Ball and Chain
First we stopped by my cramped apartment. I announced that I was going to take a shower and change because after three days I really needed to. While individually they can add a certain appeal on occasion, no one can pull off the accumulated aroma of cigar smoke and alcohol, sweat after a long run, flavor of big city nightlife, stink of a holding cell, and post coital musk. Come to think of it, I’m surprised Delia even let me touch her. I reeked is what I’m trying to say.
Sammy actually turned around and starred at the wall, as I opened the door to my tiny bathroom. Granted the pastiche of generational bachelorhood that adorns the walls of digs like mine can be engaging for the exceedingly bored or the right state of mind, but that was kind of weird. When I came back wrapped in a towel, Sammy had apparently graduated from studying the wall to the contents of my cabinet.
”Find anything interesting?” I asked, reaching around her to pull out some clean clothes.
”Well, I wouldn’t say I actually live here. Most of my stuff is at the office.”
”Your life is empty.”
”I don’t need much more than work.” I lied, but Sammy nodded in agreement.
”Work is good.” she said. I nodded awkwardly in response.
"I suppose you want to know what it is I'm working on that's so important."
"You really don't care, do you?"
"I am not involved."
"Alright then, grab your things."
“What are you doing now?”
”Now, we see a man about some money."
* * *
Going along, Sammy walked apace with me nodding whenever I gave directions or pointed out tidbits about locations we passed that I thought were interesting. Her responses were by rote action; giving no indication of what she thought except to acknowledge she had received the information. I didn't know why, but her aloofness bugged me. It was different from Sifu's; he was quiet and distant, but at least he would let you know his mind from time to time. Sammy just seemed to absorb everything yet not give anything back except the cold shoulder.
When we got to Larry's complex, I pulled my gun out of the tree pot. It dripped.
"That gun will not work." Sammy said over my shoulder.
"Yeah, I know." I sneered. "Keep an eye out for security."
She was right of course. After sitting in stagnant filth for much of the last two days, my trusty bean-shooter had a greasy film all over it. Damn thing wouldn't even turn on. The battery was probably shorted. Who knew what else was wrong. I had a sudden longing for the days of old when guns were all analogue slug-throwers instead of these high-tech gizmos with so many things that could cause them to break. I guess that’s the point isn’t it? Passive aggressive gun control?
"Why do you need a gun?"
"I need to talk to a guy; Larry. You ever hear of Larry and Stubbs?”
”Yes. Keys thinks they are contemptible.”
”He actually say ‘contemptible’?”
”No. He used more words.”
”Anyway, the last time I saw them...things didn't go well."
"You think they will not open the door?"
"It will only be Larry, but, yeah, that's about it."
"I will get the door open."
I'd never thought much of Larry, ask anyone. He was a no-good goon, and now without Stubbs to play bruno to his grifter he had to be sitting on top of a lot of bad blood. That kind of thing would make anyone jumpy, so his response when Sammy knocked on his door did not surprise me in the least.
"GOW THEH FOOK AHWAY!" he garbled through the door.
I stood to the side, out of sight of the peephole, because I seriously had no idea what was going to happen next.
Sammy had done something to her hair that gave her a crown of loose curls. A little eyeliner, a little lipstick, she had put on black and purple fingerless gloves that went past her elbows to conceal her tablet port and replaced her black t-shirt with a white button down blouse which teased at what was apparently a dark blue bra. She had also rubbed her eyes red.
Yes, I had been staring at the wall while she changed.
”Please help me!” she pleaded in a cracking voice. “No one else answered the door!”
”Hwat do you hwant?” Larry answered, though probably not as taken aback as I was.
”I live down the hall. My boyfriend and I had a fight. He locked me out.” She pressed her hands on the door and hung her head. “I don’t have my purse or any money. I hate to ask, but can I come in? I just need to call my sister to come get me.”
It was heartbreaking really. I never would have guessed Sammy had a practiced talent for playing the helpless ingénue. It was clear that she’d done this before, though I’d hate to think of what Keys had her employ this skill for.
”Arw you by youshelf?” Larry asked.
”Yes.” Sammy lifted her head. There were actually tears forming in her eyes. “Please?”
”…Awright. Jush ah shecont.”
When I heard the locks on the door clicking, I readied my useless sidearm. Once Larry opened up, I charged into the apartment, pushing Larry up against a wall.
”Shonofa bitsch!” Larry yelped.
”Sammy, get the door! Hiya, Larry. Miss me?”
”You derty bashtahd! Ih’m gownna kill you!” Larry gargled, while squirming against my grip. He paused once I put the barrel of my gun to his forehead.
”Maybe later, Larry. First we are going to have a little talk.”
”Ih hain’t shayen nuthingk!”
”You will.” Sammy said, having reverted to her usual demeanor; made creepier since she had gussied herself up.
”You fooken moll, Iw’ll gech you tooh!”
”Be nice to the girl, Larry.” I said, pushing the gun further.
Larry grumbled, but stopped resisting. “Hokay, you gote meh. Shtop ponting that ting ah my head.”
After making sure there was no one else in the apartment, I sat Larry down in one of the chairs in his office. Sammy loomed over him like a pretty scarecrow.
”Tell me about the money, Larry.”
I sighed. “Larry, I don’t have all day. I also don’t want to have to rush things by breaking your fingers one at a time.”
”You mean theh forty-tousand you shtole fram me. An shtop callen me ‘Larry’. Mah name ish Pador Lafurd.”
He meant to say ‘Pedro Lanford’, but I digress.
”Yes, Larry, that money.” I sneered. “The unsecured credit chip I took off you, after you tried to kill me.”
”Aftour yow kewled my fwend!” Larry yelled.
I pulled him up by the collar. ”I didn’t want to, you little weasel! You made him attack me!”
”Hwe had a jawb to do!”
”You were trying to murder and innocent woman.” I roared.
”Thad whore’s nod innoquent!”
As I pulled back my free arm to pistol whip Larry, I felt Sammy get an arm lock on me. It was firm, but I could have jerked my way out of it.
”That will not help.” Sammy said behind me.
I almost did it anyway just to spite her. Larry was a worm after all. My anger argued its validity, but after a moment I growled, ”Alright. I’m fine now. You can let go.”
She didn’t let go until I had released Larry’s collar. Larry slumped back in his chair. I stepped back, taking a deep breathe, so that I could compose myself. I still wanted to lay into the little bastard, but Sammy was right. That wasn't why I had come.
”I will ask questions now.” Sammy said.
I peered back at her. ”You? But you said you weren’t involved.”
”Larry threatened me. I am involved.”
I couldn’t refute that, and Larry’s grimace at having a stranger use his nickname amused me. “Ask away.”
After twenty minutes of back and forth, Larry and I filled Sammy in on Delia, Simon’s disappearance, and, reluctantly, Stubbs’ death. We told her about how Delia was a dancer who got mixed in with the wrong people, Larry and Stubbs had been hired to kill Simon, whom they were told was named Edward Boston. Ah-ha! And Delia hired me to protect her after Simon disappeared.
”Did you kill, Simon?” Sammy asked.
”Hwe nevah found him.” Larry answered. “Hwe thought Dealwiah knew hwere he hwas.”
”She doesn’t.” I said. “Probably skipped town when he found out you guys were after him.”
”Why didn’t you report Nick for killing Stubbs?”
I began to protest, but Sammy held up her hand for silence.
”Ih hwas a hitman! Ih hwasn’t ganna tell theh copsh!”
”What about your so-called ‘friends on the force’, Larry?”
”Ih didn’t hove any money tow pay them, Nick. Ash-hole.”
Sammy turned to me. ”Where is the money?”
”Safe.” I sneered.
Sammy looked back to Larry. ”Who hired you?”
”Hish nam hwas Shplangah.”
”Spell that.” Sammy almost barked. I couldn’t blame her. Listening to Larry for more than a minute would irritate anyone.
Turned out I was looking for a guy named Spranger. Larry was helpful enough to neglect getting a first name.
”Hey, Sammy, you still got that picture of Simon and the other guy?”
She pulled out her tablet, plugged in, and a moment later showed the picture to Larry and I.
”Is this Spranger?” I asked.
”Sammy, take Larry back to your place, and keep him safe. Don’t hand him over to Keys.”
”Keysh!” Larry shrieked.
”I work for Keys; not you.” Sammy replied. Larry stared wide-eyed at her.
”I know that, but right now I need you to work with me. Help me out, okay?”
”Ih’m sho dead.” Larry mumbled.
”Shut up, Larry! Sammy, Larry can identify this guy as the one who put the hit out on Delia. If I can somehow get this case sorted out, we can have Larry testify against him.”
”Ih hain’t teshtifyen shlit! Theyw’ll get me fo murdah!”
”You haven’t killed anyone, remember?” I said through clenched teeth. “If we say that you took the money but went to warn Delia we can probably pay your way out.”
”That seems unlikely.”
”It’s what I got, Sammy. And right now, Larry, it’s the best way to save your hide.”
Larry said something into his shirt, but I couldn’t make it out.
”Do you have a portable drive?”
”In my bag.” Sammy answered.
”Larry. You still have that video of Spranger hiring you?
”Get me that video and a copy of the picture. I’m gonna go get my gun kit and make a call to Sergeant Holding; see if he can help me figure out who this guy is.”
Sammy narrowed her eyes. “A call?”
”I’m just going to make a call from my office. I promise I will head back to your place after. Besides, you still got this tracker on me.” I shook my ankle bracelet for effect. “Now, will you please watch Larry for me?”
”Yes.” she said. Larry tried to stand up, but she pulled a switchblade out of…somewhere, and pressed it just above his clavicle.
”Woah!” Larry and I shouted in tandem.
”I will watch, Larry.” Sammy said. “You will come back.”
I wasn’t entirely certain whether she was threatening Larry, me, or both of us. I just told her “Good job.” Once she had given me the files, we went our separate ways.
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