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 – 2018

Archive for the category “Killing”

Fiction Saturday – “Trapped” – Conclusion

Fiction Saturday – “Trapped” – Conclusion

Trapped

For five days I followed him everywhere. I saw nothing that said he was stepping out on his wife. The closest he came was some gentle flirting with his waitress over lunch. I think he spotted me a couple of times. My bruised face made me stand out, but I couldn’t help but get close at times. My hearing is not as good as it used to be.

I called the number Mrs. Tetley had given me and I told her that, as far as I could tell, her hubby was too busy with his business to be playing around on her. She told me to stay on his tail. She was buying my time and my lunch so I kept dogging her husband. She must know something about him that I haven’t uncovered yet.

It’s not much of a job, but it’s all I have. Once I can’t tail a sneaky husband any more all I’ll be good for is to be an Organ Donor…except for maybe my liver.

###

Ten days I’ve been tailing this guy and I’ve not seen him do anything out of line, except that I know that he made me once or twice. The other day he was heading out to his country club and I had to back down and give him more room on the less crowded road that leads out there. I lost sight of him and as I sped up to regain contact I looked in my mirror and there he was behind me. All I could do was break off and turn down the first road I came to. I called his wife.

“Look,” I told her, “ He knows I’ve been following him, so, even if he is playing around – which I don’t think he is – I’d never catch him at it now. Let’s just settle up and call it quits.”

“Maybe you’re right, Mr. Walker,” she said cooly. “Perhaps I’m just being a silly wife.”

I gave her a quick accounting of what she owed me for all of my wasted rime. I padded it a bit just to soothe my ego. She could afford it. We set up an appointment time for her to come by my office to give me what I had coming.

###

“I think I spotted your ‘Mr.Walker’ following me a couple of times. He looks like a bad prize fighter.”

“Oh, Nigel, be careful. He said he’d kill you. Can’t we just give him the money so he’ll go away?”

“Constance, if we give into him once he’ll never go away. I’ve got to convince him that he’s going after the wrong people.”

His wife looked worried. The cell phone in her pocket began to “ring.” It played a few bars from Aerosmith’s song “Janie’s Got A Gun.”

“Hello,” she said softly into the phone and turned toward her husband. “It’s him. It’s Mr. Walker,” she whispered.

“I see,” she said into the phone. “Yes, I have the money.” She went silent, listening to the voice on the other end of the line. She nodded as Nigel paced back and forth. “Maybe you’re right. Perhaps I’m just being a silly wife.” She looked up at her husband. “Yes, I’ll be there with the money.” She ended the call, slipped the phone back into her pocket.

“Well, you heard that, Nigel. He wants me to go to his ‘office’ he called it, in some building in the city. He insists that I come alone with the money. Oh, Nigel, I’m scared. What if he…tries something? He said that he has a gun.”

“Well, so do I, my Love. Don’t worry, you won’t be there alone. I’ll be there with you and I’ll take care of ‘Mr. Walker.”

###

The sun was going down when I left my apartment. I’d slept a good portion of the day away. There was nothing else on my calendar until the slightly paranoid Mrs. Constance Tetley was scheduled to meet me at the office to settle accounts. That was later, around eight. I had time to soak my still aching body. I headed for Koreatown and a hot tub and massage.

Ten days of Birddogging a man who was as boring as a paper napkin was not fun. He may be the richest man in this part of the state and undoubtedly into some shady business dealings, but his wife only wanted to know if he was bringing it all home at night. She wants her Hubby to give her what she wants and needs.

Me? All I want is paid for my work so that I don’t end up living under a bridge sharing a cardboard box with some guy named “Lucky.” I’ve given up on my dreams of becoming a rich and famous detective. I just want to have enough to keep body and soul together and, when I’m gone, to have a few friends left to share some good memories of me.

###

“What a dump. Are you sure this is the right place?”

“This is the address, Nigel, I’m sure – on the eighth floor,” she whispered as if anyone else was around to overhear them as they got into the elevator.

“He’s only expecting me, so I’d better go in alone. I’m terrified, but I know you’ll be right there.”

“I’ll be right outside the door, Constance. Here’s the money.” He handed her a white business size envelope with ten thousand dollars in hundred dollar bills. “He’ll feel the need to count it. That’s when I’ll come in, but if tries to get physical just yell and I’ll be there before he can do anything.”

“I know you will, Darling. It’s Eight O’clock.”

###

“It’s Eight O’clock,” I said to myself. I heard the elevator stop on the eighth floor. She’ll pay me and then I’m going home, after a drink or two. I’m glad that she’s on time.

“Good evening, Mr. Walker.”

“Good evening, Mrs. Tetley. Please come into my office so I can give you a receipt and so you can be on your way.”

“Is cash OK with you, Mr. Walker? I don’t want my husband to see anything on our bank statement. I’m sure you understand.”

“Cash is fine. It’s my favorite actually. It never bounces the next morning.”

When we were both seated she reached into her purse and pulled out a white envelope. It looked chubby. While she did that I took the holster with the .38 revolver off my belt and set it on the desk. “I guess I won’t be needing to carry this around anymore. Hopefully for a long time. Personally, I hate the things. They’re nothing but trouble.”

“Here’s your money, Mr. Walker. I’ve put in some extra as a bonus for all of your hard work.” She was smiling like she just scratched off a winning lottery ticket.

I opened the flap on the envelope and saw Ben Franklin and his whole family staring back at me.

“Mrs. Tetley, this is way too much. I appreciate your gratitude, but this is…

Her smile disappeared as she jumped to her feet knocking over her chair.

“What do you mean it’s not enough?” She was yelling. “I won’t do that! No! No! Don’t point your gun at me. Help! Help! Nigel!”

She had flipped her coin in two seconds.

“Mrs. Tetley, what’s wrong? What’s going on here?” I picked up my gun. I didn’t want her grabbing it. “I’m not pointing this at you.”

She is screaming. I’m confused and my office door flies open and Nigel Tetley comes in with a big .45 caliber pistol in each hand. His wife stepped back away from the desk and plastered herself up against the far wall.

“So, ‘Mr. Walker’, you pull a gun on my wife? First it’s blackmail and now what?”

I was barely hearing him. All I could do was look at those two cannons pointed at me. The .38 in my hand felt like a cap gun.

“Blackmail? What are you talking about? She hired me too…”

“That’s a lie, Nigel. He showed me those ancient pictures of me and demanding money – and now he points that awful gun of his at me and tells me to undress for him.”

“I never said that. What is this?” I was getting scared. This was falling apart all around me.

“The pictures weren’t enough, eh, Walker? You wanted the real thing. You…” He lifted thee .45s and two red laser dots lit up on my chest.

I may be getting old and slow, but I’ve been shot before and it’s not fun and with his two pistols I wouldn’t have a prayer. My brain shut down and instinct took over. I dove to my left trying to get my body behind my file cabinet. I pulled my trigger. Nigel Tetley did the same. I felt the impact on my thigh. The pain would come along soon enough. My ears were ringing from the roar of the gunfire in my small office. I was on the floor. I was waiting for him to come after me – to finish me off. I would try to return the favor if I could.

Nothing was happening. When my ears opened for business again everything was quiet. I decided to crawl out of the corner to see what was going to happen next.

The first thing I saw was feet. They were attached to Nigel Tetley and I was seeing the soles of his shoes. Both .45s were still in his hands, but they were on the floor too.

I was able to pull myself over to my desk and into my chair. The pain was starting up big time. When I looked at the rest of Nigel Tetley I saw that he was missing an eye. My one reflex shot had hit home. Tetley was as dead as a man could ever be.

“Nice shooting, Walker. Lucky, but nice.”

I turned my head toward the sound of that voice. It was Mrs. Tetley, still standing by the wall. She was smiling again.

“What just happened here?” I asked her or anybody else in the room who could still talk. “Why is he dead and I have a hole in my leg?” I was still holding my gun.

“What just happened, Mr. Walker, is that you just made me a very rich gal – and put away that popgun of yours. You won’t shoot me. You need me. I’m your only witness. You shoot me and your next stop will be Death Row for a double murder. With me still alive I can swear it was self-defense. My crazy, jealous husband followed me here. I came here to hire you to follow him, just like I really did. So don’t threaten me with that pea shooter. You’ll never get off two lucky shots tonight. And now I’m going to call the police.”

She took out her phone, dialed 911 and gave a performance worthy of a Hollywood Star.

I was trapped. She had me in a cold corner. There was no way out for me except through her and she knew it. I knew it, but I didn’t understand it.

“What if your husband had killed me?”

Oh, the same story only reversed. I was hiring you, he followed me, came in. You pulled your gun. He pulled his. Bang. Bang. You’re dead and I tell the cops my hubby shot you in cold blood. He goes to the Gas Chamber on my eyewitness testimony and I am the tragic, but very wealthy, widow. Either way – I win.”

“And I lose,” I said. “I lose again, just like every other day.”

She stepped over the body of her dead husband and sat down again across the desk from me. She reached out and picked up the envelope with all the cash and put it back in her purse.

“No sense on wasting this on you, Mr. Walker, is there?”

I could hear the sirens even from up on the eighth floor. They’d be coming through the door in a couple of minutes.

“Why didn’t you just divorce him?”

“Pre-nup. I wouldn’t get squat. I figured this was my best option.”

She was probably right.

I had no good options. I was sitting in my chair bleeding out, dead broke, and at the mercy of this tall, leggy…there is no word for her in my vocabulary.

I was at a loss. What could I do? I never felt so lost – so trapped. I saw no way out.

###

“This is the Police. We’re coming in and I want to see everybody’s hands in the air. Do you understand me?”

“Come on in.”

There was a single shot.

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Fiction Saturday – “Trapped” – Part One

Fiction Saturday – “Trapped” – Part One

Trapped

I don’t care what they say. If you get worked over by a couple of toughs you are not going to get up and chase after them. You’re more likely to just throw up in the gutter and then go home and feel sorry for yourself.

At least that’s what I did yesterday.

Two pieces of meat working for a crook who is bleeding his own company dry and didn’t like me digging into the details. They knew what they were doing and they enjoyed it.

If I was a few years younger I might have been able to defend myself better and made those two muscle boys regret taking me on, but yesterday was not a few years ago and I’m the only one with regrets.

Regrets and, I think a couple of loose teeth.

When I took an early retirement from The Job I was feeling flush. I had a nice portfolio of tech stocks and my health. Five years later my tech stocks weren’t worth a dozen donuts. I knew the price of donuts all too well and, all of a sudden, I wasn’t a young stud any more.

Today, I’m lying on my couch and wishing I’d stayed on The Force. Then I had insurance and could afford to see a doctor. Now, as a P.I., all I can afford are some cans of chicken soup and a soda straw until the swelling goes down.

That chicken soup’ll be all I’ve got if I don’t get off this couch and back to work. I’m too young for Social Security and Mums and Daddums have cut me out of the will.

Right. If it didn’t hurt I’d laugh at my own jokes.

Work. Office. OK.

It took me a while but I changed clothes, put a couple of band-aids on my once handsome face, and drove downtown to my office. It was a Saturday so I didn’t think I’d run into too many people before I got to the 8th floor. I was wrong.

“Geez, Mr. Walker, you look like you tried to French Kiss a train.”

“Yeah, that’s it, Pal. You got me pegged. I’m really into locomotives.”

That was down in the parking garage.

“Mornin’ Mr. Walk…Sweet Jesus, what did you do to earn all that?”

“I put insufficient postage on my tax return.”

That was from the Newspaper stand guy in the lobby.

Finally, Room 817. The stenciled letters on the frosted glass said, “Private Investigations and Licensed Security.” Down a line or two was my name: “John Walker”

A quick run through the mail informed me that I was up to date on the light bill, late on the rent, and I might already be a winner of something or other. The wastebasket was doing its job well.

I was sitting there behind my desk thumbing through a catalog filled with basic police stuff that I couldn’t afford when I heard the front office door open and someone, a female someone, call out, “Hello? Anybody home?”

I got up, brushed a few crumbs off my shirt, and checked my fly. “I’m here. One moment. On my way.” I opened the door from my office and I lost the power of speech.

She looked like a Pulp Writer’s cliché, straight out of a detective novel. Tall, slim in just the right places, legs that would take time to fully appreciate, and a face that made me want to ask her to the prom – or to Mexico for a weekend.

‘Are you Mr. Walker?” I liked her voice, mainly because it was talking to me.

“Uh…Umm,..Yes, that’s me… Him…John Walker.” I extended my hand like a paw. She took my hand and told me her name, “I’m Constance Tetley and I think I may need your help.”

“Well, if I can help you in any way…”

“Do you own a gun?”

That got my attention.

“Perhaps we should step into my office.”

I ushered her into my inner office, bringing up the rear to close the door behind us and to get another look at – well, you can figure that out. I may be getting old, but I’m not dead. She sat down in the chair in front of the desk. I went behind it to get to mine. She stayed silent so I figured it was up to me to get the ball rolling.

“So why so do you care if I have a gun? You want me to shoot somebody?” I thought that was a reasonable question.

“No, of course not,” she said, wiggling in the chair in discomfort. It made me uncomfortable too. “I ask because, well, my husband has a temper.”

“Your husband.” That was a statement and not a question.

“Yes. He’s why I’m here. I think he’s cheating on me and…”

“And you want me to take a few snapshots of him with whomever, and so on and so on. Right?”

“In a nutshell – Yes,” she said. Mrs. Constance Tetley, young, but not too, and as gorgeous a stack of new and crisp U.S. Grants, dabbed at the corner of her eye with a hanky. I saw no tear.

“Tell me about his ‘temper’ as you called it.” I needed to know how hot the water was before I dipped my toe in. I’ve been burned before.

For the next ten minutes she tried to sugarcoat her husband, Mr. Nigel Tetley, and his propensity to shoot first and skip the questions altogether.

“He’s a collector,” she added.

“Of what?”

“Guns. He has over eleven hundred of them.”

Somehow I knew it wasn’t postage stamps. She readjusted herself in the chair and my blood thinned a bit.

My better judgment screamed at me to call her a taxi and then go for a drink – alone. My less than better judgment wanted for her and me to both be sixteen and in the backseat of my old man’s Buick. What to do?

What I did was take her cash, get her phone number, and cleaned and oiled my five-shot Charter Arms revolver. I must be nuts.

***

He walked into their library and saw his wife curled up on the leather sofa. She looked like she had been crying. She looked up at him as a real tear rolled down her cheek.

“What’s wrong, Constance?” His voice filled with what sounded like genuine concern.

“Sit down, Nigel. I have – we have – a problem.” She reached for her glass on the coffee table and took a swallow as he moved closer.

“What kind of problem?” he said. “Let me take care of it.” He patted her knee like she was the young daughter they didn’t have. “Talk to me.”

She took a deep breath and dried her eyes.

“Nigel, there’s no point in pretending. We both know that I had ‘A Past’ before we met, that I…that I lived in the ‘fast lane’.”

“You were a Rock and Roll groupie,” amended Nigel Tetley. “Yes, I knew all about that when we first met. So, what’s the problem now? All of that was years ago and a lifetime away. What’s going on? It is all in the past, right?”

“Oh, Nigel. Yes, it is all in the past, the distant past. I swear. At least I thought it was.”

Her husband’s back straightened and his fists clenched. “Talk to me, now.”

“A man came up to me when I was at the Mall shopping today. He just walked up to me and said ‘We have some business to conduct.’”

“What does that mean? Was he trying to sell you something?”

“That’s what I thought and then he shoved a couple of pictures in front of me. Pictures of me, from long ago, from those crazy days.” She stopped and took another sip from her drink, cleared her throat, and continued. “I didn’t know these pictures even existed. He said that unless I ‘Came across’ with some money he would ‘show them to the world’.”

“Blackmail, that’s what this is,” said Nigel Tetley. “I’ve been expecting this to happen – for years. It was just a matter of time before some weasel out of the past would show up. Did he threaten you – physically?”

“Me? No. He said that if he didn’t get the money he would kill you. Oh, Nigel, I am so sorry. I don’t know what else to say or do.” She moved next to her husband and let him hold her in his arms, to comfort her.

“Don’t worry about this, Constance, I know how to deal with people like that, but I need to ask you a few questions. OK?” She nodded and buried herself in his arms.

“Constance, did this man give you his name or a way to contact him?”

No, he said that he would contact us, but if we called the police he would kill you. A name? Yes, he said I should call him ‘Mr. Walker.’ He was a mess. He looked like somebody had beaten him up. He was all bruised.”

“Walker?”

“John Walker.”

***

I figured the only way I was going to see if Constance Tetley’s husband was stepping out on her was to shadow him for a few days to see if he does have a “hottie” stashed away. If he does it shouldn’t take long. He’ll want a taste or two soon enough. I follow him; hope for a convenient window or open door – snap, snap – and the wife and her lawyer have their evidence.

It may not be a pretty way to make a living, but unless you can get a contract with some big company to run their Security Setup, you have to eat. The way things have been going for me I haven’t been doing much of either. No work, no money. No money, no reason to feel hopeful and you take any job.

I don’t usually carry my weapon with me. Most of my jobs have relied on my research and computer skills, finding lost or missing people and money, but after the Lovely Lady with the Long Legs told me that her hubby was better armed than most countries, I figured I better dust off my belt holster.

Over the years, on The Force and now as a Freelancer, my stomach has been my own Early Warning System. Putting the gun into the holster made my stomach clench up, but I put that off to the working over I’d just absorbed.

I did a little research into Mr. Nigel Tetley – born in England, and wealthy – very wealthy. The source of his money is a bit obscure hidden in a number of overseas ventures and commercial properties in this one.

He was known to have an explosive temper. There were tales that he pulled a one punch knockout on a “Capital O” Official from the Commerce Department who dared to question his business practices.

Online sources says that Tetley has two passions: Guns and his wife, Constance. Eleven hundred guns and one very special wife. The scuttlebutt has it that a number of his guns have a dirty past. The same could be said of his wife.

Constance Tetley, nee Bosworth came from small town Texas and by the age of sixteen was on the road touring with a well-known Rock and Roll Band as a backstage groupie and main squeeze of the lead screamer.

She met Tetley at a backstage party when she was 22 and he was 40. He wanted her and what he wanted he got. They were married and she disappeared behind The Wall of the Very Rich.

Now, according to the Mrs., Mr. Nigel Tetley is, or might be, cheating on her and she wants me to tell her yea or nay.

Next week – The Conclusion of “Trapped”

Fiction Saturday – Boxer – Conclusion 

 

Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Conclusion

Boxer

by John Kraft

 

“What about…” He looked at Gloria who had walked into the room and was standing by the kitchen door with her arms crossed. “Our two – visitors?”

“They’re, uh, in the trunk.” Walker leaned forward ignoring the pain.

“What trunk? My trunk? The Cadillac? You put those dead bodies in the trunk of my Cadillac?” Gloria stood up straight.

“Dead bodies? What dead bodies? She asked. Her words stuck in her throat. “Terry, what dead bodies? You didn’t say anything about dead bodies. Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus.” She hugged herself and started to rock back and forth. She was already on the verge of crumbling. “Oh, Terry.”

Walker lost it. “Shut up, you stupid Gin Blossom! Terry, shut her up. I need to think.”

“Gloria, please. He needs to think. I’ve messed things up. I’m sorry.”

Gloria looked at Terry. “You’ve messed things up? What about this jackass sitting on our couch? He’s the one who’s messed things up, not you.”

Walker picked up one of the small pillows from the sofa and threw it at her.  “Hey, Blondie, shut up. Get out of here. Go do something useful. Go slit your wrists.”

“Do something useful? I’ll do something useful right now.” In two steps she was in front of the sofa and she delivered a sharp left jab onto Walkers bandaged shoulder. He let out a short scream before he passed out. “Now that’s something useful, you, Mr.’My Cadillac.’”

Read more…

Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Five

 Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Five

 

Boxer

by John Kraft

 

 

“I’ll let you in, but I don’t have to like it.”  –Gloria Dumbaugh

 

“No. No. No. Are you crazy, Terry?  What are you thinking? This man has been shot? He’s not a lost puppy You can’t just bring him home.”

Gloria was pissed.

“I don’t know what else I can do, Hon. He’s my Boss. Look, he’s out cold. I got something I gotta do. Just a few minutes. He won’t be any trouble, I promise. Just keep him on the bed.”

“Our bed you mean.”

OK, on the couch then. I gotta go. It’s important.”

“Terry, he’s been shot. What if he dies on me? What then?”

Terry ran his bandaged fingers through his hair. He wanted to run away. “He won’t die. Doc patched him up. See all that tape? He’ll be good as new in no time.” He set the shirtless, unconscious man on her couch. “Hon, I really gotta go. I’ll bring you back some ice cream.”

“Terry, No, you can’t…” She stopped. She knew it was useless. “Butter Pecan.”

Terry took the Cadillac. He wished it was his. Maybe someday. He parked in the alley behind Walker’s office, right back where it had been before all this mess started.

Inside Walker’s office nothing had changed. The dead guy hit with the shotgun was still dead and was going to stay that way. The Fat Guy by the door was…where was he? Terry started to sweat again and talk to himself.

Read more…

Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Four

 

Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Four

 

Boxer

by John Kraft

 

 

“Mr. Walker? You’re bleeding.”

“Yeah, I know, Einstein. My arm. I need to see Doc. Can you drive?”

“Sure. Keys?”

“In my left coat pocket. You’ll have to get them. I’m parked in back – dark green Cadillac. Let’s go.”

“What about them?” Terry asked, pointing with the baseball bat at the two men on the floor.

“Later. They don’t look like they’re going anywhere soon. C’mon, help me up.”

Terry picked up the dead man’s pistol and set it on the desk. Walker slipped it into his right coat pocket.

 

“You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.”  — Al Capone

 

Doc shook his head. “I can’t do that. Not here. You need to go to the hospital.” He looked pale and hung over. That explained again why he never finished medical school.

“Doc, you gotta do something for him. He’s been bleeding all over the place. He passed out on the way over here.”

“Oh, Jesus, Terry, I can maybe try to stop the bleeding, but that’s about it.” Doc gave the unconscious man a quick eyeball check. “That slug is still in him. Probably stuck in a bone. I can’t deal with that here.”

“Do what you can, Doc. I’ll take him to the clinic, I promise.”

“No hospital. No hospital.” Walker had stirred. He was awake enough to hear what was being said. “No hospital. They’ll call the Police.

“Mr. Walker.” Terry wiped his hands on his pant leg. He was sweating like he had gone fifteen rounds. “Mr. Walker, Doc says that the bullet is still in your arm up by your shoulder. No offense, Doc, but Mr. Walker, you need a real doctor.”

Walker was barely able to stay awake. He shook his head. His eyes were only half open. “No hospital. I’ve got two dead bodies in my office. How do I explain that?”

“What?” Doc took a step back from both men. “What? You two have to get out of here. If the police bust me I’ll die in prison. You have to go. Now. Get out.”

“Terry, he’s right. In my wallet there’s a card…a card. Dr. Wycoff. Call him. Take me there.”

“Wycoff? He’s a Veterinarian,” half shouted Doc, “A horse doctor.”

“Terry, do what I tell you. Call him. Call him and then I’ll…” He passed out again.

“Doc, what should I do? He’s my Boss. If he dies I’m out of work, but if I take him to the hospital we’re both in hot water. Doc?

Doc opened a cupboard and took down a box of latex gloves. “He needs a real doctor, but that Wycoff is an old drunk who’d kill him for sure – if he wasn’t dead by the time you got him there. Damn it. Let me see what I can do.”

The two men lifted the unconscious and bleeding man up onto Doc’s kitchen table. Doc took some scissors and started cutting off Walker’s coat and shirt. Terry moved back and stood there watching and worrying.

“I’ll try to stop the bleeding. That’s first, and then we’ll see if I can at least find that bullet. It’d be a snap if I had an X-Ray.”

Ten minutes later Doc had stopped the bleeding, and after poking around he could tell that the bullet fired by the dead man, the very dead man, still in Walker’s office looking for his face, was lodged in the joint where the upper arm connects into the shoulder.

“Well, Terry, that’s about all I can do. I can see where the bullet is, but…”

“Can you get it out, Doc? That would help him a lot wouldn’t it?”

“I said I know where it is, but it might as well be on the moon. No, I’ve done what I can here, Terry. Thanks to you he is still alive, but he needs more than either of us can do.”

“I think I’d make a good Corner Man, Doc.”

“Yeah, but nobody ever got shot at in the Boxing ring.”

Doc stripped off his latex gloves and tossed them into a wastebasket half filled with empty bottles. He looked at his unconscious patient and at Terry. Standing next to his Boss Terry looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.

“What to do now, Doc? My Boss needs an X-Ray and there’s two stiffs in his office.”

“Not good, Terry.”

“Yeah, Mr. Walker took out the one that shot him – with his sawed-off. It’s a mess. I got the other one, a big fat guy, with a baseball bat.”

“Oh, Terry, this is getting worse by the minute.’

“Could I just leave, Mr. Walker here for a while, you know…?”

“No. No way you can leave him here. Where does he live? Does he have a family?”

“Jeez, Doc, I don’t know where he lives. I’ve only seen him at his office or at ringside. Family? I don’t know that either.”

Lying on the table, Walker was coming to a bit. He was moaning. His arm and shoulder were heavily bandaged. He was drooling.

“Terry, you have to go, both of you. I’ll help you get him out to your car.”

 

Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Three

 

Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Three

 

Boxer

by John Kraft

 

“Now I know why tigers eat their young.”  —  Al Capone

 

Once the night faded away the streets were wet and the sky promised more. Terry Jarosz was at his Boss’s office at 8:30. He had slept on Gloria’s couch for a few hours using the three grand as a pillow. He dreamed that the money was his, but he knew it wasn’t and now he was at the office to turn it in and get his cut – five percent. The Boss was waiting for him.

“Did you get it all, Terry? Three grand?”

Terry nodded and emptied his pockets out onto the desk.  The last two dollars was in quarters. “I got it all, Mr. Walker.”

“Good job, Terry.” He looked at the Boxer’s bandaged fists. “Jesus H. Christ, what happened to your hands? Was he hiding the money in a meat grinder?”

Terry looked at his bandages. They were feeling tight. He was swelling.

“No. He got physical with me, him and one of his boys. I’m OK. I’ll take it easy for a day or two and I’ll be OK.”

“I hope so. You look like you went twelve rounds with the Marines.”

“I’m OK, Mr. Walker. A hundred-fifty dollars?”

Walker peeled off a couple of wrinkled Fifties and the rest in Twenties and Sawbucks.

“Five percent of three thousand – a hundred-fifty dollars.” He threw in an extra Twenty. “A bonus – to cover the cost of your bandages, Terry. Take your girl out for a nice dinner.”

“OK. Thanks Mr. Walker. I’ll do that. I’ll be ready to go again in no time.”

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Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Conclusion

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Conclusion

A Safe Place 

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“Show me. If you didn’t kill her, who did?”

He pulled out one of the photos and held it up facing me.

“He did,” he said, pointing to the dark haired man who was younger than either of us and in a lot better shape.

“Him,” I said? “What makes you think it was him? Just because he was…” He interrupted me before I could finish my sentence.

“He told me he did it.”

Off in the distance we both heard sirens. He looked at me, an anger beginning to build in his eyes.

“Did you tip off the cops that I was here?”

“No, I didn’t. I didn’t tell anybody, but you better talk fast. They’re getting closer. He told you that he’d killed your wife? When” Why?”

“I told you. While I was in jail.”

I nodded, not knowing what else to do to get him to keep talking.

“After you showed me these pictures in your office. Again, I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, yeah – go on.” The sirens were getting louder. “I think your neighbors are nosier than you thought.”

“Well, after I left your office, I went down to the bar down the block. A guy accidentally bumped into me and I hit him, hard. The barkeep called the cops and I spent the next 72 hours in lockup.”

“But what about him,” I said, pointing to the naked guy in the picture? “Talk faster.”

“Him? He was one of the cops who pulled me off of the guy in the bar. He knew who I was and the next day, with me in restraints, he told me that he’d killed her a few hours after they’d hauled me in. He said that he went to see her, told her about the pictures and me being arrested. They argued, she pulled a knife on him, and it went to hell from there.

“He said that it was fun, what he did to her. Then he beat me up while I was tied to a chair.”

He teared up.

“I was released when this filthy animal did my bail. He wanted me out. If I was out when she was discovered they’d come looking for me first thing. You know that. It’s always the jealous husband. He needed me out on the streets. I was his alibi.”

The sirens had stopped and I could hear them coming up the stairs like a herd of elephants. I looked at Cumberland. He was rocking back and forth on his toes, not knowing what to do next.

Four cops came through the open door, guns drawn. I recognized one of them, even though he had his clothes on. He was smiling.

“Nobody move. You – drop the pistol if you want to live.”

I did, so I did.

“How did you know he was here,” I asked? 

“We didn’t, but we knew you were. Cumberland, you are under arrest for the murder of your wife.”

“I didn’t do it.” He was getting really agitated. I hoped he wouldn’t snap.

While the smiling cop started to read Cumberland his rights, one of the other cops took out his cuffs and moved toward the much smaller man, still in his apron.

“Stay away from me. That one,” he said, pointing at the now outright grinning cop by the door. “He’s the one who killed her, not me.” He moved around to the other side of the table. “No, stay away from me.” Cumberland looked at me for help. I was no good.

It was like watching at a cat play with a cornered, terrified, mouse. Looking at the two of them I finally believed Cumberland’s story.

“Stay away from me,” he said. Crazy and desperate, Cumberland grabbed the still hot dish of lasagna and threw it at the cop.

When the steaming mess hit the cop square in the face, he screamed in pain, and the no longer smiling cop, who I now finally believed was the killer, opened fire, hitting Cumberland square in the chest.

The shooting inquiry report read “Justified.”

———

I hate jobs like this. Snooping into bedroom windows; taking grainy photographs that are going to make somebody cry and somebody else walk out the door. Only this time two somebodies got carried out.

The End

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Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part Six

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part Six

A Safe Place

He started moving toward me. I lifted my revolver and aimed it between his eyes.

“Stop right there, Cumberland. Don’t get any closer or I will shoot you dead.”

He stopped. “Can I just set this down? It’s getting heavy and it is hot. These are cheap oven mitts. I’ll put it down on the table and I’ll back up. OK?”

It seemed like a reasonable thing to ask. “OK, but no funny business. I’m a good shot.” That was a lie too. I’d be lucky to hit him at all even though he was only five feet away. I hoped that my shaking knees weren’t obvious.

He did like he said. He put the lasagna down on a straw trivet, then went back to where he started. He closed the oven door and threw his mitts on the range top. I didn’t like his additions to our agreement. I told him so. He shrugged and I pressed him some more.

 “Tell me, Cumberland. Why did you come back here? I’d think you’d want to get as far away as possible.”

“Where would I go? And if I started running I’d never be able to stop. I came back here because I needed a safe place to stay. The Police were done with it and most of the neighbors aren’t real nosy. After you chased me away from the Mission – I came home.

“And I’m sorry about your office. I just went nuts. But I didn’t kill her. I couldn’t have killed her – even though…. I can prove I didn’t kill her.  I have an alibi.”

“What kind of alibi?”

“I was already in jail.”

“What are you talking about – in jail? What kind of line are you trying to hand me?”

“I’m trying to hand you the killer – if you’re interested. Are you interested – or are you just going to shoot me and close the case?

My knees stopped shaking and my heart started pounding.

“I’m not going to shoot unless you force me to.” I hoped not, anyway.

“Assuming, for a second, that I believe you – you know who killed your wife?”

“I didn’t at first, when you showed me those pictures, but I do now. The pictures – they’re in my desk there. Can I get them?”

“I’ll get them,” I said. “Where?”

“Top right drawer. You don’t trust me? You think I have a gun in there”

I just stared at him. I was beginning to have doubts. What was done to that woman and the man standing in front of me didn’t match up so well anymore.

I opened the desk drawer. There was the Manila folder I’d given him, but no gun. He didn’t move until I tossed the folder onto the table.

“Show me. If you didn’t kill her, who did?”

He pulled out one of the photos and held it up facing me.

“He did,” he said, pointing to the dark haired man who was younger than either of us and in a lot better shape.

“Him,” I said? “What makes you think it was him? Just because he was…” He interrupted me before I could finish my sentence.

“He told me he did it.”

Off in the distance we both heard sirens. He looked at me, an anger beginning to build in his eyes.

 

To be Continued – Next week, the Conclusion

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part Five

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part Five

 

A Safe Place

lasagna On my way through the lobby I peeked into their mailbox – nothing – and a chill ran down my spine. By now that box should have been stuffed with junk mail if nothing else.

The yellow “Crime Scene” tape was still stretched across their door. I could taste my lunch again.

I was hoping that I was wrong, but when I grabbed the knob and it turned, I knew that I wasn’t. I took my weapon out of my pocket. My palm was sweating, along with everything else.

Considering what Cumberland had already done, I was scared about what I’d be up against when I opened the door. I’m no superhero. I’m just a guy with limited corporate world job skills trying to keep myself fed.

I turned the doorknob as slowly as I could, hoping it wouldn’t squeak. When I pushed the door open a crack I could see that a light was on somewhere in the apartment. I could smell something too – something familiar – Lasagna? It smelled like one of those frozen lasagna dinners I buy myself. And garlic bread. I could hear someone singing.

When I stepped inside the front room I could tell that the smells and the singing were coming from the kitchen near the rear of the apartment. I headed that way moving from area rug to area rug to cover my footsteps. The dining room table was set for one. A bottle of Chianti was open next to a single wine glass.

I stepped into the kitchen doorway. The floor creaked and Cumberland turned around. He was holding the lasagna with both hands. He had on two red oven mitts and an apron asking me to kiss the chef. I passed.

 I thought he would look surprised, at least, or maybe throw the steaming lasagna at me – but he didn’t. He didn’t move. He smiled. That I didn’t see coming.

“I heard you come in. I’ve been expecting you, sooner or later. Would you like some lasagna? There’s plenty.”

I’m standing in this guy’s kitchen with my gun aimed at his guts and he asked me to join him for supper.

“I’m not hungry.” That was a lie. “I have to take you in. You know that.”

“Yeah, I know. But, like I said before, I didn’t do it. How could I kill her? I loved her. Can you believe that?”

“Even after I showed you those pictures of her and…?”

“I know. That really hurt me. I guess I knew it already that she was playing around, but your pictures – that hurt.”

He had tears in his eyes. He wiped them away with the oven mitt.

“And I’m sorry about your office. I just went nuts. But I didn’t kill her. I couldn’t have killed her – even though…. I can prove I didn’t kill her.  I have an alibi.”

“What kind of alibi?”

“I was already in jail.”

“What are you talking about – in jail?”

He smiled again and started moving toward me. I lifted my revolver and aimed it between his eyes.

“Stop right there, Cumberland. Don’t get any closer or I will shoot you dead.”

He stopped. “Can I just set this down? It’s getting heavy and it is hot. These are cheap oven mitts. I’ll put it down on the table and I’ll back up. OK?”

It seemed like a reasonable thing to ask. “OK, but no funny business. I’m a good shot.” That was lie too. I’d be lucky to hit him at all even though he was only five feet away. I hoped that my shaking knees weren’t obvious.

He did like he said. He put the lasagna down on a straw trivet, then went back to where he started. He closed the oven door and threw his mitts on the range top. I didn’t like his additions to our agreement. I told him so.

When he crossed his arms and leaned against the stove I asked him, “You were already in jail? What kind of line are you trying to hand me?”

“I’m trying to hand you the killer – if you’re interested. Are you interested or are you just going to shoot me and close the case?

My knees stopped shaking and my heart started pounding.

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part Four

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part Four

A SAFE PLACE

“…I didn’t do it. I didn’t kill her.”giphy-9

If I’ve heard some guy say that once, I’ve heard it a hundred times. What else is he going to say? “I did it. I’m guilty.” Not in this state.

Cumberland was a small guy, but when his temper gets let loose, like it did in my office, he could play Linebacker for the Rams. He could easily have done to his wife what I saw when I got a look at her on the floor of their apartment.

Now all I wanted to do was nab him. If I could take him in alive, so much the better, then the people would at least get a trial for all of their tax money. I’m not getting paid for this chase, but the cops are getting a lot of overtime on their paychecks. I want him because he used me to give his lawyer a possible defense.

There’s no doubt that he is as insane as they come, but in my book he’s guilty too.

 “…I didn’t do it. I didn’t kill her.”

It always amazes me how someone like Cumberland can hide so that me and the whole police force can’t find him. This isn’t that big of a city and everybody in town has seen his face a thousand times by now. Is he hanging out at the Society for the Blind, or what? Where is he sleeping now that I’ve queered the Mission for him? Is he cooking rabbits in the Park? I need some sleep. I’m going home and get some rest. I’ll take something out of the freezer and…No. That can’t be.

I didn’t have time to call my hired goon to back me up. I was going to go solo on this. If it didn’t pan out, I’d look like a fool all by myself, but if it did – I slipped two extra speed loaders into my coat pocket.

I hadn’t been down there since that first day when they found her body. The forensics people had been in and left with bags of stuff. So did the coroner.

 On my way through the lobby I peeked into their mailbox – nothing – and a chill ran down my spine. By now that box should have been stuffed with junk mail if nothing else.

The yellow “Crime Scene” tape was still stretched across their door. I could taste my lunch again.

 

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part One

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place”

 

 I hate jobs like this. Snooping into bedroom windows; taking grainy photographs that are going to make somebody cry and somebody else walk out the door. Only this time somebody got carried out.

Six months ago – it seems like six years – his life was quiet and predictable. He had a job that was less than perfect and he was in a relationship that he described the same way – less than perfect. He hired me to look into it for him because, as he said, “Whenever I’d think about the imperfections everything would tense up.” At least that’s how he said it to me – “Tense up.”

I’ve had to deal with some of the toughest, meanest, and downright sadistic people you would ever hope to not meet, but this little guy topped them all. Or maybe I should say “bottomed” them all. I didn’t think I could be surprised any more after ten years in this racket, but when I saw what he did to… I don’t want to talk about it or I won’t sleep tonight. Just imagine the worst thing one human being could do to another – then double it and you might come close. If you don’t vomit first.

And now I had to find him – to hunt him down. I don’t want to, but I feel obligated. After all, it was me who took the pictures that lit his fuse. Sure, the police were looking for him too, but they tended to work as well as anything you might buy from a TV infomercial at four in the morning. I figured it was me or nothing.

I’ve had all my contacts, snitches, and keyhole peekers sniffing at the wind for a month trying to get any clue as to where I might find him – Patrick Cumberland is his name. Tonight I got a call. Someone thinks they saw him, maybe. My snitch says that his snitch says that he’s showed up at the Beacon Light Mission hoping for a meal. I needed to get down there – now.

Why is it that every Mission for the down and out and the misfits of the world – why is it that they all look like something that should have been torn down fifty years ago? The people looking for help there are feeling bad enough; they don’t need to go into a building that looks as ragtag as they do.

As I pulled up to the Beacon Light Mission – there is always parking in front – there were about a half dozen men lounging on the steps, waiting for the bible service to end so they could go in for a meal and a warm cot for the night. It was already getting into the mid-40s and Fall officially starts tomorrow.

I didn’t need to ask directions about where to find the head honcho. I knew my way around the building. It seems that half of my jobs call for me to scrape the bottom of this particular barrel. It’s a terrible place to hide. It’s a terrible place to go if you want to be inconspicuous. It’s just a terrible place. I’ve slept there.

“Yes, he was here, but not with the name Cumberland.”

Reverend Billy looked down the page full of names. He got so much Federal and State money for each person he fed and sheltered so he kept meticulous records. Meticulous and I’m sure just as legitimate as his “Reverend” certificate that hung on the wall behind him.

“Here he is. Todd – Sweeney Todd. I remember him because of that. You know – the musical and all that?”

“Uh –huh. Is he here tonight – now?”

“No. This says he was here two nights ago and again last night, but that means he won’t be here tonight. Two nights in a row, then they have to leave for a couple days. Otherwise we’d turn into a hotel and that would mean a whole new set of regulations and such.”

“And no cash from D.C.”

“No.” He paused and looked at me like he had just bitten into something stale. “Why are you looking for him? He didn’t seem very dangerous. He looked more like a lost bunny.”

“One very sick and twisted bunny. Any idea where he might go on a night like tonight when he can’t flop here?”

“Please don’t say ‘flop.’ We are not a flophouse. We are trying to save both their souls and their bodies, and, as to where he might be tonight – if he has some money – one of the real flophouses down by the waterfront. Without any money – your guess is as good as mine. Would you care to make a small donation?”

“My taxes aren’t due until next April.

“Cynic.”

I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend the night crawling under every bridge abutment and behind every dumpster in town. I don’t care how much I want Cumberland’s scrawny neck. He’ll have to surface again and I’ll be waiting. But I’m going to need some help.

                             * * * 

“I assume you’re up on this creep. I mean – you’d have to be dead not to be – unless you’re like me and you only buy a paper to look at the sports page and the crossword puzzle.

“He came to me because he thought his wife was running around on him. She was, and I don’t blame her. Her husband, the piece of trash I’m looking for now, treated her like a slave – worse – he treated her like a slave’s three-legged dog. I didn’t like him from the start, but he paid in cash and I was behind on just about every bill I had.

“When I showed him the pictures – her and some guy comparing moles – he went berserk right here in the office. It was all I could do to keep him from killing me just because I was handy. I wish I’d… Oh, I wish I’d become a priest like my mother wanted, but Donna Jean Shansky was better looking than my mother, so….  

“Tonight we’ll go back to the mission – you and me. If he’s back for another “hot and a cot” we’ll double team him. Handcuffs, ankle irons and a couple of hits to the kidneys – just so he won’t feel like fighting back. I’ll take my .38 along, just in case. Ready? Let’s stop for a burger on the way. I’ll drive.”

– to be continued –

Detective-with-smoke-flipped-300x244

 

Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Conclusion

Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Conclusion

 

Things were going sour. Guns were out and something ugly was bound to happen. I left my observation post and quickly headed back toward the door. I drew my .38 and checked the wheel for a full load.

Inside the door it was dark, but there was light pouring out at the end of the hallway. I tried to get closer as quickly and quietly as I could. I didn’t see the toolbox on the floor until I kicked it. Before I got my footing Regis was standing two feet in front of me with the dirty semi-automatic pointed at my forehead.

“Well, look who’s here? C’mon, Mr. Private Eye, and join the party.”

He marched me the rest of the way down the hall and into the light.

“Forty Ounce” looked at me, but spoke to Sunny Boggs.

“I thought I told you to come alone? Can’t you follow a simple command?”

“I didn’t know he was here. I swear it. I fired him.” Her voice sounded panicky. Instead of being the hero here I was the fifth wheel, and I was flat now that Regis had my .38 in his left hand. “Forty Ounce” looked at me like I had just ruined his day. Well, mine wasn’t going too great either.

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Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Part Four

Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Part Four

It was a little after 8 AM when the phone finally rang and woke me. It’s never good news at 8 AM. It was Regis alright and he told me that “Forty Ounce” said “No” to me bringing the money for the dog. It had to be The Lady – alone – or the dog was history.

There was no way I was going to go along with that, but I had no choice but to agree to tell “The Lady.” She would go along with any of their cockeyed plans if she thought it would get her dog back. She was the Perfect Victim.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 38 Continued

Fiction Saturday

“Dominic, killing us won’t solve anything,” said Laura. “What’s done is done. I’m sorry, but I didn’t know that Graciella was the law. I ran away from you because I wasn’t going to take you beating up on me anymore. If I’d wanted you dead all I had to do was ask my father and you’d have disappeared.”

“Yeah, well, I’m sorry about hitting you, Beverly. You know something, Bette? Beverly here has a mean one-two punch. She knocked out a tooth of mine once. See, back here.” Dominic opened his mouth and pointed to a gap in his teeth with the barrel of his gun.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter38

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 38

 

A fresh batch of tourists were getting off the train and heading for the border. A few walked toward the McDonalds, but saw the yellow crime scene tape and turned back to join the flow to the crossing gate.

Laura flipped off the light switch and closed the Cambio door behind her. They looked up and down the street. Nobody was paying them any attention. Laura took Davis’s arm as they casually crossed the plaza. She idly swung the plastic shopping bag holding $180,000 worth of forged documents and the file folder from Molina’s office. They looked just like a couple of tourists heading home after a day of shopping in Tijuana. They made a beeline for the nearest open door on the waiting red train.

They started to step up into the car when a uniformed San Diego police sergeant started coming down and blocked their way. Laura and the officer made eye contact. After what felt like an hour, the officer stepped back up into the car.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 37 Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 37 Continued

As they passed it, they both looked over into the alcove. The dead man seemed so very small. Davis walked over and pulled the pistol from Lizard Boy’s waistband and started to stick it in his belt. Laura stopped him and held out her hand. He passed it to her. They left the bundle of cash locked in the dead man’s hand.

It was only another fifty feet before they saw a set of steps rising toward a carpet-covered door.

They slowly climbed the steps and listened. They couldn’t hear anything coming from the other side.

“Well, if nothing else, we have the element of surprise,” whispered Davis. He reached for the knob.

“We hope,” said Laura and pulled his hand back from the door. She would go first. The Mexican’s pistol pointed up. 

“Let’s go, my dear,” she said. They both took a deep breath of the warm and stale air.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 37

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Seven

 

       Lizard Boy smiled as Laura and Davis walked over to the metal storage shed.

“Things are better at the border. They’re opening up again,” he said to them in his usual staccato style.

A small, stocky man with strong Mayan facial features, held open the door to the shed and motioned them all inside. His face exhibited several prison tattoos. He was bare-chested and wearing a leather vest. His coppery skin showed a number of scars. He had a large knife sheathed on his belt and over his shoulder was slung an AK-47, the Third World’s weapon of choice. In his left hand, he held a fresh caramel Frappuccino.

“I’m glad you liked my coffees,” he said. “Just like I used to make at Starbucks. Good, huh? Well, bien viaje, amigos.”

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 36 Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 36 Continued

pull-tijuanaOutside, the sun was beginning to go down and an offshore breeze was finally cutting through the hot and hectic city. The shopping-mad tourists were heading home and the drinking-mad tourists were arriving. The mood in Tijuana was changing, like it did everyday at this time, from commercial cordiality to alcoholic depravity. The zebra-painted donkeys that pulled small carts along the avenidas so tourists could have some unusual pictures to take home to Iowa, were being replaced by other donkeys for another kind of entertainment that Tijuana was famous for.  

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Continued Chapter 36

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Six

 

warehouses“It’s at number 162, Tomás. Drive past it and let us out down the block,” said Laura, scanning the fronts of the small warehouses and workshops.

The cab slowed while Tomás craned his neck out the window looking for the address.

“There it is, Señorita. That’s it, with all the doors.”

The structure at 162 Avenida de Negocios was unlike anything Laura or Davis had ever seen before. It was built entirely out of garage doors.

“What the hell is that?” she asked.

Tomás smiled. “We Mexicans can be very resourceful. There are a quite a few buildings like this in Tijuana. They are made out of recycled garage doors from LA and San Diego. A few Mexican entrepreneurs have been importing them by the truckload. Actually, there is a whole neighborhood near here made of doors. Very clever, no?” He steered the cab over to the curb about fifty yards past the all-door structure.

“Well, Tomás,” said Laura. “Thank you for your tour of Tijuana and for your help. Bless you.”

“My pleasure, my friends. I wish you both good luck.”

Davis patted Tomás’ shoulder.

“Bless you twice, Tomás.”

Laura and Davis stepped out of the taxi onto the empty sidewalk. The cab turned at the next corner and was gone.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Continued Chapter 35

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Five

 

pull-molinas-waitingIt was time to take care of present business and to move on to whatever the future might bring. She climbed the stairs to the second floor of Molina’s building and stood in front of his door. She was tired. She was spent physically and emotionally. The constant stress of waiting for a bullet in the back was pushing her toward the edge. She opened the door to Molina’s studio and walked up to the speaker hanging on the wall.

“I’m back, Molina. Get out here,” she shouted.

“I’ll be right there, Señorita. One moment, please,” came the tinny-sounding response.

She dropped down into one of the wooden chairs and felt all of the air leave her. She closed her eyes as she leaned her head back against the green-painted wall. Sleep was all she really wanted right now. Sleep, a long soak in a warm tub, a massage and maybe a good long cry.

“Señorita? Miss Lovejoy?”

She jerked forward, disoriented for a second or two. Then her instincts took over and all of her senses were focused on Ernesto Molina who was standing in front of her, his hand on her knee.

“You are alone?” said Molina,

“For the moment, yes.”

 “Very well, come with me, Señorita.”

Molina led her back down the hall into the studio where they had done the photo shoot. There was a large plastic shopping bag sitting on the bed, the kind of bag you can buy for a dollar in every shop in Tijuana. The comforter had been pulled down and the bag was resting on the white silk sheets that Molina favored.

“I have everything you’ll need, Señorita—a complete package. Please, let me show you. I’ve done an excellent job, if I may say so myself.”

Standing beside the bed, Molina showed Laura each of the fake documents he had created. He took pleasure in pointing out the details that made them look totally authentic. None of the items looked brand new. All were more or less worn—lived-in, he called it.

“If you will notice, Señorita, I even put in a few customs stamps on both passports. It looks like you and the Señor have been to Ireland and England a few times. It adds a touch of realism.”

He was like a proud parent showing off his children to an appreciative stranger.

“Also, as you requested, Miss Lovejoy, all of the negatives.” He held up a sealed Manila envelope.

Laura was silent throughout Molina’s show. She didn’t know if what she was buying was really as good as he was claiming. It all looked real to her, but would it hold up under scrutiny?

brass-bed“Everything you asked for is here, Señorita. Very authentic, very first-rate and also very expensive.”

Laura took her eyes from the bed and looked at him. “You want your money now, don’t you?”

“Yes, please, it’s been a very stressful day for me.” Molina took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his brow. He was sweating.

Laura shook her head and said, “You don’t know the meaning of the word, Molina.”

“How are you planning to get back into the U.S., Señorita?

“We walked here, we’ll walk back. Why do you ask?”

Molina looked at her, somewhat astonished.  “Let’s be honest here for a moment, if we may. Señorita, if you are in need of my products then, obviously, someone is looking for you. Am I right?”

“Yes, of course.” She wondered where this was leading.

Molina shook his head.

“Then, Miss Lovejoy, walking through one of the most watched border crossings in the western hemisphere is suicidal. Frankly, I’m very surprised you got this far.”

“We’re fine, thank you,” she said, not believing it herself. She just wanted to pay him and get out of there.

“I can get you back across the border, no problem. I have established an underground railroad of sorts,” he said. “I can get you both back right under the border.

“Under—a tunnel? Are you serious?” she said, genuinely surprised.

“Actually, I have several tunnels, yes, and all I have to do is simply open a file drawer and get you a ticket. I’ll even drive you to the ‘station’ if you’d like.”

“For an additional charge, of course,” Laura said.

“Of course, Señorita, I am a businessman,” he said, ignoring the sarcasm in Laura’s voice.

“I’ll pass, Molina. Let’s settle up and I’ll be on my way.” This was making her nervous.

“As you wish, Señorita, but if you come back later, the price of the ticket goes up.” He shrugged, as if he was adding of course.

“You don’t ever take no for an answer, do you, Molina?” She started to gather up the documents off of the bed.

“Rarely, my dear. After all, many times a person says no when they really mean yes.” He moved closer to her.

“Like I said before, Molina, do you want your money now or not?”

“Have it your way Señorita. Please, yes.”

She moved away from him and started to undo the buttons on her blouse to get at the money taped to her body. Molina’s eyes narrowed.

“Señorita, I normally deal strictly in cash, but I’m not against a little barter.”

He moved close to her again, reached out and grabbed her belt, licking his lips.

“Get your hands off me.” She pushed him away.

“Oh, Señorita, don’t be coy with me. Let me show you what a real man is like. Not that pale rabbit you had with you earlier today.” He moved in again. This time he was not going for her belt. He smiled and his right hand flew out and slapped Laura hard across the face. She stumbled and backed away several steps. Her hands closed into fists. As Molina stepped toward her again, Laura lashed out and hit him square in the nose with a hard left jab followed by a right cross to his jaw. He reeled back and fell to the floor. Her uncle, Salvatore “Sammy the Bull”  Gravano had taught her that combination when she was nine years old.

“Don’t you touch me. Do you understand me, you little pig? I’ll kill you right here,” she said. They were both breathing hard.

She moved toward the bed to finish getting her merchandise. Molina gathered himself and sprang to his feet, putting himself between Laura and the bed.

“You want to get to my bed, Señorita? Let me oblige you.”

He charged at her. His momentum knocked Laura off her feet and they both fell to the floor. Molina punched her hard in the stomach. The bundles of cash dulled the impact, but it still made her gasp. She tried to get to her feet, but Molina was faster. He jumped up and grabbed her from behind, around her waist, and lifted her off the ground. He spun and threw Laura onto the bed, on top of her new identity. She bounced on the soft mattress and before she could react, Molina leaped onto the bed, covering her with his body.

“Stop. Stop it, you cheap little ape,” she hissed at him.

He slapped her again. She felt the heat rising in her face.

“I’m not a cheap anything, darling, and neither are you. We are both very expensive.” He laughed, thinking that he had her right where he wanted her.

As his left hand held her down on the bed, his right snaked inside her blouse. The fear she was feeling left her and rage poured in to take its place. She punched him hard in the face again. He stopped his groping to hit her with his fist. She could taste blood in her mouth.

He smiled at the look on her face and said, “You might want to put some ice on that later.” He was enjoying this, she realized, and that had to stop.

She hit him again, aiming for his eyes with her knuckles. As he recoiled from the pain she pushed with all her strength and managed to roll them both over. She was now on top.

She looked down at him. He was grinning again.

“Ah, now you’re getting into it, eh, Laura Lovejoy?” He wrapped his legs tightly around her waist.

“You could say that.”

He laughed. “Kiss me, Laura. Besame.”

She also laughed and started to bend low over his face. Molina closed his eyes and relaxed. His smile closed into a kiss. He never saw her reach down, lift the cuff of her jeans, and pull at the tape on her calf.

“Ernesto,” she whispered

“Yes, cara mia?”

He opened his eyes just in time to see Laura driving the ice pick downward. He didn’t have time pull-icepickto scream as the tempered steel shaft skewered through his left eyeball, punched through the thin orbital bone, and plunged deep into his brain. He was dead before Laura pulled the ice pick out and jammed it into his right eye.

Then she  vomited on him.

 

***

 

The taxi with Davis and Tomás screeched to a halt outside of Molina’s building. Davis jumped out and headed toward the door.  He saw Laura slumped against the wall inside the lobby.

“My God, Laura, what’s happened? Are you alright?”

“Let’s get out of here. You’re going to have to help me.” She looked pleadingly into his eyes. “Help me, Davis.”

Tomás rushed over to them, took Laura’s left arm and scooped up the plastic shopping bag. Together he and Davis half-carried Laura back to the taxi.

“Tomás,” said Laura. “Let’s get out of here. I’ve got to think.”

“Good God, Laura, what happened? Your face…?”

“Molina tried to–he got out of hand.” She was not going to allow herself to cry. “I won’t take that from anybody.”

“I’ll kill him,” Davis said. “Tomás, wait here.”

“No!” she cried out. “Don’t do it. There’s no need…there’s no need. Tomás, I paid you to give us a tour, so drive.”

Davis’ anger faded as his concern for Laura grew. He took a handkerchief from his pocket and tried to wipe Laura’s swollen lip and jaw. She pulled away.

“No, I’m fine, please. I love you, but I’ll be fine. Give me a few minutes and then let’s head back to the border.”

“We can’t,” Davis answered. “The border is closed. There was a gun battle with the police and some drug smugglers. The whole place is shot to pieces.”

Laura closed her eyes. She went inside herself to look for more strength, more resolve and more personal anesthesia. Her all-too-human engine was running on fumes. She slumped back in the seat. Her mind was struggling to think rationally, to go over the lessons of her past that might help them. She was looking at everything that had happened to her, everything she had seen and heard. She knew that the answer was filed away somewhere inside her memory. After about thirty seconds, she opened her eyes and leaned forward.

“Tomás, Turn around. Take us back to Molina’s.”

Tomás did a U-turn and had them outside of Molina’s building in minutes. On the way, she told them about the underground railroad and the “ticket” that Molina had tried to sell her.

Before they got out of the cab, she needed to prepare Davis for what he was about to see.

“I need you to come up with me to help find the tickets. They are somewhere in his office.”

        “You think Molina will still sell them to us?” Davis was not anxious to see Molina again. He was still angry enough to want to hurt him for what he had tried to do to the woman he loved.

“Davis…Molina is in no condition to bargain. I need your help, but I want you to understand and forgive me for what you’re going to see up there.”

Tomás said a silent prayer, thankful that she had not asked him to go upstairs with them.

“To hell with Molina,” said Davis. “Let’s get those tickets.”

Tomás waited in the cab wondering again what he had gotten himself into with these two strangers.

As soon as they walked into Molina’s studio Davis understood Laura’s words of warning.

Molina’s body was sprawled face-up on the bed. His eyes were two black, oozing holes. The bedspread and sheets were soaked with his blood. It was an ugly death.

“Jesus, Laura.” Davis was stunned. It looked like something out of a cheap slasher movie, only this was for real.

“Davis, we don’t have time. You can get sick later. He said the tickets were in a file cabinet.”

pull-fike-cabinetsThey looked everywhere in the studio. There were no file cabinets anywhere. Davis saw a frosted-glass door by the far wall. He tried the knob and it opened into a back corridor. Across the hallway was another glass door and it was open. He could see a workbench, a draftsman’s table and two rows of five-drawer file cabinets.

“Laura, back here. File cabinets.”

She hurried toward his voice.

“Bingo,” whispered Laura. “We’re looking for tickets or something that mentions a railroad of some sort. Let’s get started.”

Starting at opposite ends of the first bank of file cabinets, they rifled through folder after folder.

Ernesto Molina’s files contained blank documents of all sorts, from at least a dozen countries. He was able to create new identities in such detail that it would make real people look suspicious to the authorities.

Laura pulled out files, flipped through, and discarded them on the floor. She noticed alphabetized folders holding copies of documents and negatives. Half of the infamous missing persons in North America were in that file cabinet. Laura stopped when she saw her name typed on a protruding tab—not Laura Lovejoy, but Beverly Deltino. It contained another set of her photos and negatives. She took the folder and slipped it inside the bag holding her documents.

Halfway through the third file cabinet Laura grabbed a folder with a label marked “Ferrocarril.” Inside she saw sheets of paper, signed by Molina. At the top of each sheet was a line drawing of an old-fashioned steam locomotive.

“Davis, I think I’ve got it. Did you ever take Spanish in school?”

“I had two years in high school. Let me see it.” She handed him the folder.

Davis scanned the papers as he searched his memories of Mrs. De La Vega’s class in eleventh grade.

“It’s a permission slip. ‘Let the person with this ticket travel through the—something. I don’t know this word—ferrocarril means railroad. I’m sure of that. Here’s an address for the estacion. It looks like a ticket to me.”

There were a dozen copies, all signed, in the folder. Laura took two and stepped over to the worktable. She plucked a pen out of the coffee mug pen holder and carefully printed her new name in the blank space provided. She then printed “Davis Lovejoy” on the second sheet.

“Now, let’s get out here,” she said, as they headed for the closest exit.

They opened the door and found themselves on the landing outside of Molina’s studio. Davis looked at the door they had just used. Stenciled on the glass was “Geronimo Morey—Abogado.”

Laura never stopped to look. She was already halfway down the stairs to the street. Davis took the steps two at a time to catch up with her as she crossed the sidewalk and reached out for the door handle on Tomás’s cab.

“Tomás, do you know where 162 Avenida de Negocios is located?

“Sure, Señorita. It’s right up by the border. Lots of warehouses and small maquiladoras, little factories, not much there.”

“That’s where we’re going, quickly,” she said. “When the people at the railroad hear about Molina, they’ll shut it down.”

Driving as fast as he could without killing anyone or getting pulled over by one of Tijuana’s many motorcycle officers, Tomás took his cab through the city’s side streets near the border. They were less than a half-mile from the carnage at the San Ysidro crossing.

to be continued 1

 

 

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