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Night of the big Guns

Max is sprawled across the bed, sleeping, maybe even dreaming. I don’t dream at all, or if I do, I don’t ever recall them. I wonder if, deep down beneath his cool tough hide, he has the capacity for fear. Some guys never admit to it, seeing it as a sign of weakness. That’s a mistake; fear is your friend, it keeps you alive.
    I heft the gun, feeling the weight of it, its cold blue solidity reminding me of his cock. I smile at the memory, remembering the taste of it in my mouth, the feel of it inside me. Was it worth it? I ask myself. Was he worth all that blood?    
    It seems like I’ve known Max for half my life, but the truth is it’s less than fifteen hours since I first set eyes on him. I wonder how Horse would have handled this jam, knowing that he would never have allowed things to get this fucked up, and with good reason. Horse taught me all I know but he’s dead now because he let himself get too close to someone. I can’t afford to make the same mistake. I pick up the bottle of Chivas and pour its fire into my mouth, thinking about six dead men, wondering if I should make it seven.

It was gone three in the afternoon when I checked in at the club. Things had been quiet in town the last few months, since Lenny Vanderman got his cancer, so I’d  gone up to Frisco for a couple of days to see an old friend. It hadn’t gone well. My friend said I should have called first to let him know I was coming. My turning up unannounced put him in an awkward situation with his new English boyfriend. In future I should call first, he said, so he could make arrangements. As if I should make an appointment like we were doing business instead of doing what we’d always done, which was fuck.
   So I was back a couple of days earlier than expected. While Dix poured me a shot I saw Tommy Vargas sneak back towards Fat Boy’s office. I drank my scotch and Dix poured me a second. By the time that was gone, Vargas was back and grinning like he knew something I didn’t. “Something on your mind, Tommy,” I said.
   “Oscar wants to see you,” he said. Vargas had a thing for Jimmy Dean and had taken to wearing leather. It made him look more like low-rent trash than a fucking gangster.
   I had Dix pour me another, tossed it back then followed Vargas down the hall. I was never one to speak ill of the dead, especially when they’re still living, but when Lenny had brought his son, Oscar, home from Miami to teach him the ropes, I’d known as soon as I’d seen the fat fuck, that the old man was losing it. It was like trusting a leech with a blood bank.
   Oscar sat behind Lenny’s desk, mock-resplendent in red denim and a striped Calvin Klein shirt, with the semblance of a smile painted on his slug-like lips. Brown stood behind him, sport-jacketed and casual, stone-faced, giving nothing away. And on the sofa was a stranger whose drowsy eyes I could feel sizing me up.
   “McClure,” Oscar said. “You’re back early.”
   “Thought I’d surprise you,” I said.
   “Something came up while you were away.”
   “What came up?”
   Beads of sweat rolled down his fleshy cheeks. “A problem.”
   “What sort of problem?”
   “One that needs taking care of.”
   “Hence the new help,” I said, jerking a thumb towards the stranger.
   Brown scowled and said, “This job of work isn’t for you, McClure.”
   I ignored him and said to Fat Boy, “Who is it?”
   Before Oscar could reply, the stranger stood up and drawled, “McQueen.”
   He was fortyish, with a full head of thick brown hair and an equally thick mustache. He wore a smart, black two-piece suit with a four button jacket and a black Ralph Lauren polo shirt beneath. He stood about six foot four and the muscle beneath his clothes seemed clean, the result of pumping iron rather than steroids.
   “You’re gonna clip Abel McQueen?” I directed this at Oscar, though I kept throwing glances at the big guy.
   “He’s getting too fucking greedy,” Oscar said.
   “Does Lenny know about this?”
   “Pop is a very sick man. He leaves business to me.”
   “So why don’t I get the hit?”
   Oscar took out a handkerchief and dabbed at his face. “This is an important piece of work, McClure. I wanted a professional.”
   I had this fantasy where I shoved my .357 in Oscar’s mouth and made him suck on it till it came. I was sorely tempted to indulge myself and ask him if he swallowed. Instead I said, “Maybe I should pay Lenny a visit.”
   Panic spread across his bland features. “That would be a wrong thing to do,” he said. “Bearing in mind he might not be around long more.”
   “I’ll give him your best wishes.”
   Oscar looked towards Brown who took a step in my direction. He was brought up short by the stranger, who laid a massive fist on his shoulder. “I don’t mean to piss on your parade,” he said, “but I don’t like to be fucked around.”
   Oscar blurted out, “No question, Mr Kovacs, the job is yours.”
   Kovacs stuck a hand out towards me. “No hard feelings I hope?”
   I took his hand and shook. A strange current flowed from his fingers into mine, zapping through my veins and setting my loins tingling. For a moment or two I couldn’t speak, then I managed to croak, “None at all.”
   When he let go I turned back to Oscar. “Try thinking with your brain sometime,” I told him. “Instead of your ass.”

    “You should watch your mouth,” he said, lowering his voice, as if he thought that would give it real menace.
   “Though in your case,” I went on, “That could be a humbling experience.” I glanced again at Kovacs, saw a brief smile flicker across his mouth, then I left the room before I pushed it too far.
   I called Lenny’s place out in the valley. Word was they could do no more for him at the hospital and they’d sent him home to die. A macho prick called Luis Calderon was out there, along with some nurse Oscar had hired. Calderon took my call. I asked for Lenny but he said no way, the old man was too ill and besides, he was on medication which meant he wasn’t exactly lucid. I told Calderon I didn’t give a fuck about Lenny’s lucidity, but I had to know if he knew what was going down. He made me hang on while he went to check with the old man. When he came back on the line the sonofabitch told me Lenny was more than happy with the way Oscar was handling things. I hung up, not believing a fucking word.

I returned to the club a little after seven and sat out front in my Chrysler. Vargas showed up about seven-thirty, and from the way he was jigging, I knew he was high. I climbed out and called to him. He spun, looking for the voice.
   “Joe,” he said, trying on a smile which didn’t fit. “Hey, what’s happening?” He slouched over to my car like some comic book tough guy, his eyes bleeding methamphetamine. I grabbed his arm, dragged him into the shadows and hit him hard in the gut. He went down puking and it was a good three minutes before he could speak. When he did, I hit him again, just to let him know I was serious.
   “I’m only gonna ask this once, Tommy,” I told him. “You really don’t wanna make me repeat myself.”
   He gabbled, “Please don’t fucking hit me again.” He was a pussy, no real use to anyone. The only reason he was on the crew, was he had a pretty face and Brown liked pretty boys. Brown would take it hard, someone messing with Tommy, but I didn’t give a fuck.
   “The big guy, Kovacs, where’s he at?”
   I saw the lie cross his mind, then self-preservation drive it away. “Out at the Palace on Falconer.”
   I was outside the Palace Hotel before eight-fifteen. I parked across the street and settled back to wait for Kovacs. He came out within twenty minutes, walked to a tan Thunderbird in the parking lot, got in and pulled out onto the street. I followed, hanging back a hundred yard and keeping my lights off.   
   He drove downtown to 27th and cruised past the Sheraton like it held no particular interest for him. But the Sheraton was where Councillor Abel McQueen had installed his teenage floozy, and where he could be found at least three or four nights a week, social and political engagements permitting. Kovacs drove on another three hundred yards then parked outside an IHOP. I slid past him, turned right at the next corner and did a u-turn in the road. By the time I was on 27th again, he was out of the car and walking back towards the Sheraton. McQueen was a wrong hit, I knew it in my bones. No matter if he’d got greedy, Lenny would never sanction this. So, did I stop it from going down or wait to see how it panned out?
   Kovacs disappeared into the lobby and I drove on up the street, past the hotel. I reversed into an alley a block from the Palace, got out of the car and waited at the corner. It was then I saw the black Sedan parked across the street, fifty yards closer to the hotel. Alarms started going off in my head and when I recognised Detective Emmerich slouched in the front seat, I knew Kovacs had been shafted. Emmerich was on Lenny’s payroll, an evil fag-hating motherfucker who’d fit up his entire family if he thought there was something in it for him. The fuck was watching the hotel, same as me. I glanced at my watch - Max had been inside five minutes, no more. I wondered what the fuck Oscar was playing at.
   Emmerich sat up suddenly, a big shiteating grin spreading across his face. I glanced up the street and saw Max exit the hotel. When I heard Emmerich’s engine turning over I stopped thinking and began to move, pulling out my .357 and crouching low as I ran across the street towards his vehicle. He only saw me in the last few seconds, but even before I blew his head to Kingdom Come, I saw the idea of death flood into his eyes. Turning, I saw Kovacs still walking away from the hotel,  like the blast of a .357 Magnum in the middle of the street was nothing to concern him. I ran back to my car, got in and took off. Within seconds I was alongside Kovacs and flinging the door open.
   “Get in,” I called. Then I saw the huge gun in his hand, levelled at me. “I just saved your ass,” I told him.
   He glanced back towards the hotel, put the gun inside his jacket and got in beside me. “What the fuck is going on?” he said.
   “I’m not sure. I think you were set up.”
   “So what are you doing here?” His drawl was cold, but compelling.
   “I wanted to see how a real pro handles himself.”
   He smiled at that and said, “One of your people back there?”
   “A cop.”
   He nodded. “Your boss set it up?”
   “The Fat boy isn’t my boss.”
   “That’s right “ he said. “You work for the old man. But Oscar cut you out of the loop and brought me in.”
   “I’ll live.”
   “Why’d you clip the pig?”
   “He woulda killed you.”
   “What do you give a fuck for, punk bitch?”
   “I don’t,” I lied, and he saw it.
   I felt his somnolent eyes reading what was inside my head. He put a hand on my leg and squeezed. “You know some place we can go figure this out?”
   “Yeah.” I drove to a Best Western out on the Interstate, stopping at a liquor store along the way. In the room I poured a couple of drinks, trying to act cool. “How many people you tagged, McClure?” Max said.
   “I don’t recall,” I said, nervous as Hell, but with a hard on straining against the fabric of my trousers.
   “Well, I guess I owe you,” he said. He shrugged out of his jacket, took off his shoulder holster and hung it on the back of a chair.
   “Don’t worry about it,” I said, my head filled with languorous heat.
   “Well see, I hate to be in anyone’s debt longer than I have to be. I was thinking that we could settle this right now.” His gaze fell to the bulge in my pants then back to my face. He reached down, unzipped me, then pulled out my cock and slid his powerful fingers to the base. “Whadda ya think, McClure? Will this make us straight?”
   I didn’t think so, but as he took my full-on tool in his mouth, I thought, who was I to argue?

Max Kovacs worked out of Cleveland. That was all I learned about him, but his long, hard dick more than compensated for the lack of detail. I figured I could fill in the blanks later on. First though, we needed some answers. I picked up the phone and called Lenny’s place. I let it ring twenty times but Calderon, the fuck, wasn’t answering. I hung up and said to Max, “If Oscar set this up, he’ll know by now that Emmerich is dead meat.”
   “Yeah,” Max said. “But he don’t know you were there. He’ll think I clipped him.” He took the phone from me. “I’ll call him and tell him I want my money. There was a complication, I’ll say, but the job is done.”
   I watched him dial the number and felt my dick stirring. I hardly heard a word he said  because my head was too full of wanting him again.
   Finally, he hung up. He slid out of bed and started pulling on his clothes.  “Wants me to meet him out at the airport in an hour. Says he’ll bring the money.”
   “Sure he will,” I said, reaching for my shirt.
   “Think I might go to the club instead. Give the fat prick a surprise.”
   I thought about where that might lead. “Oscar likes surprises,” I said.
   “Course I’d need someone to swish on out to the airport to cover my ass.”
   “Be disrespectful not to,” I said.
   Max said, “You know how some guys are if you stand them up.”
   “It can be a bitch all right,” I agreed.

I drove south on Mandalay and followed the perimeter road to the southern end of the airport. Lenny rented a hangar there, to house a couple of light aircraft he used for runs across the border. An arc light flicked on as I pulled up outside. I got out of the car slow and cautious, hoping they’d recognise me.
   “Don’t move, motherfucker,” a voice called out from inside the hangar’s gloom.
   “Brown?” I said, raising my hands. “I got a call.”
   “You lying fuckhead,” Brown said, stepping out from the hangar. He pointed a .38 right at my chest. “Oscar never called you.”
   “I never said he did.”
   “Inside,” Brown said, gesturing with his gun.
   Vargas pistol-whipped me as I stepped through the door. “You fucking bitch,” he hissed as I went down on my knees. “Not so bastard big now, huh?” Tommy really should have learned to distinguish between talk and action. When you want to give a guy a kicking, don’t talk to him just do it. His talking gave me a chance to reorient myself to the darkness. I saw the kick coming out of the corner of one eye, turned, grabbed his foot and twisted, spilling the punk to the ground. Before either of them could react, I had an arm round his throat and my .357  jammed in his ear.
   Brown stepped towards me. I said, “Back off, less you want to read Tommy’s future from his fucking cerebellum.”
   “Jesus, George,” Vargas whined. “Do as he says. The fucker’s crazy.”
   Brown backed off, pushing his gun inside his jacket. “I got your number, McClure,” he snarled. “And it’s a fucking zero.”
   “Lenny called me,” I said.
   Suspicion lingered in his eyes like a disease. “That old fuck is near dead.”
   “Not near enough,” I said, tightening my grip on Vargas’s throat.
   “Why were you so curious about Kovacs?”
   I told him the truth. “Professional admiration.”
   “You’re a real fucking joker.”
   “Lenny wanted me to keep tabs on the guy but he was gone by the time I got to the hotel. An hour ago Lenny calls to say the job was a fuck up.”
   Brown nodded, but his eyes were still hard and cold. “Prick whacked a cop at the scene. It was Emmerich.”
   I didn’t overdo the surprise. I said, “So Fat Boy wants you two to rub out Kovacs so the cops can’t trace the McQueen hit  back to him?”
   “That’s the deal,” Brown said.
   I shoved Vargas away from me. He fell at Brown’s feet and began whimpering like the pussy he was. “You know, Tommy, you can do Tough Guy by correspondence these days. Might work better than your Jimmy Dean act.”
   Vargas glared at me with watery eyes. Brown said, “Kovacs is late.”    
   “You should call Oscar,” I said.
   Brown didn’t like taking orders from me but I could see he was worried. “I was gonna do it anyway,” he said. He punched a number out on his cell phone. After a few moments, he tapped it in again, then said, “Can’t raise nobody.”
   “Something’s up,” I said. “Vargas, get the fucking car. You two get back to the club in case Kovacs shows up.”
    Some twisted emotion crawled across Brown’s face. “What about you?” he said.
   “I’m gonna check out his hotel.”
   Brown wasn’t happy about it, but he let it pass. As soon as they were gone, I drove east, out into the valley. It took me less than fifteen minutes to reach Lenny’s place. I cut my lights before I reached the drive, then left the car by the gate and made my way to the house on foot. I was cautious because I didn’t trust Luis Calderon. Oscar had brought him from Miami when he’d come home, said Luis had good connections and had proved his loyalty. He sure did, to himself. I made my way round the back of the sprawling bungalow to where a pale light fell on the empty pool.
   I looked in through one window and got an eyeful of Calderon’s white ass, rising and falling in quick rhythm as he fucked Della, Lenny’s nurse. Two windows along and I was staring in to Lenny’s room. He was awake, watching television, but looking like he was on speaking terms with death. It was there in his dull, vacant eyes. I moved on till I came to a bathroom, raised the window and climbed in. I went out into the hall and was about to make my way to Lenny’s room when a door beyond his opened. I stepped quickly back into the bathroom.
   A voice called out, “I’ll be right back.” It was Della. I peered round the doorway and saw her disappear into Lenny’s room. I followed her down the hall, found she’d left the door ajar. I watched her drawing a solution from a vial up into a syringe. She was naked and sweaty and I could see the old man’s eyes watching her with muted anticipation. He stuck out an arm and she strapped a tourniquet round it. “Come on honey,” she said. “You know how much you need this.”
   I stepped inside, shut the door behind me and said, “Not tonight he doesn’t.”
   Turning, she thought about screaming but my .357 persuaded her otherwise. “Get your ass over here,” I said.
   “He has to have his medication,” she said, her big tits jiggling as she walked across the room.
   “Show me that,” I said, snatching the hypo from her. Morphine, I guessed. “Who said he should take this? Don’t lie or I’ll shoot your fucking eyes out.”
   She thought about it for a second or two, then gave it up. “Luis.”
   “Out.” I shoved her ahead of me, along the hall to Calderon’s fuckpad. I made her walk in the room ahead of me, heard him say, “Hey baby, look what I got for ya,” then he saw me and his jaw fell open and his dick began to wither.
   “Hey, Luis, you got dry rot in there?” I said.
   “Ah fuck, McClure,” he groaned. “What do you want?’
   “Why’s Oscar doping the old man?”
   “Fuck you,” he said, which was a tragedy for him as I blew his right hand off. He started screaming and bawling and clutching at the bloody stump with his other hand. Della started to make it a communal effort so I knocked the bitch out.
   “Listen carefully, Luis,” I said, approaching the bed. “Everytime you give a wrong answer, you lose another piece of yourself. We’ll start with the limbs and move on to the organs. How does that sound?”
   He managed to stop screaming. “Lenny’s in remission,” he rasped.
   “He’s what?”
   “It’s true, man, I fucking swear it.” Even through his pain, I saw that he was telling the truth. “Doctors told Oscar the chemo was working. Oscar was pissed about it cos he figured the old man was dead. So he brought him home and turned him into a junkie.”
   “And Oscar made you the man, right?”
   “It wasn’t like -”
   I blew his other hand off. “Wrong fucking answer.”
   He howled like a beaten dog so I shot a hole in his foot. Now he was in real pain but of no more use to me. Out of a sense of mercy, I put a fourth bullet through his heart. Della was still out so I walked down to Lenny’s room. The gunshots had brought him partway out of his stupor.
   “Joey,” he said, pushing himself up in the bed. “What’s happening?”
   “Oh man, do you know what they’ve done to you?”
   “I’m sick, Joe. I’m dying. Bitch forgot my medicine.”
   “You don’t need it, Lenny,” I said. “You’re not as dead as you thought.”
   Surprise and a spark of the old fire came into his eyes. He coughed a little and said, “What are you saying?”
   I told him his cancer was cured and Oscar was deliberately keeping him doped. Shock dug its claws into his face and sank roots into him as I filled him in on the McQueen hit. I told him about Kovacs too, about Oscar hiring an outside guy. Finally, he raised a hand and said, “Okay, enough. It’s done. We just gotta live with it.”
   I shook my head. “There’s something else. Oscar tried to set the guy up. Had Emmerich on the scene waiting to do him.”
   “Fucking moron. Shoulda left him in Miami. So what happened?”
   “I took care of Emmerich.”
   “It gets fucking worse,” he said.
   “Now Oscar’s holding out and this guy is on the fucking rampage.”
   “My son has no fucking integrity whatsoever.”
   “We should settle with him, Lenny. He’s a pro.”
    “You’re right, Joey,” he said, and directed me to a safe behind a wall mirror. He gave me the combination and when I’d opened it I counted out thirty grand. “Little fuck acts like I’m already dead,” Lenny went on. “Go see this guy and make it right, Joey. Then see my fuckhead son and tell him to get his ass out here.”
   “I’ll take care of it, Lenny.”

I got back to the motel about 4 am. I listened outside the door and heard the murmur of voices. I opened the door a crack and saw the flickering screen spilling grey light on the carpet. I moved quietly into the room, gun in hand. His voice came out of the darkness like a stolen kiss. “Throw the piece on the bed.”
   I did as he said. A lamp flicked on and he was sitting in a leather armchair, his crisp suit spattered with blood, pointing his fucking cannon at my heart. “So where you been?”
   “The airport.”
   “And where else?”
   “To see Oscar’s old man.”
   He waved the gun towards the bed. “Sit down. You’re making me nervous.”
   I sat on the edge of the bed, mesmerised by his gun. “You saw Oscar?”
   “So, how did it go?”
   He smiled, as if recalling a pleasant memory. “He’s decommissioned.”
   “Fuck,” I said, even though I felt no real surprise.
   “Is that a problem for you, bitch?” Max said.
   I shook my head, thinking of Lenny, knowing it was bad.
   “I waited, after I’d done the fat fuck,” he went on. “Two more assholes showed up. They shoulda stayed away.”
   It was getting worse. Max was fucking crazy and I was even worse for wanting him. Call it bloodlust; not the sort of thing Horse ever let get the better of him. “You mind not pointing that thing over here?”
   He laughed and laid it on the floor. “You got something for me?” he said.
   I was in bad need of a drink. “I got your money,” I said, pulling the bundle from my jacket and laying it on the bed.
   He fixed his languid gaze on me and said, “I meant, besides that.” He stood up and came towards me, his prick taut against his pants.
   “I’m glad you made it,” I said, and before he could reply I’d unzipped him and pulled his swollen cock out into the warm, still air. Yellow lamplight glistened off a liquid pearl at the tip. I licked it off and smiled as his dick danced from my mouth. Taking a firm grip I slid my lips over the bulbous head and felt the blood pounding in  there. A hand snaked around my head, forcing me to swallow the shaft right down to the balls. Almost choking, I eased back, snaring my teeth on flesh.
   I heard Max groaning and felt my own cock straining at the leash. I reached down and set it free, all the time sucking on his candy. Another few slides along the shaft and I felt a hand on each side of my head, holding it in position while he pulled out. “Turn over,” he said, his drawl like an old blues song.
   As I turned he yanked my pants down around my feet. “I owe you this,” he said, and then his hands were on my hips and I felt that great head pressing inquisitively against my ass.
   I tried to speak but I was choking on desire as I felt his cock, pressing hard against  my hole, forcing a way in, stretching my anus and sinking slowly in there, pushing against my prostrate. Jesus, it felt good, better than Horse. My mind reeled and my cock jumped in his fist and his dick slammed in and out and I felt my mind and body begin to melt.
   Afterwards, we started in on another bottle of Chivas and talked about jobs we’d done, bullshitting, avoiding what was really on our minds, but I guess in this line of work, saying shit like that is never easy. By the time we were half way through the bottle, Max was out of it. It had been a long night.

And now the dawn has spilled over the eastern mountains and its light intrudes on our twilight world. I get out of bed and pick Max’s gun up from the floor. It’s a Colt Anaconda .44 Magnum with an eight inch barrel and a combat grip. I raise the gun till it’s caught in the light that streams through the crack between the curtains, then move it in a slow arc till it comes to rest on Max. He stirs again, and turns towards me, eyes opening. He props himself up on an elbow and says, “Scares the fuck outta most people.”
   “I always wanted a big gun,” I tell him, lowering it to my lap.
   Almost faster than I can see a hand whips out from beneath the sheets. It’s holding a Glock 9mm. “But for work I mostly use this.”
   “Nice piece,” I say, thinking of Fat Boy dead and Lenny’s expectations.
   “It does the job,” Max said. He gets out of bed and walks across the room, dick flapping against his thighs. Taking the Colt from me, he sticks the Glock beneath my jaw. “From this angle it will open your head right up.”
   My heart is pounding like a cathedral bell. I reach down and grab his cock. “I prefer this piece,” I tell him.
   He kisses me hard on the mouth, then says, “You have it.” He hands me the .44 and returns to the bed. And as he does so, I raise the gun in both hands and blow off the back of his head.
   I really had no choice. Oscar was a fuckhead, not fit to lick Max’s boots, but Lenny believed in all that blood being thicker than water crap. And there was the thing that had been playing on my mind all night, something Horse had said the first time he fucked me. When it came to cocks and guns, he’d said, bigger was always better. I reminded him of it a few seconds before I put a bullet in his heart.  
   “Not always,” I’d told him.
   “I got no regrets,” he’d replied.
   And neither had I.

© Mike O'Driscoll, 2022


Night of the Big Guns was originally written in 1997, and sold to Thomas Roche for his anthology series of erotic crime fiction, Noirotica. The story was scheduled to appear in volume 4, but sadly, the series ceased in 2001 with the publication of Noirotica 3: Stolen Kisses, after problems with the publisher. It appears here for the first time.

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