The loading dock behind the warehouse was lit at night by a single bulb, with a metal shade over it, painted white underneath, to reflect the light downward.
The Kid was waiting in the darkened alley.
Waiting for his next kill.
It was still hot from heat of the day, in that alley. Hot and still.
And he had to keep to the shadows.
The shadows he had created when he tilted the shade over the bulb.
He did not want to be seen before he was ready to be seen.
He caught a slight movement out of the corner of his eye. Nerves on edge, he crouched down and swung his gun in that direction.
"Oh, hello Mister Rat. What're you doin' here, huh? Ya know, yer lucky, you are, Mister Rat. 'Cause if I didn't have to be real quiet, 'cause, you know, I gotta job to do here, I'd tap ya. Yeah, I'd tap ya, right between those beady little eyes. 'Cause I don't like rats, see? No kinda rats. Not rat rats. Not people rats. An' what I don't like don't live too long, see?"
The rat didn't move. He just stared at The Kid and wiggled his whiskers.
"Go on. Shoo. Get outta here. I got work to do, see? I don't need no audience. Sully's gonna be walkin' down this alley real soon now and I gotta put a couple in 'im, see? 'Cause the Boss says he's a rat ... yeah .. just like you. A Rat. Boss even gave me this gun to use - poked me in the ribs with it - shit that hurt. I'm gonna pay him back one of these days ... that hurt. He said Sully's been sayin' bad things about me. Says I'm bringin' the cops down on us. I ain't afraid of no cops. These Las Vegas cops are stupid. We own most of 'em anyway."
"Look rat, you better shoo, or you won't live thru '52. Heh, heh, heh, heh. Did ya hear that? That rhymed. I'm a poet and don't know it. Damn, Sully, where the hell are you? I gotta pee. 20 years old and I got the bladder of an old man. I gotta quit drinkin' coffee."
He heard a footstep. He saw that a dark shape had entered the alley. He heard each footstep clearly. Every sense was on edge. He waited until Sully walked into the light. He stepped out of the shadows.
"Hey! Sully. G'nite." BAM BAM BAM.
Sully stood there.
"What the ..." BAM BAM BAM click click
Sully stood there, reached into his windbreaker and pulled out a nasty looking .45.
"Say goodbye, Kid." BLAM BLAM
The Kid felt the rounds slam into his chest. He sank to his knees as Sully slowly walked toward him.
"You were shootin' blanks, Kid. The Boss loaded that gun with blanks." Sully's voice was getting distant. There was a rushing sound, like a distant thunder in his ears.
The Kid looked down and saw blood bubbling out of two holes in his chest.
"You screwed up Kid. You brought the cops down on us. You're a liability, the Boss says. Take care of him, the Boss says. I always do what the Boss says. It's healthier that way."
The Kid looked at Sully. His lips moved, but no sound came out. He was having a hard time breathing. His head felt heavy and his vision was turning red.
"Why? You want to know 'Why'? Ya know, we coulda sent you to Chicago 'til the heat's off. If you was anybody else, we pro'bly would have. But not you. Because you're NUTS! You're a raving friggin' lunatic and the Boss says he can't trust ya. Just that simple."
The rushing sound in his ears, in his head, grew louder.
"G'bye, Kid. You coulda been a good one. But you're nuts. Just nuts."
Sully turned and started to walk away.
The Kid fell over on his side. Sully whirled around, gun finding it's target. But he saw no danger. The Kid was on his way out. He slowly walked away.
The Kid saw the rat moving toward him. He rolled onto his back. And the little rat thought in his little rat mind, "Go to hell."
The last thing The Kid felt was the whiskers in his ear and a nibble .....
And everything faded to black.... there was a moment of crystal clarity ... of sanity ... a moment in which he knew he had screwed it all up .. his life had gone completely wrong ... he wondered what was gonna happen next ...
Earlier that evening
The Boss was a big man. Really big. Not tall - five foot nine or ten, maybe. But he was huge.
He sat behind his huge desk, in his huge chair in front of the huge picture window that looked out over Fremont Street, Las Vegas' downtown and home to the casinos.
The Kid sat in one of the two overstuffed armchairs that faced the Boss's desk. His leg was thrown over one arm of the chair, and he was cleaning his fingernails with the point of his stiletto.
"Take off your hat Kid. It's impolite to wear your hat indoors." The Boss's voice didn't seem to fit him. That breathless, high pitched whisper was totally unexpected in a man his size.
The Kid place his grey 'stingy brim' on the floor next to the chair. "Yeah, sure Boss. No problem."
"So, waddya want? Chico said you wanted to see me."
"Yes, I did send Chico, didn't I? Normally I would have sent Sully, but that's part of the problem I want to talk to you about. There seems to be some dissension in the ranks. And Sully seems to be at the locus of that dissension. He seems to think your recent activities have alerted the Law to us. He seems to think you're out of control, and that you represent an extreme danger to this whole organization. You're not out of control, are you Kid?"
"Nah, you know better than that. Don't I always do what you want? Don't I always do what you tell me to do? Sully, he's just gettin' soft, that's all. He doesn't like gettin' pushed by the new guys - like me."
"Yes, but it's your methods, Kid. It's the WAY you do what I want you to do that he's bothered with. And now, I fear, he may take a course of action that may expose us to danger. I believe Sully has talked to some of our 'official' contacts and made arrangements to turn you in. I don't want that to happen. You are far too important to this organization."
The Kid cut through the air with his knife.
"You want me to stick 'im, Boss? I can send him back to Chicago in little pieces for ya, if that's whatcha want."
"No, Kid, I've a different idea in mind."
He reached under his desk and pulled out a beautiful red lacquered box, which he carefully place on his desk. He flipped the two brass latches on the box and opened it.
"Come around to this side of the desk, Kid. I've something for you."
As The Kid walked around the desk, he could see the shiny new gun in the case. As he moved up close to the Boss's chair, the Boss suddenly, with cat-like grace and speed, whipped the gun out of it's case and stuck the muzzle in The Kid's ribs.
The Kid flinched and jumped away.
"Don't worry, Kid, I'm not going to kill you. Just playing a bit. How do you like this?"
He flipped the gun around and handed it to The Kid, butt first.
"Gee, Boss, this is a nice piece. I never had a piece this nice before."
"Yes, Kid, it is a very nice piece. It's all loaded and ready to go. Now I'll tell you what I want."
The Kid sat down in his chair, twirling the gun.
"I'm sending Sully over to the Cheese Warehouse tonight about 10 o'clock. I would suggest to you, that if you were to be in that alley with your nice new gun, perhaps we could see an end to the divisiveness which is beginning to permeate our ranks."
"Okay, Boss. I getcha."
The Kid got up and began to walk toward the door.
"Oh, and Kid, watch out for the rats in that alley. They'll eat you alive."
Two Years Earlier ...
The Kid sat back in his seat, eyes closed, the thrumming of the engines beating a slow rhythm through his chest. He was airborne, headed to Vegas. Chicago and Midway were fading behind him. Next stop Des Moines. And then a whole bunch of other stops as this all night milk run to Vegas wound its way from one rusty bucket to another. Just as long as he made it to Vegas. Yeah, Vegas. They were building new hotels and casinos and the rackets were running wild out there. He'd get a job with somebody - he just needed to make the right connection. And he had one. A name at least. The guy worked the protection racket. Sully. The guy's name was Sully.
His hat was down over his eyes. He thought he might sleep. He hoped so. He hadn't been able to rest for days. The cops were on his ass. He had messed up. He hadn't done his work with his usual efficiency. They found Joey The Hat quicker than he thought they would. And too many people had seen him with Joey. And the fuckers ratted him out. The cops were on him so quick he didn't even have time to set up an alibi. So he had to run. And it seemed wherever and whenever he stopped to rest they would be hot on his heels and he would have to keep moving. But he'd given them the slip long enough to catch a cab to Midway and get on this plane. Yeah, well he'd been thinkin' about Vegas, anyway. He just didn't plan on goin' so soon. He didn't even have time to pack. At least he'd got this hat. Yeah. Thanks Joey. But now he was tired. He thought about how tired he was. He hoped he would sleep. He needed sleep. But sleep didn't always help. The dreams would come, sometimes. Them fuckin' dreams. Oh, how he hated them dreams.
The dreams made him crazy. At least, he thought they did. He knew he wasn't 'right'. He knew he was different. And he didn't care. In fact, there was something very liberating in knowing that he didn't care about things that mattered to other people. Like life, for example. He didn't care one way or the other whether people lived or died. There was power in that. Power, because he didn't care whether HE lived or died, either. Which meant he could do just about anything. Anything at all. Except go to jail. He'd been in jail a couple of times and he resented, he hated, being cooped up, being prisoner. And that's how he felt when she put him in the closet. Like a prisoner.
The sound of the engines drifted away ... farther and farther away ...
He was in that dark place. It felt hot and stuffy and cramped. There was no light. But he could hear sounds through the door.
I'm in the closet again and I have to stay in here cause she's not alone, there's a man, I can tell it's a man, I can hear his voice and he sounds rough and angry and she wants me to stay in here when she's not alone, but it sounds bad, like he's hitting her and hitting her and I can't get out, the door is locked, she locked the door, I can't get out and now it's quiet and I don't hear anything. I feel something at my feet and it's wet and slimy and it makes my fingers sticky and it smells familiar and I know it's blood.
He waited and waited and finally, there was light under the door. The cop opened the door and lifted him out of the closet. He tried to pull away, but the big Irish cop just held on to him all the more tightly and the rage began to build in him. The rage and the hatred at being held, he didn't like being held, it made him prisoner again, he needed to get away and he couldn't and the rage built and it built until he finally let out a blood-curling SHRIEK!! "Sir!! Sir, are you alright?"
"Fuck!" He shook his head, tried to clear the cobwebs. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. Fell asleep, I guess. Bad dream. Where the fuck are we?"
"Des Moines, sir. We've just landed in Des Moines."
Des Moines. And then Kansas City, and then Oklahoma City, Albuquerque and then Vegas.
Shit. It's gonna to be a long night.
To Kansas City ...
Airborne again. Des Moines had been left far behind. It was dark, and but for the engines, quiet in the cabin of the plane.
Try as he might, he was having difficulty staying awake. The Stewardess had said they would be on the ground for an hour when they got to Kansas City. Time enough to get off and stretch his legs a bit, and wake up. He really wanted to wake up. The dreams were going to come, again. He knew the dreams were going to come. But the sound of the engines, droning on and on, the gentle vibration through his body ... and he was drifting away from the sound to where it was soft and quiet ...
He stood there in the cold drizzle, next to the pine box that her body was in. He held a small bunch of purple flowers in his hand, his eyes tightly shut so he wouldn't have to pretend to cry. A few people were there, grownups, people who towered over him and seemed to talk in whispers and everybody was dressed in black and everybody sounded so sad. And the whispers said "Poor kid" and "Only six" and "whore" and "no way to raise a kid" and "father was executed" and "little bastard". And the priest said words in a language he didn't understand and then the box was gone into the ground and it was time to leave. He knew he was supposed to cry. But he just stood there, eyes tightly shut. Someone picked him up and carried him and held him tight, and he opened his eyes as he struggled to get free and he saw it was his uncle, he didn't like his uncle, his uncle hurt him and made him do things and he didn't want to go anywhere with him he wanted to stay with her but she was gone now and he had no one, no one but his uncle and the things he did, the THINGS HE WAS GOING TO DO!! He woke up with a start."FUCK!!"
He wiped his hand across his face.
The Stewardess looked down at him.
"Are you alright?"
"Where are we?"
"We're about an hour out of K.C. Can I get you something? You're perspiring. Would you like a wet cloth?"
"Yeah. Cold. Ice cold."
The Kid looked out of the little square window of the DC-3. Nothing but dark out there. Dark, occasionally punctured by little pinpricks of light. Farmhouses. There'll be lots of lights in Vegas. And good times. Lots of good times. Joey The Hat had had a full money belt. Of course, he knew he would. Joey was a runner and a bag man for the bookies. And he'd been skimmin'. Filling his moneybelt with other people's money. And those other people were not happy. Just how stupid did Joey think they were? Dumb fuck. But had he caught him at just right time. There must be Twenty Grand in Joey's belt. He hadn't had time to count it all, yet, but it was around Twenty Large. He intended to turn it in like he was supposed to, but the cops found Joey so fast - the cops were after him so fast, he never had the chance to give the money to the people it belonged to. And now he's runnin'. And when you're on the run, it's Finders Keepers. Like Joey's hat. Joey's hat had come off in his hand as Joey slipped to the ground, like the hat was his now. He pulled the knife from Joey's neck and slipped the hat onto his head. It felt good there. Like it belonged. Like the moneybelt. The money was his ... and the hat was his. And he was goin' to Vegas. Just like that.
The Stewardess brought him the cold cloth to wipe his face and neck.
"Would you like a beverage, Sir?"
"Yeah. Coffee. Black."
The Stewardess walked to the back of the plane to get a mug and fill it with coffee. She wondered about the thin young man in the hat. Most people took off their hat when they flew. But not him. She had thought to offer to take his hat and stow it for him, but he had covered his face with his hat almost as soon as he'd boarded, so she left him alone. She'd do it later, maybe. When he woke. But it was when he woke that she thought better of her planned kindness. Once she looked into his eyes she knew, instinctively, that no kindness would soften the cold hardness she saw behind those grey eyes. When she looked into his eyes she felt a tightness in her gut. She realized the tightness was fear.
She brought him his mug.
He sat back in his seat and sipped the coffee. It was hot and strong and burned all the way down to his stomach. But it felt good. Yeah, real good. Probably like his uncle felt that night he staggered into the apartment with the knife stuck in his gut. In the year after she died he had stayed with his uncle. And his uncle had hurt him, over and over again. So, as his uncle was dying, he just stood there and watched. And when his uncle finally died, he pulled the stiletto out of his gut and kept it. The stiletto that was in his pocket, that he had kept for the last 11 years. The stiletto that he had used on Joey The Hat. Joey, and so many others. The stiletto that fed him and clothed him and kept him alive. The stiletto he knew he would find a use for in Vegas.
"Fasten your seatbelt, Sir. We're on final approach to Kansas City."
Kansas City and still awake. Good.
I'll get off, walk around, stretch my legs and wake the fuck up.
And then it's Oklahoma City.
On The Tarmac ...
Kansas City. A cool, crisp night. He leaned up against the low chain link fence that separated the rest of the world from the airport, thoughts of Vegas and what it was going to be like out there filled his head.
"Don't move, Joey."
He felt a gun muzzle in his ribs. Not for the last time in his life, either.
His mind was racing. He had called him "Joey". If this guy was gonna kill him he'd have done so by now. He had to figure out what was going on. So play along ....
"Howdya find me?"
"The hat, fucker. 'Look for a guy wid a red fedder in his hat, Billy', the boss sez. 'It's shaped like a heart.'"
"No, howdya find me HERE?"
"Remember that cabbie in Chicago? The one that drove ya ta Midway? Shit Joey, every cabbie in the city was on the lookout. The cops ain't the only guys was lookin' fer ya. He watched ya buy yer ticket and called it in. Yer boss called my boss and here we are."
"You gonna kill me?"
"Nah, not unless ya give me a reason to. You and me are gonna be on the next plane back ta Chi. The people who want ya dead are gonna be waitin' at Midway."
"You gonna hold a gun on me all the way back to Chicago?"
"Wid all these people around? Waddya think I am, stupid or sumthin'? Nah, I'm gonna put my gun away. Just like this."
He slid his gun into the holster under his armpit and closed his jacket.
"You and me is gonna be pals, Joey. And pals stick together, see? Close together. If you try ta run, you won't get no more than five steps. 'Cause I KNOW you ain't faster than no bullet. Now waddya say we walk into the terminal and get our tickets ta Midway."
"Yeah, sure. I gotta take a leak, anyway."
As they walked toward the terminal building, he tried to make sense of what was happening. It was obvious this guy didn't know who he really was. He wondered if the cops knew who they were chasing; who it was they found dead. And when the boss called this guy's boss, he told him to look out for Joey. Could it be? Could it be, that they didn't know Joey was dead? Could it be, that they thought Joey had killed HIM? He had to think fast. And he knew what he had to do. Joey was never known to carry a weapon. Which means that this guy has no idea ...
"The men's room is right over there. I'll be right back."
"Now I KNOW you think I'm stupid. Pals, remember? I'm going, too."
The Kid pushed the door open with his right hand, stepped into the room and caught the door with his left hand, holding it open for his 'pal', Billy. His right hand, now out of sight, slid into his pocket and pulled out the stiletto, opening it with a well practiced move. As Billy moved into the room, he let go of the door and swung his right hand around and up under his 'pal's' sternum, his left arm clasping him around his shoulders. Billy let out an "oof" and leaned into The Kid as the life left his body.
The Kid walked out of the restroom. He had a jacket over his arm, and no hat. Under the jacket he carried the .45 Colt Automatic and it's holster. He went over to the all night newsstand and bought a little travel valise and some toiletries. He slid the jacket and gun into the valise, along with his newly purchased items, and slowly walked out to the plane, waiting on the tarmac.
In the men's room of the Kansas City Airport, later, they found a man in a hat with a stab wound to the heart. His body was taken to the County Morgue. After three days, and no one had come to claim or identify the body, it was turned over to a Mortuary and buried in Potter's Field.
The Boss in Kansas City assumed Billy Caprone, or Billy Goat, as he was known to his friends (Caprone means 'goat' in Italian), had killed Joey the Hat and taken the money. He called Chicago and told them as much. He also told them that when he caught up with Billy, he would send them Billy's right hand, along with whatever money they might manage to recover. He was told to "Just send the hand."
When The Kid took his seat on the plane, the Stewardess noticed he wasn't wearing his hat. She liked the look of his white-blond hair. If not for those cold grey eyes .... but she pushed those thoughts from her mind and went back to counting passengers, in preparation for takeoff. Some other time, maybe .. some other guy. Not this one ... no, not this one.
Oklahoma Bound ...
The engines roared to life as the pilot opened the throttles and sent his aircraft hurtling down the runway and up into the stygian black of the East Kansas night.
The Kid felt everything. Every bump in the runway. The sound pounded his chest like fists. Every sense was on edge and keen to its purpose. He saw, felt and heard EVERYTHING.
It was always like this after a kill. He felt like he was dancing on the edge of his knife. Jumpy and alert. Tense and elated and high as a kite. He felt the plane ease off the runway and pull him down, into the seat, as she climbed into the night. He felt the thumps as the gear locked into place under the engines. As the airliner thundered and roared, higher and higher into the night, he forced himself to slow his breathing and relax, just relax. Easy. Just slow it down and take it easy.
The engines throttled back some, settling into a lower pitch and volume.
"Can I get you anything?"
"Nah. Thanks anyway."
She noted that that was the first time he had said anything even remotely polite.
"Say, wait a minute. You got any gum? I could use some gum."
"I may have. I'll check and see."
As the Stewardess moved to the rear of the plane, he watched her with an interest he hadn't displayed, previously. This was his time of peaked interests, on all levels. This is when he would have sex. After a kill. Typically, this was the only time he was interested in sex. He was afraid of women. He was intimidated by the thought of being seen, naked, by a woman. Afraid of ridicule. The bigger boys at the orphanage had made fun of him. And so did the girls, because the boys had told them things about him. Too pale. No body hair. Too small. 'Little Dick' they called him. And his uncle, before that, had ridiculed him all the time. Made him feel dirty and obscene. That's why he kept his body free of hair. His uncle had been hairy. Very hairy. He didn't like touching hair - he didn't like the thought of someone touching hair on him. Back in Chicago there was a hooker he knew. She kept her body free of hair. He would see her after a job. She never said anything. She never charged him anything, either. Not after the first time, anyway. He sensed fear in her. He had no idea why.
"Here's your gum, Sir. I hope you like DoubleMint."
"That's fine. Thanks."
"Can I get you anything else?"
He stared at her for a moment.
"Do you like working for the airline?"
"It's okay. People seem to think it's glamorous, somehow, but after a while, it's just a job. Why?"
"Oh .. I just wondered. You're very pretty and you're very good at your job. You must like doing what you do."
He patted the empty seat next to him; an invitation to sit.
She sat down, hesitantly, in the empty seat.
"Oh, I like it well enough .. it's just that it keeps me away from my son too much."
"Not anymore. That's the only reason I could get on with the airline. My husband was killed in the last days of the war. We got married in '44, when he was home on leave. He went back and I never saw him again. All I have left of him is his son. My son."
"Just the two of you, then?"
"No, my Mom stays with us. She watches Jerry, that's my son, when I'm out of town."
"Yes, it is. Which is why I'm leaving the line. That and the fact that I'm tired of hiding the existance of my son from the airline. You can't be married and be a Stew; it follows that you can't have kids, either. So this is my next to last westbound. On my next trip out, my Mom and Jerry are coming along. We're going to live in Vegas. I have a job waiting in one of the new casinos."
"Yes, I'm going to be working in the money room. Counting money."
"Hey, that's a good job. Who do you know?"
"I..I'm sorry, I have to see to the other passengers now. You do understand, don't you?"
"Yeah, not a problem. Talk to ya later."
She rose and walked to the back of the plane, checking on passengers as she went.
He sensed a fear in her. He didn't understand her fear, either.
He leaned back in his seat, a headache starting to grow, behind his eyes. He was coming down from his adrenalin high. Best to try to get some sleep. There would be no dreams. Not for a while. There never were, after a job. It was the only time he slept well.
He woke to silence. He sat up and in doing so discovered a blanket had been placed over him. His hand went to the pocket with the knife. Still there.
"You looked cold so I covered you with a blanket. You're not too warm, are you?"
"No, I'm fine. Are we on the ground?"
His voice had taken on a flat, hard note that made her cringe inside.
"Yes. We're in Oklahoma City. We be taking off again in just a few minutes. We'll be flying into the dawn on the way to Albuquerque."
"Are we pickin' any people up here? Any new passengers?"
"No, no new passengers. Just the one couple got off, that's all. Why?"
"Curiosity. That's all. Just curiosity. I'm a very curious kinda guy."
He sat back in his seat, felt for the knife in his pocket, and, reassured, stared off into the west where the faintest tinges of light began to touch the sky.
Flying into the dawn. Something nice about that. Nah, get that shit out of your head. Keep it straight. You can't get mixed up with no tail. You got places to go. Albuquerque and then Vegas. You got people to see. Starting with that guy, Sully. Vegas. Things will be good in Vegas. Real fuckin' good in Vegas.
There were times his dreams seemed more like movies - like he stood outside his dream and just watched. Not a participant. Not involved. An observer. With no control - no way to move or alter the flow or stop the dream when it got too hard. And man, it got hard. Like now. He was back in the orphanage ....
"Mr. Burress, I'm tellin' ya this kid is crazy!! We caught him skinnin' a cat back behind C Building - and this ain't the first time. No sir, it ain't! We don't want him in our dorm, Sir. I..I..We're all scared, Sir. That cat was still alive ...."
"You boys go to your dorm. I'll take care of this."
He watched the boys leave the room, leaving him alone with Mr. Burress.
"You been a bad boy again, haven't you. You know what happens when you're a bad boy, don't you? Don't you? Answer me!!"
"Yeah. Yeah, I do."
"Then come around the desk ... come over here ... "
He watched himself move around the desk toward Mr. Burress, watched as Burress unzipped his trousers, reached out and grabbed his head with both hands ...
And the scene changed .... Juvenile Hall, this time ....
"Get out of my room."
"We just come ta visit ya, Kid. We're da welcomin' committee. We wanna make sure you feel welcome here .... Grab 'im!! .. That's it boys ... hold 'im down .... spread his legs ...."
And the scene changed again .... the hooker ....
"Oh, it's you." She walked over to the bed and let her robe fall to the floor. She raised her hands up over her head and turned around, slowly, to show him her hairlessness. He waited until she turned around and knelt on the bed, knees apart, leaned forward with her elbows close together and her head on her hands, so she couldn't see him. He took off all his clothes and approached her .. from behind ...
The scene changed yet again .... an alley this time ....
The broad was there, givin' some guy a blow job. He waited. The guy gave her a bill and zipped up and walked toward the streetlights down the alley. He walked up to the girl. "Jaime says you been makin' money off the books. I have a message for you, from Jaime." Before she could think or react or say a thing his hand moved like lightning and opened a cut in her cheek from her ear to the corner of her mouth. "Don't do that no more. Jaime says next time, you're dead."
And the scene changed again .... another alley ....
He stood over Mr. Burress, his knife in his hand and dripping with Burress' blood. Burress looked up at him, the fear gone, the pain gone, his body rapidly bleeding out from the gaping wound where his genitals used to be. The Kid pressed the knuckles of the hand that held the knife against Burress' chin, forcing his mouth open. In his other hand he held the balls and penis he used to know so well, those years ago at the orphange. He stuffed the penis in Burress' mouth. He watched himself walk away as Burress died.
Her hand on his forehead woke him up.
"What're ya doin'?"
"You were very restless, and you're sweating. I was just making sure you're alright. Besides, you've been mumbling some strange stuff in your sleep. Some of the other passengers are a little .... concerned."
"Why? What did I say?"
There was that flat, hard tone in his voice again.
"Nothing, really. Not much made any sense at all. But some rather rude words, from what the passengers are saying. Maybe you'd like some coffee."
He knew it wasn't a question.
He smiled. "Yeah. Coffee. Maybe I'd better wake up, huh? Wouldn't wanna educate none of these fine folks, would I?"
She brought him coffee.
"Don't dawdle. We'll be landing soon and you don't want that coffee in your lap."
He sipped his coffee and looked out the window at the now visible desert landscape
No one had ever woke him out of that dream before. He was thinking to himself that she had made him save the good parts for later.
Good parts. Lots and lots of good parts. He knew that dream. It was always the same - a review of his deeds and misdeeds - always the same sequence - at least until something new was added, always the same result when he woke up.
His bed would be drenched with sweat. He would be cold, shivering, and every detail of that dream would be etched in his mind like acid etches steel.
And he knew that next time, next time there would be two new scenes added to the long list of fucked up things he had done. He wondered where they were going to fit into the sequence - where the fuck was his crazy head going to put that guy from Kansas City, where was it going to stick Joey.
He giggled softly to himself.
That's a good one. Stick Joey.
She stood in the doorway of the DC-3, watching the two people who had been on this leg of the trip walk across the concrete apron in the brilliant heat of the mid-morning Las Vegas sun. Her mind went back to the few minutes that she and one of those passengers had had to themselves, in the rear cargo area, aft of the galley.
She had been busy, working in the galley, the young lad with the white-blond hair a constant presence in the back of her mind. He made her feel afraid. She didn't know why, he just did. Afraid of him. Afraid of his presence. Afraid of his raw sexual appeal. Her husband had been gone such a long time, and the company of men had not been frequent since he'd been gone. She seldom felt like she did right then. The intrigue of a stranger. The many years of lonesome nights. He's a bad boy, she knew. His eyes are so flat and cold. And yet, when he smiles ...
"Oh my God. You startled me."
"Here's your mug back. I'm done with the coffee. Actually, I was done before we landed in Albuquerque. I figured I'd better give this back."
"That's okay. Thanks."
The plane gave a couple of quick jolts. The Kid looked uneasy.
"Oh, don't worry about that. It's just a little turb. The air gets warm when the sun comes up - out here, that makes for a bumpy ride. It'll be like that - and worse - all the way into Vegas."
"So what're ya doin' here?"
"Just getting things ready for the run into L.A. out of Vegas. We'll have a pretty full flight out of McCarran Field."
The plane suddenly dipped and The Kid lurched into her arms as she fell back against the cargo area door.
He stood next to her. Close to her. Her breasts were pressed against his chest. Everything inside her started to twist into exquisite knots of the sweetest pain.
She reached back and opened the door to the cargo area. Small and cramped, there was little room to do more than wrap up in each others arms. His hands slid up her sides to the swell of her breasts and made her tingle all the way down to her groin as his palms slid across her nipples. She reached down and felt for him, found him, and she began to ache with a yearning she had not felt in way too long.
She hiked up her skirt and pulled aside her panties. She started to unzip his trousers.
"I can't. I can't stand hair."
"You won't find hair on me. My husband didn't like it, either."
"Close your eyes, then. Don't look at me."
She wrapped a leg around him as he inserted himself and slowly drew him deeper and deeper inside, the turbulence helping them achieve penetration. She pulled him to her, tighter and tighter, held him closer and closer, stroking his hair, holding his head in her hands.
She had no way to know that this was the first time he had ever faced a woman during sex. She had no way to know he had never felt the warmth of the embrace of a woman. She had no way to know that no woman had ever run her fingers through his hair in the throes of raw, urgent sex.
His lips, next to her ear, brushed her cheek and his breath caught as he whispered,
"Open your eyes."
She looked into his face. She was surprised to see tears in his eyes. He buried his face in her shoulder and stayed there, even as the passionate act was completed and the swelling of passion died.
As he walked up the aisle and back to his seat, she noticed that the other passenger was sleeping. More turbulence. More bouncing. Some people will sleep through anything.
She watched as he walked across the apron and then turned back into the cool of the interior of the plane. And wondered if she would ever see him again and at the same time, hoped she wouldn't. She knew, somehow, there was danger there. And at 28 years of age with a five year old son, she didn't need the drama.
The Kid crossed the apron in the blaring bright heat of the morning sun. Man, it's fuckin' hot. He felt the top of his head with the flat of his palm. And I need a fuckin' hat. As he approached the terminal building, he noticed two beefy men in Hawiian print shirts looking out over the apron. Wrong guy, assholes. But you ain't got no way ta know that, huh? Cool. Fuckin' cool.
He caught a cab outside the terminal building, took it to a nearby motel and checked in. The driver recommended this particular motel because it has air conditioning. First motel in Vegas with Air Conditioning. Just like the Casinos.
The room was cool, in spite of the heat outside. That big machine in the window really did a job keeping the room cool. But man, it was so noisy he couldn't think. He dropped the valise on the bed.
He had to think. He had to figure out what he was going to do next. How he was going to find Sully. Sully and some building ... what did that fucker say ... Baxter, that's it, Baxter building, corner of Frontier and Fremont.
As he closed the door to the room behind him, he stopped for a few seconds, his heart suddenly pounding and his hands sweating as his mind was filled with the vision of deep blue eyes looking straight into his, the first time ever during sex and fingers in his hair, but gentle and .... sweet.
He shook his head. Gotta get movin'. I'm in Vegas!! VEGAS!! I am HERE!!
Now's the time to do it.
Gotta catch me a cab and go find this guy ... this Sully.
And tell him that Joey The Hat sent me.
One Year Later ... Chicago ...
"Hey, Sarge, remember, a little over a year ago, when we was chasin' Joey the Hat all over the city?"
"Yeah, so, what about it?"
"Well, I was just goin' through these morgue shots, lookin' at the John Does, and guess who I find in the morgue, while we was playin' cops and robbers?"
"You were doin' WHAT?"
"Goin' though the morgue shots. I always do that on lunch."
"Are you kiddin"?"
"No, sir, I'm not. Look. That's Joey on that slab. I know that face - I took him in on a numbers charge once. I never ferget a face, Sarge. And the date on that marker says that while we were runnin' all over hell and creation after Joey, he was in the morgue."
"So who was it, then? We thought it was Joey. I mean, people saw the guy running away. They said it was Joey."
"I don't know, Sarge. But that's Joey - right as rain. Lemme get the case file. People saw him with somebody else, remember? Maybe that's the guy we should be lookin' fer."
"Get the file later. You still tight with that bookie at Lake and Western? What's the name of that place ... Larry's? .. Larry's Diner, right?"
"Bookie? What bookie? I don't know no bookie, Sarge."
"Kelly, do ya think I'm stupid? Why would you go all the way from here to Lake and Western two days a week for lunch? Because on Monday you have your money the old lady gave ya fer the week and on Wednesday ya go to collect yer winnin's. When ya have 'em. And ya haven't had many lately. Am I right or am I right?"
"Well, I want you to go up there an' tell yer bookie friend that if he'd like to stay in business, he'd better come up with some information for ye."
"Well, how 'bout if I call him, then? Official business, ain't it?"
"Alright, Kelly, you go ahead and call him. But don't be placin' no bets on the City's nickel."
Fifteen minutes later ....
"Sarge! It's the funniest thing, but the mob guys seem ta think that Joey bought the farm in Kansas City - the same night he gave us the slip .. well, whoever that was, anyway. Seems the syndicate was lookin' fer him, too. There was a hit out on him and he took off. My guy says he took 'em fer forty grand. Anyway, somebody saw him buy a ticket at Midway and there was a reception committee at the airport in K. C. I called the Kansas City Coroner and asked them to wire the morgue shot. Oh, and do ya want to hear the good part?"
"What? There's more, is there?"
"The guy they sent to the airport, ta meet his plane? Took the money, he did. They figure he run off to Vegas with the bleedin' money. Some guy they called Billy Goat. Where do they get these names? Ya know, ya couldn't write this stuff."
Two months later, in Vegas. The Baxter Building ...
"I dunno Boss - there's somethin' about that Kid that just worries me."
"What are you talking about Sully? He's a good boy. He does what he's told and he's fearless, absolutely fearless."
"I dunno Boss. It just somethin'. I can't put my finger on it - but that Kid ain't normal."
"Of course he's not normal, Sully. Of course he's not. If he was normal he'd be off in college somewhere, or out having a good time with the girls - nailing everything and anything that moves. But he's with us, Sully, and what we do is not normal - definitely not normal."
"Yeah, but Boss, he enjoys this shit. In the last year he's done eight 'Reminder' jobs for us and each one of them seems just a little bit more .. I dunno - what's the word I'm lookin' for - messy? - than the job before. He REALLY gets off on cuttin' people up. And the papers have picked up on the last couple of jobs .. I dunno. He just worries me."
"I've seen the papers, Sully. So have our clients. Have you not noticed that collections are up in the last couple of months? Have you not found it just a bit easier to make your collections? Our clients read, Sully. They read - and they understand. No, I think our boy is doing a marvelous job for us, Sully. Couldn't be better ... just couldn't be better."
"Yeah, but Boss, the cops are startin' to take notice here. What if our contacts can't hold 'em off?"
"Don't worry, Sully. That's what you've got me for. Don't I take good care of you and the boys? Haven't I seen to providing the best in care and safety for you and your men? I know a few things about our boy, Sully. I'm hearing things from Chicago. From my contacts there. I believe the police are looking for our boy, Sully. They just don't know who he is, or where he is and they have no idea just what he has done - but they're going to find out. When they do ... well, we'll see what happens when they do, Sully. But, for now, he's one of us. Just keep a close eye on him, Sully. Keep him close. Where you have a bit of control, eh? Just a bit of control. We wouldn't want to have him stirring the pot too soon, now would we?"
"Too soon, Boss? Too soon for what?"
"Too soon for the trouble that's sure to come, Sully. And it is that ... sure to come."
The End's Beginning ...
"Did anyone see you, Sully?"
"No, Boss .. well, yeah, maybe."
"SULLY!! I told you it was CRITICAL no one see you there. Damn. Damn, Damn, Damn. We can't take the chance that anyone can tie us to this operation. We just can't. Who was it, Sully? Who saw you?"
"The second shift girl in the counting room, Sarah. She sees me sometimes, when I make collections. We talk. She knows my name."
"That can't be, Sully. She has to be taken care of. You had no reason to be where you were and if she saw you, and she remembers, it'll be real easy to tie you and US to the operation when it goes down. Call the Kid in for this."
"But Boss. The cops are all over the Kid. And the Feds. They've pretty much made him for the Chicago job, and the Kansas City thing, too. I don't know why they haven't picked him up yet, but they must have him made by now."
"Oh they have, Sully. They have. Fortunately, the Feds are very good at dragging their feet and the cops .. well, lets just say they've been cooperative."
"What? ... what? .... I don't understand."
"Sully, The Kid has done a LOT of work for us. Enforcement work. What you like to call 'Reminder jobs'. And there's more than a few bodies out in the desert that he put out there ... working for us, Sully. Working for us. We can't afford to let the cops OR the Feds get their hands on him."
"You got something in mind?"
"Yes, I do, Sully. 'I got' something in mind. But first, we have to take care of this girl. So you get him in here and we'll get this set up. And Sully ..."
"Stay close to this. We can't afford to have anything to go wrong. Watch this and let me know how it goes. And remember, we can always clean up later, if we have to. So don't expose yourself."
"Okay, Boss. I'll stay out of sight."
The Kid waited in the shadows, between two cars, as the second shift girl from the money room, mother of a 6 year old little boy and former airline stewardess made her way across the parking lot to her beat up old car.
He walked up behind her as she fumbled for her keys.
"Why'd you park your car all the way back here?"
"I don't know who you are, but I don't have any money and if you even so much as TRY to touch me I'll scream my ass off and Security will be out here faster than you could pick your nose."
"You're not scared?"
"I saw you as soon as I walked out of the casino. You need to learn to hide better."
"But you're not scared?"
"Of course I'm scared, punk! But I'm not gonna let some skinny little dick like you hurt me and I don't have any money, like I said, so really, just what do I have to be afraid of?"
With that she turned to face him.
"Yeah. Me. I knew who ya were as soon as I saw ya walk through that door."
"But what are YOU doing here?"
"See this knife? I was sent to use it on ya. If I done my job, you'd be dead by now."
"WHY? I don't understand. Why would you want to kill me? KILL ME?? Why would ANYBODY want to KILL me??? I don't UNDERSTAND!!! I DON'T UNDERSTAND!!!"
"STOP IT!!! NOW!!"
"Stop it?? STOP IT??? Stop it. Yes, you're right. Stop ... Stop ... But tell me. Why is it you? Why would YOU want to kill ANYBODY?"
"Because that's what I do. Sully and the Boss sent me to kill you. I don't know why. I don't ask no questions. I just do what I'm told."
"Sully. Big burly guy, busted nose?"
"Yeah, that's him."
"I know him. I can't think why he would want to have me killed. We talk once in a while. He buys me coffee."
"Look, missy, we can't stay here talkin' about this. We gotta get outta here."
"Where's your car? And call me Sarah."
"Don't have a car. I had a cab drop me off about three blocks from here."
"Good. Get in. We'll go to my place."
And from the other side of the lot, Sully watched The Kid get in the car with Sarah, and watched as she drove away, very much alive, with him in the car.
The Boss ain't gonna like this. Not one fuckin' bit.
He started his car and headed for the Baxter Building.
The Kid and Sarah entered her small apartment quietly, her mother and son both sleeping in the second bedroom.
All the way back to her place they had tried to piece together the reason there'd been a hit out on her. With no luck. The Kid had no idea about the operation the Boss and Sully had in the works - there was no way for them to know or understand the reason. But they both knew she had to get out of town and get out now. Leave everything and just take off.
The Kid pulled out his shirt and unbuckled the moneybelt he had around his waist.
"Take this and get out of town. There's a lot of money here. 50 large."
"I can't take this!!"
"Ya can't not take it. It's yer only way out. Just take it and go. Get yer Mom and the boy and get goin'. Just get on a bus and go."
"What about you?"
"Don't worry 'bout me. As far as they know, you're on yer way out to the desert in the trunk of yer car. I'll be fine - but I'm gonna need your car, so I'll drive you and them to the bus station."
"Okay ... Okay ... Thanks ... what do I call you, anyway? What's your name?"
"Just call me Kid. That's all anybody has ever called me. Kid."
"You got a girl, Kid?"
"Who me? Nah. I ain't the boyfriend type, ya know? Besides, my .. uh .. occupation might make things a little rough on a girl's sensibilities. Nah, I'm just fine by mysef."
"I'll get them up."
"Yeah, you do that. I'll wait right here."
"We'll need some things ...."
"You don't have time for 'things'. They may check here. They may come here to take care of your Mom and the boy. We can't be here if they do. Now hurry up. I'm gettin' the weirdest feelin' about this. I dunno ..."
"Okay, Kid. Right now."
"Okay - while you do that, listen. I'm gonna take you to the bus station. There's a shuttle to L.A. every two hours. The next one is 1 in the morning. That's forty minutes from now. When you get to L.A., take the first bus you can. North, South, I don't care but don't walk outta that bus station and don't hang around there. Don't wait for nuthin'. Just get the first bus and GO!"
"Okay, Kid. Here. Take this bag and throw it in the car. We'll be down in two minutes."
"Just hurry up. We can't be here if they come. Or we're ALL dead."
Meanwhile, Sully picked up the phone in the Boss' office to call him.
And give him the bad news.
The girl is alive. And The Kid is out of control.
The End of The End's Beginning ...
"Hello Boss? Yeah, it's me, Sully ... Nah, he didn't do it ... I don't know ... They talked. I think maybe they knew each other. All I know is he got in her car and they drove away together ... No, I don't think they were goin' t' the desert. He didn't force her in the car, they just got in, all friendly like. Like I said, I think they knew each other ... No, I didn't follow. I didn't think I could without bein' spotted, but I figure they prob'ly went to her place - at least, that's the direction they started out in ... Nah, they don't know I saw 'em. Right now he thinks he's in the clear."
"Boss, The Kid is out of control. I don' know why, but he ain't followin' orders. We gotta do somethin' ... But I am worried 'bout The Kid ... Yeah, okay."
"Huh? ... Yeah, we know where she lives ... Okay, I'll get Chico and some of the boys over there right away. And Boss ... she's got a kid, an' I think her ole' lady stays with her, too ... All of 'em? ... Yeah, you're right ... no loose ends."
He hung up the phone. Picked it up. Dialed again.
"Hello, Chico? It's me, Sully ... Yeah, I know what time it is. Look. Get 3 or 4 of the boys and go over to 2323 Joshua Tree, apartment 2A ... Yeah, NOW ... Don't leave no one alive. Comprende? Take 'em all out. An' Chico .. make it look like a robbery."
"Hurry up!! I'm gettin' a bad feelin' 'bout this. I don't like this feelin' at all."
"C'mon Mom, get in the car! Jerry? Jerry, don't be such a slowpoke, honey, c'mon."
"Come ON, kid!!! We gotta git!!"
"I'll take car of my son, you just help my Mom get in the car."
"Okay, okay. I'm sorry. I'm just nervous, that's all. Just nervous. It's just that you don't know these guys ... I really don't wanna be here when they get here."
"Alright!! Alright, already. I get the point. They're in. I'm getting in. Get in and DRIVE!!"
The Kid got in, turned the key, pushed the starter button and the engine jumped to life. He drove to the corner and turned left down the narrow side street - the first turn he could make off busy Joshua Tree Ave. Just as his taillights disappeared from view, two sedans turned on to Joshua Tree at the stop light two blocks further up. The occupants of those two sedans never saw the beat up old Chevy make the turn and head in the general direction of the Las Vegas Greyhound station.
Chico and his men found Apartment 2A empty. Not of stuff. Of people.
"Ola, Sully? ... No, patron, they are not here. The leetle bird, she ees gone ... No way to tell, Senor, meenutes, maybe ... You think maybe the plane?"
"Ola, Muchachos!! Vamanos al la aeropuerta!!!"
Later that morning....
"If they took a plane out of here, well, I guess we missed them ... but that's not the only way out of town, either. We've made a mistake, Sully. We need to start cleaning up, and we're going to have to start with the Kid, I guess."
"Didn't you say you had somethin' in mind for him?"
"Yes, I did. You see this nice red box? All red and shiny and lacquered. With this big Chinese symbol for 'Luck'? Well, inside this box is a very pretty Smith & Wesson, silver plated .38 special, with a six inch barrel. I'm going to give it to The Kid tonight. I want YOU to go to the cheese warehouse about 10 o'clock. The Kid'll be there, with this in hand."
"What the fuck, you tryin' ta get me killed?"
"Take it easy, Sully. Take it easy. He's not going to kill you or anyone else - not with THIS weapon, anyway. You see, it's going to be loaded with these."
He dumped a box of cartridges onto his desk.
"I dunno Boss. Those look like bullets, to me ..."
"Precisely, Sully. They LOOK like bullets, but they're really blanks. A friend of ours made these just for me. Remarkable, aren't they? When they're fired, the 'bullet' just disintegrates. Just don't be any closer than five feet, or so, when they're fired at you. You'll be fine."
"I still don't understand ..."
"When they find his body, there'll be an investigation. If they dig too deep, they could expose this organization and, possibly, our police contacts. This gun has a couple of bodies on it. When they run ballistics, they'll see that the gun is connected to a couple of killings - which, by the way, WE have nothing to do with, and they'll go off in that direction, leaving us alone. We are throwing the cops a bone to chew on - so be sure to leave this gun there after you do him, Sully. It's very important that the cops find this gun."
"It's really too bad, Sully. I like this Kid. He's a little off his rocker, I suppose, but he's been good for us and he's always done what we've asked him to do. It's really too bad we can't trust him any longer. Okay. Sully, you go home and get some sleep. Come by here about 8 o'clock or so, double check with me, okay? Just in case there's any change in plan."
"Okay, Boss, I'll see ya later."
"Oh, and send Chico in here, please? I need to set up the rest of this."
"Sure Boss. Goodnight."
"What? Oh, well, I guess you have been up all night, haven't you? Get some sleep, Sully. You'll need to be fresh tonight."
"You wanted to see me, Patron?"
"Yes, Chico. I want you to track down The Kid and tell him I need to see him. Tell him I have a very important job for him."
"Si, Patron. I weel find the Keed for you."
The Boss slipped 6 cartridges into the Smith & Wesson and carefully placed it in the velvet lining of the red lacquered box, closed the brass latches, and placed the box under his desk. He sat back in his chair and contemplated his carefully wrought plan. Simple. Simple and elegant. The girl is gone. Not dead, unfortunately, but she can't hurt us if she's not here to be questioned by the police. The Kid will be out of the picture as of tonight. And the cops will be off in the wrong direction. Our contacts will see to that. Hate to sacrifice The Kid. But the good of the many, after all. The good of the many.
And, finally, early that evening ...
"Yes, yes, Senator, we'd be happy to contribute to your campaign ... well, that all depends on just how much you need ... just a moment, Senator ... come in, Kid, I'll be with you as soon as I'm done with this call. Have a seat."
And The Kid sat down, threw his leg over the arm of the overstuffed chair, and started cleaning his fingernails with the point of his stiletto. The stiletto he'd had for so long, that he'd done so many jobs with, that was such a part of who and what he was. How long had he had it? Wow. Just over thirteen years. Thirteen. Some people think that's an unlucky number. That's stupid. There's no such thing. No such thing at all. You make your own luck.
2008, Seaview Nursing Home, San Francisco ...
Mrs. Althea McCallister, a nurse of 30 years standing at Seaview, is showing the latest addition to staff, Miss Gina Teng, LPN, around the place, introducing her to to staff and residents alike.
Althea, being a large, warm and friendly woman, is somewhat given to gossip, so when Gina asks a question, her answers do tend to ramble.
"Who's that sitting over there, in the wheelchair, by the window?"
"Oh that's Mrs. Pierce. Mrs. Sarah Pierce. She is the saddest thing, poor darlin'. She sits there, day after day. She seems to be looking for something .. someone .. I don't know .. sometimes you walk by her and you can hear her talkin' to herself, almost under her breath ... it sounds to me like she's saying 'Sorry, Kid', and once I think I heard her say 'Goodbye, Kid' and then sometimes ... sometimes I just don't know."
"Does she get visitors? Does anybody come to see her?"
"Oh, sure. Her son, he's that big time Hollywood director, Jerry Pierce. He comes with his kids, sometimes, and they bring their kids. She's 86, you know. Up until a year or so ago she was sharp as a tack. She fell a few years back and broke her hip. That's how she wound up in here. Then the Doctors said she couldn't live alone - her bones had gotten too thin, too much likelyhood of more breaks, more falls, so she had to stay here. They were selling her house, there wasn't no point in keepin' it no more - and lemme tell you, she was dead set against THAT - and when they were going through the h2008, Seaview Nursing Home, San Francisco ...
Mrs. Althea McCallister, a nurse of 30 years standing at Seaview, is showing the latest addition to staff, Miss Gina Teng, LPN, around the place, introducing her to to staff and residents alike.
Althea, being a large, warm and friendly woman, is somewhat given to gossip, so when Gina asks a question, her answers do tend to ramble.
"Who's that sitting over there, in the wheelchair, by the window?"
"Oh that's Mrs. Pierce. Mrs. Sarah Pierce. She is the saddest thing, poor darlin'. She sits there, day after day. She seems to be looking for something .. someone .. I don't know .. sometimes you walk by her and you can hear her talkin' to herself, almost under her breath ... it sounds to me like she's saying 'Sorry, Kid', and once I think I heard her souse gettin' her stuff out and such, they found an old stiletto and a sniper rifle in a bag under her bed. Let's go over here and sit down. Get us a cup of coffee. 'Cause I gotta tell ya sister, that gun was loaded!!"
"No. I'm not! As soon as she found out that they had found those things it was like the life went right out of her. She sat there for days with tears in her eyes. She kept crying "I got 'em all, Kid, I got 'em all.' And then, then the DA sent men in here to question her, but by the time they got around to talking to her she was gone to wherever it is she is right now. Talking to herself and nobody else. Then I heard that they linked that rifle to a whole bunch of murders in Las Vegas. 'The Vigilante Murders', they called 'em. Them murders went on for a long time. They never did find out who did them. But for 20 years somebody had them crooks in Vegas bobbin' and weavin' I'll tell you. I used to work out there back then. I remember."
"Like it was yesterday, sister! Like it was yesterday."
"Well, go on, tell me. Tell me!!"
"The first murder was in 1953. Some guy named Sullivan. Worked the protection rackets, they said. And there was about one a year after that until .. oh .. 1964 or 65, I guess, and then they stopped - until the last one, in 1972. I remember that one, cuz that was the first year I worked as an aide in Schobert's Home out there in the desert and girl, the newspapers was all full of it. This guy was in his office, up in some big old buildin' in Downtown Vegas, standin' in his picture window and somebody put a bullet through that window and right through his head. Papers said the shot came from 500 yards away. Can you believe it? 500 yards."
"Is that far?"
"Far!?! Honey, that's like hittin' a monkey's ass with a BB gun from two blocks away. Whoever did that was a stone, cold killer. And I think I know who it was. An' she's sittin' right over there."
"Would I lie to you?"
"What makes you think it was her?"
"Well, first, they found that rifle under her bed. But the other is this. There was an 8 year gap between the last two murders. That's why the papers got all het up about it. As soon as the police figured out it was the same gun as all those old murders, the papers started sayin' there was some mysterious vigilante out there after the, how did they call 'em .. the 'unsavory element', yeah, that's it, the unsavory element in town - 'cause they can't call 'em crooks anymore, that ain't politically correct. Anyway, the first set of investigations brought down half the damn police department, so they weren't too happy to see this start up again. And the papers were havin' a good ole time. They went over the WHOLE history - but then there weren't anymore murders and the whole thing just kinda died away and everybody just went on about their business. But what the cops don't know is that in early 1972 Sarah Pierce's mama showed up here, right here, as a patient. She came in with Severe Alzheimer's. I figure Sarah Pierce had spent that 8 years at home, with her Mama, takin' care of her. And when her Mama got so bad she couldn't care for her no more, she brought her here. And that left her with the time to go back to Vegas for one last trip. To do one last man. And do you know what? She did Vegas a favor. She really did. I remember what it used to be like out there."
And Sarah Pierce remembered ....
She stayed in the shadows, hidden from view, as Sully slowly walked out of the alley and disappeared around the corner.
She had followed Sully here. His was the only face she knew that might lead her to The Kid. His was the face that sent The Kid after her, almost got her killed. When she saw him, she followed, hoping he would lead her to him. He did. She had seen, and heard, the whole thing.
As soon as he was out of sight, she burst from her hiding place and ran over to where he lay. He was so still. She saw a rat nibbling on his ear, she picked up a stone and threw it at the rat. It scurried away, only to pause and look back over its shoulder and stare at its attacker, wiggling its whiskers. She picked up another rock, but the rat hurried away, his defiance noted.
She knelt down, next to him. She picked up his head and cradled it in her lap, as the last vestiges of life left his body. She felt him shudder and then go completely limp.
She sat down on the concrete, put her arms around him, and held him close against her, rocking him slowly back and forth. She paid no mind to the blood, to the dirt, to the stink and smell of the dark back alley he lay in. She wept for him, her tears running down her cheeks and dripping down onto his forehead.
"I'm sorry, Kid", she whispered. "You saved my life. But they've killed you."
She sat there the longest time, his body clutched tightly against her, her mind a blur of visions of her son, and her Mom, and herself, and The Kid. But for him, she would be dead. But for him, her Mom and Jerry likely would be dead. But for him, and a stolen moment of sweet passion in the back end of an old airplane, they would all be dead. But for him.
She laid him gently down. She got up and walked over to the pay phone next to the employee entrance to the warehouse, picked it up and called the police.
"Hello? Police? There's a body in the alley behind the Cheese Warehouse. What? Yeah. Simon's. Send someone right away, please? Yes, he's dead."
She hung up the phone. She walked over to where he lay and picked up his gun. She patted his pockets until she felt the knife and got that, as well.
"Mom and Jerry are on their way to Frisco, thanks to you. I'll catch up to them later. I was going to stay with you for a while, if you would have had me, even though you scare the shit out of me. But I have something else to do now. I'm going to get even, Kid. I'm going to find out who they are and get even with every one of those bastards. They were going to kill me. And God only knows what would have happened to Jerry and Mom. But they killed you, instead. I don't know how, yet, but I promise you Kid, I swear on my life, I will get even.
She stood there a long time, looking down at his face, at features now softened by death. She wondered ... but the sound of sirens cut into her reverie.
"Time to go, Kid. Can't let the cops find me here. I don't think that rat'll be back before they get here."
She crouched down, next to him, kissed her fingertips, and gently laid her fingers across his lips.
She hurried from the alley and down the darkened street.