JoZee paced the blood-spattered concrete floor of the old slaughterhouse on West Street. The room stank like stale cigarette smoke and fresh piss. Jerome was duct-taped to a steel folding chair, his face spent the past half-hour french-kissing the butt of Paolo's Glock.
"Shut the fuck up, Joe..."
Paolo took off his wife-beater, tossing it to the floor. He got up close to Jerome. Jerome Sanders; that's what it said on his name-badge when they took him. Some fancy company in the new executive park; Sentinel Biotech. He didn't much care for where the guy worked, what he did, or what his favorite wine and cheese were. Paolo just cared about the briefcase chained to the guy's arm, the combination on it, and the contents that Jerome was dealing on his turf.
He had people deal on his turf before. A show of the heat, a punch in the face - that was the usual course of action. At least those clowns were selling real shit. This guy was selling bogus blow. Paolo's customers were leavin' for the PJs. He didn't want to get into the briefcase for the drugs; he wanted to shove the bags of bullshit powder down Jerome's throat to let him choke on it. But he wouldn't talk, just kept coughing.
Paolo slammed Jerome's chained hand on a thick wooden table and put a round through his palm. The impact jerked his hand up before the pain could do it. Jerome screamed out, started coughing like gangbusters.
"Yo, he's gonna' die, homes." JoeZee said.
Paolo leaned in close to Jerome's swollen ear. "Not if you give me the combo to your briefcase, motherfucker." Then he swung the barrel across Jerome's face.
"Alright! Fine! I'll *cough* give it to you... *cough*" Jerome said.
Paolo smiled. He grabbed the briefcase and slid it on the table. "Go. And no tricks."
Jerome coughed and hacked. "Two... *cough* ... seven... *cough*..."
"Go on... You can do it. Two more left, and you'll be free."
"*cough* Four... *cough*... zero."
Paolo slid the combo, and the briefcase popped open. It was lined with big, sealed bags of powder. It didn't even look like coke.Must've been why he dealt at night.He picked up a bag and tore it open flinging the powder all over the place. He traced his finger along the inside of the bag and rubbed the residue on his gums. Nothing.
"You gonna' sell this fake coke on my block!?" Paolo screamed. He grabbed another bag. "Before I cram all this shit down your throat, you got any last words?"
Jerome hacked. He blew out a bloody snot bubble.
"Yeah..."Jerome said before he threw blood up onto his already-soaked shirt. "I'm dying."
Paolo laughed. "You don't say..."
"...*cough*... So are you... and your friend." He pointed with his bloody stump-hand to the bag in Paolo's grip. "That's not coke."
"Oh yeah?" Paolo said to JoeZee, "Listen to this guy! So tell me,Jerome, what is in these bags?"
"*cough* Druggie killed my wife... *cough*... So I faked a shipment from... *cough*... Level 4, where I work... *cough*... worked. Sold it on your street as coke... *cough*..."
"What is it!?" JoeZee asked. He cleared his throat, the dust was still in the air.
"*cough* Bacillus anthracis..."
JoeZee grabbed Paolo's arm. "That last word sounded like-,"
"Anthrax...*cough*," Jerome gasped. "Pneumonic...*cough*...weaponi
Jerome slumped over in the chair. Paolo let out a cough.
Liam Sweeny is a novelist from upstate New York. He has two books published, and his work has appeared online and in print in various venues. His books, Anno Luce and Anno Luce: Anna's Book can be found at Amazon and BN.com, as well as other online retailers. Sweeny is also a volunteer with the American Red Cross in Disaster Services.