"I've been checking you out,” wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear from a guy I knew carried out hits for the mob.
“That so?” I deadpanned, not so subtly searching behind him for my partner, Frank, whom I spotted chatting up a pretty blonde I could have told him wasn’t his type. She was mine, but I was taken already.
None of which solved my immediate problem as hit-guy leered down at me from the impressive one extra inch he had on me. He was skinny enough I could have blown him over with a breath if it weren’t for the Glock weighing him down. That and his size thirteen lace-ups. What was it with criminals and Ronald McDonald feet, anyway?
“You’re poking your nose where it don’t belong, Hess,” he said, emphasizing his point by poking his finger where it didn’t belong.
I considered sneezing on it, then thought better of the idea, remembering the Glock. We’d been made, which meant this op was over before it had really started. The Captain wasn’t going to be happy, but then, he wasn’t the one who just had a greasy finger practically shoved up his nose.
Levon Kachinski, hit-guy’s boss, ran most of the drug business in town. Frank and I had been loaned to this operation from homicide, as Kachinski knew all the faces from Narcotics. Looked like he knew my face too.
“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, hoping hit-guy was as stupid as he looked. “The name’s Lisa Bloch.” Damn. I hadn’t realized how much that sounded like Glock. Which reminded me of what was likely to happen to me if I didn’t get away from him in a hurry.
Hit-guy laughed, almost girlishly, then looked embarrassed. He should have. That laugh had no place on a guy with a baritone speaking voice. I had just decided to throw my Coke Zero in his face and make a run for the door, when Frank popped up behind him, miming a shooter, panic written all over his face. Like I didn’t know I was standing in front of a killer.
“It’s been nice talking with you,” I said to hit-guy, “but my boyfriend says it’s time to go.” I threw my glass at him, lamenting the waste of a perfectly good drink at the exact moment Frank tackled him from behind.
Frank took the Coke Zero to the face and hit-guy went down, despite his size thirteens, with Frank, who outweighed him by at least fifty pounds, landing on top of him. Hit-guy’s head connected with the floor with a heavy thud. He wasn’t moving. Frank really needed to lay off the donuts.
Hit guy needed a doctor and I needed an informant. Frank threw him over his shoulder, and we headed for the door. Honestly, I don’t think anyone noticed, except maybe for the guy hit-guy’s size thirteens clocked as Frank swung past him.
Two hours later, I sat across from hit-guy in an interrogation room. “Barry,” he corrected me.
“My name’s Barry, not hit-guy.”
“As in Manilow?” That explained the laugh. I wondered if Barry sang soprano. I didn’t much care, as long as he sang the right tune about his boss.
“Look, Hess,” he said, holding his bandaged head, “I ain’t telling you nothing.”
My head spun from the double negative, the use of ain’t being bad enough on its own. They just didn’t build hitmen like they used to. Or maybe they did. Maybe I was expecting too much.
“I think you will, Barry,” I answered once I managed to get past his bad grammar. “After all, I know your secret.”
He sat back, cool as a cucumber, until I brought out the Baby Doll Change-a-Lot, we’d found in his apartment. His eyes bulged out of his head as he bolted from his chair, reaching for me. The cuffs chaining him to the table brought him up short.
“How did you find her?”
I was about to tell him he shouldn’t leave his playthings lying about, when, slumping back into his chair, voice trembling, he said, “No one knows about my daughter. I keep her and my wife on the other side of town in a little bungalow. That doll is for Chelsey’s fourth birthday.”
Right. That’s what I figured all along. A secret daughter. Not that Barry played with dolls. As I scrambled for a comeback, he caved.
“I’ll tell you anything you want. Just don’t expose my little girl. If Kachinsky found out about her…”
I noticed that Barry sounded a lot more educated than he had five minutes ago. “What gives with the change in grammar?” I asked.
“Diction. It’s a change in diction. The choice of words. Well, I suppose there’s an element of grammar involved as well.” Sighing, he looked me in the eye for the first time since he’d threatened me in the bar. “Look, if you get me some milk and a couple of Tylenol, I’ll tell you everything.”
“We only have Coke Zero.”
Another sigh, then, “Fine.”
After the fifth time I complained that night to Marilyn, my girlfriend, that I didn’t even get to finish my Coke Zero, she grabbed one from the fridge and slammed it down in front of me.
“Thanks, Babe,” I said, cracking it open.
“So, what happened, Jill?” she asked, like I hadn’t been already telling her.
“Turns out Barry is a music teacher, though he doesn’t sing soprano. He fell afoul of Kachinsky’s mob when he tried to scare the boss into letting one of his students out of a debt. Kachinsky let the kid off the hook but made Barry come work for him, thinking he was a hitman.
“That’s really messed up,” Marilyn said.
“Yeah, I know. Barry had never even fired a gun before. He’s managed to avoid killing anyone up until now, but he was afraid Kachinsky was catching on. Barry was terrified he’d find his family. He was desperate enough that he was considering a hit.”
“So, what’s going to happen now?”
“Barry is singing like a bird. He and his family are going into witness protection, and Kachinsky’s heading for the slammer.”
Marilyn rolled her eyes at what Barry would call my diction. “I’m going to bed.”
Just then, an unholy scream split the air. Marilyn jumped, then glared at me. “I thought you were going to change your ringtone. Answer the damned thing.”
I pulled my phone out of my back pocket and hit answer. “Hess here. What’ve you got?”
“You’re back on homicide,” my captain’s voice growled across the line. “Three vics in a back alley, each holding a box of Lucky Charms.”
I held my breath, then grinned. “The Leprechaun is back!”
Taking my Coke Zero to go, I headed to the crime scene.
We first met Jill in “The Coke Zero Killer.” She’s back with a whole new story but the same old attitude. I haven’t thought up a story for the Leprechaun. I’m open to prompts around this. Throw your thoughts at me (just not your Coke Zero).