Day 126: Mr. Travio’s Flower Shop

My name is Piero Abbiati. I see you know the name, right?

Mr. Travio was my last target. After dropping his flower shop’s deposits one day, he made the mistake of stopping off at Dizzy Donuts. What he didn’t know was that the doughnut shop is a front for the Cavatoni family, and while he was in the bathroom, he overheard Mr. Cavatoni green-light the Minetti hit. That was me, by the way.

Anyway, Mr. Travio had to go. The assignment was nothing to me. I’ve killed enough innocent witnesses to fill up a septic tank. A job’s a job.

About a month before the trial, I followed Mr. Travio after he closed up. The man spent twelve hours a day there. I’d reconnoitered his route and found the perfect spot to ambush him, pull him into an alley, and perform the service. He deviated a little that day and carried several roses to a homeless shelter. I was in my blendables, which didn’t blend in at all with those guys, so I hung outside and occasionally peeked in a window. Mr. Travio gave roses to a number of homeless women, then had a meal with a few gutter punks.

I would have followed him and taken care of him then, but a cab picked him up.

Look, I told you, I’ve snuffed a few good men, and it doesn’t faze me. But there’s no reason to be cruel to the good ones. I’m not going to bust in, scare his family to death, and work him over with a meat tenderizer like I did Benny the Pimp. There was plenty of time before the trial.

The next Monday, I waited until closing time. He always stayed late for books on Mondays, so I figured on shanking him at his desk. Using a knife would keep my Glock clean. The lock was an easy pick. No way he heard it from the back. I had a three-inch spearpoint knife in my hand—that’s all I needed. Trust me.

I slipped behind the counter and into the back room, and there he was at his desk. No way I’d get there without him seeing. I put on my lost look, and he glanced up just as I started toward him.

His face contorted in fear, but he suddenly relaxed and smiled as if he knew me. “Was the door open? Sorry, sir, but we’re closed. Be back open at 8:30 tomorrow.” He looked down at his paper, and I considered my best maneuvers to close the distance and make it quick. “On the other hand, I’ll set you up with a freebie if you help me carry some packages to the shelter down the block. You’re security there, aren’t you?”

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s not a great gig, but it pays for coffee.”

“I bet. As long as you don’t put anything in it, eh? What’s your name?”

“Kessler,” I said, thinking of the whiskey. “Frank Kessler. What’s in the packages?”

“Toys and make-up kits.” I must have looked perplexed because he chuckled and said, “The shelter is a delivery point for a battered wives home. You didn’t know that?”

I shrugged. “I’ll help. But I’ll be back in the morning to pay you properly.”

Yeah, he was a likable character, so what? A jobs a job. I was just finding the right time and circumstances for it. When I got home I cursed at myself for dilly-dallying. Tomorrow was all business.

I showed up at 8:30 as promised, but the place was empty. “Mr. Travio?”

He suddenly burst out of a flower cooler, the glass front covered with black paper. “Frank, someone was following me this morning. He’s a killer, I’m sure of it.” He grabbed me by the arm and led me to the cooler. “Hurry, get in.”

I’m not lying to you when I tell you—when he grabbed my arm it was like a spiritual tazing. Here he was, terrified for his life, and he was pushing me into his hiding place. I stared at him. Disbelief paralyzed me from head to toe.

Yeah. I’ve snuffed a guy or two. But I’ve never snuffed a saint. I couldn’t do it.

A man at the front door broke the spell. He walked with smooth, singular purpose and tilted his head like he knew me. Dammit, they hired past me ‘cause I was taking too long. That’d never happened before. He reached into his jacket. I grabbed for my Glock and pushed Mr Travio to the floor. He shot once, grazing my shoulder, but I hit him three times center mass before he got another one off.

Mr. Travio and I waited together for the police, each of us calming the other.

“Why do you work such long hours, Mr. Travio?”

He shook his head. “It’s not by choice. My best worker just moved to Detroit to get married, so I’m short staffed.”

There’s just something about Mr. Travio that punctures your brain like a nine millimeter bullet, and suddenly you see the world in a whole new way. Anyway, that’s how I wound up working here in Mr. Travio’s flower shop. So you’ll understand that I’m doing you a favor by telling you to keep that heater holstered, to leave quietly, and to never come back.

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