Sure, I was cuffed to the chair. And sure, the chair faced over the open quarry. But if Cold wanted to kill me, he had ample chance. Either way, it wouldn’t do to be completely slave to his whims – and there was a little play in the cuffs. They were clearly cheaper than a swampland sauna.
“It’s not like you to leave a stiff in the cold, Al.”
“Had to send a message, Kurt.”
“Yeah, well Luce put a gun in my face.”
“Luce is more on the looking end of a piece… She came?”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
When I came to, the hangover was hitting harder than the headwound. I could feel that I was cuffed to a chair – we stared out into the gaping maw of open quarry.
Digits? I’d waste that fucker for playing this game. Though this was a little brutish…
Pebbles dropped like my chances of a good morning’s sleep, clanging off the quarry wall with an echo weaker than a hooker’s waistband.
“Long time, Kurt.”
“Don’t sound like a dead man, Al. Last I heard your throat was cut this morning.”
“You ought to watch your news outlets. We need to talk.”
Time I left Roy’s, my head was a swirl of liquor and the lattice of leads stabbed harsh into my temple. Figured that’s what brought the frown until I noticed that I was staring at the open hood of my car.
I kept nothing in it – but the lever is beneath my dashboard.
I took a few steps towards it like wading through shit and placed my hand on the wing. Empty darkness.
My vision blacked out before I registered the blow.
My head reeled as if falling back but I could feel strong arms tipping me into the trunk.
She sat with her back to the room, curled brown hair trapped loosely beneath a scarlet beret. Vicious red nails on bone-white cigarette; long, deep draws into delicate smoke rings.
As I crossed the floor, her chiselled calf pushed a chair aside for me to sit. I sat beside her. We each watched the leather back wall of the booth.
“Mr Ansa. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“Who are you?”
“That’s not important right now. But you can call me… Awely. Miss Awely.”
“Why are you following me?”
“There’s a ship, Kurt. Well, a derelict. Out beyond the third buoy.”
The sun had set long past but Roy’s joint lived in perpetual twilight. The décor looked like it’d benefit from a night out in a storm, but the atmosphere was comfortable enough if you didn’t mind the stench of suspicious eyes on you. There were booths – I made it a professional courtesy to stay out of them. Roy’s was rest, not work.
“You look tired, man,” Roy growled as he served my third top-up. “The candle burns the brightest burns the shortest. And you’re burning so very, very bright.”
Roy tipped his head, looked towards a booth.
He must have seen the apathy pooling at my feet like it was cigar smoke.
“I know who you’re after, Ansa. I could make things… difficult… regarding Higgs.”
“You’re in no position to blackmail me, Digits.”
“You’re.. you’re right, Kurt. Look, you gotta help me out. Suzy called me up this morning all screaming to high heaven that there was a body in her bed. Not the kind of stiff she knows, you get me?”
“Don’t care, Digits. You want to hire me, come by my office.”
He spoke some more but I got in my car, shut him out.
Jimmy Digits’ hat was low so it was hard to see his eyes but the crook looked uneasy nonetheless. His driver did his greatest impression of an absent man and I guessed Digits wanted to be frank.
“This ain’t your MO, Digits.”
“How perceptive of you to notice, dick. Sure you don’t need to look for more clues at the beneath a lake of liquor?”
“Don’t get cocky.”
He looked up at the revolver on the roof of my car.
“Hey, I’m sorry, man. I’m feeling pretty tetchy. I’ve dropped the ball on something. I need your help.”
The door swung open and a thickset man stepped out. He paced to the rear door, held his hand near the handle, then looked expectantly in my direction.
I switched off the engine and stepped from the car. I laid my revolver on the roof.
The driver opened the door and a tiny man spilled out. He wore his large hat like a frown and with an expression to match. They called him Jimmy Digits after what he took when he offered a cigar, but really he had a plethora of intimidation tactics.
This wasn’t one of them.
By the time the sunset was just a lipstick smear on the ocean’s collar, I noticed I’d picked up a shade.
Was a wonder I’d not seen him sooner, the car was pretty conspicuous: filing-cabinet grey sedan with a mismatched hood. Still, it was being driven calm and safe behind the darkened glass. All I could see were leather driving gloves sensibly gripping the wheel.
I noticed he was indicating off as the road pulled up to the old quarry. I didn’t bother to signal but swung the car into the quarry anyway.
He parked up a good distance back.
I fed Lucy enough of a line that she left with her bullet in the barrel. The dame couldn’t have ended Cold but I wasn’t taking that risk with me.
But god-damn all that stress nearly sobered me up. I’d have to take a drive to the cliffs to air out my head.
I parked in the usual spot overlooking the bluff. The wipers were stuck on but they wouldn’t clear my brain.
The bay was an oily slick shot through with the bloodstain of a setting sun but I could see it on the horizon. A storm was coming.