By Duane Hewitt
Copyright 2016 Duane Hewitt. All Rights Reserved.
An apartment – small, bare, featureless; almost bleak: A man sits on a chair. He is positioned six or seven feet from the stove. Two men are in the room with him. One, a heavy set brute with a thick, lidded forehead, is seated at the little kitchen table with his legs splayed. He looks like a mountain of flesh. He stares, emotionless, at the man in the chair. The second man is thinner. He is dressed in the mismatched remains of suits. He stands before the man in the chair, grinning. The man in the chair speaks.
“I – I don’t know. I’m telling you. It’s paid. I paid it. I swear to you. I swear!”
The man standing before him is amused. He grins broadly, revealing crooked, missing, and gold-capped teeth, all of which have been stained by years of too much coffee and tobacco.
“I dunno,” says the man. “That’s not what we was told.” He chuckles and grins even more. “Hey, Stu,” says the man to the behemoth at the table, “says he paid the money.” The man chuckles again.
The big man doesn’t respond. His eyes remain fixed on the man in the chair.
A drop of water breaks free from the sink’s faucet and hits the aluminum sink with a prophetic ‘thud’.
“$50,000, buddy,” says the standing man – “Plus the extra seven, that is – fifty-seven thousand. You know? Fifty-seven thousand.”
A bead of sweat rolls down the man’s forehead. “Listen to me,” the man implores, “that money was dropped off last night – all of it. On my life, I swear!”
The dapper man smiles again. “Hear that, Stu?” he says. “On his life, he says – on his life!”
Stu doesn’t move. He doesn’t have to. His face, a chiseled mound of flesh and steel, expresses nothing.
An eternity of silence overtakes the room: Another drop of water creeps out of the faucet and descends to the sink like the gong of destiny.
Then, from the big man: “Let’s do this.”
Dapper-man smiles a broad, evil grin. He turns to the stove and turns on the front right burner to high. Then he half tears the shirt from the seated man’s body. His eyes glisten with glee.
The man in the chair is covered in sweat. He starts to tremble.
“Please – please… I’m begging you – not this!” He whimpers.
The stove begins to heat. Each man watches as the burner turns bright crimson red. Another droplet of water breaks the silence. The dapper man reaches over to the faucet and lets the next droplet of water balance on his fingertip. He flicks the water onto the red-hot burner. The water dances across the burner, fizzling as it goes, and disappears.
“Zowie! Did you see that, Stu?” says the man, “she’s hot!”
“Do it,” repeats the behemoth.
The man standing chuckles: Then – from the one seated – desperation – and an idea…
“Wait! Wait!” he says. “I can prove it. That money – it wasn’t me who dropped it off – but the person who did… he isn’t far from here – he works a few blocks away – at the deli. I trust him. I know he made the drop. I know it! We can go, all of us, you’ll see – the money was paid. He’ll tell you who got it. We can go. We can all go now!”
Cold reptilian eyes look on, unmoved. Another bead of water hits the sink. Suddenly, Stu averts his gaze and, with one short comment, begins to stand.
“One hour,” he says. “We make this happen in one hour or we come back.”
The stove is turned off. The seated man is hoisted up, given his jacket despite having no shirt, and is forced heavily out of the room.
* * *
An hour and twenty-five minutes later, the door to the apartment is forced open. The man is marched into the room and rammed into the same small chair in front of the stove. His jacket is ripped from him and thrown aside. All four burners are turned on.
“Wait –!” he exclaims.
But no one is listening.
Stu returns to the chair he occupied previously and drops down heavily.
“That money,” pleads the man, “that money was paid – I don’t know what happened but I do know the money was paid – last night! All of it!”
He feels sick to his core as the burners on the stove heat up. The reality of what’s about to happen settles in, making him want to cry – or heave. This time, there is no smile on the face of dapper-man. The only thing being waited for now is for the burners to glow like red hot embers. Time ceases. The faucet continues its drum-beat to hell.
Then – out of nowhere: The phone rings.
Dapper-man pauses to look at the phone, an old, rotary-style black phone that’s mounted on the wall next to the door. The burners are bright red. A droplet of water hits the sink.
The phone rings again.
Dapper-man turns to the monster in the chair.
Stu doesn’t respond. The glow from the burners is beginning to throw off a disturbing heat. The man at the stove is waiting for the go-ahead. Stu is ready to speak – then…
The phone rings again.
After an eternity, Stu says: “Answer the goddamn thing.”
Dapper-man looks at the figure in the chair – a frightened, shivering carcass – and goes to the phone. He answers.
“Yeah?” he says.
The man speaks into the phone again, “Okay. Yeah. Okay.”
He holds the phone for a moment. There is a click. The caller on the other end has hung up. The man turns, looks at the two figures in the room, and comes forward. He speaks.
“That was Mr. Da Costa,” he says, “Says he got the money last night.”
Stu takes a moment to digest the information. He stands and, without a shred of emotion, looks one more time at the body in the chair. Then he heads for the door. The second man follows. Both men leave. They make no effort to close the door behind them. The burners glow red hot. A drop of water falls: suspended in space for all time.
The man in the chair crumples over, cradles his head, and begins to weep.
Copyright 2016 Duane Hewitt. All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. No part of this work may be copied or transmitted by any means whatsoever without the prior written approval of the author. Duane Hewitt asserts his rights as the author to this work and its plot, themes and characters, under International Copyright and Intellectual Property Laws.