The man that sat in front of her reeked of Arimas. And if not for the Arimas, he would have reeked of menthol cigarettes.
She smiled at him. Radiantly. Behind his back she called him greaseball.
“So, Maggie. Tell me what’s going on with Detroit,” he said.
“Not Detroit, Geo. Just Lerner.”
He frowned. “But Lerner is Detroit, Maggie.”
“I know that…now!” She chided him playfully.
But she sounded nervous when she did it. And that upset her.
Geo groped the inside pocket of his sport coat. “You got a cigarette?”
“Oh sure,” she said, pushing her pack of Virginia Slims toward him. “Sorry. No menthol.”
“Why are you sorry?”
She cleared her throat. “You smoke Salem’s, right?”
“Yes. I smoke Salem’s,” he said.
She thought about her response. If she was too quick to answer he might not be able to resist the urge to lash out. Or so she reasoned.
“I should have had them on hand for you,” she said.
“You knew I was coming…that hippopotamus told you, didn’t he?”
…he said, “you knew “I” was coming,” but he gestured to the two guys that stood to the right and left of him when he said it…
Maggie reached across the desk and lit his cigarette. She used the solid gold Dunhill lighter that he gave her for her 50th birthday. Then she put it in the drawer and closed it. When she did, she ran her hand under the desk where a 357 Magnum was holstered in a gun mount.
“He told me, Geo. No excuses.”
“It’s a shame that I had to take time out to come down here and handle your business, because you couldn’t handle it yourself. If you’d just come to me first…if we’d talked about it, I would have told you who Lerner was and this whole thing could have been avoided,” he said. “Cigarettes and everything.”
Maggie rested her finger on the trigger guard.
“I know. I wish I had reached out to you, Geo. I do,” she said. “I thought the guy was a peon that I could make a buck off of. That’s all it was. I didn’t know he was Detroit’s book keeper.”
“Not book keeper, Maggie. Forensic accountant. Si Lerner is Detroit’s forensic accountant.”
Maggie let her eyes drop.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
Then she waited…and waited…
Finally, Geo sighed.
“If the guy’s so smart, why didn’t he just let it go? So the girl got over on him a little bit? So what? Everybody was still in the dark. His wife was still in the dark. His people were still in the dark…but she ran off on him. And that’s what this is all about. It’s not the money.”
Maggie didn’t say a word. She just kept looking down.
“And you let her get away.”
“Yes. I did,” she said. “I thought she had a good thing going. I didn’t think she’d want to run off.”
“So you just didn’t stay on her?…”
She peered up at him. “Not like I should have.”
Geo glared back at her until she looked away.
“Who’s on this?”
“Ranger,” she answered.
“Ranger?…That guy from Muncie?”
“…Okay. So here’s the deal…If he, Ranger, can…Lerner wants the girl in one piece.”
Maggie tried to soothe her throat by swallowing. It was so dry she could barely answer, “You mean alive?”
“That’s right. He’s obsessed with her, apparently. He’s gonna pay extra if she’s alive. A lot extra.”
Maggie smiled.”That’s great, Geo,” she said.
“It is,” Geo agreed. “Just at the right time too. There’s a horse that I’ve got my eye on. A filly as it turns out. A little two year old.” He took a deep drag on his cigarette. “That’s an interesting coincidence, isn’t Maggie?”
“Yes it is.”
“A lot of guys I know don’t bet on fillies. The purses aren’t big enough. That’s what they say. But I’ve always done very well with them. All and all, I’ve probably done better with them than any other horse.”
“Interesting,” Maggie said.
He smiled. “You think so?”
“I do,” she said.
“I just hope she doesn’t disappoint me.”
“Me too, Geo.”
“But first you’ve got to get me that money, Maggie. That extra. Otherwise,” he frowned dramatically and shrugged, “it’s all for naught. Like my mother used to say.”
Maggie took her finger off the trigger guard and put her hand in her lap.
She smiled at him. Radiantly. “You can count on me, Geo,” she said.
The guy in black climbed the stairs making his way to the the second floor.
“Stop right there you bastard,” Lenny said under his breath. But the guy didn’t. He kept on going.
That’s when Lenny saw enough. He put the Beretta in his waistband and got out of the car. Then he trotted toward Trish’s apartment.
The guy stopped at the first doorway of the third floor corridor–Trish’s apartment. He stood on his toes to reach the sconce and began unscrewing the light bulb.
“Hey!” Lenny yelled.
The guy froze and for a split second Lenny got a look at him through the stairwell railing. He wore a black stocking cap. He had a pointed nose.
Lenny bolted up the the stairs. He got to the third floor just in time to see the guy jump from the back guard rail and land awkwardly on the green way behind the complex.
Lenny didn’t jump. Instead he ran back down the stairs and sprinted between the apartment buildings to the green way. He saw the guy about twenty yards in front of him, limping as he ran.
“Stop!” Lenny yelled.
The guy stumbled and fell. When he got back up he was in a crouched position. Lenny heard a stifled bang. Instinctively he dove to the ground and rolled.
He heard another bang. His body stopped moving. A searing pain engulfed his neck. He tried to discern the panicked cries that reverberated with his pounding heart.
They were his own.
Ranger made it to the side of the apartment building where he braced against the wall and hopped on his right foot. When he got to the corner, he looked down the long row of parking spaces where his car was about sixty yards away.
Gingerly he put his left foot down again. Immediately he was met with crushing pain. It was broke. No doubt about it.
Even though he was in excellent physical condition, there was no way he could hop all the way to his car on one foot and he knew it.
He steeled himself for what he was about to do.
And he did it.
When he got to his car he threw up. Then he got in, started it up and drove out of the complex.
He barely noticed his phone was ringing.
So this will be the last installment of the serial Lenny. I hope you have enjoyed it. Who knows? Perhaps I will continue Lenny as a short story or expand it into a novel. Regardless, thank you for the words of encouragement, and as always, thanks for reading. –Pam