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Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Cat, the Tree, and the Bird.

           

            Back in the days when I drove a cab for a living, I sat and watched a cat get beat up by a bird one morning.
I say it was beaten up, in truth, it was just sort of knocked around and chased for a bit, but whichever way you look at it:
            I saw a cat, being assaulted by a bird.
            Maybe I'd better tell you exactly what happened?
I'd been working all night, ten hours or so, up until about five thirty in the morning. Hunger got the better of me until I had to give in and grab a sandwich and eat it somewhere quiet.
            I found the perfect spot, a beautiful place in Liverpool called Sefton Park.
Now Sefton Park is always beautiful, but early morning, sun coming up, blue sky, and a light mist rising off the dew makes it extra special. The place takes in a willo-the-wisp look to it, grey and green with a tiny gap in-between. Just occasionally, if you are lucky, you’ll see a fleet footed fox splashing a dash of red across the dew dropped grass. A deft dash of paint on canvas from the old master.
            That morning I sat, door open, with nothing but the sound of morning yawning birds and a cooling engine for company.  I was sniffing my sandwich (I wasn't going to leap straight in) when there, just out of the corner of my eye, I saw a cat sitting under a tree watching me. It was maybe thirty foot away, a little tatty, with the look of a beast that has never really found a lap to relax on.
            I smiled at the cat, but he didn’t smile back.
Cats can be like that.
He was sitting and staring, when out of the tree, a massive blackbird swooped down and knocked the him over.
            Poor old puss jumped up, hopped around sideways a couple of times and then stopped and stared at me. Now I am no expert on cat body language but I know for a fact that cat was saying,
            "What...the hell... was that?"
            I smiled and shrugged and said out loud,
             "You must be in his spot mate."
            The cat didn’t reply, he just glanced around and then regained some composure and sat back down. It was then, just as he nestled his bum back into its spot, the bird came down and did it again. This time, hit and run wasn’t good enough, this time it did a bit of pecking and flapping its wings at poor old puss, who in turn, desperately tried to get away, and failed miserably.
            Puss rolled and tumbled as the bird slapped and flapped a blur of yellow and black. The only sound I could hear was the rustle of the grass, and the beat of wing, until finally, the bird flew back up into the tree.
Puss took a couple of steps away and sat back down. He was looking even more confused and maybe a tad embarrassed, I guessed if he’d been wearing glasses they would be twisted half around his head and that he would have scrambled to put them back on his nose to restore his dignity.
            But cats don’t wear glasses, so he didn’t.
            I broke off a piece of sandwich and held it out to him. I waggled the titbit and “puss pussed” a welcome until eventually he wandered over. Each step slow and nervous, until he sat about five feet away sniffing the air. I tossed him some tuna and he ate it and did that cat thing of not looking at you, but looking at you closely.
            “Yeah, whatever.”
            I tossed him some more tuna, just a little short, and this bridged the gap between us enough for him to wander over and offer a nuzzle on the back of my hand. He stood and stared at what was left of my sandwich, pushing out his bony ribs to make a point, and I gave him some more.
Eventually, when he’d had enough of me, he licked his lips, looked at the park, thought cat thoughts, then wandered back to the tree.
             I swear he almost sighed as he did so.
            I felt sorry for him and said out loud as he went:
            "She's not worth it."
            But he didn't listen, cats never do, he just sat back down under his tree and went back to watching the world.
            It was only later, when I was driving home, that I thought of the old lady and her husband who I met many years before when I a policeman.
            It was late night, probably about three am, maybe a Tuesday, maybe a Wednesday, but definitely midweek. Now I think it would be fair to say that where I was working wasn’t a hotbed of crime. St Helens is more Mayberry than Hill Street, so any job that came out on the radio was seized more as a means of staying awake, than an opportunity to battle the forces of evil.
            A report came in from a neighbour reporting shouting from the house next door. I was the first car at the scene and after some banging on the front door I was surprised to be met by an old guy, about mid-seventies, wearing a pair of too big trousers, and an old gray vest. The trousers had once made up part of a brown suit, but now they bunched over his belly like a Christmas cracker and his vest bore the color of a thousand hot washes with one black sock rubbing up to it.
            He ran his hand through thinning hair that looked like it hadn’t woken up yet, and then told me everything was okay and the neighbor had been mistaken.
            “It doesn’t work like that,” I said as I looked over his shoulder into the house, “I have to check everyone is okay, so step aside and it’ll only take a second.”
            His hand scraped his hair again and it rose and fell like his chest until finally, he sighed, and let me pass. I smelt beer on his breath as I squeezed through the door, but once inside all I could smell was polish, leather, gas fires, farting dogs and the family that had lived there for fifty years or more.
            I went into the living room; it was one of those that are full of brass, rugs, and photos of grandkids in university gowns who never phone but expect a card every birthday.
I looked around, and saw that over in the corner, almost forgotten, sat on a chair, was a sparrow of an old lady. Thin pink flannel dressing gown clutched tight to her throat, two tiny furry slippers peeking out from its hem. The skin on her hands was wrinkled and brown and looked like half scraped wet wallpaper, bunched over bone.
            Those wallpaper hands were clutching a tissue to her nose.
It was red with blood.
The old guy had followed me in. I looked at him, his eyes flickered with sadness and shame.
Before he could speak I already had my hand on my handcuffs.
            “You’d better put your coat on.”
He nodded and did as he was told.
            I drove him the three miles to the custody suite. He didn’t speak all the way there, and to be honest, neither did I.
            The custody sergeant heard the story, then politely asked the old guy for his details. The old guy stood still, did as he was told and called us both “Sir” more times than he really had to.
            At the cell door, as I waited for his shoes, the old man asked his first question of the night:
"What happens now sir?"
“I’ll go get a statement off your wife, then I’ll interview you, then the sergeant decides what to do with you.”
" I'm sorry son." He said, and for the first time his voice cracked.
"Don't be sorry, we'll sort it out."
"I just snapped."
"Don't tell me here, we'll talk about it on tape."
"There is only so much you can take."
“Don’t say any more, I’ll be back soon.”
“Go easy on her.”
            I shushed him again and closed the cell door; and then drove out to see his wife. When I arrived she had dressed and had fashioned her hair into one of those cotton candy blue styles that only old ladies have. I followed her into the living room and she gestured for me to sit, and then offered me tea. I declined and pointed to the chair opposite for her to sit, in that way that only cops do in other people’s homes.
            Like they own it.
            "So what happened?" I asked, pulling out a pen, all business with an eye on the clock,
            "It's my fault."
            "No, you mustn't blame yourself love, it's easy to blame yourself, you've been assaulted, nobody should have to put up with that,” even though I meant what I was saying, I’d said it a thousand times, and it probably sounded like it.
            "No, you don’t understand. Really, it is my fault, I started it, I always start it... he lets me hit him. I batter him, really beat him... I've done it for years,” she paused, looked at the clock even though she had nowhere to go, and then said softly. “I hate him for it, I hate myself for it. I don’t know what happened tonight… but he hit me back for the first time ever.”
To say that that wasn't what I was expecting would be an understatement.
I was dumbfounded; I looked at the blank statement, up at her, back at the statement, and then realized I hadn’t even clicked my pen yet.
            She told me they had three kids, four grandchildren, they had been married for fifty plus years, that she loved him, that he loved her, and that he had never raised a finger until that night.
She told me that he had come home from the pub and fell asleep in the chair, that she had woke up and come down and that they had argued and then she had slapped him, then punched him, then slapped him again.
Just like all those times before, and then this time, for the first time ever:
He had slapped her back.
            “I called him names, terrible names.”
            I looked at my pen for some help, but it just looked back at me and shrugged.
            "I deserved it, I wish he'd done it years ago,” she shook her head and then lifted her chin. “I'll not make a complaint, I'll tell them I walked into a door, you can’t make me say anything I don’t want to.”
            There are times when you are a copper, and I am sure many police officers will have felt this way, when you just don't have a clue what to do next. As I sat there that night on that couch looking at that little old lady who could have passed for Tweety Pie’s grandma... I did not have a clue what to do next.
            I can remember staring at my statement forms for a minute or two, and then finally scribbling down some stuff about her not wishing to cooperate with the police. With hindsight, I maybe should have locked her up for assaulting him, she had just confessed to it.
            I knew that wasn't going to happen, I just didn’t know why.
            I told her I was going to go back to the station to speak to her husband. She didn’t follow me to the front door. As I stepped out into the street, I could hear her sobbing behind me, right until the door clicked shut, and I stood alone and watched the sun coming up.
            At the time Merseyside Police Force had a zero tolerance policy when it came to domestic violence. It was an excellent tactic of everyone being arrested and interviewed at the very least. We aimed to protect the weak, and charge the aggressor, and I used to feel that I was doing good every night I pulled on the uniform, and stood up for the people who had no one else to stand up for them.
            But back at the police station as I sat opposite that gentleman, that gentle, gentleman, in the interview room that morning, just me, him, a duty lawyer and a tape recorder that picked up the solicitors every yawn in stereo. I felt like reaching across the table and giving the old man a hug.
            He was ashamed, tired, and he looked very, very, old.
            I gave him a lift home so that he wouldn't have to wait for the bus in his vest. As we drove I told him what his wife had said, I told him he didn't have to put up with it. I told him about various charities that could support him, and his wife, to find different ways to communicate without violence and I tired, oh god I tried, to explain his life could be better than it was.
He didn't say that much back to me, he just stared out at the passing view thinking about the passing years.
            As we pulled up outside the house, I killed the engine, and tried again.
“Please let me help you.”
He shook his head, looked at his front door, and said:
            "I've put up with it for fifty years, and there's not many left to go now. I'll be okay son, thanks for your help."
            He then got out and walked up the short path, then disappeared inside.
            The cat under the tree made me think of him, the cat could have just walked away and found another tree to sit under but didn't. Something made it go back, sit down, then wait for the next onslaught from the angry bird.
            It had the whole park to sit in, a thousand other trees, all better than that one, but that tree, with that bird, was where it had to sit.

            Strange things cats.

            Tony Schumacher on Amazon

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Trump, Sanders, Corbyn, Geoff and Me.


     Back in the dim and distant past, when I used to sell trucks for a living, there used to be a thing Geoff my boss used to call: “Customer Relationship Maintenance.”

     It basically entailed driving around the North West of England, visiting harassed men in too tight nylon trousers and shirts (them not me), sitting in leaky porta-cabins, drinking bad tea, and making worse small talk.

     I knew they didn’t want to speak to me.

     They knew I didn’t want to speak to them.

     And we both knew we were wasting each other’s time.

     Sadly, this is what Geoff told me to do, and if I wanted to keep my Vauxhall Cavalier (2.0 GLS, (these things matter)) I had no choice.

     One day, when I was sitting in one of those leaky porta-cabins, I had an epiphany. I turned to the customer and said:

     “Listen, I come here every two months to take up your time, all because my boss Geoff tells me to.”

     “Oh yes?” He replied, looking at his watch.

     “He thinks you’ll buy a truck if I keep coming around and getting on your nerves. Is he right?”

     “No not really, I’m actually busy, and I have to sit here for half an hour talking to you. To be honest, it does get on my nerves.”

     “Well how about you call me when you need me, and we keep this our little secret?”

     “Grand.”

     We shook hands, and I came up with a new method of “Customer Relationship Maintenance” which basically involved not getting on people’s tits.

     I quickly spread this new model out across all of my customers. It worked well, until the day Geoff figured out I had strayed from what he believed to be right. He called me in the office, gave me a telling off, and threatened to take my Vauxhall Cavalier and replace it with an Austin Maestro.

     Geoff reckoned he always knew best, and he was always pretty patronising about it too. That wasn’t the only reason I disliked Geoff though, the other reason was that Geoff was greedy.

     He kept all the best customers for himself. He wined and dined them, he took them for “jolly” weekends away, he bought them presents, and in return, when they wanted trucks, they rang him, and not me.

     He scratched their back, and they scratched his.

     If a salesman dared to complain he was told:

     “I’m the boss, like it or lump it.”

     He would then hand them the keys to a second-hand skip wagon and tell them to go and earn forty quid commission on it.

     Over time I became more and more uncooperative with Geoff. We wound each other up no end. Him by being Geoff, and me by hiding his car keys, not answering my phone, and leaving coffee cup rings on his desk diary all the time.

     For all my efforts though, he didn't really care what I did. Even though there was always a high turnover of staff, he didn’t care he was about to lose another one. He was okay, his mates were okay, so what did it matter if I lost interest? He was still the boss, and the world would never be short of a salesman to take my place.

     One day he called me into his office to give me some rubbish sales leads. Outside his office window sat five brand new trucks he’d just sold to one of my customers. He'd just ripped me off again, and I was angry and humiliated, so I resigned by chucking my car keys onto the table, spilling some more coffee on his diary, and then walking out the office.

     What had happened between us was that I’d lost all respect for Geoff, because he didn't care if I lived or died. He was going to keep doing whatever he wanted, whether I liked it or not, and there was nothing I could do about it.

     So even though it cost me my Vauxhall Cavalier (2.0 GLS), I was prepared to walk out, just to give me back some small sense of self worth, and integrity.

     A few months later I found out the other salesmen had finally banded together and gone to senior management to complain about Geoff and his practices.

     After this "Arab Spring" of an uprising, Geoff was wobbled, then finally, a few months later, toppled when all the sales staff decided to no longer cooperate with him in any way.

     It was his turn to resign.

     So why am I telling you this?

     It’s because I think the average person on the street now think governments are a bunch of Geoff’s.

     Governments in return, just like Geoff, have a sense of entitlement, and a general disdain, for the guy in the street because for all their complaining, there is always another guy in the street to take their place with a vote.

     Be it cuts, corruption, tax shenanigans, war, expenses, scandals, lobbying, back door deals, ignoring public opinion, governments are acting just like Geoff (I'm not sure Geoff declared war on anyone, but I wouldn't have put it past him.)

     In return, by voting for Trump, Corbyn, Sanders, or Brexit, all we want to do is wind them up, and show them that we still matter.

     A friend of mine said the other day: “I’m voting Brexit not because I want to leave Europe, but because the Government want me to stay.”

     In other words, due to their “we know best” attitude, he doesn’t care if he loses his Vauxhall Cavalier (2.0 GLS), he just wants to be able to irritate the hell out of them.

     So what could Geoff have done to make things better between us?

     He could have stopped taking people for granted.

     He could have stopped abusing his position.

     He could have stopped patronising us.

     He could have listened to us, and acted on our concerns and not in the interests of him, and a few of his mates.

     He could have been honest and accepted that just maybe, he didn’t know best all of the time.

     And he could have upgraded my car to the CDX with the thicker velour seats and sunroof, but in fairness this probably doesn’t apply to governments around the world.

     So what is the lesson for those governments?


     Well unless they do the above, there really isn’t much point in spending 9 million on a leaflet, wheeling out Peter Mandelson, or generating billions in donations from their mates, because all of that just makes us want to throw our Cavalier keys on the table and slam the door behind us after we've spilled their coffee.


Sunday, 10 April 2016

Just a Minute...




    Can I ask a favor? I promise it isn't much, all I'm wanting is that you take two minutes out of your busy lives to leave a review for your favorite author.

    One minute isn't all that much, especially when you think they they have spent a year writing that book that you loved so much.

     Go on... you can do it, spread the word, leave a review, because if you do, your author will love you as much as you love them.


     Tony Schumacher on Amazon 
    

Sunday, 3 April 2016

A short story for you, from me.



The iHit



Crace looked around the half empty diner, pulled the yellow nylon baseball cap off his head, then ruffled his $100-dollar haircut for the fifth time in the last hour. He sighed, looked at the cap, frowned at the smiling Mickey that was beaming up at him, then tossed it onto the table.

"You want more coffee?"

He looked up at the Filipino waitress and shook his head.

"No."

"The boss say you gotta order food or you gotta go soon, you taking up space for eating customer."

She tapped her pencil tip on the pad, like she was practising her full stops, then put all her weight onto her left leg causing her right hip to pop out.

"I'm waiting for someone, I can't order till they get here."

"You or Mickey gotta eat, or else you gotta go wait somewhere else." She pointed at Micky Mouse on the cap with the pencil, and then looked back at Crace.

"Just coffee." Crace looked away from her and out the window.

"No coffee... food."

"Jesus Christ, the place is half empty, what difference does it make?" Crace held up his hands towards the empty seats around him.

"Boss say you wanna wait, you gotta eat, that the rule,” she swapped hips, and tilted her head the other way.

Crace dropped his hands back to the table top, stared out the window for a second, and then whipped out his wallet from the back pocket of the cheap jeans he was wearing. He pulled out a fifty and tossed it on the table in the vague direction of the waitress.

"You tell the boss I just turned his shit-bird diner into a waiting room."

The waitress picked up the fifty dollars and slipped it under her pad faster than a card sharp on a riverboat. She smiled, flashing her tiny white teeth at him for the first time since he'd been there.

"You want coffee now?"

"Fuck off."

Evening was sauntering past the window and pretty much had the street to itself. The Lower Manhattan winter hadn't quite blown in, and a few of the tooth pick trees still had some leaves holding on for dear life. It was starting to rain and Crace wished he'd been allowed to drive across town instead of having to get the bus.

Whoever had set the rules had obviously never waited at a bus stop.

Screw them, he was going to get a cab home. 

He promised himself a drink of something strong as soon as he made it back to the apartment, unless that bitch was still there. If she was home he'd go to a bar.

Yeah, a bar would be good.

Maybe he could get a girl?

He remembered what he was wearing.

Shit.

He looked down at the "I love New York" tee, and ten dollar jeans he'd been given to wear. Across the seat, up by the window, was the Planet Hollywood jacket.

He looked like a tourist.

He hated tourists.

He stared at Mickey and longed for his usual designer brands and smart suits. He checked the $10 watch he'd been made to buy. Maybe he’d have time to stop at a Hugo Boss to pick up something to wear on his way back across town.

Crace picked up the coffee mug and felt a chill in the palm of his hand.

"Can I get some warm coffee here?" he shouted holding up the mug.

The waitress glanced up from her magazine by the register.

"It brewing Mickey, be there soon."

Crace let the mug bang back onto the table.

Fifty bucks for four cups of shit coffee, he felt like killing this bitch as well.

"Ten more minutes and I'm outta here." 

He whispered it softly to nobody but himself, and then turned back to the window to look at the rain that was now falling fast and hard.

He saw a pigeon. It was stood in the road, wet, resigned, looking like it had missed its bus and was waiting for a taxi. It’s oil coloured feathers dripped with the rain, and it looked like the only thing on earth that was having a worse day than him.

"I know how you feel buddy."

Crace turned back to shout at the waitress again.

He nearly had a heart attack when he saw there was a man sitting across from him in the booth. Crace took a deep breath, then placed both his hands palm up on the table in front of him.

Follow the rules, just like the email had said.

The man tilted his head slightly, then looked down at the Mickey Mouse baseball cap on the table.

"I felt like an asshole wearing it, I had to take it off,” Crace said it quietly, like a little boy caught out by his dad.

The man reached under the table and then produced an iPad from somewhere Crace couldn't see. He wondered if the iPad had been taped to the bottom of the table. There were some marks on the back of its case as the man held it towards himself so that Crace couldn't see the screen.

Crace wondered how the guy had known where he was going to sit. He looked around at the other tables, maybe he hadn’t?

 Maybe all the tables had pads under them?

He looked back at the guy. He guessed he was about forty-something. White, slim, but not too slim. He was just this side of craggy. Crace guessed the guy worked outside, by the way his skin was weathered and carrying a little tan like the bums on the street wore. He was wearing an old black leather suit jacket that was maybe a size too big for him. It looked kind of cool. Crace wondered if it was genuinely old, or maybe one of those jackets that cost thousands to make them look like they cost fifty bucks. 

He decided to ask the guy after they'd ended their meeting.

The guy finished what he was doing with the iPad and then placed it down on the table between them. On the screen Crace could see ten, plain white squares on a black background. The man touched one of the squares and it zoomed in to show that there was writing on it.

Crace leaned forward and read the caption out-loud.

"Put the cap on."

Crace looked up from the screen at the man.

"What? Are you speaking to me through the iPad?"

The man tapped the screen again, and another white box zoomed large.

"Yes."

"Why? Nobody can hear us."

Another tap, another zoom.

"The restaurant may be bugged, you may be wired, or we might be being filmed."

Crace looked around the restaurant, and then back at the man.

"I followed all of your instructions to the letter. Nobody knows we are here I promise."

"Put the cap on."

Crace picked up the cap and pulled it on. 

Another tap.

"Hands."

Crace placed his hands back down on the table, palms up, just the way he had been told. 

The man stared at Crace, as if he was waiting for something. Crace was about to speak again when the waitress suddenly leaned in and poured some coffee.

"Fresh coffee, you order now?"

"No, not yet, in a minute I promise,” there was a wobble in his voice that Crace hoped the guy hadn’t noticed.

"Hey, that an iPad? They nice things, my boy back home want one for Christmas. Too expensive for waitress though, not make enough tip."

The man smiled at her, and then placed his hand over the top of the cup she had put down for him. He shook his head and gave her his best craggy eyed grin. She smiled back, glad that this new guy wasn't as much of an asshole as the one who had been here waiting for an hour.

"I be back soon, take order."

Crace looked at his coffee but didn't pick it up.

Rules were rules, and he suddenly had no wish to break them. The email he'd received that had set up the meeting had expressly told him to keep his hands palms up on the table at all times. The same email had told him the locker number where he had found the bag, with the all dumb clothes he was wearing, and that fucking hat.

"I feel dumb in this hat; I look like a redneck."

The man tilted his head again, and Crace suddenly realised he might just have insulted him. He almost lifted a hand of apology, then remembered the rules and instead just did some grovelling.

"I'm sorry, there is anything wrong with being a redneck, it's just it isn't my style, you know?"

The man tapped the screen.

"I needed to be sure it was you."

"You followed me?"

"Yes."

"All the way?"

"Yes."

"You know where I live?"

"Yes."

"Jesus."

They stared at each other across the table for a moment, until Crace puffed out his cheeks and nodded to his coffee.

"Can I take a drink?"

The man nodded and Crace picked up the mug, careful to keep his other hand on the table top. The coffee warmed his throat, and cooled his nerves, so much so that when he put the mug back down he felt a little more in control.

"Have you got the answer to every question I am going to ask programmed into that thing?"

"No."

"Well we've got a problem if I ask one it can't answer haven't we?"

"No."

Crace smiled in spite of himself and took another sip of coffee. He glanced around the diner and noticed there was now only about six or other customers in there, most of them with heads buried in meals or conversations.

The guy had chosen the venue well.

"Okay, let's get down to business here; I gotta get back across town. This is what I want you to do..."

The man held up the palm of his right hand, and then with his left index finger tapped at a square on the screen.

Crace had to lean forward to read it.

"You have asked me to kill your wife; I will do this for fifty thousand dollars. Half at the end of this meeting and half after I have completed the task. The figure is non-negotiable as I explained in our previous correspondence. The manner of the task will be to my choosing. The collection of the outstanding monies will be to my choosing. If you do not pay the outstanding amount I will kill your parents in New Hampshire. If you speak to anyone of this matter I will kill your sister in Georgia. Once I have killed these people I will find you, no matter where you are, and I will kill you” Crace looked up, and the guy stared back. Crace swallowed and then continued reading. “If you behave in the manner I have outlined, and you follow all of my instructions, at the completion of our business, you will never see me again. Is this understood?"

Crace sat back and let his mouth hang open for a moment while his brain figured out how to close it, a moment passed until he found some words.

"How did you know about my folks and my sister?"

The man tapped the screen again summoning another caption.

"Answer yes or no."

"There won't be a problem with the money or the job I promise."

"Answer yes or no."

"Yes."

The man nodded, and then gestured that Crace should drink more coffee.

Back when the emails had started, Crace had wondered if the guy was just some sort of nut job fantasist who was pretending to be a hit man. But then, right at that minute, looking across the table, he knew he was staring at death.

Death stared back, then nodded, as if he was reading Crace's mind, A second passed and then the man tapped another white box and Crace leaned forward to read it.

"If you wish to leave now you may do so. We will never see each other or speak again, and you will be safe to carry on with your life as if this meeting had never taken place. You have ten seconds to get up and leave the table."

"I don't want to leave, I need... no, I want to do this I swear," Crace ducked low, head inches from the table, the light of the iPad illuminating his face from below.

The man didn't reply, and it took Crace a moment to realise Death was tapping his index finger on the table.

He watched it.

Eight.

Nine.

Ten.

The finger pressed another square on the iPad.

"You are contracting me to execute your wife, Karen, who works as a lawyer Maybrick Legal Inc. You want me to do this so that you can inherit Karen's estate. An estate she herself was inherited from her father who died last year. There is also the matter of a six-million-dollar insurance policy that is payable should either of you die. Is this correct?"

"When you say it like that it sounds like I am one evil son of a bitch, but let me tell you buddy, she is looking to nail my ass to the wall if the divorce she is threatening me with goes though. I'm in a hole here, I gotta girlfriend who is pushing me to move in with her, my job is up and down, it ain't easy being a broker these days I gotta tell you. There;s no way I can't afford to split from that bitch and get a divorce."

"Answer yes or no."

"Yes. Jesus…it's correct. Yes."

"If you wish to leave now you may do. We will never see each other or speak again and you will be safe to carry on with your life as if this meeting had never taken place. You have ten seconds to get up and leave the table."

This time Crace counted along with the tapping finger.

Eight.

Nine.

Ten.

Crace didn't leave; he just sat with his hands on the table like the email had told him too.

He was doing this thing.

"You are about to contract me to kill your wife Karen. You must place twenty five thousand dollars, as instructed, in a brown paper parcel, in used one hundred dollar bills onto the table. Once I pick up the money the deal is final with no provision for alteration or cancellation. Do you understand? Yes or No?"

Crace licked his lips and then chewed the bottom one.

This was it, at last he was out from under it.

This was the start.

The new life.

He almost smiled.

"Yes."

Crace nodded his head towards the Planet Hollywood jacket. The man gestured it was okay to lift his hands, so Crace turned, dug under the jacket, and then took out the money placed it on the table next to the iPad. 

The man stared back at him for a moment and then tapped the screen again.

"If you wish to leave now you may do. We will never see each other or speak again and you will be safe to carry on with your life as if this meeting had never taken place. You have ten seconds to get up and leave the table."

Crace shook his head at the guy to let him know he was in, committed, certain. It felt like he'd just done a deal on the stock exchange. That crazy feeling he got when he knew he'd made the right decision and struck a home run.

"Keep counting buddy, I ain't going anywhere."

Eight.

Nine.

Ten.

The man nodded, then slid the package of money off the table and dropped it into a bag Crace hadn’t noticed before.

“Jesus, you are like some sort of Penn and Teller dude, you keep bringing out stuff I never noticed.”

The man smiled.

Crace wondered if twenty-five grand bought him the chance to ask about the jacket before the guy got up to leave.

He watched as the man put the iPad to sleep. The man then wiped his right hand across the screen, and then held it up.

Crace looked at it, and then at the guy.

That was when he noticed the 9mm silenced Glock in the man's left hand. It was sliding out from inside that cool leather jacket like a mamba from under a rock.

It suddenly struck Crace that the jacket had been big so as to hide the gun.

Clever.

The pistol sneezed.

Crace never heard it.

His head made more noise than the gun as it landed face first onto the hands that had been there to catch it. Had he been able to take a look, he would have seen that Mickey had been gut shot and was leaking brains through his fingers and then all over the table.

The man stood up, picked up his bag, then headed for the door with the pistol back under his jacket. He smiled at the waitress, as she strained to see where that awkward bastard with the dumb cap had gone over the high back of the booth.

"You come again soon now," she said without looking at him.

The man nodded, left the diner, and then walked two blocks in the rain before he heard the sirens.

He climbed into the rental car, smiled at Karen, and then fired up the iPad.

"Did he want me dead? Did he?"

"Yes."

"That son of a bitch... did you... did you do it?"

"Yes."

"Oh my god, I can't believe it."

Karen sat for a moment with her hand over her mouth, the shock hitting home almost as hard as the bullet that had been meant for her. They sat in silence watching the blue and red flashing lights down the street. They were bouncing off the rain and the tall buildings that were crowding in to take a look at what was going on at their feet.

The windows of the hire car were starting to steam almost as much Karen's eyes. She remembered their deal, and reached for her handbag.

"I'm sorry; I almost forgot. Here, it's your money."

She held up a brown package.

He shook his head and held up the iPad.

"He paid for it."

Karen watched as the man got out of the car and walked to the nearby subway. 

He dropped off the street, just like he’d dropped off the earth, and she never saw him again.

Just like the iPad had said.







I wrote this story a few years ago when I was scratching around for ideas for a novel. I liked he idea of a lead character who didn't have a voice, and who lived by a binary code that consisted of a set series of answers based around "yes" and "no."

Even though I'm still working on the John Rossett series of thrillers, I think there is a chance I might one day return to the "yes no man", I've a feeling he has a few stories to tell. 

If you've any questions about the piece, or if you feel there is anything you'd like to know about the writing of it, just leave me a comment and I promise I'll get back to you. 

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to check out my other work on Amazon or Goodreads.