He was surprised and responded, “Well, I’m in that age zone now where things can happen, sometimes fast, sometimes slow.” Faster was better, he thought to himself, but didn’t say it aloud. “So, maybe you might want to look for a younger man for the job, Vince.”
The big man behind the desk smiled, got up and looked out the window onto the streets of Chicago below, his hands clasped behind his back. “It’s precisely because of your age, Jimmy, and also because you’ve been out of the game for years now that I want you for this job. Nobody knows you anymore and they certainly won’t expect it coming from somebody your age. Even the cops wouldn’t look in your direction.”
Jimmy nodded his head and replied, “Well, that’s probably true, Vince. So, let’s just say I’m interested, even though it could be tricky, especially at my age. What’s the client offering?”
Turning back to face his old friend, Vince leaned on his desk with both hands and said with a grin, “How about that Degas you tried to buy at that auction some years back, Jimmy? Interested?”
Somebody knew the way to Jimmy’s heart. He’d started collecting art soon after he became a hired killer. And the loss of the Degas to a higher bidder years ago still stuck in his craw. He knew it had been stolen recently and felt the loss just as deeply as if it had been taken from his own collection. But now it was being offered as payment for a very dangerous and difficult job. Probably his last.
“Yeah, I’m interested. I’d have to see the painting first, though, Vince. You know how it is.”
Nodding, Vince reached down for a briefcase near his desk, placed it on his desk, opened it and turned it towards his friend. “Here, Jimmy, have a look.”
Jimmy looked down at the open briefcase and the painting he longed to own for years. “Can I pick it up, Vince?”
“Sure, Jimmy. Take a close look at it. Take your time.”
He’d never used appraisers. He knew what he was looking for and he saw it immediately. This was the real thing, and he had it in his hands at last. He hadn’t been this excited in years and he knew he was close to possessing the Degas all to himself. There was just the little matter of the job.
Gently replacing the painting in the briefcase, Jimmy took his seat and waited as Vince closed the briefcase, replaced it on the floor next to him, and then sat down himself. “So,” Vince asked, “You in?”
“Give me the details and I'll let you know, Vince.”
Vince laid out the pertinent facts that Jimmy would need to make up his mind, except the identity of the client. The job was risky, very risky and required split-second timing. Also, Jimmy would have to leave the country for a year or so after the hit until things died down. But he’d get the Degas before he left. No question about that.
“That’s about it, Jimmy. What’s your decision, old friend?”
“Vince, I know you and how you work. You’ve looked at my medical records, right?”
Vince just shrugged but said nothing.
“So, you know that if I leave the country for a year or so, I don’t come back. I’ll be lucky to live six months, tops, in my condition. But you know this, Vince.”
“We know this, Jimmy.”
Jimmy chuckled to himself as he looked at his old friend with admiration. “But you’d let this old, sick man do one last job and then spend the last six months of his life in ecstasy, holding that Degas in his arms as he fell asleep each night. Am I close, Vince?”
“Something like that, Jimmy.”
“And then on that one morning I don’t wake up, somebody would come in, gently remove the painting from my death grip, and that would be that.”
“We wouldn’t want it to get into the wrong hands now, would we, Jimmy?”
“No, Vince, we wouldn’t.”
“I’m in, old friend. And I prefer to spend my last six months in Chile, if that’s okay with you.”
“It’s already arranged, Jimmy. Valparaiso, close to the beach.”