The Deal: A Cold Night In New York Part 1

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

I could feel the Mercedes roar to life as I put my foot down on the gas pedal. The street lights of New York became nothing more than a blur around me as all my focus was on the ambulance further down the road.
   I could still smell the acrid odour of gun smoke as the .45 pistol lay on the passenger seat next to me. Everything had gone wrong and my mind raced as fast as the car to figure out a solution.
   The target was not dead.
   Jim Mancini, although in a critical condition, was still breathing.
   Everything had gone as planned. After meeting with the concierge at the rear of the apartment block to receive the spare key to Mancini’s apartment, I had quietly made my way inside his plush digs and as my employer had briefed me, the old man was out cold in his bed, an equally doped up hooker lay next to him. I was grateful the only part of her naked body I could see amongst the tangled bed sheets was her thighs. Any more than that would have proved to be too much of a distraction.
   Moving into the corner closest to the doorway I took aim with the .45 silenced pistol and fired. Mancini let out a soft groan as the bullet struck and he continued to look like he was sleeping as blood oozed from the wound on his forehead.
   My aim had been perfect. Yet it was not enough to put an end to the old mans’ life.
   Mancini had always been a man of taste and often enjoyed the finer things in life, which in turn left the mafia with a large bill to foot and worse still a lot of the things he bought left a paper trail so long that no accounting wizardry could hide it from the Feds.
   Now that he was more of a liability than anything else, the Mob had decided it was time to off the old man before anymore more of their ill-gotten gains where squandered away.
   And that is where I came into the picture.
   Unlike the movies the life of an assassin is not a glamorous one by any stretch of the imagination. Most of the money earned from a hit had to be spent frugally or one would risk raising red flags with any law enforcement agency that happened to have their eyes on you.
   One thing they did get right in the movies was the danger.
   If a powerful crime organization hires you to do a job, you do it right or face the consequences. There was simply too much to lose for everyone involved for any mistakes to go unpunished.
   It was not uncommon for the first time Hit man to make a mistake, maybe on his second or third job, and then a week later his body would be discovered floating in the Hudson River, which would most likely have been put there by a more seasoned and more professional killer.
   I was not scared of the mafia. I had dealt with much stronger and fiercer opponents in the past. What I did not need though was a gang of very angry men constantly on the hunt for me. That would make working in the city damn near impossible until I dealt with them.
   I continued to chase the ambulance.
   I knew the nearest hospital was the Community General, which was situated just a few miles away from Mancini’s apartment block. I would have to act quickly, and most likely take out the two paramedics chauffeuring my target; but I would at least be able to finish the old bastard off.
   The thought of having to take two innocent lives was not a good one, but sadly in some situations there has to be collateral damage. My only consolation was that at least the contract would be complete and I would be able to collect payment.
   I was trying to form a story in my head as to why Mancini was killed at the hospital and not at his apartment as planned when I noticed the ambulance ahead suddenly come to a stop.
Every muscle in my leg tensed as I slammed my foot down on the break, and to my surprise nothing happened. I slammed my foot down again, this time even harder, but still my car continued to race head on towards the rear of the ambulance.
   Suddenly the air was filled with the sounds of breaking glass and metal being crushed together. I saw the rear doors of the ambulance fly open and laying there on a gurney with his head bandaged was Mancini. I had just enough time to see the look of surprise on his tanned, but wrinkled old face, as he and his bed flew towards me.
   There was a tremendous crash as the metal frame of the gurney smashed its way through the windshield of my car and the last thing I felt was the cold, polished, metal connecting with the side of my forehead.
   In an instant everything went black.
   All I could hear was the sound of my own beating heart which had begun to slow down instead of maintaining its once rapid pace.
   The blackness did not last long, and without warning I found myself sitting on the front pew inside an empty church. There was something strange about this place of worship though. At first I couldn’t quite place what it was.
   Then, as I studied the massive, stained glass windows, I realized what was wrong. The images on the glass did not depict Jesus and all the other saintly figures bringing their divine light down on us mere mortals.
   What I saw instead was images of some winged monster, who I assumed was the devil, slaughtering men, women and children with no mercy.
  ‘They are impressive aren’t they?’
   I turned to see a tall, well-built man, dressed in a fine white suit. He strode towards me down the centre aisle, the heels of his highly polished shoes clicking loudly against the ancient stone floor.
   ‘But sometimes I feel like they are just a little too conspicuous for my tastes.’ His ice blue eyes met with mine and suddenly I felt very afraid. If he expected me to answer his question then he would have to wait until my insides unknotted themselves.
   It was the kind of fear that I had long forgot my body was capable of producing, yet this otherwise unassuming man was able to do so on a magnitude far greater than I would have ever thought possible.
   ‘I’ve been waiting a long time for this meeting Mr Connor.’ His voice was deep and every word that escaped from his thin lips seemed to be spoken with a purpose.
   ‘Is this Hell?’ I croaked, finding it difficult to speak above my fear.
   The man who stood in front of me, who I assumed was Satan himself, shook his head slowly.
   ‘Not quite.’ He said, straightening his suit jacket. ‘This is more like a half-way house between heaven and hell. This is the place where most people come to bargain for their eternal salvation.’
   In spite of the massive ball of fear consuming me I found it strange that I was being given the choice to beg for my salvation. I knew fine well the things I had done in the past, the people I had killed, had pretty much guaranteed me a nice slow roasting in hell.
   I had always taken comfort in knowing that heaven and hell did not exist. They were nothing more than the imaginary product of a civilization that could not stand the thought of facing eternal nothingness after death.
   ‘I can see the confusion in your eyes. You find it difficult to believe that such a place like this could ever exist.’
   ‘I always believed there was nothing after death.’ I said, feeling my fear reside just enough so I could speak with a little more confidence. ‘Why am I here anyway? I mean you must know about the things I have done. The people I have tortured and killed?’
   I’m not sure if he was trying to scare me more with his utter calmness or put me at ease, either way I could feel my whole body tingle with anticipation as I watched him sit down on the pew directly across from me.
   He turned his calm, unwavering gaze, towards the alter; upon which the carcass of a human body lay, gutted by unseen hands, blood and entrails dripping to the floor. I was certain for a moment that he was going to start praying, until I realized that who would Satan pray to? He is a God in his own right.
   ‘I know everything about you Samuel. I know all the things you have done wrong; all the people you have murdered without thinking twice. Yes, I’m very aware of your past deeds.’
   Still he did not turn to face me, which was more unsettling than his presence in this god-awful place.
   ‘So when does my eternal suffering begin?’
   I half expected to burst into flames as I sat there. I knew where I was going and this was nothing more than foreplay for this softly spoken man who could destroy my very soul with the nod of his head.
   ‘Let’s not be too hasty, Samuel. You know, a good boss doesn’t get to where he is on his own. It takes certain people he chooses to surround himself with to ensure he continues to be a good boss. I can tell you Samuel that I have surrounded myself with many souls who have helped me keep my position over these countless millennia.’
   He turned to face me again, those ice blue eyes seeming to pierce my very soul, and once again I could feel the fear come rushing back from my feet straight up to my head.
   ‘I could make good use of a soul like you. I see a worth in you that I have very rarely seen in any other wretched being who has graced this fine place with their presence.’ I followed his gaze as he turned towards the rotting mass of flesh sprawled out over the alter.
   It took a few seconds before the realization set in that Satan was offering me a get out, or at least that is what I assumed he was trying to suggest. Obviously, if the movies are to be believed then I’ll probably have to offer him something in return, most likely my soul, which he basically already has regardless.
   ‘So what’s the deal? I’m yours now, you can do with me whatever you want and you know it.’ I was still trying to fight the rising fear inside me.
   ‘The man you are trying to kill, James Mancini. He has proven to be a difficult target for you, hasn’t he?’
   ‘Yeah. He must have a really thick skull because that bullet should have ended him.’ I was not sure if I should be feeling defeated because I had failed at my job or terrified that I was on my way to Hell. I had no idea how the old man had survived a bullet to the head and it was the first time I had ever experienced such a thing happening.
   ‘Mr Mancini, or Argatol as I know him, was once a loyal friend of mine. Then one day he decides that he has grown tired of my hospitality and my friendship. He defied me by returning to the earthly plane just so he could remind himself of what it was like to feel human pleasures.’
   ‘It’s a pretty dumb thing to defy the devil. I mean friend or not, you don’t ignore the wishes of the one being who can really melt your soul.’ I said, not really thinking about how ironic those words would sound later on.
   ‘Yes…Yes I suppose it is Samuel. But remember what I said earlier. A boss is only as good his employees and naturally some employees will have a much higher value than others.’ I watched as he pursed his lips together, his mind seemingly drifting to thoughts of better or worse days as they may have been. ‘In spite of his insolence, Argatol is one such employee whom I simply cannot go without. His presence here is key to the smooth running of this kingdom.’

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