Tuesday, 15 September 2009

MISCONCEPTIONS by Vallon Jackson


I sat in the room, doing the old Sam Spade bit waiting for the femme fatale to knock, and thinking to myself, ‘There has to be a better way than this?’ I couldn’t think of anything. A man past forty, whose waist size exceeds his age, needs something kind of sedate to get by on. Couldn't think of a better way to make money. Or amends.
The room wasn’t a PI’s office. In fact it wasn’t even much of a room. It was a box at the end of a damp corridor above a pole-dancing club with rusty poles. It was more like a storage closet, plaster board tacked onto a wooden frame, no paper, no photos or diplomas in frames, just boxes of stacked junk lining the walls and an old Formica-topped table and two plastic chairs. I’d sat in chairs just like them at school back in the eighties. They were uncomfortable then; now that my arse had grown much bigger they were torture. I was itching like crazy and all I wanted to do was get up and pull the material of my shorts out of my crack. But I held the nonchalant pose of a noir anti-hero; people kind of expected it when they arrived.
The femme fatale arrived. She didn’t knock because there was no door. She just leaned in and scowled at me like I was something filthy. She wasn’t far wrong, I suppose. I looked back, and maybe the sour look on my face told her everything. Femme fatale she wasn’t; she’d a face like a hog and the body to match.
‘You can’t be Ward?’
Well I sure as hell wasn’t Sam Spade, but I didn’t quite get her meaning.
‘Why not?’
She came into the room uninvited and sat on the other chair. It squealed and little wonder. She pressed her hands into the thick rolls of flesh on her upper-thighs, giving me a head-to-heels inspection. By the look of things she wasn’t impressed. The feeling was mutual.
‘I heard you were meant to be something.’
I looked down at my gut hanging over my belt. I was more of a man than I used to be that was for certain. But meant to be something? Fair enough I was no oil painting, but who was she to complain?
‘Depends what you want,’ I said and she snorted.
‘Well it’s a good job I ain’t looking for a wild time.’
That pissed me off, but I didn’t say. She wasn’t exactly my type either, but she was carrying the money I wanted, and like I already said, I was there to make a living. Every job has pro’s and con’s. Seeing as I could think of nothing that suited me better, I just took the bullshit as a necessary evil.
‘You said on the phone that you’d do whatever I asked...’ She was obviously happy now that I was what she’d come looking for. She wasn’t the least nervous. Maybe it was my lack of response to her sarcasm that reassured her; an undercover cop would have argued his case more, to get her to incriminate herself before pulling out his cuffs.
‘Only one thing I don’t touch.’
‘Yes, you said. Kids.’
I nodded. ‘Kids.’
‘So you do have some standards.’ She was eyeing my rumpled suit, her mouth twisted into a sneer, and I guessed she was confusing standards with morals. That was OK; a body like mine didn’t carry a nice suit well, so I just made do with an old one. I didn’t dress nice, and I didn’t kill children – some legend I’m graced with.
Not that I was squeamish about doing a child, but they carried too much fuss along with them. You could kill a man, a woman, and it barely hit the papers these days. But do a kid and there was a national outrage. Doesn’t do much for your career chances if the entire country is looking for you, and I had a living to make.
‘I don’t want you to harm a kid; not unless you have a limit on mental age?’
I held up the flat of my hand, surprising even myself. ‘I don’t do handicapped people either.’ I pinched my lips round the un-PC term, but I wasn’t sure what the acceptable moniker for someone soft in the head was these days. Should have said I’d never killed anyone with mental health issues before, not any in the clinical sense. Plenty of whack jobs and nut-cases mind you, but that’s not the same.
The femme grunted and it suited her.
‘I was making a joke. My husband still thinks he’s a teenager the way he’s running around.’
I got her this time, but didn’t say. So she’d cottoned on that her husband was having a good time, looking elsewhere? Can’t say I blamed him too much. Still, she was the cash cow so I tried to look sympathetic without putting the emphasis on ‘cow’.
‘You still sure you want me to kill him?’
‘That’s what I’m paying you for. I don’t want a frigging half-baked job. Put a bullet in his brains to make sure.’
‘I was just checking. See, maybe after you think about it, you’ll have a change of mind.’
She shook her head and I caught a whiff of cheap fragrance and sweat. ‘That bastard is screwing everything in a skirt that he can find. And I’ve got the proof. Bastard gave me a STD and then tried to say he got it off me!’
I could understand her outrage, I mean, what were the chances of that?
She gave me the beady eye, still didn’t care for what she found. ‘When you’ve done it, how’d I know you can keep your mouth shut afterwards?’
‘I was just going to ask the same thing.’ We stared at each other, my hard eyes on her limpid ones. When she didn’t offer anything, I said, ‘I’m not in the habit of confessing my sins. I’m taking it that once he’s out of the way you want to start a new life. You aren’t gonna speak if it means your new life is in a cell not much bigger than this shit-hole.’
She looked around the cramped room. Then she shrugged; a roll of fat bulging out of her collar. ‘I could live with that,’ she laughed, ‘if it means getting him out of the way. Really, though, I can’t live with him any longer.’ She placed a pudgy hand over her heart. Her eyes rolled back and I was looking at the vein-marbled whites. ‘I solemnly promise I won’t say a word to anyone,’ she said in a sing-song voice. ‘So? We have a deal?’
‘When I see the cash,’ I told her.
She dug an envelope out of her coat pocket and slapped it down on the Formica. I tried to weigh the contents with my eyes. Couldn’t, so reached over and lifted the flap. Plenty of purples, not enough gold notes. ‘Looks a little light to me.’
‘Half now, half on completion.’
‘That isn’t the way I work.’
‘How can I be sure that you’ll even do the job? For all I know you could just pick up the cash, walk away, and that’s the last I’d ever hear of you.’
‘Sometimes you have to take things on faith,’ I told her.
‘You don’t look like a professional hitman to me.’
‘What were you expecting? Matt Damon?’
‘I should be so lucky,’ she snorted. She started picking at a scab on her chin and I thought no one with a face like that has that kind of luck!
‘You’ve heard my credentials,’ I said.
‘Only what you told me on the phone.’
‘I don’t do kids, I don’t do handicapped folk and I don’t do lies.’ My legend was growing.
‘You don’t do much exercise either,’ she said with a wicked smile, the old kettle and pot argument raging on.
‘These days I hardly run for a bus,’ I acquiesced. ‘But I don’t have to. A bullet’s quicker than any man.’
‘How many have you killed?’
‘You’re sure you want to hear?’
‘I want to know I’m going to get value for money.’
‘Thirty-three,’ I said.
She adjusted her weight on the chair, covering a sniff of disdain with the creaking of the plastic.
‘You still doubt me?’
‘Can’t blame a girl for being nervous with her hard-earned cash, can you?’
‘OK. You want proof?’
She patted her opposite coat pocket. I didn’t look; I was still watching the flake of scab hanging off her chin. ‘I have the rest of the money right here. Show me something that will convince me that you’re really up to the task and you’ve got a deal.’
‘That’s fair,’ I decided.
I lifted my silenced Sig-Sauer from under the table and pointed it at her tremulous gut. I pulled the trigger.
The thud of the bullet pounding her flesh was louder than the gun’s retort.
The femme took a moment to realise she was dying. She looked down at the hole I’d just put in her coat, then up at me.
‘Will that do it?’ I asked.
Her mouth hung open, a string of saliva tethering her tongue to her dentures. She blinked slowly and there was disbelief in her eyes. Maybe it was because I’d shot her, or maybe she still doubted me. That damn flake of scab still waved at me and I used it as a target. Scab and chin disintegrated together.
‘So I guess we’ve got a deal?’ I asked her. Her head was nodding, her floppy neck riding the ripples still shuddering through her body. The nod was enough to seal it for me.
I jostled myself out of the chair, thankfully unhitched material from the crack of my cheeks and went over to her. Her arms had fallen to her sides, but her girth pushed them away from her. She reminded me of that spoiled bitch that blew up with juice in Willy Wonka’s factory. I dipped a hand in her pocket and pulled out another envelope.
I flicked through the notes. They were all there.
I pushed both envelopes into my pockets and walked along the cramped corridor to the far end, ignoring the pain in my knees. The corridor was long and I was puffing by the time I reached the far end. Maybe the femme was right and I should be in better shape for this game. I dabbed perspiration from my forehead before pushing open a door: I had to look the part. There was another room, not much bigger than the first.
The femme’s husband was a little squirt with glasses and a comb-over. His jumper was a market stall special, all diamond patterned down the chest, the two for the price of one type you buy on special offer. Black nylon trousers, white socks for frig sake! Couldn’t see how someone like him could be living the double life his wife claimed, but she was right in a way. Just shows you that looks can be deceiving. People look at me and don’t credit me with much either.
‘It’s done?’
I looked down at the little man. His eyes looked huge behind the glasses. He was sitting in the chair where I’d left him earlier while I prepped for his wife’s arrival.
‘Just like you asked,’ I reassured him.
‘Did she suffer?’
The malignant gleam in his eye told me the answer he was waiting for.
‘Yeah, she suffered.’
‘Good,’ he said. ‘She deserved it. Did she tell you I gave her a sexually transmitted disease?’
‘Yeah, you called it right.’
‘Bitch. It was her who gave me the clap. It was her who was sleeping around.’
I didn’t comment. It was beginning to sound like I was stuck in the middle of the Jeremy Kyle show.
‘What else did she say?’ he asked. “Did she have any idea that...”
‘She was sure you were being unfaithful to her; chasing all these young skirts all the time.’ I laughed at the absurdity of it.
He laughed with me. ‘You think I’d stand any chance with a young girl?’
Decorum isn’t my main strength. ‘Not a chance.’
To his credit he didn’t take any offence. ‘Crazy bitch has accused me of running after girls for years,’ he said. ‘She’s made my life hell and I think it was all guilt over her own infidelity. Did she admit to having someone else?’
‘I didn’t ask.’
‘She must have said something.’
‘She did. She asked me to kill you.’
I just smiled at him and he shook his head.
‘Good job I met you first, then,’ he said, blinking mole-like. ‘I can’t believe she’d want to kill me. But it would make sense, I suppose. She wants me out the way so she can sleep around any time she likes. What a bitch!’
I shrugged, held out my hand. ‘Forget about her; you don’t have to take her shit ever again.” I snapped my fingers. “Money on completion; just like we agreed.’
The man pulled out a thick envelope and I took it from him. Didn’t bother counting the notes, because I knew he was good for it.
‘A deal’s a deal,’ he said, smiling.
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘It is.’
I shot him in the head, just like I’d agreed to do for his wife.
But that wasn’t the main reason.
The little squirt should have mentioned it when first we met. I wiggled my trousers out of my butt again, exhaling at the chaffing-pain. ‘That’s for giving me the fucking pox, lover boy.’
Vallon Jackson is the pen name of a published thriller author who likes to let his imagination roam occasionally. Sometimes in odd directions.


  1. Pissed me sides.
    Raymond Chandler eat your heart out!

  2. Bullets, diamond-patterned cheap as fook jumpers, Jeremy Kyle, and Political correctness about soft in the heads from an overweight, gay hitman and a classic film that will never seem the same again.

    Glad I read it at home and not at work, someone would have noticed, my jobs not that funny.

    Great piece Vallon

  3. I could scarcely read on after I read "Matt Hilton" for "Matt Damon"! :)

  4. Ha, ha! I think I have more in common with Ward's looks than I do Matt Damon's. But rest assured that's the only thing we have in common. Misconceptions. eh?

  5. Funny and very well written. Humour reminded me of "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" with Steve Martin.
    Great stuff. Regards.

  6. As 'A man past forty, whose waist size exceeds his age' I loved it. David B's spot on with the Steve Martin comparison. Great laffs!

  7. On behalf of Vallon, I'd like to say thanks to you all - Vallon's currently busy writing his new book Dead Men's Don't Wear Dust.

  8. You know ,,that's not abd idea.. with zombies?

  9. If it can be done to Sense and Sensibilities, i suppose Zombies could be written into my books!!

  10. Witty stuff Vallon and very well written! You just may have a bright future in this writing game!