Friday, 2 April 2010
A WILD STAB IN THE DARK By Paul Grzegorzek
When I was young, my mum always told me not to play with knives. On days like this, I wish I’d listened to her advice. Then maybe I wouldn’t be sitting in this damn room listening to my boss telling me how he wanted his next mark to die.
I sat in the chair, swinging idly from side to side while Derek Murphy gave the briefing. Looking out of the window of his seventh floor office at the rain hurling itself at the ground outside, I idly wondered if the other two in the room were as good as their rep. I knew I was, but these two were out of town muscle, a double act known as Brady and Finch. I chuckled to myself as I realised that they sounded like a clothing brand, drawing a look from Murphy that would have made a lesser man shake in his boots.
Murphy was the kind of guy that your mum warns you about. He’d started off in LA as hired muscle for one of the small-time crime lords, working his way up the ladder with startling speed thanks to a combination of smarts, luck and reflexes that would put a cat to shame.
A few years ago he’d moved out to New York, set up his own empire thanks to the contacts he’d made back home, and then systematically gone about destroying everyone else in the same game. That game, of course, being just about anything that could be considered illegal, and a few things that weren’t but should be.
“Hey, Frank, you listening to a word I’m saying?” Murphy’s coarse voice cut into my thoughts, and just for a moment I imagined what it would be like to thrust one of my trademark knives into his stomach, forcing it up under his ribcage until the point tickled his heart into giving up.
Shaking my head, I focused on the object of my sudden desire and nodded lazily at him.
“Yeah boss, go into the restaurant, order some food. Watch for Tony Calotti and ring tweedle dum and tweedle dee here when he arrives. They walk in, start acting all sus, then when it goes bent I walk past Tony’s table and gut him like a fish in the middle of his lobster thermidor. Child’s play”.
I knew I was being arrogant, but I couldn’t bring myself to care. Murphy’s eyes narrowed as Brady and Finch squirmed in their seats, clearly uncomfortable with my goading of the most powerful man in the City.
I took the moment to study them, letting my eyes linger on Finch for longer than was polite. Much, much longer.
She was a good looking woman in her early forties, blonde hair tied back in a professional, no-nonsense manner that accentuated her Slavic cheekbones, and a pair of wire rimmed glasses on the end of her nose that made her look like a porn-star turned secretary. The image was heightened by her charcoal grey trouser suit, the jacket undone to display a cream blouse beneath with a few buttons missing above the cleavage.
Feeling my loins stir, I switched my gaze to Brady instead. He was all ex-marine, square shoulders and a back that had a steel rod in it. From his expression, that rod had been rammed up his ass first thing this morning and he still wasn’t happy about it. His face was criss-crossed with a web of fine lines, and rumour had it that he’d picked them up in his early days as a knife-fighter in some backwater city before he’d joined the army. I didn’t know if it was true, but he looked the sort, and his black Armani suit did nothing to hide the clean lines and sculpted muscle of an expert fighter.
I grinned at him, slanting my head to one side insolently in a challenge that he couldn’t miss. I saw his eyes widen in response, even as his hand drifted unconsciously towards his right kidney. Hah, I thought, now I know where you keep your leveller.
I’d known from the moment I’d first met him that Brady didn’t like me, it was clear as day when he took my proffered hand like it was made from dogshit.
I know I’ve got a bit of a rep, hell, I even spread some of it about myself, but his dislike of me went further than that. Brady and Finch were supposed to be flying out in a few hours, as soon as the job was done, but I knew beyond doubt that before that plane left the tarmac, he and I would be having a reckoning. I wondered idly if it would be words or blades, hoping for the latter but still, barely, constrained by Murphy’s orders.
The boss clicked his fingers in front of my face, bringing me back to the room with a jolt.
“You back with us now Frank?” He asked, leaning back against his desk and lighting a black sobranie with a match.
“Yeah boss, sorry, just wondering why we need out of town muscle for this job. I’ve done bigger shit all by myself”.
He blew out a plume of smoke, the thick blue whorls floating up towards the ceiling as he spoke.
“We don’t need outside muscle, but their boss has a beef with Calotti. As a sign of respect, I’ve invited them along for the ride. Show of faith and all that. You done questioning my orders now?”
I nodded, keen to be getting on with the killing.
“Yup. Let’s do this”.
Murphy held up a hand in my direction and looked at the others.
“Do either of you have any questions before we start?” He asked, receiving two shakes and a good number of not so subtle glances in my direction.
Picking up on it, Murphy stood and crossed his arms over his massive chest.
“I know Frank can be somewhat... disrespectful at times, but he’s the best knifeman in the business. That’s the only reason why I keep his punk ass around. Now I know that traditionally you guys don’t play well with others, but I want you all”, he paused and included me with a glare, “to try and get along for the next few hours. If you really need to work out your testosterone on each other, do it when I’m not paying the bill”.
He crossed to the door and opened it, waiting for us to file out into the lobby before closing it firmly behind us.
I walked along behind Finch, saying nothing but enjoying the rise and fall of her magnificent ass as it stalked its way towards the elevator.
Brady pressed the button and the doors slid open, but before they could enter I slipped between them and went right to the back, turning back to grin at them as they edged in and stood in front of me, unwilling to turn their backs to me but equally unwilling to show it.
Down in the parking lot I strode past them as if I hadn’t noticed their discomfort and pulled the car keys from my pocket. Leading them to my plain looking station wagon, I got in the front and left them to decide who was going to sit up front with me and who was going to sit behind. After a lot of eyebrow waggling, Finch got in next to me, leaving Brady to sit behind my seat with his hands out of sight.
I wasn’t worried, there was plate steel a quarter of an inch thick between my back and his knife, and besides, Murphy had told us to be nice.
We drove in silence, covering the fourteen blocks to the restaurant in a little under half an hour. Brady and Finch seemed to have developed some secret language that was made up of eyebrow waggling and pouting, and I was on the verge of asking them to translate for me when I saw the car park I was looking for and took the exit, parking neatly and collecting a ticket.
It didn’t do to have your getaway vehicle noticed for something as foolish as a parking violation.
Turning to my guests, I put on my best professional smile.
“Right, the restaurant is less than half a block from here. When I ring, give me five minutes and then come in and do your thing. If it all goes wrong, you know what Calotti looks like, right?”
They both nodded and I locked the car up, leaving them standing next to it as I walked out into the gathering darkness, wrapping my coat around me to put up at least a token resistance to the heavy rain.
The restaurant itself was a nice place, a cozy Italian diner where I’d eaten a few times before. Taking off my trademark Trilby, I hung it just inside the door and covered it with my coat before being led to a table by a man who was probably called Luigi. He looked like he should have been, anyway.
“Thanks Luigi, I’ll have an order of garlic bread and some kind of chicken”, I said, ignoring his dark look as I used my made up name for him. Guess I was wrong then.
I didn’t really care, and as he bustled away I sat and slid my right hand down my calf to caress the hilt of the knife that nestled there, snug and safe in its oiled leather sheath.
This one was called Maisy, after my mother, and tonight she’d be having Italian as well. Maisy had been made by a specialist metal worker, an old Japanese guy who normally spent his time making knock-off samurai swords for tourists, but pay him enough dollar and he’d come up with something special. Like Maisy.
She was nine inches of folded carbon steel blade with a double edge and a blood groove running down the middle. Her handle was another four inches, with a small spike on the pommel for hammering into someone in an emergency. Not that an emergency had ever arisen yet, but it might one day and I’d always been taught to be prepared.
Her tip was razor sharp, prefect for slicing skin or pricking other, softer parts, and many was the man who had told me he’d never break, only to succumb to Maisy’s tender charms and spill his life story. So much so that she often got bored and had to shut them up with a quick swipe across the throat.
Not-Luigi came back with a plate of garlic bread and a face like thunder, making me give Maisy one final pat before leaving her alone. For a while, at least.
I stared back at the waiter, my favourite smile playing about my lips as I waited for him to get scared.
It only took him a few seconds. Somehow, everyone gets scared if they look at me for long enough, even Murphy. I don’t know why and I don’t care, the only person I need in my life is Maisy, and someone like Murphy to pay the bills.
The door opened and Calotti came in, his two goons sweeping the room with eyes that missed nothing. Putting on my best ‘I’m nothing’ look, I munched my way through the delicious garlic bread and stared thoughtfully at the ceiling, as if contemplating what a marvel the food was.
It must have worked as they walked past me without another glance, hustling their boss into a private booth at the back of the room. Dropping my hand into my pocket, I pulled out my cell and dialled the number I’d been given, letting it ring five or six times before hanging up.
Then, enjoying the thought of them coming in too late, I stood and made my way over to Calotti’s table, Maisy tucked up my right sleeve while my palm caressed her hilt.
His goons saw me coming from halfway across the room and stood, their barrel-chests forming a wall of flesh that prevented me from seeing my target.
Ignoring them, I walked to within a few feet before calling over their shoulders.
“Mr Calotti, my name’s Frank. I’ve got a message from Derek Murphy”.
My boss’s name was barely out of my mouth before the goons reacted, one reaching out to grab me while the other shot a hand inside his jacket.
The one reaching for me screamed suddenly as Maisy leapt into my hand, whistling through the air of her own accord to slice off his grasping fingers.
She turned then, a reversing sweep that opened his throat with no resistance at all, her blade greedily drinking his blood and spilling the excess in a display of wanton extravagance. Oh, she was such a girl, my Maisy!
The second goon was fast, his meaty hand coming out of his jacket with a Colt .45 clenched tightly, his finger already seeking the trigger.
Maisy stabbed upwards, once, twice, and he dropped the gun and screamed as his eyes burst and trickled down his face.
Laughing now, I pushed him out of the way and advanced on Calotti, Maisy tucked against my forearm as if she was hugging me.
Filled with love for her, I let her have her head and the portly crime boss cowered as he saw his death in her glinting steel blade.
Leaning over, I let Maisy taste his fear, rubbing her blade against his throat before letting her slide through the soft flesh and into the gristle beneath.
She drank her fill, both of us exulting in the look of desperate fear that crossed her victim’s features as he frantically gasped for the air we were denying him.
Finally sated, we turned, only to see a fist flashing in towards my face. Maisy tried to stop it, but she wasn’t fast enough and the knuckles struck my chin, sending me sprawling backwards over the screaming goon that lay at my feet.
Brady reached down, grabbing Maisy, caressing her with his hand as I screamed in rage. She was mine!
Unbelieving, I watched as she let him take her, snuggled into his hand like some five dollar whore.
Maisy reached down, looking at me for a moment before sliding into my chest, parting muscle and bone as if it were paper, piercing my heart and spilling her lover’s blood as if we’d never shared the intimacy that was all that kept me sane.
Looking down in disbelief, I saw her standing proud from the gaping wound in my chest, and I fancied for a moment that regret was what made her cling to me in a lover’s final embrace.
I realised then what the looks had been about in the car, Finch and Brady’s secret code. Murphy had had enough of me, I’d pushed him too far, and he’d hired these bastards to finish me off once I’d done for Calotti.
Laughing to myself softly as I died, I realised that none of that mattered now. None of it mattered, because my love, my Maisy, had found another man and my heart was broken.
Paul is a crime and thriller author and blogs at http://diariesofamodernmadman.blogspot.com/