William Fitzgerald Kills a Man

Self-destruction, despair, hatred, neglect delighted William Fitzgerald in an ophidian way. He owned a gun as a necessary adjunct to his trade, but he never carried it, and kept it locked in a small floor safe that he covered with a battered credenza. He removed it once a year and looked down the barrel for rust, spun the mechanism, oiled and cleaned it thoroughly, then replaced it, unloaded, beneath the floorboards. He depended on his invisibility, his knowledge of the city, his luck, and his spleen to carry him safely into and out of anything.

It was Sunday afternoon, and, still wearing the pressed, inexpensive black suit that smelled of incense and veneration, he was editing his book. The lights in the office were off, and the variable March sun squinted through the windows. He finished entering the names of clients and potential victims — to employ William Fitzgerald was to invite scrutiny — and started the somber but pleasant task of eliding old entries. Three newspapers were spread before him, representing well-enough the population of the city. He ran his pen down one column of newsprint, clucked, then, pleased, drew a thick black line through the name Patrick Stephens.