Flash Fiction: Politeness and Respect

Grace Church, Newark

For the latest Terribleminds challenge, “Death Is On The Table“.


If it weren’t a funeral, it’d probably be the social event of the season. Everybody was there. Little Tommy Scattergun, Nicky the Nose, Harry ‘Houdini’ Lockland, pretty much every cousin or uncle or niece the old Godfather had kept close…

…and the woman in the back, half-hidden under her black wide-brimmed hat.

The priest was launching into perhaps the most interminable portion of the funeral. Long stretches of Latin punctuated by people standing, sitting, saying ‘Amen’, possibly signing up for a time-share. The woman didn’t vocalize, merely standing and sitting when required. She could feel the mournful atmosphere but her emotions didn’t contribute to it. Mostly, she just felt numb.

As it went on she questioned the sanity of even being here. It came to a head when the Godfather’s wife, made up and dressed to look like a dolorous Thanksgiving Day parade float, got up behind the pulpit to blurt out memories of her beloved husband between wet, snotty sobs. The woman in the back picked up her purse, kept her head down a bit to avoid eye contact, and slipped out of her pew to step outside.

She was aware of him as she passed through the main doors. He leaned against the stonework, contemplating the lit end of his cigarette. He couldn’t have been older than sixteen, and despite the tailored cut of his tuxedo, it still looked rumpled on him. A pair of white gloves was tucked into his belt.

“Stuffy as hell in there, huh ma’am?”

“Yes.” She adjusted her hat slightly, studying the traffic. “Especially with so many people inside.”

“No kidding. I think the old man would’ve liked it. He was big on good relations with just about everybody, which is surprising given his profession.”

“You don’t think good relations are important?”

“I do, but as he got older he went on more and more about a return to ‘the good old days’ and whatnot. He let nostalgia blind him to how people might take advantage of his better nature. I respect him, don’t get me wrong, but Dad’s time had come and gone long before the cancer got the best of him.”

She nodded. “Well, I’m sorry for your loss.”

He flicked ash from the end of his smoke as he looked at her. “Didn’t you work for him?”

“Once or twice.” She paused. “I should really be going.”

“Will you be coming by the house later, pay your respects to my big brother?”

“I don’t think so. I’m mostly freelance.”

He narrowed green eyes through the smoke caught in the sunlight. “We may be seeing more of you, then. Frankie’s probably going to try and make a name for himself or something once our old man’s in the ground. He’s got even less regard for Dad’s sort of politeness and respect. He’s all about the action.”

“I did get that impression.” A little voice in her head was telling her to back away from the boy, to make some form of escape. His hand slipped into his jacket, and she nearly grabbed the small semi-automatic in her purse.

“Why would a freelancer show up for my father’s funeral? You couldn’t have known him that well. And as much as I appreciate the respect, lots of other guns for hire respect him but I haven’t seen them at so much as a picnic, let alone something like this.”

She bit her lip, fingers lingering over the handbag. “I’m sorry, Mike. The money was too good. It’s been hard for me lately. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say I’d gone without a job from your father for almost two years and I was nearly broke.”

“Who was it?”

“Giordano.”

He scowled. “I know it. Little Tommy Scattergun. Son of a bitch.”

They stood there, staring at each other, for a long moment in the sunlight on the steps of the church. Michael eased down first.

“I don’t make it a policy to blame a gun for what its shooter does. And you were just a gun in his sweaty little hands.”

She closed her handbag. “I don’t necessarily follow, Michael. Frank would have shot me by now.”

“I’m not Frank. He’s a little trigger-happy. He wouldn’t consider all the angles.”

“Like…?”

“For one, since nobody else knows you’re here let alone what you’ve done, you’re good at what you do. For another, you did a job for Tommy, which means you can get close to him. And finally, if you don’t mind me saying, you’ve got killer stems.”

“Well… thank you, Mike.”

“Don’t thank me yet. I’m about to be a pretty wealthy guy, and I could use your services.”

“For Tommy?”

“Certainly, but I’m worried about Frank, too. He’s going to piss off a lot of people. At least, I think he will.” He dropped his cigarette and crushed it with his shoe. “If we can’t get him to think before he starts pulling triggers, it’s going to get messy. And another thing my brother and I differ on is how we clean up messes. I’m always picking up after him.”

She nodded. Her hand slipped into her handbag. Slowly, lacquered nails emerged with a business card, which she gave to him.

“Here’s my business number. We can work out a deal if you’re really interested.”

He took the card, turned it over, felt the texture of the paper and font. “Okay. I want to give him a chance. But if he fucks up the way he’s done his whole life, well…”

“You’ll bury him, too?”

He shrugged. “We’re talking about my brother, here. It’d be the least I could do.”

She smiled slightly and touched her hat respectfully. Then, as much as her instincts were screaming at her to do otherwise, she turned her back on him and walked away, stiletto heels clicking on stonework. The bullet she was expecting between her shoulders never came.

Politeness and respect aren’t just good manners. They’re good for business, too.

5 Comments

  1. I enjoyed it. Nice flow and cleanly written. I liked the spin you took on “death is on the table” (more like a right turn from the obvious). Good job. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Love the mafia spin. Well done!

  3. I think the mafia elements were a bit inappropriate. There were so many ridiculous gangster stereotypes, I half expected someone to start saying “nyah! see? Pop yous full of lead, bubs!” My first thought was that this was going to be a parody of gangster movies, ‘coz, that would be the only acceptable context to have characters called “Jimmy the Nose” and “Scattergun”, who wear tuxedos (of all things) to a “Godfather’s” funeral.

    Besides that, I was a little confused as to who the lady was going to kill/had killed and who hired her, to justify her turning up to the wedding. I think the dialogue was a little unclear on that.

  4. I thought this was a very good story. Good flow, terrific plot. I was a liitle confused by the first sentence, and had to read it over. But the story then settled into the Lady Assassin’s POV and flowed smoothly.
    I got it and loved it. Very enjoyable.

  5. The idea of killing someone at a funeral is wonderfully cold. Says a lot about the guy who hired her

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