Sunday, 22 November 2009

The Devil His Due. Chapter Five. Empire's End.

Barely five seconds had passed between Wheeler deciding to fight, and the end of it. He caught his breath. Nolan had dropped behind the counter. Wheeler called for him to get up and help him move Floyd. Wheeler was running on automatic. The soldier in him had the reigns, and he spoke with the authority needed for Nolan to get up and do as he was told.

Floyd’s corpse was dragged to the freezer. Wheeler turned the door sign to read ‘Closed’. There was a mop and bucket and Nolan made work on what had spilled on the floor. Wheeler helped Wally to his feet and then thrust Wally’s pistol into Wally’s armpit. He was pushed into the freezer. Nolan was called in too. The store front was left deserted.

Wally was bound at the wrists by his own tie and then thrust into the corner where his partner lay broken. Wheeler slapped him twice in the face, hard, and told him to pay attention. Pocketing the pistol, Wheeler turned to Nolan. “Earlier you were shocked to see me. Thought I was here for your money. With them, maybe.” Wheeler waved his hand at the corpse and the captive.
“No, no.” Nolan began.
“You did. You’re not in trouble for it. I know you thought I was here for your money. Why?”
“Because you’re still here. You survived.”
“Survived what?”
There was a cough from Wally that became a laugh and then stopped. “Survived what?” asked Wheeler again.
“I don’t know what to call it. You don’t know?”
“I’ve been out of town a few days,” Wheeler stated.
Nolan went out front again, and sorted through some papers under the counter. He had to wave away a customer looking through the window. When he found what he was after he went out back again and showed Wheeler the front page.

Gang violence claims 46 lives in one day.

Wheeler read on.

Wheeler worked for the Finns, a family with a lot of businesses to their name but very little prestige. They had money in some stores, a few garages, an undertakers and a hotel. Wheeler worked for them. He solved problems for them when someone slighted the family and their reputation was threatened. Like Jerry on the West Coast just now, who had taken photos of the daughter of a friend and then pimped her out to hop heads and junkies. They were a mob, sure. And when bootlegging was in full swing, the Finns did whiskey runs down from Canada for themselves and a few other families. Since the war, they’d diminished. Their name didn’t draw as many young bucks off the street any more, mainly because their name didn’t go with girls or drugs – only gambling and legitimate enterprises. There was some gun-running for a few years, which was how Wheeler came to know them, but that came to an end soon enough.
Nowadays there was little about them that bothered the law. However, there was a lot about them the other outfits didn’t like.

Now it seemed someone had made their move. In a single day the Finn’s and most of their associates had been rubbed out. Two machine-gun ambushes, one at the hotel and the other at Marshall’s had destroyed the three of the four Finn brothers, their sons, their wives and their guards. A further 16 murders, by rifle, knife, pistol, poison and a sabotaged elevator carriage took the death toll to 37. The evening was quiet from the sound of things, with the City’s police on high alert, now that they’d seen a pattern to the deaths, and the press waiting on tenterhooks. Two bombs killed eight more outside the DA’s office – only three of the people killed seemed to be affiliated with the Finns. Then finally, at 11.59pm, Joe Finn – who ran a cab company in Miami and was estranged from his brothers in New York – was thrown from a moving car and killed just outside the offices of the New York Times. Not since prohibition had the city been wracked by so many high-profile slayings.

The next day – nothing. There was no one left to retaliate. Anyone outraged stayed quiet, they didn’t want to get mixed up with whoever could operate on this scale. The press speculated a new outfit was in town, or perhaps a few families had joined forces and were flexing muscle against the rest. Join us or die, was the guess in the papers.

And now Wheeler was masterless.

Nolan filled in the rest.

Only yesterday did these two turn up demanding protection. It seemed the Cimo’s had either forfeited their hold over Nolan’s, or they had merged with whoever was making these power plays. That was all the butcher knew. So Wheeler thought to press Wally for a bigger picture.

Wally was already boasting he wouldn’t say a word when Wheeler folded the newspaper up and walked over to him. Wheeler sent Nolan out front. He didn’t have to see this. Wheeler followed, looking for a knife.

And then the guns went off.

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