“Hello. I’m sorry to bother you, but are you, Mika?”
I sorrowfully looked away from the painting and gazed upon the young woman who spoke to me. She pronounced my name as Me-ka. I pronounced it as Mi-ka.
“I am. You are?”
“I’m Connie. Connie Lynelle Wilder. Jonas sent me. Um, he said you’re his problem solver.”
“Un-huh,” I grunted as I looked back at the painting. It was of two horses running wild across the open plains. “How I’ve longed to run, free of these ‘obligations’ to Jonas and his ilk. Death is the only thing that will free me.”
She sat next to me on the bench and stared at the piece of art. We sat that way for several long moments in silence. Connie reached in her purse and pulled out a folder.
From the corner of my eye, I watched her. She wasn’t a bad looking woman, her long auburn hair hung below her shoulders. I waited to see if she would continue.
“My brother, Sammy, killed our parents.”
Connie sobbed. While her figure, hair, and lips were attractive, it wasn’t enough to keep me interested. I waited until she gained her composure.
“I’m scared he is going to kill me next.”
She stared at me bewildered by the question. Connie scoffed and said, “um, I am part of the Wilder Family. We’re worth billions. I stand to inherit 51% of the company, he gets the other 49%, plus stock options.”
“So, go to the cops. If you know he had your parents killed, give them the evidence. See justice done.”
She stood and smoothed down her clothes and laid the file on the bench beside me. Connie wiped her eyes, sniffled, and looked at me.
“Jonas said you were difficult. He said you wouldn’t do it out of the kindness of your heart, or even if he ordered you to. My brother has friends in law enforcement, I don’t know who to trust. So, a friend recommended Jonas. He gave me your name and said if you do this job, you will owe nothing. You can have your life back upon completion of the task.”
“Lady, I’m up to my eyeballs in debt to Jonas. IF he made that kind of deal, this is a one-way trip with no return. Why would I commit suicide for you?”
Connie sat back down on the bench and leaned forward; her hands covered the lower half of her face. She was a pretty woman. Her face was round and soft, but her eyes were blue like sapphires.
“How much do you owe Jonas?”
“Why? Are you going to pay off my debt?”
“Yes. In return, you help me.”
She had my attention now. Her eye bored into mine and I could not look away. I sighed heavily and quietly acquiesced.
“You don’t understand, Connie. Yes, Jonas takes 75% of my earnings, but he leaves me enough to buy food with. If you pay off my debt, I don’t have a job. You will consider the abolishment of my debt as payment. I can’t work for free.”
“Fine. I pay off your debt, and I will pay you a flat daily fee of 300 dollars per day. That should cover your meals and transportation. Agree?”
Connie stuck out her hand, and after some thought and more than one doubt, I grasped it. She nodded and picked up the file.
“Come on. Let’s go get you out of debt.”
I had never ridden in a Mercedes limo before, not even when I went to my high school prom, but Connie had brought one to the museum. We sat in the back, and she handed me the folder. Inside was a complete dossier of Sammy Wilder. Various photos of Sammy highlighted his masochistic personality. Hidden behind the smile and money was the personification of Satan.
The dossier also had his favorite haunts, habits, and addresses of his ‘lady’ friends, his best friend, and his right-hand woman.
“Who’s the dame?”
Connie leaned over and stared at the picture. Her frown deepened.
“That’s Tanya. She’s a bad egg.”
“Bad as in…”
“Mean, cold-hearted, ruthless, vile, pick an adjective. She’s as mean as they come, and loves the scent of blood, kind of like a shark in that regard, and is known to favor torture to questioning.”
“Is she the one that killed your parents?”
“No. Sammy killed them, but she was there.”
“Let me guess, you want me to handle her too?”
“For the amount of money, I’m about to spend on you, you’re going to do what I say for a while. I assume you still want out of debt, right?”
“I reckon so. Tell me I haven’t swapped one devil for another.”
“When we are done, you walk away clean. Heck, I might even give you a bonus.”
“Yeah. That’s what I’m afraid of.”
Our driver pulled in front of the pawn shop Jonas owned. The brakes squealed as the drive came to a stop. The pawn shop was only a cover. Jonas hired out killers, of which I was one. We are problem solvers to handle any situation for those who could afford our services.
Connie stepped out onto the curb, and I followed her out. Her black Ray-Bans glinted in the sunshine, she shoved them up on her nose and started for the door.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire, I thought as she turned the knob. My life as a hired killer for Jonas was over, my life as a killer for Connie would soon begin.
Jonas sat behind the counter, a cigar jutted from his mouth, his eyes narrowed when he saw Connie and I walk into his shop.
“He give you a hard time, Ms. Wilder?”
“As you said, he won’t do it for just any reason. We did come to an arrangement though.”
“I bet you did.”
“I’m here to pay off his debt to you, Mr. Jonas. Please tell me the balance, so I can cut you a check for that amount.”
“I’m sorry, I thought I heard you say no. I need the total amount.”
“He’s my property, Ms. Wilder. You can’t buy what I will not sell.”
“Then who is your boss? If you won’t see reason, then I will speak to someone who can.”
Jonas gave a dark chuckle, a ‘mess around and find out’ kind of laugh and shrugged his fat shoulders. After years of consuming double cheeseburgers and washing it down with soft drinks, energy drinks, and gallons of alcohol, Jonas was severely obese.
His width suggested that at some point, Jonas had been in decent shape, but the years had taken a toll. Instead of beating his opponents to death with his massive fists, he let his shotgun do his negotiating for him.
I had worked for Jonas long enough to know that he would not book no threat to his ‘junkyard empire.’ Jonas shifted on his seat and moved closer to the Mossberg .12 gauge. Connie stood her ground and smiled at the mass of flesh that was Jonas. I moved closer to the counter to engage should Jonas reach for the weapon.
“I can make you a wealthy man, Mr. Jonas. Just tell me how much it will cost me to purchase Mika.”
“He owes me 752,000. You won’t purchase him for that though. I want a million in cash.”
“Is that all?”
“Yes, one million and you have your own killer.”
Connie reached for her cell and pressed 1. She whispered into the phone and hung up. Ten minutes later, a well-dressed man walked into the shop and handed Connie the envelope. Without a word, he turned and walked out.
“Mr. Jonas, I believe this is for you.”
She handed him the envelope, and Jonas tore it open. His eyes lit up with rapturous joy and he squealed with delight.
“Thank you,” he wheezed in appreciation. “Nice doing business with you, ma’am.”
“You too. Um, may I have Mika’s contract?”
Jonas passed over the contract and peeked in the envelope. Connie looked it over and shoved it into her handbag. She turned and nodded toward the door. I turned and walked toward the exit. On the way out, we passed the well-dressed man on his way back in.
Two gunshots rang out as we stepped out into the warm sunlight.
The well-dressed man walked up to the limo and rapped on the darkened window. Connie let it down and accepted the envelope from the man. He turned and walked away, as Connie rolled up the window.
“Business is concluded,” she said.
I said nothing as the driver pulled out into traffic. For a while we rode in silence. Connie pulled out her phone, took a photo of the check, and sent it off to her bank. She looked at me and smiled.
“Surely, you didn’t think I was defenseless, did you?”
“I didn’t think about it, ma’am.”
“When you have the amount of money that my family has, you make enemies along the way. So, I have a protection detail that handles…messes, so to speak.”
“I see that.”
“You’re wondering why I don’t use them to take out Sammy, instead of hiring you.”
I couldn’t lie, the thought did cross my mind, not to mention the killing of Jonas proved Connie had a ruthless side to her as well.
“Yes ma’am. I did wonder on that particular point.”
“I need someone to protect me. Your work is impeccable, your methods are inscrutable. I need someone like you to do this job.”
“From your lips to God’s ears, ma’am. I will get it done.”
“I have no doubts, Mika. If you take care of me, I’ll take care of you.”