It was half-off Thursday, and the bar and grill was packed with people from wall to wall. Mannigon’s Bar and Grill was the hot spot in the down town area. Dennis Pierce, an investment banker who had just gotten promoted to a director’s position, sat at the end of the bar among a crowd of thirsty and hungry people. It was safe to say that Dennis was on cloud nine; just sipping his pint of beer and minding his own business. His wife Patty was working late that night, and hadn’t been able to break free from a series of late evening meetings, so Dennis was unable to share the good news with her. Dennis wanted to surprise his wife when she got home, but it was happy hour and he would have a few drinks while he was waiting for her. Little did Dennis know what unexpected turn his life would take this evening!
Happy hour was winding down and Dennis was finishing up his beer, about to order another. Alex the bartender finished ringing up a customer, and walked over to where Dennis was sitting.
“Fill her up, Den?” Alex asked.
“Yeah I’ll take one more. Thanks Alex,”
“I’ll take one of those as well, Alex,” a man sitting next to Dennis ordered.
“Sure thing buddy,” Alex said.
“Sydney Tate,” the man said, extending his hand and introducing himself to Dennis.
Dennis shook Sydney’s hand. “Dennis Pierce.”
“You look especially happy this evening, sir. Is today your birthday or something?” Sydney asked Dennis.
“No it’s not my birthday. I just got a job promotion today.”
“Well congratulations, that’s wonderful. Alex, this round’s on me.”
“Thank you very much! That’s kind of you.”
“Hey it’s my pleasure, this is a special occasion,” Sydney said, taking a large gulp of his beer. “If you don’t mind me asking, what line of work are you in?”
“I’m an investment banker.”
“Oh, the enemy,” Sydney said, chuckling. “A young banker decided to get his first tailor-made suit. As he tried it on, he reached down to put his hands in the pockets and to his surprise, he found none. He mentioned this to the tailor who asked him, ‘you're a banker, right?’ The young man answered ‘yes I am.’ ‘Well, whoever heard of a banker with his hands in his own pockets?’"
Sydney chuckled. “I’m just messing with you.”
“I haven’t heard that one before,” Dennis said, grinning.
“No, but really it’s very important what you guys do. You help hard-working folks out with their money and that’s a noble thing.”
“Thanks, I try to do the right thing,” Dennis said, looking a little uncomfortable.
“I’m sure you do. It’s funny to me though, that people go through their whole lives trying to do the right thing for their own sake and for the sake of their loved ones. But what truly is the right thing?”
“Uh, I’m not sure what you’re asking, Dennis replied, baffled.
“Okay, let me break it down to you this way. Would you do anything for the people you love, or even a stranger for that matter, to follow the principle of doing the right thing?”
“I’m still not sure exactly what you’re asking, but yes; I would pretty much do anything within reason, to follow that principle.”
“Okay, define that. Would you lie, cheat, steal, rape, or even kill to do the right thing for that certain somebody?”
Dennis stood up and flagged Alex down. “Hey Alex! I would like to cash out now.” Dennis checked his cell phone. "Damn, this happens every time...Shit!"
"What's the problem?" Sydney asked.
"Oh, my cell phone is dead." Dennis took out his wallet as Alex walked over.
“What’s the hurry? We’re having a stimulating conversation here, and you’re leaving?”
“I got to. Well, I have to get home, my wife is expecting me,” Alex said, flustered.
“No she’s not,” Sydney said, sipping his beer.
“What do mean, ‘no she’s not?’”
“Just what I said. No she’s not.”
“This is crazy. I’m going,” Dennis said in a fit of rage as he signed the bar tab.
“I wouldn’t leave just yet, Dennis…Not if you know what’s best for you and your wife.”
“What the fuck is this? Who the hell are you and why are talking about my wife?”
“Lower your voice Dennis.”
Alex walked over to the men. “Everything all right over here?” he asked.
“Yes, everything’s fine Alex,” Sydney said. “Just a couple of guys having a conversation. As a matter fact, why don’t you pour my friend Dennis and I another.”
“Okay,” Alex said, looking confused.
“This is totally insane!” Dennis blurted. “I’m not going to stay here and drink with you!”
“Yes you will, if you ever want to see your wife again. And Dennis, that’s not a threat, that’s an absolute promise.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“Lets talk about doing the right thing for the people you love. Forget about a total stranger. They don’t count because you simply don’t care enough about them to bother, do you Dennis?”
“I don’t know. Yeah, I guess.”
“Having said that, what would you do for the person you love?”
“Not as nutty as some of the things people would subject themselves to for the person they love. I say again, what would you be willing to do?”
“I don’t know. Anything!”
“Anything, like murder?”
“I don’t know…I really don’t know how to dignify these questions of yours.”
“I believe you have it in you to kill someone, which proves my theory about people in general.”
“The theory that anyone can be a killer, trying to do the right thing. God, that almost sounds like an oxymoron if you really think about it.”
“What is this? What do you want from me?”
“I’m just trying to prove a theory.”
“By threatening a man!”
“I told you this wasn’t a threat.” Sydney chugged the last of his beer. He looked over at Dennis and his almost full beer. “Why don’t you finish that beer and meet me outside.”
“For what? What are you going to do?”
“Just come outside and don’t even think about trying anything cute. Remember to do the right thing for the sake of the one you love.” Sydney dropped a twenty on the bar table and walked away.
Dennis walked outside and stood on the sidewalk near a light pole, staring into the street. A policeman on a bicycle rode by on the sidewalk across the street. Dennis fidgeted with his phone, not knowing what to do. He continued to stare at the policeman on his bike, tempted to get his attention and to report his strange encounter. The policeman made a sharp turn down the street and disappeared. Dennis shook his head indecisively.
“You made the right decision, Dennis,” a voice said, coming from behind Dennis in the alley. Dennis turned around and saw Sydney standing in the alley, leaning against the wall and puffing on a cigar. “Come here. I won’t bite you.”
Dennis walked to Sydney in the alley, who was holding a laptop computer in his non-smoking hand. “I can see you are a smart man, because a stupid man would have gotten the attention of that cop and in turn would have killed the one they love. But that isn’t you is it?”
“You have me out here, now what do you want from me?”
“Here, I think this may interest you,” Sydney said, unfolding his laptop and setting it down on a box. Sydney turned the laptop on. There was a video of Dennis’ wife tied to a chair with her mouth gagged. “You’re wife, I presume,” Sydney said with a grin.
“You son of a bitch!” In a fit of rage Dennis took a swing at Sydney, who ducked to avoid the punch, countering with his own strike to Dennis’ gut. Dennis fell to the ground next to a dumpster holding his side, moaning in pain.
“That wasn’t very smart Denny,” Sydney said, shaking his head as he stood over Dennis. I expected something a little more civilized, especially coming from a man like yourself.” Sydney paused for a moment, observing his victim… “Now you’re going to be all right. Just stand up, shake it off, and I’ll tell you how you get your wife back.”
Dennis gingerly got to his feet and attacked Sydney again, but was countered by a knee in the stomach and a punch to the face. Dennis fell to the ground for the second time. “Once again, not very smart,” Sydney remarked casually. “You’re not helping yourself here, Dennis. Time’s running out, and for your sake and the sake of your wife, you must listen to me.”
Dennis sat up and leaned against the dumpster, making eye contact with Sydney.
“Are you ready to listen?” Sydney asked as he threw down a clean white handkerchief to a bloodied Dennis.
Dennis nodded his head yes. “Yeah, I’m ready to listen.”
“Good, let me show you something else,” Sydney said, pressing a few more buttons on his laptop and bringing up a photo of a man. “Do you recognize this gentleman?” Sydney asked.
“Uh, I don’t know; he does look familiar,” Dennis said undecidedly.
“He should, considering he’s in your line of work. That’s Gary Hughes, the CEO of Universal Financial, a very reputable financial institution here in the southwest, and one of your competitors. This man controls close to eighty-five percent of commercial banking and real estate in this region. He’s a walking financial windfall.”
“So what does this have to do with me and my wife?” Dennis asked.
“Just relax Dennis, I’m getting to that. Mr. Hughes has not played very nice with some of his competitors, including your own company, New World Bank. My client—Mr. X we’ll call him—is another competitor in the financial sector here in this region. Let's just say that my client has a few philosophical differences with Mr. Hughes. Which creates a bit of a dilemma and must be dealt with as soon as possible,” Sydney added.
“So what do you want from me?”
“What I want is you to terminate Mr. Hughes permanently. Take him out of the picture completely.”
“And how am I supposed to do that?”
“Well it’s quite simply really, I want you to kill Mr. Hughes. Assassinate him. Do you understand now?”
“This is crazy! I’m not going to kill anyone for you,” Dennis said, shaking his head.
“You will, if you want your wife back in one piece.”
“You can’t blackmail me into doing your dirty work for you. Why don’t you kill him yourself?”
“That’s where you’re wrong Dennis, I just did. And why should I resort to violence unless I absolutely have to? I have you to do that for me.”
“I don’t understand. Why me? Of all the people to choose from, why did you select me?”
“I’m going to reiterate the point I was trying to make inside the bar. I believe that anyone could be a killer for the right reasons, and you’re going to help me prove that theory. Besides, you work in this industry, and Mr. Hughes is one of your company’s competitors. It should be beneficial to you to kill this man as well.”
“You’re crazy. I’m not doing this…I can’t.”
Sydney pulled out his wife’s drivers license. Dennis stared at the license with a look of rage, but knew Sydney had the upper hand. “You want to kill me, don’t you Dennis? That just solidifies my point, but save it for Mr. Hughes and you will get your wife back unharmed. If you don’t, I will cut her up into pieces and then go after you.”
Dennis paused for a brief second, a million thoughts racing through his head. “Just tell me what I need to do,” Dennis said.
“I never thought you’d ask! Follow me,” Sydney said, walking back onto the sidewalk and flagging down a taxi. The two men took a taxi to the Regal Crown Convention Center, a venue attached to the prestigious Regal Crown Hotel. Dennis knew that many high-powered businessmen, renowned figures in science and religion, and politicians had given speeches at this venue.
The two men pulled up to the curb across the way from the valet at the Regal Crown Hotel. Sydney paid the cab fair and the two walked into the shadows of a dark street corner across from the hotel. Sydney contemplated the hotel while Dennis stood beside him, anxiously awaiting a response. “What exactly are we doing here?” Dennis asked.
“Have you ever been inside that building before?” Sydney asked.
“Yeah, several times for various conferences,” Dennis said.
“Of course you have.”
“So why are we here?”
“Because your target is giving a speech tonight inside the convention center. Something about the balance of financial influence in modern society. Very interesting, considering that Mr. Hughes knows very little on the subject. I guess opinions are like assholes, right? Mr. Hughes is a philosopher now!” Sydney said with a grin.
“Kill the man inside the convention center? Are you crazy?”
"I would hope you have more sense than that Dennis. I'm just pointing you in the right direction. This is your show now, amigo; I can only make suggestions."
Dennis was bewildered, but Sydney was clearly a man not to be trifled with. He didn’t feel that he had much choice except to cooperate, at least for now. "Okay, what do you suggest I do?"
"There are many ways to kill a man. A gunshot to the head from close quarters or even several hundred yards away, Lee Harvey style. There's death by botulism. You poison the man's food, which can be tricky; especially if the man's life has been recently threatened and he has food testers. But something tells me our Mr. Hughes’ life hasn't been threatened recently, so you can rule out food testers. Electrocution can be tricky, considering that you would have to get the target within the right circumstances. And of course there's the traditional assassin’s way of hitting the target, up close and personal. Knife, saber, axe, machete, a sharp inanimate object to any vital organ usually does the trick. Lastly, you can do a man with your bare hands, hitting certain pressure points, particularly around the neck area. But each to his own, right?"
"I can't do this," Dennis said, trembling. He walked away, shaking his head.
"Oh I think you can," Sydney said, holding up a bracelet that belonged to his wife. "If you can't decide, I would recommend a hand gun. Not very many people have the intestinal fortitude to slice another man's throat." Sydney pulled out a hand gun and cocked the upper receiver back. "This here is a friend of mine...the 9mm Beretta 92FS semi-automatic pistol. It holds ten rounds in a magazine and one in the chamber. Double action with minimal recoil. I'll even put on the silencer for you, so no one hears the pop." Sydney screwed a silencer mechanism on the barrel of the weapon.
"You want me to shoot him with this thing?"
"Well, what else would you do with it? Again, I'm simply making suggestions. But I want this character dead by dawn, understand?"
"I...I'm not a killer...I can't."
"Yes you can. Especially for the one you love. Here," Sydney said as he handed Dennis the hand gun. "Use it wisely my friend." Sydney looked at his watch. "Now you're wasting time. You have exactly nine hours until sunrise."
Dennis began to walk toward the street. "Oh Dennis," Sydney said, holding up a disposable cell phone. "Here, take this since yours isn't functional right now." Sydney threw Dennis the phone. "Keep in touch."
Dennis tentatively walked into the convention center and headed straight for the banquet room. He walked past one of the security guards who happened to be talking to a police officer. Dennis desperately wanted out of the dilemma he was in. He had a nice welt forming near his eye from Sydney's punch, and he nodded his head to the uniformed police officer and the guard, as he nervously walked into the banquet room. The two uniformed men glanced at Dennis’ bruised face and went back to their conversation. Hughes stood in the front of the room, standing behind a podium, talking about the future of commercial banking and the pros and cons of annuity investment. Dennis grabbed an empty seat at the back of the room. He didn’t listen to a word of what Hughes was saying, desperately trying to figure out what to do. He tussled with the idea that to save his wife, he might actually have to go through with this execution! He felt his palms moistening and his hands sporadically tightened into fists. Unconsciously he curled up his toes, and a nervous tic fluttered in his left eye. Using his peripheral vision he could see the cop and the guard looking at him. He sensed that they knew he was working himself up to something. Paranoia was setting in; Dennis felt as if everyone in the room were staring at him. He looked up and saw Hughes continuing to give his little spiel.
The minutes clicked away; Dennis felt time slowing down. He sat at the table in a sort of terrorized quagmire, completely at a loss. Hughes finished his speech and walked away from the podium. The master of ceremonies walked in front of the podium and told the guests to stay around, because food was being served in the next room. Hughes, followed by two of his guards, made his way to the back of the room and the exit door. Dennis slowly stood up and walked toward Hughes, stopping a few feet away from his target, who was walking through the exit door. Dennis froze dead in his tracks, uncertain, with one of his hands gripping the back of his pants and the other firmly gripping the gun he had shoved into his slacks. The guards would be able to see the bulge in his pants, he thought, panicking. Hughes left the room and Dennis just stood there with his mouth open.
Dennis gathered himself and slowly walked out of the banquet room. The cell phone that Sydney gave him started to buzz. Dennis answered the phone.
“What happened Dennis?” Sydney said. “You froze up!”
“I can’t shoot him in front of all these people,” Dennis said.
“That’s right, because it wouldn’t be a smart thing to do, considering you don’t want to go to prison for the rest of your life, especially not a tender ass like yourself. I suggest that you wait until he goes to the bathroom, and then make your move,” Sydney suggested.
“People will still see me go in and out of there,” Dennis replied impatiently.
“You just make sure no one sees you go in and out of there. Jesus, do I have to come up with everything? Do you want me to wipe your ass too, Dennis?”
“I can’t do this…I can’t!”
“You’re almost out of suggestions from me, Dennis. I’ll tell you what, meet me back at the loading area near shipping and receiving,” Sydney demanded.
“Where is the loading area?”
“You’re a big boy, Dennis. Ask someone for directions.”
Dennis eventually found the loading area and Sydney stood there waiting for him, leaning up against a tall box mounted on a pallet.
“You disappoint me, Dennis, you really do,” Sydney said, shaking his head.
“I’m not going to do this!” Dennis shouted. “I just can’t do it!”
“Okay, okay…Come here, I want to show you something else.” Sydney waved Dennis over to look at his opened laptop. “Look closely, Dennis, at the screen. They call this electric shock reinforcement.” Dennis saw his wife tied up to the chair. Sydney pressed a button on his keyboard which triggered some kind of electric shock through his wife’s body. She jerked up on the seat in pain, yelling in agony.
Dennis attacked Sydney once more, screaming: “You’re killing her for Christ sake! Stop it!”
Sydney pushed Dennis away and yanked him back so he could watch his wife being tortured. Sydney repeatedly sent an electric pulse through her body from his laptop. She yelled and screamed, breaking down in tears. Sydney finally stopped. “See now, that’s what happens when you don’t tell me what I want to hear, and don’t do what I want you to do. Understand now?”
Dennis nodded his head. “Yes I understand! Now please stop doing that to her!”
“I will if you stop fighting me. You’re not helping yourself and you’re certainly not helping your wife. Do you see that cord attached to her body and her head? Now that shock I just sent through her was weak, but if you don’t follow my instructions I’ll turn her brain into mush. All I have to do is turn the juice to maximum.”
“Okay I get it. What do I do now?”
“This will be the last time I give you advice, okay? Mr. Hughes will be leaving the convention center in about—” Sydney looked at his watch— “Forty minutes or so. Apparently he likes to go nightclubbing. He’s a real cock smith if you know what I mean. You will grab a cab and follow him to wherever he decides to go. These clubs are usually loud and full of people. This will give you a perfect opportunity to do him. You have just under seven hours to go, and I suggest that you use the time wisely.”
Sydney began to walk away, striding out of the docking area and disappearing into the dark driveway. “You can do this, Dennis. I know you have it in you!” Sydney shouted.
Dennis went back into the convention center and sat down in the lobby outside one of the banquet rooms, awaiting Mr. Hughes’ departure. An hour elapsed and Hughes mingled his way out of the banquet room, surrounded by fans and his hired guards. Dennis followed Hughes to the valet area at the entrance to the hotel. As Hughes walked to his limo Dennis grabbed the attention of a cabby who was sitting in his taxi, reading a newspaper. Hughes’ limo pulled out of the half-circle driveway of the hotel, while Dennis talked to the cabby.
"I want you to follow that limo," Dennis said.
Dennis got in and the taxi pulled out of the driveway, following the limo. The cabby noticed the welt on Dennis’ face, which had doubled in size. "Hey man, are you okay? Looks like you had a bit of an accident," the cabby commented.
"Yeah I took a fall," Dennis said.
"Sure, a fall," the cabby said, shaking his head.
The taxi followed Hughes’ limo to a nightclub called the Coliseum, just as Sydney predicted. Dennis knew that the Coliseum was an upscale nightclub that attracted wealthy businessmen and socialites. The cabby pulled up to the curb side of the club and Dennis got out of the cab, looking at the long line waiting to get inside. Dennis paid the cabby and was forced to wait in line with everybody else, while Hughes bypassed the madding crowd and went straight inside, VIP style. Out front were a couple of uniformed police standing next to their squad cars, eating donuts and sipping coffee. Still feeling as if he had a set of eyes on him at all times, Dennis glanced eagerly at the policemen, hoping by some miracle that they would pick up on his distress. He could not make a move, or speak, knowing that it could be disastrous. Dennis stayed the course and made it inside the club, looking around. The Coliseum had a crowded room with a large dance floor in the middle, a couple of bars off to the sides, and a lounging area upstairs. Dennis guessed that Hughes would be in the lounge, and went up the stairs. Sure enough, he spotted Hughes sitting in the VIP section, surrounded by club girls.
Watching Hughes fondle two young vixens, Dennis sat across the room, periodically glancing down at his watch in desperation, trying to scheme an assassination. After an hour and half of philandering, Hughes stood up and walked to the restroom.
Dennis raced into action, following Hughes into the restroom. Hovering over a urinal, Hughes handled his business with Dennis standing three urinals down, acting as if he had to go. Dennis used his peripheral vision, keeping Hughes in the corner of his eye. As he slowly reached down for the gun that was tucked in his pants, his hand began to shake. Dennis grabbed the handle of the weapon and began to slowly pull it out, still shaking almost uncontrollably. Hughes finished and walked to the sink to wash his hands, while Dennis stood against the urinal. Just as Dennis was about to turn around and make his move, one of Hughes’ bodyguards opened the bathroom door and peeked through. Dennis hurriedly shoved the gun back to his side.
“How are you doing in there Mr. Hughes?” the bodyguard asked.
“I’m good, I’ll be right out,” Hughes replied.
Hughes rinsed off his hands and left the restroom. Dennis continued to stand at the urinal, hitting the side of his head with his palm, disappointed that he couldn’t react.
Minutes later, Dennis walked out of the bathroom. As he turned the corner back into the club room, he was slammed against the wall by one of Hughes’ bodyguards. “Who the fuck are you and what do you want?” the guard asked Dennis, pinning him against the wall.
“I’m, I’m no one,” he fumbled. “I’m just hanging out, drinking.”
“Bullshit! You’ve been making eyes at Mr. Hughes from across the room since you came up here. Now what the fuck do you want?”
“I don’t want anything, I swear! I’m just hanging out.”
The bodyguard let him go. “Just stay the fuck out of our way!”
The guard walked away from Dennis, who was trying to catch his breath.
Dennis passed Hughes and his entourage, who were sitting in the lounge. The bodyguard who had pinned Dennis against the wall made eye contact with him, still appearing to be suspicious.
Six beers and five bathroom breaks later, Dennis’s time was running out. Hughes paid his check and began to make his way out of the club with one of the club girls. As Dennis followed Hughes out the door, the same bodyguard turned around and shot a warning glance at Dennis.
Hughes and his entourage walked to the limo and got inside. Dennis called for a cab at the curb side. The limo started to pull out into the street. Dennis desperately tried to flag down a cab, trying not to lose sight of the limo.
Two policemen come up to Dennis at the curb side.
“Excuse me sir. We just received a complaint that you’ve been harassing a Mr. Gary Hughes, and we’re going to have to ask you to come with us, sir,” one of the policemen said.
Dennis, surprised at what had just happened, turned and faced one of the policemen. “This is ridiculous, I didn’t do anything. If anything you should question that asshole bodyguard of his, who practically assaulted me earlier in the club,” Dennis said. He was just a little bit drunk and hoped that he hadn’t slurred his words.
One of the cops looked down and noticed the bulge protruding through Dennis’ pants. The policeman quickly gripped his handgun. “Sir, turn around and put your hands up against that wall!” the cop ordered. Dennis followed the policemen’s order and knew he was in serious trouble. The other cop began to frisk Dennis, and found the gun. “What’s this?” the cop asked Dennis.
“It’s my own personal protection,” Dennis said.
“Sure it is! You’re under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can be held against you in a court of law. You have a right to speak to…” As the cop read him his Miranda rights, Dennis couldn’t stop thinking about his wife, and how he may never see her again.
“I didn’t do anything! I can’t believe this. There’s a good explanation for me carrying that gun,” Dennis said as the cops walked him to their squad car.
“You can tell us about it at the station house,” one of the cops said.
“It might be too late!” Dennis said, desperate. ”Look, there’s not much time. There’s guy out there who kidnapped my wife and is holding her hostage. He wants me to kill Hughes for him. If I don’t go through with it he will kill her. Please, you’re making a mistake!”
“Sure, and I suppose this man is the one who gave you the gun?” the cop said with a grin.
“Yes he is!”
The police put Dennis in the back of their squad car, which was parked in a side alley. “Please, she’s going to die!” Dennis yelled frantically.
“Shut up and just sit back,” one of the cops shouted back at Dennis. He picked up his radio and just as he was about to call in, two gun shots tore through the windshield of the squad car. One bullet hit the driver’s side cop square in the forehead, and the other bullet erased his buddy sitting in the passenger seat. The shots made virtually no sound. More shots hit the side door window shattering it just enough to create a small hole just big enough to slide a hand through.
In shock, Dennis froze. There wasn’t a single soul around to see what had just happened. Dennis was alone, looking at the cops’ brains splattered up against the window that divided the front and back seat of the squad car. In a daze, he thought that the bullets had probably come from a concealed sniper with a silenced, high-powered rifle. Suddenly there was a faint voice coming from the front seat of the car.
“Dennis, it’s me Sydney…I programmed this phone to automatically answer. Sydney said coming from the cell phone that was taken by one of the cops. “If I were you I would get out of the back seat of that squad car as soon as possible! Dennis, listen to me slide your hand through the hole in the window I created for you and open the passenger side door and get your phone and the gun I gave you!”
Dennis snapped out of the shocked state he was in and slid his hand through the hole in the side window. He opened the door from the outside, freeing himself and then swung around opening the passenger side door as instructed.
“Dennis, now grab a set of keys from the left pocket of the cop you’re leaning over,” Sydney said.
Dennis grabbed the keys and held them up. “I got them, now what?”
“On the center console there is a locked equipment compartment. Open it up and there you will find your gun and phone.”
Dennis once more followed Sydney’s instruction and opened up the compartment finding the gun and phone. He put the phone up to his ear.
“Good, now get the hell out of there while you still have a chance!”
Dennis panicked and made his way to the street still holding the phone up to his ear.
“Oh Dennis, you may want to do an about face and head down the alley instead of the street…And you may want to do it quickly!” Sydney suggested.
Dennis turned around and jolted toward the back of the alleyway.
“This is becoming a bad habit. I don’t like killing cops and you forced me to do just that. If you don’t do what you’re supposed to, more people around you will die that don’t need to, including your wife. Don’t worry looks like no one saw or heard anything that just happened. It’s just a matter of time before someone comes around the corner and sees the two dead cops, and you’ll be blamed for it. Oh and Dennis, you have just under four hours until sunrise.”
He made his way toward the back end of the alley. The cell phone buzzed again, and this time he saw a text that said, “If I were you I would start running because it looks like there’s another police car coming up the street.”
Dennis began to run as the squad car pulled up, showing its lights, and stopping at the squad car with the two dead cops in it. Dennis jumped behind a dumpster, watching the two cops get out of the squad car and observe their dead buddies. One of the cops called in for assistance while the other shined a spot light in the alley. Dennis spooked, and backed into a couple of tin trash cans. The cop heard the sound and shined the spot light in Dennis’ direction. Dennis ducked but the cop spotted him.
“You! Behind the dumpster! Stop right there!” the cop shouted out over a loudspeaker.
Dennis’ phone buzzed and he picked it up. “Start running!” Sydney said to Dennis. Dennis followed Sydney’s advice and in a panic, began to run away. The cops got back into their squad car and raced after Dennis. Just as the squad car tore off after the running man a rocket came from nowhere and crashed into the vehicle. The squad car spun in mid-air, exploding as it hit the ground. Another rocket followed hitting the squad car with the two dead cops inside of it, at the front of the alley. Dennis stopped and gazed at the two balls of fire. The cell phone rang again, and Dennis picked it up. “Pretty cool, huh? Let’s not stop for pictures though. Keep running and you’re going to come to a fork in the alley. Make a right there and stay on the line. If I were you I would hurry before the big bird with the spotlight comes.”
Dennis followed Sydney’s direction and took the next right. It was a dead end. “Well, that might have been the best move to make,” Sydney said with a chuckle.
“That’s what you told me to do!” Dennis said, leaning against the side of a building.
“I know it was. You’re standing next to a door on that side of the building.”
“Yeah, so what!”
“Move out of the way real quick!”
A second later Dennis saw and heard the whoosh of a bullet as it blew off the lock on the door. The rifleman again! “There’s your in. Go inside that building before the big bird spots you,” Sydney said to Dennis as the police helicopter came into view, shining its spotlight on the area. Dennis went inside the building just before the chopper’s spotlight exposed him.
“Man, you should see the scene from up here! Looks like a pig piñata just exploded. I think you might be screwed to say the least,” Sydney said, laughing.
“You son of a bitch! Now what do I do?” Dennis shouted over the phone.
“I was just kidding by the way. You’re only screwed for a little while. Just hang tight and wait for my signal. I’ll be in touch,” Sydney said, and hung up.
The police chopper passed over but he heard the sounds of sirens and squad cars. The area is crawling with police, he thought. Dennis sat inside a dark vacant office building, awaiting Sydney’s call. A minute later his phone began to buzz.
“This whole are is crawling with cops. The alley is clear for now but I’m sure it won’t stay that way. There’s a manhole outside in the alley, a few feet from the door,” Sydney said. “That’s your only chance of getting away, Dennis.”
“You want me to go down in the sewer?”
“You don’t have much of a choice, buddy. Down about twelve feet on the other side of the door there’s a pile of crushed wood. Next to it is some steel piping leaning against the wall of the building. You can use the piping to pry open the manhole cover. And if I were you I would move quick,” Sydney said.
Dennis peeked out the door and the alley appeared to be clear. He ran over to the pile of wood and grabbed one of the pipes, as instructed. Managing to pry the manhole cover off, Dennis crawled down into the sewer just as the cell phone rang again.
“Yes?” Dennis said, exasperated and afraid.
“Good job, Denny. How is it down in the stink hole?” Sydney asked chuckling.
“Now what?” Dennis asked.
“Face the ladder,” Sydney said.
“I said, face the ladder you just climbed down.”
“Do you want to get out of there without getting caught? If you do, then face the fucking ladder!”
Dennis turned around and faced the ladder. “Now you will walk through the tunnel to your left. Several thousand yards and to your right you will come upon another ladder that will lead you up to a back alley somewhere on 8th street. It’s blocks away and it appears to be clear of cops for now, but I wouldn’t wait too long, so get walking. You’re running solo from now on. This was the last time I help you tonight. Oh and Dennis, you have just over three and half hours to go. The clock is ticking…it’s ticking.”
Dennis ran through the sewer as fast as he could, eventually coming upon the other ladder. After climbing out of the hole, Dennis walked out into the street and got his bearings, realizing that his office building was several blocks down the street. Dennis figured that Hughes had gone home for the night with his lady friend, and he headed back to his work building. He had no trouble getting in, and walked to his desk, scrolling through a database that had Hughes’ home address. He knew that Hughes had an ex-wife who banked with their institution.
Dennis accessed the information for the former Mrs. Hughes, and found her previous address listed in the bank database. This should be Hughes’ current residence, he thought.
Dennis dialed Hughes’ home phone.
“Mr. Gary Hughes residence.”
“Ah yes, sorry to be calling you at this hour. My name is Brian Smith and I’m the manager of the Coliseum. Can I speak with Mr. Hughes?” Dennis asked.
“What is this in regards to?”
“One of my servers here at the club found one of Mr. Hughes’ credit cards. He just left the club not too long ago and I was hoping he’d still be in the area to pick it up. If not, my shift is about to end and I could drop of the card for him on my way home,” Dennis said.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Hughes retired for the night but I’ll be sure to tell him about the card in the morning.”
“Okay, I’ll tell my day manager.”
“Have a good night and I apologize again for calling so late.”
“Not a problem.”
Dennis knew that Hughes was back at his house, and that this would be his last opportunity to finish the job.
Dennis ran back to the Mannigon’s Bar and Grill parking lot and got his car, driving it to Hughes neighborhood. He parked his car several blocks away and went on foot to Hughes’ house. The twelve bedroom house was a mansion, and appeared to have some kind of security system. He went around to the back of the Hughes’ property. None of the windows on the bottom floor were open, but he caught a glimpse through the window of someone, probably one of the staff, walking into the kitchen. He banged on one of the back doors as hard as he could. He heard someone approaching the door, while he hid in the darkness by the side of the wall near the door. Just as a man’s head peeked outside, Dennis bashed him over the head with Sydney’s pistol, knocking him out.
Now he had free passage inside the house. He didn’t know the layout of the house but figured that Hughes’ bedroom was somewhere upstairs. He walked down a long dark hallway, looking from room to room. Suddenly, out of the darkness, the same bodyguard who had earlier harassed Dennis grabbed him, and slammed him against the wall. He tries to fight back but he was no match for this guy. The guard threw him to the floor and was about to make stew out of him. With no options left, he pointed his gun at the guard and shot him in the leg. The silenced weapon made almost no sound in the quiet hallway. Blood spurted and the guard dropped to the ground, holding his leg. Dennis bashed the guard over his head with the back end of the pistol, knocking him out. He stared at the guard in a trance, trying to comprehend what he had just done.
He gathered himself and found Hughes’ room. On a couch in the corner of the room, one of the club girls had passed out, still holding a bottle of champagne. On the bed was an extremely inebriated Hughes lying diagonally across the bed, snoring louder then a weed whacker. The room reeked of alcohol. Dennis tip-toed to the foot of the bed. Hughes looked almost dead already.
Time seemed to pass in slow motion as Dennis slowly pointed his gun at Hughes. A large clock on the wall was ticking, and Hughes was snoring, but all Dennis could hear was his own breathing. Dennis aimed the gun at the man’s chest. Then he hesitated. Would it be better if he shot Hughes in the head to make sure he killed him? Or should he shoot him in the body, just wounding him? He wasn’t a killer, but his wife’s life was on the line. A million thoughts raced through Dennis’ head as he stood over the sleeping body of his intended victim, holding cold steel. His right arm, holding the weapon, began to shake uncontrollably. His trigger finger began to lock up, but the image of his tortured wife popped into his mind and he squeezed the trigger, sending two rounds into Hughes’ chest. Lying there almost like a slab of meat, Hughes’ body hardly budged at the moment of impact. Stunned at what he had just done, Dennis dropped the weapon and slowly turned around. Suddenly, he became violently sick to his stomach. He ran in to the bathroom, nearly missing the sink, and tossed his dinner.
After puking his brains out he panicked and ran out of the room down the long hallway, nearly tripping over the bodyguard who was still out cold on the floor. He ran out of the house and down the street, almost missing his car parked at the curb.
Still in disbelief, Dennis aimlessly drove around town, not realizing where he was going. The sun gradually rose over the horizon as Dennis continued to drive, wondering where the hell Sydney was. A text message suddenly appeared on the cell. “Congratulations, job well done. You can go home to your wife now.”
Dennis sensed that his wife was safe and that it was time to go home. He went straight onto the freeway and drove slowly, not wanting to attract attention. When he walked through the front door his wife was sitting in the living room couch, crying her eyes out. Dennis took her in his arms.
“Oh thank God you’re okay!” Dennis said looking into her eyes.
“I’m okay? Of course I’m okay,” Dennis’ wife said frantically. “Where have you been all night? I went out looking for you and I even tried calling the police, but they said it hasn’t been 24 hours yet so you’re not a missing person…”
“Wait a minute…You’ve been here all night waiting for me?”
“Yes, other than going out to look for you, but I came straight back here to wait. I tried calling you on your cell and I even called your work and left several messages!”
“My cell has been dead all night and I didn’t get a chance to check my messages at work.”
“Why didn’t you just charge your phone?”
“I don’t know.” Dennis was speechless, and could think of nothing else but to hold onto his wife as tightly as he could. What kind of sick, perverted joke was this? he thought bitterly. Who was that woman on Sydney’s laptop? Did he really kill that man for nothing? A barrage of thoughts went through Dennis’ mind. But most of all, he wanted some answers.
That day on the afternoon news, it was reported that Gary Hughes had been found dead in his room and that Fritz Alexander, Hughes butler, and Alonzo Xavier, head of security had been found dead as well. Dennis sat, unbelieving, in front of his TV. I didn’t kill the butler or the guard, he thought. But his fingerprints must be all over that gun he had dropped in Hughes’ room! Was it just a matter of time before the cops identified him as the one who had committed the murders? And what about the dead cops? Where was that psychopath Sydney?
Dennis sat on his couch the rest of the day, almost afraid to move. His wife began to worry about him, but after a while left him alone. Later that afternoon Dennis’ wife came in with the mail and began to look through it. Within the pile she found a small envelope for Dennis with no return address on it. She left it in a separate pile for her husband to look at later.
After dinner, Dennis decided to sort through his pile of mail and found the mystery envelope. He opened it up and found a DVD with nothing written on the disk. Dennis walked down to his basement to play the DVD on his small TV.
A man with his face blurred out came up on the screen, sitting on a chair inside a room with no background. “Hello Dennis, it’s your good friend Sydney. I hope you are holding up okay. Probably shitting bricks by now, but that’s okay. My guess is that you want some answers. First and foremost you have to be careful when you commit a crime. You can’t leave your prints everywhere, not to mention dropping your weapon of choice at the scene of the crime. That’s a good way to get caught, but don’t worry! Ol’ Sydney took care of all that for you. Rest assured that the police won’t be showing up at your front door anytime soon. Secondly, I want to tell you I was impressed with the balls you showed last night. It took a lot of guts to do what you did and I want you to know that. And lastly and most importantly, I wanted you to know that you didn’t kill anyone. The butler and the security guard, well let’s just say I took care of that problem. Another rule in my handbook is there should never be any witnesses, and if there are you have to deal with them. As far as Mr. Hughes, he was killed alright but not by you. The gun I gave you was loaded with special rounds I designed myself. The bullets were loaded with rubber-coated tips that contained a powerful tranquilizer. This tranquilizer is potent enough to completely incapacitate it’s victims instantaneously, but not kill them. No, it’s safe to say I did all the dirty work, but it was fun watching you in action anyway. And as far as the woman who appeared on my laptop, well, I’m sure you guessed by now that it wasn’t your wife. No, I actually got someone who resembled your wife.”
A woman who looked exactly like Dennis’ wife appeared on the screen and kissed Sydney on the cheek. “It’s amazing what plastic surgery can do, right?” Sydney reciprocated by kissing the woman’s lips, and she walked away. “She’s great isn’t she? Anyway, I want to congratulate you again on a job well done. And best of all you proved that my theory is correct. Anyone can be a killer, even someone like you. Well, I suppose this is my final goodbye, considering we won’t be having drinks at Mannigon’s Bar and Grill any time soon. I hope your promotion goes well. Do-na-da-go-hv-I, Au revoir, Do svidanja, Cuídate, Chau, and Sainara! I’ll see you in the next life, Denny.”
Sydney held up the remote and clicked it. The screen went to static.