Find the Lady

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Chapter 23

Time was growing way too short when the boxy Lincoln pulled up in front of Connor. He knew that it wouldn’t take long for Joey to home in on him once he went to his apartment, but he had hoped it would be after the Daunatori’s deadline. Sadly it wasn’t meant to be. Connor was waiting for a bus to take him over to the shipping place Brody had mentioned when the car came to a slow stop. The back window rolled down, and Connor could see the stoically livid faces of Joey and Terence in the back. The two bodyguards both sat up front; it was going to be a cramped car with Connor in the mix.

They all stared at Connor for a full minute before Joey finally spoke up, “Are you getting in this car, Connor, or do I have to send my boys out to drag you in here?”

Connor looked at the grimy bench and dirty sidewalk, “Well, it would be a shame to get blood on this lovely patch of city property, wouldn’t it? I guess I’ll let you guys give me a ride.”

Connor reached into his pocket and strutted as much as he could on the way over to the Lincoln. He wanted them to feel like they couldn’t just run roughshod over him. If he was going out, he was doing it on his own terms. He sauntered to the Lincoln just as cool as a cucumber. Terence and Joey didn’t seem to think much about his little walk of defiance, but it made all the difference to Connor’s spirits.

The little Lincoln drove out a few blocks until it got over to the warehouses where only two nights ago Connor had been drowning in bugs. He wondered if he should tell them exactly how little the thought of these two muscle-bound guidos roughing him up in a storage bin concerned him after his last experience on this side of town. He ultimately decided against it- better to let them think they had the upper hand. They escorted him into a tiny little storage area devoid of any and all life. Oil stains streaked along up and down the narrow roads that led to the various metal roll-up doors that accompanied each individual storage space. With a grim consternation, Connor realized there were oil stains far outside the areas where even a poorly maintained automobile would drip. This was a place where very bad things happened.

Both of the bodyguards patted down Connor to check for a wire and a gun. He had neither, but they still stripped his coat and his possessions and put them on the car hood. Connor gave them both a pat on the shoulder after, saying, “Good work, boys. I know I feel safer.”

Joey paced back and forth all the while, clearly fuming and looking for the words to articulate the deepness of his ire. Connor was worried about the time and wished he would hurry up. The angry crime boss worked his jaw then finally began. “Hello again, Connor.”

“Heya, Joey. How are things? I heard about your place burning down. Bad news, that.”

“You heard … you. Connor, you are easily the stupidest son of a bitch I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing business with.”

“So that’s it, huh? You’re just gonna ice me before you’ve even heard my side?”

“Oh, so you have a side now? That’s rich. You come into my place of business, destroy it, and suddenly you have a side! You know what your side should’ve been, you little twat? It should’ve been to stay put like I told you to! But, please, let me hear your side.”

“Well, you see, me and Eileen were gettin’ hot and heavy in the conference room after you left. She was flailing around, just goin’ nuts, and ended up knocking over that whiskey you keep. I didn’t wanna stop midway, you understand, so I just ignored it and kept pumping. It turns out I’m such a hot lover, Joey, I make sparks when I’m goin’ at it. I’ll be damned if I didn’t start that fire with just my pelvic motions! So, as you can see, it was all really just an accident. Sorry about Eileen, though, she was too exhausted afterwards to flee from the flames. You can just get another one, right?”

This had been far too much. It was a poorly kept secret that Joey was slipping it to Eileen. That’s what crime bosses hired pretty secretaries for, after all. This boss might have forgiven Connor claiming she had died in the fire, but the slight of suggesting he had sex with her set Joey off. The man himself decked Connor, which is what he had wanted all along.

Connor’s lift was smooth as the fist came for his jaw. His hand was in and out in a second, and he pocketed Joey’s wallet as he fell to the ground. Nobody noticed his theft in the blur of the punch. He smiled smugly as he stood back up. “Oh come on, Joey, I was just havin’ a laugh.”

“You’re a disrespectful cunt and you’re going to die. Terence.”

Terence pulled out his trademark knife. Connor took a step back. “Wait! What if I could get you money? A lot of money.”

“You little weasel. You think you can buy me off after all the shit you pulled.” Joey’s eyes were like a mad dog’s. Connor knew if he prodded just a little harder, he could get him to really snap.

“Hey, what are a few buildings between friends, right? I mean, it’s not like you were keeping all your laundering accounts in that law office.” Joey’s scowl darkened. “Oh, you were? That sounds particularly dumb to put all your eggs in one basket, doesn’t it? How are you gonna pay these two buffoons, by the way, since all your accounts are ash and smoke now?”

The two muscular guards looked at each other and then gazed at Joey inquisitively. Joey waved them off. “You’ll get paid. Connor, you’re not winning me over here.”

“Sorry, Joey, guess I never did have much of a way with words. You get me talking and all sorts of shit just spills outta my mouth. That’s what happened when I set up Terence here to get snatched. I just started talking and, before I knew it, I’d told the cops exactly how to find him. Stupid, right?”

Terence was about to make his move, a clear, burning rage touching his soulless eyes. Joey stopped him. “So you’re admitting to me that you set up my friend and burned down my place?”

“And banged your girlfriend, if you’re keeping count.”

Joey stood stock still, but he was shaking, trembling with fury. His nostrils flared and his gaze was pointed right at Connor’s heart. “Terence, give me that knife.” Terence did nothing. “Now!”

As soon as the knife was in his hands, Joey pounced on Connor. Connor had only a moment to appreciate his ability to get a rise out of a person before the crime boss tackled him to the ground. Connor was holding Joey’s knife at bay with both of his hands, twisting this way and that to try and break free of the larger man. Joey’s increased weight kept him flat on the ground, but Connor was an obstinate fighter. He held the arm that held the knife fast, and Joey put all of his might into trying to stab Connor. His voice was seething as he said, “Just die, you pain in the ass thief.”

“Afraid not, Joey. You didn’t say please.” It was a struggle to speak with so much pressure on him. He was fighting hard, but he couldn’t hold back all of the force Joey was putting up against him forever. It wasn’t a surprise. He wasn’t a brawler, after all, he was a con man. If he was going to win his life back, it wasn’t going to be through the force of his arm. He knew this, and Joey knew it. The man’s smile was predatory as the blade dropped down to within an inch of Connor’s eye. He could feel the cold steel straining forward to pierce his flesh. This might be it, Connor thought.

It was a great relief, then, when a loud voice cried out, “Hands up!!! This is the police! Everyone get your hands up, now!”

A man clad in black riot gear forced Joey off of Connor, who went limp on the ground, while a swarm of cops rushed in with weapons drawn. He was grateful to be free of the knife-wielding psychopath. He wanted to just lay there and take deep breaths for a little longer, but the cops were forcing him up now.

Within a few minutes everyone was handcuffed and sitting up against one of the large vehicles the swat team had blocked off the small lane with. Terence had tried to fight, but he had given up his knife to Joey and had no good avenues of escape. Searches of Joey and the bodyguards yielded drugs and weapons on their person. An officer was writing furiously, scribbling out notes about all the illegal activity while two others kept weapons trained on the group. Joey and Terence stared daggers at Connor as they sat there, the storage area awash with cops searching through the various spaces.

Joey started yelling, “You son of a whore! What did you do?”

“What? You were the one who said they were tracking Terence the Chopper. Didn’t you think they might figure out a way to do it again?” Connor happily nudged the little black square Brody had given him with his toe.

If the switch was pressed, the box emitted the exact same signal as the tracking number he had pulled from the file Lizzie had gotten him: the same number Terence’s tracker had before it had been destroyed by the fire. He had placed it in his shoe so that he could press the little button if he needed the cavalry to show up. When Joey came to that bus stop, the cops started receiving his location.

Connor knew it was only a matter of time, but he had to get Joey to commit a crime too. Otherwise they would’ve just taken Terence, and Joey might have been able to still come after him. On top of that, he had taken extra precautions: making up little packages of the meth Oscar had given him while he was at his apartment. He had palmed the meth as he walked up to the boxy Lincoln. He planted the drugs on Joey when he had gotten punched and the guards just after the pat down. You never could be too careful.

“You think you can set me up!”

“To be fair, Joey, I didn’t come up with it. Sometimes you just get a better offer.”

“Who put you up to this? Who did it?!”

“I woulda thought the crystal in your pockets would’ve been more than enough of a calling card.” Joey stared at him lividly. “Oscar says, ‘hello.’”

“That bitch is dead, and you’re dead too, you stupid mick. I will kill your whole goddamn family!”

“Sadly, I’m an orphan, Joey. But, if it makes you feel any better, I anticipate leaving town very soon. So you can just pretend like I’m dead.”

Joey smiled a wicked smile. “They’re gonna bring you in too, Connor, until they get everything sorted out. I got twenty-four whole hours to do for you. And, mark my words, I’m a very creative person when I’m in the clink.”

“Let him go, he’s with us.” Detective Lennon said to the officer watching them. The man stopped his scribbling and came down to unlock Connor’s cuffs.

Connor rubbed his wrists as he said. “Detectives! Glad you could make it to the party.”

“Sergeant MacKenzie. How in the hell did you get mixed up into this?”

“Are you kidding? I’ve been trying to pin down Joey Malone for years. I’m just sad that your precinct gets to make the collar for all of my hard work.”

Romsky was over by the Lincoln looking at the black box and Connor’s wallet. “Hey, Sergeant. Is this stuff yours?”

“Yes it is.”

“Why isn’t your badge here? All I see is an ID for one ‘Connor Donnelly.’ This sure looks like you in the picture.”

Connor swallowed hard. “You think I’d bring my badge on a deep cover operation like this? What if they shook me down -like they obviously just did- that would blow the whole operation! I’ve been working deep in the organization for years, trying to take down Joey from the inside. I was working my cover the day I saw you boys, which is why I rushed in to stop you.”

Romsky continued. “Oh! So is that why nobody we talked to has ever heard of a Sergeant MacKenzie?”

Connor was starting to get a bad feeling. “Yeah, it’s deep cover. Nobody knows except a select few.”

“Really? Care to give us the names of those select few?”

There really was nothing worse than a cop who was good at his job. “Um … Well, there’s Detective O’Shea for one!” Connor was playing the long shot here, but he had no other chips left. “She came across my alias pretty early on and was read into the case. She could vouch for me.”

“Oh, is that a fact?!” Romsky was not buying it. Connor wondered how much time he had left. “Well, you’re in luck, Sergeant. Detective O’Shea just happens to be here right now.”

Goddamnit, Connor thought.

“Lizzy! Could you come over here, please!” Romsky’s voice was exultant as he called for her. She came in looking mostly annoyed, but, as soon as she saw Connor, that looked morphed from annoyed to vexed. “Lizzy, do you know this fine gentleman?”

She pursed her lips for a moment. “Yes. I know him.”

“And, without us giving you any hints. Could you please tell us who he really is.” Romsky was like a hound with the scent of blood in his nostrils.

Lizzie looked Connor dead in the eyes. “I can’t cover for you any more.”

“I wouldn’t ask you to.” Connor’s eyes pleaded where his tone could not.

“This is gonna screw you over forever. You know that right?”

“Do what you gotta do, Detective.”

Romsky was getting impatient. Lennon mostly just looked confused. Romsky practically yelled out, “Just answer the question, Lezzie!” She shot him an angry glare. He backpedalled, “I mean, please identify this man, Detective O’Shea.”

Lizzie stuck out her jaw a bit as she finally said. “Gentlemen, this man is Sergeant Stan MacKenzie.”

Lennon looked relieved. Romsky was dumbfounded, “Come again?”

“His name is Sergeant Stan MacKenzie. He has been doing deep cover work under the alias ‘Connor Donnelly.’”

Connor breathed deeply and smiled at Lizzie. “Well, boys, if you don’t have anything left for me, I’m going to collect my things and go make my final report to my handler. It’s gonna be good to throw away this alias for good and just be Stan again.”

“Of course,” Lennon said, shaking his hand, “Thank you for your service, Sergeant. I look forward to reading your report on this; will you send me a copy?”

“Detective, I’ll even personalize it for you.”

Joey was livid, “You’re a fucking cop? You fucking set me up? You’re gonna get gutted for this, MacKenzie. I will end you! Do you hear me? You better keep one eye looking over your shoulder!”

Connor didn’t even care about the man’s idle threats. He just turned to walk out of the little storage area. With the amount of shit they were bound to find in this place combined with the assault and possession charges, Joey wasn’t going to see the light of day in a very long time.

The man would probably put a hit on Connor, but his hitters would have little luck finding MacKenzie again, or Connor Donnelly for that matter. He didn’t bear any particular ill will towards Joey. Other than being a greedy small time boss with delusions of grandeur and a part time psychopath, the guy hadn’t done much to Connor. It still gave him a small measure of satisfaction, however, to see the bastard get taken down hard.

A thin smile lit the corner of his lips as he pulled out the money he had squirreled away from picking Joey’s pocket. He had exchanged the drugs for Joey’s money clip then hidden it in a secret pocket in his jacket. He counted it out at just under two grand. At least he knew how he was gonna pay off the guy at the shipping place now.

Lizzie came up beside him, “Mind if I walk you out, Sergeant?

“Not at all, Detective. It would be a genuine honor.”

When they had finally made it out of hearing distance for the rest of the police department, Lizzie said, “You are, without a doubt, the craziest motherfucker I’ve ever seen.”

“I ain’t that crazy, Liz. I’m just a man with precious few options and a strong desire to see tomorrow.”

“How much time you got left on that two hours?”

Connor checked his phone for the time. He scowled at it, “Less than thirty minutes.”

“Need a lift anywhere?”

“Yeah, you could drop me at that shipping company over on 2nd.”

The drive was quiet. Connor tried to think of some way to say thanks or somehow sum up everything Liz had meant to him, but there were no words for it. He had to settle for silence and the occasional sideways glance from those two shamrocks in the rearview mirror. As her cruiser rolled to a stop at his destination, Lizzie got out and walked Connor to the door. Her eyes were glowing so brightly it almost blinded him. “This is probably the end, huh? You’re gonna slip away afterwards, and I’m never gonna see you again.”

“Hard to say, Liz, but it certainly is seeming more and more unfriendly around here.”

“Well, just know you got one fucking friend in this neighborhood.”

“Yeah, I do. I appreciate what you did for me back there, Lizzie. You’re a real stand up gal.”

“Fuck.” She looked almost offended. “I only did that because Joey would’ve been set free if I didn’t back your story up. It was for justice, you see.”

Connor felt a little sad and wistful. “No it wasn’t. You know it, and I know it. Thank you for everything, Elizabeth. It was a pleasure.”

Lizzie kissed him lightly on the cheek. “Just promise you’ll stay in touch, you son of a bitch.”

Connor wrote down a number on a pad. “My last burner number. I’ll be ditching the rest. Use it if you ever find yourself in need of a lousy thief, a ballsy grifter, or a super cop.”

She put the number in her pocket. As she got in the car, she said, “I meant it when I said stay alive!”

Like that, she was gone. Connor turned to his business. He had the money, he had a vehicle, and he had a plan. All that was left now was to hope that his luck would hold out for one last game. He slipped the payoff to the desk clerk and walked to the back of the little shipping company to inspect the object of his own design. It will work; he decided as he drove away, it has to work.

He checked his phone one last time.

Twenty minutes left.

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