straight down the line

The Hit: The Killers, Sawed-Off

 Ernest Hemingway’s “The Killers”

Nick walked up the dark street to the corner under the arc-light, and then along the car-tracks to Henry’s eating house. George was inside, back of the counter.

“Hey, bright boy,” Nick hears, as a car stops beside him. “You’re alright, you know that?” he’s asked.  Before he reaches the building, he turns in search of the voice.

Nick freezes as he finds himself at the end of Al’s sawed-off.

“Seems your run of luck just ended.”

Al pulls Nick toward him with his free hand, gripping the neck of his shirt.

“You left. Now you’re back. Why?”

“I left my money back at my place. Have to pay for my meal.”

“The diner man would get it,” snarled Al, “or he’d be losing business. He’s a bright boy, bright boy. Now, you left. Now you’re back. Why? What all’s open in this town now? This is the only place we seen for miles.”

“A cinema, just around the corner.”

“Hey Max, he thinks we like the cinema!” Al and Max laugh hysterically.

“It’s always screening movies. No voices late at night,” Nick adds.

“We don’t care about no cinema,” Max says.

“Now,” starts Al “where’s Andreson?”

“I don’t know,” Nick lies. “He never showed.”

“Bright boy.”

“You were there. He never showed.”

“Bright boy.”

“I’m telling you the truth!”

“Bright boy, you don’t want to mix, see?” Al starts pulling the sawed-off’s handle down, moving the barrel up past Nick’s chest. “We came for the Swede, not you, bright boy,” he states, slowly. “Now. Do I have to ask again?”

“Turn through that light. Hirsch’s. Upstairs, waiting.”

Once the car is out of view, Nick starts into Henry’s. George greets him, and asks if he’d made it to Hirsch’s.


“Good. I thought I’d lost business.”

“What? I paid.”

“I’m sure Andreson can take care of himself.”

“Just had to get out, not out of town. Needed to breathe.” Nick stretched his jaw and wrists, still recovering. “Never been muffled and tied before. And I don’t want it to happen again.”

“Ole Andreson can take care of himself, Adams. Now, dinner’s on the house tonight. Sam, isn’t that righ-”

He’s silenced by the blast of a sawed-off in the distance.

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