This story is by David Elderton and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“I don’t want your body found, kid, dig it deep!”
Tony and two unfamiliar bodyguards, one fat, one skinny, snickered as Marco dug his own grave.
“Tony, I -” Marco started.
“Hey!” Tony chided, “You call me ‘Boss,’ got it?”
“Up yours,” Marco mumbled to himself as he stabbed the shovel into the earth.
It was 34 degrees, but Marco had worked up a sweat digging through the cold, hard ground.
“Ah, kid, I feel terrible about this, I really do.” Tony sounded as sincere as a politician’s promise. Tony would still kill Marco and have fun doing it. Tony’s inflection turned crisp: “Nobody rats me out. But y’know what’s funny? Ya didn’t know the cop ya squealed to is on my payroll! And that’s why we’re here tonight!” Tony crowed.
In an instant, Tony changed topics. “Y’know, I love your Uncle Frank, I really do. He’s like a brother to me. But he can’t know about this, so I sent him down state the other day.”
Small shovelfuls of hard dirt accumulated as he made gradual progress. Marco thought, if I dug faster, I’d die sooner. He smiled wryly at his somber joke.
Tony asked, “Did y’know Frank saved my life once?”
Marco cocked an eyebrow.
“What, he never told ya? That figures. Yeah, Frank was my bodyguard then, back when things was rougher. This guy killin’ that guy killin’ another guy, it was -“ Tony fluttered his fingers searching for the word. “- chaos. Yeah, chaos, that’s what it was.”
“Anyway, Artie wanted me whacked for those gas station killin’s. He sent three punks to get me. I was leavin’ Angelina’s when they opened fire. Pow! Pow!” Tony imitated the shots with a finger gun. “Kilt two of my guys right off. My guys was in front of me and then they wasn’t, y’know? Their names was, ummm, oh, it don’t matter. Anyway, Frank stepped in front of me, drew his Colt and drilled all three of them punks. Pow-pow-pow! Like that! One guy fired a lucky shot that took off Frank’s pinky. I would’ve died that night if not for Frank.”
Marco was stunned. Frank said he’d lost the finger in a factory accident. Over time, Marco realized Frank never had a factory job. He’d always been working for Tony.
Regardless, Marco knew if he didn’t cooperate, Tony would murder Uncle Frank.
When Marco’s family died in a train wreck, Frank raised him as his own. He insisted Marco finish school. When he did, there were no legitimate jobs available. Though reluctant, Frank asked Tony to hire him to do menial jobs away from the blood and death. Marco became known for always doing a superb job.
Soon, Marco was working as a “cleaner,” mopping up after beatings or killings. Marco could determine what had happened using blood spatter, teeth and brain chunks as puzzle pieces to complete the morbid picture of Tony’s mayhem.
Tony preferred a baseball bat because of its versatility. Perfect for breaking fingers or knees, up to and including the big “homerun” finish Tony liked so much. On rare occasions, he’d just shoot the victim in the head. Once, Marco overheard “Tony musta liked that guy, he killed ‘im quick.”
Everyone overlooked that Tony was unbalanced and evil, because he paid so well. Besides, the victims were criminals who deserved what they got. Usually.
But when Tony killed old Pop Martin last week for fun, it grieved Marco’s soul. Tony was rabid. He had to be stopped. Marco went to the cops to turn himself in and be a witness against Tony. Even if it meant jail for himself. But the dirty cop preempted Marco’s plan and delivered him to Tony instead. Marco had been held captive for days, waiting for Tony to schedule him in.
A foot down, the digging became easier. The cold snap made the surface hard, but it hadn’t been cold long enough to affect the ground any deeper.
Despite his best efforts, Marco made faster progress. His only hope was that Uncle Frank found out what was happening and stopped Tony in time. That hope faded with each shovelful.
Marco thought about Uncle Frank’s Colt, a .38 Official Police revolver. It had the scarce 5” barrel and checkered walnut grips.
When Frank first took Marco shooting, Marco cocked the hammer to get a short, light trigger pull. “Never cock the hammer,” Frank admonished. “The other guy is trying to kill you, so you gotta kill him first, understand?” Marco nodded. “There’s no time to cock the hammer, so don’t practice that way. Fire all shots double action.”
The double action pull was longer and heavier, making it difficult to keep the gun steady throughout the pull. “It’s impossible to hit anything!” Marco exclaimed.
“Oh?” Frank loaded the gun and fired six rapid shots, making a fist size group at seven yards.
Marco stood with his mouth agape. Frank chuckled and said, “Shut your mouth, son, you look stupid. Don’t worry, I’ll teach you. Every man should know how to shoot.”
Frank explained the elements of shooting until Marco understood. Under Frank’s patient tutelage, he mastered that double action pull. Now, each time Marco held the Colt, he experienced the feel of the gun.
Marco wished he had Uncle Frank’s Colt now.
The full moon was directly overhead, illuminating every detail. The grave approached six feet deep. The soft dirt allowed fast progress. Marco jabbed the shovel downward. It hit something soft. A quick whoosh of trapped air under pressure escaped. A putrid stench of decayed intestines that could gag a maggot permeated the air.
Tony said, ”Whew! That stinks bad! Whattaya know, looks like ya gotta roommate!” He burst out in raucous laughter.
“Toss up that shovel, kid, and use your hands to move the dirt. I can’t wait to find out who it is!”
Marco knew this one hadn’t been dead long and it was recently buried. The digging was easy because the grave was filled just two days ago.
The three men above watched with anticipation. A blood stained hood covered the dead man’s face. Marco brushed the dirt from the suit jacket, then the dirt away from the dead man’s hands. Marco felt the pit of his stomach plummet into an abyss. The man’s right hand was missing the little finger.
“Surprise!” Tony cackled. “It’s your Uncle Frank! When I said I sent him down state, I meant six feet down! Funny, right? After I kilt ya, I knew he’d come after me, so I had to beat him to the punch, y’know?”
“But- you said he saved your life,” Marco stated.
“Yeah, he sure did. That’s why I kilt him with a single shot. Never saw it comin’. But kid, you didn’t save my life, so no such luck for you.” Tony turned to the fat bodyguard: “Got my Louisville Slugger? Good, because I feel like beltin’ a couple homers right now. Hop up outta there, kid, it’s time to pay the piper.”
Tony sneered at Marco as he would a cockroach. “Batt-errr up!” Tony swung the bat hard.
Marco, kneeling on Frank’s chest, looked up and saw Tony swing the bat while Fatty and Skinny grinned like possums.
Marco whispered, “When you killed Uncle Frank, what did you do with his Colt?”
Tony stopped swinging. “What? Uh, we-“ He looked at the bodyguards to see if they remembered. The eyes of all three men opened wide when the stark realization hit them: they hadn’t done anything with Frank’s Colt.
Marco felt the gun in the shoulder holster earlier when he pushed away the dirt. His hand snaked under the coat until his fingers grasped the familiar comfort of the checkered grip. He drew the gun as the realization hit them. Before they could react, he shot Fatty in the right eye. He collapsed like a stringless marionette into the grave, landing on Frank’s feet. Marco swung past Tony and shot Skinny under the chin. He crumpled in a heap, landing on top of Fatty.
Tony shrieked like a little school girl as Marco hammered three bullets into him, breaking his pelvis and spine. He toppled like a rag doll headlong into the grave. His feet caught high on the fresh bodies and his head landed with a moist “smack” on Frank’s pierced abdomen, face down.
Tony gagged as he turned his head to breathe. Marco stood up and used the bodies, including Tony’s smeared face, as steps to climb out of the grave.
Tony, paralyzed, panicked and yelled, “Kid! Ya can’t leave me like this! Ya got another bullet. Kill me!”
Tony couldn’t see Marco, who stood on the ground above, but heard him say, “Relax, Tony, I’ll finish the job.”
Tony heaved a sigh of relief. “Oh, kid, ya had me there for a second! Quick, ya gotta-“
Tony’s words were cut short when a shovelful of cold dirt stung his face as Marco filled in the grave.