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BLIND LUCK

[] BLIND LUCK

_____________________________________

A ROY JAMES NOVEL

by

Reggie Stanford

Copyright © 2015 by Reggie Stanford

Translated by Abel Nemeth

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

To my friends, Csilla, Ábel, Andrew and Thomas.

Contents

BLIND LUCK 1

CHAPTER 1 5

CHAPTER 2 16

CHAPTER 3 23

CHAPTER 4 33

CHAPTER 5 39

CHAPTER 6 47

CHAPTER 7 60

CHAPTER 8 71

CHAPTER 9 83

[] CHAPTER 1

I was fucking exhausted by the time I got back to my apartment. My stomach made sure I wouldn’t forget to eat, as I had been neglecting it all day. I was far too tired to take the time to prepare anything, and I was more than likely to eat the ingredients raw, before they finished. The punch line was that after checking the fridge, it stood as empty as when I bought it so I didn’t even have any ingredients to eat. All it contained was a box of pizza, without any pizza, just a single slice. At my state, even the dried up cheese and hunks of meat, along with the stale crust were more appetizing than one finds the burgers in those fast food commercials. It’s funny how much your standards drop after spending twelve hours on your ass in a hot office.

I tossed the remaining slice onto a plate and loaded it into the microwave to nuke it for a minute. It was unlikely I could wait any longer anyway. There was a dull thudding which I at first thought was coming from the microwave. I quickly opened it, and took a bite of the pizza to make sure it was still edible. It was, but the thudding sound hadn’t died down. It sounded like when one of my younger neighbors has a party and the whole group clomps down the stair after pregaming in the apartments below mine, except this was a lot more rhythmic. A steady clop of boot against step. The stepping in the stairs continued past what was the first floor. A group. No. A team. Police? FBI? Someone is definitely having themselves a shitty night tonight.

I returned my focus to my pizza and took one bite after the next, enjoying the greasy deliciousness, but swallowing without even really tasting it. The steps were growing loud enough to make them hard to ignore. I stopped midbite when I heard them halt at the third floor. Maybe there was a party and they had to break it up. I started chewing again slowly, until it started again. But it wasn’t quieting down. Instead of going back down the stairs, they were continuing to the fourth floor. My flour. This was a bit of a problem for three reasons. I was the only one on this floor, there was no alternate exit I could take, and I still wasn’t done my pizza. I hoped they got a suicide call from the roof and were on their way to pull the guy back, but it was a rather slim chance.

“Police! Open up! ” A gruff voice calls from beyond the door.

Fuck. Shit. Fuck. Fuck.

My mind started racing through all of my possibilities. The one I most preferred, was that a place called “Pizza Police” had opened up, and were delivering a free pizza, but I gave that one only 1:6 odds. I couldn’t climb out the window and jump down to the street, my apartment is much too high for that. I didn’t have a back door of any sort, or a secret exit of any kind.

Bam. Bam. Bam. The knocking on the door continued.

“Police! Open the door!” The same voice yelled again.

“I’m coming! For fuck’s sake, one minute.” I yelled back.

They didn’t even wait for me to finish unlocking it, instead a battering ram knocked it clean off of its hinges. Great, now I have a door to fix too. This night is absolutely delightful. The men entered with well-practiced maneuvers. Trigger fingers itching, as they scanned all around the house even after two of them trained their guns on me. I recognized them. MP5 submachine guns. Reliable in urban combat, but not my first choice for trek through the jungle. These were housing 9 mm rounds, not my preferred size to have aimed at my face, however I figured requesting BB’s was out of the question.

My guess had been correct. There were a total of four armed men in my apartment. I was knocked forward and a felt a knee on my back while my hands were cuffed. They had every angle covered as one would expect from good law enforcers.

The fifth guy entered the room as well. I couldn’t tell at first if he was waiting for my detainment, or if he had simply taken his time on the stairs. He had a smug grin on his face and some casual clothes as if he had been undercover. He did have an air of authority over the other four men.

When he spoke his voice had an edge of malice.

“You are under arrest for murder in the first degree!” he said while he showed outwardly signs of emotion.

This was on the 26th day of August, in 1981.

  • * * * *

Six days earlier, on August twentieth, it was a Tuesday afternoon and the heat was unbearable. Just a typical hot summer day in Brooklyn. I was sitting at the office considering a trip to Alaska, or upgrading my ceiling fan and eventually settled for rolling up my sleeves. I was reading the sports section of the newspaper and I was thinking to myself how nothing ever changes for me. Sitting on my ass all day never had appealed to me, but it had recently become my life. I heard steps heading down the hall to my office, light but clicking with each step, like a woman in high heels. The narrow corridor amplified sounds like this. When my visitor arrived at the door, I only saw her silhouette, but she looked rather promising. Tall. Thin. She opened the door without knocking, and stormed straight to my desk. She was wearing sunglasses and smelled of perfume, with an aura of both femininity and confidence.

“I’m looking for Mr. Roy James!” she said, not even bothering with a greeting.

“Good afternoon. That is me. How can I be of service?” I asked.

“My name is Talisha Kirkwood.”

I immediately began making observations of her finer details. Long wavy blonde hair falling to her shoulders, her white dress had clearly been fitted for her form and ran to about mid-thigh length. She was tall for a woman, about 6 ft. She looked like something off of the cover of a fashion magazine. I wasn’t too easily impressed but this woman had a unique effect on me. There was something else in her aura, something inexplicable unlike confidence or femininity. She was radiant. Electric beams shot out of her pores, charging the entire room. She was the type of woman who picks her prey, makes them her toy until they are too tired to run anymore, and leaves them there, struggling to get back up for the rest of their life. I closed my mouth, which I now realized had opened in awe, and became the black James Bond.

“I’m so glad to have found you!” she continued, and offered her hand.

I shook it. Her skin was so soft; she must have spent half a fortune just on skin care and cosmetics. By her side she had a handbag just big enough to carry a tube of lipstick, a bottle of perfume, or a .38 caliber snub-nose. You can never tell with those. She let out a long sigh.

“I don’t even know where to start.” she said, there was a slight wavering in her voice.

“Let’s start all the way at the beginning and we’ll see if I can help you.”

For some reason this line, no matter how cliché always helped ease their minds. I tried to look into her eyes, but she still hadn’t taken off her sunglasses, even though my office was somewhat darkened.

“Exactly what is it you do, Mr. James?” she asked me.

I answered her question with one of my own.

“How did you find me? I doubt Yellow Pages would have spat anything out about me, especially if you searched by name. Clearly you know the type of business I conduct, I expertise in pest removal, but have a large repertoire. What is it exactly that you need from me? In the worst case, I may know someone who does what you are looking for.”

“Actually, you were recommended to me.” she said curtly.

“Then I accept the job.” I said without breaking eye contact, or while looking where I assumed her eyes were behind those sunglasses.

Her face changed to an expression of surprise.

“B-but you don’t even know what the job is yet!”

“Well, it’s rather easy to guess. You got my name from someone, therefore you know what it is I do.” I explained. “You never took off those less than trendy sunglasses, so I assume you’re hiding something. A black eye? Someone beat you. And since you are still wearing a wedding ring, my first guess would be that it’s your husband. Was this the first time?”

She went pale. Even through her sunglasses I could see her shock. She then tried to hide the ring sitting on her finger.

“No. The second.” she said after a brief pause.

“I’ll go talk to him.”

I had done this at least a hundred times by now. It was pretty generic in this field of work. The difficult part is making it stop. If I openly confront ‘asshole’ then it usually embarrasses or angers him and when he gets home who does he take it out on? The wife. However, if I make it a freak accident in public, then there is no clear message indicating that this is a consequence of beating his wife and I won’t get through to him. Ideally, the woman leaves ‘asshole’ and starts a new life somewhere else, but this is practically unheard of. I have heard almost every single excuse for this and I could go on for days listing these reasons. I try explaining these to Talisha, but her mind has been made up. She wants me to talk to her husband.

No one has the right to hit me. This has been my motto for as long as I can remember.

If it were up to me, I would simply never allow anyone to hit an unarmed woman.

“Thank you.” she says, and stands up.

“It’s what I do.” I reply. She leaves via the door, without as much as a goodbye. The blonde Amazon Queen is gone as fast as she had arrived but I had a feeling that we will be meeting again under all sorts of circumstances.

  • * * * *

Wednesday morning, I got to work as soon as I got into the office. I cleaned off my desk to make room. It was filled with bills and “last calls.” I really didn’t have a choice in accepting the job or not. I had actually been running dangerously close to negative in my bank account. At the bottom of the stack I found an old friend, a pack of Camels left only half empty. I lit one up, and opened my top desk drawer to take my car keys. Then from the bottom drawer I took out my gun. A simple 9mm Glock 17 from Austrian production. It had quite a few plastic components, but this was to make it lighter, and it was rather durable. This was one reason I liked it so much. The other being that it could not be traced. It had disappeared from one of the Austrian army’s bases and was smuggled into the states, into my possession.

I strapped the gun around my waist.

I picked up and inspected the picture which Talisha left for me yesterday. The asshole stared back into my eyes, and I hated him for laying a hand on such a pretty face. He wasn’t just a “target” or “face.” He was a criminal who was getting some sort of repercussion for his crimes.

I walked out into the parking lot, and found my car. It’s a silver 1966 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. It was almost blinding in this morning sun. I made myself comfortable in the familiar leather seats, and started the engine. It roared to life and gave off a low purr that I knew all too well. I pulled out of the lot, down McDonald Ave and turned onto 80th. Talisha told me yesterday that he liked to play some holes on a local golf every morning.

Every job starts with diligent firsthand research. This makes my job simpler, safer, and helps avoid unnecessary surprises. You never know who you’ll run into during the execution of a plan so always know four ways in, and five ways out. I figured I would observe a day or two in the life of Mr. Kirkwood. Men like him, who were successful, and did not deal in illegal substances typically lead day to day lives, and were either spontaneous enough that no amount of research would get you ready, or every single day was the same for them. I parked on the road alongside the golf course, and left towards the entrance. These were some beautiful greens, I had never bothered taking up golf, but maybe after this job I’ll come back and learn. It resembled a carpet made of green material. Maintaining a field like this must take daily care and watering.

I got myself a golf cart, and went to find my guy. I felt out of place on a golf course, driving in a golf cart. This is for men of a different caliber, and I could never be this person. However, I reveled in the feeling while it lasted. I almost felt rich, even elite for a minute until I remembered my reason for being here.

I was scanning the players. Some were alone, some were in pairs and other in full teams with an audience. There seemed to be some sort of unspoken dress code, with white preppy pants and a collared golf shirt. I tried to look at everyone but I made sure I kept my distance. If you can distinguish their faces then they can see yours too. It wasn’t time for a confrontation yet.

I looked at a dozen different people before I found my guy. He was wearing like blue trousers that had been ironed too crisp, and a matching shirt. A poor family could easily live off of the price of the clothes for a month. I took the picture out of my pocket just to be certain it was the right guy. The resemblance to the picture of Patrick Kirkwood that Talisha gave me, was clear. The successful business man by day, and violent dickbag at night.

He also wasn’t alone. He was with someone else: a woman. The two of them seemed less occupied with the golf and more so with each other. She was shorter than Talisha, and had black hair. Her hair was straight, and she wore it in a ponytail under her visor. She seemed nice at first glance.

I like to keep a straight head and assumed nothing until he kissed her. In my mind, she could have been his colleague, secretary out for a rewarding day of golf, family, or even an old friend. But when he kissed her, I knew for certain that this was much more than that. He was cheating on Talisha. It made me wonder; why would someone cheat on a beautiful woman like Talisha with someone not nearly as attractive? What does she know, or what can she do that others can’t? There were tons of other questions like this in my head that I knew I would never get answers for. It’s none of my business. This is a world I am not a part of. I merely sit on the sidelines and watch, as I’m not even near their league. They say having money and power changes people. Why? I don’t know. Patrick could just simply be a greedy bastard. One wasn’t enough, he probably had not just two, but five or six. Him having this power could make him believe that he can do anything, or that nobody can stop him. He is not bound by social conforms with a bank account that big. He can have as many lovers as he wants. Who cares about guilt when you’re rich.

I didn’t plan on doing anything more today. I wasn’t even going to talk to Patrick until tomorrow. I took the golf cart back to the lodge. I found a payphone as soon as I could. The phone rang a few times before someone picked it up.

“Hello?”

“Mrs. Kirkwood?”

“Yes? This is her,” came a slow response. “Who am I talking to?”

“It’s Roy James. I have some news.”

“Okay. I will go in to the office.”

“Actually I’d prefer if you could go to the intersection at 4th and Court Street. I’m in the mood for coffee. Is half an hour enough time for you?”

“Ok, I’ll see you there.”

I left the phone booth and got back into my car. I checked my hair in the rearview mirror and fixed the loose strands. I took my sunglasses out of the glove box and put them on. I made sure my shirt wasn’t a total mess, started the car, and put in gear to leave the lot.

I arrived at the corner faster than I predicted so I took a booth where I could see when she arrived. It was an old habit of mine to never sit with my back to the door. A thin young waitress came to my table, her nametag read “Suzy” in bolded letters.

“Hey, are you ready to order?” she asked.

“Just a coffee thanks. Black” I told her.

She came back a minute later with a steaming pot of coffee. I smiled at her as she filled my cup, but she didn’t smile back.

Just as I was raising the cup to my lips, Talisha walked in. She looked amazing. Her hair was straightened, and in a ponytail in the back. It made her look younger. She looked like she was trying to look professional, but a woman like her will always seem a little wild, like she’s teasing you. She looked around until she found me and then came over to join me. She pulled out the chair before I could stand up and do it for her, and took a seat across from me. She took off her sunglasses and put them on the table folded in front of her. The bruise was nowhere to be seen.

Suzy returned to take her order too. Talisha waited for her coffee before she even acknowledged me.

“Did you talk to him?” She asked with a hint of excitement.

“Not yet.” I said coldly. She gave me a stern look. “Don’t worry, everything has a time and place. Today just wasn’t it.”

“Then what kind of news could you possibly have to share?” she seemed almost offended by what I had told her.

“I went to the country club where you said your husband plays. It’s a nice place,” I started.

“Yeah so? I highly doubt that’s why you wanted me here, to tell me that.” Her Amazonian persona was not hiding as it was when she showed up in my office.

“Your husband is seeing someone else.” I could only say it bluntly

Silence. I didn’t know what else to say. She didn’t know how to respond. Her face was unnaturally straight, I thought she would show some anger.

“I thought as much. For a while now, but I wasn’t sure.”

“But then why do you stay with him?”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“Then please explain so I can.”

“You know that’s not how it works.”

“No. No I don’t. Your husband is a piece of shit. He beats you. He’s a fucking monster. It won’t stop, even if I do talk to him. I can tell you that right now. It’ll only get worse. He’ll start doing it more frequently, and more violently.”

“That’s exactly why I want you to talk to him.”

“Leave him! You can do better! Half the estate is yours. Go your own way!” I was whispering with almost fury.

How could she not see that she was going to be in danger? But the moment I said it, I regretted it. I knew I had poked a sleeping bear. The air turned icy cold, and she reached into her purse. She pulled out a Smith & Wesson snub-nosed revolver. For a brief second I thought she was going to shoot me. Then she put it down on the table and slid it towards me.

“This is for in case things get dangerous.” she said. Her smile said she was trying to break the ice, but I felt colder than ever. I shoved the gun back to her before the waitress could see.

“Put it away. Now.” I commanded her.

“Just do what I asked. Please. Don’t worry about my choices.” She scooped up her handbag, stood up and left without another word.

I stayed in the unwelcoming silence, watching her stride towards the glass door. She paid me to talk to her husband, not to give advice on how to handle her relationship. Tomorrow I will talk to her husband and I’m done with the job. I’ll get my payment, and the rest is in her hands. I put five bucks under my cup and left, waving to Suzy on the way out.

  • * * * *

Thursday morning, at about 9:30 I finally got out of bed. I shuffled over to the kitchen and put on a new pot of coffee. I listened to the news while waiting for it to finish. After the coffee I finally felt like something similar to that of being a human.

A few hours later I was sitting on western side of the city, in a restaurant on the bank of Hudson River. It was a unique little spot. They served anything and everything they could fish out of the water. My man Patrick had brought his black haired girlfriend to this quaint little out of the way place for lunch meeting. They were just a few tables over from me, and the waiter had already brought them their meals.

The time had come for the show. I wanted to do it here. In front of an audience, where it could be much more embarrassing for him. Maybe his new girlfriend doesn’t even know that he’s married. He wasn’t wearing his ring. I brushed the adrenaline aside, and took some deep breaths before standing up and approaching their table. Time to earn my money.

  • * * * *

I grew up in the poorer area of Brooklyn. My dad was a construction worker, and my mother was busy trying to raise my siblings and I on her own. We never had much money, but there was always food on the table. I spent a lot of my youth out on the streets. Later I had two options in life: I could either break out and do something with my life, or go downhill, where my life had already been heading. They didn’t have money to send me to a private school, and college was just a dream. The only outlet left for me to have aspirations in was sports. This was when I did whatever I could to get involved with sports. After some trial and error I found I had a talent in boxing. It later on became my way of life, I would eat, sleep and breathe it. It was considered a sport for the poor at the time, but I didn’t care. I was a fully acknowledged boxer for Marcani’s Gym. It wasn’t easy, I didn’t get where I did by doing nothing, but it gave me something to spend my energy on, that wasn’t drugs or violation of law or someone else’s property. If that had been my path, I’d probably be six feet under by now, or in some state prison. Whatever I learned from the gym, I would apply on the streets. Street fights were a commodity in my childhood, until the others learned the price of picking fights with me. I didn’t have anything worth stealing to begin with, but the lost teeth or concussions that it could have came with, made them think twice. I gained some notoriety locally, I went on to be called “The Psycho.” And the more I fought, the more often I defended myself, the more respect I earned. I didn’t take it seriously enough, much to my coach’s dismay: after the winning the national title, I was brutally beaten during a match for the world title. When I was twenty, after I had finished school, I had to find some more serious and better paying job. Now that I think back, I regret it. I wish I had put more effort into it. I was just too interested in having fun back then. I didn’t think of the future, only of the now. I started spending more and more time with my new friends, or to rest up from the party the night before. But I needed the money, so I had to work. It was some stupid mindless task at a factory. I hated it. The job was shit, and the pay wasn’t even shit. One day, someone at the gym asked me to talk to a friend of his, because he owed him money. He offered me more, to get his friend to pay up, than I made in the factory in a week. It got me thinking, why couldn’t I be doing this full time? I was good at it, and it paid me well. Just my presence was usually enough to scare whoever I talked to, into doing the right thing. I was only 5’10” at the time and weighed in at 218 lbs of pure muscle. I had very broad shoulders, and a thick neck. I wasn’t lean, but stocky. I almost never had to resort to violence. If I just showed up, and told them why I was there, money always appeared from somewhere. Either an inner pocket, a safe, the neighbor, a sock… it didn’t matter. I did what was asked, and I was effective. One job always brought another, so I started a business with the same offer. I couldn’t feel bad for the people who needed to pay up. Almost every single case involved thievery to begin with, so their deeds were finally catching up with them. They couldn’t live scot-free forever. Sometimes, they had failed at slots or gambling. But never was the borrower and honest earner, family supporting individual. I got involved with these cases not because I loved sticking my nose in other peoples’ business, but because it earned me an honest living. Personal security, delivering messages, etc. Just as I had done for Mrs. Kirkwood.

[] CHAPTER 2

As I was approaching their table I took note of my surroundings. It’s always important to be aware of who and what is around you. Also how far the nearest exit is in case things get hot. You can escape so many awkward and dangerous situations by simply know the fastest way to leave. I checked the guests at the tables next to theirs. None of them seemed to be the “hero” type and they shouldn’t interfere. I had already checked all of the waiters on my way through and knew that they wouldn’t be a problem. And neither would Patrick. He was just a rich motherfucker. It would take a miracle for him to be able to stand up to me.

They still hadn’t looked up at me by the time I was practically standing next to them. Now that I could see them close up, there was something interesting about his girlfriend but I wasn’t quite sure what it was yet. They were facing each other at a square table. I pulled out one of the extra chairs and took a seat.

“The table is reserved, sorry.” Patrick said without any hint of knowing what was about to go down. “Who on earth do you think you are?”

“My name is Roy James,” I started, “and I have some relationship advice for you.”

I grabbed his neck and slammed his head into the plate. It happened too fast for him to know what hit him. The girlfriend started screaming, and I leaned in closer to him.

“I don’t give a fuck who you are. If you ask me, you’re just a rich piece of shit.” I enlightened him about my opinion. I made sure he could breathe, but also that his face stayed dipped into the soup. “However, if I ever find out that you even raised your hand in your wife’s direction for anything other than appraisal, I will return, but then a simple talk won’t be all you’re getting. I will break each and every single finger you have touched her with. One by one. And if that’s not enough, then I will do the same to your hand, and so on, until you learn how to treat a lady. We clear, motherfucker?”

He let out a grunt of what I figured was agreement and nodded so I let go of his neck, stood up, turned around and started towards the door. The other guests exchanged shocked glances between Patrick and me. Many had their mouths wide open. I was surprised that the food didn’t fall back into their plates. No one shouted after me, no one stood in my way, no one made any move to stop me.

I got back in my car and went back to my office. I was finally calming down, clearing my head. I felt I could think straight once more. And something was bothering me. Something felt out of place, but I couldn’t place my finger on it. As I was walking to the table, there was something about the girl that had caught my eye. Maybe it was her makeup, or her posture. Something that was exaggerated. Maybe she was a prostitute? But in the end, she was in some way his lover; she could be some bad girl from the streets he fell in love with and then became a regular at her shifts. The only logical explanation is that he fell in love with a prostitute, and now takes her everywhere. This is Brooklyn after all, so nothing should surprise me at this point. In my office, I called Talisha. Her voicemail picked up my call. I left a message telling her that finished what she asked.

She didn’t call me back until late on Friday night after I had left my office, so she called my home phone.

“Good evening!” she started “Would you be able to come over? My husband is off travelling, and I would like someone to be her with me tonight. I could use your company.”

That caught me off guard. I quickly promised her that I’ll be over soon and turned off the TV before the news came on. I went to take a long shower, enjoying the hot water cleaning me from the dirt and stress of the entire week, before putting on some more appropriate clothes for a night out. I grabbed the keys to the Karmann Ghia and left for the estate. The traffic was heavy considering it was a Friday night, so I rolled down the window and enjoyed the fresh air.

The address which Mrs. Kirkwood gave me was on the south-western part of Station Island. I parked out on the street, and observed the estate. It had an enormous building with two floors, in a Mediterranean style. Just the balcony was at least twice the size of my apartment. There were palm trees by the sides in clay pots the size of bath tubs, obviously handcrafted each. I couldn’t tell if there was anything else special about them; I had never really cared about botany. A lot of the building was covered in glass, and the rest was all brick. Everything was huge: the house, the garden, even the plants. I felt like Gulliver in his travel to the realm of giants. I entered through what I could only imagine to be the main gate. It was put together out of decorative stones, a mixture of different shades of marble. The ends of the gate both had large, well-lit fountains. I walked up the driveway and went around to the right side, where I was told the doorbell would be. As soon as I rang, I heard footsteps, and shortly thereafter, the door swung open.

“Good evening Mrs. Kirkwood,” I greeted her.

“Please, call me Talisha,” she said, “and do come in.” She gestured past the door.

The fireplace in the living room was already lit and burning intensely. It gave off a comforting warmth and set a rather quaint mood. I sat down on the leather throw rug in front of the fire, and she took a seat next to me. Talisha shoved a very expensive looking champagne in my direction, and mouthed the word “open” at me with a wink.

“Would you like me to open this?” I said wearing a clueless face.

“I would appreciate if you gave it a try.” She said with a sly smile. She had these cute dimple along the sides of her chin.

I took the metal seal off the top, and twisted the metal protector off and the stopper came out without any effort. The enormous room made the pop almost disappear entirely. I poured champagne for the two of us in the crystal glasses that rested in the table nearby.

“Let’s drink for this wonderful night,” She toasted raising her glass in the air.

She was so maigre, so delicate, yet she moved with such ease, it reminded me of a bobcat in the wild.

“For the night…” I repeated after her and lifted mine as well.

We talked; she asked a lot of question from me, mainly about my past. I told her about my childhood, about how I experienced Brooklyn back then.

“What did you want to be when you were a child?”

“I don’t even know. A boxer? I can’t blame anyone for my failure in that area though except myself. I was a rebellious as teenager, and would skip practices to hang out with friends. If I took it more seriously I could have done something with it, but it’s all in the past and I can’t change a thing now.”

“Well then how did you become this?”

This?” I asked, pretending to be offended, but knowing fully what she was talking about.

“Whatever you would say you do.” she said blushing a little, trying to clear up her question.

“Well I solve other people’s problems, so I say I’m just a problem solver.”

“And you like what you do?”

“I can’t do, and have never done anything else.”

“But isn’t it dangerous?”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

We kept talking, back and forth, meanwhile the champagne bottle ran dry, so we opened up another one. I started asking more and more questions from her, and she answered.

“How did you meet your husband?”

“It’s a long story,” She started. “I met him in school, back in university. We fell in love back then, and stayed by each other’s side. He didn’t come from a very wealthy family either, only about average. Patrick gained his own wealth through international trade. He says he was just ‘at the right place at the right time.’ I won’t let this night be about him too though. Can’t we talk about anything else?”

Soon after, the second bottle of champagne was gone too. I didn’t feel its effects, except that I was a little numb. Throughout our talk we had slowly crept closer to each other, our legs were touching now. I couldn’t make out what she was trying to tell me with her body language. Her eyes said she was challenging me to a duel, but her hands were inviting me to participate for the ribbon.

I pulled her close, and kissed her softly. She didn’t resist, instead she kissed me back. The sparks I had been feeling all night suddenly ignited the fire, which had been waiting to roar. The air was hot all around as our feelings and desires emerged, and raged with unstoppable power. We tore the clothes off each other’s body, not wanting to break the kiss for any reason. She had a soft and nimble tongue. She bit my lips gently; it was so passionate that not even Armageddon could have stopped us. I kissed her along her neck and shoulders, down her entire body. Her skin was soft and smooth, like velvet. She was graceful and flexible, like the perfect predator in the jungle. I lost all sense of time and space, we could have made love for hours on end. It started on the couch, but moved to the throw rug, and ended up on a bed. We just laid side by side, drained of all energy, under the sheets. Neither of us could speak as we stared at the ceiling. I could tell Talisha had fallen asleep, by the regularity of her breathing. I watched as her perfect chest rose and fell with how breaths. I just couldn’t fall asleep. I tried crawling out of bed without waking her, and went downstairs naked. I picked out my pants and put them on and walked out to the back balcony. There was a full moon shining in the night sky. It shimmered in the night on the surface of the pool, making it appear lit. I just stood there and stared at the reflection of the light, until I heard footsteps. When I turned around, Talisha was standing in the door. She was wearing nothing but a bathrobe. I smiled when I saw her, and she smiled back.

“Couldn’t sleep huh?” she broke the ice, and started walking towards me slowly

“Not really, no.” I replied.

“What are you thinking about?”

“If it’s morally okay to sleep with my customers.”

“Any regrets?”

By this time she had reached me. I pulled her close again and kissed her.

“Not that I can think of, no.”

She left back towards the bedroom. I followed her with my eyes, until she was inside. I just stood there and stared at the entrance in front of myself. I shook my head, snapping back to reality, and went back inside too.

I got the rest of my clothes and left without another word. I didn’t want to fool myself into believing that this could become a working thing, that this could develop into some sort of relationship. Whatever happened had happened, but it won’t ever again. I was sure of this. Even our previous, professional relationship had its days numbered. We were from two very different financial circumstances, a gap that could never be closed. The other problem was that I no longer saw her through professional eyes. It wanted it to be more; I was developing feelings for her, feelings I didn’t want to exist. I did my part of the job; she had already filled out the check, rather generously I might add. Now I get to go and cash it in, and both of our roles in this have been fulfilled, leaving me to sever all ties with anyone affiliated.

I got in the car, and tried to close the door silently, but in the silence of the night, it still echoed down the entire street. The roar of the engine seemed louder than should be possible, as a sped back home for the remainder of the night.

  • * * * *

The ringing of the phone stopped me from getting any sleep. I had been sitting in front of the TV trying to watch an abnormally boring movie, struggling to stay awake. Each time my chin hit my chest, I whipped my head up and opened my eyes wide, straining to finish the film.

When I got to the phone a very familiar voice responded, shakily.

“Roy, it’s me Talisha.”

I spent the last three days trying to wipe my mind clear of any memory of her and the entire ordeal. And now, as soon as I heard her voice, everything came rushing back.

“You need to come here, right now!” she sounded like on the verge of panic. “Patrick has gone completely mad! He’s breaking the furniture and decor, he’s threatening me, and he even hit me! If you can’t come here and stop him, I think he might even kill me. Please! You need help me.”

She got cut off mid-sentence, and I heard screams, the clatter of breaking vases or glass. Then a muffled thud, like the sound of a body hitting the floor.

I slammed the phone down and grabbed my coat and flew down the stairs. The fatigue had left me immediately as I heard the thump. I tore the car door open and my tires squealed as a left the lot. I throttled the Volkswagen as fast as it could go. It roared, almost as if in pain. I must have infringed multiple laws both of New York, and physics as I sped towards the estate. Upon arrival, I didn’t bother to appreciate the decor this time. As soon as I leapt out of the car I was sprinting up towards the side door, and threw it open. Silence. I couldn’t see or hear any movement.

I started left, towards where the bedroom was. My feet stomped loudly through bits and pieces of broken glass left from the tussle. I was trying to recognize what the furniture may have been before it became these shards and splinters. My guess was that a few dressers were destroyed as well as a glass table.

When I got to the bedroom, my heart sank. There was and giant bloodstain on the wall, still wet. I must have only been a few minutes late. There was the body on the floor. I could only see it from the waist down as the upper half was behind the bed, out of my field of sight.

This was ridiculous. The amount of struggle that had gone on in here sure had left its mark. Shelves were torn from the walls, the mirror on the wall lay in shards on the floor, the furniture was torn up in multiple places. Talisha sat on the bed, a hollow look in her eyes. The murder weapon lay on the ground, she probably threw it there after she realized what she did. That elegant little Smith & Wesson knew nothing of the consequences it would cause. I stepped over it cautiously and sat down on the bed next to Talisha. I put one arm around her and the other on her hands in her lap. She laid her head on my shoulder and started sobbing, finally letting it all out.

“I – I couldn’t…” she started but was unable to finisher her sentence

“Couldn’t what?”

“I couldn’t take it anymore,” she wailed. “I thought he was going to kill me.

“What happened?” It was a stupid question. I knew exactly what happened.

“I was so scared. I thought Patrick was going to kill me,” she said again. “You need to believe me! I couldn’t take it anymore.”

“Shhh. It’s going to be okay,” I tried comforting her. “I’m going leave now. You are going to call the police, and confess to the murder. They will take you in, but will be dismissed as it was an act of self-defense. Do not tell them I was ever here.”

I repeated this to her a few times to make sure she understood what I was saying, and then tried to make her repeat it for me, but she was unable to form coherent thoughts at this point. I kissed her and left the house of horrors almost as fast as I had arrived.

[] CHAPTER 3

On August 25th, at about 10:30 pm, she finally made the call to the police. Fourteen minutes later there was a police cruiser and two officers at the scene. Not even a minute later the officials in charge of murder cases showed up as well. Eighteen minutes after the phone call the police closed off the area with the yellow classic caution tape, all the way from the end of the street. More and more personnel, showed up, the publicity was growing. Even the typical van with the satellite dish on top was seen parked alongside the road. It said News 2 on its side and soon after, another half dozen arrived as well.

“Perfect! Exactly what we needed. This should not be going public yet,” said the chief commissioner.

He started towards the estate, and then stopped and called back to one of the officers.

“Get them out of here. Until we know more, they know nothing.”

There was more “Police Line” tape closing off the bedroom. The coroner was there and he stepped under the tape and kneeled down next to the body. It was obvious, but it was necessary practice to check for the pulse. He did so and looked at the commissioner.

“It’s been possibly an hour and a half since the death, the cause of death will be determined after the autopsy but I am pretty sure that the bullet through the occipital muscle cause enough hemorrhage around the neck to be the confirmed cause of death.”

The commissioner nodded and signaled for the technicians, who started setting up the crime scene investigation immediately. They set bright lights up all around the room, and scoured the mess so thoroughly, as if it was an alien spotting in area 51, rather than a typical day on the job for the homicide wing. One of the investigators had the responsibility of taking photographs of the scene untouched, as well as of all of the bits of evidence they were collecting. Also plenty more of the body, the entry and exit wounds, and the destroyed furniture as well. The other was putting the samples into plastic bags and sealing them, to take back to the lab for further analysis. He was careful to not wipe any finger prints from the gun, as he put into the bag, and use tweezers while putting the copper bullet case into a little bag. They were there for nearly fifty minutes, inspecting the bedroom, before putting the body in a bag, and taking it away. It was only hours later that the house was empty once again. There was little left to indicate any signs of death taking place there aside from the large burgundy stain left wall and floor.

  • * * * *

It would be a lie to say I woke up early on Monday, since I hardly even slept. I was in bed, but only tossing and turning. Sleep wasn’t coming easily at all. I made Talisha promise me not to contact me, and I wouldn’t contact her either for a few days. I turned on the news, hoping to gain some new information on the case. I skipped through a few channels, but there was no word at all about the event. I was starting to get worried. I felt useless and helpless at the same time. I wanted to call Talisha, ask her how she was doing, or hop in the car and pay her a quick visit, but both options would suddenly make me a suspect and that was something I desperately had to avoid. I couldn’t be in the spotlight, who knows what would happen if they started digging on me?

I tried to make out how the events following the phone call would have taken place. Talisha gets taken in for the murder of her husband. This is certain, everything else is only theoretical. She might simply be on probation, maybe the lawyers didn’t even have to get involved, as it was self-defense. Maybe she’ll have to defend in front of a jury. This lack of information, this lack of knowledge, was really dragging me down, like a ball and chain.

The worst part was that maybe my name gets mentioned somewhere. A few days before the murder, I had publicly threatened the victim. There were quite a few witnesses. The entire restaurant had seen my actions, they heard my threats. They watched my shove his face into his meal, and heard me announce my name. His short haired girl would be a very good witness against my actions. If I had to go up against lawyers like that of Patrick Kirkwood my odds were rather slim. Even if I had nothing to do with the murder itself, I was definitely a plausible suspect.

I walked over to the window and opened the curtains. Outside my window was the usual scene: strangers walking, moving along with their innocent lives, feeding the system. The only thing out of the ordinary was the light grey station wagon parked outside. There was an advertisement for some phone company or other painted onto its side. Not too far from that was the wooden telephone pole, on which a maintenance worker was doing his duties. He wore blue overalls, and had a utility belt, a construction helmet, and a safety vest. He took a screwdriver from his belt without looking down and continued his task at hand.

I stepped over to the phone and lifted the receiver to my ear. There was the usual dial tone. This is weird. If the line is working, then what are they fixing? I dismissed the entire event, I must be getting paranoid. It could be anything from regular maintenance or maybe the lines were out earlier in the morning and they were just doing some finishing touches.

I prepared myself breakfast and cleaned up in the kitchen and decided to go into the office. I had to take my mind off of what Talisha was going through, and tried to focus on my job. When I stepped outside into the lot, I noticed that the worker had left but the van was still there.

I had completely forgotten about the events from the morning, I managed to get so involved with my task at work. I spoke with Mr. Williams, the head of the bail office. He had a few names for me to work with as a bounty hunter. Trash who had escaped, people who were in hiding, or people for who they had a warrant for arrest. He gave me the task of getting them out in the open. He said we could split the rewards. The list sounded rather promising so we made plans to meet and discuss this personally.

Mr. Williams’ office was half an hour away with a car. Traffic was heavy, but I didn’t have to stand at the lights for too long. I wanted to get there as fast as possible so I kept changing lanes hoping to get ahead of the crowd. As I kept changing between the lanes, a car caught my eye in the rear-view mirror. I could make out the silhouettes of two people, and they were making the exact same maneuvers as me. When I changed lanes, they followed suit, and when I passed a car, he made sure that the number of cars between was never greater than two. I was being followed.

Was I simply being paranoid today? Were the recent events making me go insane? Was I imagining things? I did a test, just to be sure. I checked the next light ahead of me, it was green. I maintained a regular pace, while watching the light ahead of me. When I was just twenty yards away, the lights changed to yellow and this is exactly what I wanted. I floored the gas pedal, to scoot under in time. The Volkswagen’s engine roared as I sped past the now red light. I only narrowly avoided a collision; the guy had to slam the brakes to avoid hitting me. In the rear-view mirror I saw a brown sedan push past the car ahead of it at the lights, but at the last second the driver changed his mind and squealed to a halt, probably less than a yard away from the cars going through the lights at the time. I heard a symphony of horns.

No one followed me for the remainder of my drive. When I arrived, I stayed in car for a few minutes, just to see if I saw anything suspicious. I didn’t get out until I was sure that no one was watching me.

Mr. Williams was a tall black man. He was shaven bald, and his head reflected the fluorescent lights. It shone as if he polished it with shoe polish. He stepped over to me, and shook my hand. My hand was the size of a golf ball compared to his. The only thing bigger than Mr. Williams was his office. Everything was made of glass, or covered in it. There were a few patches along the walls were one could not see any glass, but that was only because he had covered in paintings.

“Please, look around. Make yourself comfortable,” he said.

I took a look at every single painting. Each one depicted him with some other people. His age varied among the paintings.

“You’ve met more famous people than a politician.” I noted.

“For this type of job, it is necessary to have connections in high places.”

I don’t know why, but I blurted it out. “I was followed on the way here.”

“Did you shake them off, or are they waiting for you in the lobby?”

“I left them at a red light.”

“Any clue who they may have been?”

“No idea. Brown sedan, American car. There were two people in it.”

“They may have cops undercover. Typically they drive that sort of vehicle.”

I didn’t have anything else to say.

“Any reason why the police might be onto you?” he asked.

“No!” I replied, almost too quickly.

This was, in part, true. I haven’t don’t anything for which two policemen might be following me, while undercover. Or why they might have to tap into my phone line. It was rather obvious that those weren’t real phone line maintenance workers this morning. Why didn’t they leave after they had finished their job? Probably because in the back of that van were two men with headphones on try to hear what I had to say over the phone. One was probably a simple technician, while the other was a higher ranking officer. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what they might be trying to get from me.

What happened last night at the Kirkwood manor, does not need to involve Mr. Williams. I didn’t want to tell him about the events that unfolded, or that I even knew about them. I decided to change the subject.

“So this list I came here for, can I take a look?”

He took a sheet of paper from his desk. There were five names on there. Each one had a warrant for their arrest for some crime or other in the state of New York. We talked about each individual, he briefed me on some of their habits, traits, and abilities, and then he told me why each one deserved a term in prison.

I was completely drained by that night. The van parked by the parking lot snapped me back to reality. This time it didn’t have the phone company logo on it. There was a new van there. It smaller, painted black, and had a more squared out body. I had completely forgotten that the police were watching me like hawks. They really could have been more subtle. I trudged up to the fourth floor, each step feeling harder than the last, and then I stepped out onto the roof. It was a large flat area, with an additional apartment sitting on it. The roof was like my balcony, and the apartment was mine.

I stepped inside the apartment and dropped my keys on the table by the door. I shuffled to the kitchen and opened the fridge. There was a box of pizza, from the night before, with a single slice of pizza left in it. I accepted the fact that this lonely slice was my dinner for the evening and popped it in the microwave oven. At least I’ll eat something warm.

Before I was able to unlock the door, four armed policemen battered it in, and handcuffed me. As I was lying on the floor, I turned my head up as far as I could to get a good look at the man in charge. The first thing I noticed was the brown leather shoes. My eyes kept climbing, straining to see anything else about him. He had a grey blazer, with brown elbow patches. He had a clean white shirt underneath, with the top two buttons undone and no tie. From his pocket dangled a rather worn looking badge, which was too far and shaky for me to be able to read his name. I saw his face last. It was cold, rejecting, disapproving. He looked to be around fifty, with a few crinkles around his eyes and mouth, which could have simply been a side effect of staying up for the night shift often. His hair was thinning, and he had a bald spot at the top. He wasn’t in great shape, so I guessed that he spent a lot of his time behind an office desk.

“You’re under arrest for murder in the first degree. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court. You have the right to ask for a lawyer, and if you are unable to find, the government will provide you with one.”

He continued on in a completely emotionless tone, the spiel which he had learned so well, to inform whoever they take in about their rights, because he has to do so. Otherwise I doubt he cared enough to even tell then what they under arrest for.

At this moment I remembered the pizza which I had been so close to tasting, at how a minute and a half can be the difference between a free and caged man.

“You guys hungry? There is plenty for everyone.” I said, ignoring anything else Baldy had to say.

“Shut up.” came a rough grunt from near my ear,

“Take him away,” Baldy ordered, but it sounded more like a death sentence.

I was pulled up to my feet, and led by my arms to the door and down the stairs by two of the men. They just happened to be my tackler, and handcuffer. I was sure that the entire building knew what was going on. They must have heard the men going the stairs, and even if they didn’t, then the yelling and knocking down of the door would have perked up their ears. I could almost feel the eyes through the peepholes on the doors, staring at me, the man from the roof, getting dragged out by a bunch of police. Enjoy your dinner, I’ll provide the show tonight folks! However, people watching were the least of my worries at the moment.

We got outside in front of the house. There was some asshole taking up three parked cars with a brown sedan, I assumed belonging to Baldy. I could picture him slowing down in the car, and turning in the lot, and doing his best to take up as much room unnecessarily as possible. Then springing out of the car, imagining he is doing a great service to the world, so the world won’t care how he parks right now. I suddenly realized how cold it was, and that I was wearing nothing to cover my back except a T-shirt. I really could have grabbed a jacket on the way out. Luckily they didn’t give me the time to catch a cold, I was fast-walked over to the black van, while the other two guys rushed ahead of us and opened the back. I was thrown into the transport cell in the back and had the door quickly slammed on me.

We left as soon as I heard the other doors close, to what I guessed were the headquarters. No one spoke to me, and as far as I could tell, they weren’t talking amongst themselves either. The silence was unsettling. I was starting to calm down a little, which was a bad thing. The funny that was trying to break out of me earlier had now been replaced with reality and a feeling of dread. Murder. I was under arrest for the murder.

I tried to think back to the past few days, weeks. I hadn’t killed a single person. I was in fact, hundred percent sure that I had deliberately not stabbed, shot, strangled, starved, fatally wounded or maimed any individual within the last month. Or lifetime. Sure I had beaten a few people, but I was very careful to not injure them beyond recovery.

I was getting the answer to my questions pretty soon, but I didn’t feel prepared. We came to a stop, and the door swung open.

“Get out,” barked the one holding the door. “Move it.”

I stepped out of the vehicle, and mouthed a “thank you” to him just to piss him off. I looked around to find an old two story building from the 70th district, which I recognized was on Lawrence Street. I was led through double wooden doors, which I guess to be the main entrance. Right beyond the door there was a desk, behind which sat a very tired looking receptionist. Our arrival hadn’t stirred him at all, or at least his face didn’t show if it did. He was probably in here since eight this morning, and was waiting night shift to take over. He exchanged some words and grunts with my captors, and then I was taken deeper into the hive. I had been to the station before, but not where I was getting taken right now. They took me all the way to the back of the building, where the holding cells are. We arrived at a room, which had nothing but a writing desk and a rather fat policeman behind it. The buttons on his shirt were almost popping off of his chest and stomach. He filled the chair out completely and was watching a very small TV screen. There was a baseball game going on, Dodgers were playing some team I couldn’t recognize. Slowly, he turned to face us but just with his body. His eyes remained glued to the screen. Couldn’t risk missing a single moment of the match.

“Hey Boyd! Look what we got you!” My captors called out to him. “Aren’t you glad?”

For a moment I thought they meant I was a snack, but then the fat one replied.

“Yeah, great. You boys always know how to time these deliveries.” He sounded about as thrilled as a chicken would be to get plucked.

“Oh don’t be so enthusiastic!” The two that brought me in laughed at their jokes. “And no need to thank us. We’re just doing our job.”

They left, while discussing something about wives and children and sleep. I stood silently, glaring at the one they called Boyd. He grunted, and then with great effort lifted himself out of the chair. He managed to shuffle over to me with small steps and heavy breaths. He took my handcuffed hands and dipped each finger into a dark blue dye then pressed them onto some squares that labeled my fingers. I made no movement to resist. There would have been no point. He took my finger prints, and then gave me hand sanitizer wipes and a paper towel. I wiped the ink off my fingers.

After this, I was lead in front of a white wall and turned to face a camera. He fumbled around with a black sign, then gave it to me. It had “NYPD” and a serial number on it.

“Hold it out in front of you like this.” He held it at a height so that it could cover some of his belly if here the one getting his mug shots taken.

I followed his orders. He stood behind the camera, and focused it before taking a picture. “Look up here.” He moved his finger to just above where the lens was.

“Lift your head too.”

He took another picture, then turned me sideways adjusted my chin and took a final one of my profile.

He led me to a heavy looking barred door, which separated his little office from the holding cells. He pulled the keys off of his belt and slowly selected the one that fit in the door. With as much noise as Boyd could manage, he unlocked the door and put the keys back on his belt. When we got to the cell, he once again took the keys off of his belt and took him time in finding the necessary key. He unlocked it, then took my handcuffs and hastily pushed me in. He shuffled down the hall and relocked the barred door.

I stretched my hands and rubbed the spots where the handcuffs had dug in.

I knew what came next. They make me wait for an hour or more, and then they will come in to question me. They think some time alone is enough to crack someone. It can be rather stressful psychologically, sure, but it wouldn’t work on me. I was used to being alone. However I soon found out that they had special plans for me.

I felt someone’s presence in the darkness. The kind of vibrations only a human body could emit. I turned to see who was there, and evidently they were curious about me as well. Barely a yard separated us.

“Hey jerkoff, that’s my spot. There is a special fee for standing in my spot.”

He was about as tall as I was. About 5’10”. He had jeans and a leather jacket and some western style cowboy boots with steel plates on their toes. His hair was long greasy, and demonstrated a crude effort in having been greased back, but was altogether rather messy. He smelt like a mixture of cigarettes, sweat and booze. He probably got tossed in here after some petty bar fight.

“Are you fucking deaf?” He asked.

I obviously wasn’t deaf, I knew exactly what he was saying but I didn’t respond. He thought I would fall prey to his little game, and question back. That would put the ball in his side of the field, and I didn’t want to give him any control over the situation. I watched him and tried to position myself, to be able to get out of the way if he made any effort to reach me. I didn’t need a taste of those steel plates from his boots.

“Quit staring and pay up.”

He didn’t know what to do in a situation like this. I could see the gears turning in that thick little head of his, trying to figure out what his next step will be. Usually in this case, the aggravator will start shoving but I didn’t want to wait for that.

I made up my mind to reply with three quick hits. I had nearly 20 years of experience in boxing and sparring, so I knew how to hit properly. The swings did the trick. Two uppercuts to the body and a hook to the head. Ti-Ti-TA. A familiar pattern in my fighting practices. Left, right, left. The first two hits are just to get his guard up and protect his body, and then get a clear shot at the temple. I put my entire body weight behind that one hit, and there was a loud crack as I connected. It wasn’t like the ones in the movie. I could tell that he wasn’t getting up again for a while.

Things are different in the real world.

I heard voices coming from beyond the barred door. I heard what sounded like a phone being slammed down. I assume they were calling for backup. I heard familiar voices and a hint of urgency. There was a click in the lock by the barred door and Boyd walked through with two guards on his heels.

“ ’Bout time, boss!” I called in a chipper voice.

“What did you do to him?” he asked, although as far as I could tell he knew exactly what had happened. It wasn’t too hard to guess, especially when you saw this crap all the time.

The two guards grabbed me and led me out of the cell. They didn’t even bother with Boots, lying there on the ground. I doubt he’ll complain to anyone, or that he’ll even remember this at all.

[] CHAPTER 4

Only fifteen minutes after I was already in the extortionist’s room. It was a dull, empty place with grey walls. There was a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling just bright enough to be considered dim. The furniture was as follows: one scratched up wooden writing desk, and two plain metal chairs on either side of it. Both were bolted to the ground.

The hinges creaked and the door swung open, and copper in a grey blazer came in. He came closer and threw a dossier on the table in front of me, and sat down.

“Lieutenant Baker at your service. I’m in charge of murder cases. Now I’ve been informed about your little show in the cell. You have a knack for getting in trouble, don’t you son? From outside the city, we have the ex-boxer who’s incapable of sitting on his damn ass for ten minutes. Now listen closely son, because I’m going to tell you how it is and you will have the next twenty years to think and sit on your ass.”

“I know my rights. I’m innocent until proved guilty.”

They couldn’t have gotten any dirt in this short period of time, but I was still just throwing gasoline on the fire. I could see it in his eyes. He opened the dossier and showed me the contents. There were coloured pictures of me, enlarged to fit the A4 sheet of paper. The pictures were taken at a crime scene, one I was familiar with. I was there two days ago, The Kirkwood estate bedroom.

“Where were you August 25 of this year?”

“It’s been a while. I can’t remember,” I said, even though I knew exactly where I had been.

“You can’t remember where you were yesterday? “

“I have a very bad memory, Sir.” I replied.

I looked at the pictures harder. There was the body. The bullet wound. The blood stain. On the next picture I could see the murder weapon. The snub nosed Smith & Wesson.

“Do you remember the phone call that night?”

“No.” I said. Baker was getting aggravated.

“Then let me jog your memory,” He shouted. “Take a look at the last page.”

I brushed everything else aside and picked up the last page. It had typed lists and records of my phone calls. There was one highlighted in red. August 25, 8:23 pm. Duration: forty seconds long.

“I’m guessing your little girlfriend gave you the call and invited you over, didn’t she?”

“I doubt it. I think she just wanted to chat for a bit.”

“Bullshit. One of the neighbors saw your car in front of the house that night.”

I could feel an imaginary noose tightening around my neck and I could feel that the real squeeze was still yet to come.

“Yeah, so? I went over. There is nothing wrong with that.”

“But there is something wrong with murder son. That’s against the law. I suggest you start looking for a lawyer.”

“I didn’t kill her husband.”

“I think you did. I think, you went over for a night of fun. The husband came home unexpectedly, you lost your head and shot him.”

“Prove it.”

“There were no prints on the gun except yours.”

I lost my ability to speak. I began to replay the events in my head like an old VCR. I was winding back time with my finger on the button, back to when Talisha had shown me the gun in the coffee shop. I hit pause. I looked at the image. She had placed the gun on the table in front of me. I pressed play and I could see myself move the gun back to her. That must have been how she got my prints on the gun. She probably wiped her own off of it, and left mine. A perfect murder weapon. No one assumes it was her, and I get put in jail for twenty years. I was starting to panic when I noticed something that even I didn’t expect.

I kept going through the pictures, until I got to the last one. It was another picture of the body, but it was done in the lab by the coroner. The blood had been washed off of the face and I could see it clearly now. But even cleaned, with a two thousand dollar camera, I was unable to recognize the man in the photo, and that’s because I had never seen him before. The man in the image was definitely not the one I had followed and threatened.

It all became clear in my head. Another piece of the puzzle had fallen into place. Talisha had a partner in crime. Someone I had been responsible for following and threatening. Then the two of them killed the real husband. I had to give it to them, they did a pretty good job.

I looked at Baker. He looked so self-assured, I could feel his confidence from across the table. I was the mouse in the trap, he had caught me. And he could see the same from me. He was already drunk with the feeling of victory and had nothing more to say. Neither did I. He stood up from the table, closed the dossier and walked over to the door. There was no doorknob for security measures of course and so he knocked before the buzzer signaling the door is ready to open. He opened it and walked through, leaving my alone in the dim room. Not ten seconds later, another guard came in. The one who led me here from my cell, but this time he was supposed to lead me back. I stood up without a word and went over to the door. I was already making a plan in my head and didn’t want to raise suspicion.

  • * * * *

He made the first mistake of not handcuffing me. Ever since Boyd, the fat one, removed the cuffs, no had replaced them. They weren’t on me when I was brought up here, they were placed on me during my interrogation and I wasn’t getting any now when they were returning me to my cell.

He knocked on the door, and the buzzer went off, signaling that it okay to open now. He ushered me ahead of him, but not out of manners. We stepped out the door and started down the long narrow hallway. He stayed close by me, his left hand gripping my elbow.

I made a split second decision. I gave him a light shove with my shoulder as I stepped just strong enough to push him away, and with that step I turned 180 degrees to face him. I put my hand under his jaw, the way you see men do in those romantic movies. Except my intention wasn’t to kiss him: slammed his head against the wall, really hoping it wasn’t drywall. I struck gold and by gold I mean a brick wall. There was a dull thud and he fell to his knees from the shock. I took the opportunity to bring my leg up and knee him right in the face. He crumpled to the ground without another sound, laying in the fetal position.

“Sorry bud.” I whispered

I didn’t want to kill him, just make him incapable of stopping me. He’ll get by with a concussion. As for my record, it didn’t really matter. They had me for murder, so assaulting an officer seemed like something I could still recover from. Maybe I’ll have to spend another five years or whatever.

I started to leave through the gate they brought me in a few hours ago. I got to the service desk without any more trouble. To the right there were desks where undercover detectives were dealing with the enormous paper stack in front of them, or taking phone calls. It was very busy and loud now, which I knew could work to my advantage. I tried to stay inconspicuous, to just blend in. No running; that attracts far too much attention. I slowed my steps to match pace of others and tried to look like I had somewhere important to be. I did my best bored face as if being here was something I did every day. I got all the way to the receptionists desk without drawing any suspicious glares, getting yelled at or tackled. I didn’t dare take a breath of relief yet, because the receptionist could still recognize me. I avoided eye contact and tried my best to be invisible. I put my hands in my pockets and was walking by when the blue doors with the exit sign over them opened.

Two police officers in full assault gear came in. They could have been the ones who brought me in, I couldn’t tell through their masks. But they could definitely see my face which was a problem. They were holding a heavily tattooed Latin-American guy who was fighting for his freedom in all shades of Spanish. They struggled to lead him to the receptionist and amidst the chaos I took the chance to get out of there through the same door they brought me in. The Spanish guy was continuously yelling, except for the one second break he took to spit in the receptionists face, so I sped up, assuming no one would notice. I left the entrance lot and took a right to a smaller street.

I had to find a place where I could rest for a bit. I couldn’t go home or to my office for the night for obvious reasons. Seven minutes had passed since I had left the police station, and they had to have found the guard on the ground by now. Or he could have woken up and raised the alarm himself. I could imagine Lieutenant Baker, with his veins bulging and yelling orders at the top of his voice. He thought he had me in the palm of his hand and I slipped out though his fingers. He’d go berserk, maybe even have a stroke when he got the news.

I arrived at Ocean Parkway. There was heavy traffic still at this time. I heard a siren but it was impossible to know yet if they were chasing me because it’s rare to not be hearing a siren in this part of the city. It could have been an ambulance, the police or firefighter.

Also a part of this city were the yellow taxis. They had business day and night. Suddenly I remembered something. I signaled for one and yanked the door open as soon as it stopped. I got in the back seat and let out a breath of relief.

“Where to, sir?” asked the cabbie with a thick Indian accent.

  • * * * *

Lieutenant Baker walked out of the interrogation chamber winked at the guard and rushed back to his office on the second floor. As he was going up the stairs he considered what else he could accomplish before he went home. The day had been long but they managed to arrest Roy James. Everything had gone okay, he didn’t show any sign of resistance or will to get himself a lawyer, and no one got hurt. Well not until the idiots put him in with the other prisoner. Come to think of it, that might even be useful. On top of the murder he could add a count of light assault. Depends how they guy with the long hair wakes up and if the doctors find anything on him. The longer he can put James away for, the better. Let the fucker rot in jail. He wrote himself a sticky note to check with the doctors the next day.

He had no will to write the report today so he didn’t even start it. He’ll do it tomorrow. He stood up from his chair, and grabbed his coat from the back rest and put it on. He started to leave but the phone rang.

“Lieutenant Baker here.”

“Lieutenant, we have problem. Roy James has escaped sir.”

Baker went stiff. He couldn’t believe his ears.

“Is this a fucking joke?” he asked, his throat had gone dry.

“No sir.”

He slammed the phone down hard enough that he even the neighboring offices heard it. He ran down the stairs and found the officer who made the phone call. They made eye contact and started towards one another. Baker began his ranting from halfway across the room.

“What the hell did you do? How could you let him escape?” He was roaring, his veins bulging at this neck, his face a brilliant shade of reddish purple. He turned to the counter without even waiting for the response, and started barking orders.

“I want two teams out. One at his office, one at his house. Close off the area, in a two mile radius. I want that piece of garbage found. What are you waiting for? Go!”

He turned back to the officer and noticed just now that his nose was swollen and there was blood in the corner of his mouth as well as on his shirt. He looked at the officer’s nametag.

“How you doing son?” he asked.

“I’m fine sir, just a little dizzy.”

“Find a doctor and get yourself checked out. Then I want you to go home and rest. I’ll get someone in on-call for you.” Baker said, as he heard the sirens star to wail. He won’t be home in time for dinner tonight, if he gets home at all. He calls his wife to tell her she is eating along again tonight, and he’ll be sitting in the office over his desk until late into the night.

[] CHAPTER 5

Al Marchani woke up at the same time in the morning every day. His life had become a routine he had stuck to for 62 years. Just as in the past six decades, he got up at five in the morning, when the alarm was set. He got out of bed and through on his bathrobe, stepped into his slipper and went to the kitchen. He put on some coffee before walking out to his classic style mailbox to get the morning’s paper. He looked around but couldn’t see anything interesting. No opening garage doors, no one coming down the street with tired bags under their eyes, waving goodbye to their wives and kids for the day. There was no movement, and no signs of life except for him. Just an average morning in the average suburban neighborhood.

He returned to the kitchen and sat down at the table before opening the paper. The coffee on the stove started whistling and Marchani poured himself a steaming cup, and continued reading. A headline caught his eye.

Successful Businessman Shot in his own Home From Behind. Police Still Investigating.

He dropped the paper on the table and finished his coffee in big gulps. He cleaned up after himself in the kitchen and walked into the bedroom. He picked up his pants from last night, that he had lain on the chair and put them back on. Then he opened the drawer and picked up the top shirt and through it on. Ten years ago, when his wife had died, he was left all alone. He had to take care of himself now, to clean his own pants and socks and keep his shirts ironed. Or to make sure there was food in the kitchen. This wasn’t easy at the start but he was used to it by now. He grabbed his keys, and opened the front door. He stepped outside and locked it behind himself, before going across the lawn to his car. He sat inside his Ford LTD Station Wagon. He seemed tiny in the sizeable Hatchback. With a huge struggle on the engines’ part, it leapt into action and he started on his way.

He made it in half an hour; there was no heavy traffic to slow him down at this hour. He parked in the old abandoned factories parking lot. He dug out the old key and opened the gate. He pulled the enormous switch on the wall, and lit the couple hundred meter squared lot with enormous lights. Marchani’s Gym shined in all its glory in the morning darkness. He walked by the wrist-thick chains used to hold the punching bags, went around the ring and straight up to his office up in the gallery. He had a few minutes before the morning guys would arrive for the first practices.

I dictated the address for the cabbie, and he quickly changed merged into the outside lane and was heading along with the rest of traffic. There are just over ten thousand taxis in New York. On Ocean parkway alone, there could have been more than a hundred all in a line. This was definitely the easiest way for me to travel without being seen by the police scouting the city for traces of me. It was how I could be invisible.

It was pretty late. The usual traffic at this hour, it died down a little from people going home, but the nightlife was just starting. It took forty-five minutes to get to the address I had given him. I read the total off the metre, and reached in my pocket to grab my wallet, and found nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was only at this time I remembered that everything I had in my pocket had been moved to a little plastic bag at the police station. From where I had escaped, and where they had definitely already started a headhunt for me.

I asked the Indian cabbie to wait for me while I ran inside and got some money. I think he understood me, because he didn’t start yelling when I got out of the car, which was a good sign. I didn’t seem like someone who was on the run, and was being chased by the government.

When I got out of the taxi, and there was a giant brick building in front of me. The memories resurfaced. I was 15 when I was first here. I stood here in amazement the same way staring up at the sign the way I was doing right now. They hadn’t changed the sign, it was just darker from the dirt through all the years. I still knew what it said though.

I started towards the door. Twenty years ago, on my first day I had no clue to expect, but since then, I had been here over a thousand times so I wasn’t surprised at all. I didn’t find any either; I was greeted by familiar swinging of the chains, the swinging of jump ropes, and the thumping of gloves on the bags. Even Al’s voice could be heard, he was always yelling instructions for his students. I could see him, leaning on the ropes of the ring as I had always known him to do.

It was as if he sensed my presence and turned towards me slowly. He went silent. He couldn’t believe his eyes. It’s been at least five years since we last met and we hadn’t even talked since. The old man hadn’t changed a bit, except he had a little less hair maybe. I went over and greeted him with a hug.

“What are you doing here son?” he said with awe.

“Al, we gotta talk.” I said, trying to sound serious, but didn’t want to worry him.

“Come on, we’ll go up to my office.” He pointed at his office for me to follow, as if I didn’t know where it was.

“Boys, give it a few more reps then hit the showers. We’ll continue tomorrow.” He called to the men in the ring.

We went up to his office. I asked him for some money, and went back to the taxi. I didn’t want to keep the driver waiting any longer; I was probably already suspicious enough. I tipped him a fifty, to forget my name and face. I hurried back to his office and we started our talk.

“You must be in some deep doo, Roy,” He started.

“What makes you think that?”

“You’re clearly not here for practice. You don’t have any of your gear, or even a single cent. On top of that it’s too late. You must be here for something else. What is it?”

He didn’t need a whole lot of logic to figure that out. He was my dad instead of my dad. My real dad worked so much that our house was basically just his place to crash before he got up and went back to work.

As a kid, to get out of my bad ways, I had turned to sports. Boxing was my alternative means of alleviating my excess anger and energy. I could also use it out on the street, and if someone is good at it, there is a lot of money to be made. I took the time and effort to find a club nearby where I lived. That’s how I met Al and his dirty old boxing club. The old timer had Italian roots, his grandparents moved from their motherland to the land of opportunity.

“Did you hear about the murder on Station Island?” I asked.

“I just read about that this morning. Why? You aren’t getting mixed up in any of this are you?”

“The police think I am the murderer.”

“What do others think?”

“Come on Al, shooting someone from behind? Could you even believe that it was me?”

“I know but I had still had to ask. A trigger sometimes just needs to be pulled, that’s how we keep the wicked on their toes.”

“It was his wife.” I stated. He gave a reproachful look.

“You know, this doesn’t even surprise me. You had it all, I promised you a chance at first place. Top prize. Instead you were always busy with the ladies. The bad ones.”

“Al please don’t fucking do this right now! I have had enough shit to deal with, without looking at my past.”

“Alright. Fine. I understand,” he said staring off into space. “Do you have a plan? You gonna go find a safe house? Dodge the police for a while?”

“I was brought in already.”

“What?” He asked, showing interest for the first time during our conversation.

“Yes. They arrested me and I waited until I could make my escape.”

His expression showed a mixture of worry, and incredulity. I decided to clarify the details.

“You need to understand when I say I had no other choice left. If they stick me in the cell and do a little digging, I’m never getting out of there and you know that too.”

He shot a glance over his shoulder, as if he suddenly became of the danger of being seen with me right now.

“Well then champ, what’s your plan?”

“I need to find the woman. If she confesses, I can still save myself.”

“Do you know where you’re going to look?”

“No idea.”

We talked a little longer, mainly about the past five years. We said our goodbyes, but before I could walk out the door, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a large key ring and dramatically put it out on the table. I recognized the keys to his Ford. He nodded, and I took the keys. I didn’t have the words to express my gratitude. I could use his car, which would make my task immensely easier. It was only icing on the cake when he said I could spend my nights here if I wanted to. There was a sizeable couch in his office, which was probably as old as he was. It was ugly, full of holes with the stuffing coming out, and reeked of sweat, but it was a bed nonetheless. I lay there and stared at the ceiling. I was unable to sleep at all. I wasn’t thinking about the past, but rather I considered my future and what tomorrow would bring. I wanted to make the best of it, so I wouldn’t waste this window of opportunity this old man had given me.

It’s obvious she wouldn’t be in her estate back on Station Island. She’s probably off hiding somewhere while the storm dies down. Or she might still be on her way to wherever she planned to wait it out. I would bet everything I have, everything I ever had, that she has her little friend with her. I can see them right now, greedily counting up the coins. Why else would they kill the real Mr. Kirkwood?

These are always the reason people commit murder. Human nature is rather predictable. It’s either out of love, or for the money. Talisha doesn’t really seem like the loving type anymore, I think she’s in it for the money. Patrick Kirkwood was a very well-known businessman. He had good connections, and immense wealth. Talisha was probably ready to do anything, from the start to get a hold of that. Instead of merely considered murder, that may have been her choice of “business” from the beginning. She made plans with her partner to find some poor sucker to dupe, and frame him for the murder. There was only one major flaw in this plan: they picked the wrong guy. I’m not going to jail for something I didn’t even have the pleasure of doing myself. They took advantage of my honesty and trust and that infuriates me. Now that I’m mad, I will stop at nothing to set things right, and clear my name. They have sealed their fates, and they won’t get a second chance at me. I closed my eyes and drifted off into sleep.

  • * * * *

Lieutenant Baker was sitting in his office while listening to the chiefs monologue, and thinking about how things turned bleak so quickly.

“Baker, you have really fucked up this time.”

“I know sir. I will fix this as soon as I can sir.”

“No you won’t.” Said the chief.

“Why not?”

“I got a call from New York this morning. The FBI is joining the investigation. There is a murderer on the loose, and who knows where he is? They said from here on out, this is a matter of national security. Two agents are going to be here around noon. I want you to give them everything you have on the case at that point in time and resign from the case thereafter.” Ordered the Chief.

  • * * * *

In the morning, I woke the sound of a door slamming shut. By instinct I rolled over to my other side, as if I could hear more and get a better look. The lights came on, and I heard footsteps through the gym. They climbed the steps slowly, taking them one by one. They got to the door and threw it open, it was the old man.

“Morning kid!” he greeted me with a smile.

I didn’t say a word, I merely waved.

“I brought you some breakfast.”

He put a cup of coffee and a box of doughnuts on the ground beside the couch. I sat up and grabbed the coffee and took off the lid and took a sip.

“Thanks Al,” I said, raising the cup. “I really needed this.”

I put the coffee back down and dug into the doughnuts. I hadn’t even noticed just how hungry I was. I still haven’t had any of that fateful pizza, when the cops knocked on my door. It has been over 18 hours since I last had any food in my stomach.

“You know if I were coaching you, then I wouldn’t let you eat that garbage, but I’m not so I don’t care. Besides, I doubt prison food is any better.” He said with a wink.

“Thanks. You always knew just what to say Al.” I replied sarcastically.

In just a matter of minutes, I scarfed down the entire box of doughnuts. If the poor old man only knew what I had been living off of recently. I don’t even have the guts to tell him I had started smoking again. He probably would have had a heart attack.

“You have any plans for today?” He asked.

“I’m going to go back into the city for a bit.” I said with a straight look on my face.

“Be careful now, son.”

  • * * * *

People starting trickling in for morning practice, so Al left me alone upstairs. I was thinking I would look around in one of the bad areas of town, question some people, in case people knew the bitch who was Mr. Kirkwood when we were in the restaurant. After all, she might have been a prostitute. This was the only clue I could start off of right now, other than that I had squat. It was stupid to show up there at six in the morning, because I wouldn’t have found anyone, so I had some time to kill. I decided to go downstairs for some practice. I headed over to the locker room, and headed right to the back corner. There was a single locker left locked. I recognized the lock on it. There were two keys to it; one was in my office desk at the bottom of the drawer, and Al had the other one.

“Where is the locker key?”

At first he had a dumb look on his face, but then realized my intentions.

“It’s pinned to the corkboard in my office.”

I ran up the stairs and went back into his office. The board was on the wall, filled with newspaper clippings and old pictures. Each one had the same guy on it, with giant boxing gloves on both of his hands. The emotions washed over me. A young man filled with plans and dreams. A career in professional boxing. It was a nice trip down memory lane. I grabbed the key and returned to the locker room. I opened the lock and found what I was looking for. A worn out pair of high running shoes, a T-shirt, shorts and of course my gloves. They all smelled old and musty which didn’t surprise me, as they had been waiting in there for years now. I changed quickly and hurried out to the gym. I picked a bag and started whacking away.

I wasn’t even watching the time. It was eleven when I finished my practice. I felt my muscle memory kick in and felt natural at it, even though it’s been a few years and I had put on some weight.

I took a long shower and enjoyed the relaxing sensation of the hot water. I got dressed and ran out to the corner store. I was uneasy stepping outside at first, not sure of what to expect. I kept checking behind me, to see if I caught anything suspicious. I bought two hot dogs and ate one on the way back and finished the other in the gym. I spent the rest of the afternoon planning out my route and what I would do. I was started to get really stressed, returning to the jungle to where the wild things are.

[] CHAPTER 6

If you want to find someone, anyone, then you have to look in places they frequent, and might just turn up when you’re there. For example, if you’re trying to find a stock broker, then you might want to take walk down Wall Street. Chances are, that’s where you’ll bump into him, or his friends. If you’re looking for a prostitute, then you probably want to check in the more died down areas of town, which for me was Williamsburg. This part of the city was plagued with crime, corruption, poverty. The population was mainly composed of Eastern European immigrants from after the second world war, Italians, Spanish, and orthodox Jews from working families.

It was starting to get dark by the time I hit the road. The old Ford’s engine’s purr had a calming effect on me. She glided on the pavement like a mother ship on the ocean.

I took the scenic route, even though it was riskier. The police were on the lookout for me, and here I am cruising around town without so much as a driver’s license. I got onto the Brooklyn Bridge, making sure to remain at the same speed as those around me. The blue and golden reflection form the eastern river decorated the late afternoon scene. I continued down the streets slowly, looking down each one and checking for people. As I went further and further east, the whole mood of the streets shifted. Litter all over the sides of the streets, the houses appeared as if they wanted to cave in on themselves, and were covered in dirt. No one has ever cared for these buildings. Graffiti masked most of the loose bricks, but none of it had that artist’s touch. Crude words on the wall made anyone want to get out of there. The people who had been returning home from work were starting to get replaced by hookers. This was the Crack scene here in America. Anyone with some brains could get rich by selling rock here and now if they knew how to do it. That is, until they are shot or caught. This was exactly the kind of place I was looking for.

I picked out one of the street girls, pulled up to the curb next to her and rolled down the window. The usual looking deal, and she immediately came over. It took her a few shaky steps in what looked like maybe 8 inch heels, and when she got to the car she leaned in and rest her arms on the window.

“Hey pretty boy. What can I do for you?”

“I’m looking for someone. She’s, short with black hair. Know anything about her?”

“No, but why do you need her anyways? Am I not good enough for you?

“I just need to talk to her…” I started

“Why? You a cop?”

“No. I need to ask her something.”

“There ain’t nobody here like that. Now get the fuck out of here.” And she slowly hobbled her way back to the corner where she had been before.

I messed up. I can’t let them know I need anything other then what they have to offer. They don’t sell each other out. I could have been her old pimp, or a cop. They can’t know that, end if they don’t trust you they’ll never give you what you want.

I left the car at Wythe Avenue, and continued on by foot. I tried a few more times with other girls, but none offered any help. I told I would even pay them, but they kept their mouths shut. Or she really didn’t exist here.

On the other side of the street I spotted a bar. There were colorful neon lights indicating how cheap their beer was and that they had exotic dancers ready to entertain anyone whom it may interest. There were a few hookers standing at the sides of the bar. I figured I would ask them too, and if I don’t get anywhere then I’ll just call it a day. I called to them, just as one was extinguishing her cigarette.

“Evening ladies! Calm night, huh?” I tried a little smooth small talk.

“Wish I could say the same.” The one on the right, a blonde, replied.

“I’m looking for someone you may know, a girl. She’s short, black hair. Ring a bell?

I didn’t even get to wait here the answer, when I saw sudden movement out of the corner of my eye, to the left. I turned my head to see two large guys heading towards me at a brisk pace, and they don’t look like they were out to make new friends tonight. I figured whatever they wanted to do with me, I didn’t want it seen in public, so I scooted past the girls and headed down the alley beside the bar. I stopped beside a filled garbage can and crouched down behind it, out of sight. A few seconds later, two street thugs, who looked to be in their twenties, showed up. They both seemed to hit the gym regularly, judging by their arms legs and necks. They had matching jeans and white wife beaters. They had seen me heading down the alley so they came down the alley towards me without any hesitation. I pushed away from the wall and stood out in the middle of the alley to face them. They slowed their steps and continued towards me. They stopped just a few yards from me at 10 and 2 o’clock.

If they were even the slightest bit intelligent, then one of them would have done all he could to get in behind me. Their lack of insight drastically reduced their odds of winning this fight. One of them started talking, indicating that he was the leader.

“The fuck you think you are, and why dontchu leave the girls alone, huh?”

“I’m looking for someone. If you can help me, then that’s great I’ll be on my way, otherwise, get out of my way while you still can.” I replied, without missing a beat. I knew my confidence could throw them off.

“The fuck you talkin’ ‘bout?”

“If you don’t get out of my way, within ten seconds, then you can call your own ambulance.”

I didn’t even give them two seconds, I stepped in before they could. I like taking the initiative.

There are 206 bones in an adult body. The strongest of these are your elbows and the plate that protects your Dorsolateral Prefrontal. In other words, your forehead. If you get in a fight, it can be a better idea to use these then just your hands in a fist, as long as you know when and how.

According to my experience with fighting this was a fine example of when not to use your fists. I stepped in closer and kicked the leader in the stomach putting my full weight behind the kick. Before I even put my foot down I struck the henchman in the temple with my elbow, with almost the same force and velocity. I had to hold back a little, I didn’t want to knock him out yet, cause that wouldn’t work well with my plan. However, the plan didn’t have any purpose for the bigmouthed leader, so I went to work on him a little while longer. He was doubled over, clutching his stomach, and his back against the garbage can. He stood up and looked ready to continue the fight. Not for long. As soon as he stood up, I head-butted him with all the force I could muster. He fell the ground, out cold. As he hit the ground, his jacket slid off revealing something shiny. Looking closer I could see it was a .22 Caliber Colt grip hanging out of his belt line. I had been far too lucky that he hadn’t whipped it out right away. Then i would be the one on the ground, except I would never be waking up. I took the gun, and inspected it. The magazine was full. I walked over to the other hoodlum who was on all four and trying to reorient himself. I crouched down next to him and continued:

“So, short little bitch with black hair. Where the fuck do I find her?” I yelled angrily.

“I don’t know. I don’t know!” He yelled back.

“Of course you fucking know. Don’t lie to me, you little bitch. One of the ladies give you the tip that I’m looking for her. That’s why you came here to begin with.”

“Fuck you.”

Bingo. He couldn’t deny it anymore. That was as good as any confession. I always thought that these guys were bred to be much better liars.

“Alright cocksucker, listen up. I will ask the question, and I will keep asking the question until you answer it. But see, my time is wasting, so I’m not a patient man right now. So with every incorrect answer I will break a rib or two. Here is the question: where is the girl.”

“Eat a dick.”

I shook my head and stood up and kicked him right in the sight. He yelled in pain.

“Wrong answer, dickhead. I’m getting an answer out of you. It’s up to you how much ribs I break. Besides, according to my calculation, you have another 205 bones I can break when I run out of ribs.”

He spat on the ground, and i could hear him trying to take short breaths through his teeth to ease the pain.

“Where is the girl?”

“Not too far from here, he said. She’s in a brothel, and on the third floor. Her name is Corinne.”

Guess he was smarter then I give him credit for. I counted another rib or so for the name, but I guess I’m in luck. I checked his pockets and took his cash and driver’s license. I did the same with his bit mouthed friend.

“You boys should probably get a job or something.” I called back as I left the alley.

I had no feelings of guilt or remorse. If I don’t do what I did, then I would be getting put 6 feet under. They were simple street thugs, so no one that will be missed. I did a favor to the community, to take them out of circulation before they expired. The money and driver’s license are just the fruit of my efforts. I knew they didn’t obtain them by working hard so I had no qualms about taking it from them.

I slowly walked back to the car, all while the adrenaline wore off slowly. I took a cigarette and lit it, enjoying the bitter taste. When I finished, I got in the car and went over to where he described the brothel being.

The brothel’s state was less than “proud”, but it was what I had expected. I stepped into the stairway and climbed up the stairs. The steps creaked loudly under my weight. I made up to the third floor without any trouble. I looked for room 318, and leaned against the door, listening for sounds of a transaction taking place. There were no signs of movement, or of life. It seemed entirely empty. I took out the Colt I had recently been gifted with. I had no clue what was waiting for me beyond the door, and my policy was better safe than sorry. I held it out in front of me with one hand and tried the handle with the other. It wasn’t locked so I turned the handle and slipped in through the door as fast as I could. I locked the door behind me as quietly as I could when I got in, and then looked around. I took a few steps and saw crappy and dirty old furniture, accented with laundry all over the ground and couch. There was a box of Chinese takeout on the kitchen table. Probably left over from yesterday.

There was a flash of metal swinging at me, to my left. I ducked just in time, and saw it was a grey Louisville slugger. I was saved by my reflexes once again. I stood back up and pointed my handgun at my attacker.

“Don’t fucking move!” I yelled.

A tall and skinny woman was holding the bat. Her cheeks were bony, and her hair was long and dark brown. She was wearing stretched out T-shirt, and it was pretty easy to see there was nothing underneath. The shirt didn’t cover much of her legs, or anything else at all for that matter. I gotta admit, it would have been pretty hot if not for the circumstances. I might have even asked her on a date.

“Drop the gun.” She ordered.

I let go of the gun with one hand and gestured for her to calm down with the other.

“I don’t want to hurt you. In fact, you’re not even the one I’m looking for. I’m looking for Corinne.”

I didn’t have to search any further, she appeared behind the taller chick, from the kitchen. This was the third time I saw her. She recognized me too from our first meeting though. She was wearing a pair of shorts as well as a T-shirt. She also had a gun in her hands.

This turned was an unexpected turn of events. I didn’t have the upper hand anymore. They didn’t have to say it again. I slowly crouched down and put the gun on the ground.

“Kick is over here.” She said.

Good call, I thought. I kicked the gun on the ground and it skittered towards her.

“I could shoot you right now, like the dog you are. Give me one fucking reason not to do it.”

“Because my corpse would be too heavy to take down the stairs and I doubt you want to be cleaning blood off of the furniture. Trust me, it’s easier if I leave on my own two feet. But first, we need to talk.”

“And why do I want to talk to you?”

“Well, I’m asking you nicely. But we could do it some other way too. I could leave right now and come back sometime you aren’t expecting me and pull it out of you. I have my ways, but I don’t want to do it like that. I don’t want to hurt either of you. I think we can get a lot further if use our heads.

Her mind was whirring, I could tell from her gaze. I continued and tried to convince her.

“You just tell me what you know, and I’ll be getting out of here as soon as possible. “

“Why the fuck should I trust you? What if I get in trouble because of you?”

“You won’t. I guarantee it.”

“How do you know?”

“If you tell me what I want to know, I will make sure they can’t even come near you ever again.”

I could see she was relieved to hear that. The gun in her hand dropped about 30 degrees, but it was still pointed at me.

“He said his name is Gary. He asked me to accompany him to a few places. He took me golfing and to the restaurant. That’s where you threatened him. He was a total tool if you ask me. He paid for the full day, but he didn’t try anything with me.”

“Do you know where he lives?”

“I’m telling you, he didn’t even take me home. He told me hates golfing; he just has to act like he enjoys it. He said he actually goes bowling at a nearby place, I hope that helps.”

“Maybe,” I said.

I peeled two $100 bills from the wad of cash i took from the “guards” and put it on a nearby shelf.

“Thank you ladies, that will be all.”

There was a complete change of emotion on their faces. They obviously didn’t want to say no to the money. The taller one picked up the Colt and walked over and handed it to me. She stepped close enough so that I could smell her scent. She handed the gun back to me, with the grip in my direction.

“Why don’t you stay a while?” She asked. “We could at least work for the money.”

I looked her up and down, and took a good look at Corinne too. There they stood with barely any clothes on. One tall, curvy, with honey colored skin, and Corinne, the black haired demon. It was a rather tempting offer.

“Maybe next time.”

  • * * * *

The feeling of success and being on a roll tonight convinced me to keep my search going. I had found Corinne, who told me that the man who if was looking for was called Gary, and also where to look for him. On top of that I had about $600 in cash still, as well as two drivers’ licenses and a Colt with a full magazine. I checked the clock. A bowling alley should not be closed this early. I decided to head over and check it out now; maybe I could catch a glimpse of whoever framed me. I was in luck because I knew the place and it wasn’t too far. I started the car and I drove up to the I-278 expressway, this time heading towards the south. The lanes were all packed and all I could see as far as the horizon were the brake lights of thousands of cars all trying to go in the same direction I was heading. The oncoming traffic was in similar fashion, however their break lights were not in my field of view. I eventually sat through the traffic and reached my exit, and got off the expressway. The bowling alley was just a few minutes from here. Then, the unimaginable happened.

Blue-red lights flashed in my rear-view mirror. They flashed continuously, brighter and brighter as it came closer and closer. It was a simple cruiser on patrol. There was no way I could outrun them with this ancient vehicle. I didn’t have any choice but to pull over. I slowly headed towards the shoulder of the road. If the gears in my head were audible, people three cities over would have been going deaf. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the licenses I took from the guys earlier. I picked the one that I thought looked like me more, but he couldn’t have even passed for my brother. This was about half a degree better than nothing.

I kept checking my rear-view mirror and waiting for what’s going to happen. I didn’t stop the engine, because I figured if worst comes to worst, this could still get me a few second head start. A sizeable policeman got out of the cruiser and started towards my car. I couldn’t tell if his partner stayed in the car, or if he didn’t have one at all. The window was tinted too dark to see. He came over to my side of the car and signaled for me to roll down my window. I obliged. I found myself face to face with a 40 year old man. His head was shaven bald, and he had a trimmed beard. He was around 220 lbs, but probably more. He filled the uniform well, I had to admit.

“Good evening sir.” He greeted me.

“Evening, officer. Is there a problem?”

I tried to hide my anxiety and stress and push it deep within me, but it was impossible. I was on the ledge between complete failure of my only chance to clear my name. I could practically see the bars in front of my eyes. The bars I would be staring at for the next twenty years.

“License and registration please.”

I handed him the fake license and the papers Al kept in the car.

“Do you know why I pulled you over?” he asked me.

“Sir, I haven’t the faintest idea.” I forced a smile and made it as sincere as possible. I was desperate, trying to be a kiss ass here, but I was losing my mind.

“When I was running a search on the license plate, I was told this car was licensed under Al Marchani’s name. I figured I had gotten lucky and I could finally meet the old man, but I have been seriously deceived.”

I could tell from his voice that things were not looking in my favor. But this was good. I could relate to him. If he likes boxing, I might be able to talk my way out of this.

“But, you’re in the right place. This is in fact his car. I practically grew up in his gym. You like boxing?”

“And how! Did you watch the Saturday evening gala? What a match!”

“I missed it! I had to be somewhere, who won?”

“Hagler won, even though….” he stopped talking and was intently listening the buzzing coming from his radio. He then raised it to his lips.

“Yeah I’m just a couple of streets over. I’ll be there in a few. Over.” He then turned to me. “Alright sir, say Hi to him for me the next time you see him please. I’m a huge fan.”

He gave me back the license that was clearly not mine, and walked back to his cruiser and got in. For a few minutes all I could do was sit and stare. To be this close, and to get away still, it was unbelievable. Suddenly I snapped back to reality, and remembered my goal. I put the old Ford back in gear and stepped on it.

  • * * * *

The parking lot was half full behind the bowling alley. This was good for me because that means there were less people inside and I could find Gary easier. If he was here right now at all. I’ll find out soon enough. I killed the engine in of the corner spaces as far as I could from the entrance. As I was walking up to the doors I saw a black Cadillac that I could never forget. The same one from in front of the restaurant. He was definitely here. I stepped inside and waited for my eyes to adjust. It was pretty busy already, the typical sound of pins being knocked down and people cheering or booing. I couldn’t find a single unoccupied lane, so I took a few steps in to get a better look. Immediately, the receptionist called for my attention.

“Can I help you?” She asked. She was blonde, looked to be in her twenties and had a nametag that read ‘Melony’ on the left side of her chest.

“No thanks, I’m meeting a friend and he’s already in.” I said, wanting to make a minimal impact as possible. The fewer people that spoke to me, the better.

“Sure, what’s his name? I can tell you what lane he’s at.” She said, without missing a beat.

By pure luck, I managed to find the familiar face. I looked up at his board, he was with three people.

“His name is Luke, but I see him.” I told her and walked past without looking back again. There were a total of 10 lanes in the alley. There were too many people for me to be able to drag him out by the scruff of his neck. That would draw unnecessary attention to me and probably get the cops on my case again. I had to find a different approach. I went straight to the bar.

“Beer.” I said, and slapped the counter.

I looked away from the bartender, but continued.

“Some people are crazy, man.” I paused, to make sure he was listening to my words.

“Some poor guy with a black Cadillac got his tires all slashed. People can be real jerks.”

I grabbed the beer, left money on the counter and walked away without waiting for any response. I walked by the lanes, and left the beer at one of the tables. I hurried back outside, and took a knee down beside the Cadillac. My entire plan was riding on the hopes that since Gary was a regular, the bartender would tell him the news. I could get him away from the crown without touching him. I was pretending to be messing with the front tires when I hear the doors slam open. I heard hurried steps rush down the entrance stairs and a voice yell.

“What the fuck are you doing? Get the fuck away from my car.” His voice cracked.

I could bet this car was his prized possession. I made sure he couldn’t see my face until he was a lot closer before standing up.

“Gary, my man! Long time no see.” I said, standing up and facing him.

His did a double take, either because he didn’t recognize me, or the gun pointing at his face was a bigger surprise than I expected. I wasn’t in the mood for another fight tonight, so I figured this little luxury wasn’t too big of a deal.

“Move.” I said, without giving any context just indicating with my head which direction I wanted him to go in.

“How do you know my real name?” he asked.

“I told you to move, not to ask me questions.” This made him take a few uncertain steps towards my hatchback and I nodded. Neither of us spoke until we got back to Al’s car.

“Get in.” I said, pointing at the driver’s seat, and without lowering my weapon.

He opened the door and got in. I took the passenger’s seat behind his.

“Ok Gary,” I started. “Listen carefully. I am about to give you the keys. I will tell you where to go, and you will go there without hesitation. You will not try anything stupid and you will not draw attention to yourself. If I so much as believe that you are thinking about escaping or getting help then you will be shot. But I’m not going to put in your head Gary, I won’t be that merciful. I’m gonna shoot you in the stomach through the back. Because you will experience living fucking hell, before you get to die. Do you understand?”

“Y-,” He started but his voice cracked. “Y-yes.” He managed to spit out.

I tossed the keys on the dashboard, and he had to lean forward to reach them.

“Buckle up, motherfucker. It’s gonna get bumpy.”

He pulled out of the parking lot and I directed him, one turn after another to my old training center. No one stopped us. We made without any trouble.

  • * * * *

Al was still up, but everyone else had gone home. I locked Gary in the changeroom, and headed upstairs. He gets to sleep there tonight. We’ll talk tomorrow. I had enough on my mind and I was thoroughly exhausted out. I needed to plan things out before starting the next step of my strategy.

I went down to the locker room before anyone had arrived, and dragged Gary upstairs. I sat him in the chair across from me and used duct tape to attach his legs to the char legs. I wanted make sure he couldn’t stand up and make a run for it.

“I saw you in the papers.” he said. “They said you escaped from prison.”

“Yeah, well I didn’t exactly feel like twenty years in the slammer for your benefit.”

He snorted but didn’t say anything else.

“Why did you choose me?” I asked.

“Any stupid ‘for-hire’ would have done. You just got unlucky.” He said, looking me dead in the eyes.

I continued staring at him and raised one eyebrow in question.

“It was so simple. We kill Talisha’s husband, blame you, pocket the dough, and live happily ever after. Wasn’t too complex of a plan.” He said, shrugging his shoulders.

I still didn’t answer. He let out a sigh and slumped his shoulders before continuing.

“We needed a private investigator. We heard word of some mercenary in Brooklyn who doesn’t back down from any job. We found you when we got a chance and figured if you so much as got your little finger in the case, your past would sell you out. You were supposed to fall in love with Talisha, her husband finds out, you shoot him. It was flawless if you wouldn’t have gone all Clint Eastwood. Righteous doesn’t fit you, you should have taken the bait.” He said, grimacing at me by the end.

I sat in silence for a few seconds.

“You know what bothers me, Gary?” I finally spoke. “You got the money, why are you bowling alone? Where is the girl? Shouldn’t you two be on the beach, enjoying the sun and some cocktails?”

I hit a nerve and I knew it. His smile turned into a frown instantly. He still felt like he had to protect her for some reason though.

“She has some things to take care of, okay?” He yelled. “We’re going to meet later.” This got my adrenaline up too.

“Don’t think I’m stupid, man. I wasn’t born yesterday. She left with the money and hasn’t talked to you since. That’s the sad fucking truth.” I was yelling now too, my index finger right up in his face.

“I’m telling you. She’s just tying up loose ends!” He said, trying to convince himself.

“Alright then! We’ll wait for here, together, you and I. We’ll wait right fucking here, until she waltzes in. When’s your girlfriend coming back for you?” I was still yelling.

He simply shrugged his shoulders.

“You know, you won’t get away.”

“Oh yes I fucking will. I’m going to personally deliver you to the police and watch you make your own confession. I will sit there while you condemn yourself…”

I lost it then and there and clocked him square in the face. The chair tipped back, but righted itself.

“You think you can fuck with me still? You seriously think you can fuck with me, Gary? You think I’ll march in and do the jailhouse rock for your entertainment? Twenty fucking years, Gary, is what we’re talking about. You have no clue what you’ve brought upon yourself. You should have hired that private investigator.”

“Fuck you.” He yelled and spat blood at me, but missed entirely.

Some of it went on the floor, but most of it just dribbled down his chin and onto his shirt. I leaned in real close.

“You can try to make this real hard for me, man, or you can make it easy.” I was almost whispering now.

“You decide: either you tell me what where that bitch went, or play the fool. It’s up to you.” I righted myself to hear his response.

“Why the fuck should I tell you? You’re a crazy fucking animal! If you end up getting us caught anyway, we lose the money no matter what.”

He could really make my blood boil. After what he did to me, I was ready to explode.

“I put four motherfucking people in the motherfucking hospital just to find you, Gary. I will find that crazy cunt whether you help me or not. You can only slow me down. Now here is the situation.” I strode over to the desk and pulled out the Colt I left there last night. I pointed it at his midsection. “I will count to three, and you will either tell me where the fuck she is, or, I will shoot you in the stomach and leave you here to die and I will find her on my own. One.”

“Don’t point that thing at me. I’ll help if you just stop pointing that thing at me.” His voice was cracking again.

“Two! Where is she? I haven’t heard the place yet, Gary.”

“Don’t you fucking point that thing at me. Please! Take it away.”

“Three,” I yelled and cocked the gun.

“VEGAS! She went to Vegas.” He screamed and started sobbing.

“Very good Gary. That’s the cooperation I expected from the start.” I said, my voice returning to a normal volume and smiled at him kindly.

[] CHAPTER 7

My face said I was content, but Vegas was problematic in more ways than just one. One, Vegas wasn’t just a city or two over. It was a long way away, and I couldn’t exactly travel by plane. However, I felt Al’s car wouldn’t survive that kind of trip.

“Gimme the keys.” I ordered

“The what? What keys?”

“To the Cadillac.”

“What? Why?” His eyes widened as it dawned on him.

“Oh. No. No. No. No. You can’t be serious, man.

“We’ll take a trip.” I said, smiling to intimidate him further.

“No way. Not happening.” He was shaking his head.

I figured my words wouldn’t do me a world of good here so I rolled up my right sleeve and grabbed him with my left hand. As I drew my right arm back, he finally gave in.

“Ok, ok.” He reached in his pockets and gave me the keys. “You’re fucking nuts.” He said. I could sense his loathing from his voice.

Soon enough I was in the back seat of a taxi rolling back into the city. The bowling alley’s parking lot was mainly empty, so we found his car easily again. I pressed the unlock button discreetly in my pocket and heard the clicking of the lock opening. I opened the door and got in the driver’s seat. It was a magnificent beige leather seat. Comfortable, like I was sitting in the middle of a living room, staring at a TV. Except instead of a TV I had a windshield and instead of a remote, I had leather steering wheel at hand. I turned the ignition and started the car. I left the loft and headed back to pick up Gary.

The plan was to travel across the entire continent. We were at the eastern coast, and had to go almost all the way to the western coast. A simple 2,500 mile road trip. The only thing keeping us from giving up was the hunter’s instinct. We were too close to give up. Well it was what kept me going. Gary’s mind was either set on staying alive, the money, or a combination of both. We couldn’t go by plane, even if that was the most comfortable and easiest route. A simple flight from the JFK airport, and we could have been there in nine hours, as there were no direct flights. But, since I had been framed and a known fugitive, I was definitely on the no-flight list. Also I didn’t have any of my papers as they were still in my house. Same goes for buses and trains. They were also slower, and time was a luxury I didn’t have. I needed to find Talisha while I was still hot in her tracks. According to my calculations, we could see her again within 48 hours. It was a 35 hour drive, with two stops for rests, and a few others to refill fuel.

We were past Cleveland by 11 pm, and were getting hear Chicago were we had a room booked right by the highway. We left early in the morning the following day, and it was my turn to drive. I followed all laws and regulations. I didn’t speed once, which I felt was quite an accomplishment on my part. We didn’t stop until high noon, when we needed to refuel both the car, and ourselves. The parking lot was full of transport trucks and the restaurant was full of truck drivers. It was a lot easier to remain inconspicuous in a crowd, so I was glad to find a place such as this.

  • * * * *

It was August 29th, a Thursday. Exactly four days after the murder of the Mr. Kirkwood. I was on the I-70, about 125 miles from my home in Brooklyn and heading even further south, towards Denver. Gary was driving and I was sitting in the luxurious chair next to his. I reclined back as far as I could and holstered the gun in my belt, in case his mind strayed to something stupid. We had spent more than 30 hours at this point, dedicated to travelling towards the west coast. We took shifts driving, so the other could rest and get ready for the next leg. We stopped at a motel last night so we planned to drive through the whole night when traffic was light and we could progress easier. However by dawn signs of fatigue were starting to kick in and I didn’t want to risk any accidents so we decided to stop at the first motel we come by. Luckily we saw signs for a Motel 6 just 2 miles after and exited the freeway. It had an old building, only one floor and it was arranged in a U shape. Gary slowed down and turned into the parking lot. He stopped the car and we got out. We found the main entrance and went inside to the front desk. There was a young male at the desk standing behind a rather battered counter.

“Good evening.” I said. He nodded but made no further acknowledgement of our presence.

“A room for two, separate beds, one night.” said Gary, from beside me.

It cost about only $35 and I peeled the cash out of the wad to place it in front of the young receptionist. He took it and put it in the register before giving me the room keys. Along with the keys, he gave me a look I just couldn’t place. I checked out myself and Gary. I hadn’t shaved for the last four days at this point, and it was starting to get prickly, but I doubt that was anything new to him. Gary was still wearing his bowling shirt. Our clothes were all wrinkly from sitting all day, but nothing too off-beat. So I asked him up front. I wasn’t in the mood to take this from anybody.

“Watchu lookin’ at?” I asked. He quickly shifted his eyes to the entrance door, and pointed at it with his guestbook. We turned and left to find our room.

It was an average motel room with two double beds. There was a TV, still one of the old boxes. There was a bathroom by the door with a sink and shower with all the necessary soaps and lotions. There were towels above the toilet and plastic cups on the sink. We agreed on the showering order, set the alarm, and hit the hay.

  • * * * *

Kevin lived in Gypsum, Colorado ever since he was a child. He applied the hotel fresh out of high school and was working there ever since. It was five years that he had been working there now. He had a day shift that day, starting at six in the morning and clocking out at six at night.

Everything was going normally that morning. He had switched with the Dave, from the night shift, counted the money in the register and settled in his chair. The events from then on, Kevin would remember for his whole life.

Within the first hour, the first guests arrived. He heard the call rolling and the typical sound it made as it cruised across the pavement. He heard the engine stop, the doors open and slam shut, and voices as the guests filed in. He couldn’t tell how many there were until they entered the building. There was a taller, thinner man, and a shorter, but wider, black fellow as well.

“A room for two, separate beds, one night.” Said the shorter one.

They must have been on the road for days now, you could tell by their clothes. They paid in cash, and Kevin gave them their room key. He jotted down some details in the guestbook, and told them their room number.

“Watchu lookin’ at?” asked the short one.

“N-nothing, sir.” Kevin managed to reply.

“You’re lookin’ at me funny.”

He reminded Kevin of someone. This black guy, he had seen him somewhere before. He couldn’t place it, but he was certain that the face was familiar.

The two men left the lobby in search of their rooms and Kevin sat back down in his chair. He turned up the TV, and flicked through the channels to see what was on.

At about 1 in the afternoon, the two men came back down. They seemed rested, cleaner, and a lot more approachable. Perhaps, the shorter one was just grumpy from driving all night earlier. Those guests typically had an air of annoyance. They asked Kevin to recommend a restaurant nearby, and he gave them directions to a nearby local diner. They thanked him, returned the key and left the motel.

Not much happened that afternoon in the motel, nothing of any interest until the late afternoon court TV shows. He wasn’t watching it too intently, he was busy making sure all of the details he jotted down about the guests that day, lined up. And he was even more focused on the after-work barbecue party that was happening that night.

Suddenly, something caught his eye. He looked up at the TV, and his eyes grew wide. He turned up the volume, so he could hear everything clearly. It all made sense now, why the black man from this morning was familiar. He had seen him on TV before. He forgot all about the barbecue for the moment and watched intently.

He, Kevin, had given a room to a murdered, a prison escapee. The other guy had to have been his partner in crime. He felt lucky to have gotten away without any incident. If they could have tried to kill him too, he would have been helpless. It had been all up to the greater will of God, thought Kevin, that he was still alive.

The screen showed that the wider man was at large, and that a bounty had been placed on him. Anyone with information on the case was asked to pass on all that they knew to the police. It wasn’t an insurmountable sum of money, but Kevin figured that it was two birds with one stone: he saves peoples’ lives by helping the law catch them sooner, and he gets an early birthday present. The odds of the men coming back here wasn’t too great he thought, so he picked up the phone and dialed the number.

9-1-1.

Almost immediately, someone picked up.

“Hello, 9-1-1, what’s your emergency?” came a pleasant, feminine voice through the receiver.

“Uh, Hi. Hello. I had an encounter with the murderer from the TV show today. He has his partner with him. They stopped here this morning. His name is Roy James. I’m from Gypsum. Bye.” And he hung up.

He put the phone down, and rested his head on his hands for a while, before looking at the phone aimlessly for a while.

Had he done something wrong? Did he make a mistake? He told them where he was, and who he had seen. He hadn’t given out his name or the motel’s name for security’s sake. He felt he did the right thing, and even if he wasn’t getting the reward he, he had done his duty as a citizen.

  • * * * *

The air was starting to warm up outside, so I turned up the AC. The cool air came blowing in through the air vents with a soft hiss.

“So how did you meet?” I asked, trying to make small talk.

I felt, compared to the fact that I had travelled more in a car with him in the last few days than I had with my mother in my lifetime, I didn’t know him at all.

“It’s a long story. We have history, Talisha and I.” He said, not even looking my way.

“I think we have time. Unless you have something more important to do.” I said, making sure he felt a little dumb about that stupid excuse. He sighed in response and shifted to face me a little.

“It was a long time ago. We met at a youth correction facility when we were still kids. Talisha hung out on the streets rather than going to class. That’s where she started her career. She was a swindler, and the best one out there. Made more money on a good day than kids made in a month of delivering newspapers. Who could predict that a cute, innocent looking little girl was capable of pulling on over their eyes? It was her perfect weapon. She eventually did get caught, and they took her in. That’s where we met.”

“What were you in for?”

“Just a bit of a joke gone wrong. My friends bet that I didn’t have to balls to break into a car. A cop happened to be nearby, and I was caught. I was taken in, and if you look at me it won’t be hard to guess that I was beaten pretty often. As soon as a bruise healed, another took its place. I couldn’t catch a break, until Talisha showed up. She felt bad for me. She started talking to me, and as soon as she did, the beatings stopped. I don’t know what she did but I’m grateful to her forever.” He said.

His voice got lower and slower when he got to the end. I thought he was gonna break into tears.

“And after that?” I asked, hoping to get him to move onto another stage of his life, where he cried less.

“We got to leave. Almost at the same time. I moved as soon as I got out. I wanted to start a new life in a new city. That’s when I left Brooklyn. We didn’t talk for years, until one day she just decided to call me.”

“I’m guessing she wasn’t inquiring about your girlfriend. Her proposal was less romantic wasn’t it?” I joked, trying to lighten his mood. He knit his eyebrows, not appreciating the brilliance of my joke, so I returned my gaze to the road.

“No. She said she wanted to meet. She said she made some big plans that involved me. She said she needed me, and that we can get rich together.”

He finished, and looked at me finally. I tried to smile a comforting smile and gestured for him to go on with my right hand.

“I came back to the big city, and we met like she wanted to. She told me she met some rich dude. They had gotten married. Talisha told me the plan: we kill the rich one, split what he put in his will, and pin the tail on the donkey.” He said, looking right at me. I felt his gaze burning a hold into the corner of my eye.

“But you already figured that bit out, didn’t you?”

That made my blood run cold.

“So if I was in prison, as you had intended it to be, you would have still been playing bowling with a couple of twenties in your pocket?” I asked, lashing out.

“We’re just waiting for the heat to die down. It would be pretty dumb, if we just hopped on a plane together, and made plans to go anywhere. The authorities would then have a reason to investigate us, and that would be too risky.” He claimed, trying to justify his dreamgirl bailing on him.

I could hear the pain in his voice, that he felt something was wrong too, so I pressed on.

“Yeah, if you say so bud. And so why Vegas? Not enough men for her in Brooklyn?” I asked.

“She has a friend there.” He said, dodging my verbal jab.

“And why didn’t she take you with her then? Your name wasn’t on the case; apparently you had nothing to do with it. They had no reason to make you a suspect.”

“We just didn’t want to be seen together. That’s all. It’s safer this way. She is playing the role of a widow in mourning. I carry on with my routine as if nothing had ever happened.”

His eyes wandered out over the horizon to the left of the car. The sun was getting close to setting by now, so it was dark enough to look at without any permanent damage. He had given me all I needed, and moved in for the kill.

“Listen up, bucko. She pulled your down this slippery slope too. She has no intention to go ‘halfsies’ with you and her gains. She’s probably got the money bet on a 34 in roulette, or letting it trickle down a stupid slot machine. You can’t seriously be this dense! You had to have realized by now that she is sick. Either you’re too stupid to have noticed it, or too in love, but you don’t have to defend her anymore.” I told him up front.

“Shut up. You fucking smart ass. Don’t tell me what to do. She fooled you too, and I’m not the one with a murder on my hands now, so who’s got the shorter end of this stick, amigo? You fell for her short dresses and long black boots. She led you on a leash from the start.”

Everything he said was true, I had fallen for her far too hard. I ate up her lies, and fell for her trick. But I wasn’t about to let him win. I was reveling in how riled up I had got him. He didn’t seem like someone who swore a lot. He practically flinched when he called me a ‘fucking smartass’ so I was enjoying this far more than he had wanted me to.

“Well at least I can admit that I fell for her, and that she’s still nuts. You still protect her, like she was some cracked beloved toy. Here, I’ll say it out loud for you. I stuck my dick in Crazy, are you happy now?”

And that shut him up all too well. I figured she wouldn’t have included that bit, where she invited me over for champagne so I hoped my words stung like acid. He turned back to face the window and went silent. I could imagine silent tears rolling down his cheeks right now as he struggled not to cry. I couldn’t feel bad for him. The motherfucker tried to put me in jail so he could spend the rest of his days living luxuriously.

I returned my full attention to the road, and began taking in the surroundings. It was endless desert everywhere. Nothing but sand dunes, rocks, no shade or clouds, in every direction. Just endless drought. I had just occurred to me that we hadn’t even encountered another car in what had seemed to be hours. It almost felt like we were the last two people on this planet. The idea disgusted me. To be stuck on a planet with a piece of shit like this? No thank you. I’d rather strangle the fucker and claim it for myself. I entertained the thought for a little longer, until Gary spoke up again.

“She became an addict.” He said with a sigh. “A gambling addict. She claimed she wanted to perfect her little tricks. The tables knew she was cheating and kicked her out, and then she would go to a new place. Again, and again. She couldn’t stop herself anymore. Her motivation wasn’t practicing like it had been in the beginning. “

“What about her rich husband? Didn’t he have enough to keep her happy?”

“Patrick? Yeah he had money. For a while. He got tired of it after a while though. I can’t blame him. Paying off those massive debts one after the other was all Talisha needed him for. Early in the morning he would be off with a wad of cash, and a handful of apologies that were supposed to come from his wife. I don’t know if I could have done what he did.”

“Why didn’t he get a divorce?”

“They had a marriage contract. If they were to get a divorce then Talisha doesn’t get anything. If Patrick dies, then Talisha gets half of all of his property. Kinda feel bad for the guy; I really think he could have seen this coming. He would still be alive today.”

“Yeah, it’s not like Talisha is a life insurance policy herself…”

We kept on driving. Long miles passed, one after the other, silently. We took the ramp onto the I-15 and continued on with the seemingly never ending journey. About two hours later, we were speeding along the side of the Grand Canyon. Eroded by water and wind over the years, the gorgeous split rock was a delightful change of pace. The patterns formed in the side of the red rock were endless; jagged, striped, wavy, crooked. It was a mosaic painted by Mother Nature herself. I could understand why it’s considered one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. It almost made it worth coming all the way out here, even if we don’t make it to Vegas.

  • * * * *

The central distress center got the call at 4:42 from the Motel 70 from Gypsum. Just a minute later, the report had been prepared and given to the local Sheriff, and within two minutes, New York was alerted of the situation as well. Special agent Jim Sorrenson was at his desk, with his feet up on the table eating a box of takeout stir fry, when Agent Lacroix burst through the door.

“They found Roy James. He’s in Colorado. We just got this information from the local police.”

Now, Special agent Sorrenson had seen a lot in his time, and wasn’t surprised easily, but this caught him off guard. They hadn’t heard anything about the case ever since they had taken it from Lieutenant Baker. He hadn’t even hoped to get much further with it, let alone find the guy. James never showed up in his office or his home. Sorrenson was giving the men put on watch duty till the end of the week to report anything new and then pulling them back since they weren’t getting anywhere.

“The technician is preparing a layout in the briefing room.”

“Get the locals out of there. This is my case, and I don’t want them mucking things up.”

The technician was waiting in the briefing room for Sorrenson. He was a thin, male with ivory glasses who had recently finished college. He and Sorrenson took a seat across from each other. Agent Susan Miller joined them, Sorrenson’s partner. She was average height, with dirty blonde hair and just into her thirties. Her two front teeth were a little crooked but it only made her cuter. Her green eyes were filled with electricity, even when it was time to clock out. The technician was changing some settings on the hi-fi, then exchanged a glance with the two men by the door. They nodded in response and closed the door. The sound of static struck their ears as the audio file began to play, and soon enough they could hear the voices of a caller and the dispatch center.

Hello, 9-1-1, what’s your emergency?

Sorrenson was thinking about how many times per day the dispatch center has to make these calls. How often they pick up the phone and ask for all the personal information that they already see on their screens. Hundreds? Thousands? Is it as stressful for them not knowing what happens next after they send out fire fighters or ambulance, or can they rest easy knowing they did their best and that all they could do?

Uh, Hi. Hello. I had an encounter with the murderer from the TV show today. He has his partner with him. They stopped here this morning. His name is Roy James. I’m from Gypsum. Bye.

The playback, stopped, and the agents took a deep breath sharing puzzled looks.

“This whole thing is a mystery to me. What on earth is James doing in the desert?” asked Sorrenson.

“And who is his partner?” inquired the third agent.

“Lacroix!” called Sorrenson. “Call whoever gave us this information, and find out who reported it.”

Sorrenson didn’t have to go back to his office, since three different lines were connected to the briefing room. While he was on the phone, the technician checked out to busy himself with some other task, closing the door quietly after himself. A couple minute later, Lacroix came in holding a piece of paper, and Sorrenson let himself get worked up a little bit. This was crucial to getting to the bottom of the case.

“A certain Kevin Beaton reported encountering the pair. He’s a clerk at a local Motel 70, in Gypsum.”

“All right. Let’s just summarize all that has happened then. We have a motel clerk who has reported seeing Roy James in the middle of nowhere. He was with someone else, a male, who will call his partner. This is all that’s certain. The rest is all just theories and ideas.”

A couple seconds of silence passed Sorrenson’s face depicted he was deep in thought about something.

“Susan, get the team together, and get a us a flight to Denver. We need to leave as soon as possible. Lacroix, you’re gonna stay here and be our anchor. I want you to find out who his partner might be. Look for any childhood friends, or anything in his history that might make sense here. If we learn anything new, we will contact each other and share the information as a soon as we can. We’re gonna catch this bastard.”

[] CHAPTER 8

As we got closer to the city, the scene changed. More and more billboards came up along the road, trying to give us fun or romantic ways to spend our next few nights. We passed by the famous red/white/blue neon Vegas sign. We went in circles for a little bit until we found a cheap old motel at the edge of the city. Just like the last one, it had a simple layout. Only one floor, rooms side by side. There was Mercedes Convertible in front of one of the rooms. They were the only guest at the moment. The prices for the rooms were listed on a big white sign by the parking lot entrance. They also advertised cable TV, an AC, a continental breakfast and accommodation for pets. It was one of those shitholes where you bring a prostitute for a good fuck then ditch in an hour or two.

“Lucky you.” I said to Gary.

“What?” he asked

“We can bring pets inside. I won’t have to leave you locked in the car.” I said keeping a completely straight face.

We parked in front of the entrance and went in. Once again, I went ahead and Gary followed close behind. The AC was humming loudly, but the room didn’t feel any cooler than the outside. There was a tired looking old man behind the reception. On top of showing my face on TV, they apparently also featured it in the papers now, and it’s only been a few days since my escape from the Brooklyn police. I would have to be super careful with where I step from now on. This would be a little easier with Gary by my side. It’s easier to blend in if you’re not alone. We approached the receptionist, who showed no sign of surprise or disbelief. I bet he would have worn the same look of boredom if Edward Scissorhands came in and asked for a warm glass of brake fluid. I paid for a night for two, and we went to our room. I was under a hot shower before unpacking. I just needed to wash the dirt and grime from our trip off as soon as possible.

When I got out, Gary and I agreed on dinner since we were both hungry. There was a little diner a short walk away. Gary showed no signs of trying to escape or getting attention. He just walked beside me in calmly. In a strangers eyes, I couldn’t imagine them seeing anything weird. A pair of guys in Vegas, maybe catching up on the good old times maybe hitting up some casinos. But no one would expect one of us to be an escaped murderer who was using a weapon to keep the other under hand.

We found and empty table and took a seat near the entrance. I sat so I could see both the main entrance the entire front of the diner through the window too.

Gary pulled up a chair and sat down across from me. It seemed as if he had some time to think on the way here and that our little talks had gotten to him. He realized not that he too had been cheated. Of course, he had known it for a while, but even his emotions agreed now. He looked beaten, like he had given up. I figured i wouldn’t be only asking questions if we caught Talisha.

A thin waitress approached our table. She looked like she’s in her twenties. She took our orders. We both got burgers, fries and onion rings with icy cokes. We ate silently, just enjoying being through with our ordeal of getting here.

“Vegas is pretty big, and always full of life. I’m not quite sure how you imagine we’re going to find her.” He said, as soon as he finished his burger.

“This money in my pocket is getting to me. I figured we could hit up a few Casinos, check them out.” I replied.

“So you think that we can waltz into a Casino and we will find Talisha there waiting for us to take her home and give her a good scolding? Come on Roy.” He said, clearly not liking my idea.

“You’re too pessimistic. That’s your problem, right there. Let loose man! The sooner we find her, the more of your money you can recover.” I said, and waved the waitress over.

“I’ll have an apple pie, and him…” left the sentence hanging and pointed at Gary who shook his head, and held his stomach gesturing he was full. “… he will sit there and watch.” The waitress laughed and left to get me my pie. I ate it and left her a nice tip.

As soon as we opened the diner’s door, the heat of the desert slapped us in the face. I swear, even the asphalt was sweating. It had to be at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit. We started back towards the hotel. Looking at Gary, he was still wearing that wrinkled bowling shirt, in which I took him hostage. I hadn’t changed shirts since my capture either. The little blood specks had turned a rusty brown. There was no casino that would let us in like this.

“Now, I say we buy some new clothes.” I said and pointed at one of the bigger blood specks on my shirt. He nodded, and grunted in agreement.

We found a thrift shop, which are actually quite common in Vegas apparently. The new pants and shirts didn’t cost much more than the motel room. Wearing pressed, clean shirts is a feeling only a select few will appreciate but Gary and I appreciated them on a whole other level.

  • * * * *

Two figures stepped towards the door. He watched them intently. It was a man and a woman. The man appeared to be in his fifties, and wore a coat even though it had to be above 85 Fahrenheit. The woman looked at least 10 years younger. They definitely weren’t from the area, because all of the locals were familiar with each other around these parts. The door swung open and for a minute, the pair just stood there. They were appreciating the change in climate, and thanking the AC unit. They walked over to the counter.

“Kevin Beaton?” Asked the man in the coat.

The receptionist’s face changed to shock when hearing his own name from these strangers. It became clear when they took out their badges that they belonged to the New York Department of Justice. But then they seemed rather lost.

“We would like to ask you a few questions.” Said the woman.

“How did you know that I called?” Kevin asked, his voice had more than just a hint of panic.

“We haven’t said why we are here yet, Kevin.” Spoke in turn, the man.

Kevin’s heart sank. He really goofed this up. He gave himself away.

“I mean, why are you here?” He tried lazily to fix his previous error.

“We want to hear it from your personally. What happened? How did it happen?” the woman told him.

“I don’t want any trouble. I don’t want to get involved.”

“You won’t. You just have to tell us everything you know, and then we can take care of the rest.”

“He won’t come back, will he? What if he comes back?” asked Kevin.

The woman took out a black and white photo from the dossier she was carrying.

“This is the guy you don’t want to see come back, right?”

“Yeah that’s him.”

The two experienced agents looked at each other, then back at Kevin.

“What makes you so sure?”

“I-I don’t know. From the moment I laid eyes on him, he looked familiar, like I had seen his face before. I didn’t recognize his mug shots. That wasn’t it. I just know I’ve seen that face somewhere before.”

“He’s been on TV before. He was a professional boxer for some time.

Although an odd alibi, it was believable and made sense. Criminals who had a previous career involving media are five times more likely to be caught or recognized by others.

They went outside back to the sedan they got from the local station, trying to recount all they had progressed with that day. There was a very high chance that James was here with an unnamed partner. It made sense that they would pay by cash, it couldn’t be traced as easily, but they couldn’t quite figure out why they would have been heading west.

Suddenly, the URH radio in the car went off. Sorrenson reached in through the rolled down window, and replied to the call.

“Special Agent Sorrenson here.”

“Sir, there was another Agent, Agent Lacroix from New York, who wanted to talk to you on the phone.

  • * * * *

I took another shower at the motel, and then it seemed that the time to search had come. I packed my Colt, just in case. We got in the Cadillac, and left the parking lot to look for Talisha. I just followed my gut instinct. It was like finding a needle in a haystack so I couldn’t rely on much else. I tried to think like she would; any place that seemed to me that she wouldn’t like it, we turned around and kept on going. No point in wasting time. The first casino we checked out was on the ground floor of a large hotel. We rolled into the parking lot and the valet came to park the car as soon as we got out. I gave him the keys and he took it to a lot. We walked inside to take a look at whatever the game room had to hide.

There was no moon in the sky that evening, but it was still light even well into the night. The buildings covered in fancy screens and neon lights were all aglow. I couldn’t believe it before, but I could see why now, that if you look at the earth from space, even at night it still lit. Day in, day out, the lights, much like the people, never slept. The energy wasted was immaculate. Just to power these silly advertisements for a year, cost them $32,000,000. Un-fucking-believable. And meanwhile, we complain when 2 million of our tax dollars goes to renewing unused roads. Don’t even get me started on the water usage here. Anywhere suburban, the grass was green. This was in part of course due the high fertilizer usage, but also the regular watering of the lawns. But since Las Vegas in the middle of the desert, I doubt that came cheap. It obviously didn’t have its own water supply to use for that, so they probably run it in from somewhere. Now, water moves for one of two reasons: it runs downhill, or there is some energy moving it forward. That energy here comes in the form of pressure and is generated by huge turbines that spin due to electricity, once again, greatly boosting the electricity bill for the city of Las Vegas. Lucky for us, we aren’t on a “Save the Rivers” tour so we won’t be hearing anymore of that, but it is food for thought. The less we worry about the impact of Las Vegas on the earth, the sooner we can find Talisha and get out of here.

Inside the casino, we were greeted by a huge room. And I mean huge. About the size of a football field, all covered in tables and slot machines, and tons of other types of games. The sounds of laughter and chatter were masked by the colorful beeps and bloops of the slot machines and the clinking of glasses. The smell of fragrances and colognes was covered by the thick smoke and the sweat. I assumed it was an acquired taste. I looked over at one of the poker tables. The dealers were fast and precise, dealing cards in a perfectly distinguishable stack in front of the players, but I could hardly followed their hands with my eyes. We continued on deeper into the depths of the game room. The slot machines were plentiful, and hundreds of different types could be found, but there were never more than two people per machine. The larger crowds typically had gathered around poker tables and roulette tables.

We went further and further, looking at faces, trying find the familiar one. I told Gary to keep an eye on the left of the aisle we went down, and I would watch the right. I made I could get a clear look at everyone playing. We were pretty thorough but neither I, nor Gary found her. We started back towards the exit, but switched sides, just in case someone missed it, then the other might get a better view, or have a better eye and went back in the direction we came from, but ended with the same results.

So we were not so lucky with our first bet and left the casino eventually. I took out a $10 bill and give it to the Valet as he got out of our car. He gave us a quick thanks and hurried on to the next guests.

The second Casino was very similar to the first. In fact, the only major differences were some of the machines, and the uniforms of the waiters and dealers. And the giant fountain in the middle of the floor. The night already seemed too short. We were running out of hours, it would be dusk soon, and a lot of people took a nap during the day to take a break from their gambling. We didn’t have this kind of time to lose. With me gaining notoriety through media, and Gary losing money every second, we had to find her as soon as we could. I started working like a computer: I told myself I am looking for a blonde woman in her thirties. I automatically overlooked anyone that didn’t fit the description, and this actually sped me up a great deal. I only snapped back to reality when Gary patted me on the shoulder.

“Hey man, I gotta go to the bathroom.” He said.

“Go for it, I’ll wait for you.” I nodded

He rushed over the restrooms and he went in. I walked over to the wall, scanning the room while waiting for him. Both were fruitless, I couldn’t find Talisha, and Gary never showed up either. I had to have been waiting for at least 20 minutes by this point time, and still no Gary. People were coming and going and I was watching them, recording their faces. I went in to see what was up. There were two men by the urinals, but neither were Gary. The stalls were all open and empty. Gary had seemingly ditched me.

I was leaving through the door, deep in thought when I bumped into an elderly looking man, about sixty years old.

“Sorry sir, I’m just looking for someone.” I told him, and brushed off his blazer.

“It seems everyone is losing someone tonight. I lost a beautiful little blonde myself.” He said with a wink. I smiled back and continued on my way for about six steps when I froze in place. It all became clear now. I don’t know how I missed it. Gary didn’t have to go to the bathroom. He saw Talisha at a table, ditched me to warn her and ran off.

I was back in the Cadillac, thinking about what to do next. They obviously didn’t want to risk me spotting them so they would have left the casino entirely. They probably checked out of gambling for the night too. I headed down the street slowly, trying to get a glimpse of the pedestrians, but I was pretty skeptical myself.

The feeling of helplessness took over. I cursed myself, Gary, the Cadillac. Anything I could set my sights on. Fuck everything. How could I trust that little prick that tried throwing my ass in jail so he could sit in comfort? Not making that mistake again, that’s for sure. What the fuck am I doing? I’m sitting in the middle of Vegas with close to no money, in a car that doesn’t belong to me. On top of that, the police are on my trail for murder. I was exhausted, and had lost all hope. My only chance to prove my innocence had gone up in smoke.

The sooner I can get in a bed and get a good night’s rest, the sooner I can wake up fresh, and worry about catching up to them again. I was too tired to think straight. I would try again tomorrow, I decided. I headed back to the motel to lay in bed. When I parked the car, the convertible was still there, but there were two people packing in its trunk. I got out and started heading towards my door, when I heard the voices whispering, it was a man and woman, as far I could tell. I went around to investigate. I couldn’t believe my luck.

I recognized them from their silhouettes and their movements immediately. It was Talisha and Gary. The dream team. I had to rub my eyes and remember to close my mouth. I got back in the Cadillac before they realized my presence. I pulled back out and drove up behind the Mercedes making sure they couldn’t leave in their car. I jumped out of the car and grabbed Gary by his neck. I used my momentum to swing him around and threw him at the door with full force. Talisha screamed as he crashed through it tearing it off of its hinges and landing on the door. Considering how thick Motel doors are, that was pretty impressive. He laid on the ground gasping for breath as I turned to face Talisha. I grabbed her by the hand and pulled her in behind me and shoved her towards the bed, where she took a seat. I pulled Gary in and stood the door up, closing it the best I could.

“Leaving without a goodbye, Gary? That’s pretty cold of you, I thought we were closer than that.” I said as he started standing up. “You too missy. Didn’t your mother teach you better than that? I think old Mr. Moneybags is still looking for you.” I continued, to Talisha this time.

She seemed to take offence to this because she stood up and starting beating my chest, and yelling.

I shoved her away and she fell to the floor.

“You’re supposed to be in jail!” She wailed.

“Surprise! Also, I’m claustrophobic. Sorry doll.”

Gary took this opportunity to man up. He lunged at me and tackled me to the floor. He sat up on my chest and started pummeling my face. When he stopped for a second to catch his breath and see if I’m out cold, I opened my eyes.

“Is that all you got big boy? I thought you somehow got your act together since we’ve been talking, but clearly you’re still working on that.” I taunted.

His face turned bright red and he went for another swing. I was torn between letting it connect and catching his fist with my hand, but I felt I needed it to wake up so I let it through. At the moment of impact, I sat up, pushing him backwards, but I also brought my knee up and kneed him in the back. He arched his back trying to numb the pain so I punched him in the stomach as hard as I could. He doubled over trying to catch his breath again. He was gasping for air and rolled off of me. Talisha screamed again and started kicking me in the side with her pointy-nosed stilettos. Although they weren’t doing any damage, they did hurt quite a bit. I caught her leg, and rolled like and alligator, bringing her to the ground too. I jumped to my feet quickly and kicked Gary in the stomach making sure he’s staying down.

I took the Colt out of my pants and pointed it at Talisha. Gary won’t be much of a threat for the rest of this little scuffle.

“Now, were all going to get in the motherfucking car, and have a lovely little trip. Are we clear? Any questions? No? Good.”

Talisha was almost glowing with hatred, she started to protest.

“Shut the fuck up, bitch. I am this close to making sure you stay here, and never make it to Brooklyn.” I said, and held my index finger and thumb really close together.

She stood up and I shoved her towards the door.

“Move it, cunt.”

She glared at me, but stayed silent. I bent over to help Gary up by his arms.

We walked out to the car. There was light coming from the reception. I took a look at the door, the old receptionist man was standing there, his face as blank as ever. He did a little headshake of disappointment. I ignored it and got in the car, in the driver’s seat. Gary was beside me, and Talisha in the back behind him. I turned the ignition and we left lot, unknowing that we would never make it back, not together.

  • * * * *

Sorrenson and his partner were in the Eagle police station, just a few miles from Gypsum. They had both unbuttoned the top buttons on their shirts to fight against the heat. Sorrenson was hung up the phone but immediately started dialing again. Although he was calling a number 1200 miles away, someone picked up after a few seconds.

“Lacroix here.”

“Lacroix, this is Sorrenson.”

“Sir! I have some news!”

“Out with it son. Let’s do this.”

“So i did a little research on James’ history. I got nothing from that though. Literally nothing. Not until he got into his boxing career. Now he has a private business. He works with nobody, so that didn’t help much either. No affiliates, no sponsors, nothing. It’s like as if he doesn’t have a relation with any of his clients.”

“Thanks Lacroix. It’s a start, but we will need more. Keep on searching.”

Sorrenson hung up glanced over at Agent Miller. He got an idea. He called the local police office.

“Special Agent Sorrenson here. We are tasked with finding Roy James. Could you get someone from forensics to go to the Motel-70 in Gypsum and dust for prints? They will tell you which room to search.”

Miller looked at Sorrenson curiously, who shrugged his shoulders and smiled.

“Come on, let’s take a lunch break.”

Miller and Sorrenson didn’t get back to the office for another hour and half. The prints from the motel were all filed neatly and placed on the desk assigned to Sorrenson. He picked on up and gave it to Miller.

“Let’s get someone to run a quick scan on these. You never know until you know. He might just have a background already.”

“I will find someone who can do this for you.” Offered Miller and she was already off.

“Don’t go too far! I think we need to check back at the motel soon.”

“I doubt that receptionist could tell us anything new, sir.” said Miller.

“I don’t want to talk. I just want a room.”

They asked for the same room that James and his companion had taken for the evening. They looked around to see if any traces had been left that would be of use to their investigation, or anything out of place at all. They were simply doing it out of habit, rather than hope. They didn’t expect to find anything, because these rooms were cleaned every day. The door handles and many surfaces that are frequently touched were covered in graphite powder. The forensics unit had left those there when they were searching for prints. It didn’t bother them at all because they just wanted to use the bed. The overnight flight had exhausted them, and they still suffered from jet lag. The extreme heat wasn’t easing their case. Special Agent Sorrrenson knew that a well-deserved rest would bring progression, and the little annoyances would no longer be the hindrances they were being.

Merely a quarter of an hour later the phone rang, waking them up. The receptionist was on the line.

“Sir, you are needed at the station.” Came the message.

So they had found a match after all. All feelings of exhaustion were gone from Sorrenson now. Finally, they had another clue, and a big one, to zeroing in on James. A trail they could follow, a scent they could pick up. They hurried back to the base as fast as they could, to learn more about this secretive partner.

His name was Gary Palmer. Born in New York. He had a criminal record from trying to break into a car when he was 15. He was in a youth correctional facility for two years and had gone clean since. Or was never caught. But his record said he was clean.

“What would a guy like this be doing with a murderer like James?” Asked Agent Miller.

“I have no clue.”

“Let’s call Lacroix. Maybe he got somewhere too.”

They dialed the station back in New York again and got connected.

“We have the second identity. We are faxing you the details right now.”

“Mhmm, got it right here…. Palmer? This guy, Gary Palmer?”

“Do you know him?”

“Never even heard of him.”

“Didn’t you come across him while searching James’ history?” asked Sorrenson.

“No sir. I would remember something like that.”

Miller dialed the Youth Correction Facility where palmer spent two year of his life. However that was close to thirty years ago. None of the staff had been there for that so they were no help at all.

“Sir, if I remember correctly, you said that the suspect was heading west, right?” asked Lacroix.

“That’s correct” replied Sorrenson.

“I tried to get in touch with the victim’s wife, if she maybe knew a thing or two about Palmer or James. She wasn’t at home. In fact, she’s not even in town. She left to Vegas on the day of James’ arrest. It gets better though.”

“Let’s hear it son.” Sorrenson felt his heart pounding, and adrenaline coursing through his body.

“Mrs. Kirkwood, she too spent time in the same correctional facility as Palmer. At the same time.”

“That’s my man, Lacroix!” Sorrensons practically yelled. They were hot on the trail once again. He hung up the phone and slowly turned to face Agent Miller.

“What’s going on, sir?” She asked.

“How do you feel about gambling and prostitutes, Miller?”

“Not again…”

  • * * * *

The motel receptionist reached for the phone as the suspicious vehicle pulled out of the parking lot. He was on the night shift, so this was very unusually. He was dozing off when he heard the tires squealing on the pavement. He heard the shouting, screaming and a loud crash. He didn’t feel safe enough to go outside to investigate so he watched from the lobby window. He saw the black sedan behind the red Mercedes with its trunk open.

Soon enough he found the people making the racket, the only people who were checked in at this time. There was a blonde woman with a limp who had been here for a few days. Her hair was now a mess and her dress straps were sliding off to the sides. There were two men behind her, those who arrived today. One of them was double over and seemed drugged. The larger one looked and made eye contact with him. The receptionist was glad he didn’t go outside, because he noticed the weapon in the larger man’s hand.

He slid more to the side of the window but continued watching. They got in the car, and quickly drove off.

He didn’t know what to do. He felt it was his duty to report it. What is they caused more problems elsewhere and it caused someone to get hurt? He couldn’t live with that possibility, so he called the police to make a report.

The two special agents were called at 9:55 in the evening. They were already in Vegas, and someone from a motel had reported that two men and a woman were disturbing the peace. They said that the suspects had made a clean getaway but one of them had a gun.

The local police had already been dispatched with multiple patrollers around the scene, with two officers per vehicle. There were three choppers in the air, and were on the lookout for a red Mercedes.

Sorrenson and his partner were in a black sedan, listening to the events and individual teams’ updates on the URH radio. Agent Miller had a map in her lap, opened up so they could follow specifically where teams were visually as well.

Amongst the reports, they finally heard what they were waiting for: one of the patrollers had found a red Mercedes.

Agent Miller turned on the siren, and Sorrenson stepped on the gas, and they started towards Flamingo Road.

[] CHAPTER 9

I tried to calm down as I left the lot but I was too worked up. I tried to focus on the road instead. I didn’t push it. I went at a normal pace, blending in with the rest of the traffic. I had no reason to be in a rush, but I also could hardly wait to get home. I felt like a cat bringing home a bird I caught. I couldn’t wait to show the police station back home what I had found. I just had to manage for another day or two to stay unnoticed.

I heard sirens in the distance. Vegas was a busy place, so it was no surprise. I just hoped that the receptionist at the motel wasn’t too quick to call the cops. I should have paid for the damages, to keep his mouth shut. There could be hundreds of other reasons for sirens to be going off at this hour. Some poor sucker had too much to drink and needed his stomach pumped, or a bar fight, or outside of a casino two old friends got into a financial disagreement.

But I guess my luck had actually just run out. I spotted the flashing red and blue lights in my rear-view mirror. They followed us for half a minute before using the speakerphone to tell me to pull over.

I got off the center of the road and went as far as I could to the side. When I got close enough to the next intersection, I turned right down a tiny one way street, instead of the brakes like they had wanted me to. I had no intention of stopping. Not when I was so close to my goal. This was not fair.

I proceeded to take sudden turns and speeding up, trying to lose the cruiser that was behind me. Suddenly out of nowhere, a black Chevy rolled up beside us. It was too fast and had too many antennas to be a normal car.

“For fuck’s sake!” I yelled.

I yanked the wheel to the left to go down the street where the Chevy came from. I took in the turn sharp enough that Gary’s head smashed against the door, as did Talisha’s. If I didn’t have the steering wheel to hang on to, I would have fallen into Gary’s lap. As I cut across in front of them, I made eye contact with the driver. He had a thick, dark, mustache, and an icy glare. On the seat next to his, there was a female agent. We had gone too far past before I was able to make any other notable observations about her though. They had to have been special agents. Only they have those vehicles. Great. So the fucking FBI was on my trail now too.

“Lose them!” shouted Talisha.

“The fuck you think I’m trynna do?” I shouted back.

I turned around, when I had a chance. I partially wanted to remind Talisha who was the boss around here, and I also wanted to check to see who else was behind us. The sedan did a U-turn and followed us right back down the street it just came through. It really stepped on it, the front of the car lifted in the air a little, like a Boeing-747 taking off. I could see a thick dark smoke coming from its wheels.

“The FBI wants to talk to us.” I tried to say as nonchalantly as I could command myself to.

“Step on it man!” Gary yelled at me.

“You shut your face.” Talisha took the words right out of my mouth. “Besides, what the fuck are you even doing here?”

“What on earth do you mean? ‘What are you doing here?’” Gary reminded her. “Half of the money is mine.” Gary turned in his seat to look her in the eyes. I heard Talisha scoff.

“Nothing belongs to you. That money is mine. The will has mine name on it.” I could imagine her face and her rolling her eyes.

“Belonged.” I corrected “This addict probably spent your half in the first two days.” I could feel the tension rising in the car.

“One thing, Gary!” Screamed Talisha. “I asked for one thing. Get me some shit-bag we can pin this on. You messed that up too. And then you lead him right to me! I don’t know why I ever trusted you. You’re the biggest screw up I know.”

“How was I to know that he’s so persistent?” Gary replied defensively.

Although this argument was getting interesting, and I was even earning a few compliments, I had to return my focus to the road and our pursuers. The sirens had changed, and I just noticed why. Two more cruisers had joined the chase.

Vegas is filled with traffic, even at night. Luckily the lights change often enough that you almost never had to wait too long at an intersection. There were however enough cars on the road that I had to swerve frequently. I could avoid them with ease though, most of the time. I did have to go into the oncoming lane from time to time to get around the traffic on our side when it got too heavy, but I could manage. The car felt close to tipping every time I made a sharp turn. The sirens had been further accented by the horns of the traffic.

Suddenly, many things happened all at once. We were greeted by a very bright light that enveloped everything around us. It was like someone turned the headlights on us and they were following our every move. Except these were head lights per se, they were helicopter searchlights. There were also two police cars coming straight at us, head on, side by side. Just over quarter mile between us, and that was quickly closing. They showed no signs of slowing down, as neither did we. It was the riskiest game of chicken I had ever been challenged to. The police behind us also changed formation to line up, forming a wall behind us.

Things, as cliché as it sounds, were looking pretty bleak. I didn’t feel as if we were about to lose though. Even though I knew that we had seven cop cars on our trail and a chopper.

There was a deafening bang. It was a familiar sound, but I didn’t want to believe that it had really happened. It was the sound of a hand gun going off right by my ear. Time seemed to stop. I lost all sense of reality. I looked to my right, and saw what I had feared. There was Gary, slumping forward, but caught in time. There was a large chunk missing from his head. Blood covered most of everything to my right. Gary was slumped over the glove box in the middle the car. I could even see the exit wound on his face, and it wasn’t something I wanted to. I turned my head further to look at Talisha. She had the Colt I took back in Williamsburg in her hands. She had specks of blood all over her face, it was rather gruesome. Her eyes were filled with fear, and hatred. The gun must have fallen from my pocket with all the hard turns and she had picked it up without me noticing it. I had lost contact with anything human while driving, and trying to keep us alive. They had continued fighting and it escalated, until it was physical. That’s when she must have gotten fed up and pulled the trigger.

I returned my focus to the road. Just in time too. Another millisecond and we would have had one of the worst head on collisions Vegas had ever seen. Instead we were rewarded with grazing along the side of one of the oncoming cars. At the speed we were going, this sudden upset of motion caused us to drift out of control, and I needed all the luck in the world the regain any control of the vehicle. This caused Talisha to be through against the door again, and I heard the gun fall to the floor of the Mercedes again. I felt safe knowing that I couldn’t be shot for about five seconds at least.

The police seemed to really want us caught. There were more and more of them. There were four cruisers parked across the street in front of us, causing a roadblock. Two officers stood behind each and every car, guns at the ready.

Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Four rapid bangs, right after each other. The wheels were blown. I hadn’t seen it stretched across the road and had driven right over it. I lost whatever little control I had over the vehicle immediately. The wheel was torn from my grip, and I slammed on the brakes for what little it counted for. I skidded to a slow halt.

In front of us, there were four cruisers, eight officers, all armed. Behind us, there had to be just as much, if not more, plus the FBI agents. The sirens screamed on, and the chopper above us was getting louder. The red little Mercedes sat in the middle of the road, in everyone’s crosshairs, like a deer in the headlights. We had no way out.

I opened the door, and stuck one leg out. I stepped onto the pavement with my hands in the air. I took a few steps away from the car. Officers ran at me from all directions, guns aimed at my chest. They were all yelling something, but unless someone as to turn the sirens off, they weren’t getting through to me. They stopped a short distance me, not lowering their weapons for a second.

“Put your hands on your head, and kneel down on the ground nice and slowly.”

I lowered to my knees, and placed my empty hands on my head. I was shoved forward onto my face. I felt a knee on my back and felt my hands get handcuffed. That was the second time this week.

One Week Later

I was sitting in my office, with my feet up on my chair, leaning back. No one was after me, no one was looking for me. They got the whole story sorted out. Talisha confessed after her capture, hoping that it would get her out sooner. She told them about the murder, about her partner. She was going to jail for two counts of murder in the first degree and wasn’t getting a chance for a hearing for at least five years. I admit, she is in a better place now, hopefully she can seek some rehab for her addiction and get that problem sorted out too. She gave me a call before they took her in, saying that if I waited for her, we could spend the rest of our lives together happily. I told her I’m not a huge fan of long term commitment or old cunts, and that’s the last I heard from her.

It was relaxing, just lazing around like I hadn’t done for a bit over three weeks now. I almost missed having nothing to do. The phone rang, but I didn’t have the willpower to sit up and pick up. The events from the past few weeks sure made work interesting once again. I got some media coverage; I made it onto TV to tell my story about how I was framed and I cleared my name, I had some newspaper articles written about me that appeared all over Brooklyn so the job offers kept on coming in. This was my seven seconds of fame. Eventually it will be all over, and everything will get back to how it was before, but I’ll do my best to enjoy it while it lasts. The new thing will pop up soon enough and I’ll be forgotten about, but that was the greatest part of it. I stood up, opened my cigarette case and picked one out. I could probably use a vacation soon. I stood on my feet for a minute and star at my name backwards on the door leading to my office. I put the cigarette back in the case and chuck the whole thing. It’s time I kick the habit. I don’t need a vacation, but a whole revision of my life. There were lots of things I felt I could change for the better. Maybe I’ll start training again.

I took a piece of paper from my pocket. It had Corinne scribbled on it, and her number. She was the “bad girl” from Williamsburg. She said she wants to get her life back on track too, so we had been talking. I slipped the paper back in my pocket, and grabbed my jacket.

I headed down to the parking lot and got in my car. I had a meeting with a new client, and with him came a new job. Life is never a dull moment in Brooklyn.


BLIND LUCK

Roy James, is an ex-boxer who now runs a debt-collecting business. One day, a beautiful woman appears at his office and asks for his help. Her husband is a violent brute and she asks Roy to change his habits. Although a seemingly simple job at first, there seems to be a lot more going on behind the scenes than Roy first expected. The police get involved and the chase leads all the way to Vegas so Roy can clear his name and keep his business clean.

  • Author: Reggie Stanford
  • Published: 2016-10-16 21:35:15
  • Words: 33684
BLIND LUCK BLIND LUCK