"This better be good," I snarled. "Do you know what time it is?"

"Oh, it’s good." The voice chuckled on the other end of the line. "Now be quiet and listen. You’ve been asking questions that bother Mr. Louis. He doesn’t like being bothered. So we need to come to an understanding. This morning. Seven o’clock at the docks, at Mr. Louis’s place."

"And if I don’t?" I growled. "If I think you’re full of–"

"You’re in no place to argue, Mr. Murphy. We have her."


But he had already hung up. I dialed Maura. There was no answer. Threw on my clothes, grabbed my gun and an extra clip. Out the door, down the stairs. Started to run down the sidewalk but remembered the wad of money from Finnegan. Whistled loud enough to bring a passing taxicab to a screeching stop.

"Where you want go?" said the cabbie. He had some kind of thick accent. Maybe Egyptian or Peruvian or Finnish.

"7th and Ballantyne, and step on it!"

"Yes, yes. Step on it. I hear this much."

"I mean it! Step on it, or I’ll knock your block off!"

"Less KGB shtick," said the cabbie, inching out into traffic. "More glass of vodka, you know I mean?"

"All right, you little squeezer. Fifty bucks if you get there pronto!"

"That’s like it! You are the cool man!" The cabbie stepped on the gas and the car leapt forward. He hollered at some pedestrians. He shook his fist at another cab seeking to overtake us, shot through a yellow light, and leaned on the horn behind a produce delivery truck.

"Your mother’s goat lover is son of big gun!" he screamed out the window. "Hippie scum! Make my day! Vote Ronald Reagan!"

"Where’re you from?" I said, clutching the door handle.

"Odessa, Ukraine," he said, grinning into the mirror. "I emigrate 1981. I love America. I love supply side economics. You ugly ape son!" This last bit was directed at an elderly lady tottering through the crosswalk. He swerved around her in a squeal of tires and then came to a sudden stop. I dug my face out of the back of the front seat.

"We here," said the cabbie. "Fifty bucks?"

"Fifty bucks," I said, slapping the bills in his hand. "And there’s more if you stay."

I ran up the steps, three at a time, to the third floor. Down the hall. Her door was unlocked. I slid through with my gun drawn. The only positive thing I can say is that she didn’t go without a fight. The place was a mess. Her purse lay in the middle of the floor, contents spilled. I knelt down, rooted around in them. Nothing had been taken. I glanced around the room quickly. Definitely nothing stolen. Except for Maura. I ran downstairs and jumped in the cab.

"Where you want go?" said the cabbie.

I opened my mouth. Closed it. Checked my watch. 5:57 a.m. I thought for a moment.

"You a Catholic?"

The cabbie looked at me as if I was a moron. "Russian Orthodox. Saint Peter on Van Buren Avenue."

"Let’s go! Get going!"

"Look. What the speed limit here? Yes, yes. 15 mile each hour. We go church and you ask me speed? No, no. I am good Orthodox Christian. I fast, I pay tithe, I–"

"Fifty bucks! Step on it!"

The taxi barreled away from the curb like a jet fighter. We careened through town, a threat to life, property, and my nerves. I checked my watch again. 6:04 a.m. We pulled up to the church. I hurried in. The cabbie followed me, regarding me with the fond gaze a farmer might have for his prize cow. I sat down in a pew toward the back. There weren’t many people there. Mostly a bunch of old women dressed in black. The priest droned on in the front. The cabbie mumbled somewhere behind me in response.

We got out of there fifteen minutes later. The priest blessed people at the door. He blessed me. He then blessed me a second time after I shook his hand. He blessed the cabbie and they conferred for a moment in Ukrainian, both sounding pious. I paced back and forth in the vestibule and stared at the little crucifix hanging on the wall. Jesus stared back at me. 6:33 a.m. I glared at the cabbie and he edged away from the priest, smiling and bowing. I hustled him back to the cab.

"The docks! Step on it!"

"Yes, yes. This I hear before. Everyone say–step on it!–like in the movies. Life, I say, not so–"

"Fifty bucks!"

The taxicab leapt forward. The city whizzed by in a blur of color, honking, and Ukrainian-laced profanity. I gritted my teeth and tried not to think about Maura. Thought about Louis Six-Fingers. Sweat ran down my forehead.

Louis Six-Fingers had been around forever. Mayors weren’t elected unless they had his approval. The city council didn’t wipe their noses without his blessing. He owned the planning commission. He controlled the garbage contracts, the unions, and the building suppliers. He owned the warehouses, the docks, and the second-largest bank in town. He ran most of the organized crime in the city: five gambling joints, three whorehouses, and both political parties.

"Which dock you want?" The cabbie turned to look at me.

"Here’s good." I threw the fifty bucks over the seat and got out.

I checked my watch. 6:47 a.m. There was no one in sight except a couple of stevedores one dock over. A cold wind blew in off the water. I hunched my shoulders and walked down the dock. A big building stood at the end, ugly, falling apart, a rusty metal roof. Louis Six-Fingers’s place. I had never been there before, but I’d heard stories. A black sedan was parked on one side. I could hear the waves sloshing against the pilings below me. The closer I got, the taller the building looked. The place stank. Rotten fish, seagull crap, and something else.

A door stood open. I tiptoed through, gun out, into a gloomy, empty warehouse. The floor was concrete and stained with oil. Light shone from another doorway.

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