Kenneth Lawson: Things That Needed Doing

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Things That Needed Doing

By Kenneth Lawson

Looking down over the street, I tried to block the noise filtering through the old windows. The sound of the taxis blowing their horns and people yelling at each other, along with the distant sirens echoing through the streets, made me numb to the silence that was filling the apartment.

Closing the blinds on the window of the Brownstone apartment five floors above the fray, I turned and looked at him.

“So we’re really going to do it, eh?”

“I don’t know. I hate it but I think we have to do it.”

“Okay, let’s get this done.” We closed up the apartment and locked the door behind us. 

The hallways of the old Brownstone had long seen better days. The once glorious wallpaper was now varying shades of a crappy brown color with spots that had once been a pattern of some sort. That was where wallpaper remained on the walls. Most of it had been worn off by decades of people rubbing against it as they moved about their lives in the building.

The few people we met in the halls were more interested in minding their own business than wondering what we were carrying in the big sack between us. 

Taking the back stairs, we made our way to the basement. The furnace was a throwback to the old days when the place was heated by a big boiler that fed hot air through the vent system in the building. The closer to the lower floors you were, the warmer you were in the winter as the hot air cooled as it made its way up the vents to the higher floors. These days the vents were used mostly as a garbage dump by the tenants who knew it existed, and every so often the building maintenance guy would burn what trash he could in the furnace. Most of the younger folks didn’t bother, and their garbage lay in the halls attracting rats and other critters waiting for someone else to pick it up.

To my surprise, the air was better down here than in the halls upstairs. Maybe because the stench of trash and other obscene smells wasn’t as bad. At any rate, I could breathe better. Which helped me a lot as there was still a dirty, smelly job to do.

We said a silent prayer between us as we stood before the furnace and shoved the remains of one Lee J. Roswell into the fire.

We knew he wouldn’t be missed. If he was, it wouldn’t be for long. 

I had done a thorough investigation of him. I knew everything there was to know about the man. From the place he was born, who his first girlfriend was and what became of her, his three wives and all his kids, to how he had really made his money. I knew why we found him hiding in a dump of an apartment in the middle of New York City, and I knew who had been looking for him. The five other people we had made disappear had also been studied and planned out to the last detail. Contingency plans were made in case things went wrong. Fortunately for us, each had gone off exactly as planned. The entire process took six months and involved traveling to several other countries where, if we were caught, we were on our own. We were down to our final two.

Stoking the fire, we made sure anything identifiable was burned to a crisp. The smell of burnt flesh was something I never got used too. I still hated it. It was almost worse than the actual killing of the victim. 

Once it was done we wiped the entire furnace down with damp cloths as well as the doors and walls we may have touched. 

An hour later we were well out of the neighborhood. 

There was a small flurry of activity when he was discovered missing. As expected, no one had a clue as to who the old man really was, and he was quickly forgotten.

A week later another old man disappeared. Again, a small hornet’s nest appeared but was quickly dispelled when it was clear he was a drunk who’d gone off on a bender and didn’t make it back.

Six months later my partner and I sat in an office in Washington. 

“Here’s your cash. You two did a great job. Both in finding them, and eliminating them. The world is a better place without them.”

My partner and I had been charged by the US Attorney General to find and eliminate half a dozen wanted criminals that the government couldn’t touch for one reason or another. Only two had been in the states, the rest had been in places that US law couldn’t touch officially. So they paid us very generously to make them disappear.

As the Attorney General said, things that needed doing.

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