by Chad Pelley
Marcel, a sensitive sniper, knew his life was missing something. But he didn't know what until he set his crosshairs on it: Violet Caine. A ginger-headed lover of Thai food, wanted dead simply because her brother messed with the wrong bike gang. It's a story of redemption coming too late, and the ways happenstance can turn a warm man cold. Then warm again. Whether fate wrote his troubled life, or he wrote it himself, he wants Violet Caine to be the end of it - be it figuratively or literally.
HER HAIR WAS THE colour of sunshine hitting pennies. There was a sheen. He’d been moving in, closer and closer, and saw it in detail: how it looped five times, in lush copper curls, before resting on her collarbones. They were violent collarbones, the kind you’d see on an anorexic, poking up through her skin like they might tear it. But her hair was the striking detail, because it was different than it was in the photo he was given; in the photo, it was jet black and shorter. Watching her through his scope, he zoomed in to her freckles to confirm she was a natural ginger. The freckles were as big and wildly cast as cookie crumbs, and he imagined each had its own topography. He imagined that a lover could map a constellation of her face, and the thought felt obsessive and strange, and he wondered if that’s what love was—strange affection—or if there was something aberrant about his thoughts.
Everyone else had cooking classes or book clubs or children with their own schedules to memorize. Everyone else at least had a cat or a weird hobby that gave their lives meaning. There was one guy in Sackville who had a train set in his basement, and he’d watch the thing spin around ‘til his eyes went dizzy. Violet didn’t even knit or have a Facebook account or play Solitaire. Throughout his career, Marcel had noticed that people as lonely as Violet tended to find company at church. God’s invisible companionship had worked for one old man he’d killed in Halifax in 2007.
Seven years now, he’s been a hit man. Bang bang. Nothing to it. He puts a single bullet into the hearts of his targets, to allow their families an open-casket wake. They’re perfect strangers, these people, and they deserve that measure of respect. He lost sleep over his first few victims; he stalked their families to be sure they could carry on without their loved ones. Mostly, they could. Except for the good mothers. They loved beyond the anatomical breadth and bounds of their own big red hearts. There’d been one woman in Saskatchewan. She’d gone grey before her son’s wake. Marcel couldn’t believe it, looked twice and a third time, squinted his eyes. He hung back in the crowd, staring at her hair as she wept on her daughter’s pudgy shoulders. The woman’s hair had gone from pavement black to sidewalk grey in three days.
But he knows, first-hand, how resilient people can be in the face of lost loved ones. He was a teenager when his own mother and sister died in a subway mugging gone wrong. There was a tug on his mother’s purse, they all turned around, and there were three gunshots. They sounded like the cracks he’d hear at the batting cage downtown, except these rumbled like earthquakes in the subway, and they slowed time way down. And he swears to this day that he saw his sister’s soul leave her body. It was nothing ghostly; it was like something gaseous distorting his vision, temporarily, as if he was looking through a Ziploc bag. Then, poof. Gone. Hers was the headshot, presumably a mistake, a stray bullet. His mother took two in the chest, and her lungs fought like hell but failed. It looked like she was drowning on dry land: gasping and gurgling for air, swimming around on the pavement. Marcel remembers crying so hard that the people walking by looked like they were on the other side of a kaleidoscope. They were dropping their jaws and coffees, and gulping air and staring at this helpless, heartbroken little boy, covered in his mother’s blood. He remembers one shocked-white stranger hugging him and rocking back and forth with him on the dirty ground. Cigarette butts and worse clinging to their hands and clothes. She was getting red blood all over her white Lawton’s Pharmacy work shirt just to comfort this kid because the scene broke her heart too. That kind of human kindness haunts him whenever he points his gun at a person. He always thinks, What if the person he’s taking aim at is that nameless woman from the subway? or, What if she was going to be that woman for some other kid?
THE MAN WHO’D HIRED Marcel to shoot Violet was some kind of biker-gang guy. And the prick was pushy, impatient. He had an unkempt and asymmetrical moustache—it drooped past the lower lip on the left but not the right, like a tipped bow tie—so Marcel didn’t take him seriously.
“Do it yet?”
“I told you, twice, that talking on phones makes me paranoid. I know I did.”
“Too bad. Fifty grand is too much money to trust someone with.”
“How’d you get this number?”
“Same way I get whatever I want, like that bitch dead. I’m watching you. I’d do it myself, but we’re under police surveillance lately, twenty-four seven. All week long.”
“I have a method. I’ve got to stalk these people before I do what I do. Learn habits, scan neighbourhoods for bored little kids, nosy old neighbours—”
“You’ve got five days. The idea is you kill her before she grows old and dies of natural causes.”
about the author
CHAD PELLEY is an award-winning author, songwriter, and photographer from St. John’s. His debut novel, Away from Everywhere, was a Coles bestseller, was recognized by three awards, has been adopted by university courses, and a film adaptation is underway. His second novel, Every Little Thing, was released in March 2013. His short fiction has been published in journals, textbooks, anthologies, and recognized by several awards. Chad is the founder of Salty Ink and President of the Writers Alliance of Newfoundland & Labrador.<
from the library
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