Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 066 - Alec Cizak

PITCH STREET - ALEC CIZAK

Butch Dunne had a fancy office in a tall building near Beverly Hills. The hallway outside was mostly dark, illuminated only by a window at the farthest end. Jack McNeely's thin frame moved through the corridor, his right leg occasionally jerking to the side, illustrating just how nervous he was.

"Stop being a wuss," he whispered to himself. He was a hitman and hadn't felt anxiety since his first kill, nearly ten years ago. This was for Butch Dunne, though. An impressive performance could lead to a steady job. No more risks bumping off unfaithful husbands and wives.

He adjusted his suit. The nicest he owned. Black. Deep red tie. Starched white shirt. Tugging the bottom of his jacket, he made his shoulders look as square as possible. Then he rang the door bell.

He was led by two large gentlemen, both better dressed, to the main area of the office. Sitting at a round table in the center of the room was Butch Dunne. He was in his seventies, stood somewhere in the neighborhood of six-four. His hands, folded into relaxed fists, resembled beer mugs. A cigar jammed in the corner of his mouth sent a thick line of smoke dancing up into the air.

When he got to the table, he offered his hand. Butch ignored the gesture.

"Have a seat," the old gangster said.

Jack took the only other chair at the table and sat directly opposite him.

Butch produced a photograph from his breast pocket and shoved it across the table. Jack picked it up and studied it. A beautiful young woman. Brunette. Deep green eyes glowing off the slick paper. Butch snapped his fingers and motioned for Jack to give it back to him.

"She's stealing money from me. Thinks I don't know."

Jack kept quiet.

Butch reached into his jacket and produced a snub-nosed .38. He put it on the table and slid it across.

Jack took the gun.

"Corner of Pitch and 3rd."

Jack hesitated.

"What's the problem?"

Jack cleared his throat, thought carefully about his words. He decided there was no easy way to broach the subject. "Money," he finally said.

"This ain't chumptown," Butch explained, "you get paid when you finish the job."

Before Jack could protest, the two goons who had walked him in were standing over him. They gently nudged him in the shoulders.

"Mr. Dunne's laid out the gig," said the smarter-looking of the two, "time for you to move along."

*

Pitch Street ran like a dagger through Koreatown. Not many roads were populated by prostitutes in modern Los Angeles. 3rd and Pitch was tolerated by the cops, more than likely, because those girls belonged to Butch Dunne.

The police also belonged to Butch Dunne.

Jack pulled up slowly and drove along the curb. Almost every girl working the block kept pace with him, looking inside, seeing the dapper clothes, getting more excited as it became obvious he wasn't going to choose any of them.

And then he saw her.

Standing against a graffiti-covered wall, smoking a cigarette. She looked a hundred-thousand times cleaner and healthier than the rest of the girls. Jack's first impression was that she must have had some severe mental problem or drug habit. No girl that pretty would be walking the streets.

"Excuse me," Jack called out of his window as he slowed to a stop next to her.

She walked over, leaned in, took one look at him and sighed and rolled her eyes. "I don't do anything weird," she said.

Puzzled, Jack shrugged.

"I don't do the little school girl routine," she continued, "I am most certainly not a toilet. I think that crap is totally sick."

"I'm just looking for some company."

The girl worked on her cigarette for a couple of seconds. She shrugged, exhaled into the car. "Alright," she said, "park around the corner. I'll be in room 213." She nodded at The Kipling Hotel, directly across the street. Then she walked towards the intersection.

Jack found a space on Ardmore and quickly made his way on foot back to Pitch Street.

*

When she opened the door she was dressed in black lingerie. Heavier make-up suggested she had fixed herself up a little. "Come on in," she said, and stepped aside.

It was a standard trick joint. One bed in the middle and a bathroom by the door. A lone lamp in the corner provided the only light.

Maybe, Jack thought, I'll have a go at her before I kill her.

"Take a shower," she said, then shoved him towards the bathroom.

"I washed up before leaving my apartment."

"I don't care. Take a shower." She pushed him once more, this time knocking him into the bathroom. She walked in after him and turned the water on, tested it, made sure it was tolerable. "There you go," she said, this time in a slightly nicer voice, "scrub your troublemaker nice and clean." Then she left the room and shut the door.

Despite her curt demeanor, she had aroused Jack. He decided he would go ahead and sleep with her. "Hell," he said to himself as he got undressed and stepped into the shower, "I'm doing her a favor. Letting her go out with a bang and such."

The water felt good. He turned his head side to side to wash his ears. He closed his eyes and let it massage his face. When he opened them again, he saw, through the shower curtain, that the girl was standing on the other side, naked.

"You coming in?" he shouted.

"What?" she said.

Jack poked his face through the curtains. "I said..."

The girl stuck a .22 right between his eyes.

"Uh," he struggled to speak, "what's the deal, sister?"

"Your father's Ron McNeely?"

Jack was in shock. The only thing he had had ever been told about his dad was his name.

"Twenty years ago he dropped a dime on Daniel Mullins. Mr. Mullins died in prison last month. His brother-in-law, Butch Dunne, hired me to even the score."

Jack tried to think straight. The .38 was in his jacket, which was hanging neatly on a hook by the door. It seemed, at that moment, a mile away.

"Since your father left the country, you'll be picking up the tab."

And then she shot Jack McNeely in the face. He flew into the back wall of the shower. The girl opened the curtain, leaned in and put bullets in Jack's heart and then his belly.

*

Katie Crowell walked through the hallway outside of Butch Dunne's office with the most subtle stutter to her step. She had worked the streets for him for over a year, dealt with him many times. This meeting would be different, though. Now she would be the one getting money from him. Moving up, as she saw it.

Once she had tried to skimp him on her take. He punched her in the mouth so hard she had to have her front teeth replaced.

That was then, though. Now she had done what she had been told to do. Didn't even feel bad or guilty about it. Killing a joe, she considered, was a lot easier than turning a trick. She had joined the ranks of Butch's killers. Surely he would show her respect.

She rang the doorbell and waited.

*

"Have a seat." Butch Dunne was doing his best to smile. He had done it so few times in his life that it proved to be too much. He gave up and chomped on his cigar.

Katie removed the .38 from her purse and shoved it across the desk.

Butch picked the gun up and put it in his jacket.

They sat silent for nearly a minute.

"Ah," Katie said quietly.

"Yes?" Butch leaned forward. His massive shoulders blocked out the sunlight coming in from the window behind him.

"Money?"

"Of course." He leaned back and pulled a roll of cash from his breast pocket and slid it across the table.

Katie looked at it for a bit.

"Count it. I won't be offended."

She started to put the roll in her purse and get up.

"I said count it!"

She sat back down and flipped through the hundred dollar bills. Fifty of them. That's what a human life was worth on the streets of Los Angeles.

"Now get lost."

She stood and left.

As soon as she was gone, Butch Dunne nodded to his goons at the door. They walked out after her.

BIO: Alec Cizak is a writer from Indianapolis who lives in Los Angeles and is looking to escape back to the sanity of Indianapolis.

1 comment:

Julie said...

Love the twist - really enjoyed the story.