Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2019

Archive for the category “Fiction Saturday”

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Eighteen

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters”

Part Eighteen

“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.”

“Good idea.”

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.

Silence.

“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”

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Seventeen

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Seventeen

 

Part Seventeen

 

 

“What did he say he wants?”

“Nate, my friend, he said that he wants to put you in the Gas Chamber.”

Nate Williams must have started yelling because Rocky pulled the phone away from his ear. I could hear him screaming quite clearly.

“What? He’s not a cop anymore. Tell him I’m on my way and that I’m gonna put him in his grave! You hear me, Rocky? Tell him!”

The shyster didn’t have to. I heard every word.

That’s about it. That was the conversation between Nate Williams and his weasel of a lawyer. I said that I wanted to find Nate and now he was going to find me.

Ever since this whole thing began, before anybody died, he’d been telling people that I was his ultimate target. Well, now his target was waiting for him. Unlike the other people who became his targets this target could shoot back.

I suppose I could have called Detective Martindale and had half of the entire Police Department down here when Nate showed up. I could have done that, but I didn’t for two reasons.

1) Nate wanted me and, damn it, I wanted him – For Leslie Ann if nothing else.

2) Martindale would take his 200 to 1 odds over Nate and somehow screw it up. More people would end up dead.

Rocky said that it would take Nate about forty minutes to get down to his office. I figured that was a lie and that Nate would make it in twenty. I had to get ready.

Rocky picked up his bag of liquor and scurried into his office. I went back to my car to make myself survivable. Nate was younger, probably better armed, and nuts. I was more experienced, afraid to die, and probably nuts too.

I stuck two extra magazines in my back pocket. If things got to the point where I needed them I would know I was in big trouble. I expected this thing to end in a matter of seconds, one way or the other. I opened the trunk and took out one of the few things I never returned to the Force when I retired – the body armor that most people call a “Bullet Proof Vest.” The truth is that it’s not a vest. It’s more like a straight jacket, and it certainly isn’t “bulletproof.” It will stop most lower caliber slugs from entering your chest or belly, but not without knocking you on your butt, and making you helpless if the other guy aims for your head. The outdated model I had was pretty much useless against some of the big hand-cannons that were on the streets now. It wasn’t perfect, but it offered better protection than my “Bud Light” T-Shirt.

It was getting warm, uncomfortably so, or maybe it was just me, so I walked back into the lawyer’s storefront. Hailey, the new Receptionist, smiled and waved at me as I went past her and into Rocky’s office. He was stashing his booze supply into his desk. He looked up, saw me standing there and almost dropped his bottle of Rum.

“Oh, no, no no. You get out of here. Go outside. I don’t want you dying all over my rugs. These things are genuine Persian and cost me a ton of money. I don’t want you bleeding everywhere.”

I sat down in one of his nice leather chairs.

“It’s getting hot outside, Rocky. You wouldn’t want me to get heat stroke and pass out in front of your door, would you?”

Rocky was starting to look like he might be the one passing out.

“Don’t you get it? Nate is coming down here to kill you. He’s crazy as all get out. I’m his lawyer, he likes me, but even I’m afraid of him. When he comes in here he’ll start shooting at anything that moves.”

“Then don’t you think you ought to tell Hailey out there in the waiting room to go to lunch or something?” Rocky was no humanitarian.

“She’ll be our early-warning system. I was going to fire her anyway.”

“Rocky, you’re all heart.” I walked out to the empty reception area. “Hailey, get your purse or bag or whatever you’ve got and get out of here. Go to lunch, anything, but do it now. Things are going to get ugly here in a few minutes.”

She looked at me standing there in my “vest” with my weapon in my hand. She didn’t need a second warning. She grabbed her tote bag and was out of the door in seconds. That girl was smarter than she looked.

When I turned around I saw that Rocky was trying to “Get out of Dodge” too.

“Hold on there, Rocky, you’re not going anywhere.”

“Wanna bet? I told you that Nate is a Looney Tune. I don’t want to be Collateral Damage when he blows you to bits.”

If you take one more step, Rocky I’ll ‘Collateral Damage’ your ass all over your Persian rugs. You are staying here and you’re going to try to talk Nate into turning himself into the Law.

“You’re out of your mind. Nate won’t listen to me. He won’t listen to you either. He only listens to the voices in his head and they’re telling him to blow your brains out.”

“We’re going to try, Rocky. We’re going to try or somebody will die here this afternoon.”

We went back into Rocky’s office. I closed the door behind us. Now it was a matter of waiting. We didn’t know if he would come through the door shooting or what.

It was going to be just me, Rocky, and the door to his office between Nate Williams with his craziness and the M.E.’s autopsy table.

I took the leather chair from in front of the desk and placed it in the middle of the room facing the door. When Nate would open that door he would be framed in the light – if he came in that way.

“I meant to ask you this before, Rocky, knowing how deceptive you are, but where is your back door out of here?” He pointed at the closed door that led to his file room. “Get your liquor bottles, Rocky. We don’t want your client sneaking in on us, do we?” He shook his head without making a sound.

We quickly piled up his fresh supply of wine and other hooch right by the door that opened out into the trash and dumpster area behind the office. We spread the bottles around so that if he tried to jump over them he was likely to kick over one or two of them and give us a warning.

I returned to my chair facing the door. Rocky moved his desk chair back a couple of feet so he could dive under his desk if things went south.

We sat there like two statues for what seemed like an hour, but were most likely no more than five minutes. That was when we heard a car door slam shut right out in front. There was a short moment of silence then the front door into the waiting area opened. It squeaked. So did Rocky.

 

 

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Sixteen

 

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Sixteen

 

Three people with pasts I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I may be the kind of person who will give you the benefit of the doubt once, but I’ll never do it twice. These three never, ever, got a square deal in their lives.

Now, through some twist of fate all of them had crossed my path and two of them are dead. One was left and he was the worst. I can’t say that the other two were innocents or harmless. They weren’t. They had both picked up The Gun, for their own reasons, and people died.

It was now down to one: Nate Williams, Junior, and he really was a dangerous man. He killed people with as much feeling as you and I have when swatting flies. He had to be stopped.

Leslie Ann said that he had a plan, a goal, and more people, innocent people, were going to have to die. I was the one, the only one, who was going to be able to stop him. Leslie Ann had trusted me enough to tell me what he was going to do. I owed her.

There was only one person who knew where Nate Williams was holed up – his lawyer. All the cops in the world could lean on him and they’d get nowhere. He’d never break the Attorney/Client Privilege bond for them. It was a matter of Principles – he had none. Any lawyer who would defend Nate Williams and walk with him out of the front door of Police Headquarters was as dirty as his client. The Police can’t touch him. I’m not a Cop and I already feel dirty.

I’ll touch him.

It didn’t take a whole lot of detective work to get that lawyer’s name – Randell…Rockwell Randell. I’ve seen him advertising himself on TV late at night. “When things get rough, call Rocky Randell!”

The man is shameless. His reputation in the Legal Community justifies all of those jokes.

“What do you call 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?”

“I don’t know. What do you call 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?”

“A good start.”

Even other “Shyster” lawyers couldn’t stand him and it takes a lot to hit a lawyer’s gag reflex.

With Rendell’s face being so well known, thanks to his infomercials, it was going to be hard to corner him one on one without witnesses. Hard, but not impossible. If I can lean on “Rocky” I can find Nate. And if I can find Nate… Well, that’ll stop all of this nonsensical killing and I can go back to being just another grumpy neighbor.

Rockwell “Rocky” Rendell had his law office in a strip mall in somewhat rundown part of town. He was sitting between a liquor store and a slightly shady gun dealer. He knew where his clients were.

A few decades ago he would have been called an “Ambulance Chaser.” These days he’s just known as the “Most crooked lawyer in town.” He sought out the Lowest of the Low for his client base. He put up a billboard ad that shouted “Just because you’re guilty doesn’t mean you did it!”

He specialized in getting people off the hook on the flimsiest of technicalities. Juries would conflict his clients, but if anybody in the courtroom so much as sneezed during the trial Rendell would find a loophole to get them sprung.

He was a real pimple on the rump of humanity.

***

“I want to see your Boss.”

“You mean Mr. Rendell? He ain’t here. You want to make a, you know, a appointment?”

“‘An’ appointment.”

Rendell sure didn’t spend his money hiring his receptionists. She must have other skills.

“He’s not here? Isn’t that his car outside – the Candy Apple Red Mercedes with the license plate ‘Rocky’ on it?”

A second question must have been beyond her limit.

“Yeah, I guess so. I’m new here.”

There was a name plate on her desk. It read: Natalie Piorkowski.

“Tell me, Natalie, when will Mr. Rendell be back – since he left his car here?”

My name is Hailey, like the comet. That’s the last girl who worked here. She quit or something…and Mr. Rendell said he’d be back soon. I think he’s just next door.”

“Which next door?”

If he was at the gun store I’d come back later. Hailey leaned forward and whispered even though we were the only two people there.

“He’s at the liquor store. He drinks a lot. Expensive stuff too – the labels are in French, I think. So, he should be back in jiffy.”

I’ll tell you what, Hailey, like the comet. I’ll come back later, OK?”

“Okie-Dokie, Mister.”

That girl has a great future. I’m not sure in what field, but I doubt that it’s in the Law. Organ donation maybe.

I stepped outside to wait for Nate’s lawyer to appear. I could see him still inside the liquor store pushing a shopping cart half filled with bottles. Rather than confront him inside the store I just leaned up against his car and waited. I watched him pay for his booze in cash. I never saw the clerk card him.

He came out of the liquor store and saw me sitting on the bumper of his Mercedes.

“Hey! Get the hell off my car, Jackass.”

“Oh, is this your car, Rocky? My Grandmother had one just like this.”

“Your Grandmother? Get off my car before I call…”

I cut in.

“Before you call Nate Williams to come over to save your paint job? Don’t make me laugh, Rocky.”

That took him back a step. He set his bag down on the ground.”You know Nate, Pal? Then you know he is one tough character. I call him and he’ll come over here and…”

“I’d like that. It’d save me a trip. He’s already looking for me and I’m looking for him. Call him. He might save your ego and probably a couple of your teeth. How’s that sound, Rocky?”

Rocky squinted at me like he knew he wasn’t going to be happy with the answer to his next question.

“Who are you?”

“I’m the guy who put his father in prison and now I want to put Nate in the Gas Chamber. Call him.”

He forgot the liquor and reached for his phone.

 

 

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Fifteen

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Fifteen

 

Detective Martindale started up the steps to my front door. I didn’t budge. I knew that he would want me to go inside with him so he could ask me some obvious questions. I played hard to get. When he got to the top step and noticed that I wasn’t behind him he stared at me and coughed to get my attention.

“You should keep an eye on that cough Detective. We’re coming into Flu Season.” I smiled up at him.

“Ellis. Come.” He called me like I was his dog. If he’d snapped his fingers I would have decked him right in front of everybody. He didn’t. Instead he gave me the crooked finger curl.

“Ellis, inside – now.”

I tossed my cigarette into the gutter and followed him into my home- AKA “The scene of the crime” if he had his way.

The Forensics Crew had photographed the very dead body of Leslie Ann Wolas from every possible angle, taken samples of blood, urine, and snipped a sample of the bloody pile from my carpeting. Now there was a hole in it as well.

The head of the team huddled with Martindale bringing him up to speed – answering all of those questions I knew that he was going to ask me when he started in on me.

I looked up at my ceiling. There were definite spots up there, some red, but more grey ones. Three dimensional spots that I was not looking forward to cleaning off the plaster and paint.

While I was waiting for my turn to make Martindale feel competent I walked around the corpse into my kitchen. I wanted to get a beer. I had my hand on the door of the fridge when Detective Wink barked at me.

“Get out of there! Everything in the kitchen is evidence.”

“What? She shot herself, Mr. Detective. She didn’t hit herself with a beer bottle.”

“I told you to get out of the kitchen.”

“No.”

I got my beer and walked past Martindale dropped down on my sofa and reached for the Remote.

“Mind if I watch a little TV or is that evidence too?”

A couple of the Forensic guys who were packing up their gear were trying hard not to laugh.

I don’t know if he caught on or what, but Martindale broke off his briefing and came over to me. He didn’t sit down. He stood there looking over me. I guess that might intimidate some people, but no one over 10.

“Ask your questions Detective, I have an appointment.”

“Your lawyer?”

“No, yours. I want to ask him how it feels trying to defend the indefensible.”

He sighed.

“Ellis, let’s just get through this and then you can get back to your cartoons, OK?”

“Please. I have to pack.”

“Going somewhere?”

“I don’t think I want to sleep here tonight.” I was dead serious about that, what with the smells and the blood stains and the brain tissue on the ceiling.

“That’s a good idea. I don’t want you tampering any more with the Crime Scene.”

“What ‘Crime Scene’? There was no crime here. She committed suicide. I was here, remember? I called you. This is no Crime Scene.”

“Suicide is a crime. Look it up.”

“Really? Well, then, there’s your Perp over there on the floor. Are you going to arrest her?”

Martindale paused, looked down at his notes, and then in a voice that was as tight as a cheap suit in the rain, he began his interrogation.

“Mr. Ellis, when did Ms Wolas come to your home?’

Since he was finally trying to behave professionally, I did too.

“I don’t know.”

“What?”

“I don’t know when she got here. I was eating my lunch in here and she was outside.”

“Did you know that she was going to come here to see you?”

“No. she slipped a note under my door while I was eating.”

“A note? Where is the note?”

“It’s over there stuck to the floor.” I looked into the kitchen. The note was gone. “Or at least it was. I think your tech boys must have it.”

“What did the note say?”

“Open the door.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s what it said, ‘Open the door’.”

“What did you do?”

“I ate my lunch – most of it anyway, and then…” I gave him a dramatic pause.

“Yes? And then?”

“I opened the door, Sherlock.”

Some days, I admit, I have a mean streak in me that I let run loose. With this man, Detective Martindale, I just can’t help it. There is something about him that brings out the rattlesnake in me.

“Look, Martindale, let’s cut to the chase here. You want to know what she had to say, right? So let me tell you. You can fill in the blanks later, OK?”

He nodded, reluctantly, but knowing that I was saving him some time and work.

“When I opened the door she was standing there with that little Walther pointed at me. I thought it was going to be lights out for me, but she was thinking that I would open the door and shoot her. I was armed with a Braunschweiger and onion sandwich.

“She didn’t come here to kill me, Martindale. Not at all. She came to apologize for getting me all mixed up in this mess, the shootings and how I was their real target. All of it was a diversion put together by Nate Williams. It was to keep all of you focused on the killings so that Williams could knock over every Mom and Pop store in the city.”

“That’s stupid,” interjected Martindale. “There’s 425 of us on the force and three of them.”

“Two. Remember, I shot Timothy Collins at the Mall.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Well, Leslie Ann was seriously sweet on Timmy, but she blamed herself more than me for his death. He only went to the Mall for her.”

“Young love.”

I swear, that Detective is heartless as well as brainless.

“C’mon Ellis, let’s get to this ‘chase’ you’re talking about.”

I took a long, slow sip from my beer just to get on his nerves.

“Leslie Ann couldn’t forgive herself for her Timmy and she saw no future for herself without him. So…she ate the gun and ruined my carpeting. The End. Now get out of my home.”

“The End, my ass. What about Nate Williams? Where is he? We’ve got two down now and I want to make a clean sweep of it. What did she say about him?

“Nothing, other than she had a combination fear and hatred of him. That’s something I think might be easy to feel for that man.”

Martindale closed his notebook and looked around. The body was still on the floor waiting to be transported to the Coroner.

“Then that’s it, Ellis? That’s all she had to say?”

“Pretty much. I gave you the Reader’s Digest version.”

“I want to hear it all – every word that came out of her mouth.”

“Sorry, but I can’t reveal what is said in the Confessional.”

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Fourteen

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Fourteen

 

“You what?”

Detective Martindale must love to shout. He does it almost every time I talk to him.

“I said that I have Leslie Ann Wolas at my place. You might want to come out here.”

“Have you got her tied up? I’ll send out a couple Black & Whites to pick her up.”

I could almost hear a little admonition in his voice, “You better not be wasting my time.” It must have been killing him that I called him like this.

“No, Martindale, I think you’d better come out here yourself.”

“Why, did she ask for me?” he asked.

“No, she’s dead.”

“What?” Yelling again. “If you shot her I will hang you myself!”

He was not going to like this.

“Suicide…On my kitchen floor. We had a long talk before she decided to eat her pistol. So…like I said, you might…”

“I’m on my way. Don’t touch anything. Don’t touch her!”

I’d hate to live with him, yelling all the time. He must be like living with a Jack Russell Terrier.

“Don’t touch her?”  No problem there. I wasn’t being paid to clean up a mess like that, but I probably will end up scrubbing the floor – and maybe the ceiling too.

Suicides. They all think that their problems end once they pull the trigger or take the pills. Nothing could be farther from the truth. All they’ve done is shift those problems onto everybody they left behind.

It doesn’t take courage to kill yourself. It’s the exact opposite. If they really had courage they would face and attack what or who – ever was tormenting them. Instead they turn on the gas jet or drive the car into the bridge abutment. They leave behind a gory mess for someone else to clean up. That’s not an example of courage in my book.

When she fell back from sitting upright her head went past the edge of the linoleum in the kitchen area and landed on my living room carpeting. The linoleum I might just tear up and replace. No big deal, but the carpeting would never clean up right. There will always be a shadow of her blood and every time I see it I’ll think about…about everything.

The Forensics people showed up first. Martindale probably had to stop and pick up his blood pressure meds.

The neighbors were going to be getting quite a show with the lab boys traipsing back and forth. They are so jaded. They have seen things done to the human body that would make a statue vomit, buy it’s just evidence and samples to them. I wonder what they dream of at night.

By their standards what Leslie Ann did to herself was downright neat as a pin. No muss. No fuss. They chatted among themselves as they took swabs and samples. Just another day at the office

“My wife’s been taking a cooking class at the Community Center. We have been eating nothing but Italian food for two weeks now. I’m getting sick of all the different tomato sauces.”

“Me and my girl are getting into sushi. It took me a while to get past that gag reflex.”

I had to step outside. I lit up a cigarette and took a long pull. I must be getting old or my gore immunity is finally wearing off after these years away from The Job.

The Forensic Techies moved quickly but they never got sloppy or took shortcuts. They worked by the book. After a few initial questions to get my take on what happened they went to work and pretty much ignored me – except when I opened the front door.

“Don’t wander too far, Mr. Ellis. I’m sure the Detective will want to speak with you.”

“I’m just going to step outside for a breath of fresh air.”

“Cool.”

The human body, when opened up, smells. Muscles and sphincters also relax and what is in the bowels and bladder is often set free. On my floor. On my carpet. I might move.

I sat down on the front steps. Three steps from my front door down to the sidewalk. A few of my neighbors across the way, newbies, were peeking out their windows at the to do going on – people going in and out of my front door, some of them in uniform with sidearms. Seeing me sitting on my steps with a cigarette in my lips assured them that I wasn’t either a victim or a suspect. I waved to them and their drapes dropped back into place.

Yeah, maybe I should move. Get a place out in the country where all of my close neighbors would have four legs and fur. Who am I kidding? I’m a city boy, born and raised. When I see too many trees in one place I get nervous. I need to hear the sound of sirens racing through the night. I don’t need owls hooting at me. What would I do in the country? Probably go nuts and end up like Leslie Ann, the poor kid.

 I was halfway through my second cigarette when I saw Martindale coming down the street. Why did he park his car half a block away? Probably a Fitness Freak with one of those fancy wristwatches that count your steps or something. Even from a distance I didn’t like him.

“Good Afternoon, Detective. Welcome to my humble, if somewhat crowded at the moment, abode.”

“Where is she?”

“Mainly in my kitchen the last time I looked.”

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Thirteen

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Thirteen

Part Thirteen

“Timmy? He was such a sweet boy.”
“That ‘Sweet Boy’ killed eight people.”

I couldn’t let that pass.

“He would have killed me, Leslie Ann, if I hadn’t shot first. ‘Sweet Boy?’ What was his motive – He didn’t like his snack at the Food Court?”

She looked at me and I could see her underlying rage bubbling up to the surface. Her eyes flicked down to the Walther pistol on the table between us.

“Why did he really do what he did?” she said, her eyes back locked onto mine. “Because I asked him to. He did it because he loved me.”

How much horror has been set loose upon the world in the name of Love? Almost as much as devils have used Religion as their excuse to commit every atrocity imaginable.

“So how in the world is that a motive for mass murder? The idea was yours instead of his? So that makes him ‘Sweet?’”

“Shut up, Ellis! I came here to talk about me, not Timmy or Nate or certainly not you. Forget Timmy. Didn’t your mother ever tell you to not speak ill of the dead?”

“Which dead? The ones at the Mall or at the gas station or the pile of corpses at the ER?”

I was pushing my luck, but I needed to see how she would react to having her nose rubbed in it. She spat in my face and picked up the gun. I guess I found out.

“Ellis…if you say one more word about that boy and I will …”

“I apologize.” I decided to shut up.

“I came here for a reason, Ellis. Let me get to it and I’ll leave you to sit here in your pathetic little life.”

Rather than risk saying anything that might set her off I…picked up my sandwich and took a bite. No sense wasting what might end up as my last meal.

Leslie Ann Wolas, dangerous, and probably as crazy as they come, got up and began to pace back and forth trying to find her words.

“I came here to tell you that this whole thing is a scam. Nate has been running this whole show. I went along for my own reason. I told you…and Timmy, well…. Go ahead and eat your sandwich like a good boy.

“Nate is basically a thief and this whole thing is just a major distraction. While every cop in the city is all hot and bothered by the gunplay Nate will be knocking off everything in sight. Everything but banks thanks to you. Me and Timmy were going to cut out and go to Mexico. You took care of that too.”

She stopped pacing and stood looming over me.

“There’s no reason for me to go now – not since you murdered him” She stood there looking down at me. Me with a sandwich in my hand and a six round pistol in hers and I could see that she was weighing on whether or not to waste a couple of them on my head.

“No reason at all, so here I am. Nate wants me to go along with his crazy scheme, do some more shooting just to stir the pot. I don’t buy it. I told him that if he wants to then go ahead, but I’m done.

I raised my hand like a third grader with a question.

“What?” she said. “What?” She didn’t like interruptions.

“Where is Nate going to hole up? He won’t go back to that attic on Wilson.”

“Why do you care? You going to go after him? He’ll cut you to pieces, old man.”

I put down my sandwich. I’d had enough. Now it was my turn to talk.

“I don’t recall the last time I heard more absolute bull at one time. All of you actually feel justified with what you’ve done, don’t you? You slaughtered I don’t know how many people there at the hospital. The people you shot weren’t The Hospital. They were not the people who committed the sin of saving your life all those years ago. They were people already in pain like you. If you want to get back at The Hospital go in and clog up all their toilets. You don’t murder people who had nothing to do with your own personal troubles.

“And Sweet little Timmy? You two were going to run off to Mexico as if everything was peachy keen after the two of you decided to help Nate Williams, perhaps the biggest lying piece of trash going, with his plan to rob a bunch of Mini-Marts and Mom and Pop Bodegas. Jesus H. Christ! You’re all nuts. None of you should ever have been allowed to be on the streets alone.”

I was on a roll.

“And somehow you tried to tie me into your twisted reasoning making me the reason you’re doing all of this idiocy. You should just put down that gun and go turn yourself into the police. Go talk to them. Tell them your cock and bull story and you just might avoid a ride on the Lethal Injection Gurney to Hell. If you don’t and the cops out there see you first they’ll show you what it’s like to take a round to the head.

“Now, tell me where I can find Nate Williams, because I want that piece of trash for myself. I brought down his father and I’ll do the same for him.”

I looked at her. She was looking right through me as if I wasn’t there.

“Hello. Leslie Ann? Did any of what I just said get through to you? Did you even hear me? Turn yourself in. Forget Nate Williams and save yourself. He’s dead meat and forget about Timmy too. ‘He was Sweet.’ That’s just nuts. I’m done with you. You’re crazy. Either get help or get out.”

She was still staring off into space. As long as she wasn’t pointing her gun at me I figured I was, not safe exactly, but with a better chance of making it through the day.

All I wanted now was for her to flip on Nate Williams and then to leave, go somewhere, anywhere that wasn’t in my house. I was sure that she wouldn’t turn herself in. she’d spent most of her life avoiding them. I wanted her out, but there was nowhere else she could go where she might get some head help. She was going full speed down a dead end street. Her faraway look snapped back and she was in my kitchen again.

“You’re right, Ellis. I am guilty. I accept that. I was too weak. I let Nate talk me and Timmy into doing these things. Guilty and weak – a bad combination.

“I don’t want to do it again – I don’t, but if I go back to Nate I know he’ll talk me into it again.”

“Where is Nate’s place? Where is he?”

“Oh, you don’t want to go there. Nate is evil. He’ll talk you into doing evil things. Where can I go though? There’s no place for me.”

“I don’t know, girl. I wish I could tell you, but…’

She sat down on the kitchen floor and looked up at me. For the first time I could see tears in her eyes.

“I have no place to go where I can be safe and happy. No place. I was happy with Timmy…but you took him away. Now there is no one. Because of you. You ended it all. Nowhere and no one.”

She closed her eyes, but firmed up her grip on the pistol.

“All I can do now is try to find my Timmy.”

She opened her eyes and looked me square in mine. She took that ugly black gun, put it in her mouth and pulled the trigger.

In my small kitchen the noise her gunshot made startled me. The top of her scalp splattered onto my ceiling in the split second before she fell over backwards with her own startled look.

The tears that had been in her eyes ran down her cheeks and fell onto the bloody floor.

I hoped she’d find her Timmy. He was so sweet.

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Twelve

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Twelve

Now I know how a mouse feels when it’s trapped inside a house full of cats. When a house cat catches a mouse it doesn’t kill and eat it like a feral cat would. No, they play with it. One cat stands on the mouse’s tail while another cat beats the crap out of it. Then they let it go so they can hunt and catch it again. In this scenario Nate Williams and Leslie Ann Wolas are the cats and I am the mouse, being hunted and toyed with.
I thought it was the other way around when I found Nate Williams had been arrested and I’d be able to find out what this nonsense of hunting for me was all about – but he got cut loose before I could get at him. Now I was back to where I started, worse actually, because now he knew I was on his trail. That jockey would blow the whistle on me.

Lacking anything better to do I went home. I saw no sense trying to guess where Williams and his lawyer had gone for lunch. I was hungry myself.

An afternoon at home isn’t all that relaxing when you know that a man who has said that he wants you dead is loose and in a good mood. I know that I sure wasn’t in a good mood.

I was sitting at my kitchen table. My fancy lunch was a sandwich – Braunschweiger and Onion. Who did I have to impress? Nobody. Nobody who couldn’t take me out from a distance.

Sitting there, wondering what to do next, when the answer came sliding under my door. A single sheet of paper, folded, slid under my front door. It didn’t look like an advertisement. There was a new dry cleaner in the neighborhood, but this wasn’t a sheet full of coupons.

It was there on the floor and I had half a sandwich in my hand. The paper could wait. At this point in my day it was just one more piece of trash that needed picking up. Ever since my last lady friend moved out on me my housekeeping skills have really gotten a bit lax.

A single sheet of paper. I suppose that if I’d gotten up quickly and opened the door I might have seen who left it, but I didn’t. First things first. Finish my sandwich and then open another can of something I really don’t need.

OK…OK. A single sheet of paper and I could see that it had handwriting on it. A love note? Not likely. A “Dear John” letter? Most of the women I know would have tied that paper to a brick and tossed through my front window.

Enough speculation. I got up off my ass and crossed over to the door and picked it up off the floor.

“We need to talk. Open the door.”

“What the…” I said to myself. That note could be a come-on from an insurance agent, a Jehovah’s Witness trying a new approach, or maybe Nate Williams. Unless it was Williams I guessed that they’d be long gone by now.

Here we go with “The Lady or the Tiger” again. Against my better judgment and the feeling in my braunschweigered stomach, I turned the knob and opened the door. It was the Lady – Leslie Ann Wolas and she had small Walther pointed at my chest.

At least it wasn’t the Jehovah’s Witness.

“We need to talk,” she said, but she kept the pistol aimed at me. I was in no position to argue.

“C’mon in, “I said.

I turned around and walked back into my kitchen. I was trusting that she wouldn’t plug me between the shoulder blades. She followed me. I sat down and picked up the rest of my sandwich. It might be my last meal, so what the heck.

I didn’t say anything as she sat down across the table from me staring at me like I was a two-headed chicken. I didn’t say anything and neither did she. It was making me nervous because I didn’t really know if she was stoned, drunk, or just crazy. At any moment she might start seeing things and open fire. I couldn’t take it. I broke the ice.

“You’re the one who wanted to talk, so if you want to start now I’d appreciate it. I had planned on going to the two o’clock matinee at the Cineplex. …Or, if you’re going to shoot me with that thing get on with it and I’ll forget the movie.”

Saying this while gnawing on my sandwich didn’t make me look like too much of a threat. She laid the gun down on the table.

“I need to explain something to you, Mr. Ellis.”

“OK.”

What else could I say to that?

She hemmed and hawed for a minute or so like she was trying to find the right words. Not too hot. Not too cold, but just right. How Goldilocks of her except for that black, ugly Walther PPK on the table – still pointed in my direction.

“First off, Mr. Ellis…I have no desire to kill you for shooting my father or for anything else before or…” I interrupted her.

“I’m glad to hear that, but why that calls to that TV station saying the opposite?”

“Oh, that was Nate’s idea. Motives for our actions and that. A distraction really.”

“But what was your motive? All those people? Why?”

“We‘ve each got our own motives and you were just a convenient coincidence. We are all from here so the odds of our fathers mixing it up with you at some point seemed pretty high.”

“You all had reasons, what you think were good reasons, to shoot up the Mall, that Mini-Mart, and you – the ER at the hospital? I don’t get it at all. I also don’t get why you’re here. Why you want to talk to me?”

She held up her hand to stop my talking. She was getting upset.

“I wanted to talk with you to explain… to explain and to ask for your help.”

“My help?”

“Yes, you see, we had our reasons…”

“You’ve said that before, but I haven’t heard anything coming from you that is even close to an explanation for mass murder. Why don’t you start over and quit dancing all around it?”

She lowered her head and closed her eyes. I couldn’t tell if she was trying to pull herself together or getting ready to lose it and pick up the gun again.

“I…it was that Emergency Room that kept me alive after I was…I should have died. I wanted to die. I deserved to die. It’s complicated. You wouldn’t understand.”

Bull.

“No! No it’s not complicated. I do understand. Your Old Man put two shots into my back. It was a long time before I felt half human again, before I wasn’t in constant pain with every breath. They put me on a ‘Recovery Leave’ for the better part of a year. That just about did me in. It cost me my marriage and I thought of eating my service revolver a thousand times. So, don’t tell me that ‘It’s complicated’ stuff.

She looked at me with the saddest eyes I’d seen since my mother buried my baby sister when I was ten. I might have gotten too hard on her.

“I’m sorry, Leslie Ann. I shouldn’t have jumped on you like that.”

“No. No, you have every right. I haven’t got the courage to take this gun here and finish what was started when I was twelve.”

“Stop that talk. What about the others?” I asked her. “What about Timothy Collins…the one in the Mall?”

“The one you killed?

“Yes. The one I killed.”

“Timmy. He was a sweet boy.”

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Eleven

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Eleven

 

“What do you want to know about Nate anyway? If you already know that he says he wants to kill you – that should be enough.”

It’s hard to argue with basic logic, but I was never good at accepting the obvious. So here I am talking to a jockey with a beer belly who still has a gun in his hand.

“I want to know where he is! I want to find him so I can stop him from killing me.”

“Wait long enough and he’ll find you. Then you two can have a nice chit-chat before he slits your throat.”

“Well, my short not my friend, the trick is that I want to find him before he finds me.”

I didn’t think that was funny, but the little wise guy was giggling.

“So you can slit his throat? I wouldn’t advise trying that. He’s younger than you; in better shape for sure, and he is one sneaky son of a gun.”

This was like talking to a dog. The movement of my lips was keeping his attention, but nothing was getting through to him. Time to start over.

“Let me go back to the beginning. OK? Square one? Are you with me?”

“Shoot, Pal. That’s a figure of speech.”

I really wanted to strangle him by this time.

“OK…’Knock, Knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“Me.”

“Me who?”

“Me who wants to know where in the hell is Nate Williams, Jr.? Do you know where he is right now? Today? This very moment?”

“Sure. Why didn’t you ask me that straight out of the gate? Of course I know where he is.”

“Ok then… Where is he?”

The old jockey leaned over and reached down to the floor beside his chair. When he did that he put his pistol in his lap and it slipped off and clattered to the floor. When he straightened up he was holding a newspaper. He folded it in half and tossed it at me.

“Here, read it for yourself, Mr. Sam Spade, Private Detective.”

I grabbed the paper in midair, unfolded it and looked at the front page. The headline was about some senator dropping dead in Washington.

“What am I supposed to be looking at? This story about the dead politician?

“Below the fold! Below the fold! Nate would never merit a spot on top. Are you sure you can read or do you want me to help you sound it out?”

I was being dissed by an ugly gnome who was living in someone else’s attic. Under other circumstances I would have kicked his scrawny butt into next Tuesday, but he was a source.

I turned the paper over and scanned the page below the fold. That was where I saw Nate Williams’’ picture – his mug shot.

“Suspect in Mini-Mart Massacre Captured.”

The story said that he had been nabbed “without incident” while he was sleeping at his home “at 432 Wilson Avenue last night.” I didn’t read any further.

“What the…? Why didn’t you tell me this 20 minutes ago?”

“You didn’t ask – and you weren’t being very polite, lying to me about who you were. Barry Livingston, indeed.”

I’d wasted half a day tracking down this address, getting here through crosstown traffic, and then playing “Twenty Questions” with a smartass munchkin after climbing up that deathtrap set of stairs.

“Why didn’t Martindale call me? I said that out loud.

“That Copper? He’s a dick.” He had the gun in his hand, pointed at my crotch again. “Now, get out of here and don’t come back. I won’t be such a good host next time.”

Nate Williams wanted to kill me and now I wanted to kill Detective Martindale. All he had to do was pick up his phone and call me. I would have slept better last night and I wouldn’t have blown half a day and I think my left knee climbing the stairs at 432 Wilson Avenue.

I didn’t even stop for lunch. I knew that if I did I would end up drunk and try to storm into Martindale’s office. All that would accomplish would be to get myself arrested and tossed into my own cell.

Stone cold sober, but with my stomach grumbling like a St. Bernard, I walked up to the front desk at the Central Station.

“I’d like to see Detective Martindale, please.” I was trying hard to be polite. “If I may.”

The Sergeant looked down at me from his spot at the desk. He knew me, but I didn’t remember him.

“Ellis, he don’t want to see you. Nobody down here wants to see you.”

“Could you tell him that it’s about the Nate Williams Case…Please?”

“There is no ‘Nate Williams Case’, Ellis. Don’t you ever watch the Noon News on the TV? His lawyer walked out of here an hour ago with Williams by his side. It seems that he was able to produce a rock solid alibi. Mistaken Identity or something. Yeah, they were laughing and making lunch plans.

“Now, you…I want you to get out of here before I write you up for being a Common Nuisance.”

***

I don’t know how he did it. “A rock solid alibi” is what the desk Sergeant said.

My aching back.

Williams was all over the CCTV at the Gas Station. Unless he has a twin brother roaming around out there, which I know he doesn’t, Nate Williams, Junior was the shooter and now he is walking the streets again and looking for me…as if I am the cause of all his problems.

If he could have an alibi of any sort in the face of that security camera video what about the others?

Leslie Ann Wolas chopped up the Emergency Room at the hospital and they have cameras up on the wall there too. The other guy, the one I dropped at the Mall, had to be on video too. How could they claim to have been someplace else? Once my bullets put him on the floor his alibi went to hell with him.

I don’t know why it’s been taking Williams so long to find me. It’s not like I’ve been in hiding since I retired. I have moved a couple of times, but that was to save some money on rent. I haven’t even been out of town for more than a day or two in over two years.

If somebody wants to find me I don’t see where all of this showboating has been all that necessary. I’m not in the phone book like Nate Williams, but still…

Some days are not worth getting out of bed for. Some others are not worth getting into bed in the first place. This one was getting to be a day for not worth even owning a bed. I’d be considered a luckier man if I was living in the park and sleeping on a bench.

This morning I didn’t know where Nate Williams was, then I did, and now I don’t again. I’ve had better days hooked up to life support.

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Ten

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Ten

 

432 Wilson Ave. #6. I’m not saying it was a dump. That would be an insult to dumps. 432 Wilson Ave. was a cliché. It was a three story building that had been converted from an ugly single family home into six “Studio Apartments” that should more properly be called “Cells.” Apartment #6 was in half of what used to be the attic. From the looks of it on the outside it wouldn’t be very comfortable for anyone over 5’8”. My data sheet said that Nate Williams Jr. was 6’1”. So, maybe I should be looking for a hunchback.

The entire street had the look that nobody cared anymore about how it looked. Abandoned cars, a couple of waterlogged and moldy sofas, and a soft drink vending machine were huddled against the curb. Up the block from 432 a neglected looking dog was curled up right in the middle of the street. It wasn’t dead. I took a closer look as I swerved my car around it. The dog lifted its ugly head to look at me as I drove past, but made no effort to move. You could probably say the same thing about the humans who lived here.

A couple of old ladies, rocking on their front porches, watched as I came down the block, but if anybody asked them – they never saw me. Nobody ever sees anything on Wilson Avenue.

If there is one thing that I don’t like more than just about anything else its stairs. Too many years of walking the beat and then having some idiot I was trying to cuff kicks me in the knee and did damage. An X-Ray of my kneecaps looks like a picture of a handful of cracker crumbs. Every morning when I get out of bed and stand my body sounds like a bag filled with castanets. So what do I have to do at 432 Wilson Ave.? Walk up three flights of rickety, homemade stairs that were bolted to the outside of the building.

I was not in a good mood to begin with and now I was going to have two swollen knees before I even got to knock on the door at #6. “Nate Williams better be there” I thought, “Watching TV, in his underwear, eating a bag of Cheetos.”

A doorbell. Somebody put in a doorbell. One of those new ones with a built-in camera so they can see who’s coming even before you push the button. Well, there went the element of surprise. Whoever was on the other side of the door could tell I wasn’t there selling Girl Scout cookies.

Just out of spite I ignored the doorbell and knocked on the door. It rattled and wobbled. One good shoulder hit and it would have fallen apart like it was made out of cardboard.

When I knocked I could hear some scuffling from inside, some mumbling and what sounded like a chair being kicked over. Nothing that sounded like a shotgun shell being racked up or a pistol round being chambered.

I knocked again, but I moved off to the side as far as I could go without falling three floors to the driveway. No sense being an easy target. There was more mumbling, but closer to the door. I looked up at the camera. Somebody had spray painted the lens. Nobody was seeing anything with that piece of useless junk.

“The Lady or the Tiger” was never one of my favorite stories as a kid and right now I feel like that Lady standing in front of a shoddy door. I put my hand on the grip of my weapon tucked in the small of my back. If there was a tiger behind that door I wanted to show it that I wasn’t no Lady.

I gave it one more sharp knock.

“Hold on a minute, will ya? I don’t move all that fast anymore.”

A lame tiger?

I sucked in my gut. I wanted to make myself as small a target as possible. I moved the pistol to alongside my leg with my finger ready to hit the trigger.

There is nothing like the sound of a deadbolt slide being pulled. Whoever was in there was opening more than one lock. I counted three of them before things got quiet again. I was about to see if I was going to face a tiger with bad feet or the wrong end of a .357.

I braced myself for…for whatever as best I could standing on a small wooden platform three storoes above the ground with nowhere to go but either down or through the door.

“Hold your horses, I’m coming. This better be good or I’m gonna be mad. Making me get and all.”

The Voice pulled open the door. I’d expected it to open out but it swung inward. I think that’s illegal, but I’m glad it did. There was barely enough room for me out there.

“Whatcha want, Cowboy?”

I had to look down to see his face. This was definitely not Nate Williams, Jr., Senior, or any other member of the Williams family. I moved on with my pre-planned first question.

“Where the hell is Nate Williams?”

“Well, who the hell wants to know?”

Whoever he was he certainly wasn’t intimidated by my presence.

This guy who wasn’t Nate Williams was no more than 5’4″ tall and skinny as a rail except for the beer belly that jutted out from his open bathrobe. He needed a shave. He’d needed it for at least a week or two and he was wearing fuzzy pink slippers. He was also carrying a five shot black revolver pointed at my crotch.

The little guy had the advantage. I was so surprised that my weapon was still hanging limp by my side. I figured that I’d better answer his question.

“My name is Barry Livingston and I’m looking for Nate Williams. You’re not him.”

“Nate Williams? Yeah, you got that right.I ain’t him, Sherlock. and you’re not Barry Livingston. He was a kid actor on television. so, shall we start over?”

He waved his pistol disturbingly close to my posterity.

“I’m not Nate Williams and who are you? Don’t tell me Ricky Nelson or I’ll clear cut your Family Tree roght here and now.”

I decided that I’d better be square with him since he held all the cards and that five-shot.

“My name is Mack Ellis and I’m looking for Nate Williams because he wants to kill me.” That was it, short and sweet.

The little guy laughed at me.He laughed, but he lowered the gun, turned and walked back into the apartment. I put my pistol back in its holster. If he was really going to shoot me he would have done it by now.

I followed him into the very low ceilinged attic apartment. I had the urge to bend over  rather than hit my head on one of the exposed beams. If Nate Williams ever actually lived here he must have been desperate.

There was only one old overstuffed chair that sat in front of a big screen TV. Off to the side was a single bed. The “kitchen” The walls were bare except for one lone poster thumbtacked to the wall in the kitchen area. It was a large photograph of a horse and jockey taken in the Winner’s Circle at some track. The jockey looked familiar.

The guy who was not Nate Williams saw me staring at the poster. He had plopped himself down in the big chair.

“Yeah, that’s me a few years and a lot of beers ago. That was after The Breeder’s Cup race at Santa Anita. I won by six lengths on a horse that was so juiced I was surprised that he didn’t leak. Drag the kitchen chair over here and we can talk.

“So…Nate Williams wants to kill you? That sounds like Nate alright. He always has somebody he wants to kill.”

 

 

 

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Nine

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Nine

 

A memory can be buried deeper than Jimmy Hoffa and as obscure as a 1960s One-Hit Wonder – and one tiny thing can make it come roaring back to the front of your conscious mind as fresh as if it all happened this morning. And this morning was not very good. Only one egg in the fridge, bread with a blue tint along the edges, and just enough coffee to get my pulse steady.

I saved O’Shea’s printout on Timothy Collins for last because when Martindale gave me the five cent recap on him the whole story came back to me like midnight after a bad Mexican meal. The details that I thought had faded away re-etched themselves on my brain. It made me feel screwed all over again.

The first time I heard about the Collins family was when somebody broke into a nursing home. Who breaks into a nursing home? Well, this guy did. He figured it was a good place to score a sizeable haul of drugs of all kinds; pain killers, sedatives, and the like. He was right figuring that, but the staff must have been sampling some of their own stash because they decided to fight back. Brave but stupid. Wheelchairs don’t fare well up against a strung out B&E guy with two .45s. Seven of the staffers bought it that night. The one man with the habit and the guns got a boatload of junk the residents hated as much as they hated the Staff. None of them could or would give a decent description of the man.

Collins got picked up in a sweep of the neighborhood. He was two blocks away, stoned out of his mind, and strapped with a .45. He was handed over to me to interrogate. Trying to question a junkie who was starting to come down? I’d have had better luck trying to get a dog to confess to the Kennedy Assassination. Six hours of me doing all of the talking, then screaming while Collins drooled and sang old Irish songs – after vomiting on the table.

I’d always prided myself on keeping my cool with suspects no matter how disgusting they were, but Collins got to me. He was clueless and I was useless. He belched in my face, smelling like puke, and I lost it. I beat the ever loving daylights out of him. By the time the crew watching from the other side of the glass pulled me off of him the damage was done.

There was an investigation and the only thing that kept me from ending up on the wrong side of a courtroom was that Collins didn’t press charges. He was so ripped that he couldn’t remember me kicking the crap out of him. As far as he could testify he thought that maybe he fell down a flight of stairs or maybe he got hit by a bus.

Internally it was a different story. I was “disciplined” for “Improper Action.” That cost me a pay grade and a two month suspension which was waived because they were already short staffed.

The guy who actually shot up the nursing home was caught the day after I’d creamed Collins. He had been thrown out of a hockey bar for being too obnoxious. He shot out their front window before the barkeep pulled his dog-leg from behind a keg and blew away the guy’s knees. There was enough forensic evidence that he’d killed those seven people that even the Pope would have voted to put him on Death Row. I’d kicked Collins and my career for nothing. Everybody lost.

The newspapers reported that I had beaten Collins in front of his kid, cute little Timothy, traumatizing him for life. Not unless the kid was on the Force already at the age of eleven and watching it all through the one-way mirror.

What a joke.

When it came to the kid, Timothy Collins, he went around telling that bullcrap story as if it was Gospel Truth. It made him think he was somebody. He told it so often that I think he began to believe it himself.

Why he hooked up with the other pair of shooters is something nobody will ever know unless he left a diary or something behind. He’s not telling that story anymore. My two hits took care of that. Do I regret that? Hell, No. I may be the thread that connects all three of them to me, but I don’t think the younger Collins recognized me that day in the Mall. He would have cut me to pieces just like he’d done with those other poor whoevers were there in his line of sight.

So there it is. Three people ready and willing to murder. One of them dead by my hand and two on the loose and somehow I am tied to all of them and they call the TV stations to let them know that I am their real target.

Crazy.

Nine pages of data gathered with the help of an old friend who became an enemy, who now is…somewhere in between. I’m not sure if he will move that data upstairs to his superiors. He might. He should, but he might also look upon those nine pages as something just between the two of us and hit the delete button.

I’ll pass on those nine pages to Detective Martindale, but no right away. They have at least fifteen people looking for those two surviving media-loving killers. If I give the guys upstairs this pile of information they’ll be bumping into each other and queering any real sources who might help end this without hailstorm of lead. I’m going to keep this printout to myself for awhile. Close to the vest and very quiet. I’ll plumb my own sources – the ones who are still alive and talking to me. There aren’t that many left, but they can be invaluable. They can dig up information that even O’Shea’s computers can’t. His electric solid-state snitches can tell him how much money they might have, but my people can tell me which pocket it’s in.

Nate Williams Jr.

Leslie Ann Wolas

Timothy Collins

***

Which one first – Williams or Wolas?

Those were the two who were still alive and dangerous. Collins could wait. He wasn’t going anywhere. I’d made sure of that.

My first freelancing source of information was courtesy of the phone company. One of the first things people do when they grow up and move out into the world is to get their own place and the first thing they do after they sign the lease papers is to get a phone…a landline even if they already have a cell phone. It’s the grown-up thing to do. They may never use it, but it’s there, sitting on the table in the corner, reassuring them that they are no longer Mommy’s little baby.

Page 477, halfway down the page: “Nathan Williams, 432 Wilson Ave. #6, 675-1298.” He’d dropped the “Junior.”

For all his genius O’Shea had ignored that bit of information. People move so often that it was almost a 100% sure thing bet that Williams wasn’t living there anymore. A useless bit of history it would seem? True, but what O’Shea couldn’t know was that maybe, just maybe, he had sublet his apartment to a friend who knows where to send his check every month.

It couldn’t hurt to ask, but to make sure that it couldn’t I packed three inconspicuous and easily concealed pistols – one on my hip under my jacket, another tucked in the small of my back, and a third in an ankle holster. Being sure that something is safe and harmless is the quickest way into a casket. If everything at 432 Wilson Ave #6 is harmless as a puppy dog then fine and dandy, but if they are friends of Nate Williams Jr. they might be as nasty as a rattlesnake with a fangache.

OK…I had my information. I had my three steel friends, and I had my first question ready for whoever answered the door.

“Where the hell is Nate Junior?”

Now it was my turn to go hunting.

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Eight

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Eight

No matter how tragic and screwed up a road Nate Williams, father and son, traveled down theirs was a rose covered pathway compared to the gauntlet that Leslie Ann Wolas had to run.
Greg Wolas was a man totally unfit to be a parent yet there he was a damned fool given total custody of his daughter by the courts. He hadn’t asked for it, but the judge, who wanted to go have an early lunch with some friends, gave it to him so the court could adjourn before his favorite restaurant got filled with the lunch crowd.

There was no doubt that Greg Wolas was the biological father of Leslie Ann Wolas. The DNA test Greg had paid for trying to prove that he wasn’t the father had backfired on him and now, with Mommy on her way to prison for at least a decade or two for stabbing her john, Greg was ordered by the Court to become a loving and responsible parent – a Father, to a five year old girl with strawberry blonde hair and no idea who he was.

“JUSTITIA CONDEMNABITUR”

That was just in the first two paragraphs of Timmy O’Shea’s printout pages on Greg Wolas, the man who, a few years down the road crossed paths with me. He ended up dead and I was given the standard psychiatric evaluation whenever an officer shoots and kills. The verdict was that I was hasty drawing my weapon. The fact that I took two slugs from him wasn’t an obvious enough reason for me to shoot back. I still have those scars on my back.

Spending those hours sitting next to Tim O’Shea as he exhumed both the facts and the memories of how it came to be that now, years after I “retired” from the Thin Blue Line, there are three people I have no recollection of ever having had any direct contact with, stepping into my life over dead and bloodied bodies.

Leslie Ann Wolas grew. You can’t say she was raised. Whatever she learned about the “Three Rs” she picked up pretty much on her own. The printout showed that she had been registered in seven different elementary schools in three states. Stability was just a word on a spelling test.

For some reason, when Leslie Ann was 12 years old Daddy Greg took off for Atlanta leaving her behind to fend for herself. That was like throwing a rack of ribs into a pit full of starving dogs. As smart as she was she was still a kid. Kids alone on the street simply don’t matter. After a week she was tossed from a moving car outside the hospital emergency room. She was alive, but her body, mind and soul had been violated and abused, passed around like a tray of nuts. Greg came back after a few weeks carrying his own collection of scars and injuries. He discharged Leslie from the hospital and they caught a bus to New Orleans. He needed her body to prove to Welfare that he was her father and therefore qualified for a bigger monthly check.

Throughout her teen years she followed the cliché route of rebellion against everything and that included her father. She walked away from him and disappeared for three years. How and why she ended up in this city again is unclear. Maybe she and Greg had some sort of family reconciliation – genetics overcoming brutal reality. Even more obscure is how and why she went back to that same hospital ER that saved her life and shot the hell out it. They saved her life instead of letting her die.

Maybe that’s why.

Maybe that hospital ER was her personal target and she joined up with Nate Williams and Timothy Collins as just a way to exact her own revenge. Maybe it had nothing to do with me. A real coincidence even though I don’t believe in them.

Nah.

I killed her Father.

The stupid SOB.

On page six of the printout was a synopsis of how I ended up swabbing the deck of Greg Wolas. This was after Greg and his daughter had apparently kissed and made up, a loving family portrait once more.

Greg had moved up from running nickel and dime scams to try running a string of girls. He was as big a failure at that as he was at being a Father. His string was very short – one anorexic idiot who was as attractive as an open running sore and Leslie Ann. Why she went along with his idea is beyond me, unless it was a combo of trying to help her Father and another level of self-loathing.

Greg and Leslie had picked out a street corner in what was called a “transitional neighborhood.” That meant it was going from being just a slum sliding down the slime track into downright squalor. It was also a heavy drug market corner. I guess Greg believed in that old marketing slogan, “Location; Location, Location.

I was assigned to a task force that was going after the drug activity in that area, as if that was going to make a real difference. That neighborhood was circling the bowl a year or two away from when gentrification would come in and make it chic.

One Saturday night a raid on a number of corners was scheduled. We were going to go in scooping up a bunch of the small fry on the street. It wouldn’t do much except frustrate the drive by customers and take a tiny bit of profit from the men who never visited their corners.

That was also a night that Greg Wolas decided to loiter on the corner keeping an eye on his “string.” The street drug crew didn’t mind. Greg stayed out of their way and they liked chatting with the girls.

When me and the other members of our squad came swooping down on the corner things got chaotic. One nervous druggie pulled his cheap pistol and put a hole in the hood of a Black and White. I came out with my weapon drawn and ran after the punk who shot at us. That took me right into the path of Greg and Leslie Ann who were running in the same direction. I didn’t care about them. I wanted the other guy.

Witnesses said that as I passed Greg he pulled out his own piece and fired at me a little beyond point blank – twice into my back. The hits spun me around and I saw him with his pistol and I fired once. I went down and so did he. After three weeks and losing my spleen I got back up.

Greg never did.

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Seven

 

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” 

Part Seven

It had been years since Tim O’Shea had heard my voice, but it was still fresh enough in his memory to make him freeze in his chair.

“Go away, Ellis.”  His voice was flat, displaying no emotion. No anger. No interest. He could just as easily have been a bus driver calling out the next stop along his route.

“Go away.” He still kept his back to me.

“I’d like to talk with you, Tim. I need some help on a case and you’re …”

“You’re not a Police Officer anymore. You have no case.” He slowly started to turn around. “Get out of here. You don’t belong here.” He had that part right, but still, I needed him.

“Tim, Please. This has to do with those three shootings – at the hospital, the gas station and the Mall. I’ve already spoken with Martindale about this.” I figured a little misdirection might help. It was technically the truth. We had spoken only he’d grilled me like a store brand bratwurst.

“Please?”

He was facing me now. His eyes squinting through some dirty glasses. He took his time as he looked me up and down. “You look like hell. Where you been living – at the bottom of a gin bottle?”

He was not far off.

“You’re not looking so hot either, Tim. When’s the last time you got your hair cut by somebody other than Stevie Wonder?’

A smile cracked across his face. That face of his looked like it hadn’t seen the sun in years. Did he ever get out of his basement lair?

“How long has it been, Mack?”

“I don’t know, Tim. It seems like a lifetime.”

“At least. You say you talked with Martindale about this?”

“Yes.”

“I did too, you lying Son of a…”

“OK, I admit it,” I jumped in on him. “I did stretch things a bit about that, but…”

“Martindale told me that he thinks you’re tied into that mess somehow and that you might try to get me to save you some legwork.” He paused and took off his glasses, blowing on each lens. “Well, Martindale is a dick. I read the papers.”

He turned around again and leaned in close to a computer screen. That had to be bad for his him somehow. He stuck out his arm pointing at a folded chair leaning up against a bank of file cabinets.

 “Sit down.”

For the rest of the morning I fed Tim names and any information I had and he nodded, grunted and let his fingers march back and forth across his keyboard. I couldn’t follow it all. He had three monitors going with changing screens displaying a number of official looking documents and pictures of the three shooters at various ages. Tim O’Shea was cooking.

He tackled the trio of killers one at a time. He was able, starting with just their names and their father’s names, to burrow back in time. Their school records and any juvenile brushes with the Law even those records officially locked or expunged. Nothing seemed to be off-limits or out of reach. He was able to find medical records, employment applications, and even school records on them.

Nate Williams Sr. was a career criminal who had the proverbial long as your arm record. He passed on his tendency to lie, cheat, and steal on to his son at an early age.

Nate Williams Jr. made his debut in a courtroom at the age of 9 when he stabbed a playmate with a plastic fork for his lunch money. He stabbed him in the eye. That was the part that got him the attention of the Police. Little Nate spent a year in Juvenile custody for that.

When he got out and was placed back with his family young Nate seemed to keep it together and behave himself – or at least he never got caught. It wasn’t until Daddy lost control one Sunday afternoon in a gas station mini-mart that Junior seriously got pulled into the family business.

According to Grand Jury testimony while Daddy was inside the mini-mart gathering up some cash and pistol whipping the clerk, young Nate stayed in the car. After a couple of minutes he got restless and came inside to see what was taking so long. He came through the door just in time to see the owner of the mini-mart come out of his office with a gun. Being the faithful little son Junior called out a warning and watched his father turn and put two rounds into the owner’s gut. He lived, and testified at Daddy’s trial that Junior was a part of the whole thing.

I was put on the case and in a couple of days I was able to follow the slime trail and track Nate Williams the Elder to the crawl space in his mother’s house. Me and another officer dragged him out while his mother screamed “Police Brutality.” Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I paused long enough to give his Mommy a healthy punch in her ample gut. She stopped screaming and nobody saw a thing according to the perfunctory report…except Nate Junior who saw his Grandmother doubled over on the floor.

For all of that ugly nonsense Daddy got 15 to 30 years in the meanest prison in the state. Six years into it he was shanked in the exercise yard for some reason that someone thought was important.

Nate Williams Junior went back into Juvie even though this time all he had done was react like any kid would have.

And so, a long standing resentment was born that vomited again onto the world in the same gas station mini-mart where a number of years before a boy had seen his father shoot a man in the stomach.

No matter how tragic and screwed up a road Nate Williams, father and son, traveled down theirs was a rose covered pathway compared to gauntlet that Leslie Ann Wolas had to run.

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” – Part Four

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters”

Part Four

“This is Detective Martindale. I’m calling in reference to the shooting at the Mall yesterday.”

“I figured as much when you started talking. Look, I’ve already given all of my details when I answered your boy’s questions yesterday so I don’t…”

“I want you to come down here. We have some more things we need to know from you. I understand you were on the job once so you know where to come.”

“I told your boys everything, in detail, about what went down…”

“Ellis, get your ass down here or do I have to stop being polite and have you brought downtown in a black and white? Get sober and put on your pants. Be here in thirty minutes or I send out a car to embarrass you in front of the neighbors.”

Click.

Read more…

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” – Part Three

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters”

Part Three

Television news is little more than the worst of 19th century “Yellow Journalism” without the ink stains. The Head Honchos of the network News Departments aren’t the slightest bit ashamed to say, “If it bleeds – it leads” when it comes to their merchandising of the News. This day with the three coordinated shootings was Christmas Morning for them.

The local TV stations had cameras and perfectly coiffed “Reporters” dispatched to the three scenes within eight minutes. They were sticking microphones in the faces of the bleeding and traumatized victims, some in their final moments of life.

Read more…

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters” Part Two

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters”

Family Matters

Part Two

My stomach was hurting. I decided to take a walk around the Mall hoping it would ease up and then I’d stop for a beer. That was my plan if you could call it that.

Five minutes into my leg stretch I was down by the Food Court, looking at the window display at Victoria’s Secret.

It was no secret to me. It was 5:40 PM when the world began to rock.

It sounded like a shotgun blast. Someone screamed. Someone else started to scream, but was cut off when a second report from the shotgun cut it short. A third and fourth shots echoed through the Mall. People started running away from the noise.

I hit the floor and scooted on my aching belly up to the corner of the storefront. I could see the shooter. He looked to be in his mid 20s. He was reloading his single barrel shotgun for another go at the shoppers who were down or still within his range. He was laughing, looking at the mess in front of him.

I slipped back out of his sightline and reached down to my right calf, lifted my pantleg, and got my short barrel .38. The sight of me with my weapon started a fresh round of screaming, but the shoppers were going in one direction and I was crawling in the other.

Read more…

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters”

Fiction Saturday Returns With – “Family Matters”

Family Matters

Part One

It was 5:25. People were getting off work and heading home. In another fifteen minutes, no more, it was all going to hit the fan. The Pasty-faced redheaded kid checked his watch again, smiled, and shook his head. He patted the small pistol in his pocket. He relaxed in his seat in the burger joint across the street from the busy gas station/mini mart.

Sitting in the bus shelter across the street from the County Hospital Emergency Room a second person, a young woman with short hair and tattoos on both arms cradled a .45 caliber pistol in her lap, underneath a folded copy of today’s newspaper. She was waiting for it to be 5:40. Then all hell would break loose.

On the other side of town, outside of the Mall, another young man sat in his car. His knee was bouncing in nervous anticipation. The shotgun that he used to take duck hunting was on the seat next to him. He looked at his watch. It was two minutes later than it was the last time he checked it.

***

I couldn’t sleep. These days whenever I go to a funeral my own mortality jumps up and slaps my face. It won’t let me sleep or eat anything more than the BRAT Diet. For three days I’m limited to Bananas, Rice, Apple Sauce, and Toast until my stomach settles down.

I’m eating like my Grandmother – if she was still alive. She raised me, but that was a pile of years ago. She passed away when I was 28 and in Afghanistan wasting a year of my life. I didn’t go to her funeral.

Today I was at another funeral. My sixth one this year. I sat there at the funeral home on another hard as a brick folding chair trying to not be there in my head. A guy I knew a little sat down next to me. I needed quiet. He needed to chat.

“Half the people I know are dead,” he said in a failed whisper. I nodded and felt obligated to say something.

“What about the other half?”

“We’re waiting for the test results on them.” He giggled. The jackass giggled in the middle of the eulogy for the guest of honor. I got up and walked out. I was done. When I got to the parking lot I vomited.

It was a few minutes past 2 PM, but I already knew that it was going to be rice and apple sauce for dinner. I thought that maybe a nap might help.

On the way back to my apartment my brain took me on a tour of my life – not all of it – just the parts with death. I’d seen too much of it. I’d caused too much of it and now I could see my own. My Grim Reaper wasn’t dressed in a black robe and carrying a scythe. No, he was dressed like me and had a short barrel .38 five round revolver just like mine.

I made the mistake of telling that to the Department Shrink I was forced to see after a justified shooting. Six months later I’m being taken out to dinner and handed a book on golf. I’ve never played golf in my life.

The nap thing didn’t work. I got out of bed, dressed, and to hell with the thought of rice and apple sauce. I needed something real, some buffalo wings and a beer. The beer mainly. Something for my stomach to really complain about. I figured that “Wings Over The World” – a new joint at the Mall was as good as any other place to self medicate my gut.

It was a little after five o’clock.

***

Halfway through that basket of hot wings my stomach began to fight back. Maybe I did have an ulcer. I couldn’t handle the hot sauce. I got a “to-go” box from the cute young hairy kid who was acting as waiter, cashier, and bus boy. He showed talent for the bus boy part anyway. I’d paid for those wings – I wasn’t going to leave them for the rats to eat. I stuffed some extra napkins in my pocket and headed for the door.

It was 5:40 PM.

The man crossed the street against the light and walked up to the man filling his Toyota’s gas tank. One shot and he dropped the nozzle to the ground. He fell on top of it.

Another shot and the driver who had just pulled up to the pump looked at the end of the gun barrel in his last second on earth.

The man with the gun laughed as he walked into the mini mart and emptied his gun into the two people in line buying soft drinks. And the cashier. Before leaving the shooter looked up at the security camera, smiled, and blew it a kiss.

There were thirteen people looking for help in the Emergency Room waiting area. At 5:40 a young woman walked through the automatic door and walked down the row of chairs firing one shot after another. When her pull of the trigger got only clicks she turned and walked beck out of the opening doors. She tossed the pistol into the row of short hedges lining the ER driveway. Ignoring the screams from inside the building she crossed the street and boarded the bus that had just pulled up to the corner.

Fiction Saturday – 100 Word Story – “Coffee And A Blank Page”

Coffee And A Blank Page

 

A quiet Saturday morning with some coffee and a blank page in my notebook. Ideas are pushing and shoving each other to see which gets to use my pen and get down on paper. What a contest!

A Left! A Right! What a battle!

Down goes Sci-fi! Down goes Sci-fi!

Romance is running from the Arena!

The Hard-Boiled Detective looks like he’s been up all night. He’s packin’ heat. Be careful! Don’t get erased.

The Ideas are slugging it out. If they aren’t careful they’ll end up Blue-Penciled.

A quiet Saturday morning with some coffee and a blank page.

Ahhh.

The End

 

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – The Conclusion

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – The Conclusion

“Where is everybody?”

That was a good question. Ten minutes ago it looked like “Pops” Mulroy held all the cards, but now…? Now it looked like he was “all-in” and holding a dead hand. His two gigantic thugs certainly were. His eyes darted around looking for help. There wasn’t any. It was time for me to show him what I had in my pocket. Now Charlie and I were holding all the Aces.

When “Pops” saw the pistol in my hand it was if all the air went out of him.

“Timmy, is that necessary?”

“I hope not, but I don’t know what’s going on here either and you might be our ticket out of here.” The man I had trusted slowly shook his head.

“That gun won’t get you – or me – out of here if things have fallen apart. We are all expendable.”

“Then let’s keep walking and find out,” I told him.

I looked over at Charlie who had put away his knife and was holding two Russian semi-automatic pistols, one in each hand. He had a deadly serious look on his face.

“Those big boys don’t need these pieces anymore and they might come in handy if things get nasty.”

I was coming to really like and trust that boy.

It was me, “Pops,” and Charlie standing there all alone. No one else was visible and the plant was dead silent, but that sure didn’t mean that everyone was gone. You can’t hide that many Russians quickly – and what about my men, my Security Team? I knew from the FBI that at least two of them were moles.

And where was Van Swearingin?

If I was going to get any answers we had to get moving to Van Swearingin’s office.

“Ok, let’s keep moving…and one more thing. “Pops,” if you try to call out to your Comrades or get stupid on me – I. Will. Shoot. You.

We moved on through the plant. I was hoping that the Boss would be there in his office – in handcuffs, but I was also hoping that he and everybody else was gone. I didn’t care where. I was one man with a snub-nosed five shot .38 caliber handgun. That’s not much. Not much at all.

There were only two places in the plant where you get everybody together at one time: the Loading Docks or outside. The Loading Dock area would be crowded unless they opened the large bay doors – and then you were outdoors. I wanted to avoid either place until I knew more.

When we got close to Van Swearingin’s office I could see that the door was wide open. I’d never seen it like that before. I had Charlie and “Pops” stay out of the office while I slipped through the door. The Receptionist’s area was empty. The door to Van Swearingin’s private office was ajar. I looked into his office. Van Swearingin was sitting at his desk, his back to me, looking out of his window, the only window in the entire building, onto the desolate landscape of the Salt Flats. I walked in.

“Hello, Tim.” He didn’t turn around.

“Boss? What’s going on? Where is everybody?”

“You weren’t supposed to be here today.” He turned his chair around. He looked like he’d seen a ghost. He was pale and his eyes were lifeless. His hands were empty, but there was a shiny chromed .45 caliber pistol in his lap. I didn’t like that. “Why don’t you give me that weapon, Boss?”

“No.”

I couldn’t reach it and I didn’t want him to start shooting that cannon. We just looked at each other for a few moments. If he was going to say anything I’d have to start the conversation.

“What’s going on, Mr. Van Swearingin? One minute this place is crawling with…” He cut me off.

“What’s going on, Tim? A lifetime of mistakes coming back at me is what’s going on. I trusted people I shouldn’t have. I let them stay even when I knew I should have gotten rid of them. They took my son as a hostage. I didn’t have the courage to fight them. I let my own personal weakness and greed allow me to betray my country. What’s going on you ask me?”

“Where are the Russians?” I insisted. His self-pity didn’t interest me at this moment.

“The Russians? I think some of them are dead by now. I hope so. The FBI stormed in here twenty minutes ago. They must have taken out the guard post before they could warn them here at the plant. A couple of your Security Detail opened fire when the Russians started to fire at the FBI raiders. You trained them well, Tim.”

“Those men were FBI from the get-go,” I corrected him. “I didn’t even know which of my men they were. I have one more question for you.”

“What’s that, Tim?”

I hollered back out of the office.

“Charlie, bring him in here.”

Charlie came into the office walking behind “Pops” Mulroy. He had one of the Russian’s pistols up against the back of “Pops” head. I had no doubt that he would have pulled the trigger if the old traitor had attempted to run or resist.

“Hi, Dad, What’s new?” His voice was as cold as the desert at night.

Van Swearingin looked up at his youngest son like he had never seen him before. “Charlie? Put down that gun!”

“Sorry, Dad, no can do. I had to kill two of your Russian flunkies to get it and this other big one too. Besides, if I put it down your friend here might do something stupid.” He rapped his prisoner’s head with the gun barrel. “Ain’t that right, Grandpa?”

“Easy, Charlie, the FBI has taken control of the plant and I think they’ll want Mr. Mulroy with his head intact. I’m sure they’ll have a lot of questions for him.” I turned back to Van Swearingin. He couldn’t take his eyes off of his son. “I imagine they will have a few questions for you too. But I have just one.” He looked at me and closed his eyes. He was on the verge of collapse.

“Mr. Van Swearingin, You trusted me with your son, why didn’t you trust me enough to call in the FBI, or the Army or whoever, to end all of this before people had to die?

“I had no Trust left. Everyone I trusted ended up betraying me.” He picked up the pistol from his lap. I reached out hoping he would hand it to me.

“Mr. Van Swearingin – don’t! Give me the gun. Please.”

“No. Hear me out. I’ve made some terrible mistakes, horrible mistakes. I’ve caused a lot of pain to people who didn’t deserve it. It’s too late for me to make amends to some of them. I hope that someday they will be able to forgive me.” He closed his eyes as a tear ran down his cheek.

I thought we were out of the woods, but he opened his eyes before I could reach for his gun. He raised his hand and fired one shot across the room and into the chest of his lifelong friend, employee, and ultimate destroyer “Pops” Mulroy.

XXX

I deposited my last pay envelope and then closed my bank account. I bought a train ticket to Maine. I’d never been there, but it was as far from the west coast as I could go and full of green trees. I’d had enough of the desert Salt Flats.

I read in a newspaper that they put Van Swearingin on trial, but he had caved in on himself and ended up in the crazy house for the criminally insane. I don’t know how long he survived. I never read another word about him.

The End

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Fifteen

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Fifteen

I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. The one man I felt that I could trust – “Pops” and his two big thugs walked me back to my little office. One of the big guys stayed outside the door. I guess “Pops” didn’t want any interruptions. They didn’t tie me up or anything. What was I going to do? Where could I go? I was trapped and I was alone. The only person within 700 miles or so that I felt I could even come close to trusting was a kid who had once tried to stab me. I was as alone as anyone could be.

“Timmy, I’m sorry you decided to show up here a day early. By tomorrow we would have been long gone and this place would have been a smoking pile of ashes – a black stain on the white salt flats. But, you did come early and I’m afraid you’re going to be a tragic victim of the fire. That’s too bad, I kind of liked you.”

I didn’t like being referred to in the past tense while I was still around. I had to speak up. I knew my goose was cooked, but I had to know…why?

“Can I ask you something, or is this a one-way street?

“Pops” chuckled like a grandfather talking to his little grandson.

“Sure, Timmy, we’re not going anywhere for a few hours. Shoot.”

I could have asked him a thousand questions, but the big one was – Why? Why are you betraying your country? What about Van Swearingin? You’ve known him for almost thirty years. You’ve been friends. Why?”

He pulled over one of the side chairs and sat across from me. He moved the big Russian over into the corner like he was a piece of ugly furniture.

“Let me give you a bit of a history lesson, young man, and then maybe you’ll understand who I am and what I’m doing.

“That is true that I’ve known Van Swearingin for a long time. We were both in the army during the first war. When the Armistice was signed he came home – the young hero. I stayed behind. The Army and the politicians weren’t done with me.

“The ink wasn’t dry on the Armistice papers in Versailles before the U.S. Army shipped me and more than ten thousand other men into Russia. We were there taking sides in their civil war. We were there to back the so-called ‘White Russians’ against the ‘Reds’ who had overthrown the Czar and taken power. We had no right to be there. It wasn’t our fight. It was strictly a Russian affair. I spent more than two years there fighting and killing people I didn’t have anything against.

“Like any war there is a lot of idle time. I got to know some of the Russians I picked up the lingo and I learned how the Russians felt having us and troops from other western nations, there tearing up their country. I came home in 1920 and I was a changed man.”

“But, what about your family and friends, “Pops?”

“They were still my family and friends. It was me who’d changed, not them. I was still the same man on the outside, but inside I was changed. I had been betrayed. Inside I became a Russian, an angry Russian.”

“But for thirty years? For thirty years you were what – a spy? A Saboteur?”

“No, Timmy, for almost thirty years I wanted there to be a payback for what we – what I – had done to the Russian people.”

He stopped talking and looked at me with a sad expression on his face.

“’Pops,’ if you were a part of all of this why did you tell me to call the FBI? I don’t get it.”

“Because my naïve young friend, you tell them what you see – or what I wanted you to see – then they tell you what they are going to do, and then you call and tell me everything. You were my spy inside the FBI.”

I stopped trying to ask him anything else. There was no point. He had been stewing over this for decades and I wasn’t going to change his mind sitting here in the middle of nowhere. I looked at “Pops’ and he looked at me. We both knew that any further explanations were useless. Neither of us was going to change at this point.

For about a half hour we just sat there, me, “Pops”, and the side of beef by the door. We could hear plant noises as people passed by my office or equipment was being moved.

A little before noon the big Russian said something. “Pops” answered him in Russian and the big man opened the door and left us alone.

“He has to go ‘Make a Russian River.” He’ll be back in a minute. One thing I can say about them – they are very loyal.”

I bit my tongue. I wanted to answer him with, “Not like you,” but what would be the point?

After another twenty minutes “Pops” began to look concerned. His large pet and bodyguard hadn’t come back. He opened my office door – the other man was gone too. It was just the two of us now – and my small personal revolver that I had taken to carrying again. “Pops” had been overconfident and never had his gorillas pat me down. I hadn’t seen any weapons on “Pops” so I kept mine where it was. I’d bring it out when it would do the most good.

“Pops” closed the office door. He was not happy. For the first time he looked a little scared.

“Stand up, Tim. Something is wrong. We’re going for a little walk-around. Come on.”

He still showed no weapons, just the threat of one. I came from behind my desk and together the two of us walked out into the plant floor.

We turned right. We were both nervous as we headed toward Van Swearingin’s office. We hadn’t gone five yards before we both saw a pair of shoes sticking out from behind a line of lathes. Two shoes – big shoes and they were attached to the Russian bodyguard who had been standing outside of my office. The big man’s brown suit coat was wet with blood. His throat had been slit and there was another damp area in the middle of his broad chest. I hadn’t seen anything like that since we crossed into Germany near the end of the war.

“Pops” stepped back and quickly looked around. There was no one else in sight. The plant had fallen silent. All of the machinery was stopped. It seemed like we were the only two people in the building – no longer counting the dead Russian.

“What’s going on here, Tim? Who? What is this?”

“The ‘Who’ is me.” It was Charlie. He stepped out from behind a large tool cabinet. He was holding his knife – the one I had told him to stop carrying on duty. There was blood dripping from the blade.

“And ‘What this is” – is the end. Your other playmate is back here. He won’t be joining us.” “Pops” was in a stunned silence. I wasn’t.

Next Week, The Conclusion –

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Fourteen

 

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Fourteen

 

Daily life at the Salt Lake Plant was much like the Salt Flats – the same no matter in which direction you looked. Any changes were hard to detect and if you weren’t careful you could find yourself hopelessly lost and looking Death in the eye. Out on The Flats you could die of thirst. Inside the Plant the biggest danger came from the steely-eyed Russians who were running the show even though Van Swearingin had his name on the pay envelopes.

Men came and went. The men who had been there all during the war were disappearing one by one. That old crew was being replaced with thick-necked men who never smiled and who never left the Plant. They had set up a barebones dormitory in a far corner of the building. Little by little a small part of Utah was being turned into a corner of the Ukraine.

Why I was still there and breathing mystified me. It also scared the daylights out of me. I was afraid to go there and mix it up with any of those Russians, and I was afraid to leave because of those FBI guys. Aside from their haircuts and dental work I didn’t see much difference between them.

It had gotten to the point that the only person I felt I could trust was Charlie, Mr. Van Swearingin’s younger son, who had once tried to knife me. I couldn’t really count on his Old Man even though he was the man who hired me for this job. I may have had a nice job title and a hefty salary, but I was really there to be his stooge. I didn’t appreciate that. I didn’t fight my way across North Africa and Europe to be under anybody’s thumb – American or Russian.

I was reaching my limit. I needed to confront Van Swearingin regardless of the danger. I had questions and I was going to demand some straight answers. When I would do that remained to be seen.

Damn it all.

XXX

 

I guess my idea of what constitutes “Soon” and how the FBI defined it went in two different directions.

It was two weeks later when I got back to Salt Lake. I went in a day early because of some possibly iffy weather and flying in that DC-3 was scary enough in good when flying over the mountains was just like the worst roller coaster on earth.

It was when I came into the Plant a day earlier than expected that I saw something new – and I wasn’t sure what it was that I was seeing.

Even though I had flown in alone Van Swearingin was already there. His office door was closed, but I could hear him and someone else talking – arguing really, with the other voice doing most of the talking. I couldn’t make out much of what was being said, but it was obvious that neither of them were very happy. I didn’t need any of the Russians seeing me outside the office door eavesdropping. I had enough trouble and I was there to stir the pot with the Boss.

I’d promised myself that I was going to confront Van Swearingin. I wanted some answers from him about why he didn’t stand up and be a man – instead of a traitor which is how he was looking to me – more so every day. I understood that his oldest son was missing and that maybe the Russians were holding him, but…

Sometimes you have to risk everything or you’ll be sure to end up with nothing.

It’s called courage.

I’ve seen it a number of times and there were those times when it cost a man everything, except the respect and honor of the men who lived to go home to their families.

Charlie was in my office when I got there. He still didn’t like being stuck in Salt Lake, but he was learning to do his job and to become a man. 

Against everything that the FBI had warned me about keeping my trap shut I felt that it was time to take Charlie into my confidence. He had as big a stake in all of this as I did – bigger even.

Aware that the office was being monitored I dug out the notepad again for our real conversation. Out loud we went over the daily log reports. On paper my words were right to the point.

“Charlie, do you have any idea what’s going on around here?”

“You mean with all those Russian gorillas around here? Yeah, I ain’t blind.”

“And why your father is allowing them to…to, let’s face it, Charlie, to steal whatever it is they are really making here?”

“It all looks like some Buck Rogers top secret gizmos of some sort,” wrote Charlie. I had to agree with him on that. The stuff they were making was unlike anything I had ever seen before.

“Has your father said anything to you, Charlie, about why he is letting them run the show?” I didn’t add my other question: “Why, for crying out loud, am I still here?”

Charlie grabbed the tablet and wrote quickly. “Boss, I don’t know anything about all of that. I know that I’m stuck here just like you I figure, and whatever they’re making must be something special or the Russians wouldn’t have their fat noses into everybody’s business. But there ain’t nothing I can do about any of it.”

I was getting angrier by the minute. I signed on to be here, but Charlie was little more than a prisoner. I kicked my wastebasket across the room. I picked up my pen again. “Charlie, I’m going to let you in on something, but you have to keep it to yourself or people will end up dead.”

Charlie’s eyes grew wide.

I ripped off the paper we’d written on. “Take care of this like last time. Got it?” He nodded. “You do that and I going to go talk to your Dad.

Charlie went one way to burn the evidence of our back and forth. I went in the opposite direction. I pretended that I was doing a plant floor walk-through, for all that was worth. I came around a corner near the machine shop and bumped into a familiar face – “Pops” Mulroy. I couldn’t tell you who was more surprised, him or me.

“Pops, what are you doing here?” I stammered, “You’re the last person I’d ever expect to see here again.”

He didn’t say a word. His surprised look melted away into one that told me we weren’t going to have a picnic in the park. It dawned on me that “Pops” was the other voice I’d heard coming through Van Swearingin’s office door.

“Tim, what are you doing here?”

“I might ask you the same question.”

Standing behind “Pops” were two large Russians. They were always easy to pick out of a crowd. They wore cheap suits and faces that looked like they smelled something bad. These two looked more like bodyguards – “Pops’” bodyguards. When he and I came around that corner and bumped into each other both of those sides of beef behind him reached into their suits. They were there to protect “Pops.’

“Расслабься, парни.”

That came out of “Pops’” mouth. His two shadows stepped back and pulled empty hands from their coats. “Pops” looked at me with a smile on his face.

“I just told these two boys to relax. I suggest you do the same, Timmy-Boy.”

 To Be Continued –

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