The Big Hit, страница 1
The Big Hit
James Neal Harvey
To Ursula, with all my love
The girl had class.
Mongo had seen that right off. She was tall and slender with dark red hair and big jugs, and there was a beautiful tattoo of a butterfly on her ass. She’d cost him two thousand bucks for the night.
The tab was worth it. When he woke up this morning he had another helping, and now he was totally relaxed and ready for the day. He fluffed up the pillows and lay back on the bed, watching her get dressed.
Her clothes were classy, too. Frilly white panties, a gauzy bra. Tight-fitting dress with a short skirt, green to match the color of her eyes. She put on pumps with four-inch heels that showed off her legs, and when she saw him looking she gave him a friendly smile.
Mongo liked hookers. When you hired one, it was such a straightforward deal. You didn’t have to buy her drinks or dinner, you didn’t have to waste time getting down to business. You didn’t even have to talk to her, if you didn’t want to.
Best of all, she wouldn’t know your name. You just paid her and played your favorite games and sent her on her way.
Of course, if you did want to talk, you might hear some interesting stories. This girl had told him she was only working until she earned her law degree from NYU. Once she had the degree and was admitted to the Bar, she’d become a public defender and stand up for all the poor people who were getting shafted by the system.
Not bad, but Mongo had heard better. Every girl had a tale, and he had yet to run into one who said she was in the life because she liked it and the money was good.
This girl’s name was Darlene. That probably wasn’t what it said on her birth certificate, but so what? She could call herself Mother Teresa, for all he gave a shit. What counted was performance, and she’d delivered.
She put on fresh lipstick and eyeliner and flicked her hair with a brush, checking her image in the mirror. Then she came over to the bed and squeezed his hand.
Her voice was soft. “’Bye. You were wonderful.”
It was so phony he had to laugh. “So were you,” he said.
“Hope I’ll see you again.”
He knew what she was really hoping for, but that was okay too. He got up from the bed and went over to the desk, dialed the combination on his attaché case and swung back the lid. His wallet was inside, along with a tape recorder and some other stuff.
He’d already paid her when she first arrived last night, but now he took another hundred-dollar bill from the wallet and handed that to her as well. “Little extra for you,” he said. “Thanks for the ride.”
She batted her eyes. “Oh, gee, thank you.”
After she left, he went into the john and pissed forever. Then he brushed his teeth to get rid of the lousy taste, and when he finished he stepped into the shower and hosed himself down. As the hot water pounded his skin, he thought about what he was going to do today, and excitement kicked in.
This would be a big hit, one of the biggest ever. And, if it went as planned, a clean one. Afterward, he’d leave New York and go back to LA, where he’d receive part of his fee in cash. The rest would be deposited in his account in the Caymans.
Once that was settled he’d be off to Vegas, where he’d get in some action at the tables, buy himself a few more Darlenes, and wait for another job. Talk about the good life.
He shaved carefully, lathering and relathering his face before slicing off the whiskers. He knew most guys hated to shave, but he enjoyed it. The practice helped him look his best, and that was important to him. Not just because his work called for it, but also because he was proud of his strong, lean features.
Checking his appearance, he noticed that there was a bit of stubble on his head. Hardly enough to say so, but better to get rid of it. He lathered his skull and ran the razor over that too, using the same deliberate technique as he had with his cheeks and jaw. There now—smooth as a baby’s ass.
Next he trimmed his mustache. It was thick and bushy, and he clipped the ragged ends with scissors until they were perfectly neat. When he finished, he splashed on cologne and swiped his armpits with deodorant.
Then came the most important parts, starting with the hair. From the attaché case he dug out the mop of reddish-blond curls and carefully placed it on his head. It was the work of one of LA’s best wigmakers, meticulously constructed of human hair and custom fitted. Last, he opened the tiny case that contained his contacts and slipped the lenses into place.
The result, he decided, was dynamite. The image staring back at him from the mirror was that of a handsome, athletic young dude with a confident, casual air.
Turning away from the mirror, he caught sight of the tattoo on his left shoulder. It wasn’t nearly as fine as the butterfly on the girl’s tush. While hers had been perfectly drawn in delicate shades of coral and purple and pink, his was a small, crude fishhook he’d created himself with a pin and indelible black ink, back when he was in Q.
But if the tattoo wasn’t the best in the world, it had meaning to him, reminding him how far he’d come since those days.
The suit he chose was a tan Armani. It draped smoothly and looked great with the cream silk shirt and the red Ferragamo tie. His shoes were brown suede Guccis.
Mongo loved clothes, always had. Nowadays he could afford to spend a fortune on his wardrobe, buying only the finest and most expensive things. It was another reminder of how he’d brought himself up from nothing. The key was that he’d never stopped improving his professional skills, while still making sure to enjoy himself along the way.
Once he was dressed, he glanced at the gold Rolex on his left wrist. Ten past ten; time to get moving. He was hungry, but he wouldn’t stop to eat.
Instead he’d come back to the hotel afterward, pick up his luggage and then take a cab to JFK. He already had his ticket, and there would be lunch on the plane. For now, there were other things to take care of.
A packet of blow lay on the dresser. It was a wonder there was any left. He and Darlene had snorted most of it the night before, when they were flying over the moon.
Rolling up another crisp new bill, he drew powder into each nostril until he’d finished the last of it. This was good shit; the rush came fast.
Returning to the desk he got out his notes, along with the materials he’d had printed in LA. He studied the papers once more and then glanced through the story in yesterday’s New York Post that said the actress Catherine Delure was in town to promote her new movie, Hot Cargo.
There was nothing useful in the article. He’d been given everything he had to know before he left the West Coast. He dropped the newspaper into the wastebasket.
Next he lifted the tape recorder out of the attaché case. The device appeared to be no different from a million others, black and with a row of buttons on top, the Sony logo in white.
But this was no ordinary tape recorder.
He touched one of the buttons, and the top popped open. Mounted inside was a compact unit with two short steel barrels and two metal cylinders, all of it welded together smoothly.
Each of the barrels held a fléchette that was two inches long and a half inch in diameter. One for the job, the other as backup. Each of the cylinders contained a powerful charge of compressed air.
The guy in South Central who’d built the piece had haggled with him over the price, finally settling for six grand. That was a bargain. If necessary, Mongo would have paid twice as much. He checked the fléchettes one last time and closed the top of the recorder.
Next he dug into the case for a tube of toluene-based glue. He coat
As soon as the glue was dry he tore up his notes and went into the bathroom and flushed them down the toilet. The tube of glue he tossed into the wastebasket. Finally, he set the tape recorder back into the attaché case and snapped shut the locks.
Everything was in order, he was set to go. He put on a pair of tinted aviator glasses and left the room carrying the case.
As he walked along the corridor toward the elevators, he felt as if he was floating. It wasn’t the coke high; it was knowing what he was about to do, knowing how smoothly he’d carry it out.
When it came to killing somebody, Mongo figured he was the best there was.
The outside air was balmy. The sun was shining, puffy white clouds were drifting across the sky, and the trees were wreathed in pale green leaves. Altogether a beautiful spring morning, and Mongo was enjoying it. He walked along Central Park South at a steady pace.
As usual, the hotels were busy. Taxis and limos were pulling up in front of them, disgorging passengers while bellmen grabbed the luggage. The visitors seemed excited to be in the city.
There was also plenty of action. The sidewalk was thronged with pedestrians, the majority of them female. Some were dogs, but now and then Mongo spotted an eight or better.
As he passed the Park Lane Hotel, he saw a real knockout. This one was a brunette in a beige suit, standing with a guy while a doorman whistled for a taxi. Mongo smiled at her and was pleased when she smiled back. It made him feel good as he went by.
Not that he needed to feel any better than he did. The blow had worn off by now, but he was in a great mood anyway. He was on a job, and that was the best high of all.
Besides, he’d learned from experience to stay sober when he was working. Once when he was a kid, he and his buddy Art Ruiz were bombed out on speed when they robbed a gas station. They were happily scooping bills from the register when the guy who owned the station came up with a sawed-off twelve and shot Ruiz in the face.
Mongo ran like a madman, and the cops never connected him to the case. Later on he’d laughed about how Art had looked with most of his head gone.
But Mongo remembered the lesson. Since then he’d never used anything when he went out on an assignment. No booze, no dope of any kind. You had to be as sharp as you possibly could be. The way he was now.
At the corner he waited for the light to change and glanced at the Plaza. People were going in and out of the entrance, and more limos were lined up at the curb.
Across the way was a little park with flowers and shrubs and a statue of a guy on a horse. The statue was gold-plated and streaked with bird shit. Mongo wondered who the guy was and why he rated a statue, sitting there with the pigeons crapping on his head.
When the light said walk, he crossed Fifth and waited again as the traffic whizzed by, finally turning left and going up another block to the Sherry-Netherland. As he approached the entrance a doorman saluted, and Mongo went inside.
This was supposed to be a first-rate hotel, but Mongo didn’t think much of what he was seeing so far. The lobby was small and old-fashioned, with a lot of polished wood and marble. It probably hadn’t been updated in fifty years, maybe longer.
He picked up a house phone and asked the operator to connect him with Catherine Delure’s suite. After a couple of rings, a female voice said, “Yes?”
“Jack Thompson,” Mongo said. “From WNEW Radio. Here for my appointment.”
There was a pause, and the voice said, “What appointment?”
“The interview with Miss Delure. We got a call yesterday from Sandra Rosen at Galaxy Films in LA, asking us to set it up. Who is this, please?”
“My name is Dana Laramie. I’m Miss Delure’s secretary. Are you sure you’re on the agenda?”
“Yes, of course. I’m supposed to ask Miss Delure about her new movie, Hot Cargo. The interview goes on the air later today, and it’ll run again tomorrow and the next day.”
“I’m sorry, but I didn’t know anything had been scheduled for this morning.”
“Maybe you ought to call Rosen. You want her number?”
“No, it’s too early to reach anyone out there.”
Exactly, Mongo thought. He feigned exasperation. “Okay, it’s all right with me. I’ll tell the program director she didn’t want to do it.”
“Wait a minute. How long would this take?”
“About twenty minutes.”
“No more than that?”
“It shouldn’t. I ask her a few questions, and that’s it.”
“Hold on, I’ll check.” There was another, longer pause, and then Laramie came back on. “Okay, you can come up.”
“Thanks. Where are you?”
She gave him the number of the suite, and he put the phone down. She’d sounded okay, her tone low pitched and smooth. He wondered if her looks went with the voice and decided they probably did.
He took an elevator up to the floor where the suite was.
As he approached the entrance, a guy wearing a maroon jacket with the hotel’s logo on it appeared from around the corner and said, “Can I help you?”
“I’ve got an appointment here,” Mongo replied, and reached out to press the buzzer.
“Excuse me,” the guy said. “I’m with security, and I’ll have to check on that. Your name, please?”
Mongo looked him over. The guard had thinning hair and sagging jowls and the aura of an ex-cop. “It’s Thompson,” Mongo told him. “Jack Thompson, from WNEW Radio.”
“Just a minute, please.” The guard pressed the buzzer, and the door opened. But instead of the good-looking woman Mongo had expected, a very large man was standing there.
“This gentleman says he has an appointment,” the guard said. “His name is Jack Thompson.”
Mongo said, “I called from downstairs.”
The big man nodded. “Yeah, come on in.”
The security guy backed off, and Mongo stepped inside.
After closing the door the big man said, “My name’s Chuck Diggs. I’m Miss Delure’s bodyguard.”
“Hello, Chuck.” Mongo dug a business card out of a jacket pocket and handed it to him. While the guy examined the card, Mongo examined him.
He’d known some big men, but this one was something else. Mongo himself was an inch over six feet, yet he found himself looking up at him. Diggs had wide shoulders, and instead of a neck, the shoulders just flowed up into the sides of his head. His hair was cut close to his scalp. He had on a light-gray sport coat and a checked shirt, open at the collar. Mongo made him for around three hundred pounds.
Diggs stuck the card into his jacket pocket and said, “Got anything else? Anything official?”
Mongo took out his wallet and opened it. Behind a clear plastic window was a New York driver’s license with his picture and the name Jack Thompson on it. The license was as phony as the business card.
But it satisfied Diggs. “Okay,” he said. “Now open the case. I have to see what’s in there.”
“Sure, no problem.”
Against the nearest wall was a table with a vase of flowers on it. Mongo pushed the vase aside and laid his case flat, thumbing the combination and popping the locks. He raised the lid and said, “Be my guest.”
The bodyguard peered at the contents. Besides the tape recorder, there were some blank sheets of paper and a spiral notebook and a couple of ballpoints. Also a small package of Kleenex.
Diggs lifted out the tape recorder, looked at it, and put it back in the case. Then he closed the lid and snapped the locks shut.
“One more thing,” he said. “Sorry, but I have to do it.”
“Whatever you say.”
Diggs began patting him down, and Mongo said, “Careful, Chuck. I’m ticklish.”
No response. The guy apparently had no sense of humor.
When he finished, Diggs stepped back. “Wait here a minute.”
The big man turned and went through a door on the far side of the foyer. As Mongo stood there, he admired the flowers in the vase. The bouquet had at least a dozen different kinds of blossoms in it. He brought his nose closer and found they smelled as good as they looked.
The door opened again, and a woman came out into the foyer, heels clicking on the marble floor. She had dark hair and blue eyes and was well built, filling out the front of her blue cardigan nicely.
She stuck out her hand as she approached. “Hello, Jack. I’m Dana Laramie.”
“Hi, Dana.” Mongo shook her hand. Not bad, he thought. He’d guessed right.
“Miss Delure has agreed to do the interview,” Laramie said, “provided you really do keep it to twenty minutes. We’ve been busy since we arrived, and she’s very tired. So promise me you won’t take more than that.”
“All right, please follow me.”
She led him back the way she’d come, Mongo studying her rear end. She knocked once on another door and opened it, and he stepped past her. She closed the door behind him.
The space was a large sitting room decked out in what he thought might be real antique furniture. A bank of windows gave a view of Central Park.
Two women were in the room, and it wasn’t hard to tell which one was the star. The blond hair and the great body made Delure unmistakable. She was sitting on a sofa with her legs crossed.
The other woman looked like a rodent. Short and pudgy, she wore a blouse and baggy slacks. Some contrast between her and Delure.
The actress flashed a smile he figured had taken her years of practice to perfect, exposing snow-white teeth. “Hi, I’m Catherine Delure.” She didn’t offer to shake hands.
“Hi, Catherine,” Mongo said. “Welcome to New York. You look sensational.” She did, too. The dress she had on was a silvery color, cut tight across the hips and low in front. Her boobs, he thought, were world class.