Part 1. Ezekiel, Friday, June 5th. 8:00pm
He sat across the table, listening to his companion and reveling in her proximity. The voice that whispered in his ear was lecherously attentive to every detail of her appearance. The fact that women thought that he was interested in them purely for the sake of their minds never ceased to amaze him. They knew they were being courted and to what end, so it made no rational sense that they thought his blindness made him less interested in their physical charms. It was one more advantage he could claim, one more scent that brought him closer to the end of the hunt.
The content of their discussion was of no matter. She was a knowledgeable and captivating conversationalist, combining informed opinions with a seductive delivery. But it was the woman herself that interested him. Long red-brown hair, an exceptionally curved figure, and a golden complexion made her possibly the most striking woman in the cafe. As he responded to her most recent gambit, he sipped his wine and began stroking one of the petals from the table’s centerpiece. Mellal confirmed her attention being drawn to his motion. So he continued, sensually drawing out each caress while finishing his explanation of the history behind the topiary gardens in one of his client’s manners. He could not see her, but Mellal gleefully advised him of the tinge of color rising on her barely contained cleavage. Each motion of his finger intensified their mutual awareness. He ended his caress to brush his finger across the top of his wineglass and touch it to his lips. This was their third evening together. As of yet his charms had been resisted, but with ever slackening resolve. He tasted the wine and savored the anticipation. With great care he selected the next course. His personal tastes were catered too; both because his taste was impeccable and because he spent a great deal of money in the establishment. With teasing enjoyment he drew out the meal and the conversation. He luxuriated in the chase. When dinner had ended, he stood and offered the woman his arm. Calculating his gestures for maximum effect, he placed his cane on the table and guided her to the dance floor. He had long since established his personal table at this bistro and memorized its relative position to the floor. The dinner finished, the woman primed with food, wine, and conversation, he began the process of seduction.
It was an old trick from an old movie, but effective none the less. The music began at a moderate speed with a bracing calypso rhythm. Gradually the selections began to vary from slow waltzes to quickly moving displays of speed and grace. Throughout the hour he held her on the floor, he danced to a different but not dissimilar melody. He let his body brush hers from time to time, a hand on her back with a finger’s barely perceptible caress, pulling her intimately close so as to feel her breasts pressed against him, kissing her hand as he flung her wide, and making sure she knew that for this night, she was the focus of his world.
He had no illusions as to the permanence of the relationship he was crafting. The ephemeral nature of the romance added value; for what will soon be lost is treasured that much more.
The last dance completed, the dance floor clearing for the night, he asked her back to his boat for a midnight stroll. She rested her head against his shoulder as the limo conveyed them to his home. Thoughts of the night to come filled his mind. For a few moments, with the woman’s eyes closed and body pliant, he let himself anticipate what was to come. The bed on its polished wood platform was even now surrounded by tiny lights. Each bulb reflected a hundred times over in the mirrors that covered every available surface. The bed was a ten foot bowl of walnut filled with satin pillows. Having brought her into his inner most sanctum, he would undress her with deliberate slowness. Then he would spend an hour worshipping her body until, her senses set on edge, he would complete them. He would take her over and over again, until they panted for each other, until thought and words had been reduced to the rhythm of the act, until all was climax and thunder.
It wasn’t enough. It never would be enough. There would never be a woman who could completely satisfy him. But for now he would exorcize his demons as much as opportunity permitted.
Part 2. Michael, Friday, June 5th. 1:15pm
Idiots provide a valuable service to society. Intelligence and common sense are by no means found in comparable quantities, and my current informant was a classic example. When you want to get your hooks into a source, you have two methods of reeling them in. You can scare them, or you can make them dependent on you. At the rate Pedro Ortiz was going, he was going to do all my work for me. He just couldn’t stay out of trouble; and here I was, Michael Courtney, friendly special agent waiting to be of service...for a small favor of course.
I walked into city holding with Sanchez dogging my steps. We found the duty officer. We knew each other from way back. While we weren’t friendly, we both understood how the game worked. I pulled out a box of Havana’s finest and passed it over.
“So Jack, I hear our little bird’s back in lock up.”
Jack leaned his blocky chin on his clenched fist and smiled slightly.
“Yup. Got him on disturbing the peace and fraud if we decide to charge him.”
With a motion born of experience, he broke the seal on the humidor and examined one of the cigars. The aromatic scent of fine cured tobacco filled the air. Sanchez looked ill; Jack and I inhaled with relish.
“Caught him cheating at cards if you can believe it. He was using light up sneakers to tip off his partner. One of his marks tipped to the game and there was a fight.”
“Christ, Darwin, where are you when you’re needed? Sneakers...that’s too rich. Any problem holding charges for a bit? There’s stuff going down I need him for.”
A sour twinge made the veteran cop’s mouth turn down as he considered my question.
“I can maybe let him out pending charges being filed, but this isn’t getting swept under the rug. His mark isn’t going to let it drop. Don’t mind helping you boys out some times, but there’s only so much I can do outside channels.”
He ran a hand over the hardwood box I had given him with reverent care. Jack loved his Cigars; my access to the real thing had allowed us to establish a tentative working relationship. He wasn’t going to risk his job though. As it was we were both walking in a sort of moral gray area between departmental cooperation and bribery.
“Works. I can have him assigned competent probono defense. Can we see him in one of the rooms?”
“Sure. Leme finish his paperwork, I’ll have him in there in a few minutes. I’ll leave him to your tender mercies, but I’ll be watching and I’ll let him out only with the judge’s say-so.”
I nodded and motioned for Sanchez, who was eating up the gritty back and forth, to follow me back to the interrogation room.
The ten by ten was furnished in concrete and metal furniture, no frills, no pretense. If you were in here you were in trouble. A single bare bulb glared down, harshly lighting the walls with institutional indifference. The cinder block walls were broken only by the door we had come through and an opaque section of one-way glass that nobody had tried to conceal.
Sanchez paced around the room enthusiastically, alternately standing behind the chair our subject would be using and standing behind my chair, arms folded, his gaze doing its best to impersonate a thousand yard stare.
“So, I will be the bad cop yes? Maybe a few gentle reminders of whom he is dealing with no?”
“Sanchez, the kid is a failed matchstick man, not an enemy of the state. Besides, this whole thing is being recorded. I’ve worked with this one before. He’s small peanuts but he hears stuff. His family is into smuggling, contraband and immigrants. I’ve gotten him out of a few scrapes...he owes me.”
“Ah, so we will let him hang himself no?”
“Sure. The Nike bandit, master criminal, the sneaker overlord.”
Just then Jack brought the kid in and pointed at the hot seat like it was the electric chair from the green mile. He spoke with a cold, uncaring delivery.
“Sit, you try anything, it’ll go badly for you.”
He left, probably to watch through the glass of the observation room.
Pedro was a tall gawky kid, just past twenty with a swarthy complexion and blue-black hair. His face and build were thin, giving him a look of intelligence that his presence here belied.
“Mr. Michael, I am so-glad to see you. The police, they are making a huge mistake. The things with the sneakers, it is a big misunderstanding...I”
He smiled at me hopefully, channeling orphans and abused puppies with the skill of long experience.
“Pedro, Pedro, I am so disappointed in you. Here I thought you had learned from the last time with the camera in the hotdog. You are in so much trouble I’m not sure I can get you out.”
He fidgeted as the uncomfortable chair did its work.
“But Mr. Michael, I didn’t do nothing. This gringo, he has it all wrong. He does not like me because I is winning, and then he says Miguel and I, we are cheating. Then he starts in on the sneakers. I is asking you, what is wrong with my sneakers? I isn’t doing nothing wrong. You have to help me.”
Sanchez snorted. I folded my arms and leaned back in my chair and looked back at the would-be-card shark.
“Maybe, I can see about helping you Pedro, but this is serious. The man you were playing cards with, he isn’t going to let this go. Maybe I can get you a good attorney on the house, but I need something to give the police, something useful you know?”
Pedro got a crafty look on his face, what passed for craft with him, and his hands tightened on his chair’s arms.
“I is can help you Mr. Michael. My Cousin, she knows everything about everyone. You is just saying the word and I is getting it for you. I jus is needing a little time you know?”
Like candy from a baby. Who was I kidding; the kid never had a chance. His level of skullduggery maxed out with footwear with Christmas lights.
“I can help you Pedro, but we really need to find out about some of the Japanese people that have died recently. You know anything about that?”
Pedro looked puzzled for a second, an expression his face spent a significant amount of time assuming, and then his face changed over into a grin.
“You mean like the man who got tagged by the bus, and the woman who got mashed by the escalator?”
My attention sharpened. I hadn’t primed the kid; he had made the links himself. This looked promising.
“Something like that. Give me what you got kid.”
“I gots nothing, but my cousin, she is saying as how things different now, how we can’t use one of the ports any more. Jou know? She is saying how is serving the ninjas right for interfering with trade.”
“And you think she might know more about all this”
“Maybe, maybe not, but I is guessing she maybe knows who is knowing more.”
“That’s good Pedro, real good. Tell you what. I’m going to talk to the police and they’ll probably let you go in the morning. Sunday, we meet; you tell me what you learned. If it pans out, we do business. If it doesn’t...well the law is the law.”
The kid looked sick and shook his head vigorously. Obviously he was going to move heaven and earth to make sure he didn’t get road killed by the wheels of justice.
Sanchez followed me out of the station, one finger twirling his mustache distractedly.
“That seemed easy.”
I shrugged and laid one finger along side my nose and winked.
“Pedro, the information I get from him, it’s about as unusual as he is cunning. He’s an informational compass, someone I use to get me started in the right direction. This thing with the Japanese messing with his cousin’s trade, it probably doesn’t mean anything. He’s just quoting gossip.”
Sanchez stopped at his car and got in the front while I grabbed shotgun.
“So what, we wasted our time? You gave that cop prime tobacco for nothing?”
“Nope. I furthered my lock on a source and earned points with a local policeman. Things pan out, I get a big pay out. If they don’t, there’s still some up side to it.”
Sanchez pulled away from the curb and headed back to the office.
“Ok Michael. But I hope you know what you’re doing or the boss is going to be really upset.”
“Me too Sanchez, Me too.”