by Nicolas Ridley
A basement dive. Low lights. Murmured conversations. A jazz quartet is playing in the background. Couples sit at glass-topped tables. Punters lean against the polished bar. Clink. Tinkle. A bark of laughter. A chair is pushed back. A portly gentleman, wearing a spotted bow-tie, bends over a woman, his hand resting on her shoulder. She looks up at him. Smiles. The man straightens. Turns. Picks his way through the tables. The woman’s smile fades.
In a dark corner, Almo sits alone with a soft drink. Tomato juice with ice and lime.
He looks around. Looks around again. And then sees Almo. Ronald hurries over to Almo’s table.
—There you are, says Ronald. Didn’t see you at first, hidden away.
Almo raises his eyes. Says nothing.
Ronald is about to hold out his hand. Then seems to think better of it.
—Of course, says Ronald. You don’t want to make yourself conspicuous. Not in your line of work. Can I buy you a drink?
Almo shakes his head, once.
—No. Understood. Quite right, says Ronald. Need to keep focused. Stay sharp. Eyes peeled. On your toes. That’s right, isn’t it?
Almo again says nothing.
—Well, then, says Ronald. All set? You’ll know him when you see him, won’t you? Donald, I mean. Of course you will. Medium-height, medium-build, middle-aged. Brown hair with a touch of grey. Usually wears glasses. Used to have a moustache but he doesn’t have one now. Shaved it off a year ago. Don’t know why. Anyway, you can’t miss him. Ha, ha. Sorry. Poor choice of words. Bad taste.
Almo takes a crumpled photograph from his side pocket. Looks at it. Returns it to his pocket.
—Pity it had to come to this, says Ronald. A great pity. Poor Donald. Not a bad chap. A bit of an idiot, of course. Tittle-tattle. Indiscretions. Nothing too serious. But things come to an end, don’t they? They run out of track. Hit the buffers. Slip off the runway. Then bang.
The spotted bow-tie returns from the bar with two frosted glasses. He sits. Settles. The woman revives her smile.
—You’ll make it quick, won’t you? says Ronald. Quick and clean. It’s the least he deserves. Mind if I ask what you’re using? A Beretta? A Luger? A Smith and Wesson?
Almo is watching the band.
Almo signals for Ronald to sit down at his table. Ronald sits. Almo takes a gun from his jacket pocket and rests it on his knee.
—Ah, yes! says Ronald. Naturally. The bolt-action Welrod. A classic. The choice of the true professional. So silent there’s nothing to hear but the dead man’s death-rattle. That’s what they say, isn’t it?
The music finishes. Drinkers turn towards the band and applaud.
Almo lifts the Welrod and shoots Ronald once in the side of the head. Ronald falls forwards onto the table. The applause continues. And stops. Almo returns the gun to his pocket. He rises from the table. Leaves the bar. Unhurried.
Nicolas Ridley lives in London & Bath (UK) where he writes fiction, non-fiction, flash fiction, scripts and stage plays under different names. A prize-winner and twice a Pushcart Prize nominee, his short stories have been widely published in anthologies, literary magazines and journals in the UK, Ireland, Canada and the USA. Website: nicolasridley.co.uk