Noir – Chapter Four

April 7, 2014 at 12:56 pm (Noir)

Eldon woke several hours later. His arms ached and as he tried to stretch them he became aware of his situation. They’d strapped him to a wooden chair, tying his ankles to the chair’s front legs and his arms around the backrest. His right leg had gone to sleep at some point and now that he’d moved it, it came alive with the burn of a thousand needles stabbing into his thigh. He swore as the pain made his eyes water.

“You’re awake, finally.”

Eldon looked up at the man with the gun. He still held it in his hand, pointed toward the floor. Eldon recognized him as the leader of the little gang he’d interrupted at Stanley Toby’s. His previous encounter with them must have taught the guy a lesson in preparedness. If you can’t win the fight with what you’ve got, grab a bigger weapon.

“What problem did you have with Toby?” Eldon asked.

“I’ll ask the questions.”

“You didn’t get much before I came along. He didn’t have enough bruises for any real exchange of information to have occurred.”

“We got what we needed,” the leader boasted.

Eldon doubted that, but let the guy have his small win. He knew there had been at least one other guy on the premises. Someone had approached him from between the boxes and cracked him on the head. Eldon didn’t hear him anywhere in the warehouse. The place felt empty of any other presence. Unless the woman was dead or unconscious, Eldon assumed they’d taken her somewhere else.

“Where is Ms. Nolan?”

“I said I’ll ask the questions.”

“You don’t seem to be getting around to it. I thought I’d fill the conversational void for you.” Eldon gave the man a thorough onceover. “You’re a bit awkward, aren’t you? No offer of water, no concern for the headache your friend gave me.”

“Quiet, or I’ll give you a gunshot wound to add to your worries.”

“Why do you want it quiet? You just said you’d ask the questions. How can I answer if I’m to remain quiet?” Flexing his wrists, he tested the strength of the bonds. They’d tied the ropes quite tight, limiting the amount of play he had in them. His legs were his best bet. They’d looped the ropes around the chair legs, but the chair didn’t have a brace beam midway down the legs. They were freestanding, extending down from the underside of the seat. If he could lean back far enough, he could slip the ropes free of the chair. He’d still have his ankles tied together, but he’d be able to stand. On his feet, he’d have more options.

“Have you found Jack yet?”

Eldon couldn’t hide his surprise at the question. He’d thought that Toby hadn’t given them any pertinent information, but he must have forgotten to mention this bit. The gunman smiled, revealing teeth that hadn’t seen a dentist in far too long. Stained brown, his left eyetooth cracked, he snorted out another laugh, enjoying Eldon’s reaction.

“It’s still pretty early, but maybe you got something that Tubby missed.”

Eldon leaned his chair back a little. The heels of his boots added almost two inches to his height, which meant he had to lean back far enough to account for the rope being that much higher off the ground.

“No, I haven’t found Jack yet, but I’m getting closer to locating it.”

“You mean locating him, don’t you?”

“That, too.” Eldon agreed, making the guy squint at him. Eldon watched the thoughts race across the man’s face. Ms. Nolan wanted him to discover what led to Jack’s disappearance. Eldon didn’t know why she wanted that information. Either Jack knew something she wanted or he had something she wanted. But this guy stressing that Eldon hadn’t found him suggested that Jack was the real target. The investigation into his disappearance might just be a means of locating the man.

Eldon leaned back in his chair, smirking at the gunman. He could feel the ropes nearing the edge of the chair legs. “Where’s Ms. Nolan?”

“Never mind where that bitch is. What do you know about all this?”

Eldon tilted his head to the side, considering. He edged his chair back another tiny fraction. The guy wasn’t angry, just annoyed. “Not much, yet,” Eldon admitted. “But the closer I get to Jack, the more answers I find.”

The guy swore and paced away two steps. Eldon readied to push himself over, if necessary, to gain those few precious inches of clearance. He just wanted the guy’s attention averted a little more. Before he could move, the front door of the warehouse banged open and two guys walked in. Eldon swore under his breath, lowering his chair to the ground.

“What have you found already?” the leader asked him.

Eldon clamped his mouth shut. He didn’t have anything, but they didn’t need to know that. The longer he kept them guessing, the more they might reveal. If he made them angry enough.

The leader nodded to one of the two men. The Asian guy came around to face Eldon, cracking the knuckles on his fist more for theatrical effect than any advantage it would provide. His fists were massive and they didn’t match the rest of him. Eldon put him at several inches over six feet, tall for an Asian, with a slim build and shaved head. Eldon figured the guy could wrap his whole hand around a football. Drawing his arm back, the guy paused for a second and then smashed his fist into Eldon’s mouth.

Eldon felt the skin on the inside of his lower lip scrape against his teeth. One more punch like that and he’d be tasting blood. The leader asked his question again. Eldon now knew how Toby had felt, except that he knew what they wanted. “What, Toby didn’t tell you?”

“Tubby didn’t know shit. That’s why you came into the picture. I’m betting you don’t know shit, either. What happens when a guy doesn’t know shit, Kenny?” the leader asked of the man standing in front of Eldon.

Kenny wound up and punched Eldon again. This time he’d aimed for and scored Eldon’s left eye. The guy had a tremendous punch. Eldon knew that if he got around to aiming for his nose, Kenny would break it in one round. Eldon wasn’t a vain man, but he’d had his nose broken twice in the past and knew that it would hurt more than a black eye or split lip.

“Maybe he needs a little more encouragement, Kenny. Some tenderizing.”

Kenny didn’t wind up as far this time. He changed to short, powerful jabs and aimed them at Eldon’s chest. The problem for Kenny was that Eldon had quite thick muscle over his chest and abs. It would take a while to get to the tenderizing and Eldon was already bored with the conversation. He didn’t think the leader knew a whole lot about Jack or the search for him.

Kenny ended his barrage with another fist to the face, splitting Eldon’s upper lip. Blood and spittle splashed out as his head snapped back. He could feel the skin ripping and thought he’d need a couple of stitches to help it heal well. Kenny stepped back and turned to the gunman for instruction.

“That should do it.” Raising the gun, he shot Kenny in the chest. Kenny spun around toward Eldon. The shock on his face mirrored Eldon’s expression.

Eldon watched as Kenny’s body hit the ground. The bullet had torn through his chest. Very little blood seeped out before his heart stopped pumping. The cannon-like blast of the gunshot had Eldon’s ears ringing. Someone must have heard the sound and would be reporting it to the cops. And what would they find when they broke open the door?

Eldon figured they’d find him lying unconscious on the floor, in possession of the gun, with fresh gunshot residue on his hands and Kenny dead at his feet. Sure, they’d be curious how he got knocked out after firing the weapon, but not curious enough to look for the real killer. Not when forensic evidence would make their case for them.

Eldon pushed the chair back as far as his feet could allow. The ropes slipped off the edge of the chair’s legs. Eldon stood and swung the chair out from behind him and over his head. His shoulders protested the strain, but he ignored the pain. The chair crashed against the gunman’s head, knocking him into a stack of boxes. Eldon swung the chair down on the ground, breaking the wood and freeing his hands. The third guy crashed into his back, overbalancing him. As they collapsed to the ground, Eldon twisted around and slammed his elbow into the guy’s nose.

Wrapping his hands around the guy’s neck, he squeezed until he’d closed off the man’s airway. The man struggled for several moments before he blacked out. Pushing the unconscious man off him, Eldon stood and pulled the knife from his boot. Cutting through the ropes, he checked on the gunman. He was just coming around, so Eldon kicked him in the face, knocking him out. He left the gun where it was, grabbed the discarded ropes, and headed for the front door.

Cops pulled up outside before he made it out of the building. Eldon ran to the back of the warehouse, headed for the rear door. Using his jacket on the doorknob, he unlocked the door and exited into the alley. Heading straight across the alley and jumping the fence behind, he trudged through the trees and shrubbery until he came out between two houses. Striding down the block, he passed by a few houses before crossing the street and running between another set of houses. In the alley behind, he tossed the ropes into a garbage bin, ran to the end of the road and came out at the cross street. Hailing a cab, he blocked his face from the driver by pulling his hair forward over his swelling eye. Not much he could do about his lip.

Eldon gave the cabbie Toby’s address. In the darkness of the back seat, he probed his eye to see how bad the damage was. The skin hadn’t split and wasn’t bleeding, but he figured it would swell shut by morning. Running his tongue over the inside of his bottom lip, he judged the damage to be a little less severe there. His teeth weren’t loose and the skin was tender but not broken. He couldn’t say the same for the top lip.

As the cab turned the corner off Hastings, headed for Cordova, he could see the emergency lights flashing off the houses. “Pull over to the side. This is good enough.” Eldon held out the remainder of his second fifty, offering the guy a five dollar tip. Stepping from the cab, he walked to the corner and turned toward Toby’s house. He spotted Cohen on the sidewalk, talking into his cell phone. Coming up next to the officer stationed at the police barrier, he asked the guy to call to Cohen.

The officer gestured for his partner to wander over and get the Lieutenant’s attention. When Cohen looked up, he stared at Eldon for a moment as though he didn’t recognize him, and then he motioned him forward. The officer pulled a barrier aside and Eldon stepped between them.

“What happened here?” Cohen asked.

“That was going to be my question to you. I busted up that fight, like I told you, and then left to check out that address you gave me.”

“Was the guy alive when you left?”

“Yeah.” Eldon looked up at the house as several people moved around the front room of the second floor apartment. “He’s not alive now?”

“Nope. Got his neck wrung. Some neighbour called in a noise complaint. The door was open and they found the occupant lying on the floor half in the kitchen and half in the living room.”

Had Kenny and his buddy gone back to Oppenheimer to kill Toby once they had Eldon strapped to the chair? He’d lost a couple of hours between the time he’d gotten knocked on the head and when he’d woken up. It would have given the guys plenty of time to make it to Toby’s and back again.

“Can you account for your whereabouts in the past few hours, Wolfie?”

Cohen had a look in his eyes that Eldon hadn’t seen before. Not mistrust, but definitely the beginnings of some serious doubt. Eldon wondered how strong those feelings would get when he heard about the death at the warehouse. Cohen would put that together pretty quick. There was no way for Eldon to get out of it, but he still wasn’t going to get railroaded into a manslaughter charge.

“I took a hard knock on the head and slept for a while. When I woke, they’d tied me to a chair. They gave me a few cracks to the face before I managed to get out of the area. I doubt any of those characters are willing to vouch for me, though.”

“Just what are you involved in?” Cohen demanded.

Eldon laid it out for him. He mentioned the woman and Cohen smirked again, which annoyed him. He was starting to think that he could lay this mess at Cohen’s feet, since he was the one who had given Ms. Nolan Eldon’s name in the first place.

“Unless I can find her and call this whole thing off, I’m stuck looking into the thirty-year-old disappearance of some guy named Jack.”

“You still trust this woman?” Cohen asked.

“I never did,” Eldon admitted. Though he’d decided to do the job he would never trust her. “Why did you give her my name anyway?”

“It wasn’t me. My wife gave it to her. I guess they met at some party or other and Ms. Nolan asked, since her husband was a cop, did he know of anyone who could help her. Don’t ask me what made Gemma think of you. She doesn’t like you much.”

That wasn’t true, but Eldon wouldn’t tell Cohen that. Gemma Cohen had gotten drunk at one of their parties and cornered Eldon outside in the garden. He’d not wanted to be there in the first place, but Cohen had insisted he needed someone in his corner. She’d had the hands of an octopus and they’d been everywhere at once. She’d told him that her husband wasn’t sleeping with her anymore and she had always thought that Eldon would give a girl a nice, rough ride. She’d placed his hand on her breast and he hadn’t bothered to remove it. He’d not let it go any further though. When she’d grabbed his crotch and started to massage him through his pants, he’d put a stop to their chat and left the party.

Eldon asked if he was a suspect in Toby’s death. Cohen said they’d have to process the scene and analyze the evidence collected before they made that determination. Since he’d gotten into a cab just after he’d talked to Cohen, and the downstairs neighbours had seen Toby take out the trash a short while later, they knew the victim was alive when Eldon left him.

“As long as you didn’t turn around and come back to finish him off, we’re probably looking for someone else.”

Eldon didn’t feel reassured, but he left it at that. Moving away from Cohen and the police barriers and all the flashing lights, he walked further down Cordova Street, heading for home. He’d already spent enough money on taxis that day. The walk would do him some good. Help clear his head.

Kenny’s death didn’t make sense to him. Why would the gunman try to implicate him in it? Was he worried that Eldon would figure out who Jack was and what they were looking for? Or was he worried that Eldon would get there first? And just how did the woman factor into all this? She’d been there, but it had looked as though they’d held her against her will. Eldon couldn’t imagine her doing anything against her will.

He’d heard her scream before he’d blacked out. Had they hurt her? He hadn’t had any time to search the place for her before running out the back door. Not that he’d thought of it at the time. If she was still inside the warehouse, the cops would work a little harder to prove her innocent than they would have for him. The police would have afforded a woman as beautiful as she was more courtesy than a roughed up and bleeding man. She hadn’t been anywhere near the action, whereas Jeff would have made sure Eldon had gun residue on his hands.

Eldon ran up the stairs to his room and had his key out and almost in the lock when a shadow moved across the bottom of the door.


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