Authors: J. B. Reed
Vivie placed her arms around Michael and held him tight. How this man, that is so tender and open and compassionate with her, can be the same man who, without a second thought, will take the life another human being, was beyond Vivie’s comprehension.
“If your feelings for me have changed, if you are afraid of staying here with me, alone, I understand. I will help you find a place to live and help you until you can find a job. I’ll not ask you to stay with me if you’re uncomfortable.”
“Do I look like I’m afraid of you, Michael? I do not understand how you can do what you do, but I am not afraid of you. Michael, you saved my life. You are truly my hero. If you would not mind, I would like to stay with you a while longer. I would like to learn more about what you do. Understand, I’m not trying to be nosey and I don’t need to know specifics, but I truly want to know what it’s like, being a cleaner, or hit man or…what do you prefer to be called, Michael?”
“I prefer to be called Michael.”
Vivie looked into Michael’s eyes. "Very well, Michael, it is."
“May I ask why you want to know what it’s like to do what I do?”
“It’s simple; I’ve never known anyone that has a job like yours. I am in the market for a new profession. Perhaps that’s the kind of work that I would be good at.” Vivie laughed.
Michael pulled away from Vivie, irritation in his face. “Have you gone insane? Do you actually believe, for one minute that I would, encourage you, to become a killer? Let us not even consider the fact that you are a woman, but stop and think of the danger involved. Vivian, I will not even entertain the idea of you destroying your future, by becoming a hired killer. No; absolutely not.”
“Michael O’Bannon, how dare you take that tone with me. Who do you think you are to be telling me what I can and cannot do with my life? And to add that I cannot do something because I am a WOMAN. I’ll be damned, Michael, if you or anyone else will say that to me.”
“Vivie, have you ever even shot a gun?”
“No, Michael, I have not. Does that mean I cannot learn? Or is it because I am a woman that I am too stupid to learn? What exactly are you saying to me Michael?”
“What I’m saying, Vivie, is that it takes skill, skill that cannot be learned overnight. When a cleaner starts out they start with a rifle, something they can use where they will not have to be that close to their target. I doubt you could even lift a rifle, and, if you could, the kick from it would kick you back, flat on your pretty little ass. As a cleaner gains more experience, they can get closer to their target, and use different weapons. An experienced cleaner can use a knife, but that means very close contact with the target. It takes years to become a good cleaner, Vivie.”
“I have nothing but time, Michael. Now are you going to train me or not?”
“I am not.”
“Michael, if you do not train me, I will have to learn by trial and error.” Do you really want me to go out on my own?”
“Vivie, you’re forgetting one thing, first someone must hire you. To be a hired killer, you have to have someone HIRE YOU.” I guess you could run an advertisement in the newspaper. I can see the advertisement now, Work Wanted - Cleaner - Will Kill Anyone You Want Dead - Please Call Vivie at 555-DUMB-ASS.”
Vivie glared at Michael - then fell over onto the couch in hysterical laughter.
“Okay, Mr. O’Bannon, you’ve made your point. But will you at least teach me about the different guns you have? I have no idea what some of those things in your closet are. I could be a big help to you if you would permit me.”
“Very well, Vivie. I’m not sure what you have in mind, as far as being a help to me, but I will teach you about the different weapons. To be quite honest, it’s a relief that you know my secret. You don’t know how torn I have been, knowing that you needed to be here, safe, with me, yet the fact that you were here and not knowing what I do…..”
“Michael, it’s okay, it’s all out in the open, now. It has not changed my feelings about you. In my eyes, you are the same person you always were. After all, Michael, I am not the same girl you first met at the pub either. I’m damaged goods now.”
“I don’t ever want to hear you say that again, Vivie. What happened to you was not your fault. You are the same girl I met at the pub. You are now, and will always be my sweet, innocent Vivie.”
Vivie’s eyes began to well up with tears. Michael pulled her close to him and looked into her eyes.
“Vivian Clancy, I do believe I have fallen in love with you.”
Michael gently kissed Vivie’s lips. This was Vivie’s first real kiss. A kiss she would remember, her entire life.
The next few weeks Michael and Vivie spent their time going through Michael’s closet. Michael removed each weapon and carefully explained what it was and under what circumstance he may use it. Vivie carefully took notes on a legal pad. She was full of questions, asking Michael under what circumstances he used each weapon. Although she had previously stated she would not ask for specifics, it was specifics she wanted. Vivie was fascinated with Michael’s tales of the hits he had done.
Once Vivie knew what each weapon was and what it is used for, Michael started teaching her how to tear them down and put them back together. Hour after hour, they would sit together disassembling and assembling weapons. Next came loading the weapons. Vivie seemed to be a natural at this. Michael was impressed at the speed and accuracy she had.
When Michael would go out on a job, Vivie would sit up and wait nervously for his return. She knew Michael was the best at what he did, but still, there was a nagging fear that there would be a night that something would happen, that he would not return home.
Deep down, she had not given up the idea of becoming a cleaner, herself. She was aware of the danger involved, she knew that there was always a chance the cleaner would become the hit. Still, she believed this was something she could be good at. Before her attack, she would have never considered this as a profession. Thinking of Tommy Flannery and all the Tommy Flannery’s of the world, Vivie wanted to be like Michael, to be one of the people to help rid the world of these bastards. She knew very well how Michael felt about the idea of her becoming a cleaner. She also believed that, with a little persuasion, Michael might come around.
Vivie sipped her glass of Merlot as she watched out of the window for Michael’s car. As she saw the T-Bird pull into the garage, Vivie checked her make-up in the hall mirror and stood by the door, waiting for Michael to enter.
“Michael, darlin, I’m so glad you’re home.” Vivie threw her arms around Michael’s neck.
“I knew you would still be up so I picked up Chinese. How does that sound?”
“Vivie took the carryout bag from Michael and sat it down on the kitchen table and started unpacking the contents. As she opened the Moo Goo Gai Pan, a wave of nausea hit Vivie. She covered her mouth and ran to the bathroom. Michael followed her.
“Darlin, are you alright? What’s wrong?”
“I’m okay, I’ll be right out.”
“What happened, Vivie, are you okay?”
“I’m sure I’m fine, Michael. I probably had a little too much wine this evening.”
“Are you sure?”
“I don’t think I’m up for dinner Michael; I’m sorry. I think I will go ahead and go to bed, if you do not mind. It is probably the wine, but I could be coming down with something. Better to go to bed for the night, I think.”
“Very well, darlin. Let me know if you need anything. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Michael kissed Vivie’s cheek and walked back into the kitchen. As she lay across the bed, a horrible thought came into her mind. She had not had her period this month. This really was not unusual. She had been late before. "Dear God in heaven, please let that be all it is. Blessed Mary, Mother of God, please don’t let it be anything else."
"Hail Mary Full of Grace, the Lord Is With Thee……"
THE PAPA PLAN
Molly O’Hanlon’s bar was like many other bars in Hell’s Kitchen, it was a dive, a hole in the wall, a place where the unsavory would come in for a shot of whisky, a pint of ale, or to find their friendly neighborhood drug connection. Whores worked out of Molly O’Hanlon’s. Molly O’Hanlon’s was also Tommy Flannery’s home away from home, as well as his business office. If Tommy was not out on the streets, making sure his crew was taking care of business or his whores were out selling their asses off, literally, he could be found at the corner table in the back room of Molly’s.
Tonight, Tommy and Ryan were together, going over the day’s receipts and discussing a job that Tommy wanted Ryan to handle personally.
“Tommy, you know Shane’s supposed to be coming out of the hospital tomorrow, right?”
“Yeah, I know. So?”
“So, what are we gonna do about what was done to him? You heard what Shane said, that guy, Michael, he said he was coming after you, Tommy. Hell, he’s coming after both of us. Are we gonna sit here, on our asses and let him do the same to us as he did to poor Shane?”
“What’s wrong, Ryan, are you scared? You little pussy.”
“Fuck no, I’m not scared, but I think we need to decide how we’re gonna take care of this fucker.”
Tommy kept counting out money, never looking up at Ryan.
“You saw what he did to Shane. That, my friend, was not the work of a jealous boyfriend. That, was the work of a professional, someone who knew what the hell he was doing. The question is; who is this guy? All we know about him is he calls himself Michael, but we don’t know if that’s his real name. And, we don’t know who he’s working for. We do know he’s not part of the Westies. If he was, I would know it. No, I would say he’s part of a bigger family.”
“You think he’s working for the wops? He’s Irish, why would the wops want him?”
“Who can tell what those Italian bastards will do?” Tommy, put a roll of bills down and crushed out his cigarette.
“I need for you to ask around, see what you can find out about this guy. See if any of our people have ever heard of a cleaner by the name of Michael or Mickey or Mick. Describe the guy; see what you can find out. I’ll check with the boss and see what I can find out, see if any of them have ever heard of him. I can promise you one thing. You find this guy, you find Vivian.”
“You think he’s got her, Tommy?”
“Fuck, yeah. He’s her Prince Charming, remember? Why would he be coming after us if he hadn’t rescued her sweet little ass that night? Yeah, he’s got her, I can guarantee it. You know, that may be an idea. We may be able to flush him out by flushing her out.”
“How we gonna do that, Tommy?”
“From what I’ve heard around the Kitchen, her folks have been pretty upset about her just taking off like she did. Also heard they got a letter from her, said she told them she got married and is living in another state now. You and I know that is bullshit. It would be a shame, if, oh, I don’t know, say, there would be a death, in Vivian’s family, now wouldn’t it? I’m sure Vivian would be compelled to come to the funeral, the good girl that she is. And we both know that she would never come back to the Kitchen unless she was accompanied by her body guard.” An evil grin came across Tommy face.
“I get ya Tommy. Who do ya think, mama or papa?”
“We don’t want to hit mama, you stupid shit. Would you want someone to hit your mama? No, I think it should be papa. That old bastard is half-dead anyway. He’s no good to anyone. I remember one time, that old fucker hit me up side of my head when I was kid, just because I was sitting on his stoop. He didn’t want me sitting there because he didn’t want people to think I was there to see he precious Vivian. I guess I showed him, didn’t I?”
Tommy and Ryan laughed as they hoisted their glasses to each other.
“Okay, now normally I would ask Shane to handle this, but since he’s going to be in a fucking wheel chair, I’m going to have to trust this to you. Do you think you can do this without fucking it up?”
“Jesus, Tommy, you act like I’m an idiot sometimes. Don’t I do good for you with the drugs?”
“Yeah, Ryan, you do good for me with the drugs. Only sometimes, you come up a little short, and that’s because sometimes, my profit goes up your fucking nose.” Tommy slapped Ryan on the side of the head, knocking Ryan to the floor.
“Damn, Tommy, do you have to hit me like that?”
“I’ll do whatever I want to do to you. You need to remember, I’m your fucking boss.” Tommy leaned down and screamed into Ryan’s face.
“Now, get your ass up and get out on the streets, I need you to check on the whores and make some collections. I need to think about this papa plan.”
Ryan left Molly’s and Tommy lit another cigarette and poured himself a whisky from the bottle sitting on the table. Staring into space, Tommy started thinking of his plan to kill Vivie’s father. Yes, this is a grand plan. “Not only will I kill an old bastard that I’ve hated for years, but I will also get at Vivie again. And, as an added bonus, I’ll be flushing out the cocksucker that took one of my best guys out of action. Yes indeed. Tommy, my boy, this is a grand plan you’ve come up with. You should be proud.” Tommy reared back in his chair, smiling from ear to ear.
Uptown, Michael was meeting with Joseph, who was a little more than concerned about Michael’s involvement with Vivie. He had seen too many times what distractions would do to a cleaner’s focus. He had put too much time and money into Michael to let his investment go down the drain. Michael was like a son to Joseph, but he also knew that Michael’s life, as well as his own security, relied on Michael’s ability to maintain his edge.
“How’s the little girl doing, Lucky?”
“Much better Joseph. She’s almost back to her old self.”
“Then she’s about ready to move out of your place then, is that right?”
Michael dropped eye contact with Joseph for a moment, something that Joseph picked up on immediately.
“Just about. I’m not sure she’s at the point where she feels secure enough to be out on her own just yet.”
“You know, Lucky, the longer she stays with you, the more likely she is to find out who you are and what it is you do.”
“Yes, Joseph, I do know that. I think about that a lot.” Michael knew he should tell Joseph that Vivie already knew all about what he does, but he feared Joseph’s reaction.
“It’s a damn shame, what those animals did to her. If you want, we can have them taken care of, but I do not think you should be the one to handle the job. I think you’re too close to the situation; you agree?”
“Of course.” Michael again knew that he should go ahead and confess to Joseph, tell him that he had already become involved by taking Shane out of commission. But he sat in silence.
“So? What do you think? Do you want me to send one of the boys down there to take out the trash?”
“No, Vivie said to me that she didn’t want anyone to do anything to them.”
“Why the hell not?”
“She thought I was going to try to avenge her. She was afraid that I would be arrested and they would go free.”
“If only she knew, right Michael?” Joseph smiled at Michael and tipped his cigar toward him.
“Right, Joseph.” Michael smiled sheepishly.
“Okay, then. We will handle it your way, but say the word and those rat bastards will be history. But Lucky, I am concerned about this girl living there with you. I do not have to tell you the need to stay focused. One mistake Lucky, that is all it takes. Tell me, you’re not letting yourself get involved with this girl, are you?”
“Getting involved with her? What do you mean, Joseph? The girl was beaten and raped. Do you really believe I am the type of fellow that would try to seduce a girl that had been through something like that? Jesus, man.”
“Holy shit, Lucky, don’t get your balls in a wad, that’s not what I was meaning. What I’m talking about, and what I’m asking is, are you starting to get a little soft for the girl?”
“I feel sorry for her Joseph, I can’t help myself. She has been through hell. She cannot go home because she is scared shitless those bastards will get at her again. She is not really up to living on her own yet. I have compassion for her, Joseph, that’s all.” Michael knew he was lying through his teeth and only hoped that Joseph could not see through him.
“Okay, Lucky, calm down. Christ. Listen, we need to talk about a job.” Joseph opened his top desk drawer and pulled out a photograph, pushing it over to Michael. “This idiot is Louis Bobak; he’s a polak, living over in Jersey. Mr. Bobak was supposed to deliver a briefcase full of coke that he brought down from our friends in Canada. Problem is, seems Mr. Bobak got what he saw as a better deal from the Westies. Not only did he sell our coke to the competition, but he skipped with the money. Jimmy and Little Tony spotted him at a motel, in Elmira. This stupid polak didn’t even have enough brains to get far enough away that we wouldn’t find him.”
“Elmira? Damn. What the hell is in Elmira?”
“Our friend, Mr. Bobak. Take care of it Lucky.”
Michael put the photo in his jacket pocket and stood up to leave.
“And Lucky, think about what I said, about keeping your focus. You’re a good man; I don’t want you taking any chances out there.”
“No problem, Joseph. I’ll call you when the job is finished.”
Michael left Joseph’s office. Sitting back down behind his desk, Joseph relit his cigar and took a few puffs, smoke rings circling above his head. Something was not right. Lucky was not coming clean with him about that girl. More is going on than Lucky was willing to tell him.
As Michael sat in his car, he was trying to decide if he should go ahead and drive to Elmira tonight or stop at the apartment and check on Vivie. He got out of the car and opened his trunk. He had what he needed for job with him, there would be no necessity to go home first. Still, there was nagging sense that he should go home and check on her. No, Joseph was right. He was letting his concern for Vivie cause him to lose his concentration. The drive to Elmira was only a four-hour drive. He could get there, do the job and be back home by dawn.
By 1:30 a.m., Michael had arrived at the Twin Oaks Motel. It was a typical motel, sitting on the outskirts of town. Looked more like a place one would bring a whore for a couple hours and then leave. Michael looked at the photograph again. Room 12 was on the second floor. Michael pulled his car around to the side of the motel and turned the engine off. He did not see any lights on in room 12. Michael sat in his car for a few minutes, surveying the area. Checking the cars on the lot, he also did not see Bobak’s car. Michael walked around to the back of the motel. He found room twelve. The bathroom window was left cracked open. “This guy really is an idiot”, Michael thought to himself. The bathroom window was small but large enough for Michael to get through it. Michael climbed a tree standing a few yards from the window. With the balance of a cat, Michael walked along the branches of the tree to the bathroom window. Michael could not hear any noise coming from inside the room. Gently, he slid the window the rest of the way open and went through. Michael began to toss the room, searching the drawers, closet, under the mattress; anywhere someone may hide guns or money. Michael came up empty.
“He must have the money on him. Maybe he’s already skipped town.”
Michael noticed a small refrigerator in the corner, beside the bed. He opened the door and found a paper bag in the freezer compartment. Michael removed the bag and opened it. “Hello, what do we have here?" Flipping through the stacks of bills Michael counted what he thought to be at least fifty grand. “Guess he hasn’t left town just yet.”
The lights of a car flashed against the window. Michael closed the refrigerator door and took his place behind door to the room. A key turned the lock of the door and the door opened. No lights were on but Michael saw the shadow of a rather large man come into the room and shut the door behind him. As he started to walk over to the bedside table, Michael walked up behind him, placed a knife at the large man’s neck, and whispered to him.
“Mr. Bobak, I presume?”
“Yeah, I’m Bobak.” The large man nervously answered back, sweat immediately started pouring down his face.
“Mr. Bobak, you’ve been a naughty man. You had a business deal with a nice Italian fellow but you did not come through on that deal. Instead you made your own deal, didn’t you?”
“It’s okay, I have the money, I’ll give it to you, it’s all here.”
“Surely you made more than fifty grand on that deal. Where’s the rest?”
“It’s in my car, in the trunk. Here, here’s the key.” Bobak held the key out in his hand for Michael to take from him.
“How much did you get for the coke, Mr. Bobak?”
“Two hundred fifty, I swear. It’s all there. I swear to you.”
“Why did you not bring the money to the nice Italian fellow? Why did you run away? See, I think you were trying to cheat this nice Italian fellow out his coke and, his money, Mr. Bobak.”
“No, no, I swear to you. I was going to bring him the cash.”
“Now see, Mr. Bobak, you’re just not convincing me. However, I do have a message from that nice Italian fellow. Would you like to know what it is?”
“Yeah, sure, what is it?