This story is by Mike Boze and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
Paulie had a phone call about the hit on his life that morning. Big Joey had discovered his wife, Vicky, was having an affair and all the evidence pointed to Paulie, especially considering his little black book of sexual conquests.
In Joey’s line of work, it was always good to have contingency plans and several new identities. Trusting Doctor Kolk was risky since he worked for both Big Joey and his uncle. Paulie also knew that the doctor was equal opportunity as long as the risk was minimal.
Dr. Kolk’s office was located on the outskirts of the city to maintain some anonymity for clients. He would patch up bullet holes, change facial features or to assist wealthy clients that needed improvements and did not want a lot of attention.
“No one will know who I am once the changes are made,” Paulie stated entering the clinic twenty minutes before midnight, “When I leave in a few days, I don’t even want my own dear mother, God rest her soul, to see me and want a hug. ”
Paulie paused to make the Sign of the Cross and kiss his right thumb.
Dr. Kolk nodded as he locked the door and pointed towards the hallway.
Stopping at the receptionist’s desk, Paulie drop the gym bag and unzipped to show the stacks of $100 bills.
Paulie nodded once as if to add emphasis, to which Dr. Kolk added, “With the amount of money you are paying that is guaranteed.”
Both men were also clear on the future. From the Doctor there was a guarantee of silence. For the Doctor no harm would come to either he or his daughter, to which Dr. Kolk added, “I will have documents and video of the procedures if anything happens, first to Big Joey, then the police.”
Paulie smiled at the vain attempt to intimidate him.
Knowing that he had two new identities, one for leaving under and the second one to facilitate getting lost, were secreted away and waiting. Turning towards Dr. Kolk, he said, “After this, Joey and Vicky can get on the crazy train for all I care.”
Paulie pulled the hospital gown over each arm, left the back untied and walked out of the dressing room. He was thankful and relieved that Jamie, Dr. Kolk’s daughter and receptionist, was not there. They had recently dated and Paulie had ended it abruptly and badly.
It was the one time he hated himself for making an entry in his black book.
“So Doc, how long will I be out?”
Dr. Kolk seemed to not hear Paulie’s question and continued talking to the anesthesiologist. Paulie climbed onto the table and stretched out, pushing the gown between his legs.
“So to your question, with all that is planned . . . that is to make sure that you are never recognized, the things I plan to alter will be longer than you might expect . . .”
Dr. Kolk paused and nodded towards the anesthesiologist, who in turn placed a needle into the IV bag hanging next to the operating table.
“The shot is valium to help you relax . . .”
Dr. Kolk paused again and nodded as the anesthesiologist placed a mask over Paulie’s face and then placed his weight on Paulie’s right arm.
Leaning close to Paulie’s ear, Dr. Kolk placed his weight on Paulie’s left arm, and said, “What I am telling you is that what is about to happen is because of Vicky, my Vicky, and that damned black book.”
Panic stricken, Paulie tried to raise his arms, failed and drifted off to sleep.
Paulie had been missing for three months.
The body was discovered on the screened back porch, by Tony, one of Big Joey’s foot soldier, checking the farm owned by Joey and Paulie’s uncle. Tony had called immediately.
Decomposition of the body showed that he had been dead for several weeks. Identification would be difficult, due to the self-inflicted shotgun blast to the face.
Tony waited in the kitchen until Big Joey’s 2017 Chevrolet Suburban circled around and parked next to the porch steps.
“Looks like Paulie took the easy way out,” Big Joey said as he opened the screen door, his massive frame almost as wide as the door. Tony nodded in agreement and handed Joey a towel.
“Any ID,” Joey asked as he took a towel and held it up against his nose.
“Not yet, although it’s his car in the barn,” replied Tony as he pointed to the body, “And it’s his sawed off shotgun.”
Joey noticed a broom in the corner, grabbed it and handed it to Tony, who used the end of the handle to push open the coat jacket. Seeing the top of a black book, not much larger than a deck of cards, Joey grabbed the book which Paulie used to check off and keep track of sexual conquests. In the beginning, Paulie kept track by checking off numerical milestones. Later it became physical attributes, status and race.
In middle school, Big Joey had to watch over his smaller, soft-spoken cousin, until Paulie discovered a martial arts studio. By the end of high school, Paulie was making a name for himself while Big Joey moved into position to take over their uncle’s enterprises.
The contract on Paulie was for the indiscretion of sleeping with Big Joey’s wife. Truth was Big Joey had grown cruel after his uncle passed away. Those that spoke up usually reaped his wrath. Paulie had made his mistake for trying to defend Joey’s wife.
“Don’t want any questions being asked,” Joey said as he wrapped the book in the towel, “Get some help and take Paulie to the construction site. Concrete gets poured on Tuesday.”
To Tony’s discomfort, not sure whether to move or not, as Joey continued to stare at Paulie.
“You know, I could have forgiven him for sleeping with the wife. It was his arrogance to call me out on her punishment that irked me.”
Joey continued to stare at Paulie’s body for more several seconds and said, “Odd thing is . . . I actually thought she was with someone else.”
Tony turned his face to the floor and rolled his eyes.
Paulie slowly awoke.
He was lying with his head hanging off the side of the bed. It was dark, except for a small light from the open doorway that entered into the adjoining equally cheap, hotel room.
Only silence replied.
He pulled himself up with the iron foot-rail, noticing a water bottle in his left hand and tried to clear his mind.
It was daylight when he awoke the first time. He remembered old images . . . or was it dreams . . . of being awoken and . . . surgeries being done . . . mutilations.
“Laser surgery removed hair from your face . . . arms, legs,” an image of Dr. Kolk entered his memory.
Paulie remembered that phantom pain was mentioned and lifted his legs to push against the desk. It slid against the wall with a thud.
This was replaced by images of Jamie . . . oftentimes with food.
“You have to keep your strength up,” she said, “IV bags can only do so much.”
Paulie noticed to the left a chrome stand and the empty IV bag.
Another image, “. . . Procedures were done to modify the jaw, brow, forehead, nose and cheek areas,” this time Dr. Kolk was smiling.
“I shaved the Adam’ Apple, quite proud of myself on that one, you’ll never see the incision.”
Paulie reached up and slowly ran his hand over his face and neck.
“Then the breast implants . . .”
Paulie reached down in horror to feel breasts through the nightgown.
“. . . but the real work was on your pride and joy . . . Well, it’s still there but has been changed to . . . should I say . . . the object of your black book’s accomplishments”
Paulie, in slow motion, reached down between his legs to discover he was nude under the nightgown and screamed at the top of his lungs.
“The old Paulie, as you know him, is completely gone.”
Struggling to stand, Paulie leaned against the desk. Within a few seconds, there was a click of a table lamp and increased light from the open door.
Paulie noticed the light was partially blocked by a figure. He turned expecting the worse and saw Jamie, who said, “I didn’t know what was going to be done until later, until Dad found your black book.”
Paulie jammed a shaky finger in her direction, to which she replied, “For your information, Dad is dead, inoperable brain cancer” as the tears began, “He drove your car, wearing your clothes, carrying your shotgun, ending his life and your old life. As far as everyone knows you’re dead.”
Paulie pulled the blanket off the bed to cover up, as Jamie asked almost whispering, “The black book . . . Was any of what we had . . . Real?”
Filled with rage, he attempted to step towards Jamie, stumbled over the blanket and fell to his knees.
Jamie walked over, not offering any assistance, and said, “Dad didn’t know about us until he read through it to see if Joey’s wife was in it. Dad read your words to me, ‘Same sex, yet probably bi-sexual’ . . . what makes a man write such stuff . . . we were together for what . . . three weeks. A few dinners, then I gave in and within a week, you were always too busy. Were you finally able to check off one or two of your boxes?”
Within seconds, he began to cry, unable to hold back the grief.
Jamie knelt in front of Paulie, pulling his head against hers and whispered, “Hormones . . . get used to it.”
Looking up, Paulie sobbed, “I am so sorry.”
“Do you remember any of the last three months” Jamie asked coldly.
“Why three months . . .?”
“Dad kept you, for the most part, in an induced coma, waking you to gloat, get you to talk about Vicky.”
“Why . . .?”
“It was Dad,” Jamie said as she stammered and the tears returned.
“WHAT,” Paulie asked, his voice almost screaming.
“The affair . . . the surgeries . . . the reassignments . . .” Jamie voice cracked as the tears ran down her cheeks, “It was Dad. He thought that you were with Vicky, while he was . . .”
“He was screwing Joey’s wife?”
“She was addicted to the cosmetics, to the surgeries; they became intimate” Jamie said and in almost a whisper, asked, “Were you?”
The reply was hard and angry.
“Did you kill her?”
Paulie stared at Jamie, her face showing contempt and asked, “What?”
“Joey put out the word, the two of you ran off together . . . Dad thought you killed her to cover up the affair.”
Paulie shook his head, for the first time in his life he felt a panic attack and said, “This is unreal . . . she’s dead?”
“No one knows.”
Inside, an inner voice kept saying, “Get the stuff and leave.”
As he remembered, Paulie absent-mindedly muttered out loud, “My new passports are for a male traveler . . .”
“What’s that?” Jamie asked.
“I’m trapped in this body and I have no identification . . .”
Another inner voice . . . stronger and angrier pushed out the calmer, more deliberate voice, and gave other opinions.
“Can you drive me somewhere?”
Jamie pondered her answer and finally said, “I guess . . . why?”
“Pick up some stuff . . . Then I need to kill Big Joey.”