Chapter 5: Sharp Dressed Man
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I ducked, Cerberus pounced, and Mr. Waciejowski screamed like a dying ferret—a soothing and pleasant sound under most other circumstances, but now only distracting.
I felt the rush of air against my face as the crowbar skimmed my head. The man wielding it was in a black three-piece suit and built like a Texas linebacker. His mass seemed to bend space-time in the parking lot as he barreled down on me. All I could see was nearly seven feet of Armani silk.
I stood upright and brought my knee into his groin and gave him a swift elbow in the small of his back and a fist to the base of his skull. Now, I wasn’t the biggest guy in the world, but I certainly wasn’t the smallest either. And I was also acutely aware of how much damage I could do to another human being. But this hulking mass in Italian finery didn’t even seem phased. The blows I sent this guy should have dropped him like a bag of wet cement, but he just turned and hamstringed me with that damn crowbar.
I fell so hard that one of my teeth chipped. The box flew out of my grip and landed just a few feet away. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Pete on the ground, fumbling with his cell phone while Cerberus mauled another suit trying to sneak up behind me. If the fall hadn’t knocked the wind out of me, seeing Cerberus tear into this guy certainly would have.
The dog was all fangs and fur, making sounds like construction machinery. Thick and heavy. The guy was screaming all kinds of nonsense as he kept his shredded arms in front of his face and neck. Blood and fabric flew about as the animal tossed its head in violent arcs.
I reached for the box but the linebacker gave me a quick swipe over the head with his crowbar, then bent and grabbed it himself. I could feel a gash on my forehead as blood began to trickle down the side of my face and along my neck. I tried to stand, but I was too woozy and I still couldn’t breathe.
The linebacker brought the crowbar down on Cerberus’ head with all of his substantial weight behind it. It landed with a deep thud, but the dog’s head didn’t move from the blow. Cerberus just stopped and slowly turned to the man in the Armani while the other guy used the distraction to crawl out from underneath the dog.
I had a visceral dislike toward Mr. Armani and would do just about anything to see him broken in half. But watching Cerberus stare him down, his growl thundering at 80 hertz, almost made me feel sorry for the guy. Almost.
The dog went at him, hitting him hard enough that he moved back three steps. Cerberus was latched onto the arm that held the box while the guy tried to pound him with the crowbar. I wanted to get in there and help the dog tear him to pieces, but one: there was no way in hell I was getting anywhere near that animal and two: I felt like I was going to throw up.
Blood started getting into my left eye making it difficult for me to see, but I could tell that Mr. Armani was faring better against the dog than his partner had. I was finally able to take a breath and get up on one elbow when I heard tires squeal as a black Mercedes came to a screeching halt just a few feet away.
Mr. Armani dropped the crowbar, then took the box and tossed it to his bloody partner waiting inside the car with the window down. The driver was pale and parts of him seemed to be missing. He caught the box then screamed, “Let’s go! Come on!”
The linebacker tried to pry himself from Cerberus but the dog had too firm a grip on him. The guy was able to weasel out of his jacket, leaving the Italian silk hanging from Cerberus’ mouth like a weather worn Jolly Roger. Instead of making a break to get in the car, Mr. Armani jumped onto the roof, the car’s shocks squeaking and shifting with his weight. He started pounding on the car. “Drive! Drive!”
The car barked and started to speed away while Cerberus chased after it, snapping at its tires. After seeing that dog fight, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it actually stopped the damn thing. But when the car hit the road, it was gone.
Pete ran over. “Oh my god, oh my god. Are you okay?” He knelt down next to me, oblivious of the pool of my blood he was kneeling in. “I thought that dog of yours was going to kill me. And then I thought that guy was going to kill you. And then I thought your dog was going to kill him. And then I thought…seriously, are you okay?”
I sat up and pressed the palm of my hand against my leaking head. The surrounding area of concrete was spotted with patches of blood. Sadly, a lot of it was mine. “Right now you should be thinking that I’m going to kill you. You had to open the box, didn’t you. You had to look inside.”
Pete stood up and took a step back. “I don’t want any trouble, Mr. Dingo. I just thought you might have drugs or something in there and I didn’t want to get mixed up with that kind of thing. That’s all. I told you, I don’t want—”
“Shut up, Pete. There are no drugs.” I forced myself to stand. I was dizzy and wanted more than anything to puke all over this guy, but to my mild disappointment, the nausea had passed.
“But I don’t understand what they would want with a—”
“You know, Pete. Right now I should be chaining my girlfriend to an old cast-iron furnace. But no. Instead, I’m here, bleeding in a Denny’s parking lot listening to you ask me questions about things that don’t concern you. This is a problem, Pete. And like I told you before, it’s my job to solve problems. But how I solve this particular problem is entirely up to you.”
I wiped a fistful of blood out of my eye. “Now, I can solve this problem my way, orrrrr…you can get in you car and just…go…home.”
For a moment, he looked as if he wanted to continue asking questions, but then reason finally entered his tiny brain and he hopped into my brother’s old Z and sped off. As I watched him leave, Cerberus approached me at a playful gallop. My fight or flight instinct was telling me to get the fuck out of Dodge before this thing could get within eating distance of me, but I was too fazed to move. Fortunately the bleeding seemed to have stopped, or at the very least slowed. But if Cerberus had a mind to eat human flesh, there wasn’t going to be much I could do to stop him.
But when he got to me, he just licked my bloody hand and then nudged me until I scratched him behind his ears. I gently felt the area where the linebacker cracked him over the head with the crowbar but the dog didn’t flinch. And there was no swelling. Damn, this dog was wrong.
I walked over to where the Armani jacket lay in a tattered heap on the ground. I picked it up and fished through the pockets, trying to ignore the disgusting feel of fine Italian silk covered with blood and dog saliva. In the inside breast pocket I found his wallet. There were numerous credit cards, roughly six hundred dollars in cash, and this joker’s driver’s license. Mr. Armani had a name.
And an address.
I pocketed the cash and the license, wiped the wallet down with the filthy jacket, and then tossed it. Cerberus pressed against my leg and licked my hand again. I gave him a pat on his furry head. “Come on, boy. Mr. Julius Benoit was in such a rush that he left some of his things behind. So we’re going to do the responsible, neighborly thing…” I bent over and picked up the crowbar.
“…and return them.”