By Sean Greenhill
Waking up beside a dead body isn’t something that happens to many people. I’d done it twice now, and it wasn’t getting any easier. Drummond had been shot through the forehead, and died instantly. I came to facing him, and his dull, lifeless eyes stared into mine, shocked and surprised.
“You should have just told them the truth, Jimmy,” I croaked. “You should have just told them the truth. If I’d been in your place, I would have.’
Not that it would have helped him. I’d known it the minute Oscar walked in with Harry and George the Greek, his two thugs. He’d had his killing face on, and only one thing was going to make it go away. Maybe Jimmy had seen it too. Maybe that’s why he decided go out like a hero by lying to Oscar. Who knows?
My hands and feet were both tied, my hands behind my back, and I sat up awkwardly against the wall of the office. The clock told me it was just after three in the afternoon. I’d been out for at least six hours.
“You bought me some time, Jimmy, but he’ll be back soon,” I told him. “Seven hours to get there and back. Hour to find English Bob and work out that you lied to him.” I sighed and nodded. “Yes, he’ll be back. He’ll be back and he’ll be pissed and he’ll kill me.’
I was not actually scared of dying. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not stupid, or some sort of meathead, and there’s plenty left I’d like to do, but I figure that it happens to everyone eventually. When it’s your time to go, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it really.
What I was scared of, was how long it would take me to die, because I knew what Oscar was capable of. Shit, I’d taught him half of what he knows about torture, and he’d been more than eager to learn. Too much cocaine meant he couldn’t perform in the bedroom with Liz anymore, but he sure got a big buzz out of hurting people. It gave him a real hard-on.
I remember when we’d caught up with Andreas the Swede. He must have known he was in the deep shit when we kicked his door in. To give Andreas his due, he’d been smart enough to tell us everything he knew straight away, but Oscar had decided to have some fun. We managed to keep him alive for two and a half weeks while we took turns trying to outdo each other. In the end, Oscar had lost. He’d held Andreas’ nose closed, and giggled like some schoolgirl on nitrous, as he chocked Andreas to death with his own balls.
Oscar is that sort of guy, and he’d be back for me soon.
I drew my knees up and used my shoulders to inch up the wall until I was standing and that’s when I saw Jill, Jimmy’s wife.
Jimmy’s dead wife.
She was sitting in the chair behind the desk, naked and covered in blood. Or at least, most of her was sitting behind the desk. Oscar had cut her breasts off, and they sat on the desk like two obscene, novelty paperweights.
“Sorry, Jill,” I told her. “You didn’t deserve to die like that.”
She really didn’t. Unlike most of the wives and girlfriends, she really had been relatively innocent. I hadn’t believed Jimmy when he’d tried to convince me that she never asked what he did and that he had never told her, but when he had been out of town a year ago, I’d gotten Jill drunk and slept with her and found out he was telling the truth.
No, she didn’t deserve it, and maybe Jimmy didn’t either, it was hard to say, but at least they died before they found out that just how I had betrayed them.
I looked around the office for something that I could cut my ropes with, and didn’t see anything that would do the job, which wasn’t a surprise. Jimmy had it built in a corner of one of his disused warehouses near the docks for meetings, and other things that required privacy, and enough outside noise to cover the screaming. As a result, the walls were thick, high, and windowless and the only door was solid oak, three inches thick with a pair of the latest locks. They would be impossible to pick, even if I could find a way out of the ropes.
The only things on the desk were Jill’s breasts and the broken pieces of the telephone that Oscar had been hitting Jimmy with, and although I didn’t have any great hopes, I decided to check the drawers for an envelope opener, or anything else that might help with the ropes. I half-shuffled, half-hopped my way to the desk. I was doing okay until I landed in a pool of Jill’s blood and my shoes lost their grip.
I slipped sideways, fell—hitting my head on the corner of the desk as I went down—and lost consciousness for the third time that day as I hit the floor. I was still alone when I came to again, which was a good start, but the clock on the wall told me it was after four thirty, which meant that Oscar would be back at any minute, unless he was stuck in traffic, or English Bob had given him trouble.
For my sake, I hoped both.
As I struggled to sit up against the desk my head swam. I heard the unmistakable sound of metal dropping onto concrete echoing inside the warehouse. I froze and listened as hard as I could, unsure if I’d really heard it, or was just imaging it.
“You okay, Collins?” I heard a man’s voice call out faintly.
“Yeah, yeah,” another man’s voice answered, closer than the first. “There’s just shit all over the place.” There was a pause and then I heard him speak again. “Hey, Powers!” he called. “Get your arse over here. It looks like there’s an office or something back here.”
I waited as I heard two sets of heavy footprints come closer and wondered who it was. Not Oscar, obviously, or anyone else who knew what was good for them, otherwise they wouldn’t be in one of Jimmy’s warehouses without his permission. The doorknob rattled and then stopped.
“We’ll have to get a warrant,” the one called Collins said. “Call it in.’
“Can’t,” Powers replied. “No reception. Roof must be made of iron or something.’
I didn’t really want coppers, with all their difficult to answer questions, to rescue me, but if it was a choice between them and Oscar than I really didn’t have any choice at all.
“Hey!” I shouted. “Hey! Help me! Help me! I’m bleeding.”
“Get away from the door!” Collins shouted.
A shot rang out and one of the locks exploded out of the door. The next shot didn’t hit the second lock and Collins cursed. He fired again, and this time he found his mark, then the door burst in as one of them kicked it open. They entered the room in a rush, guns drawn and hyped up on adrenalin, but they weren’t prepared for what they found.
“Jesus Christ!” Powers exclaimed, his eyes moved back and forth between Jill’s mutilated body and her breasts on the desk. “Jesus Fucking Christ!”
Collins knelt down on one knee beside Jimmy and put two fingers against his throat. “This one’s dead too,” he announced.
“Hey,” I shouted again. “They’re dead, I’m not. You want to get these ropes off me?’
Powers crouched down behind me. He started undoing the ropes as he looked me over, then he raised one eyebrow, and stopped. “You said you were bleeding.”
“I would have said I was the God damn Pope, if it would have got you in here,” I told him. “My names Card, Vince Card. I’m DEA. Now, how about the ropes, I’m losing circulation.”
“DEA, eh?” he replied skeptically as his hands started searching the pockets of my jacket. He struck gold in my inside pocket and pulled out my wallet. He opened it, turned it around, and scowled. “How come this says your name’s Charlie King, then?”
“Because I’m undercover,” I snapped. “We don’t exactly go around with DEA tattooed on our foreheads, you know what I mean? Call San Diego, if you don’t believe me. Ask for Wilson. He’ll confirm my story.”
“Can’t,” Collins grunted as he came over to us. “No reception.”
I shook my head as if in frustration. I’d known they couldn’t call out, of course, otherwise I wouldn’t have told them to try. Wilson had retired almost two years ago, and who ever had taken his place undoubtedly had my name on a list, but it wouldn’t be a good one.
“Then how about you undo these fucking ropes, and get me outside, where you can call?” I asked between gritted teeth. “Or would you two Neanderthals prefer to carry me out?”
“You got a big mouth, Buddy,” Powers sneered. “You sure sound like those DEA pricks, but if you’re not, you’re going to be in deep shit.”
I snorted with disgust. “And if I am DEA, you two will be the ones in the shit. You might want to think about that.”
“Undo the ropes, Mike,” Collins instructed. “We don’t even know if he’s done anything wrong.”
“He’s the only one left alive,” Powers countered as he undid the ropes on my hands reluctantly. Pointedly, he made me untie the ropes on my feet myself. “What the hell happened here?” he asked me.
“Oscar Garrett happened,” I told them as I rubbed feeling into my wrists. “And by now, he’s on his way back. If he finds us here before back-up arrives, he’ll kill us all.”
Collins shot Powers a glance as he helped me to my feet, and for the first time, they didn’t look so sure of themselves. The boys in blue feared Oscar, not the other way around, and their fear was justified. A dozen or more of their number had disappeared for good when they hadn’t accepted the kickbacks he’d offered.
“Come on,” he said. “These other two aren’t going anywhere. We’ll go out onto the street and call it in. Let someone else sort it out.”
But the sound of the metal door being opened at the other end of the warehouse told us we were already too late.
“Quick,” I whispered. “I’ve got an idea. Give me a gun.’
“No chance,” Powers hissed back.
“Do you want to live or not?” I snapped. “The only way out of here is if we make it look like I got the drop on you two. I’ll persuade him I’m going to take you for a one-way ride to get back on side with him, then we get the hell out of here.”
Powers wasn’t one hundred percent convinced, but Collins nodded. He bent down, pulled his back up piece, an old .38 Special, from his ankle holster, and handed it to me.
“Tuck your weapons into the back of your belts so they think I’ve taken them,” I told them. “It has to be believable.”
They did as they were told and filed out of the office ahead of me. I made sure I held the .38 in sight, but low, so Collins and Powers wouldn’t get jumpy. “Oscar,” I shouted. “Oscar, is that you?’
Deep hearty laughter came from the other end of the warehouse. “Managed to get out did you, King?” he called back. “Have to start calling you Houdini.” Then he laughed again. “But not for long.”
“You got it all wrong, Oscar,” I replied. “People have been telling you tales. Let me prove it to you. I’ve got a surprise.”
His laughter rolled around the warehouse again. “I got one for you too, King,” he chuckled. “I brought English Bob back with me. He wants to meet you face to face. Says he’ll be able to tell me the truth.”
Collins looked back over his shoulder at me and raised one eyebrow.
“Don’t worry,” I whispered. “Just stick to the plan. Let me do the talking and we’ll all be having beers at O’Malley’s by happy hour.”
“Well, King?” Oscar demanded, the laughter gone. “You going to come down here where we can see you, or you going to make me come and get you?”
“I’m coming out, Oscar,” I told him. “But you just make sure no one shoots me before I explain, okay?”
“Sure, King,” Oscar agreed. “No skin off my nose. I can always kill you after.”
It wasn’t reassuring, but it was the best I was going to get.
Collins and Powers walked ahead of me, each wary, and I raised the gun to waist height, aiming it in the gap between them. It didn’t give me a great line of fire if Harry or George let loose, but it would have to do.
We came within sight of the warehouse doors and we stepped out from behind the shelves into the large open space used for unloading. Oscar was directly in front of us, perhaps twenty feet away, flanked a short distance away by Harry on one side, and George the Greek on the other. Although Oscar stood relaxed, his hands in his pockets as if he didn’t have a care the world, Harry and George both had their guns out and aimed at us.
I was more concerned with the man standing beside Oscar. He was in his mid-thirties, with thick blond hair, and when he looked at me, there was a flash of recognition.
“Well?” Oscar asked, unfazed by the sight of the two coppers.
I took a deep breath, raised the gun, and shot Collins in the back of the head. As his body fell, Powers turned toward me, gabbed for the gun in his belt and I shot him through the temple.
“There,” I said to Oscar as I lowered the gun. “That proof enough for you?”
There was a moment of silence as Oscar studied me, his face a mask, then he broke into a broad smile, his perfect white teeth gleaming against his dark skin. “You’re one sick fuck, King,” he laughed. “One really sick fuck.”
Harry and George the Greek laughed with him as they put their guns away, but English Bob didn’t join in. He looked at me with a confused expression, unsure how to interpret what had just happened.
I couldn’t resist Oscar’s infectious laughter, and I broke into a broad shit-eating grin as I walked toward them. “Yep,” I agreed as I stopped a few feet from Oscar. “I really am one sick fuck.’
I raised the gun again and shot Oscar between the eyes so quickly that English Bob, Harry, and George were all momentarily stunned. It was all the time I needed. I dropped Harry and George before they could move, then turned the gun and pointed it at English Bob.
“So, Bob,” I said slowly. “What’s the truth?’
Bob looked down at Oscar’s body and shrugged. “The King is dead,” he replied. He looked at me and smiled hopefully. “Long live the King?”
“Good answer, Bob,” I laughed. “I need another partner. Let’s go and knock over these Columbians.”
One day, I’ll have to choose which side I’m on. Until then, I’ll just have to keep looking after number one, I suppose.