Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Luck Be A Lady (FFF #19)

Luck Be A Lady

As far as Jack was concerned, even a field of four-leaf clovers couldn’t turn things around. He was convinced that because he was born in a leap year, that he was under a secret thirteenth Zodiac sign and its symbol was a giant screw.

The bartender plunked another glass in front of him. "I didn't order anoth-"

"From her," the bartender said, jerking a thumb to the other side of the bar. She had auburn hair and wore a dark blue dress.. Her lips stood out as glowing red smears against her pale skin. Jack lifted the glass and sipped. Single-malt, just what he liked. Maybe his luck wasn't so crummy after all.

The day had been one big shitstorm. The power went out some time overnight so his alarm didn't go off, which made him late for work which made him get into an accident on the way to the train station which made him miss his train which made him miss the 9:00 meeting which got his boss mad which got him fired. Jack stood up, grabbed his glass, and went over next to the girl.

"Hi, I'm Jack," he said. "Thanks for the drink."

She didn't say anything, just gave a single nod. Jack took another sip and sat down. "Let me return the favor.'

Jack turned and started to raise his hand to signal the bartender when she said, "I poisoned your drink."


She pulled the cherry from her Manhattan, put it between her lips, and pulled off the stem. As she chewed the cherry, she said "I poisoned your drink."

Jack shook his head. There must be some kind of convention in town. That always brings out the crazies. "OK. Really. Is this your idea of a pickup line? Did you just read The Blonde or something?"

"This is very serious business, Mr. Starkey."

Jack blinked. "OK, who the fuck are you and what do you want?"

"I'm just a woman who wants a thing done," she said. "You can call me Jill."

"Jack and Jill. Cute." Jack put some cash down on the bar to pay for his drink. As he stood up, his stomach gurgled and he paused.

"That's just the beginning. If I don't give you the antidote within two hours, you'll be dead."

Jack said, "Give me the antidote now or I'm calling the cops."

Jill shook her head. "They won't do you any good. Even if you can convince them you've been poisoned, it will take them longer than that to identify it. It leaves no trace behind. I'm fully prepared to give you the antidote if you do one small thing for me."

"What is that?"

"I want you to kill Carlo Barzini. You do that and meet me back here when it's done and I'll give you the antidote."

Jack licked his now suddenly dry lips. He wiped his forehead with his sleeve. He wasn't feeling well. Could it be the poison? Or was it just nerves? "How do I know I can trust you?"

Jill shrugged, "Trust me or not. That's up to you. But if you want to live, do it and meet me where before midnight."

Jack felt his bowels start to grumble. He loosened his tie and unbuttoned the top button of his shirt. "This is like some sick nursery rhyme. Jack and Jill went up the hill to kill a fucking mobster. I have to be back before midnight or I'll turn into a pumpkin. The papers say he's the top mafia don in New York. How am I supposed to get close to him?"

"You sell restaurant supplies, he owns a couple restaurants. You're a smart boy, Jack," she smiled. "You'll figure something out."

"I don't sell restaurant supplies any more. I got fired today."

"Does he know that? Jeez, Jack. Do I have to paint you a picture?" Jill stood up and placed a hand on Jack's shoulder. "There's a .38 taped to the bottom of your barstool. Use it. And remember - the clock's ticking."

Jack reached under the stool and felt a lump held there by a wad of tape. He pulled it free and sure enough it was a gun. He looked around, but Jill was already gone.

"That you for seeing me so late, Mr. Barzini."

Barzini just nodded and waved Jack to a nearby chair. He was a hefty man, bordering on fat. He wore diamond rings on every finger and a diamond tie tack pinning his red silk tie to his black silk shirt. "What can I do for you, Mr.," Barzini looked at the business card handed to him by his associate, "Starkey?"

The restaurant was empty this time of night. The tiled floors had just been mopped, all the red and white checked tablecloths crisply pressed, and the cheese shakers refilled. "Tell me, Mr. Barzini, who does your restaurant supplies now?"

"We've been doing business many years with the Sollozzo brothers."

"And have you been happy with them?"

The don gave a non-committal shrug. Jack continued, "Now, I know loyalty is a great attribute. Something that has been lost on a lot of people in this day and age. But I also know that you're a shrewd business man, Mr. Barzini. If you decide to switch to American Restaurants Federated, we can save you upwards of 30% a year on all your basic needs."

Jack leaned over to get some brochures from his satchel. As he straightened up, his stomach clenched and beads of sweat broke out on his forehead. Barzini said, "You don't look so good, my friend. Is something wrong?"

Jack tried to pass off his wince as a smile, "Sorry. My last stop was at a Chinese restaurant. Something I ate must not be sitting well with me. Do you mind if your restroom?"

The hefty don jerked a finger over his shoulder. "In the back."

Jack said, "Take a look through the brochures and see what services we offer. I'll answer any questions you have when I get back."

He walked as quickly as he could to the bathroom without looking like he was in a hurry. On the toilet, he had the smelliest, most explosive shit of his life. He looked down and saw the .38 he had tucked away in his boxers in case Barzini's goons frisked him. He cleaned himself up and flushed twice.

At the sink, Jack repeatedly splashed cold water on his face. Am I really going to do this? Can I kill somebody in cold blood? He's a mob boss. A criminal. I'm doing the world a favor.

He grabbed a handful of paper towels and dried off. His watch read 11:23. He straightened his hair and tie and said, "You can do this. You've seen The Godfather. Just walk in, do it, and leave."

Jack grasped the .38 tightly, threw his shoulders back, and walked out of the men's room. He approached Barzini from behind, raised his hand, and fired. He quickly turned and shot both of the bodyguards. Jack then dropped the gun and ran out the emergency exit into the alley. His knees gave out and he fell against the dumpster and threw up.

Back at the bar, Jack spotted Jill sitting in the same seat as before. He walked over and said, "It's done. Now give me the antidote."

"Good boy, Jack," Jill said. "I knew I could count on you."

"Antidote. Now."

"There is no antidote."

Jack grabbed her arm. "You bitch. I held up my end of the bargain, now you'd better hold up yours."

Jill wrenched free from his grasp. "There is no antidote because there was no poison. I only slipped a powerful laxative into your drink. Oh, and I called the cops too. They'll be here any minute."

There was a commotion by the door and Jack turned to see two detectives and a couple uniformed officers entering the bar. A detective with a smashed nose and a day's growth of beard said, "John Ryan Starkey, you're under arrest for the murder of Carlo Barzini."

"Wait, I can explain," Jack said.

"This had better be a good story," said the detective. "We found your business card and your briefcase and a gun which I'm sure has your fingerprints all over it at the crime scene."

"It's all the girl's fault," Jack turned, but Jill's barstool was empty.

The uniforms grabbed him and leaned him over the bar and put cuffs on him. Through the mass of arms and badges, Jack saw Jill by the back wall; her Cheshire Cat grin fading out the emergency exit.


Cormac Brown said...

Wow, interesting echoes of Duane, "D.O.A." and Francis Ford...

...I like it.

David Barber said...

Nice piece again, Welles.

Rum said...

poor dude indeed -- the setup and follow through -- the twisted webs we weave :)

CJT said...

Kudos for sure! Things we do in order to get things done...

Doc said...

Oh how many lives have been ruined by a beautiful woman and a laxitive? We will never know...

Great story Welles. The pacing and language were perfect.


WellesFan said...

Thanks, everybody.

Randal Graves said...

This is why marriage is safer. At least then you'll know your drink's really been poisoned.

Great stuff.