Ryan is on the other side of the desk, just off to the right side of it, his hands by his ears. In front of the desk is a pistol pointed at Ryan’s torso. Holding the pistol is Walter Wiggenthorpe, better known as “Toughie”, muscle for Dante DiTomasso’s drugs crew.
Ryan had just been hanging his leather jacket up in the corner when Toughie had snuck in. There is a gun in the right top drawer of the desk and a knife taped to its underside. But Ryan had been taken by surprise; he’d be dead before he could make it to either weapon.
“Carter, Christopher Carter, I presume,” Toughie intones, attempting to imitate every James Bond who’d ever graced the silver screen. Toughie’s fake English accent might need work, but he was spot on steady with the PPK pointed at Ryan’s chest.
Ryan keeps quiet. They are in Carter’s law office. Carter had just opened his own practice and could not yet afford a secretary. A secretary would have given Ryan a head’s-up. The only way Carter had been able to afford this office was through the profits from their small drug trafficking operation. The fact that Melissa, Carter’s wife, had a steady job hadn’t hurt. Carter was due momentarily. In a few seconds Toughie would have the drop on both of them.
Ryan had known Carter since he’d transferred to his high school in their final year. Carter had insisted that his friends welcome Ryan into their circle. There had been some grumbling, but Carter had been the big man on campus, so Ryan was ‘in’. After high school, Ryan had gone into pharmacology, Carter to law school. Carter had stood by Ryan when he had done a stint in jail. Watching a powerful father’s high-priced lawyer pinning the son’s fraud on Ryan had shaped their notions of justice. Carter was there when Ryan’s first, and only wife, had taken him for everything he had before running off with a wealthier man.
Toughie smiles, “Little Walter’s Walther’s got the drop on the great Christopher Carter.” He traces a circle around the centre of Ryan’s torso with his weapon.
After Ryan’s divorce, Carter had spotted him seed money to help Ryan open his own pharmacy. One thing led to another and soon they had an extra-legal drugs dispensing enterprise on the side. They had built up a select clientele based on personal service and discretion. Their upper-tier clientele demanded high quality marijuana and Ecstasy; purity of product was the cornerstone of their boutique enterprise. No minors were allowed to consume. On the other hand, the cornerstone of DiTomasso’s business was volume, volume, volume.
Ryan glances down at the photo of Carter and Melissa on Carter’s desk. It was taken on their third date—the first night in years that Carter hadn’t had booze, drugs or gambling. “Eyes on me”, Toughie commands. His fake English accent is beginning to grate on Ryan’s ears. He edges closer to Carter’s desk. But Toughie sees the movement. He points the gun directly at the centre of Ryan’s chest. “Back up, my friendly.” Ryan takes a reluctant step back away from the desk. “I’ll check the desk out after you’ve departed.” Toughie pantomimes shooting, then blowing smoke away from the muzzle of his Walther PPK.
Carter, the real Christopher Carter, is just arriving two stories below. He enters the front door and heads for the stairs. Carter is moving slowly, savouring recollections of his recent lovemaking with Melissa. It had begun as soon as he had arrived home after a late night at the office. She was wearing a simple long cotton dress. Beige. But it hugged every curve of her long lithe body tightly enough to show that she wasn’t wearing any underwear. And the fabric was thin enough that her pert little nipples almost poked through. Her baby-blue eyes had sparkled when she noticed the effect she was having on him. When he had tried to touch her, she’d gently moved his hand away. Melissa had backed him up against the wall and loosened his tie. She was shorter and half his weight but he was powerless. She had run her hands down his chest and pressed her torso against his groin, rubbing it teasingly. Her practiced hands had swiftly removed his jacket and shirt. When she’d began to undo his belt buckle, Carter had reached for her breasts, but she’d shook her head, rustling her long blonde hair. He’d dropped his hands back down below his sides just as she’d slid his pants and underwear to the floor. He reached for her again, but she scampered to the bedroom. Carter gave pursuit, admiring her gyrating buttocks. Melissa leapt onto the bed and rolled to the other side. His erection prevented him following and he had had to circle around the bed. She’d pulled the cotton dress over her head and slid onto the bed, allowing Carter to catch her in the middle. They’d kissed passionately. Melissa had grabbed his fully engorged cock and tried to manipulate him inside her vagina. But Carter pulled her arm back and held it away from her with his left hand. His right elbow pinned her other arm. He’d run his hand from the top of her flaxen pubic hair, up her belly and just around the bottom of her breasts. She’d struggled to break free to initiate more vigorous action, but he’d held her gently but firmly. Melissa relaxed as he began to gently caress her breasts. Her nipples poked against his palm. When he moved his hand back down to her belly she’d beat her feet against the bed until his fingers had reached the top edge of her pubic fuzz. When his hand had slipped lower, she’d pushed her hips up to press her swollen clit against his fingers. He’d pressed his palm down on her pubic mound and she’d gasped with the sensation tingling up and down her clit. Carter had teased around her labia until her thrashing caused one of his fingers to dip into her pussy juices. “Hurry!”, she’d begged. But he’d shaken his head, waiting for her to lie still. Only then had he entered her, slowly, centimeter by centimeter until he was pressing his body hard against her, only allowing her to rotate her hips and grind her pubic mound against his. Melissa craved long solid thrusts but Carter had been intent on taking it slow. Then he’d begun to rock his hips, sliding his cock in and out. Melissa had begun to come then; he’d climaxed in the middle of her orgasm; he’d never been able to hold himself when she was exploding into ecstasy. Carter reaches the top of the stairs and pauses to allow his erection to subside.
Toughie looks quizzically at Ryan. “Don’t you want to know why you’re about to die?” Ryan nods slowly. Toughie smiles again and continues, “My boss never liked you, but until now you kept out of his way. Taking up with Donna Drakon has changed all that.” Toughie cocked the trigger, transforming his double-action pistol into a quick-firing single-action weapon. “Christopher Carter selling the dragon lady’s drugs is something the boss was not prepared to ignore.”
Ryan sees Carter enter the outer office and thrusts his palms towards Toughie. “Wait, don’t shoot!”
Ryan’s shout stops Carter in mid-stride. Without his basketball training, Carter would have toppled over. Instead, he recovers in a single fluid motion and begins to assess the situation. Toughie. Gun.
“And why shouldn’t I shoot?” Toughie wants to know, still too intent on Ryan to notice the arrival of the real Christopher Carter.
Carter is 27 years old, still fit, but beginning to develop a hint of a paunch. Ryan, a year younger, has maintained a sinewy frame supported by runner’s legs. Each is a full six feet tall. Either of them could take Toughie, who was smaller and shorter, and too lazy to work out regularly. But Toughie had the gun.
Carter cannot see a play. If he rushes Toughie, his gun would likely put at least one bullet into Ryan. He stares into Ryan’s eyes, waiting for a signal.
“Why would Dante want us dead for buying a little weed from Donna?” Ryan asks. Carter and Ryan have a small territory within DiTomasso’s where they service a clientele not reached by DiTomasso. Their small territory is next to the border between Dante DiTomasso and Donna Drakon. Donna had given them a good deal on a van full of weed.
“I just do what I’m told.”
Ryan flashes back to when he’d first met Donna. Is his life flashing before his eyes? The Dragon Lady had insisted they have sex before she’d talk business. She had quickly sucked him rock rigid erect, slid a cock-ring down his shaft and directed him as to where and how to put his engorged cock into her body. First she’d kneeled one leg on the bed, her other foot on the floor and directed him to take her from the rear. Then missionary position while she pinched his nipples. She’d pushed him off and demanded that he hold her legs straight, ankles together by his right ear, and then enter through cunt lips pressed together. Then it was back to her half kneeling on the bed and him taking her from the rear. It had seemed like hours before she’d climaxed. He had walked bowlegged for almost a week.
Toughie’s arm stiffens and the sudden widening in Ryan’s eyes tells Carter that he’s about to shoot. Ryan dodges away from Carter’s desk. Toughie, reacting to Ryan’s movement but expecting a dash for the desk, shoots right. Carter smashes into Toughie’s back before he can fire again. Toughie swings around and whizzes the Walther just past Carter’s ear. Carter grabs at the gun, holding Toughie’s arm away. Toughie fires twice. Ryan is grabbing for Toughie’s pistol but he and Carter are cancelling each other out. Toughie fires again. A window shatters. Carter grabs the gun and twists it out of Toughie’s hand. Toughie takes a swing at Carter with his free hand but Ryan decks him and Toughie sprawls on the carpet, dazed.
Ryan gestures at the unconscious Toughie, “Danny thinks Donna wants to expand.”
Aside from their six-foot height, Ryan and Carter are a study in sharp contrasts. Carter’s tailor-made suit fits him perfectly. Ryan is wearing an old sweatshirt and a pair of Levi’s which have been broken in to the point of optimal physical comfort. Carter is pleasant looking, just short of handsome; Ryan’s face is chiseled sharp angles, the bad-boy look ladies love. Carter carefully places his suit jacket next to Ryan’s black leather jacket: sartorial perfection nestling against rough-and-tumble chic.
Carter nods. “Danny might be right.” He places Toughie’s gun in the small of his back.
Toughie is starting to stir. Carter brings a chair in from the outer office. He and Ryan prop Toughie up in the chair. While Ryan starts to tie Toughie securely to the chair, Carter quickly pops his head out the front door, then shuts and locks it behind him. Ryan yanks a knot tight. Toughie yelps. Carter inspects the knot. “Make it tighter”, he instructs.
Carter gingerly maneuvers his head out the hole in the third story window that Toughie had shot out a few moments earlier. He sees a shard of glass behind the hedge, but no one else is paying it any attention. The virtues of living in a big city.
Ryan steps back from Toughie who has regained full consciousness and is yanking at his bonds, trying to escape. “You’re dead men, both of you!” Ryan smiles, not because Toughie was in no position to carry out his threat, but because he’d dropped the English accent.
“If Danny kills anyone, it’ll be you,” Ryan tells him.
“Mr. DiTomasso don’t like nobody callin’ him Danny”, Toughie retorts. Carter makes a show of extracting Toughie’s Walther and pointing it just above the hood’s face and that shuts Toughie up, but only momentarily. “When Mister DiTomasso finds out what you did—“
“All we did”, Carter points out, “was resist being shot.” Carter steps behind Toughie, who tries, but fails, to wrench himself around to face the lawyer.
“Both of you, your wives, girlfriends, children, all dead. Mistresses. Everybody you know. And not like this morning, a quick bullet to the head. But slow, painful, crying for mercy for it to end.” Toughie fixes Ryan with an angry glare. “You, I’m going to jam needles up your finger nails, battery acid down your throat, shock your balls, then feed them to the dogs, I’m—“
Carter shifts the gun to his left hand and slaps the back of Toughie’s head with his right. “You are in no position to worry about anyone but yourself.”
“I like my odds better than—”
Carter slaps Toughie’s head every time he opens his mouth to hurl invective. Toughie keeps trying to twist towards Carter, but Carter circles away, keeping Toughie’s back.
Carter gives Toughie an extra hard slap and this finally shuts him up. Carter steps in front of Toughie. “There’s a problem with your proposed solution.” Toughie opens his mouth but Carter speaks first. “We would have to kill you.” Toughie shuts his mouth and Carter continues, “If you propose to kill us, we would have to kill you first, to stop you from reporting to Mister DiTomasso.” Toughie stares daggers back at Carter, pretending not to be afraid of death. Carter hands the Walther off to Ryan who points it at Toughie’s head. Toughie turns to Ryan, his expression daring Ryan to pull the trigger.
Carter coughs. “But there may be another way.” Toughie begins to alternate his attention between Carter and the gun pointed at his head. The lawyer waits until his penetrating stare holds Toughie’s full attention before continuing, “We can set Donna Drakon up, eliminate the competition Mister DiTomasso seems to be worried about.”
Toughie’s glare turns marginally less hostile. But he would rather die than admit interest in what Carter is proposing. Carter shrugs. “I, we, owe Donna money. I can tell her we can’t pay. Let her pick up the drugs. We will tell Mister DiTomasso when and where. He can be waiting. Double payoff, Donna and the drugs.”
Carter waits but Toughie remains expressionless. Carter takes a breath and lets his expression match Toughie’s. Ryan cocks the gun and Toughie’s eyes briefly leave Carter’s. Carter allows his poker-face mask to begin to reveal malevolence. Toughie looks disinterested. Carter glances at the gun and Toughie’s eyes follow the lawyer’s. Ryan’s hand is steady. Carter looks back at Toughie, locks eyes, lets the malevolence fade away. Toughie’s still disinterested. Carter shrugs. Toughie’s still disinterested. Carter takes a step back. Toughie’s eyes dart to the gun. Carter takes another step back. Toughie exhales and turns to Carter. “I could ask Mr. DiTomasso.”
Ryan uncocks the gun and taps it lightly against Toughie’s forehead. “Just what did you plan to do with my body?”
Toughie shrugs. “Leave it here.” He jerks his head to where Ryan had been standing. “Make an example.”
Carter starts to untie Toughie. Ryan steps back, gun at the ready. Toughie stands up and Carter slides away. Toughie rubs his wrists, then holds out his hand to Ryan for his gun. Ryan slowly shakes his head.
Toughie turns to Carter. “My gun?” Carter shakes his head. Toughie’s shoulders slump.
Carter’s hand on Toughie’s back directs the hood to the office door which Carter unlocks. “Speak to Danny”, the lawyer commands. “Tell him what we discussed. If it’s a go, let us know.” Toughie nods and shuffles out of the office. Carter locks the door behind him.
Ryan pops the ammunition magazine from Toughie’s pistol. “We shouldn’t’ve let him go. Sooner or later they’ll be back and next time they’ll shoot first instead of telling you why you’re about to die”.
“Making a deal is the only way to eliminate the problem once and for all.”
“It’s too much of a chance!”
Carter sighed. “Life is a chance.”
“You promised me you’d given up gambling! You’ve just gone from chips to blood.”
“There is no other choice.”
“There’s always a choice”, Ryan shoots back. “Going all in is the riskiest one.”
Carter shakes his head from side to side. “Half measurers are riskier.”
“We didn’t have to let Toughie go.” Ryan assures himself that Toughie hadn’t left a round in the chamber and hands the Walther and its ammo clip to Carter. He marches over to his black leather jacket and begins to put it on.
Carter waits until his friend turns back to him, then nods. “But we can’t fight their whole army.”
“Chris, even if your plan works, Danny will still be gunning for you.”
Carter nods. “But first things first.”
Ryan shakes his head. “We should’ve used our cop friend. He would’ve been happy to take Toughie off our hands.”
“Danny DiTomasso is just a two-bit bully. Our ‘cop friend’ is our ‘friend’ because we don’t give in to bullies.” The cop ‘friend’ in question is drug squad officer they refer to as “Constable S”. S had busted one of Ryan’s neophyte couriers, taken her drugs, given her an extra-thorough strip-search, charged her with simple possession and pocketed the rest of the drugs for himself. Back then, Ryan, the pharmacist had seen cost of business; the lawyer had seen gross injustice. Carter had persuaded Ryan to set him up as a new dealer and to stage a buy. When Constable S happened upon the buy, the drugs and cash had both been tagged and the entire transaction videotaped.
“Sure, we upped the ante there, and it worked out”, Ryan concedes. “But Donna and Danny don’t have to fill out reports. Or account for every round fired from their guns.”
“It turned out fine then, and it will turn out fine this time, too.” After Constable S had handcuffed them and after he had divided half the cash and drugs into an evidence bag, after he had stuffed the other half under his bullet-proof vest, Carter had suggested that the good officer check Ryan’s cell phone. Constable S saw himself on streaming video and promptly smashed Ryan’s phone. Carter had told him to check his own phone. Ryan’s video recording was playing on S’s phone. It had turned out fine. Friendship born of blackmail, nourished by bribery.
Ryan starts to shake his head, but Carter interrupts him, “What about the prosecutor who wanted to drop a dime on our best cook? We took a chance then and you were glad we did.” The police had arrested their best chemist, the man who mixed the various elements into the best Ecstasy in the city—known in the drugs trade as a ‘cook’—when he’d been purchasing Sudafed. The cook had actually had stuffed sinuses, but the prosecutor needed a scapegoat because a competitor’s tainted Ecstasy had been implicated in the death of a teenager the week before. The prosecutor had offered six months on a guilty plea, but Carter had hung on for a complete acquittal. Carter felt that the cook had done nothing wrong.
Ryan shakes his head. “Ten years in jail is different than guns and bullets! I still say we should’ve used Constable S.”
“But we’d still have Danny breathing down our necks,” Carter objects. “S would have wanted us to go under cover. Get Danny on a wire. That would have been even more of a gamble.”
“What’s to say Donna doesn’t shoot first, before she repos her drugs?”
“Donna likes to talk. I can handle her.” Carter inserts the ammo clip into the Walther and clicks it back into place.
“She likes more than talk. She’ll be the one handling you.”
“I’ll be ready.”
Ryan shrugs. Carter was the one going into the lion’s den.