Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bella and the Black Book: Chapter Two



I’m going to die over a stupid book. Somewhere in Hell, Jimmy is busting a gut laughing at this.

The gunman hauled me to my feet and I tried to ignore the flash of pain from his grip on my wrist.

“March.”

Underneath the sound of our footsteps, muffled as they were by the carpet, I tried to hear Mr. McGuffy. How far had he gotten? He was a 67 year old man with bad arthritis in both knees and a penchant for boiled cabbage, but he was a nice enough guy. I really didn’t want him involved in this. After all, he hadn’t even met Jimmy. I glanced back, quick, to see where he’d stashed the book. He had it under his arm, the one with the gun sprouting out of the end. At the front door of my apartment, he moved in close and said,

“Don’t make me have to start shooting.”

I hoped Mr. McGuffy had gone back into his apartment to pee.

I opened the door.

“You know, if you want the book, just take it. I won’t say anything.”

That was true. Who was I gonna tell that my convicted felon ex-lover had left me a book written in a secret code which might or might not lead to the money left over from the heist that sent him to jail?

My captor was not convinced. So not convinced he pressed the gun into my spine and used it to urge me forward. Stepping out into the hall, I looked both ways. No elderly neighbor in sight, but the whisper, slide, shuffle of Mr. McGuffy’s slippers was there coming from the direction of the giant garbage bin behind the building on the far side of the parking lot. I turned right. The building fronted on a busy street, but no cars were likely to stop. Seeing this, they’d probably speed up.

“No. Left,” he corrected.

Left toward the parking lot and poor Mr. McGuffy. I turned left, walking slow. My captor had shifted position, no longer directly behind me, but behind me enough to hide the gun still pressed against my back.

Bright daylight dazzled my vision as we stepped out of the building’s shadow into the sunshine of mid-morning. Was it mid-morning? I couldn’t even remember if I had finished my coffee. Sudden fear of death can do strange things to your memory. The smell of the bin was just starting to warm and expand to cover the parking lot, one of my least favorite smells. Once my eyes adjusted, I saw what I could already hear, Mr. McGuffy making his slow murmuring shuffle way back across the parking lot, the stank cabbage smell still clinging proudly to his clothes. He looked seedy in his irregularly washed bathrobe and hair sticking up in what his neighbors referred to as his electro-shocked Einstein hairdo. He shielded his own eyes with one shivering hand and smiled.

“Ms. Hardin,” he greeted me. Mr. McGuffy, for all his hygienic failings, always managed to sound like an old movie actor, all mellow and whiskey smooth.

“Morning, Mr. McGuffy.”

No one ever tells you how hard it is to make the usual morning small talk when a gun is pressed to your back hard enough to leave a mark.

“Aren’t you going to introduce your friend?”

“We really haven’t got the time this morning, sir,” I said reminding myself to keep the fear out of my eyes and the pain out of my smile. “It’s nice to see you though.”

“You kids,” he muttered. “Always in such a hurry.”

“Ain’t it the truth.”

Mr. McGuffy was almost past when he noticed the gun. At least, I assume he noticed it. He pissed himself in the parking lot. Or maybe that was just old age. Either way, my captor wasn’t planning on waiting to find out. He swung the gun in Mr. McGuffy’s direction.

Oh, shit!

Missed a Chapter: ONE

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