This is Part 3 of my serial, A Man Called Truth. You can read Part 1 and 2 here: Stories
Johnny Ross sat in the back of his limousine drinking a vodka, Winston dangling from his thick, trembling lips. It was an older limo, but he’d sworn to himself that he’d ride in a limo before he died and as soon as he had made enough dough, he bought this used one. The stereo speakers were blaring “Big Shot” by Billy Joel. He wore sunglasses even though it was 1:30 in the morning, because that’s what important people like him did when they were partying in the wilds of 1979 Los Angeles. His silk shirt, unbuttoned far enough to expose an extremely hairy chest and a sharks tooth gold necklace, was stained under the arms with sweat. That was because of the groupie he’d just been screwing in the back of the limo while he sent his driver/bodyguard to the office at the club with the order to tell his partner Shef that he’d better play it cool if any more cops came sniffing around about that nosy bitch reporter.
Johnny was aware there was a certain irony about a singer in a heavy metal band owning a disco, when everyone was saying rock n’ roll was dead, but he didn’t care. The joint brought in loads of cash and whatever problems came up, Shef took care of them without bothering him. All except that last problem. Shef had needed some help with that one.
Then, Tony Germain had come back to the car, pale as the moon.
Shef was dead. He’d found him stabbed in the throat in the back office.
Johnny opened the back door and shoved the chick out onto the sidewalk before she could even get her panties back on. Johnny threw them out the window at her as Tony put the car in drive and sped toward the house.
They drove down the tree-lined street and came to a stop in front of Johnny’s house, both men looking curiously at the yellow taxi parked in front. Johnny crushed the cigarette out in the ashtray and he and Tony got out and walked over to the cab. Tony pulled a nine-millimeter out of a holster hidden under his jacket. The car was empty.
“Probably for next door. C’mon,” Johnny said.
Tony re-holstered the gun as they entered the house . He immediately went to the bar and poured them two vodkas.
“Fuck,” Johnny said. He took the drink and downed it in one gulp, putting the glass down on a small coffee table. He plopped down in the leather lounger beside the table and ran his fingers through his hair. “Who the hell else knows about that reporter?”
“Damned if I know.”
The woman had said she’d left her evidence with someone. But she refused to say who, even after they’d hurt her a little. So they hurt her a lot more. That was the part Johnny didn’t like. Shef and Tony were the sleaze-ball gangsters, not him. He was an artist, for Christ’s sake. But damn if those two didn’t get off on torturing that chick. Fucking sadists.
“Do you think it’s her husband coming after us?”
Tony laughed. “I saw the guy’s picture in the paper. Scrawny little bastard. He couldn’t have taken Shef down like that. No way.”
Tony was leaning against the fireplace. He turned to sit his drink on the mantelpiece when Johnny gasped.
He stared in horror at the black-lacquered frame holding the photograph of him and Shef at Boogie Wunderland. Propped up against the picture, obscuring the image of Shef leaning against the bar with his arm around Johnny’s shoulder, was Shef’s severed finger.
Tony shrieked, taking a step backwards and dropping the drink to the floor, the glass thudding on the fake animal-skin rug.
“Holy shit,” Tony cried. He pulled out the gun and brought his fingers to his lips. “Stay there,” he whispered.
As if Johnny was going anywhere. Hell no. He was going to stay right there, close enough to make a beeline for the door.
He waited about ten minutes, tapping his fingers nervously on the arm of the chair. He strained his ears, listening for the sound of Tony’s footfalls on the thick carpet.
Suddenly Tony appeared in the doorway. He was wearing an odd, almost confused expression. His eyes were glazed, as if he were on drugs.
“What the fuck’s the matter with you?” Johnny asked.
Tony took one step forward into the room and fell onto the carpet. His hands were tied behind his back and his feet were shackled. He opened his mouth to scream, but no sound came out. His mouth was a gaping, bloody hole. His tongue had been cut out.
Johnny got up and shot like a bullet toward the door, but found his way suddenly blocked by a mammoth of a man: tall, and built like a professional boxer.
He gulped. How had the stranger gotten in front of the door that quickly? What’s more, how had he gotten inside the house?
“Who are you?” Johnny asked. He was shaking. “Who sent you?”
Emet cocked his head to one side, like a dog listening to his master say something pleasant. He put his hand to his mouth and pulled out a piece of paper. He handed it to Johnny. It read:
“You’re going to die a slow and painful death, Johnny Ross. Everything you guys did to her, is going to be done to you.”
Johnny looked up, wide-eyed, at the behemoth standing in front of him.
Emet removed a knife from his pocket.
Johnny screamed and tried to lunge past Emet. He saw the fist…then everything went black. There would be more screaming later on, but no one would hear Johnny and Tony from the insulated recording studio in the basement of the house.
At the first light of dawn, a mountain of a man dressed in black entered a suburban house. He went to the upstairs bedroom where he laid several small, bloody packages and something that looked like human skin at the feet of a middle-aged man with red, puffy eyes, who was sitting on a bed holding an old lockbox.
“Why?” Emet asked. His eyes had the fire of the kill still kindling within their dark depths. Harold looked up in surprise and flinched at the look in those eyes. There seemed to be something beyond them, almost intelligent. But that wasn’t possible. What was trapped in there had a powerful binding spell placed upon it ages ago.
“Since when do you ask questions?” said Harold. He rose from the bed and wiped a finger across one of the fine lines on Emet’s forehead that most people mistook for a prison tattoo.
Emet’s skin hardened like clay, his body seemed to fall in on itself, and he fell shrinking to the floor.
Harold bent over, picked up a statuette no more than six-inches long and placed it carefully inside the box.
Outside, on the sidewalk in front of the well-kept lawn, a man with long, white hair tied back in a ponytail, wearing a long grey trench coat looked up at the lighted upstairs window and muttered: