Fiction: SHAFER WORK BY MARK SLADE

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For some reason Peter Choaladi decided the Englishman would be a great partner for Barry London on this particular job. Obviously it was a secret joke between Pop and Choaladi. When he was telling London about the job, Choaladi and Pop would snicker. Could it be because my last name and the guy is British? Yeah, London thought. That’s exactly what it was.

Yeah. What a great sense of humour.

Peter Choaladi was a Cuban crime boss London and Pop worked for. Choaladi was semi-retired from the life. He didn’t get into the business unless it was through London, whom he lent out to others in the life that needed a fixer. Pop was a retired bus driver from Manhattan who runs Choaladi’s gambling activities using a used bookstore and newspaper stand as a cover. London started calling Leon Brown Pop because he would always give London fatherly advice. He would also use Pop’s vast knowledge of people for leg work. Anything London wanted to know, Pop could make calls and feed London the info.

London took on the job. He wouldn’t dare turn one down. Not because he was scared of Choaladi. No, it was out of respect.  Choaladi has never lied to London. All the other authority figures have. Lots of people have crossed London.

Some have lived. Some have not.

“Okay, okay,” London said. “I get the joke. What’s the job, Mr. Choaladi?”

“You go to Prince Street. See Emily Brunswick to pick up your tickets,” Choaladi said.

Emily Brunswick…….I’d like to pick up Emily and put her in my bed, London thought.

“Tickets for where?” London asked.

Pop and Choaladi burst into laughter. London was not amused.

“I’m sorry, son,” Pop said. “We can’t help it. London going to London.”

“Fucking old men and their fucking old men sense of humour,” London growled and stormed out the door.

****

London went to Prince Street and saw Emily Brunswick. He also saw her husband Terry. Terry worked for a land development company. London didn’t like Terry very much. Mostly because he was married to Emily, who was London’s idea of the perfect woman. Not just a beautiful redhead built like the pinup girls of the 40’s and 50’s, she was smart and so damn pleasant. Emily reminded London of a fifth grade school teacher he had a crush on.

Terry, on the other hand, was a little shit with a pencil thin moustache who wore sandals with his suits. He had a whiny voice and he was also an asshole to people. Mainly Emily. London couldn’t wrap his head around the fact Emily picked that man over so many other men; the fact that she was so different him, nice and caring and such a beautiful attitude….anyways that’s what was on London’s mind. Terry also had an annoying way of finishing every sentence with a shrug of his shoulders or tilting his head and waving his hand.

“I’m the one that asked for you,” that little shit tilted his head and waved his hand.

“Am I supposed to kiss you on the lips for doing that?” London asked him and sat on the white leather chair across from the black leather couch Terry and Emily sat on.

Terry scrunched up his nose and puckered his lips in offense. “I hardly think this is the right situation to be a smart ass.”

“When is the right situation?” London said. Maybe when I put a bullet in your sorry egg-shaped head, he wanted to say. Of course, that would have upset Emily and possibly turned her against London. And London damn-for sure did not want the perfect woman to hate him.

Terry sighed. “I cannot make hide or tails sense of this conversation.” He was trying his own style of smart quips. It wasn’t working out for him. So London thought better to put a stop to it right away before he lost his cool and strangled the twerp.

“Then I suggest you shut the fuck up and let Emily tell me what the job entails.”

There was a tug of a smile on her lips. Sher ran her tongue across them and the brief smile vanished. It didn’t matter how brief. What was important was London saw the smile.

“We have a client who needs a pornographic film retrieved,” Emily said. “When we spoke to Mr. Choaladi about this matter, he also had a friend who had interest in this pornographer.”

“Did the film reach the internet yet?” London asked.

“No,” Terry cut in.

London gave him the eye and he scoffed, looked away.

Again, Emily let a smile slip through. She continued. “The film has not reached the internet. Apparently, there is a fee this pornographer is asking our client to pay.”

“To keep it off his websites,” London said. “How do I recognize this movie?”

“Apparently it is still a film in a canisters. Shot in the nineteen seventies. No transfer to video. So, I’m curious as to how this man is going to get it on the internet.”

“He has his own facilities. They work out of a warehouse, I bet. Has a crew to use codecs whatever the fuck else they do. The person who does not want this film uploaded has moved on to bigger and brighter things. Possibly, a powerful person—-”

“Of course!” Terry exclaimed. “Can we just give this man his plane fare—-?”

“Hey fella, why don’t you get me a cup of coffee,” London said.

“I am not your go-to boy!” Terry stood. He was fuming, but to anyone else it looked like a child’s tantrum. “I am a man. So you address me as a man!”

“Terry,” London began, cleared his throat. “You realize I am dangerous. I have killed people and not even shed a tear for them?”

“So,” Terry sputtered.

“It is out of respect for Emily, the only reason I have not laid your sorry ass in a shallow grave. One more outburst from you and I may forget that respect,” London moved his eyes back to Emily, “of course, I can only forget my respect for you, ma’am, for a fledgling moment.”

Oh boy, London thought. I think I just tried to sound poetic.

Terry turned on his heels and marched to the door of their office and said: “I am going out! Fill me in later, Emily!”

The door slammed shut, but only in Terry’s eyes it was out of anger. To London and Emily it was just a closing of door.

“Forgive Terry,” she said. “He has a short fuse.”

“Mine is a lot shorter,” London told her. He cleared his throat again, felt the need to readdress that remark, but Emily took over. London noticed she was a lot more relaxed.

“Terry also likes to control everything.” Emily said.

“Terry is an asshole,” London found himself saying instead of thinking it. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said—”

“No,” Emily sighed. “He is. He has a lot of faults. He also has a lot of good points about him. He takes of me and the business.”

London thought about that.  He nodded. “Taking care of you is the best point you could make in his case. That’s why I haven’t hurt him yet.”

“Thank you for thinking of me,” She smiled at London and his heart melted.

“Continue with your debriefing,” London said shakily.

He couldn’t help admire her chestnut hair, which was in a ponytail today. Other times London had seen Emily with her shoulder length hair down and in dresses or skirts. She wore a pants suit and she couldn’t have looked more beautiful. She also looked a woman who was in charge, even though that may not be the truth, London still liked the image. With her hair in a ponytail it highlighted her somewhat delicate round face and definitely those large blue eyes that caused London to notice her in the first place.

“Didn’t Mr. Choaladi tell you about the job?”  Emily crossed her legs and rested her chin on her fist. London watched the movement and knew he’d a lost a breath.

“He did. I’m pretty sure you could give instructions much better.” London didn’t mean say that. Again, he was thinking out loud and flirted when he thought he couldn’t flirt. He once had a girlfriend back in Jersey who said he was a consummate flirt. When he served four years in a state prison, London was so conscious of not flirting that it made him stick out as a mime on steroids. When he got out of prison, it took him a good two years and Hillary Hathaway the barmaid at Sturgis Grill to bring that flirt back from the dead.

Emily was amused by that remark. She may have even been a little turned on. She leaned forward and brushed a few strands of her bangs from her eyes. “Well, Barry, we need you to go to London…..” she stopped talking. A smirk crossed her face. She fought the urge to make the joke. London saw that in her eyes. “Anyways, not only to retrieve that film, but shadow someone my client believes is an Interpol snitch.”

“By the way,” London said. “Would you tell me who in the hell this client is? For some reason Mr. Choaladi wouldn’t say—”

“Hildy Barnes.”

The very same Hildy Barnes known to the street as the Godmother Heroin dealers. London did not like Hildy Barnes, nor any of the shit mongers she kept company with.

“He knew I wouldn’t take the job if he told me,” London said. He stood and with quickened pace, headed for the door.

“Where are you going?” Emily was surprised by London’s reaction.

“I’m going to tell that old son of a bitch off!”

“Why would you not do the job?”

“Hildy Barnes, if you must know, murdered one of my best friends. Or had him murdered. Anyways, she ordered the killing and he was cut to pieces with a fucking chainsaw.” London was so flustered he was stepping all over his own words and actually, no periods were at the end of his sentences. “We were only kids. Hell, I was twenty and he was nineteen, just starting out with Choaladi—-” London suddenly stopped talking. He thought carefully what he was going to say next. “I don’t want to disrespect Mr. Choaladi. I don’t want to disappoint you. I don’t think I can do this job.”

“He didn’t know,” Emily blurted out.

London turned around. He faced Emily, who looked stressed. She had a hand on her forehead, her eyes steady on the floor. London shut the door. He ambled to her, waited for to say something. Emily lifted her sad eyes to London’s.

“You better explain,” he said.

“Mr. Choaladi doesn’t know Hildy Barnes wants help to get rid of this government snitch,” Emily said.

“You didn’t say get rid of before,” London said.

“I thought maybe…well….if you found out…..”

“I would kill him anyway because he’s a rat,” London sat down. “It doesn’t always work that way, Emily. I have to have the go ahead from an employer…even then….how does Hildy Barnes know this Colin Shafer is a snitch for Interpol?”

“I don’t know. Look….” Emily drew in a heavy sigh. The stress took a big toll on her facial expressions. While still attractive, the depressed demeanour suddenly made her a victim in London’s eyes. “I…we need this money…this job.  Terry and I sunk every penny in that housing development Garry Hogan had a hand in. Remember?”

“Yeah,” London nodded. “He was caught embezzling funds from his company about six months ago.”

“That included all the money raised and donated for that project,” Emily said. “We’re going to lose our home. Our business. All of our friends will turn their backs on us. We could end up dead when the other business partners tire of our begging for extensions.”

London scoffed, looked away. “Shit,” he closed his eyes and thought again about what he wanted to say. He wanted to say no. He couldn’t help. He wanted to say, if you leave Terry, become my girl, I’ll make sure your safe, Terry’s on his own. He wanted to say, “I love you.”

London didn’t say any of those things.

“Okay,” He told Emily. “I’ll do it.”

 

****

He was very thin, Colin Shafer.  Very pale, almost milky- white, that lent to a ghostly presence. So thin, in fact, everyone thought the man was ill. Thus the words, “doctor” or “Health clinic” were a stepping stone to the man’s rising anger. Which immediately everyone who uttered those words, saw the smouldering fire in his eyes. He wore thick framed glasses that set on a regal nose. To be in the profession that Colin was in, at first glance, those in contact with him almost never take him serious. Well the glasses don’t help, but it’s his rather light and feminine demeanour that catches them off guard. And a lisp Colin refuses to hide.

He was in London to see Harry Cutter. Cutter sent word that he needed Shafer to collect some money from a local pornographer who hadn’t shared in the profits. Harry was sitting in a corner table at the pub Ghastly, a bit of business he’d just taken away from the Lydon family. He had one of the girls on his lap that frequently starred in the films he backed. She was a tall, leggy brunette that was encouraging Harry to run his nasty green fingernails across her tights. How she stayed on Harry’s lap was a miracle. The sixty-two year old geezer had no frame about his frail body.

In the background was one of Harry’s regular musclebound goons. He wasn’t anyone Shafer knew. The man in a turtle neck kept smirking at him at the same had his arms folded fronting the tough guy scene. Harry introduced them in a cautious way. Often men in his position do that to make sure no bad blood turns into a shootout.

“Colin,” They touched palms, not much of a handshake at all. “Good of you to come to London from the Black Country. Still following the Reds in Football?” Harry’s voice was booming if not ear piercing squawk.

“Cheers, Harry. Of course I still follow Liverpool. There is no other club in existence is there?” Shafer smiled slightly.

The goon snickered shook his head.

London couldn’t understand a damn thing they were saying.

“Colin, this is a cousin from the pond,” Harry said.

London did understand that. He stepped forward and offered his hand. Shafer looked at it as if London was London handed him a pile of shit. London put his hand in his pocket gave Shafer the cold stare back.

“What’s here for?” Shafer’s nostril flared.

“Be nice,” Harry ordered. A crooked finger pointed at Shafer. The nail at the end was green. The sight of it made London’s stomach. “If you try to start something, Colin, I’ll cut yer bleedin’ liver out and feed it to my dogs. You understand?”

Shafer eyed London. A huge grin made his lips curl up and his furry eyebrows lower in a V.

“Naw,” Shafer giggled. “Just jokin’ on you, Stuckey.”

“Stuckey? Where the fuck did that come from?” London raised both open hands to God to express dissatisfaction with moniker.  The room erupted in laughter. London was even more in the dark.

“Oh, that is sweet,” Harry wiped tears from his eyes. “Barry London is this fella’s name.”

“Caw. You poor soul,” Shafer smirked. “Your family really thought it right to call themselves after the worst fucking city in Europe? Tsk, tsk.”

“Anyways, Colin, he’s here to assist you with a little matter at hand.”

“Harry,” Shafer went cold again. “I don’t need another asshole in the equation. Especially a red, white and blue grease ball.”

“We’re going to get something straight you fuckin’ potato eater,” London took a step to meet up with Shafer again. “I ain’t no greaser from the Bronx. I’m from Jersey. And where I come from we eat pansies like you  and we don’t hang on to the dream that we wouldn’t have been speaking German if red, white and blue hadn’t our pale white asses!”

“Okay, okay. Enough of the tough talk and insults on each other’s heritage,” Harry bellowed. “In spite of Mr. London silly name and that he has his facts wrong about historical events, he is very competent. Colin here, is the same. You both are needed and I’m pretty fucking sure either of your bosses would be more than disappointed in both of you if this was fouled up.”

 

 

Colin gave him a cold stare as he sat in a chair across from Harry. The girl whispered in Harry’s ear, glanced at Shafer.

“He might be interested,” Harry whispered back. “I’ll ask him later, little girl.” He smacked her ass, and the girl rose up, smoothed her short green dress and sat at another table. “Colin, do you know Gerry? His my new assistant.”

“I haven’t had the pleasure,” Colin adjusted his glasses on his face.

“And you never will,” Gerry the goon said, snickered.

“Gerry,” Harry warned. “Colin is a trusted associate. He should treated with respect.”

Gerry made a slight noise, rolled his eyes. Shafer ignored the slight for the moment. He need to get on with the business at hand.

“Okay, Harry,” Shafer crossed his legs in the same form Harry’s girl had hers. “Get on with it. My Violet is in a play at school and I don’t want to miss it.”

“Little girl, get Colin a pint, will you?”  Harry said. He smiled at London. “Beer for you, alright?”

London shook his head no.

The girl jumped from her chair, swiftly sashed to the bar. Colin noticed she wasn’t wearing any shoes. She wasn’t barefoot, either. She wore an off-colour Tan and black tights. Then he remembered that almost none of Harry’s girls ever wore shoes. They always wore tights of some sort. Colin had a twinge of a smile at that fact.

Harry motioned for London to come closer. Gerry followed, even though he wasn’t called over. “Here it is Colin,” Harry leaned in as much as his hump back would let him. “I need you and Mr. London to do Tomlinson one.”

Colin nodded. “Still missing payments I see.”

“Worse now,” Harry scowled. “Mr. London’s employers need some film back. Tomlinson been putting the squeeze on for that film,” Harry paused, then snarled. Those tiny black eyes danced around in his ancient head. “That fucking twat has blabbed he’s too big for my help. Went to the Parker brothers for protection.”

“Can’t stand a backstabbing ponce.” Colin said.

Gerry broke into laughter. “Bollocks!” He cried out.

“The fuck did you say, Gerry? Do you fancy your job?” Harry used his big boy voice when he needed to mind the boys.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Cutter. I just can’t help me self. This,” Gerry pointed at Colin, laughed again. “This is a joke, eh? How’s this fairy and Yank going to handle a job like Tomlinson? If he’d done it right the first time, you’d have no problems with the beaver peeper.”

“Gerry, you are way out of line—” Harry stopped talking. He watched Colin rise slowly, unbutton his blazer. He knew it was too late. At that moment the girl walked across the room with a glass of pint on a tray.

“What are you going to do, you dick sucking queer,” Gerry unfolded his arms and motioned to swing first, but Colin already had swiped the glass from the tray, dowsing the girl in bitter. She screamed, danced a few steps back, looking down at her stained white blouse.

Some of the beer caught London on his shirt. London was not amused. He stepped toward Shafer, but soon realized Shafer was in a psychotic train of thought. His eyes huge, transfixed on Gerry, and the veins connected to the dilated pupils had become fire red. London stepped out of Shafer’s way just in time.

Shafer smashed the glass across the right side of Gerry’s head. Gerry swung in spite of the pain and one large shard of glass embedded in his skull.  The girl screamed again, ran into the game room.

Shafer ducked, parried, and gave Gerry swift kick in the balls. Then two hard punches in the midsection.  Gerry welled up. Blood ran down his face and intertwined with tears. Gerry coughed, eyes bulging out. He tried to find his composure, staggered instead. Shafer reached up to the man towering over him and dashed his fist quickly into Gerry’s Addams apple. Gerry gurgled, fell hard to the floor. He made no attempt to get up.

Shafer buttoned his blazer back, turned to Harry. “Sorry about the mess, Harry.”

Harry sighed. He never once moved from his chair. He knew neither man would dare touch him, either accidently or accidently on purpose.

London was impressed. He glared at Shafer, grinning. He choked back laughter.

“Don’t sweat it, Colin. I’ve got people to clean this up,” Harry meant “those people” was Gerry.

“I think I’ll pay our Mr. Tomlinson a visit. Have a drink with him,” Shafer said. “Come on then, Stuckey,” he quick-stepped to the door, and said in probably the worst American accent ever uttered: “We got a job to do.”

****

It was a rather nice house where Dickey Tomlinson did his films and magazines. As a pornographer, one would be led to believe he lives in an attic above his mother’s bedroom. It was a four bedroom house that once was a semi-detached.  It was in a cul-de-sac, but the house on either side were empty. Most likely squatters lived in the other houses.

Shafer scoped the place. He noticed Tomlinson didn’t have his usual guards around. That was the reason Harry London go with Shafer. London was impressed Shafer knew how to get in and out of places with no fuss. Most guys he teamed up with were morons and usually set off the alarms. They discussed several ways of getting in and all of them sounded reasonable.

Something was definitely off about this situation.

Shafer noticed the back door was left slightly ajar, which was odd. He kept one hand on his .38 as he pushed the door open gingerly with his shoe. He walked in slowly, angled to the right and stood against the wall. London followed, his Glock in his hand. He angled to the left and braced the wall.

They saw a tall, gangly man in his early fifties in a blond wig that resembled a Beatle wig, only longer. He was in a track suit with the pants around his ankles. There was girl, very young, sitting beside him, with her hands in his crotch. To the right, sitting on bean bag was Tomlinson. He was laughing, speaking in his thick Welch accent, almost garbled. To the left was a Police officer sitting on an ottoman, laughing in a high pitched voice, as if it were sped up on a tape.  He had his trousers down around his ankles as well. His cap covered his crotch and he kept saying he wanted to play peek -a -boo with the young girl.

Shafer didn’t know how old she was, he guessed seventeen, but he wasn’t sure. He did know that he was sickened by what he witnessed, and by the moment, he could feel his blood boil. His anger reached its peak when he recognized the man on the couch getting a hand job from the young girl.

The man had been on British television for nearly forty years. Usually hosting a top rated music show that counted down the country’s biggest hits, having the singers and bands perform those hits seemingly live (which they didn’t play live) in front of an audience of screaming teenagers and young adults. The man also hosted a very popular Saturday morning children’s show where he would enter a child’s home and promise to give the child anything desired.

To London, it was all so surreal. He was flabbergasted at what he was seeing. He moved his eyes Shafer’s way as if to ask for instructions. Shafer had already made his decision. Shafer dashed from around the corner, his .38 aimed in the direction of all three men.

“You dirty fuckers!” He said through clenched teeth.

Tomlinson gasped, slid to the floor and hid behind the bean bag. The cop dropped his cap, exposing his very small genitals. He clamoured for the radio attached to his vest, but he was only able to pick up static. London appeared on the right side of Shafer. He fired once.

The top of the police officer’s head exploded. A massive goo of brain particle. Blood danced in the air around him and landed on the framed painting of Queen Elizabeth II. The girl screamed, her eyes were wild and hands flew up to cover them. She kicked her legs and screamed again in a panic. Suddenly, she hopped to her feet and grabbed her coat. She ran past Shafer and went out the backdoor.

A short, fat man in a silk robe came charging out of the bathroom brandishing a shotgun. He fired at Shafer and London. The blast missed them by a mile, and took a chunk of the crown moulding above their heads. Shafer recoiled slightly, caught his balance and fired twice. Both bullets ripped through the man’s neck. He fell to the floor, flopped a few times like a fish out of water. He groaned loudly until it became his last attempt at catching his breath.

 

The tall man was in shock, breathing irregular. “L-look…we can work this out can’t we…I’ll pay you twenty-five thousand—“

“You dirty fucker,” Shafer replied. “Shouldn’t you be on POP IDOL or that fucking annoying kids’ show my daughter watches, JIMMY’LL GET YA ANYTHING?”

“Please. I-I have so much to offer…” The tall man turned on the water works, fake sobbing. Shafer could always tell when a man was legitimately afraid for his life or just a liar. The tall man was a liar.

“I’ll bet you say that to all little girls, don’t you? You dirty fucking git.”

Suddenly a lamp flew past London. He dodged it just in time. It came from Tomlinson’s direction, who was bent over from a piss-poor throw. London fired, a bullet caught Tomlinson in the thigh. Tomlinson howled in pain, beat his fist on the wood floor.

Shafer turned and found the tall man going out the window, his round belly getting caught, his legs bucking, knocking over a book case. Shafer fired. The bullet caught the tall man in the left cheek of his ass. He howled like a wounded animal, slithered through the window.

Shafer cursed under his breath. He ran to window, aimed, and decided not to cause more of a ruckus than he already had. The tall man was running, stopped and limped, then started running down the street. He jumped inside an open door of a van. The van coughed, sped away.

“Caw,” Shafer said. “He’s fast for an old geezer.”

Shafer heard the kettle whistle. He looked toward the kitchen, then at Tomlinson. Tomlinson was laying on the floor, trying to crawl to a desk, where he probably had a weapon of some kind. At the rate Tomlinson was going, Shafer had time to get the kettle.

“Would you like a cup of tea?” He asked London.

London snickered. “I’d love a cup.”

“Right away, Governor.” Shafer went into the kitchen.

London walked over to where Tomlinson was. He placed his shoe on Tomlinson’s wounded thigh, applied just enough pressure. Tomlinson screamed.

“What do you want?” He moaned. His accent was not so hard to understand after all.

“You have a film we want,” London said.

“Which one….you shit heel. I have over five thousand—-”

“One you haven’t converted to digital yet.”

“How….how did you know about that one? I haven’t even had a chance to look at it. That was all you wanted? I would’ve sold it to you.”

“I’m sure you would have,” London said. “But my employer doesn’t like being squeezed for money.”

“For that film?” Tomlinson looked at London incredulously.

“Are you using others for black mail?”

“That’s a dumb fucking question. Yes! Jesus, take your foot from my leg!”

“Where’s the film?”

“On my desk,” Tomlinson pointed. London searched his desk. He found the dusty grey-silver can shaped like a wheel. Tomlinson kept talking while London looked through piles of photos of celebrities engaged in all kinds of activities they wouldn’t want their mothers to know about.

“I haven’t even had a chance to give it to my staff so I can look at it. Look,” Tomlinson continued.  He limped to a chair and sat. “I’m not asking for any money for this film. More than likely I wouldn’t even upload it to the internet. I’m a collector of vintage porn. If anything comes in with a can, I have my staff prepare it for my own viewing experience, then I store it away in my vault.”

Shafer appeared with an electric kettle.

“I bet you would like a cup,” Shafer said to Tomlinson.

“No, no, no…please…..” Tomlinson begged. He began to tear up.

“Hey,” London chuckled. “Come on. You don’t do that.”

“Am I fucking talking to you?!” Shafer screamed.

“I’m trying to tell you there’s no reason to torture anymore—-”

Shafer cut off London. “Don’t stick your finger in my shit!”

“We got the film,” London told him.

“I don’t have the money he owes, now do I!”

“It’s in the safe!” Tomlinson offered up quickly. He pointed to a vintage nude framed picture of Bridgette Bardot. “Behind the picture. A wall safe. The numbers are 32 left, 23 right, 35 left,” Tomlinson shrugged. “Bridgette Bardot’s measurements,” he tried to smile.

Shafer set the electric kettle on a side table and went to the picture. He blew Bridgette Bardot a kiss before he opened the picture like a cabinet door. He turned the tumbler on the safe to the numbers exactly as he was told. The safe door popped open. There inside the grey metal cabinet, were twenty stacks of bills with the picture of the Queen on them.

One gunshot was heard. One bullet pierced Tomlinson’s skull.

He fell back in his chair, hunched to the left and slumped down. Blood splatted the wall behind him. The gunshot came from an open window and from a rifle. London and Shafer fell to the floor. Two more shots were fired, both bullets Struck Bridgette Bardot in the face, leaving two very large holes.

London rolled across the floor and over to the open window. He stuck the barrel of his glock out the window and fired twice. He someone scream. A rifle slid off the roof of the semi-attached, fell to the paved street below. London saw a middle-aged man with gnarly hair trying to keep from falling off the roof.

The man was holding on to a gutter with one hand, kicking at the shingles. He also hand the other hand holding his left side, trying to keep the bleeding to a minimum. He was failing at both tasks. Just as London was ready to climb out the window, the man fell. A stressed scream was pinched off when impact intruded.

Shafer was the first out the backdoor, then London. The rifle lay about ten feet from the man. It was an old hunting rifle, a bolt action Holland with a sight barely mounted on. London wondered why anyone dumb enough to shoot at people would use such a weapon. That question was posed to the man, who lay on his back, injuries visible by the gash on top of his head and the way his limbs were crumpled like a bawled up piece of paper.

“What’s this, then?” Shafer knelt on one knee. There was a little bit of humanity in his voice.

“Colin….” The man croaked. “Haven’t seen you in a dog’s age. Where’ve you been keeping?”

“Infiltrating the royals. I’ve been cleaning Harry’s shoes for the last three years.”

The man squeezed out a laugh. We heard sirens in the distance. London saw an ambulance out on the main road turning into the gated community. Three police cars were following. Strange how the cops didn’t come quicker. But then again, that tall man Shafer shot in the ass, more than likely owned the local boys. Not too different from the states.

“Better hurry,” London said. “Cops right around the corner.”

“Why take a shot at us?”

“I wouldn’t have, if I knew it was you Colin. I owe Harry. In bed for three and can’t even pay the rent. Ahhh…damn the horses.”

Shafer was enraged, at least for a moment. London saw it on his face. Shafer grit his teeth.  “Well, old boy, you’ll be with Gwen now. Once Harry’s gang find out you didn’t do me in, they’ll be in your hospital bed, administrating their own medicine.”

“Only fitting,” the man chuckled. “I’ve been a bastard all my life.”

****

They went back to Harry’s.

Shafer knew something was wrong. No one was guarding the building’s entrance. They went down the hallway. They saw blood smeared on the walls. They moved down the hallway a little ways and there were five body’s lying on top of each other in a corner. The guards.

Shafer and London moved on to Harry’s suite. Harry was lying face down. Shafer turned him over. Harry had been shot in the neck and chest. Shafer was broken up. He sobbed hard. He leaned in and whispered something in Harry’s ear.

London heard someone in the closet. He opened the door quickly and brandished his glock. Harry’s girl was in there, hiding behind the coats. She was terrified. London offered her a hand. She reluctantly accepted.

She hugged London, and immediately wept. London was caught off guard, but realized the right thing to do was to hug her back and console her. London looked over at Shafer. He was sitting in a chair, taking Harry’s death pretty hard. London guessed Shafer was thinking of all the time Old Harry helped Shafer out.

“Who did this?” London asked her, once she got herself together.

As soon as the question was posed, the girl’s head exploded. Blood covered London and the realization that he was holding a dead person came to him seconds later. London let her slip from his arms and slide to a crouching position between his legs.  In clear view, was Gerry, the barrel of his .45 smoking.  Gerry laughed maniacally.

Pure anger intruded London’s brain. He charged Gerry. Gerry was not prepared for a fight. He fired once and the bullet grazed London’s cheek. Adrenaline and anger fuelled his charge, London didn’t even feel the pain. He took hold of Gerry’s arm pulled it the opposite direction. There was a snap and Gerry cried out, dropped the .45.

London kicked Gerry in the midsection. Gerry doubled over and whinged. London picked up the .45 and slapped Gerry across the cheek. He fell backwards. London pushed the barrel in Gerry’s face. He was ready to pull the trigger when he heard Shafer speak.

“Don’t do it,” Shafer put a hand on London’s wrist, pushed away his aim slightly. “We can use Gerry.”

“Use him? Don’t you want to kill him for what he did?”

“I put the idea in his head. I told him he should clean house, take over. Harry was getting on. He could run things better,” Shafer said.

You had him kill….. Harry and that innocent girl?” London was taking it all in. “Harry was your mentor!”

Shafer bit his lower lip. “Harry was very kind to me growing up, that is true,” Shafer nodded. “Harry was also a rat.”

London found all of it too much to take. He sat in a chair, hung his head. “It was Harry I was supposed to shadow.”

“The old git was working with Interpol. Harry had been caught in that under-age sex ring last year. The girl…well, she was an Interpol agent—” Suddenly there was a pained expression on Shafer’s face. “You thought it was me?”

“I was told it was you,” London said.

Shafer tossed the .45 at London’s feet. “I’m not capable of that kind of betrayal.” Shafer walked out, slamming the door.

London heard voices outside Harry’s building. He knew it was Interpol. He picked up the .45, went over to Gerry. Gerry immediately began to beg for his life. London handed the gun to him. “You’re gonna need this, asshole.”

London left by the backway, same as Shafer.

Bio: Mark Slade has appeared in Weirdbook #32, Startling Stories, Switchblade magazine, and other publications. He is the author of Blackout City Confidential, Book of Weird, and A six gun and the Queen of light. Coming up, Close to the Bone Publications will release Witch for Hire and Mr. Zero. He also writes and produces the audio drama Blood Noir that airs on Para-X Radio. He lives in Williamsburg, VA with his wife and daughter.