The Magpie – A Short Story

I can hear a constant thumping on the door. That pisses me off. That’s what the doorbell’s for. Probably the pizza delivery guy. He never uses the bell.

I pull open the door and two men in black tracksuits push me back, one of them slams the oak shut. I hope it hasn’t splintered. It cost a fortune. The two invaders look and smell like a day-old shit that hasn’t been flushed. The tall one’s nose is twitching. Maybe his aroma is burning his nostrils as well as mine. The smaller of the two ushers me to sit on a stool next to the marble island. “Keep quiet and we won’t ‘urt ya”, the taller one spits out in a thick cockney accent. I keep my mouth shut. It gives them the illusion of control.

“The car keys, your phone, wallet, laptops, all your gear, where is it old man?” says the shorter of the two. He seems to be the brains of the operation.

“Well I wouldn’t keep them in the kitchen, would I?” I reply.

“You stay ‘ere and watch ‘im, I’ll check the place out” he orders, giving me a slap with the back of his hand. He’s happy with himself as I wipe my lips checking for any signs of blood. “Be quick” the taller one replies. I watch as the shorter man scurries off in the direction of the lounge. He’ll be happy with what he finds in there. I like expensive things. It’s why the people who hire me call me The Magpie.

“We’ve hit the jackpot” I hear him shout.

I’m getting more and more pissed off. These two cockney cockroaches think they’re going to rob me, one gave me a slap and called me an old man. I look at my lanky guard. He has a good foot on me but his frame is slight. His eyes are darting back and forward and he keeps touching his jaw. It’s clear now that he’s full of cocaine. I stand up from the stool. Just to see his reaction. He’s twitching. He says “sit down now”, pulling a knife from his hoodie pocket. It’s only a small blade. Four inches, if that. Probably stole it from his mothers kitchen drawer. I raise my arms in submission and step back further from where I came from. I sit on the stool furthest away from him. “You should be fuckin’ scared old man” he says.

“How old do you boys think I am?”, I ask.

“Fifties innit” he says.

“A couple of cheeky, robbing cockney bastards”,  I say.

“Forties? It don’t matter, you’re still ancient compared to us”, he laughs, pleased with himself.

“I’m in my thirties, you little twat. And since you’ve pissed me off so much, I won’t let you leave this house alive.” I stand up again, stretching my arms out, then sitting back down immediately. I doubt he notices what I slip in my hand. He walks straight towards me then picks up a glass from the island. Pours himself a glass of water from the tap. Gulps it down. Burps in my direction. Laughs again. 

The short one returns with my laptops, Ipad, Mac, Apple Watch, Rolex, Omega, Breitling  and the keys to my Jag. My wallets sitting on the top of the pile. “I’ll need help with the TV’s then I’ll check upstairs. May as well check the basement as well,” he says greedily.

“I’ll get the TV’s while you keep an eye on him,” the tall one replies. It’s agreed. I watch the tall one walk through to the lounge. 

“Must be pretty embarrassing for you is it?” I ask.

“What you talkin ‘bout?” he replies, a glint of confusion in his voice.

“That you need to bring along the big one for the higher stuff, ‘cause you’re a short arse?”.

“Shut your mouth, it ain’t like that. One more word and I’ll do ya”, his voice is full of spite.

“Sorry Jim, no need to get so angry”, I reply.

“Who the fuck is Jim, you old twat?”, he says, stepping closer.

“Sorry, I just came up with names for you both” I reply. He steps closer again.

“Yeah? Jim and what?” He snarls. He’s within a couple of feet. 

“Jim and the Beanpole obviously, like a budget Jack and the Beanstalk”. I see him open his body up, pulling his right arm back to throw a punch. I’m too fast for him and cold Japanese steel slides through his shoulder like butter, severing the tendons with ease. He lets out a wail and slumps to the floor. He’s sobbing and I can smell piss. I’m glad I bought the new mop last week. 

Beanpole has heard the wail. He comes running through, his small blade in hand. He lunges, but I drop down pulling the knife out of Jim. He stabs down but I roll out the way and slice the back of his ankles. Then the backs of his knees. He goes down. I get his used glass from the counter, swing my arm as hard as it will allow and bring it crashing down over the bridge of his nose. He passes out. 

The doorbell rings. I go to answer it. “Who is it” I ask through the door.

“Pizza delivery” replies a young voice. I open the door and hand him a tip. He smiles at the sight of the £20. I hear a scooter engine start up and fade into the distance.  I take a slice of pizza from the box, savouring the cheese. I’m always hungry after a fight or a kill. It’s the adrenaline crash. 

I’ve made sure Jim and the Beanpole are unconscious. I carry them to the basement. All my equipment is down here. I can have some fun. Should I use the axe or the saw or maybe both. Definitely the mallet.  I hear a phone buzz in one of their hoodies. It pulls me back to the present. It’s Beanpoles. A text message. I’ll reply to that later. I’ll keep the phone as well. It’s expensive. 

Thanks for reading, i’d love to hear your thoughts.

Take it easy,

Paul

Celebrating a Win!!!

Hey everyone, just a quick post to say I won a writing contest in April for Press 53.

The contest was to write a 53-word short story using their prompt of taste. I found out on Friday that I’d won and I’m really happy about it.

If you want to read “That Awkward First Kiss” click the link:

https://www.press53.com/53word-story-contest

Thanks for reading.

Take it easy,

Paul

Image courtesy of Danny Howe via Unsplash.

Killing Time In NYC

There was nothing ornate or sparkly about the dagger in her hand. It was her instrument of death. The blade was fatally sharp and coated in black oxide to prevent any glints from flashing in the restroom mirror that may alert her target. She had learned that bruising lesson in Berlin a couple of years ago. 

She had been waiting almost an hour in the stall, still focussed. There had been a trickle of visitors in the first thirty minutes or so who had added some floral fragrances from the handwash and their perfumes. The occasional waft of garlic, beef, and seafood permeated the walls which made her lick her lips.

A clean, crisp server’s uniform with a stranger’s name on a white plastic rectangle, a purse, and a blonde bob wig hung on the back of the door looking down on her. That was the only company she had. She had rigged the remainder of the stalls with a remote control locking device and they were now all set to ‘occupied’. Can’t have any distractions or witnesses. It was a waiting game which she would always win. She’d not waited in Berlin and that had ended badly.

To pass the time, she thought about the small space she was operating in. There was no room for a struggle. She knew it would be a quick kill. The dagger allowed that. In. And. Out. A few times. Rhythmically. 

She placed the dagger in the purse. Removed her phone from her pocket and checked an app that was streaming the CCTV of the restaurant floor. It was busy for early evening, probably a theatre crowd, she thought. Her eyes were drawn to the round table in the back. Her target, a heavy-set woman in her fifties wearing a figure-hugging scarlet dress that accentuated her curves, was just finishing a glass of wine that had been spiked by the sommelier, with a specially formulated laxative, at a cost. One hundred dollars, her phone number (which was fake), and the promise of a date. After two minutes she saw the look on the target’s face change from joy to fear. She watched her stand up reading her lips as they mouthed “I don’t feel so great, I’m just going to nip to the ladies’ room.” The target clutched her stomach. When she saw this she used her phone to unlock the cubicle directly next to hers then put it in her purse. It gave the target only one destination. Controlling the situation was the key to her success.

The night before, before rigging the locks, she had timed how long it took to walk from the same table to the restroom. She took into account the extra patrons and factored in the polite shuffling of chairs for the target to get by, estimating it would take her target around two minutes to reach the sanctuary of the restroom. She wondered whether they would make it there before soiling herself. It sometimes happened. It had in Berlin.

The hurried click-clack of heels on the restroom floor tiles announced her target’s arrival. She lifted the dagger in her hand, feeling its perfectly balanced weight in her palm. She listened as the clack got louder and closer, hearing the lock on the stall next door slide into place, the gentle thud of flesh hitting the wood, panting groans, and a violent explosion of crap hitting the pan. Her target sighed deeply, then in a low, thick New York accent said “Thank fuck I made it in time”. A smirk slid across her face. She had made it. She waited for the target to stop tearing the luxury toilet roll and for the flush. It ended being a couple of flushes. It wasn’t a surprise based on the amount of paper used. When she heard the door unlock and a more relaxed click-clack of heels on tile and the sudden rush of water, the waiting game was over. 

She stepped outside the stall, knowing that the noise and possibly shame would make the target turn around instinctively. Which she did. The dagger plunged deep into her throat. In. Out. No need to worry about screams. Then the dagger was plunged into the target’s heart, the thin blade scraping between the ribcage. No heartbeat. A quick kill. She walked calmly to the restroom entrance and locked the door. Then she returned to her target and went to work on the rest of her vital organs, precisely, rhythmically, then finished chaotically with a frenzy of slashes. Her clients had paid extra for that. Something about sending a clear message to some crime family, but she wasn’t interested in why. 

She cleansed the blade of blood under the running sink and went back to her stall, navigating around the slowly seeping pool of blood. Put the blade in the purse, took out her phone to take a picture to confirm her kill, and used the apps to unlock all the other stalls and turn off the CCTV in the hallway connecting the restroom, entrance, and kitchen. She changed into the uniform, fixing the nametag so it was straight.  She hid her other clothes in the toilet tank. She left the stall clutching her purse and used the mirror to straighten her wig. She looked like the name on her tag. Sasha. She walked to the restroom door and unlocked it. 

She was face to face with a younger woman, mid-twenties from the same table as her target. “Oh, sorry, this restroom is out of order”. Her words came out musically. “I’m looking for my mom” the girl replied in a lighter version of that thick New York accent. “You’re on the round table at the back yes?, I think I saw someone from your table with a red dress run into one of the accessible restrooms, the middle one I think, she didn’t look so good, give me a tick, I’ll just lock up here and grab the Out of Order signs from the storeroom, and let’s see if I can help you find her” her tone was reassuring. The daughter smiled and stepped back to let her lock the door watching her shuffle the keys to find the right one. “Thanks Sasha, that would be great”. 

She left the girl by the locked restroom door then walked into the kitchen, turning and holding up her fingers in a peace symbol to indicate it would be two minutes as she slid through the door. She glided past the busy fish and sauce sections and out into a yard where the staff had cigarette breaks. She asked for help, pretending to struggle to open the black security gate then walked to the end of the alley, dropping the wig into a dumpster, and stepped out into the slipstream of New York foot-traffic.

She walked casually to the end of the block hopping into a vintage boutique. She picked out a full outfit including a stetson and a pair of suede cowboy boots. She giggled with the sales assistant saying she had a date at a line dancing bar and wanted to look the part. She asked if she could pay and get changed there and then. Her eyes smiling and hopeful. She knew she had an easy way with people. The sales assistant agreed. She handed over a credit card. It was printed with someone else’s name on it. She asked for a bag for her belongings and headed for the fitting room. She removed the dagger from her purse and wrapped it up in the trousers from the server’s uniform and placed them on top of the shoes that were nestled tightly in the bottom of the bag, folding the rest of the clothes neatly on top. She tipped the assistant fifty dollars and walked out to hail a cab. 

The cab driver was Jamaican and talkative, giving out tidbits of New York trivia believing she was a tourist. She instinctively glanced over her shoulder at the sound of the sirens and saw the unmistakable blinking of an NYPD squad car echoing behind her. She asked to be dropped at Times Square and said he could take his time. She thought about the daughter of her target wondering whether it was her who raised the alarm. She would make sure to check the news websites over the next few days to see if it was reported. It wasn’t out of sympathy, she simply would like to know. She took out her phone and removed the sim card, snapping it in two and dropping it to the floor of the cab. She knew she’d never be caught or prosecuted. Her clients valued her too much. But a loose end is a loose end. She thought of Berlin. Control the situation. She inserted a replacement sim card then turned the phone back on.

She got out a block from Times Square. Tipped the driver fifty dollars. She quickly found a dumpster and discarded the bag of clothes and her dagger. She spent time gazing at the dazzling lights, inhaling the smell of a busy New York evening, the city felt alive. Until her next assignment, she only had time to kill. And where better to kill it than right here?

Thanks for taking the time to read this short story, I hope you enjoyed it. It’s my first time writing in this form so would appreciate any feedback. I may write a series based on the main character…

Take it easy,

Paul.