Footsteps and a knock.
“Wallace,” the voice said, almost out of breath. It was Price.
I kept the four-inch Python aimed at the door.
“You got to let me in,” Price said. “The money’s gone.”
“Better keep moving,” I said. “Try upstairs. Maybe strongarm someone’s grandma.”
He bolted down the hall and climbed the creaky iron steps.
“Who was that?” Molly said. Her head rested on the window sill. In a week, she’d aged five years. “Where’d you tell him?”
“That’s a guy,” I said, “whose luck ran out. Old tenants live on the top floors. People who couldn’t afford to move. Or just couldn’t.”
“Where’s my works?”
“One last hit,” I told her. “Where we’re going, you can’t take that stuff. Once we arrive there’ll be plenty.”
Glass broke a few stories above us. Price’s body plummeted down the side of the tower. “Move away,” I told Molly, and closed the yellow blinds.
I felt bad; after all, it was Price’s cash I’d stolen. But he’d hardly been the first.
Molly stared at the mattress for hours. I threw out her gear, locked the door, and, once the police were gone, ventured beyond the tower. Dried blood caked the gravel. Under the WHALE GANG graffiti someone wrote DROP CITY.
The Whale himself would disapprove. He was out lighting matches in Vermont or the Merrimack Valley, due to return thatevening.
Price’s cash was buried in brownfields across the canal. Now that I’d contacted some friends in Montreal, I only needed to retrieve it and grab a motor before the Whale appeared. The gang had grown lazy and scattered in his absence, more concerned with parties and petty extortion than in keeping the cops downtown. At the homecoming, they would light up cars and bonfires—a perfect time to slip.
I found a sedan among the joyridden cars behind the building. A young man in sweatpants noticed me from the stoop and went inside. An hour later, I encountered him and two others in the brownfields.
“That him?” one said.
“Dead on,” said the young man. White scar tissue ringed his neck. “No secrets from the Whale.”
They rushed me. The young man slipped and tumbled down into the canal. The others froze when I pulled the Python. “Help your friend,” I said. “I heard stories about that water. Go in a dick and come out a pussy.”
“Fuck you, man.”
A bonfire flashed up and I shot the pair. Price’s fifties fit snug in my socks.
Back at the tower, police were parked six Buicks deep. The captain spoke through a megaphone: “Killing her won’t save you, Whale. One-way ticket to the pavement…What would Price say?”
Old tenants shivered in the courtyard. I tossed the Python. At once I saw where the pistols and shotguns were pointed: the second window on the sixth floor, my room with Molly.
“What happens now?” the captain bellowed. Through the blinds, I saw Molly wriggling against the Whale. He stood two heads taller and wore a black nylon stocking over his face. The Whale’s left arm squeezed her stomach; his right hand gripped an automatic. “You come down, tell us the story. Kick back a few beers. Nothing to do with jail…”
“Cops are all the same,” the Whale said. His voice echoed over the cinderblocks. “Never there when you need them.”
Molly was flung face-first through the window and landed on a cruiser’s roof. A volley followed from the police. One of the slugs hit the Whale’s left leg. He collapsed on the linoleum. After another volley, he stopped moving.
I stepped past the DROP CITY letters. As the cops led him out in handcuffs, the young man in sweatpants spotted me. “That’s the guy,” he said. “Fucker killed Tim and Roach.”
The officers took no chances. I tried to scale the fence but got tackled and dragged back to the van.
“Ran,” one told the captain.
We sped away from the canal, bonfires dead and the lights growing brighter. The van jounced when it hit a pothole.
“They called me in West Roxbury,” the cop said to the driver. “Thought this place got torn down.”
“Ran out of money,” the driver said. “Spent it all building the damn thing. May as well be cardboard now.”
“How are your wrists back there?” the cop called to us. He jingled his keys. “See if those rings are cardboard, too.”
They were not.
BIO: Max Thrax is fiction editor of Apocalypse Confidential. His novel God is a Killer is available from Close to the Bone.