This is actually an old idea, an unrealized Liberty Comics pitch, originally planned for three comic book pages. Hence, it's rather to the point.
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I took the job as a favor. No one else wanted to touch it and Tynan needed someone he could trust. The case was the hottest of potatoes. A grenade with the pin already pulled. Leave it to me to throw my body on top. Some would say there’s a word for guys like me, and that word is “sucker.”
The gig seemed easy enough: sit in a hotel room with a scared secretary and make sure no one bugs her before her big trial. The case was in all the papers. This girl was rolling over on her boss, the unions, and the United States of America in one fell swoop. We kept saying that we weren’t going to war in Europe, but the people she worked for were gearing up as if it were otherwise. War profiteering before there was a war.
Her name was Myra. She sat on the bed, her hands in her lap. She was a tiny thing. Not much you’d notice if you just saw her somewhere. Even the bed eclipsed her, you could probably fit two of her end to end on that mattress, and two more side by side. She was pretty enough, but unassuming. To look at her, you’d think she could barely stand up to carry her dirty dishes to the sink, much less stand up to the big machine. That’s probably why they made her privy to the backroom deals that she had exposed, they would have never thought she’d do anything with the info.
I had a perch for myself by the window. I sat on a medium-height chest of drawers, resting my legs but keeping a vantage point where I could spy through the curtains if anyone was coming near. Tynan put some guys on another hotel, a couple of officers he thought were probably okay, and made them think that Myra was there. In truth, they were just sitting on air. Decoys. It was just her and me on our own.
We didn’t talk much, but I think the waiting was starting to get to her. She was fidgety. “I didn’t want any of this, you know,” she said. Her voice was quiet and small, as one might expect from a gal of her size.
“I wouldn’t think you would.”
“It just seemed like the right thing to do. Don’t you think so? Don’t you think a body should do what she thinks is right?”
“It’s really none of my business.”
“But surely you have an opinion?”
“I don’t get paid to have an opinion. And really, the less I know, the better for me in the long run.”
“There’s more people like you than me these days. No one wants to know anything. Do you read the papers? I do. I read the papers and listen to the radio and I watch the newsreels before the feature because what else am I going to do? I see things and I wonder why no one else sees them, too.”
The longer she spoke, the less shaky her words became.
“I’m starting to think that’s why Europe is going the way it is. Because people don’t want to see anything, and if they see it, they don’t want to admit it. It’s hard to do something, but it’s harder to do nothing sometimes. Don’t you think I’m on the side of the righteous?”
“I’m no one to say, really.”
“But you’re here, you must have thought I was okay.”
“I’m getting paid.”
“And it’s really that simple for you? If the other guys wanted to pay you more, the ones who wanted to kill me, would you take their money instead?”
I didn’t want to answer, but she had me. “No,” I said.
“I didn’t think so.”
Truth was, I admired the hell out of her, and I had done everything I could not to admit it. I just wanted to get through this day and get through tonight and get her to the courthouse tomorrow, let her do what she was going to do. I didn’t want to think about much more than that. She was going up against a giant. At least David had a slingshot when he slew Goliath; this poor girl was stuck with me.
I heard the screeching of tires. It made me sit up. I signaled Myra with my hand, waved for her to duck down. Car doors opening and closing. Something deep in my animal gut told me to get down myself, and seconds after I dove from the dresser, the window shattered and the walls turned to swiss cheese. They’d brought a tommy gun with them, and they were filling our one-room accommodation with lead.
When the shooting stopped, I heard footsteps on the pavement outside. I reached for my gun and tried to get to my feet, but my timing was bunk. They kicked the door in with me right behind it and knocked me back to the floor. My head immediately went into freefall, my brain was spinning. There were two of them. They didn’t speak. I needed to get up before they shot Myra, I had to protect Myra.
Except they didn’t fire their guns. They just walked back out.
Panic took over, and it compelled me to push harder. I got to my feet, turned around, and saw right away what they saw. Myra had never made it off the bed. She’d been hit three times before my warning could register. They were willing to kill her face to face, but they didn’t have to. The poor kid never stood a chance.
I ran for the door. Tires were screeching again. The assassins were already in their car and speeding away. I fired three times, trying to get a shell through the back window, praying I’d blow the backs off their rotten heads, but I was as useless a shot as I was a bodyguard.
The whole thing had taken less than two minutes. Two minutes to snuff a life. Two minutes for the bad guys to win.
As I tried to gather up my breath, I took a look around the parking lot.
There were people everywhere. They were watching. Bystanders on the street, patrons in their room, a man in his boxer shorts by the ice machine, the hotel clerk in his little office--all of them just standing there, staring, not speaking.
I waved my gun at them, spinning around, one to the next. “Say something!” I said. “Go ahead! Anything! I dare you!”
They must have thought I was crazy.
Which was better than I thought of them.
I went back into the room and I picked up that girl and I held her close and I kept my gun on the door while we waited for help to come. They had done enough to her, I wasn’t going to let them do any more.
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