Eddie Mars: The Ongoing Saga of a Guy with Nothing To Lose

A Noir Thriller

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Nick Zegarac is a freelance writer/editor and graphics artist. He holds a Masters in Communications and an Honors B.A in Creative Lit from the University of Windsor. He is currently a freelance writer and has been a contributing editor for Black Moss Press and is a featured contributor to online's The Subtle Tea. He's also has had two screenplays under consideration in Hollywood. Last year he finished his first novel and is currently searching for an agent to represent him. Contact Nick via email at movieman@sympatico.ca

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

ADVENTURE THE 5TH: PARTY CRASHER


DISCLAIMER for the first time reader:

For those unfamiliar with the posting structure of a blog: postings appear in the order they are made by their author, not necessarily in the order that would most benefit an ongoing series such as the one you are about to read. Since the purpose of this blog is to be an ongoing thriller, simply removing the previous chapter to alleviate confusion is not an option – since no one coming to the series after the first chapter had been removed would be able to follow the story line.

Therefore, if you scroll down or visit the archives in future months, you will be able to read this continuing drama in the manner and order it was intended to be read. For this reason and purpose each subsequent adventure in the ‘Eddie Mars’ serial will be marked by a number. If you follow these numbers marked at the top of each chapter in their numeric order - eg ‘Adventure the 1st’ - you will be able to follow this continuing saga.

For those savvy to the blog world – this disclaimer may seem redundant, and for that no apology is made. This disclaimer is meant to better acquaint new readers in how the entries in this blog will be posted and how best to follow the series from this point on. And now…


Adventure the 5th: Party Crasher

Saturday night’s aren’t big on my list of things to do. They’re like those trumped up holidays designed to make everyone get all bent out’a shape just in case the world comes to an end the next day. But it’s only the sobering up that makes you feel like it has. No, my night is Monday; stiff drink, maybe a movie, and try to remind myself again why the human race is in charge of the world.

I suppose if I were a cynic I could say that it was a rotten Monday – but actually it was no better or worse than the previous one…or for that matter, all the rest to come. I take my usual shortcut down the alley but decide to pull into Pete’s Corner Emporium to cool my heels for a quick bite. Pete catches my eye.

“Looks like rain again,” I say without believing it, having a seat on the stool that should have my name engraved.
“You know buddy, you should get yourself a life,” Pete tells me as he drops a pastrami on rye under my nose.

I’ve been coming here so long Pete’s psychic.

“Thanks,” I tell him, “I got one.”

Pete’s okay. He just takes a personal interest, that’s all.

“Whatever happened to that doll you brought in here?” Pete asks.
“Which one?”
“You know which one.”

But I don’t, so Pete enlightens me.

“All cotton candy and whip cream,” he says, “You could spread her on chocolate…sweet kid.”
“I’m a diabetic,” I quip, “Anyway, sounds like she made quite an impression on you. Want a phone number?”
“I’d be happy with a couple of eight by tens,” Pete says.

At his age, that’s about all he could probably handle anyway.

“I’ve got those too,” I tease, even though I still don’t know who the hell he’s talking about.

“When are you gonna get wise to yourself?” Pete asks.
“Never,” I say, “There’s some things I just don’t want to know.”
“Okay, wise guy,” Pete mutters.
“No. Not even to myself.”

And that much is true.

I returned to the apartment with a couple of mags to improve my mind: True Crime, Real Detective. Unfortunately, reading’s not in the cards.

I find the door to my place open and Mike Trent’s chauffeur, Morris impatiently waiting for me inside.

“Good evening, Mr. Mars.”
“It was,” I admit, rubbing my forehead with the back of my hand.
“Mr. Trent would like to see you.”
“Well who say’s I’d like to see Mr. Trent?”

Morris is unmoved. He’s like a monument to dead end logic.

“It’s a party, sir,” he explains.
“I don’t care if it’s a convention.”

I paused for a minute. The man has absolutely no sense of humor. Granite is more expressive. He’s like a phonograph with only one speed - slow.

“Carolyn?” I inquired.

The fatty deposit sagging off Morris’ left cheek twitches. He’s uncomfortable; nothing definite…sort of like the guy in the hemorrhoid commercial who shifts from one cheek to the other.

“I wouldn’t know, sir.”
“I’ll bet. Look, tell Mr. Trent that the comings and goings of his oversexed brat share the same interest I have in National Geographic, modern art and oysters by candlelight – none.”

I open a window. The place is suddenly too small and stuffy for the two of us.

“I suggest you get dressed,” advises Morris.

I don’t like being told what to do. I’m about to tell Morris as much when I suddenly realized that he’s pointing a small revolver in my direction.

“Oh, so it’s that kind of a party.”
“I’m afraid so, sir.”
“What do you suggest I wear?”
“Black tie is preferred.”
“I’ll say this for Mr. Trent. He likes his cadavers well dressed.”

I put on the dog and get ready to bark.

. . .

Arriving at the pile of rock Trent considers his beach house, I brace up for a firing squad that never make it. Actually, I didn’t expect to get to Trent’s in the first place; a shame too, because I was looking forward to rearranging Morris’ disposition.

The place is lit like a fire cracker on the 4th, the front lawn full of deb’s and polo players – the who’s who of the high set. Pulling up to the house, I’m instructed by Morris to wait in the library. But who can read a book with all this noise. Still, it’s a better end than I planned.

Opening the sliding doors to the library I come upon a couple of well-wishers getting a little too up close and personal on the leather couch. The first thing that catches my attention is the girl’s cat-like scowl at being found. I’ve bothered her to the extreme. Brother, if she had fangs she’d suck me dry.

Her guy’s atypical of the Richie Rich with something to hide – he’s petrified.

“The wife’s on to you,” I tease.

You never saw a zipper go up so quick in your life. Before I can remember to forget where he’s been, he’s gone through the patio doors and with all the apprehensive awkwardness of a pre-teen.

The girl straightens up just enough to give me a good look. No bra – not bad. Without so much as turning to acknowledge that I’m still in the room, she takes out her compact and starts applying another round of war paint.

“You didn’t have to scare him off, you know,” she smiles, but only to check her lipstick, “You’re turn would have come.”
“Who taught you to be stingy?”
“Who said you were next?” she asks as she slowly buttons for maximum effect.

She’s expecting me to help and she’s disappointed. I can tell. She finishes with the last hole just as Mike enters.

“Suzie,” he coos, “where’s Marcus?”

She seems bored by the insinuation that a beau’s required to make her complete.

“Oh, around I’m sure.”
“Have you met my niece, Mr. Mars?”
“Only the top half.”

Suzie stands up and gives me her once over and believe me, once over is enough from that girl who expects so much. After she’s gone, Mike asks me to close the doors and take a seat.

“Well?” I say, waiting for the inevitable reply.

The one I get I don’t expect.

“Well, are you enjoying the party, Mr. Mars?”
“Not the gun-totting chauffeur so much, but your niece on all fours improved the night somewhat. What happens at midnight?”
“Well now,” Trent suggests in a curious tone, “I think that will entirely depend on you.”

He’s soured, moving closer to his desk. I’m not naïve. There’s probably a revolver in the top drawer. But I’m fairly certain brain-matter gray doesn’t go with his home décor. Besides, what would his guests think?

“You were asked to keep things quiet, Mr. Mars.”
“Haven’t I.”
“Have you? I’ll put my cards on the table.”

Trent tosses me an envelope and while I’m busy opening it he continues to yammer.

“At four this afternoon that arrived by messenger, instructing me to make payment in the amount of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars.”
“For what?”
“To keep my daughter’s name out of the papers in connection with that unfortunate Menendez thing.”
“Is that how we’re referring to it now?”
“I’ve already paid you, Mr. Mars.”

It hits me like a pound of goose liver that Mike’s having second thoughts about my loyalty.

“I do a lot of leg work for you idol rich,” I explain, “fast and friendly because I like the price. But money’s worthless if the guy cutting the check is making his next reservation from Danbury or some tropical paradise with no extradition or the great beyond. And let’s not kid ourselves – I’ve worked for all three. But once I get paid, I get out and stay out.”

Reaching for a pen on his desk set, I smooth out the letter and sign my signature directly below the one already on tap, then hand it back to Mike. He puts on his glasses. Even if I tried, I couldn’t forge something anywhere near the mess on that page.

Mike’s frustrated now; edgy and chomping on that illegal Cuban between his lips as though it were Castro himself. He has another hard look at my penmanship.

“See any resemblance?” I ask.

After a few long moments of deliberation I can tell that he can’t.

“Good,” I tell him, “otherwise I’d say you need a stronger prescription.”
“I don’t know what to say.”

It’s true – he doesn’t. In fact he’s like a page ripped out’a some cheesy romance novel; the guy-on-the-side, insides kicked out by the girl skippin’ through his dreams into somebody else’s nightmare.

“You’ve been had,” I explain, “Amateur theatrics aside, you’re damn lucky I didn’t feed your carburetor to Morris as an entrée.”

But Trent’s not listening. I don’t think he’s heard a word. I can almost see the gears in that mixed up head of his doing quick recalibration.

“I’ve got to pay,” he finally assesses.
“Not necessarily. Know a guy named Hemmingway?
“Jock Hemmingway? Don’t be absurd. The man’s a legitimate trader.”
“He’s also Marysol Menendez’s new play thing.”

I’m giving Trent too much credit. For a guy who knows about the exchange - like subway tokens, he’s certainly having his share of derailments. I decide not to tell Trent about the airborne gorilla I tossed out the factory window the other day. It’s none of his business. Anyway, the two things may not even be related, but it’s worth a shot.

“Blackmail. If it is, he doesn’t want a payoff,” Trent finally deduces, “He won’t be satisfied with a lump sum.”

“What’s he got on you, and don’t tell me nothing because you and I both know better.”

I’ve insulted Mike’s self-professed piety; it’s the same kind every blowhard of his stature gets once he’s cleared six figures – fueled by the false assumption that money’ll wash away any sin or at least drown those who might expose them to a grand jury. But Hemmingway’s too high profile to kill and that’s problem number one.

“Mars, you may not believe this…”

He’s right…I don’t.

“…but I’ve been legitimate for the last ten years.”
“You’ve been on the planet for the last fifty.”

Mike mulls over the scenario in his head. On the one hand, he’s saddled with a loose kid who gets her kicks in the raw with guys old enough to recall just how ‘legit’ daddy used to be. On the other, Mike’s got an empire he’s managed to purge of all organized ties that helped build him into a man of means. Weighing the two isn’t easy.

I can tell he’s got feelings. So would I if she were stitched together like Carolyn. Still, Mike’s actually managed to become a patriarch – a godfather without muscle, a relic from the old days when necktie parties changed the vote and a bat across the back of the head was as common as a handshake.

“They’ve got nothing that’ll stick to a tabloid without a fight.”
“You sure about that?” I ask, “Anyway, I didn’t see Carolyn when I came in.”
“I’ve sent her away.”
“How far?”
“Far enough.”
“That’s just geography,” I reason, putting in my two cents for personal interest, “that kid could create seismic activity on the moon.”
“I think that will be all, Mr. Mars.”

I’ve opened a vein.

“What about the letter?”
“That’s none of your concern.”

I agree. It isn’t.

“My mistake. Mind if I help myself to the bar on the way out?”


. . .

Morris isn’t asked to drive me home, so I walk. A mile up the road I decide to thumb it. The first three cars drive by without so much as a honk. The fourth almost runs me off the side of the road, but it isn’t deliberate. I am, after all, wearing black at night. By now it’s a minor obsession to get back into clothes I feel comfortable in. I’m walking with my back to traffic when I hear a beep from behind.

A minute later a sporty little coupe pulls up with a sporty little chicken inside. In her glittering party dress and paper thin scarf, dancing about those teased blonde tresses, she’s like a surprise all wrapped up for Christmas.

“Don’t you know it’s dangerous to pick up a hitcher at night?” I ask.
“Don’t you know it’s dangerous to hitch at night?”
“Well, maybe I like the sea air,” I suggest.
“Not in those clothes. Some car takes the curve too fast, you’ll get bounced back into the surf, penguin.”

The kid’s got guts and sass. I like her instantly. I’m like that with broad-minded broads and this one’s expanding my vocabulary by the second.

“How’s that?” I ask.
“I said you look like a penguin – penguin,” she teases, “look, in or out, I’ve got places to be.”
“…and people to do?”

She gives me the once over - like a pig on the spit that needs basting.

“That’s a shorter list,” she explains.
“That’s good,” I say, opening her passenger door “because I’m sort’a particular about who I ride with.”

She shrugs her shoulders.

“Must have sturdy feet,” says she.
“Size twelve and half.”

I get the nod of approval.

“Well…the night’s definitely improving.”

I pretend not to care as I feel her eyes trace every contour. After a few seconds the view gets dull so I turn and face her.

“Does this thing go forwards?” I ask.
“Only when I use the stick,” she replies, before shifting into first and pulling out, “I’m a master of the stick.”

As we ride up the coast, I’m acutely aware that more attention’s being paid to me than the road. Normally, I wouldn’t mind. But on the curves defensive and alert is what counts.

“Where were you going just now, penguin?” she says.

I’m determined to keep things as simple as possible.

“Fairdale.”

She mulls my reply over – giving special attention to how inconsequential it actually is.

“How’d you like to go to a party?” she asks.
“No thanks. Just came from one.”

She’s planning her next move carefully, like the lamb gearing up to take a bite out’a the wolf.

“Must not have been too exciting.”
“What?”
“The party you just came from.”
“It wasn’t.”
“How about a real party?”

I’ve had about all the fun with Dick and Jane I can muster for one evening so I decide on ‘direct’ as the best approach.

“Look. I didn’t ask for the ride. I like it even less when I’m the one being ridden. If you’re having second thoughts pull off and I’ll catch the next truck full of unfertilized eggs.”

That remark gets me a squeak of a laugh.

“You’re cute.”
“I don’t mean to be.”
“But you are.”

Without warning, the girl suddenly swerves to the edge of the road, narrowly missing the first brick and mortar pillar of a large iron-gated clubhouse on the beach. The lights of an oncoming vehicle dart across the tarnished brass plate facing us: Nile’s Country Club.

“We’re here,” she says, getting out of the car and slamming the door behind her as the valet approaches, “this is as far as I go.”

I’m in the right mood to level her for leading me on these few miles when I catch sight of the banner hanging over the front door. It’s a benefit/charity event organized by Hemmingway Enterprises.

“Uh, wait a minute,” I tell her under the valet’s watchful eye, “You didn’t tell me you were going here.”
“Does that make a difference?” she asks, knowing damn well that it does.
“I haven’t exactly given you a fair break.”
She smiles condescendingly.
“I’d love you to,” says she with a wink, her left hand patting me across my lapels, “Some other time.”

I can’t let her get away.

“No room for a second chance?” I press, doing my best to remember how the school boy-set pulls it off with reluctant debutantes.

She sizes me up for legitimacy, not buying my act but eager and curious nonetheless.

“How’s your tango?” she asks.
“A bit rusty,” I confess.
“It’ll do,” she replies, taking me under the arm, getting us past the front gate.

. . .

Inside, the cultured orgy’s in full swing. Some scantily clad models are parading back and forth on a make shift runway for attendees who couldn’t fit into their sizes with a tub of Vaseline and a wedge. On the far side of the room old money are cutting checks to their favorite cause – themselves. It’s a seen and be seen event, destined for the social register and gossip columns with full color spreads and some deceptively meaningless captions about how they’re all doing so much for the outcast, downtrodden and destitute. I doubt this is what the club planners had in mind when they built the place back in 1890. Still, I can’t say for sure. The rumor goes that Washington liked his ale with a bar wench on each knee while he was stewing over the constitution.

I scan the room for Hemmingway but can’t see the smoke for the cigars. Gal pal must sense that my interest in her is beginning to wane, because the grip on my sleeve gets tighter as she steers us both through this crowd of suffocating boars.

“Let’s get something to ease the pain,” she suggests, sashaying me to the bar and patio overlooking the ocean.

It’s infinitely less crowded out here, with the sound of rough tides slamming into the bulkheads almost blocking out that pulsating beat from inside. We take our pick of leather cushioned stools overlooking the moonlit surf.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” she asks.
“It’s a painting,” I coolly reply.

Frankly, I couldn’t care less about the moon, the water or the girl. They’re a means to an end.

“Don’t you like beautiful things?” she asks.

After I’ve put down a few martinis I almost do. I start to figure that with the proper escort I could enjoy this sort of mindless existence. It’s probably the booze talking.

“That’s quite a brawl,” I offer.
“Isn’t it?”
“You know, I’d very much like to know whose company I’m enjoying. What’s your name?”
“Cynthia. Cynthia McGlaghin.”

We’ve reached a stalemate.

“What’s yours?” she finally says.
“It’s penguin, remember?”
“Cute,” she says, only this time she doesn’t seem to mean it.

She looks preoccupied, but I’m having trouble following the trajectory of her gaze.

I’ve mellowed and subconsciously I can’t figure out why. I’m almost treating her as human, but for the first time I don’t see anything human staring back at me. She shakes her head cynically.

“Only a mother could love.”
“Yours or mine?” I tease, catching myself acting stupid.
“Mine’s been dead for twenty-five years,” she firmly explains.
“You’re lucky,” I suggest.
“And how’s that?”
“Mine’s been missing for thirty.”

I break into a ridiculous laugh, and suddenly it hits me. I’m not drunk. I’ve been drugged.

“What is this?” I mumble, but now I’m not even sure I’ve said those words clear enough for even me to understand.

I try to stand up, but the moon disappears and so do my legs. A dark hole opens up and I do a beautiful jackknife right to the bottom of it. The last thing I think I see is gal pal gloating overhead with a cool relaxed smirk.

...the end? Not for long!

Eddie Mars will return in his next adventure: The Very Brief Return of Rigor M. on Monday, March 3, 2006.

@ 2006 Nick Zegarac (all rights reserved).

Thursday, February 02, 2006

ADVENTURE THE 4TH - RESEARCH


DISCLAIMER for the first time reader:

For those unfamiliar with the posting structure of a blog: postings appear in the order they are made by their author, not necessarily in the order that would most benefit an ongoing series such as the one you are about to read. Since the purpose of this blog is to be an ongoing thriller, simply removing the previous chapter to alleviate confusion is not an option – since no one coming to the series after the first chapter had been removed would be able to follow the story line.

Therefore, if you scroll down or visit the archives in future months, you will be able to read this continuing drama in the manner and order it was intended to be read. For this reason and purpose each subsequent adventure in the ‘Eddie Mars’ serial will be marked by a number. If you follow these numbers marked at the top of each chapter in their numeric order - eg ‘Adventure the 1st’ - you will be able to follow this continuing saga.

For those savvy to the blog world – this disclaimer may seem redundant, and for that no apology is made. This disclaimer is meant to better acquaint new readers in how the entries in this blog will be posted and how best to follow the series from this point on. And now…


Adventure the 4th – research

With nothing else to do but watch the steamy beads of rain beating down my window, I decided to break out with a little background check on Jock Hemmingway. He’s taller than I thought: a mile high player, who materialized from nothing six years before to build an empire worth several million dollars. Interesting choice of playmate, considering the widow Menendez is worth at least ten times as much. Still, greed knows no limits.

The interesting thing about Hemmingway is that he also owns a considerable amount of property and a few businesses in town that didn’t look very impressive on paper; some drug stores, a warehouse, a Chinese restaurant on Fifth and Elm, Davido’s Book Emporium on ninth and Fairfax. It just didn’t add up.

So I decided to dress down and get a closer look at his holdings by making the rounds. First on the list is Max’s Corner Stop, a hole that caters to the birth control and single mother trade. I’m barely inside the place when a fragile little garden gnome in a white pharmacist’s smock approaches.

“Can I help you, sir,” he asks.
“You Max?”

He looks confused – like I just asked him to name the state capitals in reverse.

“Max?”
“Yeah…as in, the bird that owns…”

“Oh, no, no, no,” he playfully replies, the misunderstanding suddenly made clear, “there hasn’t been a Max here since I’ve been here and that was…oh, almost forty years ago. Can I be of assistance?”

“Uh…yes,” I say, “It’s the wife. She’s not doing so good.”
“Oh,” the geezer grins, “Expecting?”
“Hope not,” I reply, “Got three already.”
“Oh.”

He toddles over to a rack near the counter loaded with cold remedies.

“Then perhaps one of these.”

So I take a look at what he’s offering. Aspirin, Sudafed, cough drops. I need to push harder.

“No, afraid not,” I say, “See I’m looking for something else.”
“Oh.”
“Something special.”
“Oh.”

I’m not getting through to him on any bandwidth in this hemisphere so I point my satellite direct and send another signal.

“Something homemade, pops.”

The geezer gets miffed. I’ve insulted his ethical sensibilities.

“This isn’t that kind of pharmacy,” he explains.
“Oh, but you see I was told…”

I’m cut off at the pass.

“You were misinformed, sir.”

And with that, he toddles off behind the counter and into the backroom, hoping I’ll take the hint and just disappear. I don’t disappoint him.

. . .

I get even less cooperation from the next venue on my list – Fung’s Chinese Eatery. Out front and just to the left of the bay window is a pile of crates turned over and arranged into a makeshift shelter. The homeless guy taking a drag off of somebody else’s stogie catches my eye as I feed the meter. I almost toss him a couple of bucks on the way in, then think better of that misguided philanthropy.

My first thought walking through the front door is that the board of health hasn’t done an inspection since prohibition was repealed. The floor’s sticky and the chair upholstery stained and torn. The red velvet wallpaper is practically black, and, the front windows so yellow and stained I can barely see my car parked out front. Business must not be so hot, even if the smell of grease in the air is fresh.

A petite Eurasian, barely legal and probably working without papers, steps out from a corner, her hands locked in front like she’s just finished wringing the neck of a salty chicken or tabby cat.

“You order, please” she says.
“Yes,” I say, “For Alex Roma.”

She smiles as though she knows I’m lying but disappears into the kitchen just the same. This place can’t be turning a profit as much as it’s turning my stomach. A minute later the Eurasian returns.

“So sorry,” she says “No order.”
“Oh, but you must,” I tell her, “My wife called in just before I left the house. You know my wife?”
“No sir,” the woman replies.
“Well, there’s no reason you should. She’s hardly as pretty as you.”

The girl blushes, that sort of twittering pink flush that says I could probably get more than Chop-Suey for the asking price. Still, she’s honest as honest goes and not particularly able to hide the fact that her English isn’t as good as her Chinese. She’s legit only on the surface, probably four or five minutes off the boat and trading one oppression for another.

“Well, suppose you make me up something,” I say.
“Yes sir.”
“Uh, let’s see now, chicken balls, fried rice, two egg rolls and a couple of fortune cookies.”

She nods and disappears again into the back. The sound of a radio playing top forty faintly echoes from the kitchen. I draw into my lungs the heavy smell of day-old lard being heated – just what a growing boy needs. A quick look-see behind the front counter uncovers nothing that’s suspicious; some napkins, menus, an empty cash box that probably hasn’t seen any tips for the last ten years, and, a thirty-eight in a shoebox next to it. In this neighborhood it’d be suspicious if there wasn’t at least one gun on the premises.

And although I haven’t a moment’s extra to get more personal with the address book I find tucked between the register and potted bonsai before my order’s up, I doubt there’d be much in it to take seriously.

I shell out for my stuff, leaving twenty for her troubles.
“Oh, t’ank you, sir.” she says with a soft smile, “you come again.”
“No,” I reply, convinced that too much of her cooking’ll give anybody a coronary before dinner, “I don’t think so.”

I toss the bag of artery-clogging goodies to Johnny-Homeless out front, still locked in the euphoria of his last bit of second-hand smoke curdling inside his lungs.

. . .

It’s almost noon when I arrive at Hemmingway’s warehouse on the wharf. It’s not easy to spot at first. There’s no marker, no sign. It pays to advertise, but maybe that’s the point. It’s the last building along the docks and the one in the worst possible condition. I don’t think the cement’s been repaved since the place was built. A cornerstone alerts me to the date of construction: Jan.11, 1944. After rattling a couple of locked doors I find a loading bay that’s rusted open a few feet from the ground. I pull myself up and in but it hardly seems worth the effort.

Inside is one big cavernous hole, damp dreary and empty. Tire tracks and skid marks on the asphalt tell a different story. Someone’s been using this place recently and not for stock car racing. On the opposite wall is a set of metal stairs leading up to a third story catwalk and elevated office that’s taken on the coloring of a crow’s nest, especially with the straw and rotting twigs that a pair of sparrows brought in through one of the open louvers to make their nest.

I’m not much on heights. But the stairs look safe. So, up I trek and try the knob on the metal door leading inside. Naturally, it’s locked. Happily, that never dissuades me.

Once inside I find a curiosity of sorts; some fairly new cabinets and a desk with a working telephone propped against the outer wall just under a broken louver. Somebody’s paying the bill. The question is, why? Venetians covering the windows that overlook the shop floor are grey-yellow and haven’t been dusted since the Eisenhower administration took office. Both the ceiling and floor tiles date back as much. But none of the cabinet drawers are locked and I suppose there’s no reason why they should be. Anyone giving this place the once over would mistakenly assume that there’s nothing left to steal.

The cabinets contain documents, some fairly new and crisp; others at least a decade old. I flip through a few at random, but there’s nothing that looks like it’s out of place or keeping secrets. The broken louver leading to the rooftop creaks back and forth with each subtle nudge of the wind outside. It’s a calming swish, back and forth, like a screen door caught in a summer breeze that needs oil. But then, I hear another sound – the grind of a fragile metal chain as it pulls on one of the rusted loading bay doors.

Peering through the crusty blinds I watch as an expensive import with tinted windows pulls off of street level. A couple of thugs I’ve never seen before exit from the driver and passenger seats. Although I’m looking in from a high angle, I still have a fairly credible view, and even from this height the driver looks like rigor mortis set in twenty years ago. Rigor’s partner is shorter, fatter and more animated. Opening the rear door on the passenger side Chub’s is handed a folder like the ones inside these cabinets. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where that one’s going.

I stand on top of the desk and pry open the louver with my fingers. But it doesn’t give and now I can hear the echo of footsteps on the first few rungs of metal not so far below. Moving fast and thinking less, I slip out of my left shoe and use its pointed toe to break open the last bit of rust holding my escape hatch in tact. The pane comes off its hinges, but I’m unable to catch it before it hits the floor with a considerable thump. The footsteps outside quicken, and just as I’m about to make my rooftop escape, I’m faced with the sudden bewilderment of short and stocky as he bursts through the door.

He reaches for his piece but I drop to the desk and use my foot to kick it out of his grasp. He’s big alright, but clumsy without his metal protection. After we shove one another back and forth in this claustrophobic space for a few minutes he takes a misguided swipe and I get the bright idea to smash the louver over his head. The impact sends him backwards against the wall of windows. They give like spun sugar and out he topples on his weighted ass. I hear the sickening thud of his body making contact with the cement a few seconds later.

No time to gloat. Somebody else is shouting orders below. I crawl through the gaping hole and roll onto the pressed metal rooftop. It’s slick from the rain and I find myself suddenly airborne then sliding towards the edge. But I recover quickly and sprint down the length to an adjacent structure. There isn’t a second to think as I take my leap of faith, barely covering the span in my jump.

The impact with a brick wall on the other side leaves me with a rusty nail sticking out of my ankle. I shimmy a nearby drain pipe and disappear in between a couple of BFI bins. I wait - soaked to the bone, piece drawn and set to make Swiss out’a the first dumb bastard who leans over the edge. But there’s no clatter of footsteps gaining behind me and a minute later only the faint echo and screech of slick rubber on tarmac to remind how narrowly I came to getting my wipers stripped. By the time I limp back to the other side of the warehouse Rigor and his boss are long gone.


The End...not for long.
Eddie Mars will return in his next adventure: Party Crashers
...on Feb. 17th, 2006.


@Nick Zegarac 2006 (all rights reserved).