Quibbles and Bits

A Murder of Symmetry

Ronnie McGill received a note, mysteriously signed “Michael Schumacher”, which offered him a friendly warning. “Vinny Spadina is figuring to rub you out”. This, naturally, was worrisome. Ever since he had gotten into a loose partnership with Spadina and Elgin he had never felt entirely at ease about it. And now a retired Formula One driver, apparently, was making him feel twice as nervous.

Across town, Bryce Elgin also broke into a sweat. “Ronnie McGill is figuring to rub you out”, said the note. Who the hell is “Michael Schumacher”, anyway? He screwed the note into a ball and threw it across the room. McGill might be a prick, he reasoned, but he has no reason to want me out of the picture. Has he?

After spending an unsettled morning in a state of high anxiety, Vinny Spadina had given up trying to figure out who “Michael Schumacher” was, although the answer just seemed to be on the tip of his tongue. But if Bryce Elgin was “figuring to rub him out”, Vinny Spadina wasn’t planning to just lie back and let it happen. Sure, Elgin and McGill were neither of them the most trustworthy characters in the world, but between the three of them they had a good thing going. Elgin might be a prick, he thought, but Vinny Spadina would just have to show him that he could be a prick too.

So McGill was somewhat surprised when Spadina called him with a proposal. Spadina would pay McGill a hundred grand to kill Elgin. That was unexpected! If Spadina was figuring to rub McGill out, what on earth would possess him to pay a hundred big ones for McGill to take out Elgin? But a hundred grand is a hundred grand in anybody’s money, so Ronnie McGill was listening. “Sure”, he said, “but only if you pay me cash in advance”. It was agreed.

A hundred grand in crisp new notes was all well and good, but it still didn’t address the central issue that continued to bother Ronnie McGill. Killing Elgin would leave him and Spadina with 50% of the action each, instead of the status quo’s 33%. Which sounded rather appealing. But “Vinny Spadina is figuring to rub you out” was what the enigmatic Schumacher’s note had said. So was Vinny scheming to get him to do the dirty on Elgin, in order to distract him while he moved in after the fact and took over the whole enchilada? Somehow, that sounded more plausible.

Thus it was that Bryce Elgin also found himself surprised by an unexpected proposal. Ronnie McGill, it seemed, didn’t in fact want to rub him out after all. It was actually Vinny Spadina he wanted rubbing out – and he was willing to pay Elgin a hundred grand to do it for him. Cash in advance. And who wouldn’t want a hundred grand in cold cash? But it was just all too neat. Too convenient. And too preposterous by far. What was McGill up to?

It all seemed just too confusing to Vinny Spadina. Hadn’t he just paid Ronnie McGill a hundred grand to ice Bryce Elgin? So what the fuck was Bryce Elgin doing, offering him a hundred grand of his own to take out Ronnie McGill? Who’s supposed to be taking out who here? Still and all, a hundred grand is a hundred grand. Cash up front. Not to be sneezed at.

But Ronnie McGill’s head was beginning to spin too. He’d agreed to take Spadina’s money to bump off Elgin, but at the same time he’d ended up paying Elgin to bump off Spadina. He was going to have to play this one very carefully indeed. Keep a low profile if at all possible. But it’s not all that easy to bump someone off while you’re busy keeping a low profile. That’s a lot of plates to keep spinning at the same time.

It was, naturally, Bryce Elgin who figured it out first. If he was going to keep a low profile, then he would need to sub out the Spadina contract to someone else. Preferably someone who would be untroubled by the prospect of taking out a major player. Someone independent, with no ties to anybody involved. He settled on “The Pawnbroker”, so-called because he lived in an apartment that had once housed a pawnbroker’s shop. The Pawnbroker had a reputation. But the Pawnbroker wanted a fee of a hundred grand to kill Vinny Spadina. Cash up front.

Vinny, of course had come to a similar conclusion. He too would out-source the hit to a specialist. He knew exactly who he could rely on. He arranged a meeting with a respected operator who called himself Carmino Loco, and Carmino Loco had agreed to rub out Ronnie McGill, but it was gonna cost a hundred grand. Cash up front.

For his part, Ronnie McGill’s train of thought had pulled into the same station. He arranged to meet a hit man he knew by reputation, and a formidable reputation it was. “Mr. Smith” agreed to take the contract on Bryce Elgin for a hundred grand. Cash up front. Goddamn it – you couldn’t get a job done for less than a hundred grand these days! But McGill felt he had no choice.

Ronnie, Vinny, and Bryce were due to meet in their regular spot on Friday night. The meeting would take place where it usually did, on a park bench by the river. It was a quiet spot where they could be pretty sure they would not be disturbed, or their conversations overheard. It was also a place where more nefarious business could be undertaken should the need arise.

So Bryce called The Pawnbroker and gave him detailed instructions to rub out Spadina on Friday before he got to the meeting, and The Pawnbroker readily agreed. Only two people would arrive for that meeting, Bryce figured, and only one of them would leave. Vinny called Carmino Loco and gave him final instructions to rub out McGill on the way to the meeting. And Ronnie called Mr. Smith and gave him final instructions to rub out Elgin as he made his way to the meeting. Yes, only two people would arrive for the meeting, and only one of them would leave. That was beginning to emerge as a unanimous plan.

At exactly 9:00pm, Ronnie McGill left his huge condo overlooking the river on the southern edge of the City. For the first time in years he strapped on his shoulder holster and slipped his trusty Walther PPK – he was a big James Bond fan as a kid – into place, fully loaded and chambered. An elegant camel hair coat covered it nicely while still giving him plenty of room to draw and fire. He headed down to the riverside and started along the quiet, secluded path leading north to the meeting place.

Vinnie left his own huge condo, overlooking the river on the northern edge of the City at 9:00pm sharp. He wore heavy black leathers, better to blend into the darkness, and still with plenty of room to draw his snub-nosed Saturday Night Special, fully loaded of course, tucked casually into his waist band. He headed down to the riverside, lit a cigarette, looked around for one last time, and headed south along the quiet, secluded path to the meeting place.

Bryce Elgin lived in an elegant mansion in the West End of the City, overlooking the park, with the river flowing silently along the far side. He wore a heavy bomber jacket, and packed his favorite weapon, a Glock 43. He was going to have to dispose of it carefully after tonight. He put it in his pocket where he could just keep a grip on it. He didn’t want to be fumbling about to find it when the moment came. He headed out the front gate, made a long and careful study of the immediate vicinity, and, satisfied, headed into the park and along the leafy path that would lead to the meeting place. The time was 9:00pm.

Ronnie McGill had it all figured out. Mr. Smith was going to eliminate Bryce Elgin on his way to the meeting, so it would just be him and Vinny Spadina at the park bench. Ronnie wasn’t planning to waste a second. As soon as he was close enough he would pull his PPK and blow Spadina to kingdom come. He went through it in his mind, over and over again, as he walked along the path, focusing on the task at hand, concentrating on that, and only that.

Vinny Spadina also had a clear plan of action. Carmino Loco was going to ambush McGill on the path before he ever got close to the meeting place and dump his body in the river. So it would just be him and Bryce Elgin at the meeting. Actually, Vinny didn’t plan to have any damn meeting. As soon as Elgin got close enough he would empty his Saturday Night Special into him. He allowed his hand to grip the gun, and repeated over and over in his mind exactly what he was going to do.

Bryce Elgin hated doing his own dirty work. He thought these days were behind him. It made him think of Michael Corleone in The Godfather, and he allowed himself a brief smirk. But then he focused more on the plan ahead. The Pawnbroker was going to kill Vinny Spadina on the way to the meeting, so it would be just him and McGill. And he wasn’t planning to waste any time on small talk. He was going to shoot McGill between the eyes, and then turn right back round and go home.

Ronnie got to the clearing where the park bench sat. The usual spot for their rendezvous. He looked across the grass to the northern edge where he expected to see Spadina. And there he was. In his leathers. He headed for the bench.

Spadina was actually looking to his right, to the path through the park, from which Elgin would emerge. And yes, there he was. Wearing a bomber jacket. He headed for the bench.

Elgin was also looking to his right, towards where the path meandered up from the south. That’s where McGill would be arriving from. Yes, as expected, there he was, in his stupid camel hair coat. He headed for the bench.

But then McGill realized that Elgin had also arrived. That imbecile Mr. Smith had failed him! Likewise, Spadina noticed McGill walking towards the bench. Carmino Loco hadn’t killed him after all! At the same time Elgin also spotted Spadina, and realized that The Pawnbroker hadn’t fulfilled his contract. All three walked closer and closer to the bench. McGill, Spadina, and Elgin were all thinking the same thing: “Now what?”.

As he approached the bench, it struck McGill that this whole thing had started out with Michael Schumacher’s warning that Vinny Spadina was “figuring to rub you out”. And Elgin was beginning to focus on the warning that McGill was “figuring to rub you out”. Likewise, the fog in Spadina’s mind was beginning to clear around Schumacher’s warning that Elgin was “figuring to rub you out”.

McGill pulled his PPK and pointed it straight at Spadina’s head. Elgin pulled his Glock and pointed it straight at McGill’s head. Spadina pulled his Saturday Night Special and pointed it at Elgin’s head.

But although McGill had pulled a gun on Spadina, he was momentarily flummoxed to find that Spadina has pulled his own gun on Elgin. And while Elgin has drawn his weapon on McGill, he couldn’t make any sense of the fact that McGill had responded by drawing on Spadina. Spadina was equally at a loss to find himself aiming his gun at Elgin, while Elgin was apparently in the process of shooting McGill.

So all three were completely taken aback. For a millisecond, anyway. None of the three saw any immediate solution to the predicament that involved not shooting somebody. At least, not during that millisecond, which somehow seemed to draw itself out far longer than the actual reality of the situation. So all three fired. At the very same instant. And all three fell dead on the spot.

The police had a lot of fun trying to piece together what happened. The only thing that made any sense, according to the evidence at any rate, was that the three had somehow fired on each other at the exact same instant. But none of them believed that for a moment. So they focused all their efforts on developing various theories as to how somebody could have committed a triple murder and left no evidence whatsoever of any fourth party. No theory ever emerged that was not immediately shot down in flames.

Hugo Granville was pretty sure one never would. In fact Hugo Granville, a.k.a “The Pawnbroker”, a.k.a. “Mr. Smith”, a.k.a. “Carmino Loco”, was absolutely certain of it. Even though the detectives eventually found the three notes penned by “Michael Schumacher”, they could never come up with any plausible theories that might tie them into the case, and Hugo Granville knew there was no way to link them to him. After all, Michael Schumacher was nothing more than the first name he saw when he randomly opened the paper at the sports page that morning, looking for a name to sign the notes with. And of course, they would never find the three hundred thousand in cold cash, which was already safely in a bank in the Bahamas.