The hard part is done. He picked up the spent brass cartridges. And it wasn’t that hard.

Bobby Uccello—Bucci, they called him—put the brass in his pocket; removed the magazine from the small, semiauto pistol; ejected the unfired round from the chamber and unscrewed the suppressor from the threaded barrel. Everything went into the deep pocket of his wool overcoat, jingling like loose change. All to be got rid of later, disassembling the pistol, putting parts here and there in different dumpsters, as he had been told to do by Leon, the old pro, who didn’t work now because of arthritis.

The old man, Nick, well about fifty-something, old enough, lay dead on the kitchen floor. Two hollow-points to the back of the head did the trick. Nick sprawled face down, blood trickling across the green and white linoleum.

Not a bad guy, old Nicky. He’d brightened up, all chipper to have company while in hiding, even if that company was only Bucci who everybody knew was nothing more than the gofer for his uncle. Nick had been pouring two glasses of grappa, one for himself, one for Bucci, when Bucci had shot the old man.

Nothing personal, Bucci thought, pausing to stare at the body. I’m on, like, probation. They got to trust me to do a thing like this and now I’ve done it and that’s that. It’s called Moving Up the Ladder. And you, Nicky, were how I climbed to the next rung.

Bucci removed a soft microfiber cloth from his other pocket—again what Leon, a real perfectionist, recommended—and wiped down anything in the room he might’ve touched. Be methodical. Don’t dawdle but do it right, Leon had said. Keep your head screwed on and stay chill.

And I am, thought Bucci, as chill as the front on the dormer window overlooking St Abbans Church across the street.

A good teacher, Leon. His mentor too. You don’t have to do this, Leon had said. You can say no with no hard feelings. But it’s in or out. You’re a bright kid. This is a fucked up business and you’d be better off doing something else. If I had it to do over—Leon shrugged. With a disgruntled snort he said: I’d go back to seminary.

Bucci wiped the bottle of grappa he had brought for Nick, careful not to step in the expanding pool of blood on the kitchen floor. More like mercy killing, Bucci thought. Nick was slipping, they said. Talking too much. He had colon cancer, taking chemo and drugs, and was trying to make amends or some shit like that before he croaked. Talking to the feds.

Now I’ve done this thing for them and that makes me solid. No more chickenshit errands. The old guys at the club, Jimmy the Boss and Coffey, Jimmy’s lawyer and fixer, and Leon and Bucci’s uncle Bernard, Bernie who owned the club where they all hung out, drank, played cards, kibitzed and did deals. I am solid with these guys now. Now I have a kill, and that is the big leagues.

He paused by the door before leaving. Took a deep breath. Didn’t look back. No reason to. He slipped on his black leather gloves, opened the door and stepped into the vacant hall, closing the door gently behind him. He stood at the balustrade and looked. Not a sound in the cavernous old building. Nobody stirred. Nobody saw him enter, nobody to see him leave again. Perfect.

As Bobby Uccello took the stairs a solitary sparrow shot up like a brown ball and flitted in the air around the stairwell, startling him. Relax, that’s nothing, he told himself.

The sparrow lighted on the balustrade and looked at him and then leaped into the air again, flying toward the skylight. The steps creaked as Bobby quickly descended. The sparrow butted against the skylight, trying to escape, but remained trapped in the old building.

~ fin ~

Ray Zacek is retired fed now engaged in consulting, writing and acting. He resides in Tampa, Florida, with his wife Theresa Beck. His fiction has appeared in All Due Respect, Deathmongers, Fiction Terrifica, Liberty Island and Creative Loafing.