Chapter twelve continued
Mom was having an eventful day. Usually she sat in the den with the TV on and whiled her time away with friends on Fox and CBN. But she’d hardly sat down all day. First that strange visit from Alice and the baby. How big the sweet thing was getting. She was determined to spend more time with this one. Rick and Alice had conspired to keep her from the others, but she’d be damned if she’d be a stranger to them all.
Then someone threw a rock thru her window and she had to clean up all the glass. It would be cold once it got dark, how was she going to block the air? She rummaged thru the closet for awhile. Coats? Maybe a couple of old fur coats would work. Did the kids really have feet this little? Look at those adorable snow boots.
Then the doorbell rang. It was that nice man who’d helped out around the house. She immediately drew his attention to her windows; from there it was nonstop until she made dinner.
“You know, Ma’am,” he said as she plunked a big spoon of mashed potatoes onto his plate. “That wasn’t no rock that broke your windows.”
“Wasn’t any,” she fussed. There was no excuse for improper English.
“Sorry. It was a bullet.”
“What was a bullet? Oh, don’t be simple. It was one of those hoodlums down the street. Can’t be more than 8. They call me names when I drive by their house.”
“No Ma’am,” he insisted. “I found a bullet hole in your wall.”
They went to look. “It’s a mouse hole,” she said, relieved. “I’ve had them before. They can get thru the tiniest holes.”
She went to show him the hole in the floorboards of the pantry. He shook his head. “This looks more like rats. See, Ma’am, you just don’t get mouse holes way up on the wall like that. And look, it’s right opposite your window. I should look again. There could be more of them ‘cause of all that glass I had to replace.”
Mom couldn’t believe it. Who would shoot at her house? “And what happened to your car?” he asked. “There was a big long scratch down the passenger side.”
Mom sat down and fanned herself. “Oh it was awful. Well, I was distracted. I think I was on the phone. Yes. I was talking to my daughter in law, who I thought hated me. She had something to tell me, and wanted to stop by for a visit. I got to see the baby.” Mom looked ecstatic. “I think she’s going to divorce Rick. She seemed so unhappy.”
Allen got her a drink of water. “The car?”
“Well. In all the excitement of talking to someone who hasn’t bothered getting in touch with me for several years, I happened to drop the phone. The next thing I knew there was this horrible scraping noise, and I looked up and said a quick prayer, because I was right in the middle of running some poor man off the road. I felt so bad. I called 911. I hope he was all right.”
Allen was alarmed. The poor old lady shouldn’t be allowed to drive around by herself. She was going to get herself killed talking on the cellphone. He decided with no further thought that it must have been Rick that had driven by and shot up her living room.
After dinner he sat in the den and they watched the news and then a Disney movie on the Family Channel. He felt so at home that he nodded off, waking in the middle of the night to pee and finding himself all tucked in under a blanket on the couch, the house settling gently around him. He hadn’t slept so well in years.
* * *
Alice woke up feeling miserable. She’d lain awake most of the night, torn by guilt. What kind of monster was she to poison her kids’ grandmother? And not out of any malice toward the poor thing but just to test the formula. She was a monster. A murderer. And now she was going to go to jail and Rick would be free to abuse the kids as much as he liked. She’d had one chance to kill before they figured it out, and she should never have wasted it. Rick was right. It just showed how incompetent she was, doing a practice batch because she wasn’t sure her chocolates would be good enough after all these years.
She was afraid to call and check on Rick’s mother, but she went by the house after dropping the kids off at school. There was another car there. Oh no, she had time to call someone before she died. Or maybe they’re both in there, stretched out, blue in the face.
She was further shaken when the door was answered by an unkempt man who looked close to death. Alice stood there, stuttering. The baby squealed. Suddenly Mom was there, looking like a hag, snatching the baby from Alice and drooling. They went back to the kitchen, giggling at each other, leaving Alice and Allen to introduce themselves.
Alice felt faint with relief and looked around for the chocolates. Thank God she hadn’t eaten any of them. She was planning to steal them back and get rid of them, but they weren’t around.
Alice sat on the edge of a stool at the counter. Allen buzzed around getting coffee for everyone while Mom and the baby played on the floor together. Alice felt horribly uncomfortable, and tried to make small talk.
While Mom followed the baby from room to room, Allen took Alice around and showed her his handiwork. The new glass, a stair rail he’d refastened to the wall, the loose brick in the sidewalk, all things he’d noticed and fixed without anybody asking. He was proud of his work. She was a little envious – Rick never fixed anything and wouldn’t let her call a repairman. She left a little while later with a promise to come around again in a couple of days. She wanted to ask Mom to keep her visit a secret from Rick, but since they never spoke, she thought she’d be okay.
* * *
The GPS tracker in her car reported Alice’s visit to Mom’s house, as well as its duration. Down in the windowless basement of Rick’s company, a lonely security tech noticed the unexpected deviation from her usual routine, and went back to doctoring surveillance tapes.
* * *
Sam and Dave were sitting in the car eating their lunch. Sam tossed the wrappers in the back. Dave noticed where every one went and promised to make Sam pick them up later.
The car sat in the sun. It was hot, and they had the windows up to avoid suspicion. They were on stakeout, and it was getting late. The sun was beginning to drop into their eyes. And still nothing of interest happened. “He’s expecting money,” Sam observed. “That’s the part that bothers me.”
“They’ve nixed the emergency funds,” Dave read from his Blackberry.
“What’re we going to do? The mark’s expecting real money, a couple of million. That petty habitual criminal Allen doesn’t have anything like that, and we can’t just write the guy a check.”
Dave thought for a moment. “Sure we can.”
Sam scoffed. “Yeah, on my personal account, right?”
“No, man,” Dave waved impatiently. “We’ll do one of those Nigerian scams. Write him a huge fucking check and get him to cash it, then take it from him at gunpoint.”
“Would Johnny Dep do that?”
“Hell yes, if he had the technology.”
They sat in silence for awhile. “You know, I think there’s something going on at the club.”
“What do you mean?” Sam puffed himself up. “We’re going on.” He paused. “You vill pay us und shut up.”
“Jesus, that’s a German accent. Get it straight, will you? And stop throwing your trash in the back seat. What I was talking about was how easy it is buying a hit on someone here. I heard about two of them in the bathroom just this week. Some terrorist hit we should ask Homeland Security about.”
“Like they’d tell us,” Sam sneered
“And an attempted vehicular homicide.”
Sam remembered something else. “Yeah, I picked up something about killing some old lady for the insurance money.”
“Well, I think we should be reporting it.”
“By the way, what exactly are we saying, anyway?”
“Um,” Dave brought up his report.
“Let’s see, we have our mark Richard preparing to accept money that we don’t have, for industrial secrets he’s willing to pass to enemy states.”
“There’s that guy Gordo we don’t know much about. We’re thinking he’s dealing drugs on the premises.”
“You know, I think he might be undercover.”
Dave went Hmmm and made a note. “We’ll check that out.” He summed up. “Okay, we’ve got drug trafficking and prostitution, extortion, and all sorts of vague rumors just to make it clear we’ve got our eyes open. There’s that theft ring Allen is running. We could beef that up a little.”
“Yeah, put that down –can we use grand theft auto?” Sam thought for a moment. “Sure we can, bet somebody’s driving a stolen car right now. Have we run all the plates?”
“Well, don’t. We’ll get the local boys on it.” Sam tossed his almost empty coffee cup into the back seat, spraying sugary liquid all over. Dave yelped as a drop hit him on the nose, then started to bitch about it, but Sam was already pulling out of the parking space. Trailing Alice, who had just picked her kids up from school.
* * *
In the basement of Rick’s company, the tech took note, and was concerned to see her being followed as an old two-door followed her past a camera at the subdivision’s entrance.
* * *
Gordon wasn’t feeling up to snuff. He’d stayed in bed too long this afternoon and still had cobwebs in his head. A 4-pack of energy drinks hadn’t made a mark. A generous snort of cocaine only left him jittery, rather than alert. The blunt he’d just finished made him want to go back to sleep.
Truth was, he tossed and turned all morning. Because Laurie hadn’t come home. He wondered if she’d been in an accident. If she’d happened upon some kind of trouble on the way home. If she were lying dead in a ditch in the woods just blocks from the trailer park.
The most likely thing was that she’d gone out for drinks with the girls after work. Surely she’d be home by…2:30 p.m. But she never came home last night, and she wasn’t at the club now, and he was worried. So he took a couple of valiums to calm himself down, and chased it with a snootful of snow so as not to lose his edge.
Bill came in, looking for Laurie, but gladly bought a lapdance off of Moanie. It wasn’t very crowded that early, so Gordon ducked down the service hall – Authorized Personnel Only – to avoid Bill’s notice.
Hanging out around the back door entrance, shooting the shit with the bouncers. There was a bunch of them standing around doing nothing. Waiting. Gordon settled in, leaning against the corner of the dumpster, curious. The boys grew a little nervous after a few minutes. “Yep, lovely night,” Gordon said, trying to start conversation, but even Jake was being close mouthed. “What’s going down, bro?” Gordon sidled up to him, but Jake murmured something and moved off. Someone spoke softly into his Bluetooth. Everyone got a little more antsy.
“Well, I guess I’ll go on back inside,” he said loudly, pushing off the dumpster. “Hey, is the owner in his office? I need to have a word with him about one of the regulars.”
The bouncers exchanged nervous glances. “Uh, he’s not here,” one said.
Gordon glanced at the owner’s yellow Maserati. “Okay,” he drawled. “I’ll make an appointment for a later time,” and sauntered around to the front of the building.
Where a taxi driver was unloading half a dozen predrunk businessmen, and arguing with the doorman. “I bring eight. Eight!” the driver was screeching.
The doorman shook his head slowly. “I counted four.” They argued back and forth, the cabbie threatening to call a strike against the club unless he was paid the full kickback for all eight, the doorman telling him to bring his whole family in the cab next time so he could charge triple.
Gordon left them squabbling when another cab stopped and discharged Laurie. She looked wonderful. To lovesick Gordon. In the rearview mirror she looked haggard and pale; her hair greasy and disheveled, makeup smeared all over her face, her clothes smudged and ripped, her bag missing and all her money and drugs gone. She needed a drink so bad she marched right by Gordon as he held the front door open, and plunked down at the bar for some dog fur. Then she disappeared into the dressing room to get ready for her shift, feeling like crawling under the table and taking a nap. Maybe the drink will help.
* * *
Sam and Dave came in while Gordon was out back scoping the place out. Bill was sitting with them, talking seriously. Gordon could tell they were discussing some sort of deal. Sam and Dave sure could work a room. Since they’d dropped the businessman ruse they’d become major players at the club. Which was great cover for Gordon’s own little plot.
* * *
Bill had come in with a heavy conscience. He’d just fired the one employee who could help him, and he didn’t know where else to turn. He’d planned to get the guy to run over Cindy’s mother with his semi. Maybe he’d been a little precipitous asking for his keys. Maybe he should reinstate him in exchange for this favor. But the guy hadn’t returned his call and Bill could see where he might be a little mad.
Those Russian Mafia guys, tho. Roxy mentioned them the other night while he was letting her clean out his wallet with her cleavage. He had no use for gangsters. But after that barrage from Cindy he was determined to show her a thing or two. Maybe they could help. They certainly seemed willing, especially after he bought them a round of vodka with jager shots.
“Anyfink we can do to help.” The fat one said expansively. “Vee can solf all your problems.”
The one called Dave was having trouble with his phone, and kept tapping his earpiece. “Now about our fee,” he continued quickly, distracting Bill’s attention. “What do you say to…half a million?”
Bill swallowed. He didn’t have anything like that. On the books, maybe, but he’d been cashing in investments left and right, and being way too generous with the soon to be ex mistress in order to buy off her suspicions. Bill the husband was mostly broke. Bill the trucking magnate had lots, but it was all tied up. What could he offer them – the leases on his trucks? “Well,” he laughed, trying to look nonchalant. “Half a million’s a little steep. Why don’t you take,” he counted fast, “fifty thousand, which I can get for you by next week, “And I’ll give you the rest when you’re thru.” By then he should be long gone. But getting the down payment would take a miracle.
* * *
Laurie was feeling better. A couple of drinks, a snort a la Gordon, a quickie in the DJ booth while nobody was looking. She didn’t feel great, and there were some black and blue marks on her legs that she hadn’t noticed when she took her shower. Makeup would take care of that. Heavy makeup on her eyes, heavy powder on her face, lots of blush. And a big blonde wig because she didn’t have time to fix her hair. Her hands were a little shaky, too; she’d noticed while putting on her eye liner.
She’d spent the morning on her hands and knees. First with Rick playing cowboy on her backside, and later beside the toilet because something she’d eaten didn’t agree with her. Or was it something she’d drunk? She couldn’t recall. Laurie was a blackout drunk, but it was only just a rumor to her. She looked in the mirror and adjusted her wig so the golden tresses covered her hickey. Where’d she get that?
She sighed and took another slug of her dog fur. She was real hungry tonight. “Two, four, six, eight, who we love to masturbate? Roxy.” Stone broke, hungover, she already owed the bar and the house and the DJ and the house mom for tonight, and hadn’t turned a single penny yet.
* * *
Allen walked in and started to sit down next to Gordon, but got up and walked out when he saw Sam and Dave. Gordon followed him into the parking lot. Allen looked around for their car, cursing because he couldn’t remember what it looked like. He’d know by the dent he put in the trunk the last time they robbed him. A dent shaped like the desktop computer he’d flung down on them from his balcony.
Gordon grabbed him by his shoulder and restrained him from attacking a dusty black Celica. “Are you sure you want to damage that car?” he asked, whipping out a blunt and lighting it. He envisioned himself Humphrey Bogart lighting a cigarette in the fog, and adjusted his baseball cap like it was a fedora.
Allen composed himself, then calmly reached out and snapped the aerial while Gordon puffed the blunt alight. “Those jokers broke my TV,” he said angrily.
“Why’d they do that?”
“I don’t know, man, I wasn’t even there at the time.”
“Well, how do you know it was them?”
“Because they broke the door down and stole all my money a bunch of times. I can’t be alone there anymore without shitting in my pants. Those Russians are so rough.”
“Yeah, not like regular criminals, eh? Aren’t you paying them protection money or something like that?”
“Yeah, I even been leaving it for them in an envelope, because I’ve been kind of avoiding the place. You know, the landlord.”
“They’ve been taking the payment, right?”
“Yeah, but this time they kicked my TV in.”
“Just plug in one of those plasma TVs you boosted.”
“They’re gone, man. Guy picked them up a couple of days ago. And then those bastards came thru and took every penny.”
Allen fished around in his pocket and produced a pocket knife. “They’re making me,” he said, bending over and slashing a tire, “very uneasy.” He moved to the back tire, “In my own home,” he moved to the other side of the car, “and I’m getting a little tired,” slash, hiss, “putting up with their bullshit.”
Gordon stood by watching Allen, his head popping up around all four sides of the car, red with the effort. “Maybe you don’t need to show your face inside again tonight,” he said, indicating the security camera. “It might not be a good idea to be in there when those guys start complaining to the bouncers about their car.”
So Allen went away and Gordon went back to his table and ordered a drink. Why would a bunch of Mafia guys be hitting Allen over and over? He didn’t have any money, he wasn’t a mastermind, he could hardly tie his shoes.
They sure had their hands in all the pies, tho. Rick, Bill, Allen. They were even sniffing around him and his various enterprises at the club. It began to dawn on Gordon that maybe these guys had something to do with the owner and whatever he was involved in. Something big. Gordon’s palm began to itch. Going to come into money, he cackled, rubbing his hands together. Else that or going to kiss a fool. Whatever.
The DJ played a fanfare and Laurie was on stage and whipping about the place on her high heels. A bit unsteady maybe, but she really performed energetically when she was juiced. Like a ballerina on eight-inch heels. She did the strut first, which Gordon wondered about.
Usually she worked them into a lather before demanding all their money. Tonight she was acting like she hadn’t eaten in a month, grabbing the bills out of the customers’ hands. She wasn’t letting them get away with just ones either. She even grabbed a few drinks off the tables and took healthy slugs before giving the lipstick-smeared glass back to the lucky bastard and waving to the waitress for a refill.
Gordon shook his head. If she wasn’t the most popular dancer she’d never get away with half of her shit. But everyone liked her, and she was so charming. Usually.
She came up to him at the table and stole his brand new drink, downing it in a moment. “How about a snort?” she asked, a note of tension in her voice. “I’m flat broke and I think I’m getting sick.” She sagged against him and ran her hand up his thigh. He felt sorry for her. All those guys, always trying to grope her, and she feeling ill. He just wanted to wrap her in his arms and snuggle in the bed with her until she fell asleep. But no, she was intent on making money, and struggled bravely to her feet. He tried to arrange to pick her up when her shift was over, but she said something about meeting him at home later.
So he settled down and studied the Mafia guys some more.
* * *
Go to chapter fourteen