Authors: Owen Laukkanen,David Siddall,CS DeWildt,Eric Beetner,Joseph Rubas,Liam Sweeny,Scott Adlerberg
Before it followed him around the corner, he ducked down behind a parked car. As it passed he clocked the occupants. The driver, older and more experienced, swivelled his head left and right, watching for any movement that might give him away. In the passenger seat, a young Turk. Keen and ready for action, his shaved, bullet-shaped head jutted forward, eyes bulging in the thrill of the chase.
Ricky let it pass then ran to the estate where an open door or a friendly face might offer salvation. But doors had closed and any friendly face had turned away to watch the action from an upstairs window. Ricky’s heart beat wildly. He had dodged one patrol but there would be others. Matrix, the armed response unit, would be on their way and soon the estate would be crawling with police. He had to get off the street. In front of him was a six-foot wooden fence leading to the back gardens. No choice. Ricky tied a knot in the bag, threw it over, then heaved himself up, scrambled after it. He landed heavily, felt something in his ankle give and went down in a heap. More sirens echoed in the distance. Sitting up, he winced and felt his ankle. Sore, but manageable. For a moment the police would be blind but that wouldn’t last long. He had to go before they threw a blanket over the area and cut off every avenue of escape. If he could make his way through the estate and across the park, he could lose himself in the back streets. And Capo would be there. Didn’t he say if it went tits up to go to the second rendezvous point? Ricky frowned. That seemed so long ago now.
Whatever, he had no time to think. Gathering himself he lunged for the first fence and pulled himself over. Using the gardens like stepping stones, Ricky jumped each wooden fence in succession. And as he did, he scanned each and every window for the face that might give him away. He was lucky, only once was he seen. But the old girl who had a mouthful of pegs and her hands full of linen, just stared at him like he was some kind of apparition. By the time she thought and considered her options he was gone.
Ricky paused. He had made it to the last house on the estate. Beyond the gate was the access road that curled round and joined the through route. If he could cross it, gain entry to the private houses lining the main road, he had a chance.
Ricky started. Bunch of kids, six or seven at most, watched from the side of the house. Any second now, he knew one was going to start bawling. Ricky put on a big smile and held a finger to his lips. Two of the kids ran. Crouched down behind a rose bush, he probably looked like Jack the Ripper. And he felt like shit. Ricky pulled down his hood, wiped his face. One kid still stood there. He forced another smile. “Hey mate,” he said. “Are the bizzies out there?”
The boy looked at him. He was blond and blue eyed with a mass of curls. A beautiful kid, an angelic-looking kid, and he held out a hand for his cut of the take.
“Jesus.” Ricky shook his head. Even the kids were on the fucking make. He untied the knot in the bag and handed the kid a £10 note.
The boy turned it in his hand but didn’t move. Ricky felt like giving him a slap. Instead he slipped his hand back in the bag and produced another £10 note. The boy smiled, went to take it but Ricky was too quick and snatched it away.
“Do I look soft? You get this when you come back.”
The boy narrowed his eyes, wondered if Ricky was legit. Finally satisfied, he ran out of view. A few seconds later he came back and shook his head. Ricky’s heart leapt. A chance. Cash bag stuffed under his jacket, gun weighing him down like an anchor, he crawled out of the undergrowth and went to slip away. The kid tugged on his jacket. Ricky looked down.
“This what you want?” He waved the £10 note at the kid then bent low so he was right in the boy’s face. “Well tough fucking luck,” he said and pushed past to walk the path as if he had been visiting friends.
Checking left and right he crossed the road. A patrol car flashed past at the end of the street just as the kid begin to wail. Running into the front drive of the house opposite he ducked down behind the bins. One more garden, one more road, and then the park. And even if Capo wasn’t there he could lose himself in a tangle of back streets the police could never hope to lock down. A screech of tyres checked his dreams. He turned. Spinning blue lights filled his vision. A patrol car slid to a halt in the gutter. It was the older cop and the young Turk. Ricky had just time to see the side door open and his bullet-shaped head appear before he ran and leapt the wooden fence.
Dropping into the front, he heard the guy shout and stumble. But Ricky had no time to gloat. In his haste to clear the fence, he landed on his bad ankle. Pain shot up his calf. He yelped but kept moving, hobbled through the gate, and dodged the cars on the road. Ricky ran for the park. Behind, banging his fist on the fence in frustration and shouting at him to ‘Stop’ and that he was ‘a cunt’, was the red-faced cop. Like that was going to work. Ricky turned his head just in time to see him drop out of sight. There would be a minute, vital seconds while he joined his buddy in the car and made the turn out of the estate.
Ricky kept to the edge of the park. He was hurting, but if he could make it across this open space, he was almost home. And every second, he put distance between himself and the chase. Exhausted, he walked the last few metres. Three stone steps by the old Belvedere pub led onto Blackburn Street. He calmed himself. The sound of pursuit had faded. Sirens still wailed in the distance and no doubt the pack of patrol cars were circling the estate like wolves scenting blood. But here was an oasis of calm. It wouldn’t last. The cop with the shaven head had seen where he was going and soon a flood of vehicles would follow.
But now Ricky had options. This was home, a warren of interlocking streets where a rat could go to ground and never be found. He set off, felt his leg begin to stiffen as he turned onto Griton Street but didn’t care. Capo’s car sat at the kerb only a hundred metres away.
He had done it: held up the bookie’s, made off with the cash, and gotten away with it. Tricia was right—he was the
Ricky had taken no more than two steps when he froze. Something inside him, the feral sense of the thief perhaps, made him stop and listen. He cocked his head. In the distance he could hear a screech of tyres and a driver gunning the engine as he raced through the gears. And then it came.
The driver rounded the corner too fast and hit the brakes hard—so hard the squad car dipped, fishtailing side to side, squealing on the tarmac. It slid to a stop sideways, blocking the road behind him. He turned to run and saw a cop dart from the side-street in front of him. It was the bullet-headed Turk, the twat who had dogged him from the very start. He was panting, breathing heavy, but there was a gleam in his eye and a grin on his face.
Ricky groaned, clutched his head and squeezed. No way, no way was he going to fall at the last. He gritted his teeth. As the Jack went for his Taser, Ricky reached for the pistol and waved it like he knew what he was doing. Yet still the cop came, still he had but one thing on his mind: to make the arrest and be the toast of the nick.
Ricky levelled the pistol, cocked the hammer like he’d seen in so many films and pointed it at the bizzie’s head. Surely that would make him think? Behind the cop’s shoulder, he saw Capo. He was out of the car, eyes wide in his thin face, waving and shouting.
But Ricky had gone too far to back down.
All he wanted was to frighten him, all he wanted was time to slip by and escape. The sound of a blank was no different from the real thing. That’s what Capo had said. And even if it wasn’t, it would be enough to put the shits up the cunt. Ricky had never fired a gun, never before wanted to. He closed his eyes even as he pulled the trigger.
The noise was astounding. His eyes sprang open as the shock wave reverberated through his head and rang in his ears. When he looked up, the bizzie’s face was surrounded by a fine red mist. As it cleared, Ricky saw the hole. The hollow point .22 had created a circle of raw meat where his mouth and nose had been. The cop stood for a few seconds then sank to his knees. Finally, he fell face forward on the hard surface of the road.
Ricky looked at the gun in his hand, at the smoking barrel, at the chamber that contained real bullets. Behind him the cop was out of the car, eyes blank and staring at something he couldn’t believe. Capo had turned away and was climbing into the car. Ricky stared. Through the rear windscreen, he could see Tricia. For a moment she held his gaze, then her long black lashes flashed, and she turned her head.
At last the ringing in Ricky’s ears cleared. Beneath a sky of gunmetal grey, the shot’s echo still lingered. The cop lay in the road and didn’t move. Capo’s car roared into life. Ricky’s world collapsed. He waved, wanted Capo to stop. He needed him, needed him more than ever. Capo didn’t look back. He burnt rubber and screeched from the kerb.
Ricky looked again at the gun. Acid burned his throat, and as he turned aside to vomit, he tossed it into the gutter. And as he retched, the truth pulsed from his guts in nauseating spasms of green bile. And knowing didn’t make it any easier. There was only one fake on the street today.
And the truth wasn’t any comfort. No comfort at all.
is a Liverpool writer who draws inspiration from where he lives and works. He is published in:
Noir Nation, Out of the Gutter, eNoir Fiction, Mystericale-e, Supernatural Tales, Albedo One;
in the anthologies
Dark Visions 2
Our Haunted World;
and has an e-novella to be published shortly by Full Dark City Press.
That Time I Worked for the Feds in Mississippi
By Joseph Rubas
My Life as a Mobster
by Tommy Merlino)
HE SUMMER OF
1963 was a hot one in Brooklyn. From the end of June to the beginning of August, the entire Northeast was held in the grip of a vicious heat wave unlike anything ever before experienced.
While NYC wilted and wished for death, I was doing great. In fact, I had never been better. The DA dropped the murder charges against me, I’d been inducted into the family, and I was pulling in more than fifteen thousand a week. Life was sweet.
Then I got busted in Newark with a trunk full of coke. It was August 2.
It’s funny, when you think about it. At breakfast, I was on top of the world. By dinner, I was sitting in a cell with twenty other guys. It’s kinda metaphorical for the uncertainty of life—no matter what you think, expect, or plan for, things can change in the blink of an eye.
So, anyway, there I was, wedged in-between a nigger and a stinky drunk, looking at fifty years in prison, when one of the guards opened the door and called me in.
I thought they were gonna ask me some questions about the family or something, especially when they led me into an interrogation room and left me with a couple of suits.
“Mr. Merlino, I’m agent Caswell and this is agent Stone. We’re with the FBI.”
Caswell was a small, narrow squirt with strawberry blond hair. Stone, on the other hand, was built like a linebacker and had a crew cut. Caswell sat on the table, all casual and friendly, while Stone stood by the door with his arms crossed.
“I know what you guys want,” I said, “and I’m not giving it.”
Caswell chuckled. “You think we want you to rat out the Caramaza Family, huh?” His tone was pitying, like he thought I was a moron.
“Yeah. Isn’t that how it works? You arrest me and then offer me a plea bargain or something?”
“Most of the times, but this is a…special occasion.”
Caswell nodded. “It is. That guy you were gonna sell to. He’s one of ours. We had him set this whole thing up just so we could talk.”
“What, you couldn’t just come to my house?”
Caswell’s eyes twinkled. “This way we have an advantage.”
“Ah. I see.”
“We’re going to offer you a deal, Mr. Merlino. You can either do something for us, or go to jail.”
“You tell me what you want done, and I’ll see if it’s worth it.”
Caswell smiled. “I’m sure you may have heard about those kids in Mississippi. The ones that went missing.”
“Yeah, I may have heard something like that.” In fact, I knew all about it. How the hell couldn’t you? It was on the news every day. I’d heard about it, but I didn’t know all the particulars. I knew that three college kids, two whites and one Negro, were working for some kind of civil rights organization, trying to register poor Delta niggers to vote. On June 28, they were due in Jackson, but never showed. People figured the KKK had something to do with it.
“We’re stumped,” Caswell said, “and we were hoping maybe a guy like you could help us out, go down there and…get tough, use resources that we can’t. If you know what I mean.”
“Why can’t you just do it?”
“Because we aren’t scumbags like you,” Stone grumbled.
“Fuck this,” I said and stood. “I’m done. You two fags can take your good cop, bad cop routine and shove it up your ass.”
“Alright,” Caswell said and nodded, “be my guest. Enjoy the next thirty years of your life.”
That stopped me. In that moment, I had a decision to make. Do what these jerkoffs wanted, or rot in jail.
I sighed. “Alright.”