Here's my entry for John Kenyon's fairy tale/crime contest. You can find links to the other entries at http://tirbd.com/ and the fairy tale my story is based on is here http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~spok/grimmtmp/089.txt
By Sandra Seamans
Once upon a time if you needed a job done you enlisted Soldier. His name was legend through the dark trenches of the dimly lit bars and bedbug infested hotels inhabited by the underworld. When men and situations got out of line, you could trust Soldier to set them right. Permanently. The one man army that was Soldier worked steadily until the day Simon King passed the word that Soldier had let a hit walk.
With the work dried up, his forced retirement found Soldier biding his time at the Black Dwarf Café. He was nursing a second cup of coffee one morning when two ogres lumbered in, eyeballing the small diner for trouble spots. Finding no danger spots, a petite woman stepped out from behind them. She walked toward Soldier’s table, waving her bodyguards outside where they took up positions on either side of the door. Soldier had seen her around before, and the café wasn’t her usual breakfast stop. Ruby Wishbone conducted her business out of the Mickey D’s on Wells Street over in the East Witch District of Grimm City.
Ruby worked the walk toward his table, sex and power oozing with every step. “May I sit down?” she purred.
Soldier pushed the chair out with his toe. As she eased her slender body into the chair, the waitress slid a cup of coffee on the table in front of her and asked if she’d care for anything else. Ruby shook her head, her dreadlocks free-flying around her ebony face. Soldier shook out a cigarette and Ruby leaned across the table, a long flame stretching from her blue Bic.
Soldier leaned into the flame until the end of his cigarette glowed red. He took a deep drag and blew smoke rings into the air above his head, “Business or pleasure?” he asked.
Ruby smiled. “I’ve heard you’re a strictly business kind of guy.”
“Yeah, but business has been slow lately.”
“I’d like to hire you for a job, if you’re not enjoying retirement too much.”
“Before we discuss business, you need to know that I have three rules. No women. No children. And no cops. If you can work with those rules, then you can lay out the job, otherwise, just walk away.”
“You’re pretty choosy for a man with no prospects.”
“In my line of work a man has to draw the line somewhere. You can’t live with the rules, feel free to shove off. No hard feelings.”
“I can work with your rules. I’ve got several jobs in need of your special talents but I don’t want fingers pointing in my direction when they’re done. Can you do that?”
“I take the legal notion of client privilege more serious than a lawyer.”
Another smile danced across her lips, but no sign of humor reached her dark eyes. “There’s a new supplier in town tying to move in on my territory. You take care of him without a hitch, then we’ll discuss the second. I have to make sure you can handle the work. King’s dropped the word that you don’t keep up your end of a deal.”
“King didn’t like my rules,” said Soldier, stubbing out his cigarette. “I only work one job at time and if the employer isn’t satisfied? Well, the next job is up to her.”
“Your fee the same as always?”
“Except you don’t work for Simon King anymore.”
“I don’t discuss my employers.”
Ruby slid an envelope across the table, watched Soldier pick it up and slide it into the inside pocket of his suit coat. She nodded, tossed a five dollar bill on the table for the waitress and walked out.
Three days later she returned to the diner. This time she didn’t come to the table alone, her bodyguards were bookending her.
Soldier looked up. “Bad investment?”
“Nothing I can’t handle.” She tossed another envelope on the table. “This hit’s a little closer to home for you. If there’s a problem, say so, and I’ll hire someone else to do the work.”
Soldier opened the envelope and glanced at the picture inside. The target was King’s lawyer. “He’s not a problem.”
“You make sure King doesn’t come after me for this one and I’ll double your pay on the last job.”
“He won’t know you had anything to do with it, unless you or one of your ‘friends’ here start flapping your jaws in the wrong place. King keeps his ear to the ground, doesn’t much happen in Grimm City that he isn’t aware of.”
Ruby was a little slower putting the third job in Soldier’s capable hands. King was on the rampage since the hit on his lawyer, especially when private files went missing from the office at the same time. He was scrambling to find those files before they wound up in the legal system, or worse, in the hands of one of his enemies. When her name didn’t come up in connection with the incident, she once again approached Soldier.
“This last job should be smooth as ice for you, Soldier,” she said. “His name is Manny Kinny and he works for me. He’s been skimming the profits at The Well, my tittie bar out on Keyser Ave and I need to make an example of him.” She slid the envelope across the table and left.
Soldier didn’t like the smile that was playing across her lips as she left the diner. He opened the envelope and studied the picture inside wondering why people felt the need to break his rules.
Soldier entered The Well, walked up to the bar and ordered a beer. He watched the dancers seducing the poles for a while, his eyes skimming over the customers in the room, picking out Ruby’s men. He finished his beer and headed for the men’s room, slipping into an open doorway to see who followed.
He felt the poke of a gun in his back. “Manny?”
“You know who I am?”
“I’ve heard and you don’t impress me much.”
“You don’t need to be impressed, all you need to know is that I have three rules about taking jobs. I don’t do women, kids or cops. I’m guessing you’re the third one because Ruby’s got her men out there ready to take me down once I kill you. She doesn’t want the heat of killing a cop falling on her. I expect by using me, she’s hoping the heat will fall on King. Now, can you get us out of here or do we need to shoot our way out?”
“I figured I’d need a quick exit someday. Let me grab a couple of things and we’ll go”
“Well, hurry up about it, they won’t wait long to see if I’ve done my job.”
Manny opened a small safe under the desk and slid some ledgers and computer discs into a briefcase.
“C’mon, in here,” said Manny leading the way into a small closet. As he slid open a panel in the back they could hear someone pounding on the office door. Grabbing a flashlight off the shelf, he led the way down a staircase, through a short passage and into the sewers that ran under the city.
“You know these tunnels pretty well,” said Soldier.
“My grandfather used the tunnels during prohibition. He spent hours walking me through them when I was kid. He said you never know when a good tunnel would come in handy.”
“Your grandfather was right,” said Soldier as they came up out of the sewer near the police station.
“You’d best get out of town,” said Manny. “Ruby will be screaming like a wild-cat once the DA lays charges against her.”
“You should know that she’s been working to take down King’s organization, and she’ll want to make a deal.”
“I take it she has the lawyer’s files?”
“Heard about that, did you?” Solider pulled a key from his pocket and handed it to Manny. “Whatever Ruby’s got won’t do her much good once you use this key. Inside my safety deposit box you’ll find everything you need to take down King.”
“I thought you and King were friends from way back? Why flip on him now?”
“We’ve been friends since our playground days. Fought our way up to the top of this ugly business together. He thought that entitled him to break my rules.” Soldier paused to light a cigarette. His face took on a hard look as he blew smoke into the cold night air. “King wanted me to kill his daughter, Emily. He found out he’d raised a child that wasn’t his own blood and didn’t like the idea of being cuckolded.”
“I take it you’ve got her tucked away safe somewhere?”
“I don’t kill women or children and to me, she was both.”
“Emily is my daughter. King killed her mother because he found out she was having an affair, he just didn’t know it was with me.”