I might have been under considerable duress, but the ride in the five-hundred and-twenty horsepower German sports sedan was one helluva ride.
Even if it might have been my last one in this life.
We were in the same car that almost crashed into Beulah on the freeway nearly three days ago. The smart-looking natural leather seats felt plush and very comfortable, and deepened the suspense of the trio's intentions for me with its sunken, dark matte luster. I watched Redmond's henchman drive the Audi S8 with a finesse that might have come easy after a few thousand miles on the streets of San Diego. All throughout the apprehensive trip to Gunn's house, I watched him play every now and then with a variety of technical gadgets on the instrument panel and the wide center console engulfed between the two front seats. They kept him amused at each traffic light at which we stopped. The car's interior was immaculately trimmed with brushed aluminum and walnut tree panels which shined like pieces of lustrous furniture that had been buffed to rival a star's sparkle.
I also seen that Nigella Diamond's tattoo had even extended around to the rear of her neck. The etching went down into the right side of her back, sneaking at me from underneath her bobbed jet-black hair. Her head moved about with a stiffened nervousness that gave the first indication something was wrong underneath the surface between my three captors. I tried to feel out their moods and silent interactions as the car traveled via all-wheel drive over the city streets smoothly and effortlessly, reflecting back on the small talk we had that night on the plaza of Club Waterz. If she had been indeed lying about all of the things she had told me, she was pretty damn good at it. There was something funky going on between her and Ricardo Redmond. It might have been a stretch to speculate what went on in their private lives, even purely irrelevant. After all, it wasn't my business if Jill was fucking Jack or vice versa. But the strange communication between them signaled that a grander plan was at play.
And as usual, Forrest Greenley had a habit of getting in the way of these types of criminal designs.
Redmond sat in back with me, giving a glance every fifteen to twenty seconds with that silly grin of his. Maybe he was able to read my mind, feeling that he needed to keep his eye on me. Sure enough, I was thinking and planning all along about what I could do before, during and after the mysterious drive. The eye of his Glock G21 was watching me likewise, positioned low and pointed within the canyon of deep leather between us.
It had to be close to ten o'clock when the aggressive-looking European saloon pulled up at the front gate of Gunn's castle and stopped. I had no idea if the ex-Marine was inside his house.
...Was he in for a big surprise when he saw what I would bring with me this time.
This was not, I thought, what I had in mind when he hired me.
Before we got out of the car, Redmond poked me hard in ribs with his pistol. His sudden display of aggression didn't surprise me by now, with that smirk stretched across his face showing how much he liked doing shit like that. Some people were just purely evil, and did evil things just for fun of it. I'd seen enough faces like his during a lifetime, becoming very familiar with how much their terror helped churn a world that supported wickedness over good.
“Okay. Greenley,” he said after a prolonged stare. “Here's what I need you to do. No. What you're going to do. We're going to walk up to the front door. Together. Just the three of us. Just like two guys and a gal who are here for a nice little late-night visit.”
“Okay, ” I nodded with calculated compliance.
Just as cool and calm as Denzel would.
“That's what I'm talking about. Teamwork!” He snickered with a crooked rasp. “It's all about teamwork! It's so fucking uncomplicated. As a matter of fact, it's simple. You and your friend give us what we want?...And bada-bing, bada-boom! It's over. You get it? I get what I want. You get what you want. Everyone goes on with their lives. We're all happy people. Whatta you think?”
“I got no problem with that.”
“You damn right you don't,” he sneered with cocksure arrogance. “No funny business here, my friend. One false move and you can surely expect to get the business end of my eager friend here.”
To add effect, he pushed the Austrian-made pistol deeper into my side this time, to the point that it really hurt.
“What?!” she snapped impatiently.
“You're coming with me.”
“...For Christ's sake,” she said underneath her breath. “You already told me that. Even before we got here.”
“I'm going to need you to download those files from the computer, sweetheart.”
The tattooed femme fatale's responded with a hissing sigh through her teeth.
“Did you bring a USB drive like I told you, sweetheart?”
“Yes, dammit,” she yelled, swiftly turning to face Redmond with an agitated look. “Yes I did!!! For the third time already! How many fucking times do you have to ask me?”
“Calm down, sweetheart. Okay? I'm just making sure that we get things done the right way here.”
“And I'd really appreciate if you'd stop calling me your fucking sweetheart!”
Her anger was punctuated with a rigid finger aimed at him. “After all, I am your fucking manager. I run the fucking club. I sign your fucking checks. And I promise you, when this is over, we are through, Ricardo. You hear me? I am absolutely sick and tired of your fucking bullshit! I can't take this shit anymore! God! I don't know what provoked me to go along with you in the first place. But after this is done, you won't have me to do your dirty work anymore.”
“Don't take it so personal, Nigella.”
“I know I would,” I chimed in, hoping to further a moment of contention between them. Just to break the thievish morale.
“Fuck you,” Redmond said calmly.
“Especially if I was disrespected like that?”
“You keep your fucking mouth shut, Greenley,” Redmond grunted, almost plunging the handgun through the other side of me now. “No one asked for your fucking opinion. You just do what the fuck I tell you to do. Or you'll wind up dead sooner than you think. You got that?”
“Like I said, I got no problem with that.”
When Gunn opened one of the wooden doors of the double-ported entrance to his majestic-looking home, I could have wrote a book about the expressions on his face.
In between speechlessness and a million unanswered questions he might have had, his only response was the look of unexpected disappointment. His wide brown eyes traced Redmond's bent arm down to the side of my blood-stained summer suit. Immediately, I fought hard to ward off a recollection of the The Little Rascals. I used to watch the video shorts when I was young. Stymie, the little clever-minded character with the big bowler's hat, would always wiggle his ears whenever he got excited about something. A burst of laughter was erupting inside of me so badly as a result of the comparative look that was now on Roland Gunn's face.
“...Yeah man,” I let out tiredly to the retired serviceman.
“I don't want to kill your friend here,” Redmond interrupted rudely as usual. “We need to have a little talk. Inside.”
“Please,” I asked with impatience and half a giggle. “ Just let's us in, Roland. I'll...I'll explain what's goin' on when we get inside.”
With two strange people and a side of me he wasn't anticipating, Gunn quickly understood that I was beyond any means to explain what was going on. For a flashing moment, I wondered if Nigella Diamond had a gun on her, kicking myself in the ass for forgetting about the ease at which some women could hide their weapons.
Roland, obviously dumbfounded, went mute and chose wisely to use body language to express his relent as I led the two strangers into the hallway of his home.
But the sudden shuffles and barks that came from the charging Bella threw everyone off.
Except for me.
I immediately took the opportunity to swing a swift, concentrated blow to Redmond's ribs with my elbow, grabbing his firing arm by the wrist while twisting with such brutal torque that he flipped and fell to the stained wood floor. I was so overly aggressive that we both crashed and tumbled, spilling from the foyer into the living room like human tumbleweeds, knocking over an ebony end table and a ceramic lamp that sounded like an explosive near my head.
Roland grab Redmond's gun, while Nigella Diamond stood stifled in the same spot as when she entered.
But that wasn't the end of it.
I guess Bella actually like me after all. The security chief hollered loudly over a mixture of busy growls and tearing of fabric and flesh as the mastiff went to work on his leg, sensing his bad intentions on her turf. The whole commotion might have looked indeed sorrowful, considering the size of Redmond's bulging eyes. But I guess he had violated the wrong house with the wrong dog at the wrong time.
“A-A-A-H-H-H!!! Fuckin' dog!!!” he screamed again. “Get this fucking mutt off of me!!!”
He kicked at the large canine's slimy mask, pissing her off even more as she ripped and tore at his leg with more aggression.
“BELLA!!!” Roland shouted forcibly. “BELLA!!!...DOWN GIRL!!!...DOWN!!!”
The large dog instantly released Redmond's leg, even as he kicked at her again angrily. Roland patted the agitated Bella to calm her.
“Good girl!...It's okay.”
“What the fuck is this?!” Redmond demanded, first from Roland then me, almost crying now as he inspected his injured left leg. “I'm going to kill that fucking mutt of yours first chance I get!”
“Man, if you hurt my dog...I will definitely shoot you.”
Roland Gunn continued standing over us, aiming Redmond's Glock pistol at his head with a two-handed combat grip that showed he meant business. I stood up and started to recover before I noticed her in the corner of my eye, backing away from the finished skirmish and easing toward the front door.
But Nigella Diamond wasn't fast enough this time. I grabbed both arms and carried her back into the living room.
“You let me go! Let me go!!!”
I manhandled her, throwing her onto the sofa over my hip.
“Have a seat...Gia!” I said with a half-controlled tone.
A slight look of familiarity brushed across on her face upon hearing the name.
“Yeah, that's right. Gia. I know all about your little visits to the college and the apartment.”
“Who are these people, Forrest?” Roland asked.
“A couple of crooks.”
But I hadn't forgotten about Redmond's chauffeur.
I was ready for him too, when he felt froggy.
Book Excerpt From "The Black Kabuki"
Copyright 2014 Forrest Greenley Mysteries.
All rights reserved.