Flash Fiction Challenge: Killing Dan Malmon

So Dan O’Shea wants Dan Malmon dead. I don’t know Dan (either one) beyond following both on Twitter and having Dan O’Shea’s books on my TBR list, but this seemed like a cool challenge, so I took a swing. I probably had more fun killing him than is appropriate, but I really enjoyed writing this, and I hope you and Mr. Malmon, good sport that he is, gets a kick out of reading it.

***

Ever gotten a song stuck in your head? I mean really deep in there, where you’ve gotta hum the whole thing to get rid of it? That’s what I was dealing with on this job. Looking back, I wouldn’t’ve had this problem if I hadn’t taken the phone, but the client insisted. Long as I was getting paid, I did whatever he’d asked.

I might have been a little starstruck too. I mean, it’s not every day you get hired by a multiple Grammy winner. At first I thought the meeting request was a joke, but there he was, sitting across from me, offering to pay triple my normal rate. I took the job, even though it meant carrying a burner to confirm when it was over. “If I’d picked a more notable target, I wouldn’t worry. Him? I’d be surprised if the news went beyond local.”

Curious, I asked, “why this guy, anyway? I mean, people hiring me usually have a score to settle. What’s yours, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Dan Malmon isn’t remotely connected to me, which makes him perfect. I’ve been recording for longer than you’ve been alive – making millions, winning awards – yet I still get slagged on. Eventually, that mocking gets to you. One day, I’m looking over what I’ve accomplished and earned, and realize I’ve got the means to get myself some payback. Not in a big way, but I could find your average blogger, someone who won’t be traced back to me at all, and…” He snapped his fingers on beat, with a true percussionist’s sense of timing. “It’s a good feeling having the cash to know you can arrange it so one less guy’s out there, taking pot-shots at you online.” I just nodded. It was ’round-the-bend looney, but still not the craziest reason I’d ever been given, if you can believe it. We shook, and I walked out with a couple thousand dollars and the phone.

***

Dan parked in a garage up near Mass Ave. I’d tailed him easily, but didn’t park quickly enough to catch him before he was out on Newbury. I considered sitting there until he came back, but it was a nice day, and I hate waiting. I slipped a length of piano wire into my pocket and followed him. I knew I couldn’t do anything until we were back in the garage, but the idea of hanging there indefinitely made me antsy. I strolled a short ways behind him, enough to keep track without being obvious.

I didn’t realize the ringer was on until I heard an insistent rhythm, like a heartbeat. It took me a second to realize where the sound as coming from – Phil, that impatient fucker, was checking on me. As I pulled it out to silence it I heard “Come stop your crying, It’ll be alright….” I looked sheepishly about, as one does when their phone goes off in public, and hoped Malmon hadn’t noticed. I saw him step into O’Shea’s without so much as a glance my way, by some miracle. I hadn’t gone into any of the stores he’d visited before this one, figuring he’d be more likely to notice me indoors than outside. But O’Shea’s is this great upscale kitchen store, and I needed gloves.

I’d actually brought a pair of old driving gloves, but had forgotten them in the car. I wouldn’t have time to retrieve them when we got back. If O’Shea’s stocked them, the gloves you use to shuck oysters are reinforced, and would keep the piano wire from digging hard into my fingers. I didn’t bother searching, just grabbed the nearest clerk and asked if they carried them. I waited by the register as he checked, hoping Dan wouldn’t leave first.

As I stood there, I caught myself tapping out that heartbeat rhythm on the counter, murmuring “Come stop your crying, It’ll be alright….” Dammit. I mean, it’s an OK song, but I was surprised it’d stuck like that. I think the last time I’d listened to it was forever ago, when people listened to radio, and stations played tunes like that.

The clerk came back successful and I paid in cash, stuffing the change and the gloves in my pocket. I left and crossed the street to wait for Dan to come back out. He reappeared, heading back towards where he’d parked.

As we walked I couldn’t get that fucking song out of my head. I cursed the phone, and the asshole who’d given it to me. I made the best of it by trying to remember how the rest went. “You’ll be in my heart, yeah you’ll be in my heart….” I was shocked at how much of it I could recall. I’d never really been a fan of that song back when it won him an Oscar, but I could see why it’d won. In fact, I kind of understood then why Phil hired me. I mean, objectively, someone pours their heart into something – which is obvious, if you listen to him sing – it’s got to be galling to know people like Dan sneer at it, at you. Sure, making it the ringtone was obnoxious, but really, why shouldn’t he be proud of his work? I took pride in mine, after all.

By the time we reached his car I was up to the “Just look over your shoulder” bit, which was ironic; that’s the last thing I wanted him to do. I slipped on the oyster gloves, and wound the wire around my hands. As he went between his car and the one beside it, I slipped it over his head, shoving him off balance so he’d fall forward. As he fell, I pulled back against the momentum. It was over by the time I finished humming the song. Once he was still, and I could find no pulse, I headed to my car. I took out the phone and dialed before driving off. “Mr. Collins? It’s done.”