I hadn’t seen Harry Ficco since he was popped in the nuts by a ginger midget. Vicious little bastard: the midget, not Ficco. Had it coming for what he did. Shouldn’t have slept with the midget’s wife. But Ficco wasn’t entirely to blame. A woman like that, boy can she turn a man.
“I need you to get a guy for me.”
My name’s Mickey Krugerrand and I hate it when people don’t use my name. Means they either don’t really know me, or don’t respect me. I’m the best wetwork guy in the five boroughs. People only come to me when someone’s got to be got. Call it karmic readjustment, or revenge, but you have the money I’ll get the payback. As long as the guy deserves it. My line of business I’m just as liable to clobber the guy asking.
Ficco lifted his whiskey sour and his hand trembled.
He owned a costume store and restored antique cars on the side, sharing a four-car garage with the elderly gent who owned it. His wife having recently passed, and not wanting to be alone, this old timer (Ficco’s words) gifted him a bay with a single stipulation: when you speak to him, use his first name. Always. Good manners got you a bay in a four-car garage in Huntington, New York.
“Y’know me, head like a sieve,” Ficco said. “Kept saying hey to this guy. Never knew he was so particular with a name.”
I noticed he had an Irish jaw, bruised patriotically green. Something about that guy made you want to hit him.
I said, “Guess you found out, huh.”
“Six months I’m there, and yesterday I come in and say hey and he stops me, hand on my chest, and says Hay is for horses, my name is Jerry, and cracks me on the jaw with a wrench.”
I made fists. Ficco was about to catch a beating, he asked me to go after the old timer. I ever mention, I hate it when people ask me to right their wrongs. Ficco registered my intention and dropped his drink, smashed glass fanning the oily flagstone floor. Nobody in the Lucky Bar batted an eyelid. Home turf.
“The old guy had a point,” he said. “Anyways, turns out he’s in trouble. His granddaughter’s gone missing. Just missing. No ransom. She turns up dead, it’ll kill him. I want you to get the guy done this.”
Lucy had been missing eight hours. No ransom demand means the abductor has other plans: he’s killed her, or going to kill her, or sold her on. Welcome to New York City. Crossroad of the world. It’s the Silk Road for sick fucks.
I studied the photo of Lucy. Blond, freckles, but her eyes … two different colors. Left iris blue, the other half-blue and half-amber. Very rare. Heterochromia. Not saying I’m smart, knowing the word for it and all, but I have my moments: my sister’s got heterochromia.
People always remember her eyes. Asking around, it might be the only thing leads me to Lucy, if anybody saw her after the abduction, that is.
Right now, I was in Huntington, Long Island, at Jerry Grant’s place. The properties in this cul-de-sac were all the six-figure variety. I wasn’t dressed for the occasion, my suit has an aversion to ironing and my rain mac had seen better days, probably before I’d gotten it from the thrift store. Clothes don’t make the man, I’ve always said.
Jerry, the missing child’s grandpa, was stooped over the open hood of a 1928 Doctors Coupe. We were in his four-car garage, which held two on the bottom and two more on a hydraulic lifting system he’d built himself. A practical man. And he knew what I was offering without having to ask. Didn’t look down on me, like his son did when answering the door, or the neighbors who’d been eyeballing me since I stepped out of my Corolla with two hundred thousand on the clock.
Now I had the photo, it was time for business. But Jerry, hunched over the engine like that, weeping, you know me I’m not made of stone I couldn’t run out on him with snot and tears dripping off of him like that. Had to console him. Took twenty minutes to calm him, assure him I’d get his Lucy back.
Or what was left of her.
“You get her,” he said, “you do that, I’ll give you a hundred thousand cash.”
Jerry had the money, all right. Owned a cabinet making business, the sort of thing gets into Architectural Digest.
Hundred thousand, huh? I’d be set for life. I would, that is, if I was that kind of guy. Not in it for the money, never was, never will be. Like Jerry with his car – the brake system loosened off and gunk draining into a square oil drum with a hole cut into it – I liked to get my hands dirty. It’s the way I’m built.
“Snatched her right off the front lawn,” he said. “Right off the lawn. Broad daylight.”
“Need you to think for a second, Jerry,” I said. “The cops have any leads on the abductor’s car?”
“Mickey it was stolen, then dumped in the Lower East side. The police know nothing other than the BMW was taken from a guy lived off Washington Square.”
With a name – the right name – you can get almost anything. And I now knew one. I know most of the carjackers, leastways the ones worth knowing. Spivey runs the whole of Greenwich Village. Anybody knows about that stolen car, it’s him.
I didn’t know where Spivey lived but I knew where his chop shop was. We go way back. I done a job for him before he got into the carjacking business, otherwise I’d never have helped him. I figured he’d let his guard down if I acted nice. Inside his office, that reek of engine oil and benzene, I shut the blinds and snicked the door latch.
He stopped rattling on like a logcock and scrambled for his desk drawer. I kicked it shut but he’d snatched his hand free. He didn’t want to damage it: those thieving fingers were his livelihood.
“The BMW,” I said.
His eyes widened. It was all over the news.
“Who’d you steal it for?”
He shifted uncomfortably, thinking.
“Guy has a standing order. Two cars a week, clean, won’t be noticed for at least twelve hours. I take from garages, storage facilities, lockups—”
“Who did you steal the car for?”
“I dunno. I deliver the car to a self-storage unit in the East Village, corner of 9th and C, and the payment’s already there.”
“Walk me through it.”
“I leave the car in the facility, I have a key. The money’s always there waiting for me. I leave and that’s it.”
“How do you know what to get?”
“Clean cars, two a week, Monday and Thursday.”
Now I knew he’d spoken to the guy. How else would he have known the specific days, the address of the facility?
“How long has this been going on?”
“Just a month.”
“That’s eight cars. Eight abductions of children.”
I wanted to twist his neck off his shoulders like a bottle cap. But I needed him. Today was Monday, meant I’d have to wait three days to tail whoever collected the car from the unit. Too long.
I backed him into the corner, nowhere to run.
“You’re a bad man, Spivey.”
“Same as you, Mickey.”
“Not the same at all,” I said. “I’m much worse.”
I took him by the head, squeezed, wanted to pop the eyes out his head, and he slumped to the ground, eyes bulging.
Telling me Thursday … giving me the runaround, thinking I’d wait. Maybe even warn the guy beforehand.
I hooked my thumb into the corner of his eye.
“How many cars you think you can jack as a blind man?”
“Chairman Bob,” he said.
My stomach dropped out at the sound of the name, but just to confirm, I pressed my thumb deeper into his eye socket.
“Had to make sure the first order was legit,” he said. “I knew it was soon as I found out the call came from the payphone outside the Mars Bar. That’s Chairman Bob’s place.”
Whimpering now, I knew Spivey was telling the truth.
“I didn’t know he was stealing kids.”
“You gonna get any more cars for him?”
“It’s Chairman Bob, man. You don’t get to say no to the Chairman.”
“Then I’ll give you an excuse.”
Now I’d let him go his hands were planted on the ground. I crushed my heel into the right. Won’t be jacking anything for a while.
The Mars Bar is in the East Village. Two heavies on the door. Brick exterior painted blood red. Blue awning. Security grills on the windows. Looked like an invite-only kind of place. It’d be no bueno going in the front. After all, Chairman Bob is Kkangpae, connected to the South Korean mafia. Word was he’s in the protection racket, drugs, prostitution … but human trafficking, that was a step too far.
The Chairman, no doubt, had an office inside and if I didn’t find anything there, at least I might have the opportunity to introduce myself to the Chairman without his bodyguards to protect him.
At the rear of the property, there was a high wall with some nasty shards of broken bottle set in cement on top. I shimmied up the drain pimp, the shimmying comprised of a huffing tirade of expletives and at the top I climbed onto the wall, then needed to hang off the ledge to get down if I didn’t want to be in traction for a month. Those broken bottles, nasty things, got caught with one on the meat of my palm, sliced near the whole way to the bone.
Funny, the sight of blood always focused my attention. I didn’t have a gun with me. Never did. You shoot somebody with your own pistol and it’s fifty-fifty if a jury will side with you on self-defense. But you shoot somebody with their own gun…
In hindsight, I wish I’d brought a gun. I didn’t know what was waiting for me inside the Mars Bar.
I was now in a courtyard stacked with crates of empties, smelling like a wino’s crotch. I maneuvered a dumpster beneath the fire escape and climbed up. Felt my back crack like popcorn. An old injury.
The fire escape swayed, a blot shearing, the metal loose against the brickwork. I don’t pray often, but if you’re up there I could really use some help, Superman. Inching along the gangway, I passed a bricked-up window, then came to a fancy looking office with hardwood floors and wainscoting. Had to be Chairman Bob’s place. I cracked a pane and unlatched the window.
The office seemed somehow tighter, much smaller than expected. I checked the desk: nothing but some notes, a key, a pistol. I left the drawer open, might need that pistol. Sitting in the chair, I waited.
I noticed scuff marks on the hardwood floor near the wall behind the desk. I got down to check, heard something in the wall, and now realized why the room felt small and the window outside bricked-up: there was a secret room back there. I examined the wainscoting and one of the boards was loose. I removed it to reveal a metal door frame with a lock. I grabbed the key from drawer and it opened.
Inside was pitch black but I heard whimpering now and edging forward I came to a holding cell, like a jail, chrissakes, and inside on the cement floor was a girl. I’d recognize Lucy anywhere. The same key opened the lock and I took her in my arms, barely whispering now and telling her to keep quiet and everything would be okay if we don’t speak, like a game of Simon Says. I near tripped over myself getting out of that cell reeking of spoilt milk, and into the light now I near tripped again, eyes adjusting, Lucy wriggling in my arms.
Whammy – the impact in my lower back pitched me forward, and I rolled to absorb the collision with the hardwood floor, ensuring Lucy wasn’t hurt. Couldn’t say the same about me, though. Couldn’t feel my legs. My vertebrae felt like a Clark Bar.
Forty-two, hypertension, cholesterol off the chart, and now with added bonus: the spine of a broken pack mule.
Chairman Bob had a table lamp in his hand, an ugly iron thing looking like a blacksmith forged it. He had hit me where it hurt most, and standing over me now he chuckled.
“Glad you finally decided to pay a visit,” he said. “Payback is a bitch.”
That accent, chrissakes, sounded like strangling cats. And this was going to be the very last thing I heard before dying? I had a gun, I’d have blown my own brains out first, than give this guy the satisfaction.
But Lucy was crying, no tears coming out, too dehydrated probably, just these wracking sobs like an engine turning over. And the Chairman having bettered me, what he would do to this poor child now…
I lurched for him but flopped around like a decked fish, my back a tangled mess of twitches and pulses.
The Chairman chuckled, moved to the window pane I’d broken and glanced outside to ensure no one was there.
“How does it feel, Old Man?”
Hate it when they don’t use my name. “I’m only forty-two,” I said.
“Still in your prime?”
He kept his back to me, staring out the window at the slit of Manhattan sky, clotted as a scab. The Chairman didn’t need to turn or rush, not as if I was going anywhere.
“You never realize your clothes getting wet in the drizzle.”
I’d use any object I could find, a letter opener, nail file, heck, a toothpick even.
“I believed you would be tougher,” he said. “The stories I hear … nothing but a picture of a rice cake. Old Man, you are a broken thing.”
Lucy, still shuddering, I grasped her tiny hand and looked in her eyes, pleading with her to just be strong, not ever give in, no matter what.
Then I saw it.
A wooden hair stick had been used to fix her hair in a nut at the back. I grabbed it. The stick had some swirly Celtic design, but the other end was sharpened to a point. Four inches long. Better than nothing.
Chairman Bob turned and studied me, then Lucy. His eyes lingered on her, blond hair down to her shoulders now. He wet his lips, went around the desk and lifted the phone. He spoke in Korean, words quick as gunfire, then replaced the phone.
“My man he will be with us presently. First needs to get the car battery and anal probe.”
He got the pistol from the drawer and moved closer. I still couldn’t feel my toes, but it wasn’t them I needed to move. I whipped my arm out and drove the hair stick into his foot. Spout of blood geyser-ed from the puncture like oil from a sinkhole. He collapsed. I dragged myself on top of him, would have cut his throat except Lucy was staring. Instead, I crushed a fist into his head, dazed him limp, and drove my elbow into his crotch, two, three times, felt him pop down there. And then the door was opening, a commotion there, and I had the Chairman’s pistol, would’ve shot the guy had Lucy not been here. Using the desk I dragged myself standing, the man inside the office now, and catapulted myself into him like a cannon ball. Clattered to the ground. He struck his head and flopped uselessly. He had a car battery, all right: the Chairman didn’t have a sense of humor.
I grabbed Lucy, barely able to stand straight, back crunching like gravel.
I held a glass of red wine, Jerry and me in his garage gazing out onto the lawn where Lucy played. I don’t drink wine, but I drank anyway. Huntington is nice, almost far enough away from the city to feel safe.
I’d just gotten out of hospital. Jerry paid the medical bills. I tell you, a week in hospital made me feel like a new man.
It turns out Chairman Bob would be doing some significant jail time, soon as the sentence was handed down. They’d raided his operation and seized an outbound shipping container in the docks that contained eight girls. All of them were fine.
Only I called it in, the cops might never have found them.
“Why won’t you take the money I promised?”
“I get by, Jerry,” I said. “I get by.”
“What about a car, then?”
That Doctors Coupe was worth a hundred thousand.
“I don’t live in the kinda place you could park a car like that. Too much hassle.”
I finished my wine. Time to move on.
Ficco arrived and waltzed straight into the garage like he owned the place, like he was due some huge debt for his services.
“Hey,” he said. “Just gonna do some work on the SLK.”
“Jeez,” Ficco said to me,” you look like a dog’s dinner.”
I popped him one on the jaw. Wasn’t proud of myself, just kinda happened. Ficco, he had a face you couldn’t help but want to hit.
“Chrissakes, Mickey,” he said. “Okay, Jerry, I get it. Youse guys got serious problems, you know that. Always with the names.”
Michael McGlade has published over 50 short stories in journals such as Spinetingler, The Big Click, J Journal, and Both Barrels anthology by One Eye Press. He holds a master’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the Seamus Heaney Centre, Queen’s University, Ireland. You can find out the latest news and views from him on McGladeWriting.com.