The Waiting Black Mariah
Jimmy Barletti and Vinnie, his muscle, slouched in their front row seats at the Regal. They watched the last of the credits roll by through a shroud of grey cigarette smoke. Vinnie glanced behind him as the last few people filed out of the theatre. “Looks like we’re good to go, boss,” he said as he ground out his cigarette in the ashtray.
“That Cagney’s some kind of guy,” Barletti said, stretching his arms above his head.
Vinnie nodded his agreement. “Yeah, but he’s no George Raft,” he said.
The men wandered up the aisle of the opulent theater as the heavy velvet curtain slid across the screen. Barletti liked this joint best because of the fancy art on the ceiling. Guys wearing armour and swinging swords, protecting busty dames with next to nothing on.
“I gotta take a leak. I’ll meet you in the lobby,” Barletti said.
“I’m nearly out of smokes. I’ll get a pack from across the road and meet you on the sidewalk in a couple of minutes.”
Barletti had a quick pee and checked his reflection in the bathroom mirror. His fingers scraped against the stubble on his chin but he figured he’d pass muster. He was meeting his girl in O’Reilly’s for a drink. Barletti carefully combed his hair, put on his fedora and returned to the lobby. He pushed open the heavy glass door and walked past the ticket booth. There was no sign of Vinnie.
The bright marquee lights made the misty air sparkle but they suddenly flickered off, leaving Barletti in near darkness. It was only then he noticed the street lamp above him had been smashed. He slipped his hands into the deep pockets of his overcoat, fingering the steel of his snub nose revolver, as he strode along 47th street. Vinnie had parked half block away in front of Cicero’s butcher shop.
Barletti had just passed the dark entrance of Epstein’s watch repair when he heard the heavy footfall of two people behind him. He began to run but traveled only five strides when his left foot caught the trip wire strung low across the sidewalk. Barletti’s knee buckled and he sprawled face first to the wet pavement. His hat fell off and a layer of skin was scraped from his palms as they hit the rough concrete. He clenched his teeth but didn’t cry out, not wanting to give the bastards the satisfaction.
The thugs were on him like hyenas on a dying lion. The skinny guy with the silver tooth yanked Barletti’s head up by his hair while the other guy, the one with the flattened nose, gave him two quick jabs to the face. He was pulled to his feet when Nose guy kicked him squarely in the family jewels. Barletti sucked in air and stopped breathing for a split-second before the lightning bolt hit him in the balls. He vomited on the sidewalk and curled up on top of the mess. The men frisked him and took away his gun.
The attackers grabbed Barletti under the arms and hoisted him up. They nearly supported his full weight as the toes of his wing tips dragged against the pavement. Even with blood in his eyes, he spotted the large man leaning against the light post across the road. The guy’s cigarette glowed below the hat hiding his face but Barletti knew it was Vinnie.
The goons dragged him to their large, black cruiser parked behind the meat shop’s delivery van. He recognized the sexy curves of the ’38 Buick Special. Some of the boys joking called it the Chariot to Hell and Barletti had a bad feeling he might find out if the boys were right.
Silver tooth guy pulled open the door and heaved Barletti into the back. The bench seat was covered with a blanket that looked like it had been swiped from a granny’s bed. It was yellow with white lilies all over the place. Nose guy squealed the tires as he pulled out from the parking spot.
Barletti tried to ignore the throbbing and wetness he felt in his groin area and attempted to steady his breathing, even though his heart hammered in his chest. He was bathed in light and darkness and back to light as they swiftly passed under the street lights heading towards the freeway ramp. The rain fell harder now; it tracked down the window above them in glistening tears. He tried to raise his head but was rewarded with a cuff to the ear with the butt of a gun. “Don’t make me mess up the interior of this nice car, asshole,” Silver tooth said.
“What the hell do you guys want with me anyway? What did I ever do to you?”
Nose Guy chuckled and glanced in the rear view mirror at the prone form in the back seat. “You’re a pretty stupid guy, Jimmy. I’d heard you were a smart guy, but that ain’t true at all.”
“What are you talking about,” Barletti said, glancing up through his swelling eye, more sensing than actually seeing the driver.
“Ya know that broad you been seeing?”
“Yeah, her. She’s taken goods ya idiot.”
“So what. That’s between me and her!”
“Maybe. But ya gotta ask yourself, what kind of moron would fuck the police chief’s wife and ‘spect to get away with it?”
“Yeah. Real moron,” repeated Silver tooth guy, jamming the gun barrel into Barletti’s ear. The thugs laughed in unison.
The large black Mariah, propelled by its 141 horses, sped along the freeway towards the marshlands west of the city. The heavy rain drummed against the shell of the car and disappeared into the water that pooled on the road.
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