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The Pickler

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“Why did you kill her?”

“I don’t know exactly.”

“Then make something up for me.”

“My mother abused me.”

“Nice try,” said Tony. “Again.”

“My father used to touch me.”

Tony laughed. “I’m sure he did, Richie. But I want to understand why you kill. What is your motivation? Power? Was she a bitch, Rich?”

He leaned in and whispered, “Was it sex? Did you fuck her? Before? After?”

It was Richie’s turn to laugh. “No, I didn’t fuck her. Not this time.”

“Not before either?”

“No, not before either.”

Tony leaned back. “So you didn’t fuck her, you didn’t hate her, your mommy and daddy were wicked and now you grab women, claw their chests open and eat their hearts?”

Richie smiled. “You make it sound so crass. I don’t eat their hearts, Tony. The papers make everything sensational.”

“You don’t eat their hearts; you just chew on them a bit and spit them out.”

“Exactly. Eating entails swallowing. I don’t want them in my belly, just in my mouth. Once they are in your belly they come out your ass. I don’t want to think of them smelling like shit.”

“How do you want to think of them? What do you think happens to their bodies when you are done? Forever enshrined in your memory at the moment your fingers dig into their chests?”

“You are pretty spot-on there. They look so vulnerable the moment they realize I’m killing them. They are so damned beautiful. Every last one of them. They could be the most stuck up, tight-assed bitch, full of vitriol and man-hate. But at the moment it sinks in ‘I’m going to die, he’s killing me, it’s over’ and such, THAT is the moment they look at me as master. And they love me for it. They fuckin’ love me for it.”

“You are sick.”


“Sick,” Tony repeated. “And you get off on killing? It gives you a hard-on then?”

“Sure does. Giant, God-sized boners. Getting even the biggest bitches to love me, to surrender, just feels fuckin’ great. Top of the world.”

“Why do you use your hands? Why so gruesome?”

“Weapons dilute the experience.”

“And here is where I disagree with you – I’ve never killed without a weapon of some kind. The weapon is what elevates me – I dominate because of my intellect, my ability to use tools sets me above the savages. You’re just an animal.”

“Amen to that, Tony. Amen!”


Richie raised his glass and downed the entire scotch on the rocks, which had been melting to scotch and water while he talked. He preferred his drink this way. Scotch on Rocks, Aged! he thought. That’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh I like it, uh-huh uh-huh!

“I’m getting tired, Richie,” said Tony. He set his drink down and sighed.

Richie arched an eyebrow. Weak little pisser, he thought. He liked Tony, always had. But Tony was the worst kind of killer, detached from the work, distanced from the blood. Has to use a gun, hates it so much that he has to pretend he is more than human to get the job done. I don’t need anything but my hands. I know what I am, I don’t hide from it.

“It just doesn’t get my motor started like it used to.”

“You should do a little kid. Female. Do a little girl. If that doesn’t get your motor kicked into hyper-drive then you got no soul.”

Tony waved the thought away, the many rings on his fingers catching the glow of the candle on the table. “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Kids are overvalued, in life and in death. I’ve lost my laugh. It’s gone and I don’t know that it’s coming back.”

Your laugh? asked Richie to himself. Your mad scientist laugh? Richie waved to the waiter and gestured at his drink. “Another!” he called, and sat back in his chair watching Tony carefully. Tony laid in his chair more than sat in it, his long legs stretched out. Fucker’s gonna wrinkle his suit. Tony was always in a pressed, somber blue three-piece. Maybe that’s why he does it from a distance, doesn’t want to get blood on his clothes. Tony pulled a gilded pocket-watch from his vest pocket.

“It’s getting late, I gotta go.”

“You still have that thing?” asked Richie. He had been doing a job with Tony when he’d found the watch – a solid gold piece of art, mother of pearl inlay, in the pocket of some fat fuck they’d killed. Well, I’m the one who killed him. All Tony did was stand there, wave his gun, and laugh while Richie ripped the man’s meaty nipples right off his tits. It was a contract job; wait for him to come home, and then knock him off his fat ass as soon as he was through the door. They tied him up with a day-glo safety rope, hands and ankles behind his back. I do the heavy lifting; Tony just stands there and looks pretty. And laughs. Tony always laughed like a mad-man before they died. He’d stood over Richie while he went to work on the fat-ass. Richie had cut off the man’s shirt with a pair of scissors he had found while they were waiting. “Look Tony. He’s got titties. And nipples. Lovely chocolate nipple brown.” Richie had grabbed a nipple in each hand, pinching and twisting until they ripped off. He had to pull hard. Them things are attached! The nipples tore away and revealed curds of yellow breast fat inside. The bright fat made stark contrast with the red blood that began to well from the wounds. “Brown nipples, yellow fat. And look! Red blood. Guy’s a regular box of fuckin’ Crayolas,” Tony had said, beginning to giggle. “You may be an animal, but you have an artist’s eye.”

“Of course I still have the watch. It’s mine, isn’t it?”

“Well, it rounds out the picture of you Tony, if that’s what you mean.”

“What I mean, is that it’s fuckin’ MINE.”

“Course it is.”

The waiter slid up to the table, set down a new Scotch and Rocks and plucked the empty glass up in one smooth motion. He had worked at The Room for many years, and prided himself on being able to serve the patrons without standing still. These guys were good tippers and he needed his tips; a waiter’s salary, even at a place like The Room was minimal, but the tips were sky-high.

“I’ve got to go. I’ll see you tomorrow at the site,” said Tony. “Be there or be square.”

“I’m no square, Richie. You know that.”

“Yep. One more thing.” Tony had risen from his seat and was straightening his cuffs.


“I’ll tell you why I do it, if you tell me why you always gotta wear that fuckin’ suit.”

Tony didn’t hesitate. “I wear this fuckin’ suit because I look good in blue. Your turn.”

Richie grabbed his drink and sipped at it noisily, answering while crunching a piece of ice. “We’re more alike than I thought. I kill those bitches cause I look good in red.”


I love Saturdays. Best day of the week. Sundays suck because you know you have to go to work the next day. Fridays are good, well Friday night is anyway. Usually I’m too tired from a week of soul-sucking work to enjoy Friday nights, but technically it’s as far away as you are going to get from Monday, unless you are going on vacation, and I want to enjoy them, but usually just find myself falling asleep early.

So Saturdays for the win! Today I slept in a bit. I had a bit of adventure last night and had worn myself out. The bed felt wonderful and I didn’t want to get up. I didn’t want to move. And even though I slept in, when I got up I felt rested. I don’t know about you but sometimes if I sleep too long I wake up more exhausted than I was when I first laid down.

It has been a perfect day. Up by noon! I’m a night owl when I’m not exhausted from work, okay, even when I’m exhausted from work. Up at noon means I’ll have more steam to enjoy the night. I just feel more comfortable at night. Nighttime is stasis; it’s the pregnant in-between time. I find myself thinking at night that all my problems are on hold, waiting for the sun to wind them up. When problems are on hold, when they seem far away in the distance it is easy for me to look at the positives. In the daytime, I worry. However, at night there is still time for a miracle. Who knows? Maybe my wicked boss will have a heart attack on the way to work, or get hit by a car. Maybe I will get a letter that a distant unknown relative has left me millions and I won’t have to go to that job interview after all.

So today was good and all that jazz. I spent the afternoon cooking.

I’m no Iron Chef but I watch my share of Food Network. Cooking is my favorite pastime, and pickling in particular. Growing up down south, pickled products like pickled pig’s feet, pig’s knuckles, hot pickled sausages and pickled eggs were a familiar treat. I always looked forward to spending my allowance on meat or eggs that had been pickled in a jar. I can vividly remember buying picked eggs, sausages, pig’s feet, and pig’s knuckles for 50 cents apiece. I guess I just told you my age.

Nowadays the commercial products are just so expensive that it is more economical to make your own. Besides, homemade pickled pig’s feet taste far better than what you can get from the store. Some butchers will even give you the feet free. That’s just plain horse sense as my dad used to say. But today I didn’t pickle pig’s feet. I pickled her feet. I’ve been telling you I was going to one of these days and today was the day. You know that wretched whore who works at the video store with the bleached white hair? Bad hair and an even worse attitude. And she’s been a thorn in my side for a long time so she had it coming. Video store clerks should have to sign an oath when they get the job, and it should be an oath of silence. They should be like doctors or lawyers, and sign a patient-client confidentiality sort of thing. What I rent is no one’s business but mine, and she had a big mouth.

Now, when I say feet, I don’t mean the whole foot like with a pig. Just her toes. The toes are the best part of the foot and the cartilage in the knuckles gel up sensationally.

When I do girl feet I start by turning the foot over and hacking just below where the toes connect. I use a sharp cleaver and whack it all off in one piece, kinda like a rack of toes. I have a real nice cleaver I bought at Williams-Sonoma; it’s a Kershaw Shun. It’s got an ergonomic handle and the 7-inch blade has more of a curve than most cleavers, letting you rock it like a chef’s knife when chopping. I don’t have a lot of good tools, but I buy a nice piece from time to time. It was pricey and I had to save to get it. Cab drivers don’t make a lot of money. We have to scrimp, we have to budget.

After I whack off the good parts, I give the feet a good washing. Then I burn off any hair from the toes. We do not eat hair, folks. Then I score the big toe lengthwise. That genius move will make sense when you eat them, each section a bursting juice pod. I place them in a large pot and add enough water to cover the meat. Then I bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat, finally reducing to a simmer and cooking until tender, about 1-1/2 hours. I make sure to stir throughout the cooking process and remove any foam that forms in the pot. That foam is just fat. Yes, much of the flavor is in the fat, but we will still get plenty of tasty fat in the skin itself. Next I take the feet from the juice using a slotted spoon then rinse under hot water to remove scum and any excess fat.

Whoa, I got carried away there, the how isn’t the story I’m trying to tell. Nevertheless, I’m quite proud of my technique and my recipes. I will write down the recipe for my “pickled pig’s feet” and you can take it when you leave. Don’t forget to score the big toe. I share the recipe, but I don’t give away all my secrets in print. That tid-bit won’t be written down.

So, yes, it was a great day. I have not tried the feet yet, they need to age for three to seven days (you do not need to remember all these details, honestly I will write it all down for you), but I have had them before. Men’s are too gristly, too much bone sucking to get the meat, children are too tender if that is even possible (yes! it is), but women’s feet are perfect for pickling in flavor and texture.

After I pickled I cleaned up. Mom taught me to keep a clean kitchen. After all it’s where you eat, right? I micro’d a Hot Pocket for dinner. I love their marinara sauce. Can you believe I got a box of two Hot Pockets trademark brand Meatballs & Mozzarella sandwiches for only two dollars?

I am sure you will love the results of this pickled feet recipe. Boy, this is some good eating. If you are feeling adventurous, try pickling eggs, sausage or pig’s knuckles. Did you know that you could even pickle Hot Pockets? No, of course you can’t. That’s just my stab at humor.


Her place was a dump. It was a small, claustrophobic space crammed with shabby, thrift-store furniture. In one corner of the living room there were a number of street signs, a stop sign, and some ‘POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS’ tape on a sawhorse. There was a single, small bedroom. A ratty mattress lay on the floor, and the smell of the neighbor’s dinner and their cooking grease permeated the room. There were glow in the dark stars and planets pasted on the ceiling; the walls plastered with movie posters, black felt art and magazine clippings. Clothes, shoes and clutter covered the floor and the remaining space was crowded with pieces of furniture. She must have been fond of end tables because she had one at every corner, leaving a tight space at each corner of the bed.

He flipped the light switch in the bedroom and a single black light bulb began to glow weakly overhead.

“Fuckin’ hippy. She has no respect for authority. A regular city property klepto,” Richie murmured as he looked around.

“They’re all fuckin’ hippies these days,” said Tony as he surveyed her bedroom. “Small. Enough room for you and her, no one else.”

“Oh, I get it. You are leaving her all for me. Well, thank you very much.” Tony winced.

“I don’t need a foreman,” said Richie. "But it’s fine by me. Just stand there in the doorway and do your laughing thing. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty we could just tie her up and you could try to laugh her to death.”

“Not fair. I’ll do whatever’s necessary. You know that. I am a professional.”

“No. You were a professional. Christ Tony, what the hell has happened to you? Are you cracking up? Look at yourself.”

Tony had arrived at the apartment 30 minutes late to find that Richie had already let himself in. His suit was wrinkled and his usually starched collar raised up on one side. He had had a sleepless night and the rush he normally felt before a job had not come. Richie thought he looked like he had slept in his clothes, and with one look at him had known something was wrong. The fact that his colleague appeared to be sliding put him in a sour mood. For Tony to look like this? Like a ragged doll with no home and no access to an ironing board, let alone an iron? He looked like a failing salesman afraid to go home and admit to his wife that he’d been fired and had blown the rent at the racetrack; that chose a night at the bar with his last twenty bucks.

“I told you I’ve lost my mojo, man. The thrill is gone baby. You know, I’ve been thinking of retiring.”

“And you tell me now, in the middle of a job.”

“I’m good for today. I’m thinking of after this job.”

“You are not good for today. What the fuck happened to your suit? Look at yourself.”

“I don’t want to look at myself. Why do you keep telling me to look at myself?”

“If you looked in a fuckin’ mirror you might see that you look like shit.”

“Everyone looks like shit in this damned black light, Richie.”

“I’m losing my patience with you. You are a wreck. You look confused. Guys like us perform well because we are anything but confused. We know exactly what we want; that’s always key to a job well done. You need to snap out of it. I’ll do this girl. Hell, I want to. I want to see what her nipples are like. Are they dark or light pink? Does she have little hairs growing from her areolas? Maybe she is a puffy. A dollop of sensitive flesh topping her boobs. What could be better than a puffy? There is so much to grab onto.”

Richie was exciting himself. “Her snatch hair - is it rough and kinky? Soft and downy? Does she have snatch hair? There are things I have got to know tonight, my friend.”

Richie’s passion created a sudden generosity and he changed his approach. “Look, man, I know, I know. It’s not an easy job. It can wear on you. You’ve had your day. You have. I’m not going to judge you, God knows you’ve proven yourself to me time and again. You’ve always been one of the best or I’d never have agreed to work with you. But tonight I have a job to do. I can do it with or without you, but I’d prefer to do it with you. Help me tie her up at least.”

“I don’t know. I honestly don’t know what I’m doing here,” Tony mused.

“Come on Tony. One more time - let’s get it done. I’d like to see you laugh again. I always talk shit but I love it when you laugh. It’s crazy, sure. But it scares the girls crazy. Makes them love me more in the end probably.”

Richie smoothed out Tony’s shirt collar. “Laugh with me tonight, old friend.”

Tony shrugged. “I don’t feel much like laughing tonight.”

Richie’s face brightened with an idea. “I could disembowel her Tony! That would be funny.”

“Disemboweling is funny?”

“It can be. It is entirely situational, but if it’s done right, I guarantee you it will be funny. It’s pulling out shit sausage. Shit sausage man. Think of all the potential – it could be some funny shit.”

Tony laughed, encouraged by the visceral satisfaction that is disemboweling. “That is kinda funny. You know, you are right. Tonight gets done and gets done right.”

He stood up straight and smoothed out his suit. The suit appeared to press itself magically, although later Richie would remember that as a trick of the black light. A deep blue glow began to hum faintly from the suit, another trick of the black light, of course. The glow pulsed, throbbing at each heartbeat. Richie thought Tony looked like a Dick Tracy superhero full of bold strokes and rich with color.

An argument broke out next door, the shouting through the thin walls turned the moment, and the pulsing light ended. Both men snapped into their professional game faces. She would be home soon.

Richie checked the front door to make sure it was locked; he had picked the lock but he never forgot to lock the door behind him. It was easier to subdue them if they were unaware. Tony flipped the black light off and they both melted into the dark. Richie was pleased that Tony had seemed to snap out of it. Tonight is going to be fun after all, he thought. Now come home, my darling. Come home and fall in love.


Rita was not having a good day. Stuck with a crappy shift and all the late night asshole customers, her Friday night had been less than ideal. She had missed her chance to buy a bag of weed – her dealer never sold after eight on Fridays and disappeared until Monday. You could call him up at six AM, Monday morning and he would answer with, “Yep. Come on over,” but every call, even emergency calls, during the weekend and he was missing in action; if you wanted weed on weekends you had to prepare.

The only thing she had going for her tonight was Roger. Roger was a small, bright pink, battery-powered vibrating dildo and they had a nightly standing invitation to get together. Roger wasn’t really a proper name for something pink, but she did not feel right diddling herself with something named Alfonso, or Fabio.

“Time to get the fuck home. Can you Roger that?” she said to herself as she turned the keys in the locks of the video store.

At her apartment, Rita grabbed her purse and the bag of movies she had taken from work from the back seat of her car. Dinner and a movie, and Roger. She sighed as she climbed the steps to her #23. As she neared the apartment, she saw bright bursts of a blue light shine through the edges of her blinds, pulsing blue black, blue black. She wondered if she had left the television on. She hadn’t. A sense of un-right settled over her. Something was wrong, she knew intuitively, but the vagueness that life often demands softened the feeling instantly as she turned her key in the door and entered.

The moment she closed the door she regretted shutting out that feeling. There were two shadows on her in an instant and she was pinned, face against the entryway wall. Her upper lip folded back at the corner against the plaster and she could feel her teeth grate against the rough wall.

Her attackers had her by each shoulder and they were strong. She struggled but could not move away from them. The pressure against her right shoulder lessened by a fraction and she could feel her wrists being bound behind her back. Her arms twisted brutally back and she felt the sockets of her shoulders straining. In a sharp instant, she lost feeling in her hands.

The men spun her away from the wall and propelled her onto the couch. She fell onto her back and felt her shoulders strain as her body weight threatened to tear her arms from their sockets. Someone flipped on the entryway light. There was a man in a neatly pressed three-piece suit and she could see a gold chain hanging from the front pocket of his vest. “No one wears vests anymore,” she thought. The man in the suit approached her, smiling broadly. As he shoved a pair of her panties from the floor deep into her mouth. She could see another man behind him, but he remained hidden in shadow on the other side of the room.


“Hello there, miss. My name is Tony. And my friend’s name is Richie. We’ve been waiting for you. I almost didn’t stay for tonight’s event but my friend talked me into staying. He said you’d be worth it and he was right. You are lovely. A bit waif-y, but look at your skin.”

Tony knelt and caressed her cheek. “Seen skin this perfect before, Richie? What do you do girl, bathe in milk or something?”

Richie laughed and detached from the shadows. “That’s a wives' tale. That doesn’t really work.”

“Sure it does. Oriental secret, little girl skin.”

Richie pointed to a white and orange sawhorse from the collection of city property. “Help me move this.”

Tony threaded a way through the apartment to “Anarchy Corner” and helped him drag it to the bedroom. Richie moved the bed up on its side against a wall, clearing a space for their work. Rita watched them, her arms numb and her shoulders screaming “get off me!” The men picked her up and hauled her to her bedroom. They set her on the carpet and Tony cut the cords around her wrists and ankles. She wanted to run, but was in shock. They picked her up, laid her on her back along the top of the sawhorse and retied her arms behind her head, looping the excess around the end. Tony now held a blade in each hand and with one smooth gesture, her jeans were slit horizontally along the top of her thighs, separating the strands of her pants into clean cut halves. When he was done, the jeans fell away, peeled back.

“Help me get these off her,” said Tony.

Richie moved to Rita’s midriff and lifted her up and Tony pulled the remnants from underneath. Rita was down to her shirt and panties, arms stretched behind her head, each ankle anchored to the sawhorse legs. Tony leaned over her face and looked down the length of her body.

“Look at that, Richie. From this position, looking down past her stomach - look at how her stomach meets with her panties, those little gaps where her hipbones teepee the lace on either side. Come here.”

Richie joined him at Rita’s head and gazed hungrily at her body. Tony pointed past her midriff. “Okay. See where those cutie-patootie underwear hug her left hip? If you follow the contour of her belly, you can see hills and valleys. Do you see the hills and valleys, Richie?” he asked.

“I do! I see 'em man. Delicate hills and valleys.”

“Right. And her panties tee-peed across from hill to hill.”

Richie burst out laughing. “Tee-peed,” he said through his laughter. “Like Wig-Wam’d. You are goddam Shakespeare tonight.”

Tony could not help but laugh at his own descriptive genius. He was feeling great. “Wig-Wam’d! Exactly right. This girl is fit. She is fit and prime! I love them slim like this.”

He cleared his throat, lifted his head and began to sing with a clear voice, staring at an invisible horizon:

"Last slice of Virginia ham

"Is the best that you can eat

"Don't talk about my baby

"She's slender but she's sweet

"Closest to the bone

"The sweeter is the meat."

The silence of awe ticked a few ticks and applause broke out from the apartment next door.

Richie looked at him with wonder. “That was fuckin’ beautiful. You are Liberace! And you wanted to quit earlier?”

Tony grinned. “You brought me back from the brink, my friend. You saved me. I fuckin’ love this job!"

"That is hot man! Hot sauce! Did I say you would not regret this?"

Richie leaned down and put his face to his victim.

“I love you, Rita. I always have. All the fairytale dreams you had as a child about finding your one true love have just been realized.”

“Someday my prince will come,” Tony sang in a falsetto.

Richie put a hand on her chest, under her left breast. Her shirt was a thin cotton wife-beater and he could feel her heart beating. He could feel the light pressure from her breast with his hand wedged under it.

Richie leaned his face over, and looked into her eyes. “I am going to kill you, Rita. But I’m going to do it with love. I tell you this now, before we get started so that you have time to marry the two ideas in your head. Yes, Rita I’m going to kill you with love… and with my bare hands.”

Richie brandished his hands. The nails were so long she could see light through the tips. “My hands are going to rip into you. They are going to grab your heart and tear it out of your chest. I’m going to be picking pieces of you from my fingernails for days.”

Rita’s mind whirred a Rolodex of panicky ideas: I could work my hands loose, no; these guys sure as shit know how to tie a knot. I could start a fire with my mind, yeah right. I could call for help, but my mouth is stuffed with my favorite pair panties and oh my God, no, I’m drooling on them.

She could smell excitement on the two men; the odor was flat and metallic. Tony was standing at her crotch at the foot of the sawhorse.

He pulled a gun from his inside suit pocket and rubbed the barrel between her legs. Her underwear stuck to her lips where he pressed the weapon.

“She’s wet Tony. You made her wet! She likes you,” said Richie. “You are fuckin’ Jacques Cousteau!”

Tony tore his eyes away from Rita’s crotch with considerable effort. “No, I’m not,” he said, beaming. “I’m not Shakespeare, I’m not Liberace, I’m not Cousteau. I’m fuckin’ Jesus Christ!”

“Jesus goddam Christ,” agreed Richie.

“Isn’t that the best?”

Tony undid his belt and let his pants drop to the floor. His legs were hairless and pale, the legs of an old man. Richie had never seen Tony’s legs; he thought they looked like chicken legs. Tony was a big guy, but those legs were spindly, like a child had drawn them, disproportioned and bony.

“I’m going to fuck her real fast, Richie. Just gonna go to town down there and give her what she wants.”

He hobbled closer to her, his belt buckle clanking along the floor. Rita wanted to close her eyes but she could not stop looking at the gun, still in his hand. She could feel her panties getting wet against her will; she could feel moisture oozing out shamefully. Tony slid his boxers to his feet revealing a cock that pointed at the ceiling.

Tony laid on her, his weight pressing her spine into the two by four and they were face to face. Her brain began to capture details she could do without. The Altoid on his breath. The pores on his face. His pinched lips. She turned her head away from him and tried to focus on the “One Love” Bob Marley poster on her closet door. The black and white picture, the grains of the enlarged photo, ol' Bob with the ever-present doobie between his fingers.

Then she thought she saw the closet door move. Tony began to slowly move back and forth. She focused on the tiny gap between the door and the jam. Had she really seen the door move? Was their someone in there?

Tony kissed her neck wetly with his thin lips, licking her skin and cheek. “Look at me!” he panted. A sweat had broken out over his forehead. “What are you fuckin’ looking at, you bitch?” he roared.

He followed her gaze to the closet. “Fuckin’ Bob Marley? You like niggers, you bitch? You wish I was a fuckin’ nigger? That’s it! I’m gonna go off, Rita. It’s nice inside you.”

Richie’s head snapped towards the closet. He had heard something. “Someone’s in the closet. Someone’s in the fuckin’ closet!”

Rita, her back twisted in pain, thought she saw movement from the door again. Please be someone in the closet! Please be anyone in the closet!

Richie picked up Tony’s gun from the floor and pointed it at the poster. “Hello? Someone in there?”

Tony stopped thrusting and craned his head towards the closet. “There’s no one in there, Richie. We would have seen 'em. Let’s focus on our prize. Our job.”

Richie lowered the gun for a moment, but then the closet door banged against its partner door. It was a slight bang, but all three of them heard. Rita’s heart soared. There was someone in there! She was going to be saved!

Richie swung the gun back to the door. “If you don’t come out right now, I will kill you.”

“If you do come out right now, he’ll kill you,” giggled Tony.

“Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! I’m coming out. I’m sorry and I’m coming out.”

Tony’s head swiveled to the door and Richie flicked the gun’s safety. The door slid open revealing a smallish man in jeans, Converse and a t-shirt.

Rita’s heart sank.

Richie lowered his gun. “What the fuck are you doing here, Oscar? I mean what the fuck?”

The man stammered and looked at the ground. “Well, I did pay for it, Richie. Why can’t I see it?”

“Seeing is extra, asshole.”

Tony laughed a mad and howling laugh. “Fuckin’ Oscar man. You scared the boner away, man!”

His laughter rocked his entire body, and though he was shriveling up inside her, it felt fine to laugh. And he hadn’t laughed in a long time. The laughter welled up in him and he had to sit up to breathe. As he righted himself, gasping for air, his weight shifted the balance of the horse and it upended sharply. The momentum flung Tony against the wall violently. He struggled to stay on his feet but his pants tangled his feet and he crashed into the corner of the room. His head hit the cluttered glass nightstand and prescription bottles, paperbacks and videocassettes scattered from the table as the cheap glass shattered; and slammed to the carpet with dead weight.

When the sawhorse had flipped, Rita had been dragged along and her arms, though still bound at the wrist un-looped from the end and had dropped to her sides in a painful wrench, but thankfully in front of her. She landed face down next to Tony, still tied to the sawhorse at the ankles, staring into his lifeless eyes. She felt exhilaration. He was dead! Just like that!

Richie stood in momentary disbelief. “Tony?”

He dropped to his knees next to Tony and felt for a pulse at Tony’s neck. There was none. Tony was gone. Richie felt a stab of emotion.

“But you were Jesus Fuckin’ Christ tonight, Tony.”

Richie looked over at Rita who was staring at him with one side of her face and slapped her. “You killed him, you whore.”

He looked up at Oscar and spoke quietly, “Get out.”

Oscar stammered, “Hey! I paid for this. Does this mean I don’t get my feet?”

“Get out.”

“I’m awfully sorry about this Richie. It’s just horrible.”

Richie got to his feet and grabbed Oscar by the arm. He led him out of the room and to the front door. “Get the fuck out, Oscar. Go home.”

Oscar stood at the doorway, nervously wringing his hands. “I’m sorry Richie, but I paid good money. Ten grand is a lot of money for a cab driver.”

Richie sighed and looked at the floor. “You will get your order, I’ve never failed a gig and I am not starting now, but I’ve got a situation on my hands. A professional mess. And you weren’t supposed to fuckin’ be here. Shit’s gone wrong. And Tony - his finest hour. You need to go home. Read a book or something. I’ll see you tomorrow as agreed.”

Oscar hesitated, looking over Richie’s shoulder towards the bedroom. “You need some help or something? You know, with him?” He paused then added with excitement, “Or with her?”

“So long, Oscar,” said Richie and he pushed Oscar out the door and slammed it shut.


Richie sat on a park bench feeling ancient. He’d had a long night. He clutched a brown paper sack in his lap; inside the bag was a wrapped butcher pack; clean, white paper tied neatly with string. It was nearly time to deliver his commissioned package and the satisfaction he felt normally at a job well done was missing this time. It’s because it’s not a job well done, he thought. It’s a job fucked up. His mind was still reeling from the whirlwind of activity and emotion from the night before.

After he had shooed Oscar away, he returned to Rita’s bedroom and had stopped short at the doorway. Tony was still dead. Nothing changed there. But the girl was gone! She had left the story of her quick escape: a large shard of glass from the table bloodied from her hands no doubt, at the window, her red handprints on the sill, with sliced bonds discarded on the floor. She had cut the ropes with the glass and gone out the goddam window, down the fire escape. Ran off lickety-split.

He faced a sudden choice. Go after the girl or take care of Tony. The job was important, but leaving Tony’s body behind was not an option. His organization had a deal with the police, but that deal was contingent on discretion.

Tony had been in rare form, and had died in the line of duty. Richie felt he owed him a proper clean-up. He had carried Tony’s body out of the building in the dark and disposed of it at a certain crematorium that catered to his line of work. Five hundred bucks and no questions asked sent Tony and his blue suit off to his Maker.

Yes, the job was important, but his relationship with Tony meant more. Besides, the client in this case was a pathetic piece of shit, weren’t they all? And any feet would do in this case. Oscar would never know the difference. As for the girl? He would find her later and have some real fun. If she did go to the police, they wouldn’t believe her. The cops in this city might decide to fuck her themselves. She was a tasty one for sure.

After Tony’s body was deleted in a hungry furnace at 3000 degrees, Richie had whacked a woman in Central Park. He didn’t have time to kill her right and he despised killing when the timing was off or the scene was not controlled, but he had to do what he had to do. He had tasered the random woman, dragged her into a copse of trees and first sawed off her feet with a hacksaw, then dragged the bloody blade across her neck. The sawing didn’t feel right to him but he had been in a hurry. Tools distanced him from killing and made him feel foul, but the show must go on, right?

“You were a goddam saint, Tony,” Richie said to himself while he waited for Oscar to get home. He closed his eyes and could almost hear Tony singing. “You will be missed.”


Rita crouches in the dark closet where she has been for the past few hours. She hasn’t been watching through a gap. She has closed the doors firmly. She does not want him to see her before she is ready and has been waiting patiently for Oscar to go to sleep.

I’m going to kill him, she had decided the moment she was out of the apartment, barefoot, her arms aching, wearing nothing but her t-shirt. He deserves to die. Oh, the little pervert deserves to die, he deserves hellfire. She had hid in a dumpster in the alley behind her building, her bare feet sunk into a layer of squishy foul trash at the bottom of the bin. Rita expected him to find her and had waited, shivering in the muck. But he hadn’t. Once she thought she heard him pass by, but could not look to be sure.

She had waited in the trash for hours until the muck had stiffened on her skin. Finally the confinement became too much and she had risked a look around. She did not see him. The sun was beginning to come up and she wanted to move while it was still dark. She expected him to be waiting for her, but as she picked her way through the alley, she saw no one. She had shown up at an ex-boyfriend’s place, a shivering wreck around 5 AM. Luckily, he had no company, and took her in.

After she had showered and dressed in a pair of his sweats and a Nike "Go. Do." shirt, she had sat at his table while he bandaged her hands. He didn’t say anything and neither did she. Then she went to The Video Shoppe to pull Oscar’s address from the computer; he was her least favorite customer before he had commissioned her demise. Her view of him had soured considerably in the last 24 hours. She had gone to his place and watched from her car as he drove away with a bag of video rentals. She knew from experience he was returning cartoons, how-to cooking videos, and soft-core porn. Cinemax porn with lots of facial acting and cut-a-ways from the money shots. He had said something about her feet! What the fuck was that about?

She walked up to his front door, tried it, found it open and walked to his closet, closing the door tightly. She waited the day out, crouched in his closet, muscles cramping from squatting. She heard him return, had heard him speaking with company later in the day. Then smells of cooking and the strong odor of vinegar permeated the closet, accompanied by busy sounds in the kitchen.

She has not enjoyed waiting in his closet, but she is focused on what she will do when she gets out. She is going to kill him. But she is going to do it with love. She loves him for saving her. Because of him, she was still alive. He is my saving angel! As Rita waits for her time, she smiles in the dark. She hopes he had a very good day, because it will be his last.

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