How Much?

businessman pic

I heard him before I could see him. It was the voice of Thomas Boyd, the octave of a freight train and commanding as an admiral. He didn’t raise his voice; he never had too. It was just that deep, authoritative timbre that told you the man knew what he was talking about and if you got in his way you were liable to get crushed like a grape in a winepress.

The man came around the corner, barged into my office, and commandeered the leather chair behind my desk as if it were his favorite recliner.

He propped his feet up on my desk and folded his arms across the crisp white pinstripes of the Anderson & Sheppard suit jacket he wore.

I stood by my file cabinet wondering whether it was a piece of gum or some other undesirable object that clung to the bottom of the shiny black shoe resting on my day planner.

“So?”

He directed the monosyllable at me and I met his gaze.

“So…I’ve got a meeting at 2:30 that may give us the break we’re looking for,” I said slapping the file in my hands shut and replacing it in the cabinet.

“With?”

“C.I.”

“Is it solid?”

“Depends.”

“On?”

“What he knows. I told him he better not waste my time. He says he’s got something big.”

“Is he reliable?”

“If he wasn’t, I wouldn’t be dealing with him.”

Boyd nodded. “Good. See, that’s what I like about you, Hudson. You play hardball…and the wheels inside that head are always turning. You kind of remind me of myself when I was younger.”

I sat down on the edge of the desk and pulled a forensics report out from underneath the gum-shoe. “Is that a compliment?”

Boyd laughed.

It boomed through the room and an intern glanced through the window as she passed down the hall.

“Some would think so.”

“Should I be one of them?” I asked, glancing up from the paper.

Boyd shrugged. “I think you’ve got your own aspirations.”

“Such as?”

“You tell me.”

I laughed and shook my head. “I’m just an A.D.A.”

“Who would one day like to be more.”

“Don’t we all?”

Boyd nodded. “You’re smart, Hudson. You play your cards right and…maybe in a few years we’ll be sitting in a different office, you’ll be the D.A. and…”

“And you’ll be propping your Edward Green’s up on a desk in city hall.”

Boyd grinned and nodded as his cell phone vibrated in his pocket.

He read the message and stood to go. “Duty calls.”

He strode toward the door and glanced behind him as he left. “Keep me posted.”

“I always do.”

Whether he heard my muttered response or not, I don’t know. He headed down the hall and I reclaimed my chair, lost to paperwork until the reminder on my cell phone told me it was time to go.

Shrugging my coat on, I headed out the door. The cold January air bit at my face and I buttoned my coat as I hailed a taxi and slid into the back seat. “Ray’s Smokeshack, East Harlem.”

The driver nodded and pulled out into traffic. The tropical air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror swung back and forth with the movement of the car and mingled whiffs of pineapple with the faded scent of smoke and leather.

I got out at 116th Street, paid the driver, and walked into the ramshackle restaurant where I was supposed to meet my confidential informant. I scanned the crowd and spotted Chavez at a table near the back.

I sat down across from him. “What do you got?”

Chavez leaned across the table with a gleam in his eye and spoke in a low voice.

Halfway through the conversation, I knew this meeting would be well worth my time.

Chavez left through the back door and I headed back out to the street. I had Abramo Bartolini in the bag. I stopped abruptly and found an excessively large man standing directly before me.

He gave a jerk of his head toward the dark sedan behind him. “Get in the car.”

I glanced toward the rear window of the car, but couldn’t see anything through the black-tinted glass. I didn’t need to. My gut told me who was behind the glass—Bartolini.

The giant suit in front of me continued to glower. He was probably packing a .22 beneath the jacket, but I’d be a fool to get in that car. He wouldn’t shoot me in public, but once I disappeared behind that tinted glass, I’d likely never be heard from again.

I shook my head and let out a laughing breath. “I don’t think so. People who carpool with your boss have a bad habit of going for a swim in the East River with a pair of lead boots and a couple holes in the back of their skull.”

“I ain’t askin’,” the man said.

“And I’m not gettin’ in that car. You can tell your boss to take a hike.”

I started to turn, but stopped when the dark window rolled down.

Bartolini removed a cigar from between his lips and fixed a pair of small, dark eyes on me. “Why don’t you get in the car, Mr. Hudson? We can talk.”

“Talk? Is that what you call it now?”

Bartolini let out a low chuckle. “Come now, Hudson. If I wanted you dead…you would be. You never would have gotten this close.”

I stared at the man. He was right. Why hadn’t that occurred to me before?

“I have the power to make or break men in this city, Hudson,” Bartolini said. “Think about which category you want to be in.”

If I joined up with Bartolini, I could finally be in the first echelon. If I didn’t, I could lose everything…including my life.

I was suddenly faced with one glaring question: How much were truth and honor really worth to me?

 

© Whitney L. Schwartz

 

(Written for Christian Flash Weekly Event 43)

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