A little something for Chucky Wendig’s latest flash fiction dealio.
To Miller, you say a place is a dump, that meant roaches, it meant you find pubic hairs from the last guy on the sheets. Sure, this place was a little threadbare, carpet was worn some, furniture a bit dinged up, but it was clean, shower was hot – and it didn’t have one of those fucking aerator things on it either, things the hotels put on to cut their water bills so you end up trying to get clean in something like a heavy fog. And then they hang their Greenpeace propaganda on the bathroom door, how you’re helping to save the environment by showering in this weak stream of piss-warm water and drying off with a dirty towel and sleeping in yesterday’s sheets because they don’t want to kill no baby polar bears by washing your stink off nothing and melting another hundredth of a millimeter off some ice cap somewhere. No, this joint had an actual shower, crank it up hot, lean on the wall, let it beat on your back. At his age, that was almost as good as what he used to get from that Eurasian chic who had the hot pillow joint down at the end of bring-cash alley in Saigon. Or as good as what he got from her before she did that combo sword-swallowing, spin-me-like-a-top deal. Wasn’t as good as that. But he wasn’t getting much of that anymore. Hell, he’d need some of the little blue pills if he wanted to, and his line of work, it didn’t come with medical.
No, this wasn’t no Marriott – and he bet if you went to that Marriott fuck’s house, guy’d have one of them twenty-head, walk-in steam-shower deals in his bathroom, probably use more water than a damn carwash, baby bears dropping dead by the boat load everytime the guy lathered up. But then again, try checking into a Marriott with just cash and no ID. Time was cash was king. Hotel, plane tickets, go anywhere you want with a grand in your wallet. Now, you want a bed for a night, you got some pimple-faced geek all up in your business, won’t give you a damn key unless he can find you in a computer somewhere. And Miller’d spent the last thirty-five years staying out of computers.
Knock on the door. Miller opened it. Kid from downstairs, had his cleaning. Miller said thanks, gave the kid a five on top of the twenty for the two suits, had that feeling again where his own voice sounded a little funny in his head because he hardly ever talked to anyone anymore, wondered what that said about your life choices, you’re 72 years old, you’re in some pissant hotel in Wichita, been three days since you said a word to anybody and even when you open your own goddamn mouth, you’re talking to a stranger.
Miller hung out the do not disturb sign and set the locks on the door, got a pair of the surgical gloves out of his two-suiter and opened the briefcase. Discipline. Never touch the gun case or anything in it without the gloves on. Prints were bad enough, but anymore you breathe in the same room as your piece, they might pull some DNA or whatever other CSI voodoo crap off of it. Computers, cops in lab coats, tracking chips in every goddamn thing. Whole goddamn world was going to hell.
The .22 would be plenty. This wasn’t any long-range deal. And this was his custom baby – smooth-bore barrel, so no ballistics; hand-loaded low-charge rounds because he’d have the muzzle right up on the target’s skull when he pulled the trigger. Just needed to punch a hole, let that bit of lead in the cranium to mosey around some. Three or four rounds and it’s brain jelly time. With the light charge and the silencer, it wasn’t much louder than a fart.
His gut was stabbing at him. Gall bladder again maybe. Just what he fucking needed. Then a bigger stab, and all of a sudden he was pouring sweat, his vision graying up, feeling like somebody’d parked a deuce and a half on his chest. Had to snort a little laugh. So it was gonna be like that, was it? Three hard tours in the deep suck back in Nam, three decades playing serious hardball in a league where a bad at bat meant you went home in a box, and he was going out with a blown ticker in a low-rent hotel. Thought about the room. Gun case, that was going to raise some eyebrows, and the silencers, those were probably illegal, but they couldn’t match the ballistics to anything, metallurgy on the bullets wouldn’t tell them shit because he always bought a new box after every job. So they could surmise whatever the fuck they wanted, but they couldn’t really hang anything on his corpse.
Wanted to say something all of a sudden, listen to his own voice one last time, but couldn’t think of anything to say. Seemed like, if you were dying, if these were your last words, if you were gonna say something, then it ought to be something that mattered, and he couldn’t think of one goddamn thing.
Movement, out of the corner of his eye, under the desk. He turned his head. A roach, coming out from under the baseboard, eyeballing him. The do not disturb out, the locks set, gonna be a few days at least before they found him, but the fucking roach, place like this, if there was one, then there were a million. They’d find him.
Another stab in the gut, and this one meant business. Check out time. Roach moving closer, a couple of his buddies edging out after him. Circle of life, Miller figured, or as close to that Disney bullshit as he was going to manage. Circle of life. That seemed to fit. Tried to say that, but he couldn’t get the air.
If you’re a fan of my golden pipes, you can get your Circle of Life audio version.