Killing the Quails


I’ve killed Curtis Quail fives times now. Six if you count the one at the flooded quarry. That was more of an accident. I meant to shoot him but he escaped down the edge of the quarry and wound up drowning. I got paid for that one, yeah, but in my heart I can’t really take credit for it. So five times. I’ve killed Curtis Quail five times.

The first Curtis Quail I did in the woods behind the strawberry farm on Route 206. That was the toughest one. He was the youngest and the sucker was high on speed. Had to plug him in the back from 300 yards or so. That was the first Curtis Quail.

Second was deep in the state park by the power lines. Third was in an abandoned house in the woods by a baseball field. Had to use a knife on that one on account of the little league game going on.

I did the fourth Curtis Quail out by the Delaware Water Gap. Beautiful area. Next up was the Quail who drowned in the quarry but I don’t count him. Fifth Curtis Quail is buried in a cornfield. Bodies make great manure. You’d be surprised.

That makes six Curtis Quails dead in two months.

The client who’s paying for this Quail hunt, I don’t know his name. Two months ago a mutual associate called. Said this old guy had a job offer. Could turn into a few jobs. Things are slow in the fall, so I said yeah, I’ll meet the guy.

We met at the bar out there by the old airport. This old guy ain’t no pilot though. He’s a squirrely little bastard who always wears this grey wool jacket. Matches the halo of hair on his head. Got a wrinkled face like a road map folded up all wrong. He says he wants someone dead.

I’m sure you know that someone’s name by now.

I take the job and a week later the client has another lined up. Target’s name is same as the last, but it’s a different guy. It makes me curious, the target having the same name, but I don’t ask questions. That’s why clients like me. I don’t ask questions and I don’t talk about myself.

I do the job and afterwards the old guy wants another Quail killed. Yadda yadda yadda…two months go by and six Quails are buried.

Oh yeah, I should tell you about the Roman numerals. All these Quails had numerals tattooed on their wrists. The guys were all numbered. Like in a catalogue. Going by those tattoos, I’ve killed Quails II-VII. How about that?


So here I am in the bar by the airport again. Sitting across from the old guy. He slides an envelope to me over the table. My payment for the sixth Quail. I shove it in my coat pocket. I don’t count it in front of him. I’ve got some class, you know.

The old guy seems more somber than usual. Looking down at the table. Fiddling with his hands. The quiet hangs heavy between us. Awkward silences make me sore, so I say, “Is that it then? Or are there more Quails out there in the woods?”

With a voice like wet tar he answers, “They’re bad people. The Quails. All of them. Some bloodlines are just poisoned. They’ve done horrible things. Unspeakable things.”

That esoteric jibber-jabber didn’t answer my question so I said, “Are we done here?”

The old man places an arm on the table. Rolls up the cuff of his wool coat, exposing the faded Roman numeral I tattooed on his wrist.

So the client was my final target. That’s a new one.

He said he wanted it done in the state park on a hill overlooking a lake. Ain’t that sweet? So that’s where we went.

I gave him a few minutes to make peace with himself and his God or whatever. Then I said, “Where do you want it, old timer?”

He thought a moment. “I think I’d like…”

I shot him in the head. Call me old fashioned.

~ fin ~

Patrick Cooper lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and dog. His short stories have appeared in Thuglit, Akashic Books, Spinetingler, Near to the Knuckle, Dark Corners, Out of the Gutter, and more, as well as a few print anthologies. Find more at and follow him on Twitter @PatrickGeCooper