Bruce and Lucifer walk one block to the West from the rail line, in front of them stood the Wellington pub. The building is four stories tall with fire escapes winding around the building. Lucifer leads Bruce around to the alleyway of the building.
“Okay listen up. This building has two entrances.” Lucifer points to the side entrance to the building, Bruce listens to his instructions.
“That door leads to a staircase for the upper apartments, we need to find out which apartment they are in.”
Lucifer opens the alleyway door and they are led into the foyer. They can hear the noise coming from the bar, there is a row of mailboxes at the foot of the staircase. Bruce uses his knife to pry open the metal frame to the mail slots. Scouring the row for the fourth floor, he finds a letter addressed to Sam, Stark-Rankins. He lived in room 406. He puts the mail back and closes the frame.
Back out in the alleyway Lucifer continues to hash out his plan with Bruce.
“Go inside and get an ID on the targets, do not stand out or make unnecessary eye contact. After you find them leave for the front door. They will know the residents of this building and seeing someone unfamiliar going to the residence staircase could tip them off.”
Bruce left Lucifer in the alley and walks around the front of the building. Entering the bar, he finds that it has a modest sized crowd. Looking at his watch, Bruce knows why. Everyone had been off their shifts for an hour. Hard to believe he wasted his entire day chasing these two men. Following Lucifer’s instructions Bruce makes no eye contact, save for the bartender.
The old man gives him a once over.
“Give me half a glass of Whiskey from the well.” Says Bruce in a low murmur only the bartender can hear.
Once he has his drink in his hand, Bruce takes a deep sip and makes a casual turn to scan the room. His eyes pick them out right away. He turns back around. The two men hadn’t noticed him, they sat together, the one missing a finger holds his drinking glass awkwardly. Next to the man with nine fingers is the one who must be Sam Stark-Rankins. Knocking back the remaining whiskey Bruce leaves money on the bar and retreats to the alley.
Lucifer has a broom handle in his hand, the ladder to the fire escape had been released and is ready for use.
“Head up to the apartment, in ten minutes I will enter the bar and they will run upstairs. Once you are finished with them, take the fire escape.” Says Lucifer tossing the broom handle aside.
Without another word Bruce enters the building and makes his way to the apartment. He needed to pick the lock to enter the apartment. It looks like many apartments belonging to single men. Empty beer bottle and pizza boxes are on the counters. Clothes are tossed on the floor. Closing the door to the messy apartment Bruce discovers that a double barrel shotgun leans barrel first against the wall.
Bruce opens the shotgun’s action and withdraws the two shells and puts them in his pocket. Next he goes into the darkened and withdraws his pistol. He fixes the suppressor to the end of his weapon and cocks the hammer.
The waiting felt like an eternity he looked down at his watch, the second hand seemed to take twice as long to move. It felt like he was in school watching the clock. In a way he was in school, the school of hard knocks.
Looking at his watch, Bruce’s pulse quickens hearing the sounds of thundering footsteps approaching the door to the apartment. The sound of two men trying to fit their key into the lock. They burst into the room. Sam, Stark Rankins, slams the door shut, his roommate lifts the shotgun to his shoulder.
Their backs are turned to him, Bruce had left the shadows of the kitchen, his arm is extended poised for his targets.
“He is not coming.”
The two men spin around at the sound of a newcomer.
“Who are you?” Demands Sam.
“It doesn’t matter who I am you will be dead in a few minutes.” The nine fingered man raises the shotgun.
Two muffled shots loudly escape the suppressor of Bruce’s firearm. The rounds put the one holding the shotgun on his back. One of his bullets had pierced his heart his death became instant. Sam had retreated against the wall; he stood several feet from an end table.
Sam looks around panicked he begins to plead with Bruce.
“Look you don’t have to do this! I have ten grand in the air vent above my bed. It is yours, if you let me go…”
“Your right, I don’t have to do this…” Bruce takes a step closer and puts a cocky smile onto his face. “I want to do this.” He didn’t know where this cocky banter came from, in his mind he knows he should just end it quick. But his ego enjoys this torment. There is some part inside him that is relishing the thought of him playing with his prey.
“I have another five-grand hidden in the coffee tin out in the kitchen.” Pleads Sam. Bruce bellows out a fake laughter.
“I fully intend to take your money, but not in exchange for your life. Your life became forfeit the moment you touched that barber.” States Bruce.
“Come on man, you know how it goes in our life. That asshole waved his money around the butcher shop we didn’t know he was with the Breeze Street crew.”
“You know, I thought it was about the money. That was until the Pale Death killed the Dellmore Witch. To tell you the truth, I believe we just needed a reason to pick a fight. I suspect it has been that little cocksucker you call a boss. The Chinese near the border have refused to pay Dellara’s tariff. See Sam this is all business, you know how it goes in our life.”
Bruce repeated Sam’s words to add insult to injury. Sam didn’t intend to go quietly he dives for the drawer of the end table. Caught up in the banter, Bruce is caught off guard.
Sam gets his hand around the wooden handle of a revolver. Bruce’s heart felt like it skipped a beat he tries to raise his arm…
Two rounds from Bruce’s 1911 are discharged into Sam, one strikes him in the gut, knocking him off his feet, during the fall, a second-round strikes him in the ribcage! The slug punches through Sam’s chest cavity, exiting his back severing his spine with a splatter of organ tissue and bone fragments trailing behind.
Sam rolls to his back... Based on the scope of the damage Bruce is surprised that Sam could move at all. Blood seems to leak out of him booth sides. Kicking the revolver out of Sam’s hand Bruce looks down onto his victim. All the bold and cocky talk had left Bruce’s lips.
Watching life slowly leave Sam’s eyes Bruce felt pity, Sam looked so frightened. He didn’t like this feeling of guilt the longer Sam’s eyes stared into his, the smaller Bruce felt. To end this feeling and Sam’s suffering Bruce lifts his arm and uses his thumb to cock the hammer on his pistol.
Bruce gives his trigger one downhill squeeze.
The round discharges from the gun with a flash. The bullet imbeds itself into Sam’s skull. The result is worse than when he executed Rapaport. Bruce turns away from what’s left of Sam’s skull. His hands tremble as he searches the apartment for money. He found the money where Sam said it was.
His uncontrollable tremors continue as he slides the thick stack of cash into his suit jacket. Stepping out onto the fire escape Bruce felt something hard between his teeth. He sticks his clammy fingers into his mouth, and he pulls out a thin fake, there is a pink bit of flesh on the white flake.
That’s when a rush of heat ran to Bruce’s skull and his head spun. He leaned over the railing and heaves his guts up. He thought about the piece of skull in his mouth a second time and he gags and lets loose a second time. He tossed up everything in his system. He dry heaved over and over.
The next twenty-five minutes are a blur. On the way back to Breeze Street Bruce can’t remember having a conversation with Lucifer.
At some point he enters the Cat House, he doesn’t remember ordering a drink yet one sits in front of him. He downs the last few sips inside his glass and becomes embroiled in his own thoughts. He wondered if Sam, had a mother. Of course, he did every man had a mother, Bruce wondered who would cry over the two men he murdered. No, he had murdered three men today, the thought of Rapaport’s corpse dissolving into the barrel of acid force its way to the front of his mind. The carnage makes him gag.
He choked down his vomit by lighting up a cigarette. Even though the room is nosey, the sound of the crowd is replaced with the sound of flesh melting into the acid. He wants to think of something else, he sees Sam’s head exploding like a melon. Bruce felt there is no way to win this internal battle that weighed on his consciousness.
Killing before had never bothered him, but those kills had been out a result of self-defense and revenge. He had not yet mastered the art of being able to murder in cold blood. Even now all he can think out still are the skulls of Rapaport and Sam exploding. Shutting his eyes trying to think of anything else, he doesn’t notice someone approaching his table.
Lost in his own personal turmoil, Bruce is caught off guard the heaviness of a ball glass is set onto the table. Opening his eyes Bruce is expecting to see one of the guys, he is not prepared to stare into the wrinkled and chubby face of his boss Chris Dellara.
“Hey boy, mind if I take a seat?”
Bruce lifts his hand to the nearest empty seat, he notices that Dellara sets a second glass on the table. The older man pushes one of the glasses towards Bruce.
“That will take the sissy out of your mood.” Urges Dellara.
Taking a sip of the scotch his eyebrow cocks at the smooth taste of the nectar on his tongue. Dellara smiles when he sees Bruce’s reaction.
“That ain’t that fossil fuel you drink, this is fifty-year-old scotch your sipping on, it predates two world wars and prohibition itself. You look like every kid after his first hit. When I had Dom arrange you to make bones I assumed it would be fairly cut and dry. Most guys don’t have to squeeze three guys off, but then again that is not the only thing that is weighing on your mind. He told me about the Witch’s shop. Lucifer is to kill any Witch or Warlock that crosses his path. Magic is, well it is evil son. We may do evil for personal gain, magic root and stem requires lifeforce to used.”
Dellara briefly looks away, he stares at the wall as if he searches for the right words.
“It is an ugly thing to see. You saw a fortune telling and her lift a few objects there is an even darker side. I have only truly witnessed on magic incidence after that I never cared to see it again. First time I saw it was nearly twenty years ago. Lucifer and I had stolen some weapons from a British supply ship, we planned to ship five dozen Lewis Gun’s to Africa, they needed to be ‘spiritualized’, reinforced with magic. We used a local New Orleans Warlock; he works for Marcello. We brought the weapons to the warehouse to be altered.”
Dellara takes another slight pause this time to take a sip of his drink.
“Tom, Tom McGill is his name. He is this African fella with a British accent. He began this ritual by plucking a child from a nearby cage. This child was monstrously different than other children I had seen. He was solid white, maybe seven years old, he had these tiny red eyes that you would find on mice. Confused I looked back at the cage he was taken from. I saw two other children, they looked just as defeated and mangled. The boy was walked into the center of a pentagram, there an acolyte stunned him with a blunt object to his head. With the boy centered in the pentagram, blue flames erupted in the perimeter. Tom, Tom his assistant and the boy all stood trapped, Tom, Tom took one of the Lewis Guns and laid it next to the boy.”
Dellara paused to take a breath, Bruce hung on every word.
“The boy was sliced on his cheek with an ivory handled knife. All the lights in the room were extinguished all save the candles in the pentagram. That son of a bitch sliced his own hand with the same blade. He rubbed his bloody hand on the child’s face, mixing their blood all while chanting in some tribal language. He then smeared the weapon with his blood, and it began to glow, looking at the crates carrying the other guns I noticed that they too had begun to glow."
Dellara pauses like this is painful to recount, but seeing Burce's captivated face he continues.
"Then Tom, Tom’s acolyte held the boy down as Tom, Tom used that ivory knife to remove the boys arm. When his blood poured out of him, the flames turned purple. Of course, the boy screamed but was drowned out over whistling noise occurred from the flames. The ritual got worse, the boy soon bled out and Tom, Tom raised his arm in the air, and he took several large bites of the boys arm. The raw flesh clung to his teeth as he danced and chanted in his native tongue. The flames went from blue to green and the boy and weapon began to glow brightly then in a flash of bright light both the boy and weapon merged… I have hated anything resembling magic after that night.”
Bruce had finished his drink, Dellara had already signaled for another round. After he had taken a large sip. Dellara spoke again.
“You may think that you have done wrong, but those men needed to be dealt with. This Jordan Dellmore and this crew from Purdue street have switched the Chinese to their side, give them time and the rest of the scum will join them. We showed them what happens in the Quarter when You show up uninvited. Things with this other crew are gonna get worse, keep your head down, the reason I told you all that is because you may do evil things, but you are doing no worse than what men have done to each other since the dawn of time. Magic is evil and unnatural.”
Dellara takes a cigarette from Bruce’s unattended pack of Parliaments. Lighting up the smoke Dellara takes a couple of drags before setting the cigarette into the ashtray
“you will see magic more and more but know this, it is always evil. Killing another soldier, is one thing but using the blood of a child. Son if you can avoid it, do so it will only bring you a world of hurt. But here boy this is something you earned today.”
Bruce looks at a stack of cash set on the table. He quickly pockets it not wanting anyone else to see it.
“That is seven grand from your job today. You two brought back $18,000 between four people you earned every nickel of that money in your pocket. Bruce you have proved what I have known for a long time, that you are trust worthy. I want you to be in charge of that action moving down the river, take your time and plan it with Gary. Use your entire outfit if you need to, I have faith that you will exceed my expectations.”
Dellara left a cash on the table to pay for Bruce’s tab. Bruce had to soon add his own money out drinking the tab Dellara started for him. He drank there for a while, he had drank past the point of hiccups and sentences spoken in English. If he wanted another drink he simply raised his glass or grunt. The drinking had down its job to distract from his turmoil, he needed to thank his boss, that conversation with Dellara had done a lot to settle his nerves.
Beginning to come to grips with his actions, each sip helps him to forget, during his drinking he finds a moment for pause. While he fingered the money in his suit pocket, his finger brushes up against something silky.
Pulling the ribbon out, he rubs it between his thumb and finger. The smell of the wild flowers is long gone. The smoothness of the silk had been nearly stripped of its smoothness constantly being felt over the year. The ribbon sends a calming feeling of warmth through his shoulders, offering just a glimmer of comfort, in this his most hallow moment of despair. This was his life now. Tucking the ribbon back into the safety of his suit jacket. Bruce waves his hand for another drink…