Post Classifieds

My Neighbor is a Hitman

By Emily Holleran
On March 1, 2019

“I saw Joseph come home last night covered in blood,” I said. My father looked at me over the rim of his coffee mug and gave me his most indifferent stare.

“Didn’t know you were on a first-name basis with Mr. Lin,” he replied unenthusiastically. It was a Saturday morning, and I could tell he woke up early to cook me breakfast since I only get to see him on the weekends. I could tell he struggled to make anything besides black coffee. The bacon was burnt, the pancakes leaked batter, but the eggs were surprisingly salvageable—too bad I hated eggs my whole life.

“Dad, I’m serious. I was watching through my bedroom window the whole time. He had to limp across his lawn, I bet there’s still blood on his driveway,” I pointed a piece of blackened bacon at him.

“Eat your breakfast, Andrew,” he said.  He downed the rest of his coffee in a hearty gulp, and then stood up. “After you’re finished, we can go to the movies, if that’s still something you want to do.”

“How can you just ignore me? Do you understand how you live in an apartment directly across from a man who is hired to kill people?”

He sighed and gave me a look that made me feel like an eleven-year-old—I turned twelve this past March and it was honestly insulting. “Why would a hitman live in the Stoney Brook Apartment Complex, when he should be living in a penthouse suite where he can snipe all his targets from his hotel’s roof?”

“He’s blending in, Dad! That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Remember that one guy that kept bothering Mr. Strovinsky?” I asked.

“I thought I told you to stay away from him,” my father raised an accusatory eyebrow. He rinsed his mug in the sink without using dish soap and put it back in the cupboard. My mother wouldn’t stand for things like that, everything had to be clean. I felt like I could understand my Mom’s constant disgust towards my Dad when he did stuff like that.

“I did stay away from him, but I could still hear the thing’s he said while I rode my bike. He was asking Mr. Strovinsky for money, and I think Mr. Strovinsky didn’t have it,” I said. “Then, I saw Joseph watching them talk, and later, I saw Joseph talking to Mr. Strovinsky when the creepy guy left.”

“What’s with all this spying Andrew?” My father asked.

“I’m not finished, Dad. That night I saw the creepy guy in the suit pull up in front of Mr. Strovinsky’s house with three other guys, and they went into the house, but only Joseph came out.” I slammed my fork onto the table, “And the next morning Joseph helped Mr. Strovinsky with—guess how many trash bags Dad?” I could barely pause for breath in my excitement.

“How much?” My dad asked mockingly.

“Four trash bags! That equals the number of guys that went into the house and never came out! The creepy guy hasn’t been back either,” I said.

“I guess, Mr. Strovinsky found his money then,” my dad said. 

I stared at my dad with a look of annoyance, that my mom gave him whenever he would do anything. “Is that all you have to say? Do you not see how suspicious that is? Every night Joseph comes home injured, I can see him when his front lights turn on.”

“Well, did you know Mr. Lin teaches karate at the dojo downtown? I guess you wouldn’t know that since you seem to be a fan of making assumptions without getting to know the person. I’m sure he’s sore after teaching all afternoon,” my father said.

“What kind of bad karate teacher gets that beat up? Also, isn’t karate meant to defend yourself from getting injured?”

“Andrew!” My father scooped my plate up. “I’ve had enough of your attitude this morning. After I woke up at the crack of dawn to make you breakfast too.”

“It wasn’t a good breakfast and you’re a crappy dad for not listening to me!” I yelled. I got out of my chair to avoid looking at my dad’s stunned face. The words had already poured out of my mouth and I wasn’t waiting around to see what method my dad would decide on to punish me, though my mom was always the disciplinarian. I tugged on my sneakers and didn’t look back to see if my dad moved.


“My mom’s going to kill me,” I groaned. My dad would no doubt tell her about my outburst, and as much as she reveled in his shortcomings, she also hated rudeness more than me wanting to grow my hair out.

I hit the brakes on my bike and left a long streak of tar. My record was twelve-feet, but that was also after flying down a hill at my mom’s house. You just can’t get a good streak without risking your life.

At my mom’s house there were other kids living around the neighborhood, but at my dad’s apartment community there were only old retired people, or single adults, like Joseph. It felt weird calling him Mr. Lin because he didn’t look old, in fact, I didn’t know how old he was.

When I left my house, Joseph was watering his little patch of mysterious plants that I was almost convinced were some sort of poisonous flowers. He watched me angrily drag my bike to the street, and trip over my untied shoelace. I met his eyes and he gave a cheery wave that I was not in the mood to return. I would feel bad if he weren’t a murderer.

 A group of people emerged from a dirt road in between two of the buildings directly in the path of my tar streak competition with myself. They were a group of five teenagers, and they all smelled like skunk. I was hoping they’d ignore the red-headed kid with crisp jeans and a striped polo his mom insisted he packed for going out in public, but I was not so fortunate.

“Hey, look a little ginger kid,” a girl with a beanie pointed at me. She was dressed warmly, for it being a steamy eighty-seven degrees. That was in stark contrast to another girl next to her who wore a spaghetti strap tank top.

“What up ginger!” A boy dressed in all black called out to me. They started walking towards me, and I felt myself panic. I could’ve pedaled away, but some part of me wanted to seem cool.

“Hi,” I grunted in my deepest voice.

“What’s up, dude? What’s your name?” Beanie Girl asked. She shoved her hands in her pockets. She pressed her tongue to the gap in between her two front teeth, and it reminded me of the garden snake my dad once pointed out was slithering around the bushes outside his apartment

“M-my name’s Andrew,” I answered.

“You’re so cute!” Tank-top squealed even though I hadn’t done anything that I thought was cute. “How old are you?”

“Thirteen,” I lied.

“Oh, I remember when I was thirteen. It’s rough,” Black Clothes said. He was squinting his eyes even though we were in the shade.

“Hey, Andrew, you ever smoked?” A boy with wet-looking hair asked. I knew what cigarettes were, and I knew I shouldn’t be anywhere near it if I didn’t want to be grounded for life, but I wasn’t sure what answer to give.

“I mean, yeah, I’ve heard of it, but I never smoked,” I said.

“Here, hit this butt then, it’s really fun,” he said. He offered me a small white and orange stick that was the source of the gross scent. His friends giggled around him, the boy in black could barely contain himself.

“No, Noah, don’t make him give in to peer pressure. You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” Tank-top smiled. It wasn’t a warm smile.

“No thanks, I actually have to go home,” I said. I tightened my grip on my bike’s handlebars, but the last boy who had been watching me as if in a daze decided to move. He put his meaty hand on top on mine and held tightly to the handlebar. If he wanted to, I’m sure he could’ve thrown my entire bike, with me on it, with that one beefy hand.

“Don’t freak out buddy, just one hit and then you can go. You have to try it before you go into high school, so you know what it’s like,” Meaty Hand reasoned, or rather, threatened.

Many thoughts rushed through my mind, and for a moment I felt this massive boy had a good point, but I also didn’t care. I jerked the handle-bar, but it wouldn’t budge from underneath his palm, so I hopped off my seat.

“No thanks, sorry,” I said. I was fully committed to abandoning my bike, I’m sure my dad would buy me a new one if he knew that reasoning for me leaving it behind. If he even believed me. I felt proud of myself for just a moment before a hand yanked on my shirt and tugged me back.

“Stop! Let me go!” I yelled. Meaty Hand had me in a head-lock on the ground, while Wet Hair held the cig close to my face. I kicked my legs, but he kneeled on them with all his high schooler weight.

“Okay guys, this is excessive. He doesn’t have to do it if he doesn’t want to,” Beanie Girl said.

“It’s not even a big deal Becca, we’re just going to help him out a little,” Noah said. He grabbed my chin to stop my head from thrashing, and I almost accepted the decision to just get it over with. He was right, it wasn’t a big deal, and once I did it, they would probably leave me alone.

I accepted my fate and closed my watering eyes. I didn’t want to cry.

“What the hell?”

Meaty Hand’s hold on me loosened, and Noah was looking down on the ground. The cigarette was lying on the gravel smeared in bright, neon, pink paint.

“What is that?” Tank-top asked.

Noah went to reach for it, but then his hand got shot.

“Shit!” He grabbed his hand and sprang up, looking frantically in every direction.

At this point, everyone was looking around in confusion as they got picked off one by one. Meaty Hand got showered with paint until he fully released his grip on me. The boy with black clothes was now a rainbow of neon colors. Becca finally removed her hands from her pockets and took off running. Their outfits were dotted in paint, their bare skin red from the welts that had begun to already form. I was the only one left unmarked.

I sat on the ground for a few minutes to process what had just happened. After I decided the paintball perpetrator had moved on, I grabbed my bike again and sped home faster than I ever had before, running over the now paint covered cig on the ground.           


The next morning, I decided to wake up early and make breakfast for my dad. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it was more edible than anything I could’ve eaten yesterday. I didn’t know if my dad was more surprised that I woke up earlier than him, or that Eggo waffles could be so delicious. I had decided to keep the previous day’s events a secret, only because we had apologized to each other and I wasn’t ready to reignite the argument with another story. It was for the best.

As my dad collected the dishes to be washed there was a knock on his apartment door, that was polite and unobtrusive. We almost weren’t even sure if someone knocked, but my dad decided to check anyways.

“Mr. Lin! How are you?” I heard my dad from down the hall. I peered around the corner, a mixture of curiosity and confusion. “Andrew, come say ‘hi’ to Mr. Lin.”

“Hi,” I said.

“Andrew, don’t be rude; come here. Sorry, he’s a shy kid.”

“No, I’m not,” I said sternly.

Joseph laughed. He held a black duffel bag by his side, and my heart immediately started to pump in my chest. Here we go, I thought. This is it, I know too much and now he’s come to get rid of the evidence.

“I came by to maybe give Andrew a little gift, if he wants it. For a few years now, I used to play paintball with a few of my buddies after work, but it’s been taking a toll on me these days and I’ve been thinking about retiring. I was wondering if Andrew was interested in some of my old paintball equipment,” Joseph smiled.

My dad laughed and looked back at me. “Would you look at that Andrew, paintball. That must really leave your body battered.”

“You have no idea, Mr. Burke. I’m not the young guy I used to be,” Mr. Lin shook his head.

“Don’t I know it! Unfortunately, I’ll have to decline on behalf of Andrew and Andrew’s mother who wouldn’t appreciate her son covered in paint. I thank you for the generous offer though, Mr. Lin. Andrew, how about thanking Mr. Lin?”

My mouth just hung wide open.

“Sorry, about him. He’s at that age, you know, when kids think they know everything,” my dad said.

“Hey, you never know. Sometimes they do,” Joseph smiled.

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