I hear the steps creak, it sounds like he’s about fifteen stories up. Petey. Now there’s a story. We started out as friends, working jobs together, hanging out together, living the life together. Good times. Too many criss-crossing jobs, though. That’s a bad deal in this business, especially if you’re supposed to kill a guy who’s supposed to be paying your buddy. Conflict of interest, you might say.
We kind of broke communication over the years, but we still talk sociably when the situation allows for it. I saw him at a Christmas party a few years back, and it looked like he had lost a lot of weight. His face was pale, and he had dark circles under his eyes.
I told him he looked like he had been working too hard. “Wrath,” he said to me, “The devil’s work is never done.” And then he grinned at me real big, and I decided I needed to get out of that party right away.
I was one of the few that made it out alive. The whole reason he had even been at the party was because he was supposed to do a multiple-target hit. Instead of planning it out all careful, he just opened up on the whole room. The thing is, Petey wasn’t never much for the bloodbath-type jobs—that was the first time I heard about him doing a messy hit like that. Not the last, though. Word in the underground was that he had slipped a notch; that he was missin’ a marble or two, and had been hangin’ with some pretty shady folks. Nobody seemed to know what kind of shady folks, though, not for sure. Too many rumors, not enough facts.
Devil-worshipers, cultists, magicians, Columbians. Some people said he was workin’ for the CIA now, and that’s why all the wet-work lately. Others said he had just stepped over the edge. Happens, you know—even to the pros. You venture out onto that ledge above the abyss every time you take a life, and sometimes there’s something looking back up at you that can crack your mind.
That’s me romanticizing it, of course. What it really amounts to, though, is some people just don’t have the stomach to deal death as a living. Petey, though, his stomach always seemed just fine to me, so I wondered what was really going on there.
I got a chance to find out a while later. There was this big job, with a couple parties involved, and neither one of the parties trusted the other one. What they finally agreed to was sending one player each. Petey and I were trusted by both parties, so we were suddenly working together again after years and years.
I almost declined the offer, because it wasn’t a straight hit. The guys needed a bit of information from the target before he was “retired.” That was what Petey was for. I was just supposed to think up a plan and make sure that nobody was double-crossed. By that time, I had a rep for being able to pull off any job I agreed to, no matter how difficult, and I had a rep for being honest. Petey had a rep for being terminally frightening.
We end up sittin around, staring at this building for something like three hours, mostly just shootin’ the breeze, talkin’ sports and whatnot. And then Petey just stops, right in the middle of his sentence. He cocks his head for a minute, like he’s listening, and then he smiles. It wasn’t no regular smile, neither. That phrase “ear-to-ear?” That was him. And he had fangs.
Not just a couple of ‘em, either. An entire mouth, just packed full of ultra-pointy teeth. Like a jack o’ lantern, man, where they all matched up perfect. I’d been talking to the guy all night, too, you know? I would have notice a mouth full of fangs, I think. But I hadn’t, and there they were.
“They’re comin’, Wrath. They’re comin’, and they think that they’re comin’ prepared. That’s the part that really makes me laugh: when they think they’re prepared. I can’t imagine an instance where someone would be prepared for the things you and I are bringin’.”
I had no idea what he was talking about, but I believed him when he said the guys were comin’, I don’t know why. “What kind of preparation are we talkin’ here, Petey?” I asked him.
“That’s the best part, Wrath—it doesn’t matter!” He laughed, then: loud and high-pitched, and it felt like someone was rubbin’ sand paper on the back of my eyeballs. “I got this, man—you’re for decoration, that’s all.”
And then he was out of the car. Like if you blink during an action sequence at the movies, you know? Like one second he was there, and then the door is slamming shut, and he’s in the street. Even though I’m big, I’m still real quick, which is partly why I’m so good at what I do. I was out the door in an instant, and he was still already across the street before I managed to get to my feet. Son of a gun was too fast, is what I’m sayin’.
He slid up next to the building we’d been watchin’ and then he was gone. You know that expression that goes, “fading into the shadows?” Or maybe it’s “vanishin’ into the shadows” I can’t remember, but I do remember it used to be in just about every detective story I read when I was a boy, about this guy an’ that guy vanishin’ into the shadows and whatnot. That’s what Petey did. He just walked up to that building, and then he was gone, right into the shadows. It made my skin crawl, I’m not kidding. You see things sometime, and deep down, you just know that it ain’t right. That’s how it was that whole night with Petey, was my skin was covered in goose bumps, the hair on the back of my neck all raised up, my stomach feelin’ all nervous.
The door knocked open right then, these two goons checking from side to side, just like they learned from watchin’ movies, I guess, because they sure as hell didn’t notice me standin’ right there in the middle of the street, lookin’ like a kid with his pants down. I didn’t even have my piece pulled, and right then, I was kind of too scared to pull it—I didn’t want to draw no extra attention.
So I stop dead, and the thoughts going through my head are all about how embarrassing this is gonna be if I get gunned down in the middle of the street. Wrath, the notorious contract killer, gunned down in the street by a couple of newbie goons, and he didn’t even have his piece out. That pretty much settled it.
I yanked my piece, ready to squeeze off a couple of rounds and dove behind the car—you can’t be accurate when you’re in a hurry, and I was sure as hell in a hurry just about then. I somehow managed to get my piece out without drawing their attention, and I was even able to take aim and take the first bodyguard out before they noticed me.
And then I was suddenly in the middle of a firefight. That kind of thing really isn’t my style. I usually get in and out without much notice, and that’s the way I prefer it. Shootin’ it out across the street is stupid and overly-dramatic and sloppy, and I hate when I have to resort to it. It rarely happens, I at least have that.
The bullets were tearin’ up the car pretty bad and tearin’ up the buildings behind me. I can’t hear nothin’ but ripping metal, chipping brick, and shattering glass all around me, and I remember hoping that there weren’t any innocent bystanders to rush out to see what all the commotion was, because they’ll for sure get gunned down. Any time a civilian gets shot to death in the street because of any mob-related scene, the public demands action, and the cops open a special task force to track us all down and put a stop to gang-related violence. It’s a joke, but it makes business more difficult than usual, so it’s just one of those things you try to ignore.
And then the bullets stop whining by, and there’s nothing but silence for a second, and then there’s screamin’. I take a quick peek through the shot-out car window, and I see that Petey has left the shadows, and he’s rippin’ apart the hired help. Literally.
I’ve been in the crime business for quite a while, and I’ve seen some pretty vicious stuff, but I had never seen anything like what Petey was doin’ to those guys. Just yankin’ ‘em apart, man, like they were Barbie dolls or something.
There were about ten of them by now—the mark only had four come out with him at first, but extra guys had come out when they heard the gunfire—and in the span of seconds, Petey had taken out almost all of them. One guy had a chance to open fire, and I saw Petey take a few right in the chest. Didn’t even slow him down, man. He just ripped the guy’s face on and tossed it out into the street. The guy, he squeezes off another couple of rounds—just reflex—and drops his gun. He stumbles out into the street, screaming, and kind of touching the raw spot where his face used to be. He still had one eyeball, and he looked at me with it.
Petey takes out the last bodyguard, grabs the mark by his jacket, and then turns to watch the guy stumbling around without a face. The guy has noticed me at this point, and is kind of stumbling towards me, I don’t know if he expected me to help or what, but it gave me a much better view of him than I would have liked. His upper teeth had been ripped out, it looked like, but you could still see the bottom part of his jaw, all exposed. There were pieces of stuff hangin’ all around, and I didn’t know if it was just blood-soaked hair, or pieces of skin or what. I shot him dead and then I puked in the gutter.
I could hear Petey across the street, laughin’. “That’s how we do it, Wrath! I wish you would have let him time out on his own, though! He could have been an object lesson for little Joey, here.” He was still holding up the mark, shoving his face out towards the carnage, even though the guy had clearly passed out.
I stood up, hoping that my knees wouldn’t buckle and dump me into the gutter with my last meal. They held, and I walked across the street. “It’s only an object lesson if the guys stays awake to see it, Petey.”
“Ah, he’ll see more than enough to persuade him to talk.” He was still laughing, which bothered me way down inside, like if you’ve ever been where lighting hits real close, or like if you’re in the dark and you can tell that someone’s lookin’ at you.
“Whatever. We need to split before the cops show up—which will probably be in about two seconds.”
“Let ‘em come—you and me, we could take the entire force.”
“Not my style, Petey.”
“Fine with me, if you want to be a pansy.” He ran across the street, threw the mark in the back seat, and climbed into the front. He cranked the engine, and by some miracle, it started. I jumped into the passenger seat as he threw it into gear, and we took off.