Written by Andrew M. Popowich
The sun hadn”t set yet, but it wasn”t exactly light in the side alley where the commuter car was parked. Inside, a handsome young man dressed in a designer suit was checking his reflection in the mirror while a slightly older Brit was fiddling with a device. The Brit was the first to speak.
“Right, we”re online. Anything you hear, I can hear.”
“I would sure hope so, considering you”ll be sitting beside me.”
“Is that your idea of a joke?”
“Am I laughin?””
“I was just supposed to run a quick check and bolt. I gotta get back to the safe house. If I go in there I”ll come out in a bag!”
“Relax, will ya” No one”ll pull a gun in there.”
“That rules out one method, what about the rest” Should I call my next of kin or anything?”
“No, but if you have a cross it wouldn”t hurt to wear it now.” The elder of the two men started rifling through his coat pockets to see if he did in fact have one, but his hands came up empty. He shook his head and sighed. “You”ll be fine, don”t worry so much.”
“Easy for you to say, you”re used to dealing with these kinds of people.”
“That hurts, Albert; I am “these kind of people”, ya know.” The look in the younger man”s eyes in conjunction with his crooked grin was not as reassuring as it was meant to be. “Let”s go. Grab that attaché for me.” Albert hefted the silver case and adjusted the glasses he was wearing with the other hand. “Only speak when spoken to and always mind your manners. Got it?” The elder nodded and followed.
“William, I don”t know about this.”
“My name ain”t William here, it”s Marco. Better yet, call me “sir” whenever possible.” “Marco” cleared his throat and when he spoke again his voice wasn”t as low and rough as it usually was. “You have nothing to be scared of, Lawrence. Let”s just get this over with so we can laugh about it later.”
“Lawrence” nodded and followed along through the front door into the dive bar.
* * *
A large man in an ill-fitting suit sat off to one corner mostly obscured by shadows. The waitress, a Japanese girl with a smattering of tattoos peeking out from edges of revealing leather clothing and a dangerous look to her, lead the two newcomers over to the table and pulled out a notepad.
“You boys want something to drink?”
“Yeesh. Are you also the bouncer, doll?” “Marco” shot with a scrutinizing look.
“Fuck off. You want something or no?”
“Whatever you pass off as wine that does not, and I repeat, does not, come from a box.” Glancing over to the man in the shadows he added “and another round for my host here, whatever he would like.”
“He”s already started a tab for you, don”t worry.” She nodded toward “Lawrence”. “You need anything?” He quickly shook his head and looked down at the table, fidgeting with his napkin and keeping his leg on the attaché he had placed on the floor.
“Marco” watched her as she walked away. Turning back, he smiled at his guest in a pleasant way. “So, how”ve you been Mr. Falsetti?”
Gregorio grunted and leaned forward. “Just fine, if not a bit thirsty. I didn”t come here for conversation though, if you take my meaning.” “Marco” nodded agreeably.
“To the point then. My cousin Eddie seems to have gotten himself in quite the predicament has he not” Is there any way to settle this so he can come home” Papa”s worried about him.”
“How much is he worth to you?”
“He”s the only cousin I have so I guess quite a bit. Will $20,000 cover his expenses?”
“Sure, if you are interested in a lay-a-way plan. Where do you want me to mail the pieces?”
“Where are my manners” He does love those casinos, doesn”t he” That was very nice of you to cover his gambling debts. Lawrence, will you please give Greg here the $100,000 we owe him?” “Lawrence” reached down to the case, unlocking it without looking down.
A voice in the back of William”s head chimed in. “$100,000. Mention working together in the future.” “Marco” nodded and when Lawrence looked at him, he spoke up. “Lawrence, make that $200,000. Mr. Falsetti took Eddie in and treated him like his own, so we”ll treat him like one of ours. Consider this a down payment on future work.” Gregorio”s eyes gave him away. This was far more than he was expecting, but if he knew who he had this would be nothing compared to his asking price.
“Lawrence” handed over several bound stacks of bills to Falsetti, who quickly stuffed them into his inside jacket pocket.
“Marco, you”re all right; you know that” How about I fetch Eddie and we all share a drink together?” “Marco” nodded and smiled.
“Sounds like a party. Will he be long?”
Gregorio shook his head and nodded to a suit standing near the back door, who then exited. A few tense moments later the suit reappeared and shoved a disheveled twenty-something through the doorway. “Marco” stood up and met his “cousin” halfway, speaking in hushed tones.
“You wanna go home?”
“Not yet, we gotta get something to eat first.”
“For here or to go?”
“To go; I don”t want to rush it.”
William sighed. “Of course not.” As the headed back to the table, “Marco” put his arm around “Eddie”. “You look like shit. Have a drink before we go.” The two sat down. “Lawrence” was still a bit jumpy, but Gregorio was overly social with all his newfound cash.
“Marco” snapped his fingers, causing the waitress to glare at him from across the room. She mixed a fresh round of drinks herself and walked over keeping her icy glare on the wolf in sheep”s clothing. “Eddie” couldn”t conceal the humor he found in this. “Were you guys here long or does your reputation precede you?” “Marco” rolled his eyes, but even “Lawrence” laughed at that as she turned quickly on a heel to face them.
Before she could speak, another voice in the back of William”s head spoke up. “Alley”s clear; all ready on this end.” He nodded and addressed the now close-at-hand waitress.
“Don”t take it personal; you”re all pro on the job” he said with a quick shot of his eyes to the suit at the back door.
The waitress dropped the tray that had been covering her other hand, which was clutching a stubby handgun-looking weapon. She fired one quiet projectile into the suit that dropped him to his knees almost instantly. Falsetti, his reactions slowed from the drugged alcohol, gaped in horror at seeing his captain fall so quickly. The gold-plated .50 caliber Desert Eagle William was pointing at his head did have a sobering effect however.
The shark”s voice returned to its original low and gruff tone when he addressed the fat man. “I wouldn”t do anythin” too rash. I”d hate to see you get all banged up like Eddie here. How about we have a little chat back at my place?”
“I don”t think so. You didn”t think I”d come here all by myself did you?” Falsetti raised his hand, which had been out of view under the table, to show an active cell-phone. “Come in and say hello, boys.” The back door did open, but instead of three more mooks like Gregorio expected, just a single black man in urban military garb stepped through, cigar in mouth. “Am I carrying this guy,” he said waving his hatch-gloved hand at the unconscious thug, “or the fat one?” he said pointing to Gregorio. The crime lord locked eyes with William.
“Holding all the cards, aren”t you” I know when to fold.” With that, he stood and Albert escorted him over to the back door. As he was walking out, the waitress, Kaede, cased the room for whatever onlookers could have overheard anything. Reaching behind her back, she produced a detective”s badge. “Police business here folks. Please go about your evening, sorry for the interruption.” After ensuring no one was overly concerned, she stepped over to the bartender who had been hiding ever since she walked through the door earlier that afternoon.
“Thanks, big guy. Here”s the money I made in tips, make sure the normal girl gets it, okay?” She also dropped an envelope on the counter. “I hope this will cover the tab.” Wordlessly, the bartender nodded and Kaede passed Albert and William as they left through the front door to go back to their car.
* * *
Albert sat down in the driver”s seat, breathing heavily. William was all smiles though, nudging his partner. “That was great! More fun than sitting at a laptop at the safe house with Peter, huh?”
Albert nodded and took a swig from a flask he had in the car. “Yeah; way more interesting.” His hands were shaking and his heart was still pumping, but he was alive. “I like being far from the action and being on hand to research on the fly. There”s still a rush and far less chance of getting hurt. Speaking of which, do I want to look into where “Empire City” is?”
William didn”t hide the look of shock. “When did you sneak a peek at the badge?”
“It”s my job to know things, isn”t it?”
“Fair enough. I got the detective shield from my brother. I couldn”t find anythin” local in time and, well, he can usually get his hands on that kind of thing fast if you don”t ask too many questions.”
“Isn”t that your turf?”
“I”ll pretend you ain”t implyin” nothin” right there. I just bend a law here and there, Johnny down-right breaks “em.”
“Uh, yeah. This doesn”t need to go in the report, does it?” William asked with a grin.
“I don”t think it does; no need to cause The Management any more ulcers than usual.” Albert grinned to match William”s. “I won”t say anything in the mission report,” he said as the car pulled away.
* * *
The Heartbreaker just sat and grinned at “Eddie,” who was trying to clean himself up in the passenger seat of the van while The Trigger drove. He turned to see the vixen”s look.
“Doesn”t look like nothing. Just say it already.”
“I just think it”s hilarious.”
“Yeah, shut up.”
Warren looked into the rearview mirror at Kaede. “I”ll bite. What”s funny?”
Kaede shook her head. “Oh, come on; we just busted in and rescued The Cavalry! I can”t think of anything more ironic than that.”
As his codename suggested, Paul was usually the last in with shotgun blazing to rescue his team when Plan A failed. “If I recall, I only got pinched standing up for your honor. That businessman sure didn”t take a shine to you, are you losing your touch or what?”
Kaede shrugged the insult off. “I didn”t know he wasn”t into girls; The Inquisitor never mentioned that.”
Before either could respond, The Engineer”s voice cut in over the tactical radio. “Job well done team, but can we save the bickering for after the debriefing?” Warren grimaced and grabbed the encrypted set. “Sure thing, Peter. I”ve got The Cavalry and The Heartbreaker with me and a couple of sleeping beauties in the back. The Middleman and The Inquisitor are in their own car.”
A monitor slid out of its hiding place in the dashboard, startling Paul. “The Agency has such wonderful toys, doesn”t it” Does this play video games or movies or anything?”
“No,” the Engineer retorted, “it does not. It will however show you the best route to get back here. I”ll change any lights to green using the application Albert wrote to avoid delays.”
“Fine, but I was looking forward to an in-flight movie.”
“Not this time Paul. You”ve earned a nap though, now”s a good time to take one.”
“Hey, I was gonna drive but they wouldn”t let me!”
“In your condition, I wouldn”t let you drive either; I value my life too much.” Peter laughed, trying to break any forming tension.
“Oh, I see how it is! Kick a man when he”s down. Next time, I”m going to drive five under and see how you guys like getting caught!”
“Let”s not and say we didn”t,” Kaede interjected. “Warren, just get us out of here.” The big guy nodded and hit the accelerator using the GPS to head back to the safe house. It was a quiet drive back, but Paul couldn”t resist one last word.
“You know what, I think that was more fun than the original job!”
* * *