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Checco’s Diner, Lower Manhattan, Houston St., Sunday, 1:10 a.m.

She comes in every night, usually ten minutes late, and makes her lame excuses to the diner’s owner about her kids or her husband.  She’ll miss on average one shift every two weeks.  It’ll be a Friday or a Monday without fail.  The owner’s a fat, unshaven slob in a greasy apron who grunts or nods when she’s done lying.  Sometimes he’ll risk a sharp remark to her that will have the eff-word in it.  She’ll snap right back, though, and I know he’d fire her in a heartbeat if he could get anyone else to work in his greasy spoon. She must be this year’s record holder with two months logged in at Checco’s Diner.  You say it like “Chico’s,” but he thinks the fancy spelling lends a touch of class to his dump.

If I sound like a regular, I am.  I’ve been coming here almost every night after eleven for weeks.  I’ve seen the waiters come and go—mostly slags—ten by now, for sure.  Checco is the only thing that stays the same.  The rest of the night owls that frequent the diner are a mixed bag of losers, freaks, tweakers, whores, and—well, let’s just say, one or two interesting people like me.  The night suits me best.  Once in a great while, some cops who’ve been cooping in an alley nearby or getting trim from the local whores will come by.  Checco talks to one of them regularly so I’m sure he’s a snitch.

Believe me, the food in this hash house is slop you can’t away, even for free to cops.  I watch him lean his fat arms over the counter to speak a few words like a big shot.  The drug dealers around here know this and stay away, but Checco lets a vice cop stake out the place for surveillance.  I’m guessing he gets a break from the health inspector. I had a damn sewer rat big as a housecat crawl over my foot one night.  Checco grunted, told the girl to chase it out the door with a broom.  Then the new girl comes in. She’s the new-hire for the graveyard shift, late as usual, lying out of both sides of her mouth about a baby with the croup. Said her husband had to do a double.

I snickered at that. The only double her hubby ever did is with her and another pig they picked up at a club or on a street corner. I know her type.

She had that perfect translucent skin of real blondes once, but I’ve seen her scratching at her face—crank bugs, my guess.  In two years, her pert little tits will be aiming at her belly, which’ll be bigger than her ass; she’ll be a mercy fuck, and hubby will be long gone.  Her brats will wind up in a foster home.  Her old man’s an abuser, too, because she’s come in more than once sporting a black eye or wearing make-up to cover the purple grab marks on her triceps after he bounced her off the walls a couple times.

She sealed her fate when she spilled coffee on my crotch. The two customers I call the “Insomniac” and the “Whore” had a big laugh. I caught her wink at the hooker just after.  She heard me laugh at her. I’m going to kill her soon. I’m putting it in my journal.

* * *

Journal entry #1: Crotona Apartments, No. 14C, 149th St., Bronx, Monday, 9:04 p.m.

I saw this movie once, some retro theater. Day of the Jackal. Not the remake with the Buddhist actor.  The original.  The guy plans to kill De Gaulle down to the most precise detail. It didn’t faze him he was going after the most carefully guarded public figure of his time.  A year later, Lee Harvey Oswald blew Kennedy’s brains out in Dallas.  The French would never have let their guy drive around in public in an open convertible.

It doesn’t take guts to kill with a high-powered rifle.  I intend to be up close and personal when it happens.  Look her in the face.

The Where and When are the easy bits.  The tougher question is this:  How do I make sure I get away with it?  Like the Jackal, I have to be prepared to move I’m ready, not a minute too soon or a minute too late.

* * *

Journal entry #2, Tuesday, 4:52 p.m.

OK, let me write it down how I remember it. The place: some shithole abandoned factory, Hunt’s Point, nothing but barbed-wire and some dopers hanging out. Cassie comes up, half-stoned as usual, stares at me, not sure it’s me under the hoodie and wearing shades.

“How’d I do, Zig?”

“Perfect, Cassie.  You should go into acting,” I say.

“I toldja, she says.  Pay up, man.”

“You say it exactly like we practiced?”

“Fuck, yes.  C’mon, Zig, I’m hurtin’ real bad here. Why’d we have to meet out here?”     I wrap my arm around her, whisper in her ear, “Because I’m going to kill you.”

She smiled at me.  Thought I was messing with her.

I worked my forearm under her jaw before she knew what was happening.  Right where the carotid pumps like a fat worm.  You’d have to come right up to me to see me straining every muscle in my arms and chest.  When her eyes bulged, she realized what was happening, she tried to kick and scratch me with her free hand.  I just pressed her into the wall with my body and waited for the spasms to stop.  Sweat beads popped on my forehead.  I didn’t let the pressure up until I was sure she was gone, not just unconscious, even for a pint-sized cum dumpster like Cassie Beausoleil.  I watched her eyes go dark.  It’s such a rush it makes me hard. It has nothing to do with delayed potty-training or any of that FBI profiler bullshit.

Cassie’s five-two, doesn’t weigh ninety pounds, and that’s why I chose her.  I lifted her up like a sack of feathers and tossed her into the dumpster.

I thought this as I bang the lid down on her: Sweet dreams, you dumb bitch Let’s see your uncle the cop get you out of this one.

So, so.  That part worked perfectly.

Lady Luck’s rubbing my shoulders, I can feel her sweet tits caressing my back.  I’m going to get good at this. When they find this journal stuck behind the walls in a hundred years, they’ll all know my name.

* * *

Journal entry #3, Wednesday, 3:03 a.m.

I write it as I remember it:

Insomniac: Got a menu, big guy?

Me:  Yes, sir.  Here you are.  I’m just stepping in for the manager while he has a smoke out back.  Your waitress will be here any second now.  She’s due any second.

Hooker: What the fuck, man, at least bring us a cup of joe while we’re waitin’ on him, huh?

Me: Absolutely, Miss.

Insomniac: Hey, man, what—what’s the gun for? Hey, why the fuck’re you pointing it—

Me: Eat shit and die. Here’s one for you, too, pig. Shit, there she is at the corner—

* * *

Journal entry #4, Apt. 14C, the Bronx, Friday, 5:45 a.m.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.  It was working out just right!  Everything was happening the right way.  Exactly as planned.  Let me think. Cassie makes the call, he leaves the house, heads out the door to find out who’s bangin’ his wife. She’s supposed to be there alone.

What went wrong? Why weren’t you there, you slut?  I go to the diner, maybe she left early. I couldn’t stand out there in the alley waiting for her. That cop boyfriend could come in any minute.  I go around back, see maybe did she come in that way. There’s the slob owner smoking, demands to know what I’m doing there. Threatens to call the cops. What choice did I have?

Then the diner.  I should have split. I just meant to look inside, then go. OK, I get a little anxious when the customer spots me.  Who wouldn’t? I lose my cool.  That shithead and his menu. The whore in the booth screaming for coffee.  Fuck you, Jack, there’s your menu!  Here’s some coffee, bitch!

Got to calm down. Got to think.  Got to disappear. No, that’s a mistake. Cops love it when you run. This shitstorm in the Post will blow over.  Rotten city’s full of dead skanks.

* * *

57th Precinct, Webster Av., Detectives’ Bullpen, Friday, 8:18 a.m.

Det. Robert Beausoleil:  Check this guy out. Ziegfield, John. Street name “Ziggy.” Age twenty-nine, brown and brown, six-one, one-eight. This Ziegfield was adopted by a Jewish couple in Queens.  He was trouble. Kept skipping school, got into fights, got himself suspended.  Left home after two years.  They’d just made him their child officially when he booked for good.

Det. James Morano:  Let me see that. OK, ‘turned eighteen and joined the Navy.  Stationed at Norfolk, served aboard the JFK.  According to Navy records, he did tours overseas and spent shore leave in Thailand, Singapore, and Australia getting drunk, inked, and jugged for disorderly.’

Det. Beausoleil: It gets better, Jim. He strikes a petty officer and then it’s a court martial and a dishonorable discharge for young Ziggy.  Fast forward eight years and he’s racked up some misdemeanors for property damage, possession of a knife in excess of four inches, more D and Ds, some minor offenses.  Then Riker’s on a B and E, first felony. Check the            photo. He’s got a jailbird tattoo:  Ziggy to disguise a knife scar on his neck. Ouch, must have hurt.

Det. Morano:  Big time trouble coming up. ‘Gets into a beef with an Aryan Brotherhood   enforcer.’  The shotcaller on his tier orders up some ‘soft candy’—they still call it that?

Det. Morano: Who knows? Looks like they failed to teach our Ziggy some manners. Instead of some rough discipline, the Brand member tried to saw off his head like a can opener while Ziegfield was lying in his bunk—Damn, I hate when that happens.

Det. Beausoleil:  Yeah, me too.  Check it out.  There’s a handwritten comment from his parole      officer, says Ziggy started hitting the weights.  Look at the last photo.

Det. Morano:  A beast, all right. Shit, you can get ‘roids in the joint now, too—

Det. Beausoleil: —so our Mister Ziegfield now winds up in SHU for his own protection.  They add a couple years for assault.  They wanted five, he agreed to plead to two.

Det. Morano:  It gets more interesting.  Shitbird no sooner gets out of SHU and back into general population he finds the guy who sliced him.  Holy Mother Machree, look at this,          will you!—he thumbed out the guy’s eyeballs. Took ‘em right out of the sockets. Ziegfield goes him one better, according to this attached medical report—he shoves the eyeballs in the victim’s own mouth.

Det. Beausoleil:  I believe our man has anger-management issues. Would you agree, partner?

* * *

Parking Lot, Crotona Apartments, Sunday, three weeks later, 5:06 a.m.

Det. Beausoleil: You’re still good with this, Jimmy?

Det. Morano: I’m cool.

Det. Beausoleil: No trial, nada.

Det. Morano:  Bob, he killed your niece.  He’s got to pay. The waitress in Checco’s made a positive ID—the same guy who creeped her out.

Det. Beausoleil:  We tell the L.T. we were here to interview him, that’s all.  So when he asks us why no SWAT, we say—

Det. Morano:  —we say we only ran him through NCIC.  The lab results for DNA take weeks.

Det. Beausoleil:  Remember, we get all the way inside his place in case somebody’s watching from the balcony.  Get his prints on the throw-down after I drop him.

Det. Morano:  Hey, this ain’t my first rodeo, Bobby. I’m ready.

Det. Beausoleil:  She didn’t deserve what that scumbag did.  Murdered her and threw her away like garbage.  He doesn’t deserve to breathe. Let’s go.

 

THE END

Robb White lives in Ashtabula, Ohio. He writes, noir, crime, and hardboiled stories featuring series character Thomas Haftmann.  A recent collection of crime stories is Dangerous Women:  Stories of Crime, Mystery, and Mayhem. Crowood Press in the U.K. published White’s latest work, Perfect Killer.

 

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