Authors: Eoin Colfer
Tags: #Fiction, #Crime, #Humorous, #Thrillers, #General, #FIC016000, #FIC050000, #FIC031000
I tighten my core, searching for focus.
One chance. What’ve you got, soldier?
My fingers crab under the rim of the office chair and all I find is chewing gum and the height adjustment lever. If I tug on that lever, this chair should drop suddenly, if it’s working right.
Krieger aims his gun my way, but half his attention is on the computer. Fortz is coming at me in ever-decreasing circles. Wary, like a hyena closing in on a dying lion.
I smell a pungent blend of talc, nerves and Speed Stick as Fortz closes in from the rear; drops of his sweat spatter my head.
A shadow falls over me and Fortz’s elbows rest on my shoulders. His pale hands descend, a strip of duct tape held delicately between the fingertips, trying to avoid the sticky side. Even when taping a kidnap victim, a person’s gotta pay attention to the sticky side.
When I see the tape in front of my face, I pull the lever. The chair drops down maybe a foot and I go down with it. Fortz, who had been leaning on my shoulders, is put off balance by the sudden drop and I feel his entire weight on my back. I have a little play in my legs now, not enough for anything more than a hobble but maybe enough to throw some chaos into this situation. I swivel the chair so that Fortz’s bulk is between me and Krieger’s gun, then focusing all my energy into my knees, I explode upward to the limit of my chains, which is enough to catapult Fortz toward his partner.
Over my shoulder I see Fortz go down heavy and awkward and he loses a shelf of teeth to the laptop’s keyboard, which is a bonus. Krieger is bowled backward and drops his gun in the tangle of limbs.
I have maybe five seconds before I get shot. And being body-bagged in this thong has definitely shot into the top five of my “Don’t Let It End This Way” list, just above accidentally drinking bleach and below diving into a freezing lake to rescue a puppy only to find out that it is actually an old rag and the girl you’re trying to impress hates dogs anyway.
As you can see, I have put quite a bit of thought into this list. Dr. Moriarty would say I was anal and the rigout I’m wearing at the moment would do little to disprove that theory.
With the seat at its lowest setting I have enough slack in my bonds for a bent-over stagger. My hands and feet are cuffed around the central column and this cheap-ass chair doesn’t even have casters so I gotta hobble along like a . . . gimp. Is it ironic that I am gimping while those dressed as gimps don’t have to? I don’t think so. I think it’s just unfortunate.
Fortz has pulled off his mask and stuffed it into his mouth in a ridiculous attempt to stop his gums bleeding, but more important, Krieger is scrabbling on the ground for his gun.
Time to find the exit.
This room has no windows and only one door, which is blocked by two buttery cops, so I’m gonna have to go through the wall.
Go through the wall?
Even thinking it sounds ridiculous. Nevertheless it’s either that or the aforementioned ball slicing. I crab roll onto the bed with just enough momentum to come to my feet.
“Hey,” burbles Fortz through the blood. “Stop! Police!”
In the words of the sweatband-wearing, fuzzy legend J. McEnroe: You cannot be fucking serious.
I bet McEnroe said fucking all the time off-camera. You can just imagine it coming out of his face.
I bounce on the bed to work up momentum and behind me I hear scuffling and clicking. I just bet that’s Krieger finding his gun. He may be a shitty cop, but usually the shitty cops are the best shots.
A bullet clangs into the chair’s column, knocking me forward a step and I decide to make use of this blast of kinetic energy to hurl myself toward the wall, praying for a single board of sheetrock. The way my day is going my head is gonna connect with a water pipe.
Also, my use of the verb hurl may have been a little optimistic. Lurch might be a bit more honest.
Saints be praised, luck o’ the Irish, the wall is a flimsy partition and I bludgeon my way through, directly into the middle of a threesome. At least I only count three. One second I’m in a room with two decidedly out-of-shape cops and the next I’m on a bed with a bunch of extremely well endowed young people who seem to be loving their work.
A line from Ghostbusters pops into my head: Do not cross the streams; that would be bad.
I duck underneath what I hope is a forearm and tumble to the floor.
A film crew is by the foot of the bed and the director jumps to his feet, all ponytail and pout.
“A eunuch? I didn’t order a eunuch?”
I will replay that later and be offended.
After a moment’s grace my sudden apparition causes pandemonium. Even in the kinkiest pornographic scene no one is expecting a semi-nude middle-aged man to come crashing through the wall. I ain’t even waxed, for heaven’s sake.
The guys lose their tempers among other things and the girl’s squeals sound a lot more authentic than the ones she was making a few seconds ago.
“Sorry,” I say automatically. “Just passing through.”
Waiting in the wings is an aged fluffer standing sentry at a dessert trolley loaded with various accessories. She is the only one un-freaked out by my arrival. Her jaded, heavy-lidded eyes tell me she has seen a lot weirder things than me in her day.
“Can you uncuff me?” I ask from the floor, shaking my chains urgently at her.
The woman squints at my shackles while the director calls “cut” over and over again in increasingly panicked tones and an expensive-looking light on an aluminium stalk keels over, exploding in a shower of white sparks.
“What kinda cuffs you got there?”
I glance nervously at the hole in the wall. “Police. Standard issue.”
She laughs. “Cop cuffs. I could open those with my tongue.” This idea is made even more unsavory by her mouthful of nicotine-stained choppers.
“A key will be just fine, darlin’,” I say, laying on the leprechaun.
The woman locates a key and goes to work on my cuffs. Meanwhile there is more activity behind me on the bed as Krieger attempts to climb through the hole.
“A gimp!” exclaims the director. “I am not doing a gimp scene. What is this, nineteen ninety-two?”
I twist around just in time to see one of the working studs, an obscenely muscled man, deliver a right hook that just about takes Krieger’s head off.
“Motherfucker has a gun,” he explains, which is enough to send the starlet shrieking from the room.
Krieger droops in the hole. One hundred sixty pounds of dead weight.
A few clicks later I am a free man.
“Who the hell are you?” the director screams. “What the hell is going on?”
I read someplace that it’s acceptable for men to scream like girls if they’re movie directors or being electrocuted.
“It’s okay, people,” I say, climbing to my feet, trying to muster some gravitas in spite of my appearance. “I’m police. Undercover. Those two were planning an illegal shoot. Just put all your permits and birth certificates on the table and I can have you out of here in five minutes.”
The room goes quiet and I can hear Fortz gurgling next door like a baby looking for a boob.
“Anything else I can do for you, honey?” says my savior, with that kind of frown on her brow that lets me know that she ain’t swallowing word one of my bullshit.
I tuck the cuff key into my thong—well you never know—then scan her trolley for something useful.
“Can I borrow a dildo?” I ask.
This is not really a specific-enough request. “Sure. Which one?”
“The big one,” I say.
I think about killing Krieger and Fortz, I really do. The bastards deserve it. No doubt this ain’t their first rodeo, so God knows how many lives I’d be saving by putting them in the ground.
But it’s not in me to murder them no matter how easily I could justify it.
Maybe this whole episode comes off a little comical with the thong and porno scene and so forth, but the reality is that I have never been so scared or sickened. There were times in the Lebanon when I endured some pretty harrowing depravity, but in that room my psyche grew a whole new layer of scar tissue.
I push Krieger back into the room leaving him flopped on the bed and climb through after him. Fortz is still in a puddle of fat and blood on the floor, bitching about his ruined mouth, like the day has dealt him a bum hand. He finds it in him somewhere to go for Krieger’s gun and I heft the dildo and give him a solid whack on the temple, which is enough to put him down.
“You are lucky,” I shout at the unconscious cop, “that I used this tool as a club and not in the fashion for which it was realistically molded.”
My heart rate is still at around two hundred, which is in the danger zone for a man my age, but I feel a little better. The immediate peril is past and now all I have to worry about is Mike’s errand and these two gimps coming after me when they wake up.
I dress myself, leaving on the thong because the porn crew, who have probably figured out that I am not in fact a cop, are peeping through the hole in the wall. Then I wave Mike Madden’s envelope under Fortz’s nose.
“You see this?” I say, but I doubt he can hear the question. “I did have the package. I told you but you wouldn’t listen.”
The cops’ gear offers up a bounty of weapons, which I am glad to accept. Four handguns: two official Glock 19s and a couple of baby Kel-Tecs in their Uncle Mike’s ankle holsters.
Matching guns. I bet Fortz even decides what weapons they carry.
I distribute the cache of weapons to my pockets but the dildo I leave in Krieger’s twitching fingers, for spite, and snap off a photo on my phone to post on the police Web site.
These guys are lucky, I tell myself as I leave this room of nightmares for the first and last time. If I catch so much as a glimpse of these cops ever again I will kill them both.
I decide to tape the thong to my bathroom mirror later, Rocky style, to look at every morning just to remind myself of how much hatred I am capable of mustering up, in case I should ever need to channel it.
All this rigmarole to give perverts their jollies.
The older I get, the less I like this world and the more I appreciate anything good.
S SOON AS THE DOOR CLOSES BEHIND ME I FEEL WEAK AS
a kitten in a sack. The righteous adrenaline drains down to my feet and I have to lean my forehead against the wall to stop myself throwing up. The Taser burns on my chest feel like they might be smoldering and my thoughts are suddenly swirling down the drainpipe of my confused cortex.
At least that’s what it feels like.
Maybe I should go back in there and put those cops down, because the first thing they’re going to do is come after me. They have no choice.
On a purely practical level this is a good argument. Just finish off Krieger and Fortz and be done with it, but killing cops would pretty much ensure that my case would never make it to trial, even with a buddy in the department.
I spent a night on the town with Deacon and her captain a few months ago and we ended up in the back room at Slotz with a bottle of Jack Daniels and sloppy grins on our faces. The conversation got around to the dumb excuses cops actually committed to paper for firing their weapons.
This one guy claimed that he had to shoot the suspect because the suspect was wearing a T-shirt with writing on it, the captain said, hand on heart. The writing was, quote, “un-American” and this dumb rookie motherfucker thought he saw the word jihad in there somewheres—the Cap paused for a slug of whiskey and we knew the punch line was coming. And the rook felt he couldn’t let this guy live ’cause he wasn’t more than five miles from an airport at the time. Turns out the writing was from Lord of the fucking Rings. Elvish or some shit.
And Ronelle said, Elvish has left the building.
How we had split our sides in drunken laughter at the time. That war story doesn’t seem that funny now. If Krieger and Fortz ever do catch up with me, they will have their excuses all figured out in advance.
Ronelle Deacon is a cop’s cop. True blue back to her granddaddy, who was one of the rare African-American members of the Texas police force, and one of the famous group who stormed the university tower in seventy-seven to bring in the Austin City Sniper. Ronnie picked up the baton from her father who walked a beat in Rundberg, where it takes guts to put one foot in front of the other when you’re a black man wearing the blue. Ronnie was raised tough but straight. By the age of twelve she was spotting her daddy while he bench-pressed in the garage. By fourteen she was bench-pressing a hundred pounds herself, and by twenty-two she was a rookie in the NYPD, working hard on her arrest rate and harder on her studies so that she could make detective by thirty. She managed it with two years to spare.
Krieger and Fortz used my friendship with Ronelle to get me into their cruiser in the first place. They gotta know she’s the first person I’m calling once my hand stops shaking. Them being cops won’t mean shit to Ronnie, she hates bent cops more than normal criminals. So now she’s on the danger list too. Fortz does not strike me as the kind of guy to leave loose ends floating around. They gotta come after me and then make Ronelle’s death look like an accident.
I need to handle this.
I call Ronelle but it goes straight to voice mail, so I leave a terse message, trying to inject the words with urgency but not desperation.
Ronnie. It’s Dan. We need to meet. I am überscrewed.
My tone implies, I hope, that this is really serious. It strikes me that Ronnie doesn’t know about the über thing, and if you don’t know that then the message could come off a little jokey. Hopefully she will infer from my tone. But more than likely Ronnie won’t infer shit. She will listen to the words and apply the usual meaning to them. I have this terrible habit of reading in layers that nobody else sees or that are simply not there. It’s like in my mind everybody’s speaking in metaphors or broadcasting their intentions through micro-movements and I’m trying to dig down to what they really mean. That’s what happens when you grow up with an abusive parent: always trying to read the signs, predict the mood, keep yourself clear when it breaks bad.