“Alls I’m sayin’ is, it don’t make no sense for them to be priests,” Joe said as he made a left turn. “I’m not a male chauvinist pig or whatever. It’s just not they way things are done, ya know? And why would they wanna, anyway? Who the fuck wants to be a priest?”
“Beats me,” Anthony said, cracking his window before lighting a cigarette. “But then again, why would anybody wanna be Catholic?” He grinned, anticipating the older man’s reaction.
“Ah Jesus, Tony, don’t start with this heretic shit now—”
“Fine, fine. You started it. You wanna talk religion, you know how I feel. Maybe don’t start. Take a right here.”
Joe looked nervously at the neighborhood outside his window. “Irishtown,” he snorted derisively. “Jesus, the way these people live. Got no respect for their own kind. Look at ’em, lettin’ their kids run loose like a bunch of heathens.”
“Works out for us.”
“Yeah, I don’t feel too good about that, either, Tony. Gettin’ involved with kids? I mean, are you sure about this? This seems kinda—how ya call it—outside our wheelhouse? Is that right?”
Anthony laughed. “Somethin’ like that. Yeah, I’m sure. It’s what the boss wants. Besides, wait ’till you see this girl in action. She’s an animal. Speak of the devil, there she is. Pull over.”
Joe pulled the car to the curb ten feet away from a young girl wearing an old dress that used to be white. Her red hair was tangled. She stared at the men, a look somehow both hostile and indifferent in her pale blue eyes.
“Jesus Christ,” Joe hissed. “Anthony, how old is that girl?”
Anthony laughed again. “I don’t know, fourteen? Fifteen? Who cares?”
“Anthony, I am so not okay with this—”
“Fine. You wanna tell Frank yourself, or you want me to tell him?”
Joe raised his hands in surrender. “Fine, fine! It’s just—fourteen?!”
“How old were you your first time, Joe?”
“Well, fourteen, but–”
” But nothin’. There you go with that double standard shit again. Good thing you got sons instead of daughters.”
“You can say that again.”
“You just clam up and do the drivin’, leave the talkin’ to me. No names, alright?”
Anthony rolled down his window and leaned out. “Hey sweetheart, how are ya? You remember me?”
“Yes,” the girl answered in a blank voice.
“Okay, well, uh–you still wanna make some money, right?”
Anthony looked at Joe with a toothy grin–Ain’t she somethin’?—and then back at the girl who was still standing motionless. “Alright honey, get in. We’ve got some work for ya.”
The girl slid into the back seat and buckled her seat belt.
“Hey,” said Joe, looking into the rear view mirror. “It’s good that you wear your seat belt. Safety first, right?” His hands were sweaty, his throat dry. He forced a weak smile.
“Joe, just drive.” Anthony whispered. He turned and smiled at the girl. “Don’t mind my friend. Some Italian people got bad manners, but they don’t mean nothin’ by it.”
The girl said nothing and stared out the window. The other kids who had been milling around outside had stared when she had first gotten into the car but were now pretending that they hadn’t seen anything. Joe drove in silence, taking them out of the soot and red brick landscape of the projects and into the city center. She stared at her own reflection in the car window, superimposed onto skyscrapers, bank buildings, old cathedrals. The city slowly gave way to the suburbs.
“Almost there, sweetheart,” Anthony said. They drove by a strip mall. Outside a restaurant, several men were sitting under a patio umbrella, drinking and playing checkers. Joe drove by, circled around behind the buildings opposite to them, and pulled into an alley and parked. They could see the men across the street from the alleyway.
“Alright sweetheart, here we are,” Anthony said. “Nervous?”
The girl said nothing and stared.
“Alright, alright, I get it, not your first time. You know what you’re doin’, right? Got it. Okay, so you know which guy is yours, you recognize him?”
“Okay. Here, I got this for you–” he leaned over the seat and handed her a red leather purse. “Everything a young lady needs is in there, and half the money. We’ll wait here for you, you get the other half after. Understand?”
“Yes.” The girl get out of the car and walked out of the alley. She paused to look both ways and crossed the street.
“Jesus Christ Tony, this is not right—“
“Shut up, Joe. Watch. “
They watched as the girl approached the group of men at the table. Even from across the street, they could hear the catcalls and the whistles. The girl said something they couldn’t hear. One of the men stood up and pointed to himself with both hands–Who, me?–and there was an outburst of laughter from the others.
Which ceased abruptly when the girl reached into the purse and pulled out an automatic pistol, firing point blank twice into the man’s chest and once into his face. He fell backward in a crimson mist. The other men were too stunned to flee. Only one stood and reached for his own weapon, but died before he got off a shot. The others were shot where they sat.
The girl dropped the pistol as she had been instructed and strode back across the street.
“Mother of God,” Joe whispered.
“She forgot to look both ways this time,” Anthony mused. “Hey, what’d I tell ya? A fuckin’ animal, huh?”
The girl slid into the backseat and buckled her seat belt as Joe reversed out of the alleyway and headed back toward the city.
“You okay, miss?” he asked nervously, looking at the girl in the rearview mirror.
“She’s better than okay, Joe. Here’s the other half of the money, colleen, as promised. You like that nickname? Colleen?”
The girl said nothing. Anthony laughed, feeling a little giddy after having just watched the hit. “Okay, well. Maybe not. Good work, just like last time, but remember—the job is for one guy, okay? You don’t have to do ’em all. But hey…spilt milk and all that. Hey, you know somethin’? On the way to pick you up, Joe here was talkin’ about how he doesn’t think that women should be priests—”
Anthony laughed. “Nah, nah, Joe, it’s okay, you’re entitled to your own opinion, we’re all adults here. Anyway, he doesn’t think women should be priests. Whereas I feel that anybody who is man enough to do what you did back there is good enough to hear Joe’s confession any old time. Whadd’ya think, sweetie?”
Joe and Tony, the girl thought, filing the men’s names away in case she needed them at some future date. The Russians were hiring, too.