.

Hampton Blood
A Miles Beckett Mystery

by Anthony Rain



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.......Dr. Rubin pulled an orange prescription bottle from his pocket, tapped out two pink pills into his cupped hand and raised the hand to his lips. He moved his tongue like a frog snaring an insect.

......."I can't tell you much," he said. "I don't know how he got into the house. He was suddenly there. He wore a ski mask and he was tall. I'd say several inches over six feet. We went to my office and I opened my drug closet and gave him what he wanted. I thought he would leave, but he suddenly got angry, started yelling and hitting me with his gun. I lost consciousness."

......."Do you remember what he yelled about?" It was mid-afternoon on a scorching July day. My words sounded like dry husks crackling in a hot breeze.

......."Not really, just gibberish about my being a fuck. It was before I blacked out. I don't remember much." Dr. Rubin was in his late sixties. He pushed a lock of white hair off his forehead and looked at me with blue eyes narrowed to bullet tips. His bruised face looked like spoiled fruit. "I don't care how you do it, Mr. Beckett. Just get my drugs back from Jimmy Campbell. I don't care if you have to kill the sonofabitch." He shifted in his seat, his anger getting the better of him.

......."Go easy, doctor," I said. "Tell me about Campbell." We were sitting in white cane chairs resting on a freshly cut lawn. Watery waves of light glittered on the surface of a pool off to the side. I wanted to get up and take a cannonball jump into it.

.......Rubin's face changed color, like a storm approaching from off shore turning the skies black. He leaned towards me. "Campbell's a local shit who sniffs out moneymaking schemes. Anyone who's lived on the East End long enough knows that." He stopped and scratched behind his ear.

.......A bronze Buddha statue watched us from his position near a pond. He looked dazed from the heat, too. "What makes you think he was Campbell's muscle?" I asked.

.......Rubin sat back in his chair. "I'm an addiction specialist. I detox heroin addicts. I've been doing this for over twenty years." He tried to force a smile. I thought of a child trying to force a round peg into a square hole. "Campbell's called me a couple of times. He had a business proposition, which I found insulting. The last time he called, I told him I would contact the police. I think he retaliated. It's obvious."

.......Behind Rubin, a house door opened. The glass caught the reflection of the sun and sent out a beacon of light across the lawn. A twenty-something brunette in a purple midriff blouse, blue jeans and sandals emerged. She was a looker. She went down the steps to a two-car garage. I heard a motor start and saw a black Jeep pull out and fly down the drive, the sun glaring off polished surfaces.

......."That's my daughter, Laura," said Rubin. I caught a tone of concern in his voice, but it was subdued, unable to gain flight in the hot air.

......."What was the proposition?" I asked.

......."He wanted to open a series of clinics, using my treatment methods. I would be the medical director and get an annual salary. He would handle the business end. That sound's like a normal business proposition, ordinarily. But not when Jimmy Campbell is involved. The scumbag."

......."It's also possible someone else knew you had drugs in the house," I said. Rubin twisted in his chair, nodding his head from side to side. Smart men don't like to be contradicted.

......."What was taken?"

......."All the medications I use were taken. The one I care about is called buprenorphine. It's a white powder, looks very much like heroin, and it's a controlled narcotic. I kept it in a large plastic jar. I can't buy it anymore because the FDA has now restricted it even from practitioners." He scratched behind his ear again. "Fortunately, I'm still allowed to use what I already own. It forms the basis of my treatment."

......."Last I heard, methadone was the rehab drug of choice." I knew a woman, a horse head named Emily. She was a hooker and lived on Saint Mark's Place. Every day she would walk over to the methadone clinic on First Avenue next to Bellevue. Then she'd sit in the park across the way from the hospital and nod off for a few hours, while the meth did its thing. When she woke up, she went back home and turned tricks. A lovely life.

.......Rubin waved his hands. "Methadone is crap. It's just replacing one dependency for another." He turned and stared at the Buddha. The Buddha stared back.

......."So now what? You have to close up shop? Take a loss in income?"

......."Crudely put, yes. I can't practice without buprenorphine." Rubin thrust his stitched chin out. "My practice is thriving, because my method is superior, quicker and anonymous. Buprenorphine will detox someone in six weeks. But the insurance companies are making it harder to earn any kind of decent income anymore. Patients expect to be treated for what their HMOs will pay. Ridiculous. I want to retire, but I need to practice a few more years."

......."All right, so Campbell is pissed he can't get in on your action, but that doesn't mean he has someone do a Holyfield on you. If he's looking to fatten his bank account, then he moves on and finds another sucker. Why haven't you gone to the police with this?"

......."I can't go to the police. I have reasons, one of which is I can't afford the notoriety. My patients come to me because I can guarantee their anonymity. If you take this case, you can't go to the police either. Can you agree to this, Mr. Beckett?"

.......I watched a seagull float with angled wings on a soft breeze and hover over the pool. The doctor hadn't broken any laws so far, and I figured I could handle whatever slippery slope I found myself standing on. "All right," I said.

.......He reached into his pocket and pulled out an envelope. He tossed it at me. Inside was two grand in used hundreds. "I took the liberty of deciding on this for a retainer. And another thing: I don't want you commuting from your office in Manhattan. I want you to stay local until this is resolved."

***

.......Montauk Highway was clear and the sun made yellow triangles on the empty seat next to me. I had the window down since my air conditioner was on the fritz, and the air smelled like hot flowers. I passed a small restaurant with gray weathered wood and bright white trim and a large clam over the door. Past that, long green fields with grapevines and a sign advertising an afternoon wine tasting. The Hamptons are on the easternmost edge of Long Island. They've becomes the playground for migrating Manhattanites in the summer, trying to escape the hustle and crush of the city.

.......Campbell owned a jazz nightclub, The Siren's Song, located just past the town of Bridgehampton. Rubin said that was where Campbell could usually be found.

.......I passed two men in yellow and red racing uniforms on bikes, then saw a cloud of dust up ahead moving perpendicular to the road. A gray Caddy suddenly flew out from behind a high hedge and came directly in my lane. I swerved off the road as it passed, the two cars kissing along the drivers' sides. I stopped and watched in my rearview as it moved south, the license plate getting too small for me to read.

.......I put my car in park and checked the door. My blue '69 Chevy Impala had a line of gray paint and some scratches running under the handle. I got back in my car, cursing, and pulled onto the highway, but I didn't have to continue very far. Just past the hedge was The Siren's Song. I pulled in, cut the motor and got out. A very angry sun beat down on the empty gravel lot.

.......I walked past green and blue pastels into a dimly lit smaller room with a bar and stools. The counter top held two highball glasses. One was drained, the other barely touched. The full glass was warm. At the far end of the bar were double doors, one propped open showing a larger darkened room. Above me, a ceiling fan whirred furiously against the day's heat.

.......I went through the double doors and flicked on the lights. Pink and blue neon shapes appeared on the opposite wall and a series of small spotlights lined the ceiling perimeter. A window was open high up on the left-side wall. Round tables and chairs were placed before a stage, which held a black Baldwin piano and a series of mikes. A red velvet curtain served as the backdrop.

.......I made my way over to a door in the back near the exit. It was an office, with a desk and no windows. Behind the desk was a man. Behind him, blood spatters were on the wall. The man was dead.

.......I pulled my gun out and looked around some more. Satisfied I was alone, I went back to the office. The man was lying sideways on the desk, his right arm outstretched over the top. His chair was facing outwards and it looked like the force of the gunshot propelled him into it. He had long sandy-gray hair; an earring gleamed from his left ear. More blood spatters covered almost everything on his desk, and blood pooled under his chair and ran outward towards the wall. Flies were everywhere. I saw a large chest wound with powder marks on his shirtfront.

.......I spied a brass casing on the floor. I picked it up with a cocktail napkin lying on the desk and examined a .45-caliber shell. I could smell the cordite. I put it back on the floor. The man's pockets were turned inside out. I picked up a billfold. The driver's license name read James Campbell. It stated his age as forty-four and gave a local address on David Lane.

.......I went through the desk drawers, which had already been rifled. Heaped together in the top drawer were liquor purchase orders, musician contact sheets and other papers. In the bottom drawer was a gun, but it hadn't been fired. Campbell must not have had the chance to make a play for it, poor bastard.

.......I picked up the phone, still using the napkin and pressed *69. There was ringing on the other end, but no one answered, no voice mail kicked in. I hung up. The laptop was booted up, but no files had been opened. I wasn't going to find Rubin's buprenorphine on it, so I left it alone. A floor safe behind the desk was opened, but it was empty.

.......I got up and left the office, turning off the lights in the main room, wiping down the switch. I went behind the bar and poured myself a shot of scotch. The pungent smell of blood stayed in my nose, so I had two more. I put the glass in my pocket. I paused at the front window for a few seconds, then walked out.

.......Back on Montauk Highway, I headed for David Lane. I tossed the shot glass against some rocks on the way, and made it to Campbell's house in five minutes. A small white cube of a house on a hill, it was surrounded by fenced off property and shone like a new penny in the sun. I parked down the road and walked around back. An oval pool was choked with pink and white flowers from a series of mimosa trees lining one side. I moved over to a set of sliding glass doors. One of them had a large crack in it with a section missing near the door handle. The door itself was open.

.......I stepped into a living room that had been worked over. No matter which room I entered, everything was overturned and torn up. I looked for a plastic jar of white powder, but there was no sign of it. I split.

.......I waited by the side of the house, saw no one, then quickly walked back to my car.

.......I made a U-turn towards Southampton and called Rubin on my cell to give him the bad news. His voice went guttural, like someone had him by the balls.

......."Shit. Do you think his death is somehow related?"

......."I'm not sure, doctor. At the very least, you're not the only one pissed off at Mr. Campbell."

......."Did you find the buprenorphine?"

......."No, not at the club or the house."

......."Do you have to contact the police?"

......."A murder has been committed. I have to notify the local authorities, it's the law. But I can do it anonymously. I see no reason to personally involve you or me."

......."That's very good. So, now what?"

......."So now I dig a little deeper." I was maneuvering through the main drag of Southampton when I spied a black Jeep that looked like a ringer for the one the good doctor's daughter drove parked in front of The Driver's Seat on Job Lane. "I have to go, doc. I'll call you later." I hung up as Rubin started pontificating about something and parked.

.......At a pay phone I dialed 911 and reported a body at The Siren's Song. I gave the address and hung up, then entered the restaurant. Rubin's daughter was sitting in a booth with a pink tablecloth and a green lamp. I slid in across from her.

.......She was drinking a white wine, not her first. An ashtray contained two butts. A third cancer stick was smoldering on the edge. She put her glass down and said, "What are you doing?"

......."I'm hungry. You don't mind sharing a booth do you? You're Laura, right? I'm the PI working for your dad." I held out my hand. "Miles Beckett." She left me shaking air.

.......She got loud, and it wasn't the wine talking. "I want you to get up and leave my table now."

......."Keep your voice down, honey. You'll make everyone think we don't get along."

......."I mean it. Leave me alone or you'll get trouble."

.......I leaned in closer. "Trouble as in a .45 slug to the heart?"

.......Her upper lip twitched and she spoke more quietly. "I don't know what you're talking about."

.......Something had shaken her, so I gambled. "Someone saw you coming out of The Siren's Song after Campbell turned a permanent shade of blue." I put on my best poker face.

......."You're delusional," she said.

.......I grabbed her by the wrist. "This isn't a game. A man has been killed. Telling me will be a lot easier than telling the authorities. I'll at least give you leeway." I let go.

.......She flushed and pushed the hair away from her face. "Yeah, ok. I went to talk to Campbell. I'm a cabaret singer. I had auditioned at The Siren's Song last month, back before all this crap started with my father." She rolled the tip of her cigarette around in the bottom of the ashtray. "I went to see Campbell, you know, to see if he changed his mind about our gig. I'm cutting a demo CD and I need the exposure. He has two other clubs besides The Siren's Song. He has pull." She placed the cigarette on the lip of the ashtray and picked up her drink. Her nails were painted red. The knuckles were bone white. The angry flush had left her face, making her pale again. "I've never seen a dead body before."

......."What happened when you got to Campbell's?"

.......She looked to the side, out the window at a flea market in the courtyard next door. "I went in and called his name. He didn't answer, so I walked to the back room. That's when I saw him." If it was possible, her pallor increased a notch. I saw a smooth blue vein faintly appear in the upper corner of her forehead. She took up her cigarette pack and lit a fresh cigarette with the tip of the dying one.

......."When was this?"

......."About a half hour ago." That would have been when I was at Campbell's house.

......."Your dad is nearly killed and the only thing on your mind is a gig? I thought blood was supposed to be thicker than water?"

.......Every muscle in her seemed to relax at the same instant. "You have to look out for yourself in this world, and things are harder now. Everything moves faster. The music business is cutthroat. Besides, I don't believe it was Campbell. The old man is crazy."

......."You own a gun?" I asked.

......."No, I don't."

......."You mentioned 'our gig'."

......."I'm the singer. There's the piano player, Danny. He writes all our original songs. Then there's the bass player, drummer, and a guy on sax."

......."All right. Now, about the night your dad was attacked. He said you were asleep in your room."

......."Yeah. I take a sleeping pill. Ambien. I haven't been able to fall asleep on my own, since my mother died three years ago. I slept through the whole thing."

....... "Do you know anyone who fits the description of the man who attacked your dad?"

.......She smirked. "I don't know any tall men in ski masks. No."

......."So you don't believe your father's assumption that it was Campbell?"

......."Jimmy is a sleazy guy." She flushed. "Was a sleazy guy. I don't know." She tilted her head back and blew out a jet of smoke.

......."Do you know of anyone who wanted Campbell dead?"

.......The smoke lingered in front of her face. She looked like an apparition speaking from the beyond. "I have no idea."

***

.......The next morning, I walked out of my motel room and into air as heavy as wet cotton. I was wearing a tee shirt and trunks and planned to have a quick swim in the ocean, then drop by the police station. Homicide would have given Campbell's house and club the go-over by now, and all evidence would be in the lock-up. The property clerk would tell me what I needed to know, with a little maneuvering. There was also the off chance that some perp got picked up with Rubin's buprenorphine. I could find that out by scanning the daily arrest sheet. It's a matter of public record.

.......The motel parking lot was fairly empty, which made the young man leaning against the car conspicuous. He was about five eleven, early twenties and wiry. He wore black movie star sunglasses and a muscle tee showing a pair of tanned sinewy arms. "You Beckett?" He smiled wide, like a shark about to strike an exposed limb.

......."The one and the same." I unlocked the driver's side door and tossed my hotel towel in the back seat. The kid lifted his shirt and pulled out a chromed handgun. "Don't be macho," he said. "Let's get in the car and go for a drive. Someone wants to see you."

.......He put his scrawny hand on my shoulder, pushed me against the hot car and frisked me. I had left my gun in my room, wrapped in my pants and stuffed into my dresser drawer. My backup was in the trunk in its black plastic case with the required trigger lock on. Real convenient.

.......We got in the car and his voice got tighter. "Follow my directions and don't be stupid." The barrel of his gun pointed at my head. "Does the air conditioning work in this relic?"

......."Nada. You'll have to lower the window."

......."Fuck."

.......The kid's sunglasses were now resting on the top of his closely cropped blond hair, and his eyes were jumpy from nerves. I didn't like that, not with that cannon in his hand.

.......He directed me out of Southampton and onto Montauk Highway going east. Within ten minutes, he had me turn off on Woods Drive and we headed past a horse farm. Two chestnut horses were grazing on a hillside blocked off by white fencing. The road got dusty and forked up ahead, with a drop off the shoulder. I quickly jammed on the brakes and steered over the edge. The car skidded, dropped and bounced to a hard stop.

.......The kid was surprised and took his eyes off me for a second. I hit him square in the cheek, slamming his head against the window, making his gun hand jerk. I grabbed the automatic, and he squeezed the trigger, putting a bullet into the roof. Wrenching the gun free, I smacked him in the mouth with the handle, then stuck the barrel into his stomach.

......."Who the fuck sent you?"

......."Blow it out your ass." My punch had caused his sunglasses to slide down the bridge of his nose, and he looked at me over them. He put his fingertips into his mouth. They came out wet with blood.

......."If you piss me off enough, I'll leave your guts on the seat. Open the glove compartment and take out the handcuffs." He didn't move. I jabbed his ribs hard with the gun, feeling the bones give underneath the skin. He complied. "Snap one cuff onto your left wrist, push the other cuff through the door handle, and snap it onto your right wrist." After he did that, he was hunched forward and unable to reach me. I held the gun in my left hand and maneuvered the car back onto the road, steering with my right.

......."Finish giving me those directions," I said.

.......Fifteen silent minutes later, I pulled up to an isolated house next to a marsh. It was a brown shabby affair, and there were two cars in the drive. One of them was a gray Caddy. I looked at the driver's side door as I passed. There was a large, fresh scratch mark with blue paint streaks embedded. I took the cuffs off the kid and pushed him towards the house. I didn't bother to knock, just went through the unlocked front door with the kid going first.

.......We entered a living room as dingy as the outside. Stacks of boxes with Palm Pilots, pagers, and cell phones were piled next to beat-up furniture. Past that, two men were sitting at a round table in a dining room. More boxes were stacked behind them. The men were in their forties, black hair with gray starting to show. They both wore polo shirts. One wore a gold necklace. His eyes were the pale blue shade of a Husky dog. Three cups of coffee were on the table. I pushed the kid over and pointed the gun at them. They were unimpressed.

......."Thanks for bringing Bobbie home." The man with the blue dog eyes spoke with a low smooth voice. It was clear he had faced the barrel of a gun before and knew how to finesse the situation. I guessed he was the leader of this crew. "Bobbie, how many time I got to tell you to take enough car fare, huh?" Bobbie rubbed his wrists and stood off to the side, glaring at me.

......."Chill with the small talk," I said. "You wanted to see me, so here I am."

......."Did we?" Dog eyes looked at his friend. The friend had a nose that had been broken more than once and hands like steaks. A lifeless cigarette dangled from fleshy lips. He shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. Dog eyes looked back at me and smiled. "Buddy, I think you made a mistake." His friend smirked and laughed.

.......Someone said, "Put the gun down, motherfucker." In the corner of my eye, another large man with a sawed-off stood in the kitchen doorway. He had been very quiet in his movements. The man with the misshapen nose laughed harder.

......."Don't waste him, Googie," said Dog-Eyes. "Do what he says, douche bag."

.......I put the gun on the floor and shoved it with my foot towards the table.

.......The laughing man got up and collected the gun, then pushed me over and down into an empty chair. Dog-Eyes got up and came and stood over me.

.......He held up a forefinger as fat and brown as a well-rolled cigar. "I should shoot you just for coming in here like an asshole." He lowered his arms to his sides, balled his fists and arched his shoulders forward, like he was going to launch one at me. "I hear that you're a private fucking eye. Why are you so interested in Jimmy Campbell?"

.......Instinct told me to play ball. "I was hired by a doctor who was robbed a few days ago. He suspects Campbell. I was checking him out."

.......He looked behind me at his crew. "What did that prick steal?"

......."Allegedly some drugs. One in particular that's used to get heroin addicts cleaned out. I'm not convinced Campbell stole it, but that and a buck fifty gets me on the subway."

......."So, then what? He wouldn't give it up and you wasted him?"

....... "Campbell was maggot feed before I could talk to him. You already knew that." Dog-Eyes moved his right hand quickly and struck me across the face. I started to get up, but a hand attached to a ton of cement pushed me back down.

......."Johnny D, you want me to waste the scumbag now?" Googie came around and touched the barrels of the sawed-off to my head. The gun smelled recently fired.

......."Not yet." The fat cigar fingers alternately balled up into fists and then relaxed. "If you're smart, shamus, you'll be straight up with me and get to walk out that door. If you're stupid, then I'll kill you. Campbell had something of mine and it's missing. Maybe you know where it is."

......."What are you looking for?"

.......Johnny D pushed the sawed-off away from my head and leaned in close. He was all sweat, coffee breath, and sickly-sweet aftershave. "Cash. One hundred large."

......."Have you tried the lost and found?"

.......Johnny D pulled a .45 from his waist and placed it against my throat. "You see this motherfucker here? This motherfucker doesn't have a sense of humor. I want my money. Do you have it?" He left it there for a few seconds, and cold sweat rolled down my neck.

......."I was only looking for one thing. I saw no money." Johnny D stared into my eyes. He lowered the gun.

......."What's your angle with Campbell?" I asked.

......."He owed me money. Simple as that."

......."I think it's more," I said. "I think Campbell's got his hands in other people's pockets, but it's on your turf, so you have to get a taste. But now he's dead. Convenient for you." Johnny D kept his mouth shut, but started to raise his gun again.

......."But I don't think you did it. Campbell was popped with a .45-caliber gun. I don't think that's your type of salt. Silk suits prefer finesse, like a .22 or .32-caliber, and with suppressors. Except for this Neanderthal here."

.......Googie turned the barrels back on me, but Johnny D pushed him away. He squinted and spoke through lips stretched thin by a grimace. "I was never in his office."

......."Not before he expired. But after, like me. Your crew checked the club and the house and found no money. I did the same thing, only I was looking for stolen medicine. Someone gave you a bum tip about me. You had me picked up on a guess. Someone is playing us. You want to go on guessing, or do you to find what belongs to you and what belongs to my client?"

.......The sound of car tires pushing against gravel came through the front window, followed by a cut motor and two car doors. Heavy, careless steps came closer. Johnny D looked behind me and nodded. Someone whacked me hard on the head. I felt the chair falling away from my body and saw Johnny D's pale eyes following me down into a dark hole.

***

.......Across the way from Rubin's house, cicadas hummed in a grove of oak trees. I could hear a lawn mower in the distance. When I had come to the day before, I was back in my motel parking lot lying down on my car front seat. I spent the night popping Tylenol and washing it down with Corona. The images in my brain eventually stopped scrolling.

.......I took a sip of coffee as the Jeep pulled out of the drive doing one hundred twenty. Draining the cup, I started the car and put the pedal to the metal. I didn't worry about Laura spotting me in the rearview. I was pretty sure she never used it.

.......Twenty minutes later, I was parked outside an aluminum sided cottage. A tall man a few inches over six feet opened a screen door and she went inside. He looked out onto the street briefly, then closed the door. I let several minutes pass, then crossed to the front door. I rang the bell, hopped over the railing and walked to the back door. To the side of the house, a flock of seagulls were having a party, tearing at some garbage. They screeched loudly. The back door was unlocked. I pulled out my .45 and went inside.

.......Inside, it was more of a large studio than a house. The back door opened into the kitchen area, which opened to a larger living room. The entire house had an cluttered, messy look to it. Laura was sitting on a sofa bed staring at the man, who was looking out the front window. An upright piano was in the corner, and sheet music was on the floor next to it. A lava lamp rested on the very top. Several more electronic pianos were in the corner. A pot of coffee was sitting on a table.

.......I raised my gun and cleared my throat. The man turned quickly. Laura looked up. She said nothing and looked like she hadn't a care in the world. The man had a vicious look cemented on his face. The outline of a gun showed through his tee shirt.

......."Put the gun on the floor with your left hand," I said. "Then push it away from you with your foot." He did this.

......."There isn't much space here and I don't see it out, so why don't you go and get it," I said.

......."I don't know what you're talking about," said the man.

......."Buprenorphine."

......."I don't know what you're talking about."

......."You're boring me, Danny. Laura, go get it." I motioned with my gun to for her to get up.

.......The tall man pointed his finger at Laura. "Don't move."

.......I raised the barrel of my gun some more. "I've gotten pretty good with this. My instructor at the gun club has me splintering coffee sticks at fifty feet. Think what I could do to your fat head."

.......Laura got up, went into a walk-in closet and came out holding the plastic jar of white powder. She placed it on the table. "Sometimes gut instinct solves a case. Sometimes its luck. In this case, it was 'Cherchez la femme'" I said to her.

......."Screw you," she said and sat back down.

.......I turned back to Danny. "Start from the beginning. You can practice your story with me, before you recite it to homicide. After they arrest you for killing Jimmy Campbell."

......."That's bullshit," yelled Danny.

.......The seagulls outside had gotten quiet, and I should have paid attention to that. The front door was suddenly kicked in and there stood two of my friends from the day before, Googie with his sawed-off and pathetic Bobbie.

.......Googie closed the screen door, while Bobbie took a few steps towards me. "Now who's the asshole? You didn't even see us following you, shithead. Drop the gun on the floor." I put it down. Bobbie walked over and picked it up and stuck it into his waistband. He glared at me for an instant, then hit me in the jaw with his gun. I dropped to one knee and he hit me on the back of the head. I fell and stayed down.

......."Move towards the girl." Googie motioned over at Danny. "Watch the scumbags." He looked around the room tossing things aside. He picked up the lava lamp and hurled it against the wall. He lifted the piano lid, smiled and put the sawed-off down. He reached in and pulled out a black bag. He looked inside and took out a few packets of cash. The bag looked big enough to hold one hundred grand.

......."You're an all-around asswipe," Googie said to Danny.

.......Bobbie had been covering Googie the whole time, but he had stayed standing where he dropped me. Quickly, I reached and pulled his foot out from under him. He fell face first onto the floor, his gun going off. Everyone froze, but I made my feet and ran for the front door.

.......If I had tried to wrestle Bobbie for the gun, Googie would have turned me into hamburger. My only chance was to get my backup piece from the car. I knocked Googie off balance as I ran by, and took the screen door with my body. It flew away from the frame, and I rolled off the deck onto the lawn. I heard a gunshot behind me and figured Bobbie was on my ass.

.......I made the car, opened the driver's side door and reached into the glove compartment. I heard a bullet graze the side of the car. I fired once through the closed passenger side window at Bobbie, who was about five feet away. When the chunks of glass fell out, I saw Bobbie looking down at his stomach. The shot had punched a large red hole in him. He dropped his gun and collapsed.

.......I heard a shotgun blast inside Danny's house, then saw Googie come running out with the black bag. He pumped and fired a blast in my direction. He sprayed the front windshield of my Impala, while I stayed on the floor. I waited until his car took off, then got up and fired twice, taking out his tail lights. After he turned the corner, I ran into the house. Laura was sitting on the sofa bed covered in blood and bits of small flesh. Danny lay slumped next to her. Half of his head was gone. I shook Laura by the shoulders and she looked at me with lifeless eyes.

.......I got up and closed and locked the front door. I picked up her purse, found the cigarettes and lit two. One of them I put in her mouth, the other I took a deep drag on.

......."Listen to me, Laura. The police are going to be here any second. I may be able to help you, but I have to know the truth." She grasped the cigarette stiff-fingered. Through the smoky smell, the stench from Danny's blood and brains started to seep through. It made my stomach turn.

.......She remained silent, so I shook her again. "Campbell called Danny and me after the audition," she finally said. "We weren't getting the gig. We got desperate and said we'd do anything. Campbell knew my father was a doctor. He played me. He asked if I could get pills, stuff like that. I said yes. I said I could even steal prescription pads. He told me he'd call us back."

.......She took another pull on the cigarette. "He called a few days later. The plan changed. He said he had a partner, Johnny D. They had the idea of going into business with my dad. What they wanted to do was launder money, push more drugs probably. I set up a meeting between my father and them."

......."Your father met with them?" The manipulating sonofabitch.

......."Yes. They offered him a lot of money to open a string of detox clinics. My father agreed. He knew it was bullshit, but he was tired, he wanted to stop practicing. Then, a week later, my father suddenly said no. He wanted more money. He thought he could squeeze them. They told him to fuck off. Campbell was pissed and told me and Danny to forget about ever performing at his clubs. He said he would have us blacklisted. Danny got frustrated, angry. He robbed my father."

......."Did he kill Campbell?"

.......She shook her head. "I did. I went to Campbell's club while you were talking to my father. I wanted to see if there was another way for us to work things out. He told me sure. He said I could spread my legs for him. He laughed at me and told me we sucked anyway. I lost it. Danny had given me a gun for protection a while back. I took it out and shot Campbell. Just once. I didn't mean to kill him, or maybe I did."

.......Laura shifted her eyes and looked at Danny. "His safe was open and there was that bag of cash in it. I took it for us. I didn't know it belonged to Johnny D."

.......The police arrived as she was finishing her last sentences. Through the front window I could see officers toting automatic weapons. I got up and wet a paper towel and handed it to Laura to wipe the blood off her face. That was about all I could do for her. Then, I walked over and opened the front door and raised my hands.

Copyright (c) 2001 by Anthony Rain.



This is Anthony Rain's second appearance in Thrilling Detective (see Blink of an Eye; December 2000, which also featured Miles Beckett). He has published stories in Judas EZine, Nefarious, Plots With Guns and Without A Clue. Several more stories of his will be appearing in various venues in 2001. Anthony will be spending part of July 2001 at the Iowa Writing Program Summer Festival and looks forward to chewing the fat with fellow crime writers (okay, other genres too). Anthony makes his home in New York City.

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