Read The Reapers: A Thriller-CP-7 Online

Authors: John Connolly

Tags: #Mystery & Detective - General, #Irish Novel And Short Story, #Assassins, #Mystery & Detective, #Fiction - Espionage, #General, #Suspense, #Murderers, #Thrillers, #Suspense fiction, #Fiction, #thriller

The Reapers: A Thriller-CP-7 (3 page)

BOOK: The Reapers: A Thriller-CP-7
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“An acquaintance.”

“Well, guess he’s gone to a better place now.”

The visitor looked around the little office. Beyond the glass, two men in masks and coveralls were cleaning pipes and tools. He wrinkled his nose as the stink reached him.

“Hard to believe,” said the visitor.

“Ain’t it though. So, what can I do for you?”

“You unclog drains?”

“That’s right.”

“So if you know how to unclog them, then you must know how to clog them as well.”

Jerry Marley looked momentarily puzzled, and then anger replaced puzzlement. He stood up.

“You get the hell out of here before I call the cops. This is a business, dammit. I got no time for people trying to cause other people trouble.”

“I hear your brother wasn’t so particular about who he worked with.”

“Hey, you keep your mouth shut about my brother.”

“I don’t mean that in a bad way. It was one of the things I liked about him. It made him useful.”

“I don’t give a shit. Get out of here, you—”

“Maybe I should introduce myself,” said the visitor. “My name is Angel.”

“I don’t give a good goddamn what—” Marley stopped talking as he realized that he did, in fact, give a good goddamn. He sat down again.

“I guess Earl might have mentioned me.”

Marley nodded. He looked a little paler than before. “You, and another fella.”

“Oh, he’s around somewhere. He’s—” Angel searched for the right word. “—cleaner than I am. No offense meant, but his clothes cost more than mine. The smell, y’know, it gets in the fabric.”

“I know,” said Marley. He began to babble, but couldn’t stop himself. “I don’t notice it so much no more. My wife, she makes me take my clothes off in the garage before I come in the house. Have to shower straightaway. Even then, she says she can still smell it on me.”

“Women,” said Angel. “They’re sensitive like that.”

There was a brief silence. It was almost companionable, except that Jerry Marley’s desire for a cigarette had suddenly increased beyond the capacity of any mortal man to resist.

“So,” said Angel. “About those drains…”

Marley raised a hand to stop him. “Mind if I smoke?” he asked.

“I thought you were giving up,” said Angel.

“So did I.”

Angel shrugged. “I guess it must be a stressful job.”

“Sometimes,” said Marley.

“Well, I don’t want to add to it.”

“God forbid.”

“But I do need a favor, and I’ll do you a favor in return.”

“Right. And what would that be?”

“Well, if you do me my favor, I won’t come back again.”

Jerry Marley thought about it for less than half a second.

“That seems fair,” he said.

For a moment, Angel looked a little sad. He was hurt that everyone seemed to leap at that deal when it was offered.

Marley seemed to guess what he was thinking. “Nothing personal,” he added, apologetically.

“No,” said Angel, and Marley got the sense that the visitor was thinking of something else entirely. “It never is.”

The two men who entered the Priest’s den a week later were not what he had expected, but then the Priest had learned that nothing was ever quite as he might have expected it to be. The first was a black man dressed in a gray suit that looked as if it was being worn for the first time. His black patent leather shoes shone brightly, and a black silk tie was knotted perfectly at the collar of his spotlessly white shirt. He was clean shaven and exuded a faint scent of cloves and incense that was particularly appealing to the Priest under his current, excrementally tainted, circumstances.

Behind him was a smaller man, possibly of Hispanic origin, wearing an amiable smile that briefly distracted from the fact that his clothes had seen better days: no-name denims, last year’s sneakers, and a padded jacket that was obviously of good quality but was more suited to someone two decades younger and two sizes larger.

“They’re clean,” said Vassily, once the two men had submitted, with apparent good grace, to a frisking. Vassily was deceptively compact and his features were gentle and delicate. He moved with speed and grace, and was one of the Priest’s most trusted acolytes, another Ukrainian with brains and ambition, although not so much ambition that it might pose a threat to his employer. The Priest gestured at a pair of chairs facing him across the table. The two men sat.

“Would you like a drink?” he asked them.

“Nothing for me,” said the black man.

“I’ll have a soda,” said the other. “Coke. Make sure the glass isn’t dirty.”

The smile never left his face. He looked over his shoulder at the bartender and winked. The bartender merely scowled.

“Now, what can I do for you?” asked the Priest.

“It’s more a matter of what we can do for you,” said the small man. The Priest shrugged. “Cleaning, maybe? Selling door-to-door?”

There was an appreciative laugh from his soldiers. There were three of them in all, plus the bartender. Two were seated at the bar, the ubiquitous coffee cups before them. Vassily was behind the men and to their right. The Priest thought that he looked uneasy. But then, Vassily always looked uneasy. He was a pessimist, or perhaps a realist; the Priest was never entirely sure which. He supposed that it was all a matter of perspective.

The small man’s grin faded slightly.

“We’re here about the paper.”

“Paper? Are you looking for a route?”

There was more laughter.

“The paper on the detective, Parker. We hear you want him taken out. We’d prefer it if that wasn’t the case.”

The laughter stopped. The Priest had been informed that two men wanted to discuss the detective with him, so this opening gambit was not unexpected. Usually, the Priest would have left such discussions to Vassily, but this was not the usual situation, and these, he knew, were not usual men. He had been told that they merited a degree of respect, but this was the Priest’s place, and he enjoyed goading them. He respected those who respected him, and the mere fact of the men’s presence in his club irritated him. They were not pleading for the detective’s life; they were trying to tell him how to run his business.

The bartender placed a Coke in front of the small man. He sipped it and scowled.

“It’s warm,” he said.

“Give him some ice,” said the Priest.

The bartender nodded. One of the men seated at the bar leaned over and filled an empty glass with ice by scooping it through the ice bucket. He handed it to the bartender. The bartender dipped his fingers into the glass, retrieved two cubes, and dropped them into the Coke. The liquid splashed onto the small man’s jeans.

“Hey,” he said. “That’s rude, man. And seriously fucking unhygienic, even in a place that smells as bad as this one.”

“We know who you are,” said the Priest.

“Excuse me?”

“I said, ‘We know who you are.’”

“What does that mean?”

The priest pointed at the small untidy man. “You are Angel.” The finger moved slightly to the left. “And you are named Louis. Your reputation precedes you, as I believe people say under these circumstances.”

“Should we be flattered?”

“I think so.”

Angel looked pleased. Now Louis spoke for the first time.

“You need to burn the paper,” he said.

“Why would that be?” asked the Priest.

“The detective is off-limits.”

“By whose authority?”

“Mine. Ours. Other people’s.”

“What other people?”

“If I said I didn’t know, and you didn’t want to know, would you believe me?”

“Possibly,” said the Priest. “But he’s caused me a lot of trouble. A message has to be sent.”

“We were up there, too. You going to put a paper out on us?”

The Priest wagged his finger. “Now you are off-limits. We’re all professionals. We know how these things work.”

“Do we? I don’t think we’re in the same business.”

“You flatter yourself.”

“I’m flattering somebody.”

If the Priest was offended, he didn’t show it. He was, though, surprised at the men’s willingness to antagonize him in turn when they were unarmed. He considered it both arrogant and unmannerly.

“There’s nothing to discuss. There is no paper on the detective.”

“What does that mean?”

“I cut my own lawn. I shine my own shoes. I don’t send out for strangers to do what I can take care of for myself.”

“That puts us at odds.”

“Only if you let it.” The Priest leaned forward. “Is that what you want?”

“We just want a quiet life.”

The Priest laughed. “I think it would bore you. I know it would bore me.” His fingers moved the photographs on the table, rearranging them.

“Friends of yours?” said Louis.

“Police.”

“You go after the detective, and you’re going to create more problems for yourself with them as well as us. They can be persistent. You don’t need to give them any more reasons to breathe down your neck.”

“So you want me to let the detective slide?” said the Priest. “You’re concerned for me, concerned for my business, concerned about the police.”

“That’s right,” said Louis. “We’re concerned citizens.”

“And what is the percentage for me?”

“We go away.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

The Priest’s shoulders sagged theatrically. “Okay, then. Sure. For you, I let him slide.”

Louis didn’t move. Beside him, Angel grew tense.

“Just like that,” said Louis.

“Just like that. I don’t want trouble from men of your, uh, caliber. Maybe somewhere down the road, you might do me a favor in return.”

“I don’t think so, but it’s a nice thought.”

“So, you want a drink now?”

“No,” said Louis. “I don’t want a drink.”

“Well, if that’s the case, our discussions are over.” The Priest leaned back in his seat and folded his hands over his small belly. As he did so, he raised the little finger of his left hand slightly. Behind Angel and Louis, Vassily’s hand reached behind his back for the gun tucked into his belt. The two men at the bar stood, also reaching for their weapons.

“I told you he wouldn’t agree,” said Angel to Louis. “Even if he said so, he wouldn’t agree.”

Louis shot him a look of disdain. He picked up Angel’s glass of soda, seemed about to take a sip from it, then reconsidered.

“You know what you are?” he said. “You a Monday morning quarterback.”

And as he spoke, he moved. It was done with such fluidity, such grace, that Vassily, had he lived long enough, might almost have admired it. Louis’s hand slid beneath the table as he rose, removing the gun that had been concealed beneath it earlier by the man who had accompanied the cleaning crew. In the same movement, his other hand buried the glass in Vassily’s face. By then, Vassily had his own gun drawn, but it was too late for him. The first two bullets took him in the chest, but Louis caught him before he fell, shielding himself with the body as he fired upon the men at the bar. One managed to get off a shot, but it impacted harmlessly upon the woodwork above Louis’s head. Barely seconds later, only four men remained alive in the room: the Priest, the bartender, and the two men who would soon kill them both. The Priest had not moved. The second gun that had been concealed beneath the table was now in Angel’s hand, and it was pointing directly at the Priest. Angel had remained motionless while the killing went on behind him. He trusted his partner. He trusted him as he loved him, which was completely.

“All of this for a private detective,” said the Priest.

“He’s a friend,” said Angel. “And it’s not just about him.”

“Then what?” The Priest spoke calmly. “Whatever it is, we can reach an accommodation. You have made your point. Your friend is safe.”

“You expect us to believe that? Frankly, you don’t seem like the forgiving type.”

“You know what type I am? The type that wants to live.”

Angel considered this. “It’s good to have an ambition,” he said. “That one seems kind of narrow, though.”

“It encompasses a great deal.”

“I guess so.”

“And as for what happened here, well, if you show me mercy, then mercy will be shown to you.”

“I don’t think so,” said Angel. “I saw what was done to those children you farmed out. I know what was done to them. I don’t think you’re due mercy.”

“It was business,” said the Priest. “It was nothing personal.”

“It’s funny,” said Angel, “I hear that a lot.” He raised the gun, drawing a bead slowly upward from the Priest’s belly, passing his heart, his throat, before stopping at his face. “Well, this isn’t business. This is personal.”

He shot the Priest once in the head, then stood. Louis was staring down the barrel of his gun at the bartender, who was flat on the floor, his hands spread wide.

“Get up,” said Louis.

The bartender started to rise and Louis shot him, watching impassively as he folded in upon himself and lay still on the filthy carpet. Angel stared at his partner.

“Why?” he asked.

“No witnesses, not today.”

Louis moved swiftly to the door. Angel followed. He opened the door, glanced quickly outside, then nodded at Louis. Together, they ran for the Oldsmobile parked across the street.

“And?” asked Angel, as he got into the passenger seat and Louis climbed behind the wheel.

“You think he knew what went on there, how his boss made his money?”

“I guess.”

“Then he should have found a job someplace else.”

The car pulled away from the curb. The doors above the club opened and two men emerged with guns in their hands. They were about to fire when the Oldsmobile made a hard left and disappeared from view.

“Will it come back on us?”

“He got above himself. He attracted attention. His days were numbered. We just accelerated the inevitable.”

“You sure of that?”

“We walk on this one. We did some people a favor back there, and not just Parker. A problem was solved, and they got to keep their hands clean.”

“And they’ll go back to running kids into the country.”

“That’s a problem for another time.”

“Tell me that we’ll deal with it, that we won’t walk away.”

“I promise,” said Louis. “We’ll do what we can down the line.”

BOOK: The Reapers: A Thriller-CP-7
7.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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