Friday, October 29, 2010

places: the kitchen sink

I made myself get up.  I didn’t wanted to move, but had to make myself go downstairs again.  I had to find my billfold.  My hand was still bleeding. 

I was afraid to look into the mirror and see what I would find.  I looked into the window, into the night outside.  All I saw was a reflection of an unrecognizable face.  Seeing myself in such a disfigured state was surreal.

I stood in front of the kitchen sink and ran cold water over my injured hand.  My little finger was useless, dangling by some skin.  I cleaned the wound and rummaged through kitchen drawers looking for a pair of scissors.

Unfortunately all I could find was a meat cleaver.  At least it was quick.  Afterward, I wrapped my hand in a kitchen towel.  The bleeding slowed a little, but I couldn't stop it.  All I know to do is wrap it and keep pressure on it.
I let the tap run and filled the deep sink basin.  I dove my head under.  The water turned pink.  When I came up, my face still looked quite monstrous from the window over the kitchen sink.

I left the thompson gun on the kitchen table. It was too heavy for me to hold.

I went back upstairs and finished plundering Clayton’s office.  I went through his bedroom too.  I felt pretty confident that no one was coming back real soon.  I felt that I had earned the time to look about.  I took the parcels that I had found.  I also found some aspirin in a medicine cabinet.  I took them too.  I went around back and found the Clayton’s notebook.

I remembered that my coat, billfold and keys were still downstairs.  I got up the nerve to go back down there.

It looked like a horror house down in the basement.  I did not let the flashlight roam more than I had too.  I found my coat.  I found my billfold, but couldn’t find the inn keys. I found the Russian’s luger - but I left it there.  I picked up Clayton’s .45 and made my way back upstairs. I then rummaged through Sam’s pockets and decided to keep his billfold.

After coming out of the basement, I left.  I was glad I was never going back there. I know I’ll be revisited by this place in my dreams though.

I was so miserable, I needed to go back.  The night was dissipating and I could do no more.  I wanted to pull over and sleep, but I didn’t feel safe.  I tried my best to keep the car on the road - head back to Camille. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

places: when it hits the fan

A few minutes later Sam returned with the big black oscillating fan that had been in Clayton’s office.

This can’t be good.

The Russian took a small table in the corner and put it to the right side of my chair.

“Put it over here please.”

Sam placed the fan on the table.

“If you do this...”

The Russian plugged the cord into the socket above the light-bulb.

“Sam, get a screwdriver. I need to take the cage off this thing.”

I was hoping to bargain with the Russian. “I’ll show you where he is if you will just let me go!”

The Russian gave a smile that would have given the devil the creeps.
“Now - about Clayton’s where abouts.”

“I can’t draw a map or point the way without fingers...just let me show you!”

I had a strong feeling that it didn’t matter whether I told him where Clayton was or not.  This guy had a look in his eyes like I was an ant - and he was the mischievous kid with a magnifying glass.  Nothing was going to deter him from his little experiment.

“Grab his hand Sam.”

Sam leaned the thompson in a corner behind me.  He took my hand.

“Tell you what Sam, let’s bind his other hand until we need it again.”

Sam did as the Russian asked, using the twine from my shotgun.

“Well, that came in handy - didn’t it?” remarked the Russian.

With my left hand bound, Sam took my right hand.  The Russian leaned into me to keep me from moving.

“Do we need to gag him boss?”

“No, I want him to hear this pig squeal.  After all, there’s no one within miles of this place.  In a business like ours, location is everything.”

After removing the cage from the fan, the Russian turned it on.  He looked at me with a smirk and slowly notched it up to the highest setting.

The fan began to rattle and hum.

“It won’t do you any good to clinch your fist Mr. Hale.  I will break them first if I have to.”

Sam’s hands were like vice grips.  They were so big that they almost engulfed mine.

“Hold them steady Sam - be careful.”

Sam spread my fingers and pushed them toward the black steel blades.

I tried to hold them back but I couldn’t.

I tried to free myself.  Fear came up and I tried to pull back - strained to pull back - but to no avail.

My hand was forced toward the blades, inches and then in.

I couldn’t help but groan.

I yelled as the blades hit flesh.  For a moment Sam’s hands let up on the tension and I pushed down.  I tried not to think of the pain.  I did not look up into their faces.  I focused on pushing my hand down to the base of the fan.  Sam let out a noise as the blades sliced into the back of his hand.  He released his grip on me.

“Don’t let him go Sam!” yelled the Russian.

Too late. 

I had laid hold to the base of the fan made it my weapon.  This was my only chance. I lunged forward with it toward the Russian and the blades knocked the gun out of his hand with a ‘clack-clack’.  The light-bulb began to swing again as I swung the fan around toward Sam’s direction. The fan had resumed to full power.  He was still fumbling backwards as I lunged the mechanical steel teeth into his throat.  It made a terrible noise as it went deep.  Sam gave out a gurgled yell.  He fell grasping at his neck and writhed on the floor.

The light-bulb was swinging and shadows were dancing madly.
“Don’t let him get away Sam!” yelled the Russian who was reaching through the fallen table to get to his gun.   The Russian kept barking orders at the dying man. He didn't realize as of yet what had happened to his man.

I didn’t have time to fumble for a gun, I had to keep using the fan.

I didn’t have time to feel pain, or think about it. I moved toward the Russian who had now given up on scrambling for a gun.  He realized now that I had the upper hand.

He threw the table at me.  It did not stop the mechanized blades from coming at him.  I was going to kill him with it.  I felt no anger or hate.  For at that moment we were experiencing the very same fear.  In my mind, only one person was leaving that basement alive.

The light kept shifting and shadows danced in the room.  I started seeing blood everywhere.  It could have been mine - it could have been Sams - it could have been the Russians.  The light-bulb eventually hit the ceiling and everything went black.  It took me a moment to realize that I had accidentally pulled the plug from the socket.

The Russian was screaming and yelling incoherently.  I think he was weeping.  I am not sure.  I threw the heavy oscillating fan into his direction and I’m pretty sure it hit him.  He got quiet.  There was enough silence to hear Sam force his last gurgled breath from his opened throat.

I backed toward the thompson gun.  I tripped backward over Sam’s body and fell hard against the wall.  I tried to move faster but I simply couldn’t.  I felt my way to the corner and found the machine gun had fallen to the floor.  I felt the tip of my finger dangling.  I felt nauseated.

I saw the Russian had made it to the top of the stairs.  I cocked the weapon and raked the stairway.  He managed to pull his legs from the spray just in time.  I got up on my feet and stumbled across the ill-lit room.  I walked up the stairs, but I wasn’t feeling well.  I tripped over Sam's body again and then over the chair.  The Russian had closed the door at the top of the stairs leaving me in absolute darkness.

I made it to the stairs and used the rails to lead me upward.  I clenched the trigger and kept the tommy aimed upward toward the door.  I opened fire again and pushed through the door.  I fell into the light of the hallway.  For a moment I was blinded by the light.  I used the wall to slide down the hall toward the front door.  I heard a car door slam and an engine start.  I pushed myself toward the front door.  I felt a splinter hit my cheek from a bullet hitting the door frame as I passed through.

The Russian shot at least four times and missed.  I just stood there like a dumb target. He screeched out of the driveway and sped down the road.  I let off a burst as he drove away.  I missed.  My arms felt like they were weighted with lead.  I was still having a hard time seeing.

I heard the car moving fast into the distance.  He got out by the skin of his teeth.  Come to think of it - so did I.

I took a few steps forward and collapsed on the front porch.

I can’t go on.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

places: in a bad way

Without taking his eyes off of me, the Russian ordered the guy with the gun to take me down downstairs.

“Where boss?” asked the man with the tommy.

“Take him to the basement, where we can talk.”

I felt a lump rise in my throat as we all walked down the stairs. My heart raced and my hands were noticeably shaking.  Downstairs we passed the kitchen and down a short hallway that lead to the basement door.  I felt the tip of the barrel brush against my back several times on the way down the creaky wooden steps.

No one talked on the way.  All that was lacking was a priest to accompany us.  We all knew what was going to happen next.

In the basement a string was pulled and a light bulb swung from the ceiling.  It was a small basement, but big enough to do what they had in mind.  They didn’t pull the trigger because it was now my turn to talk.

“Take off his coat and put him in the chair.” ordered the Russian.

The gunman grabbed my trench-coat by the back of the lapel.  He yanked it downward and I removed it.

The Russian pointed down toward my feet.  “Pick it up and hand it to me.”

I complied.

“Should I tie him down boss?”

“No.” the Russian said, “I need his hands free.  He’s not going anywhere.”

I looked around.  The shadows in the room were slowing. The light bulb was swinging as if it were a hanged man on a noose. The gunman was behind me.  He put the muzzle of the thompson to the back of my head for a few seconds, to make me sure of his presence directly behind me.  The Russian took his attention from me as he carefully rummaged through the pockets of my coat.

“Check him out Sam.”

“Sure thing boss.”

Sam did his job while still keeping his gun pressed against me.

The Russian removed Clayton’s .45 from one of my coat pockets.  Sam removed my billfold and inn keys.

“This is Clayton’s gun.” he said as he handled it.

Sam resumed his position behind me while the Russian took a chair and sat in front of me.

“This can be quick and painless.  It’s all up to you.”

“You sound like you’ve watched too many bad movies.”

He smiled.

“Skip the quick and painless.” as he pulled out the luger from his pocket and struck me across the face with the butt of it.

It hurt like hell.  I heard the crack of teeth and my left ear was left ringing.  I tasted blood.

I would have hit back, but I felt the tommy muzzle again at the back of my head.

The Russian continued.  “Here’s what I want to know.  I want to know what you have done with Clayton.  Understand this, you live if he lives.”

“Surely you don’t expect me to believe that?”

“I also want to know what you  were doing in his office.”

“Clayton is tied up at the moment, I’ll tell you where he is when you let me walk.”

He struck me again.  Just as hard.  My head was pounding.

“You’ll tell me where you have him now.” he said quietly.

My mouth had become filled with the steely taste of blood.  I coughed it out when I tried to spit it on him.  He stepped back in plenty of time to miss my defiant gesture.  He had done this before.  I could tell he was enjoying this moment of playing the cat with an injured mouse in his paws. 

I thought he was just a gunman, but after hearing what Clayton told me earlier, I figure the Russian’s presence was not as Clayton’s heavy.  More than likely, the Russian was there for assurance that Clayton was keeping up with his end of their bargan.  This is just a guess.  It came to my mind that the Russian knows more about what’s happening behind the curtain than Clayton.  Maybe it matters.  Even if it does matter, I am in a bad place.

I got beat.  I got beat so bad that I don’t know how long I’d been down there.  I held my tongue.  There’s no good in telling him that I’d killed Clayton.

It got to where I only saw shadows of them.  I heard the thuds and felt the blows.  They came like waves.  The light-bulb had been bumped again and the shadows danced with the beating fists.  I got beat until I was unconscious.  I guess he stopped because he grew tired of hitting me.

I came to after a pail of water was splashed into my face.  I had a hard time seeing.  One eye had apparently swollen shut.  I hurt all over.

“Tell me why you came back here.”

I leaned forward and coughed up water and blood.

“I came because Clayton wouldn’t tell me anything.  I came back because I needed to know why you people tried to kill me.”

“I guess then you know that your friend Rod Larkin wasn’t with us after all.”

“I don’t know anything. I just know that I was doing my job and the next thing I knew, your guys were trying to kill me.  I don’t know who Rod worked for and why you had him killed.”

“Self defense I’m sure Mr. Hale.  You arrived with him.  Mr. Larkin for some reason started killing those at the address he was to deliver his package.  It’s unfortunate that you drove him there.”

“I drove him there because it was MY JOB!  I need to know what’s going on.”

“What’s going on is that we’ve attained some questionable employees and you can no longer be trusted...especially now.”

“Clayton disappeared, so we went to your drop-off.  Everyone was dead there.  Both you and Rod were missing.  You said that Rod is dead, where is his body?”

“I heard shooting and Rod came out the front door.  Others came from around the building shooting at both of us.  Rod killed them both, but he took some hits.  I helped him into the car and drove away. I drove until I felt it was safe to pull over.  I didn’t see anyone tailing me.  When I pulled over to check on him, he was dead.  That’s the story.”

“Why did you kidnap Clayton?” asked the Russian.  “Why did you feel it necessary to turn on your employer.”

“Because the address is where Clayton sent us.  This was one of the regular drop-offs.  I needed to find out why I was targeted.”

“Idiot.  You were in no danger from us. You should have come to us directly.  Remember it was Clayton that armed you.  He didn’t want to see any harm come to you.  Why would you suspect him first?  You should have shown more allegiance to your employer.

“There was no one else to suspect but Clayton. He sent us to our death.”

“He had no intention.  In this business, things can go wrong.  Mr. Larkin is a man that had earned our trust and became greedy.  He apparently started shooting up at the drop-off to steal from us. He probably would have killed you if he hadn’t been shot himself.”

It’s apparent that the Russian could lie as good as I could.

“Tell us where you’ve taken Clayton.”

“I have nothing else to tell you.”

The Russian’s smile disappeared.  His face turned stoic. He held his luger inches from me.

“If that is so?”

I looked up into the barrel.  My head was throbbing.

He moved the gun closer, letting the metal rest between my eyebrows.  Sam stepped from behind me to clear himself from the bullet’s projection.

Blurred vision, I closed my eyes.  Incoming...this is it.

“Sam, the Russian spoke, “I have an idea.  Go get that fan upstairs.”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

places: clayton's office

 The night was wearing on and I had gotten tired and careless.  I drove to Clayton’s place and parked the car where I had found it.  There wasn’t another car there this time.  The house lights were still on.

I turned off the engine and got out of the car.  I took the sawed-off with me.  I slipped around the back of the house.  There was no one outside.

I walked around and checked the back door.  It was locked.  I didn’t want to risk making any noise by breaking the back window.  I moved around the house toward Clayton’s office.  It was on the second floor on the back side of the house.  There was a way up, the drainage pipe looked sturdy enough to bare my weight.  I strapped the sawed-off over my shoulder and commenced to climb.

It was a little awkward but doable.  Most of the upstairs windows all around were opened.  Crouching on the narrow eave, I peered through the window.  I half expected to see Clayton behind his desk.  There was only a little light, the room was partially lit by the bankers light from the desk.  The only noise was an oscillating fan that had been left on.

I forced the window open so I could slip in.  I quietly moved across the room toward the door.  I stuck my head out and checked the hall.  There seemed to be no one there.  I had never been there when it was only Clayton.  An empty house just didn’t feel right.

I wondered if I should check the place out, but figured that if I was to find anything, it would be in this room.  To clear the house might be taking an unnecessary chance.  I’ll keep it down and rummage through Clayton’s things.

The office was sparce.  There was a wooden file cabinet and a chiferobe.  There was nothing of interest in the file cabinet that I thought important.  The drawers in the chiferobe rendered more of the uninteresting same.  I guess Clayton couldn’t risk keeping much of his business in his office.  Looking into his empty waste can, I could see where he made a habit of burning all traces of his practices.

There had to be something here.

I hit pay-dirt in the bottom drawer.  Four more un-delivered parcels.  Clayton had these for the next delivery.  Like the others, the address was on the parcel.

Another drawer...Clayton loved his cigars.

Curiously, one drawer was empty.  All the other drawers were full but this one.  Why was this one empty?  I pulled it completely out.  There was nothing in it or attached to under it.

I reached into the hole and felt around.  I got on my knees and looked in.  Too dark.  I pulled out my Zippo and stuck it into the darkness.  There, underneath the desktop, was a narrow shelf.  I saw the cover of a small black notebook.  I reached in and pulled it out.

I then heard movement.  I then heard screen door close.

I slid the drawer back into place and made my way toward the open window.

There were footsteps.  One or two people rushing up the stairs.

I was still holding the notebook.  I looked to the window.  I didn’t have time.  I tossed the book down into the bushes below.  I was reaching for the shotgun when the door opened.

I wasn’t fast enough.

A man burst into the doorway with a Thompson gun. 

He didn’t say a word.

Another more familiar face stepped into the room from behind him.  It was the Russian.

He had a luger, but immediately put it away for having no need for it.  The machine-gun limited any option I had of escape.  Eight hundred .45 rounds a minute.  I’ve seen what a tommy could do to a man at close range - worse than Swiss cheese - more like puree.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

places: overdriving headlights

It was all for her.

But what would she do if she knew what I have just done? 

My eyes are wide open tonight.  The wheels drone on the pavement making a hollow sound.  The headlights only show a little ways into the future. I fill the emptiness with thought.

Fueled only by instinct.

I think of her embrace, recollect the softness of her form, the smell of her hair.  Kiss the nape of her neck with my thoughts.

I remind myself in these moments in between that this love is real.  I tell myself that this love must be fought for.  There is no other reason, no other way around it.  I cannot afford to ponder the cost.  I must seize the available moment - to save us.  If not for us, to at least save Camille.  If our love can not be saved - let this sacrifice save her.

I miss her.

She's the only thing real to me. The rest is just an ongoing nightmare.
It's cold.  I rolled up my window and slid across the seat a little in order to roll up the other.  I accidentally turned the steering wheel while doing so - causing the vehicle to lurch across the lane.  An oncoming truck's blinding light flashed across the entirety of the windshield. There was screech and a horn blast. I quickly corrected my err.  While doing so I felt a solid object bump against my right heel.  After a few moments I realized it was Clayton's fallen gun.
I've been lucky.  One of those bullets in the cylinder could have been my fate.  Pure luck.  I'm no cowboy.  Then again, as slick and confident Clayton seemed, he wasn't much of a cowboy either.  Pure luck to see it coming and squeeze one off first.

Where to now?

If I got to Clayton's place, I'll got to ransack.  There's probably more to find there.  If I go first to a drop-off, I'll go to kill.

Fear whispers that I will die.  I grit my teeth and then wipe my sweaty palms on my coat.

I will kill - even if I die.  This is a given.

I mustn't listen to those thoughts.  A good soldier put's it on the shelf.  I must continue to override it.  It's just part of the battle.  I will fight to make my plans win...

...or die trying.

Sweat is in my eyes, pouring down my face.  How did I get so hot again?
I rolled the window back down.

Friday, October 22, 2010

places: second wake

I stood over him with the 45 leveled at the crown of his head.

“I underestimated you…I shouldn’t have tried that.”

“Don’t try anything else.  I don’t want anymore surprises.”

“Don’t worry.  I’m done.”

“I lost my gun.”

I sat down next to him.  We were looking at each other in the darkness.

“I can’t seem to find it.”

“I had checked your pockets.  Where did you get the piece?”

“Always check the trunks of bad men like myself.  I’ve got guns in my trunk.  Bad men like me have to play dirty to live.  You never know what’s around the corner.  Magicians pull rabbits out of their hats.  Me, I pull guns out of mine.”

We sat there together.

“You wouldn’t mind fetching something from my trunk would you?”

I glanced at him.  “I didn’t think so.”

“Clayton, Give me a lead on the Soviets.  Give me some names.  Some places.”

“Places?  The only places I know Johnny are your places – the places I sent you.”  Clayton moved his hands around his torso, the folds of his shirt, trying to put a finger on his wound.  He felt the cold in his extremities, yet warmth pooling on his lap.  He kept talking. “I’m going to tell you everything, because I am at my end.  I am going to tell you because we have so much in common.”

“We’ve got nothing in common.”

“Oh yes.  We’ve got things in common.  Camille…we have her.”

“I said don’t...”

“What are you going to do - shoot me?”  I can talk about her all I want.  Did you know she was my sister?”

“No, she told me you weren’t related.”

“She told you what I told her to tell you.  It’s not her fault.  I made her promise.  She’s a good sister.”

“Camille is one and death is another commonality.  You and I are both dead men Johnny.”

“Where have I heard that before,” I replied.

“You have no hope Johnny.  I have no names for you.  Even if you did have names, you could do nothing about it.  I’ve naturalized a lot of aliens as of late.  I’m sure they’ll make fine outstanding citizens.  If you get in their way - they’ll kill you of course.   If I were you, I wouldn’t stand in the way of their progress.”

“Thanks to you.”

“...and you.”   He was shivering.  I’m catching a chill.  Can I have my coat and hat?”

“Sure.” I obliged.

“You have no hope because you are outnumbered - outnumbered by people you’ve never seen.  I have no hope because you are going to let me bleed out.”

I lit one of his cigars.

“I can’t blame you.  After all, I did try to kill you.”   Clayton paused, and continued like a talkative drunk. “I got my orders from couriers, and I deliver my packages to addresses by courier.  That’s it.  That’s all you’ve got.  I could help you more, but I kind of hope you experience the same kind of bad luck as me.”

“I thought you were going to be hard to get to talk.”

“Oh yes.  I have just recently discovered that I am very talkative when I’m dying.”   He fidgeted a little. “This is taking forever.  Where did you shoot me anyway?”

“I can’t tell.  It’s dark.”

“You’re not very sympathetic.”

“I did get your coat and hat.”

“Yes – yes - you did at that...and my Cubans.   I am sleepy.  I’d like my bed.  I want my warm bed.”

Clayton fell back on the ground.

I don’t know why I lingered there.  Most men I’ve seen die - died quick.  Tonight I had to watch two kinds of men die.  Clayton seemed to have been trying to talk me to death.  I wanted him to spill it before the guns were pulled.  The conversation was over.

I had no good reason to help him live.  I’ve known men like Clayton before.   He wasn’t going to see morning no matter what he said or what angle he played.  I was going to get it in the back if I let him live.

Adam should’ve bit the head off that serpent - that’s what a sister once told me.  That nun had a hardness on her face - a look as if she'd bit several heads off herself.  A man in my place is going to have to treat them all the same.  I can't afford to look back.

“Let’s end this now.  What do you say?”

The grip tightened on my gun.

Clayton clumsily rolled around and got to his knees.  “I don’t want to die here.  I don’t want to die like this.”  He struggled to stand to his feet and then started to walk away as if he were leaving for an appointment.  He put on his fedora and tipped it my way.  He coughed a little and cleared his throat.

The last thing Clayton said was, “You can keep the cigars.”

I knew he wasn’t going far.  He walked away.  Not knowing where he was – Clayton walked the wrong way into the woods.  I watched his form until he was gone – beyond sound – beyond sight.

I drew on the cigar in the darkness, felt the warm of it on my fingertips.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

places: you're dead

He looked hard and defiant at me.

I grinned at him.  I didn’t bat an eye.

“You’re dead!”

“That’s what I heard.’

“It’s only a matter of time.”

“You’re life isn’t worth a plugged nickel.”

“I’ve known that for quite sometime now.  I don’t have anything to lose - so I’d talk if I were you.”

“Everyone has something to lose Johnny - even you.”

“Camille.”  He smiled knowing it would set me off.

"Mention her name again and I will plant a bullet in your head."

“By the way, I talked with Rod tonight.”

“He’s alive?  No, he couldn’t have survived what we had in store for him.”

“Clayton.  I’m not supposed to be alive either.’

“No.  Larkin is dead and you lived by some stroke of luck.  I don’t know how you lived or why you’re doing this but...”

“I am doing this because Rod told me that I am to kill you.”

“He’s one of Uncle Sam’s badges - he wouldn’t ask you to do that.”

“Nevertheless Rod told me to kill you.  He told me that if I kill you, you can’t kill me. So I came tonight to cut the head off the snake.  Perhaps the rest of my troubles will disappear when you’re dead.”

“Dream on.  Rod knew better than that.  I’m not the one behind all this.  I’m just a supplier.  I’m on the payroll just like you.  If you kill me – you still end up dead.  You’ll see.”

Clayton kept his eyes on me.  I moved even nearer so he could see how serious I was. 

He shouted, “Larkin is dead.  Larkin is DEAD!  You wouldn’t be here asking questions if Rod wasn’t dead.  Rod knew everything I was up to on my end.  He was embedded, I trusted him - he KNEW everything.   After I was informed of his real identity, he had to be killed.  It’s apparent to us all that he stayed on the job so he could find out who exactly I was working for.  He got caught reaching too deep into the cookie jar.  There’s no way he could have survived tonight.”

“Yes. He’s dead.  His body isn’t far from here.   Let’s just say that killing you was his last request.”

Clayton’s features softened. For the first time he seemed to sound like a regular guy. “Put an end to me and they’ll find someone else to do my job.  This doesn’t make any sense.  I am just the middle man here.  There are bigger fish to fry.”

“Listen Johnny.  Let me go and I’ll get you out of this.”  He was full of it of course

“Maybe you can, but I still have questions that need answering.” 

He yelled.  A vein the size of a garden hose popped out the side of his neck.  “Questions?”  Do you want to live or die?”

“That’s a coincidence, I was going to ask you the same thing.”

Clayton face hung down for a minute or two.  He just gazed at the ground.  I could only guess that he was trying to keep from losing his head - before I decided to help him lose it for him.

“The parcels?” I asked.

Clayton looked bewildered.

“Money and documents.  I assume when you said you were a supplier, you were supplying false identification for aliens?”

“Yes. Clayton replied, “You weren’t supposed to know.”

“You’re a counterfeiter.”

“The money is real - supplied by those for whom I am working.  I supplied the counterfeit documents.  They are quite good actually.  You were just guessing that they are forged.”

“You expect me to believe otherwise?”

“Where are these people coming from?  I’ve delivered a lot of packages, a lot of money, a lot of false papers.”

“You’re just trying to get yourself killed, aren’t you Johnny?”

“I want to know what kind of trouble I’m in.”

“You’re in deep – unless you let me help you.  You already know too much.”

“So tell me the rest of it.”

“Who are these people you work for?  Where are they coming from.  Is this espionage - saboteurs?  This has to be subversive - too big. What’s going on?"

"To big for you Johnny." Clayton said matter-of-factly.

"Tell me what's going on."

Clayton looked up at me with a queer look.  I guess he was trying to sound like a parent scolding a dim-witted child, but he really wasn't in the position to pull it off.  “Listen, Johnny, I didn’t ask.  Sometimes if you ask, you don’t get the job, worse - you'll end up dead.”

“You of all people should know this.  You do the job and take the money.  I’m just like you Johnny.  I’ve got somewhere I’m trying to go too - just like you.  I’ll wash my hands of this when this deal is done.  I’ll walk away from this after I’m finished with my contract. I know you can relate.”

“You think you know me?”

“I know you better than you think I do.  I know you.  I know you love Camille.  I know how she feels about you.  We’re all in the same boat - going up the same short river.”

‘Keep Camille out of this.”

“Johnny, Camille is part of this whether you like it or not.”

“I said keep Camille out!

“Johnny, we are both trying to get somewhere.  Let’s let bygones be bygones.  I realize now that you aren’t as dumb as I presumed you first to be.  After tonight, I realize that you are far from expendable.  I can get you out of this - that is - if Rod is indeed dead.

“Dirty money.”

“You knew it was dirty money from the start.  From the first night and all the nights you came to my office and put more and more of it in your pocket.  Don’t play Boy Scout with me.  We are a lot alike Johnny, we both know that dirty money spends just as well as clean.  The good thing about dirty money is that it’s easier to make.  Well, what do you say?”

“I need to know who’s behind this Clayton.”

“You’re not listening to me Johnny”, he said impatiently. “My wrist’s hurt, my head hurts, my feet are cold, and I want to go home now!”


“Yes Johnny. Soviets.”


“Of course Johnny, no twixt the two.  There’s nothing wrong with people wanting to come to the new world.  Nothing wrong with people reaching for a big slice of that pie!  They want in, and willing to pay for a quicker way.  Surely you can relate to that?  They are very generous Johnny.”

“And you?  What are you?”

“I am homegrown American Johnny.  I don’t see all communists as bad.  They are willing to do business. As you can plainly see, I am a capitalist.  I am a manufacturer,  a supplier, an employer, and a possible cash cow for you.”

“A capitalist?”

“Yes Johnny.  I’ll let you in on the ground floor if you’ll let me get back to work.  Seriously, I’m a good friend to have.

I walked to the car and turned the headlights off.

I walked to the tree and untied him.  He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief.  He put it to the back of his head and then inspected the rag.

“That was quite a blow....I am surprised I’m not bleeding.”

He moved around and stretched a bit“You did the right thing Johnny - you’ll see.”

I was getting in the passenger side to let him drive.  It was if I knew what was going to happen, even though it was impossibility for it to happen. Instincts. A quick movement from the opposite side. He drew a gun.  He drew a gun from out of nowhere.  I saw it from the corner of my eye, as he stood on the other side of the car.  Like William S. Hart, I had my gun cleared long before Clayton had his.  I shot him through the open front windows.

He backed up a couple of steps and stood there.

I walked around the car with my gun still trained on him.

He seemed dumbfounded.

He then sat down in front of me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

places: spilling it

“I didn’t bring you here to answer your questions.”

“Then ask me your questions.  I have headache for obvious reasons.  I’d like to go home soon."

“I want to know all about Rod."

“If you are who I believe you to be, you should know what’s going on with Rod.”

“Answer the question,” I asked.

“You know good and well who Rod is, and WE DID what you asked!  He’s not going to be a problem for us.  I told you people that I needed just a little time.  You’re being too impatient - too rash. Why am I here?”

Clayton went an unexpected direction and I played along.

He started sounding cocky, more like his old self.  I guess he was thinking that he was going to walk away from this.

“How do you know he’s dead?” I asked.

“He should be dead by now.  We were at the house waiting on a call - a call to confirm Larkin was taken care of.  I was waiting when you....came out of no where.  I need to get back there.”

I stood in the dark trying to make up questions, respond, without giving anything up.  I needed to keep my questions short and listen hard.

Clayton started back up.

“Well!  Is this what I am here for?  Did you bring me out here to kill me because you think I didn’t do what you asked?  What the hell is wrong with you people.  I’ve done everything you’ve asked.  I have delivered everything – every time and on time at that! You’re going to end the relationship just like that?

“And neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, nor the winds of change, nor a nation challenged, will stay us from the swift completion of our appointed rounds…”

“Get serious Clayton. What about the other guy?” I asked.

“The other guy is a nobody.  I told you that.  He’s probably dead by now too.”

“Probably?”  I’m a nobody. Rod was right.  It’s not very comforting to be expendable.  How on earth did I walk away from there?

“I wasn’t paid to kill the driver.”

“Isn’t it highly likely that the driver was embedded too?” I asked.

“I strongly doubt it.  Like I said, he’s a nobody..I was willing to throw him in the deal.”

I answered with silence.

He added, “I doubt if Johnny lived.  I told my men to kill Larkin upon his arrival.  The driver either died there or would have come back to the house.  If he comes back, I’ll make sure he’s taken care of.  It’s been two hours since they left.  He never came back, so I suspect that his body is being disposed of with Larkins.”

He was wiggling and showing discomfort in the twine.  He didn’t seem as scared.  “Will you please untie me and let me go now?  This is ridiculous.  Why am I still tied up?”

Clayton seemed to feel emboldened, sounding a little more like himself again“I have things to do and you won’t let me do them.”

I took a few steps toward him.  His eyes searched harder, trying to make my face.  I didn’t care anymore.  I’ve learned that he was the one behind Rod’s death.  I learned that there is a larger organization involved that Clayton is catering to.  I also had learned that Rod more than likely was who he said he was.  I moved closer.

I was ready for him to see me.

His eyes squinted against the light.“Wait a minute." His eyes for a moment widened and then... "Wait a minute!....You!  

Clayton started laughing, faking confidence he couldn’t afford.  I could tell by his tone that he was going to try to seize control of the conversation.  He was heading up the wrong ally.  As of tonight, I wasn’t on his payroll anymore.  Besides, he’s the one tied up - and I the one holding the gun.

“What’s going on here?”  Clayton, this time, demanded.

I’m still asking the questions.

Friday, October 15, 2010

places: in the headlights

This was something I knew nothing about.  Interrogation.

I didn't have a place, so I ended up back in the woods not too far from where I had left Rod's corpse.  Driving toward the woods I had wondered if I had nabbed someone of use.

In all the excitement, I didn't know who I had actually taken.  The head that I'd struck, was contorted, a man completely surprise and in a moment of abject fear.  I didn't recognize the face while in that moment.

My mind was filled with all the events of the evening.  The questions were like a jig-saw puzzle - a challenge that I'm not too good at.  Tonight I was going to have to make a man talk. I didn't know how I was going to go about it.  I was going to have to wake him up, fill him fear, and force him to spill his guts.

I opened the trunk.
I heard moaning, but it was a dark hole.  I could only make out the shine of his shoes.

He was still limp.  I clumsily rolled him out onto the hard earth.

He moaned a little more.

"Can you stand?", I asked gruffly.

He quit moaning and became silent.

I cocked his .45 over his form.

He squirmed and slowly got to his knees.  I couldn't see him very well.  I know he couldn't see me.  I made him get up and walk toward and beyond the front of the car.  I leaned his back to the tree and tied him off there.  I turned on the headlights so I could interrogate him - so he couldn't see me.  The bright lights always seemed to work in the movies.

The beams bathed his figure in light.  He squinted and lowered his head.  After a moment of rolling his head around, he looked up.
Well whad'ya know - it was Clayton himself.  He was staring into the lights like a wild animal caught in the middle of the road.  He looked scared.  All those times I'd been to his place - he seemed confident and aloof - so sure of himself.

Wide-eyed, he was still like a cartoon - staring in my direction, trying to make out his captor.

"Who are you?"

"Why am I here?" 

"I think I'm bleeding."

Maybe my job is going to be easier than I thought.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

places: batter up

I parked about a block away from Clayton's place. 
I took some packaging twine and made a sling for the sawed-off.  I got out of the car and strapped it on.  I made sure it was concealed beneath the trench coat.  I made enough leeway so I wasn't restricted...just in case I had to draw down.  It was in my favor that Clayton lived in a relatively secluded spot.  All I need to do is get in there quiet like.

I smothered my last fag and then  proceeded down the street on foot.  I soon exited the road and moved through the woods until I got to the edge of his estate.

I found a place to watch, to see if he had anyone walking around his grounds.  Usually it was the Russian.  If no one was watching the grounds, I had convinced myself to go on inside and visit Clayton at gunpoint.

Night wasn't going to last forever, but I decided to just be patient.

Seemed like old times.

Crouching in the darkness, my mind went back.  I was a shooter.  I joined many reconnaissance patrols.  We'd slip our ways pass the lines to capture a German from which to educe information. There were only a couple of times that we came back empty handed.  Most of the time though, we'd complete our shopping list.  The guys I went in with...had done it so much that it was like a choreographed dance. Talk about clockwork.  They knew where to look and how to move.  All I had to do was stay back and keep the stage safe.

I rarely had to fire a shot.  The last thing you wanted to do was have to open fire. I killed only when things got FUBAR.  Things could get scary real fast.  It's hard telling who's-who's in the dark.  The idea is to get in, grab some poor unsuspecting Hymie, and get out quick.  To get an officer was to hit the jackpot.

I have to be quiet and quick.

I moved around the edge, keeping myself hidden in the woods.  There wasn't much going on.  I kept edging my way around the house.

So far so good.

The woods ended on the other side of the house. I had full view, from the side, of the front porch.  No one was was there.

Do I go in?

There was a back door if it comes to that. Back door would be the best bet.

I could hear a fan in the window.  I heard crickets.  I stayed in the shadow of the woods straining all my senses.  Something was amiss.  Someone was out there.  I stayed in the darkness and watched.

I listened.

It couldn't be an animal.

Not unless animals around here wear leather shoes.

I waited motionless.

I noticed that my hands felt clammy and cold. I couldn't afford feeling fear.  You have to deal with it by forcing it back down with a broomstick. FOCUS!  Focus on the job.  I wiped my hands off my coat and reached down for the shot gun.

I heard something.

It was a cough.

It wasn't from the direction of the house, but rather from the road - from the direction that I came. I couldn't see anyone, but heard footsteps.

He's just down the road, walking this way.  My guess is that it was the Russian - no way to tell.

I unloosed the string from the shotgun.  My heart began to race.  It was as if I could audibly hear my heart thumping from my throat and out my ears.  I started taking slow controlled breaths.

Then I saw a light.  He lit something, a cigar, then tossed down the match. He wasn't in a hurry. 

"I got you." I whispered to myself.

I saw the red glow and saw the outline of his head and shoulders.  He stood there for a long time.

I stayed low and quiet.

Whatever happens next, I am going to have to move quiet and fast.  I felt violent.  I felt the kind of violence that could kill.  It's not anger.  What I felt was vicious and methodic.  It's what takes over when fear is given no foothold.

I watched until I was tired of watching. Here in the shadow of darkness, I was quickly losing my patience.

I was ready to get this over with.

At that moment, the figure started moving.  He moved at a steady pace - back toward the house.  I was going to have to cut him off before he gets to the steps.  I need to take him out, hopefully before he sees me.

Fortunately he wasn't looking my way.

He seemed to be in his own contented world of thought.  It was a nice night for some fresh air.  It was a nice night for a little stroll.  It wasn't going to be a nice night for what I had in store for him.

I jumped out of the brush and ran straight at him. I kept my eyes on him during the entire approach.

He didn't look. I was expecting him to.  I felt like I was making so much racket.  I could hear my breathing, the leaves beneath my feet. It seemed to take forever - all he had to do was look this way.  He would have had plenty of time to fire an entire clip in my direction.  I felt vulnerable in the moonlight.  I felt vulnerable charging across the front yard.

I grabbed the barrel of the gun and ran.

Yet more leaves crunched beneath my feet, but he just didn't look my way until it was too late.

He looked like a Bugs Bunny cartoon.  He wasn't expecting it.  I saw the momentary realization come across every feature of his face in that split second.  His eyes widened. His cigar dropped from his open mouth. He froze. He just stood there as I cocked back the stock like a Louisville Slugger and cracked it upside his head.

Of course he fell.

He didn't make a noise.  He hit the ground like a sack of potatoes.

No way was he getting up from that.

I grabbed his arms and drug him from the light of the yard.  I went through his pockets and pulled out a .45 and a set of keys.  I smiled.  It's obvious who he worked for.  I drug him down the road a little ways and then went back to the driveway to see which car the key fit.  There were two parked, and it fit the second.

I rolled it down the driveway and onto the road.  I cranked it as I kept my eyes on the front windows.

No one.

I put it in gear and pulled up to guy I clobbered.  I hoisted him in the trunk.  I drove down the road to where I left the other car.

I opened the trunk again and tied the unconscious man with the twine.  I gagged him with one of his socks and secured it to his mouth with more twine.  He wasn't going anywhere.

I drove my old ride into the woods. I drove it into brush and like an idiot, hadn't figured it would be hard climbing out.  I had to break the rear window in order to climb out.

What an idiot.  It took me about fifteen minutes to get back to the road.  Stumbling through the dark without a flashlight.  Apparently I quit thinking after knocking that guy out.

There was the road.  I looked both ways.  No one coming East or West.  No sounds.  Nobody.

The moon seemed bigger - as if it was God's spotlight.

I cocked the sawed-off and made a dash across the street.

I pulled off recklessly and swerved down the road. My hands were sweating again.  My heart was beating like a drum.  Again I felt it pound again up my throat and into my head.

I rolled down the window to catch the breeze - to cool me down.

Home run.