En Flagrante Part 6
by AG Bluvier
I practically ripped the door off the hinges to get in. I ran to the closet and pulled down the dusty old cigar box, and looked inside. It wasn’t there. The watch was gone, all that was left was the bottle of Whiskey. I sat back on the ground with a heavy thud and stared off into space. This wasn’t possible, was it?
Flashbacks, smoke, haze and gunfire echoed through my head. I struggled to push away the images, images that had haunted my dreams. I grabbed the Whiskey, and with it the promise of absolution. And I started drinking. I drank until the pictures went away.
It was almost Noon when I woke up, head filled with icepicks and no ice. Mouth dry, head pounding, pounding, pounding. No, that was the door. It was a long way away. I stared at it, willing the person on the other side to go away, but I had a feeling that wasn’t going to happen. It didn’t. The pounding grew louder. I managed to haul my 180 lbs of dead weight to the door. I paused for a moment. Whatever was on the other side, wasn’t good, that much was sure. Maybe I should just wait for them to kick it in.
“Open ‘er up Jackoff or we’ll kick it in.”
Right, they read my mind. Fine, I opened it. A couple a rats in suits exploded into the room. One of them was carrying a machete. “Only in Havana” I thought to myself.
“Lemmie at im, lemma at im.” the lunatic with the Machete whined while he carved the air with it.
The other guy, the big guy, grabbed my collar and threw me into the wall. “Where’s the money.”
“What money.” It was a sincere question, I needed to know which bookie was trying to collect.
“Yeah, Tommy Garbunko. What’d you forget lowlife?”
“Left front pocket.” The rat looked surprised.
“You tryin’ to tell us ya got the money?”
“Take a look for yourself.” He grabbed my pocket and ripped the envelope out. He pulled out the wad of cash and counted.
“Whatta ya know. It’s all there.”
“And if even a penny is missing Garbunko’s gonna know to pin it on you two ballet dancers.”
“Oh, funny. Sure.” He slapped me a few times like the fairy he was and they took off.
Well, at least that was one close call avoided. Now all I had to do was figure out how to stay alive for the next 12, no 11 and a half hours. Shit, I needed a drink. The Whiskey bottle was empty so I headed down to the corner bar. The one good thing about Havana, you can always find a place to get a drink. I briefly considered drinking myself to death, but there wasn’t enough time. More drastic measures would be required.
The sound of gunfire rattled through my head, the smell of gunpowder filled my nose. There wasn’t enough Whiskey in all of Cuba to drown it out. Soldiers yelling, a little girl screaming.
“Dammit barkeep, I need another.” I slurred.
It was on the bar in front of me before I had time to slam my fist down.
I looked up to thank him but he was looking behind me, and judging by his face, and the way he backed away, trouble was heading right for me. No surprise, I have a talent for it. I knocked back the whiskey in one slug, stood and turned just in time to find myself staring into the most enormous adam’s apple I’ve ever seen up close.
“I don’t recall us being introduced.” was all I could wheeze out from my position between a forearm like a telephone pole and the bar. Somehow the barstool had found a way to get jammed into my left testicle. The next thing I knew, I was getting real well acquainted with more of the furniture, all I could hear was “Monnnnneiiiieee!” between grunts as the gorilla smashed my face to the table. “Right Pocket.” Or at least that’s what I thought I said. It must’ve sounded like some kind of insult, all he did was scream. So I screamed louder. “RIGHT POCKET!! MONEY! RIGHT POCKET!!”
He stopped. I could see nothing but a blur, eyes filled with blood and sweat. I felt myself get frisked, heard a grunt, fell to the ground and that’s about the last thing I remember.
En Flagrante Part 5
by AG Bluvier
We stumbled through the underbrush, and she all but dragged me to a small bridge. From here we could see and hear the voices behind the Havannah, but we were hidden.
“He’ll leave at around 1:30″ she whispered “That’s when you’ll have your chance.” Her body was pressed against me, she was shivering.
“Whoa there sister. Not so fast. Let’s get a few things straight first.” I grabbed her, maybe a little to hard. She let out a cry, and then I remembered that she’d been thrown around earlier, I let go of her.
“Yeah, let’s start with that. What’s with the rough and tumble down at Dock 16?”
She looked up at me for a long minute. “If Carlos isn’t dead by tomorrow at Midnight, then Juice will –”
“What? What will Juice do?” This dame was starting to make me mad. I wanted some straight answers, and I wasn’t in the mood to wait for them.
Just then a shot rang out. I turned and saw a commotion in back of the Havannah. Santorini was in the middle of it yelling orders.
“Over there. The woods. Get moving.” He screamed. For a cat that looked so cool on the outside this guy had a temper like a wildfire in a hay factory. Next thing I knew Orchid was over the edge and into the water. Damn. I dove after her. Not much of a river, but it was deep enough to carry us. I caught up to her, we made it to shore a half mile down stream.
We were both half drowned and soggy as week old corn flakes.
“All right Girlie, it’s time to get some things straight here.”
“I know a place where we can get dry.” Well I wasn’t about to say no to that. We were both too cold to talk. 12 blocks later and we were in the dry, luxury spread of the penthouse at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba. Without a word she headed for the shower, but I stopped her.
“When we both get human again, I want answers.”
“No disappearing acts this time Petunia.”
“I’ll tell you anything you want to know.”
20 minutes later and I was wrapped in Egyptian Cotton – whatever that is. But it was plush, I’ll give you that. And she was wrapped in white silk. Why didn’t that surprise me?
“All right, little Miss, I wanna know what you’re up to.”
“Cigar?” She offered me a Montecristo. Smooth. I guess she expected to be here a while. I took the cigar, seemed like a fitting salute for a dead man.
“First off, who’s suite is this?”
“Doesn’t he live here? What’s he need the suite for?”
“Yes he has a house here, no he doesn’t live here. And he uses the suite for Entertainment.”
“Is he married?”
“Then why not use his house?”
“He uses the house for other purposes.”
“Out with it Daisy-May or whatever your name is. Velma.”
She held my eye steady, no reaction at all. “Sure, you can call me that.”
“I wan’t the story, all of it. It’s time for you to start squawking. Where I come from killing a man ain’t an everyday thing.” She didn’t blink. This dame was pumping ice water through her veins. She turned away.
“It’s hard to know where to begin.
“Try the beginning.” She turned back towards me.
“I was born in Russia. I was – brought here – when I was 14.”
“By who? The guy at the doc?’
“He has a rivalry with Carlos Santorini.”
“But now you’re Santorini’s girl.”
“Sure, you could say that.”
“And you’re the way for Juice to get close to Santorini.”
“I’m the only way to get to Santorini.”
“Nobody will touch him for any amount of money.”
“Money can do a lot of talking.”
“They’re too scared of him, of Juice, of the war between them.” I waited for her to continue, she did. “You see, Juice does’t just want Santorini dead, he want’s PROOF of a certain kind.”
“Yeah, so what.”
“Santorini has a tattoo on his left arm.”
“So Juice wants the arm?” She nodded slowly, “Yeah, that’s gruesome, but not terrifying.”
“No. It is the Tattoo that is terrifying. El Diablo.”
“Big deal lady.”
“You know that this Island is Catholic, yes? Do you also know what Santaria is? It is an ancient witchcraft, after which Santorini is named. The Little Santaria maker is the meaning of his name. Santaria is a very dark and very powerful worship of the Devil.”
“And so everybody is afraid of the Devil and won’t touch him?”
“Not quite. It is not just El Diablo, it is what he is doing that is so – disturbing.”
“What is he doing?”
“I do not want to say.” Fear crept across her face, the goosflesh on my arms was getting goosflesh.
There was a long pause.
“Let me get this straight, if, in, your little scenario, Santorini is the messenger of the Devil, who exactly is Juice?”
She whispered, and I could barely hear the words escape from her lips, ‘El Diablo himself.”
“Now why would the Devil want to kill his own messenger?”
She wheeled around and yelled in my face, “Because he is trapped! Because Santorini has him on call, under control!”
“You’re crazy lady! There’s no way to control the Devil! And why are we even having this conversation, this is crazy talk.”
“Believe what you will, but someone will win, either the Devil or the Santorini. This all started long ago. And it will be finished by Midnight tomorrow night.”
“And that’s where I come in.”
“Yes, that’s where you come in.”
“I’m just an average guy, a nobody in your little pawn game. What’s this got to do with me?”
“Oh sure. Don’t act so innocent. We all know better.”
It was like ice water had been splashed in my face. It wasn’t possible that she knew, was it? I grabbed my coat and fumbled for the door, it was time for me to make my Sionara, to head to Kansas or Podunk Iowa, or anywhere, it didn’t matter anymore.
I was racing down the Hotel stairs when the thought struck me, “If what she’s saying is real, and true, then there was a debt to collect – and not just the money I owed to my Bookie.” I doubled my pace and headed straight to my own cramped little room. I had to get there, and fast.
“En Flagrante” by AG Bluvier – Part 2
16 hours and 59 minutes later
This time I was ready for her when she walked in. I wasn’t going to get caught off guard, stammering like an idiotic schoolboy again.
17 hours and 8 minutes later
I had rearranged the paper clips on my desk so many times, they were starting to protest. This dame sure knew how to make a guy sweat.
17 hours and 19 minutes later
I looked at my watch for the hundredth time. Maybe she wouldn’t show, maybe it was just some kind of sick joke pulled by one of my pals from the war.
And then I heard that unmistakeable clicking coming down the hall. The kind that can only be made by 4 inch red stiletto heels.
Her perfume arrived in the room before she did. It made me weak in the knees, but I was determined to get some answers. I battled back the dizzy feeling of intoxication that swept over me.
My god, her eyes were violet. I shook my head to clear it. “I don’t know who you think you are lady, but I want some answers.”
“I’ll tell you anything.” she whispered breathlessly.
“How did you get that picture?” I demanded.
A tear welled up and spilled over onto her left cheek. “You don’t want to know” There was something in the way she said it, that made me believe her. But I’m a detective, it’s my job to get answers, even when they’re not pretty.
“Tell me anyway.”
“That’s my sister.” she replied.
“Gee, that’s a real tough break, but we’ve all got problems.”
“He needs to be dead by Thursday at Midnight.”
I threw up my hands, ‘Whoa lady. I told you, that’s not my gig. And you still haven’t answered me”
She dropped her purse on my desk, and out slid a stack of cash, all crisp $100′s. It was like putting a steak in front of a starving man.
“That’s enough to cover what you owe your bookie.” she said. “Both of them.” I’ll double it when it’s done.” She turned tail to leave. But not before I caught her arm. I could feel her breath on my cheek.
“How about an answer.”
“Answers lie.” She said through her teeth.
“Of all the gum shoes in this hot dog stand, why me, lady?”
“Call me Orchid. And you’ve got no choice, unless of course, you want to wind up feeding the crocodiles. I know who you owe.”
Yeah, sure I had some bad habits. I admit it, and they’d dragged me down. She was right though, I was desperate. These guys I owed money to, didn’t take no for an answer. “You’ve done your homework, I’ll give you that.”
“I needed someone as desperate as I am.” Suddenly she looked like a lost little girl. For a minute all I wanted to do was sweep her into my arms and run away together, leave it all behind. For a minute I almost forgot what she was asking me to do.
“I could always leave town.” I said.
“No you can’t.” She said, and she was right. The Garbunko crowd would see that from a mile away. They had control over every port in and out of this Coke-a-Cola can. My life was swirling around the drain, about to descend, and she was offering me the only way out.
“En Flagrante” by AG Bluvier – Part 1
From my office on the 4th floor of this god forsaken building, in the god forsaken city of Havana I could see the steam rising off the streets below. A place that time forgot.
It was hot, hot I tell you, and the ceiling fan in my office had two settings; sweat and sweatier. And then SHE walked in, with legs up to here and a dress cut down to there… It was enough to make a tough man cry, to make a smart man… well, you get the picture.
And then she tossed one on my desk, picture that is, of a man, ‘en flagrante.’
“I want him dead. I don’t care what it costs.”
I swallowed hard, but my mouth was as dry as the sand dunes that were swirling through my brain. I barely coughed out my reply, “Listen lady, this ain’t that kind of place, I ain’t that kind of guy.” But she was already heading for the door. “I’ll meet you here tomorrow at noon.”
My mind was racing, I briefly considered packing up my duds and taking the slow boat to China. But I was already hooked, and she knew it. I’d be there.
I started to speak, but she was gone.
Her perfume hung in the air, like an invitation.
My goose was cooked, and I knew it. I had a date with destiny in less than 24, no 17 hours…. and the clock was ticking.