lined my mouth when I came to, lips crusted together. I took in air through one
nostril, slow. Musty, stale air hit me. Then I remembered and sat still as a
over in a chair, hands tied behind me, I cracked my eyelid. The other swollen
would he come here and ask for a job?” a voice with a lisp said, I recognized
it as Lucas Ingersoll. The man I came to see about a job.
me back up a bit and set the stage. About a week ago, a US Marshall, Agent
Allen, set me up with false credentials as the prior manager of the Boddington
mine in West Australia. This was to get me in,
hired, so I could glean as much information about the murder of Lucas’s
brother, Angus. Who Agent Allen liked for the murder.
say I really had a choice in the matter, it was either play along or let Frank,
my father-in-law take my daughter from me in a court system he owned, lock stock
see, it was because of Frank the US Marshall came to know about me.
‘ol dad-in-law. Frank Carmine. Never
liked me, and really began to hate me when his daughter, love-of-my-life, died
in a car accident after an argument I had with her. She stormed out of the house
and I watched
her red mustang peel gravel down the driveway. Last time I saw her alive.
mixture of emotion wells up inside me every time I think of her.
voices came into focus. I must have faded again.
heard a clock ticking; my one nostril began to whistle. And I felt eyes on me.
Each tick stretched into eternity. Then a second voice:
I ‘spect.” A raspy-smokers’ voice.
ain’t from Boddington,” Lucas said, “I met the manager, not even a year ago,”
(tick—, tick—), “—and that ain’t him.”
“No, I know who this is— and he didn’t come
here alone, I guaran-fuckin-tee that,” the raspy smokers-voice again, I heard
it before. “He’s got two big Samoan boyfriends, they cleaned the bar out the
Lucas said, “Well, then, that is him!
Frank told me he’d be with two big Samoans.” I heard panic in his voice, then
footsteps. I peeked through my good eye and saw him staring out a big window,
nervous. His eyes squinting. Trying to pierce the darkness outside.
laugh bubbled up in me, but I sat still as roadkill.
was right. I wasn’t alone. Henry was out there, somewhere, looking through his
scope, drawing a bead on this asshole’s head, no doubt.
moved to the side of the window, his head on a swivel.
I want him nervous. He’ll talk more that way, he’ll be a regular Chatty-Kathy.
sure that’s him?” raspy-smoker said.
yeah, that’s Frank’s son-in-law, for sure, Captain Jack. Frank sent me a
picture,” his footsteps came near. “Couldn’t miss that face, could you?”
kept my good eyelid shut.
fell in front of me.
could imagine him holding up the picture next to my swollen, bloody face.
could feel their eyes on me. Palpable. Poking and prodding at me.
“So—Frank hates his son-in-law that
much?” Raspy said with a girlish giggle.
“Yeah, guess that’s what you get for marrying
his daughter,” Lucas said, “But, none of my business—none of my business—Frank
just wants his granddaughter back, and this guy’s keeping it from happening.
Plus, once Rusty gets here and finds more evidence on him linking him to the
murder of Angus, it’s a two-fer!”
she’s this guy’s daughter, right?”
dumb-shit, I’m only going to tell you one more time. He’s Frank’s son-in-law,
use to be married to Louisa, Frank’s daughter, she’s dead now, Frank got
custody because he’s Frank and Frank
owns every fuckin’ judge in the L.A. area, probably most of California, the
granddaughter ran away from Frank with daddy here, and he wants her back” he
spat, “anyway, who fuckin’ cares?! I don’t! Frank gave us a heads up he was
coming our way and to keep a look out, who the hell thought he’d come callin’
and apply for your job?!”
more reason for me to hate this guy,” Raspy-voice took a couple steps closer.
“Easy—easy—, all we have to do is hand him over to the
cops, he takes the rap for killing Angus and Frank gets his granddaughter
back. And our slate is wiped clean!”
it is! A bolt of excitement ran through me and I struggled to sit still.
Silence hung in the air like a steam-locomotive. Deafening. Electricity surged
in every cell in my body.
felt their eyes on me again. I played possum, breathing slow, whistling through
my one nostril. My heart grew in my chest.
is what I knew, folks. Lucas’s brother, Angus, had been murdered. Shot once in the
head seven months ago. Left stiff as a board by the roadside.
Allen, head of the investigation, sought an interview with me to help build a
case into Frank’s involvement with the murder after Frank tried to pin it
Agent Allen told me during our interview:
‘Frank called the Marshalls office in
Anchorage, ya know? When I hung up the phone, I had to ask myself, why would
Frank interject himself into a murder investigation of a junior business
partner? I mean, Angus wasn’t worth his
time. He bankrolled him five years ago
to get the mine going, ya know? Loan-sharked him ‘cause the guy couldn’t get a
decent loan, probably. But Frank owns half the West Coast, what does he care
about the owner of a startup mining operation, even if he does have a business
tie. I mean it’s pretty small potatoes for a guy like Frank, ya know? Then it
dawned on me. Why point a finger at his son-in-law? I don’t know, maybe to get
you out of the way? A pure hatred for you? I don’t know.
once I verified you were in Mexico at the time of the Ingersoll murder, I knew
he must be involved. Just—too
fishy, ya know? I’d like to know what he
knows, and maybe you can help.”
he talked me into giving Lucas a call for a job interview and wearing the wire.
I must admit, it wasn’t hard to talk me into it. If the US Government ends up
filing charges against Frank, it’ll be a lot harder for him to gain custody of
risk is great, ya know,’ Agent Allen explained, ‘but we could get lucky. They
could spill evidence of Franks involvement, and at the very least, he could be
tied up for years in litigation making him ineligible for stewardship to gain
custody of your daughter, and you’ll be free to go wherever you want.’
it was, my weakness. A fairytale life. Left alone to raise my daughter. And
I said, ‘yes.’
here I sit with a wire irritating my gonads and these two mooks, Lucas
Ingersoll, the dead man’s brother and new
sole owner of the Ingersoll Gold Mine and his stooge, Mr. Raspy-smoker
voice bearing down on me like I ran their dog over when they were ten.
I’d been wacked over the head while answering
a question during the job interview. Lights out. Then kicked or punched a few
more times judging by the blood in my mouth and puffy soreness on my face.
“Is he Mafia?” raspy voice said, “like Frank?”
don’t know—I think so—but I don’t know for sure,” (he lisped and spat the more
excited he became), “Frank has connections all over the west coast, shit, all
over the world…. My brother never should
have asked him for money, but we needed
the seed money and no one else was going to give it to us— wasn’t my idea, no
sir, but it’s done, and he’s dead leaving me with the debt. But we could wipe
all that clean right fuckin’ now and be sitting on the richest gold vein in
paced back and forth. I felt his stare and didn’t dare move. I barely drew a
breath. They must have been looking at me for a while because no one spoke, not
a sound, nothing disturbed the stillness except the clock ticking and a Pine
Grosbeak outside in the still night. A singular bird song that seemed oddly
peaceful and surreal for the moment.
That damn clock.
did this son-of-a-bitch call and ask for an interview? That’s what I can’t
figure.” Lucas spat.
you think he’s awake?” raspy said.
coming towards me, I heard the crackle of an electrical device with voltage.
hitched a breath and opened my good eye.
There was raspy voice standing over me with a taser, sparks arching.
so,” he said and jabbed it into my chest.
days before, we walked up to the wood door of the Board of Trade Saloon off First Street
in Nome, Alaska.
Henry, the Tongan, swung the door open and we
walked in, the music amplified. The inside bustled and had a heady beer smell.
Old décor, right out of last century. Old pictures lined the walls and an
ancient wood floor was littered with equally old wood tables and chairs.
Miners, fishermen, games-men and locals. I expected to see Jack London wander
through with a prospector’s pack on. People were smoking openly at the bar.
Guess they hadn’t heard about the cancer scare. Local alcoholics parked at the
counter. I felt instant shame for bringing Karissa and glanced at her, she
smiled back and squeezed my hand, sensing my thoughts.
Allen sat by the billiard tables. He stood and waved when he saw us.
looked at Sam, then Henry, noting their size, and mass of black hair framing dark,
beef, bruddah?” Sam smiled and stuck out his massive paw. Agent Allen eyed the
Tongans with curiosity, took Sam’s hand and shook firmly.
not at all.” Agent Allen said, taking Henry’s hand next.
“This is my daughter, Karissa,” I said.
the agent said. She acted shy and shook his hand.
and I scoot into the booth and the Tongans grabbed chairs, hoisting their
massive legs over the top before plopping down in unison. Agent Allen sat
opposite in the booth.
drinks on me,” I said pointing to the cut above the agent’s eye. It looked
puffy and the stitches were tight and angry and any man with a cut like that
deserved a drink.
his fingertips touched the stitches and his face twitched, “little accident
with someone I was trying to arrest. Turns out he didn’t want to be arrested.
“Look, Daniel—can I call you Captain Jack? It
seems everyone else does.”
glad you came, it shows character.” He nodded. “I deal with—,” throwing his
hands up, rolling his eyes, “with so many scumbags. It’s refreshing to find
someone that says he’s going to do something and does it”
He was serious.
I laughed, embarrassed.
right,” his eyes were searching the table, gathering thoughts. “I was able to
corroborate your story— ‘bout being in Mexico at the time of Mr. Ingersoll’s
death. We were able to get ahold of the sheriff down there. Seems you made
quite an impression on him.” He took out a note-pad and pencil and proceeded to
go over his plan for me to wear the wire on a job interview. And he drew a
small map of the office at the gold mine. Karissa ran off to the bathroom and I
watched to make sure she made it.
when I spoke with you again and you told me Frank wanted you to try and get a
job at the Ingersoll mine and find out something about the murder of Angus, I
near shit myself!” He looked around embarrassed, then relieved when he realized
Karissa had left for the restroom.
is great! We could use that, and help you get in there
and gather information.”
told me one of his deputies would be outside the office trailer listening to
everything and loaded for bear.
makes me feel safe, but I think I’d like Henry in the tree line with his M40.”
I said, pointing to his makeshift map. I explained he was in Afghanistan for
two years, 9 months at a stretch, wreaking havoc on the Taliban, until the
Marines had to send him back to the states, under his protest.
waitress, a pretty twenty-something redhead with tattoo sleeves had our drinks
on a tray. She put them down in front of us one at a time. A large iced tea for
else?” She bounced, involuntarily while talking. She caught my eye and
waitress lingered, so I smiled and she lit up and shuffled backwards, whirled
and almost walked into another waitress, walked to her station, looking back
Allen had been talking, his words were coming back into focus.
it. Agent Mycroft won’t be with you when you go in. But he’ll be somewhere,
close. And he’ll be listening, so, he won’t have to wonder what’s going on.
was when the fight broke out.
shit yourself Cap’n Jack?” raspy voice said through a yellow toothy grin. “I
recognize ya—you were in the bar the other night—Lauree served ya drinks and
you leered at her like a perverted sailor on shore leave. And your two
sasquatch looking Samoans busted up my men! You remember dat?”
Tongans, you moron…”
jabbed the tazer in my ribs again.
son-of-bitch!” I spat and kicked out but missed.
was laughing and dancing around the trailer. Doing a jig like a drunken
called me last night for a date, I told her to bring her onesie for a sleep
over.” I barely had the breath to get the words out. “She said she sleeps in
the nude. Bet you didn’t know that.”
stopped and came at me again when Lucas stopped him with a hand to his chest.
Billy, stop! Hold up—Frank ‘aint going to like this. All he wanted us to do was
hand him over to the cops, they have enough evidence to put him away for Angus’
evidence?!” I wheezed, catching my breath.
you like to know, piece of shit!” Raspy Bill was getting animated and personal.
“They’ve got the murder weapon
already, a .45, with your prints on it—well, they’re not on there yet, but they
will be.” He laughed with a high pitch. “And, oh! Looky here, you got his
credit cards on ya!”
slipped the cards in my breast pocket.
who killed him?” I gasped.
did, asshole!” Raspy said.
come on, Lucas! What does it matter now? What’s he gonna do? Sheriff Rusty’s
on our payroll! He can’t do nuthin’. No one’ll believe him anyway!”
He kept running at the mouth, couldn’t stop if he wanted to, he was so proud of
himself. “We caught a huge vein of gold, and Angus wanted to do it
legitimate. No one can touch us now!”
does that mean?”
shut-up Bill! He don’t need to know!” Lucas picked up the phone. “I’m calling
spoke on the phone, looked out the window. First left, then right.
dumb-ass—,” Raspy couldn’t help himself, “We found a buyer for our gold that’s
going to give us a much better price than local refineries. A buyer down south
of the border, someone that sells an illegal substance for a living—matter o’
fact. They’ll buy our gold for more than the going rate, then they exchange it
anywhere in the world. It’s non-traceable, a lot more liquid and we get to
claim a loss for tax purposes ‘cause we don’t report it! Ha! A win-win
asshole--- Enjoy your stay in prison while bubba’s soapin you up!” He smiled,
proud of himself.
DAMN you, Bill, you son-of-a-bitch! I’ll shoot you myself you utter one more
word!!” Lucas pulled a 9mm from behind him, stuck the barrel against his
Bill said, hands in the air in a mia
you guys eighty-six Angus, I come along, a patsy, courtesy of Frank and you
guys make a fortune with a cartel South of the border— then pretend your gold
mine is losing money with a tax write-off?” I wanted to repeat it for
posterity, make sure it was nice and clear on tape.
Cap’n Jack—ass! Don’t bend over to pick
up the soap!” He laughed in his hillbilly high pitch again.
won’t need a boyfriend, amigo, I’m sure Lauree will come for conjugal visits—”
struck me with a left to the chops the second the words left my mouth. He went
mad. Grabbed my shirt and threw me, chair and all, across the room. The chair
and I separated. He came at me. Mad-dog look in his eyes. On my back, hands
tied behind me. I lifted a foot, ready to kick. He grabbed a two by four on the
table. Lifted it above his head to come down for the coup de gras.
Stop!” Lucas said, holding the phone.
followed was a moment I’ll never forget. It plays over in my dreams like a film
on a loop.
took another step, coming down with that piece of wood and a 7.62 caliber
bullet ripped through the window and Bill’s head at the same time, back to
front, taking off a good chunk of forehead, eye and cheek when it came out.
siren came close outside. The door burst open seconds later and agent Mycroft,
Agent Allen’s man, came in, gun drawn and pointed. First at me, then at Lucas
who stood frozen in place. Lucas dropped his 9mm.
assessed the situation.
that Lucas and I were the only ones there, alive, he came in and let the door
swing shut on its hinge, holstered his gun and cuffed Lucas with a zip-tie.
okay?” Mycroft said out of breath, then he sat Lucas in the chair he pulled out
from the wall to the middle of the room.
but thanks for asking.”
cut my ties behind me, helped me to my feet and produced a hanky. I hadn’t the
heart to ask if it had been used. So I let him dab my face, touching my swollen
eye and bloody lips.
I had to get enough on tape—,” he dabbed, “you did a damn good job getting it
out of them. You’re a pro!”
it was easy when I found out what motivated him,” I nodded to raspy Bill, face
down in a pool of blood and gore, becoming bigger every second.
pulled up outside, then stopped with a ‘whoop’.
door burst open again, the local sheriff and deputy stood in the door jam, guns
Lucas sounded relieved. His dirty Sheriff had arrived.
Agent Mycroft faced the Sheriff, threw his
hands up and announced he was a federal agent.
don’t give a god-damn who you are, agent. You’re under arrest for murder, or
conspiracy to commit murder!”
odd silence fell on the room, when normally the next step would have been to
pat down Agent Mycroft, relieve him of his weapon and read him his rights. No
one moved. It was as if Rusty and Barney Fife were contemplating getting
themselves in any deeper and having second thoughts.
then, a metal bolt being slammed forward in its chamber made the Sheriff and
deputy look behind them.
bruddah, we have beef?” Henry’s way of asking, in pidgin, to politely
put their hand-guns down unless they would like
to argue about it. I tell you, his smooth voice was always a welcome sound at
times like these. It never failed to calm me.
moment passed when no one said anything, or moved.
don’t miss, bruddah.” I could see 5 inches of steel barrel sticking through the
door jam almost touching the back of the deputy. Something in Henry’s voice
convinced the Sheriff and he nodded, the deputy lowered his weapon at the same
time. When they were holstered, Mycroft moved.
produced tie wraps and pulled the Deputy’s hands behind him while Henry kept
the end of the barrel on them.
have some explaining to do,” Mycroft told the Sherriff and synched the tie-wrap
with a loud zip. “You’ve been implicated in the murder of Angus Ingersoll.”
glanced at Lucas who was setting in the chair in the middle of the room and
Lucas looked away.
I suggest you don’t say anything until your rights have been read Sheriff,
there’s more agents on the way.” Mycroft led them over to the long table and
sat both on the edge, so it looked like they were sitting on a tall chair. The
Sheriff was big so his feet were flat on the floor. Not so for the deputy.
I know the drill.”
then I won’t have to repeat myself.” Mycroft read them their rights.
the room was full of agents in vests, medical personnel, a forensic unit. I saw
one of the agents talking with Henry, taking notes on a pad with a pencil and
afterwards he smiled and shook Henry’s hand. They looked chummy, like old
mind drifted as a pretty EMT dabbed my wounds, then thoughts of Karissa’s
mother, Louisa clouded my mind. I
wondered how Karissa and Sam were doing at the boat, they were waiting for us.
I imagined they’d be worried.
Henry and I got back to the boat it was past midnight and they were waiting,
sitting on deck with the fire pit between them, I could smell wood chips
burning and saw flames dancing off their faces.
climbed aboard and Karissa was on me like glue. Sam and Henry embraced.
look at you! You’re a mess!” And I realized I must look horrible.
okay, its okay, hon—no don’t touch it—"
we have to leave tonight?” She started, “Do we have to leave right now?” I felt
her breath hitch and could feel her starting to panic.
we can stay a while—and after that, we can go anywhere we want. It’s going to
be okay.” She buried her face in my shirt. And I hugged her tight.
and Henry came in close to the huddle, Henry grinning from ear to ear.
you so happy about?”
“You—you alive, bra—", he slapped my
shoulder “, and we rollin in it, bra,”
produced a small cloth sack the size of a baseball. He pulled the rubber band
off the top and opened it, spreading it open.
“Fed-Agent, he bruddah Marine. He rememba, I
kill two Taliban who pin down his platoon. He shake hands and slip in da pocket
and say, ‘you lost sometin Henry?’”
all stared at the shiny objects in disbelief. There were at least a dozen
nuggets the size of raisins and two dozen more that were smaller. A small
fortune in gold.
find in da desk, ya know, no one saw.” We stood mesmerized.
shit, what’re you going do with it, Henry?!” Karissa snapped out of her
language!” I said.
shrugged, “Let’s get a mo’ betta boat, dis one a piece a shit.”
laughed and pulled in the lines. And left that night.
Michael Stewart spent 4
years in the Marine Corps and held various
different jobs, including shoveling manure,
working in an Animal Clinic, swamping in cherry orchards, driving a cab,
digging ditches with a hand shovel. Currently he works in the high-tech
industry in the Seattle, Washington area.
These are a few ways he's made a paycheck, but
his passion is writing.
He's married to a wonderful woman who supports
his writing: a nurse with years in the spotlight as a circus performer and
fitness professional. Her son, Michael's stepson, has an adventurous spirit
like his mother and is a mechanical engineer and captain on a fishing boat in
the Bering Sea. He has two talented and beautiful daughters, one, with a degree in
psychology, the other graduating soon, with a degree in biology.
Michael is an animal lover and prolific daydreamer
and believes the most important thing we can do in this life is to respect, if
not love, others, tread lightly as we move through this life, making the
biggest positive impact we can.