The Tall Man and the Briefcase


They’re coming for me. I can hear their boots echo in the stairwell two floors down, heavy and pissed off. It was only a matter of time you know. There are only a handful of cheap motels in this town, and they knew I would be in one of them. Predictable, yeah, but then again I’m no professional. Trying to be one is what got me here in the first place.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in passing blame, that was my old man’s way. Nothing was ever his fault. He believed that his miserable life was the result of somebody else’s fuck up. No, I’m not like that, this is on me. Me always looking for the easy way, the gravy train. Whatever the fuck that is.

Why the hell did I have to pull that last smash and grab? If I had only taken my five grand and gone to Florida with Marla. What does it really matter anyway? We’re all just dead men waiting for our ride to hell.

You know, thinking about my old man, he always said that us Wellers were born unlucky. I guess I always thought he was just making excuses. But looking back, he might have been right. I mean the one day I decide to pull a job on Jackie O’s poker game, and I run in to the tall man. Fucking unbelievable.

I was never good at anything, but stealing shit. You can ask my ex-wife or any of the other women I’ve known, and they’ll tell you the same thing. Pauli Weller is a lazy, worthless asshole, but a good fucking thief. I made a decent living busting up card games and dope dealers. It’s easy money. You go where the cash is and take it. Who’s gonna call the cops right? But that night at Jackie O’s, that was the fucking gods looking down and taking a piss on my pathetic life.

It was a good haul, about twenty-two large and a couple of nice watches, not bad for thirty minutes work. I had been casing the place for a month, and knew that a bunch of big shot lawyers flush with bribe money liked to play on Wednesday nights. Security was weak cause Jackie O was in big with the Italians. He only kept one moose neck bouncer at the door. I guess he thought nobody was dumb enough to hit up a mob tittie bar. He didn’t know Pauli Weller.

The job went off perfect, which should have told me something. They never go that smooth. The fucking lawyers were shittin their trousers, and just sat there wide-eyed. The others, Jackie included, were just shocked that somebody had the balls to try it. Other than racking the doorman with the butt of my shotgun, I didn’t have to break a sweat. I was back in the car, ski mask off and counting bills before they could even react. If I had just looked where the fuck I was going, I would have been on my way to Florida.

I wouldn’t have run over the tall man.

The bastard came out of nowhere. He must have ducked down the alley to avoid the lights and the busy street. You know that part of town used to be good and rundown. Then the some bird got raped over behind McGuire’s tavern and the shit hit the fan. The next thing you know the mayor’s on the tube saying he’s cleaning up the neighborhood and shit. They put in a bunch of new street lights and now you gotta work hard to stay out of sight. Maybe the tall man had just finished a job or something. Maybe he was trying to get back to his place for a scotch and a blowjob who the fuck knows? All I know is that he shouldn’t have taken that fucking alley. One minute I’m hot on the getaway, and the next I have a dead contract killer dripping off my bumper. I can still see that look of surprise in his eyes when my headlights lit up his face. You can bet he never thought he’d go out like that, under a fucking rusted out 78 Chrysler Cordoba.

They’re getting closer; they’ll be at the top of the stairs soon. They probably have shotguns, that’s what they use in the movies. Trench coats and shotguns. They’ll bust down the door, and if I’m lucky, they’ll go to work painting the walls with my dumb ass. If I’m not so lucky, they’ll string me up and peel me like a fucking banana. Why didn’t I just drive over the son of a bitch and keep going? I had my score, I could’ve taken Marla down to Tampa. Her parents have a little place near Ybor city. I didn’t because I’m Pauli Weller the dumb fucking thief.

I’m not going to lie, the first thing I noticed when the tall man hit the hood was the nice watch he was sporting. I jumped out and checked to see if he was dead. There was no doubt of that, some of his guts were hanging out of the grill. He was wearing a nice suit, one of those you have made for you by some British prick. I checked him pretty good, no wallet or ID, but there was a money clip with a thick fold of hundreds tucked inside. What really lit me up though was that fucking briefcase, all shiny, black leather and uptown looking. I had to have it. I had to see what was inside.

I dragged the tall man over near a dumpster and got the hell out of there. I pulled the Cordoba over into an empty parking lot, laid the case out on the passenger seat and just popped it open. It wasn’t even locked. I mean what kind of contract killer doesn’t lock his goddamned briefcase? Looking back, I don’t know what I expected to find, some coke maybe, a couple stacks of cash. I lifted that soft leather lid and there it was, the chance to make the big score, the one that would set me and Marla up for good.

I’ll give it to the guy. It looked like he ran a simple business. In the case was a sweet Sig Sauer P228 with a full mag and a suppressor. There were two envelopes, one with a picture of some fat dude with a bad toupee. It had the word terminate written across it in black marker. The other had a piece of paper in it with a date, an address, and a time on it. There was also a key to a locker down at the train station. I recognized it because I had one just like it. The station was a convenient place to keep a duffel bag full of cash.

It didn’t take a fucking genius to figure out what the tall man’s racket was. I’ve run a lot of angles and scams over my thirty-five years, and I knew what a money drop looked like. I figured that after the fat man was dead, some cash would appear in that locker, probably a lot of cash, more than what a little prick like me could get shaking down crooked lawyers and drug dealers. At that moment, my life changed. Under those new fucking street lights in that shitty Cordoba, I decided I was going to do it, I was going to make the hit.

What the fuck was I thinking?

For the record, I never killed nobody before that night, before I ran over the tall man. I carried a shotgun on all the jobs, but I never wanted to use it. I always figured that if I got busted, I would do less time for theft than murder. But I kept thinking about me and Marla, down in Tampa, living the high life. I started thinking that the only thing standing between me and the dream was that fat man and his bad wig.

I went back to my little shit hole apartment and sat up all night staring at the picture. The look on the guy’s face made me want to puke. He had this smirk like he was walking around with his nuts on wheels, like he was some kind of big shot. I propped the picture up against an empty whiskey bottle, pointed the Sig and dry fired. Aim, click. Aim, click. I pulled the envelope out for the hundredth time, and read the information again. The hit was to go the next night.

I showed up at the address about twenty minutes early to look around. It was a fucking swanky restaurant, one of those one name joints where they make you wear a jacket to eat some overpriced, undercooked food. There wasn’t a chance in hell that they would let a scrub like me in there, so I had to think fast. I tucked the Sig into my belt and walked around to the back. I had worked enough shitty cook jobs to know that on a busy night, the garbage piles up quick. All I had to do was wait until a dishwasher took out a round of trash and slip in the back door. Sure enough a scrawny kid in a greasy apron came out pushing a wheeled trash can. He kicked a wooden block into the door frame to keep from locking himself out and headed for the dumpster. While he smoked a joint, I quietly slipped in.

The kitchen was raging busy. Cooks in white coats were rushing around, yelling at each other and throwing pans. Sometimes the best way to be invisible is to just have the balls to waltz right in. Nobody gives you a second glance if you look like you know where you’re going, like you’re there for a reason. I walked in the back door and straight through the kitchen. Not one person stopped me. They were too busy slinging lobsters and screaming over late tickets.

When nobody was looking, I ducked into the bathroom and sat on the shitter until it was time to do the deed. I won’t lie, I was nervous. I mean I was used to the jacked up feeling you get right before a smash and grab, I loved it, but this was different. This had real consequences. I kept thinking about me and Marla sitting on the beach. She’d be drinking one of those fruity numbers with the umbrella, and I’d have me one of those tropical shirts with the parrot on the back and smoking a nice cigar. I poked my head out of the john and scanned the dining room. I saw the fat man sitting at a large booth near the door. You couldn’t miss that fucking toupee sticking up over the crowd like a wet rat clinging to a cantaloupe.

Mr. Bad hair wasn’t alone, he was sitting with three big ass dudes. They were military types who looked like they were packing. I didn’t know who the fat man was, but he must have had some enemies. The big guys kept looking around, watching the crowd between mouthfuls of steak.

I should have just turned around and bolted out the back door. If I had half a brain I would have run and ditched that fucking pistol in the storm drain. But I didn’t, I kept thinking about the tall man in his nice fucking suit. What would he have done? He would have kept cool. He would have walked right up to the fat man, taken his wine glass out of his stubby fingers, knocked it back and then put a hole in that fucking toupee. I wanted to be that cool, and at that moment, l thought it was possible. Pauli Weller could be the tall man.

It was time to make my move, so I grabbed one of those white cook’s jackets off a peg and laid it over the Sig. Everything from that point on was a blur. I focused on the front door and just walked. The place was hopping with waiters and bus boys, so I just calmly weaved my way through the crowd. When I got up next to the fat man’s table I never even looked over at him, I just unloaded the Sig. I kept pulling the trigger until it clicked. I emptied that fucking pistol before they could drop their wine glasses.

Now let me tell you something. What you see in the movies is bullshit. There is no such thing as a true silencer. You know where the gun makes that little ‘phhitt phhitt’ sound. I mean it wasn’t loud, but everybody knew a fucking gun had gone off. I made for the front door, knocking down a waiter on the way out. The place was a riot of screams and shit. I hit the street and just ran. It wasn’t until I got back to the car that I noticed that I had been shot in the shoulder.

Like I said I’m no professional. I fucked it up real good. How unlucky can a guy get? I unloaded thirteen rounds into that table and still didn’t kill the fat bastard. Of course I didn’t know that until I saw it on TV the next day. Imagine my surprise when I turned on the tube and saw that Pavel Fedorov, a Russian mob big shot, survived an attempt on his life. And to make things worse, my ugly mug was captured on camera sneaking in the back door. Fucking Weller luck. At least I did manage to take out his body guards. I wonder which one of those bastards shot me?

Did you hear that? Somebody just racked a shell into a shotgun. I knew it. You want to bet their wearing trench coats? They’re right outside now. Judging by the shadows on the blinds there are four of them. Any second they’ll bust through that door and get to business. Now I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m telling you all of this, right? Well I think somebody needs to know the truth. That this was just some really fucked up shit that happened because of a random event. I mean what are the odds that I would run over a professional hitter?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to hurt you. I’ll cut the duct tape loose as soon as I’m finished next door. I’m sorry to have to treat you like this. I’m really not a bad guy. It looks like you’re having some real shitty luck too. It makes you wonder don’t it? The clerk could have given you any room in the place, but you got this one. The one next to the thief who’s out of his league with the Russian mafia. But hey, I may be a crook, but I’m fair. I’ll make sure I leave you with some compensation for your trouble. Yeah, it turned out that locker had fifty grand in it. Must have been a down payment or something. I may be dumb and unlucky, but I’m not stupid. Those Russian fucks are going to break down that door and hear my shower running. They’ll see the Sig laying on the bed next to the briefcase. They’ll make for the bathroom and when they do, I’m going to come in right behind them with this shotgun. Just like the tall man would have done. Then me and Marla are going to Tampa.


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