NIGHT HAD FALLEN BY the time Jack took the Desoto exit from Highway Ten.
It had been an eventful thirty-six hours for Getter Dunn. He hadn’t had this much to do since… well, since the last time he’d worked for Mr. Lemonzeo.
Yesterday morning, after driving the Walrus back to Eudora and handing over the sedan to the mutant hit man, Jack had gone to see his old boss at the Pub.
It was like he’d never left. The Boss looked as he had five years ago, maybe a little harder around the eyes. But then, he’d been in prison.
There were differences, of course. Not everything could remain the same.
First off, Mr. Lemonzeo had quit smoking. Not an easy task. Jack should know, he’d been trying for twelve years now.
The other big difference was the Boss’s new man. Jenner.
Jack didn’t like him. Not at all. There was something about the man that rubbed Jack the wrong way.
Jenner was polite enough, and respectful of Jack’s past with Mr. Lemonzeo, but just being around the man made his skin crawl. But he could work through that. After all, working for Abner Lemonzeo meant the occasional deal with monsters.
The Boss had caught him up on the agreement he’d made with the vampires. Jack had known that a group had set up shop in Eudora over the last few months. He still had his ear to the ground. But it had meant little to him. He’d moved on.
“I have another job for you, Jack,” Mr. Lemonzeo had told him this morning over breakfast.
Jack had stayed the night in Eudora, bunking up in one of the many spare rooms at Mr. Lemonzeo’s house. It was how they did it back in the day. The Boss had a few trusted individuals in his inner circle, and Jack had always been one of them. Those lucky few had lived with the Boss in his house out in the country. It made sense. Someone of Lemonzeo’s caliber needed round the clock security.
But the inner circle had been more than hired guns. They were often encouraged to give their own thoughts on matters, to speak their minds. The Boss was unique in that way for someone who ran a criminal empire. He inspired loyalty not by fear, nor did he purchase it. Abner Lemonzeo earned the loyalty of those around them because he trusted them enough to include them. He valued their opinions. He treated them like family.
“Anything you need, Mr. Lemonzeo,” Jack said.
“I need you to have a look around the Tick Tock,” Mr. Lemonzeo said. “Tonight. Tell me who comes and goes. Watch for holes in their security. From what I’m told, this should be an easy enough job, but I’d like your take on it, Jack.”
“Of course, Mr. Lemonzeo.”
The Tick Tock was a pawn shop on the south side of Desoto, just off Highway Ten. More than just a place for desperate people to hock their valuables for ten percent of what they were worth, Rolf Klein used it as a front for a book maker’s. If there was a wager to be made, it was done at the Tick Tock. Hundreds of thousands of dollars poured in and out of the pawn shop every day. More so on fight nights.
Jack parked the car, an old Chevy Nova, in the lot of the Super Mart, directly across the street from the Tick Tock. No one would question why the car was there, the Super Mart was, after all, open twenty four hours.
It seemed silly for Klein to have an illegal gambling den located just across the street from a twenty four hour supermarket, but the pawn shop had been there first. Of course, back then, when the Super Mart had gone up, the Tick Tock was just a pawn shop. There was nothing shady going on other than the occasional drug deal out back.
That was twenty years ago.
Back then there wasn’t much out here. Just the gas station, a hamburger joint, and the Tick Tock, all side by side facing west. But as they were just off the highway, it was an area ripe for development. After they put in the Super Mart, the area practically blew up, developers building shot after shop, moving west as their forefathers once did.
Three years after the Super Mart had been built, Mr. Lemonzeo found himself the new owner of the Tick Tock. Jack couldn’t recall how the Boss had acquired the shop, but it wasn’t long before Mr. Lemonzeo turned it into a money maker.
Klein had taken over the operation of the Tick Tock the same day the Boss had been sentenced.
Jack watched as nothing appeared to be going on across the street. At this time of night, the Tick Tock had its closed sign up, and the lights were out. But Jack knew that all the money was made in the basement. It was the back door he should be watching.
So Jack left the Nova and headed out on foot.
Jack wasn’t stupid. He knew that he didn’t look like someone who had more than a few brain cells kicking around inside his head, and he often used this impression to his advantage, but he was smarter than your average bear.
He knew enough, for example, not to go straight from the Nova and cross the street to the Tick Tock parking lot. If anyone was watching, a move like that would stick out like a sore thumb.
Instead, he moved off in the opposite direction and entered the Super Mart.
Jack got a cart and even walked around the store for twenty minutes, placing various items into it. Eventually, though, he left the cart in back, outside the doors to the restrooms. He did not, however, go into the restroom. He used the swinging doors to the left that were marked for employee’s only. These entered into the spacious store room where they kept everything that didn’t fit on the shelves.
Moving with purpose, because Jack knew most people wouldn’t ask why you were somewhere you shouldn’t be if you acted as if you were supposed to be there, he made a beeline for the docking area. There he left the store and moved off to the north and the Tiny Bubbles liquor store that shared the lot with the Super Mart.
In the end, Jack made a large circle from the Super Mart, past Tiny Bubbles, and then past the pet store before crossing the street. He then moved, again, with purpose, behind the hamburger joint, the one with the arches. From there be moved on to the gas station located next to the pawn shop, where he crouched behind a dumpster. Though the odor was more than a little foul, his vantage point gave him a spectacular view of the back entrance to the Tick Tock.
A police car was parked behind the pawn shop, but from a distance, Jack couldn’t tell if anyone was inside. Before he could curse himself for not bringing a pair of binoculars, a small, red, sports car pulled in and stopped next to the police car.
The driver’s side door of the police car opened and an officer stepped out. He was short with a thick mustache. He stepped to the window of the sports car. The window lowered, but it was too dark to see who was inside. The officer, as short as he was, still had to bend to speak to the driver. They were too far for Jack to hear what they were saying.
He took a chance and moved closer.
The area behind the burger joint, gas station, and pawn shop was all grass, scrub, and a few trees. The cover wasn’t great, but Jack had to take what he could get if he wanted to know what was going on. It was possible the cops were in Klein’s pocket. More than possible. If that was the case, then they would have more to deal with then a couple of guys with shotguns if they were going to take down the Tick Tock.
Jack crawled through the grass, moving as close as he could to the back lot of the pawn shop. He was able to get behind a small row of bushes that bordered part of the lot without being seen. He didn’t have much of a view, he didn’t have the ability to see through shrubbery, but he could make out the voices coming from the lot.
“…just make sure you get it done.” A woman’s voice. Possibly from the sports car.
“You don’t have to worry about me,” came the reply. Male. The cop. “I know my part.”
“And make sure your friends stay on the north side of town,” she said. “He’s coming at us here, the night of the fight. It’s probably going to be loud.”
“Yeah, I heard you the first time,” he said. “Don’t worry about it.”
After that was the sound of the sports car driving away, then a car door opening, closing, and the police car pulling away.
Were they talking about Mr. Lemonzeo? If so, then someone is telling tales out of class. Jack wasn’t happy about that.
He took a chance and rose enough so that he could over the tops of the shrubs. The back lot was empty. If there was anything going on in the basement of the Tick Tock, you wouldn’t know it from out here. Maybe he should go on in? He knew the password after all. Just knock on the back door, give the word, and he’d be in.
No one knew he was back with Lemonzeo. He didn’t think so anyway.
He crouched there for another minute. Nothing happened. He needed to get inside.
His mind made up, he rose.
He only made it three steps before the creature was on him. It was all fur, claws, and teeth.
Jack fought back with all that he could muster, but it wasn’t enough. Whatever had him was strong, unmovable.
It tore and bit into him with such fury that Jack couldn’t feel what was happening to him. All he could do was think about what he’d done wrong.
Had he been spotted? Had he done something to give himself away?
Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the creature was gone. Not that it mattered. As Jack lay there in the dirt, the life draining from him, he had only one thought. One regret in his forty-three years of life. In the end, he’d failed Mr. Lemonzeo. He didn’t think he could live with the guilt.
Fortunately for Jack, the rest of his life lasted only moments.
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