The day was clear and warm, so Leep was walking home from the mill, with the idea of stopping in the 7-11 for some eggs, a can of salmon, and a package of Bisquik. He had a lot on his mind: Hootie, Deborah Demarco, quiche, The Rabbit Hole, and, of course Tony.
But to his great relief, there was Tony Gizmodo, in his usual baggy grey slacks and grimy jacket, back sitting on the curb outside the liquor store next to the 7-11, looking as sullen and unhealthy as ever. Leep stopped, and scrabbled in his coat pocket for some change, and dropped it into the coffee cup beside Tony.
“That’s my coffee cup, you asshole,” said Tony, whose stay in jail had not improved his disposition.
“Sorry,” said Leep, and watched Tony take the two dollars out of the cup and put it in his pocket. “So you are out of jail.”
Tony rolled his eyes. Leep never noticed before that the stubble growing on Tony’s face was grey, so maybe he was older than he thought. Or maybe jail had aged him. Leep knew he could never do jail. He would come out of it grey, too.
“I mean, you didn’t kill that guy, right?” Leep persisted.
“Nah, I guess not,” said Tony. “They were pretty convinced I did.”
“So how’d you get out?” Leep asked.
Tony shrugged. “Some other guy got shot. I was in my deluxe cell, negotiating with Bob for a bit of vodka or cough syrup, anything, at the time of the shooting. They brilliantly deduced I couldn’t be in two places at once.”
“So it was like, the same gun or something?”
“You should be a cop,” said Tony.
Leep remembered that at one time he had wanted to be a cop. He also wanted to be a trapeze artist. He heard there was a trapeze school in New York City. Perhaps he should use his savings for some lessons in New York City, as a kind of fantasy vacation. But no, he was too tall, skinny, and awkward. Leep in tights? They would laugh at him. But kids have dreams; Leep still had dreams, lots of them.
Like having a wedding. He would need a girlfriend first, of course, but he remembered the wedding he went to shortly before Vincent Demarco was killed. Ham invited practically everyone from the mill, including Mr Duggin, the manager. Leep sat at his assigned table at the reception, nursed a bottle of Budweiser beer, ate his sliced chicken, listened to the DJ, and watched all the people dance. Ham and his wife Dolly looked like they stepped off the top of wedding cake, as they say, and they spun round and round on the floor. In fact, Leep was suddenly struck by motion all around him– people moving and dancing, laughing, talking, gesturing, moving, moving; a vortex, while he was in the middle, perfectly still in his chair with his hand on the Budweiser. He couldn’t be part of it; it would be as impossible as jumping onto a fast-moving train.
But how he longed to be.
Then Ham’s brother, “Hootie”, disrupted everything, by having too many cocktails and co-opting the DJ’s mic, and rambling on incoherently about the bride, some of the words rather rude, until Ham grabbed the mic and walked Hootie to the toilets, where Hootie was either struck in the face, or vomited. Leep didn’t know. He went home.
But a week ago, when he was out late, he spotted Hootie again. A bit unsteady on his feet, but walking with purpose towards Railtown, where he probably had one of those new converted lofts. He was wearing shorts and a suit jacket, which Leep thought was odd.
Leep still wore the black ski jacket when he was out on the job, but now tied a dark blue scarf around his face so he would not be recognized again. He carried a lightweight backpack.
He intercepted Hootie underneath the broken street lamp, a favourite mugging location. “Give me your money,” Leep said, the usual script. “I have a gun.”
Hootie’s face went yellow, and he fumbled in his pockets in a panic, looking for his wallet. “Ok, ok, ok,” he said, over and over.
Leep took the wallet and said, “I killed Vincent Demarco. Unless you wanna die too, run!” as menacingly as he could. Hootie backed away in terror, then turned to run.
At that moment, Leep drew his gun, took careful aim so as to avoid a major artery, and shot Hootie in the ass. Hootie screamed, and Leep backed into the shadows, removing the scarf and the ski jacket and shoving them into the backpack, before reaching the end of the alley, and disappearing. He could hear Hootie shouting, even when he was blocks away.