“You ever see someone choke on one of those?” Vito asked the vendor, pointing to a hot dog. From the other side of the metallic counter, the vendor’s eyes slowly shifted up from his phone.
“I know I know, weird question to ask.” Vito stroked his clean-shaven chin gently. He contemplated his options. “Nothing like a hot dog in the park though, amiright? Really gives you that authentic New York feeling.” He watched the vendor struggle to pull his lips into a welcoming smile. “Sure, boss. One hot dog?” The Vendor asked. Vito nodded several times before specifying, “Oh yea, with plenty of those gooey red onions! I mean dripping! I love those.”
With haste, the vendor scooped the onions onto the hot dog. His gaze avoided Vito’s. It seemed he was instead focused solely on not covering his gloved hand in pungent onions. Vito casually scanned the area. By the time he looked back, the vendor was holding the greasy morsel in front of him, absently staring down the barrel of the hot dog.
“Oh shit, sorry. I got distracted. Ha, such a beautiful day like this it’s hard to focus on one thing you know? Anyway, how much for this delicious hot dog, my good sir?” The vendor’s head nudged slightly to the left, towards the sign that read in big bright red letters, “HOT DOG $2.50.” He even read the sign aloud for emphasis. Vito smiled once again but this time from behind a covering palm. “Oh right, sorry.” The vendor’s arm began to tremble, some of the overloaded onions almost splashing over the side of the deli paper around the hot dog. “One second here . . .” Vito sort of trailed off as he reached into the left breast pocket of his suit in a rush. As if he had touched a live wire, his eyes suddenly widened and his body stiffened up. “Woops.” He grinned. “That ain’t my wallet.”
His hand drew back from his chest and confidently drifted down to his right pants pocket. He nodded to himself in assurance as he removed the small leather wallet. “Ahh there we go. $2.50, $2.50. Let’s see here. Hmmmm, I don’t have anything smaller than a five. Well shit.” Vito looked up to the vendor who seemed frozen in time, his hand still outstretched holding the steaming hot dog. “Tell you what pal! You seem like a standup guy, a real gentleman. Here.” He emphatically slapped a five-dollar bill down onto the hot dog cart. “Keep the change.” He delicately plucked the hot dog from the vendor’s grasp as if it were an arcade crane-game prize. He nodded to the vendor, tipped a hat he was not wearing, and slowly walked deeper into the park.
He had a late start to this particular Sunday. Luckily the only football game that mattered that day was at night, giving him the freedom to sleep in a bit. He stopped for a moment. It was too much to balance his hot dog, think, plan, and walk all at once. A calm Sunday afternoon had no need for such strain. He opened wide, and sunk his teeth clean through the tip of the wiener. There was something so satisfying about the way a bite tears through the casing of a hot dog, that ripping sound one can only hear in one’s own mind. He luckily reacted to some sort of sixth sense, and shuffled back quickly. His eyes opened just in time to see a wad of red onions splash on the ground in front of him. He frantically looked down at his attire, checking for causalities. Shirt, check, tie, check, suit jacket check, pants, check. His suit was still a pristine empty gray, the white shirt beneath his jacket remained unstained. He breathed a deep sigh of relief as he took a seat by a nearby bench. “That was a close one Vito.” He mused as he took another bite of his snack, this time forming a napkin taco around the point of oral contact for added protection.
Vito began scanning the park once again. He had always enjoyed people-watching. Today however, he was more fixated on one-person-watching. Taking a final, definitive bite of his hot dog, Vito scooted up on his bench, his hazel eyes narrowing in on what seemed to be a couple arguing. “Oh my, trouble in paradise?” He asked aloud as he placed one hand beneath his chin to observe. The man was slightly overweight, but nothing a doctor would be too concerned about. His hairline however, was a different story. It was oily, and slicked back, but it began on the crown of his head. “Not exactly your Sunday best, eh big boy?” Vito commented on the faded green hoodie the man wore, and his frayed black sweatpants. “You however, look lovely.” His attention turned to the blonde woman who had gone from looking annoyed, too full-on screaming. Sadly, Vito was much too far to hear what she was saying over the hustle and bustle of the crowded park. “I can do without the cheetah print leggings, but I bet they make your ass look great don’t they?” He leaned backward and rested his arms over the backboard of the bench. “And that little leather jacket, oh you’re a bad girl aren’t you? How did you ever get mixed up with a schlep like him? Vito reached into his right jacket pocket for his cigarettes, before a wave of disappointment washed over him. “Oh that’s right, I quit smoking.”
The man in the green hoodie looked over his shoulder for a moment, before reaching into his pouch pocket and handed the woman a piece of paper. Immediately, Vito scooted forward once more. “Now what is that?” He questioned turning his head like a confused dog. The paper had a distinct rectangular shape to it, and was held in the air long enough in front of the woman for him to ascertain it was some sort of ticket. The woman shook her head and continued to shout. The man nudged the probable ticket forward; it seemed like he was pleading. Finally, the woman snatched the ticket from the man’s hand and stormed off. The man shook his head, took out his cell phone and walked away in the opposite direction. “Interesting!” Vito clapped his hands and thanked the performers for their entertainment before moving on.
He felt a spring in his step, well, as much of a spring as tight Italian loafers could provide. His shoulders bobbed slightly back and forth as he cheerfully skipped along the busy streets. He was like a phantom, passing through massive crowds without touching a soul. “♪ I know it’s up for me, If you steal my sunshine. Making sure I’m not in too deep, If you steal my sunshin- ♪” His song was brought to an end with a gasp. It was a Rottweiler.
“Oh my god!” He rushed over to a man whose dog was currently sniffing a sign-post. “Rottweiler right?” He questioned slightly bouncing up and down on his heels. The man, who had not heard Vito due to his headphones blaring music, was slightly startled by his sudden appearance in his peripherals. “Huh?” He questioned as he removed his right ear bud. “Your dog! Provided of course it is your dog and you aren’t a dog walker of some kind. He’s a Rottweiler right? Pure bred too I bet.”
The man looked down at his dog who was unceremoniously dosing a street sign with urine. “Yea.” He offered a curt reply wanting to get back to his music.
“He’s beautiful.” Vito added getting down on one knee and allowing the dog to finish his business before petting him. The owner lurched forward a bit, but decided to let it slide that this stranger didn’t ask for permission. “You know, I got one just like this at home.” The dog seemed to enjoy the attention he was getting, which made pulling him away difficult for the owner. “Well he’s not mine yet. Paperwork, adoption, yadda yadda, all that. Actually he’s a rescue. The previous owner was a total prick.” Vito looked up to the man who had long since reunited his right ear with his headphones. Behind him however, was a rather uncanny sight.
Walking out of a nearby storefront, was the same man from the park. His green hoodie very visibly had a white “JETS” insignia across the chest. His hair, still an oiled smear than ran down the back of his balding head, now sported a few strands out of place. From here Vito could see just how stained those sweatpants were. It looked as if an entire meatball had rolled down them from the waist to the ankle. His right hand was pressing his cell phone into his ear, his left clutching a roll of money. Vito’s gaze broke from the man’s stride for a moment to take note of where he was leaving. It seemed the man had a large amount of money wired to him.
“Well look at that.” Whispered Vito as the man with the headphones roughly pulled his dog away from him. Vito didn’t even bother to turn and look at the dog owner, “You shouldn’t be so rough with your dog. It isn’t very nice.” He intently watched as the man in the green hoodie shuffled down the street before hooking a sharp turn at the corner. By the time Vito looked back, the cute dog and the brute accompanying him were gone. “Damn.” He sighed and continued on his busy day.
The streets cleared up a bit as the day was winding down. Vito was deep downtown. Normally people would take a subway for such a trip, but he enjoyed the stroll. “♪ Every morning there’s a halo hangin from the corner of my girlfriend’s four post bed . . . ♪” By the time he arrived at Soak n’ Sudz laundromat the daylight was terminal. The bell attached to the door jingled, harmonizing as he continued “♪ AhhHHHHAHhhhAHhh Every Mornin . . .♪” He stood patiently in the relatively short line. He was not nearly bothered by the wait as much as the woman in front of him was by his bellowing. “♪ Shut the door baby don’t say a word. ♪” Finally it was his turn to speak to the cashier. She was a short Hispanic woman who clicked her gum loudly as she asked, “Pick up or drop off?”
“Neither. Do you guys do dry cleaning?”
“We don’t do dry cleaning.”
“Well, why not?”
“Because we don’t sir.”
“But you do dry?”
“. . . yes.”
“And you do clean?”
“Sir it’s not the sam-”
“Let me finish, so you can dry clothes, you can clean clothes, but you can’t dry clean clothes?”
“Buddy I don’t have time for thi-”
“I know what you’re thinking. Here comes Mr. Asshole playing a joke on me. I’m not I swear it okay? I’m just very concerned. You see this suit? It looks like any other gray suit I know, but its special to me. Not even because it’s expensive, and trust me, it’s really expensive, It’s a really nice suit.”
“It’s a great suit man, but we have a line an-”
“And if I get something on this suit, well, if it gets dirty I need it to be dry cleaned.”
“So go find a dry clea-”
“Just earlier, today in the park. I had this hot dog right? Big ol’ boy with onions and sauce, I almost got a big splash mark here on my lapel! I would have looked like an idiot.”
It seemed all patience the cashier had left had been exhausted as she slammed her hand on the counter. “Sir we do not do dry cleaning, I don’t know what else to tell you. You need to get out of here.” Vito put his hands up defensively and nodded. “Okay. Okay. Here I thought we were having a mature discourse on cleaning techniques. Look I’m sorry okay? I don’t mean to cause anyone any trouble.” Just as the final word left his mouth, the bell attached to the door rang once more. He turned to see who had entered. It was none other than the man in the green hoodie. He looked progressively sweatier and disheveled. “Sir.” The cashier called to him as Vito turned back slowly. “Right, sorry. I should go.” He gave the cashier something between a nod and a bow as he backed away from the counter. He nearly brushed shoulders with the man in green as he scurried passed, but he made sure to never make eye contact.
The sun had passed on some time ago, and Vito felt very hungry. He knew exactly what he wanted. There was a little Italian joint downtown that made some excellent shrimp scampi. After all, shrimp scampi was a Sunday tradition for some. The streets were deserted by now, allowing the small spring in his step to evolve into full blown dance walking. “♪ Give it to me, baby! ahuh ahuh!, Give it to me, baby!, ahuh ahuh! Give it to me baby! ahuh ahuh! And all the girlies say I’m pretty fly for a white guy! ♪” By the end of his ballad he arrived in front of Vito’s Italian Bistro. He spun on his heel and dramatically pushed the door to the restaurant open. “Hi welcome to Vito’s!” a young hostess greeted him. “Hello there young lady. Table for one please.”
“Sure thing foll-”
“I don’t usually dine alone; the super model wife is on a business trip!”
The hostess blinked slowly. “Right this way sir.”
“Preferably something in the back.” He added, the hostess forced a smile and nodded.
He took his seat at a cozy table located near the kitchen door. He checked the silver watch around his wrist as his dinner arrived. It was, as always, a large plate of shrimp scampi and spaghetti. He blissfully twirled the noodles around his fork, his eyes scanning the restaurant every now and again. He pinned the helpless shrimp down onto the plate, and slowly dragged his knife across its back, severing its tail. As he took a succulent bite, his eyes happened to fall on the door. “No way.” He uttered through a mouth full of garlicky shrimp. Walking through the door, once again, was the man in the green hoodie. Vito quickly checked his watched one more time. He maliciously chewed his shrimp as he set his sights on the sweaty man shuffled up to the counter. He was still on his cell phone, as he reached into his pocket for his wallet. “That’s one long phone call.” Vito commented as twirled the spaghetti around his fork. After a brief exchange, the hostess quickly walked into the kitchen, and returned with a takeout order.
The man in the hoodie paid quickly, and left even quicker. Vito dropped his silverware onto his plate and wiped his mouth with his napkin. “Unbelievable. Unfuckingbelivable. There’s no way. Just no fucking way.” His mind raced, his heart pounded in his chest. Despite this, he managed to wave the waiter over calmly to ask for his check. He had lost his appetite.
Luckily, Vito’s Italian Bistro wasn’t too far from the apartment. There was no doorman, and Vito was able to get into the elevator unbothered. He stood outside the apartment door, fiddling with the lock as he had so many times before. “God I hate this old fuckin lock.” Finally, without too much effort the lock clicked, and the door slowly swung open. Inside, the TV was already on; it seemed he had arrived in time to catch the fourth quarter of the Jets game. Seated there, on the couch, was the man in the green hoodie.
The man in the hoodie slowly turned to see Vito standing in the doorway. Moments of silence passed between the two men like hours, before the man in the hoodie scrambled to his feet.
Breaking the silence, the man in green shouted, “Who the fuck are you!?” Vito slowly closed the door behind him. “Please, don’t get up on my account.” The man in the green hoodie bolted across the apartment and reached under a nearby desk. Vito smiled as the color ran from the man’s face. “Don’t bother checking for the pistol in the bathroom, I took care of that one too. Oh! And the one in the bedroom. I think that’s all of them right?” The man in the hoodie began to tremble as he stood upright and turned to face Vito. His hands were held outward. “Look buddy. Y-You don’t have to-”
“Let me stop you right there. Because frankly, I get this a lot. Yes, I do have to do this. Wanna know why? Because my employer paid me to do it and how shitty would I look if I didn’t? No, you can’t pay me double, or triple, or whatever stupid fucking number you were going to offer to let you go. A deal’s a deal. You’re gonna say, please! I have a wife! Spare me! As if that makes a god damn difference to me, or my employer.”
The man in the hoodie was left speechless as Vito took a step forward. “By the way, I’ve been wondering all day. Was that a bus ticket or a plane ticket you gave her this morning? Cause I was thinking, man if this cheap fuck really gave her a bus ticket how much does he care you know? Like how far was she going to get before I found her, Philly?” Vito began to laugh as he walked into the kitchen, never taking his eyes off his target.
“What? You thought I wouldn’t know about that? See that’s the thing man. Everyone thinks this job is so damn impersonal. Like you’re all just faceless nobodies to me? Like I don’t care about my work! It simply isn’t true. I mean we spent all day together, Jerry. We had a nice walk in the park, we went to pick you up some money, we picked up our laundry, then we were supposed to have dinner together. But you decided on takeout! Oh, it’s okay I call you Jerry, right? I mean God, I’ve spent so much time here, so much time around you, we’re practically family.”
Vito opened the fridge and removed a beer for himself. He twisted off the cap and threw it into the sink. “You don’t have to worry about her. My employer just wanted me to get you. In fact, specifically told me to let her go. So you could have sent her as far as, oh I don’t know, your Mom’s house in Jersey and I still wouldn’t bother going after her.” His eyes shifted over the counter, stopping when he noticed an aluminum takeout tin with a half-eaten order of chicken parmesan.
“Chicken Parm.” Vito took a deep breath. “You wanna explain this?”
Jerry looked over to the tin, then back up to Vito. He could barely form words. “D-Dinner. . .”
“D-d—d-d-d-d-ddiner.” Vito mocked as he slapped the chicken cutlet across the room. “Every Sunday you get shrimp scampi from Vito’s Italian Bistro for dinner, and get home in time to watch the end of the Sunday Night Football game. But today, you were late, and you got takeout! Why the fuck did you chose TODAY to be any different? Is it because you knew I had a perfect score going huh? That I tracked you down P E R F E C T L Y all day and night just for you to screw it up for me in the end? Honestly, I really should just shoot you for that! Just walk in and BAM, but no, no. That’s too easy. Gotta find it first. See, I’m looking for something. I’m here for someone, you, but I’m looking for something, for me? Get it?
“Who? Who sent you?”
Vito rolled his eyes. “I am not done with this dinner conversation Jerry. Besides you know damn well who sent me. Stefania Lazzaro? The Baroness? Ring a damn bell?
Jerry nodded slowly.
“Yea that’s right. She pays good money too. Way more than you stole from her. In fact, I’ve been meaning to ask, what made you think you could get away with it? Skimming off the top so regularly, so sloppily! Just wiring money to yourself every Sunday. Yuck, despicable! Is it cause she’s a female mob boss? What you think female crime lords, Queenpins as they like to be called by the way, are easier to rip off than male ones? I mean maybe that’s why she didn’t want me to kill your old lady. Maybe some comradery between gals? Fuck if I know, I’m an equal opportunity shooter. But anyway yea, back to you, that’s really sexist man. Wake up and get with the times! Anyone can be a ruthless bloodthirsty criminal if they want to be. In fact, I believe anyone can be what they wanna be. Well, anyone except you. Your fate is kind of spoken for.”
“What you think you’re a fucking comedian? I don’t have to take this from a piece of shit like you!” Jerry shouted, his bravado had returned to him like a second wind. He suddenly whistled loudly. The sound of four rushing paws scratching against the hardwood echoed throughout the apartment. A large Rottweiler turned the corner of the hallway and rushed straight at Vito. “FUCK HIM UP BRUNO!” Screamed Jerry.
Vito immediately dropped to a knee to receive the canine. “Rocky!” He exclaimed as the dog joyously greeted him. Vito could almost taste the despair falling from Jerry’s lips as his assurance deflated into defeat. Pathetically, and in disbelief he muttered “H-his name is Bruno.”
“His name was Bruno.” Vito quipped as the dog had rolled over on his back awaiting a belly rub. “A pretty dumb name from a pretty shitty previous owner. I think you’re underestimating my commitment to my job Jerry. I’ve been here, over and over, for weeks. When you go out and do things like say, steal a bunch of money from a very mean mob lady. I’m here, playing with Rocky, teaching him tricks. Finding out where you hide you pistols. Figuring out your escape routes for the day I decide to cash in on my contract. You know, business stuff. Sometimes I stay in your closet, and just watch you sleep. I must say stalking you became a lot easier when I learned the passcode to your calendar on your phone. Oh I know it hardly matters now, but you really shouldn’t charge that thing over night like that. Fucks up the battery.”
Vito stood up slowly and pointed towards the hallway. “Rocky! Bedroom!” The dog quickly rolled off his back and scurried along leaving his former master and his current one alone. “You don’t gotta worry about him, I love dogs. I’ll take really good care of him.” Vito reached into left jacket pocket and grinned. He slowly removed his jet-black Barretta M-9 and clutched it tightly in his right hand, his finger already on the trigger. “Why?” Jerry trembled as he saw the instrument of his demise finally come to view. “We already went over this man, because my client wants you dead,” Vito politely reminded him.
“No. The rest of it. My home? My Dog? I don’t-”
“I’m glad you ask because you know, not many people do! I’ve been doing this for a long-time Jerry. Well it feels like a long time at least. They say every time you kill someone, you lose a bit of yourself. I’m sure you’ve heard that before, right? After all we associate with the same kind of people. But yea, you get detached. And this one time, I was about to kill this chick, right? I put the barrel to her head yadda yadda, and she accused me of being a heartless killer. You know, I took offense to that Jerry I really did. I’m not heartless. I preform a function, just like everyone else. Some people work at hot dog stands, I shoot people who need to be shot. You need to be shot, you know? Cause you fucked with the wrong person. It’s the circle of life. But why do I do this? When you’ve shot as many people as I have, it loses its pizazz believe it or not. Yea, once you’ve seen the inside of one skull, you’ve kinda seen them all! I get a rush from this shit Jerr, I really, really do. Just sitting there on the sidelines, I get to savor every little emotion you have. It’s like watching a movie, but in real life. Difference being I get to just swoop in when I feel like it, and make the climax happen!
Jerry backed away slowly towards his TV “You’re a sick fuck. A real sicko. How come The Baroness has never talked-.” Vito took a step forward.
“Because I don’t only work for her shit head. I’m all over the place. Hell, my name isn’t really Vito, and I sure as fuck ain’t Italian. It’s just what I picked for this job because you liked that restaurant so damn much! Wait fuck, I never told you my name was Vito. Ah dammit, well see now you got me going on and rambling. . .”
Vito reached into the side pocket of his suit and removed a slick black silencer. He slowly started to screw it onto the barrel of his gun, he couldn’t help but smirk watching Jerry stare at it. Each screw turn must have felt like another turn on the rack for the damned slob. “Detachment you know Jerry? It’s a scary thing. Marks like you? They keep me grounded. We had a real nice thing going, real nice friendship, and you didn’t even know about it. That place Vito’s is pretty damn good. Don’t worry, you may be rotting in a pine box, but every time I eat shrimp scampi, I’ll think of you.” Vito couldn’t help but look down. “I’ve been doing this a real long time Jerry. I don’t have a name. I don’t have a face. I, I just am. One job to the next. Then the jobs done and boom, erased. Finíto for Vinéto…. that was a bad pun but you get the idea. I gotta say though, this one wasn’t too bad of a ride. You had it pretty good up until now. You see Jerr, I don’t get to have a voice. I don’t get to exist. Through you . . . it’s like this is more of a suicide, than a murder . . .”
Vito’s eyes shifted, passed Jerry his voice reenergized. “Oh man, Jet’s gave up another touchdown. That sucks for you. Sports were never really my thing.” Vito twisted the silencer slower and slower as he spoke. “Here comes the point after . . . and the kick . . . is . . . good. Bet you wish you kept smoking now huh Jerr? I don’t think a few sticks of that nasty ass gum is gonna get you through this. On the bright side, I’ll be able to smoke again.”
“There, that should about do it!” Vito smiled at his gun then back at Jerry. “You know what the crazy thing is? This shit isn’t like the movies. Nope nope nope. ‘Silencers’ they call it. Ha! It’s more of just a noise changer. It’s pretty damn good at hiding muzzle flash, but this entire floor at least is gonna hear one really loud ZIP kinda noise? But no one will think it’s a gun shot, this area isn’t that bad. Hey I’ve been meaning to ask you. Why do you dress like a fucking mole-man if you got all this money? Or live in a place like this? I mean shit you don’t even have a doorman! And your hair is just really nasty, dude. Seriously you know that blondie was probably only with you for the money right? I mean look at yourself. Like I don’t wanna kick a fella when he’s down, but Christ Almighty get it together.”
Vito closed the gap between him and Jerry. “You know you could hit me right? You coulda tried to get out of this. You coulda went out the fire escape in your room. Darted for the door. Rushed me. Anything. But you just stood there. Why is that? Or should I keep going?”
“Because what Jerry? I want to hear it.”
“Please . . .”
“Say that again?”
“Please, just fucking do it.”
“Ohhhhhhhhhh. No really, say that again.”
“Please, just fucking do it. I can’t take this anymore”
“That’s what I was looking for.”
Vito’s thumb pressed the hammer down on his pistol. He licked his lips as the cold steel rim of the silencer pressed against Jerry’s forehead. Jerry slowly closed his eyes, avoiding Vito’s wide open empty stare. Vito bit his lip as he pulled the trigger. The bullet ripped through Jerry’s brain like tissue paper, and exploded out of the back of his skull before piercing the large flat screen TV behind him. The force of the shot caused Jerry’s head to snap back. A ruby red comet of blood, brain chunks, and skull fragments soared in an arc from his brow. Vito’s eyes slowly looked down to see wads of gore splashed on his lapel. The deep red color soaked mercilessly into his fabric, his skin. He quickly wiped the sticky, gooey globules from his person.