Travis RowdenWords: 4700
106 Weaver St. NE
No Rest For The Wicked
He sat in his old moth-eaten chair watching the news. Some poor soul up in Portland had got himself killed by an electrical fire. He chuckled a little at that. He couldn't see himself dying in such a stupid way. Turning off the TV he stood up and walked over to his table. His eyes drifted to the letter he had gotten about six hours prior. Picking up the letter he began to reread it.
"John, I got in contact with another customer. He has a job for you. I can't write it in case the letter gets intercepted. If you're interested, show up whenever in the next week. Signed Connor."
John stared at the letter a little while longer before walking over to the apartment window. He looked down over the California coast. He was starting to run low on money, not being officially employed. Looking back down to the letter in his hand, he dropped it to the floor and walked for the exit. Something to fill his pocket wouldn't hurt.
John walked over to his car and pulled his keys out. Getting in, he started up the vehicle and flicked the police scanner on. Never hurt to be safe. He pulled out of the lot and began to drive downtown, towards the slums. He hadn't seen Connor for about six months. They usually worked together on jobs, but outside of that they went about their own lives. Turning down a street he immediately regretted his actions. A traffic jam clogged the road for about three blocks. Cursing, he pulled out a cigarette. Lighting it up he relaxed and began to think, letting the nicotine rush blow his worries away. Looking at the cig, he remembered his mother. She had kicked his rear when she caught him smoking his first cigarette about ten years ago. He laughed when he remembered that she had made him get a job to support his own habit. His mood soured though, when he thought about what happened. If he hadn't been working, maybe he could have helped her. Three men had broken into the house and stolen everything they had. His mother had been beaten to death. He remembered walking into the kitchen to that gristly image.
A honk brought him out of his thoughts. The jam had broken and the cars had begun to move again. He quickly shook his head. It wouldn't do to be dwelling over that anymore. John was twenty-four now. That had been ten years ago. The car honked again. Rolling down his window, John proceeded to flip the driver the bird. The man got out of his car and began to yell while walking forward, but John just took off. He really didn't give a damn. He drove for about another ten minutes before slowing down. There was a small parking area behind the building he was looking for. Spotting the building he pulled down the alley next to it and into the lot. He parked his car and killed the engine. Getting out he looked up. The building was an old, decrepit place. He knew that it was an abandoned warehouse for an old car dealership. The place had been shut down when the manager had been caught using the warehouse for a chop shop. Since then Connor had found the place and bought it for a small price. Nobody had wanted the reputation that had come with the purchase.
Walking towards the building, John pressed the code in on the pad next to the door. He could hear a clanking noise as the electronic lock undid itself. Opening the door, John walked into the office part of the warehouse. He footsteps echoed in the empty hallway. The inside of the building was much cleaner and nicer than the outside. Connor had refurbished the place extensively when he got the deed for it. John continued past the office counter and walked into the hanger. The room that had once held illegal car parts was now stocked full of random boxes. Although that's what it would look like to an outsider. John knew that Connor was aware of what was in each box. Connor was what you would call a merchant. He was a dealer of many things. He also worked as a middleman. He was one of the few people in California that the local gangs respected. He had favors everywhere. John continued to walk down an isle of boxes and turned to a door that was made of stainless steel. An intercom was adjacent to the handle on the wall. Pressing down the button John spoke.
"Connor, its John. I'm here about the letter." John waited for a moment. The door unlocked and swung open. In front of him stood a man of a short, stocky stature. Connor was an old Olympic weight lifter. His lifting was abruptly stopped when he suffered an injury during training. Since then he had somehow come into his current profession. John didn't know the details.
"Alright, come in. We need to make this quick," Connor said with a slight Irish accent. They walked into the room and up to a table scattered in papers. Connor reached down and shuffled through them. Finding a folder, he pulled it out and handed it to John. John opened the folder and a picture dropped out to the floor. He bent over and picked up the picture. The photo showed a woman. She looked to be about fifty. She was standing outside a house talking to a postman. John could tell she wasn't aware of the picture being taken. He pulled out a paper from the folder.
"Her name is Anna huh?" John asked, continuing to look through her profile. She worked at an old restaurant in Vista, Nevada. According to the information on the paper, Vista was a scarcely populated town. It was basically a rest point about seventy miles from the capital. Many travelers hit the area during holidays. Spring Break was in two days. It would make his job easier. John put the paper back and handed the folder back to Connor.
"Well I do need the money. Ok, I'll take the job." John said walking to the vending machine in the corner of the small room. He put in a dollar and grabbed the soda that fell out of the slot.
"You know, you wouldn't be so broke if you stopped gambling and buying whores. Oh don't give me that look. I hear it from my guys all the time. Every weekend you head up to the red light district and blow away what humanity you have left." Connor said taking a seat in a nearby chair. John took a long gulp of the soda and smirked at him, "I never knew you had people following me. I'm honored," he said finishing the can. Connor scowled at him.
"I have people following everybody of interest. It keeps me alive longer to know what goes on in this hell."
John stared at the floor for a moment before looking up. "Do I get my gear now or on site?" He asked walking towards the door. Connor walked behind him.
"An agent is waiting to give you further details on site. After you show up, rent a room at the local hotel. You will be contacted." Connor handed him two tickets. "A plane is waiting to take you to the capital and a vehicle is waiting for you in the airport parking garage. If you do this right you land two-hundred thousand. It's a well paying job. Keep you drowning in sin a while longer." Connor mumbled the last part but John heard him. John walked out of the room and made his way towards his car. He sighed. It looked like he needed to pack something to read on the plane. How come none of the jobs took place near home?
It had been a tiring flight. It started out ok until he had found out that the kid in the seat next to him had motion sickness. He didn't get sick, but he moaned for an hour straight before thankfully falling asleep. After getting off the plane, John picked up the vehicle in the airport parking lot. It was a two hour drive to Vista. He was cooking alive in the old piece of junk Honda they gave him. Seriously, they could pay him over a hundred thousand but they couldn't get a ride with some air conditioning. It was now a race to see who would die first, him or the car. So far, the car was winning. There was nothing for miles out in this wasteland. All John could see were shrubs, scavengers, and the occasional car. John turned on the radio to help pass the time. Or he would have if the radio wasn't broken. Now he was just pissed. The drive continued for another hour before he spotted an old water tower in the distance. On the front, in red paint was the now faded, corroded word, "Vista". He drove into town slowly, observing the buildings. They looked to have been constructed back in the nineteen forties. Driving for a few minutes, John spotted the local hotel. On the side was a dirt parking lot. Jesus this place was pathetic. Pulling the car in, he parked in the vacant lot. Getting out of the car, his boots crunched the dry cracked ground. John looked up at the old building. The outside looked to be barely holding up. The gutters were hanging off the sides, the wood was rotting, and the support pillars were beginning to lean. He was seriously going to start charging hazard pay. Walking to the door he pushed it open and walked into the lobby. The door creaked as he walked in. The man at the reception desk looked up. Walking forward he pulled out his wallet.
"I would like to rent a room. How much is it going to cost me?" John asked, pulling out some bills. The man eyed the cash in his hand before replying.
"It costs fifty dollars a day. Cable costs an additional twenty." John pulled out a hundred dollar bill and handed it to the receptionist. The man grabbed the money and stood up. He walked to a back room and began to shuffle through some keys. John turned around and looked out the window at the city. This place was a dump. Coming from him meant this was especially bad. He had lived in the slums of Cali for three years after his mother's death. He just wanted to get the job details and get the deed done so he could get out of here. Turning back around, he grabbed the key from the receptionist and followed the man to his room. They walked up the stairs and made their way down a hallway. Coming to his room, he opened the door and looked inside. The room was surprisingly in good shape. It was almost as good as his apartment. Walking in, he looked around. A TV was situated in the corner and a small fridge was over on the tabletop. He walked over and flopped down on the bed. It creaked rather loudly. Tired from the long drive, he decided to take a nap. The agent would contact him soon enough. He quickly drifted off to an uneasy sleep.
John waited at the bus stop on his way home. He had just got done working at the hardware store. He was sore as hell and didn't want to see another piece of lumber as long as he lived. Looking up he spotted the bus rounding the corner of the street and making its way towards the stop. He couldn't wait until he saved enough money to get a car. He was sick of not being able to smoke on the way home. As the bus doors opened, John walked on and made his way to the back of the bus. He sat down and looked out the window as the bus began to move again. He had been working for the local hardware store for about a month now. His mother said that if he was going to smoke, then he was going to work. He had yelled and complained until his mom had walloped him a good one. The next day he had went out job searching. It wasn't so bad. Having his own money to spend was actually nice for once. He didn't have to beg his mom for cash anymore. The bus turned another corner and began to slow down. The drive wasn't very long, but John was aching. Getting off the bus he walked down the street towards his apartment that he shared with his mother. Walking up the stairs, he immediately noticed the door. It was ajar. His mother never left the door open. She always complained about the heat bill. John reached down and slowly pushed open the door. Once his eyes adjusted to the darkness inside, he made his way in. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end. The room was in shambles. He listened for any sign of an intruder in the house. The silence was deafening. He continued to make his way around the tattered room. Walking towards the kitchen he spotted blood on the tile floor. He remembered standing there looking at the ground for a full minute. He was too afraid to look up. He was pretty sure of what he was going to find. Finally he gathered the courage and stole a glance. He didn't remember how long he stood looking at her. It was almost unreal. He felt empty. Suddenly in place of the emptiness, came anger. John turned and lashed out at the wall. His fist hit the wall and sent fragments of plaster everywhere. He began to yell in fury. The phone began to ring. His world went white.
Awaking with a start, John sat up in a cold sweat. The phone on the side of his bed was ringing. Reaching over he picked it up. "John here."
"Mr. Grimm, a pleasure to meet you, my name is not important. But what is important is that you arrive at the water tower at midnight tonight. Your gear is at the top in a sealed box. I will contact you from there." The phone went silent. John sighed and pulled out a cigarette. Lighting it up, he looked at the clock. It was seven now so he supposed he could grab a bite to eat first. He was also curious to find out what this old hag Anna was like.
As John walked into the restaurant, he could immediately feel a kind of homey atmosphere. The place was actually nicer than any building he had seen in town. The restaurant was mostly empty except for a few locals in the corner. John walked over to the bar and sat. It didn't take long for Anna to come out from the back room. She was just like the picture had shown her; Gray, wrinkled, and old looking. But her eyes were what unnerved John. That kind, caring look she had. They were the same eyes his mother had always worn.
"Hey stranger, what do ya want?" Anna said taking out a pen and notepad. John thought for a moment and then spoke, "What do you suggest?" Anna thought for a moment.
"Do you like chicken?" She asked with a raised brow. John chuckled a little. He loved chicken.
"Yeah I do," He said, leaning back on the stool. She smiled and went back to the kitchen. John thought while she prepared his food. After meeting the agent tonight, he planned to get started real quickly. The less time he spent dawdling, the quicker he could get paid and get out of here. He hated the heat. It made him sick to his stomach. Anna returned with a plate of fried chicken and a beer. John raised a brow, "How do you know I drink?" He questioned looking at her. She shrugged and went to take the beer back but John grabbed it before she could. She smiled.
"That's what I thought," Anna said before taking a seat. He quickly devoured the chicken and slowly began to savor the beer. Anna was a good cook. She looked up from the magazine she was reading.
"So what are you doing in town? Just passing through?" she asked walking over to the fridge and grabbing herself a drink. John took a gulp of beer and looked at her for a moment. Ok, he could play this game.
"I'm in town on business. Just stopping for a while and then moving on," he said before placing the beer on the counter. She stared for a moment and then nodded. John surmised that she met many passerbies each day, so this was not an uncommon story. "Well good luck on your business, hope it goes well." John laughed a little. To hear her saying that was rather funny. She looked at him strangely.
"What's got you so bubbly? I'm guessing it's an inside joke," Anna said finishing off her drink. John looked at the clock. Ten thirty. It wouldn't be long now.
"Where do you come from boy?" Anna said catching him off guard. Silent for a moment, John decided telling her couldn't hurt.
"I'm from California. I was born in San Francisco. I've lived there all my life. I plan to die there too." Anna nodded before speaking herself.
"Yeah I myself was born in Wales near England. I moved here about twenty years ago. Started this restaurant about ten years ago." John laughed a little.
"You don't sound English." He said putting his empty beer on the counter. She chuckled a little.
"My parents moved there from New York. They had me after a year. I picked up my accent from them." John nodded. Connor was born in Texas, but his parents were Irish. Thus the accent. They continued to talk for a while about random nothings until John looked up at the clock. Eleven twenty. He had to go. John stood up and grabbed his coat.
"Oh you're leaving then? Well the meal is on the house. I don't get to talk to people often. It was a welcome change. Hope to see you again" John smiled and thanked her, before making his way toward the door. It was time to get the show on the road.
John pulled up to the gate outside of the water tower. Stepping out he looked up at the structure. In the darkness, the tower looked quite menacing. Jumping over the gate, he began to climb up the ladder. The climb took about a minute. As john reached the top, he immediately spotted the case containing his gear. Walking over John proceeded to open the case. He looked at the tools issued to him. An old 44. Revolver, and a nice rifle. It least it gave him a variety of ways to finish the job. Stowing the pistol, he began to dismantle the rifle.
"Well I guess you're on time." John pulled the revolver back out looking for the voice. A man stepped out from the shadows of the platform. John slowly put the gun back away.
"You shouldn't sneak up on me like that. I've killed people for less." John said shutting the case and standing up. The man smirked.
"Oh, but you've also killed people for more. Isn't that your job?" He questioned. John scowled. Yeah that was his job. Killing people for money wasn't exactly moral, but it paid the bills. The man walked to the ledge of the platform and looked over the small town.
"The old lady, Anna, is a witness to a crime. She is due to be in court in about six days. My client would rather not see her there. He is actually willing to pay well for her absence." The man said turning to John. John scoffed.
"Cut the crap, you want me to kill her so she doesn't squeal. Yeah I can do that." The man chuckled.
"Very straight forward. I like that. Yes I want her dead, but there are circumstances. We want her dead the day before the trial. This creates a solid alibi for my client." The man walked towards the ladder. Turning around he stared at John.
"If you don't do this right, not only will you not get paid but I'll also have to kill you." John watched the man climb down the ladder. John looked up at the sky and watched the stars for a moment. He sighed and began towards the ladder.
John walked in the restaurant at six o clock that morning. He had continued to return to the place every day. He justified it as being hungry. But deep down he was reminded of his mother every time he saw her. That thought made him bitter. He just couldn't seem to let go. He could hear Anna working in the back.
"Hello? Hey Anna you there? I'm hungry," John yelled to the back. The noises stopped for a moment.
"John? That you?" came Anna's voice from the kitchen. She walked out drying her hands with a rag.
"Well you're early. I haven't fired up the stove yet, so you'll have to hang on." John nodded and Anna made her way back to the kitchen. It took about another ten minutes to fire up the grill. Anna made her way out with the morning special and set it down in front of John. It only took him five minutes to devour the whole thing. Patting his belly, John sat back. Anna walked over to him after turning on the jukebox.
"Say John, you think you could help me carry some supplies that were delivered yesterday? They're out back." John nodded and followed her through the kitchen and out the back door. The boxes sat in front of them in stacked rows. Anna directed John of where to carry them and then began to pick up some herself.
"So you never told me about your father John. What was he like?" John faltered slightly. His father was a touchy subject. But he didn't feel like telling her was a problem.
"My father was a druggy. He left me and my mother when I was born." Anna was silent for a moment. She set her box down and rubbed her back slightly.
"I couldn't imagine doing that to my own child. I love my son dearly. I just couldn't," Anna said continuing forward towards the rest of the boxes. John thought for a moment before speaking.
"How old is your son?" He asked picking up another box.
"Twelve. He's actually coming to visit in a few days. You're here until the sixteenth right? You should meet him." John stopped. He felt an emotion that he hadn't felt in a very long time. Guilt. He remembered walking in on his own mother as she lay cold on the kitchen floor. He replaced his mother with Anna and himself with a faceless younger child. He quelled that train of thought. It wouldn't do any good to get cold feet now. After finishing the task, John went back into the main restaurant and ordered a drink. He was silent for a moment. If he killed Anna, it would leave that kid without a mother. Memories of his own childhood came rushing back at him. If he did this, the kid could end up in a worse profession then John himself. Without a mother to guide him, his life was left open to the horrors of the modern world. He had screwed up big time. Getting to close to Anna had made his conscious of her as a human being. Anna came back out with his drink. John sipped it slowly.
"Hey you don't look to good. I think you should go back to the hotel and lay down for a while." John looked up at her for a moment.
"Yeah. I think I will."
Today. He would finish the job today. John stood on the edge of the water tower platform. He had a clear view of the restaurant from this position. It was five thirty now. Anna would be here in fifteen minutes. John put the case down and began to assemble the rifle. He had stayed up all night despite his best efforts. His cigarettes were gone. He was a complete nerve wreck. He had never felt this guilty before. He guessed it was the fact that this situation was so much like his own. Ten years ago. John looked to the horizon. The sun was just beginning to rise. There was still plenty of time to finish the job. He attached the silencer to the rifle and leveled it at the entrance of the restaurant. He could see Anna's car pull up. He bit his lip. Blood flowed down his chin but he was unaware. He had her in his sights. His hands were trembling badly now. He could see Anna's face. He froze. Those eyes. He could see his mother in those eyes. His hand lowered and brought the rifle with it. He sighed before beginning to laugh. It looked like he would be pinching pennies for a while longer. For some reason the thought made him happy. Now there was just one more problem to deal with. He waited and began to plan.
John walked into the restaurant and sat at the counter.
"Anna you there?" he called to the kitchen. She came out followed by a young boy.
"Oh John, didn't expect you to still be here. When you didn't show up this morning, I thought you had left." John smiled a little.
"Well I wanted to meet your son you told me about. Is this him?" John asked.
"Yes it is. Say hello Jason." The boy looked at John with a smile.
"What's up man?" John laughed. He was a cocky little punk. Reminded him of himself at a younger age. Anna scowled.
"Where are your manners Jason? I thought I taught you better than that." John laughed.
"Don't worry about it Anna." She quieted but her face still held a disapproving look. She began to cook a lunch for the both of them.
"Did you hear about the shooting at the water tower this morning?" she asked, pouring a glass of soda for Jason. John put on a questioning face. He knew what happened, but he wanted to play the fool on this one.
"No. What did happen?" he asked. She handed him a beer and began to grill some beef.
"Some man was found dead after a shooting was reported up there. Never found the suspect. They don't know who it was either, the man left no evidence." John rubbed his side. The agent had been a better shot than he'd thought. He knew the man would come and look for him. He'd hidden in the shadows and had begun to fire on the man. He managed to drop him, but not before being skimmed on the side.
"Wow. Crazy stuff happens down here huh?" He asked as he began to eat the meal Anna had placed before him. Anna took on a slightly worried look.
"Yes it does. I shouldn't tell anybody this but I just happened to witness a crime that could put a very bad man behind bars. I'm going to testify tomorrow. I thought for sure that he'd have me killed. But I wasn't too worried once you showed up. You'd protect me wouldn't ya John?" She joked. John smiled slightly.
"Sure Anna. You bet I would."