Only mobsters came here. The boardwalk smelled like dead fish, a scent that clung to the salty air with enough vigor to assault the senses. Water crashed against the pier, occasionally spitting up flecks of foam from the slate waters below. The boards were a slimy shade of green that alternated between sodden pulp and salt-petrified stone; they groaned at the lightest touch and rattled with the waves roaring in from a dead ocean that stretched to eternity.
Walter skirted a collapsed section of boards where caution tape snapped in the breeze. Falling through meant a tedious death trapped among metal scraps that still washed up years after the bombings stopped. He’d seen recovery teams sifting through the wreckage below, uncovering bodies that had drowned as the tide came in or slowly bled to death, unable to scream for help because of the disulphide toxins in the water. Ever since his father’s father had worked for the Family, this desolate stretch of coastline had been the ideal spot for people to “accidentally” disappear.
He saw the man waiting by the decrepit shrimp shack down the walk and headed to meet the contact. The only reason to be here was business. Business was crime. Crime was lucrative, and money spun the world on its axis. If Walter thought about it long enough, he could conclude there to be a million benefits to being a hit man and no downsides. He didn’t relish murder, but he saw its usefulness when paying for his children’s school tuition.
The men regarded each other from a cautious distance. They wore identical gray longcoats over worn suits and shoes that used to shine. It wasn’t a style. It was a uniform that identified the legions of beleaguered warriors as they drank in the dimmest corners of seedy establishments across the city.
“Good morning,” said Walter, pulling a pack of Silver Arches from his breast pocket. He offered one to the other man before lighting his own.
“Walter Passos,” the contact said, sounding impressed. “Not as prolific as your grandfather but still talked about… you’re younger than I expected.”
Walter’s eyes narrowed. Not many people were allowed knowledge of his lineage. Being a descendant of the most famous hit man on the eastern seaboard wasn’t something to announce in this line of work. Only his boss and the police lieutenant knew, and he’d been paid off. This was a setup, a family vendetta from the old days.
The silver barrel of the gun loomed in his face. He flicked his cigarette butt and watched it disappear between the wooden slats in resignation. Ever since his father’s father… This city was a place of death, a world where there was no mercy.
“I’m protected,” warned Walter. “Do you have a death wish?”
“In this place, don’t we all?” the man asked simply.
I’ll take that as a yes. Walter closed his eyes, unable to stop the flinch that accompanied the crack of the gunshots. He stumbled backward and sagged to his knees as the man disappeared into the abandoned storefront. He thought to call for help but, even if the boardwalk hadn’t been deserted, nobody would be foolish enough to help.
The wound was fatal. His lungs rattled, maracas made of bullet and flesh. He slumped against the building, amazed at how metallic his blood tasted.