See, when you shoot a guy through the top of his head you’d better make sure you’re shooting straight down; otherwise a low velocity slug like a forty-five can ricochet off a bone and go most anywhere it wants to -- especially when you’re holding your damn gun sideways, fer chri'sake. In a nutshell, that’s what happened. The slug went through the top of the mark’s skull, bounced off his right jawbone, blew sideways through his left one and punched a hole in my pants as big as a tennis ball.
I woke up staring at overhead hospital lights and green masked faces looking down at me. It’s okay, one of them said. The operation was a success. From his point of view, it was. From mine, not so much.
And that’s why I'm tending bar in this shithole town and telling you this story. It don’t make no difference anyhow. It’s been forty years ago last Sunday. All the people involved with that hit back then are dead now. The kid caught the last ride on Old Sparky up at Leavenworth. The rest of them ended up dying in jail thanks to my testimony. Yeah, my testimony. The way it was, the way I’d finished up back then, the only thing I could do, was take the federals up on their witness protection deal.
Might have worked out different. I might have wound up rich and retired over in Europe. Might have done a lot of things. Except, laying there in that damn bed, I knew I’d never make another hit.
I knew, thanks to that fucking rookie, I just didn’t have the balls for the game anymore.
AJ Hayes lives in a small town near San Diego, California, where there is no mafia . . . now. He misses stuff like "Old Vegas" and guys with Fedoras, cigars and bad attitudes. You can find his stuff at places like Shotgun Honey, A Twist Of Noir, Yellow Mama, The Hardnosed Sleuth, Muck and Muse, Title Fights and Flashshot. One of his stories will can be found in Pulp Ink, an anthology edited by Chris Rhatagin and Nigel Bird. He was interviewed on Chinwag At The Slaughterouse by Richard Godwin and interviewed himself at Nigel bird's Sea Minor website.