As the weeks turned to months, the neighborhood grew quieter. Jeff didn’t really think anything of it until he noticed how thin the ranks of Carlos’s crew were becoming. Each time he showed up to the warehouse there were fewer and fewer men. The ones that remained looked haggard, their faces hidden behind the shadow of their baseball caps and everlasting frowns. Got to the point that one day, Carlos just said fuck it and put Jeff on a job solo.
“I tell Monk, man,” Carlos said, handing Jeff the keys to a throwaway Honda Civic. “I tell the motherfucker.”
“You did tell him,” Jeff said absently, taking the keys and staring at the beat-up car. “You sure he’s home?”
“And now behind my back?” Carlos said, shaking his head. “He is home. Get rid of it when you are done.”
“How do I know what Monk got on him?” Jeff asked. “I ain’t scoped the place out or nothing, just running up in there blind.”
Carlos scrunched his face up. “This is Monk we are talking about? The same Monk shoot himself in the foot last year?” He chuckled as he spoke, though his eyes studied Jeff intensely. “Why worry?”
“‘Cause he still got the gun he used to shoot himself with,” Jeff said. “And I’m betting the shit still works. And he ain’t goin’ make the same mistake twice.”
Carlos suddenly raised his right arm, fingers gripped around the stock of an Uzi. “We have better,” he said, handing the uzi to Jeff. Jeff took the gun, the skeptical look remaining on his face. Carlos frowned. “You think Monk will have more.”
“I think we don’t know what he’s got,” Jeff said. “Easy way to get ambushed. It’s the man’s crib, he knows the spot better than I do.”
Carlos stayed quiet, contemplating.
“You are right,” he said finally. “When you arrive, wait and see. Make sure he is home, alone. Make sure he does not see you. Then.” Carlos shrugged.
A couple of hours later, Jeff parked his car up the street from Monk’s, staring at the apartment building in the rear view mirror. The area was lit by a single streetlight shining on the few scraggly trees outside, casting long finger-like shadows across the side of the building. Jeff sat quietly just breathing, watching Monk’s fourth floor bedroom window. A bulky AC unit hung out the opening, the window itself painted over black. As Jeff stared, there was a flicker of movement. He picked up the Uzi from the passenger seat floor, checking the clip. When he looked back up, his eyes went wide.
In the moment that he’d looked away, the moon had suddenly dipped behind a cloud, throwing the area into an even deeper darkness. At the same time, the one working streetlight started flickering, the finger-like shadows against the side of the building turning into dark strobes. Jeff’s stomach tightened, the uzi shaking in his fist.
The first thing to catch his attention was movement from down near the building’s entrance, yet when Jeff focused on the three short steps leading up to the front door, he saw nothing but shadows crowding the walkway. A ripple of fear brought goose bumps to the back of his neck. He continued staring at the shadows, waiting with a growing sense of dread in his gut.
It started out as an almost imperceptible shudder, something that could be written off as a by-product of not enough sleep and the overall occupation. After ten seconds there was a very real shift in the general shape of the shadows , the darkness drawing together into an amorphous blob that started rolling over itself up the steps to the entrance. At the same time, the street—which had seemed so calm moments ago, eerily calm—was suddenly alive with activity, wind blowing through the trees, kicking up dead leaves and errant pieces of trash. Jeff ducked down behind the steering wheel instinctively, peeking over the top of the dashboard and watching as the shadowy blob outside the apartment complex crowded the front door, pressed against the entrance, the blob growing smaller and smaller as it seeped inside the building, until there was nothing but the doorway again. A moment later the moon came back into view, the street light stopped flickering and the atmosphere settled back to normal.
Jeff looked up at Monk’s apartment, rolled down the window and listened intently, waiting. Thirty seconds later there was a faint bang, as if something had slammed into a wall. Another moment of silence, then a bloodcurdling scream of terror rang through the night air, the sound coming unmistakably from Monk’s fourth floor window. Jeff grabbed the Uzi and moved to open the car door just as Monk’s window lit up with flashes. Gunshot reports echoed and Jeff took his hand off the door handle, pressing back against his seat. He held the Uzi in his lap and stared at Monk’s window, watching as the window and Monk’s AC unit suddenly exploded into the night sky. The glass and giant metal AC unit seemed to hang in the air for a moment—a dark silhouette against the bright moon in the background—before tumbling down to the ground with a resounding crash, the AC unit power cord trailing.
Jeff dropped the Uzi back in the passenger seat and started the car. The AC unit had barely settled into its wreckage when one dark-skinned, unclothed leg slipped through the busted out window, then another. Monk’s face appeared, the street light shining on his features so Jeff could see the sweat pouring off his forehead, and the blood pouring from his mouth. Monk looked desperately around, up and down the street, then up at the sky. Monk close his eyes and said something inaudible, then pushed off the window ledge and went soaring. Just like the AC unit before him, Monk seemed to fly for a moment, his chest puffed and arms held out so Jeff could imagine him flapping once and gaining some air.
Monk tumbled as he fell, flipping twice before landing directly on his head. The sound of Monk hitting the concrete—a sickening splat—echoed straight to Jeff’s core.
Jeff eased the car away from the curb, cruising past Monk’s apartment building. He kept his eyes on the fourth floor window, staring at the unending darkness inside. A moment later he turned a corner and cruised towards US-1, silent.
Five miles away Jeff stopped the car in an abandoned lot and stepped out. He opened the back door, pulled out the long ratty rag he’d thrown in there earlier and slammed the door closed. He opened the gas tank and shoved the towel in, then pulled a lighter from his pocket and lit the end. The fire grew slowly, the towel curling as it burned. Jeff stepped off the abandoned lot and strolled down the street, pulling out his cell phone as he did. He dialed a number and put the phone to his ear.
Carlos picked up on the second ring. “It is done?”
Jeff didn’t respond at first, just kept walking. A moment later there was a loud whoomp followed by a brief explosion, just loud enough to register on the phone.
“What was that?” Carlos asked.
“It’s done,” Jeff said, flicking the phone closed.