By Mike Hudson
Photos © Malcolm Alcala
The room cost sixty five a night and had a flat screen TV, a double bed, a little table and three small chairs with worn out blue upholstery. In an old hotel that had gone by many names on that run down section of Western Avenue near Hollywood Boulevard.
The woman cost a little more and she was worth it. But now it was over and she was getting dressed and he watched her from the bed. It was early yet, just light, and he almost wished he had another couple of days with her there.
He’d heard about the hotel from Eddie Doyle, in Vegas last time, before everything went to shit. Before Buddy died and everything went to shit.
Charlie got up and pulled on his pants. He took the wad out of the right front pocket and peeled off three hundreds and handed them to her.
“OK?” he said.
“Sure,” she replied. She didn’t smile. She looked at the bills and then folded them. Her name was Suzy and her parents had come over from Vietnam after the war, before she was born.
Outside the dawn came pink and blue and spectacular and the air was cool. He looked at it and lit a cigarette. After awhile she came out, four-inch red platforms and a tiny green dress that looked like it could have been painted on. She could have been a Christmas cookie. She put her arms around him and he pulled her close, still looking off at the sunrise.
There was nothing to say, really, and he walked her down to the beat Buick Electra she drove and watched as she pulled out onto the empty street.
Buddy didn’t die. Buddy got clipped. Stupid fucking bank guard. Rent a cop with a cheap nine millimeter and a bulletproof vest. Some kind of hero.
Charlie hadn’t been there. He’d been laid up drunk across town and missed the whole thing. He’d been getting sloppy and Buddy thought he’d show him.
The guard got his picture in the paper shaking hands with the president of the bank. A month long paid vacation and psychological counseling. Then they promoted him to assistant director of security. His name was Gordon Stevens and he lived at 1806 North Berendo Street, nine blocks away from the hotel.
Charlie went back up to his room and finished getting dressed. The laptop on the table was set to Google Earth, and he checked to make sure Stevens’ new Prius was still parked where it had been by the curb in front of the building. The bank guard had his weekends off now, and slept late on Sundays.
There wasn’t anything to pack. He unplugged the computer and closed it and put it and the adaptor into the battered brown leather briefcase he’d carried for years. With his blue pinstripe suit and red hair he looked like a slightly down at the heels insurance broker. Only the small pistol and a pair of latex gloves in the front compartment of the case would have tipped anyone off otherwise.
It was going to be another hot one. By the time he went down to the car the sun had burned off the high clouds and the temperature was rising a degree or two every ten minutes or so.
He’d stolen the car, a ten-year-old Audi, from the parking lot of a strip mall outside Albuquerque three nights earlier and put on a set of Nevada plates he’d taken in Vegas the week before that. There was an hour to kill so he drove over to Good Eats, a diner he knew on Franklin that made the best Denver omelet he’d ever had. It came with potatoes and pinto beans and he had coffee and a big glass of orange juice. The waitress was jolly like a fat squirrel who lived in a tree in the yard of a house he’d once stayed at in Calabasas and he tipped her four dollars on a eleven-dollar tab.
It was a quarter to nine. He took the pistol from out of the briefcase’s front compartment and slipped it into his right side jacket pocket. It was an old Astra double deuce that had been bought and sold, stolen and lost on so many occasions and in so many jurisdictions over the past half century that it was effectively clean even though it still had a serial number. He didn’t bother with the latex gloves. He didn’t think he’d need them, though he jacked a round into the gun’s chamber just in case.
Charlie was always a little bit early. His blood pressure was a little bit low and so was his temperature, usually running right around ninety-eight or just a hair under. He pulled up across the street from Stevens’ building and waited.
He saw Suzy first, walking down the sidewalk like some wiseguy’s dream and stopping where she was supposed to stop, bending over to the ankle and adjusting the fuck me strap on one of her platforms.
Gordon Stevens came out of his building then, eyes popping immediately out of his head at the sight of Suzy’s ass and he quickened his pace as Tom opened the door of the Audi and got out.
Suzy made some sound like a hurt animal and Gordon rushed over and Charlie crossed Berendo and just as Gordon reached Suzy Charlie called out, “Gordon Stevens! As I live and breathe!”
Gordon turned around and, as soon as he had his back to Suzy, she punched the four-inch AKC Made In Italy Stainless blade into his back, low, below the ribcage, and up so that the tip sliced into the apex of his heart and cut the great cardiac vein. When she pulled it out he dropped like a bag of rocks to the sidewalk.
Charlie kept coming and Suzy walked quickly away, through an alley that led towards Edgemont. She wiped the knife off with a cocktail napkin she’d taken the night before and dropped it into somebody’s garbage can.
By the time Charlie reached him, Gordon had blood all around his lips. He tried to mouth words but there was no sound. Charlie lifted him off the sidewalk in his arms and spit in his face. People started over to the scene.
“I don’t have my cellphone,” Charlie said, dropping Gordon’s head onto the hot sidewalk pavement. “I think this guy’s had a heart attack. Somebody call 911.”
He went back to the Audi and started driving toward Griffith Park. After a couple of blocks, he watched as Suzy pulled in behind him with the old Riviera.
They drove up to a place they knew by the refreshment stand and Charlie took a gallon can of gas out of the trunk. He doused the Audi inside and out then lit a match and threw it in. He got into Suzy’s car and they drove away.
“Get on the Five,” he said. We’ll go up to Tahoe for a couple of days.”
“You better have a lot of money,” she said.
“What are you, a little fucking whore?”
“I’m your whore,” she said. “But you still gotta pay me.”
He put his hand on her bare leg and smiled.