Novelist, Ronald W Adams, debuts...
The black Ford Crown Victoria pulled up to the brownstone on Baker Street, the exhaust raising a thin fog against the chill of the early fall evening. The driver rolled down the window, breathing in the crisp air scented with the aroma of fallen leaves and the smoke from the few chimneys hosting wood fires. He got out of the car, his shoulders straining against the constriction of his black jacket. It was part of the uniform, so he put up with it. The driver stood along the side of the car, facing the screen door on the lower apartment. He brushed the front of his suit and the sleeves with his hands, then down the front of the pants to the knees. Satisfied, he crossed his arms, drawing the back of the jacket tighter, and waited.
Evans stepped out into the autumn chill, his short brown leather coat worn collar-up to keep the cold off his neck. It also obscured the lower half of his face, a bonus in his line of work. He carried a steel briefcase in his left hand and a small duffle over his right shoulder. He was short, maybe a hair over 5’6” tall, with a thick neck and broad shoulders. His load made him seem smaller, as if weighed down and compressed. He turned and made sure the door was locked before descending the concrete steps to the sidewalk. Evans was almost to the car when he looked up and saw the new driver. He stood taller, leaner than his regular guy, and the change in his routine threw Evans off.
“He’s off tonight”, the taller man replied.
“I can see that. Who are you?”
“Giordano’s sent you?”
Evans looked him over. He prided himself in being a good judge of character, and this guy was nothing special. He’d do in a pinch. Besides, all he had to do was drive. Any idiot could do that. He handed the duffle to Jackson.
“The case stays with me inside.”
“Yes, sir”, Jackson answered.
He took the duffle, and opened the back door of the sedan for his passenger. Once inside, Jackson took the soft-sided bag to the back of the car, popped the trunk open, and tossed it in. The bag rolled to the front of the trunk as he slammed it shut.
Jackson got in the front driver’s side door, turned the key and the Ford purred to life. He looked in the rear view mirror at his passenger. Evans had opened the briefcase, the top blocking the view of what was inside. It didn’t matter. For now, all Jackson had to do was drive. If Lou could do this, then there couldn’t be that much to it.
“You know where we’re goin’?” Evans barked from the back seat.
Jackson shrugged, and then looked down at the clipboard on the front passenger seat. There was the driver’s tag, the instruction sheet for Giordano’s drivers.
“It says here 4750 Brompton Court, wait for you, and then Buffalo Niagara Airport.”
Evans nodded, not looking up from his case. “I got a flight to make, so let’s get movin’, okay?”
Jackson slipped the car into drive, and pulled forward into the night. He had been to Brompton Court several times, and knew the tree-lined cul-de-sac was home to some of the area’s richest homes. This was the doctor’s neighborhood, the lawyer’s neighborhood, the executive’s neighborhood. There was a lot of money, and he wondered what kind of business Evans would have there. In the end, though, it really didn’t matter. He was supposed to drive, so he did.
A few minutes into the trip, Jackson felt a tap on the shoulder.
“What do you think we have the radio on while we drive here? Maybe check see if there’s some news or sports or something? I like to keep up on things.” Evans was finished in his case, and Jackson looked at him through the rear-view mirror. He had his right hand inside the left side of his coat, re-arranging something.
Jackson reached forward and clicked on the radio. Initially there was some kind of advertisement for a credit counseling service, and then the news returned.
“In what Buffalo Homicide detectives are calling the strangest string of murders in the city’s history, another body was found on the grounds of the Tift Nature Preserve in South Buffalo. This brings to five the number of people murdered over the past three months in what the police are describing as a ritualistic manner. The latest victim, like the others, remains unidentified and is described as a Caucasian male, approximately 35 to 40 years old.”
“Do you believe the crazies out there, Jackson? That has got to be one sick mother to be killing for no good reason.” Evans shook his head.
Jackson gave a non-committal shrug and a nod as he listened to the news anchor. “Few details are being released by the police, but sources close to the investigation indicate the killer has been removing the hands and drowning the victims, making identification difficult. In other news, the County Executive has put forth his proposed budget for…”
“Maybe get some music or somethin’, huh, Jackson?”
“Of course, sir.” Jackson turned the dial to a local easy listening station, in time to hear Elton John say goodbye to the yellow brick road.
Jackson made the turn from Main on to Brompton, proceeding slowly as he read the house numbers towards 4750. His eyes adapted quickly, his vision fairly acute in the lower light. Most of the more mature trees hung over the sidewalks, providing a natural barrier between the street and the homes. There was a tap on his shoulder from his passenger.
“Cut the lights Jackson, and stay right here,” Evans whispered.
Jackson turned off the headlights, threw the sedan in park, and shut the engine down. It was remarkably quiet, and the darkness wrapped the men like a blanket. Evans leaned forward, staring through the windshield at a home several doors ahead. The proximity of someone so close behind him made Jackson uneasy, and he squirmed a bit towards the driver’s side door. He could see Evans in the rear view mirror, smiling at his apparent distress.
“Don’t worry, Jackson. I have no intention of harming you.” Evans patted his driver on the shoulder in a show of confidence. The two turned their attention to the house three doors down, red lights moving down the drive towards the street. The red lights disappeared as the car finished backing, turned and pulled forward past the pair, headlight illuminating the street. Evans reached into his coat, pulled out a pair of thin leather gloves and opened the rear passenger door.
“Don’t go anywhere, I’ll be right back.” He disappeared into the night, under cover of the moonless sky and the low hanging willows.
His eyes accustomed to the low light, Jackson followed the path of his passenger as he crossed the manicured lawns towards the back of the house the car just left. He rolled down the windows, the cool night air flooding in on him, He breathed in the smell of the wood fire from someone’s chimney, the smell of the fallen leaves piled high at the sides of the road. In the distance, he could hear the tire hum from the busy main roads, filtered however much by the surrounding trees. His focus was broken by the sound of three distinct pops coming from the direction of the house. Jackson turned the key in the ignition.
Evans strode quickly up to the car, opening the passenger rear door and sitting in one smooth motion. Jackson pulled the car forward, slowly making a u-turn back towards Main Street. He looked in the mirror and saw a glimpse of the .22 caliber pistol from the steel briefcase, the cylindrical silencer in his other hand. Evans looked up and caught him.
“Shouldn’t you be driving, Jackson? I have a plane to catch.”
“Yes, sir. Do you mind if I ask a question?”
“Depends on the question.”
“Did the person in that house have to die?”
“Did you have to kill him?”
Evans finished breaking down the silencer off the pistol, placing it in the precut foam in the case with care. He shrugged.
“It’s what I do.”
“Do you like killing people?”
“I like getting paid to do it. I suppose that’s enough.”
“It’s important to like what you do. Life’s too short, you know?”
The pair proceeded up Brompton out to Main, moving easily through the late evening suburban traffic. From the side panel on the driver’s side passenger door, Evans pulled a small bottle of bourbon and a glass. He poured himself a drink, savoring the burn as the liquid poured down the back of his throat. He closed his eyes, satisfied. This was the last job. The Cantolinos wouldn’t be able to find him in the Caymans, and probably wouldn’t even go looking. He did enough for them. Now it’s time to do for me. He poured another drink and let the warmth spread throughout his body. He could feel the relaxation begin as the liquor began to work its magic.
The sedan found its way through the night towards the airport. Jackson pulled the car into a gas station, to the far side of the building by the self service air pump. It was his best chance, with Evans in the back seat, eyes rolled back from the sedative he put in the whiskey. He tapped on the rear window, twice, and got nothing more than a slack-jawed look from his passenger. Perfect. He pulled the slumped man out on the passenger side, away from the glare of the halogen lamps. He unlatched the trunk remotely, and dragged his charge to the rear of the car. Once in place, he lifted the trunk and dumped the unconscious hit man into the trunk. He slammed the lid, got back in the car and drove into the night.
“Now you have some company for the ride, Lou. Wouldn’t want you to be lonely back there.”
The sedative would hold until he got to the lake, time enough to take the hands as a trophy. The water is the great equalizer. Every body looks about the same after they’ve been in the water. The water bloated the thin, shriveled the obese, and had a way of muting the handsome and dulling the ugly. Even the hit man and the limo driver were equals. It took about forty-five minute to get to the marina, and a low lying fog was building as the cooler air came across the warmer water. He backed the car into place, smiling as he shifted to park. He pulled the trunk release inside the car before he got out, and walked to the rear. Lifting the lid, he reached inside the trunk and pulled out a pair of industrial bolt cutters. The long handles opened wide, the jaws of the tool yawning. Jackson held the handles at eye level, snapping them shut with an accustomed force. He repeated this 3 times, remembering the sound of bone and sinew snapping as those jaws did their work. He smiled, and pictured the sharp edges of the cutter smiling, too.
“It’s important to like what you do” he said to no one in particular. “Life’s too short, you know?”
Ronald W. Adams is the author of two novels in the Joe Banks Private Detective series. To find out more about Ron check out his website here:http://www.ronaldwadams.com/ or his blog here: http://shadowsandnight.blogspot.com/