Phillies

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
Joshua, an american national, is retelling a story of his earlier life. A life where his art forger parents had been abducted by the Sicilian Mafia...

Submitted: May 26, 2011

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Submitted: May 26, 2011

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As I lay on my deathbed, with transparent tubes snaking out of my gowned body many memories and thoughts flitted through my mind. It was like a hive of bees buzzing inside my head, but there was one memory, one queen bee that kept on resurfacing, pushing its way to the front of my mind. My hand twitched as I remembered trying to grasp the cool metal railings but missing and only catching thin air. The sensation of falling. The wind rushing past my face.

20 years ago I was recovering in this very same hospital. I had suffered an allergic reaction on one of my holidays to England which had caused my throat to swell up so much it felt like I had swallowed a football. I remember the sun streaming in through the window to my left, highlighting the various metal objects that resided in the room and the feel of the thick breathing tube in my throat, which effectively prevented me from uttering a single word. I heard the door to my room open and the sharp clicking of shoes against the linoleum floor. A soft swish of the long doctor’s coat. This time though, there was someone else. A second set of footsteps. I hadn’t spoken to my parents for 10 years, had no friends. I could think of no-one else that would care about me. So who was this? The second set of footsteps, of a man who I would later know as Ricardo, closed in on my bed. Then as he reached the foot of my bed, they stopped. There was a faint rustle as he checked my medical notes. Then he uttered a single word,

“Phillies”

I tried my best to look as inquisitive as possible, as I was not able to speak, in hope of an explanation for the mentioning of this word, but none came. He simply placed a business card on the bedside table, and left. After this strange man had gone I shuffled to the side of my bed to look at the card he had given me in an attempt to get a better understanding of who this man was. It depicted a painted moonlit street with a bar in the foreground titled “Phillies”. On the reverse of the business card there was an address, presumably for the bar.

A few days after my strange visit I was sent on my way with a warning not to eat peanuts. My mind was still concentrating on the strange encounter I had had a couple of days earlier and, in my 30 year old naivety I decided to visit the bar called “Phillies”. As I stepped outside of the hospital and into a rainy, cold street I was reminded of the dullness of this countries weather: England, specifically London. The assortment of greys that now dominated my vision was of great contrast to the stark, blank walls of the hospital in which I had enjoyed a few nights stay.

“This will take some getting used to” I thought to myself.

I noticed a taxi crawling towards me in slow traffic, looking very much like one of those shiny black beetles you always find in your garden. I quickly hailed it and stepped in.

“Where would ya’ like to go gov’ner?” The man asked in a typical east London accent. I wondered to myself where I did actually want to go. “Nearest Hotel, please”

“Not a local then?” The taxi driver had turned around revealing piercing blue eyes and a haggard face with a rough grey stubble poking through.

“No, no”

A few minutes later I arrived at my destination, a dilapidated Hotel with the words ‘Westminster View’ just visible. Although you, in fact, could not see Westminster at all. As I was stepping out of the taxi I remembered the business card the man had left me.

“You don’t happen to know where Philllies Bar is?” I asked the taxi driver. “No” A sudden fierce intensity had appeared in the taxi drivers eyes and he sped off. Not even stopping to take my fare.

At this point there were ten to a dozen thoughts running through my head.

“Where was Phillies Bar? Where was I? What had provoked such an intense reaction from the taxi driver? What had happened there?”

I stepped off the street and into the vaguely warm lobby of the ‘Westminster View’. Inside there were pictures of Westminster, obviously this is where the ‘Westminster View’ came from, and a television blaring away in the corner. I walked up to the front desk and requested a room for three nights.

“That’ll be 50 pounds” said the extremely unattractive woman behind the front desk.

I searched my wallet before extracting the desired amount of notes to pay. I handed the money to her.

“You’re room 37, 2nd Floor” She said as she handed me my room key. I headed toward the lift in the corner of the room but in seeing the condition of it, decided I valued my life and instead started to climb the stairs. After all it would be good for my fitness. When I reached the 2nd floor I started searching for my room but there seemed to be no discernable order. Room numbers went from 28 to 156 within the space of one room. Eventually I found room 37 nestled in between 57 and 82. I unlocked the room. Sat down on the old sagging bed, and started trying to decide what to do. After all I was in a country, that although spoke the same language as my native country (America), was quite alien to me. There was a sense of roughness and dangerousness about this country that scared me. “Focus on finding out where this Bar is” I reminded myself

I needed rest, so I undressed and drew myself into the scratchy sheets, and almost as quickly as I had done so, was asleep.

A dreary grey glow filled the room that would be my home for the next 3 days showing the state it was in. The curtains hung in tatters, the iron bed was rusty and bent, the floor was concrete. I wouldn’t consider this a Hotel room, more of a prison cell. I climbed into the same clothes I had worn yesterday, seeing as I had nothing else, and headed out of my dreadful room. As I was passing through the lobby I spared a quick glance at the television in the corner. A news program was on and a blond haired woman was speaking about two renowned art forgers who had gone missing in the last couple of days. I carried on my way towards the exit offering a quick goodbye to the woman on the front desk. I stepped out onto the street in front of the ‘Westminster View’. It was raining today as well and everything seemed to be grey. I walked to a nearby souvenir shop full of small plastic snow globes of big ben and the London dungeons. Although I was unsure of the significance of the snow as I could not imagine it doing anything other than raining here. I found an A-Z map of London in there and went to the counter to buy it. As I was paying I asked the cashier whether she knew where Phillies Bar was. She replied with a cold hard stare, but eventually replied.

“It’s two miles norf’ of ‘ere next to Haymarket” She pointed to an area on the map”, why d’ya wanna go there anyway?” She asked

“I..Um..One of my friends suggested it to me”, I said half-heartedly. No answer. I walked out of the shop and into the dreary grey English weather again and started heading towards Haymarket, and toward something that, although I didn’t know it yet, would change my life forever. Half an hour later I was in Haymarket, it was a relatively upmarket place with some well-known shops such as Burberry and Dior but there was mainly Banks and corporation buildings. Phillies bar was down a side street off Haymarket Road. It had a tattered burgundy red sign which had ‘Phillies Bar’ written in stylised black writing. It looked run down and empty but nonetheless reminded me of something in my childhood. Although it’s old fashioned style looked out of place compared to the modern bars along Haymarket. As I opened the door to the bar a bell sounded above my head, presumably warning any servers that they had a customer, but to me it just sounded like a warning bell, as if something bad was going to happen. There were old oaken chairs scattered haphazardly around the floor but nobody was sitting on them, in fact there was nobody at all. I stepped up to the counter at the back of the room which had an old fashioned brass bell on top. As I was reaching down to ring the bell, the man who I had ‘met’ in my hospital room appeared from a side room. Although this time he was wearing a pressed white shirt and trousers and a white chef’s hat, placed haphazardly on his bald head.

“Joshua” He said

This happened to be my name, so I answered

“Yes, what do you want with me?

He beckoned me over to behind the counter he was leaning on. When I had climbed over he simply pointed to a picture. It was of a family of three. A father, a mother and a son. Me. Written underneath in spidery handwriting was Jacob, Hannah and Joshua. I recognised the two people I was standing with as my beloved, but long lost Parents. Or so I thought.

“Your parents have been taken hostage” The stranger said simply

“What, you mean, they’re not dead?” I replied extremely shaken

“No, they have been taken hostage”

“But why? What did they do?” I was still trying to grasp the fact that my parents were, In fact alive.

“I thought you knew, they were world renowned art forgers” He answered. My mind flicked back to a time 10 years in the past, I had argued with my parents because they never told me what their jobs were, I suspected they were into something criminal. They had said that at least I had a home and food on the table. In the end, to pay them a lesson I had run away. I hadn’t seen them since then. I thought they were dead. Now my chance had come, I could fix my wrongs. I was going to get them back.

“Where are they?” I asked, my voice had taken a cold, hard edge. It surprised even me.

“I do not know, my friend. This is your job. I am merely doing this for the sake of your parents but if you need any monetary aid I will be sure to help you.” His answer was brief, but informative. I shook his hand.

“Thank you for your help, I will find my parents.”

“No problem at all” He replied generously.

As I left the dilapidated bar I wondered to myself how my parents had gotten kidnapped and how I was going to get them back. I headed towards the nearest internet café in hope of using the internet to find out more about my parents and their captors.

The internet café I had found was down another side street. It had obviously been refurbished recently as it was in keeping with the style at the moment – Acres of brushed metal and glass. It looked clean and modern, a far cry from the bar I had just left. I opened the door – no bell this time, and headed toward the counter which a long, straggly haired teenager occupied. I requested two hours of internet and paid in cash, I was told to sit anywhere I liked. I turned on the computer and logged into my Hotmail account. I had three new messages, one was from Christine, a lady friend I had met on the train, the other from American Express reminding me of my account balance - $524.83, but the last one is the one that really drew my attention. It was from an unknown sender. The subject was Joshua Anderson – Me. At first I thought it was spam mail but my curiosity got the better of me. I opened it. It read: “Nighthawks or your parents die.”

I asked what Nighthawks actually was. The reply was instantaneous.

“Painting”

“Why do you want this painting?” I was surprised most hostage takers wanted money. At least that’s what I had gleaned from television programs. No reply.

I assumed I wasn’t getting a reply so I opened up another tab on the internet browser and typed in ‘Nighthawks’. 1,370,000 results. At the top of the page was a picture of a painting titled ‘Nighthawks’. The one the hostage takers of my parents wanted. It was a painting of the bar I had just been to and the same one that was on the back of the business card. “I had never seen this painting before my recent encounters so why would these hostage takers assume I had it?” I wondered to myself.

I read a brief biography on it and found it had gone missing from an Italian art collector’s house 2 years ago and had never been returned. The art collectors name was Antonino Calderone. Out of interest I searched his name too, not expecting anything interesting, but there was. Antonino Calderone was a member of the Cosa Nostra or, in other words: The Sicilian Mafia. I realised the enormity of my task and how hard it would be to get my parents back safely and not in a coffin. The only way to get my parents back would be to play by the rules. Quickly I opened another browser window and searched for nearby art forgeries and art dealers, in hope of finding anyone who could show me where the ‘Nighthawks’ painting was. The results flashed back, showing me an art dealer within walking distance of my current position. It was called ‘Richardson & son’ and it specialised in Edward Hopper’s works. I logged off the computer and left the internet café, heading towards the art dealers which I hoped could save my parents.

After 10 minutes I was stood outside of ‘Richardson & son’s’. All of its windows were dark and it looked faintly spooky but nonetheless I rang the doorbell and waited for an answer. Not 15 seconds after I had rung the bell an ageing man, with white hair that stuck out in all directions, opened the door.

“Come in, come in” He said warmly.

After I had sat down he offered me a cup of coffee, I kindly declined.

“Now” He said “What would you like today?”

“I am here to see whether you had any idea where a painting I would like is?” I asked

“And what is this painting called exactly?” I had drawn his attention now.

“Nighthawks”

“Ah” He said, “this changes things”

He led me into a side room which was full of countless paintings, many of which looked like famous works of art, but which I assumed were forgeries as I seemed to have just walked past the ‘Mona Lisa’ which I doubted would be in the hands of an old dealer based off Haymarket street. As we reached the end of the room there was a door, although this door was different to the other doors. To open it the old man procured a long, chunky gunmetal grey key. It was tarnished and scratched from years of use. He inserted it into the lock and turned it. There was a satisfying clunk as the locking mechanism slid open. He pushed open the door, it swung open on well-oiled hinges. I squinted in an attempt to see what was in the room, but the lights were off and I could see nothing, just an inky darkness. Slowly various fluorescent lights in the ceiling flickered on and I could start to see what lay in this unknown room. On the far wall was a painting. It bore a striking resemblance to the painting ‘Nighthawks’ which I had been sent to find in return for my parents, except this one was unfinished. “Now let me try to explain” The old man said.

“Yeah, urm, that would be good” I replied, I had no idea what was going on.

“Many years ago I worked with your parents” The old man said, “We worked in this very room. I had requested the help of your parents, as they were one of the best in the world, to create a forgery of Nighthawks to sell to a rich art dealer called Antonino Calderone”

I remembered this name, but I could not figure out why.

“Unfortunately for us, 2 years ago we heard through the grapevine that he was going to get it examined as he was considering selling it. We realised that it would be discovered that it was a fake and fearing prosecution, we decided to take it.”

Suddenly I remembered why I knew Antonino Calderone.

“You, you stole a piece of artwork from a leader in the mafia?” I stammered. “Yes, unfortunately we only discovered that afterwards.” He seemed remarkably calm for someone who was undoubtedly on the mafias most wanted list.

I put two and two together and realised that the old man was planning on giving the forgery he was now painting to the Mafia in exchange for my parents.

I voiced my concerns, “Are you planning on exchanging the painting for my parents?”

“urm, yes” I could hear the hesitance in his voice, he didn’t think it was going to work. Neither did I.

“Do you know where the real painting is?” I asked.

“Ah,” he said uncomfortably “It’s in the Louvre”

I realised that the only likely chance of getting my parents back would be to allow the old man to complete the forgery.

Deciding I could be no further help I shook the old man’s hand, thanked him for his time and left the run down building, making sure to close the door behind me. As I stepped out into the deserted street I got the sense I was being watched but, putting this down to nerves, I started the long trek back to my hotel and ultimately my bed.

The next morning I woke up, as I did every day, at seven o’clock, on the dot. As I heaved myself out of bed – deeply dreading the ‘breakfast’ that was served at this god-awful place, I heard a soft creaking as a set of footsteps climbed the stairs. This was odd as I had not seen a single other guest during my stay – all two days of it. My curiosity piqued, I sat on the corner of my bed, keeping silent in an attempt to hear if anything interesting – or untoward, happened. Without warning, the footsteps stopped. Outside my door. Silence

Could this be the mafia?

There were three sharp knocks. My mind was playing out various scenarios. Deciding which were plausible or not. Eventually, after realising I couldn’t just ignore whoever was at the door, I got down on my hands and knees and peered through the crack in the bottom of the door. I could see a pair of Mickey Mouse slippers before me. I exhaled. All the tension that had been building up inside me was released. I doubted this was the mafia, unless they now wore slippers to complete their ‘hits’. Gratefully I opened the door expecting the extremely unattractive hotel owner – which although wouldn’t be pleasant, it hopefully wouldn’t result in my death. As I creaked open the door I saw what I expected to see. At least, mostly what I expected to see. The hotel-owner was standing there alright. Dead. Her throat was cut. Her eyes were glazed over. As her dead body started to fall towards me I felt a wave of nausea pass over me. I could see every little detail. The lumps of creamy white bone now covered with crimson red blood, the strips of magenta coloured muscle still pulsing, the rivulets of blood running down her bare neck. Dropping her body I turned my head and was violently sick, I felt warm vomit splash up against my forearms and my legs. I felt my head go dark and my legs gave way beneath me dropping me in the pool of blood around my feet.

“Hello, hello?” A blurred but worried face was looking down at me.

I tried to focus my disorientated eyes on the woman looking down at me, but all I could see was smears of colour. I opened my mouth to speak: “whe...wher…where a…am…i?” I managed to say. It sounded like I had a speech impediment.

“You are,” She looked across to her left, “in a hotel room.”

As my vision started to clear I noticed that the woman was wearing a black nylon jacket, white shirt and trousers and, most importantly of all, a silver star-shaped police badge.

Seeing the old, mouldy ceiling above me reminded me of what happened earlier. The hotel owner. Quickly I twisted my head to the side, causing me great pain, to where her body had lain. It did not now, all that was left was a pool of blood, and my sick.

‘God I must stink’ I thought to myself.

“Come on, let’s get you cleaned up” The policewoman said, as if reading my mind.

I tried to jump to my feet but promptly fell down again, my sense of balance had all but disappeared.

“Richie!” The policewoman called “give me some help would ya’? “ Another police officer walked in, he was tall, dark skinned and took up the whole doorframe. Built ‘like a Brick shithouse’ as they say. He had no trouble lifting me to my feet and we were soon down the stairs and into a waiting police car. The car wound through the small, dark London streets with its lights ablaze, lighting up the road before us in a bluey glow. The night was clear for a change – unlike my head which felt like it was packed with cotton wool - and I could see millions of stars through the sunroof. Soon we got to our destination. A bustling police station in the heart of East London, it had dark red brick walls and shadowy, gothic style arched windows. I was led up into the police station – not in handcuffs but not entirely free. As it was so late at night there was only one Duty Officer at the desk and the waiting area was completely empty. The policeman beckoned me to sit down on one of the cheap, grey plastic chairs, which I gratefully did. He spent a couple of minutes speaking to the desk and filling in forms – presumably about my ‘situation’. After this was done he came back over to me and said:

“Sargent Hall will see you now in Interview Room 1, I’ll show you the way”. The way I was being directed around reminded me of my school years.

As I entered the room Sargent Hall was already sitting at the table in the centre, she had a tanned complexion, brown straight hair and deep brown eyes – which made her look like she was from Asian descent . Her plain white shirt was crisply pressed and her black tie was neatly tied. “Hi, my names Sophie Hall, I’m the one who found you “

I sat – or rather flopped into a chair that was placed in front of ‘Sophie’. She then recited a short monologue for the tape recorder that was in front of me.

“What were you doing in Westminster View Hotel at 1:00 in the morning, when we found you?” She asked.

“I was in my room – which I had booked using my own money” I answered insolently, I was definitely not in the mood for being accused of murder.

“Okay, what was Pat Honeywell, the hotel owner, doing in your room with her throat cut?” She emphasized the ‘your’, obviously she wasn’t in the mood either.

“I heard her footsteps come up to my door, and I opened it expecting her to… actually I don’t know what I expected her to do, but then I saw she was dead.” I shuddered, thinking of the scene in that dreadful hotel.

“Could she be giving you this?” She procured an envelope that was sealed in a plastic bag from her pocket, and then passed it over to me.

“Ah...” Was this form the Mafia? “Could you turn off the tape recorder?” I asked.

She reached over to the black box and flicked a switch on the back. Ending the recording, and any potential evidence that I might give.

“What does the letter say?” I quickly asked.

She handed the letter over to me. I started to read.

“NiGhTHaWkS TOmoRrOW oR PaReNTs DIE. M.”

I didn’t know what to do.


© Copyright 2020 smuggler1701. All rights reserved.

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