Fly By Night

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: August 27, 2019

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Submitted: August 27, 2019

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Fly By Night

By Ashley Callahan

Boston, 1962

 

The midnight air was heavy as fluorescent lights flickered in the window leading to the city streets. It was a quiet evening as all  the “nine to fivers” would be in bed by this time, leaving the remainder of the population to congregate after hours. Not a car passed on the usually busy streets as the only lively thing seemed to be the streetlights keeping time with one another. Such a contrast to the uneasy flickering of the iridescent lights inside the hollow pub. Perhaps they could be having a conversation through the glass.

That very thought had just come to Patrick Cross’ mind as he sat at the empty bar, silently counting the beats of the stoplight in the reflection of liquor cabinets. He absentmindedly rolled the remaining half glass of whiskey between his fingers while contemplating the desire to go home or have another drink before closing. Patrick was a lawyer at one of the biggest law firms in the city. He was thin in stature and wore thick, dark glasses that accentuated his pale blue eyes. Though he was quite average looking in many respects, Patrick had a unique charm of humble confidence about him. But there were also traits in his possession which others might deem more sinister. That is, if they did not quite understand the circumstances. With the whiskey beginning to turn warm, he tossed back the remainder of what was in his glass, put it back down, and let out a sigh. 

“Last one for the night?” asked the bartender. He had been watching Patrick from behind the counter as he dried glasses by hand.

“Yeah, I think I’d better call it before I find myself unable to walk home. Besides, I have some paperwork from last week I should probably get going on,” he replied. 

He gently pushed the glass away from himself and straightened his back, tense. 

“I know it’s after last call but it’s no problem if you want one more. You look like you could use it.”

“I think I’m good off that last one, Charlie. Thank you,” Patrick stood and collected a coat which had been hanging on the back of his seat.

“Everything at the firm okay?” 

Charlie was a stout man with rosy cheeks whose light brown hair had been receding for some time. Quite a contrast to a man with Patrick Cross’ features and build. He had developed a great care for Patrick as he had come to know the man over the past year and a half as more than just another regular. There was a solemn, complicated nature to Patrick that Charlie had yet to completely get to the bottom of. Still, this did not cause Charlie to view him as anything less than a friend. 

“Is anything in law ever really okay?” Patrick responded offhandedly as he ran a trembling hand through his sandy hair just before placing a cap atop his head.

“Safe to say there’s a reason we’re in different professions, bud,” he chuckled and drove the towel further into the glass he held in his thick palm. He then tossed the towel over a shoulder and washed before putting the cleaned items back into their respected cabinets. Obviously, something in particular was bothering Patrick. Still, Charlie felt it was not his place to inquire as he chose to respect the private man.

“You’re tellin’ me,” he smiled uncomfortably as he dug his hands into his coat pockets.

“I know you’re good, but you mind if I have one just before you go?” Charlie did not wait for a response as he had already grabbed the bottle of whiskey to pour into a shot glass he left on the counter. Patrick noticed but hoped he might be left to leave casually as usual. Complying with the man’s request should not be seen as an inconvenience just this once. 

“Sure,” he settled himself back into the seat, tossed the cap onto the bar, and removed his thick spectacles to rub his eyes. Such a dreary way to spend a Tuesday night, especially given the fact that work was a little less than six hours away. Patrick knew he would not be getting anything done after all and suspected that Charlie was of the same notion. Otherwise, he would not have asked for him to stay later. Lord knows it was already well past his normal leaving time. 

“Anything we should make a toast to?” Charlie lifted the glass above his head as he leaned a heavy forearm across the dark wood of the bar. He believed himself to be aware of what it was that bothered his companion so much this evening. Perhaps a toast of solidarity would lead to more insight.

“Shouldn’t that be for the one making the toast to decide?” He attempted to hold back the slight agitation in his voice. It was times like these that really brought out the lawyer in Patrick.

Charlie sensed the man’s irritation as he paused, then let go of his words. 

“To Myra. And may those bastards burn in hell for what they did to her,” he sucked the whiskey down and let out a long breath as he set the glass back on the counter. A bold declaration to say the least. It had been just over a year since the last time Patrick had heard anyone say that name. Chills made their way down his back and a hollow knot of guilt turned his stomach. Nails dug into his thigh as he clenched part of his trousers in a fist. He could feel the anger rising as his jaw stiffened. He needed to go, he could not be here any longer.

“It’s getting late, goodnight Charlie,” disgusted, he worked his cap back onto his head, this time without smoothing his hair. He could feel his limbs trembling more now than they had been earlier. Charlie gave a quick nod of acknowledgement and Patrick turned to meet the door, the flickering light of the fluorescent signs reflecting off his glasses. He turned the collar of his coat upward and ducked into the brisk, unforgiving air. The wind pulled the heavy door shut as he made his exit, leaving Charlie alone to ponder the severe impact of his statement.

“God help you, my friend,” the words echoed in the empty space as he took another mouthful of whiskey. He did not bother to wash the glass as he moved from behind the bar to lock up for the night. The uneasiness he felt for his friend gnawed at him as street lights turned to red through the glass and the inside lights flickered once more, then died.

 

The wind was cold and harsh as it stung Patrick’s blood stained eyes. Relentless, much like the inner torment he felt at Charlie’s place. Such a shame to have one’s evening unraveled by a single comment, he thought. At least the weather might serve as a kind of numbing distraction now that he was beginning to sober up. The streets of Boston were a lonely place at this hour, especially during the winter time. With the night having been so unsettling, wandering the bare streets in the dark felt that much more grim. As he walked, he began to wish that a siren might sound in the distance. Something to break the disturbing silence, cease the paranoia. Leaves rustled and crunched under his oxfords as he passed by countless alleyways, turning each time so as to reassure himself there was nothing lurking, waiting.

Patrick pressed his balled fists further into his coat pockets, tight against his body to keep them from trembling. Despite the effort, he could feel the panic rising. Something was amiss, though he could not identify the disturbance. All he could think of was the remaining two blocks to go before he reached his apartment. It had been only a year, he reflected. A year of  unforgiving anguish and terror. Living with the uncertainty of whether or not his transgressions would catch up to him. Not intending to be caught off guard as every tentative glance served as a reminder of the things he had done, the unholy crimes committed. If he believed in a God, he would pray. He would run to the church four blocks behind and lament if someone were there to hear. Then again, if there were anyone to listen, they would damn him without want or need of further explanation. Such an idea sickened him. He had kidnapped her, yes. He had let that sickly, Irish gang hassle him and buy him off. Their sinister plan to use him as a shield against the DA had worked, except for the fact that the revived, Dead Rabbits gang was after him after Myra’s death. She had jumped from the city bridge after having been held captive and abused at Patrick’s hand. His stomach turned and he clutched his abdomen, finding it hard to justify that he was the true victim. But they had forced him, hadn’t they? The thought that any celestial being, all forgiving or not, would turn him over to the depths of hell and perhaps scoff at him on his way. But he could not be certain of this. In fact, the only thing he could be certain of was that there would be no rest for his mind or spirit this night. 

Suddenly, a chill filled his body, a feeling not caused by the physical cold. He paused and shot a glance behind him. His heart raced and he could feel the blood fluttering in his veins, throbbing at the wrists as nails drove deeper into his palms. There was nothing in sight, but the feeling of a presence was unmistakable. They would be after him soon. Surely, they would be after him. With legs quivering every step, Patrick stumbled under a construction platform and halted. Scanning his surroundings more carefully this time. The streetlamps flickering nearby revealed nothing but an empty environment. But unseen does not mean nonexistent which frightened Patrick the most.

Kssssshhhhh! Kssssshhhhh!

Patrick fell against a nearby wall and clutched his chest tightly as his heart pushed into his ribs over and over. He felt his knees knock into each other and a powerful surge run through his body, sickened. This was it, he had been caught, he knew. It would all end right here, in a lonely corner of a black, abandoned street. The sound was deafening for a moment and then, silence. 

His breath was staggering and his mouth was dry while his lungs felt like overly inflated balloons about to burst. Sweat fell from Patrick’s brow and collected above his lip as his heart continued to pound. Perhaps God had been playing him for a fool. Death had not seemed to gain the upper hand just yet. With widened eyes and a sober conscience, he turned to meet the culprit of his distress. A nearby steam vent hissed as smoke dwindled. An aftermath of the clouded burst from moments ago. Clearly it had caught him off guard with its sudden eruption. He collected himself as he looked cautiously about before continuing down the block. A wave of relief overtook him as he realized his foolishness. No one else occupied the street. He was alone and would remain alone for the remainder of his journey. 

One, two three….One, two, three…. 

 

He internally counted his steps in an effort to keep his frayed nerves calm. There would be no one following, there was no need for him to worry.  He convinced himself and kept his arms crossed, his head low, and his back hunched as he concentrated on reaching his destination with as little panic as possible. It was not until he heard offbeat footsteps that his inner temperature began to rise again. He thought he heard the low murmur of a whisper but could not make out any words. Still, he could not help but feel he was not alone any longer. Something brushed the area of his wrist and he quickly pulled it to his chest. 

“Oh God….Oh God…” he muttered. “For the love of...Christ….don’t let them be after me…” 

It was clear that God may not be the one pulling strings after all. The reaper was here and his judgement had come. A low, deep howl sounded from the wind and the lights along the sidewalk went out at once. He heard the brief riff of a laugh trailing in the distance. Apart from the lights failing to work, everything grew darker and he could barely make out the path before him. Without hesitation or a second thought, he instinctively carried on away from the dreadful sound. Like the feeling one gets during a jarring moment and your body takes over, deciding whether you will “fight” or “take flight.”

His vision began to blur as he struggled to keep his heart rate down. Another laugh and a breeze, a footstep splashing into a puddle. He wanted to stop. Oh God, how he wanted to look behind him, to see that there was nothing there. Just another lonely passerby or an echo from one of the surrounding apartment complexes. But he knew he could not cease movement for fear of the terrible fate that might bring. His pace quickened and he could hear the distant footsteps matching in rhythm with his own. Like a dog coming up onto its prey, Patrick could almost feel the heat of a second being. The vibrations in his own feet were indicative that something was trailing oh so close. 

One-two-three, one-two three-

The counts ran together now. Again, a laugh as his lips released his tongue ever so slightly and he began to pant. Liquid collected on his face and the cold air of the night burned his cheeks. Sweat or tears, he could not tell. All he knew was that he had to get away. Oh, he had to get away. His vision began to blur and he could almost feel his thoughts spiraling, his mind caving in. He thought he might lose consciousness that very moment as he could hear his heart pounding in his ears. 

Patrick approached the intersection at Boylston and Hereford without bothering to check for oncoming traffic. He realized he could no longer hear the footsteps and turned around to face the emptiness behind. Forget God, he thought, had his own mind been playing him for a fool? Speaking of, he realized that he was most certainly not in the right state to prepare those affidavits he had been putting off for the past several days. The ones he somewhat intended to get to tonight but knew, in the back of his mind, that he would be lost in his own personal grievances instead. Thankfully court would not be for another two days. 

The low hum of an engine sounded in the distance then started to grow louder. Lights flashed as a large, black escalade appeared from a parallel street corner. Patrick made a quick effort to dodge the oncoming vehicle but the passenger side door was flung into his back. Before he could cry out, his head hit the pavement. Liquid fell from his brow into his eyes but was red, not clear this time. He pushed himself up onto his hands and spewed a mixture of blood and saliva. His hands were badly scraped and he felt one of his ribs might be broken. 

The car had passed, turned around, then stopped. It was parked so that it faced the direction it had come. The headlights blinded Patrick so he could see only dark outlines of what he believed to be two men approaching. As they grew closer, he noticed they wore all black suits, smoke colored coats, and caps lowered so that eyes could barely be made out. The larger man bore a lengthy scar across one side of his face. The other, with one hand in his pocket, knelt down to speak. Perhaps he had a gun, perhaps he would shoot Patrick right then and there. 

“Good evening, Cross. Thought we’d have a chat.” The smaller man’s Irish accent was thick and had a surprising friendliness to it. His eyes were as dark as the cap he wore and he smiled.

“What is this about?” Patrick replied as he wiped a trickle of blood from the side of his mouth and slowly rose to his feet. “If this is about legal proceedings, I can assure you the DA is no longer interested.” The man cocked his head with an almost quizzical expression. 

“I don’t care about the law, Mr. Cross. You as well as anyone may know that even the best can be bought off.” And it was true, Patrick had been at the mercy of the mob for the past year. A coward when staring into the face of the most morally corrupt men he had ever met.

“And it worked, yes. I haven’t said a word, it’s over. I promise you, it’s over.” Thoughts of morality and judgement flashed in his mind as he thought of the church he passed earlier. This could be it, he really should have put more effort into religion. He could not even stand up to the judgement of these men, let alone any God. He felt ashamed, he deserved to die.

“But there is still a debt to be paid.” The man stared at Patrick with his hardened eyes as he pulled his concealed hand from his pocket. Believing the man to be armed, Patrick flinched, throwing his hands up in submission.

“Whoa, hey…” Patrick felt a drop in his stomach. Instead of a gun, it was a large cigar the man held. He placed it between his lips and turned his head so that the larger man could provide a light.

“Easy there, no need to get all in a panic.” He took a puff and turned his attention back to Patrick, releasing a thick cloud of smoke into his face.

“If it’s money you want, we could work something out. Name a price and I’ll get it, that’s all I need.” He could hear the shaking in his own voice now. No doubt these men were amused by his desperation. Pleading would only make it that much easier to toy with him. The man with the cigar looked at the scar faced brute beside him. Patrick’s blood went cold as he could clearly see humor in his eyes.

“I will say it again, Mr. Cross. I don’t care about the law and I sure as hell don’t care about your money.” He reached his hand back into his pocket as he held the cigar with his teeth.

“Then what is it you want from me?” Patrick could no longer feel his hands as they had gone numb from the cold. His arms felt much like his spirit; heavy and tired. He was making a conscious effort not to break, he had at least some dignity left. This moment would be the worst time to waste it, he thought.

“Power is a funny thing, Mr. Cross. Men in similar positions of law and politics have had a taste for it. But most, again like you, never take the full bight. They never sink their teeth completely into the sweet fruit. Why? Because they are afraid. Afraid of losing themselves, of straying away from the narratives of justice and integrity they so desperately cling to. But they remain mortal, finite. They do not live on. The ones in the garden, on the other hand, they are gods.” There was a different, grandiose expression in his voice. The excitement of his monologue consumed him. He slowly retrieved a silver, rectangular object from the depths of his ash colored coat. He continued to the end of his speech.

“When it comes to evil, money is not the root. It is the fruit by which the appetite for true evil is fed.”

With a flick of his wrist, he tossed one handle of the butterfly knife over the other, revealing a clearly prominent blade. Patrick’s thoughts rapidly collected and swelled in his head. He glanced quickly to the larger man, then back at the blade, then at the knife wielder’s crazed expression. There would be no way out unless he were to think of something clever to say. What is there to say to evil laced with insanity?

“I didn’t kill her!” Patrick sputtered. Blood and perspiration flew from his lips and onto the mobster’s coat sleeve. A few specs hit the blade as the insidious weapon inched forward. The man froze and grinned again into Patrick’s pleading face. He may as well have been a psychotic clown at a circus. The larger scar faced man huffed in humor and looked into the street behind him, making sure the three were still without unwarranted company. Only the empty street, the blinding escalade lights, and the start of a gentle rainfall. 

“Now, Mr. Cross. I thought we were having fun, why do you have to go and spoil it?” He plunged the thin blade between Patrick’s ribs and twisted. It burned as he felt a cold wetness from the sky and a warmth from the blood that was starting to form under his button up. 

“Please,” he whispered. He felt his vision narrow significantly. His eyes blurred and he could feel himself passing out from the pain. If this is what death felt like, he should have prayed. Prior to the intrusive piercing of the blade, he had been in an all consuming agony for the fear of his own life. Now, as it all began to fall away, he felt nothing but an out of body sort of calm. He could have been flying in an airplane cabin thousands of feet off the ground. As he started to drift, his knees impacted the concrete and he keeled over onto all fours. 

You either live a predator or die the prey.

Everything suddenly came back into focus as Patrick felt his breaths being pulled sharply from him. He fought to slow his heart rate as the desperate, shallowness of his breathing stung beneath his ribs each time he inhaled. It was as if he were being hollowed out. There was a second wind of desperation as he struggled to cling to the last moments of his fleeting life.

“See him beg,” the Irishman started as his hulk like colleague chuckled, “a pathetic worm just as he always was. It has been so easy with him. A gullible man. Put just one, haughty girl before him and it all crumbles. Desire and jealousy are the darkest, most powerful forces in this world.”

It was all too cruel, too heartless. These deranged lions masked as men would slaughter over and over. They could gawk over a man as his fragile life was ripped away. Like a rope torn swiftly between two palms, eroding skin in the process. An unexpected, crippling pain. 

Clutching the area of the wound with one palm and attempting to stabilize himself with the other, Patrick collapsed onto his side. A colorless cheek slid against the pavement as the pooling raindrops created less friction. He began to shake violently as he noticed the red glare of stop lights from the distance, just as he had at the bar. Though it was not from within the safety and pleasantry of a warm, familiar establishment. He hated the blurred colors as they flashed in time with his slowing, desperate heartbeat. They would keep going moments after his death and he would be no more. Bitterness took over him as he lay wide eyed, feeling less in control than ever. 

The culprit of the poor man’s sudden state squatted over him and wiped his blade clean of any evidence. Patrick shifted his eyes upward to see an expressionless, calculating face. There was never any doubt in Patrick’s mind that these men had carried out heinous acts as if they were simply routine. Seeing it in action, however, gave him a newfound understanding and fear of just how corrupt someone could become. 

The man finished cleaning and pressed the flat side into Patrick’s deflated cheek. He laid into the bone and allowed a smirk to rise.

He whispered, “kiss the dark, my boy. Kiss the dark.”

Patrick let out a defeated moan and began to let himself pass out for the final time. His sight was still failing, though it was not from the substantial blood loss this time. Salt stung his pupils as heavy tears pulled his face down. He became attentive to the full impact of their weight and he lifted his bloodied hand to see the realness of what was happening. It was not a dream, there would be no morning to wake. 

 

A sharp click echoed in Patrick’s ears and his heart kicked in fear, his vision nearly black. 

“Aye boss, somethin’ there.”

The larger scar faced man finally spoke. His tone was deep, American. He raised his handgun to the adjacent alleyway, locking in his gaze. 

The Irishman stood and turned towards his henchman, concealing his knife in a coat pocket. 

“Well then bloody have a look. And hurry back so we can help our friend into the car.” He looked down at Patrick and smiled as he said this.

A low thump in the distance interrupted as the large brute holding the gun stepped back and readied to fire his weapon.

“Hell! Take care of it!”

The boss waved his hand in frustration as he scuffled to the escalade, throwing the shining black door open in frustration. Like a toddler removed from his favorite toy, he pushed himself into the driver’s seat and quickly slammed the door shut, leaving his puppet to clean up the mess.

 

 


 

 


© Copyright 2020 Ashley Callahan. All rights reserved.

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