Brian O’Neil was exactly where he said he’d be. He stood at the end of an alley between Back and Beacon streets as if he wanted to watch the rain run down the wall.
‘Nice place you’ve got here,’ I said. ‘Real flash.’
His hands left his side, palms up towards the rainclouds. ‘Yeah, well, I ain’t shittin’ where I eat. Pardon my French.’
I scoff. ‘Jaysus, you don’t have to be polite, I’m not that kind of gal.’
I noticed him checking out my thighs then. I wanted to punch him in his gut.
‘Let’s move along, get to the business. You know why I’m here. Just give me, for Christ’s sake.’
O’Neil rose his gaze and nodded, opening his jacket. He took the cloth from his inner-pocket and unravelled it. The revolver glistened in the light.
I took the weapon from him, admired its craft, and held it by the grip. It felt good in my hand, the grip bing made with smooth wood of surprisingly high-quality. I admired the wood.
O’Neil grinned. ‘Iron wood,’ he started, ‘it’s tough, light too. Only possible to carve with obsidian or diamond blades. You could wield the gun like a hammer if you wished to get up close and personal, so to speak.’
I spun the barrel and drew it at a nearby trashcan. O’Neil continued.
‘There’s enough in that chamber for six bullets.
I smiled. ‘Six should do just fine.’
After some time, O’Neil spoke again. ‘Are you sure you wanna go through with this, Mrs. O’Donoghue? I mean, nobody in their right mind messes with the Babovic family. The Serbian mafia are notorious, maybe you didn’t know that being new here and all. What have you got against the Serbs?’
His sudden uncertainty ruffled me. Resisting the urge to slap him in his gob, I buried the revolver deep the pocket of my long blue coat. This coat was great: it was useful at keeping the Boston autumn air out, but also at concealing everything from cash to machetes.
‘I don’t have a problem with the Serbians, not least any race. Serbs who make widows: that’s with whom I’ve got a bone to pick.’
O’Neil gave me a look like a puppy dog who’s been kicked too many times. ‘I just don’t see no point in it. A good-lookin’ lass like you has options, surely. Maybe it’s best to let go.’
I met his eyes, frustrated by his prying.
‘Shea,’ I agreed, quite serious. ‘Maybe it is easier to just let go and move on. Thinking about it more, maybe there’s a chance I’d find another nice man to settle down with. Or I could start fresh, follow my dream of being a singer. But it’s too late now. ‘Sides, I didn’t come all the way ‘cross the Atlantic, searching every nook and cranny of this crazy city, just to track down the bastard who killed my Rossa and ‘let go’. Maybe I’m crazy, but I’m feckin’ sure about this. I will avenge my husband.’
O’Neil tipped his black bowler hat my way in a respectful manner. In that moment, I actually found him somewhat charming except for his beer belly. He said to me his final farewell. ‘Well, seems you about made your mind. Good luck. Slán.’
He left the alley and blended back in with the umbrella wielding masses of Boston’s pedestrian armies.
I made my way to the speakeasy where my target was said to run things from.
The Babovic side of Boston wasn’t all it was prized to be. The sulphur smell gave a bad feeling for what was to come. I tried to take my mind off the fact that I was to shoot someone dead. I hadn’t a real plan on how I was going to go about it yet, and for that I felt foolish. All I had was a vision that I would come face to face with him, in private, and settle the matter there.
I took a seat at the bar, gave the barman my preference. Babovic himself was seated at the far end of the bar, enjoying the company of two hookers fawning all over him while three men sat adjacent working as bodyguards. I eyed Babovic’s fat chins, and his short greasy hair. I took a sip of the whiskey that burned deep within my stomach, and spent the hour hunched over a glass of whiskey contemplating my strategy.
What I had was a mental map of Babovic’s movements over the day. It took me a week to learn as much about his movements as I could, and I continued tracking him for two weeks more. I found his routine was remarkably consistent.
In the mornings, around 9am, Simeon and his lackies would parade the streets as a display of power to rival gangs. The Babovics were the undisputed rulers of this part Brooklyn, and made it known pretty much daily. Law enforcement were generously courteous, letting them mug or maim whoever they didn’t like for the price of a monetary bribe. But their riches came not from being societal menaces.
I followed their stroll to a distillery in the heart of the city. In the 20s, alcohol was a booming business in Boston. It was also widely controlled by organised crime groups. Unsurprisingly, competition between business owners and mafia bosses alike was fierce. Boston had a total of 30 distilleries, not including two that were burnt down in gang war between Babovic’s dyansty and the Chen family, a rival Chinese gang, and one that went bankrupt and became a lingerie boutique. Out of the remaining distilleries, Babovic was in direct control of 24, giving him a near monopoly over the entirety of the state of Massachusetts’ supply of swill, beer, and liquor. I swished the whiskey in the bottom of my glass thoughtfully, imagining how disgustingly rich he must have been.
Come 2pm, Babovic would rest in some safehouse: the top of a four-story apartment in the heart of Brooklyn. It was heavily guarded, so there was no way inside for any visitors, let alone a widow turned assassin.
There was one time of the day when Simeon Babovic was alone, what I called his ‘golden hour’.
At 4pm, almost daily, Simeon marched down Fuller street, North Brooklyn, with a small party of lackies. He’d do the same routine: march down the street and turn into a gated walkway leading to a small house. His guards would walk on as though indifferent to their boss’s solitude.
The first time I saw this, I figured that must have been the bastard’s house, and that he went there to catch up on laundry or to add more grease to his wig. But it was the same routine: he would spend and hour or two there, and then leave. I couldn’t workout why, but I guessed it was something personal, not that knowing mattered. I just wanted to kill him.
I figured I could do that in the golden hour, but there were still many grey areas. First of all, he mightn’t be alone in the house. He might have guards, or a wife of his own waiting to become a widow. Even though I calculated that was where he’d be, I still prayed he’d be there tomorrow.
I retired for the night in an inn near Fuller, closing my eyes and trying not to think of his splattered brains ruining my coat.
I was up before the sun. I had a red apple for breakfast, stared at the revolver on the small round kitchen table and imagined how the barrel would look between turns.
By noon I was strolling toward the secret house of Bobovic. He would be there by one, I knew that, but I wanted to enjoy my last few moments of innocence before I went to carry out the deed. Those swells on the Charles River soothed the tempest in my mind. I took my time along the quay, making sure to arrive at the house just before 1pm.
At 12:50pm I was on Fuller. The men and women in bowler hats marched down the street, Babovic among them just as predicted. He left them to enter the house, and they kept on marching. The same routine.
An idiot might take the chance to run up to the house, fire a few shots, and flee the scene. But those lackies could hear that gunfire and come running. I’m not just any old eejit. I’m an eejit bent on vengeance, grant it, but being careful was better than sorry.
By 1:20pm I figured I had waited enough. I entered around the side of the house, thinking I could break in through the back. Before I even saw the back garden I found an window, and through it Simeon seated on the edge of a bed, hat in hand.
With the strength of the Iron Wood, I smashed through the window pane like it was a Japanese paper wall. Babovic turned to face me, his face white with shock and fear. I looked him in the eyes. He looked pathetic.
‘Do you remember the name, O’Donoghue.’
Babovic acted on instinct, diving to the ground, covering his head with both hands. He let out a single cry for help, but the bullet was already on course. It punctured his skull, entering right through the back of his head and lodging deep inside. His body hit the ground with a dull thump and the floor was tarnished with red. Bits of brain were dripping down the wall in front of him like slugs to a cabbage patch. I witnessed his fingers twitching, dancing to the sound of his death rattle.
‘That’s for my Rossa,’ I said.
I sunk one more bullet into his brain, painting the walls some more. ‘That’s for making me a killer.’
He had no chance of an open wake after the end he got.
By 2:30pm I was panting heavily, the hands on knees type that comes after sprinting barefoot along the river bank. I must have looked completely suspicious, or just completely mad. I wondered if I had gone mad myself. I stopped running to catch my breath, watching the many cars flow over bridges, and steamboats parade the water’s snakelike body. The gun would be tossed into those waters. The next time I’d see Babovic would be in hell.
That was five years ago. The Serbian mafia have since been locked up, pushed out, and shot down by the forces of this ever-changing city.
Today, I went on a date at the pictures. He was so sweet he bought me icecream, a new necklace. My life, once brutal, shined buttercups and daisies. He told me there wasn’t another girl he would rather wake up next to. I told him no other girl would dare so long as I were his. He makes me feel renewed.
We dined at an elegant restaurant, recounting our favourite parts of our day together over white wine, and took an evening stroll along the banks of the river. The water glowed a warming orange under the light of the sun, nearly sunken beneath the Boston skyline. Together we strolled through the summer air past picnicking couples, my arms wrapped around his waist.
‘You know, we really oughta marry,’ he said.
I smiled coyly, thumping his arm. ‘You eejit. You move too fast.’
‘Why not?’ he said, squeezing me in a hug. ‘Life is too short to live slow.’
‘Well,’ I said. ‘Suppose you died tomorrow but the angel at the gates of heaven offered you a second chance at life, would you take it?’
We walked a bit further as he thought.
‘I’d take it, sure, but only if you did,’ he said.
‘Then, yes,’ I said. I leaped into his arms, ‘a thousand times yes! let’s marry. We can leave this city and start a family on a homestead like we talked about before.’
The Boston waters bubbled against the shoreline as we kissed, the land of opportunity endless and ours for the taking.
And the ghosts of the past were put to rest at last.
Author: Lachlan aims to convert his experience of existence into writing. For Lachlan, the most entertaining thing about being a creative writer is the ability to become multiple things at once. He hopes you come away from his work feeling connected with the universe, and indulging a stronger sense of optimistic nihilism.
Artist: SaBelle Pobjoy-Sherriff is a third year fine arts visual arts student. Her art practice uses narrative and mythology to create obscure illustrations and sculptures. Using acrylic paint and coloured pencils she creates vibrant worlds and creatures. Her current work focuses on the current climate crisis and the idea of corrupting escapism. You can find more on her Instagram @SaBelleeee.
Editors: David Farr and Eliana Fritz