Two Murders for the Price of One: Short Story by cam
Joey Ragno reached the height of his crime career quietly, like a black widow stealing its way alongside a naked body between the sheets. He was a cat burglar with the street name, Spider, and a slender, strong body that complemented the moniker. He had been robbing houses for years, taking only cash, a specialty that had become his chosen profession. Climbing to unsecured second floor access points became his ticket to success, and never physically hurting anyone in the process was a principle he was committed to.
A letter arrived in the mail one day from someone with a lot of money to toss around. They wanted him to break into a designated house and carry out a simple task which would be revealed if he accepted the job. Ten thousand dollars cash was included with the letter as proof of the sender’s determined intentions. He would receive thirty thousand more if he accepted the job and seventy when it was finished. It paid to be the best cat burglar on the east coast.
He said yes for two reasons. First, he wanted the money. Second, the person knew who he was, what he did for a living and where he lived. Pissing him off might not be the best way to proceed.
On the morning of the contracted break-in, Spider found an envelope with thirty thousand dollars in his mailbox. That night he drove a rented black sedan for half an hour until he was cruising along the George Washington Parkway. He exited into the wealthy, residential neighborhoods of Alexandria, Virginia at 11:00 PM. The car rolled by a ten foot wrought iron fence that surrounded a two story, brick mansion. He parked the car three blocks away and returned to the target property.
A tulip tree stood between a street lamp and the mansion’s lawn casting a shadow over the iron fence that he scaled in seconds. Darkness beneath a stand of red maples concealed his passage until he stood beneath a second story balcony at the rear of the house. Through a downstairs window, Spider observed a man in a recliner watching television. A downspout rose past the balcony providing easy access to the second floor where he picked the door lock and entered.
Spider had been told only what he needed to know, and that was just fine with him. What he knew was that inside the metal box he carried in his pocket was something very small that was to be released into the same room in which the man downstairs was lounging. He concluded it was some kind of high tech surveillance device.
Spider descended the carpeted stairway, keeping his feet to the outside edges of each step. A squeaky floorboard would sound like a scream in the quiet house. He emerged into a large room only a few feet behind the recliner. The top of the man’s balding head peeked over the back of the chair framed by his feet propped up on the footrest.
One of the bits of information passed on to Spider by his unknown employer was that the man in the recliner had a house keeper who would show up at random times. Spider believed the late hour would insure he and the balding man would be alone. That’s when the front door opened and a woman’s voice called down the hallway.
“Hello, darling, how are you tonight?”
“I’m fine, my love,” said Darling who was now on his feet. “I’m watching the news on television.”
Spider retreated up the stairway just as a woman, who appeared to be in her early thirties, walked into the room he had just vacated. The two met at the bottom of the stairs, and Spider witnessed the embrace and kiss.
“I want to start a load of your laundry before we go to bed. I’ll run up to the bedroom and be back in a couple of minutes,” said the woman whom Spider knew only as My Love. She climbed the stairs and disappeared into a side room off the hallway.
Spider stepped out of a linen closet, descended the stairway and peeked around the corner. Darling was back in his recliner watching the news. Spider pulled the box from his pocket, crouched and removed the lid. He could see nothing inside. As instructed, he set the box on the carpet and waited ten seconds. From the television he heard the talking heads discussing the ailing U.S. president’s condition as he lay in a hospital bed at Walter Reed.
A laundry basket appeared at the top of the stairway sending Spider scrambling for a hideout. To his dismay he had chosen the laundry room. My Love entered and loaded the washing machine. Spider was unable to see her at the moment but could hear the dial on the washer being turned and water running. The door to the room clicked, and Spider stood up from a pile of bed sheets. He had no choice but to open the door and peek out. He could see the small box just feet away from Darling and My Love as they hugged and kissed in the middle of the room. The man stepped backward and swayed, fingers pressing his temples.
“What is it, Ben?” said My Love.
“My head —.” But that was all he could manage. She helped him to the recliner and Spider dashed across the room behind them, sweeping up the tiny box and lid as he went. At the foot of the stairs a small table caught his eye. Mail was stacked neatly on top and he grabbed an envelope. On the way up the stairs he glanced at the name, not Darling, but Dr. B.J. Thompson.
Spider retraced his steps out of the house and back to the sedan. He drove to where a moving truck was parked on the street near Thompson’s house. This was not the planned rendezvous point where he was to pick up the final seventy thousand. The men in the truck were supposed to meet him at an all night coffee shop several miles away. Spider climbed in and followed a passage from the cab to the back of the truck. Two men dressed in black sat at a desk that ran half the length of the truck’s bed.
“What just happened in there?” The blank screen of a large computer monitor reflected the terror on Spider’s face.
“None of your damn business,” said one of the men. “Your not even supposed to be here.”
“Show him the replay,” said the other. “What harm could it do now?”
The first man tapped a key, and an image inside Thompson’s house appeared.
“This video was shot by the microscopic drone you released, as it flew across the room,” said the second man.
They saw Dr.Thompson in his recliner. The drone flew toward his face and for a moment the screen was occupied by a giant blue iris and a black pupil. Then it went black as the nearly tiny robot slipped beneath the man's eyeball.
“If you want to know more, then watch the news on television,” said man in black number one as he tossed a sealed envelope to Spider. “Right now we need to get off this street before the ambulance arrives and people come out of their houses.”
Thirty minutes later, Spider entered his house, threw the envelope on his coffee table and clicked the television remote. The words Breaking News appeared across the top of the screen, and the anchor woman gave the details.
“Here is what we know at this early stage. Dr. Benjamin J. Thompson, age 60, a surgeon who pioneered a revolutionary type of brain surgery, died tonight of an apparent intracranial hemorrhage. Dr. Thompson was to have performed an experimental, yet potentially life saving operation on the President of the United States who is suffering from a rare and deadly brain cancer called gliosarcoma, The White House reports that any hope of saving the President, died with the surgeon. An investigation has begun, but all information available implies that Dr. Thompson’s death was due to natural causes.”
Spider stood in front of the television. The open envelope lay on the coffee table, and he gripped seventy thousand dollars in a white knuckled fist. His cell phone sounded, and he saw the unknown number before raising it to speak.
“What have you done?”
“The precise word is we, Spider, and we got two for the price of one, the Doctor and the President. I just called to see how you were feeling after our little operation.” There was a chuckle, then the line went dead.
Spider rubbed his temples and staggered to the medicine cabinet. The bottle of aspirin fell from his hand, and the pills blurred as they rolled across the floor. Outside, a horn honked. Spider stumbled to the door and swung it open. The moving truck was parked in his driveway.