A complete story
from the Fedora
by Simon Wood
.....Crestfallen was enjoying himself,
chasing a urinal cake around the urinal with his pee, when the
men's room door opened.
....."I need your help,"
.....Crestfallen glanced over
his shoulder at the accountant type standing in the doorway.
This wasn't the usual place he did business, but the detective
couldn't afford to be fussy. "Come into my office."
.....The little guy did as he
was told, letting the door swing close.
....."Are we alone?"
....."As far as I know."
.....Crestfallen zipped up and
made the pretense of washing his hands. Something he wouldn't
normally do, but it was good business practice. No one liked
to shake hands with a man who had just been holding his dick.
....."I assume you know
who I am?" Crestfallen kept his back to his prospective
client and spoke into the mirror. The slight, bespectacled man
was in no condition to take him on. He could afford to be nonchalant.
He turned off the faucet.
.....The accountant type nodded
quickly. "You're Peter Crestfallen, the private investigator."
.....Crestfallen tore off a sheet
of paper towel from the dispenser. "And where did you get
....."People said you were
a good man to be trusted in a clinch. Well, I'm in one, up to
.....People? He didn't remember
people from his customer satisfaction surveys. He reminded himself
to give people a discount the next time they turned up at the
.....Crestfallen tossed the paper
towel in the trash and offered a clean hand. "Well, Mr.
.....The accountant type rushed
as if the offered hand was a sign of acceptance of his case.
A sweaty hand took Crestfallen's and shook it limply. "Noah.
....."Noah? Agood man to
have close when the rains come."
.....I must stop doing that,
Crestfallen thought. He had a habit of blurting out abstract
thoughts. It had a tendency to confuse or piss off people. Once,
it had gotten him shot.
....."Well, Mr. Noah, if
you would like to come to the office in the morning, we could
discuss your case then." Crestfallen fished for his wallet
in search of a business card. "I'm actually with someone
at the moment."
....."She's probably gone
.....It was Crestfallen's turn
to say, "Excuse me?"
....."As soon as you left
the table, she was on her cell phone calling a cab. I was watching
you from the bar." Noah looked embarrassed for Crestfallen.
"Surely, you realized. Didn't you notice how many times
she checked her watch?"
.....Crestfallen hadn't. He thought
his date was going well. Well enough to think the condoms in
his wallet were going to get an airing. Never mind, he was tough.
He would live to fight another day.
.....A man entered the men's
room, giving Crestfallen and Noah a sideways glance.
.....Crestfallen knew how it
looked and pocketed his wallet. "C'mon, let's take this
.....From the pay phone lobby
outside the restrooms, Crestfallen watched Jenny leave the restaurant
for a yellow cab. That was the last time he picked up a girl
in a nightclub. But he always said that.
.....He went to return to his
table, but Noah grabbed his arm. "Where do you think you're
....."I was going to pay."
.....It's a modern world with
modern girls, Crestfallen thought. Too modern sometimes.
.....Crestfallen allowed Noah
to lead to him to the fire exit and into the alley behind the
restaurant. Noah's eyes were everywhere, as if he expected to
be ambushed at any moment.
....."I need specifics,"
Crestfallen said, tiring of the situation. "What is this
....."People are after me."
Noah took refuge in the shadows out of reach of the streetlights.
"They're probably watching us right now and they know I've
spoken to you."
.....Fantastic, Crestfallen thought.
"Which people? The same people who told you to come to me?"
....."No, of course not,"
Noah spat. "Can you just get me out of here?"
.....Crestfallen exhaled. Money
hadn't even exchanged hands and this case was already a pain
in the ass. "Where's your car?"
....."Leave it there. We'll
....."But, it's in a red
....."So, it'll get towed.
Wait here, I'll be back."
.....Crestfallen jogged to the
alley's mouth. Nobody seemed to be keeping surveillance. And
if they were, it was unlikely they were watching for him - yet.
.....He made a beeline for his
CrownVictoria. It came from a friend in the San Francisco Sheriff
's department. He knew the Ford was big and lumbering, but there
was a lot of steel between him and a bullet. And, the police
interceptor engine was heavy on gas but could always be relied
upon to put distance between him and the bad guys. It looked
like he would need the car's power for this job.
.....He crossed the road, but
his eyes weren't on the traffic. They were on three guys checking
out a Dodge parked in the red zone. They didn't look like car
boosters - wrong age, wrong dress, wrong moves - just wrong.
And they didn't look like car enthusiasts. No one drooled over
a minivan, except for accountant types. One of the Dodge Caravan
appreciation club spotted Crestfallen and alerted his buddies.
.....Let the games begin, Crestfallen
thought. Getting into his car, he noted the parking meter. It
flashed, expired. He hoped it wasn't an omen.
.....Crestfallen rode the sidewalk
and flung open the passenger door. Noah burst from the shadows
and leapt into the Ford.
....."Do you drive a silver
....."Three guys were checking
.....Crestfallen made a half-hearted
attempt at stopping before making a free right turn. Like Noah,
he was eager to put distance between him and Noah's friends.
....."Are you going to tell
me what this is about or do I have to go back and ask your buddies?"
....."It usually is. How
much do you owe?"
....."I don't owe. I took."
.....Crestfallen checked his
mirrors. No one seemed to be following. He and Noah were just
part of the anonymous flow of city traffic.
....."Might I ask who's
the unlucky recipient of your thievery?"
.....Crestfallen slammed on the
brakes.He slithered across two lanes and bounced off the curb.
"I'm sorry, pal. I can't help you. No one can help you."
....."I can pay you anything
you care to name."
.....Crestfallen flung open the
door for Noah. "Anything you pay me would only go towards
a nicer funeral. Get out."
....."You can't, Mr. Crestfallen."
....."But I can. As a business
owner, I reserve the right to refuse business to anyone I don't
see fit to serve. I'm exercising my right."
....."He'll kill me."
....."You should have thought
about that before you ripped off San Francisco's most lethal
.....Noah latched onto Crestfallen's
.....A Lincoln slid by. Familiar
faces occupied the car-the car buffs.
.....It was too late. Noah had
left his indelible mark on him. Kleinfelder's guys would be checking
out his license plate and would know he was a private eye. Bent
cops would be supplying information for a little extra in their
lockers on Friday. The bull's-eye was in position. He was Noah's
guy whether he liked it or not.
....."Close that damn door."
....."Thank you, Mr. Crestfallen.
Thank you so much."
.....Crestfallen yanked the selector
into reverse and roared the wrong way into one-way traffic to
a chorus of blaring horns. He halted at the first cross street
and spun the car to point uphill. He punched the gas and left
rubber as an apology.
.....The Lincoln boys lost their
cool and tried to copy Crestfallen. They were rear-ended for
their trouble. They wouldn't be bothering Crestfallen and his
client for a while.
....."How much have you
....."Do you know anything
.....Crestfallen knew where to
find the on/off switch and how to work an ATM, but that was about
it. He left the techno stuff to the right people - five year
olds. "Yes, of course I do. What do you take me for?"
....."That's okay. Go on."
.....Crestfallen might have been
wrong about his date, but not about the man. He wondered if the
adage about owners looking like their dogs applied to people
and their jobs.
....."I've written accounting
software that channels his income into various legitimate accounts."
....."And while you were
doing it, you thought, why not channel a percentage your way."
....."Yeah, well . . . you
....."Yeah, well, how did
Kleinfelder find out?"
....."A computer virus.
Turned our systems to oatmeal. A side effect was that Kleinfelder
was sent a statement listing all the accounts his money was sent
....."Including your account
.....Noah nodded soulfully. Crestfallen
joined 101 south. "What are you expecting me to do for you?
Kleinfelder isn't going to be interested in you giving the money
back and he isn't going to listen to anything I've got to say."
....."I know. I just want
you to get me somewhere safe."
....."Is there such a place
from Craig Kleinfelder?"
....."I have a place in
Washington State, north of Seattle. He won't think to look there.Myfamily
is from the Midwest and my sister lives in New York."
....."We'll see. Now there's
my fee. I insist on a retainer."
.....Noah cut Crestfallen off
before he could finish his terms and conditions. "I transferred
five thousand to your bank account earlier tonight. I'll pay
you another fifteen when you get me to Washington."
....."It's not hard to hack
into people's bank accounts and credit histories. Twenty grand
will clear your overdraft and the note on this car, and give
you a head start on next month's rent."
.....Noah wasn't wrong. Twenty
thousand would give him a level playing field to operate from.
But he wasn't so sure he wanted his life so accessible to the
likes of Noah.
.....Twenty thousand was far
more than he expected to charge for a simple babysitting job.
But Kleinfelder's presence added points, lots of points. Twenty
thousand didn't sound like a lot if this job turned messy.
....."I prefer cash. I like
to see things. I don't like the invisible world. You can't trust
what you can't see. Ask the emperor about his new clothes."
....."Do you want more?"
....."Is the money Kleinfelder's
....."A little of both."
....."Twenty grand's fine."
.....Noah exhaled and melted
into his seat. The accountant didn't have anything to worry about
anymore. He had put his faith in Crestfallen because Crestfallen
knew what he was doing, because he would save the day, because
he was the hero after all. The detective felt the weight of Noah's
fuck-up clinging to him.
....."Where are we going?"
....."I'm not sure if flying
is a good idea."
....."It isn't. And this
car isn't any good to me anymore. They've got a make on it and
I want them to think we're somewhere else."
.....Crestfallen dumped his Crown
Victoria in long-term parking. He bought luggage for appearances
and both of them hopped a ride on the next Bayporter bus back
to San Francisco. Once in the city, Crestfallen ditched the luggage
and bungled Noah onto the first BART to Richmond.
.....Noah checked over his shoulder.
The nearest BART passenger was at the other end of the carriage.
"How is this getting me to --"
.....Crestfallen put a finger
to his lips. "To your final destination?"
....."Don't worry about
it. Let me do the thinking. What I need you to do is keep your
mouth shut, don't draw attention to yourself, do exactly what
I tell you to do and not piss me off. Okay?"
.....Noah sighed. "I'll
take that as a yes."
.....They got off at El Cerrito
and Crestfallen hailed a cab. As they slipped into the cab, Crestfallen
relaxed. He was hopeful. Kleinfelder's boys weren't breathing
down their necks and they had no way of knowing where he was
taking Noah. They would never think to look for him in San Pablo.
.....And as a bonus-he hadn't
needed to use his gun. Not that he had it with him. It was a
problem he sought to remedy.
.....The Sikh cab driver asked
for the destination for the second time. Crestfallen gave it.
"Why are we going to a gym?"
.....Noah asked. "You look
like you need building up."
.....The cab pulled up in front
of the gym. "Wait here for me,"
Crestfallen instructed the cab driver, then tugged Noah's
arm. "C'mon, you."
.....Crestfallen signed Noah
in as a guest under a false name. It was a good place to keep
his client hidden for a few hours. The place was open twenty-four
hours with full facilities. There was plenty to keep Noah busy.
Guiding Noah into the gym, Crestfallen filled him in on the next
....."What am I going to
do here until morning?" Noah whined.
....."Knock yourself out.
Have a sauna, a workout. There's a licensed bar. I don't care."
Crestfallen checked his watch then left for reception. "I'll
be back in the morning."
....."Can't stop, I've got
a cab waiting."
.....Crestfallen told the cabbie
to take him back to the El Cerrito BART and he took BART back
into San Francisco. "
.....Leaving the BART station,
Crestfallen needed a car. He couldn't go back to SFO. Kleinfelder's
men knew what he drove and probably where he lived. He needed
a car they knew nothing about.
.....He wandered along a row
of townhouses off Geary until he found an unlocked Nissan sedan.
Slipping behind the wheel, he attacked the ignition and hotwired
.....He didn't need much for
Noah's road trip but the one thing he did want was a gun. He
owned two. One, he kept at his apartment. The other was at his
.....Crestfallen eased the Nissan
onto his street and scanned the apartment block. His apartment
lights were out, as were most people's. He continued to make
a complete circuit of the block. Everything looked okay. But
he was unsatisfied and made a sweep of the surrounding streets.
....."Shit," he mumbled.
.....The Lincoln that Crestfallen
had lost earlier was parked two streets over. He squeezed the
gas and abandoned hopes of a good night's sleep.
.....If Kleinfelder's little
helpers were at his apartment, it was an even bet that more helpers
would be in his office. He needed a gun, but he was a smart cookie,
he knew people. He could get a gun anywhere. It would be dumb
to go to his office now. Wouldn't it? But it was about time he
met the neighbors.
.....Crestfallen left the Nissan
in a red zone in front of his office block. He crossed the road
staring at the only lit office in the building - his.
....."Evening, Chuck," Crestfallen said, acknowledging the
security guard. The guard refused to make eye contact and mumbled
....."Looks like I have
....."I wouldn't know anything
about that," he replied, still managing not to exchange
.....Crestfallen could have forced
the issue, but the old guy was scared and made minimum wage.Would
Crestfallen do any differently if he were in Chuck's position?
He doubted it. He pressed a button and waited for the elevator.
.....As the doors slid shut,
Crestfallen heard, "There's two of them."
.....Stepping from the elevator,
Crestfallen searched for a makeshift weapon, but gave up on the
idea. He wouldn't make much of an adversary with a potted plant
in one hand.
.....Anyway, bad guys didn't
shoot unarmed men - punks and politicians, yes, but not bad guys.
They had ethics. Or so he hoped. Crestfallen stepped over the
broken glass that was once his door.
....."Hey, Nomar. What did
I say? A dog always returns to its vomit. You owe me fifty."
.....Unimpressed, Nomar delved
for his wallet. He looked like the kind of guy who lost a lot
of bets. A heavy-set guy, a boxer maybe, who once was muscle,
until he had it punched out of him in the ring.
.....The Philosopher rocked back
and forth in Crestfallen's chair with his feet on the desk and
a Glock pointed at Crestfallen's crotch. Unlike Nomar, the Philosopher
wasn't the muscle but the brains, attractively wrapped in Armani.
.....He snapped his fingers at
his partner. Nomar paid up and slapped a fifty in the Philosopher's
....."Hi there. My office
is currently closed, but I will be open at nine. So, if you wouldn't
.....The Philosopher smiled.
"I like your humor, Mr. Crestfallen, but Nomar doesn't.
And I don't have time for games. My employer is less than pleased."
.....Crestfallen dropped into
one of his visitor's chairs. "And who would be your employer?"
But you already knew that and you know why we're here. Where's
....."On his ark."
.....The Philosopher's Glock
spat a spearhead of flame and Crestfallen's chair bled stuffing.
There wasn't even time to flinch.
....."Wrong answer. Try
....."I'm a private investigator
and you might have seen our bumper sticker. PI's do it confidentially."
.....The Glock spat again and
seat stuffing billowed between Crestfallen's legs. It was lucky
he had them apart.
....."Mr. Crestfallen, I
said I didn't have time for humor. We can laugh and joke when
I have, but until then . . ."
.....The Philosopher gestured
with an open hand and a pained look. "Nomar, take a finger."
.....The boxer lunged with a
speed Crestfallen wouldn't have thought capable from an old bruiser.
Crestfallen sprang to his feet and gave it his best shot. Nomar
blocked the punch and launched his own. Nomar connected. A pins
and needles sensation tore through Crestfallen's body, anesthetizing
the crunching blow. But Crestfallen's mom had brought up a strong
boy and he didn't faint. His legs buckled instead. It was lucky
Nomar was there to catch him.
.....Crestfallen was just recovering
from the first blow when Nomar slammed him into his desk. Crestfallen's
chest struck the thin edge of the tabletop.He felt something
crack. He didn't think it was the desk. It had cost a lot of
money. It was no Wal-Mart bargain.
.....Nomar stretched Crestfallen's
left arm across the desk top. The Philosopher grabbed it and
held it in place. Nomar pulled out an ornate switchblade and
a four-inch blade jerked out.
.....The Philosopher brought
his head down to Crestfallen's level. "Crestfallen, are
you really going to let this happen? Are you going to allow yourself
to lose a finger, or even worse, your life, to protect a worthless
piece of shit like Noah?"
.....Crestfallen wheezed. The
Philosopher shook his head. "Do it."
.....Nomar spread Crestfallen's
fingers to make sure he wouldn't catch more than one. He positioned
the knife over Crestfallen's pinky and applied pressure.
.....Crestfallen's flesh gave
way easily under the keen blade. Blood sprang from the wound
and crept up the polished stainless steel. He bit back the pain
as the knife cut into bone.
.....The Philosopher raised his
gun hand and Nomar let up on the knife immediately.
....."I'll tell you where
you can find him."
....."Good. I thought you'd
see sense. I couldn't believe a man like you would lose his life
without a good reason. And Noah isn't a good reason."
.....Sweat trickled into Crestfallen's
eyes. He blinked it away. "I'll take you to him."
....."Of course you will,"
the Philosopher agreed. "But it's late and I'm going back
to bed. You can take Nomar after you've had some rest."
.....The Philosopher whipped
the Glock across Crestfallen's temple. Crestfallen rested.
.....Crestfallen hadn't been
moved. He still lay where he had fallen, next to his desk. Luck
was on his side.
.....He didn't know what time
it was, but it was morning. Light filtered through the windows.
It had to be early as the rest of the office floor was still
silent. He raised a leaden arm to look at his watch. Hands pointed
to numerals, but he couldn't string the numbers together. There
was a five in there somewhere, not bad going for a man in his
....."Let's go," Nomar
demanded, lounging on Crestfallen's bullet-ridden couch.
....."Can't a man rest?"
Turning on his side, Crestfallen clutched at his desk.
.....His arm disappeared behind
the desk's foot well.
....."C'mon, stop stalling."
....."Go fly a kite, I've
had a hard night." Crestfallen's hand searched.
....."Fuck you, pal."
Nomar leapt to his feet and charged towards Crestfallen like
someone had called "Seconds out!"
.....Sensible people keep firearms
in a safe, but not Crestfallen, he kept his taped to the underside
of his desk. His hand found the snub-nose .38. It slid easily
from the holster.
.....Nomar snatched fistfuls
of Crestfallen's shirt. Crestfallen jammed the .38 into Nomar's
guts. Nomar froze. Crestfallen spotted the 9mm tucked into Nomar's
pants and removed it.
....."Take your fucking
hands off me."
.....Nomar did as he was told.
....."Back up. Keep your
hands where I can see them."
.....Nomar edged towards the
.....Crestfallen got to his feet,
using both guns as props. He struggled with Nomar's 9mm in his
left hand. His blood-encrusted pinky refused to bend, but he
was a tough guy. He forced his hand to work. The scab broke and
blood drizzled from the wound. He needed stitches but there wasn't
....."Get those hands higher."
.....Nomar edged them higher.
.....Crestfallen fired both guns
simultaneously. It was a difficult task firing two guns of different
size, weight and balance. But he was good.
.....Crestfallen's bullets ripped
through both of Nomar's palms. The stigmatic clutched his hands
to him and collapsed onto the couch.
....."Hurts don't it?"
....."So, I'm told."
Crestfallen smashed his .38 into Nomar's face. "Lights out,
.....Nomar's nose disintegrated.
Blood spilled down his face, filling an unconscious mouth.
.....A man could drown left like
that, Crestfallen thought. He pocketed the guns and rifled though
his en suite bathroom for his office first aid kit. He tended
his finger and bandaged it. There wasn't a lot he could do for
the bruising on his face. Why first aid kits didn't keep a porterhouse
in them was one of life's unanswered mysteries.
.....From his floor safe, he
took a thousand dollars cash and half a box of .38 shells. What
more did a private eye need?
.....Crestfallen spun the dial
on the safe and raced out of his office. Nomar didn't budge.
Most definitely, a man could drown left like that, Crestfallen
thought. Someone would find him in time.
..... The Park 'n' Sell at Hilltop
was opening for the day when Crestfallen parked the Nissan. When
he had left his office, he found it was only six. He had rejuvenated
himself in a Denny's, seeking the restorative powers of coffee
and eggs. Sliding from the sedan, he wouldn't have said he felt
like a new man, more like an old one.
.....Harry Taub emerged from
the trailer and his salesman's face dropped when he saw it was
Crestfallen. Taub was an insurance agent turned jalopy car salesman
that Crestfallen had worked with years ago. Rather than go in
for a dealership, Taub chose to take a percentage from the sale
of high mileage cars left on his lot by private sellers. Good
business really, he didn't have an inventory to manage, only
the lease on a lot to pay for. Taub closed the trailer door.
got to stop trying to derail freight trains with your face."
....."I'll bear that in
mind. Harry, I need a car."
....."What about the Nissan?"
....."It's not a reliable
....."And not yours."
Taub headed into the vehicle-packed lot. "It's stolen, isn't
....."So, you're not interested
in the Nissan?"
.....Taub shook his head. "You
....."This isn't a library."
....."I need something for
two or three days. Good on the freeways. I'll bring it back in
one piece. I promise."
....."People give me their
cars to sell, not lend. People trust me."
....."Just the way they
did at State Farm, huh?"
....."Oh, don't try that
one on me again. You did me a favor. I didn't do time, thanks
to you. How many times do I have to pay it back?"
....."You're a son-of-a-bitch,
....."So, I'm told."
....."I'm not surprised."
Taub jerked a thumb at the Nissan. "Get that thing out of
here. Dump it at the mall across the street and let me see what
I can do."
.....Crestfallen stopped a Jeep
Grand Cherokee in front of the gym and found Noah working at
a PC. He was dressed in the gym's branded sweats and polo. He
did a double take when he saw Crestfallen.
....."What the hell happened
....."My job. C'mon, let's
.....Crestfallen relaxed; happy
to be on the freeway and even happier when they left I-80 for
I-5 and the north. It seemed that if Kleinfelder's people weren't
tailing him now, then they never would. After a long night, it
all seemed to be a letdown. But in Crestfallen's experience,
letdowns like this were few and far between. It was good to enjoy
them while they lasted.
.....As the Oregon state line
approached, Crestfallen realized he knew nothing of what Noah
had done to get himself into this position. When Crestfallen
returned to San Francisco, there would be music to face. He deserved
....."How did you wind up
working for Kleinfelder?"
.....Noah placed his Coke in
the cup holder. "I applied."
....."Sorry to disappoint
you, but there was no clandestine meeting. I didn't have gambling
debts or a compromising kink to pay for. I wanted a new job.
The headhunters got me an interview and I got the position. Simple."
....."Did you meet Kleinfelder
at the interview?"
....."Nah. No one meets
Kleinfelder. He's a corporation, a ghost. That's why he's so
successful. He's never around to get his hands dirty. I stood
more chance of meeting the Pope."
....."Who interviewed you?"
....."Someone from his human
..... Crestfallen raised an eyebrow.
....."That's his genius.
You know who you're working for, but everything is so above board,
you can't believe there's anything criminal going on."
.....Crestfallen found it hard
to believe that Kleinfelder's organization was so civilized.
He couldn't imagine all these people taking everything at face
value. But then again, people believed in governments in the
same way. Nobody panicked at the ticking bomb when someone hung
a tag off it saying, "Don't worry, it's not really a bomb."
People were strange creatures. "Did you meet Kleinfelder
....."No. He never got involved.
I still don't know what he looks like after five years of service.
He made his presence felt through his intermediaries. That was
.....Crestfallen thought of the
Philosopher and nodded.
....."So, when and why?"
....."Skimming you mean?"
....."Three years ago. It
was very simple to do, like I told you. Accounting and software
allow you to hide a host of sins and unless you understand it,
you would never know. Goddamn viruses." Noah fell silent
for a moment. "As to why, I don't know. I didn't need the
money. My salary was exceptional. Life was good. I suppose I
did it because I could. And what harm was I doing? Kleinfelder
was a crook. I was stealing from a thief. It didn't count. I
suppose you think I'm an idiot?"
.....Crestfallen shook his head.
"I don't judge. People do whatever drives them. Sometimes
it works, sometimes it doesn't. In your case it didn't. I'm a
simple repairman. I do what I can to fix things."
.....Noah smiled at Crestfallen's
words and settled into his seat, comforted by being in his hands.
Crestfallen didn't have the heart to say he couldn't fix everything
given to him.
.....Crestfallen noted the road
sign. Seattle was twenty miles away. They had made reasonable
time from San Francisco, twenty hours, and without molestation.
The only casualty was his thousand dollars. Hundreds dwindled
on gas and food from his expenses pot. He used only cash. He
didn't want to be traced, which was the reason why they crashed
in the Jeep and not in a motel. He left no trail - his Wild West
ancestors would have been proud.
....."Stop here," Noah
announced. "Let me off here for a minute."
....."Is this the drop off?"
....."No, but I need to
....."It'll only take a
.....Crestfallen eased the Jeep
to the roadside. Noah hopped out and ducked into a cyber café.
Ten minutes later, he returned with two coffees.
....."Yeah. And, you've
....."More computer trickery?"
.....Noah smiled smugly.
....."I like cash."
....."I know. Pull into
the next Washington Mutual you see."
.....Crestfallen spotted a bank
on the outskirts of Seattle. He did as instructed. Noah returned
with fifteen grand in cash. Three stacks of hundreds bound with
paper bands. Noah slipped the money inside the glove compartment."
You did it. You got me here in one piece."
.....Crestfallen said nothing.
His job wasn't complete. Things could still go wrong.
....."This is where I want
you to drop me."
.....Noah rattled off a list
of directions that led them through the city. Safeco Park was
way behind and the Space Needle dominated their locale. Crestfallen
stopped on a busy street of mixed residential and business use.
....."Yep. For now, anyway."
Noah offered a hand. "Thanks for all your help. You earned
....."You'd better get going."
.....Noah nodded. He hopped out
and trotted across the road, making sure to avoid the cross traffic.
He pressed the buzzer to a four-story apartment block wedged
between a 7-Eleven and a liquor store. He spoke into a speaker
.....Crestfallen thought the
picture didn't fit. Middle class accountants didn't hang out
on skid row. He wondered whom Noah knew. But it was better he
didn't. He didn't need to know who Noah's friends were. As long
as they got him to safety, what did it matter? "
.....A graying man in his forties
opened the apartment door. He offered a hand to Noah and he took
it. He slipped inside and the gray-haired man closed the door
while checking for watching strangers.
.....Crestfallen gunned the engine
and selected drive. His job was done.
.....The passenger door whipped
open and the Philosopher slipped into the seat next to Crestfallen.
He had brought a familiar friend. The Glock found a home against
Crestfallen's kidneys. It was an uncomfortable fit but everyone
would get along.
....."Tag, you're it,"
.....Crestfallen raised his hands.
....."No, keep 'em on the
wheel. But let's hang for awhile." The Philosopher switched
off the engine.
Crestfallen admitted. "I didn't tag any of your boys on
the way up."
.....The Philosopher laughed.
"We didn't have to follow.We knew he was coming here. Noah
underestimated us. He didn't think we'd look further than his
resume. Mr. Kleinfelder makes it his business to know everything
....."They say information
....."And they're right.
Mr. Kleinfelder thrives on it."
....."A lot worse since
you last saw him. I liked the hands thing. You a religious man,
....."No. Just makes it
hard to dial a phone and shoot a gun."
.....The Philosopher nodded appreciatively.
"Has he paid you?"
....."In the glove box."
.....The Philosopher pocketed
the fifteen thousand. "Not bad for a couple days work."
....."What's to happen to
....."Nothing. For now.
We've got our money back. You were only doing a job. Mr. Kleinfelder
understands that. But we may call on you again."
....."Matters are being
.....The Philosopher opened the
door and slid out while maintaining his aim.
....."Goodbye, Mr. Kleinfelder."
.....The Philosopher laughed.
He holstered the Glock and leaned through the open passenger
door. "Is that what you think?"
....."A wild pitch then?"
....."Enough to walk me.
You meet Mr. Kleinfelder when it's too late. Certain business
he likes to take care of himself."
.....Crestfallen glanced at the
apartment block. The grayhaired man who had answered the door.
He was Kleinfelder. Crestfallen murmured his name.
....."You've got it, rookie.
Later, friend." The Philosopher banged on the roof and headed
towards the Space Needle.
.....Crestfallen stared at the
apartment entrance. He knew some people he could help and some
people he could only help so much. Noah fell into the latter
category. And continued to fall. He had done all that he could
for the accountant.
.....Gunning the engine, some
would have said the Cherokee backfired. But Crestfallen knew
otherwise. The backfire had come from the apartments.
Copyright (c) 2003 by Simon Wood
Simon Wood is
a California transplant from England. He shares his world with
Julie (his American wife), Royston (a longhaired dachshund) and
Streetcar (a cat)--all rescued from the barbaric Californian
streets. In the last four years, he's had nearly ninety stories
published. His debut novel, the suspense-thriller, Accidents
Waiting To Happen, received high praise from reviewers. His
current book is the short story collection, Dragged Into Darkness,
from Medium Rare Books. Readers are welcome to visit his
Like what you've read? Fedora II,
edited by Michael Bracken, is available now. And head here for
more Thrilling Detective Fiction!
Please direct further comments and
inquiries about submissions to the fiction
editor, or check out this page.
"And I'll tell you right out that I'm a
man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk."
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