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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 73


A Novel

Nicholas Cochran


Chapter Thirty-Three


“Nicky,” said Alex, “we don’t have to leave for a bit, don’t you think? The sign is only for fifteen minutes and I don't think that’s going to goose any smart buds for these characters, do you?

"I agree with the Plan B idea; but maybe you can stall them, Don; give them a ton of disinformation. If they’re really suspicious, they’ll start at the beaches and ask the women if they’ve seen Tony around. It’s been a while of no Tony, but not long enough for the beach girls to get worried. Your cousin has been AWOL several times, right? This is nothing new; yet. But, if they do get lucky or thorough, what is Plan B?”

Don eased back in his chair and looked at the ceiling. After a couple of moments.

“It’s a tad early, but a drink; say a Mimosa or a Bloody Mary; or a fine dark ale?”

I was more impressed by Don as the moments fled by. Here he is facing possible death, playing the perfect host.

“I’ll have a Mimosa, please” said Alex.”

“I’ll have a Bloody Mary, Don. And thanks.”

De nada,” said Don over his shoulder, “not every day I have a bloodied couple in for a drink.”

I couldn’t believe this guy. We’re all marked for death, which could happen any moment, and he’s being a delightful bartender host. Don, as Tony, was middle height and buffed. His black hair was long and covered long ears. Like Tony, Don had blue eyes and a flat nose; Tony’s from, surfing mishaps and Don’s from boxing. The cosmetologists were the best. I have no idea what was original or added to produce Don as Tony, but all agreed the result was in the highest bracket of makeovers.

“What do you think, Nicky? Is he all there? I mean, hell, we’re all on a death list and ___”

“Wait a sec, hon,” I cut in. “he’s not really on their radar. Otherwise, he’d be dead. I think he knows a hell of lot more about this than we do. He’s too casual. I’m positive his Plan B can be executed—sorry—in a flash. Something to do with this place. I have a feeling that we’re about to get a ton of news ‘from the other side’ as it were. I wonder if he has a secure line to Rebecca.”

“Should we tell him about her, Nick?”

“Well, let’s see where the conversation goes. Of course, he could be calling Franks and Harris right now; or his buddies who sprung him; letting everyone connected with this case, except Rampart, come by and torture whatever they want out of us.”

“That certainly wouldn’t take very long, darling; we don’t know anything about their grand plan, or even the next move of these guys.”

Don shimmered from behind the ebony drape bearing two crystal glasses and a Starlight Ale for himself.

“That didn’t take long, Don; are you just a whiz at this or did you make a couple of calls?” I hated myself for saying it. Alex gave me a look I had never seen. It tightened her face and produced a flush of anger.

“Good question, Nick. In fact, if you hadn’t asked, I would have suspected you and Alex and the wound with its blood: everything you told me was a lie and you were simply planning your exit before the bad guys arrived.” He said this with a sincere even tone. “I own four bars and three restaurants. Old habits.” Alex came over to me and kissed me gently on the cheek.

“I apologize, darling.”

“For what?”’

“For what I was thinking about you. I was wrong, darling.” She gave me another peck and returned to her chair.

“Yes, indeed, Mr. Ryder, I was testing you. You both passed,” smiling while he delivered our drinks, “all right, what’s the drill?”

“I should ask you some questions—or you can tell us what the hell is going on. Either one.” I said before taking a good slug of my drink.

“I’ll put you both at ease before telling you what I know and putting you back in fear.”

This guy was something else. I had nano visions of his customers or whoever in his seven enterprises, instantly willing to help. He was almost hypnotic.

“I first got wind of their plans while I was in the county jail waiting for a trial—or a deal. I can’t remember which guy it was who told me. Anyway, it concerned some vague plan to take over our side of the Colony. I think that’s why they do all their dirty work on this side.” He paused to take a draw of his ale.

Dawn had not yet fully blossomed into another sterling day. Yet all the areas and niches, which permitted light, were glowing. It made me feel better. I guess knowing that there were other people out there who would help us, when it finally mattered to them and their kids.

“I have been married to Rebecca for too many years. Behind all the glamour lies a determined ice princess; an ambitious one as well. Of course, we have—had—lots of money and so that was never a problem. But she’s the restless kind; likes to sail close to the wind.”
“Why were you in jail at all, Don?" said Alex.

“A bar fight in one of my bars got out of hand. A huge drunk guy—I think he was a dock worker; immense. He was roughing up a customer, nothing too bad, more of a joking fight, you know, when the other guy makes smart remarks that are made only to get the guy’s goat. Well, he sure as hell did in this one. Jack, the big guy, took everything the wrong way and was looming over Buddy like a giant redwood on The Marble, about to pound him thorough the floor, all the way to the bottom of the colony. I just happened to be there that night. I had come from one of my restaurants where Rebecca and I had dinner.”

Slowly, I began to see the scene; to hear the loud talk; smell the cigarette smoke, and hear the smokers’ coughs; a typical late night bar setting.

“Was this guy, the giant, one of the guys who sprung you?” I said. Don looked up from his ale.

"You know all about that?”

“No, Don, only that thee guys came to the jail in Northern Californiana and got you out.”

Don pursed his lips. He clearly wanted to give us new information. Despite the quiet sunshine and the boost from the alcohol, we remained on the hit list of Harris and Franks. I made a mental note to let Don talk and give us new information before any questioning.

“No, Nick, he wasn’t, but the guy teasing him was. But that was a bit later. Let me try and keep this on a straight line or I’ll forget something.”

“Sure, Don.” I said.

“I grabbed a sizable knife off the counter and told Jack, the giant, to cool it. He didn’t even turn around. He raised a right fist to slam Terry. I pushed Jack from the side. He was surprised, to say the least, and lost most of his balance. I got around in front of him. He roared at me and charged. I rammed the knife up under his rib cage and he was dead after crashing to the floor. “Everyone was still. I jumped down beside him, just to check for any life, I ___”

The front door gave an angry rattle. Alex and I jumped up and took a step toward the veranda. Heavier knocking followed turning of the handle. 

"Wait," said Don, "it’s only a customer,” glancing at his watch, “yeah, Harriet Leader, one of the customers I told you about. I’ll be right back.” He slipped behind the black curtain.

 We heard him opening the door. “Sorry, Mrs. Leader, I forgot to turn the clock sign; how are you?’ From there on, for a few minutes, Don and Mrs. Leader chatted before she thanked Don, took up her cleaning, and left. Don reappeared in seconds.

“Yeah, sorry about that. I told each of the ten to ignore the sign because I was always forgetting to reset it, and to hammer away until I appeared. So, one down.” He took an extra pull of his ale.

"Does your voice sound that much like Tony's?" I said.

"A virtual copy; it was easy---but I still shake and sweat when I have to talk to his customers. Fear of death is the perfect focus to get it right."

Alex and I swallowed large slugs of our drinks. Don was rapidly becoming a name on my list of friends.

“So; that’s the crime. I was shaking and called someone to get an ambulance, but I knew it was too late. And it was. Jack was DOA. The ambulance people were very comforting. I was a bag of nerves and fear. So, away I went through the court system with a manslaughter charge on me. My attorney was a great woman, Priscilla—a real Marble name, right?” Alex and I nodded and sipped.

“I was all set for a trial because the DA wouldn’t drop the whole case. To me it was clearly self-defense; they saw it as interfering and instantly stabbing the guy. To them, I’m sure, Jack was only a tallish, quiet man. All of us knew he had a nasty streak in him” sighing, “and so I was set for trial. 

"After a couple of weeks, Prissie came by to tell me their final offer was involuntary manslaughter, one year in the county jail, and work furlough. I could go to work and return for my snooze in the jail. Or I could go to the work farm and cut my sentence in half—you know, for good time and real farm work. 

"Prissie didn’t pressure me at all. I knew that voluntary manslaughter was the best I could hope for from a jury—and a lenient judge—and then off to Colony 66 for at least eight to ten years. I took the deal and was in a holding area while they decided my request to work at my restaurants and bars. The clearance dragged on. Prissie old me the DA didn’t like the idea of me working where there was alcohol.

"I knew that was bogus and began to wonder why the reduced charge---a bullet in the county farm---wasn’t happening.”  Don took in a deep breath as he prepared to tell us how this all played out. I took another slug.
”Alex, how’s your shoulder?” I said. Don apologized for not asking sooner, and joined my question,

“I’m a bit sleepy; I guess from the meds, but no pain at all. This helps too.” She held up the generous pour while Don and I laughed.

The front door gave a frightening clatter. 


End of Chapter Thirty-Three

Submitted: May 23, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.


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