Martin stepped out further onto the empty street. He wasn't the type to still seek forbidden thrills, but the space felt nice. He scanned the front page of the newspaper before the black man spoke again. "This is hard to say,"
"You could just shoot me an e-mail," Martin offered kindly. He tore of f a bit of the newspaper's margins and wrote an alternate account on it.
"That wasn't pathology…that was business. Though I won't lie and say there's no overlap. Also, if you ever met my father-in-law…." Martin couldn't bring himself to finish the joke.
"No..I should say it in person." The other assassin touched the plastic chip in his pocket."I owe you an amends. I should never have tried to kill you or your now father-in-law."
"A voice that was a blast in from the past cut through the silence. "I heard you were back."Paul Sperwicki thundered, seemingly unable to keep social distance in mind as he hugged Martin almost violently. "At the risk of blasphemy…thank God."
Paul dusted himself off and handed the black man his card. "Paul Sperwicki, realtor. My card. We have some lovely lofts available."
Martin laughed. "You still have cards?"
"Yes…I'm fifty and I don't mess with what works…I still have cards. But my Instagram is listed on them, fuck you very much."
"Sounds super hip, man.I wouldn't want everyone to see my picture, though. Old Habits die hard."
"Not my picture," Sperwicki corrected. "My properties' pictures.
"Is this gentleman bothering you?"Paul asked.
"Which one of us are you talking to?"
"Much like Jack Benny, I'm still thinking."
"One second," Martin told the other hired gun. "We just have something to talk about for a moment." Martin walked off with Paul while his guest smiled tentatively.
"Well, it's been years, but I guess the amends will keep for a hot minute."
"I'm sorry," Martin replied, "but Paul here's an old friend and stuff comes up from time to time."
"Make new friends/ but keep the old. One is silver and the other's gold."
"Right, unless it gets tarnished." Martin said.
"So he don't really sell houses?"
"Oh, I absolutely do…why don't you look at the virtual-property tours on the website…even though I say it myself, these recent additions are off the chain!" Paul pitched.
When they were out of earshot of even murder-for-hire trained ears, Martin turned to his friend. "What the hell are you doing?"
"Well, I'm not sure you know how it is since you hit the connubial lottery."
"The connubial lottery," Martin repeated.
"It's a word…it means 'marital', I think. I heard about Deb's deal…it's awesome. But I'm dying out here, man. Nobody wants to buy a house while they're worried they might, you know, choke to death. In a literal way, I mean,Not the John Cougar Mellencamp way from when we were kids…that sells tons of cable channels….barbecues, internet radio, you name it. Actual respiratory distress just sells face masks(Which I totally know I'm cheating on…don't tell my mom…she makes 'em. And absolutely noxious green-apple hand sanitizer that I'm convinced she also drinks.) Paul made a face, waited a moment for the impact to sink in and pulled a mask over his face. Martin thought he looked like a doctor with a caffeine problem…it perversely suited him.
"So you sell an assassin real estate? Even if he does seem as though he's going through some kind of transition right now…"
"Is it sexist if, since he's gonna be a chick, I pitch her on a galley kitchen? Cause I kinda think it is, but I wouldn't want to miss the opportunity if it's there."
"Uh, I don't think it's that kind of transition," Martin said. "Kenneth said he wants to apologize for trying to whack my father-in-law." Martin moved backâ€”Paul always wanted to be too close, even from the time they'd been boys together and Martin had saved him from a seventh-grade ass-kicking.(This was also where Martin found the scary part of himself, besides the guy that wrote song lyrics on his notebooks. So he guessed he owed Paul too.)
"So it's Kenneth now?"
"Yeah, sure…he texted me. Don't tell him, but I *was* having some trouble putting his name with a face."
"Is that safe?" Paul said, fidgeting a little as he always did during emotional conversations. "A guy like that having your number, I mean."
"Paul," Martin reminded him. "I'm a guy like that. Leaving that aside, though…I have a special line for…compatriots. Besides, you were going to sell him a trendy loft."
" I would have sold you your house," Sperwicki said. "Taken a hit on the commission, too, had you not forsaken us for the fickle charms of the Golden State….You know one thing, though."
" If he is apologizing for an attempt on your father-in-law, he never met him."
They both laughed, and it felt good, even though the joke wasn't that funny.
"I gotta go…I've taken so long picking up this paper, Deb will expect me to be in the next edition."
"I wasn't kidding that much… your FIL is a scary dude. Still looks at me as a bed-wetter. If business doesn't pick up, maybe I can take over for Kenneth."
"Don't even joke about that!"