Monday, April 1, 2013

The Careful Hunter

Quinn had been sitting alone in the quiet darkness of the apartment for hours when he heard what he’d been waiting for. The sound of a cab door slamming outside.

The springs of the old chair creaked as he leaned over to slowly inch the blinds away from the window. Three stories below, Richie Sharpe peeled off a bill from a green wad of cash before pocketing it.

The man he’d been sent to kill.

Any other time, Quinn would’ve figured it was a grifter’s bank roll – a fifty on top of a wad of fives and singles. Grifter bankrolls were Sharpe’s specialty.

But Quinn knew that particular wad of cash was all prime currency. Hundreds, fifties and twenties. Because that’s how much Richie had just ripped off from a high-stakes card game uptown. A private game sanctioned and sponsored by Quinn’s boss: Archie Doyle.

Quinn had always thought Richie looked more like a pimp than a bookie as he watched him enter the building. Slicked back hair. Blue eyes. Sharp suit and shined shoes and a pearl gray hat with a wide, snapped brim. Glitz made Sharpe swoon. Quinn caught the glint of the gold watch in the streetlight. He loved chains and pinky rings, too. Doyle said Sharpe wore more jewelry than an Arab whore and smelled twice as bad. His cologne was imported from France.

Yes, glitz made him swoon. Glitz would be his downfall.

He let the blinds snap back and waited for Sharpe to come upstairs. Other guys would’ve looted the apartment while they waited for a mark to show. Grab some scratch as a bonus. Perks of a dirty deed.

But Quinn wasn’t other guys. He hadn’t touched anything since he’d popped the lock on the door two hours before. Nothing, except the light bulb he’d unscrewed from the lamp near the door and even then, he’d been wearing gloves. He hadn’t taken them off, either.

He didn’t play the radio or smoke cigarettes or eat anything in the ice box. Not because he wasn’t hungry or didn’t like to smoke.

It was because he was careful.

Doing any of those things might get him caught. And even though most cops in town were already on Doyle’s payroll, New York cops didn’t ignore murder. Even when the corpse was just a two-bit bookie with more balls than brains.

Quinn heard the tenement steps creak as Sharpe trotted up the three flights to his apartment. He stayed seated, but pulled the .45 from his shoulder holster; holding it flat against his knee. Richie’s snatch and grab proved he was desperate. Desperate men were dangerous. Quinn had no doubt he could take him, but why take chances? He’d been in this line of work too long to be careless.

The key hit the lock and the door swung open. The stupid bastard had already closed the door behind him when he realized something was wrong with the lock. He clicked the light switch, but nothing happened. He cursed the stubborn darkness.

Quinn said: “Welcome home, fucko. Don’t move.”

The bookie threw himself against the door and peered into the dark. “Q…Quinn?”

Quinn’s eyes had long since adjusted to the darkness and he could see just fine. He stood and leveled the .45 at Richie’s chest. “Take the money out of your pocket and drop it on the floor.”

“Or what? You’ll shoot me? Hell, you’re gonna do that anyway.”

“Could shoot you in the head; finish it quick. Or in the gut. Might take you hours to croak.”

Sharpe quickly dug out the wad and tossed it on the floor. “That’s all of it, I swear. Take the whole wad if you want.”

Quinn smiled. “Thanks, Richie. Archie’ll be touched by your generosity. Almost as touched as he was when you stole it from him in the first place.”

He watched Richie’s outline slump against the wall. All the fight in him bled away. “But I…I was careful. I wore a mask. How the hell could they…?”

“The cologne tipped them off.” He looked at Sharpe’s hand. “Outline of the pinky ring under the glove sealed it.”

Sharpe sobbed. “No. Please…”

Quinn aimed carefully and fired.