You could tell from the way he talked that the voice was Mickey’s. Not Not-Mickey’s, Mickey’s. It was coming to us from the jukebox. A fucking two-way radio. I scowled. Where did he get all these toys?
Marq nodded, and I gave the signal to the bomb squad to get to work while we evacuated the working joes and the rest of our nonessential soldiers. No need to put their asses on the line for a confirmed dead end if all we could do here was finish disarming the bomb.
They huddled around the bomb, a series of tanks and shit connected to the back of the jukebox by a bunch of wires and electrical tape. Stuck to the whole thing was a small alarm clock, counting down the bomb’s detonation sequence. A time bomb. Should be easy enough to dismantle. Something about the shape of the thing bothered me though. The tank in the middle was too big. Big enough for me to crawl around inside. They wouldn’t need a tank that size for two tons of gas, especially not with all of the smaller tanks it was connected to.
Marq cautiously took a step forward, kneeling in front of the jukebox. The track select had a note taped to it that said, ‘Press me!’.
Marq pressed it and spoke into the jukebox. “Hello, Mickey.”
Mickey’s voice crackled back through the box’s old speakers like an explosive shit. “Well if it isn’t the snob boss himself! How ya doing, black bird? Still kicking that gay pink suit or did you finally realize covering your ass in black is a bit more midnight dreary?”
Marq chuckled fakely. “Hate to tell you this Mickey, but real men wear pink.”
“Real man, huh? That’s not what your girlfriend said when I-”
“You can shove it, Mickey. I know what you tried to do, and I know you failed. She’s alive, by the way. That ‘dipshit moll’ you tried to kill. And trust me, she’s very eager to see you again.”
Nayeli cracked her knuckles audibly.
“Ouch. That’s harsh, doll, it really is. You missed out, you know. I coulda shown you the time of your fucking life. Now I’m just gonna have to kill ya. Real sorry I won’t be there to see that, by the way.”
“Better men than you have tried, Mickey,” Nayeli said. “And I mean a lot of better men.”
“That fucking right?”
“Enough of this.” Marq cut them off. “Why don’t you show us your face, Mickey? Why all the running and hiding? What happened to your so-called ‘secret weapon’?”
“I dunno.” I swore I could see him shrugging wherever he was. “Last I checked, dumb bitch was climbing into a van with some Pescatorre shit-twinkles. Man, if it didn’t smell like fish in there before, it sure fucking does now, am I right?”
The temperature in the room seemed to drop a few degrees as everyone’s blood turned ice-cold. Just like that, it was all over before it had even begun. The entire plan was compromised.
Marq paused. “… How do you know about that, Mickey?”
“Aw come on, I thought the infamous Marquis would’ve figured that shit out already!” Mickey taunted us. “Here, tell you what. I’ll answer your question… if you beg for it.”
It wasn’t hard thinking that over. “Not on your life. Now tell me what you know.”
“Or what? You’re gonna call in the rest of the pride parade to come and beat me up?”
“Typical. You have no idea who you’re messing with, Mickey. I don’t think you ever did, else you wouldn’t have even dreamed of something this stupid.”
Mickey laughed. “What, are you serious? These last few days I’ve done nothing but make you assholes look like chumps! What makes you think that I, I of all people, would ever be afraid you? I make off with all the weapons and gear I could ever want from the fish tank, I raise a fucking army, and then I beat the piss out of your men and your little golden girl, and now you think you can intimidate me? You’ve taken so much shit from me that you might as well be my fucking septic tank!”
“You’re assuming that up until now we considered you to be worth our time.”
Mickey stopped talking. Marq continued.
“There’s a book I like to read, called The Art of War. It’s full of useful advice for business, life, war, the economy… just about everything, but there’s one quote in particular I take to heart. ‘If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.’
“Do you know what that means? It means that before you worry about yourself, you should consider your enemy. Something you clearly didn’t do, or else you would have realized that we control everything in this city. The police are all on our payroll, the military is just a call away, and the Mayor plays poker with Paulie on the weekends. Everyone in this city knows our names, and besides you, they all know better than to get in our way. Once the hammer is dropped, there will be nowhere for you to hide, and nowhere for you to run. We have you outnumbered and outgunned, and better yet? We have friends everywhere. You? Your only friend is the one hiding in your pants.
“When these bombs go off, you won’t just be our enemy. You’ll be the state’s enemy. The people’s enemy. And they will hunt you and your pet homunculus down with such prejudice it’ll make the Crusades look liberal. Get it now? There was never a chance for you to survive this. We just let you live because until now, you were too pathetic and inconsequential to deal with. Now here are your choices. You can either surrender peacefully and disarm the bombs before we shoot you in the back of the head, nice and quick, or you can go ahead with this half-assed revenge scheme to get your fifteen minutes in Broadway before we haul your ass out to the piers, kicking and screaming, and do things to you they won’t even be able to mention in the obituaries before we finally put you out of our misery. One way or another, you’ll be dead by the end of the week. It’s up to you to choose how.”
“… Are you threatening me?”
“No. Just informing you.”
“Heh.” Mickey’s laugh was faint, almost deranged. “That right… you know, I think I will tell you now. You’ve convinced me. I’m going to tell you everything. Starting with how everyone onboard that fucking van is already deader than a mummy’s puckered asshole.”
Well that was ominous and disgusting. Was he bluffing? It was hard for me to tell with Mickey. Sometimes you’d hear him say the craziest shit and you thought he had to be joking. Then it stopped being funny once he actually went through with it. Like with Nayeli.
I stepped up to the jukebox. “Come again?”
“You were interested in how I knew you’d taken that dumb bitch hostage, right? You think I’m so fucking stupid that it honestly didn’t occur to you that’s what I wanted you to do, you dumb fucks?”
“Now you’re just blowing smoke out of your ass,” Marq said. “How does us capturing her benefit you in any way? Right now she’s being locked up out of sight and out of mind, where nothing you tell her to do will help her escape and run back to you. You’ve lost your most valuable piece.”
“What was that you said earlier? ‘If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat’? Try putting that into practice next time before you fucking lecture me, you arrogant piece of shit. This whole time we’ve been talking? I’ve been putting that familiar of mine to use. I see what she sees, and I know what she knows.”
Mickey laughed under his breath. I cursed silently, remembering what Theo told me. He’s not supposed to know how to do that…
“Al…” Marq said, catching on.
“That’s right you dego fucks, I’ve known about the geas this entire time!” The dam burst and Mickey descended into full-on gut-busting villainy. “What, did you think I was fucking retarded? That I wouldn’t figure out what she could really do before I put her to use? Rule number one of auto dealerships, pussy, and familiars. Always take that shit for a test drive first. And mine was… comprehensive. Believe me, I had a lot of fun learning all of her ins and outs. Hell, she has more surprises hidden inside than a Vietnamese hooker! And once I figured out I had a little living spycam wrapped around my finger, I thought, ‘shit, why not use her?’ She was more than happy to play right into my hands with her little escape attempt, too. Led me right to you, and the dipshit never even knew she was doing it. It was fucking classic!”
“Okay, so you’ve been spying on us,” Marq said calmly. “You still have nothing of value to hold over us. During the course of our meetings with Theo, no valuable information about the Allesandri, Pescatorre, Sartini, Capello or Vitali family businesses was disclosed. There’s no way you could have heard anything useful unless Al wanted you to hear it.”
“Yeah, I admit that was disappointing. Couldn’t get close to you unless I wanted to blow my cover right out my ass. Fucking cunt was careful, I’ll give her that. Careful, not smart. Otherwise she woulda known not to fucking underestimate me. She’s listening in right now, you know? Every word of it. If you could see the look on her fucking face…” Mickey laughed, sighing. “Oh man, that shit is priceless. But anyway, you are right about one thing. I didn’t get any useful information. But I gave you something really fucking nice. Ain’t I generous?”
“Fuck…” I swore.
“That’s riiiiight! All the bombs you dickweeds worked so hard to find? They’re all fakes! Duds! Dummies I set up to throw the sniffers off our trail. They were never actually supposed to detonate! The real bombs are hidden in plain sight right next door to the fake ones, and they’re all packed with odorless, tasteless gas. That is, besides the one I tricked you deadbeats into standing on. Oh man, that’s gotta be one for the record books. Handsome auto-shop mechanic fools the city’s biggest criminal mastermind. The Marquis vs. Mickey Donahue, and I won. I fucking won! Suck. IT!”
Words cannot express how pleased the shitweasel sounded with himself. He laughed until he was out of breath, and then finally turned his attention back to me.
“I have to give credit where credit is due though, Alfonso. Without you, none of this would have been possible! You were playing right into my hands the entire time, better than I could have ever hoped, and you never even knew, because you twusted her,” Mickey intoned mockingly. “It was so cute how you believed everything she said, you shrimp-dicked little fuck. What, did you think you were gonna be the one to rescue her from the big bad Mickey, and that you were just gonna run away and magically settle down to have two point five kids with the bitch somewhere in the ass-end of Missouri? I bet that’s what you thought, isn’t it? Man, you are just so fucking stupid it’s adorable.”
“What about Theo?” I asked. “Where does she factor in? She couldn’t have known anything about this-”
“Well she does now!” Mickey said, laughing. “And anyway, what about her? You honestly think I kept that stupid bint sky-high out of the goodness of my fucking heart? Hell no! Keeping her blazed was the only way I could get a little fucking privacy. Just drop some nep in a place that’s easy to find, let her think she’s being all sneaky and shit stealing it out from under my nose, then leave her with a convenient body double to coke herself off her tight little ass while I take care of the real bombs. She never knew the difference! Isn’t that right, Leon?”
“Fuck you, Mickey! You fucking sadistic retard! I hope they make a pearl necklace out of your balls!”
“Always did have a mouth on you, Leon.” Look who’s talking. “But you know what? I think you’ll learn to talk to me a bit more respectfully once my severance package starts turning that cockholster of yours inside out.”
“Hex bag should start activating in 3, 2, 1…”
And that’s when shit got nasty. Ever seen the Exorcist? It was kinda like that, except when Leon started vomiting, it wasn’t anything as pretty as some green gak. As a matter of fact, the first thing he started coughing up was spiders.
You heard me right. The first thing.
Leon lurched, trying to keep it in as spiders started to fill his lungs. Finally he gave in and coughed, hacked really, spewing spiders everywhere in little clumps of tangled legs. People got out of the way real fucking fast once that happened. Some of the eight-legged bastards that had hung on started crawling out of his mouth, which had started to bleed from the bites. And it was only going to get worse.
“Help…” He gagged, blood dripping from the corner of his mouth. “Me…”
The next level was a cascade of sticky red blood and fat maggots. It was going downhill fast, and Marq was the first to react. He glared at me.
“Al! Help me out, will ya?!”
“Well what do you want me to do? He looks pretty well fucked from where I’m standing!” I kept still, utterly disgusted and transfixed. Marq on the other hand was on the move.
“Help me find the damn hex bag, you genius! How about that?”
Finally forcing myself to look away, I rushed over to Marq and started flipping through the desk we’d found Leon tied up in front of. The hex bag is a cheap and effective way to rub some son of a bitch out, but it does have a few weaknesses. First, it has to be somewhere nearby in order to work. If the victim strays too far from the bag, it loses all of its potency. Second, you need a personal item of the victim to bind the effects of the hex bag to them. It’s a form of sympathetic magic after all. Closely related to voodoo dolls in practice, really. If we could find the bag, we could save Leon. Although truth be told, I have no idea why Marq wanted to do that.
I heard Leon puke his guts out again. Everyone groaned. Needless to say, none of us were particularly happy to be here at the moment. If I was gonna find the hex bag for any one reason or another, I’d have to say it would probably be just so I wouldn’t have to watch someone die like that. There were fucked up ways to die, and then there were seriously fucked up ways to die. Mickey seemed like a fan of the latter.
I flipped over the desk. “Bomb squad! What’s the status on that bomb?!”
“Almost… there!” The point-man cut the wire, and the clock stopped ticking. “We’re good to go, it’s dead!”
“Oh wow, congratulations mister!” Mickey said.
“Mickey, I swear to god-” Marq growled.
“No really, congratulations on defusing the bomb and stopping the dead man’s switch!”
“Oh my god, really? Really?! How did you even do that? How did you make a dead man’s switch for a bomb?”
“I used actual dead men. Duh. Remember your little snitch buddies? I took their wives and kids hostage and told them that if they ever wanted to see them again, they’d get in the fucking tank and do what they were told.”
“And let me guess, you killed them anyway.”
“You know me too well, Marquis.”
Stupid. I should’ve realized that’s what the tank was for. If Mickey sealed them in there with only limited air, he’d have the perfect dead man’s switch. And he’d even used their families as blackmail to keep them obedient, then he’d just killed them anyway.
Marq sighed. “Everybody get the hell out! There’s nothing we can do to stop it at this point!”
Everyone started running, desperate to make it out in time before the dead man ran out of oxygen. I remember thinking I should follow them, but my body wouldn’t move for some reason. I’d failed. Even worse, I’d only exacerbated the fuck out of the problem. What point was there in running when I was already dead? Maybe my body realized that before I did.
I took a step forward, and decided I was determined to struggle to the end. I was gonna make Mickey fucking pay for what he’d done to Theo and those dead men. Tearing people apart from their families, from the ones they love most… there’s nothing crueler you can do to another human being. That’s what I was thinking before I felt my pant leg catch on something. I tried again. Still stuck.
Or maybe I the reason I couldn’t move before was because someone was holding me back! My luck was unbelievable. Leon gripped the left leg of my pants tightly.
“Hhhhelp meh!” Leon squealed in a muffled voice, still spitting blood, teeth, and bugs all over the floor. “Help meeehhhh!”
I grimaced. “Sorry, buddy.”
I kicked the chair over and left him for dead. There was nothing I could do at this point. I had to run if I wanted to live. That meant the same thing here as it would out there. After this, I had to disappear.
We cleared out of the building and took cover outside, scrambling for our gas masks. I squatted next to Marq.
“Everybody ready?” he yelled.
We waited. For a fifty solid seconds we waited. But there was no boom. Eventually, one of us poked our heads out, and took a listen.
“… fuck you… not gonna be your bitch… Mickey…!”