Short Story: Paycheck

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The man was devilishly handsome, and perhaps handsomely devilish; at the very least, he would immediately come across as dangerously charismatic to the well-meaning young woman that soon found herself sitting next to him at the bar. She had failed to notice his approach, but would not fail to notice him any longer, as his sublimely attractive frame seemed oddly out-of-place within the small-town tavern.

Her name was Elizabeth Riley, though most just called her Liz. She wore a tight plain white tanktop over a pair of cut-off denim shorts. Crude and casual as the outfit may have been, it would certainly have been enough to enrapture the eyes of any warm-blooded heterosexual male, considering the way it contoured to the lithe curves of her slender frame.

The contrast of which may have only added to his mystique, when the man’s outfit was considered on the stool next to her: Black leather shoes, buffed to a slight shine. Black slacks, black belted, brassy buckle adorning it. An unbuttoned designer-label black sport coat, revealing the starchy white button-up beneath, and all topped off with that matte-red tie, a dark crimson thing running down the front of his broad, strong chest as he leaned over the bar.

“My name is John, by the way,” he suddenly spoke in a perfectly tall-and-dark-and-handsome tone, neatly joined with a confident cadence. He cocked a half-smirk towards the lovely young lady; the corner of his mouth crooking up slightly, the tightening of the skin serving to somewhat redistribute the thick, dark stubble around his chin and lower cheeks. His chocolate-brown hair, crop-chopped short, matched his dark eyes.

“Um, excuse me?” a flustered Liz tried to respond, fumbling a bit as she blinked, failing to hide the direction of her gaze as he gave his vaunted visage a quick look up and down, only to blush as she realized she was doing so, of course. She cleared her throat and, actually something sneakily, reached a hand back and pushed the beer bottle further down the bar as she turned to him, as if to subconsciously de-emphasize the beer. Like she wanted to look classy. Like some dirt was on her mind and she did not want to seem too transparent.

“Oh, I just introduced myself. My name is John. So what’s your name, cutie?”

Elizabeth lightly laughed. She was, at heart, a small-town girl. She came from a strong, close-knit family. That is not to say that they did not have the usual dirty laundry to air, nor did she at times question the seemingly hypocritical route by which they lived out the values they purported in lip service. Liz, although she did enjoy the occasional evening at this particular establishment, would have never considered herself to be the type to get mixed up with one of its patrons, and certainly not for a one-night stand.

Conversation would inevitably get rolling soon enough. Maybe it was due to the rough patch that had erupted in her life lately, maybe it was the what-the-hell attitude she had developed, maybe he was just a lucky sort of John that caught her on a vulnerable and lonely night when nobody else seemed interesting or exciting. She did not mind talking to him. She did not plan on going too much farther. But the way he spoke about a part of town he wanted to show her, just nearby, a quick walk to see a fun little showcase setting, a curiosity, a whimsical walk down the way, it all seemed so intoxicating.

John said he knew a shortcut. He smiled, that thousand-dollar smile of his, and would lead her out the door. Liz’s heart was all a-flutter, as she questioned herself, what she was doing, or would have even just settled for why. It was late. They were walking down an alleyway, a cruddy little concrete-paved path shimmied between the back of a bowling alley and a strip mall shopping center on the other side that eventually opened up into an actual street.

“John,” at an arbitrary point, turned to Liz – and withdrew a small, gleaming pistol from his inside jacket pocket, the silencer already screwed on. She hardly had time to register what was going on, only enough to stop in her tracks and start to try and mouth a question.

The softened sound of the round explosively exiting the chamber was the auditory climax of her life. The slug bore through her forehead, shredding the soft matter of her brains into wet chunks of blended mindflesh, much of which was inevitably pushed out the exit wound, along with a few dull gray scraps of skull fragments.

Her beautiful body awkwardly fell to the pavement with a firm thud.

John, smirkless at this point, put the pistol away in favor of a cell phone. A spectacularly concise “Done.” was all he needed to get the message across, but he knew the contractor would not pay without the proper proof. The picture he took with the phone’s camera was a pleasantly tacky touch, but he knelt down after slipping on a pair of latex gloves to retrieve the true target: A ring, with a ruby gem set into a gold band, that had been given to her by her father several years ago. This token would be the item to be directly exchanged for the paycheck, a tidy sum of $28,000 and for a job he was happy not to have to even get his hands dirty for.

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