Friday, April 10, 2009

Unmerciful - murder in NYC - Read the 1st chapter now!

1

The sun rose as if dipped in blood, turning New York Harbor from Battery Park to the mouth of the lower bay into a caldron of undulating reds that filled me with an eerie sense of foreboding.
I rubbed my face, checked the time. 6:28 a.m. I had spent the night in Manhattan after working in my office until 2 before I recalled telling the old man I would meet him at his building in Soho at 7am. He had sounded agitated by my reluctance. I reconsidered, and informed him I'd be there.
God alone knew what the old man wanted from me this time. Or, for that matter, what a man his age did with his nights that allowed him to awake fully alert as if still on the battlefield that cast his life at age sixteen in the pose of a combat soldier unable to find his way home after firing one final shot at retreating enemy.

The Medallion Cab rolled to a stop outside the converted brownstone where he had moved his office several months ago. Sunlight now speared yellow through the limbs of the barren trees, ten thousand fingers lifted in anguish.
Maybe I should have gone home to Jersey instead, I thought.
I took the steps two at a time, inhaled aromas of morning, cooked bacon, burned toast, brewed coffee; felt anxious to get beyond my thoughts, but dragged them along like a lone pallbearer at a mass burial.
My feet hit the second floor landing. I heard voices, both male, one the old man. The conversation sounded like a suppressed argument about to explode in a hail of bullets that would irrevocably alter a few lives, mine included.
Ten feet from the quarter-open door, I slipped the 9mm Glock from under my arm, dropped the safety. I have kept a round in the chamber since one of the Rovich gang shot me, to avoid the need to muffle the noise of the slide in an emergency.
Keeping close to the wall, so my steps wouldn’t snap the hardwood floor, I reached the door.
The old man sat behind his badly scarred wooden desk, both hands flat on its surface as if he intended to stand. His face appeared calm, but his eyes hardened blue. He blinked when he saw me, looked away. Then he finished his sentence. “... or die trying.”
The man standing alongside his desk, back to me, held what appeared to be a long barrel .38 with a neat homemade silencer. The silencer gave the gun a nasty look, like one snake nested in the mouth of another.
The gunman wore an expensive brown wool suit with brown tassel loafers. Well-groomed red-brown hair hung long at the nape of his neck. His profile seemed compressed by hate.
As he lifted his gun to steady his aim, I pushed the door open with the Glock. A hinge creaked like a desperate scream. The gunman turned to see who approached; his eyes emerald pinpoints of anger.
“Put it on the desk,” I said quietly despite my pounding heart.
He turned his weapon on me.
I didn’t see the old man move, but the man's suit jacket flipped open, as if he had stepped over a subway grate. Then the back of his jacket poked outward, exploded into a nightmare of color that rivaled sunrise.
The report from the .45 in the old man's fist, still leaking a spray of light gray smoke, hit me hard. I reflexively dropped to my knees. Then death's silence gripped the room. I holstered the Glock after I set the safety, looked at the old man's face. He stared at something he alone could imagine, a memory, a moment frozen in his mind that he wouldn’t share with me if I cared enough to ask.
I stood. My hands felt steady. Although my heart caromed like a golf ball against my ribs.
“Nice shot,” I said without expressing emotion.
“Glad you got here on time.” Then he nodded as if wanting to say, Lucky for you, but said, “Corner diner's open. What do you say to us getting coffee?”
“Think you'd best call the cops first. Then we'll talk ... you can explain what the hell's going on.”
He lifted the receiver. I watched his age hardened forefinger poke 911.

Copyright 2006. All rights reserved: Lawrence F Schliessmann

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