Thursday, 9 December 2010
CURLY by B. R. Stateham
The eyes of a Black Mamba glanced up into the rear view mirror. Black as sin the eyes. Black as a nightmare induced coma. And in the darkness he watched closely. In the taxi’s interior only the soft whispers of the two talking intensely in the back seat, huddled close together like conspirators, disturbed the silence.
And the one with the black eyes listened. Listened and drove the taxi over the glistening streets of a dark, cold, rainy blackness.
“ . . . I don’t know where I am going to get the money! But I’ve got to. Got to! If I don’t, they’re going to hurt Vic. Hurt him bad.”
“Who’s going to hurt him?” the girl—a petite little thing with curly red hair and a slightly upturned pixie nose—asked.
“Some hood by the name of Curly. Vic needed some money in a bad way. Was going to lose his business. So he found this loan shark—this Curly—to loan him the money. But, Jesus. This guy is a monster! He’s demanded five hundred percent back on his money! Vic can’t come up with that. Just can’t.”
“He should go to the cops, Mike. You should go to the cops. Get this guy arrested.”
“They won’t arrest this guy, Ellen. He’s too sharp to get caught. There’s no evidence the cops can use to arrest him. But he told Vic if he did go to the cops this Curly would kill him and his family. Vic is scared shitless. He believes this Curly.”
“Where are you going to get fifty thousand dollars by tomorrow night, honey?”
“I . . . I guess I can sell my house. My cars. That’ll cover the mark,” the man of about thirty said, his voice filled with despair and despondency.
“But not by tomorrow night. There’s no way you can come up with fifty thousand by tomorrow night.”
In the rear view mirror black eyes saw the image of a man totally crushed and defeated flash across the boy’s face with each passing street light. The two slumped together into embrace. Defeat and resignation of the inevitable clearly emanating from their combined souls. Two people in love—a brother hurting for the brother he could not help—a night filled with injustice.
And on the lips of the man with the black eyes an odd smear of a cruel—even vicious—grin of grim pleasure.
In silence the took the fare the man gave him and watched as man and woman climbed out of the car and ran through the rain to ascend a set of stairs leading into a brownstone apartment building. He waited until the door to the building closed and then slowly, like a shark quietly swimming into the depths of an ocean dark, the taxi moved off into the rain and slipped into the blackness.
Even the name made the man with the black eyes glow with a warmth within his soul. An old acquaintance. Someone he knew from way back—from a time when he wasn’t what the man he was now. Curly. Back in town from a long stay in the state pen. And back doing business again.
Through the night and the rain the man with the black eyes drove. Eventually, turning at a traffic light to his right, he brought the taxi to a slow halt up against the curb and killed the lights and engine. Rain, a hard rain, pounded the roof and glass of the big cab as he sat in the darkness and waited.
Across the street the bright white, blue, red, and green neon lights of a small bar flashed with a regulated monotony into the night. The Cove was a cheap bar in a cheap part of time catering to the dregs of life that lived off fear either as the one who created the fear, or the one who ate the fear as a regular dietary supplement. Either way, it was a smoke-filled, alcohol infested joint Curly called his own. If the man’s brother had come to see Curly for a loan—he had come to see him here. Some things, and most people, never change. And in the darkness the man with the black eyes again stretched his lips into that wicked, vicious grin of grim pleasure.
When the neon lights went out he climbed out of the taxi and began walking across the street. The door to the joint opened and he watched three drunks being shoved out into the rain by big man with bulging muscles. He didn’t stop. Walking past the drunks as they stumbled into the street he walked straight up to the door and to the dark from of the bouncer standing in the middle of it.
“Place is closed, bub. Find some other joint to grab a beer in,” the big man said in a tired, irritated voice.
Black eyes didn’t say a thing. But his actions spoke violently and eloquently. A black loafer came in a flash of agility so fast the big guy never saw it coming. The loafer landed in the man’s nuts so hard the big man woofed out all his strength and bent over double in pain. Black eyes grabbed the man’s greasy hair in one hand and the thick, solid oak door of the joint with the other. With almost inhuman strength black eyes smashed the man’s head twice with the door, holding the head just in the door jam for effect. Letting go the greasy hair the goon collapsed into the doorway unconscious. Opening the door, black eyes stepped over the slumbering form at his feet and entered the bar.
“What the fuc . . . . . !”
There was a second bouncer. As big as the first. Just as stupid. He came flying toward black eyes in such a hurry he tripped over a chair. Black eyes caught him with the open end of his finger tips in the man’s throat and then a foot into the man’s left knee. The snap of bone breaking and a man gagging and struggling to breath through a throat badly bruised dropped the man to his knees. A beer bottle up beside the man’s head finished the fight.
Black eyes stepped back, looked to his left and right, noted the bar was empty and silent. And then through a back door he saw the glimmer of light slipping through the bottom end of a door. Smiling like the Angel of Death, black eyes moved toward the door in absolute silence.
Curly, head down and working on some financial paperwork, didn’t look up when he heard the door to his office open.
“What was that commotion outside, Steve?”
No answer. Only the odd—eerie—feeling of a presence hovering just in front of his desk. Irritated at being disturbed, and rudely disregarded, Curly snapped his head up.
“Goddammit, Steve! When I ask you a ques . . . . . Jesus!”
Black eyes smiled. “Hello, Curly. Good to see you, again.”
“Smitty! Goddammit! Let’s not do something crazy here! What happened years ago is behind us now. We can be friends.”
“I don’t think so, my friend. I told you what I would do to you if you ever came back to town. I warned you, Curly. I warned you.”
There was a click and suddenly the flash of a long, steel blade of a switch-blade was in Smitty’s right hand...
...and even people, pedestrians, two blocks away running through the rain heard the horrible screams of a man howling in pain that night. A sound they never would forget. Never.
“...I can’t believe it! It’s crazy! Absolutely crazy!”
“What’s crazy? Tell me, honey. What?” the petite young thing with the curly red hair and the upturned nose said in the back seat of the taxi.
“This... this Curly. This loan shark who gave Vic the fifty thousand he needed. He... he... he phoned Vic late last night. Told him all debts were paid. Told him to forget the note. Told him he didn’t need the money anymore! It’s crazy! Just crazy!”
In the night the taxi drove on. And behind the wheel a man with the eyes of a Black Mamba had a cruel, vicious, even pleased grin playing across thin gray lips.
B.R. Stateham is sixty-one years old and still waiting to grow up. And when he does, he want's to be...