A SHORT STORY I WROTE A WHILE AGO

Look to the end for the title
by Joe Malia

I was downtown, this is were I planned everything. The building was empty. The gear stored behind the walls. My device carefully glued into my leather glove. I sat at one of the small benches and sipped my coffee. I checked the time every so often to see how long I had.
Just four more hours. The Boss said they wanted it done as soon as possible, there were a lot of people eager to see it done.
I looked at my watch once more then finished my coffee and took out my wallet. The fake badge and id looked perfect. Skills one could learn just taking an average graphic arts class almost anywhere.
Who’ll it be? That young man and his mother? No, that’s too much. Something simpler. Someone who’ll go unnoticed easily. Old man with the walker? No, he’d be too slow. Besides, I already had one of those as a target. Nothing repetitive, that wouldn’t be creative.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a man. He wasn’t much younger than me. I turned to watch him. He checked his watch and upon his wrist was a bracelet. It was something I knew I’d made as a child. One that someone would give their parent or best friends as a gift. I could see the wood tile letters among the multicolored beads, they spelt out Monica.
Ah, a young father! Now that would be good for my finale. A young father desperate, clinging onto hope when there appears there is none. Good.
I stood up, adjusting my tie and hat. I left my coffee on the bench and began walking toward him. He didn’t see me yet but he’d feel my presence in a moment. I walked as if I was on a mission, demanding and quick. He turned and eyes widened to see who I was.
This will be my crowning achievement. Now to lure him away and talk with him.
I approached him, tugging my wallet out and flipping it open, the fake id up close in his vision.
“Excuse me, I need you do come with me.”
“What seems to be the problem?”
“Just come with me, it’s important.”
He began to look confused and concerned. Not totally what I was looking for but after sometime he’d be molded into what I am looking for. I grabbed him by the arm and tugged him away.
“What is going on?” He protested.
“Your daughter.”
“My daughter..Monica, wh-what’s happened?”
“Come with me.”
I held him tighter in my grip and let him to the building. It was abandoned and the walls soundproof with exception of one hole in the wall. The only window had been stuck shut for more than a decade. It smelled of those years of abandonment. Inside a room were two chairs, a table with two pitchers, two cups and a manila folder with pictures. He stood by the window and turned to me. Concern was in his eyes and voice as he spoke.
“What is going on with my daughter?”
“We have her.”
“Wh..why? Can I see her?”
“No, not yet.”
“Then when.”
“Shut up.”
He obeyed and then took a seat. It was a hot day and the sun shined through the window. This room was beginning to bake him. I was accustomed to heat. I liked to use it on my targets to get a desired outcome. He shifted in his chair and then began to reach in his pocket. I scanned his eyes and saw that he was going for his phone. That he would call someone and verify the information. I couldn’t let him do this. I struck his hand and took the cellphone.
“Hey! What’re you doing?!”
“You’re not allowed a cellphone.”
I slapped it on the floor outside the room and stomped on it violently. For one, I didn’t want him to go and call anyone or send a text, and two I wanted to instill some fear into him. By the look on his face, he had been shaken.
I wonder how many precious memories I’d just crushed with my boot. How many family pictures or perhaps illicit material he might possess. I might have done a service already. No, he doesn’t look the type for that.
I closed the door and locked it, then looked to the hole in the wall. My positioning of the chairs were perfect. Everything was lined up to perfection. I looked at him and examined my own phone. I began writing to myself how I’d done this so that I might duplicate it with another project.
“Aren’t you ever going to tell me anything?”
“If you want her to live, you’ll be quiet.”
He shook and then stood up and pointed at me. Now he was trying to be aggressive. I pressed on my attached mustache, making sure it’d stick and look real. I’d never done so well with disguises. He shook a figure at me and his eyes were serious.
“If you hurt a hair on her head I’ll-”
“I’m a cop. You can’t touch me and I’m not doing anything to her.”
“What’s stopping me from walking out of here? How do I know this isn’t a ruse?”
“What kind of ruse would I be doing? I have nothing to gain from you.”
“Then why am I here?”
I wouldn’t answer him, only stepped forward toward him and pushed him into the seat.
“Care for some water?”
He wouldn’t answer me this time. I stepped away and began to pour from each pitcher. I handed him a cup and watched him. It took him a while but the sun was cooking him. He undid his tie and unbuttoned his shirt a couple buttons. The sweat on his forehead dripped all over his pants and the floor. He slowly took a drink, gulping it down. It hit him and he dropped the cup on the floor and looked at me.
“What was that?”
“Salt water.”
I drank my fresh clean water from my cup while I had served him salt water. It was a good dehydration device.
“Why?!”
I wouldn’t answer him, only drained my cup and paced through the room. I watched the time again and smiled. The sun was still cooking him. He was sweating through his shirt now as he pulled his blazer off. His eyes began to tear as he wondered about his daughter. I could see that he was thinking of her as he smiled, probably reliving some happy memory in his head. I smirked as it turned sour as he began to think of what I was doing with his daughter. I decided to throw my cup against the wall and it smashed everywhere. He jumped in his chair but then sat back down. I could tell these little things would bug him, it would tear at him.
Some time passed and as the sun raised to directly into the window, I could see him hold his head in his hand and cry. He was giving up. He didn’t know who I was or what this was all about. He was a coward who wouldn’t stand up for anything, he had a single bout of rage and then surrendered at the first sign of violence. He was giving up and I had won. He cried heavily into his hands.
“Hey! Look up.”
He looked up and I stood just by the door. I put my thumb over my device in my glove and began to hold it down. He had no idea what was going on but I did. Soon, I was done and unlocked the door and threw him out. He screamed as I did, yelling about his daughter and how I was an asshole. He would know that she was never in danger. It was a ruse but he’d never know what I’d gained.
Hours later
I stood in a large room with quite a crowd. They’d all gathered here to see my finale. I nodded for some men to pull down some sheets and as they did the crowd went wild. Their eyes could not look away. All of my works put beside each other, each better than the last. I remembered how I lured them using simple observations and curiosity. None of them knew that it was all to finish my photo galleria. My boss moved through the crowd and stopped at me, her small lips in a smile that could take up her face.
“What wondrous work!”
“Why thank you.”
“How did you capture the look of the last one there? He looks so lost and hopeless.”
“Ah, I can’t quite reveal that. A magician’s secret.”
“I’m so glad you’ve completed it, and now you said you’d retire?”
I thought a moment and began to smile. The looks on people’s faces of awe as they moved through my exhibit.
“No, I think I’ve still got some more work to do.”

The Photo
By Joe Malia

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