I rolled on the tables from this post for this week’s tale.
Table 1: Detective
Table 2: Casino
Table 3: Left for dead, out for revenge!
Now, let’s get it on!
You lose track of time to a scary degree when some Neanderthal knocks you out. I was under the impression they only got physical with you at casinos if they caught you counting cards or feeling up the cocktail waitress without her consent. Apparently, they beat the shit out of idiot gumshoes who are getting too close to the truth, too.
It wasn’t the first time I’d been thrown a beating by what colloquially folks would call a ‘goon’, but this time, it wasn’t my fault. I was playing it cool, understand, and specifically not winning too much at the hold ’em table. When your job is precipitated on reading people, poker becomes practice more than anything else. And the reason I charge so much for my services is, without hyperbole, I’m very fucking good at what I do.
The problem is, my reputation preceded me. I got fingered (not as sexy as it sounds) by one of the pit bosses, who told their boss, and one thing lead to another and this shambling prick in an off-the-sale-rack suit was slamming my head into the wire racks in a pantry. He wasn’t pulling punches. He meant to kill me. He seemed to be know what he was doing, too. Without breaking my bones or leaving major bruises, it would look like I stumbled into the wrong room and cracked my skull. Bam, case closed, everybody go about your business, nothing to see here.
Thankfully for yours truly, the fucking ape was too dumb to make sure I was done before he left me.
Son of a bitch took my gun, though. Old-fashioned pearl-handled .45 – a gift from an old partner. Engraved, and everything.
I push myself up off of the grimy closet floor, and I remind myself that the tux is a rental and I’m probably not getting my deposit back because the thing’s covered in grease and God knows what else now. I get out of the closet, get myself down the hall – my head is pounding and I want to vomit – and find a locker room for employees. They have spare jackets for the waiters and croupiers. I swap my smeared slightly mothball-smelling coat for one of those, and find my way back to the floor. I pick up a tray of drinks on the way for good measure.
I weave through the slots, people taking drinks and leaving cash. I stay on the move until the tray is empty. I make my way back towards the poker pits. It takes me a few minutes of circling and trying to look innocuous, but then my beefy friend comes through a back door. Have I mentioned he isn’t too bright? He doesn’t see or hear me coming up behind him. I wait for him to turn a corner, knowing there’s a tiny blind spot in the bazillion-camera coverage of the floor, and then I introduce my lovely tray to the big fat target that is his big fat head.
You’ve heard of glass jaws, right? This guy apparently has a glass skull. He drops like a bag of hammers. Not surprising, considering he’s about half as smart.
Service with a smile, asshole.
I get my gun and my phone back, give the prick a kick in the ribs for good measure, and make my way to an exit. In the parking lot I check my phone, and sure enough, our Cro-Magnon friend didn’t bother flashing its memory or even deleting the recordings I’d been making.
It’s quiet in the lot. Which is good, because the slab of stupid I’d left laid out on the carpeted floor had friends, and they were coming out after me. I hear the door slamming open, footsteps, and the hammer of at least one gun’s hammer getting pulled back the way a guy unzips his fly. They’re not even trying to be subtle.
So, why should I?
I break into a run as I draw my piece. You’d think it missed me, the way it just flows into my hand and my arm extends with it to start taking shots. I’m not trying to kill or even wound anybody, just trying to keep their heads down. Well, maybe wound someone. A little. Out of spite.
I’ve got ten years of experience between firing ranges, ‘official discharges’ as a detective, a couple undercover jobs, and this freelance business after I got drummed off the force. These morons seem to have gotten all of their experience from playing video games.
“Way to shoot wide, Call of Duty!”
I’m already getting in my car by this point, and I can’t help but get the last word in. Now, I know it’s unsafe, and you assholes at home better not do this, but it’s an emergency, so I dial my contact. Or rather I dial my contact’s office. I say some words to his lovely and polite secretary I’m not going to repeat here. I make a mental note to send her flowers because nobody deserves to have their mother referred to in that fashion, especially not someone just doing their job for an honest wage. Seriously, I’m a prick sometimes. I called you all assholes like three sentences ago. Anyway, I’m on hold and I’m swerving through traffic. Both things I hate. When he finally picks up the phone I’m fucking livid.
“You did not tell me there would be hitmen and legbreakers at this meet!”
“I thought it was a given.”
“No, it was not a given, you sawed-off prick. Put down the fucking doughnut and listen. I have him on tape.”
“You cut out there. Say that again?”
“Of course I cut out, jerkfuck, I’m on the goddamned freeway! I said, I – got – him – on – tape.”
“Saying what, exactly?”
I change lanes to pass a Yugo. A goddamn Yugo, in this day and age. And I thought my life was hard. “He’s saying that he’s in over his head and wants a way out. He says it’s for tens of millions. The words ‘cocaine’, ‘heroin’, ‘ecstasy’, and ‘hit squads’ are mentioned. And not by me.”
“I told you I could do this! Now it’s time for you to hold up your end.”
There’s an uncomfortable pause. I’d glare at the phone if I wasn’t trying to drive as safely and quickly as possible. Those two things are not easy to do at the same time. And this is with one hand on the wheel. I’m dead serious, kids, do not try this shit at home. (Oh, and if you are a kid, sorry for all the swears.)
“Don’t. Do not tell me there’s a problem or a ‘snag’ or some other bullshit. The next fucking words out of your fat face better be ‘where are you and where do I send the chopper’ or I swear to fucking Christ I will leak this shit to the Internet and take my ass to goddamn Lichtenstein.”
“… Where are you, and where do I send the chopper.”
“Was that so hard?”
“It would have been easier if you hadn’t interrupted me, jerkoff.”
“I’m on the Interstate heading west. There’s two – no, check that, three – black Cadillac SUVs full of angry men with guns probably under orders to shoot my ass and drag what’s left back to the casino to get worked over by this fucking dumbass lump of lard who…”
“Wittaker, I need you to focus.”
I pass a bus. I think someone takes my photo through the window. Tourists. “Yeah, yeah. Sorry. And sorry about the fat comment. But seriously, man, you gotta hit a gym.”
“Jesus, fine. Two exits ahead, there’s a parking garage, 8th and Spillane, top level’s exposed and probably mostly empty.”
“Hey, can you cover me with a couple of establishments?”
“What do you-”
He’s cut off when bullets start hitting my windshield. Dammit, I thought I’d lost them behind the bus! Or at least, gotten out of line of sight. Whatever. I drop the phone and start to serpentine. Which is a fancy way of saying I drive like a goddamn maniac and piss off plenty of decent people.
I take the exit I told my contact about and I don’t bother to slow down any more than I have to in order to avoid flying over the guardrail. It’s two turns onto 8th avenue, and then I pass Spillane. I cut the wheel and pull the handbrake, and practically slam into the wall next to where I want to go, which is through the little arm they drop on you so you take a ticket. It cracks like a toothpick against the grill of my Pontiac and I’m heading up the ramp before the night watchman can run out after me yelling obscenities.
I’m still a bit nauseous from earlier, so taking so many fast turns in such a confined space almost knocks me out again. My head is swimming and I can’t read any of the signage for shit. It’s a miracle I don’t get lost. I make it to the roof, grab my phone and stumble out of the car, and throw up. I manage to get to my feet as the three Caddies pull up onto the roof and line up one next to the other. The hitmen get out of the cars with guns drawn, at least seven of them, and all of them looking really pissed off.
The cherry on it is when my fat friend rolls out of the back of one, holding an ice pack to his head.
“Oh, hey! Look who’s vertical!”
“That was a cheap shot, you fucking prick!”
“Ha!” I’d literally laugh in his face if I could cross the killing field. Well, killing parking tarmac. “I’m not the stupid son of a bitch who left me alive!”
“Well, let’s correct that,” says one of the hitters. They all take aim.
“Sure, you go ahead and you fucking shoot me.”
I think between the ride up through the parking garage and their raging hard-ons, they hadn’t heard what I’d heard. It became obvious when the spotlight came on.
“Right in front of federal officers!”
Three (Three? Christ.) black helicopters with FBI emblems slapped on their sides come out of the inky night, bathing the roof of the parking complex in bright white light. The hitmen stagger back from the glare as I spread my arms wide and invite them all to kiss my ass. I don’t think they hear me over the loudspeakers above my head.
“THIS IS THE FBI. DROP YOUR WEAPONS AND PUT YOUR HANDS ON YOUR HEADS. THIS IS YOUR ONLY WARNING.”
The helicopters land, and agents in tac armor with submachine guns spill out, yelling orders and putting zip-ties on the hitmen. Agent LeToux, suit rumpled and hair a mess as usual, gets out of one and walks towards me. I give him a hard time, but he’s a man of his word. Even if he could stand to eat a few less Big Macs. He’s not unhealthily fat, but someone’s got to ride his ass so he stays in shape, and Mrs. LeToux sure as hell isn’t.
“You are a pain in my ass, Wittaker!”
“I didn’t tell you to send a whole SWAT team out here, LeToux!”
He snatches my phone out of my hand. “No, but you DID say there’s enough evidence on here to shut down the whole operation!”
“Hey, you called me, asshole, because these pricks can smell a fed a mile away.”
“Yes, and we thank you for your service, now can you kindly fuck off so we can do our jobs without you breaking anything else?”
He turns to walk away.
“Hey! Tell your guys to get my tux jacket back! It’s a rental!”
He flips me off. Doesn’t even look back.
LeToux loves me. If he denies it, he’s lying.
Not really my type, though. Don’t tell him that. I wouldn’t want to break his heart.