Marge Whitestone was in the market for a hit man.  Having grown tired of her husband and his
mundane ways, she was ready to have him erased from her life so she could begin anew and gain the
freedom she felt she deserved.

When Margaret O’Donnally met Arthur Whitestone, they seemed to be the perfect match for one
another.  Both were ambitious, energetic young people with minds full of ideas for changing the world.  
Time and the demands of life had caused a transformation in their happy union.   While Marge had kept
herself in reasonable shape, and continually challenged herself to keep her mind sharp, she felt that
Arthur had become a flabby, spineless bore. His income was sufficient, yet Marge wanted more. She
longed for the good life, with a man who challenged her intellect. Arthur’s predictability made her skin
crawl and grated on her nerves until she wanted to scream and shake him into waking up. She had
married him in part because his ideas at the time seemed radical. Now, he was as dull as a doorknob.

Divorce was not an option; she would never get enough money from Arthur to avoid working full-time.
She enjoyed her part-time hours as a receptionist in a doctor’s office and had no desire to grind out a
forty-hour week. She knew that Arthur had insisted on taking out a very large insurance policy years
ago that would no doubt keep her quite comfortable, but only if the job was done right.  Fortunately
they had never wanted children, so that was one complication out of the way.

Finding a hit man would not be so easy Marge realized, as the idea began to solidify in her head. Still,
she loved a challenge and this was indeed at the top of the charts. She had some money she could
use, left to her by an aunt who had died the previous year. It wasn’t a ton of money but hopefully it
would be enough to cover a “hit”.

A plan presented itself to her rather shyly one Sunday, as she sat in her den staring at the rows of
books that had accumulated over the years. There were travel books for places they had never been,
gardening books for the gardens they had never grown, along with various bestsellers from Marge’s
book club selections.  No book on “How to Locate and Hire the Perfect Hit Man”, nor anything that came
close. Her eyes went from the books to the paintings over the fireplace and eventually landed on the
computer in the corner of the room.

She had purchased the computer soon after beginning work at the doctor’s office, so she could try to
keep up with the technological age. She learned to surf the Internet, download articles, and send e-
mail, but after the novelty wore off she used it less and less.

Now, as she sat on the sofa, a fuzzy idea began forming in the back of her brain.

She got up and went over and flicked on the power button. After the icons were all set up and ready
for action, she logged onto her Internet connection.

Her home page appeared and she went to the search request. Everyone she knew “Googled” and now,
so did she. Her only question was what should she use for the search words?

The first obvious choice was “hit man”. She typed it in and saw the screen fill up with web site names,
but soon found they had nothing to do with what she was hunting for.   Perhaps “hit man” was a bit
too obvious; she should use something more abstract. She typed in “snuff out” for her next search.  
Up came a whole host of sites, page after page in fact, but none of them dealing with the “snuffing out”
that she needed.  

She tried a variety of words: “whacking”, “elimination”, “wipe out”, “lights out”,  “terminator”, all with
nothing that seemed like an actual hit man connection.  This was just plain stupid, she thought to
herself.  No one’s going to advertise himself as a hit man on the Internet.

Her finger was poised on the mouse, at the ready to click out of everything and give up on the whole
idea.  However, the drive to keep going was strong, and Marge found herself typing in still another
search word, and then another and another.  She went through “killer” (way, way too direct…),
“mobsters”, “knockouts”, and then tried some more obscure words such as “ do away”, “kick buckets”,
“rolling heads”, “hit and runs”—everything that popped into her head she typed and scanned the
results, getting, if nothing else, a chuckle at her own cleverness.  This went on for approximately two
hours, when—at last— bells and whistles!  There it was!  Or at least it appeared so.  It could be what
she was hunting for.  A few words were her only clue, but it certainly had the potential.  Right now it
was simply some brief sentences on a page, appearing after she had tried yet another word
combination that had popped into her head: “trouble shooter.”

Sandwiched between text that seemed irrelevant, the words drew her in like a magnet: “Do you have
something that needs to be eliminated from your life? Contact the Trouble Shooter. You know what we
mean.”

And Marge thought she did know what they meant.  Could it be?  She had to know for sure, and
clicking on the address she waited to see what would appear.

What finally appeared was a solid black background with a few words in white lettering stating:  “You
have come to the right place if you are looking for permanent elimination of your trouble.  We get rid of
all types of problems. The Trouble Shooter guarantees delivery.  All regions covered, contacts
confidential. Cost determined by method of elimination.” And then a place to click for an e-mail contact,
with a note explaining what to include in the e-mail request.  That was it.

Marge’s heart was racing; something inside told her this was exactly what she thought it was.  The
next step would be to click on the e-mail address and send some kind of message with her request.  
But it couldn’t be that simple.

Or maybe it could be, and there was only one way to find out.  Her heart was pounding and she
stopped to breathe in deeply.  Pushing forward was one thing, but let’s not be stupid, she thought.  If
she was sending an e-mail to someone who potentially held this lethal power, she had to make sure
she stayed as confidential as possible.

Fortunately, Marge had been nervous from the start about using e-mail, and had signed up using a
nickname. Her user name came up as Magalie, a name her father had always used.  Even Arthur didn’t
know about that name, which made it all the more exciting.

The directions on the web page were fairly simple. One desiring the offered service was to send a brief
description of the request, in an abbreviated, coded form such as “go away ex-lover” or “be gone
woman of the house”, making sure no names were mentioned, and entering a state, but no specific
city, with a time frame desired and planned method of payment.  A reply would come within forty-eight
hours with further instructions.  

That in itself seemed harmless.  No real information was being exchanged.  It wasn’t as if Arthur would
be shot dead the next day, or be blown up in his car, or have a knife jabbed into his heart.  Plunging
ahead before she had a chance to change her mind, she clicked on the e-mail address and when the
message line appeared typed in the required data, listing the state as New Jersey, which already felt like
she was giving away too much info, but was hopefully vague enough to keep her safe.  

The final step, of course, was to click on “send”, which would thrust her message into cyberspace and
land on the computer screen of someone whose acts could very well alter the course of her future
forever.  It was not too late to change her mind.  

She clicked down hard and let out a deep breath.  Now all that remained was the forty-eight hour wait.  
She glanced at her watch and realized she had only a short time to shower and change for dinner.  
They were going out with another couple, people they had known for years. She shut down the
computer and just as the final screen blinked off, she heard the front door open as Arthur returned
home from a day of golf.  Perfect timing, she thought to herself, hoping the rest of the plan went as
smoothly.

The dinner out was a welcome distraction for Marge. She enjoyed the other couple’s sense of humor
and needed some comic relief from the stress she was feeling inside.  It also gave her an opportunity to
spend time with Arthur.  She was, after all, only a few more e-mails away from having him killed; she
wanted to be absolutely certain about her decision to have him “snuffed out” (all that searching had left
words in her head that just wouldn’t seem to go away).  Was he really so bad?  Wasn’t there perhaps
some spark left that made the marriage worth working at, at least on some tolerable level?  Marge
pondered these things as she watched her husband throughout the evening.  She observed his
mannerisms, listened to his conversation, watched him eat and drink, and tried to envision the rest of
her life with him.

That was the clincher.  She could not spend the rest of her life with who Arthur had become.  She
watched and listened as he sat and agreed with every opinion Harvey and Joyce voiced, on subjects she
knew for a fact he was adamantly opposed to.  He just didn’t care anymore, and that’s what irked her
no end!  She had married a man with a definite mind, and he had become as boneless as an eel.  Her
mind was made up, her resolve strengthened.  The Trouble Shooter would be her ticket to freedom.

The next day was Monday, which was a full day at work for Marge. She needed the distraction from the
mental overload in her head. Arthur left for work extra early that morning, saying he had mountains of
paperwork to tend to.  That was fine for Marge; the less she saw of him the easier it was to imagine a
life without him at all.  It was not an easy task, this eliminating stuff.  They had, after all, shared some
good times in the distant past, and memories of those times crept in here and there, causing a bit of
remorse for what she was planning to do.  However, those feelings quickly dissipated when she
brought to mind his present condition and his total lack of character, not to mention the lifeless state
of their marriage.  No, this was not a time to wallow in regrets, it was a time to face reality and take
charge of her own future happiness, a time to be strong, to prove the strength of her own backbone.

The workday dragged on and finally came to an end.  Marge drove straight home, playing with the idea
of turning the computer on before Arthur returned, just in case the Trouble Shooter was ahead of
schedule.  But when she got there, Arthur was already in his chair in front of the TV.  He mumbled
something about not feeling well, which she gathered was why he had arrived earlier than usual.  It was
just as well.  She would wait out the forty-eight hours and do things calmly.

Arthur went to sleep right after supper, complaining of a headache and upset stomach.  The lack of
company was just fine with Marge. Hopefully, she would receive her reply the next day; anxiety was
wreaking havoc on her digestive system.

Seeing Arthur’s large lump of a body still under the covers as she woke the next morning brought a
wave of irritation to Marge’s already frayed nerves.  That would mean he was staying home from work
and would be around later when she needed to get on the computer in private. Well, it was just one
more hurdle to overcome, and she would overcome it. She left for work with renewed determination to
succeed.    

Around mid-morning, calmer after immersing herself in the routines of her job, she turned her
thoughts to a plan to sneak onto the computer, should Arthur be hanging around when she returned
home.  Whether out of curiosity or just plain boredom, her husband had a bad habit of hanging over
her shoulder when he happened to be around and she was on the computer. In this situation that
would definitely not be acceptable.

Since her workday ended at noon, she decided instead of racing home she would first make a stop for
groceries.  It was part of her normal schedule so why upset that now?  Besides, it would give Mr.
Trouble Shooter more time to respond, in case he hadn’t already.  No doubt it wasn’t as big of a deal
for him as it was for Marge; he was probably not counting the minutes and calculating every move he
made, like she was.  No, he was most likely some rich power-hungry egomaniac who gave little thought
to his job, other than how much his next hit would bring. Marge tried to form a picture of this person
in her mind on her way to the store.  She assumed it was a man (although in this day and age one
never knew), and she pictured him very muscular, tan, with black hair and very handsome.  Hmm..
perhaps too many movies and mystery novels were tainting her vision, but it was a nice picture to ride
around with anyway.

Returning home, she shoved the grocery bags through the door, keeping an eye out for Arthur’s large
form.  He was not in front of the TV, which would have been the most likely place, and not in the
kitchen or the den either.  Quietly she crept up the steps and took a peek into the bedroom, where she
was happily presented with a view of Arthur’s chest rising and falling under the covers, a mild snore
slightly audible. Bingo!  She had a small window of opportunity and she was taking no chances.
Leaving the groceries where they were, she went into the den and booted up the computer.  Ever the
practical type, she ran and put away the frozen items while it did its thing. Then she scrambled back
into the den and logged on to her e-mail, anticipation mounting as she waited for the messages to
finally appear.

And there it was. 1 new message.  From: The Trouble Shooter.

It was simple.  “Message received.  Indicate largest city in your vicinity for arrangement of meeting.  
Reply back will contain time and place. One chance only. If you do not show, all communication will
cease. Reply will come in twenty-four hours.”

Yikes!   This was serious.  But she was too far into this in her mind to quit now.  Keeping one ear out
for Arthur’s heavy footsteps, she quickly typed her one word reply—Newark—punching the send
button before she could change her mind. After all, there was one final out. If she never showed up at
the “arrangement of meeting” the whole thing would be over.  But she was determined not to turn
back.

That done, she shut down the computer and began putting the rest of the groceries away, her
stomach a ball of nerves, with a dose of excitement mixed in.  This could really happen for her!  She
could meet the Trouble Shooter, sign the papers or whatever, and soon enough be a poor widow, with
no one having reason to suspect she had been behind her husband’s death.  The insurance money
would be hers and she could begin a fresh new start, beginning with a move out of this town.

That evening was pretty much of a blur for Marge, her mind frazzled from the high intensity of what
was unfolding. It felt almost electric, emotions so charged that she had to constantly watch herself not
to behave too erratically. Not that Arthur would have noticed. He did finally make his way down the
steps to eat dinner and watch his favorite show, but then he told Marge he was going back to bed
because there was no way he could stay home sick again the next day.  Well, thank heavens for that;
at least he was out of her hair so she didn’t have to watch herself so closely.  At least when she was
alone she could breathe a bit easier and not worry about saying or doing something that would blow
everything.

Her sleep was erratic and restless when she finally did crawl into bed.  Too many voices haunted her,
screaming at her throughout the night. She woke at various times in a panic, picturing herself going to
the electric chair, or sitting in prison for the rest of her days.  But then she would focus on what she
considered reality and the chances of someone ever finding her out seemed slim.
The next morning she heard the pleasant sounds of Arthur in the shower, which meant he was
planning on going to work and would be out of her way later.  Yes!  She let her mind wander a bit,
imagining Mr. Trouble Shooter (or Ms., there was still that possibility) receiving her e-mail and
conferring with his cohorts as to the best meeting place in Newark, then sitting down to send her a
reply.  An almost done deal.

Her mind still elsewhere, she methodically dressed, combed her hair, and stroked on some blush, then
went to the kitchen to start coffee and make some toast for herself.  She had long ago stopped
preparing anything for her husband in the morning; their days generally began with a silent ritual of
shuffling through the kitchen together, each in their own world of thought.

The coffee started making its pleasant gurgling noise, the familiar aroma giving Marge a bit of comfort
and calming her jangled nerves. She waited by the toaster in hopes of preventing the usual burnt
pieces, peering down at the red hot coils and finally pulling the lever to pop them up.  Moving around
the kitchen, most of her concentration was on keeping any last minute doubts at bay.  She reached for
a plate from the dish rack and tossed her toast on it, then went to fetch some butter.

On her way to the refrigerator something registered in her brain. She had seen it out of the corner of
her eye and blocked it out, at the window—

Was it really?  She turned and walked back over to the sink and cautiously let her eyes glance toward
the driveway. Yes, there it was. A police cruiser parked on the side of the road by the mailbox.  Just
now the doors were opening and two men were getting out, their heads down and their eyes away
from the house but any minute ready to look up and see her in the window.

She was frozen with panic.  How could this be happening already?  Was her computer bugged?  Did
Arthur know and turn her in?  But how could he know? Maybe she had talked in her sleep, or one of
those nights when she was so out of sorts she had babbled something, or maybe he just knew.  This
could not be happening!  She was so close!  But she hadn’t actually done anything wrong yet.  Not
completely, anyway; she hadn’t paid anyone money, and from everything she thought she remembered
that was the only time a conviction could be made.

Her first instincts told her to run and hide, but after a moment that idea seemed foolish; where would
she go, down into the basement? Out the back door? And then what?  How would she defend her
innocence after just having scooted out the back door even before the police questioned her?  No, she
would stay here and calmly answer the door, as composed as she could possibly will herself to be.
She saw the men coming up the driveway now, one thin, with a worn, ragged look, while the other
appeared to be quite young. Both had serious faces, almost somber, very much meaning business.
Marge braced herself.  She took a few deep breaths, tried to stop the shaking in her legs, but that was
hopeless. She could hear Arthur scrambling about upstairs and wished he had been sick after all and
was sound asleep for this.

She stood there in front of the door, waiting for the bell to ring, waiting for the inevitable.
Even still, knowing it was coming, she gave a little jump when it finally rang.  She went over and
clutched the doorknob, yanking the door open. Trying her best to look surprised she said, “Yes? Can I
help you with something?”  

The ragged officer held up a badge. “Mrs. Whitestone?” Then, not waiting for a reply, he asked, “May
we come in?”

“Yes, I am.  Marge Whitestone.”  She had succeeded in saying her name without sputtering or fainting
and she felt a tiny bit of relief in that. She let the two men in, her heart jumping here and there in her
chest.

She waited for her rights to be read, or the cuffs to come out, or a gun even.  They might have been
warned that she could be “armed and dangerous.” But that was not the next move. The next move
was the ragged officer speaking again.

Mrs. Whitestone, we need to speak to your husband.  Is he at home?”

“Arthur?  You want to speak to Arthur? Why, he—”

At that moment, as if on cue, Arthur appeared in the doorway of the kitchen, his hair still wet, his
clothes thrown on haphazardly.  He showed no signs of surprise.

This was it.  Marge looked at her husband and tried to read what he must be thinking and feeling right
then but his eyes looked blank and cold, giving her no clue. Why in the world had she trusted the
Internet, when she had never even placed a book order online for fear her privacy would be tampered
with?  What stupidity, what utter mindlessness! She should have thought this through much better;
something so serious as murder shouldn’t be handled through a machine!  She kicked herself inside
and realized it was too late now; her days were over, she had been caught. Her mind floated off into
thoughts of prison, a cold cell, lonely days of emptiness—

“Arthur Whitestone, we are placing you under arrest for the crime of embezzlement. You have the right
to remain silent…”

Arthur Whitestone?  Could she have heard that right?  Yes, there they were, rattling off the Miranda
speech, straight out of Dragnet, and they were talking to Arthur!

She turned sharply and looked with amazement at her husband. Her thought processes were
scrambling to comprehend what was happening; she still thought somehow that this was about her.  
But no, the police were definitely looking at and speaking to Arthur. His head was bowed down and he
looked as deflated and guilty as any criminal she had ever seen photos of.  Her Arthur was a criminal!  
An embezzler!  According to what the police were now saying, he had swindled his company out of
thousands of dollars.  Hundreds of thousands, even. All she could do was stare at him, speechless.

Then, it was time for him to go. He managed to lift his eyes high enough to connect with hers, and
mumbled out an apology.

“I did it for us, babe, you and me. So we could retire in style, so you’d have all those things you always
wanted.  I hope you can believe that.”  With that he was escorted out the door, Marge watching in awe
as her felonious husband was carted off, on his way to that lonely cell, for what would probably be a
long, long time.

And she had to smile.  “Way to go!” she wanted to shout out, but thankfully restrained herself.  As
she watched the car speed away from the curb, her husband’s head bobbing up and down in the back
seat, she really had to smile, and thought to herself, now that’s the man I married…
WHACKING ARTHUR

by Carol Michaels