Excerpt from End of the Line

End of the LineThe homes on the street, most from a time before World Wars, appeared neat, orderly and well-maintained. Massive elm trees, over a hundred years old, stood sentry-like on the boulevard in front of every home. The granite curbs along the narrow street were buried beneath drifts of brown and yellow leaves. Up and down the block well-tended gardens were crowded with the last of fall flowers, mums, dahlias, maybe the occasional rose, not that Morris knew or even cared. If he wanted flowers he could just buy the damn things. He watched from down the block as Alfie walked up to his front door, quickly inserted a key, then stepped inside. Morris waited five minutes then pulled up and parked behind the PT Cruiser, calmly made his way up the sidewalk to the heavy oak front door and knocked. He waited a long moment then knocked again, a bit more forcefully this time. Eventually a soft face appeared through the leaded, rectangular window in the door and frowned. A lock snapped, the door opened, and Alfie stood there, letting just the slightest look of lawyerly irritation float beneath the styled gray curls.

“Yes?” Costello said, standing in the doorway in shirt sleeves. He held a crumpled linen napkin in his left hand, which he used now to daub the corners of his mouth, sending the message he was clearly interrupted. From somewhere behind him what sounded like a microwave began chiming and Alfie shifted his feet, ever so slightly suggesting that he really didn’t have time right now.

“Oh, hello, sorry to bother, I’m looking for, ahh, Mister Alfie, Costello is it?” Morris smiled, hands casually thrust in his pockets and not at all sorry. Alfie gave a slight sigh that morphed into the beginnings of a frown as his shoulders seemed to sag and Morris immediately thought this was going to be enjoyable.

“And you are . . . ?” Alfie asked impatiently, then raised his head slightly to glance imperiously, eyes settling on the massive eyebrow, and thinking the man at his door looked familiar but he couldn’t place him.

“Yes, my name is Morris, Sir, and.”

This would probably be as good a time as any, Morris thought. As he spoke he quickly withdrew his right hand, along with the lead sap he clutched. The sap, a favorite of Morris’, was wrapped in soft Italian leather, not brown but more cordovan in color. The leather was braided around the five ounce weight and into a long strap that served as a handle. The softness of the leather was really immaterial, negated by the five ounce lead bar it held and which Morris now swung expertly across the bridge of Alfie’s nose.

“.this is for you.”

Blood splattered across Alfie’s front door, the doorframe and then began to pour onto his white silk shirt. As he staggered back into his living room, hands clutching what was left of his nose, Morris followed.

“Don’t mind if I do,” he said jovially, stepping into Alfie’s home and closing the blood-splattered front door behind him.

Alfie coughed a few times, spat blood on his floor, actually on his oriental rug, then staggered back a few more steps.

“I’ll, I’ll have you arrested, I’m calling the nine, one, one,” Alfie screamed through hands covering what was left of his nose, before coughing a few more times, followed by a serious groan.

Morris quickly turned sideways and kicked a powerful leg extension into Alfie’s ribs, sending him crashing back and then down onto his Early American style coffee table, reducing it to cherry wood splinters. He gasped, coughed and spit more blood onto the rug.

“Wha, wha, what the fuck!” he coughed as blood streamed around his mouth, dripped off his chin and across his white silk shirt.

“Mmm-mmm, what’s for lunch?” Morris asked, sniffing the air as he strolled into the kitchen, ignoring Alfie gasping and bleeding on his former coffee table, now just a pile of kindling.

From the sharp pain in his side Alfie was pretty sure he had two or three broken ribs. It took a moment but his head was clearing, sort of. Of course, with that came waves of pain from his smashed nose and possibly fractured cheekbone. Run, was the only thing Alfie could think of and he attempted to raise himself up off the shattered coffee table and flee from the house.

“Mmm-mmm, don’t even think of it,” Morris, said, suddenly next to Alfie, just before he stomped his heel firmly onto the fingers of Alfie’s left hand. He caught the hand with the back of his heel, just where the fingers met the knuckles. Exerting all his weight he ground his heel back and forth, the snaps and crunches of bone lost beneath Alfie’s high pitched screaming.

“Arghhh, ahhh, ahhh,” Alfie screamed like a wounded animal, pulling at his wrist with his right hand, trying in vain to remove the crushed fingers from underneath Morris’s grinding heel.

“Mmm-mmm, pretty good,” Morris said smacking his lips, eventually lifting his foot off Alfie’s crushed hand.

“Ahh, ahh,” Alfie groaned clutching the broken and bloodied left hand, looking up toward Morris, terrified.

“Mmm-mmm, no I mean this, is it, what is it a hint of lemon pepper I’m tasting?” He held a white china bowl, heaped with the chicken curry Alfie had been warming in the microwave. He smacked his lips a few times, dug in with the fork, and took another mouthful, then settled down on the arm of the couch and stared at Alfie.

“Mmm, suppose you’re wondering, you know, what the fuck? This is really good by the way, you make it?”

Alfie gasped, sputtered and coughed up more blood which he just spit into his lap.

“Mmm-mmm, whatever. Look, Alfie, may I call you Alfie? I represent a group of gentlemen and as you can probably guess by all this, well, they’re really not too happy with you just now.” Morris pointed at Alfie with his fork, as if to single him out from someone else in the room to whom he could be talking.

Oh, shit, Alfie thought, the goddamned sewer deal out in Afton, but this seemed a little on the extreme side for a Presbyterian church group building a senior care facility. Maybe it was the South Dakota guy still pissed off about the speedboats? He looked over, but didn’t see any cowboy boots on the madman eating another forkful of curry.

“See, Alfie, my friends—employers actually—they’re looking for something of theirs that you have, or at least had. I need to get that back from you, quickly. As a matter of fact, I really need to get it from you now. What do you say, Alfie, do you feel in the mood to help me out so I can just leave you alone?” Morris shoveled another forkful of curry and waited for an answer, patiently chewing.

Alfie was still running a variety of his scams through his head but none of them seemed to fit. The Oxycontin? No. Prepaid calling cards? No. A thousand cartons of cigarettes? He didn’t think so.

“Mmm-mmm, really good. Listen, Alfie, I can see you’re trying to think here. Asshole like you, I’m sure you probably got a bunch of ripoffs in the air at any one time. So let me help you, I’m looking for a computer.” Morris said, coming off the arm of the couch and walking over to an end table. A framed photo, a sun burned Alfie in some sort of swimsuit with his arm around a blondish woman. They both wore flowered leis around their neck, held pineapple drinks in their hands.

“Humpf, not bad looking, you’d think she could do better,” Morris commented looking at the framed photo.

Above the end table two small, framed paintings, hung side by side.

They were nudes, two different women, but both painted sitting very unladylike, in the same red velvet chair. The chair was sitting next to a fireplace, a crystal bowl rested on the mantel it all looked remarkably like Alfie’s living room. Morris examined the paintings closely, his head just a few inches away, before shifting his stance and stepping back for a broader look. The paintings had been done in this room, the chair still sat on the far side of Alfie’s fireplace.

“We were discussing computers?”

Ahh computers, thought Alfie, what fucking computers?

“Nice, nice strokes and all on these paintings. Hmm-mmm, your daughters or maybe wives?”

Alfie looked up blankly.

“No? Humph. So Alfie, what about it, the computer, you know? Times a-wasting,” Morris said and set the almost empty bowl of curry down on the end table.

“I, I don’t know anything about any computers,” Alfie gasped, not sure he recognized his own voice, the words slurred and thick. He gurgled and spit again.

“Mmm-mmm, bad habit there. Let me see if I can refresh your memory,” Morris took the sap back out of his pocket and Alfie’s eye, the one not quickly swelling shut, widened.

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