Authors: J. B. Reed
Vivie walked to the living room and stood in front of the window looking down into the street. She did not see Michael’s car. As she stood there, looking at the neighborhood, the other large apartment buildings, the storefront shops, the trees lining the street, she thought of Hell’s Kitchen and the differences in the two neighborhoods. Vivie’s thoughts were broken when she saw Michael’s T-Bird pull out into the street. He was parked under the building. Vivie had never known of an apartment building with a parking area under the building. As she continued to stare out of the window, her thoughts now turned to Tommy. Tommy was out there…somewhere. What would she do if she would see him? What would he do? What is he thinking right now, right this very moment? Is he wondering what happened to her, where she has gone? Does it matter to him, what he has done to her life? No, no, it doesn’t matter to him; nothing matters to Tommy Flannery, the cold-hearted bastard. He cares about nothing, but whose life he can destroy next, and how much money he can make doing it. “Tommy will pay for what he’s done to me someday, I don’t know how, and I don’t know when, but he will pay.”
Vivie turned away from the window and walked back into the bedroom, stopping to take a book from the bookshelf.
Michael parked his T-Bird on the street a few blocks away from Flannery’s Pub. He opened his brief case and looked at the contents. He pulled out a Smith & Wesson, double-action .45 and slipped it into his inside jacket pocket. As Michael walked to the pub, his mind raced with thoughts of Vivie and the night he found her after the attack. He felt the anger welling inside. He knew that this was not the way to handle this. If he would be smart about this he would hire someone else for this job, he was too personally involved. Michael opened the door to the pub and quickly glanced around, looking for Tommy and his crew. He walked to the counter and sat down. Margaret, the other waitress came over with a cup of coffee.
"Hello, you’re Michael, Vivie’s friend, are you not?"
"Yes, I’m Vivie’s friend, is she working today?"
"No, Michael, she isn’t. I was about to ask you if you have seen her. She hasn’t been here for three days. Shawn went to see her mother and father and they said she didn’t come home after work Thursday night. They are worried sick they are. It is as if she has fallen off the face of the earth. We thought she had run off with you."
"Why would you think that?"
"Well now, you two had become pretty chummy, everybody had seen that. We thought maybe you had taken her off and married her."
"No, Margaret, I haven’t married Vivie. In fact, I am pretty worried about her. No one has seen her, you say?"
"Not a soul."
"What about Tommy?"
"Tommy? Why would Tommy have seen her? He only runs with whores and street trash. He wouldn’t have a reason to have any knowledge of Vivie’s whereabouts."
"I guess you’re right. Has Tommy been around lately?"
"No, at least not when I’ve been here. Could be in jail for all I know or care for that matter. Poor Shawn, he has his hands full with that piece of shit son of his."
"From what I’ve seen of Tommy, I think you’re right."
"Listen Michael, if you do hear from Vivie, will you tell her to let her folks know she’s alright?"
"Sure will Margaret. Thanks for the coffee."
Michael left the pub and walked the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, looking in the alleys, the bars, pool halls, any place one might find vermin like Tommy hanging out. As Michael was walking back to his car he started thinking that maybe it was best he did not find Tommy today. Perhaps he does need to hire someone else for the job. Still, if he hires someone else, will he feel the satisfaction of taking out the fuck that hurt his Vivie? As Michael approached his car, he noticed two men coming out of Duggan’s Gym. As they walked toward him he recognized one of the men, it was Shane Murphy, one of the thugs that helped Tommy that night. The two men split up and Shane continued walking toward Michael. As he reached Michael’s car, Michael stepped out in front of him.
"What the fuck? What the fuck to you want?"
"I just want to talk to you Shane. You have a minute to chat don’t you?"
"No, I don’t, now get out of my way." Shane tried to push his way past Michael but Michael pressed up against Shane close enough so that Shane could see the gun in his jacket. Michael shoved Shane between two of the buildings and placed the gun under Shane’s chin.
"Where’s Tommy, Shane?"
"I don’t know. I ain’t seen him today."
"But you know where he hangs out, don’t you?"
Shane looked at Michael’s face. Shane could see Michael would not think twice about shooting him, right there in the street.
"Sometimes he hangs out at Molly O’Hanlon’s, it’s a bar about four blocks from here."
"Is he there today?"
"I told you, I ain’t seen him today, I don’t know. Listen, what happened to that girl at the pub, I didn’t touch her, I swear to God. It was all Tommy."
"I believe you Shane. You didn’t touch her. But you didn’t do anything to help her either did you, you little fuck?"
Michael grabbed Shane by his balls squeezing them, causing Shane to double over with pain.
"Stand up you little shit. I have a message for you to deliver to Tommy. You tell him he’s going to pay for what he did to Vivie…can you remember that?"
Shane shook his head yes.
"Then repeat it."
"He’s going to pay for what he did to Vivie."
"That’s right. And for the part you and Ryan played you will both pay too."
"But we didn’t do anything, we didn’t touch her."
"You’re a lying sack of shit. You tied her up to that table and watched while he beat and raped that beautiful innocent girl and then you left her to die. Do you call that not doing anything? Now what do you think would be just punishment for a crime like that Shane?"
"Please, don’t kill me, I’m sorry, I didn’t know what Tommy was planning to do to her."
"But after he started on her you did know and you stood by and let him at her." Michael’s grip on Shane’s balls became tighter.
"Maybe I should cut your eyes out for watching. What would think about that? Would that be a fair punishment?"
"Please, please, don’t do that", Shane begged as Michael watched his face, pouring sweat, partly from the pain he was feeling from his balls and partly from the fear of not knowing what Michael was about to do to him.
Michael moved the gun away from Shane’s chin and stepped back.
"Get down on your hands and knees."
"Please, don’t kill me." Shane was now crying, fearing that Michael was about to put a bullet through his head. Shane got on the ground on his hands and knees.
Michael reached into his pocket, removed a silencer, and placed it on the end of his revolver. Michael then placed the gun at the base of Shane’s head.
"On second thought; roll over and lay on your back."
Shane hesitated for a moment, thinking that evidently Michael wanted to look him in the face when he killed him and Michael wanted him to see it coming.
"I said roll over asshole."
Shane rolled over on his back, looking up at Michael. Michael aimed the gun and Shane’s head. Shane closed his eyes, ready for the shot. Michael fired two shots -.one in each of Shane’s kneecaps. Shane screamed out, writhing in pain, blood gushing everywhere.
"Don’t forget to give Tommy that message for me."
Michael placed the gun in his jacket and walked out into the street. One thing he could count on in Hell’s Kitchen; no one paid any attention to screams in alleyways or between buildings…day or night.
When Michael arrived home, Vivie was sitting on the couch, reading. Michael had several packages in his hands.
"I have presents for the princess."
Vivie took the packages from Michael, excited as if it were Christmas.
"Now I had to guess as to the sizes so I hope everything fits."
As Vivie opened the packages, she held the items up to herself for Michael’s approval. When she came to the undergarments, she blushed slightly. Even after all she had been through; there was still a part of Vivie that was innocent.
"Well, okay then, go get dressed, we have more shopping to do."
"More shopping? But Michael, you have so many things here already."
"Vivie, I know little about women but one thing I know is that women like clothes, and these few things will never be enough. Now go get dressed so we can go."
Vivie grabbed the packages and ran into the bedroom. Michael had not seen her this happy for some time. He wondered what she would think of him if she knew what he had done to Shane today. She had already told him she did not want him involved. Vivie must never know about today, but he swore to himself and to God that he would make those responsible for hurting her pay for what they had done. Michael thought to himself, one down Vivie. One down, two to go.
Several weeks pass and Vivie gradually regains her strength and begins feeling that it may be time that she found her own place to live. Michael has been so very good to her; she could have never made it through such a difficult time without him. Michael mailed the letter she had written to her parents, a letter that was troubling for Vivie to write. Not necessarily finding the words to write but the fact that the words were lies. She had never intentionally lied to her parents. But this was a good lie. It was better for them to think that she was married and happy than for them to know that she had been beaten and raped and left to die there at Flannery’s Pub; six blocks from home. What Vivie did not know was that Michael had been sending her parents a check every week, on her behalf. Yes, the time had come for her to find a job, and a place to live. She had taken advantage of Michael’s hospitality long enough. But where to find a job, the only thing she had ever done was being a waitress at the pub. She would look in the newspaper to see if she could find any advertisements for a waitress, and if that failed, she would walk the neighborhood in search of help wanted signs in storefront windows. Surely, someone needed a good waitress. She recalled that Michael had the newspaper this morning before he left, he must have taken it into his bedroom.
Vivie was not sure about going into Michael’s bedroom, she felt as though she were trespassing, invading his privacy, but that was silly; she was just looking for the newspaper, after all. She slowly opened the door to the bedroom and peaked around the edge of the door. She felt like a child, expecting a boogieman to jump out at her at any time. This room was not as big as the bedroom she was using. The bed was a large four-poster bed, not as big as the bed she was sleeping in, but big. There was a large, cherry wood, desk in the far left corner of the room, a matching chest of drawers, on the wall at the foot of the bed, and a dressing table with an oval mirror, on the wall across from the bed, on the same side as the door. There was door that Vivie imagined was the closet, to her right. She looked around the room but did not see the newspaper. She did see Michael’s jacket lying on a chair beside the bed.
Vivie slowly walked into the room and looked around. On the dressing table, she saw a comb and brush, and a bottle of cologne. She picked up the cologne, opened it and held it to her nose. The aroma of Michael filtered through her nostrils. For a moment, she was lost in a daydream. Vivie came to herself and quickly replaced the cap on the bottle of cologne and placed it back on the table. She turned and looked at Michael’s jacket. "Well, at least I can hang this up." Vivie picked the jacket up and started toward the closet. As she reached for the door, something fell out of Michael’s jacket and onto the floor. Vivie looked down at her feet and there laid a small black pistol. “Why would Michael have a gun in his jacket?” She could feel herself begin to tremble. She bent over, picked up the gun and looked at it. She placed the gun back in Michael’s jacket and opened the door to the closet. What she saw when she opened the closet was more than she expected to see. There before her was an arsenal; there were more guns and ammunition than she had ever seen, some of the things she did not recognize. She did not even know what they were. Vivie quickly shut the closet door and left Michael’s bedroom. Her mind began to race. “What is Michael doing with all of those guns? Is he a collector? Why has he never mentioned it? Why doesn’t he have any of the guns on display? Should she tell him she knows about the guns and ask him about them? Can she not ask him about them? Will he ask her why she was snooping in his closet and become angry with her? Michael will be home soon. Vivie, you must calm down, get your wits about you. Michael would never hurt you. There’s a logical explanation why his bedroom closet looks like an armory.” Vivie poured herself a glass of wine, sat down on the window seat, and watched for Michael’s car.
Two glasses of Merlot and an hour later Michael’s car pulled up and entered the garage. “Okay Vivie, this is Michael, your friend, your hero, just remember who he is to you and what he’s done for you,” Vivie reminded herself.
As Michael walked in, he flashed that wonderful smile to Vivie. "Hello darlin, you’re looking beautiful as usual. How was your day?"
"Oh, you know; not too much going on."
"Pretty boring stuck in the apartment all day, eh? Would you like to go out for a while? We could go out and get a bite to eat if you like."
"Perhaps, in a little while. Michael, I have a confession to make to you and I hope you’ll not be too upset with me."
"Sounds serious. But I can’t imagine that you would have anything to confess to me that would make me that upset Vivie."
"This may Michael. You see, I was thinking today that I may look in the newspaper for job advertisements, maybe see if I could find work."
"I find nothing wrong with that Vivie, if you feel that is what you want to do, if you’re ready to go back to work; but really Vivie, you don’t have to rush into anything."
"That’s not it, Michael. I was looking for the newspaper, you see, and I remembered you had it this morning so I thought perhaps you had taken it into your bedroom."
Michael had his back to Vivie, standing at the bar pouring himself a drink.
"Yes, go on."
"So, anyway, I opened your bedroom door and looked around but didn’t see the newspaper anywhere. I started to close your door when I noticed your jacket lying on the chair. I went in and picked it up, I was going to hang it up for you."
Michael continued to stand with his back to Vivie, knowing, yet fearing what she was about to say.
"Michael, when I picked up your jacket, a gun fell out of your pocket. I picked it up, put it back into your jacket, and started to hang it in your closet. Michael, when I opened your closet I saw that your closet is full of guns, guns of all kinds. Please Michael, don’t be angry with me, I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to snoop on you."
Michael turned around to face Vivie, her face filled with fear, fear of him.
"Vivie, don’t be afraid. You have no need to be afraid of me. There is something that I need to tell you, something that I should have told you long ago."
“I’m not afraid of you Michael; I just don’t understand why a business man, such as yourself, would have a need for a closet for of guns. Dear God, Michael, I don’t even know what some of those things are.”
Michael walked over to Vivie, took her in his arms, and embraced her tightly. She did not know what Michael was about to tell her, but she did know that when he held her in his arms, he made he feel that everything was going to be okay.
“Come sit with me, Vivie. When we met, you assumed that I was a business man, did you not?”
“Well, I am in business, or maybe I should say
business. The first night I came into the pub, the gentleman I was with, do you remember him?”
“Yes, an Italian gentleman, if I remember correctly.”
“Yes, that’s right. That man is my boss, so to speak. His name is Joseph De Luca and he heads a large organization in New York. I work for Mr. De Luca; however, I am not involved in the organization as a whole. What I do could be considered freelance work.”
“Freelance, what does that mean?’
“You see, while the assignments normally come from Joseph, I’m not actually a member of his organization.”
“I’m sorry, Michael, I don’t understand what this has to do with the guns.”
“I’m coming to that, Vivie. I think I had mentioned to you that I have a nickname, remember?”
“Well, Joseph has a nickname too. Joseph is known as Joe the Banker. He’s also known as Don De Luca.”
“Sweet Jesus. Michael, are you telling me that Joseph is part of the mafia?”
“They don’t like that term, Vivie, they prefer the term “family”. But, to answer your question, yes. Joseph is one of the big bosses, a very important man. He took notice of me when I was just a young kid. He took me under his wing, which is very rare considering I was just a fresh Irish kid who thought I knew it all. Joseph has been very good to me over the years, Vivie. I owe him my very life.”
“Michael, what is it exactly that you do for Joseph, and his family? You said you are not part of his organization, that you freelance. What kind of freelance work do you do for him?”
Michael hesitated to continue, dropping his head.
“Michael? What is it that you do?”
Michael took Vivie by the hand and looked into her eyes, fearing it may be the last time he would be afforded the pleasure of the closeness he has shared with her.
“Vivie, I’m a cleaner, a hit man…..a contract killer. I kill people for a living.”
Vivie pulled her hand from Michael’s, a look of disbelief on her face.
“No, this cannot be. You are not a killer, Michael, I know you, and you are too kind, too generous, too loving. You cannot be the person I know and be a cold-blooded killer. You are lying to me. Why are you lying to me Michael?”
Vivie stood up, walked over, and stood in front of the window, gazing into the street, not seeing anything.
“Vivie, listen to me, please. I am what I am. I have worked for Joseph for more than 18 years. I am telling you the God’s truth. Can you now understand why I tried to avoid your questions about my work and why I would never ask you to visit my home? I did not want you to learn the truth about me. I knew that a woman such as you could never accept someone like me. Not even as a friend. I am sorry, Vivie. I kept the truth from you, but not to deceive you, but to protect you.”
Vivie turned to face Michael, fire, in her emerald green eyes.
“To protect me? Protect me from what, from you? Protect me from your friends, your co-workers? What kind of games were you playing with me, Michael? I thought you were starting to care for me. Why were you coming to the pub and keeping company with me? I do not understand any of this, Michael. And, who the hell are
, to decide that a woman such as me could never accept someone like you? Good God, man, have you forgotten where I come from? Do you think I am some social butterfly, unaccustomed to the ugly side of life? ”
“It’s because of where you come from that I was trying to protect you from the truth about myself. I did not want you to see me as just another criminal in Hells
Kitchen. Vivie, from the first time I laid eyes on you, you had a piece of my heart. At the same time, I believed that if you knew that I was a cleaner, you wouldn’t give me the time of day. Now can you honestly stand there and tell me that I am wrong about that?”
“No, Michael, you’re right. If I had known that you kill people for a living I would not have given you the time of day. I may, however, have given you a list of people that I would like to see knocked off.”
A smile crept across Vivie’s lips. Michael’s eyes widen, a look of shock came across his face.
“Vivie? What the hell?”
“Relax, Michael, I’m joking.”
“Damn it, Vivie, you stand here giving me seven different kinds of hell and then say you would give me a list of people to knock off? I swear Vivian Clancy; you will kill me before anyone else will have a chance to.”
“That’s not funny, Michael. Your chosen profession scares the hell out of me. On the other hand, it also intrigues me. I’m worried for you, that someone may take you out before get to them.”
“That’s not likely to happen. Unless, of course, someone finds out who I am.”
“What do you mean, finds out who you are? Joseph knows you, his family knows you….”
“No, not exactly. Joseph knows me, yes, not the family. When I said I freelance, what I was speaking of was the fact that I am not a member of Joseph’s family. You see, it is rare, but even in the family, there are occasions when members betray the family. When that happens, they have to be dealt with. That is an example of when Joseph will use me. It’s not always a family member, usually my jobs are people outside of the family, someone Joseph wants taken care of in a way that cannot be connected back to the family.”
“I still don’t see how someone as compassionate as you can kill someone in cold blood, Michael. You do not seem the type. Not the Michael that I know.”
“It’s a job, Vivie. I do not know these people. I am not personally involved. When you are not personally involved, you get in, and you get out, you move on to the next job. These are not good people, Vivie. In fact, they are very, very bad people. They’re the Tommy Flannery’s of the world and worse.”
Vivie wondered if Michael had gone after Tommy. She had asked him to stay out of it. Had he listed to her? She was afraid to ask.
“Vivie, I know you must have questions and if I can, I’ll do my best to answer them. One thing you have to understand. What I do, you cannot tell anyone, and no one must know who I am.”
“Really Michael, who do you think I’ll be talking to that I’m going to tell? And, yes, I do have many questions. Michael, you are Catholic, does it not concern you that you will go to hell for killing people. Remember a little commandment called Thou Shall Not Kill?”
Michael smiled and dropped his head. “Yes, Vivie, the nuns drilled those lovely commandments into my head in the same manner they drilled them into yours. The way I feel about it is this; when I stand before God all mighty, I am hoping that he will understand that while I was here on his good earth, that I was doing his work, I was ridding the world of evil, dangerous, vermin. In addition, I’m hoping he will look at me and say that I’ve done a good job, and let me enter into eternal peace. God knows I haven’t had any since I’ve been born.”