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Arick Huebris: Aftermath
Every so often though, I get that weird client that intrigues me. That one client that elbows into my already overcrowded brain and sticks something else in there for me to think about. Bastards. In the most recent instance, a semi-burly guy, truck driver by the look of him, brought what looked like a roll of carpet into my office. He plopped it down on my desk and it turned out to be a woman wrapped in cellophane, dead about 6 hours by the look of her. Splattered blood all over my desk, my newly hand-washed and hand-polished desk. Business was slow; I had to occupy my time.
"You're paying for the stains on my desk meathead." I said in a blithe tone.
"Yeah fine." He said in his best tough guy voice. It was strained though. "I need you to find out who killed my girl here. My baby daughter is dead and I want someone to pay."
"Spare me your feelings. We talk price first before I agree to anything. We're starting at five hundred dollars for the desk alone."
"I can pay you one hundred grand. Is that enough?" he said, talking hurriedly and bordering on frantic.
I hope my eyes didn't pop. That's more than I make in a whole damn year. But for this much money, there's always a damn catch, and usually a nasty one too. Images of Evelyn Gray came zinging into my head like popcorn in the microwave. Still, a hundred grand. Money, one of life's blessed certainties. People always need it in some form.
"Agreed. Cash only."
"My daughter and I run arms, drugs, goods, and anything else criminals want." He began unsteadily. He really looked like he was about ready to cry. As big as he was, it was more amusing and annoying than sympathy-provoking. "Our services go to the highest bidder, so we've worked for a bunch of different bosses. Always delivered, never any complaints. Then earlier today, we were driving to the drop off point for Antonio Carvella's shipment. Out of nowhere some guys ambushed us. All masked, all armed. They took my truck and shot Regina. The lead guy looked at me and said to give his regards to Tony. Didn't give me a name or nothin. I'm in deep here mister. Regina is dead and unless I come up with that shipment, Carvella will kill me himself."
Good enough by my standards. Doubly good considering the police weren't involved yet. Don't get me wrong, those pea-brains have their place in society, but their methods are restrictive, boring, and downright constraining. Besides, doing what I do got me kicked off the police force in the first place, so no love lost. A juicy paycheck and no authorities, that suits me just fine.
I was still waiting for the catch, but his story was good enough to start. "You got a name?" I asked.
"Ok Donald," I said looking him square in the eye. Strange how that unnerved 99% of people including him. "Stand back."
I undid the cellophane and grabbed the girl's head. After all this time the rush still hits me by surprise, but at least this was innocuous enough. Typical day as far as I could tell. Breakfast, checking the security on their truck, talking with Donald about business and checking the map they'd been given. Then she got shot. No clues, the men in masks had hidden themselves well. This meant asking around for information, and I do despise most people. I hoped word of this had spread enough for Daniel to catch some rumors; otherwise there would be some major legwork involved. I also hate legwork. Looking up, I saw Donald retching violently all over my office. I miss Zoot Suit for that. He was a sick psycho with no qualms about anything, but at least he never made messes for me to clean up.
"That's going on your bill," I said assertively while donning my hat. "Come on, it's time for a drink."
"There's a reason I'm damn good at my job. That was it. If you're done staring in awe at the freak show that my life is, I'd like to track down your daughter's killer."
"Sure." He gasped. "Did you find out where they are?"
"No, but I know a guy who will know. Bartender at the Salty Dog Tavern. We do favors for each other around town and last I checked he still owes me one."
Probably shouldn't have mentioned that place. Donald started retching again. Thankfully we were outside walking in an alley by that point; otherwise I was going to beat the hell out of him.
"For a criminal, you have a damned weak stomach son. Maybe you should consider another line of work. I recommend something actually legal. Even what I do isn't technically illegal." That last bit was only partially true, but truth is what you make it.
Anyhow, we walked on in a state of blessed silence until the bar was in sight. Donald looked catatonic now and just followed me. There were a few fights out front. No matter, I'd seen worse here and not too long ago. Daniel really could care less who hurt or maimed who as long as they didn't screw up his bar. A good many patrons had the scars that showed how much he cared. My normal booth was open. For some reason most people were scared to even walk near it much less sit in it.
"Whiskey and turpentine again?" Jessica asked, walking up to the table.
"Make it a double." I replied stoically. "I'm on the job. And bring my client one as well. He needs a stiff drink. Oh, and get Daniel out here. I need to talk with him."
"Sure hon. But if you punch him again..." her voice trailed off as she raised her skirt a few inches to show off the sleek black pistol she kept there for emergencies as her face quirked into a half-serious, half-amused smile. Ignorant girl. Still, I couldn't question her loyalty. She stood by her man. I would have admired that quality more, but no one had ever been loyal to me and I've survived just fine.
After a few minutes, Daniel stopped by with the drinks. "All right Arick, make it quick. We're busy tonight if you haven't noticed."
"No small talk, I'm hurt." I said in mock sarcasm as Daniel smiled a bit too forcefully for my taste. "This guy drives a truck. He had a shipment for Antonio Carvella. It was jacked earlier today. Know anything?"
"I think so." Daniel lowered his voice. "A few guys came in earlier with fresh cash, probably got a cut of whatever they did earlier. Jessica made a fortune dancing on the bar for them, but they left half-an-hour ago. I heard they work for Sidney O'Halloran."
"One of Carvella's rivals." I mused. "Any word on where they went?"
"O'Halloran has a warehouse disguised as a thrift store about 10 blocks from here. That's the best I can give you."
"Good enough." I said downing the second shot. "Put these on my tab. Come on Donnie, we're out of here." He still looked catatonic, but the drink had at least put some color in his cheeks. Pitiful excuse for a criminal, absolutely pitiful.
Upon closer inspection, there was a manager's office in the back with a desk, computer, bookshelf, and a trapdoor with a staircase beneath. It sounds cliché, but honestly that's how it usually works. Most smart bad guys aren't going to have their illegal operations out in plain sight. They'll disguise it to look like something legal. Visit Las Vegas if you don't believe me. Anyhow, the staircase led down a ways into an empty, dimly lit hallway with a door at the far end. Being the ungentlemanly and arrogant person I am, I dragged Donald to the door and promptly walked in. Typical warehouse. Massive shelves, crates, forklifts, pallets, lifts, everything a regular warehouse uses plus about a dozen tough looking guys, no doubt armed to the teeth.
"Who the hell are you?" one of them asked as he and two others drew pistols."What are you doing in here?"
"My name's Arick Huebris or The Mortician, take your pick." At that they all looked a bit stunned or at any rate uneasy. "You guys stole a shipment from my pathetic wuss of a client here today, and he wants it back. So give us the shipment and $50,000 and we'll be on our way."
"And if we don't?" the first one asked grinning maniacally; gaining some composure since several more goons had appeared.
"I beat the hell out of all of you; take the shipment and anything else I want."
"Yeah...right." He said, almost as if he was savoring the moment. "Shoot them."
And like idiots they pulled the triggers on their guns. Clearly they did not know who I was. Disappointing really. My reputation is one of the few things I have that I'm truly proud of. Seriously, they thought I would take on eight or so armed thugs without some sort of ace in the hole. I guess Donald wasn't the only stupid criminal I would have to deal with that day.
At any rate, the magnetic fields I created on their weapons did the job. The guns essentially blew up in their hands sending shrapnel flying in several directions. However, the fields I made were so strong, that the fragments simply flew back into the shooters. Polarization is a neat trick when used properly.
"Sure." Donald said looking dumbfounded at the growing number of corpses. "Are we gonna catch any backlash from O'Halloran for this?"
"I'll write him a bloody note you big pussy. Now hurry up. It's past my damn bedtime."
The safe had well over $200,000 in it. Petty cash as far as this gang's operations were concerned. Still, I had expenses and I didn't think Donald would actually have the cash on him, so this was easier. I found a bag and loaded it up with all the money. Then I found some paper and wrote O'Halloran a little message about not shooting the middle-man, leaving innocent people out of it, steering clear of me, and a couple other cliché and boring things I didn't want to write. I only wrote the whole thing to get my point of leaving Donald and myself alone across.
"My stuff is still on one of their trucks." Donald said behind me.
"So find the bloody keys and just take the damn truck. Do I look like your fucking babysitter?" For some reason, hanging around this guy was putting me in a foul mood. "Just find the keys and go. There was enough money here to cover your bill for my services, so we're done."
"Thank you," he said, extended his hand for a shake.
"Are you stupid? Did you see what I did to your daughter's body? It works the same on live people. Just go, and don't ever come see me again."
"Ok," he said meekly. Then he left.
What a day. Decent payoff, back in the game, and pissed off almost beyond belief. I needed a drink. So naturally I went back to the Salty Dog. My table was exactly how I had left it, sans drinking glasses.
"Daniel told me not to serve you anymore." Jessica said walking up. "You're tab's over three grand."
"Fair enough," I said fishing a stack of cash from my trench coat. "Here's five grand, it should cover me for awhile. Now I'll take a whiskey and turpentine cocktail, plus some chicken wings."
"Wow, big payday for you." She said. "I'll get those right up for you."
She brought back my drink, and I sipped it slowly. An acquired taste to be sure, but infinitely better than anything else out there. With this much cash I could take awhile off, relax for a bit. Yeah right. Just not in me to do that. I could manage for a day or two, but then I'd get bored. And knowing my luck, those voices in my head would come back. Still, new trench coat, clothes, a cot; I might even splurge and get a computer. I pondered the possibilities as I stared around the bar at the other patrons. They seemed to resist meeting my eyes and some people even left all together. Daniel scowled at me from behind the bar. I just chuckled dryly.