The journey from New Orleans to the other side of the Mississippi could last a lifetime - and did.
(The second of three installments)
(The second of three installments)
Sirk pulled the black Cordoba into a no-parking slot off Decatur and cut the engine. He settled back to wait, a procedure he preferred to work, lounging at the wheel of Jock Scali's new car, letting people see that Sirk had made it. He had been made Jock's driver for his role in the hit on the Commissioner, an event he had escaped through luck and a panic-driven accelerator foot. He would smell burnt rubber forever.
He removed the thick glasses, his world all blurred. He reached for a tissue on the dash and began to clean the glasses by touch. He felt a sense of well-being when they were off, safe inside his astigmatism. Sirk wore a gun now, under his new polyester jacket, but it made him nervous. Jock sometimes gave him work on the street, likes following people — and that made Sirk even more nervous.
He reached for another tissue and felt a heavy hand clamp his shoulder. He turned toward the face: shades, a red hat. Sirk struggled to put on his glasses but the hand slipped across his chest, pinning him. He tried to cry out but another hand covered his face forced his head back at a dangerous angle. His only gestures — flailing hands and legs — increased the pressure. He felt searing pain, the blur going to blackness.
Neco straightened up and patted Sirk on the shoulder as if he had just confided a secret. He tipped the little man's hat forward over his eyes, creating the appearance of sleep. No one on the street had even noticed. He strolled across the pavement to the golf bag standing against the wall, the neck stuffed with newspaper. Neco slung it over his shoulder and crossed the street, wishing the bullet-proof vest beneath his Hawaiian shirt didn't make him sweat so much.
The door of the Seven Seas stood open, a gaunt, bearded young man in a greasy apron pushing sawdust toward the gutter with a broom. Neco stepped past him and into the rancid gloom of the bar. For a moment he was blind, tense, waiting for his eyes to adjust. The three solitary drinkers watched as he walked past them toward the end of the bar where the dingy window offered a street view obscured by an old fish net, wooden floats, and sea shells. He sat with the golf bag between his knees and ordered a beer.
Jock Scali drained his coffee cup and wiped his hands. He turned down 'the sleeves of his shirt — white on white — and fished two gold cuff links set with cat's eyes out of his pocket. He fastened the cuffs and straightened his tie. He took off the porkpie, to run a palm around the brim, and then replaced it, turning his head slightly to catch his own quarter-profile in the gilt-edged mirror. He stood and snapped a five-dollar hill in his fingers, and the old waiter swooped. Jock pushed through the door and out into the sunshine. He welcomed the racket outside,felt he owned it all. Giacomo Scali had never been more flush. He had taken out the Commissioner, he had dined at Sal Cinque's. His associate and former "y'at," Tony Brevetta, was on his way to being head of the dockworkers local. And Jock had himself a candidate for governor.
Jock had grown accustomed to the flattery of men who had once treated him as just another hireling. These men now sent him invitations to lunch, bottles of wine from distant tables, even girls. That very afternoon, he was scheduled to hook up with one of Benny Ricks's prize young ladies, fresh off some bean plantation.
He sauntered across Decatur. The sight of a streak of mud on the sleek, sable body of his Cordoba annoyed him. Sirk should get the car washed and waxed, ready to deliver Jock in style at the door of the criminal courts building the next morning. He actually looked forward to testifying, although he had not expected Paul Boudin to allow him to be subpoenaed. The cops had nothing on Jock, but he would not appear outraged; he would not take the Fifth. He would charm the grand jury, he knew the value of good pr.
He could see Sirk lying back against the seat, his hat over his face. Asleep at the switch. Jock jerked the door open on the passenger side, ready to upbraid his driver, when he sensed someone coming up behind him. He wheeled, his hand slipping instinctively inside his jacket, but this came too late. The hard muzzle of a pistol nudging his belly was in the grip of a large man in a red cap and sunglasses, lugging a golf bag.
"What the hell?"
"Listen, bozo..." He couldn't believe it, Jock Scali mugged by a tourist! The man forced him in and pulled the golf bag in behind them.
"You picked the wrong mark. Sirk, tell this guy who I am."
There was no response. He saw that Sirk's head rested at an odd angle on the seat, his hat in his lap, eyes wide and unblinking. Fighting panic, Jock turned back as the gunman ripped off his sunglasses.
"Start the motor," said Necochea Bovnik, lifting the Smith and Wesson out of Jock's armpit.
"He's in the way," Jock said, of his thoroughly dead chauffeur.
"So open the door and push."
"Listen, Neco ..."
"Shut up, buono. Move."
Jock opened the door and leaned and the body tumbled into the gutter. Jock should follow, somehow scramble out of the line of fire, but was physically incapable of trying. He looked longingly at a tourist couple paused on the sidewalk, waiting to see if Sirk would get up.
Neco said, "Drive.".
"His feet're in the way."
The car weaved through the narrow streets of the Quarter. Once Neco had to grab the wheel to avoid colliding with a Lucky Dog cart. Scali looked a little white around the gills. "You ain't dead," he reassured him.
"What is this, a kidnap?"
Neco ignored the question. "Get up on the expressway." He gave Scali more instructions, a bit at a time, the magnum menacing his groin, Neco's other hand resting on the golf bag. Just two guys headed out of town, riding comfortably in a new car, unhurried and oblivious of the city's tawdry outskirts. Visitors. The clutter of concrete and steel gave way to willow stands and water hyacinth. Still watching Scali, Neco slipped the Thompson out of the slit in the bag. He placed it across his knees, unzipped the hall pouch and brought out a clip and jammed it into the breech. Scali moaned.
Neco released the bolt, sliding a cartridge forward. Holding the wooden grip, he brought the muzzle up until it covered Scali's midsection, stuffed the magnum back under his own belt.
''You're crazy," whispered Scali.
(Next: An appropriate watery end)
The new, revised paperback's available at: http://www.amazon.com/Worlds-End-James-Conaway/dp/0989725561/ref=sr_1_5_title_1_pap?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1396611429&sr=1-5&keywords=james+conaway)