Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters”
“I’ve been meaning to get that squeaky door fixed,” said Rocky. I hushed him, not wanting to give our visitor any clue as to our location. His ignorance was our only advantage.
I could hear footsteps, but they weren’t coming our way. It sounded like someone was opening desk drawers in the reception area. I had to sneak a peek. This wasn’t making any sense. I opened the office door just enough to get a look.
“Oh, for God’s sake. Hailey, I thought I told you to go home or anyplace away from here.”
“Oh, hello again, Mister. I heard you, but I forgot my lunch bag. I fixed a tuna sandwich and I didn’t want to leave it here over night. It would be stinking by tomorrow morning. I’ll just get it and be on my merry way.”
I poked my head back into the office to tell Rocky what was going on. With my head through the door focusing on Rocky I heard the door squeak again. I turned around not wanting to be standing there with my back to the door I saw that Hailey and I had company.
“Well, fancy meeting you here Mr. Barry Livingston, Private Detective.” It was the little jockey who shared the headroom with Nate Williams in the attic flat on Wilson Street. This place was getting crowded.
What brings you here,” I asked him. There were too many people and too many surprises happening all at once. I had counted on it just being Rocky, me, and Nate Williams. Now, all of a sudden, it was turning into a crowd with too many guns. I wasn’t sure if the jockey had his pistol on him, but I wouldn’t bet against it.
With all of the voices coming from the waiting area Rocky couldn’t resist coming out to join the party. The look on his face told me that he already knew the jockey.
“Good afternoon, Rendell. Nate asked me to come down here and talk to you. He seems to think you’re setting up an ambush or something.”
The jockey was laying it out correctly. That’s what it was – an ambush. He went on.
“And aside from the cutie pie here,” he said waving his stubby fingers and winking at Hailey. “I know the rest of you and wouldn’t trust you as far as I could drag your dead bodies. So, what’s going on here? I’m supposed to find out and call Nate and let me tell you – he ain’t happy.”
He looked at Rocky, who looked at me, and I looked back at the jockey who by now was looking at Hailey and making gross little kissing noises. Hailey was looking back at him and grinning. I think I know why Rocky hired her.
I walked up to the jockey to get his eyes focusing on me.
“Where is Nate now?”
“I don’t know for sure,” said the little weasel,” But my best guess is that he’s out there somewhere but close enough to see what we’re doing in here. He might have a rifle.” That got everyone’s attention and, as if on cue, a bullet crashed through the glass front window. It wasn’t close to anyone, but close enough.
“Rocky had dived behind a chair and yelled out at the jockey as everyone scattered, “Are you wearing a wire? Did he fire when you mentioned the rifle? I told him to stop with all the shooting.”
I headed for the door into the inner office. Everyone, go into the office. He can’t see us there,” I yelled out to everyone. Again, as if he could hear us a second shot slammed into the wooden door to Rocky’s office. The slug shattered the cheap wooden veneer. He wanted us out where he could see us.
I crawled over to the jockey who was behind a potted plant of some kind.
“I’m asking you the same question. Are you wearing a wire? Can Nate hear us?” He said nothing. He didn’t look scared either. That changed when I put the ugly end of my heavy .45 under his flabby little chin. “Tell me now or I’ll blow your head off and search your dead body.”
It didn’t take him long to weigh the situation and without saying a word he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out the small plastic microphone and transmitter. He then pulled an earpiece from under his greasy hair. Not only was Nate able to hear us he had been telling the jockey what to say. That game was over.
I took the earpiece, wiped it on my pant leg and stuck it in my ear. I moved away from the jockey who understood my unspoken warning – that if said one more word it would be his last.
I shifted over beside Hailey’s desk where I could get a clear view outside and into the parking lot. I slipped the microphone into my shirt pocket.
“Hello, Nate. Guess who? This game is over.”
The second he heard my voice and knew that it was now a real two way conversation he unleashed a three shot fusillade into the lawyer’s storefront.
“Is that you, Ellis?” I heard him scream into my ear. “Is that you?”
“It sure is. I thought you were coming down here to see me. Instead you send your little pudgy Munchkin. What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of me? I’m older than your father. Do you remember him, Williams? The world’s worst bank robber.”
That earned two more shots through the shattered front window. I dissed him deliberately so he would shoot again. This time I spotted his muzzle flash coming from the back of a Ford van parked on the far side of the lot about sixty yards from the front door. That would be a turkey shoot from that distance. He didn’t hit anybody by choice so far.
“Shut up, Ellis! Shut up! You listen to me. I’m calling the shots here, not you. You killed two of my friends…”
“I killed just one. The other one, the girl, ate her gun rather than go back to you. So, if anything, you killed her, not me.” Another twinkle of light and another round dug into the plasterboard on the far wall. Most of his shots probably went through the thin walls and ended up in Rocky’s office. It was bound to be a mess in there. At least I hoped so.
“Listen, Nate, we’re all getting bored with this little penny arcade game of yours here. I talk you shoot another round into the wall. And so on, and so on. You said you were coming to see me, to kill me. Well here I am. Come and get me – or are you too scared to face me, man to man? Either get your ass down here or go home and play some video games until the cops kick down your door. Make a move, dammit!”
Silence. No gunshots. No speaking. Nothing?
He had to be thinking it over. I’d laid out his only options. It was either me or go home and end up in the hands of a dozen SWAT Team cops dressed in Kevlar who will not be gentle with either him or his bullet riddled corpse.
“Let’s go Nate.” I started to whistle the theme song from that TV game show that’s been on for fifty years.
“Nate, you bore me.”
Silence, and then I heard his voice crackle in my ear.
“I’m coming down, Ellis. Get ready to die.”
Next Week – The Conclusion of “Family Matters”