The display on my phone showed it was almost ten p.m. I was parked across the street from Eastland Mall between the Auto Bell carwash and Bobby’s Burgers. They were closed for the night and
The display on my phone showed it was almost ten p.m. I was parked across the street from Eastland Mall between the Auto Bell carwash and Bobby’s Burgers. They were closed for the night and I had the space to myself. I’d parked in the shadows and watched the main road to the parking lot. The urn sat in the passenger seat beside me.
The mall used to be a nice place. It’d stretched two blocks and housed stores like Banana Republic and Gap. It gave a boost of self-esteem to a low income area that only a clean, safe place to shop and a place to take the kids for ice cream can accomplish.
But, that was then. The gangs had moved in and the customers moved out. Eventually, the numbers didn’t work and some quick-turnaround developer purchased the property from city hall and reduced it to ruble before selling the land for a profit. They left piles of building debris scattered across acres of blacktop and at night the area had become an open market for drugs and prostitution. It was a great place to meet a crime lord.
After the call from the van guys, I’d leveled with Joey about Marge. I’d told him about the diamonds, my lunch with Eddie Wong, and Marge’s abduction.
“Those lousy sons-a—”
“I know,” I said. “I’d kill the lot of them if I knew where they were holed up.”
“We’ll get her back, Mac. They’ll wish they’d never been born.”
“Big Jimmy wants to meet at Eastland Mall, west side, at ten tonight. I told the guys in the van to meet me there at ten-fifteen.”
“Christ. It’ll be a shooting match.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Like the O.K. Corral.”
Joey and I talked a plan through, discarded it, then thought of another. By eight o’clock we’d come up with a dozen more, but all seemed too risky to Marge. In the end, we decided Joey would pack a long gun and find a spot on top of one of the piles of construction debris to cover me while I met Big Jimmy. Like my pal in Boston said, sometimes you have to shake things up.
It was still too early for the local rats to play at the dump. Most of them wouldn’t show until after the witching hour, but it mattered little. They knew who Big Jimmy was and no one would interfere. The meeting would just be us.
I checked the time and it was five minutes until ten. My phone buzzed, rattling in the cup holder. I grabbed it and saw it was Joey.
“Jimmy sent a couple of mooks over early. They’re hiding behind a pile of junk with a mannequin on top. Some kids must have set it up there as a joke.”
Even though it was dark, a few of the working security lights atop their poles created a maze of light and shadows. I found the pile with the mannequin on top. Someone had broken all the fingers off its hands except for the middle ones then propped the torso, complete with arms stretched out and arranged it atop the pile. It faced the main road and flipped everyone off as they drove by. The rats had a sense of humor.
“Where are you?” I asked him.
“I’m two piles over,” he said. “If I wanted to, I could pop your headlights out.” I searched for his location, but couldn’t spot him.
The trick would be for us to separate the beret crew from their van so we could get to Marge. Joey could use the rifle from his position and help with that. If Marge wasn’t in the van, we’d go to plan B and I’d grab one of them. Joey and I would convince him to tell us where they were holding her.
A few minutes later, a dark limo turned in to the mall parking lot from the main road. I cranked the engine of my trusty steed and pulled onto the road and followed the limo in. It stopped at the pile where Joey saw Jimmy’s two shooters. I pulled around the limo and circled around to face its headlights. They blinked off after I turned out my own.
The night was quiet, engines cooling in the silence. A back door opened in the stretch job and Overcoat got out. He walked to the front of the car, hands in his coat pockets. He had to be sweating up a storm in that thing, but seemed cool as a cucumber. He pulled a walkie-talkie out of his pocket and spoke into it. A minute later, Jimmy’s guys came out from the shadows and walked over to the limo.
Overcoat opened the back door then moved to the passenger side of the limo and looked around, settled into a wait and see pose then nodded at the mooks. They moved behind the limo and watched in that direction. They’d pulled their guns which hung loosely by their sides. I had the .357 in a holster and a Ruger .380 in a pocket just in case. In addition to his long gun, Joey carried his big .45.
Big Jimmy got out. He walked towards my car and stopped halfway. I walked the rest of the way to meet him.
He looked me up and down, and shrugged. “I don’t see you holding the urn, Mac.”
“It’s in the car. But first, we need to talk.”
He looked over his shoulder at Overcoat and said, “I’m going to Mac’s car.”
When we got to the side of the Explorer I said, “I found the diamonds, Jimmy. I’m betting they came from Angorra’s and the Brink’s job.”
He looked at me appraisingly. I held his gaze. Jimmy was a ruthless killer, but ultimately he was a businessman and every move he made was in pursuit of what was best for Big Jimmy Enterprises. When he finished taking inventory he said, “Who else knows?”
“Let’s get this over with. What do you want, Mac?”
“Jimmy, the guys in the van, they’re looking for the diamonds aren’t they?”
He looked at his feet and pushed a couple of small rocks around with his shoe. When he raised his head, he said, “If you rat me out—”
“I don’t have time for your speech, Jimmy. Tell me about the guys in the van.” My right hand was in my pocket; my shooting finger picked at the trigger guard of the Ruger. I glanced at the cellphone in my left. It was five after ten.
“They took Marge, Jimmy, and I don’t have any more time to waste.”
Big Jimmy’s head snapped back like I’d hit him across the face and his breath rushed out like he’d been holding it. I didn’t know what to make of it, but kept quiet. A few seconds later, he recovered and said, “I was in Cincinnati on business a few years ago and met a man named Eichner. We came up with a plan to send our crews to each other’s town to do a series of jobs. Eichner is an old Nazi and likes diamonds.” He leaned against my Explorer and the springs complained.
“The way it worked, if my guys were in Cincinnati and did a job, the crew would turn over the loot to him. His crew gave me the loot they stole here, like the Angorra job and the Brinks job a year later. Then our crews would leave each city and go home. The cops couldn’t find them and no one knew who they were. The District Attorney would have no evidence the local syndicate was involved. It was a perfect plan.”
“Until somebody got greedy.”
There was an almost imperceptible nod.
“After their last job, the Brink’s armored truck, they kept half the loot and took it with them back to Cincinnati.” He blew out a big breath and looked around. “Eichner’s crew is back for the rest of the diamonds.” When he turned back to me, his eyes were cold. “I’ll take care of it and Marge will be fine. You keep your trap shut about this.”
“The guys from Cincinnati know I have the urn. They want to trade it for Marge. I’m not going to just give you the Urn and walk away.” I looked around at the decay of a once vibrant location. I wasn’t going to let Marge get caught between two organized crime syndicates if I could help it. “Jimmy, how exactly do you see this going down? Do you think I’m going to step aside?”
“Give me the urn, Mac,” Jimmy growled.
Overcoat must have heard something in Big Jimmy’s tone. He started walking toward the Explorer with his gun out. I raised my hand and dropped it. A shot rang out and pieces of tarmac jumped at Overcoat’s feet. He swung around and dove under the front of the limo. The two mooks searched for Joey but couldn’t spot him in the darkness in the piles of debris.
Big Jimmy, too smart to make any sudden moves, still leaned against my Explorer.
“All right,” he said, “I’ll play. What do you want?”
“I want Marge. I don’t care about the diamonds.” I looked at my phone. “Jimmy,” I said.
“The van guys are going to be here in three minutes. I told them to meet me here to make the exchange.”
I couldn’t read Jimmy’s expression or his mood, but he didn’t waste any time with emotions on a good day. He yelled out to Overcoat to have the chauffeur move the car into the shadows.
“Cincinnati’s coming. Three minutes. Let’s give them the welcome they deserve. You two,” he pointed to the mooks, “Get in the shadows.” Overcoat and Big Jimmy moved behind the closest pile as I yelled, “What about Marge?” but the darkness had swallowed him up.
I held up my phone which had been on the whole time. “Joey? Did you get all that?”
“Yeah, I got it. And the van guys just pulled in to the east side of the parking lot. You got about a minute. Are we sticking to the plan?”
“I don’t know what Big Jimmy’s going to do,” I said, “but it may work in our favor. Watch for my signal.”
The van arrived a second later, its engine softly purring, and pulled to a stop a car’s length in front of me. If they’d wanted to kill me, they could have tried to run me over. I guess they wanted to talk about the diamonds after all. A swarthy Eastern European-looking man wearing a black beret climbed out of the passenger side of the van and walked over.
“You must be, Mac. I am zee man on zee handy. Holgar. Lez talk.” I could smell the garlic on his breath. He was oily, and his clothes were dirty like he hadn’t bathed in a week. Maybe he and his crew were living in the van to stay out of sight.
I kept my hand on the Ruger inside my pocket. It calmed my nerves.
“Give me Marge and we’ll talk all you want,” I said.
He laughed. “No. I don’t zink zo. Show me zee stones first.”
“Is she here?”
“Ja. She is in zee auto having a cup of chai. It’s good. You vant some?” His smile was vinegar.
The side door of the van opened and one of his henchmen climbed out. I could hear Marge cussing behind him. “Get your filthy hands off of me, you greasy, terrorist, bastard son of a bit–” the rest was cut off as the door slid shut. Marge was definitely there. The henchman walked over and whispered something into Holgar’s ear then stood at attention.
“All right. You see vee have her. Give me zee diamonds.”
I started toward my Explorer with Holgar two steps behind. His henchman brought up the rear. I knew there must be at least two more of his guys in the van. When I looked back at Holgar, I saw Big Jimmy and Overcoat moving in the darkness toward the back of the Van.
At that moment, the side door opened again and another henchman climbed out. Before the man could pull his weapon, Overcoat pulled the trigger of his own gun and the top half of the henchman’s head exploded into a fine mist of blood and bone on the custom paint job of the van. The door slid shut quickly and the engine started up.
Holgar turned from me and shouted, “It’s Big Jimmy. Kill him!” The man who’d followed Holgar to the Explorer began to fire and I raised and lowered my arm. A second later a shot from Joey’s rifle took half his neck and spread it over the parking lot.
As the van began to move, the mooks appeared and shot out the rear tires and the van skidded to a stop. Holgar had started to run but I shot him in the backside with my .357 and he yelled loudly and fell. I walked over and kicked his gun away.
The side door of the van opened and a burly looking fellow stepped out holding Marge in front of him. I saw another guy in the driver’s seat.
I looked down at Holgar and told him to order his guy to release Marge. “You’re bleeding out. If you let her go, I’ll let you go. Your guy can take you to the hospital.”
His blood had spread and looked black under the security lights, but it wouldn’t have mattered if it was day, it would pool out all the same. He wouldn’t last long enough to get to the hospital. “Hey, you hear me?” I said. When he didn’t speak, I had my answer.
The guy holding Marge had backed against the side of the van with Marge in his grip. Big Jimmy had blocked his way and now stood in front of him. Overcoat was on Jimmy’s left. The mooks had maneuvered to the front of the van and both were pointing handguns at the driver through the windshield.
I walked over and stood to the right of Big Jimmy. The sliding door of the van was open and I could see inside. It was carpeted and had two captain’s chairs and a small couch in the back. On a small table was a tray of Baklava with some glasses for hot tea. There were dirty clothes on the floor. The smell probably drove Marge crazy.
The driver turned in his seat and kept moving his gun back and forth, first at Big Jimmy then at the mooks covering him from the front.
Marge struggled against her captor until Jimmy said in a soft, soothing voice, “Marge, honey, keep still. He’s not going to harm you.” I wondered if I’d heard him correctly.
“Jimmy…” she said then started to cry.
“I kill her, I vill do it,” the man said. I didn’t doubt him. But, he was in a bind and knew it. He turned to the driver and spoke in a language I didn’t understand then turned back around. “You vill give us your auto and vee vill go. Give us zee diamonds and vee vill let zee fraulein go at another place.”
I raised my hand and dropped it. Big Jimmy saw the gesture and stepped back. I said in a loud voice, “Marge-ay, fall-ay to the ground-ay, now!” As she fell, a shot rang out and the man who held her was thrown back into the van. Bits of his flesh and blood spattered onto the baklava. Overcoat stepped to the open sliding door and fired in at the driver at the same time the mook brothers unloaded a full clip each through the windshield. The driver slumped forward and the horn began to blow.
Jimmy walked Marge to the back of his limo and helped her inside. Someone wrapped a blanket around her. I walked over and tapped on her window.
“You sure you’re all right?” For once she was quiet. Then her eyes, still leaky from the action a few minutes before, looked at mine. “Yeah, I’m okay. I’ve been through worse.”
“You going to leave with Jimmy?”
She gave me a look then lightened up and smiled. “Mac, me and Jimmy have been going steady for quite a while now.”
“What about my business? Were you working for him while you were working for me?”
“No. Our personal life is separate. Look, it just happened. You don’t have to worry.”
Big Jimmy stepped over and leaned into the window to kiss Marge.
“Good bye, my love,” he said as her window rolled up. He turned toward me and said,
As we approached the Explorer I said, “Marge? Really?”
He gave me a hard stare and I looked away.
“Is this the end of your trouble with Cincinnati?” I asked him.
“No,” he said. “But, they’ll take some time to lick their wounds. I’ll be all right. By the way, you never told me where you found the urn.”
I thought back and said, “That’s right. I never did. Is it important?”
“I paid you for it.”
He had a point.
“Your cleaning lady. The last time she cleaned your office, when was that?”
His face screwed up and his face turned red. “I’ll have her killed.”
“No you won’t. She didn’t do it. She brought her kid to work with her. He was helping her dust and knocked it into the cleaning cart. The woman didn’t know. I found the urn at the dump after I tracked down the truck that moved the dumpster. I spent a week looking through the city’s trash for your stupid urn.”
I reached across the seat, pulled the metal container out of the Explorer and handed it to him. He opened it, pulled out the ashes, and felt for the velvet pouch of diamonds. He handed me the urn then opened the small sack and poured the diamonds into his hand. While he looked them over he said, “Marge isn’t going back to work for you. You understand what I’m saying?”
“Yeah. I get it. But you better be nice to her or I’ll sic Joey on you.”
“Here. Your fee.” Big Jimmy handed me three of the diamonds. He smiled. “Don’t looked so shocked. You saved Marge and you found the urn. Consider it a bonus for you and your man.”
“He’ll be thrilled.”
Big Jimmy closed the velvet pouch and put it in his pocket. Overcoat came around and opened the door for him. Marge slid over and he climbed in beside her. The window slid back down and Big Jimmy smiled.
“What now?” I said.
“How’d you like to go to Cincinnati?”