Note: To read the entire story from the beginning click here. Continuity issues are probably starting to pile up, but so it goes.
Alice was tied to a chair. Her face was puffy from being hit. Her nose had been bleeding but wasn’t any more. “Mr. Lowell!” She was glad to see me.
“We’re leaving,” I said. Punching Paolo Fanutti in the face right there and then was the most difficult thing I’ve ever not done. I had made a promise, that was enough.
“There’s something you must give me first,” Fanutti said.
I glared at him. “I don’t trust a man who hits girls.”
Paolo squinted at me with his little weasel eyes. He probably needed glasses but wouldn’t wear them because it would undermine his image. Like being blind was good for one’s standing. “You are not in a position to make demands,” he said.
I pulled out my penknife and cut the ropes binding Alice’s hands. Her fingers were purple and cold. She groaned as I helped her to her feet. “I’m not demanding anything. We’re leaving.” I caught Fanutti’s gesture and felt the presence of the meat moving in behind me. I turned, leading with my fist, and put everything I had behind it. As God is my choreographer lightning flashed in the window and there was a crash of thunder just as my fist hit the other man’s face. I caught him square in the mug and broke my hand but I broke his face worse.
The goon dropped like a bag of nickels in Atlantic City on new year’s eve. The room froze as he fell, blinded by the flash and ears ringing. Everyone except me, and by the time I completed my turn my gun was on Fanutti again, reasonably steady in my broken hand. “Paolo, you are a stupid man. I told you I keep my promises.”
He watched the gun carefully. “You will pay for this.” It was his turn for the dramatic thunder crash; the storm was in full fury, trying to wash the city into the river so Manhattan could start over again.
“But now, you see, I am in the position to make demands. And now I must demand that you stop being stupid and let me give you what you want.”
“I think I should introduce you to your sister-in-law.”
He smiled cautiously. “Perhaps we can do business after all.”
Apparently I’d reached the limit of his vocabulary. “No, Paolo, we can not do business. Somewhere there’s another Fanutti behind you who’s smarter than you are, who doesn’t hit helpless dames, and knows that when two people shoot square then business gets done.” I wondered how this other Fanutti would react when I beat Paolo to a pulp. “We are not doing business, we have a mutual problem that is best solved if I tell you where Lola Fanutti is.”
Alice turned to look at me with an expression behind her blackening eyes that simultaneously said, “how could you possibly sell out your client?” and “it’s about time you got rid of that bitch.” Alice was going to be disappointed when she saw how things went down, but at that moment, she provided the necessary authenticity to shift the negotiation my way.
“Where is she?”
I lowered the gun but didn’t put it away. “Well, see, I knew this morning, but I’ve spent the day tracking down my secretary, and now I haven’t the slightest idea where she is. It’s going to take me a while to find her, or more specifically, for her to find me. If she sees any of your people near me, you can kiss her goodbye.”
“So stay the hell out of my way and I’ll contact you.”
He didn’t want to trust me, but in the end he had no choice. And technically, I hadn’t lied at all. “All right.”
“We’re walking out of here now. Give me your card and wait.”
Fanutti frowned, nodded, and provided a card. We followed him to the front door. He opened it to find two miserable guards standing in the deluge. “Umbrella” Alice said. Fanutti produced one and we were on the street, but moving slowly.
It took a while to get a safe distance and at least try to see who was following us. Alice was having a tough time of it; I took her arm to help steady her. We turned a couple of corners and I stopped our little parade. I tugger her elbow to stop her and said, “Let me take a look.” The umbrella was barely adequate, and we were getting soaked as we stood there, but now that we were away from the apartment house I wanted to see just how much I owed Paolo Fanutti. Alice didn’t want to open her mouth. Sure enough, she’d lost a tooth.
“I spit it into my blouse,” she said. “Maybe a dentist can put it back.” She smiled up at me with her swollen face. “I bit him, Mr. Lowell. Hard.”
“Don’t call me Mr. Lowell anymore.”
“You’re not my secretary anymore.”
“Y-your’e fining me?” her voice was tiny.
The wind shifted, lashing us with rain. She staggered and in her condition I worried that the storm would be too much for her. But God wasn’t done with his little production yet, and with His next flash and bang, two long black cars pulled up, carefully not splashing us. A door opened on each. “Mr. Lowell,” a man said from the lead limousine, “would you come with us, please?” He was shortish, with dark hair, but there was no Fanuutti family resemblance.
“Sorry, pal, I’m taking the lady home.”
“That’s very noble of you. Please allow Jorge the honor of providing her warm, dry transport, and… perhaps we could provide medical attention as well.”
“I just got her back. I’m not letting her go again.”
He looked me straight in the eye. “Mr. Lowell, when two people shoot square, then business gets done. Allow me to gain your trust by affording your employee care that you cannot possibly provide.”
Alice’s grip tightened on my arm. She’d had enough of strangers. “We’re partners,” I said. “Anything you can tell me, you can tell her.”
Alice gasped. Since she did the books she must have known that she’d just taken a pay cut. She pulled herself together in a moment. “You’re Spanish,” she said.
“That is mostly correct. Maps can be deceiving; within one nation, many peoples can exist.”
Standing in the rain, trying to keep the umbrella where it could best protect Alice, I had a feeling I already knew the answer to my question. “And you are….”
“We are the blood of the saint.”
Tune in next time for: Never on Sunday – Reprise!