The corner of 10th Avenue and Bridge Street, 11:39 pm
An elderly man approached the silent intersection, his progress marked by the steady click of his cane on the cracked sidewalk. He paused regularly to stare at the boarded up shops of Bridge Street, to check his wristwatch, to stare at nothing.
As he neared 10th Avenue a group of four young men appeared around the corner, paused briefly upon spotting him and then turned as one and strolled casually toward him.
The lobby of Smith, Keller and Thomas, 1:03 pm
Cindy looked up from her newspaper as the old lady came through the rotating glass doors and forced a welcoming smile onto her lips. The woman squinted around her surroundings through thick glasses before spotting the receptionist. She smiled a grin that was short several important teeth and moved slowly forward, carrying an over-sized, over-pink handbag.
“Hello dear, I believe I’m late for my 1 o’clock appointment with Mr. Keller,” she said with a slight tremble, her blinking eyes magnified to comic proportions by her lenses.
“That’s no problem at all ma’am, Mr. Keller is running late from lunch anyway. If you’ll follow me I’ll show you to his office and you can wait for him there,” Cindy said smoothly. The old lady reminded Cindy of her grandmother who had passed away last July – it was almost enough to prevent her from taking her to see Mr. Keller, but not quite. He was going to take her for all she was worth, but Cindy needed to get paid.
10th and Bridge, 11:48 pm
“You must be lost, old man – this ain’t your neighborhood,” the leader of the group said as they reached the man with the cane.
“Oh hello there,” the man said before he continued to stare at nothing in particular.
“These are my streets and I don’t think I want you on them,” the young man said, his buddies nodding in unison like street thug bobble heads.
“I’m doing fine, thank you for asking,” the man said with a wan smile.
“You gonna let him disrespect you like that, Jerome?” one of the bobble heads asked.
When he heard the name of the pack leader the old man’s bearing changed slightly – he stood a little taller, gripped his cane just a touch tighter. A person would have to have been watching very closely to have noticed – Jerome was not.
Mr. Keller’s office, 1:20 pm
“Sorry to have kept you waiting Mrs. Saldare,” Mr. Keller said as he sunk into the plush chair behind his pristine antique desk. “Important lunch meetings just never stick to their schedule, I’m sure you understand. Can I get you something to drink?”
“Tea would be lovely dear, if you’ll join me for a cup? I do so hate drinking tea alone, it’s so uncivilized,” she replied as she hugged her handbag to her chest.
“Of course, of course,” he said as he reached for the phone. “Cindy, could you bring us two cups of our best tea? Thank you.”
10th and Bridge, 11:50 pm
“Jerome… haven’t I seen you on the TV recently?” the old man asked. “Something about selling drugs to school kids?”
“That’s right, my face was all over TV a couple weeks back,” Jerome said with a smug smile. “But those stupid pigs can’t pin nothing on me, I’m smooth like Teflon baby.”
Mr. Keller’s office, 1:25 pm
“So you’re here to settle your late husband’s estate?” Mr. Keller asked, hiding his eager smile behind the fine china cup that he held in his manicured hands.
“Yes, but first I’d like to make sure those terrible reports in the newspapers last month are completely unfounded,” she said with a look of deep concern. “Surely you wouldn’t be involved with those sick people?”
“Of course not dear, of course not,” he said with a comforting smile. “The police simply had me mistaken for someone else; I would never associate with those deplorable criminals importing under aged women just to put them to work on the streets.”
“That’s such a relief,” Mrs. Saldare said. “That is a lovely painting you have there, is it a van Gogh?”
“Oh, that old thing?” he said as he looked over his shoulder to view the landscape perched on the wall. The moment his eyes left her, Mrs. Saldare pulled a vial from her handbag and emptied its contents into his tea before returning to her slouched position in her chair. It took less than two ticks of the grandfather clock standing in the corner of the room. “That’s just a painting I saw in a gallery in Paris and liked it enough to bring it back here – I’m not sure who painted it.”
“Well it’s lovely,” she said kindly as she smiled with satisfaction as he took a long sip of his tea. “May I use the washroom before we continue?”
“But of course, but of course,” he told her. “Just down the hall to your right, the last door before you reach the stairs.”
Mrs. Saldare closed the office door firmly behind her, turned left and walked slowly towards the lobby. She graced Cindy with a smile and a frail wave before she exited the building.
Mr. Keller was dead before her feet touched the sidewalk.
10th and Bridge, 11:52 pm
“It’s been grand, just grand chatting with you old man,” Jerome said with an easy smile. “Now how about you hand over that cane of yours, I bet I could get some good money for it.”
With a flick of his wrist, the man had the cane pressed into the soft flesh under Jerome’s chin in a blur. Jerome’s eyes went wide, his buddies stood frozen to the ground.
“Boyo, you’ve got no idea how much this cane is worth,” the man snarled and pulled the trigger hidden in the handle.
Jerome died before his head hit the ground; his buddies joined him shortly after. The old man surveyed his work, looked around the deserted streets and strode away as he wiped the blood from his cane.