he woke up.
it was dark.
just the way he liked it.
he went over to the window.
and looked down at the street.
the street was in the heart of one of the most famous cities in the world.
but you would never know it.
it could have been a street in any city in the world.
a couple of bars, a coupe of cheap hotels, including the one from whose window he was looking down at the street..
a bus station.
some bums and drunks taking their time wandering down the street.
no police that he could see.
and no women. there must have been a sweep earlier in the night.
and no moon and no stars in the sky.
a perfect night, to do what he was going to do.
to do what he was going to do and get on the bus and never look at this stinking town again.
he took the letter out of his pocket. just a letter, he had thrown the envelope with his name and last address away.
he could barely read it by the light of the neon sign of the hotel.
but it did not matter. he had the letter memorized.
dear daddy, the letter read, i am so glad you are coming home to us after all these years. mommy is so happy too. i have a new kitten and i know she will like you too. grandpa dave says to tell you that the fish are jumping. it is going to be so wonderful all of us being back together again…
there was more, but he decided to save it for later.
he put the letter back in his pocket.
it was time. he had a job to do.
the last one. you could hardly call it a job, just one last favor for a pal.
he put his jacket on and went out the door and down the stairs to the front desk.
there was no lobby. that was the kind of hotel it was.
he didn’t have anything to say to the desk clerk so he didn’t say anything and walked out into the street.
he passed the bus station and went around the corner to the 453 club, which was right where it was supposed to be.
the 453 club was empty except for the bartender. the club was not very big. there was only room for two lines of tables between the bar and the wall and a jukebox took up some of the space.
there were thirteen stools at the bar and the man with the letter in his pocket sat down at the seventh.
he ordered a dark draft and the bartender brought it and went back to reading whatever he was reading.
there were no pretzels or nuts on the bar and there were no signs indicating the place sold any kind of food.
he decided to wait half an hour for the guy he was supposed to wait for. if he didn’t show by then, too bad, he was on his way. he didn’t owe his pal more than that.
the man with the letter in his pocket never carried a weapon. he improvised when it came time. and he never carried pictures or names or descriptions of the men, or sometimes women, he was to deal with. his friend had shown him one picture and that was all he needed.
he took a sip of the dark draft.
back at the hotel, the desk clerk had waited sixty seconds after the man with the letter in his pocket had left, then he went out into the street and looked up and down it.
the desk clerk went back inside and tapped on a door behind the desk.
another man came out. he was an ordinary looking little fellow. he looked like he could use a haircut. he wore a sport coat that had once been purple but was now faded almost to gray.
the desk clerk nodded and the man in the once purple coat went out into the street. at a leisurely pace he made his way to the 453 club.
the man in the purple coat entered the 453 club and took the stool second closest to the door. he ordered a whiskey and water. while the bartender was getting it, he got up and went over to the jukebox. the man with the letter in his pocket watched him in the mirror behind the bar.
the man in the purple coat studied the jukebox, then he took a couple of dollar bills out of his pocket and walked through the row of tables to the bar and waved the bills to the bartender to indicate he wanted change.
hey pal, the man in the purple coat said to the man with the letter in his pocket. what’s your favorite song?
i don’t have one.
come on, brother, don’t be bashful, everybody has a favorite song. what song were they playing when you kissed your first girl?
i don’t have a favorite song. the man with the letter in his pocket turned his head away from the man in the purple coat to indicate the conversation was over. he reached for his dark draft.
the man in the purple coat took a small pistol out of his pocket and shot the man with the letter in his pocket in the side of his head.
the man with the letter in his pocket fell off his stool and fell between his stool and the stool on his left.
the man in the purple coat stepped over and shot the man with the letter in his pocket again, between the eyes.
i think this guy needs a doctor.
i’ll take care of it, the bartender told him.
the man in the purple coat went back to the hotel.
all set? the desk clerk asked.
one last job, eh?
are you kidding? i got jobs lined up all week. i got to eat.