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It's said everyone meets their match.

In the Gutter, that fact is as comforting as a big old plate of liver and onions. 

Respect by Peter W. J. Hayes

I’ve always believed two things. First, no matter who you are, futility and boredom are the largest parts of your life. It’s a given. Second, only you can figure out what makes you happy. Politicians will promise a better world for all of us, but that’s garbage. Happiness is up to you. Then you have to dedicate yourself to it: make it your life’s work. It’s the only way to survive all that futility and boredom.

Me, I learned in Iraq that what makes me happy is killing people.

Granted, those were bad guys. Well, so we were told. And the politicians wouldn’t lie about Iraq, would they? But those bad guys, I wonder what their mothers and wives thought about them.

Just saying.

So, I got dedicated. And for the last five years I’ve been picking my moments and making myself happy. It’s fun. I go new places, I see new things. I meet new people. Sure, some of them are dead right after I meet them, but I still meet them.

Like tonight.

I’m in Pittsburgh. It’s 3:30 a.m. and I’m sitting in a deserted downtown diner eating a half decent plate of eggs and kielbasa hash. I’m feeling good. Not happy yet, but that’s coming. Because my next target just refilled my coffee mug and sashayed toward the kitchen, her polyester pants making a swishing sound where her thighs rub together.

But she does have me confused.

You have to understand, I do this for a living. I have rules. No advertising on craigslist or backpage. Lots of research on the target. Nobody too high profile. Mostly I target jerk coworkers, spouses and parents taking too long to die. That’s my niche.

Which is why I’m confused by the waitress. Shortly put, she’s beautiful. An angel. But spouse targets are always FUUCD. That’s Fat or Ugly, Unemployed, Cheating or Demented. Being ex-military I’m an acronym guy. And I’ve done the research. She isn’t cheating. She is the opposite of fat or ugly, and the fact she gave me my food means she’s working. When I walked in she was singing Adele, for hell's sake. Demented? Only if she was singing Kanye.

I check my watch. 3:45. Go time. The deal is this: the husband found me and he’s the cook. He plans to step outside at 3:46 and stand under the back door security camera smoking a cigarette. I go to the register and when the angel comes to ring me out I drop her. There’s a security camera above the register. He comes in a couple of minutes later, finds her, calls the cops. Cops will have tape of him outside smoking on the same time stamp I drop his wife. Although, thanks to a Steelers cap and the camera angle, they won’t know it’s me.

It’s tight.

I stand up and carry the check to the register, glancing into the kitchen through the pass-through. No sign of the cook. The angel steps behind the register. I look into her blue eyes and reach under my hoodie for my SIG. Her eyes go wide and round.

“You move you’re dead.” Hard steel tickles the back of my neck.

I freeze. I know the voice. It’s the husband. The cook. He shuffles around and into my peripheral vision.

“You okay, babe?” he asks the angel.

She nods.

“OK,” he says. “I promised I’d get someone for you. It’s what you want, right?”

“It is,” she whispers. She raises a snub-nosed .38 from a shelf under the register and points it at my forehead. Licks her parted lips as a flush rises to her cheekbones.

He shuffles a few feet away. “Camera’s off. Go for it.”

A slight tremor runs through her body. “Oh,” she says, and it’s more of a moan. “I’m so hot already. You gotta do me before the cops get here.”

She’s saying it to him.

“Yeah, babe,” he whispers back, all throaty.

Her trigger finger tightens.

You know, if crazy sex makes you happy, then dammit, I have to respect that. 

Peter W. J. Hayes is a former journalist, advertising copywriter and marketing executive. His work has appeared in the Antietam Review, Shotgun Honey, Yellow Mama, and The Literary Hatchet, and he won the 2015 Pennwriters short story contest.