It grew out of a dash; the word was "silence."
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Martini crushed his cigar in the ashtray and checked the 9-mm. Glock one more time. Then he filled the clip, slipped the clip into the handle, and made sure the safety was on. No point in shooting oneself, he thought. He stood, poured another whiskey, and studied the pictures one more time. Harold Goldberg. That was the name of the contract. Goldberg was a long-time sports bookmaker in a shaky section of the city. No one would miss him. The contract was the standard one. Ten thousand now, and ten thousand when the body was discovered. Martini downed the whiskey in one gulp and finished dressing.
His attire was what he always wore for a hit. Black walking sneakers with black laces. Black sweat pants with the "Line Mountain Eagles Football" logo on the left leg covered by electrical tape. He would top the outfit off with an oversized black hoodie. Martini headed into his bathroom and picked up the jar of black grease paint. He slicked his hands, face, and hair with the makeup. In the darkness of night, with the hood up, Martini would appear to be a black man. He would walk slowly, shuffling along, with the Glock in the pocket of the oversized hoodie. No one would know. He finished dressing and headed out to look for his quarry.
Martini leaned against the lamppost, the Glock in his pocket, along with a lock pick. In his right hand was a brown paper bag with a bottle inside. To passersby, he would appear to be someone sipping alcohol from the bottle. But the bottle was filled with water. Martini watched and waited.
Across the street, bracketing the alley, were two businesses. On the right was a sleazy bar, filled with blacks and Latinos. On the left was a woman"s clothing store, closed for the night. The grates had been pulled over the windows and the entrance to prevent a break-in. Martini waited. It was nine o"clock, the night was dark, and he had plenty of time.
Martini had no idea why the contract was put out on Harold Goldberg. And he didn"t care. He simply took the job, accepted his pay with a "Thank you," and never asked questions. That was why he had been so successful in his chosen career. That, and the fact that he thoroughly researched his targets before making the hit. There were never any loose ends to tie up after one of Martini"s victims was found. And no police or FBI ever showed, asking silly questions. Martini took a long sip of the "wine" and waited.
He knew a great deal about Goldberg. Like most people, Goldberg was a creature of habit. He ran his bookmaking operation out of a small set of rooms in the back of the alley. Most people didn"t know it existed. He had three assistants, who came in at eight a. m. and left between five and six. He showed up at eleven, always by taxi. He would work in a back office, separated from his assistants. Around seven or eight, he would leave the business and take a cab to one of two restaurants he liked for dinner. He would return around nine or ten, once again, by taxi. He would work until one or two in the morning, and then he would take a cab home. The routine never varied. It went on six days a week, excepting Saturday. Goldberg was Jewish. Saturday was Sabbath.
The hit would be easy. Martini would wait until Goldberg returned from dinner and entered the bookmaking joint. Then he would wait another thirty minutes or so. He would shuffle down the alley, pick the lock, and enter the offices. Two bullets to the head should do the trick. Then he would leave, locking the offices behind him. He would shuffle slowly to the elevated station and take the el home. The employees would find the body in the morning. And Martini would collect his pay. All very easy.
It was nine forty-five. Martini watched as the cab stopped, and discharged a tall and gangly passenger. It was Goldberg. The man shuffled down the alley. "He walks like the scarecrow in the "˜Wizard of Oz" after he first came down from the post," Martini murmured. "This will be all too simple." He waited thirty minutes, giving Goldberg time to enter his business, and then he shuffled across the street. When he passed the dumpster, he tossed the paper bag with the water bottle in. Both hands went into the pocket of his hoodie. His left rested on the gun, his right on the lock pick. Time to go to work.
Martini glanced to his right. About ten feet away, piled against the side of the building, was a huge stack of boxes. Martini peered at them in the gloom, and decided that they were empty cases of whiskey and wine bottles. His head turned back to the door and his right hand removed the lock pick. He looked through the window in the door and saw three desks, with one desk lamp lit. In the back, well lit, was Goldberg"s office. Martini went to work on the lock with his pick.
Martini never saw the small knife. It came out of the gloom, and caught him in the right bicep.
"Fuck," he muttered, dropping the lock pick. "Goddamit. Well, I can still shoot with my left."
The pile of boxes exploded into the dark alley. Martini turned and saw a tall gangly figure move briskly. He reached into the pocket of his hoodie for the revolver. The tall man covered the distance quickly and lashed out with his right foot. He did not, however, kick Martini"s left hand. Instead, he buried a steel-tipped shoe into Martini"s groin. Martini moaned, lost his grip on the Glock, and dropped to the ground. The man kicked the Glock in the other direction and then stooped over Martini.
"You"re problem, Martini," Goldberg stated, "Is that you lack finesse. If a fly landed on your coffee table, you would use a sledgehammer to kill it. You are heavy metal to my Mozart. See what I mean?"
Martini watched as Goldberg stood and buried another steel-tipped shoe into his groin. He nearly blacked out. He lay on the ground, breathing heavily, in agony.
Goldberg stooped again and grabbed the handle of the knife in Martini"s bicep. He tugged, and the knife came free. The pain was worse when the knife exited than when it entered. Goldberg cleaned the blade on Martini"s hoodie, folded it, and exchanged it for a straight razor in his pocket. He opened the razor.
"Now, Martini," Goldberg continued, "I have no clue what I did to piss off the bosses. No idea, really. But I must have done something. Anyhow, how I found out about the contract is of no consequence. The second I learned of it, I began watching my back. And I began to dissolve my business. My assistants, by now, are on their way to safe hiding places. And I will be on my way tomorrow morning. No one will open the office. Your body will lay here for, oh, two or three days before someone finds it."
Martini curled the fingers of his left hand. The pain was beginning to subside. He started to look for an opening. He panicked a bit when Goldberg moved behind him and out of his field of vision. Next he felt Goldberg raise his head ever so slightly.
"You see, Martini," Goldberg stated, his voice still very flat, "you only learned half of the lesson. "˜Patience and Silence are the friends of the Hunter." That is very true." Here Goldberg paused for a second. "But there is a second part of the lesson, Martini. "˜Patience and Silence are also the friends of the Hunted." Had you learned that, you would not be where you are now."
Martini grimaced when he felt the cold steel of the razor against his throat.