As if there weren’t enough outlets on the interweb already publishing unpublished fiction, Crime Always Pays belly-flops right into the deep end. In the second of what will very probably be an extremely short series, Will Hoyle (right) treats us to Chapter One of his work-in-progress, BELLA MORTE. You know where to put your bouquets and brickbats, people …
1: CLAUSTROPHOBIC THINK-TANK
Confined to this crummy apartment, this eyesore in Brooklyn for yet another day. Ramshackle, rundown, rat-infested and mold-ridden and a Middle Eastern super who doesn’t give a wee shite about the lot of it. I set up by the open window because there’s no fire escape. And even if there were a bloody fire escape, it wouldn’t be the smartest place for me to put arse to chair anyway because I’m wanted by the NYPD and probably the feds by now too. The summer heat bleeds through the apartment and makes this dive as smoldering hot as the pit of Hades. I feel like a prisoner to it, a fugitive, trapped in this waiting room, this all too claustrophobic think-tank. But here I stay until the morning comes and I jump on a plane and become one hundred percent Calabrian.
Haven’t reached out and phoned my family in Calabria, so they don’t even know I’m coming. Not many people know about my connection to them, so Italy’s a much safer bet than trying to make it back to Ma and Da in Ulster. One thing’s for sure … I’ll get to Southern Italy, bury myself in some farm or some church on a wee hill and retire from the business and learn to speak better Calabrese and see the whole country one day but straight away I’m going to do my best to blend in and make up a batch of lemonade out of a truck load of bloody lemons.
Plan A. Reggio Calabria. San Luca. Mia famigghia.
I sit tight, hold up in Mirko’s pad, having dressed myself up in his cargo pants and his Levski FC football jersey. Both smell like mildew and stewed cabbage but they’ll have to do until I can pry myself up on my bad leg and change into the new ones that Mirko’s just brought me. Been in these duds all afternoon now. Couldn’t change back into the clothes I wore this morning because they’re still scattered with my blood and Tong blood and all those in between. Been having to hide out, couldn’t use the washer and dryer down the hall on this floor because they’re down the bloody hall, and seen by anyone excluding my St. Petersburg comrade is not something I need to be right now.
Much to my utter fooking shock, Mirko wasn’t all too happy to see me when I barreled my way into his apartment all bloodied and shot to kingdom shite. Called me all sorts of pleasantries before he reluctantly assembled all his tools and patched me up proper. Did it all pretty sharpish too, or maybe it just seemed that way due to the entire bottle of Zarskaya Vodka I put down to curb the pain of his poking and prying, the gouging and gushing. Had to undress down to my knickers when I let the ol’ bugger dig in and extract the Uzi 9mm rounds and buckshots from my thigh. Then he sewed up the needle dart wound in my shoulder, the knife wound in my foot.
And every one of his “I told you sos” and “you shouldn’t have done thats” flew in one ear and directly out the other.
I’m paranoid, shaky, apprehensive of all things excluding the Beretta in my hand. And I’ve already made my legitimate complaints about this but Mirko wrote them off as nagging and decided to blast his unholy Barynya music to drown me out. It made every pooch within earshot of the apartment howl like they’d never see the sun again. The music, if you can even call it that, sucked the big one but apparently, it was all he had.
Now he sits over there with his eyes glued to the tele, a squirrelly smirk on his crooked lips, another one of his god awful Sobranie Black cigarettes blazing between his grimy fingers.
After perching myself in this spot by the window hours ago, I stand, stretch my legs, and it’s an ill-advise piece of thinking because it sends shockwaves of pain throughout me body. Aye, Mirko patched me up right as rain, suspiciously free of charge until he went to pull the bullets out of my leg and tried to work his other hand up my bare inner thigh. Thought maybe it was an accident until he went to stitch my shoulder and his other hand inconspicuously slid far too close to my left booby. It earned him a swift thumping to his Brillo pad noggin alright. He retained that it was an accident until I shot that down and called it utter bollocks. Then he decided to go with he hasn’t seen me in forever, that he’s missed me, and that he’s a lonely man. I gave him a choice. Patch me up, get me a new passport and driver’s license free of charge or I pull the trigger and make his head into a canoe.
What choice did the bloke have?
As I limp over towards him, I glare down at him because I’m still a bit cheesed about it. To try and make amends for his misdeeds, Mirko went out and brought me some fresh clothes, a good pair of scissors, a box of hair dye, and some colored contact lenses. They all sit there next to him on the table just between his ashtray and bottle of vodka. If there was ever a stereotypical, single Russian immigrant living at a dive in Brooklyn, it’d be Mirko. Sunken eyes, salt and pepper hair cut in a buzz, poorly-grown sandpaper beard that spreads like a mangy leprosy across his face and down his neck. Big, flaring nostrils and two front teeth that look right at home with the rats that run rampant inside his walls.
Despite the vast knowledge of medicine he learned in his time lent to the Russian Ground Forces, Mirko’s a scurvy wee wank who pays the bills by making fake passports, fake IDs, and by providing immediate medical attention to the criminal element in the greater New York City area. He also works part-time at Teddy’s Bar over on Berry Street.
His eyes are glued to the news because he’s apparently fascinated with it. The local stations are running non-stop footage of the crime scenes over the tele. Uniformed peelers and plain-clothed peelers swarming the area, securing the parameter, shooting the bollocks while pretending to give a shite about the untimely demise of the most powerful attorney/philanthropist/criminal mastermind in the city.
I don’t think they’ve linked this morning’s bloodbath to all the crimes I’ve committed in Charlotte, Virginia Beach, and Maryland in the past few days. Don’t think they’ve matched them to the shootings last year in Providence, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and New Orleans. Been a lot of places, done a lot of killing. No, they haven’t connected all the dots just yet but they will. With all the blood samples I’ve left behind over the last few days, they’ll soon know the name Cocoa McGrady and that’s why I have to change it and become a new person and flee the bloody country sharpish. I can’t help but feel like my time here in the US of A has run its course, that my days here are numbered. - © Will Hoyle 2008
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.