The Hitman and Ruby Moon

by William Starr Moake

Hawaii is a real trip. I've been in Honolulu for a month now and I still can't get over the weather. It's February and temperature is in the low 80s every day. Back in Detroit it's as cold as a witch's tit and the snow is blowing. I feel sorry for Nolan. He's paying me to lay on the beach in paradise while he hoofs it through sooty-colored slush. I should be paying him to follow Huntley, the snitch who rolled over on him when the feds infiltrated their operation.

Huntley was easy to find. I figured he would head for the fun and sun and after I checked the flights to Mexico, I found him listed under his mother's maiden name at United Airlines. A one-way ticket to Honolulu had been purchased from a travel agent in the burbs. The stupid bastard didn't have the sense to leave Wayne County to make travel reservations.

Nolan told me to keep track of Huntley and wait patiently until I found the right circumstances. Hell, I would gladly wait years in this place. It has to look like an accident so Nolan won't get any more heat from the FBI. After I found Huntley, I took a hotel room directly across the street from the highrise building where he rented an apartment. I can see him from my window when he sits on his lanai looking at the ocean. He doesn't have a clue that anyone is watching him. I've followed him all around the island in my rental car and not once did he ever look in his rear-view mirror. Huntley thinks he's safe because he made a deal with the Detroit cops to vanish 5,000 miles away until it was time to testify in court. Sooner or later I'll catch him alone and he won't see it coming.

In the meantime I'm content to soak up the tropical ambience. The hotel manager thinks I'm a businessman from Chicago taking a long vacation on the advice of my doctor. The truth is I am getting older and I'm starting to think about retiring. You can't stay alive in my business if you get careless and I'm not as sharp as I used to be. I could do a lot worse than Hawaii when it comes time to call it quits. I like the way Hawaii makes me feel. It's so laid-back and comfortable I'm more relaxed than I've been in years.

I even met a woman I dig. Her name is Ruby Moon and she could easily pass for a wet dream: five-foot, nine inches tall and exotically beautiful with long black hair and almond eyes. She's mostly Korean with a little Hawaiian and haole (as they call whites in the islands) thrown in. She works as a call girl in Waikiki. The first time I talked to her in a bar she got mad when I said she looked like a dragon lady.

"What the hell does that mean? I'm not Chinese."

"You're Asian."

"I'm Korean. Not all Asians are Chinese."

"Can we start over? My name is Jack Bryce."

When I tried to shake hands with her, she stared into my eyes and didn't move a finger.

"What do you want?"

"I'll buy you a drink."

"I already have a drink."

"You're not making this very easy."

"Are you sure you can afford me?"

"My daddy died and left me the farm in Iowa. You want to see the deed?"

She tried hard not to smile, but I knew I had her.

"That's better. Now tell me what you're drinking."

"Champagne cocktail."

"I should have guessed."

After I ordered a refill from the waiter, she said: "What are you doing in Honolulu, Jack Bryce?"

"I'm here to kill someone."

I get a kick out of telling people the truth because they never believe it. She played along, smiling the whole time.

"Anyone I know?"

"I seriously doubt it."

"What did he do?"

"Let's not talk about the jerk. Tell me your name."

"Ruby Moon."

"You're kidding. Is that your real name?"

"Moon is a highly-respected Korean name."

"What about Ruby?"

"My father thought I resembled a jewel."

"He was right. You're gorgeous."

I see Ruby a couple times a week when she's not busy. I take her to a fancy restaurant for dinner, then we go dancing at a nightclub or take in a comedy show and usually end up in my hotel room. She's expensive, but I like her and I think she likes me, too. Once, as she was leaving the hotel room, she refused to take the five hundred I peeled out of my wallet. She said that night was a freebie because she had an especially good time. Of course she had no idea that Nolan was paying for everything, including her. I have a virtual blank check with him because I'm saving his ass from prison. He puts money into a bank account I withdraw from anytime I want to with no questions asked.

Ruby is young enough to be my daughter if I had one, but she doesn't mind the age difference. She's used to dealing with older men. If I put any effort into it, I could probably fall for her in a big way.

But first things first. I'm here to take care of Huntley and I can't afford to get scatter brained about it. This might be my last job and I intend to do it right.

Huntley thinks he's a lady killer, but he couldn't score if his life depended on it. I ate lunch the other day at a sidewalk cafe in Waikiki, watching Huntley strike out twice with young women tourists on the beach. He has a wife back in Detroit, a real woofer who left him for a nightclub bouncer. He could do better if he combed his hair once in awhile and bathed more often. I don't understand these young guys. They think women like the sloppy look. Two days of whiskers and no socks went out when "Miami Vice" ended and Don Johnson got fat. Nowadays women want a man who looks like he works on Wall Street.

After lunch I walked back to my hotel and did a double-take when I saw who was waiting in the lobby. Nolan climbed out of a rattan chair and shuffled over to me. He didn't look happy.

"What the hell are you doing here, Frank?"

"Checking up on you."

"You want to queer the whole thing? Huntley is right down the street."

"Let's go to the bar. It's nice and dark in there."

We took a booth and ordered double Scotches.

"What's this all about?" I asked him.

"I wanted to find out what's going on."

"I'm staying close to Huntley."

"You haven't called in two weeks."

"What the fuck do you want -- a daily report?"

'"Take it easy, Jack."

"I don't work that way."

"You been spending my money like I was printing it on a press."

"Things are expensive in Hawaii."

"When are you gonna make your move?"

"When the time is right and not a minute before."

"How long will that take?"

I drank half of my Scotch. "Why don't do Huntley yourself while you're here?"

"I'm paying you to do it."

"Then leave it to me and go back to Detroit."

"I got a right to know what's happening with my money."

"That's not the deal we made."

"I don't need this shit with the DA breathing down my neck."

"Stop whining. I know you can afford it."

Nolan sipped his drink and stared at me. "You should be careful how you talk to me, Jack."

"Drink up. This conversation is over."

In the lobby I took his arm and led him outside, which he didn't like much.

"What is this --?"

"You're going to the airport," I said, flagging down a taxi.

"Like hell I am."

I opened the door and shoved him into the back seat. "After you get back to Detroit, give me a call and let me know if you want me to handle this job. I don't care one way or the other, but I'm not listening to any more complaining."

I slammed the door and told the driver to take him to the airport, then I watched the taxi pull away. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's a client who snivels about money. Nolan was paying his lawyers twice as much as me and the best they could offer him was a few years less to rot in prison. I could get him off scot free with no witness to testify against him. Nolan had his priorities all wrong, but like most damned fools, he couldn't see it.

That night I had dinner with Ruby Moon to try to forget Nolan and Huntley, but it didn't work like I hoped.

"What's the matter?" she asked.

"Nothing. It's not important."

"I know you want to tell me."

I grinned at her. "You must be psychic."

"As a matter of fact --"

"I think I lost my job."

"You're not going to kill anyone?"

"Probably not."

"Is it a big disappointment?"

"Well, the money would have been fun to spend."

"What business are you really in?"

"Corn."

"From the family farm in Iowa."

"Go ahead and ridicule me. I don't care."

"All right, keep your secrets. I have secrets of my own."

"You're an open book if I ever saw one."

"You think you know me, but you don't."

"What don't I know?"

"I'm studying to become a nurse. I take classes at the university."

"Good for you."

"You don't believe me."

"Sure I do."

"You think I'm too stupid to learn nursing."

"No I don't."

"You think I'm a stupid whore."

She pulled her hand away when I tried to touch it across the table. "You're wrong, Ruby. I like you a lot."

"But you think I'm stupid."

"Will you stop saying that? Why are you getting so upset?"

I could see angry tears forming in her eyes. She looked like she hated me.

"I'm sick of everything," she blurted out.

"You want to leave?"

"And go where?"

"Anywhere."

"Like your crummy hotel room, right? All we do is fuck there."

"We don't have to do that. Where do you want to go?"

She wiped her eyes with a napkin, smearing mascara. "It doesn't matter."

I paid the check and got a taxi outside the restaurant. In the back seat Ruby took off her shoes and curled up beside me, wrapping her arm around my waist. All of a sudden the anger was gone she looked like a little girl.

"Can we drive around the island?" she asked.

"Sure. Why not?"

The driver looked at me in the rear-view mirror. "That's a little vague."

"Just start driving," I told him. "When you run out of island, turn around and come back to town."

"Which way you wanna go?"

"Take your pick. And there's a hundred-dollar tip if I don't hear another word out of you."

In the mirror I could see the driver smile and zip up his mouth.

I never got a call from Nolan and the next day there was ten grand more in my bank account. Although he wasn't as stupid as I thought, he couldn't admit he had been wrong to come to Honolulu and bug me. The truth is I don't like Nolan at all. I've done a couple jobs for him and he always came off like he was doing me a favor when he paid me. He'll end up behind bars or dead because he's got his head up his ass. He thinks he's a big shot, but he's just a little man who got lucky in a dirty business. One day he'll piss off the wrong person and get what he deserves.

After thinking about the situation, I decided to let Huntley off the hook. He didn't deserve a break any more than Nolan, but I was feeling generous once I made up my mind to retire in Hawaii. Besides, I didn't want the local cops looking for me if anything went haywire in the hit. You can't retire in a place if you have keep looking over your shoulder.

Last night I waited until I saw the lights go out in Huntley's apartment, then I hurried across the street to catch him as he was leaving.

"Hey, Huntley!"

He stopped on the sidewalk and turned around.

"Who the hell are you?"

"I'm your guardian angel," I said, pulling out a cigarette. "You got a light?"

"I don't recognize you. How do you know my name?"

I lit the cigarette with my own lighter. "I've been following you for a month."

He looked like a deer in the headlights. I put my hand in my jacket pocket, which happened to be empty.

"Don't even think about running. You wouldn't make it five steps."

He looked around nervously. There were no other pedestrians on the street, just a lot of car traffic buzzing by.

"Relax, man. I'm here to do you a favor."

"What do you mean?"

"Nolan paid me to kill you, but I'm gonna let you fly away like a bird."

He started backing up. "I don't believe you."

"You can't stay here in Hawaii and you can't ever go back to Detroit."

"Stay away from me."

"You'll have to get lost in some out-of-the way country that Nolan has never heard of. And you have to leave tomorrow morning."

"I'm not going anywhere. You won't shoot me on a public street."

"You're not listening to me, Huntley."

He started backing up again. "You're bluffing."

"I'm trying to help you. Use your head for a change."

I knew he was spooked, but I couldn't believe what happened next. He sprinted into the street and made it about half-way across before a van slammed into him. He bounced several times on the pavement and came to rest on his stomach. His arms and legs were twisted out of place like a rag doll.

The van driver was an older Chinese man who began babbling hysterically. "You saw!" he shouted at me. "He ran right in front of me!"

"Take it easy, pop. It wasn't your fault."

"Crazy man!" he howled. "Right in front of me!"

I stuck around until the cops showed up. I didn't want them tracking me down as the witness who disappeared. I told the investigating officer I had been asking the victim for directions to a restaurant when he bolted into the street.

"Why did he do it?"

"I don't know. Maybe he had a hot date."

The cop seemed to buy my story and while we were talking, the ambulance arrived to pick up Huntley.

"Is he dead?" I asked the cop.

"He's still breathing, but he don't look so good."

"Where are they taking him?"

"Queen's Hospital."

After I ate supper at the hotel restaurant, I went to the hospital to check on Huntley.

"Are you a relative?" the nurse at the front desk asked me.

"I'm his uncle. I just heard about the accident."

"I'm sorry to have to tell you that Mr. Huntley expired shortly after he arrived."

"You mean he died?"

"Yes, I'm afraid so."

Driving back to my hotel, I realized I had pulled off the perfect hit by accident. It was almost funny, especially since this was my last job. I couldn't help feeling a little sorry for Huntley -- the first time I had ever felt like that about a mark. All he had to do was disappear and he was home free, but he was too rattled to believe me. Some guys are born losers.

I wanted to put everything behind me and start a new life in Hawaii. I've been doubled up like a fist for the past twenty years because of my work. Skill or dumb luck or a combination of both got me through all those years in one piece, but it's time to unclench and move on to something more peaceful. I have enough money socked away to live comfortably for the rest of my life if I don't turn stupid with it. Maybe I'll try a legitimate business with not much down side, like import-export in the islands. I'll make sure Ruby keeps going to those college classes so she can become a nurse and get out of hooking for a living. She's way too brittle for that kind of business.

Huntley was a carrier pigeon delivering his last message to Saint Peter or the guy with horns and hooves. If I was a gambler, which I'm not, I'd bet that Huntley is smelling sulfur right now.

I sent a telegram to Nolan today:

"Frank, the job is finished. You keep the final payment. I'm retiring in Hawaii -- sun, sand and a girl named after a heavenly body. You get the picture. I don't wish you were here. In fact, if I ever see your face in the islands again, I'll come out of retirement just for you. Seriously, Jack."

_______________

William Starr Moake grew up in Michigan and worked as a journalist for several years in South Florida. After majoring in anthropology in college, he traveled extensively, freelancing as a travel writer/photographer. Moake is the author of three books of fiction, two novels and a short story collection all published since 1999. When he is not writing, Moake works as a freelance web designer and software programmer from his home in Hawaii, where he has lived since 1972. Website: http://www.stormpages.com/starrbooks.

email William Starr Moake

The Hitman and Ruby Moon
© 2005 by William Starr Moake
All rights reserved.

 

 
     
     

 

 



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