The Snakehead by Justin A. McWhirter
Synopsis: A hitman meets with the local Chinese crime boss about a hit he’s contracted to finish.
About the Author: Justin A. McWhirter is a recently starting out writer, originally from and still living in Connecticut, USA.
In this duel, a hitman dares a mafioso in a dramatic scene right out of a pulp movie.
Ace sat at the empty table in the corner of the Chinatown restaurant. The sounds of soft conversation and barely audible traditional music mixed soothingly together. It was the sharp smell of oriental spices from the kitchen and the faintest sense of opium leaking from the hidden drug dens somewhere in the back that kept him awake. He was entirely out of place in his black pinstripe suit, making no attempt to hide the fact he was the only westerner in the shady Asian eatery.
A mid-sized Chinese man entered the restaurant, immediately followed by two taller and thuggish looking men. The mid-sized man walked towards Ace’s table and pulled out a chair to sit, while his two followers casually sat at a table across the room keeping the corner table in their sights.
“Mr. Killer,” the Chinese man spoke in a heavily accented voice, wasting no time identifying Ace’s purpose for being.
“Mr. Chang, have a seat,” Ace said sarcastically, opening his hand to offer the seat across from him that Chang was already sitting in.
“Much obliged Mr. Killer.”
Chang reached across the table to grab the tea kettle that was in front of Ace. The sleeve on Chang’s arm slid up, revealing a triangle tattoo that had been hidden, but still meant to be seen. Chang grinned seeing Ace’s eyes focus on the ink, and poured himself the tea into a small ceramic cup.
“Heaven and Earth association,” Ace spoke quietly to fit the mood of the room.
“You are very informed for a westerner Mr. Killer,” Chang laughed taking a sip of his tea.
“Informed enough to know about your human smuggling operations.”
Maliciously, Chang laughed again, “Such information is not very hard to come by in my Chinatown Mr. Killer. I am a very wealthy and powerful man as a snakehead, something that you should take notice.”
“Is that some kind of threat?” Ace leaned back in his chair casually.
“That all depends on whether you wish to take it as one,” Chang placed his cup back down on the table, but kept his hands clasped around it. “I have been meaning to get in touch with you Mr. Killer. You are a stranger here in my Chinatown, and safe to say it is rather obvious when a stranger like yourself is out of place. Why then Mr. Killer are you ‘loitering around my turf,’ as you westerners like to say?”
Ace cracked a slight grin, keeping an eye on the two other men that followed Chang in, and who in turn, kept a constant watch on Ace. “A smart man would never openly admit to a profession like mine. But then again, a smarter man would have known that you’d rather kill an unknown than let it simmer. However a killer in your territory would spark some interest of my intentions. Telling your goons I am a hitman got me a meeting rather than a bullet. But now with my cover blown, it is without any difficulty I tell you that I am in Chinatown on a job.”
“I believe you when you say you are a hitman, but the irony of that statement cannot be expressed enough. It now means that everything you say from this point forward cannot be taken with any grain of honesty.” Chang grinned again and took another sip of his tea. “I know your type. I’ve hired them out before. It is a very goal oriented business you work in. You’re westerner Machiavelli would be proud. Get the job done at all costs. There are no bonus points for honesty.”
“What can I say to you then that will allow me to go about my business?”
Chang thought for a moment, then reached across the table, took hold of the tea kettle and poured his cup full again. “Tell me who you are in Chinatown to kill.” Chang took a sip from the newly filled cup.
“I am here to kill you Mr. Chang.”
The snakehead was not prepared for that answer and spit out the tea in shock. “Mr. Killer, I find that very hard to believe.”
“I do not Mr. Chang. You are quite a ruthless snakehead, which has in turn made you many enemies who would be more than pleased to see you out of the way.”
“So you’re nothing more than a low level thug trying to make a name for your boss.”
Ace laughed, “I don’t have a boss. In fact, I have no idea who put me up to this or why they want you out of the way, but they paid in full and I have a reputation of customer appreciation to uphold.”
“Then how exactly do you plan on killing me? It will be in your best interest to know that I now have a gun aimed at you under the table, plus our friends over there have their eyes keenly fixed on you. Make any kind of move and it won’t just be your customer appreciation that dies.” Chang’s eyes narrowed and his voice turned from friendly to deadly. “In fact, give me a reason why I shouldn’t kill you right now.”
“I poisoned the tea, and you don’t have the antidote.”
“What?!” Chang moved his hand from below the table, and brought the gun to aim right between Ace’s eyes. The pinstriped man grinned, pleased at the snakehead’s reaction of surprise.
“Mr. Chang, I feel insulted that you thought I was to come here under my own accord without a plan for walking out. Oh, the end justifies the means, but only when I live to prosper from your death.” Ace looked to the other table and could see the two goons at the other table standing up now, each with an automatic weapon aimed right at the hitman.
“Give me the antidote Mr. Killer or I’ll have you blown away!” Chang screamed. Everyone in the restaurant was still: Waiters, patrons, and the goons… except Ace. He casually leaned back in his chair and laughed.
“Cut me a deal.”
“I’d advise you start making me offers here Mr. Chang, it only takes about…” Ace mockingly looked at his watch, “oh I’d say three more minutes before the poison starts to take effect. It’s a very fast acting poison too so you won’t even know what hit you—“
“What do you want?!” Chang cut him off to save time.
“Honestly, I want you dead.”
“But you also want yourself alive.”
“Ahh… sadly this is true,” Ace laughed. He then paused for a moment to think, “Ransom yourself. Let’s say $100,000.”
“I know that’s a little steep, but I really don’t think you have much time to be arguing Mr. Chang,” Ace tapped his watch.
“What makes you think I have that kind of cash?”
“You are a very wealthy and powerful man as a snakehead. Isn’t that what you told me when you tried threatening me? Oh… that’s right, you did threaten me. Hmm… that’s going to cost you extra. Let’s see it was 100,000, but with the threats, oh and the use of my good poison-“
“Get on with it!” Chang stood up from his chair and shoved the gun at Ace, bringing it up to touch his temple. The hitman never even flinched.
“How about we go with $300,000?”
“Half and that’s all you’re getting.”
“It’s not my life that’s ticking away. I can stay here and haggle all I want. I have no place to be today.”
Chang panicked for a moment, before letting down his guard. He placed the gun onto the table and sat down again. “Fine, you win! Just give me the antidote.”
“Not so hasty. Money first.”
“You won’t get any if I’m dead.”
“Fair enough,” Ace laughed. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small glass vile with a clear substance inside. Chang snatched it from his hand and poured the liquid down his throat as fast as possible. Ace took the gun Chang had left on the table and pointed it at the snakehead. “Now, about my money.”
This time it was Chang’s turn to laugh as he wiped away a few remaining drops of the liquid from his lips. “I give you nothing Mr. Killer. You dare pull the trigger with my guards keeping their eyes on you? Fire once and my men will leave you full of lead.”
But rather than find fear in the hitman that he expected, Chang saw the pinstripe man laugh again. “What is so funny?”
“You really take enjoyment out of insulting me don’t you?” Ace sneered.
“What do you mean?”
“I still plan on killing you and your guards before walking out of this pigsty.”
Chang laughed, nodding his head over to the goons across the restaurant. “It appears I have great reason to be doubting you on that.”
“There is only one thing you have said to me tonight that was the truth: never trust a hitman. All we care is about getting the job done. Very Machiavelli I believe you said.”
Chang grinned, figuring it was a last attempt by the hitman to save his life. “I believe I did say that.”
Ace looked at his watch again. “And yet you trusted a hitman on what is or is not a poison.”
“What do you mean Mr. Killer?”
“There was never any poison in the tea, you got here too soon before I could slip it in.”
“Then what did you give me?”
“The poison itself.”
Chang’s eyes suddenly shot wide open with panic from an uncomfortable pain that began to swell up in his throat. The two bodyguards looked confused at the scene across the restaurant. One looked to the other questioningly. It was all the time Ace needed. The hitman turned the gun from Chang to the goons, and shot one twice in the head. The other goon fired back wildly, missing Ace as the pinstriped man shoved the table down and used it for cover. When the goon stopped to reload, Ace popped up and only needed one shot to smash a bullet through his target’s temple.
Ace turned back to Chang who had fallen to the floor while wheezing out his final breaths. “Don’t ever insult me again Mr. Chang,” Ace grinned one more time seeing the snakehead’s eyes glaze over in horror.
**** THE END ****
Copyright Justin A. McWhirter 2012
Image Courtesy: Don 2 The Movie