|Art by John and Flo Stanton
Do Something About It!
A Vic Powers story
When Ronda called me she was angry
and almost hysterical with rage.
“That son-of-a-bitch has been
up my ass too damn long now. This is the last time, Vic. I want you to do something. Straighten him out, once and for all!”
I didn’t say anything, I’d
heard this all before. Ronda was a pint-size young gal who had had it with some two-bit moron neighbor who was causing her
all kinds of grief. She told me daily stories about how he’d tailgate her small Honda with his big truck down Gerritsen
Avenue, terrorizing her when she came home from work, then parking in front of her house instead of his own. Annoying certainly,
but not deadly. Your generic Brooklyn bigmouth with shit-for-brains.
“You there, Vic?”
“Yeah,” I said. “What
do you want me to do about it, Ronda?”
“What do I want you to do about it! Are you a freakin’ retard? I want you to kill the bastard! I know you’ve killed people
before, and some of them a lot less deserving than this freak. I want him dead!”
I laughed. “I don’t think
I can do that.”
“I can,” she said and there
was no doubt at all in her voice. “I hate him.”
We were silent for one very long second.
Then the second was over.
“Will you come over?” she
“Yeah, I’ll be right over.”
It only took me fifteen minutes to
drive from my rented dive in Canarsie to Ronda’s small one-family cottage in Gerritsen Beach. She lived alone in the
co-called new section, cute tightly-packed homes and bungalows on narrow streets by the water. The whole place looked more
like a scene from a New England fishing village mistakenly dumped into the ass-end of Brooklyn.
I could see Ronda waiting in front
of her house as I drove down the block. I saw there was only one parking spot, smack dab in front of Ronda’s house like
it was Kismet or something, and I headed straight towards it.
Out of nowhere a huge shiny black pickup
made a screeching turn from the other corner, cut me off, and shot into the spot like I didn’t even exist.
“What the fuck!” I shouted.
Where the hell had he come from?
The guy, your generic young muscle-bound
moron-type parked in my spot and was about to get out of his truck when I pulled up beside him. Real close. My passenger side
door was blocking his driver’s side door from opening. He was trapped in his truck, just where I wanted him.
I lowered my passenger window. I looked
at the big mook, trying to keep calm, wanting to keep it gentlemanly. I didn’t want to start trouble with the guy. I
figured, with the deepest respect, I’d say, “Hey, fucking asshole, that’s
my damn spot!”
Well, that’s what I wanted to say, instead what I
said was, “Excuse me, I think you took my spot.”
The guy looked at me like I’d just arrived from Mars. His face twisted when he realized my SUV
was blocking him from opening his door to get out.
“Fuck you!” he shouted. “Move your piece of shit out of my way!”
Well, this didn’t seem to be the proper attitude to take at all and I was about to tell him so
when he jerked open his door, smashing it into my door.
Now I saw red.
He just laughed viciously, like the big jerk he was, not even caring about whatever damage he had done
to his own vehicle. Muscle-bound morons can be like that –all hyped up on ego and testosterone. I saw he had an old
guy in the cab with him, most likely his father, and it looked like the relic was already passed out drunk. It wasn’t
even noon yet.
“You took my parking spot, now you smashed my door!” I shouted in disbelief.
“Too fucking bad! Now move off, asshole!”
I heard loud booms behind me and was amazed to see Ronda banging with her fists on the back of the
I sighed, that Ronda, what a gal, she was always ready for
trouble. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to calm her down, now that she was all revved up.
Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw another woman bolt out of one of the houses nearby and take
Ronda down with a running tackle. Ronda was flung back and both women were on the ground, embroiled in a fierce fight on the
small lawn in front of Ronda’s house.
This was all turning to shit way too fast for me. I moved my SUV forward away from the guy’s
truck and double-parked up ahead. Then I got out and ran back to the two women to break up their fight.
I tried to find an opening where I could pull
Ronda off the thin peroxide blonde. Ronda, while smaller, was a spunky angry little bitch and was beginning to beat the crap
out of the other woman, I was kinda proud of her, but I couldn’t let her face a felony beef. I knew I had to stop this
before it got too serious.
“Come on now . . . ladies . . .” I finally got
a hold of Ronda and was about to pull her off the other woman when I felt a huge hand wrap itself around my arm.
“What the fuck!”
“Let them fight, asshole.”
It was Muscle-head.
I looked at him serious now, “Get your hand off my arm.”
I smiled, ripping into the steroid-hulk and hammering him with my fists. He never knew what hit him.
My knuckles smashed into his face and gut non-stop like a battering ram. His face was soon transformed into a bloody mess.
In sixty seconds I had him on the ground and was knocking him senseless. He tried to fight back, but I wasn’t no kid
or woman, which I presumed was his usual beat-down partner. He never expected the force and fury of my attack. I was so relentless,
so quick, he never had a chance to get his breath, much less go on the offensive. My motto: “Never give an asshole an
Once he was down and out, I went over and pulled Ronda off the anemic blonde.
“Vic, let me finish her off!”
“Ronda, the poor girl’s got no teeth left, enough is enough.”
Ronda smiled. “I’m glad you came over, Vic. It’s always good to see you.”
“Yeah, it’s nice to see you again, too,” I said with a shrug. “Now that this
shit is done with, why the hell did you want me to come here anyway?”
“You just did it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Little Abner. Least ways that’s what I call him. You gave him a beating he won’t
forget. Thanks, Vic.”
“My pleasure,” I said. “What about the wife?”
Ronda laughed, “Oh, Daisy Mae? She ain’t nothing. I
can take care of her, myself.”
“You sure as hell did. I never realized there could be so
many problems owning a home in this neighborhood.”
“You have no idea what I have to go through, Vic. No idea.
I won’t even tell you about the problems with all the spoiled out-of-control kids and the stray cats. But the worst
is Little Abner. I hate Little Abner.”
I smiled. Ronda could be like that sometimes. “I don’t
think you’ll be having any more trouble with Little Abner and if you do I’ll be glad to come over and give him
another attitude adjustment.”
“Thanks, Vic, you’re the best. I knew I could count
on you to do something about it.”
Copyright 2009 by Gary Lovisi.
All Rights Reserved.
|Art by Lonni Lees © 2010
Jack smacked me upside the head so
hard I swore I could feel my eyeballs rattle inside their sockets.
Jack liked to smack. He was very good at it.
“Wha-?” I stammered, confused.
I was just happy to be out of my cage and working again with Jack.
“Stoop-it!” He said it
just like that, using separate words, ‘stoop’ and ‘it’.
“Look, Jack, I know I’m
stupid for loosing the cash and all . . .”
I can be slow sometimes.
We’d been doing jobs all along
the East Coast, but it had gotten too hot so we decided – well, actually Jack decided – we’d take a trip
out West and check out the lay of the land, as he put it. Plenty of young gash and green cash, he said, out in La-La-Land.
So we took the plane ride – wow! – got a place, then Jack made calls to people he knew. The unsavory kind. Then
he began to line up jobs for us.
“Now listen to me, moron! Don’t
be getting stoop-it like you were back East. This here ain’t New York City and don’t let the fucking palm trees
fool you, the skells out here may have blonde hair and perfect tans but they’ll cut out your heart, eat it raw, and
then shit it back out at ya before you ever know what hit you. You got it?”
“I understand, Jack,”
I said, trying not to be scared. Sometimes I think Jack told me stuff just to make me scared and then he’d laugh at
me, but he wasn’t laughing now. I knew that he didn’t want me going soft in the head like I do sometimes. He told
me I had to focus, pay attention to business and above all, remember the rules. The rules were important. I broke the rules
when I lost all that cash the first time. Or was it the second time? I forget which. Jack gave me cash to take some place
and someone took it from me, but Jack was always right there to surprise them. Then they were made dead and I was safe. That
was our main rule. I always did just what Jack told me to do and he always came and made me safe. He rescued me. Jack was
happy because he got his cash back from the bad man he had to pay.
Thing is, Jack and me was partners
in crime and partners in blood. He told me we were identical twins, meaning we looked so much alike no one could tell us apart
– ‘cepting that I was the stoop-it one.
Jack always told me I was a shit-for-brains,
numb-nuts, brain-dead cretin. I used to laugh at them words because they sounded so funny when he said them. I didn’t
even know what cretin was. But I wasn’t all that stoop-it and I was glad
to have Jack to look after me. I called him my saving grace, like mama used to say before Jack made her go away. Jack did
a pretty decent job looking after me even if he would loose his patience at times. I mean, I guess I deserved a smack now
Thankfully I had Jack to look out
for me. He was real smart, so I knew I had it made.
Out here in L.A. no one knew us and
Jack said that was good. I shrugged, usually I agreed with Jack. After all, Jack was always right. A lot of times when he
would work what he called a set-up, he’d have me come out and show myself, then the goons would all come after me. See,
I was Jack as far as they were concerned and then Jack would slam the mark with a heavy hit. Down he’d go, deader than
dead, never knowing what hit him. It worked good.
Jack always kept me out of sight until
he needed me. I had a room in the basement and he gave me a bed, and I even got a TV. I watch it all the time. Mostly cartoons.
I love cartoons.
I always knew we got a new job coming
when Jack unlocked my room, then I’d hear him call out, “Hey, Stoop-it moron! Wake the fuck up! We got work to
do!” Then he’d shave me, wash me, fix my hair, and give me new clothes to wear, clean clothes that didn’t
smell bad and that I hadn’t made my business in, yet. When I was all cleaned up and dressed I looked exactly like Jack!
You could not tell us apart.
I liked that. I liked it when I looked
like Jack. But I don’t think Jack liked me looking like him at all. He said he only tolerated it because we had a job
to do and we got money for it. Jack got all the money, I never saw any but I didn’t care none. I didn’t need money
and Jack said he needed money real bad.
My part was always simple. Jack told
me two, maybe four times already, made me talk it all back to him so I’d be sure I got it right.
“The job,” I told Jack,
thinking hard to remember it all correctly so I wouldn’t get smacked, “is let some people think that I am you.
I pretend to be you and go where you tell me to, like some dumb-ass without a care in the world.”
Jack nodded, holding his temper.
I said, “I act . . . o-bliv-vi-ous?”
“Know what that means, stoop-it?”
“Ahhh . . .? I said. “Ahhh,
Jack . . . ?”
He smacked me upside the head. “Now
pay attention, moron! It means, like you don’t know shit. Which you sure as hell don’t! Understand? I don’t
know why I have to explain it to you every time we have a job. We always do the same plan. They’re gonna follow you,
think you are me, so they can get the drop on you. When they do, I surprise them. Got it?”
I said, “Yeah, Jack, sure, you
I didn’t let on to Jack that
I had no idea why we were doing these things, nor why we were out here in L.A. doing them. It didn’t seem right at all
but I knew Jack was my saving grace and that he’d be there to help me if there was any trouble just like he always did.
I walked to where Jack told me to,
at a corner by an alley. I never saw anyone following me, but Jack said they’d be there. I didn’t care, I was
acting o-bliv-vi-ous, just like Jack had told me to do. So I walked down Sunset and then cut into a dark alleyway. It was
dark and quiet, real scary, and then I heard the footsteps behind me.
There were two of them. Big guys and
they looked mean. They already had their guns out. They walked closer and I tried to walk back away from them, pretending
not to notice them as Jack had told me to do. I walked farther back but I was running out of alleyway. I was in a dead end.
One of the men said, “This is
great, almost too easy. Jack Rawlins, trapped like a rat, and now he’s going to die like a rat.”
“Pretty damn stupid, Jack,”
the other guy said, pointing his gun. “We figured you for better than allowing yourself to get caught in a fix like
this, but me and the boys appreciate you making it so easy for us.”
I got nervous. It looked like they
were going to shoot me. I wondered where Jack could be. I knew they thought I was Jack, but I wasn’t! – but of
course I couldn’t tell them that. Jack said that was against the rules.
Finally I saw Jack by a window, looking
down at me in the alley below. He was smiling, watching, but not doing anything. I saw him and knew that he saw me, but instead
of him giving me the signal that he’d be coming down to help me, he turned his face away and closed the curtains.
“Jack?” I whispered. “You’re
my saving grace, I don’t know what to do without you.”
The two men with the guns just laughed
and came closer. I knew now they were going to kill me and that Jack was not going to come to my aid. Jack knew what was happening
and he had turned his back on me. I could hardly believe it, and it hurt so much. I couldn’t figure why Jack had broken
the rules and left me to die. I was in a panic when it all suddenly came to me. I had figured it out. Instead of Jack setting
up these men for the fall, Jack had set me up for the fall, but why? “Why did you do it, Jack? That’s not right,
you broke the rules!”
“You have the wrong guy!”
I blurted to the two men.
They laughed, then aimed their guns
I had to think fast. I said, “You’ve
gotta listen to me, Jack and me are twins, I’m his brother. I’m . . . slow. Jack uses me to . . .”
They were on me now, shoving me to
the ground, holding me down with their guns to my head.
I shouted, “”We’re
twins and Jack is here watching us. He thinks if you kill me, he’ll get away scot free. Look up there, at that window,
you’ll see him watching us. Look, damnit! Look up!”
One of the men did look up. I saw
a strange expression come to his face, then he turned to his partner, “Joe, that rumor might just be true after all.
I think I saw him, or someone who looked just like him, and just like this guy here. I’m going on up there and find
out what the hell’s going on. I don’t wanna off some freakin’ retard and let Jack get away again.”
The man named Joe got up and left,
the other man stayed with me, keeping his gun to my head, telling me, “Now don’t be stupid, shut up and lay still.”
I said, “I’m not stupid.”
He smacked me in the head. “Shut
I said, “You smack just like
The man just looked at me then, said,
“Damn, I guess it is true, twins, and a freakin’ retard at that.”
I said, “I’m . . . slow.”
“Slow ain’t the word, buddy, now shut up.” Then he lowered his gun, “If what you say is true,
you won’t get hurt.”
I said, “Thank you, I don’t
want to get hurt or made dead. I just don‘t know why Jack didn’t save me.”
The man just shook his head. “See,
we were after Jack in New York. Now if we thought you was Jack and we killed you, we would go back home and tell the boss
that Jack was dead. Only Jack wouldn’t be dead, he’d be alive and safe from us being after him. You’d be
the one who would be dead.”
I stood frozen in panic as I realized
Jack‘s plan for me. I didn’t like it at all. Jack had broken the
rules. Now I knew I had no choice but to break the rules too.
I heard the shots from inside the
building behind us soon afterwards. Then I heard a crash of glass and saw something fall down at us.
It was Jack. He was screaming but when he hit the
ground he was quiet and still. He was bleeding.
He coughed blood, tried to talk, said,
“Damnit, I fucked up.”
The other man ran away now and I went
over to Jack. We were alone. I tried to help Jack. I held him in my arms and tried to wipe away the blood but it just kept
flowing and I couldn’t stop it.
Jack just kept mumbling but he couldn’t
I said, “I’m sorry, Jack.
It’s all my fault you’re going to die but what you did wasn’t very nice. You broke the rules. You were supposed
to help me. Those men were going to kill me and you were going to let them!”
Jack laughed, more blood gushed out
of his mouth. I wiped it away. He said, “It should be you laying here instead of me, stoop-it. I’m the one that
had a life and a future, not a shit-for-brains nothing retard like you.”
That hurt. Jack could say some hurtful
things sometimes. I just said, “Well, Jack, I may be the stoop-it one, but I ain’t the one that’s dying.
Goodbye Jack, I don’t think I want to partner with you anymore.”
Jack’s last words were, “Stoop-it!
But for the first time in my life
they didn’t bother me because I knew Jack was talking about himself and not me.
Copyright 2010 by Gary Lovisi. All Rights
|Art by Stephen Cooney © 2013
For Fear of Winning
I scooped up my winnings. They was mostly union government greenbacks and gold coin,
but someone had snuck in a useless Confederate Twenty which I certainly ignored. It didn’t
matter at that point. I’d won and I was happy. I’d done a right proper job
of cleaning these fellas out of all their money and was getting set to say my heartfelt good-byes.
“Hold on there!” The guy with the black beard growled, I never did get
“You ain’t going nowhere, son,” the one named Taggert added harshly.
I looked over at Taggert, then at the rest of the men in the room. They were as
hard and grim a bunch as I’ve ever seen. Oh, ten hours or so ago, they was all jovial
enough, laughing and drinking, drinking and backslapping as they told stupid jokes. Each
one drunk and figuring he’d win a bit, lose a bit, go home none the worse for wear and a good time. Well,
ten hours had passed and the alcohol had run out and left them a nasty bunch, but what drove them
to their worst was that the game had drastically changed all their fortunes. Instead of
them taking turns winning, losing and winning back, I’d won consistently through
the night and with that last big pot, now I’d won it all!
course I’d cheated.
I used two sets of hidden
dice. One loaded, one shaved.
gonna give us a chance to win our money back,” Scanlon, a low-down gunman said meaningfully. “Ain’t
I smiled. I thought it
impolite to point out to them that they had no money left to wager with so as to win their money back.
They awaited my response a bit too keenly.
guess I could stake you some,” I said lamely.
“Stake me!” Scanlon barked, hand on gun now. He looked highly insulted
but what did he expect me to do about it?
I shrugged, collecting
“I said you’re not going nowhere,” Taggert broke in leaving no
doubt about his intentions.
winner, the game’s over,” I replied sternly, trying not to show my nervousness. “Now I’m going
to get some sleep.”
heard the hammer of a pistol cocked back.
“Sleep is what
you’ll get for damn certain if you step away from this here table,” one of the other men said. I didn’t
see his gun but I would bet that it was drawn and pointed at me from under his coat.
That’s how it was. We was in Bonfiglio’s Barber Shop and Gambling Emporium.
Haircuts done cheap and fast in the two-chairs up front – high-stakes craps thrown
on the walled table in the back room. It wasn’t strictly casino and not exactly street
gaming but it was busy enough and there was always good action and plenty of cash.
determined months ago to take them all with my crooked dice. I switched them off on the
boys using hidden pockets in the lower sleeve of my heavy coat. That coat clinched it for
me, because Bonfigio’s was a clapboard storefront with a busted stove tailor made
for my shenanigans. Even when it worked that stove only heated the front of the store. The back room, in this
particularly freezing cold winter weather was as cold as being outside, but without the howling wind.
Smoke came out of all our mouths as we breathed or talked, mixed with cigarette and cigar
smoke, half a dozen beer and liquor smells and the odor of various unwashed bodies.
“You ain’t going nowhere…” Scanlon repeated, “…if
you want to continue living.”
“See, boy, we all
know you cheated!” Taggert blurted it out plain as day and as sure as a game cock rooster.
Well, that was it! It was said and out there now and I had to do something about
it. Let me tell you, it was a tough situation to be in. Of course I protested loudly, indignant
as all hell. Convincing enough so that a couple of the guys called for the dice off the
table to do a check.
Thank God I’d already palmed my loaded set and had them tucked safely away
in the secret pocket—replacing them with the good dice now on the table.
Bonafice Rogers checked the dice carefully and pronounced them good.
That got a few of them thinking they might have been wrong. The guns went down but
the ideas was flying high and fast, and ideas on this bunch could lead to trouble. That
might mean a search—a search I could not allow.
guys, suppose I stake you all,” I said fast. “We’re playing a friendly game and I want to
keep it friendly. Let’s do one last toss of the dice. If I win, you let me go with
my winnings. If I lose you let me go with what I got left after you take your winnings.”
A few of the fellows nodded assent. They liked that idea. They said it seemed fair.
Hell, it was more than fair, it was robbery!
looked at me cold and hard, “Boy, if you win this round – you’re dead!”
I swallowed hard, took the dice handed off to me by the stickman, who kept hold
of the dice when not in use. He was a lax fellow who hadn’t paid close attention
all night and that’s the reason I was able to palm the dice and make the switches
so clean. Now, however, like all the others there he was wide alert, his eyes glued to my hand and the dice in them.
I realized I’d gotten myself into one of those darn tricky and precarious
situations for a cheat. I’d been too successful. Now, no matter what, I had to lose.
I knew if I could make the change to the shaved or gaffed pair in my left sleeve
I could game the table and ensure my loss—but I could never make the switch
now. Not with them watching so closely. I’d have to use the good dice on the table—it
would be just my damn luck that I’d win.
winning could be the death of me!
As if to augment that
danger in my mind I saw Scanlon and Taggert point their revolvers at me. Even old Bonfiglio the barber,
placed a six-shooter on the ledge in front of him. I was afraid these boys was primed to go off and might
start spraying hot lead any moment.
was the first time as a shooter that my life could be decided by one roll of the dice and I was nervous as a virgin
in a whorehouse. I started to shake those dice hard, realizing that I might be playing
craps for the very last time.
I’d dumped about
half of my ill-gotten winnings on the Pass line. Since none of the fellows had any money left it was arranged
in advance that they would each take a 10% share of what was there if I lost.
And I had better make sure I lost.
swallowed tightly and let go of the dice. They flew across the dirty felt and hit against
the back table wall. My come-out roll was a Twelve, Boxcars, and thankfully I’d crapped
out. Which meant that I had lost. I sighed gratefully. Losing never felt so good. Now,
maybe I could get the hell out of here.
Huge greasy paws raked
in the winnings and it was doled out equally to the boys by Taggert and Scanlon. There was some confusion
and antagonism but they were a happy crew, after all they had gotten their money back. Some like Scanlon
and Taggert were getting more than they’d even come to the table with originally.
I picked up the remainder of my cash ready to bolt out the back door.
“Hey, where you going?” Scanlon blurted.
“He said, boy,
where the hell you going?” Taggert barked. “We ain’t done with you yet.”
“Come on, fellas,” I said appealing to their sportsmanship and trying
to keep it cordial, willing to put some backbone in my tone to let onto them that I’d
had just about enough of their little game.
Taggert pointed his Colt,
“I know you cheated us. I don’t know how you pulled it off, but I know you cheated.”
“That’s a damn black lie!” I shouted, as indignant and insulted
as I could muster.
“Then stand down for a search,” Bonfiglio said casually.
I gulped. I couldn’t do that.
I said, “Why, that’s a downright insult. I swear I played fair
and square, won my share rightly. I also note that I just lost a big pile of money, fairly too. You
all took back a cut of my winnings. Bonifice checked the dice before my throw. He said
they were clean. What more do you boys want?”
heard the meaningful sound of the hammer on another revolver pulled back. I felt a cold chill run through me.
“What you’re planning to do is robbery…and bloody murder!”
I barked, stammering as I got the words out, rage and fear fighting in my mind. That seemed
to hold them off a bit, they wasn’t tried and true killers – least not most
of them. Not yet. “You had your chance to win your money back and you won it. So leave me be. I’m going now.”
“You gotta lose the rest,” Scanlon said seriously.
I looked at him, then around at the other faces. They were all serious. “That’s
all I got left.”
that or your life,” Taggert said sharply. There was no bend in his manner or attitude, he meant business. They
all did. “Of course, if you can stand a search then maybe there’s no problem.”
I couldn’t stand a search and he knew it. I kept my mouth shut.
“I didn’t think so, boy,” Taggert replied with a wicked grin.
The stickman, Bonifice, handed me the dice again, growling, “Shoot ‘em!”
Taggert reached over and grabbed the rest of my cash from the table, all that was
left of my winnings for the night. “Your choice where it goes down, Pass or Don’t
I shrugged, did it matter? Maybe it did, because if I shot and made a point I’d
have to keep shooting and if I kept shooting I might just post an honest win. I figured
that winning now, with these legit dice, couldn’t put me in any worse of a fix than
I was in already. It might even set things on a new path. Leastways, that’s what I hoped.
“Alright, place it all on the Don’t Pass line.”
Taggert grinned wickedly and put the pile where I had requested.
I blew on the dice once for good luck, which was all they’d allow me. Some
pilgrims feel dice heated by a shooter’s breath can turn a trick or two when rolled.
My one breath was just for luck, and only for luck, which is what I needed most right then.
Then I let loose with the dice. They sprang across the felt tabletop, slamming into
the backboard and rolling all over the field in opposite directions. My come-out roll was
Snake-Eyes, a Two. I would have lost on a Pass line bet but with a Don’t Pass bet
I’d have to shoot again now to make point. I rolled a second time and it was a Six. Six was the point so it
came down to the fact that I needed a Seven to win.
took the dice in hand again for a third time.
was tension all around the table. I was sweating bullets and part of it was from the very
possible fact that I might be feeling some real bullets soon enough.
I needed a Seven, a Seven-out would end it for me and I’d be a winner. But
what would the reaction be from the fellows here? Even if I won legit, they still might
kill me. Some of them looked pretty mad. If I lost, they’d take all the rest of my
money, and then probably kill me anyway. So, if I was a dead man regardless, I’d go out my own way with my
own winnings. I decided to try and make the Seven-out.
shook the dice in my right hand. I was fearful of winning, I was fearful of losing. In the
end I might get a bullet either way so what did it matter?
“Come on Seven!” I shouted. Then I let loose with the dice.
Those dice rolled like Mexican jumping beans, which was not a good sign. They rolled
across the felt like rain off a beaver’s hide. Slick. Fast. When they stopped I saw
a Four, and then as slow as molasses in summer a Three came up.
I’d made my point.
I’d won the toss.
I looked over at the
hard faces of the ten men in front of me. I tried to ignore the shooting irons some of them still held
out and ready. The hell with them! I’d won legit and I was going to collect my winnings and get out
I reached over to the pile of cash lying on the Don’t Pass line and grabbed
“I should drill you right now,” Taggert growled, none too happy.
“He won, fair and square,” Scanlon admitted, lowering his piece. “That’s
the way it goes sometimes.”
Bonifice nodded, he checked
the dice again. “They’re clean. He won it with honest dice.”
course I did,” I said, grabbing my money and stuffing it into my pockets.
“Hold up!” Taggert shouted. I heard a revolver shot; I looked back in
fear. He’d let a round go into the ceiling -- some wood splinters fell down onto
the table. I gulped nervously, this wasn’t looking good.
done and I’m going!” I demanded.
you ain’t!” Taggert said and clicked back the hammer of his Colt. “The next one won’t be
in the ceiling, it’ll be inside you.”
stood frozen. I stammered, “What the hell you want?”
“You’re gonna stand for a search.”
I looked around at the faces of the other men in the room. Most were ambivalent
at this point but they were coming around at the prospect of some further entertainment
at my expense.
I was unarmed and had to think fast.
shouldn’t have won that last toss,” Taggert added. “I left you an out
and you didn’t take it.”
“You left me an
out!” I barked, “You call me a cheat, you force me to stake the table for two rounds, I lose the first
one and you take half my winnings, then you want everything else I won. I won’t go for that.”
“Put the money back on the table, roll the dice again, just against me, one
last time,” Taggert ordered. “If you lose this time you get to walk out of
here alive. If you win, you’re a dead man.”
this was just plain robbery now. It was also clear to me that I had to lose and lose fast. It was I versus Taggert.
He had a gun trained on me and I was unarmed.
stickman passed me the dice with a wicked grin.
was beginning to hate this damn game. I was beginning to feel it might be the death of me
The men around the table were grinning widely, some drinking, laughing, placing
side bets on whether Taggert would blow me to Kingdom Come or make me run out like a beaten
whelp with it’s tail between it’s legs.
on, roll ‘em!” Taggert shouted impatiently.
I rolled ‘em -- flinging both dice as hard as I could right into Taggert’s eyes. He winced, got off a shot
that went wide, then I was on him. In a flash I was pounding away at him for dear life
until the other men grabbed me up and held me fast.
me go!” I growled. “Who the hell does he think he is!”
“I don’t think so,” Scanlon said, looking around at the other
men. “What should we do with him?”
Taggert came close to
me then, “I think I’ll shoot him dead. But first, he’s gotta stand for a search.”
Then they held me fast and searched every inch of me and my clothing. Bonifice the
stickman finally announced with some surprise and perhaps even remorse, “He’s
clean. I mean really clean. No dice.”
“See! I told you
I was clean.”
There was silence for a moment. Taggert had been so sure of his accusation but now
there was doubt on his face also.
I gave them my best self-righteous,
told-you-so glare, showing disgust for each and every one of them, and damn if some of them
even withered under my gaze. They knew now they’d been wrong.
“Thanks for the game fellas,” I barked out. “Now I’m
leaving and I’m taking my winnings with me.”
were quiet so I got the hell out of there fast while the getting was good. I was on my
horse and on the way out of town when I heard a thunderous howl of rage.
I smiled, Taggert had found the two sets of dice I had planted on him.
It wasn’t long before I was on my way into the next county and I wouldn’t
stop running until I was into the next state. While I still have tremors about Taggert
tracking me down to this day, I don’t get no more nightmares about the fear of winning.
Copyright 2013 by Gary Lovisi.
|Art by Noelle Richardson © 2017
For decades I had
been obsessed with the little known, supernatural conundrum I’d dubbed “The
Borlsover Affair”. I’d heard and read snatches of it here and there of course,
but never beheld the truth of the matter until now.
The story particularly intrigued me as I was
a writer -- one who can only create his stories in original first draft by hand -- hence I became obsessed with the tale of an animated appendage told
to me by one of the survivors of the affair. The man was named Saunders -- an old and rather
unsavory broken fellow living out his last days as a mathematical master at a second-rate
suburban school. Upon the application of a far too liberal mixture of alcoholic
beverages one evening I forced him to tell me the entire tale -- a grotesque
nightmarish story he had often intimated to me, but never fully expounded upon,
for the fear was always upon him. The alcohol loosened his tongue as I knew it
would that dark late October night, before Halloween would come upon us, as he told
me the full tale of the Borlsover Family. He began recounting the sad life of old cantankerous
Adrian Borlsover, gone blind but gifted with some form of automatic writing in his animated
right hand, and of his young nephew, Eustace -- and then of the hand itself.
beast with five fingers it was, Mr. Jameson,” Saunders grimly whispered to me in
the dark corner of a secluded booth in an empty barroom that chilly evening. “Not
a proper hand at all was it. Long bony fingers, muscle to it certainly, but no warm flesh
nor blood. A demon thing, haunted by some disembodied spirit of Adrian Borlsover or some
other of the Borlsover clan -- a human hand that put pen to paper to write such
blasphemy as one could never imagine. I think the entire family was cursed.
Poor Eustace! The hand took him eventually.”
I nodded grimly, for I believed the man entirely.
I believed him because over the many years of research and through vast expense, I now
had the hand in my possession, locked away in a safe in my home.
told this all to Saunders. His eyes bugged wide in terror, froth flecking at his lips as
he appeared momentarily unable to utter any words.
“So will you help
me?” I asked him plainly, impatiently. My plan was to investigate the hand, understand
it, to control it, and Saunders was the one man alive who possessed that knowledge. He
was someone who had actual experience with the thing and could help me make it
do my bidding. Long ago, Eustace Borlsover and he had discovered it, on that
dark day a mysterious small box was delivered to Eustace with his uncle’s
severed right hand inside it.
Saunders shook, took a long drink. “You
have it, don’t you? You son of a bitch! Why? Why on Earth! How ever did you find
“It was not easy, Mr. Saunders, I can
assure you. The time and expense was excessive but… Well, who can place a value upon
such a thing? I am a writer, as I told you before, and I write all my work by hand with
pen on paper -- in the classic style. It is the only way I can write and I make a very
successful living from it. All first drafts are done in that manner, then after editing
I transpose the manuscript via typewriter for further rewriting and editing, but the idea
phase -- that most important part of the creative process -- I can only do by hand with
pen to paper first.”
“Automatic writing?” he asked with a
wild-eyed look of suspicion.
“Perhaps…?” I replied softly. “I
imagine one might call it that if one were to think in those terms. The mind
creates the ideas, but the hand holding the pen writes them all down carefully and with
great speed. Writing them faster than I could ever type them. Better than I could ever
speak them into any recording device or to any secretary via shorthand. While each writer
has their own system that works best for them, this is the only way I can create my work.”
sometimes, doesn’t it seem to you that your hand writes what it will, almost with
a mind of its own?” Saunders asked hoarsely.
“Yes, it does,”
I replied with a sly grin. “Sometimes in the heat of the creative process…the
hand does seem to do what it will.”
“So what is it
I laughed at him, then smiled indulgently, “Mr.
Saunders, I know not what you are thinking. My success enables me to indulge myself in
these little conundrums that I find interesting, fascinating, even exhilarating. The story
of the hand of Adrian Borlsover is one I have been obsessed with for a long time, and now
I own the thing.”
“You may think you own it, Mr.
Jameson,” Saunders husked dryly, trying to hold back the evident terror he felt lodged
within from long dark memories, “but I am afraid that it owns you now as well.”
I said briskly, impatient, refusing to accommodate the fearfulness and abject blue funk
that had overtaken the man. “I want to study the thing and more so -- what I really
want to do is set it to writing for me, then to read what mysterious words and sentences
it will put down on paper. Who knows what mysteries it will unlock and tell us?”
looked at me with utter disbelief. “It is a demon haunted thing and no good can ever
come of its use. I would fear its words, sir, I would fear the print from a pen written
by such a hand.”
“Not I! I should be delighted to read
what it has to write down for us, Mr. Saunders,” I told him firmly. “Come now,
join me in this endeavor and I can assure you, you never need want for money. I know
you are perpetually short on funds, but if you join me you need never fear that situation
“Aye, I am low on funds but I fear not
poverty -- I drink up most of my pay to keep the nightmare’s away -- for it is an
old fear that rattles around in my bones about that hand, Mr. Jameson. I still see it in
my mind’s eye, scurrying across the floor of Master Eustace’s library, climbing
up the drapes, cater pillaring its long bony fingers along the book shelves. It’s
a nightmare I’ll never forget, but I will join you and help you as best I am able,
just as I did young Eustace, God rest his soul. But not only for money will I do this work,
but upon your command I will be there to destroy the creature when you come to your senses
to allow it to be done.”
I laughed heartily at that, “I don’t
think that will ever happen, Mr. Saunders. But I accept your service and will pay
you well for your advice and experience. Now let us get home and get some sleep, for we
start our adventure bright and early tomorrow morning promptly at eight am.”
helped Saunders to a cab that took him to his run-down hovel of an apartment. Then I drove
to my townhouse, my mind swirling with thoughts of what marvelous words that amazing hand
would soon put to paper for me.
The next day promptly at eight am, Jenkins,
my assistant, let Mr. Saunders into my parlor for our initial meeting. I must say that
for the amount of drink, lack of sleep, and his advanced age, he seemed remarkably sharp
“I’m here, Mr. Jameson, I’m ready to
begin,” he stated firmly, though I thought my eyes could detect a slight tremor
of his left hand. Tension, fear, terror, or early onset of some debilitating
disease? I did not know, nor did I much care, for we had important work to do.
let us get started,” I said, leading him into my large wood-paneled book-lined study
and closing the door resoundingly behind me. “We are alone now.”
looked in awe around my large library, which was the pride of my home. High shelves along
all four walls full with books rose almost 20 feet in height, topped off by a large glass
skylight in the center of the room. “By God, the place reminds me of old Adrian
Brolsover’s library. That was a foul place of dark happenings and dire
I smiled ignoring his grim words. Instead I
said, “It is time we begin our work. I suppose you would like to examine the hand
Saunders blanched, “It’s here! In this
“Yes, in this very room, I have it locked
away in my safe.”
Saunders gulped nervously, “Young Master
Eustace once locked the hand away in a safe -- and it got out.”
not, Saunders, all is secure here,” I told him briskly. I would have offered the
poor sot a drink but I feared that at the moment he was unnerved quite enough. Better to
calm him and show him that the hand posed us no threat.
I undid the combination
of my safe and brought out a cigar-box sized wooden case and placed it on my desk in front
of us. There was a bolt lock that secured the lid and I instantly undid it.
Saunders gasped in terror, and I couldn’t
help but let out a slight laugh. “It is quite safe, Saunders, I assure you.”
I opened the lid and we beheld the hand. It was the severed, dried, blackened, long fingered
right hand of Adrian Borlsover. There was a deep indentation in it where Saunders had told
me it had been nailed to a board by Eustace years before. There was no board, nor
nail now, and the hand lay there entirely still and unmoving -- a horrible
severed human appendage!
“It really is quite harmless. In fact,
I must admit it rather disappoints me,” I told Saunders, who looked upon the thing
mouth agape. I continued, “With all I had heard and read about it, I expected some
movement, some form of life or animation of the fingers, something -- but in all the days
I have possessed it, it has not made one single movement.”
thankful of that, Mr. Jameson.”
I laughed, “Well, regardless, here it
is. It is not doing anything, and we can examine it to our heart’s content. Would
you like a drink?”
Saunders nodded absently, his eyes could not
leave the hand, “I could sure use one, sir.”
well,” I called in Jenkins and told my man to bring us two bourbons -- Saunders and
I had been imbibing the very same the previous evening so I assumed that would be acceptable
to him, and he agreed.
I covered the hand with my handkerchief once
Jenkins appeared to take our order, then uncovered it once he’d brought our drinks
and left the room. The hand was still there, of course, apparently having not moved at
Saunders was shivering by now. He lunged for his glass and downed
the dark fluid with relief or terror -- who could truly say.
I sipped my drink slowly
as I looked carefully at the motionless hand.
“And it has not
moved since you first obtained it?” Saunders asked curious, somewhat hopeful, to
“Not one iota.”
He nodded, looked down
at the hand laying there upon the top of my desk, “And how long has it been in your
“One week, and I have examined it carefully
each and every day. I must admit I am disappointed that the thing seems dead, unmoving.
How can it write anything if it can not even move?”
that so important to you? That it take up a pen and write?” Saunders asked me, calmer
now, but with serious concern in his voice.
“Of course! The
story about the thing tells us it wrote such diabolical messages as chilled old Borlsover
to his very bones. I am a writer. I am fascinated to see what words it will put to paper,
but there is something else…”
Saunders looked at me
now with dark suspicion in his eyes. I just laughed, “My dear fellow, it is not that
bad, I assure you. Look at my hands, especially my right hand which I use for my
“Yes, rather severe and growing worse,”
I told him with a sigh. “Soon my very means of earning a living -- a quite nice moneyed
living by the way -- will end. For if I can not write using my hand to hold pen to paper,
I am doomed.”
“But surely you can use a typewriter?
Or even hire a secretary…?”
“For editing certainly, but not for the
crucial creative process. No, none of that will work for me. I have tried everything. The
creative process is a complex and delicate one, one’s muse can be a fickle bitch
at times. I am only able to write by hand and now my livelihood will be ruined. I must
find a way to make the hand responsive to my commands. I know it can be done.”
you shall never do, Mr. Jameson. The thing has a mind -- if one can say such -- of its
own. It is not the mind of Adrian Borlsover, whom I knew, but something else, something
quite malevolent. If I were you I would douse it with gasoline and set it ablaze right
away. Destroy it before it destroys you. It is of no use to you as it is, so why not
dispose of it here and now? I will help you do it. Please.”
Look, Saunders, I hired you because you have experience with the thing, with trapping it
and controlling it. I want you to get it working for me. I want it moving and writing again!”
quite mad, you know that.”
“But I pay well, eh, Saunders?”
“You pay well,
and I’ll do it, but not only for the money.”
Saunders and I worked on various plans to reanimate
the hand. After we each examined it minutely, we were convinced that it was indeed dead.
This caused me considerable despair, until I decided there might be some way to shock it
into wakefulness. Saunders vehemently disagreed with this idea but I overruled him. I began
by using sharp probes, long pins and needles, to poke and prod the thing, but it was all
to no avail. Old Saunders was alarmed by my actions and warned of reprisals, but I heeded
him not. Then I came upon the idea of using a battery to give the thing an
“A good jolt of electricity may just do
the trick, eh, Saunders?” I asked, setting up the apparatus. I first tried a 9 volt
battery, but when there was no reaction, I grew more ambitious and set it up using a far
larger automobile battery. The connection instantly caused the hand fly off my desk and
fall to the floor. Still lifeless and motionless. It was hot and smoking as I picked it
up and replaced it upon my desk. Saunders was mumbling to himself by then, but I could
not make out his words.
I was severely disappointed, depressed even,
for nothing we tried seemed to reanimate the hand. I had spent so much money and many years
of my life to procure this now useless object that my frustration boiled over in sudden
rage. I attacked the hand with a knife, stabbing it repeatedly as I cursed it and all the
Borlsovers. I shouted vile words as I plunged the knife into it again and again.
Saunders ordered, finally restraining me. “What are you doing! You’ll make it -- mad!”
then if it has any feelings, any life left in it at all, it should get mad. By God, I’ll
give the damn thing something to get mad about!”
I pushed old Saunders aside and continued to
stab away viciously into the dried up blackened thing, my knife cutting deep gouges into
it -- and through it -- the knife going into the wood of my desktop. The hand gave off
no reaction. None at all. There was muscle tissue there, bone and sinew, but no warmth,
and no flesh or blood at all.
I grew despondent, my
writing career was over and the fortune I had spent to obtain the hand had been wasted.
I was in debt and broke. With a curse I hurled the useless thing across the room
where it smacked against a bookcase. It dropped to the floor with a dull thud. Then
the thing moved. The fingers twitched, and quickly in the manner of a
geometer caterpillar, the fingers humped up one moment, flattened the next, the
thumb appeared to give it a crablike motion, and the hand righted itself upon
it’s fingertips and quickly shot off behind the bookcase. It was gone in an instant.
was astounded and looked at Saunders. He was cringing in terror.
done it now!” he whispered in dire warning.
“Did you see that,
Saunders?” I barked elated now, seeking his verification. Verification that I had
not imagined what I had just seen, nor gone entirely mad. Insane.
and you’ve done it now, Master Jameson,” was all he said in an accusing tone, adding fearfully, “Now you’ve made
it mad. Master Eustace made it mad and no good can come of it now.”
swallowed hard, it was a lot to get used to. Not the fact that the hand might be mad at
me, that was pure poppycock, but that it had indeed moved! That it had actually come to
life! This was wonderful!
“Come on, Saunders,” I blurted full of
excitement. “We must trap it!”
“Aye, now we must, but we shall not.”
“Oh, come now,
it’s just a thing, only a hand, nothing more. We can trap it and then I can use it
for my own ends.”
Well, I uttered those
words to Saunders days ago with utmost confidence, but they had not proved true. The
thing possessed an uncanny energy and wiliness I never would have thought
possible. It hid from us and was difficult to find. Every time Saunders and I
would seem to trap it, it escaped our grasp.
I locked down my library, we nailed shut the
windows, boarded up all vents, bolted the door. I gave Jenkins strict orders never to enter
the room unless by a prearranged signal. I did not want the thing to get loose and escape.
I felt sure that while we had it locked within my library it was just a matter of time
before we would find it and capture it.
Saunders and I never
left the library now except to bring in items for use to trap the thing, which all eventually
failed. We slept in the library on cots, taking turns keeping watch. We tried
many ways to find the thing and trap it but nothing worked. It was as if it
were playing some game with us, hiding out just to spite us. Though none of our
plans had worked as of yet, I knew I would eventually capture that hand and I would
not let anything stop me.
It was on the night before Halloween when the
moon was full, beams of illumination coming in through the library skylight, when I saw
the hand. It was upright upon fingertips, slowly walking along the top rail of a high bookshelf.
I could plainly see its’ silhouette against the skylight. I dared not move for fear
of alerting it. Saunders was fast asleep in his cot -- as it was my watch just then. I
reasoned that to awaken him might alert the hand to hide itself, so I did my best to be
quiet and began to stalk the thing.
Silently I moved closer
and quietly climbed the mobile library stairway I used to reach the upper shelves. The
hand was motionless now, I could see it plainly against the skylight glass. It
seemed to be transfixed by the light from the full moon. I moved up the steps.
Quietly. Silently. I had just a few more steps to go and I would be even with
it -- close enough to quickly grasp it into my own hand. I knew I could do this,
I could surprise the thing and capture it in one feel swoop. I took the last step, the
wooden ladder beneath my foot gave the slightest creek. I shuddered in fear that the sound
had given me away, but the hand remained motionless. I was almost upon it. I reached over
and outstretched my fingers to grasp the thing, when it suddenly turned and flung itself
off the shelf upon me. It’s long cold bony fingers instantly grasped my throat and
closed tightly. I gasped, I could not breath. I was flung backwards by the sudden surprise
of the attack and had to do my damnedest using my left hand to hold onto the
ladder so as not to fall the 20 feet to the library floor below. My right hand
vainly tried to pry the thing’s fingers from my throat, as I desperately tried
By then the ruckus had woken Saunders. “Mr.
Jameson?” I heard him ask in alarm. Then he looked up and must have seen us struggling
there at the top of the ladder against the skylight and the full moon. He saw me and shouted,
“Mr. Jameson! I told you it would come to no good!”
barely heard his words for I was in a life and death struggle with a demon thing that possessed
supernatural strength I had never encountered before. I gasped for breath, my eyes bulging
as I struggled to keep my balance on the ladder with my left hand, while I tried to pry the creature’s fingers from my
throat with my right. It was to no avail. The thing’s fingers were like steel
rods. I was gurgling froth, then blood. Finally I could hold onto the ladder no
longer. I felt myself losing consciousness and tried to scream -- the scream
stifled in my throat by the tightening pressure of the demon hand.
I lost my grip and fell backwards, end over end, hitting the hard wood floor of my library
with a resounding whack. I lay upon the floor face up and conscious but unable to
move, my eyes locked upon the stub of the hand with it’s long bony fingers
still wrapped around my throat. I could not move. I must have been paralyzed
from the fall. I was alive, but I could not move, but the hand could move and
did. It was still seeking to choke the very life out of me.
Then I saw Saunders approach out of the corner
of my eye. Now I knew he would help me and pry this hellish thing
from my throat.
But would he be in time?
“Mr. Jameson, are you alive? Are you conscious?”
he looked down at me frantic with terror and fear, staring at the hand upon my throat with
dire dread. I feared he might run off. I know I would have
done so, had our situations been reversed. Instead he told me, “You
were trying to trap it, now it has trapped you. Your anger brought it to life and once
you began to hurt it -- I knew it would hurt you. I am sorry.”
me!” I pleaded, though no sound could escape my mouth as my lips formed the silent
Then I saw Saunders run off, and I suddenly felt deserted
and doomed, for I knew I could hold out for only a few moments before I took my last gasp
of air and expired.
However, Saunders quickly returned and he held
the wooden box from my desktop and placed it close to my head. He opened the lid. Then
he withdrew a large pair of snipers that he brought up to the demon hand at my throat.
He quickly snipped off the thumb of the hand, and as that appendage fell away to the floor
in twitching anger, he pulled the rest of the hand from my throat. I thankfully took my
first full breath of blessed air as I watched Saunders place the twitching hand and severed
thumb into the box. He quickly closed the lid and locked the clasp. Then he picked up the
box and left.
The doctors tell me the fall left me paralyzed and that I will
never get out of this wheelchair. My life and my writing career are effectively over. Saunders
takes care of me now, I am an invalid and quite helpless, thankful for his company. Saunders
assures me that he destroyed the thing but the manner of how he did it, he will not discuss
with me. When
I try to write it is quite impossible. Arthritis coupled with the damage done from the
fall make it difficult for me to even hold a pen in my hand. But I try. I try because once
that had been my profession, my livelihood. I had been a writer. Now I am a
former writer who can not even sign his own name.
I’ve not been
the same since my encounter with the hand. I know Saunders told me he destroyed it but
I still realize its presence. I can sometimes feel it’s bony fingers pressing upon
my throat, but there’s something more, something there that is deeper inside of
me. Dark thoughts haunt me; it is almost as if something has passed between us.
In the middle of the night, when Saunders is sleeping and I am alone praying
for dreams of sweet slumber that refuse to come, I know that strange things
happen. In the darkness of night my right hand silently picks up a pen and puts it
to paper. It writes such terrible things as send my blood to ice. They are demon haunted
messages -- black realms of malevolence that make me shudder, through I be paralyzed --
such is their power.
I have kept these messages hidden from Saunders,
but of course he found the written sheets this morning in my bed and read them in utter
terror, but not disbelief. At that moment he realized what I already knew, that the thing
had some kind of hold upon me still, and it is only then that we looked upon my offending
right hand, realizing what must be done.
Copyright by Gary Lovisi 2014 and
2017, All Rights Reserved.
“Five Fingers” originally
appeared in the anthology The Monkey’s
Other Paw, edited by Luis Ortiz, Nonstop Press,
|Art by Hillary Lyon © 2018
The Devil You
Herbert Thrall, being a bold and brash young man, wanted to move up the corporate
ladder by any means necessary so as to be a mover and shaker in the wild and woolly New
York financial world. However, that dream seemed better dreamt than done. After five
years he found himself trapped, working for a middling firm, in a middling position, and
his future prospects were middling, at best. That was unacceptable! Herbert Thrall possessed
a certain boldness within him that cried out for recognition and success and upon his 26th
birthday he decided that his life plan to obtain great wealth and power on Wall Street
was just not making it. Something had to change. Thrall had a plan. He knew it was
drastic and unusual, but he accepted the risk if it got him results. He was all about results.
Herbert Thrall met with the woman at a cozy bar off Wall Street across from his
office. It was a watering hole for the losers who thrived on liquid lunches. They sat on
opposite sides of a fancy wooden table in a back booth to ensure privacy. Privacy in these
matters was probably important, he assumed, but he felt as if he were hiding some secret
affair, rather than what was the actual reason for this meeting. He was meeting this woman,
who proclaimed herself a witch, at a bar in the early afternoon on a Wednesday and it just
didn’t seem right to him. It seemed this kind of thing should have been done in a
graveyard at St. Paul’s Church; or perhaps the Sheep Meadow of Central Park at midnight
during a full moon. Even a lonely drug den tenement on the Lower East Side would have been
better suited; but alas it was happening here and now and so he accepted it. However, being
if nothing else but brash and bold, Thrall asked the witch woman about it. She just laughed,
not even weirdly, for her tone was actually rather pleasant, even sexy and cute. And this
witch was a rather stunning young woman, not much older than he was. He looked at her closely.
Wondering. Trying to gauge his chances of getting her in bed later—after all this
was over with, of course. Well, maybe after they had a few more drinks. She appeared agreeable
enough. So far. He just wondered what kind of experience at witchcraft a woman like her
could have, being so young.
“You are wondering,
perhaps, if I have the requisite experience and powers to make your dreams come true?”
she stated with a wan smile. Was she reading his thoughts? He looked at her closely. She
had a lovely smile, surely inviting, as she took a sip of her drink. Daniels and Coke.
Herbert Thrall nodded. “I guess. You’re not what I expected, that’s
“Yes, of course.
You expected some ancient crone with warts and bad breath.”
like that, I guess.”
lightly. He laughed. He liked the sparkle in her eyes. Yes, a few more drinks and he was
sure she’d be coming back with him to his one-room apartment for some horizontal
bedroom antics. He could hardly wait. Then as if reading his mind, she told him, “Best
we get down to business now.”
“I guess,” Thrall said softly, wondering exactly what was involved in
this ‘business’—as she called it.
Herbert Thrall knew only too well. He was in the process of selling his soul for
great wealth and financial power in the Wall Street market. He felt strangely ambivalent
about it all. He was not a religious man. In fact, he did not care about his soul—if
he even had one—he just wanted results. To him, the price was worth the cost if he
got the results he wanted. What he wanted was to make a killing. He had gone all the more
standard routes in the business world without success, then he had come upon this young
lady’s name from a friend. Results were said to be guaranteed. That got his attention.
“I’m just a conduit to your desires,” she explained simply. “Are
“I guess. What do
I have to do?”
“Nothing. You just
have to read what was written on the card I handed to you when we met.”
“Yeah, ah yes, but it really didn’t say much, only one sentence was
written there. That seems strange. That’s all I have to say?”
“That is all that is needed. It is simple. That sentence is the only requirement,”
she replied simply, waiting.
all right then!” he said enthusiastically, as if that ended the subject.
“No, you must say
it out in words,” she stated firmly.
suddenly realized that he was not going to get laid tonight—at least not by this
“No blood, no oath
to Sa… you know? No…sacrifices?” he asked curiously.
She just giggled. “This is 2016, Mr. Thrall, no need for all that mumbo jumbo
these days. Anyway, that will all come later, I assure you.”
“Many years in
the future. No need to concern yourself with any of that now. For now, just say the words
and everything will be all set. The world will be yours.”
Herbert Thrall shook his head in disbelief—was this really happening? More
so, was it really possible? Yet, this woman did come very highly recommended. It was said
she got incredible results. He looked at her again. Was she really a witch? It seemed
inconceivable, but he knew these days anything might be possible. However, she seemed more
like some bimbolina wannabe hairdresser from Queens. He began to regret ever getting involved
with her, but then again, this wasn’t costing him any money. She had asked for no
payment—other than his soul—which was nothing to him. He certainly didn’t
care about that. What was his soul anyway?
“Okay, it doesn’t make sense to me, but—”
“Don’t worry about that. Magic doesn’t work on making sense. Just
say the words.”
Okay, I’ll say it.” He picked up the small business card. Looked at it once
again. On one side was the simple word “Conduit”. That was all. It seemed odd,
but he shrugged it off. On the other side of the card were written the words she told
him he must speak out loud. Then the deal would be done. The contract would be complete,
and he would get all that he ever wanted.
He nodded, his
usual brash boldness now taking over his personality once more. What did he have to lose?
What did he care about something he wasn’t even sure he possessed at all? It didn’t
make any difference, really. He’d do it. Then all his dreams would come true.
“Well? You want it all or not?’ she prompted, a bit impatient now, like
she had somewhere else to be, all of a sudden. Did she have other clients? What the hell
did she have to be impatient about? Where was she going that was so important? She was
a no one. He was the one selling his soul, after all.
“Okay, I’ll say the words,” he said softly. He looked at her squarely
in the eyes, pursed his lips and spoke out firmly, “I, Herbert Thrall, hereby accept
the terms of this agreement.”
“Well it’s about time! Very good,” the young lady said. She downed
her drink and made ready to leave the booth.
Thrall looked at her in shock, “That’s it?”
“That’s it. You accepted the agreement, and that is all that is needed.
That is all that is required. We’re done here.”
“But there’s no—no paperwork, no contract? You don’t even
know what I want out of this agreement with…”
“The other party to this agreement knows only too well, that’s all that
matters,” she replied as she picked up her purse and stepped out of the booth.
“Ah, hey, wait. Where are you going?”
“We are finished here, Mr. Thrall.”
“But, ah, why don’t you come back to my place for a drink, eh?”
he asked, almost pleading, sadly desperate he realized.
She just laughed at him lightly, “Oh, Mr. Thrall, you are much too important
and wealthy a man now to want to fool around with a part-time hairdresser from Queens.”
Herbert Thrall watched
her leave in growing confusion and some anger. Had he been taken? No, he hadn’t paid
her one thin dime. She’d even paid for their drinks. He quickly checked. His wallet
was intact. His cash and cards untouched. He shook his head trying to figure it all out.
“Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained, I guess.” he said softly,
shrugged. He was about to let the entire matter drop and put it all down to foolishness
when he saw Tom Saunders from the office enter the bar. His supervisor was a demanding
man, and they were not friends at all but now he watched as the man seeing him ran over
to his booth. He had a broad grin upon his face, and actually looked happy to see him.
“Herb! Damnit, Herb! Man, I been looking for you all over!” Saunders
eyes were bug-eyed, he was frantic, but happy. He had never seen Tom Saunders happy, unless
he was bullying an employee—usually Herbert Thrall.
“Well, you found me! What did I do wrong now?” Thrall answered, fearing
You have no idea! The Wilson case you were working on…”
“Yeah, I know, no sales—it’s an impossible account.”
“Impossible! No sales! Man, have you got it wrong! They bought it all, through
you. They would only buy through you. You did it! You cracked their account. They just
dropped a cool hundred million with us and your percentage of that will make you
fabulously wealthy. How the hell did you do it, Herb?”
Thrall looked up at his supervisor with a shocked gaze. “Is this some kind of joke?”
“No joke, old buddy. Simonson says he would like to see you in his office
and the same, my friend. You are headed to the big time, my boy! You have just become a
mover and a shaker!”
The weeks passed in a whirlwind for Herbert Thrall. Everything he had wished for
had come true. He was winning at deal after deal, building incredible wealth. Everything
was just falling into place. By the third week he was made a partner in the firm.
By the fifth week he owned the firm!
As the money and
the power piled up, and the accompanying women added to his success and pleasure, Herbert
Thrall wondered if he had indeed actually sold his soul—and what it might mean. He
now had everything he had always wanted—everything he had so desperately wanted for
his entire life. It was amazing and wonderful. Mind boggling for sure. And yet, with all
the money, all the power, all the women, he realized that he suddenly felt somehow unfulfilled.
Something surely seemed to be missing. It was not something he could voice in words. It
was a feeling that seemed to grow inside him. He now had any woman he wanted—women
he could never even dream of having before—and yet he knew they were only with him
because of his wealth and power. It was strangely unsatisfying. Not gratifying at all—as
it should have been. Even as his wealth and power continued to grow -- the more it grew—the
more unsatisfying it became to him. He wondered what was going on. He knew he had to find
out why he felt this way.
Herbert Thrall sought
the advice of a dozen doctors of all types, the best experts in any field he chose—he
could afford the best now—but none of them gave him any real answers. Or at least
any satisfying answers. Some told him he was depressed, or that he needed pills, or medicine,
psychotropic drugs—nothing he had ever needed before in his life. He knew they were
all full of it. They were wrong. They did not know what they were talking about. They did
not know what was wrong with him. He knew it had to be
something else. Something they—and he—was missing.
He had to find out why he felt this way. He had considerable resources now, he had
his own “people” as they say. So, he had them track down that witch and part-time
hairdresser from Queens. The Conduit. His people quickly found her. The two met in the
same bar, in the same booth, as they had a bare months ago.
She looked just as pretty as ever. She smiled, “How are things going?”
“I don’t know.”
She frowned, looking concerned for a moment, “Everything is going according
to the contract, is it not?”
“I guess so.”
“Good, for a
moment I thought we had a problem.”
“You have come a
long way in just two months.”
“Yes, that is
“So, what is the
problem?” she asked impatiently, as if she had no time for him now.
“I don’t know, exactly. I feel…”
“Unfulfilled?” she prompted.
“Yes, I guess I do,” he replied morosely, with a loss of his usual energy.
“Another word for it might be ‘empty’?”
“Yes, empty! I have everything I ever wanted, and still I feel empty.”
“Of course you do. That’s because you are empty.”
He looked at her
sternly. The dregs of his brashness and boldness resurging for a moment. He was a big man
now, no one to be trifled with. He was a mover and shaker and he did not like this kind
of disrespectful tone form some part-time hairdresser—and whatever else she was—part-time
“Perhaps you need
a correction?” she asked him.
thought about that for a moment. He had never considered such an action. “A correction?
What do you mean? I mean, maybe I do, but what does it entail?”
“Oh, nothing much really. It’s like a change of venue.”
“I don’t understand. Change of venue? I’m not in court or on trial
She just giggled lightly,
“Oh, Mr. Thrall, you can be so funny sometimes.”
“I’m not being funny now, I’m serious.”
“I know, that’s what I mean, you being so serious and all, that’s
what’s so funny.”
“What the hell do
you mean!” he barked angry now.
deeply, “Would you like a correction or not on your contract, Mr. Thrall? As a customer
in good standing who has made an agreement with us, you have the right to ask for a correction.”
“A correction? You mean, like to the terms of our agreement?”
“Something like that,” she stated enigmatically, but did not explain
yes, I want a correction,” he stated.
“Very well, Mr. Thrall, it has been duly noted and accepted. We are finished
here. Now I shall take my leave.”
“But—wait, do you want to come back to my penthouse? Have a few drinks?
Then we can…”
no, Mr. Thrall, that is not allowed. Fraternization leads to problems. You should be
happy that your correction has been accepted and duly noted. Goodbye, Mr. Thrall, and have
a nice life.”
Five minutes later everything in Herbert Thrall’s life began to change. The
next morning his financial empire was in free-fall. It was on TV in every Breaking News
report. His health was also apparently failing drastically, as was his love life which
had suddenly gone to ruins at warp speed. He was in shock and dismay and had no idea what
was happening to him. He thought things were supposed to get better. They were now worse.
Far worse! He still felt that unfulfilled feeling in the center of his chest. A great emptiness.
He thought he was having a heart attack, but it just felt like a large empty void. Horrified,
he took a cab to Queens and the Ne’er-Do-Well Hair & Nail Salon on Queens Boulevard.
He ran into the small run-down storefront frantic and desperate, gasping for breath.
He was near apoplexy and in panic. He looked around and finally saw the young lady who
went by the name of Conduit working in the last cubicle in the back—she apparently
really did work here—and she was with some old fat lady with orange hair.
He quickly walked over to her and said firmly, “I have to speak to you. Now!”
“What are you doing
here?” she demanded, not happy at all to see him, as she was apparently busy at work.
“I need to speak to you. Something terrible has happened!” he cried
desperate now. “I need help. Everything has gone to hell, all I wanted is gone. Gone!
I think I need another correction!”
“Sorry, only one to a customer,” she said firmly. She turned her back
on him and finished rinsing the old fat woman’s orange hair and then she told her,
“Let that set for fifteen minutes, Mrs. Bunker, and I’ll be right back.”
Then she took Thrall
out the back door of the store into the privacy of a back alley.
Once they were outside with the door closed, she asked angrily, “What is your
“What the hell is
going on here! I thought we had an agreement?”
do, and you got all you wanted out of it, you were even allowed a correction, as you
Correction? That was a disaster! It screwed up everything! What the hell kind of correction
“A correction from
Hell, Mr. Thrall, just as you requested,” she said with a charming smile. “My
Master works in mysterious ways. Sometimes it is better the devil you know than the devil
you do not.”
“No buts, Mr. Thrall, an agreement is an agreement.”
“But I have nothing now! Nothing! Do you understand? I have no financial empire,
no wealth or power, no health now too, nothing! And I have no soul—I’m still
soul, poor man. You sold your soul, you made the agreement. You made that first agreement
with the devil you know—but you made a correction with the devil you do not
know. That can be a change for the worse. Goodbye, Mr. Thrall, enjoy what is left of your
life,” she said as she walked back to the shop.
“But I’m dying!”
She did not
“Help me!” he
She ignored him as she
walked to the back door of the shop.
“I need another
The young lady looked
back at Herbert Thrall with a little smile as she opened the back door to enter the hair
salon, “Mr. Thrall, I’m afraid you’re all out of options and collection
is now due.”
Herbert Thrall blanched
white at her words and felt a sharp pang grip his chest. At first he thought it might be
a heart attack—he even hoped it might be something as banal or commonplace as a heart
attack—but he knew it was something much worse. Something much more severe. He felt
more empty now than any emptiness he had ever felt before—an emptiness of such deep
despair he had never thought it possible. Herbert Thrall screamed. Collection had now been
made in full. He collapsed in the alley—and though he did not die—he wished
that he had.
“So what I asked for will really come true?” the eager young man replied
with the eagerness of impatient youth.
They were sitting in the back booth of the bar where Herbert Thrall did his work
these days. It was a dive that catered to dead-enders and the desperate. He found it fertile
“All that and more,
my friend,” Thrall promised the eager young man. “I have a new employer now
since I left the firm. All you have to do is speak the words—that you agree to the
terms of the contract—and you can have anything you desire.”
“So all I have to do is—sell my soul?” the young man said with
a disdainful laugh, now voicing the cost of the deal. He disbelieved the entire story of
course, but at this point in his life he was desperate. He would try anything to get the
results he desired.
that’s it,” Thrall said simply with a twisted smile.
“Soul, schmoul, who the hell cares. You got yourself a deal.”
2016 by Gary Lovisi. All Rights Reserved.
& Fats story
I picked up Fats at the usual place. He was at Jackie’s on Dumont Avenue,
stuffing his pudgy face full of burgers, fries, wind rings, and Jackie’s sad-sack
coffee. That’s the kind of joe where the pot hadn’t been scrubbed since the
days back when Jackie still got her period. Now that was surely long ago! It was nasty
coffee that packed an unkind bite, sorta like Jackie herself sometimes. I wonder why
anyone drank it. It was the kinda brew that if spilled on the hood of our car might just
peel the paint off our old unmarked Plymouth war-wagon like sulphuric acid burning through
melted butter. I told Fats to be careful with it. I don’t know how he could drink
that rot-gut stuff and survive. There was a lot about my partner that was a mystery to
me back then. That was the least of it, though.
I pulled the car up to the curb. Fats came over, belched in my face, laughed and
said, “Hey, oh, so what’s up, Griff?”
I did a fanning motion in front of his mouth, made a something-stinks-face right
back at him. He just laughed at me, then to accentuate his point he farted, loud and squishy.
I just shook my head. What the hell was I going to do with him?
voice said it all and to the point, “Come on, get the hell in. We got business.”
Well he knew what that meant, and Fats bounced into the death seat like a whale
with an attitude and I took off, down Dumont, down, down deep, and out of what we called
back then ‘The Square’.
Or as they all called it back then, ‘The Square Mile of Vice’, the heart
and soul, the very hell of the town I call Bay City. It wasn’t the only bad part
of town. It just seemed to try harder. That’s the place where Fats and I did most
of our work back then, Homicide cops in the early days of the bygone 1960s.
The so-called ‘old days’, when Kennedy, the first one, hadn’t
even been killed yet, when the New York Yankees were still playing real baseball with Mickey
Mantle and Roger Maris hitting 50-60 home runs that summer of ‘61, and when crime,
drugs and guns were still in the hands of people who knew how to handle them.
Not like today, when
every teeny-bopper, doped-up, wise-ass punk, crack-head on the street has the kind of fire-power
Fats and I could have only dreamed of having back then. Today, when every child-punk, rat-bastard
considers himself the toughest, gangsta mutha in the world—but in reality they’re
only screwed-up, lost, scared, alone kinds without any good sense or upbringing worth half
a shit. Because no one cared about them. No one took an interest. Or no one on the good
side of things. Of course, that doesn’t diminish their danger—it only enhances
it. In fact, it takes the violence to a whole new level that was rare back in the old days.
Usually. But not always. We did come upon some really weird shit in them old days, for
The 1990s, when I’m
telling you all this, really do suck, but the 1960s was no bed of roses either. Not for
Blacks for shit-sure, and not for a lot of others too, back then. Not for cops in Homicide
either. Not if you was honest like Fats and me. We had our days back then, shit still happened.
Everything was just hidden back then, too. Undercover. The 1960s was just the training
ground for all the crap the 1990s would become—and the decades beyond that later
on would be even worse. Far as I could tell, there wasn’t much positive truth to
all the nostalgia about them old days being so peachy keen. Leastways, not a real lot,
not usually—but I guess if the truth be told, I’d have to admit those days were
just a bit better than these days. Maybe a lot better? The thing is, even a little
better can make a whole lot of difference sometimes. They were the good old days. Most
of the time. For most of the people. But not the kind of people we dealt with in the day-to-day
on the job.
The case we caught that
morning was an interesting one. It concerned a guy who’d lost his head. Literally.
He’d lost it because the guy that killed him had evidently sawed off the victim’s
head and took it with him when he left the corpse and the crime scene.
“Nice, eh? Sounds like some freako stuff to me, Griff,” Fats growled
in anger. Things like this always upset his delicate sensibilities. I could tell he figured
we were in for something bad with this. He saw it coming. So did I. He didn’t like
that at all.
takes the head. Leaves the body. What the hell’s that supposed to mean? I mean, what’s
he gonna do with it? A damn human head.” I muttered, then shrugged, and just kept
Like them guys in the jungle, Griff. I wonder if he’ll shrink it down. You know,
maybe make a necklace or something out of it? I saw a picture somewhere in a magazine that
they did that to some missionary in the Amazon,” Fats grunted. He did not approve
of this kind of behavior. Who the hell did!
I shrugged again, what did I care? We weren’t in the damn Amazon, but then
again, in a town like Bay City, the jungle is just a state of mind.
“Well?” he asked me, as if I had all the answers.
I said, “I can see you’re starting to get talky. That’s not a
good sign. Next, you’ll start thinking and before you know it, you’ll start
getting all kinds of ideas. When you get too many ideas, Fats, you can be trouble.”
He just smiled at me. He did have a nice winning smile. That was also a bad sign.
Trouble on the way. I did not want to encourage him.
“You’re gonna get in trouble again, if you don’t watch yourself,”
I told him.
again, “Trouble, not me, trouble only to the bad guys.”
“I know, that’s what I’m afraid of.”
He laughed, said, “So what we got, Griff?” He pulled out a bag, took
out a bagel stuffed with cream cheese, and began munching it like it was the last bit of
food in Bay City.
always hungry. Always eating.”
“Mama didn’t raise no shrinking violet, gotta have fuel to keep the
furnace running in tip-top shape.”
I just laughed, at 290 pounds last weigh-in—and he had probably added a few
ounces since then I imagine—he was anything but in tip-top shape for a copper. However,
Fats was one hell of a cop, and in them days that’s all that mattered.
I told him, “They
found the body in one of the junk yards out by Blacktown. Laying there nude, right out
in the open. No ID. And no head on the corpse. Freaked the dogs, and the guy that runs
the junk yard. Freaked the harness bulls that came upon it and called it in too.”
Fats laughed, “I can imagine. Must be one hell of a mess.”
I looked at Fats, sitting there, munching on that bagel like he hadn’t a care
in the world.
over at me carefully. Wiped his face.
“Wanna bite, Griff?”
I just gave him a gruff “No” and floored the gas. I didn’t bother
with the damn siren, and just cut and weaved in the traffic so I could get us to the junk
yard before the press hounds got there to indulge ‘the public’s right to know’
with a lot of grisly photos and wrong information. The press hasn’t changed much
from the old days either. They’ve just gotten like everything else—worse.
Doc Carten and the meat
wagon were right on the ball and Fats and I pulled up, pushed through the small crowd,
ripped away the yellow crime scene tape and walked out to a secluded area behind stacks
of flattened, rusted old Buicks and Chevys. Ghost cars, some with the dried blood still
on them in places, wrecks that I’d bet could tell some tall tales of horrendous crashes
if they could talk.
hadn’t been moved. Not yet. It was waiting for us. Doc lifted the sheet, and Fats
and I got an eyeful of a naked guy, six feet tall—or he would have been six feet
tall if he’d still had his head on his shoulders. His weight was about 240 pounds,
a big boy, white, no tattoos, big belly, like I say, a big boy. Him having no head, is
what kinda really stuck out for us. I mean, you couldn’t help but notice. And wonder
The neck stub on the corpse had been cut clean. Nice even job there. Bloody and
messy as hell, but a clean cut on the bone. I wondered if it had been done while he was
still alive. I couldn’t tell from the blood yet, I’d have to wait for the Doc’s
dope on that. That would be freaky shit if he’d been cut while still alive, and I
knew we might never really know for sure, but I had a feeling that was exactly how it had
been done. I would bet on it, and that made the murder a lot worse than if the head had
been taken while the guy was still alive.
I looked at the
cut more closely. Fats and Doc now at my side. I didn’t like what I saw. It wasn’t
a knife, axe, hatchet, or even a razor cut. I thought back on Gando Jarmandeu and that
razor, his calling card, and sighed in relief. It wasn’t none of that, at least.
It was something else. Something more involved. This looked like a clean saw cut. Like
it had been done by a butcher? Maybe. That thought was not reassuring to me.
“Well, ain’t this just lovely,” Fats told us in a light tone,
tinged by his dark humor. He’d just finished up his bagel and was now busy opening
up a box of Ju-Ju Bees. He chucked them down his gullet by the dozen, like he was watching
a movie Saturday morning at the Rialto. I just hoped he wasn’t going to start throwing
them at me and Doc the way we used to do when we were kids. Those damn things were annoying
when they hit you. I wasn’t in no mood for playing games right then.
Doc Carten, the crime scene investigator, just looked up at Fats, then me, then
said, “Fine-toothed saw did it, like what a plumber would use on thin gauge piping.
This was done carefully, but it caused a lot of blood—too much—but notice the
stub of the neck bone. It isn’t jagged like you’d expect in a similar killing
done by other means. It’s smooth. Clean cut. Whoever did this wanted the head and
wanted it in fairly good condition.”
“Damn that!” Fats
Doc continued in a soft tone, “the guy was done while he was still alive. His head
was definitely sawed off while he was alive—at least at the beginning of the cutting.”
“Nice,” I whispered gloomily.
“So the killer did his deed while the guy was still alive—and then took
the head,” Fats said with a nod of his own head. “That’s cold! And he
took the head with him!”
“What the hell
for?” I asked.
The Doc shrugged, then
laughed, “I don’t know. Two heads are better than one?”
Fats just laughed along with Doc, said, “Maybe freako wants to mount the damn
head on his wall?”
Fats came up with the
damnedest ideas sometimes.
The Doc shrugged it off,
became serious for a moment, “Nah, that can’t be it.”
I looked at Doc and then back to Fats and took a closer look at the neck stub. When
I was finished, Doc covered the body with a sheet. He said, “I figure time of death
about 24 hours ago, Rigor has set in. Fingertips cut off also. Of course you know, he wasn’t
“No shit,” Fats
bellowed, “yeah, the tips of his fingers have also been severed. So, no fingerprints.
No chance of ID, unless there’s a missing persons report somewhere that will match
with this mess. Which I doubt. Which something tells me there ain’t going to be.
Why do I think that, Griff?”
I shrugged, I had the same hunch, then offered up, “I don’t know, Fatman
“Fats nodded like
an all-knowing Buddah, said, “Boys, I got the power.”
his head, he had had enough, “Okay if we move him now?”
“Yeah, take him away,” I said with a nod and Doc and his boys did their
thing with the corpse. We watched a bit. I wrote some junk in my log book. Then I went
over to my partner. I didn’t say much. We were both just thinking. Two great minds
at work. Scary, ain’t it?
Finally I said, “The killer cut the fingers off so no one could identify
the body. Without a positive ID there’s no legal proof an actual murder has been
committed. Nothing for us to go on. Nothing for the DA to go on. This killer didn’t
have to pull out the teeth to stop an ID of the corpse from death records—this killer
didn’t need to do that, because he just decapitated the corpse and took the whole
freakin’ head with him.”
killer could’ve nixed any ID by pulling the teeth. Not a big deal for a guy like
this who knows what he’s doing. Knows what the wants to do. He didn’t have
to cut the head off. That’s nasty stuff, even for your average psycho. But judging
by the fact that he went through all the trouble to do that—it appears that’s
what he wanted. He really wanted that head!”
I said, “I think you’re right.”
Fats belched, rubbed his blubbery face, laughing with that wise-ass laugh of his.
“You mean about the guy wanting the head to shrink down, Griff?”
“Yeah, sure. No, you idiot. The fact that some freak took this guy’s
head to mount on his wall.”
way,” Fats told me seriously.
I nodded, he was
probably right about that, one way or the other. “But why? Why do it at all? Why
go through all the extra trouble after you kill a guy?”
don’t know but it looks like someone of a very serious and angry nature was very
pissed off at our dead guy,” Fats offered serious now. “That’s a serious
level of anger, or hate, I cannot even imagine.”
I nodded, tried to think about this logically, gave up, we just did not have enough
information yet, then I said, “I guess we’ll find out who the killer is once
we find out who the headless guy is. Was.”
Fats just laughed it all away, it was his turn now to state the obvious. “We
got a corpse with no ID. There’s no distinguishing marks, no missing persons report
on anyone even remotely like him, the fingertips have been clipped, so no prints…”
He gave me that what-does-that-tell-you?
look of his.
“A missing person
report might still show up. We have to expand the search. It’s only been 24 hours,”
I said, helplessly hopeful.
Fats just smiled, “Griff,
I got a feeling on this one. It ain’t good. We can wait 48, we can wait 72. We can
take reports from all neighboring jurisdictions. And we’ll do that. And you know
what? We’re not going to come up with squat.”
I nodded. I knew Fats was right. I had the same feeling.
Fats had me laughing when he sent out an APB—on the guy’s missing head.
“You can’t put an
APB on a head just by itself,” I told him. A little ball-busting went a long way
in those days.
“Why not, Griff?
That’s all we need. I mean, we got the rest of the body. Alls we need is the head,”
Fats said it with a sly wink. Was he busting me back? Yes he was!
I shook my head, laughing as Fats made the call into Central. We did all we could
on it. And that was that.
fizzled after that. Just as we knew it would. The Medical Examiner did an autopsy and
backed up what the crime scene boys had told us. Now there was never any doubt that the
man’s head had been taken while he was still alive. That was grim news and a really
brutal fact, and that level of violence or anger told us a lot—but it led us nowhere.
Meanwhile, no one fitting a description of the corpse was reported missing in Bay
City or any neighboring jurisdiction. There was no way to ID the corpse, or the remains—and
no place to go with the case now, so the ME kept the body on ice and we filed the case
with all the other crap shoots in this town that got us no answers. It was a big file.
It was a month later when Fats and I got the call. A flat-foot beating it in the
Square Mile of Vice had found something in a hat box laying on top of a pile of garbage
in an alley. It smelled pretty bad. The first thought was some lonely hooker’s dog
or cat had hit the bucket—or maybe something more ominous—perhaps an aborted
fetus thrown out by some back yard butcher. Or God help us, some new-born baby, thrown
out dead in the trash. It happened back then too. More often than you’d think.
Then we heard the true poop about what had been found. A human head in a box. Fats
and I were on our way like big dogs with the hot scent of a bitch in heat. This is what
we had waited for, something we could chew on, and hearing about this newly found head
was the lead we hoped we needed.
officer on the scene took us into the back alley. Slow. The smell hit us as we got closer.
It was a real bad rotting death smell. Fats and I walked faster. Towards it.
The uniform guy told us, “There’s something here you ought to see. I
heard about the guy found in the junk yard out by Blacktown. This might have something
to do with it. With him.”
I said, “Okay, let’s go take a look.”
The box was a woman’s hat box, of all the damn things. Nothing fancy, or colorful,
the colors were dulled. It was old, or sun-faded. It had been tied closed with a string.
“I cut it to look
inside,” the uniform told us. “The string, I mean.”
I nodded. He seemed the curious sort.
Fats moved the box, began to pry off the lid. The uniform guy stepped back. I moved
in closer. Fats pulled off the lid and then the smell really hit us, like a ton of old
vomit. Not vomit though. It was the death smell. Concentrated. Locked in that hat box and
just dying to get out. The smell of decay and putrescence.
I looked inside. There was a severed human head.
“Male?” Fats asked.
“Yep,” I replied.
Fats said, “Okay,
looks like we got our missing piece.”
The rot and decay
were powerful. Advanced. About what we expected after four weeks in the hot Bay City sun.
The face was almost entirely gone. Very little folds of skin or flesh. Worms had eaten
through most of the flesh. And they were still there. Feasting. Busy. White, thick, ugly,
squirming maggots. Disgusting. The hair was matted with black chunks that had been blood.
What was left of it. There must have been a lot of blood. Not much left now. Now white
bone shone through the face in most spots. I could see the teeth were bad. Not a full set.
Brown and white, green and black. Some broken. No gold.
Fats said, “I don’t know who he is—was—but I think we just
found the missing part to our little puzzle from the junk yard, Griff.”
I nodded, but I wasn’t all that sure yet. The head in the box seemed to be
looking back at me. Mocking me. I didn’t like that. I wondered how anyone could do
such a terrible thing to another human being. That thought lasted all of two seconds. I
was a cop. Homicide. I didn’t need to wonder about any of that, that’s just
the way things were. Back then, and even today. Especially today.
I didn’t like the whole thing, and the hair—there was something about
nudged me, “The cut on the stub, it’s eaten away and all, but…”
“I don’t know
about this…” I said carefully.
“Could be the
rot, but damnit, Griff, this has just gotta be the head we’re after. Right?”
I nodded a bit reluctantly. Hopeful more than anything else. I didn’t tell
Fats what I really thought just then. Not right off. It was just a hunch, a crazy hunch.
So I kept mum about it for the moment. We took the box, closed it up, the smell making
us both sick. The uniform guy who’d found the mess had left and was all the way at
the mouth of the alley, about fifty yards off, puking his guts out all over the sidewalk.
On the way over to the station Fats said, “Guess we cleared that up. Match
the head to the body, maybe we’ll even find out who the lucky guy was. Once we find
that out we can dig around for the killer.”
I nodded. My partner, Mr. Optimism. I didn’t know how to break it to him.
My hunch. The ME would give it to us straight and for sure, soon enough. Sometime tomorrow
we would know for sure.
you looking so glum, Griff?” Fats asked me, opening up a Hershey bar with almonds.
He loved to eat that damn chocolate goop.
“I don’t know,” I answered
back softly, a bit too non-committedly.
“Now what the
hell?” he blurted, looking at me hard, demanding an explanation.
“The cut ain’t right... The decay obscures it but I don’t feel
it’s right,” I told him.
The smile left
Fats’ face. He did not seem happy at all now. He looked at me hard, “Okay,
Griff, spill the rest. I feel you got more. Like to rain on my parade. Figured we had this
bad boy all signed, sealed and delivered.”
held the chocolate bar in a holding pattern in front of his big mouth waiting for my
“The thing I told
you about. The hair?”
“Ah, Griff, that
don’t mean nothing.”
“I think it does.
At least it could. Fats, the hair ain’t right for a white guy, but it’s good if
the guy’s a negro. Maybe.”
can’t believe it”
“I’m not making
this up for fun.”
“I know, Griff,
but the guy could be a half-breed, mixed blood. You know? Have features of both races?
You realize what you’re saying? You realize what it means if you’re right about
“Fats, believe me,
I realize it. The headless corpse in the junk yard was a white male, the head we found
in the alley seems to belong to a negro male. They do not match. We got the wrong friggin’
The next day the ME did an autopsy on the head we had found and backed me up. I
wasn’t all that happy I’d been proven right. The head belonged to a negro male,
age thirty-ish, no ID was possible. There was no body to match the head, so we were still
missing some significant parts in this case—if the two cases were even connected.
I thought Fats was gonna be sick on it but when we went out for grub he just ordered
an extra plate of pancakes that morning at Jackie’s, smothered them in maple syrup
and brown sugar, and ate them like they were the last pancakes on Earth.
It was disappointing.
A head with no body. A body with no head. A no damn match. It was a frustrating time for
us. No leads. Nowhere to go with it. We were forced to shelve it. Once again. At least
for the time being.
After that, things kinda
quieted down. Things got back to the usual crap, the more normal kind of murder, killing,
and mayhem that everyone in Bay City was used to. Killing for very specific reasons. No
mutilations, aside from the usual ones.
Fats and I never did find out who the headless corpse was. We never found his head.
We never were able to ID the severed head of the negro male, or come up with his corpse
either. It was frustrating, but not unexpected. The cases were left open. They’re
Fats told me once, “You
know what I hate about police work, Griff? And it goes double for us in Homicide.”
I took the bait, asked, “What’s that?”
“It’s the unremitting bullshit, the relentless evil of the human mind,
the rot of the human spirit. I can’t stand it sometimes. Man, I know what’s
going on here.”
“Yeah, Fats, I
“Some evil motherfucker
has got that guy’s head stuffed and mounted it some-damn-place on a wall in his house
or… something like that…”
“And he’s probably
looking at it right now,” I added.
Fats looked at me, laughed, then said, “Or the damn head’s looking down
on the guy who did him.”
way it sucks.”
I said, “Either
way, Fats, that’s always the way it is. Always the way it will be. We’ve got a
thousand questions and maybe we get lucky and find one or two answers. It’s
“I’m gonna be on
the lookout for this head-chopper, Griff. I’ll never forget this. Someday he’ll
make a slip-up. Someday it will come out. Someday the guy that’s got that head
mounted on his wall or wherever the hell it might be, is going to get fucked by
you, or fucked by me, or another cop, or someone, somewhere, sometime. When that happens,
it will all come out and I’ll nail his balls to the wall. Right next to that damn
head he took.”
I nodded. When Fats lost
his jolly fatman personna he was not someone to mess with. Even in conversation. Or what
barely passed for conversation for him at those times.
I said, “We got time, Fats. A guy that can do something like that, he just
can’t all of a sudden stop. It’s not in him to stop. It’s in him to snicker
that he got away with it, and a bit later, in him to get bold and cocky. You know what
Fats nodded, “Yeah,
I’ll tell you what’s in him, he thinks he pulled one over on us all. He’s
laughing his ass off about it. He’ll be dying to talk about it too—but he can‘t
do that—but it will only eat at him more and more to want to tell someone about it—to
need to tell someone about it. It’s in him—eventually—to get caught.”
I smiled. My partner was right.
Fats lit up a Camel. Took a deep drag. He let the smoke fill up the car, looked
at me through the haze and said, “And when he slips up, I’ll be there, Griff.
On his ass so fast he won’t know what the hell hit him. Then I’ll nail his
balls to that damn wall for sure!”
I just nodded, gunned our old Plymouth war-wagon down Dumont Avenue. All I could
say was, “Fats, when the time comes, you bring the nails, I’ll bring the hammer.”
Fats said, “One day, Griff.”
“Yeah, brother, one day.”
Fats just smiled, took one more deep drag from his cancer stick and finished up
with, “That’s good. That’s the way it will be, Griff.”
by Gary Lovisi. All Rights Reserved.
originally appeared in HELLBENT ON
HOMICIDE, tpb 1997 in UK, from the Do Not Press and is copyright 1997
& 2019 by Gary Lovisi.
Johnson had reached his limit with Kathy. His wife's constant cigarette smoking was driving him mad. Something had to
be done about it before the situation drove him up the wall.
a plan he was sure would make Kathy stop smoking. He decided now was the time to go
through with it.
He made his way to the dresser in their bedroom, feeling around
on top of the six-feet-high piece of furniture for what he'd hidden there, days
At that time he hadn’t decided upon any action, or really
thought it through that well, but now this seemed his only thing to do.
He brought down the revolver. It was hard, and cold, and its chill sent a slight
shiver through his nervous flesh.
"This is serious,
now. I've tried everything," he mumbled.
There had been the endless stop-smoking
programs, doctor’s visits and quack remedies, even hypnosis and acupuncture. And
of course, a whole pharmacy of various drugs and procedures, each guaranteed to
end the cigarette habit once and for all. None of them worked. In the end, Phil
realized that nothing would work, unless the smoker really wanted to quit. He
decided he'd make Kathy want to quit.
He spun the cylinder of the
revolver. He opened a box of shells, taking out two of the shiny metal spheres. He put
one bullet in the chamber and pressed the trigger.
A loud report was heard throughout the
"Phil! Phil! What was that?"
She ran up the stairs and into the room, huffing,
and puffing on the perpetual cigarette she carried, exhausted from the exertion of just
a few stairs.
was a chain-smoker, and the house, her clothes, and her own body stunk of oppressive cigarette
smoke. The disgusting odor followed her into the room like a pall of death.
Phil winced as she came in. He didn't smoke, never had. His sensitive nostrils picked
up only too well the stale odor that clung to Kathy. The strangling smell that followed
her wherever she went in the house.
going on? I thought I heard a gunshot!" Kathy shakily put out the cigarette in
one of the ubiquitous overflowing ashtrays that were in every room.
wasn’t surprised when she instantly lit up another cigarette before walking
over to him.
Fuming, he sat down, the revolver in one hand, the
unspent bullet in the other. He watched as she came close.
come to a decision." There was a power and strength in his voice that belied the
lack of volume. He showed her the pistol, teasingly.
away," Kathy said. "It's dangerous. Don't you know not to play with guns?"
Phil laughed, bitterly. "At least it's quick and
He saw she didn't understand him. He added, "Guns
kill, but cigarettes kill, too. They're killing you—and making me miserable. I can't
stand it anymore, Kathy. I've had enough."
this another lousy attempt to make me stop smoking?" As if to emphasize her feelings on
the subject, Kathy took a long drag and let out the exhaust luxuriously, so
that a cloud of smoke passed his face. It made him cough.
"You'd think you just had great sex, the way you smoke those damn cancer
"So? What's it to you?" she
said. "Maybe if I got it more often . . ."
Phil turned red, changed that
subject. "What's it to me? You've got some
nerve! I live with you—or at least I’ve tried, for the last five years. It
hasn't been easy. You know what it's like making love to a damn exhaust pipe?”
“Don't you have any consideration for my feelings?
Or anybody else’s? Sometimes my love for you is overshadowed by the disgust and anger
I feel every time you light up cigarette after cigarette. No matter what I say or do, you
just go right on doing it, as if I don't exist."
looked at him, curiously, "You're being very foolish, Phil." She shook her head.
As she walked away, Phil said, "Get over here, you damn chimney!"
She froze, then turned, finally realizing his anger and madness.
"You sick motherfucker. Leave me alone!"
he said. “We'll see!” He put the bullet in the chamber, then spun the cylinder.
"What’re you going to do? Blow your brains out?" As she said it, she was scared.
Then, she panicked as another thought hit her—maybe Phil was going to use the gun
on her, instead!
Phil laughed like a B-movie villain. "No, my dear, but I might
blow the few brains you have out of your lovely head—if I can find them through
all the smoke."
As she started to
move away, he grabbed and threw her down on the bed. "Now stay there and shut
From the pocket of her dressing gown, he withdrew
her ever-present cigarette pack. When she got up, not to escape his madness, but to take
back her cigarettes, he slapped her down to the bed again.
He hardly realized what he’d done. Normally,
he wasn’t violent, but now violence oozed from him. He stood over her, his bulk
a formidable obstacle to her freedom.
Shaking, she stayed on the bed, watching
"It’s about time you quit,
for both our good."
"No, I don't want to! And you'd better leave me alone!"
"All in good time," Phil said, wondering if this turmoil was a screen for other
problems between Kathy and him; if he was justified in what he was going to do.
Actually, he was not justified
in doing any of this, but her unyielding fouling of air and house from constant smoking
had gone too far. He could not back down, now.
what cigarettes are doing to you?" Phil tried to calmly explain. "How sick
they're making you? You have no stamina, no appetite, no desire to do anything.
They sap your strength, and they make everything you wear, everything you come
into contact with, stink!"
He pointed the gun at
her. "There's one bullet in this gun." He spun the cylinder again,
for emphasis, as though he needed to scare her. "Do you realize that every cigarette
you smoke is like putting this gun to your head and pulling the trigger? Sure, I'm exaggerating,
but it’s almost the same chance you're taking. Is it worth it?"
"That's nonsense," Kathy said. "You and I know it's not the same thing."
"But I don't give a damn! You’re
going to stop smoking, one way or the other. So I'm
making it the same thing.
better let me go!"
You're going to sit here till you make me a solemn promise . . ."
“Never!" she said. "I got
my rights. I do what I want!"
"I never said you didn't have rights; you've got the
right to smoke, too. If you want a cigarette, it's fine with me, but you've got to take
a chance—with the gun at your head. You make your own luck. If the chamber's empty,
I'll give you a cigarette, if it's not . . ."
out of your damn mind!" He saw the fear that in her eyes and knew it was mirrored
in his own.
When she tried to get up, he
pushed her back down. When she slapped him, hard, he slapped her back.
After a while, shocked by the
intensity of it all, she lay quietly. Both were now surprised by the extent of violence
and anger, which had never appeared before, in their marriage.
Finally, Kathy said, "All right, see? I've quit! Now will you let me go?"
"No," Phil said, sternly. "We're here for a few days. If two days can pass without
you smoking, I'll release you, on your promise."
began to cry.
Phil cried too, inwardly,
but did not show his tears—could not show his tears. More than anything else
was the realization that he had to be strong for both of them, now.
He realized this was their last chance. He only
hoped Kathy would understand, when it was over. He had to do what he had to do. There was
no turning back, now.
Before long, Kathy
had cried herself to sleep. Phil put on the TV and watched a few old movies.
Afterwards, he raided the fridge.
Kathy had been asleep about
six hours. When she awoke, it was with the gleam of cigarette lust in her eyes.
Instinctively, she reached into
the pocket of her robe, where her cigarette pack was always kept. When she found it empty,
she remembered all that had transpired earlier—events more dreamlike than real
to her, now.
She saw Phil standing over her.
She had loved him so much—before this all began. Now she was just scared she was
in the hands of a maniac. His recent unexplained cruelty was making her hate and fear him
more, each minute.
He smiled, awkwardly. "Have
a good sleep, baby?" He gave her a bowl of fruit. "Here, have something
to eat; you must be starving."
She took the bowl, but
she could only stare at its contents with disgust. She knew what she really
"Phil," she said, quietly. "Can I have a cigarette?
Just one. I always need one after I wake up. It gets me going."
He laughed. "Yeah, it gets you going to the second one, the third one, and so on,
all day long. But you can have one, if you're willing to pay the price."
He spun the cylinder of the revolver. "The odds of you blowing your brains out with
one bullet in a-six chamber revolver are one in six. That's about an 84 percent chance
for success. Better odds than most, I guess."
I have married such a bastard?" she said under her breath, but he heard it. It
hurt him more than he dared admit.
"It goes both
ways. Maybe someday you'll understand that," he said.
"Sure, that's me, baby," Phil
muttered. But he knew she was right.
The rest of the day, Kathy sat
quietly. Phil watched her twitching and fumbling, thunderously—but not from the fear
of her situation—from her need for that first cigarette. Her eyes were glazed and
tearing. She sat stone-cold silent, but she was going through the worst nicotine fit anyone
had ever gone through.
Time passed. He hoped she
would break soon—before he did—or before the uppers he'd taken
wore off, and he crashed. He feared he couldn’t go on with this much longer.
The day wore on. Night came and went. No one ate. Always awake, Phil watched Kathy
sleep. The uppers kept him up. The next day was rough, but somehow, they got through it.
Kathy was sleeping again, tossing and turning. Sometimes
Phil heard her mumble incoherently, knowing she was having some nasty dreams. He wondered
if they were about him.
Finally, she woke up.
Immediately tense, wired. Anxious. Ready for a fight. She glared at him. Phil
tensed, as this might be it. Crunch time.
"Give me a cigarette, you bastard!" she growled.
spun the cylinder in the revolver. "Ready to pay for it?"
I hate you!" she yelled, followed by a flurry of curses.
He was shocked at how many dirty words she
knew. She rarely cursed around him, but now she did it with the verve and
originality of a dockworker.
When she calmed down
a little, Phil brought out the pack of cigarettes.
grew moist when she saw it. The tips of her fingers twitched. She shook, convulsively.
Phil took out one cigarette, slowly crushing it between
his fingers. The shredded tobacco fell to the floor. The cigarette was useless, now. Harmless.
watched with an intensity bordering on mania.
she said. "You can't treat me like this. I'll get even with you! Give me
She jumped at him—actually, at the pack of
cigarettes he held— but he firmly pushed her back down to the bed. She began screaming
that soon turned to frustrated crying.
"Give me a cigarette, Phil!"
weakened. He hated himself for doing this, but it was the moment he’d been waiting
for. If he didn't hang on now, he'd lose everything. All this pain, trouble, terrible
cruelty— it would have been for nothing. And that would be cruelest of all.
He showed her the gun.
"First the gun, then the cigarette."
"I hate you!"
It was quiet for a moment.
"Phil, please," she begged, "please, baby, don't do this to me."
"I can't help it, I'm a bastard. Remember?"
"Son-of-a-bitch!" she screamed.
son-of-a-bitch," Phil added. "Do you want a cigarette, or not?"
crushed another one, slowly, between his fingers. Then another, and another. Kathy watched
madly. Her body jerked, as each of the small white cylinders was crushed.
"Oh, well, just one left,"
Phil said. "Should I destroy this one, too, or do you want it?"
Kathy sat, quietly, her eyes red as fire. Her hands were shaking. He felt the anger
emanating from her, like a furnace.
She shut her eyes, then. "Give me the gun."
"No," Phil said, "You think I’m
stupid? I'll spin the cylinder, then put the barrel to your temple. You tell me
when to pull the trigger."
Phil. You know that."
"Do you want a cigarette, or
not?" She nodded. "You ready?" he asked, quietly.
Even more quietly she
Phil nervously spun the cylinder
of the revolver, then put the point of the weapon to her temple. "Keep your arms down and
don't move. Tell me when to press the trigger."
was in tears, again. "You're a dirty bastard!"
"You're going to kill me."
"You're killing yourself. Can't you see that? Tell me when to fire."
"Never!" she said, with feigned determination.
I’ll just destroy that last cigarette." Phil looked over at it, on the table.
"No!" Kathy yelled. "Fire!"
He shook his head, in disbelief.
hear me? I said, Fire! Fire! Fire the damn gun!"
He hesitated for what felt like minutes.
He had to fire. Otherwise, all this would have
been in vain. What a mess he had gotten them into. It was never supposed to go this
Slowly, he brought the point of the revolver to her temple. It stayed there for
a long time.
Her eyes were closed,
Phil thought she looked so beautiful.
She said, "Fire, you son-of-a-bitch!"
He pressed the
trigger. It moved slowly. Downward. Things were out of control, now. If they had ever been
under his control, at all.
There was a loud
Then . . .
The silence was laced with thick sweat, dripping
down their bodies. They were both soaking wet. Phil’s loud sigh of relief was followed
by one from Kathy.
Disgusted, he threw the gun on the floor.
What had he done? He couldn't
believe he’d actually pulled the trigger! The full impact of it rushed in upon him.
With his handkerchief, he wiped his sweaty face. He picked up the cigarette from the
table and glared at it.
He handed it to Kathy. "You've earned it."
She took the cigarette, rolling it over, inspecting it carefully, as if it were
some kind of alien artifact. Then her eyes locked with her husband’s.
There was hatred and confusion
in that gaze. Phil wasn't sure what he saw there.
ahead and smoke it," he said, disgusted. "Anyone who’d allow a loaded gun to be
put to their head so they could have a cigarette— damn well deserves that
cigarette. So, go ahead. Enjoy it."
Now she was shaking, again,
her eyes darting from the cigarette hanging so
temptingly between her fingers, to Phil’s strained and haggard face. She
looked back, and forth. Nervous. Unsure.
He watched her. Was she
having a nervous breakdown? Is this what he had accomplished?
she smiled. "I don't want it, anymore."
Then, to Phil's surprise, she took and
crushed the cigarette between her fingers.
He was so proud of her.
He rushed into her arms, finding her warm, and receptive. They both cried, and
hugged. Soon, they were in a wild, passionate embrace, sinking to the floor, peeling
off each other’s clothes.
He gasped, as she massaged
his crotch, before tracing a path down his thigh, brushing his buttocks.
her hand found something else— the gun he’d thrown to the floor.
She grabbed the gun.
"Now," she whispered. "It's your turn, my love."
raised the gun to his temple and fired.
There was a loud report—followed by a spray
of fine red and gray mist into the air.
For a moment, Phil looked into Kathy's
eyes. Deeply. Sadly. Understanding. Trying to say something, but now only blood
flowed from the movement of his lips.
Then, he slumped down dead beside her.
She cradled his head in her arms, "You're not a bastard, Phil," she said. "Not
2019 by Gary Lovisi. All Rights Reserved.
A Griff &
ain’t much, Griff,” a voice told me as we looked over the dead body. It was
a guy name of Chauncey, no last name anyone could recall, or anything anyone knew about
him. He was a Skid Row wino, a bum, an occasional handyman who would do odd jobs for
a few bucks to buy cheap booze out on the Skid. Chauncey was at the end of his
rope and now he was at the end of his life—and it had come nasty. As far as
anyone on the Skid knew, he never hurt anyone. He seemed to be a harmless
down-and-outer of Bay City—the town that we did our cop business back in the
day—but it really wasn’t Bay City. I just call it that when recounting our
adventures. Makes it a lot easier—and probably safer.
at Chauncey. He had died badly. I looked back at my partner, Sergeant Herman Stubbs,
the Fatman. I was Lieutenant Bill Griffin, aka Griff, and we was Griff & Fats
and we did detective work in the city back in the late Fifties and the early
Sixties—we usually dealt with the stuff no other cops in the city cared to deal
Griff?” Fats expostulated as he opened up a large Hershey chocolate bar loaded with
almonds. It was his third one so far, and he deftly peeled off the wrapper as he shoved
the chocolate mess into his massive maw of a mouth—as we looked down upon the body
of the lately departed poor old Chauncey. The crowd was beginning to form up, as it usually
“Get the hell away from here!” Fats barked an order to the crowd with
his usual intense meaning of impending doom. “Move on back now!”
They moved on back, but they stayed and they looked. Gawking, making all kinds of
whispered comments to each other. That’s mostly because Chauncey was a sight to behold.
You usually don’t see this kind of thing done to guys. We’d seen it done plenty
to women and young gals—sometimes even kids of both sexes—and that was terrible
as hell—but usually not with a full grown older male. And not with a
down-and-out old coot like Chauncey. Someone no one cared about. Well, it
appeared someone cared about Chauncey all right—but in a bad way.
“Someone sure hated this guy a bunch,” Fats said stating the obvious.
You could tell that just by casually looking at the body. We’d take a closer look
ruminated, looking at the torn and bloody corpse. Chauncey was stark naked, and
he’d been stabbed about a hundred times. His sexual organ had been cut off and
lay beside him, his feet had been sawed off. Sawed off. What the hell!
“Not done here, Griff.”
“Yeah, another dump job. Why the hell go through all the trouble for a dead-ender
someone hated him a bunch,” was all Fats repeated, and he could have been right.
Or we had a real evil sick monster on the loose. Then my partner covered the body.
Uniform cops came over, cordoned off the crime scene, asked onlookers if anyone
knew the deceased. The ME had just arrived and took a gander at the corpse, he
would give us his preliminary report soon, a more detailed one later. Other
bums came over, the smell of cheap booze strong on them like a fog of smog.
One old-timer said, “Chauncey was a good dude, these days, since he came to
the Skid, but I heard when he’d been younger, he was a real bad dude. He’d
been a cop long ago, and a real bad ‘un.”
“A cop?” I asked the oldster, giving Chauncey another look, now that
the ME was examining him more closely. I gave him a hard look.
“And who are you?” Fats asked the man. He had no teeth, was as thin
as a rail, a real drinker. His liver was probably shot, more pickled than a jar of sour
am Frankie Boy. That’s all you need to know.”
“Well, Frankie Boy, how do you know Chauncey had been a cop once?” I
asked sharply. It seemed unbelievable.
The man shrugged, wet his lips, held out his hand. I bit, gave him a fin. He scooped
it up and pocketed it like an expert.
Then Frankie Boy said, “He told me once. He told me all about it. That’s
how he come so hard to drink. Cop work did it to him, he had to do some bad things, not
his fault, he said, but... You know…?”
I looked at my overly large partner, “Fats, take Frankie Boy here over to
the car, we gotta talk to him in more detail. More private.”
Fats nodded, “Come on Frankie, today’s your day to shine. Spill the
beans to us. You’ll have your drink. First follow me.”
Fats took Frankie to our car, got him seated in the back seat all comfy, then started
in on him getting the low-down on all he knew. Frankie appeared to be cooperative. I saw
Fats take out his pen and pad, so he was writing down stuff—that was a good sign.
He was serious about this. So was I.
The M.E., Doc Carten gave me the low-down on the corpse, on what he had found out
so far, the official autopsy would follow, but for now we had what we needed to know. One
thing he verified was that the body had been stabbed a hundred times—seemed to
be exactly one hundred times with some form of short bladed knife. Lotta work,
Chauncey had been
a cop. Once. Who the hell could have figured it. Who was he?
I stayed with the body a bit, looking at the face of the deceased. Chauncey. That
name just didn’t seem to fit. Never heard of any Chauncey. Something was all wrong
here. Chauncey was sometimes a name used back then generically for a guy as an
insult. Like a nobody. A phantom. It was a name that I figured was used to
cover up the man’s real identity out here on Skid Row. But maybe not, because
no one cared out here about anyone’s real name or who or what they had been
before they came out here to the Skid. There had to be something more to it.
Then it came to me. I looked at the face, it was far older, older by 20 years, and
much used, abused and beaten, but it was him! It was that SOB Albert Stark! Allie!
Chauncey was Allie Stark! I looked up in shock and surprise, the years had been
brutal on poor Allie—now he was just ‘a Chauncey’—a phantom, a nobody. He
hadn’t been a nobody once.
Fats came over then. “You know, Griff, you know who that guy was?” That
“Yeah, I do, it
was Allie Stark.”
Fats just shook his head,
“Who coulda figured? I can’t believe it. He’d been big shit in Bay City
once. Long ago before my time. Real big shit—big shit on the force—a guy whose
shit never stunk. But I heard the stories. Some of them at least.”
“Yeah, a real bad guy, did his own police work—judge, jury and executioner.”
the worst part of that trio, as I heard it, Griff. He was an out and out killer. Least
ways, what I heard on the grapevine. Nothing ever proved, of course. A killer cop, and
I hear tell he was out for hire.”
“I heard the same
stories. Maybe just dirt talk?”
Maybe tall true.”
if so, imagine what the hell he’d been involved in?”
“Whatever it was, one of his little games might have got him killed.”
“Yeah, and killed real nasty.”
“Yep, real nasty, like revenge with 20-30 years of interest tacked onto it,”
Fats said, and that got me thinking. Which was usually bad. I tended to think too much.
It had me going through all kinds of scenarios. They came and went in my thoughts, but
there was one that seemed to fit. Maybe.
“I think we need to dig into Albert Stark—his old cases, especially
guys that he put away, who may have been innocent.”
“You think he did that?” Fats asked me carefully. To the Fatman as a
cop, that was the worst ever offense a cop could do. An honest mistake was always possible,
it happened, but a scam and a set-up was sacrilegious to his old-timer cop sensibilities.
“I think so, Fats.
I think he found some suckers he threw into prison to solve crimes he himself may have
committed—maybe even murders—or maybe he just did it to close cases and up
his star in the department?” I told my partner grimly.
Fats growled back in anger, he hated what I had said, hated that a cop might have
done such a thing, but this was Bay City and he knew cops like Albert Stark, so he more
than believed it was possible.
get to work on his old cases and on the guys he put away. I’m sure we’ll find
something there,” I said.
We did just that.
Fats and I jumped on it like a hungry dog. We got some time from Captain Landis
to nose around the records room at HQ and the records morgue in the basement.
Also court records from back in the day. We also visited the city jail and the prison
upstate that housed Bay City’s more serious convicts. We nosed around a great deal.
We knew the places to look. We looked at dusty old records in dusty cardboard boxes that
hadn’t been opened in years. Maybe decades.
Then we found it. Actually, there was a lot of it. It seems Stark put a lot of guys
away who might have been innocent. Really innocent. But there was one of them that stood
out to us for the obvious reasons. The newspaper clipping gave us what we needed,
it was the only such clipping we came across on any of Stark’s old convictions.
A guy name of William Berry, convicted of a nasty double murder about 35 years
ago. The papers said he was innocent, Berry shouted his innocence, and he said
that Stark had lied, planted evidence, set him up. All possible back then,
especially with a cop like Stark. The newspaper clipping said it was the greatest miscarriage
of justice since—well, since the last miscarriage of justice which had not been that
long ago. Anyway, it seemed bad, it still smelled ripe so Fats and I decided to dig deeper
on this one. Eventually we hit something.
We found out William Berry had been recently released from prison after 35 years
on a medical. We found out other stuff to. Nasty stuff.
“Griff, this guy, William Berry, ain’t no angel. No citizen. He was
a low level crim, thief, some B&E, but he didn’t go away for any of that stuff,
he was sent away for the rape of his own daughter, and the murder of his wife!
I looked at Fats, “He
denied it all?”
“Absolutely, he denied it. He even said that Stark did it all, or at least
the press and the newspaper clippings of the day say so. The actual reporters are all dead
now, most of the people involved are dead too, 35 years is a long time.”
“Yeah, but Berry
is still alive.”
“Yeah, I wonder…”
“Don’t wonder too deep, Griff, because I gots a nasty feeling that Albert
Stark did the dirty deeds. He set up the father, William Berry for the fall.”
“That’s one theory,” I said carefully.
“We’ll check it out,” Fats told me, just to make sure we didn’t
have another psycho on the loose.
“No wonder the killer of Chauncey—I mean, Albert Stark—is so damn
angry in his violence,” I said softly, thinking it through. We had to track down
this William Berry. It should not be that difficult, he was sick, maybe dying, old and
something else, Griff,” Fats told me reading from another old newspaper clipping
in the file, “Says here the daughter and mother were both excessively stabbed
make it look like a rage killing, or a domestic?” I offered.
“Yeah, apparently, but there’s even more. The killer chopped off the
feet of the mother and daughter.”
“Damn!” I muttered. “Who could do that to his own daughter and
wife? I don’t think this Berry would do that.”
“Maybe not, but he sure would do what was done to his wife and daughter to
Albert Stark, when he caught up with him, 35 years later. Out on the Skid. When he was
Chauncey. A broken man because of all the bad he had done as a cop—and gotten away
with! When Berry found Stark on Bay City Skid Row. He might give him a hundred stab
wounds, cut off his feet, do to him what he had done to Berry’s wife and
“And I figure the
cutting off of his sex organ had just been an extra insult, to remove the
offending member that had caused so much pain to Berry and his family,” I
“Yeah, I guess
you might be right,” Fats added with a sly grin of fake pain. “One way to find
out about this is get the low-down from Berry, when we find him. You know, Griff, if
this is true, I feel for the guy.
“I know, but we
gotta find him and get the truth of this.”
“So let’s get on it!”
take us long to find William Berry. He was not trying to hide, or to get away. He’d
been released from prison on a medical and he was in a wheelchair, and he was
old and dying. How he had been able to kidnap Stark—Chauncey—and kill him—seemed
amazing to Fats and me. Where did he get the energy for it? He was a very sick
and weak man. Dying obviously—but not quite dead yet.
We found William Berry in a half-way house on the edge of the ‘Square Mile
of Vice’ and got a chance to speak with him in private in his room.
“You guys from the cops?” he asked us as soon as we walked into his
small room. He sat alone, in the dark, in a wheelchair, puffing on a cigarette. Coughing
as he did so. I thought I saw blood. The cancer stick couldn’t have been any good
I told him.
“I figured you’d
be here sooner or later. What took you so long?”
“We got a lotta stuff to do, it’s our busy season,” Fats interjected.
“Well, I did it, I got that Chauncey, killed him good. Revenge is sweet—for
what he did to me and my family.”
I nodded. He was admitting it all. This appeared pretty cut and dry.
Fats sat down on the edge of the bed and slowly took out a Camel and lit it.
“Chauncey, that’s the name he went by,” William Berry told us
with anger. “He had 35 years of life and boozing, while I had 35 years in prison,
a living hell. He raped my daughter, then killed her and her mother. My wife caught him
doing the deed, you see, so she had to die and so did my daughter to cover up his crime.
He stuck me with the bill for it all. He set me up. Planted evidence. I had no
chance. He was an evil man, and he deserved what he got. I make no apologies.”
“I see,” I said softly.
Fats said nothing, just sat there like a big fat Buddah puffing away on his smoke.
“Come on, now you
can take me in. I’m dying anyway,” Berry told us with a growl. “You gotta wheel
me out though, I ain’t got the strength to do much these days.”
“Cancer?” I asked.
“Yeah, all over,” he told us with a look of impatience and annoyance.
I nodded, “How the hell you get the strength to abduct Stark— Chauncey—and
kill him? A hundred damn stab wounds, sawed off his feet—not to mention his sexual
organ. That took a lot of work, especially for someone as ill as you appear to be.”
“I knew what had
to be done for 35 years. Went over it in my mind, day after day. I thought about the
one hundred stab wounds—did you know he stabbed my wife and daughter. Fifty times
each! He told me every detail of his crimes, seemed to enjoy the telling of it too. Of
course I told the cops, only they said I must have done it ‘cause I knew so much
stuff that only the killer would know. Sounds sick to say, but I think God gave me the
William Berry just smiled
at that, smiled for the first time, coughed, smiled again, “I guess where there’s
a will, there’s a way.”
“I guess so,” I
replied, nodded. “Well, Fats, I think we’re done here.”
Fats looked up at me,
put out his smoke, got up off the bed, said, “Yeah.”
“Where you going?” Berry asked us.
“Back to work,” I told him. “We ain’t bringing you in. Forget
it. Chauncey’s murder will be just one more unsolved cold case. We’re leaving
now, but just to let you know, my partner and I would have done the same damn thing if
it had been our wife and daughter. If we had a wife and daughter.”
“Good night, Mr. Berry,” Fats told him as we left the room and he started
to close the door behind him. “Have a nice life, or what’s left of it.”
Fats closed the door.
We walked out into the hallway.
There was just one gunshot from inside the room.
I guess William Berry had accomplished what he wanted to do—after 35 years
revenge was sweet, but now there was nothing left. Seems that old proverb is true—before
you begin on the journey of revenge—first dig two graves.
Copyright 2020 by Gary Lovisi. All Rights Reserved. “Killing
Chauncey” will appear in the print collection Hardcases and Homicide, published by Bold Venture Press in the fall of 2020.
I couldn't get the thought of all that cash out
of my head. Not for a moment. It had to be
more money than I'd ever see in a whole life of driving a stinking lousy cab.
drive for Able Taxi, around the city, out to the 'burbs and
airports, into the ghetto to get rich white kids their drug toys. I
usually make $27,000 a year with the tips. Not bad really, but
I wanted more. If I worked until I dropped dead I'd never make as much money as I thought
I was going to make on the deal Fuentes was bragging to me about that day in the cab.
He said it was big money. I believed him. I knew he was some kind of mobbed-up guy,
kissed the butts of the Italians that ran Red Hook. I saw it as a wild, one-time score
that would set me up pretty for the rest of my life. Hell, man, I was pushing 40
hard, a chance like this wouldn't come
along again. So I'd do the sure-fire smart thing -- I'd knock off Fuentes and
take the upfront money for myself.
"I've got a big deal going," Fuentes told me
yesterday. "I hear you work cheap and ask no questions. That's good. I gotta make a delivery. I've got some heavy cash and I'm supposed to
bring it to the back room of the Hermoso Bodega on 5th Street. You drive me there tomorrow.
Just you and me. You park your cab outside the place, then take a walk with me inside."
I said, "Sure, whatever
you want. What's my cut?"
"Oh, say $1,000. Cash.
Not bad for an hour's work."
not bad at all." I was drooling.
pick me up at 10 A.M. tomorrow morning, sharp."
Fuentes. I'll be there."
You can bet your ass
the next day I was there. Ten minutes early.
Fuentes was there early himself, so he liked that. He
got in the back seat of the cab. I sped off to 5th Street.
The city was quiet
that time of day. The streets looking deserted in the mid-morning chill. It was a frigid
March day, unusually cold considering the recent mild weather, so it kept the people off
the street. That was fine by me.
I saw the small briefcase Fuentes carried,
resting so delicately upon his knees where he was sitting in the back seat of the
cab. He looked nervous. Sure, with that much cash anyone would be nervous, I
thought. That briefcase had to be filled
with big money. Maybe all twenties. Maybe all hundreds!
Soon all that money would be mine.
There was an alley back of 6th Street tailor-made for the job I had in mind. I'd
drive down 5th Street, making it look like everything was going according to plan. Drive
right up to the bodega. Then I'd turn around and slug Fuentes when he least
expected it, then keep right on going
into the alley back of 6th Street. I'd take the briefcase full of money and drop
Fuentes back there with a welt on his head that he'd never forget. And
that would be the end of that. By late afternoon I'd
be on a nice beach in Bermuda with the best babe I could find and no worries.
I drove past 4th
Street. The city was quiet. No one on the street but there was a lot of traffic. The bodega
was on the next block, but when I stopped at a red light on 4th Street Fuentes got my
attention -- by pulling out a damn gun.
"Keep the brake on, amigo. This
is where I get out. You stay here and don't move." Then Fuentes was out of
my cab like a flash, running through the traffic, down one of the side streets
to be lost in the city.
had all been so unexpected I hardly knew what to do. I watched him go,
astounded by his action. None of it made any sense to me then. He couldn't have known I was going to mug him. His actions really didn't indicate that, they indicated something however,
but I just wasn't sure what it all meant.
Then I noticed he'd left the attaché case.
My eyes riveted to the back seat where the case sat so innocuously. Not like
Fuentes to leave behind a briefcase full of money -- no matter how much in a hurry
or frantic he was -- unless the suitcase wasn't full of money at all!
My mind screamed,
I flew out of the cab,
rolling across the curb, managing to get under a nearby parked car just as my cab blew
up in the biggest damn explosion I'd seen since a Nam napalming twenty years before.
When the smoke cleared and the screams of the
local people quieted down I saw what was left of my cab. It wasn't much, just a
mass of melted metal, while glass on every store on the block littered the
street. My head rang like one of those giant Chinese gongs -- but as far as I
could tell I was still in one piece and I didn't see any blood.
I was alive and that's what was important to
me then. Once I was assured of that basic fact my mind later focused on other items of
interest. Like, where was the money? Where
was Fuentes? Why the double-cross?
you're planning to do someone dirty you never figure
he'll do you dirty first, but it seems that's exactly what happened to me. It sure messed
up my plans.
had disappeared into the muck of the city. No one I asked knew anything. I had a few contacts, but I guess Fuentes had
better ones. It seemed to me he had gone deep and wasn't moving.
At first I was just
happy to be alive after what I'd been through. Then
it began to get to me. The thing was, I felt like I was supposed to have died in that
explosion. Like it was actually meant for me. I just couldn't figure out why.
took a drastic reevaluation of my life up to that point. Enemies. People I'd offended.
Jealous or envious types. Not many of these. It just didn't jibe.
I've always kept to myself since I came back from 'Nam. I've never been in jail, never
arrested, never caused any trouble. Had an amicable divorce years ago, no
money owed the sharks, and didn't use drugs. I was a 39 year old working
drudge, honest (relatively) and clean, you could tell because I was such a damn
failure. I even paid my taxes.
why the set-up?
I began to do my own investigating when the cops
couldn't get me any action. What did I really know about Emileo Fuentes? He was an up and
coming hood, into loan-sharking and gambling, dabbling in drugs and women. Just a guy out
to make a buck -- any way that he could. The word said he was moving up.
I asked around.
I didn't get much. Nothing concrete. No one seemed to know anything, they were shut as
tight as a clam at a fish fry. There were a couple of Puerto Rican guys I knew down in
Sunset Park. I went over to see them. One didn't know a thing. Told me to move on out.
Right away. I moved.
The other guy was a small-time gangster named
Pedro. He'd been an old time buddy. He said he knew all about it.
"Okay man, come
on, spill it."
not going to like it, amigo. I heard it from a very reliable
source, a woman I'm doing." He laughed, a smile crossing his handsome face as he remembered
his latest trophy. "It's Fuentes' wife, my man! Seems she'd be a good source, don't you
think? She gets lonely for a real man. So
we get together sometimes. Usually when Fuentes isn't around. Sometimes when he is.
She is a very nice lady. Very tasty."
"What'd she say?"
Pedro shook his head, took a
deep breath, "You're right, amigo, it was a set-up."
"But why? I've never done anything
to Fuentes. Why does he have it in for me?"
"That's the thing, it's not what you
what the hell is it, Pedro!"
This is the story I heard from Rosa. See, Fuentes is a small player, but he's been climbing
the ladder to success lately. He wants to
be one of the big boys real bad, have a lot of fancy cars and hot young putas.
Maybe he's been seeing too many gangster movies. He's on his way up but the
spaghetti benders are in his way. They run things here and in Red Hook and
extract a price for what's called 'upward Mobility.'"
"Get to the point, Pedro."
"So, amigo, you were the price.
Or part of it. See, Rosa told me about this hit Fuentes has to do for his
guinea bosses. A dangerous job. It's against a made man. So it's not 'legal'
and has to be done just right. Fuentes is the only one to do it. It involves a big cash
payoff. Fuentes is scared shit but has to go through with it. The plan is for him to meet
with this big capo. They'll drive up to a corner in a limo somewhere in Brooklyn, Fuentes
gets in and gives the capo an attaché case that's supposed to be filled with money. Then
Fuentes jumps out of the limo and B-O-O-M! No more capo. Get it? It seems that you were
the training, amigo. You're no one. A cabby without a family. Fuentes just wanted to see if he could perform the contract according
to specifications. So he had to practice.
You were the practice. The dry run. You screwed it all up though. You weren't supposed to have lived through it. Fuentes knows you're
after him. He's in hiding for now, scared, but he's still got the contract on that capo,
so he'll have to come out pretty soon."
I didn't know what to say. All kinds of emotions were boiling over inside me, anger uppermost
of all. Then that drifted off into a kind of numb apathy. Fuentes was right, I was a nobody.
No friends. No family. No contributor to society at all. Nothing! I wouldn't be missed.
No one even knew I was there! The reality sobered my thoughts. I didn't know what to do
anymore. I couldn't even think about it.
Then the door burst open and two of the
biggest guys I'd ever seen rushed in, guns leveled into our faces before we
knew what was happening.
pushed me to the floor and told me not to move. I didn't.
My lips kissed the floor, I shivered. Then they started to rough up Pedro. It was obvious
he was the one they were after. I figured Pedro
had sold them some bad dope or something.
It got intense. Pedro cursed them in super-quick Spanish. The goons roughed him up more. Harder. I saw drops of blood hit the
floor around me. Land on my arms and face. It was warm and wet. I couldn't bring myself to look up at what was happening.
Then I heard another
voice. Rough but commanding. It was Fuentes! I
kept my face to the floor so he wouldn't see who I was, so far he hadn't noticed or
cared who I was. He had more personal matters to attend to at the moment.
I guess the news about
Pedro fooling around with Rosa finally got to Fuentes. People just love to talk and Pedro
had a dick for brains when it came to women. And the one thing everyone without money talks about is sex and who's doing who. That talk gets
around. It must have got around to Fuentes too.
I heard them mention me, the
gringo. They glanced my way. Fuentes never guessed it was me. I made sure my face
was hidden from them as I shook for dear life. One of the goons saw this and laughed. Fuentes said it would be a shame to kill such
a fine coward. I just couldn't stop shaking.
Fuentes left the apartment, his two goons
dragging the unconscious body of Pedro between them. I knew Pedro was going for
a one-way, I'd never see him again.
They were gone almost as quickly as they had
appeared and left me on the floor alone sweating rivers. I counted my lucky star that Fuentes
hadn't recognized me. I guess I looked like just another gringo buying drugs from
Pedro. I'm sure he never would have guessed the guy looking for him knew Pedro, was in
fact, in his rooms at the exact time he went after Pedro.
Neither could I.
can be a gutless wonder when I'm scared, but when someone tries to kill
me -- and for no real reason -- it's amazing how that will stiffen even my backbone. I
wanted revenge. I wanted to kick Fuentes' ass. Who the hell did he think he was anyway?
I knew Fuentes had
to move on the capo soon. I figured to follow him and make my move when the time was right.
didn't take long. The days moved fast, the time shooting by.
I followed Fuentes. Stayed clear of his two goons. Watched and waited.
the third day I could feel the time drawing near. Early that morning
Fuentes left his house. He was alone. Not the
usual routine, and he carried a small attaché case tightly in his hand. He looked at it constantly. Carefully. I knew
this was it.
took a cab to Foster and 11th Street. I followed in an old beat-up
hack I borrowed from a friend who used to drive nights, but was shot two weeks ago in the
looked nervous. Or maybe it was just my imagination and I was the
nervous one. The cab let him off at the corner of 11th Street. He walked to the corner
of 12th Street. A big black limo waited there. The driver, decked out in a shark-skin suit,
and showing a noticeable bulge under the armpit, opened the door for Fuentes to enter the
back of the limo.
Fuentes put one foot down on the velvet carpet.
Hunkered down and slowly moved forward. I watched him move in. Saw him say hello to the
capo, who was sitting there like a big Italian Buddha at the opposite end of the seat.
They shook hands. Fuentes sweated. I could see it running down
his face through the sights of the scope.
I pulled the trigger
Fuentes ate two in the back of the head near the stub of the neck.
The spray drenched
the capo in blood and gray matter. He shouted in panic, tried to move Fuentes body off
of him, tried to get out of the limo but then thought better of it.
The driver bodyguard
was taken by surprise but responded quickly drawing his piece, guarding the car, looking
for me but unable to pick me out. The capo yelled for him to get Fuentes out of the car
and get the hell out of there. The bodyguard helped him dump the Puerto Rican in the
gutter. Then the capo saw the attaché case.
The bodyguard handed the attaché case to
his boss, closed the door of the limo and ran to the driver side of the big
car. He jumped in and gunned the car out into the traffic.
I watched them drive away. They'd gone
about five blocks when the capo's curiosity got the better of him.
The explosion blew
the doors and sunroof right off the limo. It
mulched the capo and the bodyguard into a hundred red beefy pieces.
I watched the EMS
workers gather Fuentes out of the gutter and place him onto a gurney, then roll him into
the back of a truck. The head guy gave the
thumbs down sign over the body. The EMS workers put down their equipment and lit up
cigarettes. That's all I wanted to see.
Maybe I lost all that upfront money, maybe it never was there to begin
with, but Fuentes lost a whole lot more. He's one bastard who won't be messing
with me again.
I didn't mess up on my dry run. I don't need practice.
1991 & 2020 by Gary Lovisi. All Rights Reserved.
Dry Run" originally appeared in the UK in New Crimes
#3, edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Robinson Books, hc, 1991.
Gary Lovisi also has
a YouTube book collectors channel, which is under his own name in the search. This channel
has over 100 videos on rare and collectable paperbacks and other books.
GARY LOVISI BIBLIOGRAPHY: (Recent and partial):
Secret Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Series:
ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (Ramble House, 2007)
MORE SECRET ADVENTURES
OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (Ramble House, book #2, 2011)
OF SHERLOCK HOLMES: BOOK THREE (Ramble House, 2016)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR.
HOLMES (Gryphon Books, 2016)
SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE BARON'S REVENGE (Airship27,
DETECTIVE: HIS FURTHER ADVENTURES, edited anthology
(Wildside Press, 2012)
SURROUNDING WATSON'S LOST DISPATCH BOX (MX Pub., UK
SOUVENIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (Gryphon
Books, 2002, non-fiction, new edition forthcoming)
SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE GREAT DETECTIVE IN PAPERBACK
& PASTICHE (Gryphon Books, 2008, large-size, spiral bound)
BATTLING BOXING STORIES, edited anthology, (Wildside
VIOLENCE IS THE ONLY SOLUTION (Wildside
MURDER OF A BOOKMAN (Wildside Press, 2011)
DRIVING HELL'S HIGHWAY (Wildside
THE LAST GOODBYE (Bold Venture, 2015)
NEMESIS CHRONICLES (Bold Venture, 2016)
ULTRA-BOILED: HARD HITTING CRIME FICTION (Ramble House, 2010)
DIRTY DOGS (Gryphon Books)
EXTREME MEASURES (Gryphon Books)
ON HOMICIDE (Do Not Press, UK, 1997)
BLOOD IN BROOKLYN (Do Not Press, UK only, 1999)
Fiction / Fantasy & Horror:
GARGOYLE NIGHTS (Wildside Press, 2011)
MARS NEEDS BOOKS (Wildside Press, 2011)
WHEN THE DEAD WALK (Ramble House, 2014)
SARASHA (Gryphon Books, 1997)
The Jon Kirk of Ares Series:
#1 THE WINGED MEN, 2014
#2 THE INVISIBLE MEN, 2015
THE SPACE MEN, 2015
#4 THE MIND MASTERS (forthcoming, 2017)
THE TIME MASTERS (forthcoming, 2017)
WEST TEXAS WAR AND OTHER WESTERN STORIES (Ramble House,
THE SEXY DIGESTS (Gryphon Books, 2001, large-size)
PULP CRIME DIGESTS (Gryphon Books, 2004, large-size)
ANTIQUE TRADER PAPERBACK PRICE GUIDE (Krauss Books, 2008)
DAMES, DOLLS & DELINQUENTS (Krauss Books,
large-size trade paperback)
BAD GIRLS NEED LOVE TOO (Krauss
Books, hardcover, 2010)
MODERN HISTORICAL ADVENTURE NOVELS (Gryphon Books, 2006, large-size,
THE SWEDISH VINTAGE PAPERBACK GUIDE (Gryphon Books, 2003, large-size).