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Brilliant Disguise

The wife and I saw Springsteen last weekend. Fucking guy played, like, three and a half hours straight. By the end, I was fucking exhausted. And I was sitting down most of the time. Bad hip.

None of that has to do with this story. I just wanted to tell you I saw the Boss. This story is pretty fucking good too. Anything that evokes the Boss usually is.

Brilliant Disguise by Allan Leverone




I was sitting on the couch in my boxers when the kid broke into my place. The Sox were on, getting their asses kicked by the Angels.

The fucking idiot must have seen a ton of cop shows, because he actually kicked in the door. The frame splintered with a loud crack. The door whipped open, bounced off the rear wall and damned near decapitated the kid on its way back.

I sat quietly as he sauntered in, obviously trying to take advantage of his dramatic entrance. Or at least maintain what was left of his dignity.

He held a pistol in his right hand. I held a beer in mine.

I took a sip. Set down my beer. “You got something against knocking?”

“Shut the fuck up.” The kid waved the gun in my direction to punctuate his statement. It wasn’t the first time I’d looked down the wrong end of a barrel and I guessed it wouldn’t be the last.

Assuming I survived.

I sighed. “What can I do for you, kid?”

“You can fuckin’ die, for starters.”

“Any particular reason, or just on general principles?”

The kid’s face crinkled up. “Huh?”

He looked like one of those little dogs blonde actresses carry around in their purses. He didn’t seem a whole lot smarter than them, either.

The dogs, not the blondes.

Or maybe both.

“I said why do you want to kill me?”

“Because you murdered my father. I’ve waited a long time for payback. Today’s the day.”

***

A Springsteen song was playing in the background the day I killed a man.

“Brilliant Disguise” as I recall. It was a stiflingly hot summer day. Most of the tenement windows were open, since nobody could afford air conditioning, and someone was rocking out.

The ironic part about the confrontation was the fucking car accident was minor. I mean, minor like a true fender-bender.

And neither one of the cars involved was exactly fresh off the showroom floor. The guy who hit me drove a van that looked like the Mystery Machine from Scooby-Doo, and my car, well, let’s just say nobody was going to notice one more dent.

By the time I climbed out of my car and turned toward the van, its driver had stepped onto the heat-soft pavement and begun marching in my direction with murder in his eyes.

And a sawed-off 12-gauge in his hands.

And he was screaming at me, saying I had stopped too quickly, and he hadn’t had time to slow down, and the accident was all my fault and what the fuck was wrong with me and some of other stuff I couldn’t make out.

I said, “Don’t point that fucking gun at me.”

He pumped it. And kept coming.

I took three steps in his direction and he pulled the trigger.

I took three more before he realized the gun had jammed.

By then it was too late. He couldn’t recover from his shock.

I grabbed the 12-gauge out of his hands. He was too surprised to stop me. I hit him in the side of the head with the stock and he went down, and it felt so fucking good I did it again.

And again.

And again.

By the time some bystander pulled me off the guy, his head was nothing more than bloody pulp, and the stock of his 12-gauge had been dyed a blood-rust brown. Permanently, probably.

The whole thing happened so quickly Springsteen was still playing when the guy died, his distinctive scratchy voice floating through the heavy air.

I replayed the song over and over in my head until the cops showed up and took me away.

***

My trial was a joke. Turned out the dead guy’s van was filled with drugs. Heroin mostly. Thanks to a fucking fender-bender traffic accident, the DEA was able to claim a major victory in the war on drugs.

Under the circumstances, my court-appointed lawyer made the case that instead of jail time I should get some kind of citizenship award. “Man of the Year,” maybe. Key to the city.

The prosecutor wasn’t buying it. “The victim’s skull looked like a watermelon that had been dropped off a five-story building. And to make matters worse, your client killed him in front of a busload of school kids.”

They offered voluntary manslaughter and a three-year ride.

I took it and did half.

***

The kid with the pistol was very bit as crazy as his old man. I tried to tell him I’d acted in self-defense, even told him I was sorry.

I wasn’t above lying to save my ass.

He didn’t want to hear it. He moved farther into my apartment, waving his gun around like a lunatic. I wondered how long it would take the cops to show up. Someone must have heard the racket when the kid kicked in the door.

I took another sip of my beer and got up off the couch.

“Don’t move! Don’t you fucking move!” The kid was scared and wired and vengeful, all at the same time.

I raised my hands. “Dude, you think I’m going to fight you in my underwear, with my junk hanging out? I just want to talk.”
I lied. I told you I wasn’t above it.

By this time the kid was less than five feet away. I took one step forward and shoved his gun toward the ceiling with my left hand while breaking his jaw with my right.

He went down exactly as his old man had, and that was when I snapped.

Again.

I beat him even worse than I’d beaten his father.

And all I could think of while I waited for the cops to come was the lyrics to that Springsteen song that had been playing all those years ago in the Dorchester sun. “God have mercy on the man who doubts what he’s sure of …”


Allan Leverone is the author of dozens of short stories and winner of a 2012 Derringer Award for excellence in short mystery fiction. He’s also written a dozen books and somehow managed to steal a place on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. Check him out at AllanLeverone.com, on Facebook, or Twitter @AllanLeverone.