I heard the click of heel on asphalt. Without turning, I knew he’d followed me into the alley. Good. I grinned.
I slowed my pace, giving him opportunity to catch up. Too dark to walk fast back here anyway. Who knew what slime smeared the paving. I didn’t want to slip on something and fall in the filth. The odor of garbage in dumpsters along the way hung thick in the damp air. Rats scurried in dark corners. A siren screamed in the distance and was answered by car horns and back-firing trucks. I pulled my coat collar up around my ears and held a hand over my nose.
He was close now. I heard his raspy breath, the wheeze of a heavy smoker.
I stopped and turned to face him.
“You got it?” he asked, not at all surprised I had the guts to confront him.
“Ed send you?”
“You know he did.” Light from the street at the end of the alley penetrated just far enough for me to make out his features. I’d seen him before. I’d even paid him once. A big man with a beefy face, spiked and bleached hair and a scruffy soul patch. He was wrapped in a dark overcoat. One big hand twitched at his side while the other was shoved into a coat pocket. His eyes glowed in the light as he turned them toward me. “You got it?”
I shook my head. “I’m not giving Ed any more money.”
His mouth hung open and he wheezed.
Stupid. All Ed’s boys were stupid. I’d had enough. I was leaving town and they weren’t going to stop me.
“You owe him,” the clown said. “You gotta pay up.”
“What’re you gonna do if I don’t?”
“You ain’t gonna like it, man.” He took a step toward me.
I smiled at the shock on his face as I pulled out my gun and pointed it at his ugly face.
“You don’t wanna do that, man. Just pay up and there won’t be no trouble.”
“You’re the one in trouble. Back off and forget you saw me tonight.”
“I can’t do that. I gotta collect.”
“I will shoot you.”
“Nah. You ain’t gonna do it.”
I heard a noise behind me but before I could turn I felt a sharp pain in my back. The pain swept over me like a dark cloud and suddenly I was on my knees. My hand loosened its grip and the pistol clattered to the paving. I tumbled over and fell onto my side. Stupid. I should have remembered they always traveled in pairs.
They stood over me now, staring down. The one I hadn’t seen folded a switchblade and put it back in his jacket.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” the other one said. “How we gonna get the money now”
“You want I shoulda left him shoot you?”
“Ed’s gonna be pissed.”
My lights were fading. I wondered how long before they thought to look for my wallet. All the money was there. The word came to mind, but it had to do with me and not them.
J.R. Lindermuth is the author of seven published novels, including three in the Sticks Hetrick mystery series. His short stories have appeared in a variety of magazines, including A Cruel World, The 3rdegree, Mouth Full of Bullets, Crime and Suspense, A Twist of Noir and Voice in the Dark.
Watch The Hour (April 2009), Whiskey Creek Press
Corruption's Child (June 2008), Whiskey Creek Press
The Accidental Spy (July 2008), Lachesis Publishing
Cruel Cuts (Nov. 2007), Whiskey Creek Press
Something In Common (June 2007), Whiskey Creek Press
http://jlind11.tripod.com for reviews and sample chapters