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The man put a hand the size of a catcher's mitt on Toby's chest and pushed.

He actually didn't push that hard—he was mainly moving Toby out of his way—but Toby was having a hard time maintaining his balance as it was, and he bounced off the wall opposite the restroom door and fell to the floor. Then Dominic DiNunzio sealed his fate. Looking down at Toby, he said, "Today's not the day to screw with me, you little shit."

Dominic DiNunzio wasn't a bad guy. All his friends would later tell this to the media and the cops. He looked big enough to have played for the Jets, but he wasn't a violent man. He hadn't been in a fistfight since he was eight. The problem was, as he'd told Toby, today was the wrong day to screw with him.

Dominic was an accountant, and he used a program that had cost him ten grand to prepare his clients' tax returns. That morning he found out that the program had an error in it, and that the program—not Dominic—had incorrectly calculated the taxes his clients owed. Fifty of his clients now owed the government money. Three of them fired him the moment he told them about the problem, and a dozen more were thinking about firing him.

When Dominic left his office and started walking toward the subway, the rain started coming down in buckets, the wind blowing it into his face—the perfect end to a perfect fuckin' day. Normally, Dominic didn't stop for a drink on his way home, but he decided as he was passing by McGill's to have one and unwind a bit before facing the wife and kids. The last thing he was in the mood for was some little prick mouthing off to him.

But this was the wrong day to screw with Toby, too.

Toby was twenty-six but still got carded in bars. He had wavy dark hair, long eyelashes, and perfect features: a short straight nose, small flat ears, cupid-bow lips, dimples in both cheeks when he smiled. He was so handsome, he was almost pretty. In fact, Lauren's girlfriends—the ones he'd thought would be the bridesmaids at their wedding—were always saying he was prettier than Lauren. It was a joke—but only sort of.

When Lauren broke up with him three days ago, she said it was because they were "incompatible," whatever the hell that meant—but he couldn't get her to tell him what he had to do for them to be compatible. When she wouldn't return his calls, he hung around her apartment, hoping to catch her alone outside so he could talk to her, and that's when he learned that "incompatible" meant she was seeing another man.

Toby saw this man and Lauren step out of a cab the night before last. He saw the guy put his arm around her shoulders as he walked her into her brownstone, then stay the night—while Toby sat outside in his car, snorting coke, sipping from a pint of scotch, sometimes crying. Whoever the guy was, he wasn't all that good-looking—at least Toby didn't think so—but he was over six feet tall and built like Superman.

So Toby was feeling the sting of losing the woman he'd planned to marry, and he'd lost her to a man who was arguably more manly-looking—and then this fat fuck knocks him down and calls him a little shit. It was like igniting a half-inch fuse on a stick of dynamite—and from that moment forward Toby couldn't really remember what he did. It was as if a bloody red curtain had dropped down over his mind.

But what he did was walk out to his car, which was parked directly in front of McGill's. That was the only luck he'd had in the last three days: finding that parking spot. He jerked open the passenger-side door, opened the glove compartment, and pulled out the gun—a Smith & Wesson .357 revolver with a walnut grip and a three-inch barrel. He slammed the car door shut and walked back into McGill's—and immediately saw the whale at a table, sitting by himself, still wearing his trench coat and his stupid hat. Toby walked over to him and, without hesitating, shot him three times. "That'll teach you to fuck with me," he muttered.

It was as if the sound of the gunshots woke him from a nightmare, and he suddenly realized what he'd done. He stood for no more than a second looking at the fat man—whose white shirt was turning crimson—then he ran. He almost hit a busboy carrying a tray of glasses before he got to the door, banged it open, jumped into his car, and took off. He was driving away less than a minute after he killed Dominic DiNunzio.

As he was driving he kept saying, "What did you do? What did you do?" The short-barreled .357 was on the passenger seat, but it was no longer an inanimate object. To Toby it was alive, like a malignant machine in a Stephen King novel, giving off heat, possessing a dark, throbbing heart. It was as if the gun had somehow taken possession of his soul and made him do what he did. He couldn't help thinking that if he hadn't bought the damn gun he never would have shot that asshole.

Six blocks from McGill's, he pulled into a parking garage. The killing had shocked him almost sober, and he knew he shouldn't be driving. He wouldn't have been driving in the first place if it hadn't been for Lauren. When she wouldn't answer his calls on her cell phone, he'd called her office, but some girl told him Lauren had taken the day off. He suspected the bitch was lying—that she was screening Lauren's calls—but maybe she was telling the truth and Lauren had gone to her mom's place in Jersey. So he'd driven to Jersey, but when her mom said Lauren wasn't there—and that Toby needed to let her daughter alone—he drove back to Lauren's office, hoping to spot her leaving work, but the traffic screwed him and he got there too late, which was when he drove to McGill's. But if he hadn't taken the car, he wouldn't have had the gun with him. And if he hadn't bought the gun . . .

It was as if some playful god had put everything in perfect alignment so Toby would do exactly what he did: kill Dominic DiNunzio.

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