• Wrong Guy

    by  • November 21, 2016 • Fiction • 8 Comments

    An essay by Jake “The Hammer” Hurley, as provided by Michael Rettig
    Art by Shannon Legler


    I sat in the back of the old wooden fishing boat, gripping the outboard motor handle with white knuckles. I’m a member of the most powerful gang in the country. My grandmother calls me a thug. But a thug that tonight was rising up in the ranks of my gang. I was nervous as hell in this stupid small boat in the dark heading to a small island in the middle of Mexico nowhere. My organization rose to the top by two things. Our ability to put hits on anyone and special weapons from the evil genius of Dr. Frombeck.

    Frombeck was a German professor involved in poison gas research during the Great War. He’d left Germany after the defeat and now lived alone in a big house on a small tropical island off the coast of Mexico. He charged a hefty price for his inventions, but they were worth it. His pocket brain disruptors had helped us gain control over the Tongs in San Francisco. His tasteless poisons had let us wipe out the Marcesi brothers in Cleveland.

    Two weeks ago, Frombeck had sent a coded message. He had a new brilliant discovery that would gain us more advantage.

    I slowed the boat and pulled it into the small wooden dock on the island. The guy who usually came to pick up new inventions had been riddled with machine gun bullets by the Capone mob last month. I tied up the boat, then with the leather bag full of cash in hand, followed the instructions to walk up a jungle trail until reaching the two-story stone house. Banging a big brass knocker in the shape of an imperial German eagle on the massive front door, I straightened my double-breasted suit and the tilt of my fedora. After a few minutes, bolts unlocked from inside.

    The door swung open. Backlit was the man himself. Tall, cadaverous, wearing an immaculately starched, ankle-length white lab coat with a black leather belt and holster cinched at the waist. In one hand was an odd looking pistol, pointed at me.

    “The password please.”

    “Long live the Kaiser!”

    “Where is the man who came before?”

    Cover for Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2016
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    “He got killed. I’m the new guy.”

    “You have the money?”

    I lifted up the bag.

    “Good.”

    “I’ve got tell you, Herr Doctor, the boys back home are sure looking forward to your next invention.”

    “Pshaw, those previous ones were nothing but children’s toys compared to what I have for you.”

    The old German gave off the scents of tropical mold, cigars, and rancid sauerkraut. I kept looking at the odd looking pistol.

    “Come, my good man, let me show you what you will have for your money.”

    Leading me through dark hallways, Frombeck finally unlocked the last door with a key. He opened the door with a flourish and ushered me inside. The professor switched on the lights. It was a laboratory. A generator running was background noise while a record player played classical music. There were dozens of small cages on racks around the room. It smelled like a dirty reptile house at a zoo. I sneezed. What a stink.

    Gott Im Himmel!

    Frombeck drew his odd looking pistol and shot dead a rat the light had sent scrabbling in the corner. I stared at the pistol. It had been virtually silent. Reaching down to pick up the ejected casing, I saw it was a standard .45 caliber cartridge. I smiled at the advantage my gang would have.

    “Sir, this is brilliant. Well worth the money.”

    Frombeck saw me staring at the pistol.

    “No, no, this is just a toy. You are not buying this, you simpleton. This is what you are buying.”

    He waved at the cages. I walked closer and peered inside the cages. In each was a little box turtle with two copper wires stuck in its head. All the wires led to a large wooden box with a typewriter keyboard.

    “I have discovered that the most intelligent creatures on Earth, kilo for kilo, are turtles. I talk to them. I take them for walks. I play recordings of Wagnerian operas to make them happy. I’m selling you a machine to talk with the gods.”

    Art for "Wrong Guy"

    “I have discovered that the most intelligent creatures on Earth, kilo for kilo, are turtles. I talk to them. I take them for walks. I play recordings of Wagnerian operas to make them happy. I’m selling you a machine to talk with the gods.”

    At that moment, I realized I was in a room with a genius who had gone completely off his rocker. Looney. Whacko. Crazy. Maybe it was from being alone too long. Maybe it was an effect from poison gas research during the Great War. But I knew I could not go back to Chicago with turtle cages.

    Unfortunately, Frombeck had made an error. It was one of those life quirks that statistically is almost impossible. For you see, I am indeed a thug. I’ve murdered, extorted, etc. I’d killed my violent drunken father as a teenager. In all my life, I had only one pleasant memory that could bring a tear to my eye. My bedraggled mother came home one day with a present. She’d paid 50 cents at Woolworths and bought me a pet.

    A little box turtle. It came in a small cardboard box with holes punched in the lid for air. I loved that turtle. I’d named him Binky. I’d killed my father because he’d come home drunk and threw the turtle against the wall. All those turtles with wires in their tiny heads made the tears flow down my scarred face.

    I calmly pulled out my very noisy Colt .45 from the holster and shot Frombeck right between the eyes. I then spent hours gently removing the wire electrodes from each turtle, dabbing iodine on the wounds, and setting them free in the surrounding jungle. Frombeck’s body wound up at the bottom of the ocean. A snack for the sharks.

    I steer the boat toward the mainland with the new silent pistol in my pocket. The gang will find the new silent gun design worthy of $50,000. The bag of money is going into my safety deposit box for a rainy day. Sitting on my lap, my hand gently rests on a small cardboard box with air holes poked in the lid.


    Jake “The Hammer” Hurley is a rising member of the South Side Gang. He and his compatriots have interests in breweries, gambling, and protection services. “The Hammer” specializes in the collection of debts for his organization. Capt. Benson of the twelfth police precinct stated that “Jake is a thug’s thug. A man who you’d best not cross. Unfortunately we can’t prove a thing. Witnesses disappear.”

    Jake spends evenings escorting Yolanda, an exotic dancer at the Orchid Club. He also anonymously contributes cash to building a new reptile building at the City Zoo.


    Michael Rettig is a left handed, red headed only child who sees shapes in clouds no one else does. Once when fired from a job, instead of getting drunk, he went alone to a room and read Orwell’s 1984 straight through. This is Mike’s second story for Mad Scientist Journal. His first story was “Chuck the Alien.” After an insanely stressful career as a stockbroker, Mike writes short stories. He’s won a couple of short fiction contests and been a writing contest director. His writing critique group, “The Word Herd,” meets frequently at the local Barnes and Noble.


    Shannon’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at http://shannonlegler.carbonmade.com/.


    “Wrong Guy” is © 2016 Michael Rettig
    Art accompanying story is © 2017 Shannon Legler

    8 Responses to Wrong Guy

    1. November 21, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      I thoroughly enjoyed the story. His images remind me of Faulkner and the wit reminds me of Robin Williams’ sense of humor. There is an unexpected emotional depth to the story.
      I am also impressed by the layers of role reversal that are intertwined in the story. The brilliant scientist discovers a way to communicate with turtles by connecting electrodes to their brains and sees this as the best invention he has ever created. The thug has an emotional connection to turtles in general after receiving one as a gift from his mother, now deceased which was his only emotional connection in life. The turtles are presumably free but end up costing the scientist his life as well as $50,000. The thug receives a priceless advantage in the silent weapon for free and the $50,000 as well as a turtle with whom he has an emotional connection once again.

    2. Don
      November 21, 2016 at 1:47 pm

      This in a weird way was very entertaining. Like to see more from hom.

    3. November 21, 2016 at 8:10 pm

      Nice tongue in cheek content. Nice noire attitude. I’d like to know more about those turtles. They make me uncomfortable. I thought it was a fun and interesting read!

    4. Denice Hughes Lewis
      November 21, 2016 at 11:26 pm

      Great title for this story. This is quite inventive because you do, but you don’t really know where the story is going until you arrive. Wonderful use of the sense of smell in “The old German gave off the scents of tropical mold, cigars, and rancid sauerkraut.” This is a quirky tale with a twist that’s unique and quite sweet that contrasts well with the protagonist.

    5. Barry Fujishin
      November 23, 2016 at 8:48 am

      Can’t help but like Jake. Great descriptors of him and Frombeck.

    6. warnerterrell@cableone.net
      November 24, 2016 at 3:13 pm

      I am very impressed specially if this is your first story. You have a talent for writing. Keep it up and be sure to let me know when you write your next short story.

      Warner

    7. Bill Cook
      December 2, 2016 at 5:45 am

      This piece was a blast, and being your first story, give it a rest. Damn good! I am envious of the descriptors, so delicious, I was walking within the story as it grew. Matt, I truly enjoyed your writing. Looking forward to more. I completely concur with Suzan take.

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