I KNOW YOU?
Adams watched from his parked car as the guy he had been tailing for the last
two days staggered out of Rizzo’s Dew Drop Inn.
Johnny already had the engine running, and in five seconds he slammed
into the guy just as he had made it to the middle of the street.
quickly wiped the steering wheel for prints, jumped out of the car, wiped the
door handle, and yelled, “Hey, stop him!
He just ran this guy over!”
wasn’t much pedestrian traffic at that time of night, but those who were on the
street looked in the direction Johnny was pointing, and some started off after
“him.” A couple of others were on their
cell phones, probably calling 911.
I saw the whole thing,” said Johnny. “I
was right here on the sidewalk, waitin’ to cross, when this guy, the dead guy,
came outta that bar. This car came like
a bat outta hell and smacked him as he got to the middle of the street. Knocked
him twenty feet, at least. The driver jumped out and ran off in that
you describe him?” asked Officer Ned Brown.
it was kinda dark, but he was well-dressed, ya know; nice suit. It was dark
blue or black. Oh, and I just remembered; he had a rag or
something that he wiped the door handle with.
Like he was cleanin’ somethin’ off it.”
short, young, old; any unusual characteristics?”
don’t know; sorta regular, I guess.
Maybe six feet tall, well built.
Maybe about thirty; he ran pretty good.
Could’na been much older than thirty then, right?”
else you can tell us?”
“Nope. He took off runnin’
and never looked back
may be in touch with you, Mr. …, Mr. Edwards,” said the officer, looking at the
ID Johnny had given him. “Are you going
to be in town?”
sure am. I ain’t goin’ nowhere.”
Adams, a private investigator by trade, had stolen that car just a half hour
before he killed Lance Nichols with it.
He had shown the police a very good set of fake ID and they would never
be able to connect him to the murder.
they identified Lance Nichols, a hired gun with a long rap sheet, they would
assume this was a revenge crime as payback from somebody Lance had
were right about that. Johnny Adams was
the one who had been wronged and he had wanted revenge.
was not how Johnny normally took care of business. He would be the first to
tell you that he was
totally out of control.
had been going well for Johnny for almost six months. He had helped a client,
locate her lost husband. Allan Ralston,
an import/export wheeler-dealer, had disappeared after telling her he was going
to Iran to purchase some antique Persian rugs.
legwork found that Allan Ralston had actually gone to South America to run away
from gambling debts owed to the Russian Mafia.
He was found, but he was found dead.
and Johnny had hit it off from the get-go, and while their relationship wasn’t
serious, they did enjoy each other’s company and liked to go out on the town
now and then for a few laughs.
of their favorite places to go, was a little dive bar in Queens called The Shot
Glass. Long-time bartender, Sam Johnson,
was a personal friend of Johnny’s and that friendship was the reason Johnny was
out of control. It seemed that somebody
had tried to get to Johnny through Sam and Johnny didn’t like that. He
didn’t like that at all.
how ya feelin’ today,” said Johnny.
was visiting his friend, Sam, at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in
Queens. The swelling had gone down on
Sam’s head, but his normal vibrant chocolate brown coloring was still a little
I’m a little better; got some of those tubes out and I’m takin’ some solid
food. Food’s not that good, but better
than gettin’ it through an IV.”
still feel bad about you gettin’ beat up and almost killed because of me,” said
closing time one night last week, Sam had been emptying some trash in a dumpster
outside of The Shot Glass when somebody, Sam was pretty sure it was Lance
Nichols, had sucker punched him and then followed that up with some vicious
kicks to his head.
worry about it, Johnny, it wasn’t your fault.
That Russian Mafia wanted to send a message and they used Lance Nichols
to deliver it. It’s him I’m gonna have a
talk to up close and personal when I’m all healed.”
about Lance Nichols; don’t mention his name to the cops if they question you
some more. We should just keep —”
gonna handle Lance,” said Sam. “He’s
that’s kinda why I’m here this early in the morning. If you’re
reading the paper or watching the
news later, you might learn that Lance was killed last night in a hit and run
accident. It wouldn’t be good if Lance
was now somehow connected to you and me —”
stared at Johnny for a bit before saying, “I said I was going to handle
it. You had no right taking that away
think the mob’s still pissed about my part in sending Ralston’s partner,
Richard Payton, to prison before they could collect any of the money he and
Ralston owed them,” said Johnny. “They
also never got any from Allan Ralston —”
it, Johnny. I know you’re trying to
distract me. I think you should
leave. And when I get out of here, you
can come around to The Shot Glass and apologize. I may be ready to accept your
did you stop in to see Sam this morning?” asked Jennifer Ralston.
were sitting in Jennifer’s living room having a glass of wine. “I
hadn’t heard from you in a couple days and
was starting to get a little worried.”
had some things to sort out and take care of.
And yeah, I saw Sam. He’s gettin’
better, but was kinda crabby,” said Johnny.
he was upset because you got into his business last night.”
“What? What are you talkin’
Johnny. “What business?”
know damn well what I’m talking about.
That was a stupid stunt you pulled and you’re not stupid. What’s
gotten into you?”
wasn’t about to let that Russian mob think they could get away with almost
killin’ one of my friends cuz they had a beef with me,” said Johnny.
wasn’t about you,” said Jennifer. “They
had a beef with Sam and they sent him a message. Sam will be more careful from
out. That will be better for everyone
do I get the feeling that once again I don’t know what the hell’s really goin’
on,” asked Johnny. “This is just like
six months ago when I was lookin’ for your husband. Bits and pieces
came my way and I was
supposed to put them together to make a pretty picture.”
know the expression, ‘What you don’t know won’t hurt you,’ right?” said
Jennifer. “This is one of those things
you don’t want to know so you won’t get hurt.”
you say ‘better for everyone involved,’ who’s ‘everyone?’” asked Johnny. “Cuz to me ‘everyone’ seems to be you, Sam,
and the Russians. Not Johnny.”
come on, relax. Have another glass of
wine,” said Jennifer.
got up and put on his coat and hat.
“Nah, I’m leavin’. I’m gonna get
some answers. If not from you or Sam,
from the mob. Stupid? Maybe.
So sue me.”
“Zharkov? It’s Jennifer
Ralston. We have a problem. And
it’s because of your boy, Lance Nichols.”
then it is okay, Ms. Ralston; Lance is dead.
Last night, somebody —”
“Listen. I know Lance’s
dead. The guy who killed him is going to be looking
to see why Lance put a hurt on Sam Johnson last week. Johnny Adams is a personal
friend of mine and
I don’t want anything to happen to him. Anything,
Adams killed Lance, maybe we should tip the cops off about —”
cops, Zharkov. And Johnny doesn’t get
hurt while he’s nosing around. Got
it? Tell him Lance has worked for you in
the past, but acted on his own as to the Sam Johnson thing.”
Ms. Ralston. I don’t think —”
right; you don’t think. You just do as I
walked into Sveta’s House, a Russian restaurant in Queens, and sat down at the
bar next to Dmitry Zharkov.
we need to talk,” said Johnny. “You
wanna talk here or someplace more private?”
of Zharkov’s goons had ambled over from a table in the back and now stood
behind Johnny. Zharkov waived them off
and they returned to their table.
can talk here if you can keep your voice down,” said Zharkov. “If
you are going to yell and wave your arms
in the air, we should probably go to my office in my apartment down the
can talk here,” said Johnny. He asked
the bartender for a Baltika Dark, a Russian beer he had heard about from Sam.
sighed. “This is about Lance Nichols and
Sam Johnson, is it not?”
in Queens knows more about what’s goin’ on than I do,” said Johnny.
“Bring me up to speed, Zharkov.”
will tell you some things that may ease your mind. I won’t be telling
you how I run my business
or who I run it with. My business is
none of your business, you see?”
ease my mind,” said Johnny. “Why did you
have Lance Nichols rough up my friend, Sam Johnson?”
Nichols has done some work for me now and then, but whatever business he had
with Sam Johnson was between him and Sam.
Since Lance is now dead, you will have to talk to Sam about what their
probably won’t be too surprised if I tell ya I don’t believe that line of
crap,” said Johnny. “I have it on pretty
good authority that you used Lance to send Sam a message. Why would you, a big
shot, need to send a
bartender friend of mine a message? If
you don’t level with me, we might have to go down to your office, cuz I’m
startin’ to feel like yellin’ and wavin’ my arms in the air.”
already thin lips got a little thinner.
He absently scratched the side of his neck and motioned to his two
bodyguards to come forward.
got it ‘on pretty good authority,’ as you say, that you would be coming around
asking questions about this matter. I
was told to tell you that Lance acted alone.
I have told you Lance acted alone.
Our business is finished. My men
will show you out if you need assistance finding the door.”
threw the last little bit of beer in his glass into Zharkov’s face. He
felt a sharp prick on his neck, struggled
for a bit as two hands held him by the shoulders, and then everything went
wafted into wakefulness. He was in a
sitting position and his head was lying on his arms, which were resting on a
hard surface. He could smell coffee and…
up carefully and opening his eyes, he saw the familiar walls of his
office. Sitting across his desk from him
was Jennifer Ralston.
thought you might need this,” she said pointing at the coffee and ham sandwich.
I get here?” asked Johnny. He had
trouble getting the words formed and they came out a little slurred. “And
what are you doin’ here?”
Zharkov called me and I told him to have his boys bring you here. I guess you
and I have some things to talk
about. Before you get yourself killed.”
do you work for Zharkov, or does he work for you? Is Sam on the mob’s
payroll too?” said
Johnny, taking a sip of his coffee.
not going to start at the beginning; it would take too long,” said
Jennifer. “Zharkov and I are business
partners. Sam owns the brownstone where
Zharkov has his office and his immediate family and a couple of his employees
Sam owns a brownstone here in Queens?
Can’t be; he lives in a little efficiency above The Shot Glass. I’ve
been up there. Where would Sam get the money for a
Zharkov. Dmitry Zharkov has enough money
to buy all the brownstones he wants, but the IRS would want to know where that
money came from. The brownstone is in
Sam’s name; he owns it free and clear and Zharkov pays him rent.
deal; who’d he have to kill for that to happen?”
didn’t kill anybody,” said Jennifer. “He
doesn’t have to do anything but collect the rent, pay the property taxes,
arrange to have any repairs made, and keep his mouth shut.”
assuming all you’ve said so far is true, and I don’t for a minute think it is,
why did Zharkov send Lance Nichols to put a hurt on Sam?”
I said is true,” said Jennifer. “There’s
a lot more that we’ll get to a little at a time. Sam got roughed up because
he stuck his nose
in Zharkov’s business. I talked to
Zharkov about how sorry he’d be if he ever did something like that again to a
friend of mine and he got the message.”
you send somebody around to kick Zharkov in the head?”
up and eat your sandwich,” said Jennifer.
“Here’s what happened: Sam went
over to the brownstone to check on some repair work that had been done. Since
nobody answered the door, he let
himself in. When he called out to see if
anybody was there, he heard a muffled response come from down in the basement.
went down to the basement and found a woman gagged and tied to a chair. Sam
loosened the gag and she told him that
when she had told Zharkov she wanted out of the “escort” business and wanted to
go back to Russia, Zharkov had said he’d give her some time to think about it
in the basement and then she could either go back to work or he would kill
you’re partners with this guy?” asked Johnny.
business, Johnny; he’s a business partner, not a friend with benefits. So,
anyhow, Sam cut her loose, jimmied a file
in Zharkov’s office to get her passport and personal things, and arranged for
her to fly back to Russia. Somehow,
Zharkov found out about Sam’s part in it and wanted to let him know that sort
of thing was not acceptable.”
if I wouldn’t have taken care of Lance, and Sam would have when he was well
enough, how would Zharkov have been with that?” said Johnny.
would have been fine with that. I told
him he was going to be fine with whatever Sam chose to do to Lance as payback.”
stared at Jennifer. It occurred to him
that she was his “good authority” and also Zharkov’s.
don’t just sit there; say something,” said Jennifer. “Your
brow is all scrunched up like you’re
continued to stare at Jennifer a bit and then said, “I am thinkin’. I’m
thinkin’ that I probably know a Russian
Mafia boss better than my girl and my best friend. I’m thinkin’
I might need some time to
reflect on things.
guess you’re saying I should leave, so I’ll go,” said Jennifer. “But
one last bit of advice: Be careful reflecting; sometimes it can get
you into even more trouble than you’re already in.”
stood up and left Johnny’s office.
Johnny sat there a few minutes and then made a phone call.
Lester? Johnny Adams. Ya know
that thing we talked about a while back? If you still want me, I think I’m
take you up on it. I need a change of
bringin’ anybody with ya?” asked Lester Wilson.
“Anybody important in your life right now? Cuz things can sometimes
get a little dicey
sat for a bit doing some more reflecting.
“Nope, nobody important in my life right now except me. I can catch
a flight to LA tomorrow. See ya then, buddy.”
Roy Dorman is retired from the University of
Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and is the submissions editor of Yahara
Prairie Lights. He has had poetry and flash fiction published in One
Sentence Poems, Near to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama, Shotgun
Honey, Theme of Absence, Drunk Monkeys, The Flash Fiction
Press, Black Petals, and a number of other online magazines.