He’d found her in the office shortly after midnight, stuffing papers and cash into a satchel. “I can’t believe you’d do that, Frank!” Each movement was savage, stabbing, trying to hurt him.
“What? I don’t understand. What’s this about?”
The safe was behind the desk and he stepped around, trying to get closer to her. She backed away. “Don’t,” she said. “You don’t get to touch me ever again. You miserable prick, how dare you? And with her?!” Bettie stabbed another pile of bills into the satchel then flew past Frank out onto the main floor. “Your blond whore.”
“Sascha?” Frank followed. “I didn’t have sex with her. I swear to you on whatever you want that I have not cheated on you! I’d never do that. I love you like crazy.” A former broadcaster for a national network Out There, Sascha Patterson had always had a thing for Frank. Bettie had seen Frank get in Sascha’s car earlier that evening, seen the guilty look on his face as the door closed, then watched the car drive away. She waited hoping it was just another drive and a pitch from the oversexed woman, but midnight came and went and Frank hadn’t returned.
Danny and the others at the bar tried not to pay attention, but the gorillas came to back Bettie up. They only called more attention to a private matter and Frank hated others knowing his business, especially this kind of thing. Thank god the music was so loud, they could barely hear each other out here. “Can we please go back and talk about this? Away from here?” His arms were spread wide. “Please?”
She wavered a little, but then her face hardened, her mind was set. “Fuck you,” she said. The two gorillas followed her out the door.
The satchel was still sitting on a chair at the bar. He grabbed it and ran after the love of his life. “Bettie! Wait! Bettie!”
On the street where Bettie could hear him, she finally stopped. “What? I’m done Frank. This is it.” She looked tired.
“You forgot your bag,” he said and held it out. The gorillas flashed their teeth. “I love you, I always will.”
She reached out and took the strap of the satchel, brushed his hand with hers, then slung it over her shoulder. “I’ll miss you,” she said as she got into the black sedan and closed the door, looking straight ahead. The gorillas kept Frank from making a last ditch try and he backed away from them as the car drove away. That was two months ago.
All this came rushing back to Frank as he and others who’d been inside watched the fire consume what was left of Black Bettie’s. He’d seen everything he’d enjoyed about his life in the Well fly apart, everything that meant anything to him in this prison of imposed morality explode into shards and ash. The crowd of people behind him, Frank believed, constituted most of the population of the club and even some from the buildings around it but he knew that not everyone got out. There would be work to do, souls to mourn and talk of revenge. None of that mattered now.
Hours later, Marly Hansen and Frank were seated in a café looking over a map of the Well, planning their search for Evan Hand and the young man, Dave Lamprey had identified as ‘Don’. “What if they’re the same person, Hansen? I couldn’t check the cameras before the place blew up. Danny didn’t get a name and Tanya’s gone.”
“Whatever’s going on, it’s probably going to be weird.”
“Why do you say that?”
“The powers that be wouldn’t give me an outside link or let me talk to anyone else but them. We’re on our own here.”
Hansen pushed away from the table and crossed her legs and her arms, then frowned at the floor in front of her. “Have you found Hans or Bobby or the other guy?”
“Terry Palance,” Frank said. “No, I haven’t.”
“Where do the newbies plop down when they get here?” Hansen was still staring at the floor. “Where would they be able to get settled right away?”
Frank’s eyes narrowed as he leaned over the table and pointed at her. “The old Ramada on Adams, Sixth and Adams. Efraim Yogai is nosy enough to know where someone like Hand would go from there.”
“Good,” she said.
Efraim Yogai was tending the flowers in a large planter in front of the old hotel. A fat man, Yogai was sweating in the morning sunlight. He smiled at Frank when the car pulled up. “Hello, my old friend. It has been far too long I have seen you. How is Bettie?”
Frank jammed his hands into his pants pockets. He shrugged and looked over Yogai’s shoulder. “She’s gone. She left.”
“Ah,” Yogai said leaving a long and heavy pause to grow in between them. He wrung his hands. “My apologies, my friend. Is this person new in your life? I am Efraim Yogai, hotelier of the Well.”
“Marly Hansen. Detective.” She showed her badge.
“From Out There?” Yogai pointed to his left. “I did not realize there was business to conduct here. Please, let us go inside.” Hansen and Frank fell in behind the hotelier and followed him into his office, a largish room with pictures of children smiling and at play on every wall. Hansen shivered and Frank looked around. “My grandchildren Detective. Drink?”
“I’m okay, Efraim, thanks,” Frank said. Hansen simply put up a hand and shook her head slightly. “We’re looking for a man named Evan Hand. Will you look at a picture and tell us what you can about him?”
Yogai sat, crossed his hands across his considerable gut, locked his fingers together. “I do not need a picture, I know the man you are looking for. He was rude and disrespectful of the rules of this house. He brought his religion with him and tried to force it on the others. I evicted him two nights ago.”
“Any idea where he went to?” Hansen leaned forward. “He’s likely responsible for the bombs here and in other Wells.”
“I know who to call,” Yogai said. “You are not the first to ask after him. There was a young man here yesterday, tall and blond, brooding eyes. I did not tell him what I’m telling you.”
“I did not trust him. He claimed to be new in the Well, but did not stay one night here as Mr. Hand did. There was something of the same religion to him, in his eyes, how he carried himself.” Yogai’s face darkened. “These are not good men, not the Christians they pretend to be. They are perhaps not evil, but certainly misguided. If they are hurting people, they deserve to be hurt. Will you do this?”
Soon enough, Hansen and Frank found the building that Evan Hand was supposed to be in. They stood outside the apartment Yogai had given them with two easy phone calls and both had guns drawn. “Ready?” Frank mouthed to Hansen. She nodded and kicked the door in with a quick, smooth move and considerable force. Tanya, with her red silk robe, was tied to a chair in the center of the apartment and a cell phone was in her lap, too. It began to ring and when she jumped, knocking the phone to the floor, Frank signaled for her to be calm. Hansen moved through the apartment quickly, precisely and gave Frank a sign that the place was clear. Frank picked up the phone and opened it.
“This is Evan Hand, Agent of the Lord,” the voice on the phone said in Frank’s ear, “I’m surprised you escaped the bomb.”
“I’m fairly clever, Evan. What do you need to tell me?”
“You do not address me by name, sinner. The traitor from Out There will stay in the room with the whore and you will retrieve my son. When you return with him or the cache, I will release you all. If she tries to leave, I will blow them up. If she tries to call anyone, or if I cannot see her hands, I will blow them up. Explain it.” Frank held the phone out and gave Hansen the rundown so Hand could hear then put the phone back to his ear. “You see the camera over the door?”
Frank turned his head and so did Hansen. The little camera turned slightly to the right and then back. “Yes,” Frank said. “Where is your son, then?”
“When I took the whore from him, he was on his back in a filthy little room six blocks from where you are now,” Hand said. His voice was imperious, commanding and condescending. “You have one hour to bring me what’s mine.” Hand paused. “Or I blow it up anyway.”
©2010 By Jason Arnett.
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