Ransom Note Press
Circle of Assassins

Ransom Note Press HomeAndrogynous Murder...Circle of AssassinsCop with the Pink PistolNever Kill a FriendNine Man's MurderThe Ocelot ChroniclesOutsmarting of CriminalsSplitTales from the Back PageWho Gets the Apartment?Writing on the WallSales and Order InfoSubmission Guidelines


ISBN  978-0-9773787-4-6  / 0-9773787-4-8

by Steven Rigolosi


U.S. $13.95 / Canada $21.95

"This unusual crime novel will

leave mystery buffs wanting more."

--Library Journal

Every day we are brutalized by those who hurt us, take advantage of us, steal what is ours, mistreat our loved ones, destroy our property, terrorize us psychologically, criticize and condemn us, or trample our self-respect. Enough is enough! It's time to turn the tables. Write to A care of Box 270. (For entertainment purposes only.)

Five desperate strangers answer an ad that promises to help them eliminate an unwanted person from their life. A criminal mastermind named “A” makes each of them a provocative offer: Murder a complete stranger chosen by a fellow assassin, and in return have a stranger murder your chosen target. How many will accept A’s offer to join the circle of assassins? Which of the killers will succeed in their plot? Who is A, and will he or she end up dead or alive?
            Circle of Assassins will keep you reading late into the night as it twists and turns to its final shocking conclusion.

From Chapter 1 of Circle of Assassins:
Black, Orange
To Whom It May Concern:
            Though I will never meet you, I want to thank you for your help.
            I will provide the necessary information below, but first I would like you to understand why I have been driven to these extreme measures.
            Have you ever worked hard, so impossibly hard, for something? Have you saved your money for decades, going without vacations, cars, and even meals so that you could purchase something that would last you a lifetime? And then, after you've worked and slaved, someone comes along to ruin everything?
            That is exactly what has happened to me, and I'm not going to put up with it any longer. I have worked too hard for too long, and I'm not going to sit by idly while one man destroys my life.
          For the first six decades of my life, I lived in a tenement building in the Bronx. In the old days, that part of the Bronx wasn't so bad. All the apartments were filled with immigrants whose youngest children were the first to be born in America. None of us had a lot of money (nobody did in the years after the Depression), but the building was always clean and safe. But over the decades, the neighborhood changed little by little. One day I woke up and I realized: I live in the ghetto. For the last two years before I left, I used to literally nail my apartment door shut each night. Everyone else who lived on my floor had been mugged or robbed in the previous twelve months, and I couldn't let that happen to me. 
     My father had died when I was quite young, and for a few years my mother made ends meet by working on the assembly line at a factory in Morris Park and doing part-time work as a maid. But she'd never been healthy, and when the factory increased her hours, she kept collapsing on the job. Her maid work lasted until I finished high school, but then her arthritis kicked in. She was bedridden within a year.
There were fewer choices back then. I had to go to work, and I started cleaning houses, too. Just after high school, I’d taken some shorthand classes, so I was able to find a decent full-time job as a secretary with an insurance company. The job paid enough for me and Mother to survive on. We didn’t live high, but we got by.
I got small raises every year, usually just enough to cover the rent increases. Maybe you can imagine my frustration at seeing the price of the apartment increasing as the neighborhood got worse. But there was nowhere else to go, and Mother's health was always declining....
I know precisely when the idea started to form…it was the evening of Mother’s 60th birthday. She innocently said something like, "Some day, I'm going to die in this apartment. It's both comforting and depressing." And I started crying so hard that I couldn’t catch my breath. Of course the thought of Mother dying upset me terribly. But I was also crying tears of self-pity, too, because I knew the same fate awaited me. That night I vowed I was not going to die in that apartment, too.
So I started saving my pennies. It's amazing how cheaply you can live if you’re willing to deprive yourself of everyday things that are nice to have but not necessary for survival. Mother still got everything she needed, of course, but I did without. After only a short while, it didn't feel like sacrifice. Staying home and watching TV all night costs no money, except for the electricity, and we were always careful to turn off all the lights while we watched the big black box.
Every once in a while, I'd get a sudden windfall, like a small bonus at work, and it would all go into my sock, or my doll, or my hollowed-out book, or the cookie jar, or the ice box, or behind my picture frame, or underneath my shabby area rug. And over the years, as my hair turned gray, my stash grew. 
Things did get a little easier in the years following Mother's passing. I missed her terribly, but life went on much as it had before. I kept saving and thought that in another five years or so I'd have the money I needed.
And then a miracle happened. Three months after Mother died, I was struck by a taxi cab while crossing West 230th Street, and my right leg was broken. It was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. The leg healed quickly (it was strong after all those years of climbing up and down the stairs to the apartment), but the man who’d hit me had been driving drunk. I got more money in the settlement than I'd ever seen in my life.
As soon as I could walk again, I started calling real estate agents. For years I'd been researching towns and neighborhoods, and I knew what I wanted. After sixty years in New York City, what I wanted more than anything was space, solitude, and quiet. Because you can’t have any of these things in the Bronx, or anywhere else in the City, I focused my search on the suburbs. Despite the money from the settlement, I certainly wasn’t wealthy enough to quit the secretarial job I’d held for forty years, so I needed a place that would allow me to commute into the City fairly easily. Fortunately, as I’d discovered, many towns in New Jersey, New York State, and Long Island have decent train and bus access to Manhattan.
In the third month of my quest, I found it: the sweetest little Cape Cod a person could ever hope for. It was summertime, and the yard was full of hollyhocks and sunflowers. Every one of the four bedrooms had at least two windows. There was a picture window in the kitchen, and even a window in the bathroom! The basement was pristine; so was the attic. I could walk to the bus stop and be at work in a little more than an hour.
I moved in three months to the day after seeing the house for the first time. The down payment took almost all my savings, and buying curtains, carpeting, and used furniture took the rest. 
The next few years were a dream. Through watching home improvement shows for so long and borrowing every home improvement book available at the Bloomfield, New Jersey public library, I learned how to make a house look pretty and new on a budget. Nothing like a fresh coat of paint with some faux finishes, which I learned how to do at a free class at the Y, to spruce a place up. Living in an apartment for so long, you learn how not to accumulate junk, so my basement, from the beginning, was clean and uncluttered. To have your own washing machine and your own dryer in your own basement! That alone was worth the price of the house.
My street, my neighborhood, and my town were everything I'd hoped for. The neighbors are friendly and watch out for one another, but we also keep a certain respectful distance. We have a mix of older, established families and younger people who are just starting out. In the summer, lawns are mowed promptly every Saturday morning, and in the winter, snow gets shoveled as it falls. Best of all, my house (yes, my house!) is on a dead-end street, so there's very little traffic and noise. The people who live here are good, honest, hard-working people whose homes are their only asset. So the quality of the neighborhood is important to all of us.
I've gotten used to the peace and tranquility of my wonderful, modest home. I expected that the joy would go on forever, until I was lying stone cold in the ground alongside Mother. I was wrong. It all changed six months ago when he moved into the neighborhood.
His elderly mother had been living on the block for more than fifty years when she died. None of us even knew she had a son—we’d never seen him before. A week after she passed away, a U-Haul pulled up and we watched as a slovenly, straggly-haired man of about forty took out a key and unlocked the front door of Nora's house.
The next night, trucks, motorcycles, and vans from three states descended on our quiet block and plunged us into misery. Profanity-filled music blasted from outdoor loudspeakers until the wee hours. We shut our windows and turned up the air conditioning, thinking it would all be over the next day. But it was just the beginning.
We know he sells drugs. Cars pull up in the middle of the night and leave a few minutes later. Four of the houses on the block have been robbed; two neighbors lost precious heirloom jewelry that had been in the family for generations.  The noise never stops, and the police can't, or won’t, do anything about it. As soon as they leave, the music starts up, louder than before.
And the very worst part: The children aren't safe, either. One of his "friends" was driving an SUV too fast and struck a three-year old boy who was playing kickball in front of his house. (The boy lived, thank God.) The pretty teenage girls have been leered at, gawked at, propositioned, threatened. They're afraid to leave their houses without their fathers, brothers, or boyfriends....