I shook my head, my hands raking up through my hair. “Shit, Lois, you knew about that? I never talked about it.”
“I knew all of your father’s jobs. I had to take care of the details for him. Who do you think booked flights, had rentals ready, got hotel rooms. Your father most certainly didn’t. All he knew how to do well was what he was paid to do: get rid of evidence, do away with those who needed to be dealt with.”
I sighed looking up at her, “You never said anything before.”
She shrugged, “Why should I? It never came up before. I figured you knew considering how I handle things for you now.”
I didn’t know how to respond to that. She did handle everything. I don’t remember the last time I booked a flight, made a reservation, or went looking for anything. Everything I ever needed was taken care of almost before I even knew it needed to be done. And I never questioned things, until now.
“Okay, Lois, you’re right, once again,” I stood up and walked back to the closet. “Could I get a little privacy so I can get ready for my meeting?”
“Absolutely, Mr. Malone, I’ll see you in ten minutes to go over what you need to know.”
Meetings went on all morning long keeping me busy. Advertisement was set, banners being printed as we speak. T-shirts, ball caps, stuffed horses with each of their individual names and numbers printed on their saddles were being mass produced. Things like that sold fast and made tons of money for the track.
I didn’t think of her again until I met up with Frank at lunch. He was the one who had set all this up, I figured he’d be the best bet to find out where they came from.
“So, d’you see the final horse I got for Saturday?” he asked innocently, his nasally Boston drawl not hidden one bit, as we waited for our lunch to arrive.
“Saw the feed today,” I stated.
“And,” he fished.
“You know what I want to know. I need to know where you found them.”
“A contact of mine.”
I took a deep breath, “You know that’s not good enough, Frankie. I need to know, is your contact a man or a woman?”
“Look, Vic, I can’t give you any info, but I know the horse is all good. I got the paperwork, its pedigreed and shit,” he proceeded to pull out an inch thick manila folder. “So, that’s the one we’ll use, yea?”
My phone vibrated in my pocket, “You know I hate it when you’re all secretive and shit, makes me nervous. Besides, I gotta look this over before I know if we’re good,” I told Frank and answered the call. “Hello.”
I listened for a moment. “Understood,” I replied and hung up.
Our lunch arrived and I stood up.
“Gotta go now?” Frank asked as the plates were set down on the table. “But the food just got here.”
I removed a hundred dollar bill from my pocket and sat it on the table, “Sorry, Frank. And I’ll need you to go back to the stables for a two-o’clock meeting with Tidwell. We need to finalize everything for Saturday & Sunday.”
“You got it. Consider it handled.”
I nodded at him before leaving. The best thing about Frank was his loyalty and the fact that I could count on him whenever I needed.
I reached the address I had written down screeching my black Audi R8 to a stop. I glanced out the passenger window to the one-story nineteen fifties style house. Yellow paint was peeling off the eves, the grass was patchy some spots brown from lack of water. Overgrown bushes partially hid the raised porch which was a good thing considering the screen door was barely hanging on. Weeds freely protruding from the cracks of the driveway; for sale sign wavered in the breeze, taunting prospective buyers to take a chance and realize it’s potential.
Potential? In this shit-hole called suburbia? Just picture that god-damned annoying male enhancement commercial and you’ll know exactly what kind of hell I’m talking about.
I grabbed the backpack I had sitting in the seat next to me, thanks to Lois it had been ready and waiting for me at the office. I shook my head and smiled, I really don’t know what I’d do without her.
Placing a ball cap on my head, brim forward, I pulled it down slightly as I got out of the car. Glancing up and down the road as I stood, I noticed that there wasn’t a soul in sight. Not even a parked car in the street. It was always kind of odd when I came through neighborhoods on a week day when the drones were off at work. Still, I couldn’t take the wayward chance that some nosy fucking housewife might be looking out a window trying to catch the latest neighborhood gossip.
Throwing the backpack over my shoulder, I walked up the driveway of the house heading straight into the backyard. Directly to the back of the property was what used to be a six-foot chain link fence that separated this residence from an empty field. It was sagging now and I easily scaled it and turned to the left carefully counting the houses as I passed. I reached house number twenty-three and climbed over the fencing and walked up to the back door.
I knocked twice on the glass window and a man, probably in his thirties answered the door, a flimsy chain keeping it from opening more than a few inches. I stifled a laugh. Did he really think that the people he was trying to get away from would bother to knock? Or be deterred by the archaic security device?
His eyes were wide and they darted back and forth over my shoulder. Satisfied I was alone, he moved aside, removing the chain for me to enter quickly; shutting, locking it and replacing the chain as I walked past. Eyeing one last time through the curtain, he turned to follow me through the kitchen to the dining room table.
“You’re flight has been booked,” I informed him as I sat my backpack on the rectangular butcher block dining room table pulling out a laptop, photo printer and manila envelope. Opening the envelope I pulled out a pair of gloves and put them on. Reaching back into the backpack I withdrew and expanded a black felt backdrop attached to a stand.
“Stand here, and try not to look so frightened,” I ordered.
He walked over standing right where I had instructed. After snapping the picture, I tossed him another shirt.
“Go put that on and go shave or something.”
He stared at me for a moment, his hand reaching up rubbing over the stubble on his jaw. Stupid fucker wasn’t going to listen then I wasn’t going to waste my time. Neither one of us had the time for his hesitation. I wasn’t here because I wanted to be, I was here because I was asked to be.
He turned and left the room as my mouth opened to verbalize my thoughts. He was lucky I heard him start the water.
I plugged the camera into the laptop and downloaded the picture I had taken. It printed quickly and I carefully cut it down to size. Gently placing the picture in the square box on the blank driver’s license and making sure it was sufficiently in place, I peeled off the backing of the laminate placing it carefully over the top. Now it looked legitimate having the state seal hologram plastered all over the front of it.
“How’s this,” he asked returning to the room.
I paused from my work and looked over at him. He’d not only shaved his face but he had slicked his blond hair down and to the side.
“That’ll work,” I simply said gesturing for him to stand in position again to snap the final picture.
Finishing up with both sets of identification I handed him his new driver’s license and passport. He looked them over and seemed satisfied.
“Now, just one more thing,” I said pulling out a small black device. “I need your hands.”
He looked at me skeptically and stuttered, “Wha, wha- why? Wha, wha- what- what is that?”
“Look,” I sighed allowing every bit of annoyance I was feeling to show through. “I thought you wanted my help. But, it’s obvious that you would rather those,” I stopped short of saying how I really felt. “Those People that are looking for you to actually find you. So, why don’t I just leave now since that’s what you want and I’ll just take my work with me? I don’t do shit half-assed. I don’t get fucking questioned. You don’t like what I’m doing then you go figure this shit out for yourself!”
My Father had tried to teach me that you didn’t lose your temper with the client. You didn’t disrespect them with foul language when you were in their house. They were frightened and half the time didn’t know if what they were choosing to do was the right way to follow through with things. They were counting on me to steer them in the right direction, to be the voice of reason because right now, their thoughts were clouded with the speculation of what would happen to them with either of their choices. I was supposed to reassure them that all would be fine if they just calmed down, listened and did as I instructed.
But sometimes they didn’t listen. Sometimes they didn’t pay any attention until they realized that if they didn’t do what I was telling them to, they would be figuring all this out on their own. The choice was simple, you either wanted my help or you didn’t. To prove my point I started gathering my things and putting them back into the back pack. I reached for the ID in his hands and panic flooded his face.
“Here,” he said placing his shaky hand out to me. “Here, just … just do what you have to do.”
Shaking my head I grabbed his hand and explained to him what to do. I only hoped he was paying attention.
“Now, forget about who you were. He doesn’t exist anymore, you understand? You’d better be paying attention to what I’m telling you because one wrong move on your part will ruin everything I’ve done here for you today.”
I paused and looked at his face, he nodded vigorously.
I worked each one of his fingers across the scanner as I continued, “You’re going to take the cab that will be outside shortly. It will take you to the airport. You will have a ticket waiting for you there under your new name. Inside this backpack,” I instructed and turned to pull out a smaller backpack from the one I had carried. “Is everything you will need for a couple of days. After that, you are on your own. Absolutely, under no circumstances are you to contact anyone back here in the states at any time, you understand? If I need to get a hold of you for any reason I know how to contact you.”
He nodded quickly.
“The information on the hotel you are to check into, your new social security card, birth certificate, who you are, where you came from, it’s all in here and you follow it all as I have written it - no variations. I’ve transferred all your funds into a new account, but for a while it will look as if you haven’t moved a penny. I will send you that new account information in a couple of days. Meanwhile, there’s some cash to get you through. Try not to bring attention to yourself for at least a few months, maybe longer. Let this thing over here blow over. You understand?”
He nodded again.
“I’ll let you know when it’s safe for you. I don’t do shit twice. You fuck this up … you’re on your own.”
A horn blared outside.
“You’re taxi is here. Go and don’t forget what I told you.”
He scrambled for the front door throwing the back pack over his shoulder. Pausing before walking out he looked back at me, “Thank you.”
I waved him off and quickly started gathering my equipment making sure not to leave anything behind. I couldn’t miss so much as a scrap of paper. A wayward chair or an askew curtain could signal someone had fled in a hurry. My Father always said anything you left behind was like leaving a piece of a puzzle. The more pieces there were, the better the chance for solving it.
I walked into the bathroom and picked up the towel that he’d left lying on the counter top. I wiped down the mirror, sink and the faucet where water had splashed. I picked up the bottle of shaving cream and wiped it with the towel as well placing it back into the medicine cabinet. I cleaned the razor and put it away. Opening up the cabinet below, I took a fresh towel and neatly placed it in the ringlet of the holder on the wall. I found the hamper in the bedroom and tossed the used towel into it.
Remove all traces of urgency.
Placing the ball cap back onto my head, I pushed in the chair at the table and threw my back pack over my shoulder walking to the back door. I peeked out the window before opening it. Removing the gloves, I walked away shoving them into my pocket. Quickly retracing my steps back to the car, I made my way out of this hell hole and headed back toward home.
Things were so different when my father was around, when I was a young, punk kid.
“Yea, okay, I understand,” I said into my phone, my voice thick with sleep. I blinked my eyes to try and focus and realized darkness was surrounding me indicating it was still the middle of the goddamned night. Not that my father ever gave a shit what time it was when he called.
“I am up, I’m going, Jesus fucking Christ!” The sleep in my voice now replaced with annoyance. “Whatever, I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
Fuck! I hated doing this shit. This middle of the night bull shit was getting ridiculous. Just because I was his fucking son meant he was expecting me to just jump out of bed the second he called. I was an adult now, just turned eighteen, but yet I didn’t seem to have the balls to tell my father ‘no.’
Bullshit. This was going to have to change fucking fast, ‘cause I needed my goddamned sleep.
I looked at the time on my phone as I closed it. Holy shit, it was just after two in the morning? Two in the motherfucking morning?! Just an hour ago I’d finally fallen the fuck asleep.
Yet, here I was pulling on my boxers and jeans that were balled up by the night stand and grabbing the shirt that had been thrown over the back of the chair. I didn’t usually leave my clothes all over the room so careless and shit. The sheets rustled and movement from my bed caught my attention. I turned to see the reason for the mess.
“You’re leaving?” She asked sleepily yawning. Her long, brown hair cascaded over her shoulders as she sat up propped on an elbow. Her other hand modestly covering herself. “Was that your father calling again?”
“Yea, I’m sorry Mo Chuisle, I’ll be back soon. I promise,” I apologized as I pulled my shirt over my head.
I couldn’t help myself, I leaned in for a kiss good bye before I left. She tilted her head upward as our lips met softly at first. Nothing with my girl was simple, there was a hunger that neither one of us could deny. She let go of the sheet, her bare breasts exposed, as she wrapped an arm around my neck raking her fingers up through my hair. Our tongues intertwined, her sweet strawberry flavor momentarily making me forget just why I was leaving.
She moaned and I felt myself react, my pants suddenly tighter. “You have no idea what you do to me.”
She smiled against my lips and said, “I bet I could take a wild guess,” and kissed me again. “Go, and get back soon.”
“I’ll get back faster if I’m thinking about you lying in my bed…naked,” I teased as I pulled away and walked from the bedroom.
Grabbing my keys and my wallet, I walked into the garage to the Buick. There wasn’t any way I ever took the Beamer on these calls. Anytime my Father requested me it was gonna be messy.
I pulled up to the house my father had said to meet him at seeing his Victory parked at the front steps. Why he drove his bike and not his car made me insane. He did this to me all the time. If he’d driven his car, I wouldn’t need to be here in the middle of the night. I was sure that he did this shit on purpose.
I pulled up to the curb and took out the supplies from the trunk of the Buick that my father had instructed me to collect from his supply room. Walking up to the house I could hear the muffled sounds of frantic blubbering about how things didn’t mean to go so far and how she thought the shit wasn’t loaded.
Great, some bitch was freaking out.
Walking around to the back of the house I opened the unlocked door and let myself in. I set the bucket full of supplies on the counter top and went to see why the fuck I was here.
“Make her shut the fuck up,” I heard my father say his voice calm and collected.
“Tess, baby, please be quiet so he can do his job,” a male voice responded to my father’s request.
Her rambling ceased, but her sobbing didn’t as I rounded the corner from the kitchen to the living room. My father was standing by a God-awful floral printed couch over the slouched body of a brunette. Blood was oozing from the perfect circular hole in the middle of her forehead. A hand gun sat on the wood coffee table, an empty casing resting beside it. Tess, the dumb blond bitch that pulled the trigger, stood with her head buried in the shoulder of an older man. His graying beard did not hide the frown creased deeply into his leathery face. It was obvious he was not happy about the situation she’d put him in.
“Good you’re here,” my father said his when he’d noticed I’d entered the room. “I need you to back your car up the driveway. I’ll meet you out back. You brought the supplies I asked for?”
“You bring everything I asked?”
I nodded once again.
Without another word I walked back out to my car. I’d been through this enough times to know when he was done with me. Throwing the Buick into reverse, I maneuvered it up the driveway as close to the back door as I could get it. My father met me with the body in his arms wrapped in a plain white sheet. Fuck, why did he always make me do this part? Our eyes met as I opened the trunk. I leaned in and pulled up the carpeted lining revealing a compartment just big enough to place the body. He placed her in it and closed the trunk.
“I’ll stay and clean up. You go back to my house. Take care of this and I’ll meet you there when I am through,” he said quietly.