Terry Waxman is smoking with suicidal intensity when he opens the door – dark stains spreading under his armpits. He has disease-mottled skin and his dyed hair is the colour of spilled oil. When we shake hands, his palm feels cold and greasy.
He used to be a good-looking man – until a rent boy with a Stanley knife carved him open from ear to moustache. He fingers the pink scar and shrugs.
“Even plastic surgery has its limitations.”
He’s an unreconstructed porno-crat gangster – equally comfortable asserting himself with fist-fights or fist-fucks. Unfortunately for Waxman, he fist-fucked Bobby Burgoyne’s 15-year-old nephew.
“I’ve always admired your talent for self-preservation, Mr Rey.”
“I just need you to hand over the hush-money and I’ll be on the next flight to Torremolinos.”
I nod again, well aware that Burgoyne won’t let this shit slide.
We met when he hired me to plant obscene Polaroids in the car of a business rival. Thickset men lurking under railway bridges – coshes, chains and knives in their overcoat pockets – were always too passé for Burgoyne, and his taste for revenge has grown increasingly… esoteric. Last week he sent a serrated shotgun shell to Waxman’s elderly mother through the post.
Waxman didn’t take the hint.
• • •
He leads me up the stairs, through the master bedroom, and towards the panic room. The bed looks lightly soiled and I wonder if this is where he ruined the kid?
The coppery smell of blood seeps out from under the door, and permeates the room.
“What the fuck, Waxman?”
He thumbs the biometric scanner.
There is blood everywhere. It has even pooled under his Louis Vuitton holiday luggage.
There are three people in the room and two of them are dead – oozy bullet holes in their foreheads like bloody full stops. The only man still breathing is so muscle-bound that his clothing barely fits. He’s been shot through the neck.
I wonder if Waxman topped these wretched motherfuckers himself? He takes a giddy hit off his gold-plated coke spoon and grins inanely.
I crouch down and slap the goon’s face, but his dying breath expires on fluid-flecked lips.
The door clicks shut behind us.
I elbow Waxman in the skull – right where his men were bullet-holed – and jam my thumbs against his larynx, pressing him up against the wall.
“Did you kill these bastards?”
He tries to shake his head.
“It must be Burgoyne,” he gasps.
I slam a fist into his gut and step back.
“Bullshit. This place was on fucking lockdown. Where’s the hush-money?”
Waxman checks the muscle-man’s pocket, but the bankroll has gone.
I glare at him.
He smiles sweetly, and our close proximity gives the gesture a queasy sense of intimacy. I feel like I’m looking the devil in the eyes – knowing he’ll get the last laugh.
“You don’t appear to like me very much, Rey.”
“Don’t take it personally, mate. If I only worked for men I liked, I’d fucking starve.”
I barely hear the zipper on the suitcase.
A small man unfolds his stunted limbs and slips out of the luggage. He’s a vague, insubstantial presence in a flesh-coloured body-stocking. No bigger than 4’ 9”, he has a wrinkled face like a thumbprint. Under the skin-tight nylon, his thin cock looks like a tube of breath mints.
He’s so pale he looks opaque – making the dull gleam of the SIG Sauer P365 even more obvious.
I feel a sour, fist-sized ball of fear in my gut and Waxman’s bloodshot eyes flit between us.
Up close, the gunshot sounds like a bronchial cough.
The freak presses the barrel against my temple and makes a strange barking sound. It reminds me of a laugh.
He backs towards the door, pistol trained on my blood-splattered face, then he places a finger to his lips. The tips are blistered and raw-looking, like the epidermis has been flayed to obscure his prints.
As an afterthought, he tosses the hush-money into the pooled viscera and melts from the room – coughing up another stunted cackle as he goes.
I glance down at Waxman – dead mouth permanently aghast – and retrieve the cash.
My work here is done.