Charlie Did Something Stupid by Gary Duncan

I’m supposed to meet Nick at eleven, but I’m an hour late because Maggie didn’t show up again and I finished a whole pot of coffee while I waited for her, even though I’m pretty fucking sure she’s gone for good this time.

When I get there, it’s raining and I’m soaked through, but Nick’s waiting outside, in a little world of his own.

“What the fuck happened to your eye?” I say.

He shrugs. “It’s nothing.”

“It doesn’t look like nothing.”

It’s a mess. Couple of days old. Red, black, blue, a smudge of yellow.

“Him again?” I say.

He looks down at the puddles at his feet, and nods.

I want to hit someone, anyone, but Nick says, “Come on, let’s get some coffee.”

We find a table in the corner. I sit with my back to the wall and watch Nick — tall, gangly, all legs and arms — walk over to the counter to order.

He’ll probably ask about Maggie, tell me to talk to her, straighten things out. He’s good like that. Always has been. The sensible one. We couldn’t be more different, the two of us, and I sometimes wish I was more like him. Normal. Nice. But then I see him returning with the drinks and I see his eye and just for once I wish he was a bit more like me. Not the kind of guy who lets another guy give him an eye like that.

I wait till he’s sitting down and I say, “You need to tell me what happened.”

His shoulders slump a little, and he tells me about John Lennard.

I should have sorted that fucker out two months ago, the moment he moved in next to Nick. Should have kicked the fucking shit out of him right there and then, even before he laid a finger on my little brother.

But I didn’t. Not even the second time. Nick, missing a tooth, telling me it was nothing, just a misunderstanding. I’d heard about Lennard, heard he was a big cunt with a big reputation. Nick didn’t want any trouble. Said he was fine. Said he wasn’t a kid anymore. Couldn’t have me fighting his battles for the rest of his life. Said I’d only end up doing something really fucking stupid anyway.

So I did nothing.

“Come on,” I say, getting up.

Nick knows what I’m like, knows me better than anyone else in the world, so he doesn’t try to stop me this time.

It’s a couple of miles to his place, and we drive there in silence.

When we get there, Nick says, “You don’t have to do this, Charlie.”

But I’m already getting out of the car, jumping over Lennard’s fence, kicking his front door.

There’s movement inside the house, a big black shape on the other side of the frosted glass. Lennard opens the door and he’s there, towering over me. He really is a big cunt, but I punch him in the throat and he goes straight down.

I get down on one knee and punch him again and again till my knuckles hurt, till Nick grabs me and pulls me away.

I stagger backwards, my head still thumping, but the moment has gone. I look around. Lennard is still down, not moving. Nick looks at Lennard, then me.

“What?” I say, wiping the blood off my hands and walking back to the car.

The Hit by Gary Duncan

You’re at the restaurant and you’ve been through the whole thing a hundred times and you’re ready to roll, but then Berg tells you he’s been thinking about it and doesn’t want you to use the gun after all.

You think you must have misheard him because it’s way too fucking late to be changing things now, but before you can say anything he takes a fork from the table and hands it to you, smiling.

You stare at it.

“A fork?” you say. “You want me to kill him with a fork?”

“Take it, Jack.” He’s still smiling, but he’s not fucking around, so you take it.

It’s a nice enough fork, surprisingly heavy in your hand, heavy enough to cause some serious damage. But, still, it’s a fucking fork.

You tell him you’ve never killed anyone with a fork before. Guns, knives, Samurai sword, all sorts of shit. Even an ice-pick once, but never a kitchen utensil.

“I don’t know,” you say. “A gun would be a lot easier, don’t you think? Like we talked about?”

That was the plan, or so you thought. That’s what you’d been working on, anyway: all that practicing, all that rehearsing. You walk into the restaurant, walk right up to Fat Tony at the table in the corner, say, “Vincent says hello,” point the gun at his big fat head, and pull the trigger.

“Trust me,” Berg says. What he means, of course, is this is exactly how it’s going to happen now, so quit fucking moaning and get on with it.

He grabs the fork and presses it against his throat.

“See?” he says, “right here, I want you to walk right up to the fat fuck and stick it right in his throat, all the way in, and then I want you to twist it.” He mimics twisting it, just in case I have no idea how to twist something, and then says, “Like so. Okay?”

“It’s going to be messy. I mean really messy.”

“That’s the fucking point. It’s personal, remember. It’s Fat Tony. It’s got to be messy. Blood-on-the-floor messy. Blood-on-the-fucking-ceiling messy.”

You’re still not sure, but you say okay because a job’s a job and Berg says this is how it’s going to happen, with or without you.

So you go back into the kitchen, like you’d agreed, and you wait there till it’s time.

Someone offers you a coffee, one of Berg’s flunkeys, but you’re already wired, the adrenaline kicking in, so you just pace back and forwards, trying not to get in anyone’s way, running through it again and again. You’ve been on enough jobs to know it’s all about the planning, the details, the preparation, and then Berg goes and throws this whole fucking fork thing at you at the last second.

But you’re a pro. You can improvise. So you visualize it, how it’s going to go down, as you hide out in the kitchen — grabbing the fork from the table, walking up to Fat Tony, “Vincent says hello,” sticking the fork into his fat neck, twisting it, all that blood.

You still wish you’d had the gun in your hand, but you think it should be okay, you just need to run through it another few-

But Berg’s in the kitchen now and everyone’s quiet and he’s telling you it’s time to go. You don’t have time for a final run-through, so you start moving, through the swing doors and back into the restaurant. You’re in the zone now, doing what you do best.

The restaurant is quiet, only three or four tables occupied. Fat Tony is in the corner, on his own, studying a menu. He looks up and sees you, but you’re nothing to him, just another customer, just another nobody. He goes back to the menu as you reach out for the fork on the table next to his and-

You drop the fork. It clatters onto the hardwood floor and for a moment everything is quiet.

Then Fat Tony looks up again, and laughs, and the lighting guy mutters something under his breath.

“Cut!” shouts Berg, impatient. “Let’s try that again, Jack.”