7:00 AM. Three men were traveling from New York City to a small, blue-collar town in Suffolk County on Long Island. In the backseat Ignacio Badillo, a short, heavyset man in his late thirties, was not in a good mood. He’d had only one hour of sleep after spending several hours drinking and cavorting with a hot and athletic puta. He grimaced in discomfort from an upset stomach and a splitting headache, neither of which were helped by the car’s motion. He’d almost turned down this job, but the money was too good. He glared in distaste at the man in the passenger seat, Manolo Nevarez, whom he suspected was sleeping with his wife. He’d been unable to catch them in the act, but hadn’t given up trying. If I find them in bed, I’ll beat the crap out of both of them, he thought. Look at that bastard, sound asleep.
“Manny!” Badillo yelled.
“What?” Nevarez said, sitting up, startled.
“You fucking my wife?”
“Of course not, Iggy,” Nevarez replied, but with a smirk on his face. He was in his late twenties, tall, with Latin good looks. Badillo knew his wife got dewy eyed every time she looked at Nevarez.
George McStendic, a compact and heavily muscled man, was driving. He was a contract hit man who’d done a lot of work for the Russian mob. Badillo was in charge, but Uri Shikov, the mob leader, had foisted McStendic on them and said that he was the trigger man.
Badillo leaned forward, tapped McStendic on the shoulder, and said loudly, “Hey gilipollas. Think you can drive the car without jerkin’ it around? You makin’ me sick.”
“Fuck you!” McStendic said. “The only jerking this car is doing is caused by you jerking off.” With those words he deliberately sped up and then abruptly slowed down.
“Who’s the mark?” Nevarez asked.
Badillo glared at McStendic, and then handed Nevarez a picture of Jodi Cinto.
“That’s a chick!” Nevarez said, holding the picture up for better light. “And a smokin’ hot one, too. Shit, why it take three of us for one little pussy?”
“She’s a cop who’s already aced two of Shikov’s guys,” Badillo replied. “She’s been a pain in his ass. He wants to make sure the job’s done right.”
“Ha!” exulted Nevarez. “A chickie did that? Guess them Ruskis ain’t so tough. She is fine though. Shame to waste good stuff.”
Badillo took the picture back, studied it. and said, “I gotta agree with Manny. Love to have some fun before we ice her.”
“Let’s talk about what we’re going to do once we get there,” McStendic said.
“Your show, Iggy,” Nevarez said. “You say the plan.”
“We know what she’s driving and where she’s going,” Badillo said. “Questioning a witness or some shit like that. We just follow her until she’s alone, and then, wham! How much longer until we get there?”
“Pull over,” Badillo ordered. “I gotta piss real bad.”
It didn’t take long for them to find Cinto’s car. They drove by slowly as she squeezed into a parking space on a street lined with cars. It was a lower middle-class residential neighborhood consisting of apartment houses on both sides.
“Hit her now?” Nevarez asked.
“Too many people around,” McStendic said. He was now in the front passenger seat with Nevarez driving. “Circle the block. We’ll watch her car from back there, and when she comes out, pull up right next to her and I’ll pop her. If there’s still people around, we’ll hang back, follow, and look for a good opportunity.”
Nevarez went around the block and managed to find a parking space several car lengths behind Cinto’s car. The entrance to the apartment building she’d entered was between the two cars.
“Still think we should have some fun with her first,” Nevarez said, sulkily.
“I’ll decide that,” Badillo said. “I’m in charge.”
McStendic sighed. This was a simple hit, and these assholes were complicating it because of their dicks. He wished Shikov had let him do this on his own.
As the men sat in their car, they watched people come out of the various buildings, get into cars, and drive off. Soon there were only two vehicles between their car and Cinto’s. There were no other people around.
“Hey, there’s nowhere for the bitch to run,” Nevarez said. “No alleys. All the buildings are connected. When she comes out Iggy and me get out the car. McStendic, you drive past her car and get out. We got her trapped. We all have guns on her. Tell her surrender, we just need to talk. We take her somewhere, have our fun, then waste her.”
“Sounds good to me,” Badillo said. McStendic just shook his head.
Cinto left the apartment building scowling in disgust. I’ve come all the way out to the ass end of nowhere, she thought, and got next to nothing. So much for a reliable tip.
As she descended the steps, she noted the two Hispanic looking men getting out of a brown sedan on her left. She turned right toward her own car. The brown car passed by, stopped just beyond her car, and another man got out. He took out a gun. One of the men behind her called out something. She stepped up to a large SUV parked to her left, dropped to the pavement, and rolled underneath. She pulled out her FN Five-seven and her cell phone and spun around to face the Hispanic men.
She could see the legs of the thinner of the two. He was on the sidewalk racing toward her, and had almost reached her position. The heavyset man was on the street, running, but was about fifty feet back. She fired five shots at the ankles of the thin man, who fell to the ground screaming. She slid out from under the car toward the street and raised herself to a crouch. The fat man, running toward her, started to shoot. She could see the gun bobbing up and down, and only one of his shots even hit the car next to her. She fired four shots toward him. He stopped, flung himself down, and rolled toward the curb.
Hearing the whine of bullets passing over her head, she jerked the other way and saw a man on one knee taking careful aim. She fired a five shot burst in his direction, causing him to duck. Keeping low, she darted toward the opposite side of the street.
As she pushed the speed dial for 911, she felt a sting on her left arm, almost causing her to drop her phone. Bullets hit the tarmac to her left. Reaching the other side of the street, she dove over a hedge that was just beyond the sidewalk, as several more shots passed over her head. Spinning around and facing the street, she scurried to the left, toward where the loan man was, keeping her head below the top of the hedge. Several more shots went into the hedge right where she’d been moments before. She ejected the magazine in her gun and slammed in a fresh one.
“9-1-1, what is your emergency?” a voice said from the phone.
“10-13, 10-13, shots fired,” she said, followed by the address, keeping her voice down, giving the NYPD code for “Assist police officer,” and hoping the local dispatcher would understand it. Then she ended the call and turned to look for her assailants.
The fat man was racing toward the place where she’d jumped over the hedge, screaming something, and shooting. This guy watches too many action movies, Cinto thought as she put two slugs into his chest and darted back to her right. Several shots went into the hedge just about where she’d been. One of them knocked the heel off of her right shoe, the shoe off her foot, and caused her right leg from the knee down to go numb.
Peering through the hedge, she saw a man using the car across the street as a shield, looking carefully at the hedge, and holding a submachine gun. Knowing she was outgunned, and not wanting to give away her position, she remained still. Unlike the others, this man wasn’t an idiot. He’d seen her take out his companions, and wasn’t about to expose any more of his body than necessary.
Finally the welcome wail of a siren came. The man looked toward the sound and then raised up and pointed his gun toward the hedge. Knowing what he had in mind, Cinto wriggled back several feet and burrowed into the ground as best she could. The man sprayed an entire thirty shot clip at the hedge. Cinto felt two shots pass just over her head, and another kicked up dirt into her face.
As soon as the firing stopped, she got up on one knee, peered through the hedge, and emptied the remainder of her magazine at the man as he started to sprint toward the brown car. One shot hit him in the back of his right shoulder, spinning him around so that he was facing her. A second shot hit him in the throat, and two others somewhere on his body. The throat shot was fatal.
A police car careened around the corner and came to a screeching halt. Two cops jumped out holding their weapons at the ready, looking around wildly.
“Don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” Cinto yelled. Leaving her gun on the ground, she put both hands over her head, holding her badge in one of them, and stood up slowly.
Barney Krylecki swallowed the last bite of his sandwich, finished his beer, burped loudly, and slid off the barstool. Leaving a couple of dollars on the bar, he shrugged into his coat, put on his hat, spoke briefly with the bartender, and headed for the front door of the tavern. As he stepped outside, he clamped his hand on top of his head to keep the brisk wind from blowing his hat away.
Shit! he thought, hunching down into his coat and striding quickly toward his car. It’s not even December, and it’s cold as a witch’s tit out here!
Krylecki fumbled in his pocket for his keys as he approached his car. He pushed the “door unlock” button on the key fob and was reaching for the handle when he was slammed face first into the side of the car.
“Hey, Barney,” a feminine voice said. “I hear you’ve been looking for me. Well it’s your lucky day. You found me.”
“What the fuck!” Krylecki exclaimed, as he whirled around and saw Jodi Cinto standing there with a gun two inches from his belt buckle.
“Yeah it’s me,” Cinto said.
“I, I, don’t know who you are,” Krylecki stammered. “Why, why, are you pointing a gun at me? Is this a stickup?”
“Cut the shit, Barney,” Cinto said, slapping Krylecki’s face. “I need to talk to Shikov. Make it happen.”
“I don’t know any Shikov,” Krylecki said, and then doubled over gasping for breath as Cinto hit him in the solar plexus.
“Let’s not play games, asshole,” Cinto said, pushing Krylecki back against his car. “I’ve had an irritating couple of days. Now I’m doing your job for you. Shikov wants to know where I am. Tell him and we can avoid any future unpleasantness between us.”
“Okay, okay. Don’t hit me no more.”
“We’ll see how it goes.”
Krylecki took out a cell phone and speed dialed a number. After a brief pause, a voice loud enough for both of them to hear, speaking precise English with the barest hint of a Russian accent, said, “Krylecki, you were told not to call me on the telephone!”
“I know, Mr. Shikov,” Krylecki said, obsequiously. “But I’m standing here with Jodi Cinto. She came to me. She wants to talk to you.”
There was a pause, and then the voice said, “Let me speak with her.”
Krylecki handed the phone to Cinto, who said, “Hey, Uri, how they hanging?”
“Ah, Detective Cinto,” Shikov said. “How wonderful to hear your voice. I understand you were wounded yesterday. I am so happy it was nothing serious.”
“Not as serious as you losing your trusted thugs. How many is it now? Five? Six? Ten? I lost count. But I’m sure Viktor Berezhnoy is keeping track.”
“What is it you want?” Shikov asked in a much less cultured tone upon hearing the name of his chief rival.
“It’s possible that sooner or later you might send someone after me who’s not a total fuckup,” Cinto said, getting right to the point. “But that could take a while. We both know Berezhnoy would love to take over your operation. Every time you lose a man, he smiles. I think it’d be in both our best interests to … come to an accommodation. It’ll be cheaper for you in the long run.”
“Do you have that much control over the investigation?”
“My partner and I are working together. Our bosses will accept whatever we say.”
“Your words sound very sensible,” Shikov said, after a pause. “Your streak of good fortune will not last forever, but we would never want anyone to lose a life. I need to think this over. How can I reach you?”
Cinto gave Shikov a cell number, handed the phone back to Krylecki, patted him on the cheek, and said, “See you around, Barney.” Then she disappeared down a subway entrance.
Shortly after nine the following morning, Cinto, accompanied by Mendez, her partner, descended the steps to the basement of a boarded up building in lower Manhattan. The negotiations the previous evening had taken quite a while, especially concerning the meeting place. Neither side trusted the other. At the foot of the stairs, outside a closed door, stood a hefty man bundled up against the cold. As per the agreement, no weapons were in sight, though it was clear from the way the man kept one hand inside his jacket that he could produce a gun very rapidly.
Without saying a word, the man opened the door and waved Cinto and Mendez in. Cinto indicated that the man should precede her. He smiled in a humorless way, shrugged his shoulders, and complied.
As she entered the room, Cinto saw Uri Shikov seated behind a large, metal desk. His hands were out of sight. Barney Krylecki sat slightly behind Shikov and off to his right. The man who’d been at the door joined two other men standing against the wall at Shikov’s left. In front of the desk were two chairs.
“Please, you and your friend sit there,” Shikov said, pointing to the chairs.
“First have those guys get behind you,” Cinto said.
“Very cautious of you,” Shikov said, and jerked his thumb to his shoulder, pointing it toward the wall behind him.
The three men moved over, and Cinto took a seat. Mendez stood behind her, keeping a watchful eye on the men against the wall.
“You have caused me a great deal of trouble,” Shikov said. “Not to mention the loss of several good men.”
“They weren’t that good. But I didn’t cost you those men. You’re the reason they’re no longer available, Shikov. Every one of them was lost when they, at your fucked up orders, tried to kill me. If you had … tried a different approach, they’d still be breathing.”
Shikov turned red with rage. Cinto knew he wasn’t used to people speaking to him like that. It was obvious he was struggling to keep his temper. Finally he said, “You were looking into interests of mine that are best left alone.”
“You got too greedy and brought yourself to the attention of the higher ups,” Cinto countered. “We’ll have to come up with a good story to get them to back off. So the question is, what’s it worth to you for us to do that?”
“Do you have a suggestion?”
Cinto named a figure that caused Krylecki to whistle and Shikov to clench his teeth in anger.
“Yes, the payment,” Shikov spat out, showing his teeth in the rictus of a smile. “I am afraid the arrangement will not be to your liking. There are different ways to get you to stop your investigation, and I will be very happy to see your dying breath.”
“If you bump us off, they’ll just assign others.”
“Probably, but they will not be as good. Or as expensive.”
With those words Shikov took out a submachine gun he’d been holding on his lap and the three men at the wall each drew a nine millimeter automatic. Cinto and Mendez had been expecting Shikov to try a double-cross. At Shikov’s first motion, Cinto dove to her left while Mendez dove to his right. The shots from the Russians shredded the chair Cinto had been sitting in, but neither she nor Mendez were hit. Lying on her side on the floor, Cinto fired five shots at Shikov hitting him twice in the head, and then aimed at Krylecki, who’d only just started to pull out a gun. She pulled the trigger four more times, and Krylecki was no more. Mendez directed his fire toward the men at the rear, trying to keep them distracted.
Cinto and Mendez started to edge backwards toward the door. They kept low, as they knew the odds weren’t with them. Cinto grunted in pain as a shot deflected off her military grade body armor. She fired off a shot at a head peeking around Shikov’s desk, but that was the last shot in her magazine. She released it and jammed in a fresh one just as another shot grazed her backside. Christ! she thought. I just got hit in the ass!
Suddenly the door burst open and four more men came in wielding automatic weapons. They proceeded to finish off Shikov’s remaining three men, following which two of them pointed their guns at Cinto and the other two at Mendez. Cinto and Mendez trained their weapons at the newcomers.
A fifth man came into the room and said with a thick Russian accent, “Everybody put down guns. We have accomplish purpose.”
The four shooters put their guns away. Cinto and Mendez got to their feet and did the same. The last arrival turned to Cinto and said, “Jodi Cinto. I live up to my part of bargain. You have done me great favor. I have only admiration for you and wish no harm to you. Besides, killing police officers not good for business and not in best interest of Viktor Berezhnoy.”
“I was beginning to wonder if you were going to show up at all,” Cinto said.
“Uri had several men stationed outside,” Berezhnoy replied apologetically. “Subduing them took long time.”
As Cinto and Mendez got into their car, she winced in pain as she sat, but let the hint of a smile flicker across her face. Another reversal in fortune for someone trying to take her out. It wasn’t the first time she’d compromised her code, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. But they’d just rid the world of Uri Shikov, a vicious and exceedingly dangerous psychopath. True, Viktor Berezhnoy wasn’t exactly a saint, but at least he was slightly more sane. It wasn’t possible to get rid of all the mobsters. At least she’d never be out of a job.
Steve Tillman is an emeritus professor of Mathematics at Wilkes University, where he taught for forty-two years. Wilkes is a small, private college located in Northeastern Pennsylvania. As an avid reader of mysteries and science fiction, his short stories appear in Mysterical-E and have been accepted for publication by Vinculinc, Inc.