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The Snake
About the Author: Mike McHone's short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, Mystery Tribune, Guilty, Shotgun Honey, Tough, and are forthcoming in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.

“I want you to listen because this is the only time I’m going to say it. You don’t think you can go through with this, you think you’re going to crack up when the cops come, I walk. Hear me? And before you think to ask, no, you won’t get your down payment back. Period. The five grand—Wait … Hold on. Waitress is coming …”

“Morning, gents. How’re you two doing today?”

“Good, good.”

“Are you ready to order?”

“I am. You, David?”

“Uh, sure.”

“Alrighty, what can I get you?”

“I’ll have the bacon and eggs, eggs over easy, wheat toast, and coffee, please.”

“Take cream and sugar?”

“Cream and Splenda, if you got it.”

“We do … And for you, Mr. David?”

“I’ll just have coffee.”

“Cream and sugar for you?”

“Black’s fine.”

“Okee doke. I’ll get that right in for you gentleman. Holler if you need anything else.”

“Thank you … Like I said, the five-grand is mine to keep. From here on out, the hard part falls on you. Cops are going to look high and low into your past, business deals, Internet history, phone call and text history. I already asked you this in our emails, but I need to make sure. When you reached out, you did it in a safe browser setting, right? VPN, incognito, the whole bit?”


“You’re sure?”

“I swear, yeah.”

“You scrapped everything from your hard drive afterward?”

“Yes, I switched everything out, took the entire motherboard out, everything.”

“Good … I know you’re a tech guy, but things like that have to be double-checked.”

“When you said I get the hard part, what did you mean?”

“Talking to the cops is the most difficult aspect of all this. Pulling a trigger, setting a detonator is easy, especially when you don’t know the person. I never met your wife, so she doesn’t mean anything to me. Thousands of people die every day. What’s one more, even if I am the cause of it? The hard—Hold on …”

“Here are your coffees, gentlemen.”

“Thank you, dear.”

“And here’s the creamer and Splenda. Get you anything else right now?”

“No, no, we’re fine. Thanks a million … Nice kid … Must be new. Been coming in here awhile, never seen her before … What was I saying?”

“The hard part?”

“Yeah … The hard part is not saying anything. That’s how people get caught. They blab or they’re dumb enough to leave shit behind at the scene. It’s embarrassing. That’s why I have to know, right now, before we move on any further, if you can keep your cool.”

“Absolutely. I’ve thought about this for a while.”

“Don’t mean squat. Everybody thinks about it. Show me a married person doesn’t think about it time to time. You stay married twenty-nine years you start coming up with enough plots to fill a cemetery.”

“Okay, but … What I mean is … How do I know you’ll do the job and not run off with the cash?”

“You’ll have to take my word. Plain and simple. I’ll plan it, scope the layout, do my due diligence. All’s good, the job will get done. If all’s not, I bail, we part ways, and that’s that.”

“How will it take place?”

“That’s on me. You don’t need to know the particulars.”

“When would you plan on doing it?”

“Within a month. Again, you won’t know when it’s coming. You don’t know how, when, your reaction’ll be authentic, so don’t worry about it.”

“Can I ask you a personal question?”

“One. Make it good.”

“How many people have you … you know?”

“Told you to make it good. Everyone asks that.”


“If you got to know, I’ve lost track.”


“Yeah. Drink up. Coffee’s getting cold.”

You have to be cool. That’s all.

He’s here and you’ve expected this.

Don’t offer anything until he’s asked you.

Be cool.

This story appears in our FEB 2023 Issue
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