Vindication

A Short Story*

By: N. Mozart Diaz


When you get into a habit of something, you’re going to have the damned hardest time to break it. It could be usual habits like biting your fingernails or rubbing your thumb when you’re anxious, or it could be unusual things, things you develop without even knowing it — things like smoking, drinking, binge eating, you know it.

I survey the street, cruising slowly making sure that the house I enter is the right one. I finally get to a house that feels just right, the e-mail just said “the house on the end”, and I don’t know if this is ‘the end’ but there is a lack of houses after this. I hop off the truck, eyes set on the front door.

The house seemed humble enough, eggshell painted walls, red brick roof, varnished doors, an open fence, and a running car just outside it. I walk to the front door. If you get into a habit of something, it’s a damned bitch to get rid of it, but you get used to it — calloused to the point that you don’t feel anything anymore when you do it; that’s my problem, I’ve caught the habit of murdering people for money.

I hear movement in the house and straighten myself up.

“Celia, dear, hurry up! We’re going to be late for the opening curtain! We wouldn’t want to miss Act One!” I hear a woman shout

“Yes, Ma! I just need to use the CR.” A small voice replies

“There’s no rush, dear, the show times are always off; that’s the beauty of Philippine time, always a little off.” A male voice says, followed by a laugh

Ah, yes, it’s him. I knock at the door and reach for my gun, except it wasn’t where it should be. Shit. Too late to get it now, I decide to improvise.

“Yes? Who is it?” the woman inquires through the closed door.

“I understand that you’re in need of a plumber?” I say, hoping my lie cuts through with some luck

“Ah yes, but can you just come later? We’re in a bit of a hurry.” She says

Holy shit.

“I’ll just have a look ma’am, I forgot my tools in the shed and I’ll see what I need for the job.” I lie — well it’s a half lie.

She opens a door revealing a woman of around thirty in an evening dress. Such a pity, I think to myself.

“The kitchen’s just there, to the right, down the hall.” She says, looking at me “well, don’t you look very nervous?” she continues

“Well, what would you feel if you lost your uniform and forgot your tools on the first day on the job.” I tell another lie.

She smiles and motions for me to enter.

I enter the living room to see a man in a suit putting on his shoes, focus away from everything else in the room. It seems bigger on the inside, after the living room, there was a hallway. To the left, a stairwell, a little more into the hallway was the kitchen, and then a bathroom in the end of the hallway, upon entering you would see a door. I assume that it’s just some storage for tools and gardening etcetera’s. Into the kitchen, kneel down to the sink, and feel my phone vibrate from my pocket.

“If boss sees them in the theater, you’re fucked.” Anonymous number — figures.

“I’ve ran into some trouble, can’t it wait?” I reply

“Finish the job, or don’t.” was the only reply

Fuck.

“Paolo! Can you check what Cecelia’s doing? It’s taking too long.” The woman says

“Yes, dear.” Says Paolo, Senator Verano, the source of the Boss’ problems, God bless him.

“I’ll tend to the plumber.” She says

“Of course, oh, and Amy? The money’s on the counter, for him.” Paolo says, heading upstairs.

She approaches the kitchen, the clik-clak of her heels making sounds of her approach on the tile floor. I stand up and spot a knife on the chopping board by the sink.

Christ. This will do, it will be messy, but it will do.

She finally gets to the passageway, each and every one of her steps increasing the pounding in my heart.

I lunge forward and she could barely react. I mean, she didn’t have time to; I take her down, cover her mouth, block her windpipe, and slit her throat. She struggles for a few seconds, seconds that felt like an eternity, and she finally goes limp. Blood on a blood red dress, it was barely noticeable. I relax a little and realize that the job isn’t over.

“Honey, is everything okay? I heard something fall. Celia’s just having a little trouble with her dress, but everything else is in order… Hun, are you there?” He asks, beginning to descend the stairs.

If he has a gun with him, I’m done for.

I wait on the blind curve between the stairs and the rest of the floor, holding the bloody knife, praying that he doesn’t have his gun.

He steps off the stairs, and I attack. He staggers for a moment, the knife penetrated his skin but it didn’t hit anything vital to send him spiraling into death. He regains his balance and lunges for me. I manage to dodge most of his advance but caught my arm and sent the knife flying through the room. He pins me down and starts punching me — he may have gotten old, but he seems as strong as ever.

He didn’t have his gun, thank God. But if he kept going at me like this, he may as well crush my skull. My vision is already red from the blood but I somehow get my right arm free. I reach for my keys, clutch them, and punch as hard as I could. I force him off of me in the confusion that followed the punch and run to make some distance between me and him. Only then did I realize that my left arm was already dislocated, I don’t know what else he injured, but I could walk, and my right arm was okay — this might not be such a disaster.

He tackles me and we both fly towards the front door, he has me locked in his arms and nearly choking. I bite whatever my mouth could reach with as much force as I can, his grip weakens slightly. I grab him from behind and throw him on the floor. I found myself beside the tools cabinet and open the door. I feel for anything and I feel something heavy leaning beside the door. He gets up and lunges at me again, I don’t hesitate and swing the object at him as hard as I can — it was a bolo, and from what I felt, it cut pretty deep. He falls on the floor on one knee, breathing heavily, blood flowing from his left leg. I hesitate a moment before swinging the bolo again, this time at his arm, then using the blunt side to hit him on the ribs and back.

“Who…” he coughs

“You’ll know soon enough.” I say, wheezing too with blood in my mouth and my eyes red from the blood.

“A-amelia?” he says, almost pitiful

“You’ll be joining her soon.” My heart beat slowing down ever so slightly

“Stay away” he coughs out blood “… from Cecelia.” He stares into my eyes, filled with anger, rage, sorrow, and defeat.

“Senator Ocampo sends his regards.” I say, swinging the bolo to his neck, finishing the job.

Jesus Fucking Christ. The job’s done. I turn around and see a little girl, no more than 8, pointing her daddy’s gun at me.

“Mister! I’ll shoot!” she threatens me. Her face stained by tears, she’s nearly hyperventilating, seemingly in shock.

“Listen, darling, this isn’t your fight anymore,” I say, probably not convincing while holding the bolo that killed her father and a bloodied face.

She says nothing in reply but keeps the gun pointed at me.

“It’s gonna be a rough life, kid. Good Luck.” I say, smiling at her, she pulls the trigger and misses. The gun flies out of her hands and behind her; she kneels to the floor and sobs. I walk past her and take the gun.

“Good luck, Cecelia Verano. You’re going to need it.”

I take off my shirt and fashion it into a DIY sling for my dislocated arm. I grab my keys which I dropped sometime during the fight. I take the Chief’s badge, proof that the job is finished.

I head towards the front door and begin walking. Cecelia’s cries torture me, and they seemed to follow me everywhere else. I get back to the truck and head to the usual, where my paycheck awaits.


I feel as though the gun’s still pointed at me.

I get to the inn, after a 20-minute drive. I would’ve gotten there sooner if I didn’t snake through the city passing the smaller roads so that no one sees a bloodied man with a sling. I park and make my way to the receiving area.

“Christ, what happened to you?” it was Anton, always friendly, never going around the bush.

“Is Pablo in? I hurt my shoulder.” I say

“In his room.” He replies

“Alright, thanks.”

I go to Pablo’s room. He wasn’t what I would call a doctor, but he knew which bone went where and how to stitch people up. He was only of little hope if you shattered a bone or got a hemorrhage — I had neither.

He fixes my dislocated shoulder pretty easily, if popping it back in with agonizing pain counts as easy — then it’s easy. I go to the bar and order a drink and ask for ice for my injured shoulder. I take my phone out and text.

“It’s done. Meet me in the usual for my pay.”

No reply; but a few minutes later a black hummer rolls into the parking lot.

It was Francis, Boss’s little helper for when he doesn’t want to show up in person.

“Well, don’t you look terrible.” He says, smirking

“I’ve had worse. Where’s the money?” I ask

“Well, isn’t someone pushy, the part you wanted in your account has already been wired; the rest is in cash.” He says, handing me a briefcase.

“Thanks. One more thing, I’m quitting this job.” I say, no longer looking at him but staring at my whiskey, still disturbed by Celia’s cries.

“That’s not for me to settle. Go talk to the boss, I’ll ask him to call you later — Pleasure doing business with you.”

He left as soon as he came. I left soon after; I took a shower in Pablo’s place and headed home.

The trip was silent; I didn’t bother with turning on the radio. That’s what happens when you develop a habit, you’ll be bitched to get rid of it. For the second time today, I was rolling up into a driveway, this time on my own home. I was tired, disturbed, and a little shaken, but I was home.

I walk towards the front door slowly. Insert the key, turn it, and unlock the door.

“Daddy!” my son shouts from across the room and runs toward me.

“Hey there, buddy! So, Scott, how was school today?” I say. Scott is six, just around the same age as Celia. Oh Lord I hope the boys already cleaned up the situation at the Verano’s. The last thing I want are boys in blue in the bloody driveway.

“Is it done?” my wife asks, standing by the staircase

“Yes, Sylvia dear. It’s done.” I say

“Is this the last time?”

“Yes.”

“Promise?”

“Yes, dear.”

“What are you guys talking about?” Scott breaks the flow of the conversation

“Nothing buddy, say, wanna play on the Xbox? It’s my turn to pick the game.” I say, diverting the course of the conversation

“Sure! But not the boring one, okay?” he says.

“It’s a deal, buddy.”

I remove my shoes and place it on the counter by the door, kiss my wife, and play with my son. Home life is much simpler than the other one I lead. I pour myself a drink and sit in the living room after Scott’s gone.

I get the call from Senator Ocampo a little later and we reach an agreement. I would be off the service, but if things go to crap, I’m ready on a moment’s notice. He would provide protection for my family and he would give me a monthly allowance, enough to add to the money Sylvia earns and enough to keep us in this house. It was a good talk; we bid our farewells and hung up.

The sun finally set on my days as a professional hitman. I don’t know what I would do now. But I was done killing. That’s the problem with habits; you need a real kick to get you out of them. For tonight Sylvia and Scott Tenorio slept soundly; but Sam Tenorio didn’t — I could still hear Cecelia crying, clutching her dead parents in her arms, pointing the gun at me, barely holding it up, ready to shoot.

“Good luck, Cecelia Verano, you’re going to need it.” I mutter to myself.

I go to the truck and take the gun out from the glove compartment and unload a full shot of lead between my eyes. That’s the problem with habits; you never really get rid of them.


  • * This story is part of a collection of short stories I wrote a few months ago about the Tenorio, Ocampo, and Verano families. It is strictly fictional and is not based on any real events or people.

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