Written in 2016
The moment I saw the van pull up outside the cafe, I knew something was wrong. It was eleven p.m., and at this time of the night, Paris tended to get somewhat woeful. And I had taken just a sip of my black coffee, which, I might add, was possibly one of the best coffees I’ve ever sipped at. With another long drink, my gaze drifted back at the cafe. The staff was packing up; indeed, it was pretty gracious of them to let me stay this late. The waitress walked up to me just as the van pulled to a halt a dozen meters away and smiled wearily.
“Can I get you anything else, si-” I yanked at her arm, kicked over my table and pulled us both under it, only a split second before the shooting started. The pavement was getting torn up under the hail of bullets, and the waitress started screaming. Glass shattered everywhere, and chips of cement flew out from the points of contact. I took it all in, not reacting. Just listening and watching. From what I could make out, there were four different shooters. Fine by me.
The waitress shivered and looked to me for help. I gently shoved her toward the cafe. “Crawl inside, and lock up. Gather everyone. Leave from the back doors.”
She whimpered and crawled away, just as the bullets ceased. Reloading.
I looked back at the waitress as she reached the door and pushed it, and clacked up all the bolts. Safe.
I touched my back holster. For a moment, I contemplated leaving it all behind, and starting over; just as I’d contemplated for all this time. In a new life, all this would be absent. Clink. The sound of the semiautomatics reloading fell on my ears, and all thoughts of new lives vanished. My rib hurt a little; a souvenir from a long-ago gunfight. Long ago. Seemed just like yesterday.
My hand slid over the grip of my gun, and it seemed to welcome the embrace of my palm. I took a deep breath and pulled it out. Everything was silent. From behind the overturned table, I rose up to peek-
Ping! A stray shot clanged against the metal railing behind me, and bounced off at a different trajectory, only to graze past my ear. I think I felt my hair shift as the bullet passed; time for a new haircut. But first…
I rose up again, but this time I saw every one of them. All four of them. They raised their guns, but it was too late. Eight times, I pulled the trigger. Eight times, the sound suppressor of my gun made an effort to hide the sound of a man dying. Two bullets per man. One to the face, one to the head. The bloodspray looked like an abstract painting by a drunk Frenchman on the dark pavement. The men never stood a chance.
When it was all over, I stood there, my sweaty hair all over my face, watching the barrel let out smoke. I did not feel any remorse at these deaths. That phase had passed a long, long time ago. I checked my coat and pants, and then I checked my rib. It stung at my touch, but it was okay, for now.
At the moment, though, I needed to clean this mess up. This spot, as it turned out, was the most reclusive place in this area of Paris, and any other human presence was as good as nonexistent. I reached into an inside pocket of my coat and brought out my phone. I called the number, and let it ring. I looked at the gun in my hands, and wondered, for the umpteenth time, whether this black alloyed metal was as dangerous as the appendage that held it. It wasn’t.
A woman’s monotonic voice answered. “Hello?”
“Yes, hello. I’d like to make an urgent dinner reservation for four. At street six, two lanes behind behind the Champs-Elysees.”
“Surely. Form of payment?”
My fingers brushed the wrapped-up gold coins I kept in an adjacent pocket.”The usual.”
“Of course, sir. May I ask who’s calling, please?”
I put away my gun. “Wick. John Wick.”