To Be or Not To Be…Damned

“Are you sure about this one, Mark?” Tony leaned against the glass storm door watching the rain pour beyond his front porch. Despite the rainfall, the humidity outside caused the glass door to fog against the cool air-conditioned atmosphere inside.

“It’s a simple gig, brother.” Mark pitched the job over the living room telephone’s loud speaker. Calm and cool as always. It unnerved Tony. “Just meet the guy over on 12th; hand over the pictures you took of his wife; take the payment. I’ll stop by tomorrow to receive my cut; simple as that.”

Tony turned and gazed at the speaker-phone on the corner table. “Easy eight bills, eh?”

“Four hundred for you, the photographer and four hundred for me, the private eye.”

Tony visualized all variables for a moment: rendezvous with a stranger on a dark street after 10pm, in the rain; a one on one encounter. Something didn’t feel right about this job. But he quickly remembered the stack of overdue bills sitting next to the telephone. The electricity could literally be turned off any day now. The refrigerator was depleted. The choice was suddenly easy.

“Make the call, Mark. Tell him one hour.”

“That’s my man! One hour it is.”

Tony pushed a button on the receiver base, ending the call. He crossed the living room into the kitchenette and hoisted a small glass of bourbon from the linoleum counter top. He downed the drink in three gulps, before picking up his paperback copy of ‘Hamlet’ lying face down, next to the glass.

“To be, or not to be. That is the question.”
Arriving at the meeting spot fifteen minutes early gave Tony plenty of time to contemplate the meaning of his life. As the rain pounded against the rusty roof of his 1985 Chevy Monte Carlo, he stared at the large manila envelope containing pictures of an unfaithful wife.

“Just another job,” he told himself. “Just another payday. Mark lines ‘em up; you knock ‘em down with the proof.”

Tony glanced through the cracked windshield, up the dark road. For no apparent reason, he suddenly thought of his late mother, remembering Sunday’s spent in church. She had tried her best to raise him up to be a man of integrity; a man of honesty intentions; hard working and God fearing.

“A square, Momma. You wanted me to be a sucker.”  
Up ahead, indigo blue headlamps pierced the darkness of the rainy night. Tony watched as a late model Mercedes slowly pulled up along-side his car. He cautiously reached between the driver’s seat cushion and the vinyl center console and thumbed the hammer of a small revolver. Through the rain, he watched the driver’s side window of the Mercedes lower. Tony flipped a toggle switch, lowering his own window; right hand still wrapped around the handle of the revolver. Heavy rain instantly invaded the cabin. The driver quickly tossed a padded envelope into Tony’s car. Simultaneously, Tony launched the large manila envelope into the mystery man’s Mercedes. The luxury car peeled rubber against the wet pavement and spun the corner at the cross street behind the Monte Carlo. Tony closed the window, disengaged the revolver, and reached for the heavy envelope that landed on the passenger seat. As he opened the package to an enormous stack of bills, his cellphone rang. Tony reached a finger up to activate his Bluetooth.

“Mister, I haven’t even opened the package fully, and I already know you overpaid. What’s with the extra?”

A smooth baritone voice chuckled.

“Perceptive, Tony. I figured a man of your…meager tastes could use a little incentive to,”

“Incentive to do what exactly?” Tony blasted.

“Forget you ever saw me; forget you took this job from Mark. Give him the agreed upon four hundred. You keep the remaining four thousand.”

The phone clicked. Tony stared at the stack of crisp bills and smiled in the darkness.
Two days later, the top news story reported the murder of a respected city official’s wife. Police had no leads on any suspects but had not concluded the investigation at the time of the report.

“I’ll be damned,” Tony whispered, as he watched the news report on his new fifty-inch television.

In the ears of his mind, his mother’s voice replied, “You most certainly are, son. You most certainly are.”    

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