The End

I aimed Cat Dupree’s pistol squarely at Lou Pine’s generous paunch as I stared at the cops’ corpses laying on the floor like bookends on either side of the alderman. Piano keystone cops that sold their souls for a few bucks and now they were dead.

Lou Pine casually lit a cigar and puffed away, its glowing tip flashing on and off like a prowler’s bubble light.

“So what’s next?” he asked.

I took my eyes off the cops and looked up at him. “What?”

“What’s next? Where do we go from here?”

“We? There’s no ‘we’ about this.”

“Oh, but there is. We have two dead cops here. You shot them. There’s, what, another corpse or two on the hill down there? How do you explain that?” He took a self-satisfied puff off the big cigar.

“I think there is a definitely a ‘we.’”

I felt my finger tighten on the trigger. I wanted so badly to shoot him, but I had questions that needed to be answered.

“Why?” I asked.

 

“Why what?”

I gestured to the cops with the gun. “Why this?”

“I don’t get you,” he asnwered.

“Why kill Tank? Why kill Cat? Why try to kill me? Why?”

I was expecting him to answer the rumors I had been fed; that Tank knew some dark secret about underhanded political dealings. The kind of shit Hollywood crams down the public’s throat: Kennedy assasination conspiracies, alien abductions, sexual misconduct in office, and George Washington didtell a fucking lie.

He made an “O” with his lips and blew out a smoke ring. It floated like a halo in the air, hung suspended for a second or two, and then dissipated.

“For the money,” he answered.

“What money?”

“The million dollars you have. The bank heist cash. I needed it to pay back some political favors.”

This was the kind of man who purchased art as an “investment,” who drove the price of a Van Gogh into the tens of millons dollars and then hung the painting on his living room wall because it went with the carpet. I thought about the driven Vincent, and wondered what he would think of a guy like Lou Pine hoarding his art and setting on it the way a commodities trader sits on any other marketable goods, waiting for the price to escalate so he could sell and make a tidy profit. Vincent would have burned his brushes and paints and joined the peasants in the field in honest work to sow and reap the harvest. Lou Pine was a pestilence, a prostitution of truth, the real truth expressed by Van Gogh in his art. He was a an insect, a piece of fecal matter no more deserving of life than a cockroach scurrying across the floor.

I squeezed tighter on the trigger. One more nano-ounce of pressure and I would send a bullet speeding at, and into, his gut. I shook my head in disbelief.

“What?”

“The money you absconded with a couple of years ago. One million dollars. You didn’t think you could keep that a secret, did you?”

My God, he meant Old Virgil’s cash. The swag I left down in Belize with Jennifer.

“You mean this, all of this, was only about money?”

He gave me a puzzled look. “What else would it be about?”

“I don’t know. Something political.”

“Politics is money. I needed it, and you have it.”

“I have squat,” I said. “I walked away from the cash.”

He laughed. “I hardly believe that.”

“Do you see the way I live, what I do for a living. Do you seriously think that if I was sitting on that much cash I would live the way I do?”

“I don’t know. You seem to be a strange bird, Johnny Jump.”

Here was a man who was responsible for at least six deaths in the pursuit of the rumor of cash and he was calling me strange?

“The pot and the kettle, my friend,” I replied.

He lowered the cigar, pursed his lips and nodded his head in agreement.

“So where’s the money?” he said.

“I told you that I walked away from it.”

For the first time he took note of the gun I was holding on him. “A man who walks away from one million dollars is a very dangerous person,” he said.

“And a man who kills for it is even more dangerous, alderman.”

“I disagree . . .” he began, but he didn’t get to finish the sentence because right then I shot him. Smack in the stomach, blood oozing from the hole and staining his tan vest. He looked down at the hole and then back up at me.

“What the fuck . . .” I didn’t allow to finish that sentence either. I shot him again, this time in the heart. He slumped down on the floor and died, between his two paid assassins. Moe, Curly and Larry.

 

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