ADVENTURE THE 57TH: On Wrong Swift Vengeance Waits
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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.
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ADVENTURE THE 57TH:
On Wrong Swift Vengeance Waits
Revenge is the act of passion, vengeance is an act of justice.
Sylvia Plath once said that she prayed to God...only the skies were empty. I know just how she felt; to wonder, as the years wear on, just how far off the mark I've fallen and equally ponder the prospect that I might never accomplish in this lifetime what I was born to do.
"If you ask me, sunshine, you're going about this the wrong way..." Jessica tells me as she rifles through some papers at my desk.
After our escape from the cocaine capital of southern California my chips were down. Jess' threatened to go to the cops if I didn't spill my plan then and there and I really didn't come prepped for a plausible backup. So, out it came - the whole dirty list of laundry and who I planned to set right with the Lord or at least put down to the devil before the next millennium.
Jess was sympathetic - at least to a point. But she's professional to a fault and dressed like a cross between a high paid research assistant and some oversexed White House intern who wouldn't mind doing it twice and under the desk for her country.
"So, this Father Montegue in Italy..." she prods, "He was important."
"To me," I tell her, "He gave me something nobody should ever be without."
I haven't convinced her of anything. I can tell. She has that pouty sort of 'oh, please' plastered thicker than that Loreal across her face.
"And what's that?" Jessica asks.
A deafening silence creates a sonic vacuum in the room. It's as though I can't hear anything - not even the persistent foot and auto traffic outside.
"And your way to repay him is to commit murder?" she persists, "Well, well...death finds Andy Hardy."
In the old days I would have kissed her cheeks or kick 'em right out of my room; only this isn't yesterday. So, instead, I try an ol' Father Monty trick - patience through reason.
"We all have our way," I tell her, "Some people don't respond to logic, reason, pleas or threats. Some people only understand the way of the gun. For those, I'm going to come to an understanding."
"And he would want that? A priest?...to have revenge and blood on his hands?"
"Maybe not," I explain, "But I'm fairly safe in thinking he wasn't ready to have his head split in half with an axe and his body riddled to Swiss cheese by a load a' bullets. Besides, it's not revenge I'm after, angel. It's justice."
"That isn't justice," Jess' attempts to argue, "That's you reasoning slaughter to suit your own ends."
"Have it your own way," I reply, "But who speaks for Father Montegue and Doctor Bartelli? Who? They can't and their lives were wasted because they took it to themselves to believe that goodness was its own reward. I was a marked man, angel. A guy without a hope that nobody wanted to cure. But these men took me to their own bosom - without question, complaint or even thought for one second that I wasn't a worthy applicant for the cause...like Christ curing the lepers. I don't know about you, but my kind'a trophy for that sanctity doesn't include being assassinated and lit on fire with a tank of petrol. The animal who killed those men...that animal has to pay. I may not get to heaven, but damn it, I'm going to take a few bastards with me to hell."
"You'll burn together?" Jess reasons.
"Hey, you know what they say... misery loves company."
. . .
It's been three weeks since our trip to bountiful out in the sticks and two since the local news sources reported that a tragic fire claimed twenty one migrant workers and leveled the drug depot to the ground; only on the news the status of the depot had been downgraded to a tomato processing plant. I thought it best to wait out the media hype before moving on to round two of my plan.
Besides, it took me this long to get all the paper work together on my ol' pal Mallory. And quite a list it was: deeds for the land where the drug factory sat belonging to him; cross referenced with bank statements to prove that directed monies transferred from the federal government's 'make work' projects actually went unchecked to courier fees for smugglers and several customs officers paid to look the other way on certain shipments coming into and leaving the country.
But best of all was a video confession left behind by one Clemenzay Tortilla - a Honduran refugee who gave the illusion that he lived like a dirty sow in the Chicano slums of Los Cruzez but actually spent more time wrapped in a plush bathrobe at the Beverly Hills Hotel - lining up contract hits on smuggler types who either didn't hold up their end of the prearranged bargain in that City Hall kickback bait and switch or tried to cut themselves too big a slice of the proverbial pie. Either way, they wound up dead - Mafia style and written off as part of the gangland casualty list on the official books of police investigation.
But now, was the time to strike. I'm packing for a voyage; one that doesn't include darling Jess' or her opinion and one that I'll start just as soon as I convince her - convince myself - that what I'm doing is the right thing.
"Look," I reason, "You can walk on this right now. You've served your purpose, delivered your payload. Your finger nails are clean of me. How's that suit you?"
"Not well," Jess says, "Besides, what's to stop me from going to the locals right now with everything I do know already? Or are you planning on first taking care of this loose end?"
She's really gone under my skin.
"I'd sooner kill myself," I explain, "You have me pegged as a hit man - fine! But those I whack first took more than a couple a' calculated pot shots at yours truly. They weren't priests, doctors, nurses...those dedicated to preserving humanity. They were the lowest of the low; put together with someone else's sweat and blood money. They deserve to die and as far as that goes, they're gettin' what they deserve."
"Oh," Jess nods, "Thanks for explaining...because I missed that passage in the Bible about thou shall not kill except for people that aren't nice."
"I'm not looking for approval, angel," I tell her as I zip up my suitcase and my mouth and head for the door.
"Good!" she shouts from behind, "Because you're not going to get it from me!"
. . .
I arrive at the abandoned classic six opposite Mallory's palatial estate just before noon - just in time to talk a few choice rooftop photos for my memoir with my new high powered lens. At 12:15 it happens; the inspired wrath of God taking on a more physically human form. The ol' fat cat is carted off to much chagrin and considerable surprise by enough FBI to stock J. Edgar Hoover's pantry after my anonymous tip off.
I'm going to miss the bastard - almost. The Feds? They don't miss a trick. Now, it'll come; this house of cards crashing down on our Mayor. If Mal' knows what's good for him he'll cop a witness protection plea and maybe live out his golden years in Bramble Bush, Nowhere - population zero - looking over his shoulder with sweaty hooves like the scared little goat that he is, about to have its udders yanked for some painfully fresh milk. I like that image. It fits the whiny bugger better than his designer Calvin's ever did.
My next stop is the Mayor's office. He won't have heard about his stoolie just yet and that bit of time socked away, plus the element of surprise, should be enough to get what I'm after.
. . .
I sail into City Hall on a cloud of self importance; cocky, assured and in great shape - right past the voluptuous secretary who doesn't quite know whether to try and stop me or jump me for a quickie in the copy room. She's a nice looking kid - if you're into kids that think they're already women just because some guy took their cherry after the prom.
Before she can finish her "Sir, you can't go in there..." speech, I've moved past the heavy oak door, slamming it shut behind me and locking it from the inside. There he sits behind a massive antique desk: Wendell Bridesman - our King Farouk, Al Capone and Adolph Hitler all rolled into one scrawny package of excrement that even from this end of the room I can smell as rotten to the core.
"Excuse me," Wendell starts off, "You can't just..."
"Says who, Wendell?" I interrupt.
He reaches for the phone on his desk. I reach for the Magnum I've tucked inside my suit jacket.
"I wouldn't, if I were you," I tell him, "But hey - you're a gambling man, aren't you Wendell...or maybe I should say - Alonzo."
I've caught his attention. He puts the receiver back on its hook.
"What do you want?"
"You're slipping," I tell him, "The question used to be 'how much'?"
"An offer of money is only made if I think what you're selling is worth the price," Bridesman smugly explains, a thin grin spreading across his face, as though he doesn't believe I mean business.
I'm running out of time. I'm already out of patience. Without hesitating, I take my first shot, hitting Bridesman in his left shoulder, blowing the outer half of his rotator cuff and most of the chair behind it clean off.
The grin's gone. In fact, the man goes into instead shock, his jaw dropping to his chest as he squeals like the little piggy that he is.
"Jesus Christ!" he sputters in between deep gasps.
I move in with lightening speed, pressing the barrel of my gun to his right temple.
"I wouldn't advise taking the Lord's name in vane," I suggest, "You already sent one of his servants to a higher calling."
"Please?" I say, grabbing him by the back of his head, "Please, what? You're expendable. Just like your partner in crime, Capt. Mallory. I went a little easier on him, partly for old time's sake. It's the romantic in me. But you...I could just as easily kill you as eat a burger at Mickey Dee's."
"Oh, afraid not, Wendell," I say, allowing my condescension to spill forth like a pound of butter melting in the microwave, "You, who didn't go easy on Bobby Valenz or his greedy little wife...or yours, for that matter. You, who funded a private little war against me because I was getting too close to the truth. You had me chased half way around the globe and back again. You even tried to paralyze me. But I don't seize up that easily. So, you took out your frustration on the two people who did their best to see I didn't wind up riding a chair for the rest of my days. No, what I want from you now is the name of your paymaster - the bigger fool with all the strings attached whose going to get his just as sure as you're about to have yours!"
He's silent, and breathing so fast he just might have a heart attack right on the spot and foul up everything.
"What?" I add, "No pithy retort? Get up!"
I grab Wendell by the back of his head, fairly ripping out a handful of his cheap perm as I drag him to his feet and throw him up against a wall size window. I wedge the barrel of my Magnum into what's left of Wendell's bloody shoulder. He screams like a ten dollar whore with a bad case of the crabs.
"Wendell," I tell him, "I want a name and I want it now. You want to live? Federal prison and all - you want to hold on to what's left of your life and your arm, don't you?"
I press a little harder. He screams again.
"The price of admission," I tell him, "Name?"
"Franklin Jones," he mutters.
"Great," I reason, "Only several hundred million of those in the world. How about an address?"
"1740 La Place Merianne. Paris, France."
"You find that out for yourself, Mr. Mars."
So, he remembers me after all.
"I figure you got about six minutes, give or take before you bleed to death and about ten minutes after that before the Feds bust in to arrest you for a laundry list of sins that I put together for them. So what's it going to be?"
I pause for effect.
"Oh," I add, "I almost forgot. There's a third option."
I remove a small pistol from my inside breast pocket and place it on the window ledge next to him.
"That's right," I explain, "A showdown. You wanted me dead. Here's your chance. Only not with a phone call of a small arsenal of thugs at your disposal. Just this. Just you and me. Fair fight."
I turn and start to walk away.
"Go ahead, Wendell," I tell him, knowing he'll reach for the gun in another moment or two, "Do me the favor."
The proposition is too delicious to pass up. Wendell reaches for the pistol and I turn in place. In the final analysis, he's just what I thought he was - a fool's fool. I let him have it twice. The force of the shots from my Magnum send him through the plate glass and over the balcony rail, down six flights. He's skewered like a Honolulu pig at luau; a wrought iron fence impaling his chest cavity at ground level.
I'll have to answer to the small army of Frisco's finest pounding on the other side of the door. Bridesman? - Now, he has to answer to God.
(not yet. Eddie Mars will return in his next adventure on April 5th 2010.
@ Nick Zegarac 2010 (all rights reserved).