The bathroom in Suite 905 at the Drake Hotel was magnificent to behold, though very few had seen it. Every inch of marble and glass was tailored to Max Weiss’s expensive taste. But as he bore down, grunting on his porcelain throne for the umpteenth time, it occurred to Max that none of the opulence helped him in his old age. His bloated belly rested on the seat, stuck out like a misshapen bowling ball on his skeletal frame. The pain in his bowels distracted him from his poor performance in the bedroom. He wasn’t sure which was worse; at eighty, his pride was slipping faster than his eyesight. He’d made the right choice to walk away before he couldn’t hold a glass.

A slender milk-white leg extended into the doorway, foot pointed downward like a dancer, showcasing violet nail polish. Peppermint oils wafted into Max’s nostrils, his mouth heavy with saliva. The girl was good, classy, but grit lurked under the skin. He told himself to request her again—if he could pass last night’s steak and regain the feeling in his legs. She hummed a tune, dancing the leg up and down, in and out. Max couldn’t place it, but he’d heard it before. Then she planted her foot and spun into full view. Dyed-red curls framed her grin. She’d crudely wrapped the cream-colored bed sheet from breast to mid-thigh, pinning it with her arms. But he wasn’t focused on any of that now.

“Bessie.” The word fell out with a sigh, the color draining from his face.

“Name’s Cherry. You forget that already, old man? That’s insulting coming from a guy who can barely keep it up, even with some pills.” She smirked and lowered the double barrel at his stomach, caressing the antique shotgun like she was looking for a slide to rack. He reached out a trembling hand for the weapon, a hand that once held great power in the Windy City, and now couldn’t even peel an orange.

“Whoa, watch yourself, Maxy. You gettin’ fresh now? I should have taken the gun into the bedroom.” She raised it up and ran her tongue along the barrels. “Maybe even gotten a bigger tip.”

Max shuddered, his groin ached. No one had touched Bessie since his father handed it down to him decades ago. He’d never even fired her, instead choosing to mount it in his home, taking care to grease the barrels and replace the shells over the years. His father always had Bessie with him when he left the apartment. He’d kiss Max’s forehead and then drive off into the night on a mission from The Outfit. Bessie was his father’s right hand, keeping him safe while Max fell asleep amongst the yelling and banging in the surrounding apartments.

Cherry pressed the shotgun to his chest. It felt warm but hadn’t been fired.

“Well, what’ll it be? Got any money or jewelry in this place as an incentive for me to make this quick?”

Max kept his focus on the gun, the swirls in the wood grain, the shine from the buffing he did last week. Familiar rage crept into his skull. How dare you challenge me, you—

“Hey!” Cherry said as she slapped him. “I’m talking to you and I’m not gettin’ paid overtime for this.”

“My father gave me that shotgun when I was sixteen. He said-”

“He said, ‘Son, you’re a man now. You’re going to earn a place in The Outfit and do your family proud,'” she said, her impression spot on. “You told me the whole story. Shit, Tony said your memory was toast.” She laughed and raised the gun to Max’s head. “I’ll take my chances with the mattress.”

You would check the mattress, you whore. She wasn’t smart enough to crack a safe, a slight satisfaction that went unnoticed as she gabbed on about Tony Garbanzo and ‘the new mob.’

Then she paused, tongue bobbing in her cheek. “What was that he asked me to tell you?” Her eyes lit up. “Oh yea, Tony sends his regrets.”

Max took both barrels. The sound was as beautiful as he imagined.

~ fin ~

Irvin’s debut collection, SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE, is a finalist for the 2016 Anthony Award for Best Anthology or Collection. He is also the author of FEDERALES and BURN CARDS. He lives in Boston, MA with his wife and two sons.