Friday Night Story

Last Rights

It’s an old hotel lock, with a key instead of a card; it gives after a few seconds with a bobby pin, as worn and easy as the whores men bring here. He’s sitting on the bed, with his head down. He looks at me, and glances at his night stand. I don’t know if he wants to go for the gun he’s hidden there or the Bible the Gideons stashed, but he doesn’t make a move for it.

We've never met, but he knows who I am. I’m why he’s hiding here; the reason is because he doesn’t pay his debts. He doesn’t even bother looking at me sadly, or with anger, or at all; he fixates on the carpet, projecting, I assume, happy thoughts of loves and loved ones.

If he had money, he’d offer to pay me more, but not having money landed him here. “I can make it look like a suicide, or a robbery. Suicide is quick, painless, a bullet in the mouth. The robbery is multiple gunshots to the torso, and you bleed out on the carpet.”

“The loved ones of suicides always blame themselves; something they might have done differently, some affection left unexpressed; it's a haunting, crippling guilt you're inflicting on those you leave behind. The robbery hurts. You take hours to die from silenced gunshot wounds, at least one in the spine. You'll beg me to finish it; I won't. Your death is tragic, but your family blames an unknown evil, crime and vice in general principle; maybe one of your kids grows up to be a cop.”

“That would be Perry,” he says with a smile; “Errol hates authority already.” There's a glint in his eye, and a moment his life is worth trying to kill me to stay alive, until his shoulders sink and reality takes hold. And he makes the choice most people do; I'm no longer surprised how easy it is for people to be selfish at the end. Then he asks why I gave him the choice.

“I just think a man should have a say in how he leaves this world.” He nearly thanks me, and I’m glad when he doesn’t. It's a decent thing I try to do to keep my life civilized, equivalent to returning a stranger's smile on the sidewalk. It’s a simple human kindness in a bad world. Maybe that makes it cruel.

He asks if he can write his wife a letter. I don't tell him about all the stupid attempts to leave codes and information embedded in suicide notes, all the times I've had to destroy them and feel like a bastard for lying to a corpse. "Contract says no." He tries to say, "Oh," but there isn't any air behind it, just the smooth, round shape his lips make.

“Open your mouth; you’ll feel a pinch just above your throat, like a dentist’s needle before he injects you with novicaine, followed by a hot, white flash, then nothing.” He bites down on the silencer, exhales, and nods his head. Flecks of brains and skull erupt like a cheap firework, painting a streak up to the ceiling. He falls back onto the bed with a bounce, and comes to a rest. I place the gun in his hand, and press his fingers into the grip to make clean prints.

I leave the room for crisp evening air. The night maid seems frightened when she sees me, and mutters softly to herself in Spanish. "Good evening," I smile. She replies in kind, struggling with the English and the smile she follows it with. And I walk away, carried by the cool breeze.

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