Arthur arranged the candles on the white table cloth. Their flickering light caressed the patchwork of scars and callouses that ran like pink lace over the skin of his hands. They didn't stop at the cuffs of his waiter's jacket, either. They went up his arms and covered his torso, like the root system of a tree buried beneath the surface.
"Arthur, the guests have arrived and will be seated shortly."
Arthur nodded. He walked over to the cash register behind a silk screen. He pulled out a pistol with a long silencer, checked it, and tucked it back into its holster beneath his jacket.
Then he took his position near some chafing dishes. The flames comforted him. He hadn't been an explosives expert by a twist of fate. He hated subtlety. His father had been a hitman and had once taken Arthur out into the country and they spent the afternoon firing a tommy gun.
It was too subtle.
Why use lots of tiny explosions if one big explosion would do the job?
It sent a pretty clear message. The job was never about killing someone. It was about telling a narrative to those who survived. That narrative concluded with their deaths unless they took up the pen and wrote a new final chapter. Maybe they didn't pick up the phone when the DA called. Maybe they stopped occupying a certain warehouse. Arthur never cared - he didn't like to tell people who to do.
The target walked into the room, flanked by a pair of young women who could've passed for his daughters, except for his lecherous glances down their dresses. The trio was followed by all of the rest of the guests, a mixture of titans of business, law and all the rest of the class who publically denounced people like Arthur but who always had a scorched skeleton somewhere in the closet. In this city, Arthur had probably scorched it.
The target sat down at a table. Arthur never bothered to learn their names, only their faces. Sometimes he saw their faces dance in the flames, and then he'd throw more accelerant on the inferno to make the fires climb higher and push the faces into the sky. The spectacle was important.
Arthur began serving dinner after the guests had been seated. His palms sweated. Shooting a man in the head wasn't the way things should be done. His girlfriend had insisted that he get out of the explosives business. She wanted her child to have a father. Look at all of your scars, she said, what if you'd been a few feet closer?
I know how close I can get, Arthur said. He always liked to get as close as possible.
You knock it off, Arthur, or I'll find someone who won't come home blown up, she said.
So Arthur went to his clients, and his clients understood, and they gave him a gun and told him to go kill so-and-so.
Arthur went to the bar and grabbed a bottle with the highest ABV despite the bartender's protests. and seized big dish of spaghetti and carried it over to the target's table and set it down in front of him.
"What the hell is this?" the target asked, tearing his eyes away from the chestal abyss of one of his companions.
"A message," Arthur said. He slammed the neck of the bottle on the table in a practiced movement. Alcohol gushed out into decapitated bottle and onto the pasta.
He always had a pocketful of matches of every description. He pulled out a matchbook and lit all of them, and then tossed it into the spaghetti. The whole thing burst into flames. Arthur pulled out his gun and, standing on the other side of the flames like some devil reaching out from Hell, pointed his gun directly between the target's eyes.
"Did you get the message?" Arthur roared. He kicked the table over onto the target, spraying burning spaghetti everywhere.
Six months later, Arnold became a celebrity chef.
The Moral: when choosing a table to kick over, choose the one that will make the best mess