Rick came home in a foul mood. The kids disappeared into their rooms. They knew that you had to walk on eggshells around their father when he was like this, or he’d blow up at them and they’d get the worst of his anger.
Alice had no idea why he was so angry. He didn’t usually explain, other than to rail at whomever because they were so whatever that they’d ruined his life. There was just no getting any sense out of him when he was like that. She had to wait until he calmed down, and then he wouldn’t want to talk about it. So she’d snoop.
The kids acted up over dinner. One kicked the other under the table and they collapsed into fits of giggles. Rick took them out to sit on the bottom of the stairs for a spanking. He used his belt.
Alice sat at the table feeding the baby, listening to him berate the children in his heavy monotone, hearing their little protests turn into shrieks and sobs, the slap of the belt making her wince each time. Suddenly she pushed her chair away and stood up. Marching out to the hall, she yanked Junior off of Rick’s lap and set him down by the door. Then she turned on her husband.
“I won’t let you beat them like that. They’re only children, for heaven’s sake.”
He stood up, furious. Quicker than she could move, he snatched her and whipped her over his knee. “I’ll spank you instead,” he hissed, and laid several heavy strokes on her butt with his hand.
The kids stood there, aghast. She saw their frightened faces and struggled away from Rick. She stalked off in the other direction from the kids. He followed and shoved her up against the wall, twisting her arm behind her. “You’d better be careful,” he said in a low, dangerous tone. “I’m this close to throwing you and the children out in the street.”
He wasn’t joking. She knew she was on quicksand. “Don’t take it out on the children,” she insisted, looking him in the eye. He glared back. “They’re not to blame.”
“They’d just better be careful,” he growled, releasing her. She quickly scooped up the kids and ran upstairs with them, leaving him to rage thru the ground floor, slamming doors and banging things from room to room.
After the kids were in bed and Rick had gone to a late business meeting with a potential investor, she let herself into his study and had a look. Everything in the room was dark and heavy and overstuffed – the couch, the drapes, the desk and chairs, the rug. The coffee table alone must have weight six hundred pounds. Carved teak root from Malaysia. Everything was shiny, neat, and imposing. Sound vanished into the dark corners. No light came thru the windows. The fireplace was walled up, now a bookshelf and his safe. There was a one way mirror, visible from the private bathroom he had built when the company got bigger and they expanded the house. The place always gave her the willies. She wasn’t allowed to be there.
She went up to his heavy wooden desk, an antique from the ‘20s, gleaming with varnish and as big as a dance floor. All his reference books, magazines, papers, and reports were in their own stacks along the left side. His monitor was at the top, and a single tin soldier stood to the side, pointing his bayonet at a green shaded lamp on the right. Next to the lamp there was a small pile of cash, held down with a rounded rock (lingam). Hundreds, fifties and twenties. He would know to the dollar how much. He would notice if it had been picked up and examined. It was probably left there as a challenge. The house was full of tests like that, things placed precisely how he wanted them, with hell to pay. He probably had the place full of cameras and microphones, too.
But he left his notebook out. Usually it was locked away in the drawers along with everything else. Leather bound, his monogram in gold, marbled papers in the endleaf, thick white rag writing paper. Rick kept a diary. There were twenty years of volumes in the vault down at the bank. Which she didn’t have access to.
She carefully wrapped her fingers in her shirt tail and opened the book where a thin metal ruler marked it. He was in the habit of ruling every page in lines he could write on. Like a little ritual. How cute. Paging back, she looked over the most recent entries. A complete record of his days, if you could understand the code. Numbers, maybe expenses, followed by scribbles she couldn’t read – not scribbles, exactly, more like glyphs. Plain english sometimes, except for names and places. Lots of initials. Sometimes he broke into poetry, strange stuff about how enlightened he was and how he was raising the level of intelligence of the planet by his very presence. It was funny.
There was something, tho. It started a couple of weeks back with a little drawing lined in heavy boxes that almost went thru the paper. A stick figure being stabbed with a large knife. Then he started putting “Kill Mom” in the same kind of boxes. Then the boxes started taking up more room. The next to last page had boxes all in the margins. The last page had a big cluster of them right in the middle. It looked like a puddle of ink.
Was that why he was in such a horrible mood lately? Alice knew how much Rick hated his mom. He’d told her in vivid detail, for years, about all the horrible things she’d done while he was growing up. Alice hated her simply because of what he told her. She hardly ever saw Rick’s mom; only on holidays, and Rick managed it so they were never together very long. It was formal between them at best. She didn’t know if they could like each other. But nobody could be that bad – now that she had kids of her own, she began to wonder.
She giggled as she shut the door. “The power of my seminal vision ignites / and rains the fire of creation on fertile soil / blah dee blah dee blah.” As she got ready for bed, she wondered if finally getting Mom out of the way would make Rick happy. She’d be willing to kill his mother if he’d truly relax and stop beating up on them. Nah. He’d just find something else.
* * *
Allen sat in his truck, smoking a blunt and shading his eyes from the sun. There was a cold beer between his thighs, and still three more in the little cooler next to the stickshift.
His target was parked at the drycleaners, and he was waiting to see the car – a PT Cruiser with smoked windows – pull out and go to the next place. He had an approximate itinerary – cleaners, post office, grocery store. He was supposed to wait until they were on their way home, and run them off the road at this little woodsy place a little ways out of town. He wondered who he was killing. He had even less information about this job than the one his landlord sent him on. All he knew was make, model and color. And an old W sticker. Killing a Republican. Why not? The first guy was a terrorist. It’s a kinda balance.
There, he nearly got a glimpse of them this time, but the street trees were in the way. The car pulled out, and he eased into traffic behind them. Life was good. He cracked open another beer.
After dawdling thru town, the car finally got to an isolated stretch of road. Allen saw with pleasure that the road made a wide turn to the right with a big drop off on their side. He sped up and prepared to ram the car as they went into the curve.
But it veered wildly, right across the road to the other side, hit the gravel and stopped. Allen went shooting past as the driver got back onto the road. He was now in front, so he slowed down, wondering what to do. The car started to pass him in the middle of the curve. He jerked the wheel and sideswiped them with a big bump that shook the truck.
He’d be damned if they didn’t ram him right back. His beer sloshed onto his nuts and he lost control of the wheel for a moment rescuing the situation. The truck nearly went over the side. By the time he pulled back on the road, they were gone. Fuck that shit. He reached for his last beer.
* * *
Sam and Dave stopped by on the way to the club to rip Allen off again. He was sitting there on the couch, rolling a joint next to a dumpy, middle aged woman. She grabbed her things and scurried off when they muscled the door open.
“Hey ain’t you the guys I seen at the club?” Allen asked, a big smile on his face.
Sam kneed him in the face and took all his money.
Allen thought maybe his nose was broken. What assholes. He was about to tell them to be careful around Gordon’s girlfriend in case he got jealous, but fuck them now.
* * *
Rick was in the club, waiting for Roxy to come back and snuggle for a few minutes before her show. She’d gotten up and run to the back of the club just as he was asking her why she’d stood him up this morning. She’d be back.
He was really there to meet a new prospect. He looked around as if the club was his, pretty impressed with his business acumen. This place was gold. It was like a fraternity. You could do deals there with anybody, with a lot less fuss than sitting around a boardroom with a bunch of lawyers hissing at you.
He saw someone that looked a lot like Allen, but only got a glimpse of him behind someone else and then he was gone. That reminded him – he still had to get his bail money back. He made a note in his little black book. A.-nu task. On second thought, they probably wouldn’t let Allen into a joint like this.
Laurie came back and nearly walked right by him. She was in a hurry. Someone was giving her trouble and she was letting Security know. He snatched at her hand. “Roxy, baby, where were you? Why didn’t you call?” he pleaded as she tore herself away.
“Oh I just couldn’t, baby,” she called over her shoulder. “My mom came into town this morning.”
He sat and glowered thru Roxy’s set. Women were the scourge of the earth. Then Rick’s prospect showed up and sat at the table next to him. Two of them. They introduced themselves as Sam and Dave. They were foreign. Representing foreign governments with lots of money and a few pressing needs.
Rick needed lots of money right now. He was way behind on the bills, his unofficial creditors were lining up three deep to be paid, he was getting death threats, and Roxy was nickle and diming all his pocket change. And he hadn’t even made it to first base.
“So, you’d like to, what, invest in the company?” he asked a little nervously. “Normally we’d go thru Payroll. I’m sure we can work out the details quietly.” There was a commotion in a dark corner of the club, distracting him. “As stockholders you’ll want a tour, of course.”
“We’re going to be major investors. You could ah introduce us to select members of your staff,” the vaguely Slavic one murmured. “Uh, the CFO, of course, and maybe your programming team.” Custom software? “We’ll want to make sure you’ve got the latest and greatest security measures,” he continued. “To insure our investments is safe.” He sounded kind of Cockney. South African?
“You’ve got no problem there. I invented security. My award-winning Gotcha! coordinates up to ten mics and cameras in every room of a large house. Plus multiple keyboard monitors.”
The black one looked skeptical. “If you don’t mind, we’ll just have a word with your security guy, just have him familiarize us with the basics.”
“Sure.” He waived it away. “Details. Now exactly what were you interested in? And let’s talk numbers.”
* * *
Gordon was almost done working out his plan to rob the club, when he realized it wasn’t good enough. The plan was to find the safe, break into it, and steal the money. Simple, elegant. But ever since Laurie acquired a cult following, he’d been wondering if he couldn’t orchestrate something more dynamic. A sting.
He had half the management on board. He had henchmen, like Allen, real dogsbodies. He had the use of the Mafia guys, who could also pose as cops and get away with it (tho once they’d loosened up a little and confessed, it was hard to think of them that way). There was brother Rick to play, and Bill, too. He had enough talent to pull off the job of the century. And it would be so intricate that he’d be the only one who knew all the pieces. Still, he couldn’t quite visualize the job. Simply stealing a night’s take wasn’t worth it. Stealing every night’s take seemed a bit closer.
Take the Mafia dudes. Using their position as rivals, he could go to the owner with a counter-proposal. Of some sort. And work up some kind of turf war. And then organize his defeat, somehow. And take over. And then screw the rest of them out of any part of it, and keep it all for himself. Just because he could. King Gordon the First.
Allen slid into the seat next to him and bummed a cigarette. He looked shaken. “Buy me a drink?” He put his head in his hands and shook it slowly. “Man, I almost died out there.”
“Really. Didn’t get them, then? Did you get a good look at your target?”
“No, man. They tried to kill me.” He was almost crying. “I’m not doing this. I’m just a fucking two-bit criminal. They can go kill their own targets.” He was so upset that Gordon gave him a couple of valium and bought him a beer to chase it down.
Allen got a good look at Sam and Dave.
“Hey.” He pointed. “Those are Mafia guys. Real nasty assholes. Stay clear of them, man.” He felt his nose. “See this bruise? Remember that shiner last week? They got me paying protection.” Gordon laughed. “Hey, it’s no joke. They’re fucking strong-arming me. I feel like calling the cops.”
“Normally you’d call the Feds,” he corrected, eying Sam and Dave. They went up a notch in his estimation.
Then Allen got a good look at Rick.
“Hey, that’s the dude hired me to kill that terrorist guy.” Gordon had to make him hush; he was almost yelling.
Gordon felt alarm. “What?”
“Yeah. That turned out to be that old lady.”
Rick hired Allen to kill Mom? For real? Well, given Allen’s level of competence, maybe not. But Rick wouldn’t know that, would he? Was he really trying to kill Mom? Nah-Uh.
“Hey, Allen. I’ll let you know something for free. That guy? Who hired you?” Allen nodded and stared in his direction. “He tried to get you to kill his own mother.”
“For real?” Allen shook his head. “Damn, that’s bad.”
“Yeah. He’s a bad dude. I should know. He’s my brother.
Allen did a double take. “No.” He looked from one to the other. “He doesn’t look like you. He’s real sucessful looking and.” He stopped. “I mean, you look like you enjoy life, and he’s just a miserable sack of shit landlord.”
Gordon thought for a moment. “Allen, here’s what I want you to do. That old lady means a lot to me. Here’s how you can help.”
* * *