STRAWBERRY QUICK - CORMAC BROWN
Originally published at Cormac Writes and the first chapter at Hardboiled Chapters
This is who they send to watch me?
Even over the hyper-fluttering sound of the money counter tallying bills like an amplified flock of vultures, I could hear the snort. I looked over by the door and there he was, the true Lizard King, forget Jim Morrison. This character was a reptile, from his mannerisms, to his clothes and shoes made from snakes and alligators. To his bulging eyes that suggested his brain was all reptilian, with not a dash of ape or mammal to dilute it.
He had an Altoids tin open and there was a light pink powder inside. He was using one of those tablespoon-teaspoon spoons on a ring that your mom used to use in the kitchen when baking pies and the second smallest spoon seemed to be in heavy rotation, today.
I shuffled and stacked some more money like a blackjack dealer in Vegas and fed the pile into the money counter.
I nodded at him and said slowly "What's that, Pixie-stick dust?"
Even though I said it slowly, I figured it wouldn't register and it didn't.
"I said, what is that, Pixie-stick dust?"
He blinked for what had to be the first time since he had been in the room, some thirty minutes, and he blinked again as he glared at me with those cold, reptilian eyes.
He rasped, "What are you talking about? Are you high?"
Talk about the kettle...
"The stuff, what is it?"
"Strawberry Quick, yo."
I banded the counted pile and shuffled up another deck of five dollar bills.
"Don't you want some milk to go with that?"
"Really, are you high?"
I repeat, this is who they send to watch me?
In between sorting singles, "No, I haven't been high since the elder Bush was in office." Fives, "what is that supposed to be..." Twenties, "some new kind of designer drug?"
"No, it's meth. Strawberry-flavored meth."
"And it's not as strong as strong as regular meth, so you don't become addicted. Shit, you are so retarded."
Yeah, how dumb can I be? I must be a raging idiot to not want to have my eyes bugging out of my head and my brain bouncing against my ears.
A light pink plume shot up as he closed the tin. He slipped it into a Ziploc and sealed the bag. He walked over to the water cooler and doused his fingers with water. Then he snorted the wet off of his fingers.
"What, you don't have no vices?" he sneered and nodded towards my ample frame.
"I like a sifter of Jack Daniels every now and then. But, see, unlike you, I like my death to taste like death."
"I said, I don't need my death sugar-coated with a parasol, I take mine straight-up."
"Who asked you, any-"
There was a gentle knock on the door that silenced us and got our attention like the rattle of a sidewinder. Anyone who was connected to the money would've called on one of the four of the cell phones that were stationed around this beat-up studio apartment.
The neighbors wouldn't bother us because it was the kind of building where everyone kept to themselves, that's why it was chosen. It was either cop or criminal on the side of that five-inch, reinforced door.
The Lizard King had his guns out before the second knock hit the door. Now I could see why he was stationed here; his reflexes matched his reptile brain. Me? For some odd reason, I slowly reached for my Street Sweeper from its shelf under the table and brought it up.
The DAO-12 Street Sweeper was a revolver gone wrong. It was a shotgun that had its way with a Roaring Twenties machine gun and this was the end result. A twelve-inch barrel with twelve-gauge cartridges and twelve cartridges in the rotating drum. Fuck thirteen, twelve was their unlucky number.
Though we were three stories up, it occurred simultaneously to the Lizard King and me that someone might be coming through the windows. As we both looked over, sparks flew from the hinges on the door. Whatever they were using, the door was going to come down in seconds, and I was wondering if this was all worth their hassle. I mean, really.
As the Lizard King shifted to the right side of the room to be out of both their line and my line of fire, I realized that people hit liquor stores all the time, often for less than a hundred dollars. So I guess certain death was worth it for them. As a man of peace, it certainly wasn't worth it for me, though I'd send all of them to hell before I'd kill myself.
Before the door hit the ground, the Lizard King must have let loose over six rounds, and two of those idiots fell like leaves in the wind on top of the door. Another idiot jumped into the threshold like he was a kid playing cops and robbers, and in an instant, his brains were all over the door of the apartment across the hall.
This all took place within eight seconds, tops. I got the feeling that the Lizard King was screwing around with them and he could've taken care of things even faster. Then the drugs he was on must have overrode his common sense. He walked over the bodies and stuck his head out of the door. He flew from the right side of the door jamb to the left and hit the ground even faster than any of the three he killed.
Who's the "retard" now, Lizzy? Then the lights in the hallway went out...great. The apartment light switch is right by the front door and I wasn't about to walk over there to turn it off, and expose myself. On the other hand, they could see me and all I would be able to see would be the muzzle flash of their guns just before their bullets hit me.
Then the silliest lyrics from a song from a record that my grandmother used to play hit me.
*If I knew you were comin' I'd've baked a cake*
*Baked a cake, baked a cake*
*If I knew you were comin' I'd've baked a cake*
But instead of *"Howd-ya do, howd-ya do, howd-ya do,"* I was thinking, "what to do, what to do, what to do?" I bit my lip, then decided that they were coming in...
...then I let loose with the Street Sweeper, hitting the wall just to the right of the door, because that's the side where the bullets that finished the Lizard King came from. A squeal and the perpetrator dropped down on all fours, just right above the Lizard King and the idiot's comrade, said that my aim was true. But how accurate do you have to be with a shotgun, anyway?
I pumped another cartridge, squeezed and finished him off. The apartment door across the way was embedded with black buckshot...plus a nasty, visceral, gray, pink, and crimson. I counted again and let loose one just to the right of my first shot...nothing. As I chambered another cartridge, I heard what sounded like a chair sliding across a wooden floor.
One of the windows was slowly sliding open. What ladder from hell could reach this high? Just before the hand could push the window as high as it could go, I pulled the trigger.
The apartment had a new hole in the wall and outside the hole's diameter, was even more crimson and matter. The scream of whoever it was that used to have two hands, descended down, fast and away like a baseball pitch. Then there was the crash of ladder and perpetrator on the pavement.
Judging from the screams, it was a man, though the pain was driving him to falsetto. The very same gene that causes idiots to stare at auto accidents was compelling me to look out the window, but I had more pressing issues.
I didn't hear any sirens, but you know that crap is for TV, anyway. The cops wouldn't want to tip me off that they were well on their way and that in minutes, if not seconds, I'd be ass-deep in blue. The excuse of "self-defense" loses its weight when you have a gun that was banned in America, years ago, thousands, and thousands in illegal money, five bodies on the floor, and one outside that is about to expire.
Not to mention that there still could be more robbers lurking out in the hallway. So I had to work as quickly and best as I could with just one hand. I slid open the large sports bag that I originally brought the money in with, and then I shoveled, scooped, and crammed the banded and loose money. I flinched as I thought I heard a door open somewhere. Fuck it, the cops are coming, get rid of the evidence.
I took out the small gas cans and flare that were under the sink for just this occasion. I doused everything I could with the cans within thirty seconds, then I tucked the flare in my right rear pants pocket. I quickly pointed the Street Sweeper down the hallway and pulled the trigger. I wasn't going out like the Lizard King.
Blowback or something from the shotgun ignited the gas. I had to run back in and get the money before it burned up, or my life would be worth less than these bodies at beneath my feet, and my death would be a lot more painful. I got it out just before the flare-up and I walked out into the hallway. I didn't see any more robbers, so I started knocking on doors and telling people that the building was on fire.
They still didn't open their doors. See? I told you it was the kind of building where everyone kept to themselves.
By the time I got to my car, there he was. He was still shrieking and clutching the stump that was his right arm. I was lucky that both he and the ladder landed just inches from my rear fender, or I'd be wide open for arrest, on foot.
I pulled the trigger one more time. Not so much as to put him out of his misery, as to keep him from identifying me, and adding to mine.
BIO: "Cormac Brown" is my pen name. I'm an up-and-slumming writer in the city of Saint Francis, and I'm following in the footsteps of Hammett...minus the TB and working for the Pinkerton Agency. A couple of stories that I've stapled and stitched together can be found at Cormac Writes.
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