SIX: THE CASUAL TALK OF MURDER




ABNER LEMONZEO PACED THE floor of the Pub, one hand in the pocket of his custom tailored blue suit, the other holding an unlit cigarette. The urge to smoke was a distant memory, despite where he’d spent the last five years, but he couldn’t think without a cigarette in hand, so he’d always kept a pack around.

He turned to look at the clock over the bar. They were late, the men he was waiting for, if men could be the right word. He wasn’t sure anymore. So much had changed while he was away. Men or not, he couldn’t abide lateness. Were they anyone else, he might have had them killed. But not these two. These men—this deal—meant money. And money was the one thing he desperately needed.

He glanced at the floor and shook his head. Had no one bothered to run a mop or vacuum over this place while he’d been gone? The bar, called the Pub, wasn’t a big place. A few booths on each wall and four stools in front of an adequately stocked bar. The financial intake had never been enough to do more than break even each year, but he’d always wanted to own his own bar. Yet now, as he kicked at a clump of mud that some hillbilly had tracked in, he wondered if it had been worth it.

It was going to take weeks to get this place back into shape, and he didn’t know if he had the energy anymore. Kicking once more at the mud, he swore under his breath and returned to his pacing.

His circuit took him to the front of the Pub and he paused to look out onto the street through a window stained with five years of cigarette smoke. He sighed, itching to go back behind the bar for glass cleaner and paper towels. Running a finger over the layers of grime, he sighed once again when nothing, no dirt or grit, came off onto this finger. The stains were there to stay. He’d have to replace the glass, cleaning just wouldn’t do it.

The windows were more like walls now, blocking his ability to see much beyond the darkened glass, so he abandoned the window and opened the door. The early morning sun shone in at him and he squinted, shielding his eyes with the hand that still held the cigarette. Five years ago he’d never be caught dead showing his face at such an early hour. But now, well he’d become accustom to rising with the sun.

He walked back behind the bar and poured himself a drink. Things had really gone to hell while he’d been away. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected to walk back into now that he was out, but broke and powerless hadn’t been high on the list.

The door opened and two men walked into the bar. For a moment Lemonzeo thought he was seeing double.

Both men wore matching suits, dark and expensive. But the similarities didn’t end there; these men were brothers, twins, identical in almost every way. Except for the hair.

“You’re late,” Lemonzeo said.

“Yes, we hope you will forgive us this transgression,” the one on the right said, removing his sunglasses. His hair was black. So black that your eyes wanted to avoid it. It was also a conservative cut, but expensive.

He approached the bar and offered his hand. Lemonzeo took it.

“I am Alexander,” the man said. “And you are Lemonzeo?”

“I am,” Lemonzeo said. A chill had settled into his hand and crept up his arm. He let go of Alexander’s hand and the cold fled. Lemonzeo shivered. He’d never shaken the hand of a vampire before.

“My brother,” Alexander said, gesturing to the other man who had remained by the door, “is Thomas.”

Thomas’ hair was blond, nearly brighter than the sun. He wore it in direct contrast to his brother, spiked like that of an old punk rocker.

“Would either of you like a drink?” Lemonzeo said, not sure what vampires drank, and shivered once again at the thought of it.

“No, thank you,” Alexander said. “My brother and I are fine. Shall we get down to business?”

“Good idea,” Lemonzeo said. “We can sit over here.”

He gestured to a booth near the bar and the two sat. Thomas remained by the door, looking out onto the sidewalk.

“Would your brother like to join us?” Lemonzeo said.

“No, he would not. He will ensure we are not interrupted.”

“That shouldn’t be an issue; we don’t open for another six hours.”

“Regardless,” Alexander said and spread his hands out as if to say that’s how it was.

“Whatever floats your boat,” Lemonzeo said, leaning back in his seat. “Now, you called this meeting, why don’t you tell me what it is you need from me.”

“It is not what we need from you, Mr. Lemonzeo; it is what we need from each other.”

“Oh yeah? And what do I need from you?” He knew full well what he needed from the two brothers. Money.

“Come now, Mr. Lemonzeo. Let us not play these little games with each other. You have spent the last five years in prison and have returned at last to find your little empire crumbled. Klein and his dogs have taken most of what you once owned.” He looked around the bar in disgust. “And what little you have left is withering on the vine.”

“And you’re going to just fix all this for me? Just like that?” Lemonzeo said snapping his fingers with the word ‘that’.

“Not us, Mr. Lemonzeo. Our employer.”

“Your employer. The mysterious Mr. Brone. Why does he want to help me?”

“Simple, Mr. Lemonzeo. Mr. Brone does not like the idea of Klein and his dogs gaining too much power, and while he cannot go up against Klein directly, he would like to see the dog knocked down a peg or two.”

“So you want me to take on Klein?” Lemonzeo said. “Start a war?”

“Yes, and we will fund it.” Alexander smiled, though his eyes showed none of it. They reminded Lemonzeo of shark’s eyes: cold, calculating, unsympathetic. The eyes of a machine.

“Why me? I’m lead to understand that your boss holds quite a bit of power himself?”

“There are rules, Mr. Lemonzeo. One must follow the rules if we wish to remain civilized.”

“Well, I’m not opposed to taking back what’s mine from Klein, I have nothing to lose. But what do you gain? What’s in it for Brone?”

“It is just as I said. Mr. Brone does not like Klein. He is uncomfortable allowing the dog to possess such power in the area. You used to run things; he would like to see you return.”

“And that’s it?”

“Actually, no,” Alexander said, leaning forward. “Mr. Brone has certain interests in this area.”

“You mean whatever it is he’s doing up there in my old nightclub,” Lemonzeo said. “I’m not stupid; I know there’s more than dancing going on out there.”

“The Vampire’s Nest was purchased from you legally, Mr. Lemonzeo. What Brone does with his property is his business, not yours. Just as our plans are our plans. However, we also do not want to attract the attention of a certain individual in town.”

“Yeah, vampires tend to pique his interest.” Lemonzeo knew the individual in question. In fact, he was having him killed this morning. “I’m actually quite surprised he hasn’t come after you by now.”

“So far we have managed to stay off of his radar, but it has been proving difficult. It is only a matter of time before his eyes turn our way. That is where you come in.”

“How’s that?”

“We want you to kill him.”

“Just like that, huh?”

“Just like that.”

“Well,” Lemonzeo leaned forward. “It won’t be easy. Or cheap.”

“We never assumed it would be.”

Alexander reached into his suit jacket and produced an envelope, thick and near to bursting. He tossed it onto the table where it landed with a heavy thud.

Lemonzeo picked it up and looked inside at the hundred dollar bills that strained against the envelope’s seams. He ran a thumb along the bills. He could do a lot with the money. It was certainly a nice big step toward getting his empire back.

“Consider that an advance,” Alexander said. “There is plenty more. Once the job is done—once the man is dead—you can practically write your own check, Mr. Lemonzeo. Do we have a deal?”

Lemonzeo wanted to shout out that yes, hell yes they had a deal. Money, after all, can carry a conversation like nobody’s business. Yet, vampires . . . It’s not like he’d never had dealings with them before, but he was reluctant to put his future into the hands of someone who was not human.

He ran a thumb along the bills once again, flipping through them, seeing the number 100 as it ran along the corner of the bills like an old motion picture show. He sighed and reached out a hand, offering it to Alexander.

“We have a deal,” Lemonzeo said.

Alexander took his hand and smiled, his shark eyes looking through him.

“Good,” Alexander said. “You will soon be back to your former glory, Mr. Lemonzeo. My brother and I will return tomorrow with your first payment so that you can begin your operation against Klein.”

“I look forward to it,” Lemonzeo said.

“And the man we spoke of? He will be dead before we speak again, yes?”

“Most assuredly,” Lemonzeo said.

“Good, then let us talk of your next step. If you are to wage war with Klein, we have certain targets in mind.”

The other vampire, Thomas, joined them at the booth. He let them talk, though he wasn’t listening. He was already spending the money in his head.

He’d definitely have to get those windows replaced. Then he’d have to hire some muscle and acquire weapons. That shouldn’t be too hard providing all his old contacts were still in business. After all, no one ran product through this one horse town like Victor Lemonzeo.

And all he had to do was kill Norman Oklahoma.

He tried not to laugh. If all was going according to plan, Oklahoma should already be dead.




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