By J.B. Stevens
Getting his brother
out of jail for Kazinski’s murder was not going to be simple. The evidence was strong,
and Marvin didn’t have an alibi.
But Hank couldn’t
stop. Marvin’s wife and daughter needed him. The death penalty was on the table
and Marvin’s sentencing hearing was coming up fast.
Hank had to form a
Hank spent the
morning scratching up a piece of paper, plotting out the situation, and trading
text messages with Marvin’s defense lawyer.
The lawyer wanted
Hank to focus on taking care of Marvin’s family. Marvin’s wife wanted Hank to
figure out the truth before it was too late.
Hank gathered the
hand-written notes, sat down at his computer, and hit up some search engines.
He was able to track down some of the Kazinski’s social media. There had to be
something in there that would help.
Most of it was set
to private, but what was public showed a lot of travel to Thailand and Brazil. Hank
recognized working girls from a mile away, ever since his time in the Army and as
The pictures, arrest
history, and online presence indicated Kazinski liked to pay women for their
time. That made Hank think of extortion. A man with a lot to lose and sexual
secrets is always risking blackmail. Blackmail can lead to threats, and threats
can lead to murder.
came up in a white pages listing. Hank located the place on a real-estate
website. The home was far too nice for a local bank’s IT guy to afford. It had
a heated pool, a theater room, a gym, and sat on twelve acres.
Kazinski had a lot
of money to spend, but the fund’s source was not clear. Hank found no evidence
of family money and Glassdoor showed that the bank IT job paid on the low end
Kazinski enjoyed his
vices and had the money to indulge them.
Hank ruminated a
minute and decided he needed go where the prostitutes plied their trade,
Savannah’s seedier motels. His time as a Deputy U.S. Marshal, before that
career crashed and burned, ensured he knew where all of the city’s underground
Hank opened the
wall-safe and grabbed his Glock 26 nine-millimeter pistol. It was the company’s
smallest double stacked weapon at six and a half inches long, four inches tall,
and an inch wide. It held a ten-round magazine with one in the chamber. As a
striker fired gun the trigger pull was the same, every time.
Hank carried an
extra seventeen-round magazine in his left front pocket, giving him a total of
twenty-eight chances to solve any problem.
He was surgical with
Hank stored the weapon
empty. After taking it out he loaded it. He pressed the slide slightly back and
saw the glint of a Federal Hydra-Shock round in the chamber. The nine-millimeter
bullet expanded when in hit flesh and left a huge wound channel. It was
extremely effective. He put the Glock in a leather holster on his left ankle.
The pistol wasn’t
his only preparation. He had practiced boxing three times a week for the past
decade. Since he was a smaller guy he liked to really know how to fight.
The art kept him ready
in case he ever needed to defend himself and his Glock wasn’t the right choice.
His messed-up foot from back in Iraq gave him some grief in the gym, but he
never stopped training.
In his right front
pocket went a knife, four zip-ties, and a thick stack of twenty-dollar bills.
He put on a plain
t-shirt flecked in paint, canvas work pants, and some beat up leather work
boots. A trashed Atlanta Braves baseball hat completed the look.
Hank hopped in his Ford
Bronco and headed to a no-tell motel. A loose plan was forming. When he was a
Marshal, he seemed to find a fugitive at this place once a month. He knew a lot
of working girls hung out there.
Driving from his
cabin out in the country to the Day’s Inn on the 1000 block of Abercorn was
like going from Mayberry to Somalia.
Hank felt his senses
prick up. Suspicious eyes followed him as he rounded the corner into the
parking lot. It felt like he was back in the war.
Hank shut off his truck
and waited, letting the location breathe and settle. Everywhere has an ecosystem.
Hank wanted to get a feel for the motel’s before entering.
He watched a few
hand-to-hand drug deals. There were some couples entering and leaving rooms.
After a few hours he had a solid sense of what was going on. Two lookouts were
posted up for the prostitution. Two were for the drug deals. There was an old
woman tending to the worker’s kids, the little ones played in a dirt lot near
the parking lot.
He had to earn the
lookout’s trust, get access to the girls, and get one to spill about Kazinski,
if she even knew the guy. The odds were stacked against him, but he needed the
info, and this was the only place he could start. Ignoring his bubbling stomach
and the sweaty palms, he steeled his reserve. The nervousness worked with his
cover. It made him look like any other new John.
Hank exited his
truck. He walked through fast food wrappers, past beat-up plaster walls, and up
to the eastern-most prostitute lookout. Hank’s head was down and his hands were
in his pockets. His chest hammered and adrenaline flooded his blood stream. The
smell of human waste and cigarette smoke filled his nostrils. Trap music
lightly tickled the air.
“Yo,” the lookout
said. “What’s up cracker, what you want?” He was small with stained teeth.
Hank looked up and
made eye contact. Hank recognized the man… but from where?
The lookout stared Hank
down, hard. The lookout’s eye’s narrowed and his face became concrete.
lookout yelled to the entire motel. Then he turned and sprinted to the back of
the building. Hank watched him drop a small baggie of crack and throw a knife.
“Wait, I’m not a
anymore. I just like to party.” Hank said to the runner, laughing to himself at
how insane the comment was. Hank turned and saw the entire area was a ghost
town. Only grandma and kids remained.
said. “I’m just a big fan of the call girls. Not a pig.”
When he got back to
his truck he saw the front driver’s side tire was slashed.
After putting on the
spare he made his way to the Alamo Plaza on Bay Street. Hank readied himself
for the headache that was about to come. Second time’s the charm… he hoped.
Pulling in, he
observed a similar environment. Lookouts were in place, but he only saw three.
Also, they seemed to be covering both the pimps and drug dealers. Seemed smart
on them for consolidating security. An effective business tries to keep
After watching for a
couple hours Hank approached the western-most watchman. As he walked up, he
took the time to make sure he didn’t recognize the guy from the past. The fella
looked young, about fifteen. He was basketball-tall and gangly.
“What’s up dog?
a little somethin?”
The kid’s voice was
smooth and kind. It felt good when it hit the ear. He should be on the radio or
working voice-over in Hollywood, not guarding crack and hookers in Savannah.
shone through. He didn’t try to hide it. He was a horrible actor. The U.S.
Marshals never let him work undercover.
hi. I, uh,
wanted to talk to a girl,” Hank said.
“Chill out. You seem
sketch as hell. This ain’t no thing,” the kid said. “I got you. What kind of
girl you want?”
“Asian… I guess,”
said, remembering Kazinski’s preferences.
“This is Savannah.
We got Chocolate or Vanilla.”
“You want a crack
head or a meth head?”
“I’m confused. If
Asian isn’t an option, can I get a white girl?”
“Meth head it is.
Head over to room seventeen. My girl Betty is in there.”
The watcher gestured
towards the room, looked down at his phone, and sent a text.
“Now you only gonna
see Betty. But just so you know, Betty got friends. Some real hardcore
pipe-hittin brothers. Betty says the magic word and these boys are going to get
medieval on you. Understand?”
“Also, I know I sound
all friendly, but don’t let that fool you. I don’t play. You do me wrong and it
won’t work out so well.”
“Aight, let me see
“What? I thought I
was going to see a lady.”
“I ain’t sucking
dick,” the watcher said. His voice was soft and kind. “What I look like, a
little sweet boy?”
“No cop is going to
whip out his dick in the middle of a parking lot.”
“I imagine not.”
“But some horny John
“So, let me see your
Hank laughed inside.
His dick had been out in many parking lots on many continents. He unzipped and
showed off the goods. He swayed back and forth. A smile crossed his face. Hank
made a mental note to kill Marvin if this all worked out.
“That’s a good
cracker. Ya’ll crazy as hell. Time to go meet your date. Give me twenty
dollars. Once you get in the room give Betty forty more.”
Hank reached in his
pocket and did as he was told. He fished out exactly three bills. He didn’t
need anyone seeing the wad of cash. After paying, Hank went over and knocked on
room seventeen’s door.
“Hey daddy. Come on
in,” a voice said from inside the room.
Hank pushed the door
and stepped inside. A sheet over the window filtered the light into a
piss-yellow glow. It smelled like a gym locker room and axe body-spray. He
could taste the sadness. He walked over and gave her the cash.
Betty sat on a tired
bed. Her age was impossible to determine, but the meth had not been kind. Her
skin was translucent. She wore an ill-fitting emerald nightie.
daddy. Little birdy told me you wanted a
She didn’t make eye
contact. There were track marks in both arms. A smoking glass pipe was on the
table in the corner.
“A man likes to feel
good,” Hank said.
“I’ll make your
curl, sweetness,” Betty said.
Hank had to get this
encounter moved to an interview fast. Betty stood and started to take off her
“Betty, how would
you like to make sixty more dollars?”
Her eyes stitched
together and she frowned.
“I’m not into any
“I just want to talk.”
what? I can do dirty talk, but you
still got to pay full price.”
Hank pulled out his
smart phone and tapped up a picture of Kazinski.
“Do you know this
She looked at the
photo. Hank saw recognition in her face.
“I don’t talk about
my friends with anyone, Sugar. You might as well call me Vegas.”
“What? Call you
“Yup. Cause what
happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”
Hank laughed out
loud. He knew it was time to cut to the chase. He reached into his pocket and
pulled out his entire wad of bribe money. It was approximately five hundred
dollars, all in twenties. Betty’s eyes got wide.
“Ok, Vegas, how much
is a little information going to cost me?”
Hank heard the
room’s door. Turning he saw a large man lumber in. The visitor was a foot
taller than Hank, fat, frowning, and wore sunglasses. He was holding a chrome
pistol Hank recognized. The Desert Eagle .50 caliber. A hand cannon.
“Big Nasty,” Betty
said, “I got this on lock. Scoot on out of here, Sugar.”
“Naw girl,” Nasty
said while turning towards Hank. “Time for you to shut up. I got questions.
What you really doin here, cracker?”
Hank took a step
backwards and looked left and right. The only exit was the window and the door.
Nasty was in front of both.
“What are you
getting at, Nasty? I’m not sure I understand.” Hank said. “O, and let me tie my
you’re asking questions about stuff that don’t concern you. You’re asking
questions about that dead man on the news. You’re hassling my girl instead of
paying my girl. Time is money. You’re wasting both. That’s going to cost.”
Hank’s right hand
slipped underneath his pants. He unsnapped the holster and gripped the Glock.
It felt like home.
“So, cracker, how
about you show me that stack of cash you playing with,” Nasty said.
The fat gangster
pointed the Desert Eagle at Hank’s head.
Hank looked at the
gun and time slowed. His hearing became muffled and the edges of his vision
blurred. His heart rate spiked. Somewhere on the edge of reality he noticed
Betty slink out of the room.
Hank kept looking
“Well, Nasty, it’s
like this. They say my brother killed that guy on the news. I just want to get
to the bottom of it. I’m not looking for trouble. We can work something out.”
Hank felt sweat roll
down his spine. It was cold and slow. He was still kneeling and squeezing the
“It’s already worked
out,” Nasty said. “Give me that stack and walk away.”
“Hopefully I don’t
“I’m going to take
“All right, cracker,
stand up and walk.”
Nasty slid left. He
shifted the gun to his other hand and reached out for Hank’s cash. The movement
cleared the path to door.
Hank took a deep
breath. He flicked out with his left hand and swatted away the Desert Eagle.
From the crouch he exploded towards the open door. He flew out of the room
while drawing and gripping the Glock.
He slid into the
breezeway on his right side and kicked the door closed. Ten feet to his right
was a set of red-brick stairs.
screamed: Move. Get away from where Nasty
would aim. Hank crawled into the dusty stair-well. The knuckles on his
right hand were scuffed up and bleeding. He was still holding the Glock.
As soon as the door
shut Nasty screamed, and started a string of words. With every word he fired a
Hank felt a change
in air pressure. He pressed himself against the bricks and focused on remaining
Nasty’s gun was
peeked out around the corner of the
stair-well. The air was smoky with a pink tinge from the impacted bricks.
There was an
explosion of cheap particle board and the large gangster stood yelling on the
Hank aimed his
Glock. The red fiber optic dot rested on Nasty’s sternum.
“Drop the pistol,”
Nasty pressed his
gun’s magazine release and dropped the empty. He reached into his back pocket
pulling out a fully loaded seven rounder. He slammed it into the handle and
reached for the slide release to put a round in the chamber.
Hank focused on his
gun’s front sight. He pressed the trigger straight to the rear. The first shot
broke. As soon as the sight returned Hank squeezed again. As the criminal fell Hank
fired two more rounds.
Four shots in the
blink of an eye.
Nasty lay still in
front of the hotel room. Blood started to pool. Hank heard Betty screaming.
Hank counted four
holes in Nasty. The gangster was bleeding from the stomach, left shoulder,
right thigh, and gun hand. Nasty began to rattle.
Hank kept his Glock
aimed in and walked over. He kicked the Desert Eagle away from the pimp’s hand.
“You done now,
cracker,” Nasty said. “My people gonna put a hit out. Then they gonna put a
root on you. Got you twice. Bitch.”
“I think your girl
Betty’ll call the ambulance. I don’t think any of those wounds will kill you.
“You’re done. This
Hank wasn’t sure
what to do. He had never shot someone while not on government business.
guess see you later?”
respond, he just laid there struggling to breathe. Hank considered first aid,
but didn’t want to risk catching whatever blood-borne diseases Nasty surely
hosted. Hank reached into the hotel room and grabbed a small plastic trash can.
He placed it upside down over the Desert Eagle. Then he picked up the four
brass 9mm casings from his Glock.
Hank left quickly.
The last thing he wanted was to be stuck in the cell next to his brother.
He went the long way
home, checking to make sure no one was following him. Halfway back he stopped
in a Piggly-Wiggly Grocery Store’s parking lot, rolled down the windows, and
called Marvin’s defense lawyer.
After Hank finished
hiring the lawyer for himself, he called Erica.
It was all going to
As Hank turned off
the phone he heard a smooth and kind voice call out over his left shoulder.
Marvin never left the
J.B. Stevens lives in the
Southeastern United States with his wife and daughter.
His writing has been featured in
Mystery Tribune, Noir Nation, Criminal Element, Tough
Crime, Out of the Gutter, Close To The Bone, Thriller
Magazine, and other publications.
He is a veteran of the Iraq war
where he earned a Bronze Star. Prior to the war, he was an undefeated Mixed
Martial Arts Fighter. J.B. graduated from The Citadel.
He can be found online at twitter.com/IamJBStevens and jb-stevens.com
is a multi-award-winning writer in both fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Her stories appear in Hardboiled magazine,
Yellow Mama, A Shot of Ink, Shotgun Honey, Black Petals,
Einstein’s Pocket Watch, All Due Respect, and in the anthologies Deadly
Dames and More Whodunits. Among her numerous writing awards over the years,
she has award-winning stories in Felons, Flames, and Ambulance
Rides, Battling Boxing Stories, and her published short story
collection, Crawlspace. Broken won first place and is her 4th
published novel. Her first novel Deranged won the PSWA First Place award for
best published novel. Her next novel, The Mosaic Murder, was followed with a sequel,
The Corpse in the Cactus, which won First Place and was published
in the U.S. and UK. She won several other writing awards for her short stories, including
received both art and a nonfiction Creative Writing Awards from NLAPW, California
South branch, an organization of women writers, artists, and composers, and she served
as President from 1982–1984. She is a current member of Sisters in Crime, PSWA, and
Arizona Mystery Writers, where she was the first writer to win two consecutive awards in
their annual short story contest.
Lonni was selected as Writer-in-Residence at Hedgebrook, a writer’s retreat on
Whidbey Island. After living in four states and visiting many countries, she’s
settled in Tucson, AZ. She fills her spare time showing her art at WomanKraft Gallery,
reminiscing on all her travel adventures, illustrating stories for online magazines, and
dreaming up new tales to tell.