03 July 2012

HALLEY PRESTON - Part 1

 


Massimo snorted into the glass of Armagnac and set it gently onto the table. “No, no.” He looked over at Simon. “I think you misunderstand.”

“Oh, no I understand.” Simon nodded at the burly Italian man seated before him. His voice, now an octave higher, sounded surreal as it began to waiver. “You need to get rid of your wife and you want me to take her out.”

“Yes,” Massimo smiled, nodding vigorously. “Exactly.”

“Yeah, well,” Simon cleared his throat and pushed his chair away from the table, “I can't help you.” He stood up, strode quickly to the door of the restaurant, glanced over his shoulder and disappeared.

“Americans!” Massimo shook his head at Antonio who had been standing silently beside the table. “They see Italians and think murder.”

Antonio laughed.

“Why?” Massimo searched the heavens with his manicured hands, a diamond ring sparkling on his left pinky finger. “Why is this so difficult?”

“It would have been easier in the old country?”

The older man nodded.

“This is a delicate matter.” Antonio adjusted his cuff links. “Maybe we are wrong to seek help from the regular channels. Now that we are in America,” Antonio poured himself a drink, “We need a new strategy.”

Massimo sipped from his glass. “I still don't understand why you don't do it.”

“You know I cannot. Your wife,” Antonio searched for the words with his hands. “We are too close, she is like a sister to me and we cannot risk anything being traced to you.” The younger man shook his head and sat down in the empty seat. “No, it must come from a stranger.”

“But what stranger?”

Anontio nodded. “Perhaps there is another way.”

“Dimmi.”

“This job, it is an assignment, like any other, no?”

“Si,” Massimo nodded.

“Then we must treat it as we would a respectable position.” Antonio waved his hands. “We advertise, look at resumes, photographs, have interviews, check backgrounds and then, only then, we select someone younger, stronger, more handsome, more educated, more charming and more suitable for the position. She is your wife. It must be someone of your choosing.”

“Antonio?” Massimo stared into his glass for a moment, then beamed at the younger man, “I think I like this plan B.”

“Plan B,” Antonio held up his glass. “Salute!”
 

Glancing over his shoulder uneasily, Simon shuffled away from the restaurant. He turned at the end of the block into an alley where an empty vehicle sat unattended. Simon shuddered and glanced over his shoulder again.

From a shaded doorway, with his arms folded across his broad chest, a man studied Simon's puny profile. “Good lunch?”

“Damian.” Simon turned toward the voice, his mouth slightly agape.

The man stared at Simon as he spoke, enunciating every word. “You know Simon, I haven't eaten yet.”

Damian, easily a foot taller than Simon, looked down the alley at a stray cat as it jumped out of a dumpster and scampered over a wall.

Simon began to stammer. “I-I didn't.”

“You could have invited me, you know.” Turning to face Simon, Damian placed his hands into his pockets and shrugged, a police badge shining at his hip. “Just to show your appreciation.”

“I-I didn't eat.”

“Really?” Damian chuckled. “I thought that's what people did in fancy restaurants.”

Simon shook his head.

“No? Huh,” Damian scratched his head. “Must have it wrong then.” His eyes glistened as he squinted at Simon. “Well what, did, you do?”

“N-nothing.”

“Simon?” Looking down at the ground, Damian kicked an empty soda can. “I don't believe you. Don't get me wrong.” He took his hands out of his pockets and waved them absently. “I really want to, but I don't.”

“I didn't do n-nothing.”

Sighing, Damian shook his head from side to side. “You know I really hate it when you miss your appointments, Simon.”

“W-what appointments?”

Damian smiled and folded his arms across his chest. “The ones your PO will say you missed when I take you in, unless,” the officer smiled, “unless you tell me what you did.” He jerked his head to the left. “In there.”

Simon looked back down the alley.

“You can tell me.” Removing a pair of handcuffs from his jacket, Damian dangled them before Simon's nose, “Or you can wear these.”

Rooted to the spot, Simon swayed as a tremor began to take hold of his legs.

“Why don't we discuss this,” Damian pointed to the empty vehicle. “In my office?”
 

“And I told him,” Simon sat in the passenger seat neurotically wiping his sweaty palms against his jeans, “that I couldn't help him.”

Damian sat motionless in the driver's seat as Simon studied his profile.

“Look, that's the truth. I-I swear.”

Damian didn't flinch.

“That's the truth, Damian, I-I swear to God. You have to believe me. I-I.”

“Shh,” Damian waved an arm in Simon's direction and resumed his contemplation. After several minutes, Damian nodded at the windshield. “It's okay,” he placed a key into the ignition and the engine began to purr. 
Damian smiled, “I believe you Simon, and to prove it, I'm gonna take you home.” He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a white handkerchief. “But first,” a click reverberated throughout the vehicle as the doors locked shut. “First, we have to take a quick side trip.”

Damian reached into the passenger seat.

Simon struggled helplessly against the white handkerchief held over his face.
 

Carefully, Damian removed his jacket, shoes and socks and rolled his pant legs up to his knees. Putting on a pair of gloves, he slid his arms under Simon's armpits, and dragged the unconscious young man through the woods and toward a lake.

At the water's edge, Damian stopped beside a long abandoned decaying rowboat with two oars. Positioning the body so that the legs would enter the water first, Damian rolled Simon onto his stomach.

Grabbing an oar, Damian inserted it as far as he could into the back of Simon's shirt, through his belt and down into the seat of his jeans.

“See Simon?” Damian stood panting over the body. “I told you I'd take you home.”

Mustering all of his energy, Damian took hold of the oar and pushed Simon down into the lake.





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