The angel underwater, p.1
The Angel Underwater, p.1JD McDonnell
A Short Story by JD McDonnell
Copyright 2014 JD McDonnell
[Rated PG-13] If this story were a movie it would be Rated PG-13 for violence, gore and scary situations. It is not recommended for minors.
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The Angel Underwater
He looked at the photo one last time. This would be the nineth or tenth one last time today. The photo was of a man who once took peculiar delight in stepping on people only to eventually be stepped on himself. Normally this was nothing out of the ordinary, but what struck Times-Picayune reporter Samuel James Ponticliff as strange was the way in which he had been stepped on, which was to say that the man in the photo had literally been stepped on and stepped on in a very big way.
The man in the photo was Jefferson James Lalleman, aka the Lullaby man, a gangster who took his fashion sense from the silver screen and left everything else behind. No celluloid heart of gold beat beneath his fine silk vests. The man was cold to the soul. At one time it seemed as if every other corpse pulled out of the river bore his signet ring stamped on its forehead. Nothing could be done about it because New Orlean's finest were firmly in the pocket of the Lullaby man's Ringtooth gang. Of course, this was 1928 and the police were more likely to be found in a man's pocket than a set of keys, yet paying off the police proved to be no guarantee of protection. The grainy black and white photo showed the Lullaby man on his back with arms and legs stilted upwards like the broked limbs of a smacked roach. Then, right up his middle, stopping just short of his neck, something heavy had reduced Jefferson Lalleman to a pin-striped pancake. His head was cocked forward, chin to neck, dead eyes bulging as they saw it coming, whatever in the hell it was. The Lullaby man's mouth was locked open in a never ending scream of blood and vomit. Broken ribs cut through the sides of his jacket like a set of knives. He died with a .38 revolver in one hand and a sawn-off hogleg in the other, both empty. Apparently, Jefferson had come to the warehouse looking for a gunfight only to find the heavy end of a small steamroller. Samuel bit his lip as he hissed a breath in thought. It was harsh. It was chilling. Not cool enough to break the prickly hedgehog of mid-summer heat, yet icy all the same. Sam, pinned the photo to his wall of suspicious leads and walked out onto the balcony for some fresh air to think in.
The story had a world of problems. For one thing there were no steamrollers on this side of town. Road work in the French Quarter meant waiting until the street had become a muddy rut and then hiring some poor team of share cropping bastards to pepper it with cobblestones. New Orleans was still a horse driven town. The rich loved their carriages and the shippers loved cheap bray horses they could whip to death on the trudge between the docks and the rail yards. It got so hot in August, that the asphault of a proper road would come up on people's shoes like chewing gum, and no one would stand for that. Was there even a steamroller in all of New Orleans? What had levelled the Lullaby man? What had happened to any of them?
People turned up dead all the time in this city, but rarely did they ever simply disappear and never in numbers like this. Vincent Magill, vicious leader of the Front Street Devils, disappeared June 15th. The rest of the Front Street Devils, disappeared June 17th – 19th. Vaugn & Roxy De Jean, an extorionist and his gun moll disappeared June 21st. Maud Corduroy, who ran sweatshops on the north-side with all the tenderness of an old world plantation vanished June 23rd. Phillipe Byrd, the Ice Baron, who controlled every ice factory in the city and had lynched more than a few union leaders to keep it that way was reported missing on June 25th.. Benji Smallwood, loan shark - poof - June 26th. Boss James Dixon Carlyle, stodgy confederate veteran and local grand wizard of the KKK was last seen staggering drunk through the streets on June 27th. Jack “Suds” Malone, bootlegger and needle beer purveyor disappeared June 30th. Johnny Torrentino, a fine trumpet-player who wouldn't hurt a fly - and if you believe that then you have never worked the crime beat - disappeared July 1st. It was a goddamn epidemic.
In most cases the people of the delta couldn't be happier. With Carlyle and Corduroy gone there might even be a Fourth of July celebration this year. In most minds a vigillante was at work and a vigillante was nothing more than a cop who had finally gotten around to doing his job. Then Suds Malone disappeared. Malone was seen as a modern day Robin Hood, turning a good chunk of his bootlegging profits into food for the poor. And Torrentino? That was a high voltage. Johnny was good, very good, the hottest thing in town. Blowing the bugle around the Quarter was akin to going to confession; the louder and more rangy the sound, the greater the expurgation of sin for everyone involved and no one in the Quarter blew louder than Torrentino. He was a living saint. Or at least he once was. Johnny was missed before it was certain he had actually gone missing.
Samuel stared back at the black steel keys of the Underwood typewriter on his desk. He tried to think. What to write? What to write? The news waits for no one. He sidled up to it quietly, so as not to startle the story he sensed brewing somewhere in the depth of it. Should he start with a V for “Vigilante Strikes Again. Victim Found!!!” or a P for “Psychopath Still At Large! Disappearances Point to Murder!!!!” And did it really matter so long he whacked out the right number of exclamation points? Samuel was a finger press away from hitting the V when he first heard it, a sound like a distant thunderclap rumbling in the distance. To this he paid no mind. A summer day in Louisiana rarely passed without an afternoon thundershower. Of course, the afternoon had somehow slipped onto the edge of eight thirty at night. A second thunderclap followed closely and then a third and a fourth. Heavy was too soft and squishy a word for what was hammering its way down the street. This was more like the dropping of millstones from a hot air balloon. Samuel got up to check the window. The sky outside was hazy and dark yet thin enough to let a few needles of starlight poke through. Down on the sidewalk stood a lone figure, face hidden in the shadow of a brown fedora. His hands gripped the portentous, barrel-bellied body of a Thompson submachine gun. Instantly Sam dropped with a soft thud to the floor. Back in Chicago he once stood transfixed by a similiar sight for a just second too long and had his coffee cup blown free from his hand, leaving only a porcelain ring hanging from his index finger. The two other reporters standing beside him were not so lucky.
Everybody loves the press.
“Samuel J Ponticliff.” said the man with a gravelly voice, “Why don't chu come down here so as we can ah..., chew the fat, all nice and peaceful like?”
Samuel bellied over to his desk and quietly rolled open the lowest drawer. From behind a small bottle of bathtub gin he pulled two nickel plated Colt .45 automatics, steel-line specials. He weighed them in his hands to make sure they were still loaded. The clicks of popping cartridges in and out of the handles would have been just a few clicks too loud.
“Sounds good to me,” Sam called out, “I'll be right down. Just let me put my shoes on.”
“Sho 'nuff! But don't you keep me waiting. It ain't neighborly to keep a man waitin'.”
Sam wanted to believe he recognized the voice, but he gritted his teeth and forced the notion out of his head. You always wanted to believe you recognized the voice. In a strange situation you always grasp for anything you know, even if it means making things up. Sam hardened on the facts. The guy out there was a local. From the sound of his voice he was Creole, not Cajun. He wore a suit and hat, the camouflage of the businessman. He was
Sam stood up and tip-toed to the window. Just as he turned to point the guns and shout - freeze - the wall beside him exploded like a string of firecrackers. Wood splinters and plaster chunks flipped through the air as bullets skidded across the ceiling and lodged into the lattice work. A hot lance of fire ripped between Sam's stomach and his elbow, causing him to forget everything but a red scream of rage as he turned towards the street and opened fire.
Bullets twinged, twanged and sparked across bare cobblestones.
What the hell?
Sam checked his shirt to make sure he'd only been grazed and not ventilated then quickly reloaded both pistols. Just because the guy was no longer out front didn't mean he'd gone home. Sam crept downstairs. It was best to guess that the man was a professional. If so, he would not be in the living room or the kitchen but out on the back porch, standing just to the left of the screen door and waiting for Sam to run out in a panic. Sam had written up more reports of bullet ridden stool pigeons than he cared to admit and where gangsters were concerned, he considered the
The Angel Underwater by JD McDonnell / Horror have rating 2.8 out of 5 / Based on17 votes