol tucked away
in my zippered front pocket.
I unlocked the door to my Ninety Seven Accord and slid into the
driver's seat, placing the thermos on the seat next to me, my
coffee in the cup-holder. When I started the car and glanced at
the clock before pulling away from the curb, it was one minute
I'm not mafia. I realize that when a man jumps from bed an hour
and twenty minutes before his alarm is set to go off and leaves
his house packing heat at the behest of someone named Vinnie, it
appears that way. But that's not how it is.
I'm a fixer. Simple enough. If somebody has a problem, and I mean
a big one, they get somebody like me to step into the situation,
take a look around, and sort things out. Usually people call on
me when their situation is time critical because I think fast. As
a result, I act fast.
Typically I contract to the local mafia. They don't own me, they
can't force me into anything I don't want to do because I'm the
best and they don't want to lose me. This is why they also point
select people in my direction as need arises, to keep me in
business and nearby to hand. In my line of work, it's all
Vinnie is a legitimate businessman. He owns a small bar on the
north end called The Hop. I've never been there, but I'm familiar
with the whole city and when he called this morning, I didn't
need to ask directions. During the twenty-three minute drive (I
checked) I mulled over his situation while sipping black coffee.
Last night had been a slow night at The Hop and he had been in
the office watching television when his barmaid had started
screaming. Throwing his door open he had run into the bar to see
a largish man accosting Danielle, that was her name, and
The man had grabbed her under the shoulders and tried to lift her
across the bar. She had scratched his face, punched him and
pulled his hair. For his part, her assailant had battered her
face. Vinnie saw it happen and had run back into his office,
opened a desk drawer and came to her aid with a .357 magnum.
When the man had failed to leave at the threat of the weapon and
advanced on Vinnie, he had been shot. After several minutes of
thrashing around on the floor he had gone still. Vinnie would
have called the police, but there have been two shootings at his
bar already this year. After a fatal stabbing just a month past
he had been put on notice by the city that he would lose his
liquor license after one more serious incident.
It had been close to closing time and the bar had been deserted
save for the three of them when that happened. They had closed up
for the night and Vinnie, who pays protection to the local Don,
had telephoned the number he had been given to contact the Don's
After stopping by to check on the situation, he had called me
from his cell and handed the phone to Vinnie. I instructed him to
keep the doors locked and keep put. And for the love of God,
don't move the body and make sure the bartender was there when I
showed up. Simple enough.
What wasn't simple about this particular situation was that today
was the day his bar was scheduled for an eight thirty AM
inspection from the county Board of Health. He wanted the
situation handled by seven forty. Apparently, that was what he
felt safe with and I didn't question him.
I pulled up to the bar and parked in the handicap space near the
front door. Thermos and mug in hand, I stepped from my car and
walked up to the door, knocked, and waited a few seconds before
it was opened and I was greeted by a grayed and balding Italian
who looked to be somewhere around fifty five.
"You Mr. Fix-it?" He asked.
"No need for the mister, you can just call me Fix-it." He
grunted, stepped from the doorway and let me step in, closing the
door behind me and locking it.
"So what do we do?" He asked. I held my hand out to him for
silence and surveyed the scene.
I said the bar was small. Looking around I noted the occupancy
sign, which stated the limit to be twenty-six people. There were
four small tables with four chairs each, and eight stools at the
bar. Walking room was scarce and two of the tables had been upset
in the incident.
Lying facedown on the beer and food stained floor was the body.
He was large, I placed him around six four and weighing two forty
something. He was wearing a brown leather jacket and blue jeans,
dark hair cut into a fade. There was a sizable hole in the back
of the jacket, just below his shoulder blade where the bullet
from the .357 had exited.
Underneath him spread out in a drying pool and all over the back
of that tasteless brown leather was blood. By the smell of it, he
had evacuated his bowels after being shot. I lifted my gaze,
turned in a slow circle and located the point in the wall where
the bullet had struck after tearing through the large man.
I sipped coffee and continued my evaluation silently. The barmaid
was there, seated on a high stool behind the bar, her face
bruised badly, one eye swollen shut and her nose broken. She
watched me without word or expression. Not that I would have
recognized any facial expression on the battered lump of flesh
that surrounded her split and still bleeding lips.
Some of the bottles behind the bar had been upset, still others
broken, during the struggle. There had been no attempt made
whatsoever to clean up the mess. I sighed inwardly. Give me a
little initiative on the customer's part and anything was
possible. Give me a customer who stood still like a child
expecting the paddle and it made my job almost unbearable at
times. They shouldn't need me to tell them to clean up the
irrelevant items from the struggle.
Walking around the small low-ceilinged room, I stopped near the
edge of the pooled blood and bent to examine the body more
closely. I wanted to see his face.
"You have any latex cleaning gloves?" I asked.
"Yeah sure." He answered. After a second of thought, he walked
behind the bar and emerged with a pair, which he offered to me.
I slipped on the gloves and gripped the dead man's hair, lifting
his head and turning his face toward me. Not recognizing him, I
let his head down gently and lifted the lower hem of his jacket
and spotted a lump in his back pocket. Guessing correctly that it
was his wallet, I extracted it and laid it next to my foot.
Patting his large frame, I located a cell phone in his jacket
pocket along with a small lock-blade knife. I placed them next to
the wallet and continued my examination. When I was finished, I
had found nothing else of relevance, just a pack of smokes and a
"No keys." I mumbled to myself.
"Huh?" Vinnie asked. I shook my head.
"No keys." I repeated.
I stared at him wondering if he could be the customer that landed
me behind bars. Being questioned is one of my taboos while on the
job. What I need, what the customer needs, is to listen to what I
say, carry out my orders, and not waste my time and theirs by
I straightened up, carried the items from the dead man's pockets
to the bar and laid them out. Vinnie followed and stood next to
me, watching, fidgeting, and generally, aggravating me. The
bartender leaned forward in her seat, watching me work.
"Look Vinnie," I started. "I haven't decided to take this job
yet. Not until I know what I'm getting into. That isn't my only
basis for taking the job either. I need to know I'm dealing with
someone capable of taking my orders and not questioning me. I
also need to know," I turned to face him. "That I'm getting paid
what I need."
Vinnie nodded and I returned my attention to the items on the
bar. The wallet contained his state I.D., twenty-three dollars, a
condom, and a key. I nodded as I extracted the last item. The
lack of a key-chain on his person had immediately made me
suspicious that he had left his home with someone waiting his
I flipped open his cell phone and checked the call history. There
was nothing for the last three days and when I tried to dial out
on it, a recorded female voice informed me that the phone was out
of minutes. Prepay.
I unfolded the knife and turned the blade over in the dim light
noting a brownish crust and burn marks on the cutting edge. I
lifted it to my nose and sniffed. The unmistakable tang of baking
soda and the sharp bitterness of cocaine wafted into my nostrils
and I suddenly felt more comfortable about the job.
"He was a crack head." I informed Vinnie and his bartender.
Vinnie nodded and Danielle just sat there without comment or
movement. I studied each of them in turn and thought swiftly.
Vinnie was shaky, scared and probably so far out of his element
that he couldn't even imagine where to begin. Looking at
Danielle, sitting there with her face beat to a pulp, I thought
that she must have a little steel in her.
"Okay." I took a seat on one of the barstools and positioned
myself so I could look at both Danielle and Vinnie. I glanced at
my watch before addressing them.
"Here's the deal. We have a body and your gun to get rid of.
There's only the two of you who were present, no police showed so
we're assuming they didn't receive a call. I know. Paulie who
called me for you, he knows. Now, I can vouch for Paulie and
myself, we won't say a thing. What I need to know now is, can I
Vinnie stiffened, red creeping into his face and I considered
him. He didn't like the insinuation that I wasn't willing to
trust him yet. That was obvious. Before he could blunder out some
inane response I talked it through, watching him grow angrier,
then sheepish as he conceded to my resolution.
"You're a legitimate business man but you're a pissant. Right
now, you're probably wanting a change of underwear because I can
see by the stain on your pants you pissed yourself. Probably when
you shot our friend here." I indicated the corpse with a jerk of
"You're nervous. Nervous people do stupid things sometimes, but
then again, you pay the local crew and keep your mouth shut about
that. Probably, you have some money squirreled away and an old
man like you, well, as long as you didn't have to get your hands
too dirty, this bar could see you through to the day you die.
What's going to happen without it?"
He only stared, his jaw clenched, eyes slit with indignation.
"And there's this. You killed a man. Shot him dead. If you
weren't so damn afraid of losing the bar you would have just
called the police, but you don't want to have to start over do
you?" He shook his head.
"So, you're fine. Because once this body gets moved you didn't
shoot this man in self defense, you murdered him." I turned my
attention to Danielle.
"You're different honey. You didn't have a hand in this and you
don't have a stake in it. What's your motivation? Why should you
keep your mouth shut?"
"She's a good girl…" Vinnie started to interject. I held my hand
up to silence him.
"Don't interrupt me. I need to think and I need to do it fast. I
still haven't taken this on."
"I wanted him dead." Her tone was dull and flat, her eyes were
fixed on some point behind me and off to my right. I moved more
in line with her eyes and she shifted her gaze. Reaching across
the bar slowly, I took her jaw in my hand and directed her eyes
to mine. She looked away after a second.
"You know him?"
She nodded once and I let go of her chin. Settling back into the
stool and considering how this changed the situation, I glanced
toward Vinnie who seemed surprised at this turn. She supplied the
answers before I could ask them.
"Used to date him. Way back when I was still a kid. We were
twenty-two, something like that, and we lived together. It was
cool at first, we both had jobs and we partied a lot, you know
hit the bars on the weekends and smoked some dope at home during
the week. We screwed a lot and everything was cool."
Vinnie had taken a seat next to me, studying Danielle with
something that bordered on paternal interest. His face had a
saddened cast to it as she continued.
"Thing about it, I got pregnant. I told him, of course. Why
wouldn't I? Things were good between us. But he didn't like it,
wanted me to get an abortion, but back then you had to go out of
state and we didn't have that kind of money. Well, I wanted the
"He started drinking a lot after I told him, like he thought all
the partying was gonna end when the baby came and he had to get a
lifetime squeezed into eight months. I was only a month when I
found out. Well, I couldn't do none of that shit, so I stayed
home at night while he went out with his friends.
"I didn't mind at first but when he started hanging around with
them boys from the north end here he changed. Started doing real
dumb shit. Way back then…God ten years ago, he started smoking
crack. One night he came home, told me he wasn't sticking with
some dumb boring bitch and he wasn't getting hung with child
support. I was scared, he was pacing back and forth, working
himself up. I told him fine, we'd draw up papers releasing him
"That got him. I don't know why but that flipped his switch. He
was on me so quick there was nothing I could do. He beat the hell
out of me. Beat me so bad I went into intensive care for three
days." Her head was down, tears rolled down her face and I
snapped my fingers for attention. Time was important.
"I lost the baby." She finished.
"Alright. We have a loser dead man, crack addict. Police are
gonna start looking with the crack stoolies and think its drug
related. This body doesn't have to disappear, just move. That's
doable. The two of you I trust. Now, Vinnie, that leaves one
"I can pay." He said. I looked him over and wasn't sure he had
any idea what this was going to cost him. I said as much.
"Do you have any idea what kind of money we're talking here?" He
squirmed at the question then answered.
"Paulie told me to figure about ten grand." It wasn't exactly
what I wanted for this one, but I wasn't about to tell him I had
planned on eight and a half before asking the question.
"That's right." He nodded acceptance. "And it's got to be cash.
And since I don't ever care to see you again after this is done,
you have until Seven Forty to get it for me. Can you do that?"
Again he nodded.
Standing up and taking a look around, I checked my watch. I
considered the logistics of the operation, tried to weigh how
fast Vinnie and Danielle could move with Vinnie's age and
Danielle's battered condition. It didn't matter what they were
capable of, if they didn't pull through they failed. Simple. I
gave them the speech.
"Okay, both of you listen up. You're in it. Once we lay hands to
that body, and it will take all three, you're in it up to your
eyeballs. This is what I need. Don't question me. Ever. When I
tell you to do something do it because it needs done and it's
your ass I'm hauling out of a sling, not mine."
"Don't grumble don't complain. Don't even think for a second of
asking me why I want something done. Don't try to point out some
better, easier way of doing something. I don't care. Do
everything exactly as I tell you to. You're not thinking anymore,
just taking orders."
I leveled my gaze at first Vinnie who returned it with sick eyes,
and Danielle who was grim and silent. I nodded.
"We have exactly one hour and eight minutes to get this taken
care of. Let's get started."
Under my instructions, Danielle and Vinnie donned a pair of
rubber scrubbing gloves each and stripped the body of its clothes
while I went through the small building taking stock of what
relevant items were at our disposal. Finding a large trash cart
on rollers near the back door, I drug it inside.
It was large enough to hold the body, but not so large that it
would hide it. Out back I had surveyed the lot. There was a tree
line forty yards or so distant from the building with in between
a broad strip of asphalt which ran right up alongside the
building. On the other side of the asphalt sat a small blue
Looking to my right I had noted that there was a privacy fence
between the bar and the house next door. I scanned the upper
windows and found no signs of life. To the left, the access drive
entered a small alley near a pair of houses, each with a view
into the back of Vinnie's lot.
Back inside, they had managed to strip the body down. I had
Danielle blot the floor around the corpse with towels so we would
get as little blood on us as possible. While she was working, I
had instructed Vinnie to go get a bottle of ammonia cleaner and a
With his help maneuvering the corpse, I wiped it down with the
ammonia cleaner, knowing this would both contaminate the physical
evidence on the corpse but at the same time pique the curiosity
of the crime scene unit, alerting them that this was more than a
kill and dump. There was nothing to do about it. Destroy the
links and the chain falls apart. Simple.
After the body had been scrubbed, Vinnie and I muscled it into
the trash cart and I dumped the rest of the cleaner on it. We put
his clothes and belongings in a trash bag along with our gloves
and pulled new ones on. I put the bag behind the bar.
"Go get me some trash bags." I told Danielle.
When she returned I instructed Vinnie on how to clean the floor,
use paper towels for the most part, throw them away, then the
thinnest rags he could find for the hard scrubbing. Put them in
the same bag. After that, he was to do something about the bullet
hole in the wall.
I circled it with a pencil from the bar and told him to fill it
in with anything he had that was pliable but would tack up, gum,
toothpaste, whatever. When he had filled it he was to hang
something over it, a poster, one of the paintings hanging on the
wall behind the bar, I didn't care. I checked my watch.
"I'm taking off for a while but I'll be back in about twenty
minutes. Keep the door locked, don't answer the phone. When I get
back I want to see this place clean. And I mean I want to see
nothing but that cart and the trash bags sitting right there in
the center of the room." They nodded in unison and set to their
tasks as I slipped out the door.
We needed a truck to move the body and Mr. Fix-it wasn't fixing
shit if he didn't know how to get one. Outside, as I slid into my
Honda, I dialed the number to Paulie's used car lot.
"Car 54 Can I help you?" It was Genie, Paulie's niece.
"Genie, this is Mick, Paulie told me the new Ram needed serviced
"Well come on in Mickey, I'll be glad to see you anyways."
"No can do honey. Look, have Scotty run it on out to North Lake
Park will you? My car's got a flat out here. He can take my car
back, then I'll just take the truck up to the shop." Simple.
"Sounds kind of weird." She said.
"Yeah, well it's just one of them cluster-fuck days ya know and
the sun ain't even shining yet."
"Alright, I'll send him out right now."
"Thanks. You're a doll." And I hung up. Thank God Paulie had the
foresight to keep a few people on that lot at all times.
North Lake Park was just a few blocks west of Vinnie's bar and I
was there in five minutes. When I got there, I parked and sat
behind the wheel thinking for a minute. Why not? Why not here?
I stepped from the car and turned in a slow circle looking for
the perfect spot. Somewhere it would be hard for someone to
observe us ditching the corpse. Somewhere we were concealed with
a good line of sight. I spotted a well-trampled footpath entering
a wooded lot behind a picnic pavilion.
Walking across the parking lot and up to the pavilion, I noted
with satisfaction, the firmness of the ground under my feet. Oh,
a truck would roll through this grass just fine, right up to the
edge of the woods. Good enough.
I glanced at my watch and noted it was three past seven when
Scotty showed with the truck. He smiled at me as I tossed him my
keys and pulled open the door to the pickup without a word. He
wasn't connected, but he figured he knew what went on at Car 54.
I stepped back into the bar with thirty-four minutes to go.
Vinnie was standing near the bar, sipping a drink and talking
with Danielle who was back in the stool on the business side of
the counter. They looked up sharply as the morning light and
sounds of early morning traffic filtered into the pub. I was
"I told you to lock the door." I told them flatly.
Vinnie shrugged and stepped from the bar, drink in hand. His face
was drawn and worn, there was a tremor to his movements and I
thought he might be on the verge of passing out. Striding the
several steps to where he stood I slapped him hard across the
"I told you to lock the door. If somebody had walked in, you'd be
fucked. Now pull your shit together and go grab me your piece."
He shuffled off to his office while I locked the door. I crossed
the bar and took a stool near Danielle. Turning to watch Vinnie
emerge with his gun held out in front of him by the barrel, I
extended my hand for it and kept my eyes on Danielle.
"How about you honey? You holding up?" She nodded stiffly. "Good.
You're about done here." I turned to Vinnie.
"Is the empty casing still in here?" He nodded his head. Instead
of taking his word I slipped the action lock and checked the
cylinder. It was there, with five live ones.
"Okay, we're almost done here. Vinnie go grab my money out of
your little hidey-hole and if you have extra shells for this
thing, bring them too. All of them." He slunk back to his office
again and I turned to Danielle.
"Honey, you don't need to be here anymore. I'm going to walk
through this joint and check on the job you and Vinnie did. Then
you're going to come help me get rid of this piece of shit." I
kicked the trash cart and she nodded.
I walked around slowly, examining the floor where the body had
been, pleased with the cleaning job. There was a new poster hung
over the bullet hole and when I lifted it to check underneath was
satisfied that it had been filled well enough with caulk. Poking
my head behind the bar, I noted the mess back there had been
cleaned up as well. I gave Danielle a thumbs up.
Vinnie came back from his office, handed me a nearly full box of
shells and started counting out my ten large from a stack inside
of a paper bag. I watched him count, correcting him once when he
lost track. When I was paid, I slipped the bills into one of my
cargo pockets and zipped it up. Next I threw the trash bags on
top of the body, pulled a fresh bag from the roll on the bar and
wrapped the pistol and box of shells in it.
"This thing registered?" I asked. He shook his head. "Where'd you
"It used to be my pop's gun, from when he ran this joint." I
"You can get a new piece from Paulie if you want one. He'll hook
you up. Just do yourself a favor and don't get another one of
these babies. No use owning a .357 when there's a corpse out
there you put down with one. He nodded again and I turned to
"Okay, sugar, why don't you go outside and pull that Ram around
back. She nodded, took the key I offered her and walked out the
front. After I had locked the door, I turned around to Vinnie.
"Okay pal, you did just fine so far. Hope you understand I didn't
slug you because I was mad. I just needed your attention."
"Alright then, what say you help us get this guy in the back of
that pickup out there? After that you ditch them clothes you're
wearing into a trash bag and get changed."
I grabbed the handle to the cart and Vinnie walked ahead of me
through the stock room and to the back door. When we got there,
he held his hand out to me, cracked the door and peered out.
After determining everything was fine he swung the door open,
stepped through and held it for me while I wheeled the cart out.
Danielle was at the back of the truck putting the tailgate down.
I rolled the cart to the back of the truck and told her to hop
up. With Vinnie on one side and myself on the other, we muscled
the cart high enough for Danielle to get a grip on the front of
it and put her back into it. A couple of swear words from Vinnie,
a violent jerk from Danielle and a heave ho from the men on the
ground and the cart was in the back of the truck.
"Go get them clothes in a bag and chuck it out the back door." I
told Vinnie. He nodded, walking back inside. "You go grab my
thermos and coffee cup honey."
We got to the park in just a few minutes and I backed up as close
to the trees as I could get near the footpath. I slipped the
gearshift into park and scrambled out of the truck and sprinted
to the tailgate. Danielle had received her instructions and was
climbing over the side of the bed when I popped the tailgate.
She shoved while I pulled the handle and the cart dropped to the
ground, went sideways and tried to tip. I planted myself and
fought it back upright. Taking a quick glance around, I removed
the garbage bags from the cart and tossed them into the back of
the truck while Danielle got out, closed the tailgate and slid
into the driver's seat.
"Just get down to the parking lot and watch for me to come out of
the woods. As long as we're clear, get your ass back up here and
pop the gate." I instructed.
She pulled off and I maneuvered the cart into the woods on the
foot trail. I made it about fifteen yards in when one of the
tires struck a root and spilled the cart on its side. The body
tumbled out on top of the leaf molding and early spring runner
vines. Good enough. It was going to be found sooner or later
I righted the cart and drug it to the edge of the woods. Leaving
it stashed just out of sight, I stepped from the trees, signaled
Danielle and hustled the cart out into the open as she backed up.
I pulled the tailgate open, lifted the front of the cart onto the
tailgate then scrambled into the truck bed and pulled it the rest
of the way in. That finished, I closed the gate and scrambled for
the passenger door and slid in.
We headed out and when she pulled up behind the pub, I slid out
and dumped the cart. We traded seats and I pulled the truck out
onto the street and turned to Danielle.
"Where do you live?" I asked.
"I need those clothes. And unless you want to drive home in your
underwear you're going to let me take you there so you can
change." She nodded.
At her house, I collected the bloodied clothes and left after
instructing her to hitch a ride back to the bar and clean out the
cart. She had nodded, handed me the bag with her clothes in it
and showed me out.
Now all that was
left was to disassemble the gun, bury the parts and burn the
bags. After that bit of business was finished I would drive over
to Car 54 and swap cars. Simple. .