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Excerpt from "The Resurrection of Carlo"

                 Chapter Two

               Mid-air surprise

 

     Onboard the flight for the first leg of his journey, Thomas was settled in an aisle seat in coach.  The somewhat disgruntled baby three rows back was expressing its extreme displeasure in a very loud manner.  As much as its mother tried to calm it, the screaming continued unabated.  Thomas was remembering how spoiled he had become, on his previous visit to Brazil, flying in first-class at Carlo’s expense.  He could only hope that there would not be anyone with a snoring problem on the overnight flight from New York to Sao Paulo.  He had experienced that once before.  Had any of the two hundred or so people on board had a gun, the poor guy might have been shot multiple times.  Such was the severity of his snoring and the extreme discomfort it caused everyone on board, including an elderly woman who was crying non-stop.

 

The individual occupying the window seat beside him on this flight was certainly no Sofia.  It had been on the first-class flight to Sao Paulo, on the previous occasion, that Thomas was fortunate enough to meet her.  That flight had been the most wonderful traveling experience he had ever enjoyed.  On this occasion, he was seated next to an eighty-year-old grandmother who was determined to tell him all about her eight grandchildren and subject him to a display of at least thirty pictures.  It wasn’t that he objected so much, or at least he wouldn’t have if the circumstances of his trip were more pleasant.  The problem was his inability to concentrate on anything she told him.  His mind was far too preoccupied with worry.  Fortunately, the sweet old gal was only traveling as far as New York.

     After a two-hour wait in New York for his connecting flight, Thomas was on his way to Sao Paulo.  This time, he had a completely different sort of individual as a window seat companion.  The gentleman seated to his left was a very serious-looking fellow with a face that displayed both toughness and cordiality.  During a somewhat quick yet friendly introduction, Thomas learned that his name was Casio De Rigo, and he was from Sao Paulo.  What he learned next set his nerves on edge.

 

     “So, you were in New York on business, Mr. De Rigo?”

     “Please, call me Casio.  No need to be so formal.  Yes, a business of a sort.  I am with the Brazilian National Police.  I attended a training course for what you call Internal Affairs.  You know of that?”

     Thomas was feeling slightly uncomfortable, for obvious reasons, yet managed to answer.  “Yes.  Of course!  Internal investigations of police activities.”

     “Yes!  This is so.  We have many problems in Brazil with such things.  Police there are among the lowest paid.  This is the cause of much corruption.  It is my job to find it and eliminate it.  I should need to live a few hundred years to succeed, I think.”  There was a slight laugh and yet a tone of resignation in his voice.

     “I know what you’re saying.  I’m somewhat aware of the problems there.  It’s sad, really.  The police should be paid enough that they have no need to resort to criminal activities.  But still, even in America, where they are paid decently, there are dishonest police.”

     “Yes, it is a problem everywhere, but worse in Brazil.”

 

Thomas knew only too well what police corruption was like in Brazil.  It was almost a way of life, a normal function of society.  Most disturbing was the fact that he couldn’t possibly know how many officials Carlo had in his pocket now.  In his new situation, he would have inherited all of Luiz De Salvo’s connections, which could be numerous. 

 

     “So, what is your reason for visiting Sao Paulo, Thomas?”

     “Just going to visit a friend.”  Thomas was uncertain about divulging his destination of Florianopolis.  He couldn’t shake the idea that even those who purport to investigate the corrupt may be corrupt themselves.

     “Well, Sao Paulo can be a dangerous place.  It is a wonderful city with so much culture and diversity, but still dangerous if you are not careful.  I will give you my card.  If you find yourself with any problems, do not hesitate to call me.  I will be more than happy to help.”

     “Thanks!  That’s very kind of you.  I appreciate it.”

     “Actually, Thomas, I was to spend another month in New York.  I am heading home earlier than planned because there was a big problem a few months ago.  A number of bodies were discovered in the area of Manaus.  One of them was a well-known criminal and highly connected person.  This may be the opportunity to weed out those in the police that he had corrupted.”

At the very mention of Manaus and the bodies, Thomas turned almost pale.  He was barely able to remain calm as he feigned ignorance.

 

      “Manaus?  Bodies?  That sounds pretty bad!  Isn’t Manaus up in the Amazon?”

     “Yes.  It’s almost a thousand miles up the Amazon.  There was a gun battle of some sort upriver from there.  It appears there were ten men killed.  One of them was Luiz De Salvo.  Very bad character!  He was the one with the connections I will investigate.”

     “Fascinating.  Well, I wish you good luck,” Thomas said with a great deal of sincerity. 

 

If those connections were now Carlo’s, and they were under investigation, it might keep them out of Thomas’ situation.  He could only hope.

 

     “It will take more than luck, Thomas.  There was also one very interesting detail about this thing that happened.”

     “What was that?”

     “There were four men from Queens, New York, among the bodies.  Mafia types.  One was identified as Pauly Sabatini.  The other two were low-level gangsters.  Probably just for muscle. There were two more men who did not appear to be connected to De Salvo.  We haven’t yet discovered their connection to this thing.”

     “Really?  Well, criminals associate with other criminals, I guess.”

Casio laughed just slightly, “This was not a social occasion.  This was a gunfight.  Plain and simple!  But over what?  That is the real question.”

     “I suppose it is.  No chance they had dealings with each other?”

     “Doubtful.  Forensics proved that all but two of them were shot with the guns found at the scene.  It seemed everyone was shooting everyone.  The other two were shot by someone else.  There were no guns to match the slugs found in those two bodies.  One would have been a nine-millimeter and the other a forty-five.  So, two participants are unaccounted for.”

 

There went Thomas’ grip on the possibility that he hadn’t actually killed anyone in spite of having fired a full clip of ammo.  He was the one carrying the forty-five Colt automatic, and a body with slugs from a forty-five in it was pretty convincing proof that he had indeed taken a life.  He managed to push the thought to the back of his mind for the moment.

 

    “So then, you think there are others who were involved?”

     “Yes, of course,” Casio responded as he looked at Thomas in a way that said, ‘You must understand that?’, “Guns do not walk away by themselves.”

     “I guess not.  So, there must have been.”  Thomas tried to put a positive spin on the conversation, “At least those who died were no real loss to the world.  I’m sure many people suffered, one way or another, at their hands.”

     “Of course.  I do not care that these animals are dead.  Good riddance to them.  Whoever killed them did a favor. I care only about the involvement of any police in their criminal activities.  Nothing more.  We will never find the guns anyway.  Probably at the bottom of the Rio Negro.”

     “Yes.  I suppose so.  May I ask you a question, Casio?”

     “Yes, of course.  What is it?”

     “How, on earth, does a policeman stay honest in Brazil?  How many are actually willing to live in poverty and take the risks associated with the job?  It seems almost hopeless to expect any degree of honesty from them.”

     “There are many who do the job very honestly.  Some take a little money here and there for minor things.  I don’t care about them.  It is the ones who help the drug traffickers, the murderers, and the kidnappers.  Only the truly bad ones!  As for me?  My parents wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer.  My family is very well off.  I chose this career because I do not need the money.  So, I can do what is right and not worry about starving.  I always want to make things better.  It is not all about catching crooked cops.  It is also about fighting for better pay and benefits for the honest police we do have.  So that they will remain honest!  The only way to reduce corruption is to erase the cause.”

      “Casio, I’m impressed.  I hope we get the chance to meet again one day.”

     “Yes!  For sure!  You just call me.  I will be very happy to meet with you.”

As the flight attendants began serving the in-flight meal, Thomas began feeling more comfortable with this Brazilian policeman.  He certainly did seem to be of the honest variety.  He also seemed like someone who might be of help if the need arose.  When they had finished their meal, they continued their conversation.  Now they talked about family and future, hopes and dreams.  Casio was a devoted father of three daughters.

     “You have three daughters, Casio?”

     “Yes.  They are growing too fast.  Their ages are fourteen, fifteen, and seventeen.”

     “I can’t believe this,” Thomas said as he grinned from ear to ear.  “I have three daughters too.  Even better, they’re the same ages as yours.”

     “No!  It can’t be so.  Really?”

     “Yes!  It’s true.  Here,” Thomas pulled out his wallet and showed Casio a picture of the three girls together.  Within seconds, Casio had taken out pictures of his daughters, and they were sharing stories about the joys and the difficulties of raising so many girls.

     “Well, at least the boys must be somewhat afraid of you, Casio,” Thomas joked.

     “Not always as much as I would like, Thomas.  But, enough, I suppose.  I give them the cold stare.  That usually makes their hair stand up.”

     “Ahh, yes.  The cold stare works very well.  Use it often myself.”

After another hour of shared stories about family, both men decided it was time to get some sleep.  This long, overnight flight would not arrive in Sao Paulo until morning.  Casio seemed quite adept at sleeping soundly in the confines of his window seat.  Thomas, on the other hand, had never found it easy to sleep for any length of time in such cramped quarters.  As he tried desperately to get some shuteye, Thomas continued to think about the possibility that this man beside him might be helpful in his situation.  For certain, it would only be in the most difficult of predicaments.  There was a deep fear of his being discovered as the man who wielded that Colt forty-five on the Rio Negro. 

In spite of Casio’s declaration that whoever killed those men did a favor, could he really turn his back on Thomas’ involvement?  There was no way to be sure until the time came.

Morning arrived, although not soon enough to suit Thomas, and breakfast was being served.  Casio awoke, stretched, and gave a cheerful good morning.  During breakfast, they talked more about family, and Casio urged Thomas to stay in touch.

 

     “It would be good, I think, to invite you to my home for a barbecue.  You know about Brazilian barbecues?”

     “Oh yes!  Brazilian barbecues are amazing!  Thanks for the invitation.  I just might take you up on it.”

     “Well, I hope you do.  It has been very nice to meet you.  I hope we meet again soon.  Enjoy your stay in Sao Paulo.”

 

The plane was beginning its final approach to the airport as Thomas continued to think about the coincidence of this meeting.  On his first trip, he met Sofia, who proved not only to be invaluable to him in surviving the entire ordeal but also turned out to be the love of his life.  Now he meets another person who could turn out to be very helpful if things should go dramatically wrong on this return to Brazil.  Could the fates have been so kind a second time?

Once disembarked, and having passed through customs, Thomas and Casio said a final farewell in the airport lobby.  Thomas declined an offer to share a taxi and claimed he was waiting for a friend to pick him up.  He was still not prepared to divulge his destination of Florianopolis.  Better safe than sorry, he thought.  Casio repeated his invitation for Thomas to visit his family, then shook hands and departed.  Once Casio was safely in his taxi and leaving the airport, Thomas made his way to the departure gate for his next flight.  There was only a wait of slightly less than two hours before takeoff.

 

The flight on Brazilian Airlines to Florianopolis would take only an hour.  Thomas’ first act upon arriving would be to phone Antonio and arrange to meet him.  From that point on, things would undoubtedly get very interesting and, in all probability, equally dangerous.

As he relaxed in his reclined seat, Thomas could think only about his fateful meeting with Casio.  By the time he had arrived in Florianopolis, Thomas had decided he would take the risk and find at least some involvement for him.  Of course, there would be no forthcoming confession about Manaus, but there would certainly be some opportunity to use Casio’s position to his advantage. 

 

Florianopolis is the capital of the State of Santa Catarina.  With as many as forty-two different blue water beaches, it is a major tourist destination.  The population nearly doubles to over half a million people during tourist season.  It seems to be a favorite destination for tourists from Argentina, and it is not uncommon to hear more Spanish spoken than Portuguese.  Unfortunately, Thomas wasn’t there as a tourist, and the minute he disembarked from the plane, he was on the phone with Antonio.  Never mind the pastel buildings that dot the city, or the remnants of what was the most heavily fortified port in the new world, or any other tourist attractions.  Thomas had a very different mission.  

When Antonio answered the phone, there was panic in his voice.

     “Hello!  Who is this?”

     “Antonio, it’s me, Thomas.  What’s wrong?”

     “Tommy, thank God.  They got Victor.  Carlo’s men got Victor.  I don’t know what to do.”

     “Oh, God!  Antonio.  How did it happen?  What about Paola?”

     “They only took Victor.  They left Paola here.  She’s a basket case, Tommy.  So am I.  We gotta do something.  We gotta get my son back.”

     “Tell me where you are.  I’ll be there as quickly as I can grab a taxi.  We’ll work something out, Antonio, I promise.” 

 

Thomas jotted down the address and ran out of the terminal to grab the first taxi he could find.  Fifteen minutes later, he was knocking on Antonio’s door.  After opening the door just enough to be able to peer through the crack, Antonio saw it was Thomas and removed the security chain to let him in.

 

     “Tommy!  What the hell are we gonna do?  This is bad, Tommy.  They got my son.  They took him to Carlo’s.”

     “Did they leave a message of any kind?  They took him for a reason, Antonio.  Carlo wants something.  What is it?”

     “He wants you.  Thinks I can tell him where to find you.  He wants Sofia too.  He knows she’s the one who cracked his computer.  They said I gotta help them get you both.”

     “OK!  Then we have some leverage.  How’s Paola holding up?”

     “She’s a mess, Tommy.  Hasn’t stopped crying since they took him.  She’s in the bedroom bawling her eyes out.”

     “This is all my fault, Antonio.  I’ll just make a deal with him.  I got you into this; I have to get you out of it.”

     “Don’t blame yourself, Tommy.  I made my decision, and it was the right one.  I would do it again.  No question.  What I can’t figure out is why they didn’t take Paola too.”         “Not hard to figure.  They knew she would be a mess.  They counted on that to make you desperate and sloppy.  She’s a tool against you.  Her suffering would make you careless.”

     “Yeah, I never thought of that.  They almost got their wish.  When you called, I was getting ready to go to Sao Paulo to try to get my son back.”

     “Then I’m glad I called when I did.  That would have been a mistake.  I’m sure they have him at Carlo’s place. Probably in the same room in the basement where he kept Angela and then me.”

     “So, what do you have in mind to do, Tommy?  You must have a plan.  You were real good at this before.”

     “Well, first of all, it’s time to rattle Carlo’s cage.  I so enjoyed doing that to him.  Think I’ll give him a call.”

     “Don’t piss him off too bad, Tommy.  I don’t want him to hurt my son.”

     “It’s when Carlo’s not pissed off that you need to worry about Victor.  The angrier he is with me, the less attention he’s going to focus on your son.”

      “I hope you’re right, Thomas.”

     “Yeah!  Me too.  But I think I have his nature pretty well figured out by now.  He’s not really all that difficult to read.”

 

Thomas pulled out his cell phone and dialed Carlo’s number.  Carlo had been expecting a call from Santos, one of his upper-echelon police connections, and when the phone rang, he assumed it was him.

 

     “Santos!  What did you find out?”

     “Santos?  Now, who might Santos be, Carlo?  And what was he supposed to find out?”

     “Tommy?  I must admit I’m surprised.  I thought you would be finding a seriously large hole to hide in by now.”

     “Then you underestimate me.  Seems you made that mistake once before.  Are you sure you want to do it again?”

     “So, to what do I owe the pleasure, Tommy?”

     “It seems that you have a friend of mine in your possession.  I want him back.”

     “Is that right?  Afraid I can’t do that, Tommy.  Unless, of course, we can work out an exchange!  You for him.”

     “How odd, that’s pretty much what I had in mind.  You know, at first, I was considering the possibility that when you were a kid, you were the schoolyard bully.  Then I remembered what a cowardly little runt you are.  Always need the big boys to protect you.  I’m betting that you were the one being bullied when you were a kid.  And now you’re trying to get even.”

     “You have such a nice way of pissing me off, Tommy.”

     “Well, Carlo, I guess my point is, why the hell are you playing bully with a three-year-old kid?  Have you lost all your manhood?  Are you that cowardly?”

 

     By now, Carlo’s face was that shade of red that Thomas would know so well from past experience.  Even if he couldn’t see his face, he knew without question that it was turning crimson.  He could tell by the anger in his voice.

 

     “You made a big mistake if you came back to Brazil, Tommy.  This time you won’t be leaving.  Count on it.”

     “I wouldn’t get too cocky, Carlo.  You keep forgetting the last time we met.  But enough foreplay!  Let’s get down to the serious business.  You want this exchange or not?”

     “Damn right, I do.  The sooner, the better.”

     “Then stay by your phone and wait for my call.  And when the time comes, there had better not be so much as a bruise on that kid.  Not a hair out of place.  You understand me?”

     “The kid’s fine.  He’s got a room full of toys down there.  He gets fed.  But I only have so much patience.  So, you better be in touch fast.  I don’t care much for kids.”

     “Yeah, Carlo.  I got it.  I’ll call when I hit Brazil.”

 

    Thomas put away his cell phone and looked at Antonio.  The sadness on the big man’s face was unmistakable.  Thomas was sure he could never find the proper words to encourage him.  He walked over to Antonio, put his hands on his shoulders, and looked up into his eyes.  “I promise you, my friend, I’ll get Victor back, or I’ll die trying.” 

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Excerpt from "The Vengeance of Thomas"

Chapter 1 :  Joes Tavern

 

     It was half past midnight, pitch black and with a slight drizzle of rain when the Mustang pulled up to the curb in a more than seedy neighborhood of Toronto. The driver, Thomas De Angelo, shut off the engine and scanned the street. It was empty. Not a soul to be seen. He glanced at the decrepit building to his right. The neon sign in the blacked-out window blinked erratically. More than a few of the letters had burned out, but he could still make out the name. Joes Tavern! It was his destination. He stepped from the car and walked slowly towards the building. The front door was a well-worn oak with a filthy rectangular window no larger than about eight inches high and six inches wide. A dirty and yellowing sign hung from a string on the opposite side of the glass. It said 'Open.'

Through that small window, he could see that not more than four steps inside the front entrance were a set of saloon-type swinging doors. Between the obstructed view caused by those, and the blacked-out windows, it was impossible to see anything of the interior. He quietly opened the door and stepped inside. Bolting the lock behind him, he turned the soiled sign to its opposite side. Joe's tavern was now 'Closed.'

Adjusting his overcoat, he took a deep breath and pushed his way through the swinging doors. Some very foul odors had confronted him in life, but nothing prepared him for what now assaulted his nasal passages.

They say that the nose becomes immune to odors if exposed to them for a certain period of time. There was hope that the period in question was only about three seconds. No such luck. He thought that if one had to describe the smell, they would have to say a combination of booze, stale urine, rotting food, and what he could only imagine might be the odor associated with a rotting corpse. A nauseating combination, if ever there were one.

It was doubtful that this dump had ever received any visitors so immaculately dressed from head to toe. The fact that his color coordination consisted of a black shirt, black suit, and black topcoat may well have given a sinister appearance to his demeanor. If there had been any conversation taking place before his arrival, it had stopped abruptly, and all eyes were on him.

Surveying his surroundings, he absorbed every detail. The place was even more disgusting than its exterior appearance might have suggested. The hardwood floor was almost totally devoid of its original coloring and worn into a furrow on a direct path to the bar. The numerous patterns of discoloration indicated that it had been the recipient of multiple stains from spilled drinks and the occasional blood spatter. Cigarette butts were everywhere, and the burns on the floor were numerous. The bar, along the wall to his right, appeared to be mahogany and had its share of burns, scrapes, and notches that seemed to indicate that more than a few bored drunks had settled in with a knife in hand to whittle the hours away.

Opposite the bar and to his left was a series of booths. Four in all! Appearing to be mahogany as well, they were equally scarred, and the seating areas were covered in a red vinyl that was well-worn, severely cracked, and had more than an occasional strip of duct tape applied to keep the stuffing where it belonged. The entire wall above the booths was a sequence of mirrors. Each one was faded and had that ink blot appearance that comes from age and the deterioration of the laminate applied to the mirror backing. Dingy yellow light illuminated the entire scene.

The walls were decorated, if one misuses the word, with beer, liquor, and soda signs. Some were more than simply old. They were, in fact, quite valuable as collectibles. The market for that kind of thing was strong. He found himself thinking what a pity it was that the Mustang had such a small trunk. They'd never fit.

Focusing his attention on the far end of the room, he saw a lopsided pool table with patched and well-worn felt. That was when he noticed someone who didn't fit the scene. A quick count had been taken, and a hasty appraisal had been made of the place's occupants. Behind the bar stood Joe, the owner of the tavern. Burly, standing about six feet two inches tall and well over two hundred pounds, he had a grotesque scar down the right side of his face and was definitely a somewhat frightening-looking vision. His eyes were penetrating and cruel, yet almost overshadowed by the bushiest eyebrows one had ever seen. He seemed more than suspicious of this new visitor's presence.

Three people were seated at the bar on chrome and vinyl stools. One was a mountain of a man dressed in bib overalls and a plaid shirt. He sported a mane of scraggly and unkempt hair that reached past his shoulders and looked like it hadn't seen shampoo for months or even years. He was a mountain, but one with a sizeable belly that kept him seated well back from the bar. The well-dressed intruder immediately nicknamed him Fat-boy, no disrespect intended to the Harley-Davidson of the same name. He appeared no less suspicious or disconcerting than Joe.

Three stools down, there was a scrawny little turd of a man. Mousey-looking and appearing just a little nervous about this new situation, he sat there in his polyester slacks and pink shirt with a trembling hand that caused his beer glass to deposit portions of its contents on the floor, adding to the already substantial collage of stains.

Now don't misunderstand. This new visitor liked cleavage. He loved cleavage. He just wasn't that fond of it when it had more wrinkles than a set of bed sheets after a three-hour ride with a coked-up nympho. Unfortunately for his poor eyes, it was the first thing he noticed about the well-worn and well-used hag sitting next to the wimp in the pink shirt. Her hair was dyed so black that all he could think of was that forgotten hostess of horror flicks, Elvira. An old, wrinkled Elvira! Her face was in serious competition with her cleavage for the 'most grotesque wrinkles' award. Her eyes were almost vacant, her mouth absurdly red with lipstick, and her sunken cheeks packed with so much rouge it looked as if she had been punched a few times. Hard! What a rough life it must have been.

That brought him back to the one that didn't fit the scene. Leaning against the pool table was an evil-looking sort. He fit the picture well enough. He was definitely hardcore, short, tattooed, and sporting a Fu Manchu mustache to offset a balding head. His right hand had a firm grip on the shoulder-length hair of the one who didn't belong. Pressed back against the rail of the pool table, with fear in her eyes, was a well-dressed and quite pretty young woman. Blonde hair, blue eyes, and a gorgeous face were the perfect topping for what appeared to be a stunning figure. The first four buttons of her blouse lay strewn on the floor at her feet, and her black bra was askew, causing partial exposure of her left breast. There was the unmistakable feeling that she hadn't been what one would consider a willing participant in whatever was taking place before his arrival. No matter: it was time for the show.

"Folks, I'm here to offer a hell of a deal to anyone with a cell phone. Who has a cell phone here? Anybody?"

There was silence, accompanied by some understandably blank stares in his direction. He deliberately, yet slowly, made his way to the far end of the bar as he spoke.

"Seriously, people, this is a great opportunity. All you need is a cell phone. Now come on, does anyone have one?"

Finally, there were murmurs of sound as one after another mumbled a quiet 'no,' probably wondering if he was insane.

"Ahh, that's a pity," he said. By then, he was at the end of the bar, standing next to the telephone that rested beside a glass of swizzle sticks. It was an old phone. He was sure it was identical to the one that sat on a stand in the hallway when he was just a little kid, and that was too long ago to even contemplate.

He looked directly at the bartender and asked, "Is this the only phone in the place?"

"Yeah! What's it to ya?" came the gruff response.

"Just asking," he said as he retrieved a knife from his overcoat pocket and cut the cord. Once it was determined that there were no cell phones, that phone was the only means of communication with the outside. Now there was none.

He wasn't certain what it was about him that had created such a den of silence. A harsher reaction had been anticipated, and yet everyone remained in a state of motionless quiet. All except for the bartender. As distorted as the mirrors behind the booths might have been, they still picked up the reflection of Joe reaching under the bar and retrieving a sawed-off baseball bat. Seconds before that lumber would have made a dent in his skull, the stranger pulled a silencer-equipped nine-millimeter Beretta from the shoulder holster beneath his left arm and shot Joe in the chest. The look on Joe's face was one of priceless shock. With his eyes now less frightening and his mouth agape, he clutched his chest and staggered back against the liquor display case. A few bottles crashed to the floor as he thrashed about. Within no more than five seconds, he collapsed in a heap.

It was hard to say if the patrons were too drunk, stoned, or just too stupid, but there wasn't a sound, even after witnessing a cold-blooded killing. That is, except for the pretty young lady who didn't fit the scene! She let out a brief and somewhat stifled scream before she fainted and fell back onto the pool table. He now pointed the Beretta at each of the remaining patrons in turn.

"Would the conscious among you kindly move over to the booths and take a seat? All in the same booth! Leave the girl where she is." Nothing! Not a muscle moved in any one of them.

"Now! And I won't ask again. I'll start shooting those who don't follow instructions."

That final suggestion seemed to be the proper motivation. With the four of them now seated, the mousey guy next to his aging lady of the night, and the two more threatening characters side by side, the inquisition began. Retrieving his cell phone, he opened the picture file and showed them a photo.

"Anyone know this man?" There was no response. The two tough guys didn't even look. They just sneered and glared directly at him. There was only one thing to do. He pointed the Beretta at Fat-boy and pulled the trigger. The behemoth grabbed his chest, gasped for air, his face became pale, and then he dropped face-first onto the table. Suddenly a chorus of voices confirmed recognition of the man in the photo.

He handed the withered old gal a notebook and pen and told her to write down the information that everyone was about to provide. And there was plenty. He wasn't sure why it was that a group of people who had just witnessed him kill two men in cold blood and could describe him to a tee would believe it when he told them, 'Tell me what I need to know, and I won't hurt you,' But they did. You can imagine their surprise when, after gaining the information he wanted, he did to them exactly what he had done to the others. Surprise indeed.

He stuffed the notebook in his pocket, re-holstered the Beretta, and headed for the pool table where the pretty young thing still lay unconscious.  Her wallet and a set of keys were on the pool table.  He stuffed them into his coat pockets and then adjusted her bra to cover the partially exposed breast, straightened her blouse, and hoisted her over his shoulder. With her body wearing down his tired legs, he headed for the back door, which exited into a stench-filled narrow alley between the bar and a boarded-up hardware store.

He carried her the seventy-odd feet to his car, around garbage bins, broken glass, and the occasional rat, and then placed her in the passenger seat as gently as possible. After all, she had nothing to do with this. She was only an innocent bystander who had been about to be raped by the perverts of Joe's Tavern. He got behind the wheel and headed for downtown, the black Mustang GT slithering through the night at the legal speed limit. The three-hundred horsepower engine liked a bit more action than that, but attracting the attention of a passing Police cruiser would have been totally inappropriate at that particular time.

But what to do about this girl? The only plan he could devise was to leave her outside a Hospital Emergency Room and then make an anonymous call to direct them to her whereabouts. Of course, that idea went out the window the minute she regained consciousness.

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