Noir – Chapter Three

April 7, 2014 at 12:54 pm (Noir)

Eldon heard the distinct sound of flesh meeting flesh and pushed in the door. Three largish men, two white guys and an Asian, crowded around a guy matching Toby’s description. Short and rather round, Toby also sported a black eye, likely a busted nose, and two deep splits in his lower lip. The eye was starting to swell shut and blood dribbled down his chin, dropping onto his t-shirt.

One guy stood facing the door, his arms crossed over his chest as he watched his two cohorts work Toby over. “Who the fuck are you?” he demanded, when he saw Eldon walk in.

Eldon ignored the guy, his attention focused on the other two, who were closer to him. The Asian had his fist raised in preparation of delivering another blow to Toby’s abused face. Stepping into the room, Eldon removed his leather jacket and placed it on the counter. He hadn’t turned away from the men, but he did present his profile, in case they wanted to take advantage. They didn’t.

Eldon swung back around, his fist arcing forward to slam into the Asian’s face. He plowed into the side of the guy’s nose. The crunch was as loud as a gunshot and acted as a signal to the other two. They converged on him, but Eldon bobbed and weaved like a prizefighter, not allowing them to get in close and take him down. On the ground, he could still fight, but he’d be at a distinct disadvantage. On his feet, he was almost unstoppable.

After several punches landed by him and nothing but weak, glancing blows by them, the guys changed their tactics. The leader, the one who’d asked Eldon for his name, led the pack out the door and down the stairs. Surprised, it took Eldon a moment to change gears. Looking out the window, he watched as the guys shuffled down the sidewalk to the white van parked out front of the neighbour’s house. They piled in and the van tore off down the street leaving a small patch of rubber in its wake.

Eldon faced Toby, who hadn’t moved from his spot in the living room. His left eye was almost completely shut now. The cuts on his lip still seeped blood. Opening the freezer door, Eldon looked for a bag of peas but didn’t see one. He fished out some ice cubes and placed them in a towel and handed it to Toby.

“Put that on your eye.”

Toby placed the cold towel against his eye, wincing from even that small bit of contact. He watched Eldon from his good eye, not sure what to make of his unexpected saviour.

“Why were they roughing you up?” Eldon asked. He turned a hardback chair around and straddled the seat, facing Toby.

Toby shrugged, but even that small movement made him wince. He settled himself on the arm of the couch. “Who are you and why are you here? Not that I’m not grateful for your timing, you understand.”

Eldon understood. “We seem to be on the same path, you and I, though you’re a few hours ahead. I stopped by The Kits today and learned you had been there earlier asking after Jack, from 1984.”

“They hired you, too?”

“They?”

“Well, I say ‘they’ but I don’t know who hired me,” Toby admitted. “I got an email asking me to look into Jack’s past. They attached a picture of him in front of that B&B. I got a thousand dollar e-transfer to my bank with the promise of another thousand when I had some information for them.”

Eldon wasn’t a big internet user. He could barely type. He was familiar with the rudiments of email and he knew people sent money electronically, but he’d never done it and never received any money that way. The Navy had offered everyone time on a computer to keep in contact with their families, but Eldon had never had anyone he needed to talk to, so his skills were rusty, at best.

“I had a visit from a woman with a picture.” He knew it would be the same, but he showed the picture to Toby anyway.

“Yours looks like an original. Mine is likely a scan of that one. Could be we have the same client.”

But no proof of that. Eldon wasn’t sure if he needed proof to continue with the job. He had the money, more than Toby got, and he had it all up front. There was no contract, so he could keep all the money even if Toby delivered the information before he could. It didn’t sit well with him though. Why hire two people and pay six thousand already, with an extra thousand still to come for Toby, just to find information on this man? What was so special about this Jack from 1984?

Toby didn’t have anything else to add. After chatting with Lumley he’d gone home and cooked himself some dinner. He’d been sitting on his couch watching TV when those guys had come through the door and demanded to know what he was doing. Toby hadn’t known what they meant, but that hadn’t stopped them from smacking him around.

“It made no sense. They wouldn’t tell me what they were referring to. They just kept hitting me each time I tried to rephrase the question.”

“Did they use your name?”

Toby nodded. “The leader called me Toady and Tubby. He thought he was quite funny.”

Eldon worked to keep the smile off his face. “I didn’t think it was a case of the wrong guy, but you never know. It’s possible they didn’t need an answer to the question. They could have been here to rough you up no matter what you’d said. You piss anyone off lately?”

Toby shook his head, then put a hand to his forehead when it continued to spin. “No one that I can think of. I usually blend into the woodwork.”

Eldon stood, collecting his jacket from the counter. “If that dizziness continues, go to the hospital. You could have a mild concussion.”

He left before Toby could ask him his name again. He didn’t need it. If they had the same client, they knew about Eldon. If they didn’t have the same client, Eldon would prefer that they didn’t find out about him just yet. He needed time to chat with Ms. Nolan again. He felt, given what he and Toby had already gone through, that a little more information about Jack was in order. She’d asked him for a swift turnaround on the information, but she hadn’t said how swift.

He had no way to contact her, but figured she would turn up. In the meantime, he had a license plate that he wanted Lieutenant Cohen to run for him. Cohen’s number was about the only one he had stored in his phone. He had the number for the bar stored in his brain. Cohen answered on the third ring.

“Homicide, Lieutenant Cohen.”

“It’s Eldon. I’ve got a plate I need you to run for me.”

“Hey Wolfie, have any interesting visitors lately?” Cohen asked, his booming laugh drowning out Eldon’s colourful response.

Eldon waited until Cohen had calmed himself, then repeated the number for the plate he’d memorized earlier. “It belongs to three guys who were beating the shit out of some little guy over near Oppenheimer.”

“Why do you want them?”

“That woman you sent my way asked me to look into a guy for her. This is part of it. Those guys are part of it.”

“What are you going to do when you find them, Wolfie?”

Eldon could hear Cohen’s breathing over the line. He’d never noticed until now how much he hated the name Wolfie. It was about as creative a nickname as Toady or Tubby. Eldon felt a little guilty for having almost snickered at Toby’s nicknames. “I’m going to ask them some questions. What I do to them will depend on the answers I get.”

Cohen expelled a frustrated breath. “Shit, Wolfie, you shouldn’t be telling me stuff like that.”

“Then you should learn not to ask questions like that.” Eldon knew one day he’d tell Cohen too much. He was a cop first, a friend second. And Eldon wasn’t sure how much of a friend the guy was, siccing that woman on him and then laughing about it.

Cohen put him on hold while he tapped the information into his computer. Eldon had little idea what would happen with the license plate number then. He knew about databases, but had no idea how they fetched stuff. If he hadn’t gone into the Navy at nineteen, he might have had a better idea of computers and how to work them. More than likely if he hadn’t gone into the Navy, he’d have ended up in jail. He hadn’t learned discipline in the civilian world. He’d learned survival. His intake officers had explained that, although they appreciated his skill with his fists, the Navy would have to round out his education a little.

Eldon hadn’t understood what they meant until he’d gone through his first roll call. Several other young men in his roll had issues with authority and they’d stood out far more than Eldon had. A quiet man in general, Eldon spoke up when nothing else worked. These guys had spoken up about everything. If it was in their brain, it came out their mouth. There had been a lot of ‘drop and give me twenty’.

Eldon had done his fair share of push-ups, but he’d tried to limit the number of extras he had to do because of flapping gums. He watched, he emulated, he learned everything they wanted him to learn. At twenty-three the Navy had picked him for operational services and his training had taken on many specialized courses. He’d never stopped learning.

“Wolfie, you still there?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, the plate’s registered to a white 1998 Econoline van. The only address we have for it is on Rupert.”

Cohen read off the house number and Eldon hung up. He wasn’t familiar with that part of Vancouver. Further south from his neck of the woods, it got more residential. He didn’t relish the idea of confronting those guys if they lived on a street with kids playing hockey and moms sitting on the porch chatting. Not that the kids would be out this late at night, he reminded himself.

Again, he thought about waiting until the next day to follow up, and again he figured there was little point. If they’d gone home after messing with Toby, now would be the best time to catch them. He still had two-fifty in cash and all the skin on his knuckles. Walking over one block to Hastings, Eldon hailed a cab. Three drove right by before he got one to stop.

So late in the evening, it only took twenty minutes to get there. It wasn’t a residential area, but a small warehouse that sat mid-block. Bookended by a Laundromat and a hair salon, Eldon figured that whatever he had to do inside the warehouse would likely go unnoticed by the neighbours.

The front door had a barred gate across it. Eldon wandered around to the alley behind the building and approached the back door. Also locked, he studied the windows on the lower level. Breaking the glass would make too much noise. He didn’t have anything to pick the locks with and didn’t want to head back to his room to get his tools. He’d burn through that two-fifty in no time taking cabs back and forth like that.

One of the windows on the upper floor was open, but the building didn’t have a fire escape he could climb. The Laundromat was the same height as the warehouse, but the beauty salon only had a single level. The back had a single door and no windows. Nothing in the way of trim for grip, either. Heading around to the front again, he saw that the salon also employed the same barred gate as the warehouse.

Eldon reached up to the top of the salon door’s gate, gripped his hands through the bars, and pulled his body upward. Bending his legs, he contorted himself until he could get his foot wedged between the bars midway up the gate. Tensing his thighs, he pushed himself up as far as he could get. His fingers brushed the roofline. He couldn’t get a decent grip on the edge. Placing his palms flat against the wall above the door, he angled himself forward to maintain his balance. Raising his right foot, he balanced it on top of the gate. With an explosion of force, he surged upward, grasping the edge of the roofline.

His right hand slipped off, and he scraped his palm against the shingles. Muscles in his left arm protested the strain as he dangled in the air. Scraping his feet along the wall to stop his swinging, he got his right hand secure again. Hauling himself up, Eldon rolled onto the roof. Blood slicked his right palm. Wiping it on his pants, he got to his feet and approached the wall of the warehouse. Constructed of concrete blocks, it provided no handholds for him to climb.

Eldon stood an inch over six feet, with an extra two from his boots. His arms were of average length, putting his standing reach at eight-foot-four. The top of the warehouse wall was still two feet above the tips of his fingers. Crossing to the far edge of the salon’s roof, he took a running leap at the wall and managed to reach the top lip of the warehouse on his first try. Hauling himself up once more, he walked across the warehouse’s roof to the back edge. The open window was right under him, set about three feet below the roofline.

Removing his coat and the change in his pocket, Eldon leaned out over the roofline and angled his body down to look in the window. The room sat empty and no light penetrated from the main section of the warehouse. He slid the window open full. Donning his jacket, he leaned his feet out over the edge of the roof and levered himself backward until his lower body dropped down. Catching the window ledge with his boots, he reached down with one hand and braced himself against the inside wall of the room. Letting go of the roof, he dropped the rest of his weight onto the window ledge and stepped into the room.

Eldon unlocked the door and peered out. Outside the room a long hallway stretched the full length of the back of the building. Two more doors accessed rooms along the rear of the building. The upper level didn’t offer a view of the lower level. Eldon stepped into the hallway, keeping his feet away from the centre of the floor to minimize noise. At each room, he paused to test the door and found them locked.

At the far end of the hallway, stairs led down to the main floor. With little choice, Eldon descended. Three steps from the bottom, he contorted his body so he could peek around the corner of the wall into the main warehouse. The room was large and open, the main floor piled high with boxes. Stepping off the last step, Eldon allowed his eyes to adjust to the minimal amount of light coming in from the street.

“You’re a very resourceful man, Mr. Wolf.”

Eldon spun around to see Ms. Nolan standing in the shadows of a doorway across the warehouse floor. Shoved from behind, she stumbled further into the room. A man stepped up behind her and held a gun to her head. He gestured Eldon forward.

Moving away from the stairs, Eldon kept his eyes on the woman as he walked toward the centre of the room. Her eyes were pleading with him, but he couldn’t read the sentiment. Just before he felt the change in the air currents around his head, he figured she was apologizing to him. The crack to the side of his head swamped him in darkness. Before he lost consciousness, he heard the woman scream in agony.

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