"You're that Mafia guy, aren't you?"
I dislike the man with the thick New York accent. He is too tall, his eyes too sharp, his suit too tailored. But it is the kinds of men I dislike most that pay the most money. So I sit back in my chair, inhale my cigar, and look up at him.
"This is Chicago," I tell the New Yorker. "Get a phone book and tell me how many names belong to men of the mafia. Look around this room, and tell me how many people are murderers."
"But you're more than a murderer," the New Yorker says. "You're an assassin."
I rest my left ankle on my right knee. I breathe cigar smoke in the New Yorker's face. I wish the smoke would take him with it when it disappears. "What makes you come to me?"
"I need you to--"
"Stop." I take a drink--ginger ale, because true Italians drink only wine, and there is none of it to be found in this deplorable bar. No good wine, that is. "Why me? You need someone out of your life. A cheating girlfriend, a man you're in debt to, someone who knows something they shouldn't. That much is obvious. But what do you see in me, that makes you come here, right now?"
The New Yorker blinks and looks around. He's used to the undesirables of society. I know from his face, and from the fact that he's sought me out. But he is uncomfortable here. This is perfect.
"Listen to me, you son of a--"
"You are brazen," I interrupt, "to insult a man who can kill a person as easily as he can an insect. How did you learn of me?"
"Herbert Spencer, you got rid of his accountant after she found out he was embezzling. Taxi commissioner."
I draw another breath from my cigar. "My memory tells me he manufactured window cleaning devices."
The New Yorker smiles. "I guess you are the man I want."
"And this Mr. Spencer...he gave you my name?"
"What is it?"
"Massimiliano de Angelis."
I extend my hand, and he shakes it. "Call me Max. Or de Angelis, if you are that type of person."
"What type?" the New Yorker asks.
"The type who is so pig-headdedly caught up in business and facts that they merely see people as tools to accomplish their will."
I enjoy watching the New Yorker squirm like a baitworm. "When do I give you the target?"
"You will write the name, address, and telephone number of your enemy on a napkin. You will leave it between pages 50 and 51 of the mystery novel One Corpse Too Many, by Ellis Peters, at the Harold Washington Library Center, no later than thw twenty-fourth of September."
That was five days from now. It was unlikely the book would be checked out in that amount of time. Using Peters' murder mystery novels for drop sites is quite enjoyable and mildly ironic.
But then again, I enjoy viewing myself as the type of man Brother Cadfael is. We are gentle, cunning ex-soldiers with a wide variety of skills. We are good men, but we know how to hide bodies.
But the times have changed. I can hide bodies. I can kill people and make the police, the neighbors, even their mothers, think that they left on a rather long vacation. And I have--twenty-seven times, for eighteen clients, in fourteen states and three countires. But I prefer not to.
I am Massimiliano de Angelis, the assassin who does not kill his targets.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.