The damp air is disturbed. Boots slap wet pavement. A cigarette burns red. A man emerges from the dark alley. Newsboy cap tilts to one side. Hands in tweed pockets, easy strides carry him to his target.
A bus stop shelters one occupant from the cold. The onlooker nestles further in his coat. Checks his watch. The bus is late. Per usual. As long as it provides meager heat. He hears steps but thinks nothing of it.
Not until worn brown boots come into his down-cast vision. He lifts his head. Dim gas lamps and fog barely making the visitor visible. Though he knows his fate has been sealed, he scrambles behind the waiting bench for shelter. “What are you doing here?”
“I have a message for you.”
The waiter for the bus shakes. Not because of the cold this time. “From who?”
“Tommy Boy says you owe him for a job. He also says if you don’t give me the money, he’ll send me after that darling family of yours.”
“Do I look like I have the money on me?”
“I don’t know what you’re packing under that coat.”
“Indeed.” The debtor pulls a pistol and fires a couple rounds.
But the contract killer expects this course of action. He drops before bullets reach him. Cursing when he drops his smoke. Reveals his own weapon. “Looks like I’ll be paying your wife and daughter a visit.”
One shot kills the other. He corrects his newsboy hat and stashes his pistol in his satchel. His lips curl in disgust at the body he leaves where it fell. Lights another cigarette as he walks away from the lonely scene. Breath curls into the air.
“You don’t mess with the Message Man.”