* Snippet from a story I'm working on - mature subject, and some swearing. * Was going to post this in the workshop can't seem to do it - so for now I'll post it here. Comments - Critiques welcome!
September 18, 1986
Now, he wasn’t into this cloak and dagger shit, but Haider Loomis found himself at The Night Owl diner, waiting as ordered. It was past midnight. He took a smoke out of the pack he was instructed to buy, the one deviation from Salazars usual meetings and he lit it, puffing and pondering it’s reason as he watched silvery rain stream down the diner windows. He wedged open the red blinds wider, when he thought he saw headlights swing into the parking lot but it was just the neon sign reflecting off the puddles, a constant winking. A truck roared past illuminating an otherwise deserted highway. The vinyl booth seat crinkled as he shifted to take another swallow of his icy beer avoiding a second look at the yawning waitress. The scent of grilling hamburgers alerted Haider that the two truckers who arrived moments earlier, were staying.
Witnesses. He didn’t like that. His leg began jiggling, vibrating the table. Enough of a noise to gain his attention so he stopped. Then he dropped his head onto his clenched fist. Breathing hotly, into the cove of his curled fingers he begged c’mon. C’mon. The tattoo on the curve of flesh between thumb and forefinger mocked him. It wasn’t so much the dark ring it was the letters within it. Or rather what they meant.
The door opened jangling bells overhead. Haider cautiously lifted his gaze. If there was one thing he had learned in the last seven years it was keep cool, cracker. A trucker came in beating the rain off his adjustable cap by wacking it against his blue-jeaned thigh. “Wee ooooh.” He exclaimed. “I didn’t drive down that mountain fellas, I floated down.” There was a cackle of laughter from the two truckers and the cook. “Say where’s that little girl I came with? She in the john? ...Little girl. Couldn’t miss ‘er.”
Haider couldn’t hear their answers but saw a lot of head shaking.
The trucker plopped onto a stool, snatching a tattered menu.
He was in the middle of ordering when the door opened again. More bells. A little girl strode in.
“There you are! Where’d you disappear to? You just sit down here - ” The trucker slapped the stool next to him. “- and I’ll order you a ... hey!”
The little girl breezed past him heading down the short aisle towards Haider. He glanced at her briefly before looking out the window. How had he missed the trucker’s arrival? Maybe, he parked by the adjoining motel and walked over.
“Got a light?”
Haider’s head jerked sharply. The little girl stood beside his booth, holding a cigarette snatched from his pack. The signal. Which he denied, flaring mad. A kid? F*ck you, Mr. Salazar.
“Beat it.” He told her.
“Beat it?” She echoed, her lips thinning.
Water dripped from the edges of her short platinum hair falling onto the transparent raincoat. It wrapped her body like cellophane wrapping a sweet. The analogy was easy, triggered by her battered tote shaped and printed to match a roll of lifesavers.
Haider saw the trucker glancing their way, debating before he got up to try again. The trucker called to the girl. “Hey there, sweetie. Let me buy you a burger. C’mon, now.”
This was all Haider needed.
“F*ck off.” Haider insisted under his breath.
The girl raised a silvery eyebrow and turned to give the approaching trucker a scathing look which was ignored.
“Pickles, relish, tomatoes, Baby, whatever you want.”
“Look, shove your burger. Or maybe I should tell my dad, you played patty-cake with my knee all the way down here.” She gestured
at Haider at the mention of dad. Lingering on the word. He was quivering with fury, bound not to create a scene, to pretend none of this had anything to do with him. He glared out the window. C’mon! C’mon. Where the Hell, are you? The trucker turned white and slunk back to his stool, muttering protests that Haider only caught snatches of. “I never! Kids nowadays. Think they’re so doggone funny.”
“That was real cute.” Haider muttered, taking another look at the child as she pocketed the cigarette. She was eleven years old
maybe twelve but her deep set, silver eyes were old, primordial in their cunning. There was a bump near her hairline that was purple and about the size of a small plum. A new mar for this strange beauty. Everything about her was sharp, nothing subtle. High cheekbones, hallow cheeks, square stubborn jaw. All of which seemed to have been scarred. There were small white flecks across a cheek bone. A ghastly line across her chin. A faint pinkish ridge below her left eye that jutted into an upside down flag, a cut that hadn’t healed right. Haider was familiar with scars.
The girl hung her tote up on the coat hook post at the edge of the booth opposite from Haider. Then, leaning one knee onto the vinyl seat, closed the blinds.
“Switch sides.” She ordered.
“You heard me. Move to this side of the booth.”
Haider gave her a level look, “And why would I do that?” he asked.
“Because that gun you have in your lap would be better suited in our contact’s side, clean shot.”
He said nothing for a moment knowing she was right, before getting up and sliding into the booth with his back to the door.
The little girl reclaimed his spot, easing a second bag, a drooping purse, off her shoulder. Opening it, she yanked out a soggy pile of pastel tissues and swiped at her face.
“Do you want something?” He asked feeling obliged.
“Coffee, I guess. If it’s hot, real hot.” She didn’t look at him but tossed the tissues back into her purse. She didn’t zip it shut. For a bizarre moment he wondered if she was packing too. He called over to the waitress ordering the coffee.
“How do you know Salazar?”
“He’s my Brownie leader.”
“Think I won’t hit a little girl? Now answer the question.”
“You probably would -”
“Salazar, alright! Sh*t. Don’t push me kid.”
The waitress appeared setting down the cup of coffee. Haider instinctively reached into his pocket but the girl already had change out which was scooped up by the waitress.
“Anything more for you, honey?” She purposely addressed Haider.
He didn’t look up but drew his beer bottle across the table and answered. “I’m fine, thank you.”
She lingered, before heading back to her counter.
“Great. She’s got a thing for you.” The girl muttered wiping her nose with the back of her hand. “I can feel her hawk eyes on us.”
“She reapplied her lipstick before coming over here. Frosted, it’s all over her teeth. Wasn’t for me or for the ass-crack convention over there. It was for you Hon-ey.”
Haider looked around, her damn tote was in the way. But he caught the waitress watching him above her paperback romance. The little witch was right-on just like she pegged the truckers. Ass-crack convention, he would’ve laughed if he remembered how.
Haider reached for the pack of cigarettes and lit the fresh one with the tail end of his previous smoke.
The girl turned her attention to the jute-box selection at their table, turning the knob at the top to flip through the charts.
“What’s your poison? The Outfield? Joan Jett?”
“I don’t want to hear any music.” Irritable.
“Need it hon-ey.-”
“Quit callin’ me honey.”
“Something’s not right, a little background noise would be to our benefit.” She took a dime from her purse. The beer bottle hesitated at Haider’s lips. “What do you mean?” He set down the bottle and went to force open the blinds. Her hand shot out and halted him.
“Don’t do that.”
“Why are you here? What’s going on?” His voice rose not in fear, that well had dried up years ago. Filled up, though with anger. And right now he was brimming with it.
The girl dropped the coin in and pressed the button. “Siouxsie Souix and the Banchees, enjoy.” Music throbbed over the speakers.
He grabbed her elbow before she could sit back down. “Answer me.” Her eyes flashed a dark warning, “Okay, but let go.”
“They’re having a rather intense jaw-session out there in a black Buick.”
“So, they’ve been waiting for us to arrive.” He tapped ash off his cigarette, casting a look at the closed blinds. Dying for a peek.
“And now. We’re here what’s the hold up?” Her hand flipped up in the air in a you-tell-me gesture.
She had a point.
The door opened, Haider heard the bells. He resisted the urge to turn but shot a fierce look at the girl whose eyes glinted intensely. “It’s him.”
Haider felt his Adrenalin surge as footsteps neared the booth.
“Young, old?”He demanded to know.
“Young.” She sounded disgusted.
“Get you anything, mister?”The waitress called.
“Nothing for now, thank you.”
His voice was young but as he appeared before the pair in the booth, Haider realized he wasn’t as young as he thought. Early thirties. Haider wasn’t much older than him. There was something off putting about his smile, though. Maybe because it didn’t go with his attempt at playing the part of average. Oh, he had the executive suit, the carefully trimmed hair and nails. The hat was a bit much.
“I’m wondering if you could help me find my way? I got turned around somewhere.” The man said. “My name’s Ed.”
“Have a seat Ed.”
Ed moved to sit beside the girl but she slid to the edge cutting off access.
“Over there.” She ordered.
He obeyed chuckling as if she amused him. And that’s when Haider realized why the smile was off putting. It was a bemused smile. What the Hell was he so bemused about? A sick feeling swept over him and as Ed's thigh bumped his own, Haider jabbed the gun into Ed’s side. It wiped the smile off his face.
“Take it easy.”
“Don’t think I won’t shoot here and now. Witnesses don’t mean a thing to me.”
“I’m well aware of your track record Mr. Loomis.”Ed said swallowing. Both the girl and Haider watched the ball of his Adam’s Apple roll.
“No names. What’s with the shared accomodations this isn’t what I arranged with Salazar. He didn’t say anything about a kid.”
“You knew someone else was coming. Don’t tell me you really smoke menthols.”
“This doesn’t feel right.” Haider said looking across to see how the girl would react.
She gave a sad smile, “Sharp Loomis, you’re catching on.” Not sarcastic, the tone was pleased.
“I want to talk to Salazar.” Haider said.
“Things have gotten, how shall we say, a wee bit f*cked up since we last talked, pardon my language honey.” He said winking at the girl.
“I paid your organization forty grand, money, that you have no idea what I had to do to get. I paid for a name now if you think you can give me the runaround, you better think again. My philosophy is - shoot the messenger. Shoot ‘em all until they run out of messengers and have to talk to me face to face. You mean nothing to me. Now, do I call Salazar.”
“Salazar is dead.”
Haider covered his mouth feeling it slacken as the shock of that statement set in. What now? He dug his fingers in cutting into his lip. He’d been counting on this, waiting all this time. Ed reached into his coat pocket. Haider sprang out his dark cloud, jabbing the gun in Ed’s side, halting him.
“Easy, trigger. It’s an envelope.”The young girl noticed sweat beading on the messenger’s face and frowned.
“Who killed him?” She asked.
“We’re working on it. Hence the company is pulling rank - everything comes to a halt, strictly protocol. Salazar was an organizer. He had everything, information, contacts. We don’t know what’s been compromised. And we can’t help you, not now anyway.”
He threw down a thick envelope. It was addressed to Alice Waters and Haider Loomis.
“It’s from Salazar. He knew something was going down. So he took some precautions. Whatever information he had at the time was to be delivered after his death.”
“Who’s Alice Waters?” Haider asked, frowning at the envelope.
Ed smirked. “She’s sitting right across from you.”
“You’re telling me that for my forty grand I get this kiss off?”
Alice grabbed the envelope and slid her thumb under the flap, tearing it open.
“Look, I’ve got to go,” Ed said shifting uneasily but Haider refused to let him leave. “What do you want from me Loomis a f*cking refund? I’m not authorized. I’m risking my neck to deliver these envelopes - one of the case’s Salazar was working pissed off the wrong bad guy and
now one of you has been compromised. Your information could be sh*t , you could be walking into a trap. Let it lie. Now, let me go.”
Haider ignored him - “How many cases?”
“Six! Alright. Six. Now, can I go?” His tension increased as Alice pulled papers from the envelope.
“You can’t leave us like this I paid for backup I know who -”
“You don’t know who you’re dealing with and you don’t get the back up. Two weeks alright, I’ll send someone out there in two weeks. But I can’t guarantee anything. Just a scout.”
“Your company can’t guarantee a name but it can take my money - ”
“Where’s the rest of it?” Alice interrupted, frowning. A letter bowed forward in her hand.
“Rest of what?”
“The rest that goes with this.” Alice tossed the letter ignoring the other items that had spilled from the envelope. Her hand dipped under the table.
Ed smiled , “I don’t know what - ”
A white flash whizzed up in an streaming arch and slammed Ed across the face causing his head to snap round with whiplash speed. Blood sprayed from his nose. He clenched his teeth and let out a keening gust of anger as running blood, bubbled on lips. Stunned, Haider looked over at Crimson who let the sock full of pennies flop off the table, streaking it with blood.
“I heard about you.”Ed muttered allowing a malicious smile to curl his lips as blood dripped off his chin. His hand came up and felt around to assess the damage.
“I’m full of tricks. Now if you don’t give us our money, your nosebleed is going to pale in comparison of a nasty burn.” Alice’s stubby fingers, flecked with polish, curled with around the handle on the steaming mug of coffee with ruthless promise.
“Alright!” Ed seethed reaching into his breast pocket. Haider keeping the gun trained on him , made him pull it out slow. Another envelope appeared, this one fat with bills.
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