From somewhere across the plaza in the revitalized small-town downtown, the sounds of a soft piano wafted into the air. Alex shifted uncomfortably, without realizing the piano brought unwelcome anxiety as it reached him. He nervously took a large sip of his bitter coffee, burning his throat a little. He relished the distraction of the pain. Across from him at the nearest table, a couple sat quietly in the fading afternoon light. Neither had spoken for the last twenty minutes. He knew they were both wrestling with ending their marriage, though for different reasons.
Alex felt their pain. It gave him no comfort to know that he would end their stagnant conversation for them: the husband wouldn’t leave this place alive. Seventy thousand dollars in Alex’s bank account guaranteed that Steve wouldn’t walk away. Though he didn’t know the details, he studied Steve’s life just enough to understand that he had crossed the line with a business partner. His wife Kathy was blameless.
Alex and the couple were the last three people in the plaza. The approaching chill encouraged the others to leave. The restaurant attendant tasked with keeping the shared area clean moved to clear the remainder of the tables. Alex indicated that he could take his coffee cup and saucer, as well as the $10 bill for the tip.
Just as Alex prepared to stand up and do what he came for, Steve looked across the small table and said, “I love you, Kathy. I’m not having an affair. My partner Mark is embezzling. He’s ruined us.” Kathy unexpectedly reached across the table and grabbed her husband’s hand. “I’m so sorry! I love you.”
Alex rarely saw anything to surprise him. They still loved each other.
Alex stood up, stretched slightly, and walked over to the couple’s table. “Have a good evening, both of you. And great lives,” Alex said to them. They look at either confusedly, and then both said, “You too!” reflexively.
Alex walked across the plaza to find his car. His plans had changed. He would kill Mark, the partner.
He hoped Kathy and Steve would consider it a belated wedding present from an interested bystander.