Joe found a photograph from the Roaring Twenties hidden in the drawer of an old desk. Apparently taken at a sporting event it showed a woman – Julia – looking straight at the camera, although the focus of the camera was really a man sitting close by; the infamous Scarface.
Joe agreed to do what Julia wanted: she wanted him to ‘ice’ his wife. They made their plans. Julia gave him a gun and then….
Well, you can read what happens next in Part Four of Snorky’s Moll. Enjoy!
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By N. G. Edwards
'Tis but her picture I have yet beheld,
And that hath dazzled my reason's light;
Proteus, of Julia, The Two Gentlemen of Verona: II, iv
Three days later the Bears played host in a pre-season against the Packers, hoping to avenge their 21-34 defeat at the tail of the previous NFC regular. My future late-wife’s boyfriend was a new draft bought in to try and stiffen the defense, and Celia would be attending the game as his guest. Julia’s plan was for me to tail Celia from the hotel she was staying at, follow her into the stadium and wait for a suitable moment when I could get close enough to… do it, then make my escape in the inevitable panic. Julia would be waiting at a prearranged spot on Museum Campus Drive. It all sounded straightforward when she explained how it would work. What could go wrong?
The first part was easy. Triple-I had corporate hospitality passes, of course, and it was a simple matter for me, as a still remembered face, to pick one up from the C&CB the day before the game. The game was to kick off at six-thirty and I’d already found out where Celia was staying. Three forty-five found me in a taxi outside her address, waiting for her to leave for the venue, which she did in her own cab at four o’clock. I instructed my driver to keep us out of sight which, with hindsight, was unnecessary. I knew where she was going so I could as easily have got there early and just waited. To tell the truth, though, I enjoyed that little cloak-and-dagger play. It added to the sense of fantasy that had woven itself around me and helped, I think, to gird my psyche against the grisly act I was about to commit.
Soldier Field is an immense landmark. I read up about it – I figured I ought to. Originally called the Grant Park Municipal Stadium, it was renamed in 1925 at the request of the Chicago Gold Star Mothers. The place was the venue for many famous events, including the ‘long count’ between Dempsey and Tunney in ’27. Renowned as the home of the Bears, in fact it wasn’t until ’71 that the team moved across from Wrigley Field to take up residence under Jim Dooley.
Crowds were already gathering when I arrived, ready for the box offices to open. Skirting these I headed straight for the VIP entrance, spotting Celia as she passed within. I hurried after her, conscious of the unaccustomed weight nestling in the small of my back, but I pulled up short when I saw security guards hovering. They were scanning visitors – even the VIPs – as they approached the lobby. A sign of our age, of course, following the dreadful events of 9-11. Everyone was conscious of the threat to our great nation and searches were a commonplace occurrence, even when going to a ball game.
I should have expected this but I didn’t. I was totally without experience when it came to criminal acts (at least, outside the boardroom) which is why security before the event never even crossed my mind. I guessed it hadn’t crossed Julia’s mind, either; at least, not that she mentioned – hardly surprising, I suppose, as this sort of scrutiny would have been unheard of in her day, outside a presidential visit. I tagged onto the rear of a party and hoped that I might be overlooked. Not everyone was being frisked. The guards were exercising some discretion in choosing their victims, or maybe they were just working on a quota; either way I was unlucky. I was one of those who were targeted.
“Hands out to the sides, sir,” I was told. The man scanned my sides and legs with a device that looked like a spiral stove plate attached to a handle. “Turn around, sir,” he instructed. Sweating profusely I realized there was no way I was going to get away with this. I was about to make an excuse and try to back out when there was a commotion down the line. There came a shout and I caught sight of a young man with greasy hair, dressed in faded denim, dashing away. Why he was running I’ve no idea but the guard looking after me decided he’d find more fun joining a co-worker in a chase than continuing to check out a middle-aged man whose heart was racing harder than it had for a decade. I was in the clear. I dabbed at my forehead with a handkerchief, silently prayed my heart would survive the stress, and moved on.
The lobby and bar of the United Club were packed. Concierges ushered, waiters toted drinks, pretty hostesses with bright, plastic smiles mingled, while the affluent – and in greater numbers the aspiring affluent – sauntered to reserved tables or otherwise milled about looking rich and important. Celia was on the far side, attended by her beau and a few other notables of the footballing fraternity. How many people were there I’ve no idea but hundreds, easily. I figured this had to be my best opportunity and locating a convenient place where I could make my final preparations without drawing any attention, pulled on a pair of colorless latex gloves and swiftly transferred the Colt into my jacket side pocket, next to the photograph. The moment had arrived.
Ever since I’d left the hotel I’d mentally played out this scene over and over, all the time with an echo of Julia’s words when she gave me my final instructions.
Just take it easy, she’d said. Don’t do anything stupid like shout or run. Get as close as you can and put the gun to her head. Two bullets, okay? Then drop the piece and turn and walk away. Everyone else will be panicking and you can use that as cover. Nobody’ll hardly notice you. You’ll do great, baby. I know you will. Remember I love you.
Breathe. She’d forgotten to tell me I had to breathe and I was only half way across the room when I remembered to do so myself. My muscles were aching with the stress of my mission, and every forward step I took was like my feet were made of lead. The sounds of the crowd grew louder, but duller at the same time, scores of conversations merging to an unintelligible roar that filled my ears. Not far now. There she was, Celia, clear and sharp while everyone around her was blurred, a tableau of faceless manikins fawning around a demon goddess who basked in their worship. Nearly there. Time to lift up the gun. Why was my arm so heavy? As I pulled back the hammer all other noises ceased and the world became a silent similitude of reality, where movement was so slow as to be almost unnoticeable. But now the goddess was turning, slowly, recognition dawning on her face. I could see the gun in my hand and marveled at how steady it was, light reflecting from its cold, efficient metal barrel. The manikins were beginning to move also but they would be too late to interfere. I placed the muzzle against her forehead and squeezed the trigger. Her eyes were wide, her mouth opening but the only sound was the explosion of the bullet as it smashed through her skull. The weapon recoiled, sending my second shot high. But it didn’t matter; the first missile had done all that was necessary. My arm descended, the pistol slipping from my fingers. Why was Celia still standing? She wasn’t. She was collapsing, slowly and delicately, like a snowflake falling on a breathless winter’s day.
I watched her death with a dreadful fascination. Almost I couldn’t pull myself away but then a different movement caught my eye. I forced myself to turn. Julia. Why was she here? Why wasn’t she waiting outside as we’d arranged? And why was she looking like that, a gout of blood pouring from the side of her head? The world was beginning to catch up and her fall was quicker than Celia’s had been. As she dropped to the ground another figure was revealed behind her, a broad figure with a hard face and dead eyes looking out from beneath a fedora. He carried a gun that seemed identical to mine. And it was pointing at me.
I turned as the shot was fired, and felt the agony of ripping flesh in my arm. Time resumed its normal cadence and I ran, one with a host of others screaming and shouting to get away from the violence. I think there was another shot but I just kept running and didn’t stop until I was out of the building and away. When I finally staggered to a halt I crumpled to the street and threw up. There was no sound of pursuit. I threw up some more.
Twelve months have gone by. I’d done what I set out to do, what I’d been urged to do by the promise of a woman in a photograph. Celia was dead. And so was the promise.
My arm had healed up. The bullet had passed through leaving only tissue damage, and it was a simple matter to find a doctor who’d treat the injury without prying as to how the wound had come about. After a while a scar was all that was left to physically mark the event.
The local rags were full of the story at the time, of course. It even made the nationals after somebody in the criminal investigation team revealed that the gun used to kill Celia carried only the prints of Al Capone. I figured that the police would come question me once they learned who Celia was and I figured also that it wouldn’t be easy to explain away the bullet hole. That’s why I decided I should get away, turn myself into someone else, someone who wouldn’t attract the attention of law enforcement.
I was rich and with my wealth I was able to buy a new life in which to hide from the misdeeds of my first. In fact I’ve changed my identity three times since that signal day. Not especially to evade the police, although certainly they were looking for me. No. You see, others were hunting me, also, and when they came close I took no chance and moved on.
Julia had said it was impossible for her to commit the murder, which was why – and maybe this was the sole reason, if I’m brutally honest – she said she needed me. My best guess is that there was some law of the universe or – why not? – God that restricted interaction between the planes of her existence and mine. But if that were the case, why was it that the other pistol’s shot had been able to find its target? Me. I can only surmise that either Julia had lied to me – which for some reason I still find hard to believe – or else my physical association with Snorky’s moll had blurred the separation between our realms, allowing direct action to occur. I don’t know, and probably never will – at least, not in this life. All I do know is that my existence is now a torture of fearful waiting, running, and constantly looking over my shoulder.
That’s why I said existence – it could never be called a life.
It’s cold, this morning. From the window of my rented room I can see an old-fashioned black sedan parked across the street. There are four men inside. I think they’ve found me.
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©2014 by Nigel Edwards. All rights reserved
Copyright of Cover Images remains with their originators: http://www.retrokimmer.com/ and http://4.bp.blogspot.com/
Also by the same author:
Badger’s Waddle, published by Greyheart Press
The Cookie Tin, published by Greyheart Press
The Cookie Tin Collection, published by Greyheart Press
Garrison, published by Greyheart Press
Ferryman, published by Greyheart Press
Waif, published by Greyheart Press
The Tower, published in the anthology Shoes, Ships and Cadavers by NewCon Press
The Last Star, published in the anthology Looking Landwards by NewCon Press
And The Scrapdragon series, written for young people age 10 and up, but suitable from age 8 and available on Kindle:
The Scrapdragon Book 1 - An Adventure Begins: A Tom-Tom Burrow Adventure, published on Kindle
The Scrapdragon Book 2 - To Find A Sorcerer: A Tom-Tom Burrow Adventure, published on Kindle
The Scrapdragon Book 3 - Bullies And Monsters: A Tom-Tom Burrow Adventure, published on Kindle
The Scrapdragon Book 4 - Fear & Courage: A Tom-Tom Burrow Adventure, published on Kindle