A family man and proud of it, Rick Stelljes enjoyed his kids’ dinner table chatter. Johnny’s class took a field trip to the aquarium; Linda thought she’d aced her geometry test.
“Keep it up, Baby,” he told her. “You’re gonna be the first Stelljes to graduate college, and it’s gonna be a big-name school.”
“Daddy.” She smiled indulgently. “Everyone from Windsor Prep goes to a good college.”
Headlights flickered through the drapes; someone was pulling up in front. Richie went to check – people here parked in driveways – and saw the kid next door getting dropped off. He sat back down.
“I’m going to Harvard,” Johnny said.
“You get in, son, I’ll pay for it.”
No one had ever asked Rick about his day at his stinking dump of a school. The smartest kid in the class, he’d made up for it by being the meanest. He would have been dead or in prison by eighteen if Mr. Dee hadn’t taken an interest in him, hadn’t become like a father to him. He’d been working for Mr. Dee twenty years now. Married to Tanya for fifteen. Every day of his life, he thanked God for his good luck.
Johnny and Linda went upstairs to do their homework, and Tanya asked if he wanted an after-dinner drink.
“Not tonight, baby. I’ve got a late meeting.” He pushed back from the table. “Time for me to go.”
“I wish you didn’t have to.”
Rick also wished he didn’t have to. He liked Billy Balfour, but Billy had crossed a line. “I won’t be late. You make sure those kids do their homework.”
“They’re good kids.”
“I know. And you’re a good mom.” He stood and kissed the top of his wife’s head.
Walking through the family room on his way to the garage, Rick admired the leather sofas and the wide-screen TV. At 72 inches, it really was a home theater. When he got back, he and Tanya could watch a movie, something light. He was going to need to decompress.
The monitor mounted on the garage wall showed multiple pictures of a quiet yard and an empty street. Rick pushed a button and a section of wall swung away, revealing the cabinet that held his guns. He selected a Glock 9mm and an AWC Abraxis supressor. The Abraxis didn’t muffle the noise as well as his Osprey, but it was lighter and smaller, which could be important tonight. After another check of the monitor, Rick slid behind the wheel, turned the key in the ignition, and pressed the garage door opener.
Tomorrow or the day after, they’d find Billy, shot twice through the back of his head. The news would call it an execution, and they’d be right. More important, people who might have been tempted to try some free-lancing would be reminded that Mr. Dee didn’t tolerate disloyalty, and Rick Stelljes would have another $25,000 to keep his family safe and comfortable.
Bio: Patricia Dusenbury is a retired economist and the author of the Claire Marshall trilogy, which if it had a name, would be called A Path Through the Ashes. The first book, A Perfect Victim, was named 2015 best mystery by the Electronic Industry Publishing Coalition. The second book, Secrets, Lies & Homicide, is a Preditors and Editors top ten mystery. Book 3, A House of Her Own, was released in October. This nasty little story was inspired by a conversation with a friend who is a criminal defense attorney. Are you sure you know where your neighbor works?
Web page: www.PatriciaDusenbury.com