Table d’hôte


I don’t like being the middleman, but if there are favours owed and money on the table, I’ll make the appropriate introductions, arrange a meeting between talent and client, make sure everybody is playing nice. Then I get the hell out of the way and let the deal happen or not.

Robbie needed a job done. Wanted more than needed, really. But he was calling in a favour, he had the money to make it happen, and who am I to judge? He wanted a man dead and I knew people who could handle the job. I cared about Robbie. He was a nice enough guy when he didn’t have murder on his mind. This was uncharted territory for him, so I wanted to make sure he didn’t go slumming. Left to his own devices, he probably would have hired some junkie scumbag who’d turn him in the next time he got pinched on a possession charge. No, this had to be done right, by a professional, or Robbie would end up screwing himself.

We met at a restaurant, the three of us. Robbie, myself and the European. I didn’t know the European’s name or country of origin, but the mannered way he spoke made me think of Europe. We sat together in a booth in the back, over drinks and a bowl of mixed nuts. I chose an unpopular restaurant with bad reviews and was rewarded with no other customers and terrible service. We were left alone, with no one nearby who might listen in.

I had briefed the European about Robbie’s needs and the fact that this was all new to him. He agreed to help hold Robbie’s hand as we walked him through the process.

“I’m a practical man. I understand practical things,” the European told Robbie. “There are many practical reasons to want somebody dead. Economic reasons usually. Political sometimes. Other motivations arise. There’s jealousy and revenge – very common. These are impractical reasons for murder, but there’s nothing that says such a killing can’t be handled in a practical way. This is my method.”

A word of caution crept into his voice as he picked at the bowl of nuts.

“Sometimes the client wants something extra. They want me to pull out fingernails, cut balls off, make the mark beg for death. I always refuse these jobs. There are sick bastards out there who will do these things for less money and the pleasure such sadism gives them. I want no part of it. If you want someone – anyone – dead, I can make that happen quickly, cleanly, efficiently. But do not expect extras. The menu I offer may be limited, too specialized for some. But my product is of the highest quality. And there are always paying customers who appreciate a quality product.”

He cracked a stubborn walnut and scattered the fragments across the table cloth, picking through the bits of shell for crumbs of meat.

“Murder?” he added, “This I can do. Cruelty?”

He wagged a disapproving finger, “This I will not do.”

“So what then, you kill them with kindness?”

Sitting on the padded bench in the booth next to Robbie, I elbowed him in the ribs. This was not a man to offend, and he didn’t like clients getting cute.

“No, I kill them with bullets. Don’t be such a fucking smartass,” said the European.

“Please excuse my friend. This is his first time,” I apologized.

“As you’ve mentioned,” replied the European. He turned back to Robbie.

“So who is this person you wish dead?”

There was a lengthy silence across the table as Robbie and European stared at each other. It was only ended by a single gunshot I never saw coming.

“His eyes,” the European told me, “pointed at you.”

Robbie tipped forward in his seat and slammed face-first into the table. I could clearly see the empty cavity where his brains once were through the exit wound in the back of his skull. The European slipped his handgun back into his coat pocket and stood.

We left abruptly without paying the bill. In this business, money counts for much, friendship counts for little, but professional courtesy is everything.

~ fin ~

Shane Simmons is best known for his graphic novels, The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers and its sequel, The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers, which have been published in multiple countries in multiple languages to great acclaim and few dollars. To pay the bills, he writes for television, mostly animation. When he’s not scripting innocuous cartoons for children, he spends his time writing grim comedy, violent crime and troubling horror stories to relax and unwind. He lives in Montreal with his wife and too many cats.