Why don’t you hear about gay men in the Irish mob? Because the head guys kill ‘em off. Stay with me, this isn’t a bad joke. It isn’t a joke at all.
It’s the truth.
I saw it myself, when David Shaughnessey killed Tommy Finn.
The Irish mafia’s not subtle. There’s never any question about what someone did wrong, why they’re being punished. Same for Tommy. No matter that by age twenty-five he was already loyal for a decade, no matter that he never skimmed the takings, no matter that whatever he did with men in his private life never interfered with his job.
We were always careful, Tommy and me. Working together day after day, never one stolen look or touch. What we were existed purely on our own time. Which is why they didn’t suspect me.
Young and in love, but not 100% exclusive. Someone, somehow, got word and caught Tommy, jeans at his ankles, on the edge of bliss.
They dragged him in front of us, paraded him like some kind of pervert. Hell hath no fury like a man responsible for more drug deaths than hairs on his head lecturing on abominations of nature.
And Tommy being Tommy, even then he didn’t try to catch my eye. He protected me ‘til the end. And me, a couple years younger and scared shitless, didn’t do a damn thing in his defense.
Five years ago this very night.
I’ve kept my head down and myself safe ever since. Gone on dates with girls. Fucked ‘em, when I had to. No choice, really.
And I worked my way up. Bash in someone’s face, break some legs, amputate a finger or two? Must be Tuesday.
It’s all paid off. Because I am now David Shaughnessey’s head of security. The thuggest of his thugs. The muscle behind the brains, as he likes to say.
And tonight’s the night.
It’s a Monday in July and we’re all in the pub, watching Dublin beat Kerry on the telly mounted behind the long wooden bar. David’s at his usual table in front of the fireplace, counting out the weekend’s takings. I’m standing behind his right shoulder, legs spread, feet planted, hands loose. Prepared.
This pub is where he killed Tommy. Right there, at the bar - walnut because it’s the hardest wood. It doesn’t so much as crack when you smash someone’s head into it. Someone’s standing on the very spot Tommy fell when David finally let him die. We all stepped over his body that night. The next night, the mess was gone and we acted like he never existed.
But I remember.
David grunts, pleased by the take. He’s expanded into the new drugs, ketamine, DMT, flakka. The stacks of bills pay homage to his business sense. As much as he loathes homosexuality, he loves money.
Standing behind his shoulder, I can’t see his face, but his thumbs riffle the edges of the stacks and his fingers caress the bills. I know he’s got that faraway, lascivious look in his eyes. This is when he’s most vulnerable, and he knows it, which is why I’m on duty behind him.
On the telly, Dublin scores again and the men erupt into cheers. I’m the only one not lost in my own world so I hear the whomp whomp of the police chopper first. Just as promised. Adrenaline shoots through my body like the moment before orgasm.
“On it, sir,” I immediately say. “Hey, Mike!” I yell to my second in command. “Go check that out!”
Match forgotten, the lads snap to attention and the pub falls silent as the helicopter circles. David sweeps the cash into a duffel bag.
A second before Mike makes it to the door, it’s kicked in. The Gardaí pour in wearing full gear: helmets, riot shields, guns.
David’s already out of his seat. I grab his arm and we speed around the bar, where a door leads to a storeroom, where a trap door leads to a tunnel that leads to safety.
I slam and bolt the storeroom’s metal door behind us, bar the trap door from underneath.
“Right this way, sir. Come on,” I urge. David complies, his face purple with rage.
“Fucking Gardaí, how the hell did they know, who the fuck told them, those goddamn cunts.” He can’t stop talking as we run, spittle and vitriol equally mixed.
Then he turns on me.
“What kind of security chief are you, let something like this happen? You’re my bodyguard, I don’t pay you to twiddle your fucking thumbs!” he spits.
I turn and slam him against the wall of the narrow tunnel. The fury in his face turns to outrage. He struggles to free himself, but he can’t.
David’s a hard man, but by reputation, not physical strength. And he’s built his reputation on the strength of men like me.
“The fuck you doing?” he blusters. “Get off me!”
I whip out my knife, the one Danny gave me, and rasp it against the skin of his throat. The blade judders against his stubble.
“Stay still, or I’ll slice you up.”
My knife keeps him against the wall as I grab the syringe from the pocket of my coat. It’s loaded with a little bit of everything: PCP, flakka, meth. A cocktail for a painful and ugly death.
We’re as close as lovers, my thigh shoved between his legs.
“The fuck?” he breathes, barely moving his lips.
I stare deep into his eyes. Blue, like Tommy’s, but nothing here to love.
“There was only one body I ever wanted to guard,” I say. “Tommy Finn’s.” And I jam the needle into his neck.
About the author:
Janet Innes (@Janet_Innes_ ) is a member of Sisters in Crime and spent last summer living with hawks. Previous flash fiction has appeared in Lucent Dreaming.
The parties started up in April, regular as allergies. Thumping bass echoed across the cemetery that split my nook of the city from that one. The neighborhood chat page lit up with complaints and counter-complaints.
Is it ok to call the police?
Move to the suburbs.
Never call the police.
Not that I ever get involved, but it’s fun to see what sets off jangled nerves.
It’s city life, suck it up.
I called the police. It’s my right.
Rat. Now yr responsbile for the worst nite of someones life.
Like I said, regular as child-support for a kid you’re not allowed to see, and nothing getting done.
Me, I didn’t care, until a five-beat loop invaded a Monday morning dream. Rehearsal before a big audition? Maybe, but then it broke into the usual thud-thud-thud DJ Wa-Na-B favored.
I can see a weekend bash, even a Thursday get-together that rolls on into Friday. But who the hell is grinding minutes before rush hour?
Come Tuesday—Wednesday, I should say—the 3:30 pulse echoed like the plodding of an elephant. No melody, just that one reverberating note. At that volume, what is there to enjoy?
It wasn’t his taste in music that bothered me, but the lack of sleep the rest of the neighborhood suffered. Despite their whining, I’m good to them. I shovel the whole sidewalk in winter, not just that foot-wide path, and I don’t let my trash blow all over. I’ve had plenty of experience with community service.
Time to do something.
I zig-zagged deserted streets. A few lit windows told of working stiffs getting started on the day. The pounding grew louder. What passed for a melody wrapped around the beats like poison ivy. I circled a few more blocks until I found the epicenter.
Despite the nightly soirees, it was no Gatsby mansion. It might have been cozy once, but now the front steps were lopsided and severed porch columns hung like stalactites. It seemed the whole thing would shiver like matchsticks under the constant barrage. That sonic weapon in Cuba made everyone sick. What kind of damage was he doing here?
The derelict porch somehow supported a swaying crowd. In the shadows, people drank, smoked, made out. Suspicious eyes followed my car, so I rounded the block and parked on the opposite street. I carried nothing but keys and a pocket-knife jingling against loose change. The neighbors must’ve put up heavy drapes to cut the sound down, but I still felt every vibration deep in my gut.
I pressed on against the swelling sonic tide.
A basement window reflected a nearby streetlight, a winking invitation. Up close, the glass rattled in the frame. I jimmied the lock in about two beats.
I slid through, dropping to the floor. Picking my way around piled suitcases and other detritus, I found the master switch. I expected a big knife-switch, like for an electric chair, but it was just a cheap one-armed bandit. I guessed it might take the lord of the dance two minutes to arrive when his tunes went dead, so I unlatched a closer window for an escape hatch.
That done, I pulled the lever. The sudden silence felt like a giant’s grip relaxing. A collective groan rose up, and I got to work, unscrewing the fuses and putting my handful of pennies behind them. In my hurry I knocked a box of fuses to the floor.
Screwing in the last fuse, I heard clomping on the basement steps. A flashlight swept the area and I pressed against a pole, behind a file cabinet.
He had a clear path to the electric panel, and I realized he must’ve done this often enough, given the box of fuses. He was half again as big as me, weaving through the dark.
He shone the light on the fuse box, and poked at one or two gingerly. Nothing. He unscrewed one fuse and shook it next to his ear, then replaced it. Just a few more, and then he’d investigate the master switch.
I shrunk deeper into the shadows, realizing for the first time just how damned quiet it was down here. Not even the furnace was running. I shifted just enough to cause the remaining coins in my pocket to clink together.
“Gotcha,” he shouted, crossing the distance in two steps.
He grabbed me by the hair, yanking me forward. I got the knife in my hand, still opened to the screwdriver. It sliced him, and as he recoiled he slipped on one of the dropped fuses.
I dashed for the open window, scrabbling with my feet against the wall. I almost squeezed through, but then he dragged me back by the ankle.
By now, two others had come to check on him. The three of them rained fists and feet against me and I staggered to the wall. As it happened, I crouched below the master switch, and Gatsby flipped it on while his friends continued to turn my ribs to splinters.
“Now we get to call the police,” he sneered. He pulled out his phone, dialed 911, reported a break-in. The light from the screen revealed a sweaty, gloating face.
Meanwhile, the music started up again. The booms matched the throbbing in my head. They left me, secure in the belief I couldn’t escape through that window. They were right.
As I lay there, the pennies did their job. An arc flashed out of the box, illuminating the basement in blue light. At the same time, I heard sirens. Flames rippled out along the floor joists and up the walls. A second later, the party-goers stampeded into the night.
No one would think to rescue me.
The neighborhood page was right: this was the worst night of someone’s life.
I should have listened.
About the author:
J. M. Taylor has appeared in such mags as Thuglit, Crime Factory, Crime Syndicate, Tough Crime, and Wildside Black Cat. His first novel, Night of the Furies, was published by New Pulp Press, and Genretarium released his second, Dark Heat. He lives in Boston with his wife and son, and when he’s not writing or reading, he teaches under an assumed name.