Short Stories

1. The Sandman 2. The Druid 3.

By David McCaughey

The Sandman…….

The last thing you see before you go to sleep!

Sometimes getting paid can be a dangerous business, especially in my line of work. The client is always, “the money is no problem, don’t worry about it”, but I worry anyway. That’s why I’m still breathing, that’s why I always, well almost always, get paid. Even if I don’t get paid there is a price that must be paid for not being paid.

I was beginning to see that on this occasion, the chances of me getting my money in the conventional manner were slim to none.

I was perched on a cold, rusty fire escape, the third floor of some old abandoned print works. Frost glittered on the guard rail, I could feel the cold seeping into my forearms. I was leaning against the rail to steady my Zeiss Night Owl binoculars. You just can’t beat those Germans for glass. The 8 by 56mm lens is unmatched in low light conditions, I hate thermals, guess I’m old school. The view was interesting.

The range was 137metres, across a garbage filled canal. Pepe, my client, was sitting on a park bench by a deserted childrens playground. He was hunched into a big fluffy Canada Goose parka, very expensive, a Nike hold all lay on the bench beside him. So far so good, he was on time at least. Behind him the giant figure of his bodyguard and right hand man, Zoom, stood impassively, waiting. I knew him only by his fearsome reputation, a dangerous man a man to watch. I scanned left and about 20metres into the park behind a low hedge, another guy was pacing. He was short and squat, shivering in only a Chicago Bears hoody and ball cap. The price of fashion is high in Chicago winter time. There was another guy standing beside the obligatory black SUV 30metres to my right. As far as I could see, it was empty, but I made a note, possibly occupied. Quite a reception committee for a simple transaction.

So predictable Pepe. As if I would stick my neck into this noose for $100,000. Pepe had contracted me to take out one of his rival dealers, Ramon. He’d already tried himself of course, he was cheap, always trying to save a dime and over confident. A couple of his goons shot up Ramon’s car and managed to kill his unlucky girlfriend who was driving it. All Pepe did was put up the price. The going rate for street hoods is $50K, this one was double, cash up front, because Pepe had fucked up the job and spooked the target. Pepe accepted the price hike with poor grace, only because Ramon was now looking for revenge. So here we all are, freezing our balls off.

I put down the binoculars and reached back for the gun case. It was the Steyr Scout in 7.62mm, with the fluted barrel threaded for a silencer. The scope, Zeiss of course, was the V2 8mm by 56mm with counter sunk Zeiss mounts. Never economise on your scope mounts. I eased this beauty out of the case, enjoying the familiar heft. She was all zeroed in at the range for 200metres so at this point it’s important to not bang into anything which might throw off the point of aim. These guys were practically point blank, point and shoot. All I had to do was screw on the silencer and slip in the magazine. It held 5 rounds of my own 170 grain, sub sonic hollow points. The mag clicked into place, I softly worked the short, super smooth bolt action and a round slipped into the breach, safety on. Then I hit the mag release button, gently removed the mag and slipped another round into it. There were 3 guys and now I had 6 rounds, more than enough with some to spare. In all my years I have never yet had to use the second mag but you better believe I have one. I also carry a Glock 23, that’s the 40 caliber with a 13 round magazine (180 grain bonded hollow points). In my coat pocket I carry an M67 fragmentation grenade, just in case. Just because your paranoid doesn’t mean you’re wrong.

OK, so now we are all set. I picked up my radio handset and pressed transmit a couple of times. Through the binoculars I saw Pepe jump up from his seat in surprise. I had taped another radio to the underside of his bench, when I pressed transmit it made that distinctive sharp cerssshh noise, just like on TV. Eventually Pepe figured it out and got down on his knees (just where I like them). He ripped it off the bench and stood up. Zoom stepped over, pistol drawn, to see what was up. A happy turn of events since I could more easily shoot them both when they were so close together. Pepe raised his open hand halting Zoom and raised the radio to his ear. I pressed transmit again,

I hope you have my money Pepe.” Pepe was indignant,

It’s all good dude, no big deal, money is right here.” He flicked his chin at the bag.

OK Pepe, tip the bag out onto the bench.” He rolled his eyes but picked up the bag and shook out the cash. It looked about right, all in $20 bills. Maybe he just wanted to pay Me? Pepe peered across the canal, trying to locate me,

C’mon dude I’m freezing to death here.” I slipped a cleaning cloth onto the handrail of the fire escape and rested the Steyr on it.

OK Pepe, on my way.”

Zoom was first on the list, he was gun out and ready. Focusing on the tip of Zoom’s nose I slipped off the safety taking up the slack in the 2 stage trigger, breathe in half a breath out, hold and squeeze. Phut. Zoom collapsed on his own feet like a rag doll. Pepe didn’t hear the shot, he only heard Zoom collapse and turned to see.

Shit!” He turn back towards me and my second round took him, again through the tip of his nose. He fell awkwardly back over the bench, the guy in the Bears hoody started running towards his boss, I shot him through his right eye and down he went. The last man, standing by the SUV decided that it was time to leave. He yanked open the car door but couldn’t resist a look over to see if his boss was really down. My last bullet took him through his half open mouth and down he went.

I scanned the car but there was no sign of anyone else. There were no shouts, no shots only silence. A clean sweep, just the money to collect.

As I approached the bench, pistol at the ready the money was fluttering in the breeze neatly tied in $1000 bundles. I put it carefully into my own bag and sat briefly. I searched Pepe’s pockets and found his cell phone. I quickly snapped a photo of his shattered head and then sent it to a number conveniently already in the contacts list. I waited a minute and then dialed the number, again on Pepe’s cell.

Who the fuck is this?”

Ramon, just listen”. I interrupted,

Pepe is gone, Zoom too, plus 2 of his men, his turf is yours now.” Ramon was suspicious,

I ain’t paying for Zoom or those other 2 dudes.” I sighed, another cheapskate and then on an impulse I said,

Zoom would have taken over from Pepe and he was meaner and smarter than you Ramon,”

I let that sink in a little,

So it’s $100,000 for the package deal and another $100,000 for the new turf, that’s chump change and you know it!”

Nah man, no can do, not what we agreed.” It was true I reflected, I had improvised a bit,

Fair point Ramon, so let me ask you this, who is your next biggest rival, after Pepe?” Silence, a man like Ramon has enemies like a dog has fleas,

Yeah, Yeah, I get ya… that’d be that cocksucker Flores Morena. He gotta go man, he gotta go!” I could hear Ramon warming to the idea,

Yeah man, so maybe we can do that?” I had to smile,

OK Ramon, so it’s $100,000 for tonight, $100,000 for Morena and what would be fair for the 2 new turfs?” A long silence,

Bruh this adds up, maybe I could do another $100,000” He chuckled darkly,

Dude, you do good work.”

I aim to please Ramon, I’ll be in touch.”

This was becoming an interesting business model for me. Pepe and his crew, $100,000, no comeback because they were all dead. I also pocket $100,000 from Ramon, for the same job and now I had an angle on Flores. So depending on the numbers I could either do Flores or Ramon. Both would give up more enemies so no more waiting around for work. Each mark would generate another, perhaps more than one per.

I opened contacts on Pepe’s phone again and there he was, Flores Morena. I dialed the number.

2. The Banduri (A female Druid)

The river roared and raged coiling upwards and crashing back in upon itself. A fresh corps straddled a jammed, tree two arrows jutting from it’s back. Danes! The were maybe an hour beind him, he had to cross this maelstrom and soon.