Dave and Moreen checked in at the long-term hotel using fake identities. When they finished, Dave asked the front desk to call room 231 and tell them Mr. and Mrs. Martinez had arrived, so they wouldn’t spook anybody when they unlocked the door. Agent Chung, Agent Attwater, and the witness had been holed up here for three weeks since the last attempt on the witness’s life. They’d be a little jumpy, to say the least.
After getting their keycards, Dave and Moreen went back outside to grab their suitcases and bags of groceries. The hotel was made up of two long buildings three stories high, and Dave had memorized the floor plan before coming. The gated pool by the parking lot hadn’t been covered yet, despite that autumn in Illinois wasn’t exactly outdoor swimming weather. Red, orange, and brown leaves floated across the water’s surface, fallen from the row of trees planted along the sidewalk. The parking lot was maybe half full, and a man dragged his suitcase towards the lobby, the sound of its wheels bumping across the asphalt echoing off the buildings. Dave kept one eye on him. Pudgy and balding, he didn’t look like the stereotypical image of a hitman, but real hitmen rarely did.
Moreen knocked loudly on the door of room 230 before swiping the keycard and pushing open the door. Dave edged past her to go in first, standard procedure since he was the bulletproof one. But it was an unnecessary precaution, because the only person inside was Agent Chung.
“Glad you guys could make it,” he greeted. Continue reading
Val walked up to the old Victorian house, and the gun-carrying man by the door nodded at her as she went inside.
The interior looked the same as always: old-fashioned patterned wallpaper, decorative molding on the ceiling, and useless stuff everywhere. Fancy chairs that no one sat on were placed next to side tables holding vases of flowers. An antique cabinet of polished wood displayed knick-knacks of porcelain, stone, and glass. Oil paintings of scenes from the Civil War hung beside antique photographs and mirrors in gilded frames. You’d think the place looked exactly the same as it had a hundred years ago, and in fact, Val only remembered one thing in it ever changing. The old burgundy carpet had been replaced with hardwood floors. Probably because it was easier to clean up bloodstains that way.
Val found a maid engaged in dusting, which was probably a full-time job. “Where’s he at?”
“Out back, ma’am.”
Val went out the back door to the patio and pool. The landscaping made it look like a tropical rainforest was encroaching, and the pool itself was an enormous affair complete with a fake stone waterfall and a little bridge that led to a small island. Val had no idea why her father had it. He never went swimming. Maybe he liked the smell of chlorine.
His wheelchair was parked next to a table under a large umbrella, situating him in his own private shadow. He was dressed in the most casual, summery outfit he ever wore: a button-up white shirt, crisp khaki pants, and a vintage hat. A glass of iced tea sat on a coaster on the table, and his right-hand man, Joey Giordano, lurked only a few yards away.
He glanced up from the book he’d been reading when Val approached. “Val. Have a seat. It’s a lovely day outside.” Continue reading
Eddy’s job involved a lot of travel. It was one of the perks of the gig. He enjoyed the chance to see new places and meet new people, even if he had to dump some of those people in a shallow grave before he went back home. His goal was to visit each of the fifty states at least once. He’d been to thirty-eight so far and was collecting souvenir magnets.
At the moment, he was driving through the great state of Wyoming. It was one of his more pleasant drives, and not just because he didn’t have any cops chasing after him. The scenery for the past few hours had been nothing short of spectacular: grassy green fields, lush forests, and distant snow-capped mountains. It was the kind of place where a guy could get some real peace and quiet.
“That a new dress?” he asked his companion.
Irma Grimaldi, one of the scariest damn women Eddy had ever met, glanced down as if to remind herself what she was wearing. She was gaunt and graying, and Eddy had always secretly thought she’d look at home in a witch costume. But today she wore a pale purple dress and matching flowered hat, looking for all the world like she was on her way to Sunday mass. Oddly appropriate, since the two of them were heading to see a preacher.
“Yes,” she said. “Why? Is this a compliment? I think I might die of shock.”
“You know you’re gonna get blood on it.”
“Not if we keep this quick and clean like we’re supposed to.” Continue reading