Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: The Bridge
Jimmy 'Stache was the one guy in our crew who looked like he walked in off the set of a gangster movie.
Slicked-back hair. Broad shoulders and a thick, solid frame. Tailored suits. A gaudy pinky ring.
He'd mastered the shark-toothed smile and the knowing squint and he could Brando-mumble with the best of 'em.
The boys gave him a lot of shit about it-- but not to his face. The man had the skills to back up the look. I knew a guy who chopped off three of his own fingers to avoid a visit from Jimmy 'Stache.
Jimmy stood beneath an eave at the Pine Cone Inn, smoking one of the expensive Italian cigarettes he was partial to. The fine gray suit he had on made him blend in with the drab, dirty white paint on the hotel's exterior walls.
He stared out across the parking lot, watching the rain bounce off the blacktop.
The lights were on in room 105.
“She's in there, isn't she?” I asked.
He answered without looking my way.
“She is, kid.”
He finished his cigarette and dropped the butt in a puddle.
I felt him eyeballing me. I eyeballed him right back.
He chuckled and shook his head.
Standing there, with Jimmy in that suit, I looked more like a guy who delivered lunch than his partner. I could live with that. I liked the leather jacket I had on and I liked my comfortable slacks.
“You sure she's alone in there, Jimmy?”
“What's with the questions?”
I shrugged and leaned back against the ice machine.
“Listen,” he said, “it's a job. It's just another fuckin' job. That's all you need to know. You think I wanna kill a woman? Especially a gorgeous broad like that? Well, Big Joe couldn't give a fuck what I want. And I don't give a fuck what you want. We're here to do a job. We go in, we take care of the broad, recover the cash, and wait for Big Joe.”
“Why do we have to wait around for Big Joe?”
“He wants to see her. Dead. You got a problem with that I suggest you stick it right up your ass and keep it there. You readin' me, kid?”
I let my breath out and met his cold stare with one of my own.
“I'm readin' you, Jimmy.”
He kept up with the staring.
“You got the stones for this? I hear you're a tough kid. Joe likes you. I wanted to bring Gio out for this job. Big Joe told me to bring you. I don't like workin' with guys I don't know. So don't fuck this up. You do, Fay's gonna be cleaning up two bodies from room 105. Capisce?”
I stood up straight.
“You threatenin' me, Jimmy?”
He smiled, showing me two rows of perfect, white teeth.
“Did that feel like a threat?”
“Then you just answered your own question.”
The light in room 105 went out.
“All right,” said Jimmy 'Stache. “We're on.”
The Pine Cone Inn was a first-rate place for a hit.
Fay-- a statuesque woman with flowing red hair and a face like corned beef hash-- had owned the motel for decades. She didn't ask questions, kept a lot of extra paint around, bought only the most replaceable kinds of furniture, and had a carpet dealer on speed dial. She bought the incinerator special, just for us.
Back before the highway went in, The Cone was the hot spot, catering to both travelers in need of a motel room and locals in need of a stiff drink and a place to unwind.
But that was before.
In the years since, you only went to the Pine Cone Inn to do one of two things, and both of them left stains on the bedding.
We cut across the parking lot, stopping in front of room 107. Everything was quiet and dark.
Jimmy hit me with a sidelong glance and sighed.
“I hate killin' dames.”
He pulled his gun-- a Browning with more bodies in it than I could count-- and kicked.
The cheap lock came apart on impact and the pictures on the wall shook as the door collapsed inward.
She didn't scream.
He signaled for me to stay out, then reached inside and flipped the light switch.
I hung back by the doorway, watching Jimmy inspect the room.
It looked any of the other shabby Pine Cone Inn rooms I'd been in before-- inexpensive dark brown carpet, stained gray ceiling, stained gray walls, framed pictures of race horses and picnickers. A small round table and a couple of some-assembly-required chairs sat just inside the window. A dresser with a television-shaped space on the dusty top of it sat opposite the empty, fully made up bed.
“Get in here, kid,” he whispered.
I pulled my own Browning out of my pocket and entered the room.
A pair of red high-heeled shoes occupied the corner between the nightstand and the wall, right next to a leather briefcase.
He pointed to the corner.
I ran my fingers over the red cocktail dress laid out on the bed on the way by.
Jimmy watched as I dialed up the combination and opened the case.
A whole lot of greenbacks stared back at us. Big Joe's greenbacks.
We took another look around the room. There was only the one door and the window was on the side of the building we'd been watching all day.
He stood very still, listening, then took two steps toward the bathroom.
I took two steps and blew a hole in the back of Jimmy 'Stache's head. Bone and gore hit the wall.
Still, the man didn't fall. I had to push him over.
The rain picked up, battering the overhang outside the door.
I lowered the Browning.
“You can come out now,” I said.
Nothing happened for a couple of seconds, then I heard her moving around in the bathroom.
She stepped out, took one look at Jimmy's corpse, and shook her head.
“You did it,” she whispered. “You really did it.”
She'd cut her brown hair short, shorter than I'd ever seen it, and I thought she looked even better without any makeup on her face.
She wore a thin, white sweater and a pair of faded blue jeans.
The red paint on her toes matched the blood on the wall.
“Tell me why, Tommy.”
I didn't have an answer I could give her. Not in words, anyway. I should've looked away but I couldn't do it.
“Oh shit,” she said as she stepped over Jimmy. She caressed my cheek with the back of her hand. “Tommy, you crazy bastard.”
“You got a case with half a mil of Big Joe's money over there. Which one of us is crazy?”
She looked at the body again and then back at me.
“What's the catch?” she asked.
“No catch. Just split.”
“Just like that? What about Big Joe?”
“You let me worry about Big Joe.”
She stared at me a while longer. Her eyes got watery.
“I had this image in my mind,” I said, “one I like to think about sometimes. There's this state park up north, maybe you know it. Beautiful place. Green fields, lots of trees, even a little brook with this little wooden bridge over it. I like to picture myself bringing you out there, maybe for a picnic or something, maybe just to walk around, holding hands, maybe stop for a kiss up on that bridge.”
“Oh, Tommy.” She brushed a stray lock of hair out of my eyes. “You can't ever go home again. I'm gonna split like you said but you'd better get twice as gone as me. I stole Big Joe's money. You killed a made man.”
She picked up the briefcase and grabbed her shoes, then came back to stand in front of me.
For a second, I thought she was going to kiss me.
“Thank you,” she said, “you crazy bastard.”
And with that she was gone. Out the door.
I moved to the doorway to listen to her bare soles slapping the wet pavement as she ran to her car. Wasn't hard to close my eyes and picture her running over that bridge in the park.
After her car peeled out of the parking lot I stepped back into the room and shut the door.I took Jimmy 'Stache's gun and put it in my pocket, then switched off the light and sat down to wait for Big Joe.
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Jeff Tsuruoka is an author in search of a writing career. He has found a home in the Flash Fiction circuit and is grateful to the blog hosts that give him the opportunity to get his work out there. You can follow him on Twitter @JTsuruoka and be sure to keep tabs on his weekly contributions to Daily Picspiration.