Sunday 15 November 2009


OK, so this one stretches the word count parameters a little...

but it's well-worth it...


When insurance adjuster Donnie Faber strut past Room 17 at the J&P Motorcourt, Polly Reeder was officially shucking the last of her marital vows and giving Ira Tuleshikn the most incredible sexual experience of his life.
Donnie was on his way to the ice machine and it was the couple’s overly loud groaning that stopped him cold. Shared enthusiasms sounded a bit like a Native American war chant in stereo, if there could be such a thing in North Bergen, New Jersey on a Thursday afternoon.
Nuh, nuh, nuh, yuh, yuh….
Donnie grinned. Afternoon delights happen and afternoon delights particularly happen at motels like the J&P. Why Donnie himself had just finished throwing the pipe to on-call dancer from Jersey City over in Room 11. Yeah, the girl took a modest “tip” and maybe she felt a little greasy to the touch, but that piece of poon? Totally worth it. Had that natural red head thing going on and rode like a jockey with a grudge.
A long popcorn fart of a downshifting Kenworth diesel from the highway nearby covered the sound of two bearded men approaching Donnie quickly from behind. As one of the men tapped Donnie on the shoulder, Donnie’s head turn coincided with the second man’s fist making contact. Donnie slammed back into the door with a heavy crunch and slowly slid down onto his ass.
Next a high-pitched shriek came from inside Room 17. There was some frantic pounding above Donnie as one of the men who jumped him repeatedly kicked at the door until the lock splintered. Unable to move, Donnie’s dead weight flopped back into the room landing on top of a discarded black bra, the last bra he’d ever see.
For Donnie the violence played out upside down like an inversion workings of an old film camera. Two bearded men in black cargo pants, black hooded sweatshirts, wearing purple Nitrile gloves stepped over his prone body. The taller of the two raised a pistol and shot Ira Tuleshikn in the head, the loud popping report rolling out over Donnie’s body and into the motel’s parking lot. Multiple small divots of Tuleshikn’s skull sputtered across the motel room like wet, ground chuck and Tuleshikn weaved on his feet for a moment as if drunk before collapsed.
Across the room Polly Reeder voided herself. The sheets were bunched up around her throat and her mouth was a gaping wide tunnel of disbelief as the second gunshot slung the better part of her throat away. A big boned lady, Polly tumbled off the bed with a naked, bloody crash. The third round mowed the top half of her face off just above her eyebrows. Donnie’s eyes flexed and itched with tears.
Another gun appeared from the second man’s waistband. Both men then turned and leveled their barrels down at Donnie. Donnie barely had time to scrunch his eyes shut.
Man, I should have just stayed in my room.
Triggers were pulled.
Later that same evening in Secaucus, Ezra Krull sat at his office desk and tossed a paper cup of green tea into a black wire trash bin. His younger brother David sat across from him on a leather sofa. Ezra stared.
David nodded curtly. “Yes.”
Ezra planted his index finger perpendicular on his desk blotter like the center wedge of a sundial.
“Hezbollah? You’re sure? Here? In New Jersey?”
David Krull shifted uncomfortably on the edge of the couch, “Ten minutes ago I spoke
with our friend at the embassy in New York. He confirmed it and advised extreme caution, if not erasure measures.”
A worried sigh emptied from Ezra’s keg-like chest. He swiveled around in his chair and
stared out the window. David continued.
“I mean, who knew? Tuleshikn? Of all people? I didn’t. You didn’t. He would be the last person anyone would think would be a Mossad agent. The man was studying to be a rabbi for Pete’s sake. His wife…pshht…no prize there, but to be in a motel with a woman like that? Some shiksh? Could he be so flagrantly stupid? I still don’t know why they killed the other man. Wrong place, wrong time I suppose.”
Ezra ignored his younger brother’s assessment of the crisis. His brother meant well but he always was a bit of a fool. A smattering of IDF experience strolling around Gaza checking out the discos and sipping wine and David thought he scrunched the world by the balls. He knew nothing about the real, inner workings of Mossad.
Ezra rubbed his temples. He tried to picture Tuleshkin. The man had been deep like himself, but much deeper. He knew of him but never actually worked with Tuleshkin. There were rumors. Butchered interrogations, unnecessary collateral damage, children mistakenly erased. And with a clear conscience the man decided to pursue rabbinical studies? Now that was what you call compartmentalization.
Ezra craned his neck back to his little brother, “Mmm?”
“What do you want to do?”
Ezra checked his watch and cleared his throat. “We must be cautious.”
“Cautious? Yes, of course, but what else?”
“If these men are efficient it makes sense they will come for me too.”
“Then we must be ready. We must protect you.”
“No, David,” Ezra said standing to face his brother, “I will be ready. You—I want you to clean everything up back home—take the steps we discussed. Burn the files, take the cash. You remember what I told you? The plan?”
“Yes, but—what about our inventory here? The wire?”
“I will call Sidenstein.”
“Yes, he will come and take it.”
David frowned. “I don’t trust that man. He’ll screw us.”
Ezra flopped a hand, “No, he won’t. It’s been arranged and Sidenstein knows that if he even thinks of fucking with me I will gut him and feed his intestines to the dogs. One call from me and he’ll be here at dawn with his men. They will take all of the inventory off our hands. We don’t need to worry about him, Sidenstein will give us a fair price.”
David still looked doubtful.
“Go home,” Ezra said, “Do not go anywhere else. Do not call your girlfriend, do not vary from the agreed upon plans. Pack your bags and leave tonight. I don’t care what flight you are on or what it costs. I will contact you in Tel Aviv two days from now.”
David stood too, his face expectant and hard. “Surely we could take them.”
Ezra barked, “You will do as you are told!”
Later when Ezra observed David driving away from the warehouse, Ezra pulled back the rug to expose the floor safe. He paid extra to have it installed. Ezra’s back hurt as got to his knees and worked the recessed tumbler.
Once the safe was open, he reached down into the cool darkness and lifted out a chamois wrapped Barak SP 21 nine millimeter and four fully loaded clips. Then he reached down again and pulled up an Uzi and four more boxes of ammunition.
These will be fine, Ezra thought. If they come for me they will move quickly and within close range.
Still on his aching knees Ezra slapped a magazine into the Barak and then loaded and checked the Uzi twice. All the familiar motions came back to him. Next Ezra Krull did something he hadn’t done in a very long time.
He prayed.
Meanwhile beneath the Hudson River, Stevie and Timmy O’Keefe rode the 11:40 PM New Jersey Transit train out of New York’s Penn Station back to Weehawken. There was a sack of White Castle hamburgers on the seat between the brothers and each held a paper-bagged tallboy of canned beer. Timmy cheeked an onion ring and chewed.
“Fuckin’ Knicks…”
Stevie O’Keefe commiserated, blowing out a curt, wet noise of disgust, “All that money and King and Parrish get worked over by a bunch of third rate hacks? Losers.” Stevie drank deep from his beer again and fished out a burger from the sack. Both men wore heavyweight Carharrt canvas jackets and jeans. Timmy slapped his brother’s arm.
“So, you think about what I mentioned earlier?”
Stevie took a bite of his burger. “Uh-huh.”
Timmy shifted, “I need an answer, man. Soon as we get back, I’m taking the truck and doing this job with or without you, I mean, I can get fifteen guys just like that who’d want in on something this easy. But hey—what’s right is right. I wanted to offer it to my older brother just back to the world first.”
“How’d you hear about this shit anyway?”
Timmy grinned. “So, you are interested.”
Stevie rocked his head from side to side. “Maybe. But I just want to know for who I’m working for, all right? Christ on a bike, Timmy. I’ve been back, what? Three months? Have not heard dick from you and next thing I know you're fuckin’ calling me and saying you got tickets for the Garden. Next thing I know aftre that you’re offering me risk.”
“It’s not risk.”
“Boosting a bunch of copper wire from some Jews up in Secaucus? That's not risk?”
Timmy whispered, “Hey! Keep it down, man, will you? And Christ, man, I only heard about this shit today myself.”
“Still, I got to know who I’m getting in bed with, Timmy.”
“OK, fine. I got the job kicked to me from Tadino. There. You fuckin’ happy now, G.I. Joe?”
Stevie looked at his brother. “Tadino?”
“Yeah. Tadino.”
“Dante Donofrio’s guy? John Tadino?”
“The same.”
Stevie leaned back. “Wow. I thought he was dead.”
“That’s Joey. Joey was the one who got the cancer. This is John. John’s a good guy. Made some good money with him while you were over in Iraq playing soldier. Lately John’s crew has been taking down Koreans and Indians because as they don’t complain as much. Plus the cops could give a rat’s ass about them motherfuckers. And this gig? These Jews? This shit is a whole lot sweeter. Zip security. Bust the gate, crowbar the locks, and we’re in and out in fifteen flat. A blind squirrel could take down these morons. Easily a twenty bill split when it all shakes out.”
Stevie gave it some thought. “Lot of money….”
“Damn right it’s a lot of money. Plus Tadino’s got, like, a whole bunch of other work lined up. Told me about a cigarette thing he’s running from Carolina. Not so many words but, hey, I’m thinking that’s an overture.”
Stevie drank some more of his warming beer to wash down the burger. He read the slogan on the side of the blue and white cardboard burger container: What You Crave. Fuckin’-a right it’s what you crave. No White Castle burgers over in the shit, that was for damn sure.
Timmy probed. “So whatcha think?”
Stevie took another short sip of beer. “And you swear there’s no guards, no dogs, no cameras?”
“Swear on mom’s grave.”
“Bang-bang-bang, just like you said, fifteen flat?”
“Bang-bang-bang. As much wire as we can haul out of there. Straight boost. Unloads like butter, bro.”
Sounded solid. Stevie could use the extra cabbage since his oil change job went kaput after his second tour. What the hell. How bad could it be? Tadino worked for Dante Donofrio and that could lead to bigger and better things. Stevie held out a fist.
Timmy beamed. He pounded his brother’s outstretched fist with his own.
“Coolness,” Timmy said. “Hey. You gonna eat those onion rings or what?”
Meanwhile while this partnership was sealed —in a 24-hour Lebanese carryout in Kearny, New Jersey—the Hezbollah motel killers tucked into some garlicky fattoush.
The killers had changed clothes from the bloodbath at the motel. Both men now wore cargo pants and faded Army surplus jackets they bought at a Goodwill store. As they wiped their plates clean they watched a small television on the counter.
The television replayed DVD transfers of Lebanese national football matches, a team who, throughout their close to sixty-odd year history, had sucked balls. After a while one of the killers asked the carryout’s proprietor if he had cable or something else to watch on DVD. This prompted a hot glare from the proprietor who promptly slammed a scuffed disk of Spongebob Squarepants into the player. The character of Squidward in the cartoon sounded pretty angry in Arabic.
Then again so did everything these days.
At Newark International Airport, David Krull was doing the cow-shuffle on the boarding ramp—the 1:56 red-eye to Tel Aviv on British Airways. He spoke into a cell phone pressed to his ear.
“Have you left the warehouse?”
“Soon,” Ezra answered on the other end, “I’m finishing up here. I’m running a magnet over the hard drives. I will be leaving shortly. Fifteen minutes.”
David’s voice went high in a fierce whisper, “You haven’t left? Ezra! You should leave now! They could be coming any minute!”
Ezra was calm. He looked down at the Uzi and the Barak SP on his desk. “Tel Aviv, little brother. I will see you there. Two days from now.”
“David, have some wine on the plane. Take a pill. Relax, there is nothing to worry about.”
Ezra cradled the telephone on his desk and sighed. His little brother always was such a worrywart. Just like their mother.
Then Ezra heard a noise. His stomach went cold.
Ezra raised his guns.
Across the access road from the Krull Wire & Cable the O’Keefe brothers had just finished backing their graffiti covered box truck between a pair of thirty-yard Dumpsters. When Timmy shut off the engine the windows of Krull Wire & Cable lit up with stuttering gunfire. . Timmy’s jaw dropped as he backhanded his brother’s arm.
“Holy shit! Is that?”
Stevie gave his younger brother a disdainful look. Stevie knew the sound from his time over in Iraq. Semi auto
“Straight boost, huh?”
“Stevie, man, I swear to God.”
Seventy yards away a door on the side of the warehouse slammed open and a shadowy figure stumbled out. As the weaving shadow closed the distance between them, it became clear to the O’Keefe brothers that the man’s left arm had been blown off at the elbow like ragged pom-pom.
Timmy whispered, “Jesus….”
The staggering figure spilled to the pavement and a gun clattered at the man’s side. Timmy fired up the truck’s engine again. “Fuck this.”
Stevie put his hand on the steering wheel.
Timmy’s eyes bugged at his brother.
“Yeah. Wait. Listen.”
“Listen to what? What?!”
Stevie’s eyes shifted left, then right, then held center. “No more shots. And you know what else? No alarms, like you said.”
“Look, the gate’s open too. We can drive right in.”
“Let me be crystal with you— so?!”
“So nobody else is coming out of the building, Timmy.”
“Nobody else is coming out of the building?! D’fuck does that mean?”
“It means we should hang tight, see what happens.”
“Hang tight?! See what happens?! Place lights up like Fourth of July Christmas with gunfire and you want to just hang tight, like we’re waiting on some drive-thu?! Are you touched in the head or something?! Cops could be here any minute!”
Stevie reached over and shut off the truck’s ignition.
“Hey!” protested Timmy.
“Timmy, listen! We’re so far off the main highway, trust me, nobody could’ve heard those shots. We’re in fuckin’ Secaucus, man. If by some chance some cops show up, so what? We’ve done nothing wrong. Not yet anyway. We’re just sitting here, minding our own business catching a nap. If the job is screwed, the job is screwed and we’ll both know shortly if that’s the case. My vote is we just hang tight and see who else comes out of the building. See what happens. This needs investigating.”
“Are you crazy? I’m having a heart attack over here, Stevie.”
“Will you just calm the fuck down. Look at that guy. Look at him for a second. Does that asshole look like a thief to you? Big ol’ Ali Baba beard and that red checkered scarf ‘round his neck?”
Timmy gaped through the windshield and squinted.
“Timmy, that scarf is called a Keffiyeh. The fuckin’ hajis wear ‘em over in the shit. And I’m telling you, even from here that gun he dropped? That’s some serious firepower.”
“So what? We should just wait and see who waltzes out of there with a bazooka? All the more reason why we should bug the fuck out of here, man.”
Stevie punched his brother in the arm. Hard.
“You said these guys were Jews, right?”
“Yeah? Ow. So?”
“So that guy over there bleeding out? Clearly looks to me he has an axe to grind.” Timmy’s face pinched. Jesus, Stevie thought, Timmy always was slow on the uptake. He wondered if he was half retarded from all the weed he smoked.
“Fuuuuuuuuuck me.”
Stevie looked back at the warehouse. “Let’s just see what happens, OK? You never know. This gets weird we could be heroes.”
“But I don’t want to be a hero.”
“Stop being such a pussy.”
So the brothers waited. Almost an hour passed. There wasn’t a peep from the building, no movement inside or out, zilch. And no cops showed up. It approached three a.m.
Stevie pulled on a ski mask from the dash and Timmy followed suit firing up the truck. Stevie picked up a red crowbar from the floor of the cab. He climbed out and dragged the dead body behind some oil drums near a chain-linked fence. Then Stevie picked up the man’s gun, checked the magazine, and looped the webbed strap over his shoulder. He indicated to Timmy that he was going in the front.
Timmy clenched his teeth. He eased the truck out from their hiding spot between the Dumpsters and then drove around the side building to the loading bay while Stevie jacked open the front door with a few leveraged crowbar yanks. Once inside Stevie saw what at first appeared to be a reddish black carpet about halfway down the dark tiled hall. He moved closer. Then he noticed the carpet’s warped shape and got a whiff of the hot penny smell. The blood came from under a slightly open door with a brass nameplate on high on its center that read:
Stevie toed open the door with his boot. The base edge of the door swung in and crunched against something wet. Peering around the door Stevie saw that the edge of the door had bumped up against the exposed neck bone of a decapitated body of a large male. The sight of the headless body made Stevie jump back slightly. He dropped the crowbar with a chattering clang on the floor.
Stevie had seen his share of wholesale demolition and killing over in theater but this was different. This place was supposed to be normal. It was fucking Secaucus, New Jersey for the love of fuck, a small business warehouse with potted fake jungle plants in the office and less than a mile from your choice of fast food. It wasn’t some open sewer full of screaming maniacs six thousand miles away. Blood and ragged bullet holes were sprayed all over the paneled walls. Stevie figured double head shot must’ve scooped the headless man’s skull clean off—
Stevie shouldered his weapon and wheeled. A second body, dressed identically to the dead Keffiyeh guy outside curled on his side in the corner of the office near a sofa. After a moment or two when Stevie got his breath back, he inched over to where the man lay. The second man didn’t seem to be breathing. When he was close enough Stevie kicked an open wound on the man’s leg just to be sure. No response. Stevie then bent down and picked up the man’s gun from the floor. He looped the weapon’s strap over his other shoulder. Like the first gun he picked up outside, Stevie noticed this gun was well-oiled and clean. By and large hajis may be assholes, Stevie thought, but they sure as shit took care of their weapons.
Vibrations from the warehouse door rising made the office paneling hum. A minute or so later Stevie heard his brother Timmy’s sneakers squeaking in the hall.
“Watch the blood,” Stevie called out.
Timmy braked and peeked around the corner into the office. When Timmy caught sight of the decapitated body he swallowed hard against the surge in his stomach.
“Jesus, Mary Mother of God!”
“Yeah,” Stevie snickered, “Something ain’t it? What? Never seen a headless guy before?”
Timmy looked at his brother, eyes wide beneath the ski mask. “Oh sure. All the time,. yeah. Just last week at the fuckin’ Best Buy they had them lined up, two for one. Jesus, Stevie! No! Fuck no! Never! Jesus! No!”
Stevie palmed a hand in the air. “Be cool, Timmy, all right? It’s almost over. Just pick up that crowbar over there and go back to the loading dock. Start rolling those cable spools into the truck as quick as you can and I’ll be right out to help you. Then we’ll jet and leave all this fucked-up craziness behind.”
Timmy acknowledges this with a vigorous nod. He plucked up the crowbar off the floor and took off scrambling down the hall.
Stevie moved about the office taking in the scene. Man, what the hell happened here, Ezra J. Krull? Must’ve been some bad juju getting settled with these guys coming halfway around the world just to get up in your grill.
Stevie never could get his hands around the whole Middle East thing. You’d think after a few thousand years you’d move the fuck on, share a glass of beer or a joke or something. He tried to read a book on it when he was over there, but it was frustrating and made his head hurt. A briefcase was on the desk full of cash in bundles, foreign and U.S. This was just getting better and better. Then a wet cough rasped in the corner.
Stevie shouldered his weapon and swung around. The second man near the sofa was not dead after all. He came to twitching with eager shivers. Bright blood bubbled out of the wounded man’s mouth and his dark beseeching eyes widened as Stevie leveled his weapon on his heart.
Time slowed. Stevie felt a familiar rush—the gritty electricity of adrenaline jacking in his veins, just like when he was over in Baghdad on patrol. He had a strong sense something was about to happen, that the wounded man across the room and his own destinies were reaching a zenith of sorts. Like a crab, the wounded man’s hand twitched for a black grenade clipped to his breast jacket pocket. A small squeeze from Stevie’s finger pretty much ended it.
Stevie lowered his weapon.
Welcome to Jersey, asshole.

BIO: Kieran Shea can’t stand the hard rain Dylan said was going to fall, yet oddly enough he walks in it for inspiration. He blogs at Black Irish Blarney.


  1. Hi Kieran, I thought the dialogue in this one was spot on - especially the banter between the brothers. Also, very well researched piece - I think that made this short read like something much fuller.

  2. That was great Noir, loved a lot of the phrases, it takes away the scent of flowers and sets the tone for how low-life and grim these things are.

    Great work!

  3. Very good. Cracking dialogue. Nice n meaty.

  4. Great story telling Kieran. Really enjoyed it.
    Regards, David.

  5. Great dialogue and a great tale - very well done Kieran.