This story is by Rory O’Keeffe and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
Any gun feels strange through surgical gloves. This one is heavier and longer than my regulation Sig Sauer, but it takes a silencer and it can’t be traced back to me. Perfect.
I scan the street again, but there’s no sign of Bachmann. The dash clock tells me it’s 2314. Bachmann should be here somewhere around 2320. The sidewalks are empty except for some youths sitting on a stoop around fifty yards further up. The edge of the road is crammed with cars, giving the Chevy some cover right next to the apartment building. He won’t know my wife’s car, and my freshly-shaven head won’t set off any alarm bells if he happens to glance towards me. Not with the moustache confusing things.
I scratch at the edges of the fake lip warmer, where the costume glue is turning itchy. It’s hard to get any relief with the gloves in the way—it’s more like a blunt, sticky rub than the deep scratch I’m looking for. I pat my pockets, making sure I’ve removed everything. No need to worry about the badge anymore; it’s sitting in the bottom drawer of Chambers’ desk.
“Jesus, John.” Deputy Assistant Director Geoff Chambers — known as Daddy C among the Special Agents in our field office — knuckled the five o’clock dusting of snow over the sharp edges of his cheekbones, creaking back in his swivel chair. “We had the prick dead to rights and you lost it.”
I rubbed at my throbbing knuckles. “I’m sorry, Mick. The things he was saying… You hear the tape?”
“Heh, yeah, I heard. Up until you decked him, anyway. You know this squid has fans online? Bunch of Tweens. Easy prey. Hell, I’d have punched him myself, under the circumstances.” He gave me a wry smile, but his eyes were searching mine. I met his gaze without flinching, anger still boiling in my stomach.
After a moment Chambers cleared his throat. “We had to let Bachmann go, you know. Once the lawyer saw his face…” He sighed. “You fucked up, John. We’ll have to cut a deal with him. He says he can finger others, so maybe it won’t be a total loss.”
I nodded. There was an uncomfortable silence while I kept rubbing my knuckles and Chambers kept scratching his stubble. I knew what was coming.
“You know I hate to do this, but I’m going to need your badge.”
2321. A familiar figure strides into the spill from a streetlight. The scowls of the youths as Bachmann passes are clear even at this distance. I’m not the only one who knows slime when they see it. He’s got his phone up in front of his face, making my life easier.
Even so, I slide lower in my seat. The upholstery clings to my jacket and I can feel it ride up. I don’t slide too far; it’s much better to look normal. If someone spots you crouching on the floor of your car alarm bells go off. If someone sees a short man in a mid-oughts Chevy with a questionable moustache they don’t bat an eye.
Six foot and slim build, dark hair, pale skin. His hair glistens orange under the streetlights, slicked over shaved back and sides. He oozes up the steps to the apartment block doorway. I keep him in my peripheral vision, watching him punch in the code and enter. As soon as he walks in I’m moving, car door still mid-swing behind me as I get my foot into the doorframe.
I’m inside and taking the stairs two at a time as soon as the elevator doors shut, and I wait on the shadowed stairwell one step below the third floor hall. If someone sees me now I’m fucked, plain and simple, but my alibi will only last so long.
The elevator pings and I hear Bachmann talking out loud, a smile in his voice. I know he’s alone, the little freak. Must be still on the phone. He jangles his keys into the lock. When it clicks open I count one breath and move, surgical booties swishing on the cheap carpet. I’m in the door behind him before he has a chance to register what’s happening, gun out and pointed at his face. To his credit, he doesn’t scream. It’s hard to tell if he’s gone white with the bruising all over his pretty young face. If it wasn’t for the spreading stain I might think he’d expected me. His hands fly up, cell in his left.
I kick the door shut with my heel, jerk the pistol towards the phone. He drops it.
“What you’ve done is unforgivable.”
“Would you have done any different, Privates Investigator?” Bachmann offers a shaky sneer along with my forum handle.
I roll my eyes. “Not that. You were going to give us away. Give me away.”
“You fucking arrested me. Aren’t you meant to protect us?”
I laugh. “We can’t have squealers in the ranks.”
“But we can have cops?”
I step forward and lean right into his face. “You know how many investigations I’ve been able to affect? How many I’ve warned, or helped destroy evidence? I’ve been on this beat for nearly thirty years. You fucked up beyond the point I could help. That’s on you.”
I move back, lifting the pistol.
He shatters. “Please! I was desperate, I-“
I decorate the wall with his brain. As the body slumps I’m heading for the door, but something makes me turn back.
There, on the floor by his left hand. His phone, the screen alight. Something in my gut sinks. I should be leaving but my feet pull me towards the glowing rectangle. I pick up the phone and find myself staring straight into my own face. There’s a blinking red circle at the top-right, next to a number — 988. Some kind of video-streaming app.