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The Killer and the Angel
short fiction, by Daniel Burke
 


 


Daniel is a resident of Cumming Georgia. He's a project manager for a large transportation company, and he writes as a hobby.


"Someone call 9-1-1" the pimply faced college kid with curly hair and black framed glasses shouted from across the restaurant. A small crowd stood over a large well dressed man splayed out spread eagle on the sparkling red and white checkered linoleum floor. The curly haired kid straddled the well dressed man and pushed on his chest over and over. "Twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen" the kid counted, then he leaned forward and performed mouth to mouth before resuming the chest compressions.

The sight of the curly haired kid's mouth pressed against the other man's made Big Mike's stomach churn. "Christ!" He pushed the plateful of uneaten food away and stared out the window.  Nothing had gone as planned on this trip, and now he wasn't even going to get breakfast before making the long drive back to Queens.

His jet black Mercedes sat parked under the red and yellow Route 17 Diner sign. In the trunk, Franky Gasio's body was growing stiff. Soon it would begin to stink. He should've never agreed to bring the damn body back. It went against everything he knew about doing these kind of jobs, and no one knew more about killing than Big Mike Tortarello, but the old man wanted to see Franky's body, and he'd pay an extra ten grand for it.

The kid's voice droned on. "Three, four, five, come on big guy hang in there. The ambulance is on its way." Out the window, the heavy morning traffic streamed by. The drivers, unaware of the commotion inside or the location of Big Mike's eighty-fifth victim, passed the little diner with hardly a glance. Seemingly out of nowhere, a gleaming red motorcycle materialized and sped into the diner parking lot. The powerful bike looked familiar, but Big Mike couldn't remember where he'd seen it before. The memory lapse surprised him.

Big Mike never forgot anything. His powers of recall were so good, in fact, as a young boy, teachers and psychiatrists used words like “photographic” and “eidetic” to describe them.

Of course, having a perfect memory brings its own set of problems. When nothing is forgotten, memories pile up and enter the thoughts at all the wrong moments. As a child, he'd learned to organize his mind into an imaginary maze of storage rooms where memories could be neatly tucked away. When Big Mike needed a memory, he simply went to the right room and checked it out. Some rooms he visited often, like the room where he kept the memories of the women he'd slept with or the room that contained his favorite wines. And then there were other rooms, darker rooms, he rarely visited. Some of these held images more graphic and violent than the most explicit horror films, and others held the painful memories of his childhood, including the early deaths of his parents.

Now, Big Mike went looking for the room that held the memory of the motorcycle. He was sure he'd seen one just like it on one of the jobs he'd done for Hiram Silverstein, the orthodox Jew who wouldn't eat pork but had no problem contracting for hits on people who stood in the way of his real estate development plans. Mike remembered thinking he'd like to ride a bike like that someday. Of course, at six foot seven and nearly four hundred pounds, he was much too large for a crotch rocket. They didn't call him Big Mike for nothing.

The rooms where he kept the memories of the jobs he'd done for Hiram took up a whole wing of his memory warehouse, but when he got there he found most of the wing had disappeared. The rooms and the memories they held were all gone. Only a handful of rooms remained in the wing, and none of them held the memory of the motorcycle. This had never happened before. He'd forgotten. Disoriented and confused, he focused his attention back out the window.

The rider, dressed in a shiny black jumpsuit, guided the bike to a parking spot directly below him and remained perched on the seat. In the background, the kid's counting continued. After each number the kid grunted from the exertion of pressing on the big man's chest. "One, grunt, two, grunt, three, grunt.”

Ignoring the counting and grunting, Mike studied the rider. A black helmet and tinted sun visor hid the rider's face. There was no way to know for sure, but, Mike got the feeling the rider was staring at him. After a long moment, the rider peeled off the helmet exposing shoulder length raven hair, alabaster skin, and candy apple red lips--a woman, and a beautiful one at that. She made eye contact with him and smiled. Her eyes were an unnatural golden color he'd never seen before. Jesus, he thought, that's both sexy and spooky all at once. Maybe he would have some fun on this trip after all.

With long deliberate strides, the rider made her way into the diner and seeming not to notice the pimply faced kid or the man dying on the floor, stepped around the crowd, and to Big Mike's surprise, strutted directly up to his booth. The glistening black jumpsuit looked to be painted on. The way it flowed over her breasts and hips left very little for the imagination.

He ran his hand through his thinning greasy black hair and flashed her his best smile. "Well, well, well. What do we have here?"

"Do you mind if I sit down?" she asked in a soft, raspy voice.

"Not at all, sweetheart."

The painted on jumpsuit made a crinkly sound as she slid into the booth across from him.

"Thank you."

Without prompting, she placed her smooth white hands on the table where he could see them just as he'd instructed so many others to do. She looked as if she'd been carved from marble like one of those statues at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas.

"Have we met?" Big Mike had never asked such a question before without knowing the answer.

The gold eyes flashed. "Not formally, but we've been to many of the same places together. I've had my eyes on you for quite some time now."


"Is that so, darling. Why is it I've never seen you before then?"

"Oh, we've bumped into one another more than once."

"Yeah. How many times is more than once?"

The candy apple lips curled back in the hint of a smile. "This would be the eighty-sixth time."

That number couldn't be a coincidence. Jesus, was she some kind of cop. He rubbed his leg and felt the four-inch switch blade he concealed in his right front pants pocket; not that he'd need it to do her. She was alone, and if she was a cop she was either the ballsiest bitch he'd ever met or dumber than dirt.

Big Mike leaned across the table and peered into the golden eyes. "Listen sweetheart,” he growled, “I'm not the kind of man you want to mess around with."


There were many tough men who would wet themselves if Big Mike growled at them like that, but she was unmoved. Those improbable eyes didn't show a trace of fear.

"Relax, big fella. We're in compatible lines of business you and I. My name is Nataya Ramatayan Sadaygotan."

He leaned back into the red leather booth. "That's quite a mouthful. You're too freaking white to have a name like that."

"You can call me Natalie if you like, but my name means one who carries what remains. I'm an escort."

Big Mike chuckled. That figured. He had a whole room in his head just for the hookers he knew who called themselves escorts. "What the hell, I'll play along. Name some of the places we've been together."

Natalie rocked back in the booth and crossed her arms across her ample breasts. "Okay. This will be fun. How about Detroit, the night of July 2nd, 1977?"

Big Mike searched the rooms of his memory warehouse until he found the memory. It was the night he knocked off Donny Pizarro for that mad Greek Niiko Pappagorgio. He'd blown Donny's face off with a blast from a scatter gun and dumped his body in a vat of molten iron at a foundry that made engine blocks. Mike sat up razor straight. "What the hell do you know about that date?"

She shrugged. "Well, I know there are pieces of Donny in twenty three Buicks made that year."

Big Mike laughed. "How the hell do you know that?"

"I told you. I was there. Don't you remember me?"

He tried to return to the room in his head to search for any memory of her from that night, but the room wasn't there any longer. In fact, all the rooms that held memories of the jobs he'd done for the mad Greek were gone. "I don't remember anything about that night."

Natalie shook her head. "That's too bad. How about Key West, February 23rd, 1981?"

He ran through the rooms in his mind until he found the right memory. He'd slit open Gay Bobby Hernandez's throat for Pedro Martinez, the Cuban drug king, while they were alone on the little faggot’s fishing boat. Big Mike slammed his fist on the table. "How the fuck do you know these things?"

She laughed. "Don't worry, Big Mike, your secret about what bait you really used to catch that big sailfish you got hanging over the bar at the Eastside Hunt Club is safe with me."

Big Mike laughed loudly. Then, he stopped abruptly and looked around to make sure no one was watching them.

Natalie shook her head. "No one cares about us, Mike."

She was right. Everyone else in the diner had gathered around the big man lying on the floor and were watching the pimply faced kid beating on the man's chest. No one seemed to notice them at all.

"So tell me, Mike," she cooed, "how did you wrestle that big fish into the boat all alone?"

Big Mike went back to the place in his mental warehouse that held the memories of all the jobs he'd done for the Cuban, but that whole section of the warehouse had been replaced by black nothingness. "What fish? What were we talking about again?"

"One last memory, Mike. What about Garden City, Long Island, the evening of May 5th, 1964?"

That memory room took no time to find. This Natalie, or whatever her name was, was a heartless bitch. It was a room he knew well, but he chose never to visit. It held the memory of his eleventh birthday and the night he'd intentionally tripped his grandmother down the cellar stairs causing her to break her neck.

Something hot and wet rolled down his cheek - a tear. He couldn't remember the last time he cried, and he couldn't remember why he was crying now. He wiped the tears from his eyes on his sleeve and glared at Natalie. "Damn. Who do you work for?"

"You don't know him, Mike, but he knows you."

"Is that so? Well, what does this boss of yours want?"

"He wants me to bring you to him."

"Really?"

"Yes, but I can't bring all of you."

"What are you talking about?"

"When you die, Mike, the best parts of your life here." She tapped a slender ivory finger on the table. "The love you've felt and the kindness you've shown, they endure and go with you to the next place. Everything else must stay here. It's my job to escort what's allowed to pass to the other side."

Nothing she said made any sense.

The wail of sirens drowned out his thoughts and flashing red and blue lights reflected off every polished surface. The pimply faced kid's voiced seemed to be right on top of him. "They're here, big guy. Hang on just a little longer; just a little longer."

Natalie slid out of the booth and extended her hand for him to take. Looking up at her, she seemed so big and he so small. He reached up and took her hand. He'd expected it to be cold and hard like stone, but it was warm and soft, and he held on tight like a child who fears losing a parent in an unfamiliar place.

She pulled him out of the booth, and as they slowly floated past the big man on the floor with the pimply faced kid pressing on his chest, Big Mike thought he should know the man's identity. The man's face was familiar like one he'd known a long time ago and loved. One small room left in his empty mind held a childhood memory of a long dead man with similar features tucking him in at night. "Pa-pa."

"What do you escort again?" Big Mike asked. Though, he was no longer sure he understood what the words meant.

Natalie's candy apple lips frowned. "In your case Michael, not much at all.

 
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