by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson
Jonas sat in his office, where his home and his company were.
Smoky Bay had grown into such a large city that Jonas felt a market had developed for one of mankind’s oldest practices: murder for hire.
Jonas had through time collected all the right tools of the trade: a piano-wire for strangling; a neat set of knives for stabbing, cutting and flaying; two silenced .45-caliber 1911 automatic handguns to make holes; a shotgun for making multiple holes simultaneously; and a decently long-ranged 30-06 rifle to make holes from a distance.
He had put an ad in the paper and for a month sat idly by and waited for a call. He thought maybe it had been a bad idea to rush into this without first checking if there really was a demand for such a service as the one he had idly selected as his life’s work.
He was reading the want-ads in the paper when the phone rang. “Killing-service. You name it, we kill it... for cheap,” answered Jonas.
“Oh... this isn’t Domino’s pizza?”
“No. But I can kill everyone there for you for only 20.000 Kr. per head!” said Jonas happily.
The man hung up. Jonas began reading the paper again. He had hardly started reading when the phone rang again. “Killing-service. You name it, we kill it for cheap,” answered Jonas.
“Yes...” An awkward voice spoke. “Uhm... I... uhm... you attend to... uhm... killing... don’t you?” asked the voice, sounding a little troubled.
“Yes. I kill whomever for 150 thousand. I am offering a 2 for 1 this week. And then there’s a quantity discount.”
“Yes... of course... Then I wish to hire you. Could you perhaps come to me? I don’t dare leave as matters are...”
Jonas accepted the invitation and went off to do his first job. He piled all the killing paraphernalia into the trunk of his car and hit the road.
The client lived in a large apartment building. Jonas took the lift to the 8th floor. There he knocked four times on the door as he’d been instructed to do.
“Enter,” called a voice from within. Jonas opened the unlocked door and stepped in.
“I’m in here,” said the voice. Jonas gathered it came from the bathroom. “I don’t want... can’t come out. Here, I’ll slide a cheque under the door,” said the voice, and a cheque appeared from under the door. “You can go and cash it now, or later, or whenever.”
Jonas picked up the cheque, put it in his pocket and asked, “Well, who, then, am I supposed to kill?”
“Uhh... uhmm... That... he... ehm... yes, is in the kitchen, I think, or in the living room. I can’t come out till it... he’s dead!”
There was a strange quiver in the voice that Jonas didn’t quite like. There was also a strange smell in there. Jonas suspected someone was trying to make fun of him, so he went to the bank first and cashed the cheque.
When he went back to the apartment, he carried with him all his stuff in a bag. He wasn’t quite sure about what to use first. He’d wanted to kill someone with a piano-wire since he was a little boy, after having seen it done in some Mafia movie on TV. But Jonas had no dark alley here from which to sneak up on his victim, nor a back seat to ambush it in, so he scratched that idea.
He also knew for a fact, that in each home there are long knives, and sometimes also people who are ready and willing to use them, and Jonas had no special longing to get into a knife fight with someone he had never seen.
He had absolutely no information about the victim, other than that it was in the apartment. Jonas therefore took out the pistols, screwed on the silencers and loaded them.
Jonas stepped in, guns ready, and looked around. He saw tables, chairs, dressers, a few potted plants. There was nobody there. The place was silent.
He noticed a strange smell. Jonas listened closely. He heard his own breathing. Jonas held his breath. Then he heard his own heartbeat. Jonas became a little annoyed but listened more intently.
He finally thought he could make out another sound: another breath, slightly hoarse, that came from the dining-room. Jonas listened more closely. After about a minute of listening closely, another sound became audible: someone was chewing in the dining-room. That was apparent.
Jonas listened even more closely, but that turned out to be unnecessary, because the sound increased. Someone clearly was in the dining-room, having a bite to eat.
Jonas grinned and moved in, guns up. Jonas could hardly believe his own eyes when he spotted the one who was dining in the room.
In there, directly in front of him, regaling on a leg of mutton and white vine in a goblet, sat a huge rat. The rat was raggedy and shaggy, with protruding front teeth, a crooked face and crooked limbs, and it sat like a human at the table and ate.
The rat stopped chewing and stared Jonas. Jonas was horribly spooked, dropped his guns and ran out. The rat jumped after him, screaming. Jonas just made it out the front door and managed to slam it shut before the rat came.
The rat, which surely weighed 70 kilos, smashed against the door with a mighty thump. Jonas leaned against the door and listened. The rat made no further attempts to break out, but Jonas heard it saunter about inside the apartment.
A familiar voice called from inside, “Have you finished killing... it?”
Jonas wiped the sweat from his forehead. He had never before sweat so much. “No,” he answered. He sighed heavily.
A heavy blow sounded from within. And then another, in each case followed by another sound, as when wood is broken. At the third sound, Jonas realized what it was: the rat had gotten the guns and was firing at the door Jonas was sitting up against. He rolled himself away just as two shots hit the area against which he had been leaning.
Jonas rummaged in his bag and quickly drew forth the scattergun. It was a cheap Mossberg, but it worked. Jonas waited. The rat shot two other holes in the door, but then lost interest, Jonas assumed.
He began moving in closer. He counted seven shots. Then the rat couldn’t have but one shot left. Jonas opened the door and looked inside.
There stood the rat with a gun in each hand. It opend fire on Jonas from both barrels. Jonas jumped away. The second shot flew right past him and crumbled a bit from the wall next to the elevator.
Jonas stood up and ran. The rat jumped into the hall a moment later and followed Jonas’ scent. Jonas flew down the stairs faster than the eye could see, touching more wall than floor on his way down, and after him came the rat, none the slower.
Jonas rocketed out the front door and leapt to his car in one bound. He was fumbling around trying to start the car when the rat appeared in the door and proceeded to fire upon him from both pistols.
The car jumped to a start. Jonas backed his BMW directly into a small Hyundai parked behind him, pushing it across the road. The Hyundai went directly into a garage belonging to a house across the street, and Jonas drove in front of a Toyota that was just skulking about on the street.
Jonas counted the shots, and estimated rightly that the rat had run out of ammunition when the last bullet broke its way through the dashboard and just scratched him under the arm.
Jonas had no time to fill out the accident report. He put the car in drive and floored the jalopy. The rat, who knew it had used up the rounds, ran back in when it saw Jonas approaching at speed.
Jonas violently scratched the side of a brand-new Peugeot before he flew the BMW up the stairs and burst into the foyer. There the BMW got stuck. Jonas broke his way out through the windshield and hurried up the stairs after the rat.
The rat had immediately sensed that it was not the same threat to Jonas without ammo and jumped all the way to the roof. Jonas barged out after it and cornered it on the edge of the roof. The rat stood before him like an elf, with defeat in its eyes as it dropped the weapons and raised its paws up over its head.
Jonas looked at the rat. It looked wretched, all crooked and raggedy. Jonas said, “Hey. You don’t understand. I have to kill you. I get paid for it.”
The rat just shrugged its shoulders. They stood there for a while gazing at each other, hired killer and victim. Then Jonas shot the rat a few times until it fell off the roof, hitting a Nissan Micra 12 floors below.
Jonas went down to 8th floor and described the kill to the joyful exaltations of two voices, before going down to inspect the damage. He had to leave the BMW behind, but it was totalled anyway. He had to carry his weapons back home by himself.
The last thing he did was to take a look at his first victim. It lay dead on top of the crushed wreck of the Nissan and had stopped bleeding a long time ago.
Jonas grinned. He’d gotten his second victim there, as a bonus. It lay directly under the rat, behind the steering-wheel of the car: a girl in her late teens who had just parked there a second before the rat hit her from above.
It had crossed his mind to go in and charge extra, but... it was his first assignment, and besides, he had no wish to enter that building again. Who knew what monsters still lurked there?
Copyright © 2014 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson