Monday, August 29, 2011
She stood in the window above the bright neon light of a local watering hole called Casablanca's.
The neon sign, about the size of an elephant, filled with reds and white and yellows, lit up the dark street brightly every time it blinked. Eerily. The street, coated in a slippery curtain of fresh rain, seemed to explode in a sea of light with each flash of the sign. In front of the pub and directly across the street, lining the curbs tightly, were BMW's, Mercedes, Audi's and Lincolns. Expensive steel outlined in the light from the sign. Below the sign and in front of the doors leading into the popular pub were gaggles of people standing around smoking cigarettes and chatting. It was the young crowd in the late twenties and early thirties. Affluent. Successful. Flashing money around as if was naturally their's to flash.
But she stood in front of the window looking down at the street--a lonely figure framed by the tall, narrow window. She was dressed in a light cotton summer's dress in pale yellow with straps over bare shoulders. Long black hair fell down to her back. Red lips--even in the semi-darkness and from across the street--startling to behold. Full lips. Luscious lips. The kind of lips that would keep a man lying awake at night dreaming about nights in Cancun on a beach listening to the ocean's surf crashing onto the sands and palm trees rustling in the breeze. With her lying by his side.
Her name was Vanessa. Young. Barely twenty. Rich. A woman child of perplexing contradictions. A woman of stunning beauty who was, like a freshly painted butterfly, emerging from her cocoon of obscurity. An only child who had for years been shuffled from one private school to the next. A child kept hidden from the world--deliberately shielded from the cruelties, and pleasures, life had to offer. For years a mousey recluse who shunned her natural beauty and kept enveloped in an artificially created world of a shy recluse.
Until . . .
She was the only daughter of Howard Willoughby. Banker. The CEO of a string of banks that were strewn across five states like dandelion seeds. A shrewd financier who knew the world for what it really was and acted accordingly. A man whispered to have a personal fortune of over three hundred million dollars.
The problem was half of that personal fortune wasn't his. The string of banks wasn't his. The banks--the money--actually belonged to a crime boss by the name of Benny Lovett's. Lovett's was a low life thug who liked to get his claws into those he needed to keep loyal. Vicious, cruel, without a conscience, it came to Lovett's
mind one day that his employee, Howard Willoughby, might become a liability to his money laundering enterprise. A way had to be found to make sure Willoughby remained unquestionably loyal. Unquestionably complacent and pliable.
That way was through the lovely, naive, Vanessa Willoughby.
The best way to trap the Willoughby family was simple. Get Vanessa Willoughby to fall in love with a small time hood. Put them in a love nest where there were a lot of people--potentially a lot of witnesses--around to see the fireworks. Kill the lover and set it up to look as if the beautiful hot headed young Vanessa was the murderer. Old man Willoughby would be beside himself in grief and worry for his daughter. He would do anything to protect her. Anything.
Just the words Benny Lovetts wanted to hear.
Sitting in the darkness of his CTS Cadillac his fingers played idly across the leather covered steering wheel absently. The neon sign in front of him flashing Casablanca's in a mind numbing hypnotic regularity. Waiting. Waiting for Vanessa's young lover to show up and bound up the narrow stairs which led up to the apartment above the club. He would be bringing flowers. Flowers and more. There would be a ring. An expensive ring with a big rock--the genuine thing--set in gold. All she had to do was say 'Yes.'
And the odd thing about it--Vanessa Willoughby was going to say yes. Yes to Chucky Evans proposal of marriage. Chucky was one of Benny Lovetts' boys. An incredibly handsome, smooth operator with thick curly black hair combined back like some 1950's hood, with bright blue eyes that always seemed to be filled with fun and a grin on his handsome face that'd melt the heart of a Siberian peasant into a puddle of butter.
Yeah, he was told by Benny to get Vanessa to fall in love with him. That was the easy part. But there was a problem. The problem was Chucky fell in love with Vanessa. The two kids--against all odds--were madly in love. They were thinking about eloping. Running off to Vegas and getting married. They were going to do it. Tonight. Got the tickets to leave and were packed and ready to go.
Problem was Benny Lovetts didn't give a shit about Chucky Edwards or Vanessa Willoughby. Chucky had to die. And made to look as if the girl had killed him. It was his job to make sure everything went down exactly like Benny wanted it.
The dark eyed man sitting in the shadows of his Caddy tried to get Benny to change his mind. To spare Chucky Edward's life. There were other ways to cement Old Man Willoughby's loyalty without involving the kids. Without the need to murder someone.
"Fuck that shit, Smitty!" Lovett's harsh voice hissed as he lowered the glass of bourbon in his hand and stared at the dark eyed man the night before in Lovett's apartment. "This is the plan. Kill Chucky. Pin the blame on the dame. Leave everything else to me. Can you handle that, Smitty? Or do I have to send someone else to do the job?"
The black pits for eyes played across the sneering round face of Benny Lovetts for a moment or two and then nodded.
"I'll handle it, Benny."
He didn't wait for Benny to make another comment. He sat down his glass of bourbon--Lovett's expensive bourbon--and walked out of the apartment feeling the hard stare of Benny Lovett's eyes burning the back of his neck. Sensing the mob boss' anger at even bringing up the subject of sparing Chucky's pitifully useless life.
Now, sitting in the black Caddy four car lengths down from the club, he waited for Chucky Edwards to show up. Waited in the darkness of his car drumming fingers encased in a pair of thin black leather gloves on the steering wheel. Pulling back the leather of his glove on his left wrist he glanced at is Rolex and he noticed it was a quarter past midnight. Exactly the time Chucky usually showed up for these romantic rendezvous. Looking up from the watch he almost smiled when he saw the handsome figure of Chucky half walking, half skipping through the throng of people milling about in front of the club. Under one arm was a bouquet of flowers. In one hand, tossing it up in the air and playfully catching it as if it was a baseball, was a black velvet box containing wedding ring.
The moment Chucky disappeared into the door just to one side of the club's entrance which would lead him upstairs Smitty rolled out of his car and closed the door gently. Unhurriedly he cross the street, moved between the bumpers of two parked cars and stepped onto the sidewalk. And paused. Paused and half turned to gaze at the gaggle males and females smoking cigarettes and sipping their bottles of beer or glasses of wine while they chatted to one another. Several of them turned casually to stare at him. Their faces were young, innocent, naive, and curious.
And mostly sober.
That was the key. Someone in the crowd had to be sober enough to remember him. For a few seconds the dark eyed killer allowed those watching him to get a full view of his face. As if he wanted to be recognized. Had to have his image indelibly burned into the synapses of those standing in front of the club. Absolutely crucial that he and his face would never be forgotten.
For a heartbeat or two he stood on the sidewalk in front of the dark entrance which would lead him to the upstairs apartment and stared at the crowd. And bent thin lips back in a slow motion sneer of pure animal violence for just the briefest of moments before plunging into the doorway's dark entrance.
It was an exhibition of pure evil so intense one young buck in the crowd of twentysomethings dropped his cigarette from between his fingers and just stared into the open space recently vacated by the grinning man. Another had his hand grow numb in stark terror. The bottle of beer in his hand slipping from his grip and shattering into a thousand pieces on the sidewalk.
As quiet as an unwanted thought he ascended the stairs one step at a time. Narrow stairs with a hard ninety-degree turn half way up to the second floor. As he mounted each step slowly a gloved hand slid underneath his sport coat and pulled out a bulky looking object. A Dan Wesson .357 caliber revolver. As big as a the blade of a spade shovel. A weapon powerful enough to drive lead through an automobile engine block. His other hand reached into a side pocket of his coat and pulled out a long barrel-shaped object and began twisting it onto the barrel of the big revolver.
Turning hard to the right he kept climbing the stairs until he came to the second to the last step. Above him, through a skylight, a wide beam of moonlight cut through stairwell's darkness and illuminated in a pale ghostly whiteness the killer standing motionlessly on the step with the big weapon held in a gloved hand down by his right leg.
Nothing of his face was revealed. But the moonlight playing across his shoulders, arms, and hands painted a portrait of a primordial fury waiting to wreck havoc onto his prey.
To his left he heard the voices of Vanessa Willoughby. Her voice was filled with excitement, energy, and passion. Interspersed between her bursts of emotion was the deeper voice of her fiancé. He too sounded excited. He laughed a couple times, cracked a joke or two. Laughed some more.
In the darkness the dark eyed killer listened. Listened to their conversations. Listened to the noises of the two embracing and kissing. Listened as the door to the apartment's bedroom door softly whispered shut. But he didn't move. He didn't ascend the last step and walk toward the apartment. He wasn't here to complete Benny Lovett's perverted plan.
But he was here to finish a job.
Noiselessly Smitty turned and stared down at the black well of fifteen wooden steps he had just ascended. Descending one step he quietly bent his knees and sat down on the second step from the top, gloved hand still gripping the .357 expectantly. He didn't have to wait long.
From out of the inky darkness below he heard heavy footsteps, two sets of footsteps, smack down on the first step of the stairwell. Two heavy bodies were trying to quietly move up the steps. But one of them had hard time of it. With each step up Smitty heard the man grunt in pain. The smell of cigarette smoke and booze drifted up the stairwell and played across his nostrils. Cigarette smoke, booze, and cheap cologne. Familiar smells.
When the two of them came around the corner of the stairwell and started up the second flight of stairs the moon shot another knifing lance of bright light through the roof's skylight and played across the dark outline of a man sitting on the step at the top of the stairwell. A compact, thin man. No face visible. But the light of the moon fully illuminating the big silencer attached to the .357 in the man's hands.
"Jesus Christ! Watch out, Kelly!" one of them hissed, digging suddenly a big hand into his coat for his weapon.
"Knew you were coming, boys. Too bad for you," Smitty said quietly just before the .357 barked twice in a kind of loud hiss.
The two killers tried to step aside--tried to dodge the bullets meant for them. But the stairwell space was too confining. And they're reflexes far, far too slow. A bullet square in the heart caught each man, lifted them off their feet, and hurled them angrily backward into the darkness. With a nerve wracking clatter the two dead men banged off the stairwell wall behind them and then rolled and bounced down the bottom flight of steps before flopping to a halt at the very bottom.
But the show wasn't over just yet. Smitty said he would take care of it. Told Lovett's he would finish the job. And finish it he did.
Descending the stairs he stepped over the dead men and exited the stairwell and out onto the sidewalk. Glancing to his right he smiled again as he noticed the small crowd was still standing in front of the pub's entrance. Turning toward the crowd he made sure several of them saw him lift the big revolver up in his hand and aim it into the darkness of the doorway.
A woman screamed. A couple of boys yelped in fright.
He fired four more times into the darkness. Not at anything in particular. Just sent flying the last remaining rounds of the .357 into the back wall of the stairwell. The explosions of the gun--minus now the silencer--deafening. Like cannon fire. Like Judgment Day. Numbing. Terrifying. People screamed. People began running for their lives in all directions. People tried to open the pub's big door and flee inside. But a few were too terrified to move. Like deer frozen in the headlights of an oncoming car they watched in horror at the man in front of them firing the gun into the black inkiness of a an open doorway. They watched as the man kept squeezing the trigger of the weapon even after the last shot was fired.
Click! Click! Click!
The madman kept firing on empty chambers! And then, as if realizing he was out of ammunition, the man hurled the gigantic weapon into doorway and turned and started walking away. Walking away as if he was leaving the club and going home to his wife and kids.
No one tried to stop the man. They watched him cross the street and slide into a black Cadillac sedan. They watched the car gently slide out and away from the curb and then move down the street. They etched into their memories the license plate of the car. And when the car turned on its right turning signal and swept around a corner and out of view--they all ran to the curb, bent over, and vomited violently into the gutter.
Four blocks away Smitty walked away from the Caddy. The car sat with its front wheels up on the sidewalk, the car angled sharply off the street, the left car door wide open. Lying on the front seat of the car was the .357 magnum. In the air all around him were the screams of sirens rapidly approaching. In moments the street was going to be filled with cop cars, their red and blue lights filling the night's darkness with daggers of pulsating lights.
He wasn't worried. He kept walking down the street in an unhurried fashion. In his right hand was a small hand towel. He kept playing the towel across his face and nose and chin--wiping away bits of makeup and pieces of soft putty like an actor might do after the curtains of the last act had ended the evening's performance.
In his left hand he held a cell phone up to his ear.
"It's done," he whispered softly as he continued walking and mopping his face with the towel. "Went down exactly like I said it would."
"My daughter. She is safe?"
"They're both are safe, Willoughby. By now they are half way to the airport. By tomorrow afternoon they'll be in Las Vegas reading about Benny Lovett's arrest on charges of double homicide in the papers."
"You sure the witnesses saw Benny Lovetts do the shooting? There's no way he can beat this?"
"Lovett's finished. The gun I used is registered to him. His fingerprints are all over it. The kids standing in front of the night club got a full view of Benny Lovetts before and after the shooting. The car is Lovett's. There's no way he's getting out of this."
He heard the father of Vanessa Willoughby let out a pent up hiss of nervous exhaustion. The last twenty four hours had been hell. A very real hell for a father worrying about his only child.
"Well then, I guess it's over with. A deal is a deal. I'll wire the money to the agreed upon account from one of my banks in the Caribbean. It should be there within the hour. And Smitty . . . . thanks. Thanks for saving my only child from this horror. And the life of the man she loves."
The dark eyed Angel of Death didn't say a word. Snapping the phone closed he dropped it into a hip pocket and kept on walking. Walking until the night itself seemed to dissolve him into oblivion.