They pulled him out of the back of the Caddy with a rope. Jerked him out so hard he fell face-first into the mud of the back country road. Laughing and jeering the three men dressed in suits kicked the man in the ribs a couple of times and then yanked him out of the mud hole. He came out coated in mud, leaves; his clothing soaked in the frigid Autumn air.
Black coals for eyes narrowed—and watched—as just the suggestion of a sneer creased his thin gray lips.
Twenty miles of forest surrounded them. Twenty miles of forest in all its outrageous glory of a cold Fall morning. Overhead a giant V-formation of geese honking southward. Just a track for a leaf-covered road winding its way back into the wilderness. A good place to execute someone. Quiet. Out of the way. Isolated.
No one would hear the killing shot when it rang out.
No one who wasn’t an active participant in this grim opera.
The patsy was a fat little Italian who liked his food and wine too much. Bald, triple chinned, shaking like a virgin on her honeymoon night, the hood was a small cog in a big crime organization. And he was going to die. Moments away from getting a bullet in the head. And he knew it.
His hands were tied in front of him with rope. Across his fat mouth was a wide strip of gray duck tape. Rolling down his leg and onto his expensive Italian shoes was a stream of urine—bright yellow and actually steaming in the cold October late afternoon light. As the three hoods behind him laughed and slapped him around like a walking punching bag they kept pushing the fat little man toward the man with the coal black eyes and the shorter, heavier sat man standing behind him wearing a heavy wool overcoat, gloves, and a gray fedora over his eyes.
“Here he is, brother. He’s the little bastard that’s been soaking you for the last year. How much did you siphon off, Louie? A mil? Two mil? Ten mil?”
The one talking was a carbon copy of the man standing beside him. Only younger. Dressed in a gray overcoat, expensive suit, hand made leather gloves and wearing a gray fedora.
Danny Manfred. Little brother to Donavan Manfred—the man in charge standing beside the dark eyed man. Laughing and enjoying himself immensely Danny slapped the roped and silenced patsy hard with the back of a gloved hand and then brought it around again for the return engagement. The fat little man’s head snapped first to the left, then to the right, viciously. Knees giving away the little man started to sink into the mud. But Danny’s two bodyguards grabbed him and roughly brought him back to his feet.
“Want me to pop him, Donnie? Glad to do it. A couple of slugs in the knee caps first. Just to make him hurt. Then a slug right between the eyes to finish it off.”
Danny lifted a glove hand to reach inside his overcoat. But the older brother stopped him with a motion of a hand and then took a step closer to the condemned man. Placing a hand on the man’s shoulder the older Manfred bent closer and looked into the tear, red rimmed eyes of one his—he thought—most trusted employees.
“Louie . . . you? You’ve been ripping off the family? You? We grew up together. I’m your daughter’s god father. I paid for both of your sons’ college educations. You? You do this to me?”
He started to reach up and rip the tape from Louie’s lips. He wanted to hear an explanation—any explanation—that might lessen the punishment Danny was so eager to meter out. But Danny’s hand reached out and pulled his older brother’s hand away as he stepped in between the condemned man and his brother.
“Donny, why prolong this? It’s cold out here. We have the bastard whose been stealing our money under the table. I caught him cooking the books myself. Let’s just get this over with and go home.”
Elder brother looked into the eyes of the younger brother of a moment and then, reluctantly, nodded and turned away. A glance toward the man with the black eyes and a slight nod was enough.
From out of the heavy aviator’s leather jacket the dark eyed man was wearing appeared a Ruger Mk. III .22 caliber semi-automatic. Gun hand came up fast and sure.
CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!
Three shots. Two shots in the foreheads of the bodyguards for Danny Mangrave. The third shot in right kneecap of the younger brother.
“Aiiiiiieeeee!! Shit!!!” screamed the younger Mangrave as he collapsed into the foliage and mud and began rolling around in pain.
“Smitty! What the fuck are you doing!” Donny Mangrave shouted, face draining color as he watched the dark eyed man step up to his screaming younger brother. “Have you gone fucking crazy?”
Smitty didn’t bother to answer as he walked up to the younger brother withering in agony in the mud and leaves of the forest.
“Danny, you wanted someone to suffer? How does if feel?”
Danny’s screams of agony filled the forest. But not for long.
Sudden—absolute—bone jarring silence.
Except for the sobbing. Louie kneeling in front of Donovan, head down, sobbing uncontrollable. Tears dropping like raindrops into the leaf covered forest floor from fat, ruddy red cheeks.
Smitty took his time holstering his weapon underneath his left armpit. Took his time zipping his coat. Took his time as he turned and looked at the speechless—stunned—dumbstruck—white faced older Donavan brother.
“You wanted me to find and rub out the thief in your organization. I did. Danny’s been stealing from you for years. When he heard I was asking questions and snooping around he decided to give you a human sacrifice. Louie’s an idiot. A thief of pocket money. Small change. The perfect sap to whack and take the blame for Danny’s expensive habits.”
“But goddammit, Smitty! Danny is my brother!”
Black eyes glanced down at the bloody mess that once was Danny Manfred. A thin—evil—almost playful—sneer played across thin gray lips.
“Not anymore,” he said as he turned and began walking causally through the forest clearing toward the black Caddy CTS a few yards away.
B.R. Stateham writes a vicious kind of noir. Comes cold and mean—which is, oddly enough—just the opposite of what B.R. actually is.