After Larry explained the job he clutched my forearm and said: “He’s got a secret room. We need to get in there. This guy is loaded.” His blue eyes were wide and wild. They matched his blue silk shirt beautifully and he had a nice counterpoint going with the pink cotton sweater draped over his shoulders.
That was the thing about Larry. The guy could dress. And groom himself. As could every other guy in the bar, which I figured was why there wasn’t a single woman in the place. Too much competition.
I probably should have asked a few more questions, but Larry and I had a good thing going. He’d date some older rich guy and set him up, then I would come in heavy. And I was never a fan of overthinking things anyway.
So two days later I’m on the hallway side of a richly stained wood door in a swanky apartment building on the West Side. I cocked my .45. Knocked on the door. Got ready to rock ‘n’ roll.
Cock, knock and rock. I liked it. I was still smiling when the door swung open.
People react a lot of ways to a pistol in the face. Huge guys can blubber, tiny guys leap at you. Some faint. You never know.
But this guy didn’t move at all. Didn’t blink, didn’t twitch. His brown eyes were warm. He smiled like he just swallowed a canary.
“Back up,” I said, pointing my pistol at the smile.
“Of course.” He retreated a couple of steps. “With pleasure.”
An odd thing to say, but, again, I try not to overthink things. I stepped inside and tapped the door closed with my heel. He was about my height, trim, with short cropped grey hair. And he was wearing a goddamn purple smoking jacket with black lapels. The apartment was just as well groomed. Thick carpet under my feet, a lot of white and chrome. Some kind of gem, quartz and rock collection under soft lights on a bookcase.
Down the hall was a sheer white kitchen. The under cabinet lights showed off an oversized collection of carving knives. Very homey.
“OK,” I said, distracted by his smile. “This is how it goes. You had your fun with Larry; now it’s time to pay up. Show me the secret room and maybe you live.”
His eyes flickered to the bookcase on my right. Bingo. People can’t help but glance at their treasure when the topic comes up. Good enough for me.
“Knees,” I said. “Face the wall.”
“Why of course.” He pivoted delicately and sank to his knees. When he did I noticed a half eaten hot dog bun on the coffee table. No ketchup and mustard for this guy. The dog was sprinkled with capers and chopped red onion. But it was the shape of the dog that stopped me. It looked like, well, every guy’s pride and joy. His 21st digit, if you get my meaning.
I decided I absolutely was not going to overthink that one.
I stepped to the bookcase.
It took fifteen minutes to figure out the latch. The entire bookcase swung open on some kind of pneumatic arm. I stepped into a windowless space about five by seven and found Larry on his back chained to a cot.
I stared at the blood-soaked front of his pants, remembered the hot dog on the coffee table and threw up all over the floor.
Which was why I didn’t hear the footfall behind me right before my head exploded with stars.
When I came to I was chained to the wall. Larry looked awfully sad.
“He got you with a rock,” he whispered hoarsely. “Knocked you out.”
Cock, rock and knock, goddamn it. The old guy switched it up on me.
I was trying not to overthink that when the door opened and the old fella stepped in holding a plate in one hand and some kind of huge kitchen knife in the other. He still had that smile on his face, and I knew right then it was never going to leave my head. No matter how much I tried not to overthink it.