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A Hopeless Mess

Revenge can be the most satisfying dish a man can serve. 

But here in the Gutter our palate likes a little culinary creativity. 

A Hopeless Mess by Zach Wilhide



Mark gripped a lead pipe as he watched the evening security guard saunter out of the back door for a cigarette. Above the door, a small but bright sign proclaimed “Nexus Pharmaceuticals.”  There was a small spark. Mark watched the smoke curl upward past the single light on the top floor. He closed his eyes and tried to control his rage. Nexus were the only ones who held the patent on the cancer drug that would have saved his wife.  It’d been six months since Elizabeth had been lowered into the ground.  Six months of an arrested grief cycle stuck on anger.  Six months of research and planning.

The security guard turned his gaze down the dark alleyway, distracted by some rodents fighting for food.  Mark slipped behind him.  There was a faint thunk as Mark smashed the pipe across the back of the guard’s skull.  The guard slunk to the ground and Mark stripped him of his uniform and sidearm. Aside from the sleeves being a bit too long, the uniform was a good fit; though, he had almost torn the pants dragging the unconscious body into the shadows behind the dumpster.   As he scanned the stolen ID badge and stepped inside the building, he hoped the guard wouldn’t get into too much trouble.  Guy was just doing his job.

Inside, the night lights reflected off the clean glass and sleek metal.  Must be a fucking nightmare to clean, he thought.  Cleaning was something Mark knew; he’d been a high school janitor until several weeks ago. He snorted at the memory.  Fifteen god damn years of wiping up dirt and vomit for $25K a year and a pitiful insurance package. When it mattered it was all for nothing.  Their valuables sold, their credit stretched taut, they’d still failed to come up with the cash to cover the treatments.

He had grown sullen after Elizabeth died. The school was considerate at first, but their understanding quickly came to an end as the dirt began to pile up in the hallways and the alcohol wafting from his pores became more pungent. 

The elevators were in front of him.  Once again, the ID badge provided access.  The hollow ding of the elevator doors opening echoed in the empty building. Mark pushed the button for the top floor executive suite.  A muzak version of “Mandy” played above him. Elizabeth had liked Barry Manilow.  Mark pictured her dancing in the kitchen to his greatest hits, her smile bright and cheerful, and her eyes full of laughter. The cancer had crushed her liveliness. For a year he’d watched her wither away. Every day her existence was slowly replaced by the monotone of machines beeping.

The elevator lurched to a stop and the doors opened to reveal a large reception area choked with more glass and steel.  Mark walked past the empty receptionist’s desk straight into the office of Nathaniel Dillahunt, the CEO of Nexus Pharmaceuticals and the man whose name was on the final letter denying charity for Elizabeth. 

Seated behind an expensive-looking desk, he was a slim man in his mid-fifties.  A tumbler of brandy sat on top of a leather blotter.  He sensed Mark’s presence and looked up.  “You’re not Gerald.”  Dillahunt reached for his phone.  Mark pulled the gun out of his pocket and Dillahunt stopped moving. 

“Alright, can I help you?” Dillahunt asked, leaning back in his chair and forming a small steeple with his fingers.

“This is a nice office.  Pretty expensive, I guess.”

“It wasn’t cheap.  Are you an aspiring interior decorator?”

Mark’s eyes narrowed and Dillahunt self-consciously reached for the brandy.

“My wife is dead.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“It’s your fault.”

“How’s that?  I don’t recall killing anyone recently.”

“All of this killed her,” Mark said, waving his hands around in the large office. “Your profit margin killed her. Christ, who charges that much money for a drug that can save people?”

Dillahunt’s lips curled into a patronizing smile.  “I understand your perspective, but you’re not taking into account all of the people involved with a discovery like that.  They don’t provide their services for free. ”  

“How much do you make?” Mark asked, beginning to pace in front of Dillahunt’s desk.

“Personally or as a corporation?”

“Personally.”

“I don’t like to discuss numbers, it’s impolite, but I’ll say I’m well compensated.”

“How much did you make by denying charity for my wife?” Mark threw the crumpled denial letter in front of the executive.  Dillahunt sighed and smoothed out the paper.  He took a minute to read it.  

“I’m sorry, but I don’t remember this.”

Knuckles whitened as Mark tightened his grip on the gun. He raised it level with Dillahunt’s forehead.  The executive met Mark’s unblinking gaze and leaned back in his chair.

“I commend you for this.  You must have loved her,” Dillahunt paused to choose his next words carefully.  “This doesn’t end with me.  You know that, right?  I have ten junior executives who would slice their mother’s throats to have this job.  Kill me and none of those bastards will have any heartburn over condemning countless people to the same fate as your late wife. Of course, I doubt much of this will matter to you; you’ll be dodging dicks in prison while you wait for the needle to take you to her.”  
Dillahunt sighed.  “In the end, you’re really only hurting yourself.”

Tears carved moist paths down Mark’s cheeks.  His hand shook with rage.  The gun lowered.  Dillahunt was right.  It was hopeless.  He’d reached rock bottom on the top floor of a Fortune 500 company’s headquarters.  Dillahunt’s fingers began dialing the cops. 

“Wait.”

“What?”

“How are you with a mop?”

Dillahunt paused, the phone dangling midway between ear and cradle.

“What?”

With a wry smile, Mark put the gun to his temple and blew his brains out, all over the expensive furniture. 


Zach Wilhide has had stories published in Shotgun Honey and Near to the Knuckle. To contact him simply follow the sounds of heavy metal, foul language and weight plates slamming on the ground—he answers to the name of “Whyte Devil.”