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Little Village vs. NaNoWriMo: Day 14


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One thing was for sure, then. Carol was in Iowa City, dining with the dentist. This is probably the point where Stan would lay down some hastily made plan, maybe make some sort of offbeat joke to lighten the mood and get my blood flowing again, but Stan was several blocks away with a couple of bullets in his chest. He got caught up in this, just like I had, and now it was my time to go it alone. I hadn’t made out his full part in this, but there’d be more time to pick up the pieces later.

The clock was ticking. Five minutes to get to the dentist’s payphone or else. I was never much for ultimatums, the bastard. I shook myself alert and checked the clock. Four minutes to get to the payphone.

I yelled out at some coed who had paused briefly to gaze around for the police and ambulance sirens crying out just a few blocks away. It was some girl young enough to be my daughter, couldn’t have been much older than 18. She seemed hypnotized by the commotion, so I called out a second time, louder, more frustrated.

Her gaze snapped in my direction.

“Bloomington street, where is it?”

“I…what?”

“I need to get to a laundromat on Bloomington street. Come on sweetheart, time is a factor, here,” I yelled, becoming more and more frustrated as the seconds ticked away. Nobody had a sense of urgency in this town and it was starting to wear one me.

She hesitated for another second or two before responding slowly with some simple enough instructions. I thanked her, she nodded, and continued walking, entranced. I let her continue on with her daydream. No sense of urgency. The dentist was right, at least, about being five blocks away.

I flipped up my cell phone and thought of someone, anyone to call while throwing the car in drive and rocketing off toward the laundromat. My foot was halfway down on the gas pedal, fast approaching a stoplight when I noticed a flank of a local patrol car at the oncoming intersection. Glancing up at the stoplight again, I saw green turn to yellow. My brain did a quick math problem and I put on the breaks harder than I would have liked. I’d had enough on my plate at the moment and the last thing I needed was to do was draw heat for some petty moving violation. I was working with minutes and seconds.

My body rocked back a few inches, compensating as the vehicle snapped to a complete stop. I glanced to my left, making brief eye contact with the officer sitting perpendicular to me. It was probably the wrong thing to do, but I gave him a sheepish smile and a nod. Better to look foolish than suspicious. The officer failed to oblige me in a head nod of his own.

I looked away in time to see his light turned green. It was then that I saw red and blue flashing lights cast a glow across my periphery. Sirens followed a second or two later and my face turned hot. I began to sweat again, having just cooled off from my encounter with the ‘heartland’ assassin. I watched, frozen, as the patrol car whipped halfway into the intersection, making a tight arc. Once the officer had cleared the apex of his 180 degree turn, his foot slammed on the gas, speeding off toward the bar I had just barely escaped from.

My thoughts returned to to the sound of two dull thuds. Bullets, smacking Stan’s chest and knocking him flat on his ass. I still felt numb over his death, and selfishly thankful for the distraction his murder created. You can keep Stan, I thought, give me Carol.

The light turned green and I relaxed a bit, easing my foot on the accelerator as the sound of police sirens echoed down the street. I grabbed around the passenger seat for the cell phone I had cast aside during my brief staring contest with Iowa City’s finest, but ended up tossing it back in the passenger seat a second time. I had just over two minutes to get to the Bloomington Street laundromat, the cell phone’s glowing time display serving as my reminder. On the bright side, the laundromat was just a few blocks down the road.

I made the rest of the short trip with no interruptions and with what I thought was time to spare. Parking just three spaces down from the only pay phone in sight, I opened the car door, slid the keys out of the ignition and took a step out of the vehicle in one connected motion. The dentist and I must be on different schedules, because I heard the anachronistic rings of the pay phone calling out to me as soon as the car door popped open.

My hand slipped as I made my rushed attempt to slam the car door. I could tell from the sound that the latch didn’t catch, but I was already halfway to the payphone. Using one arm as a buffer to soften my mini-wind sprint to the booth, I lifted the phone off the hook with my other and pressed it against my ear.

“Mr. Cervetti, you made it with time to spare.”

“You called early, asshole,” I grunted, out of breath when I shouldn’t have been. I brought my free hand back up to my chest in anticipation of pain and pressure.

“Ah, but wasn’t that exciting?”

“Sure. Exciting. Where’s Carol. If she’s hurt they’ll be finding the dentist’s teeth for weeks.”

“Oh the irony,” laughed the dentist. I wasn’t in the mood for jokes.

“Why do you have Carol and what the hell did you send us on a wild goose chase?” I asked, impatiently. “I need some goddamn answers, fast.”

“Calm down, Lenny. You’re not in the position to be making demands,” responded the dentist, softly. “What’s important is you’re still alive, and luckily, I still have a use for you.”

“Okay…”

“Don’t be a fool, Mr. Cervetti. You know damn well that Rosso’s not going to stop until I’m finished. Since I can’t seem to get rid of you goons he sent, a rather poor attempt to clean up a mess of his own making I should add, perhaps I can acquire your services .”

“Cut the bullshit and get to the point,” I yelled. “And where’s Kevin?”

“Kevin? I’m surprised he hasn’t gotten a hold of you himself yet.” The dentist said, amused. “Regardless, since I can’t seem to have you killed, Mr. Cervetti, perhaps you’d like to trade your life, and Carol’s, for another.”

His remarks about Kevin were lost on me, but I had to hedge my priorities for the time being.

“So I take Rosso out for you, then what?” I asked. “I’ll have two dozen pissed off Italians on my ass before his body even hits the ground. I’d be a dead man.”

“But Lenny, is that really any different from the current situation you’ve found yourself in? Do you think that I’m not watching you as I speak, your hand on your chest and car door partially ajar? You’re looking pale, by the way.”

“I’m not an idiot, Edward,” I snapped. “I get why you’ve brought me here. I get that you’re in control.”

“So if you admit that I’m in control, Leonard, and you’re the marionette, so to speak, then why do you delay?” he asked. “You know Carol’s life is on the line. It’s either me or Rosso, and you know damn well that this isn’t really a choice at all. I already made the choice for you when I got a hold of the thing you love most.”

Seconds passed as it dawned on me that everything the dentist said was true. Horrible truths. I looked around the neighborhood, a mostly residential area where apartment complexes and duplex houses flanked the laundromat on all sides. I thought again about the sound the bullets made as they thumped into Stan’s chest back at the bar and wondered if I wouldn’t find myself in my dead partner’s shoes if I didn’t tell the dentist what he wanted to hear.

“I’m going to need a fresh vehicle if I’m going to drive back to Chicago.”

“And why would you need to drive to Chicago, Lenny? You forget your best suit?”

“I’m going to have a hell of a time taking out Rosso when I’m 200 miles away,” I said. The dentist knew something I didn’t, but I played along with his act for now.

“Rosso,” the dentist began, “is here.”

“In Iowa City?”

“In Iowa City, Mr. Cervetti.”

“Okay,” I said, slightly befuddled. “Since you apparently have your eye on all things in this town, would you mind telling me why he’s here and what the hell you know?”

“I don’t think you’ll have any trouble finding him, Cervetti,” the dentist said. I could sense his smirk from the tone of his voice, alone. “I’ll be in touch.”

I heard a soft click, my conversation with the dentist over. Slowly turning around, my gaze once again scanned the neighborhood, shifting from window to window, looking for movement but finding one. Things were moving in slow motion as I walked back toward the car, climbed into the driver’s seat and slamming the door shut behind me.

I flipped over the cell phone and saw that I had missed three calls in the span of five minutes, all from the same number. Kevin.

I called the number back and only heard half a ring before a panicked Kevin answered the phone.

“Where the hell have you been, Lenny?” Kevin said, out of breath himself.

“Kevin, slow down, tell me what’s going on. Why does the dentist have Carol? What the hell happened?”

“We just got into Iowa City earlier today,” Kevin began, catching his breath a bit. “We went into some lonely gas station to pick up some coffee and fuel. Mom…Carol went outside to have a smoke, and when we came back outside she had just vanished. I can’t explain it, Lenny. It’s like someone just plucked her out of thin air.”

“Wait, you said Carol was gone when ‘we’ came back outside ” I said. “Who’s we?”

There was some shuffling on the other end of the line and I heard a different, older voice in my ear.

“Lenny,” said the man. “Lenny, where can you meet us? Shit’s hitting the fan and I haven’t been completely straight about why I sent you out here. I think it’s time we had another talk.”

The dentist was right again. I wouldn’t need to go to Rosso. Rosso was coming to me, with open arms, and I didn’t even have a gun.


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