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The Offer By Johnny Blue  ‘Why am I still alive Mr Jones?’ The voice was deep and rich, almost musical. Close, though not quite Barry White. Hank Rawley had cultivated his slow, soft voice over many years. It had a reassuring tone. It was the voice of someone you could trust. Hank Rawley had been a criminal since the age of eight. ‘Well…I’m afraid I’ve had a better offer, old boy.’ Mr Jones, also of the criminal classes was a gun for hire—or maybe, bomb for hire, would be more accurate. ‘We had a deal pal. You came recommended.’ ‘Yes, that may be but, it’s double the money you see. And it’s not like… well really old chap…I mean after all it’s not like I do this for fun.’ Rawley leaned forward in his chair. He rested his forearms on the kitchen table and stared into Jones’ eyes. ‘Who?’ ‘Who?’ Repeated Jones. ‘Who made the better offer? You limy fuck.’ ‘Oh really dear boy let’s not descend into name calling. I know you could never tell by my accent but actually I’m Welsh.’ The thin immaculately dressed Jones gave the impression of being the director of a private school or hospital; affluent affable and intelligent, with just the right hint of deference. ‘I could give a shit if you fell out of a syphilitic camel in the Kalahari. Who made the better fucking offer?’ Rawley prided himself on his ability to stay cool under any circumstance, BUT guys like Jones got under his skin. Welsh was just another kind of Brit and Brits had a tendency to piss him off. ‘I’m afraid that I’m not at liberty to divulge names, client confidentiality and all that.’ Jones wasn’t intentionally annoying. But he did notice an occasional hint of condescension in his voice. He made a mental note to work on it each time he heard it. But it was always there. Hank Rawley relaxed a little. ‘So you’re here for what, to give me back my dough? I don’t get it. Some dope gave ya double the money that I did, NOT to kill me.’ ‘Precisely.’ Chirped Mr Jones, he reached into his jacket pocket and produced a silver flask. ‘Drink?’ Jones took Rawley’s look of contempt as a no. He reached for one of the water glasses by the carafe, on the table between them. ‘Really, no reason why we can’t be civil old boy, do you mind?’ ‘Knock yourself out.’ Rawley watched as Jones, in his precise manner, poured a large measure from the flask into the water glass then returned the flask to his pocket. ‘Thank you. Your health.’ Jones sipped the golden liquid. ‘So why are you here Jones?’ Jones looked admiringly into the glass. ‘I know you’re a lover of good scotch Mr Rawley. This really is excellent single malt. Thirty five years old don’t you know? Please join me, and I’ll explain my presence here tonight.’ ‘Yeah? OK, go ahead. Pour me one.’ He reached forward and slid a water glass up the table toward Jones. ‘Now what’s the story?’ Mr Jones retrieved the flask from his inside jacket pocket and poured a measure into the glass. He took a step forward and handed the glass to Rawley. ‘Slangie.’ Said Jones. Rawley drained the expensive whiskey in one shot returning the glass to the table in the same motion. ‘Now, spill asshole.’ ‘You hired me to kill you and make it look unmistakably, like an accident. That way the considerable insurance policy you have with Standard Provincial would be paid out, to your loved ones I assume, no questions asked.’ As he said this he refilled Rawley’s glass. ‘You’re telling me stuff I already know.’ Rawley drank again, slower this time. ‘Quite. Well the Standard Provincial Insurance Company runs a check on backgrounds when such a large policy is initiated and…’ ‘More stuff I know pal. My cover story was foolproof.’ ‘Yes I saw the file it was very well done.’ ‘What do you mean you saw the file? Why would the insurance file mean anything to you? ‘ ‘Well my client, my new client that is, he’s an investigator for Standard Provincial. He saw your file on a colleague’s desk, and recognized your photograph.’ ‘I never gave them a photograph.’ ‘Oh come old chap, they’re an insurance company. Don’t be so naive.’ ‘OK, so this guy sees my picture, so what?’ ‘He recognized you old boy. He’d seen you before, in Montreal, in 1998.’ ‘OK I’m listening.’ Jones raised the flask and gestured to Rawley. ‘Another?’ Rawley drained the small amount left in his glass then held it up for the other man to refill. ‘Sure go ahead.’ After refilling Rawley’s glass Jones raised his own. ‘Cheers.’ ‘Up yours.’ Rawley once again downed the expensive scotch in one gulp. Mr Jones placed his drink carefully on the table before him. He steepled his fingers, and brought them to his pursed lips gathering his thoughts. Then he said. ‘The Hartley gallery of fine arts, Avenue du Parc, Montreal 1998. Ten paintings valued at 7.5 million dollars, stolen, gone, never to be seen again, at least, not in public, that is. My client had the security contract for the gallery. It was a new business venture for him, a family affair. They were on a tight budget. His son was the younger of the two guards on duty that night, the one who didn’t entirely succumb to the chloroform that was used to render them unconscious. He managed to rise to his feet and stumble around in a semi-drugged state on the upper floor, where your people had left him. He, no doubt, thought he might raise the alarm. You were busy on the ground floor or had maybe even left by then. Anyway, semi conscious, semi darkness, open-plan stairs design. He was discovered at the bottom of the stairs, where he had landed badly, breaking his neck. My client had seen you on the gallery’s security videos several times in the weeks leading up to the break-in. Video tapes that, of course, disappeared. He knew the fix was in. What could he do without proof? He lost his son. Soon after the event, he lost the business. His wife lasted two years, mostly on booze and drugs, before she ended her torment with an overdose. There was nothing he could do. Nothing that is, until the fates once more put your face in front of him three months ago.’ Rawley’s mouth felt dry. When he spoke his words sounded strange to him. ‘I didn’t know about any of that shit. Fuck it was just business.’ ‘My new client views it somewhat more…personally.’ Rawley tried to shake off a sudden feeling of lightheadedness. His words were slurred. ‘Ha! You didn’t bother telling him I have cancer now, did you?’ ‘Oh, he’s aware of your condition.’ ‘Well I don’t get it. I’m dying; I’m on the way out? I paid you to off me for crisesake. Shouldn’t this schmuck be happy?’ ‘My assessment of his happiness, or lack of it, would be mere conjecture. My assignment is to render you incapacitated, and then leave you here for the client.’ ‘Lee… me… incaps… ata…huh?’ Jones held up the flask. ‘Rohypnol.’ Rawley stared at the flask then at Jones. ‘But you… same…’ Jones produced a second identical flask from his right inside jacket pocket. ‘No no. Not hardly old chap.’ Rawley’s head bobbed back and forth in small jerks. ‘What’s…what’ll he… wha…?’ Jones removed Rawley’s glass as his head began to fall toward it on the table. ‘If asked, my guess would be, that what ever time you have left in this world Mr Rawley, will be extremely uncomfortable, to say the least.’ Rawley, his head on the table whispered. ‘Bastard.’ Mr Jones removed a folded plastic bag from a pocket. He placed both flasks and water glasses into it. As he turned toward the front door he said. ‘In your own words, Mr Rawley, it was just business. Goodbye.’ END