Wrong Guy

An essay by Jake “The Hammer” Hurley, as provided by Michael Rettig
Art by Leigh 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?”

“He got killed. I’m the new guy.”

“You have the money?”

I lifted up the bag.


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.”

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2016 collection.

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.

Leigh’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://leighlegler.carbonmade.com/.

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

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8 Responses to Wrong Guy

  1. Matt Joyce says:

    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 says:

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

  3. CC Rider of the Night says:

    ultra interesting: bags of cash; gangs; turtles!!

  4. Suzan Noyes says:

    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!

  5. Denice Hughes Lewis says:

    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.

  6. Barry Fujishin says:

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

  7. warnerterrell@cableone.net says:

    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.


  8. Bill Cook says:

    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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