Little Hatchet

I told the kids to check around and bring me one of their classmates who they thought could kill someone. Most of them were scared stiff of killing someone when it came down to it. You could get them to steal but that was about it. We needed a kid for a particular clandestine operation, an especially sensitive job. There was a lot of money involved and we wanted to do it right. So Jerry said they found somebody and I was pretty excited to go down there. I’ve been in this business a long time and I can usually tell right away if it’s going to work out. But I got in the room and they had this little girl in there with a blonde bob haircut, smartly dressed, sitting in front of a piano on her little piano stool. I turned to Jerry but he and the other kids had already run off. So I sat down with her and right away I noticed something in her eyes. “Do you know why I’m here?” I asked. “Yes,” she replied.

“You ever do this before?”

“Yes,” she said, staring straight at me, her cold blue eyes like icicles. So we brought the dog in and asked her to kill it but she refused. “I don’t kill dogs,” she said. The other guys shook their heads as they removed the animal, but I knew better. “That’s okay,” I said. “You won’t need to kill any dogs.”

So we arranged another meeting, a week later when I had all the information. I went up the stone steps of her boarding school, listening to the most haunting piano playing I had ever heard. I went in there and there she was at the piano, playing by rote. She turned around in her seat and I pulled up a chair. “So here’s the first half of the money,” I said, holding out the customary envelope. “You get the second half afterwards.”

“I don’t want it,” she said.

“You might as well take it,” I said. “Use it for piano lessons or something.” “I don’t need lessons,” she replied.

“Oh, I know you don’t. Of course not.” I looked at the envelope dumbly.

“Just tell me where they’re going to be and when they’re going to be there.”

“Good. Okay. Here’s his picture. The time and address is on the other side. You know what to do with the picture afterwards?”

She studied the picture and the writing on it. Then she handed it back to me and I thought for a second she’d changed her mind.

“I’ll remember,” she said.

I stared at her. “Are you sure?” She stared back at me with those little cold eyes and I put the picture away.

She killed the guy alright. She killed him and about five witnesses. She didn’t even use the gun. She had a little hatchet of her own. The thing was so sharp the little girl could slice through bone.

When we met up after the fact she still didn’t want the payment. She just requested some dirt from her parents’ grave in Cincinnati. She had done such a great job I had someone go out there and get it for her. When I gave it to her, her face lit up like a new dime. “They were my first two,” she said, grinning.

I got the chills then, which is saying a lot since I’ve been in this business over sixteen years. I thanked her and turned to leave, half-expecting her little hatchet to hit me in the back of the head when I got to the door.

I heard that beautiful piano music through the open window as I went down the steps. I felt shaky. Maybe it’s finally time to retire, I thought to myself. By the time I got to my car the thought had become a resolution. I made it to the freeway and headed South, not slowing until hours later when the border patrol finally waved me through.

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