Mike’s fist pounded its way into Pat Farley’s cheek, cracking the bone, turning the flesh purple and bloody. Farley wasn’t exactly in a position to defend himself. He was sitting in a chair with his hands tied behind his back, his feet were tied together as well.
Another punch. Farley’s head turned sideways to absorb the blow. He sprayed a red mixture of spit, blood, and teeth into the air.
“This bores me,” Al said, sitting comfortably behind his desk. “Give him a break, Mike.”
Mike backed off.
A wooden box sat on the edge of Al’s desk. He opened it and pulled out a nice, thick cigar. He searched through his drawer until he found a metal cigar cutter and, just as if it were a tiny little guillotine, inserted the cigar into it and snipped off the tip.
Al struck a match, lit the stogie, then puffed on it.
“Oh,” Al said as he pushed the box toward Farley. “Pardon my manners. You want to join me in a smoke?”
Farley, unsure if Al was serious or kidding, quietly shook his head no.
“Good idea,” Al said. “Your mouth will be sore for awhile. You probably won’t want to use it for anything other than sucking dick or telling lies, your usual standard faire.”
The hostage was in his mid-forties. Flecks of gray in his hair. His nose had been crooked long before Mike started working on it.
“Al I swear,” Farley said. “I’m not lying. I don’t know what happened to your shit.”
Al laughed. He stood up and stared out his window at the passersby.
“Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s,” Al said. “And unto God the thing’s that are God’s.”
The barkeep turned away from the window and took a seat on the edge of the desk, just a foot or two away from Farley.
“You get my drift?”
Farley thought about it. “Which one are you again?”
Al sucked on his cigar, turning the ash on the end nice and red. He kept the cigar cutter in his hand and click clacked it open and shut, open and shut.
“I’m every-fucking-one, shit for brains!” Al shouted. “I’m your God, I’m your Caesar, I’m your motherfucking highly displeased business partner. Open your Goddamn mouth and start talking, shitbird. Who in the fucking hell has my opium?”
Farley suffered the indignity of being a grown man who was crying.
“I don’t know,” Farley said.
“An insufficient answer,” Al replied. “Farley, from hereon, I forbid you to utter the words, ‘I don’t know.’ Understood?”
“Good,” Al said. “Then who has it?”
Farley opened his mouth. “I…”
Al’s eyes filled with rage. His nostrils flared. Farley caught himself.
“Look,” Farley said. “The last person who was in the room before it went missing was Andy Clement. That’s all I know. I didn’t want to say anything because I don’t know for sure it was him.”
Al stood up. He stared Farley down for awhile, then smiled and patted him on the shoulder.
“Was that so hard?” Al asked with a smile.
Farley replied with a tentative grin. “No.”
“We’re not fucking animals here, Farley,” Al said. “Information’s all I’m after. Of course I’m going to do my own investigation into Andy’s alleged transgressions. I’m not going to just chop off his dick and beat him over the head with it on your say so.”
Farley exhaled. “Good. Because I don’t think he would have done it.”
Al clicked the cigar cutter open, then clacked it closed. “We’ll see about that. By the way, where’s my money?”
Farley looked up with confusion. “Money?”
Al blew smoke into Farley’s face. “My green stuff, imbecile.”
Farley stammered. “But…”
“We had an accord, you shifty looking prick,” Al said. “I gave you a certain amount of shit. You agreed that you would either return said shit to me, or that you’d sell it, keep your share of the profit, then return to me cash equal to the value of the shit, or a combination of cash and shit. I kept my side of the bargain and yet here I am holding my dick in my hand with nary a wet hole to stick it in. Why are you making me go through the trouble of making me explain shit to you that you already know?”
Farley was crying again. Weeping and sobbing.
“It’s not my problem that you lost the shit, mongoloid,” Al said. “So I’ll ask you again. Where the fuck is my money?”
Farley was a mess. Hyperventilating. Tears. Blood. Mucous. “I…I…don’t know!”
Al rolled his eyes and stood up. It dawned on Farley what he had just done.
“No! No Al! Please! I didn’t mean to…”
The barkeep drew the tip of his cigar closer and closer to Farley’s eye. The hostage winced, closed his eyes, and turned away. Mike gripped his hand underneath Farley’s chin and turned it towards Al, holding his face still.
Just when Farley thought he would surely be blinded, his ears filled with Al’s laughter. He opened his eyes to see Al standing there with the cigar in his mouth.
Al laughed. Mike laughed. Soon enough, Farley was laughing.
“Oh,” Farley said. “You got me good, Al.”
“Yeah,” Al said. The barkeep looked toward Mike. “Hold him down.”
Mike grabbed Farley, yanked him forward and held his right arm down on the desk. Al clicked open his cigar cutter and fitted it just over Farley’s pinky finger.
“What else aren’t you telling me?” Al asked.
“Nothing!” Farley cried. “There’s nothing else!”
“I swear, Al!”
“You believe him, Mike?” Al asked.
“Nope,” Mike replied.
“You hear that?” Al asked. “Mike just called you a liar.”
“I’m not!” Farley shouted.
Al pressed the cigar cutter blade down just enough so that it grazed the flesh of Farley’s pinky finger.
“You know,” Al said. “Marie Antoinette, that French cunt, she used to sit around all day eating cake. Yum, yum, yum. Yummy delicious cake. And then the peasants came knocking on her door one day and they said, ‘Hey cunt, we’re all out of bread and we’re fucking starving!’”
Farley closed his eyes.
“So Marie’s servants relayed the message to her and do you know what that oblivious slut said?”
“Hey,” Al said. “Numbnuts, I asked you a question.”
“No,” Farley replied.
“She said, ‘let them eat cake,’” Al said. “Can you believe that? Those fucking miserable peasants couldn’t even get their hands on some lousy scraps of moldy bread and this bitch had the nerve, the audacity, the utter gall to tell them to eat cake. Not just any cake, mind you. The kind of fucking expensive cake with all kinds of frostings and decorations and and cremes and berries and what have you that none of those peasants could have ever fucking dreamed of. She basically told them to go fuck themselves so they carted her off and lopped her stupid head off with a contraption just like this one only larger.”
“Al…I’m begging you.”
“Is that what you’re doing?” Al asked. “Are you telling me to eat cake?”
“No,” Farley said.
“When I’ve got a serious outfit to run and all kinds of people on my payroll depending on me, you’re telling me to eat cake like I’m some kind of stuck up French broad?”
“No,” Farley repeated. “Never!”
“I blame myself,” Al said. “I thought better of you, Farley. I guess I’m just not the good judge of character I thought I was. Oh well…”
Al pressed down on the cigar cutter. Farley screamed as it tore through his flesh. The cutter struggled against the bone, but Al mustered up his strength and kept pressing until the finger popped off and dropped to the floor. Blood spurted out of the open wound.
Farley shouted loud enough to be heard outside of the room. Outside, a few barflies and prostitutes turned their heads but then realized it was just Al being Al and returned to their business.
Al sauntered around his desk and returned to his chair. “You should be ashamed of yourself for making me do that. Now, let’s try this again. What piece of this perplexing puzzle are you not sharing with me?”
Farley screamed as loud as his lungs would allow. “There’s nothing else!”
“Fine,” Al said. “But know this…”
Blam! Farley’s head fell down with a gaping hole in the back of his skull. Mike chewed on a toothpick as he lowered his smoking revolver.
Al’s face was left covered with flecks of Farley’s blood.
“What the fuck was that?!” Al shouted.
“What?” Mike asked.
“That!” Al repeated.
“You were done, weren’t you?” Mike asked.
“Did I say I was done?” Al asked.
Mike holstered his steel. “Sorry. I thought you were done.”
“Oh Sweet Mary, Mother of God, I’m surrounded by fucking thinkers,” Al said. “I’ve got more thinkers in this place than Congress. Let me do all the thinking, Mike. I’ll think and you do.”
“Sorry boss,” Mike said.
“But don’t do until I fucking tell you to do the fucking doing,” Al said.
“I got it boss.”
Al pulled a handkerchief out of his desk and wiped his face.
“Do you have any idea how stupid that was?”
“He was just some asshole,” Mike replied.
“No,” Al said. “I’m not talking about the stature of the man you shot. I’m talking about the act of shooting him while he was sitting in front of me.”
“What about it?” Mike asked.
“What….what about it?” Al picked up a bottle of whiskey that was sitting on his desk, uncorked it, then took a swig. “Are you honestly asking me what about it?”
“Oh you kids just get fucking dumber and dumber,” Al said. “Look, I’m not a mathematician or a scientist so I can’t explain angles and trajectories and whatever the fuck to you but suffice to say if you shoot a dumb fuck there’s a significant chance that the bullet will exit the first dumb fuck’s brain and then keep going, destined to strike something else, whether it be a wall or the head of some other dumb fuck, namely, yours truly.”
“Jesus Al,” Mike said. “I didn’t know.”
“Yeah,” Al said. “‘I didn’t know.’ Famous last fucking words. What did Custer’s guide tell Custer when he pointed out that they were in fucking Injun territory? ‘I didn’t know.’ Start knowing shit. Wooden nickels and bad excuses are two things I don’t accept.”
“O.K.,” Mike said.
Al leaned back in his chair and wiped some sweat off his brow with the hanky. “Oh God. I can’t do shit like I used to.”
“You all right?” Mike asked.
“I’m fine. Clean this shit up.”
“Will do,” Mike said.
“And find Andy Clement,” Al said. “I’d like a word.”
“Right now?” Mike asked.
“No,” Al said as he closed his eyes. “Get him in here tomorrow. I need a nap.”