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Spinning Monkey Thriller
About the Author: Martin Hill Ortiz is a professor of pharmacology at Ponce Health Sciences University in Ponce, Puerto Rico. He is an active member of MWA with over 50 short stories in publication.

Gaspar’s handler lost him at the words, “Don’t worry.”

Don’t worry, you’ll know her when you see her.” 

Gaspar always worried. Life, death, and the murders in-between were filled with details and getting each bit of the minutiae correct had kept him from being caught—so far.

Know her when I see her? How would she stand out? Everyone in this West LA restaurant looked other-worldly. A to-the-roots blonde in desperate need of smile-reduction surgery. A man in fishnet stockings with three-inch spikes, top and bottom, hair and heels. Even Gaspar’s omelet, made with peahen eggs and fixed so that the yolks remained unbroken, seemed out-of-place anywhere else but this misfit asylum.

The prices were outrageous. Five bucks for tap water. Celebrity tap water?

The joint was crowded, every chair taken except for the one facing him. He shooed aspirants away, waiting for his contact. The one he’d know. When he saw her.

A woman with frosted hair and a chilling smile glided his way. She didn’t ask whether the chair opposite Gaspar was taken, merely installed her million-dollar bottom on its seat. She set down her mug of flat white and a plain manila folder on the shared table.

Perhaps, thought Gaspar, I’ll know her because she’ll make the contact.

“Spinning Monkey Thriller,” Gaspar said, providing the three-word handshake. 

“Intriguing,” the woman responded. That was not the correct counterphrase. She picked up her cup and blew a ripple across its foam.

“You have something for me?” Gaspar asked. He placed a hand on the manila folder. The woman placed her hand on top of his. He was desperate to take a peek, to see whether the target was someone he recognized. The last time Gaspar performed a Hollywood hit, it was a household name whose coke habit was ruining a film shoot. Gaspar faked an overdose. His employer collected the production insurance.

“Depends,” she said. “The devil is in the details.”

“That’s where the devil always resides,” Gaspar agreed.

“Show me the devil.” She made the offer sound downright seductive. 

Before Gaspar could say another word, the woman’s cell phone sounded. “Whip It,” Devo. She snarled at the screen. “I’m going to have to return to my office,” she said, taking a deep gulp from her flat white and leaving a rim of crimson lipstick behind. “Here’s my card.” Facedown. “Tomorrow. 8:30 a.m.”

As she flowed out of the crowded restaurant, Gaspar took a peek. It read: “Syn D. Gray. Project Development, Netflix.” 

She’d taken the chair because it was the only one empty. While Gaspar pondered this, a different woman slid in opposite him. She was pixieish with short-crop hair.

“Spinning Monkey Thriller?” Gaspar asked.

“Fresh Lord Jaguar.”

She passed over an envelope, saying, “It has to be tonight.” 

Gaspar recognized what that meant. He had only one night to carry out a contract hit and still find time to cook up a plausible pitch for a project called Spinning Monkey Thriller.

This story appears in our JAN 2024 Issue
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