I Shot You Babe, page 1
I Shot You Babe
NEW YORK CITY
DINNER DATE WITH DEATH
“I think we should have dinner with Arje when we get to the city,” Veronica said.
“You know, Arje Dekker? We met him at the last wrestling match. I think he was Danish or something.”
“Dutch,” I said absently. Now there was another problem entirely. I still had my assignment to take out Dekker. My complications had just taken on complications for themselves. “We might not even run into him.” I had to discourage her from the idea of hanging out with my next target. At some point, Dekker would be dead and Ronnie would probably be somewhat pissed off about that.
“You promised.” Ronnie narrowed her eyes and it sort of turned me on. Hell, everything she did turned me on lately. I might even throw my first match just to spend the rest of the festival naked in her arms—I was that desperate.
“Fine. If we see him, we can make some plans for lunch or something. But that’s it.”
I was grateful when she accepted this with a smile and we continued working. However, I had the sneaking suspicion it was far from over.
This book is dedicated to my husband, Tom. Cy is modeled, as are almost all my heroes, on him.
Table of Contents
Diner Date With Death
Other Making It Titles By Leslie Langtry
“I thoroughly disapprove of duels. If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him.”
Okay. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A pro football player walks into a bar. He falls to the floor clutching his head in pain and says, “I didn’t see that coming.” True story. Although maybe, just maybe, it would be more accurate to say the iron rod walked into the football player, but I’m telling it my way.
I managed to kick the guy in the ribs as he tried to get up, but one of his enormous hands (which, I assume, can only have made him good at his sport) grabbed my ankle and pulled me down to join him on the floor. It was at this point that he seemed to gain the upper hand. The lumbering side o’ beef with legs climbed on top of me, bouncing my head off the cement twice. This did nothing for my self-esteem and probably wasn’t good for the “rugged attractiveness” women told me I had. Did you know you actually do see stars when your head is pummeled against something so unyielding as concrete? I know, it seems too cartoonish, but then, there it is.
I distracted my target by biting his forearm. I’m not fond of biting, but in this business, you have to think quickly. As he screamed, I punched him in the throat, and he crumpled over like a stack of dimes. With Vic (as in, my victim) facedown, I climbed on top and began my choke hold. Frankly, I was tired of using a choke hold. So overdone, and not terribly elegant.
Vic struggled to get free, but unfortunately for him, he was losing strength. To my surprise, he got lucky and managed to flail out, catching me (quite to his surprise) in the gut with his elbow. I dropped him and he scrambled backward until he hit the wall.
I walked toward him slowly (for dramatic effect, of course). The bastard wasn’t going anywhere. Stupid athlete. They always think they can handle themselves in a fight. It was true that he was much larger than me. But it was also true that, because of this fact, he’d never really had to fight before. For his first actual battle, he was literally fighting for his life—a brilliant irony I thought would likely be wasted on him.
My fist hit him square in the face, and he slid down the wall. Through the gurgling blood coursing from his nose into his mouth just seconds before I sent the broken shards of his nose piercing into his brain, he asked, “Who are you?”
Bombay. Coney Island Bombay. Actually, you can call me Cy. I go by Coney only when I’m working as a carney. Most of the time I prefer eliminating the middle three letters from my name. It’s kind of like what I really do, which is eliminating bad people.
That might sound a bit simplistic. Sorry about that. But there really is no point in analyzing it any further. I know this because I have a Ph.D. in philosophy and it has driven me to distraction most of my life. It is possible to overthink things now and then. After all, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
This, however, isn’t one of those times. This time, the cigar is more than it seems. The rather ugly, large cigar of which I speak (who now lay lifeless on his basement floor) was a popular sports figure who ran an illegal white slave trade on the side. I’ve never been much of a sports fan. It seems wrong to me that professional athletes make millions of dollars when scientists trying to cure cancer and teachers educating children live from check to check. This gig was my own small contribution toward evening things out. You know, the old yin-yang thing.
My vic was a professional football player who’d invested in an Eastern European slaver. The slaver sent young women all over the world to work as prostitutes. I use the past tense because I took care of that bastard a couple of days ago. The athlete was quick to join him in death. It wasn’t pretty. And honestly, I don’t feel too bad about that.
Most of the Bombays tend to maintain a low profile when it comes to wet work. Making murder look like an accident seems to make them feel better. I don’t really go that route. My preferred modus operandi is to actually make it appear to be foul play. And if you knew how bad these people were, you’d probably agree with me.
Two days later, the police and media seemed to think the Russian Mafia was responsible, and when the evidence I left behind revealed his crimes, Vic’s jersey and status were yanked from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. My mother and the rest of the Bombay Council were pleased. Dad, an Aussie, had to call to remind me that technically my vic didn’t play real football. But that’s Pop, always splitting hairs.
My family history is interesting, in a bloodthirsty sort of way. The Bombays have cornered the market on international assassination for hire since ancient Greece. Every infant born with Bombay blood becomes a killer. We begin training at age five and progress from there. There is no way out. Once you are born a Bombay, your fate is sealed. No one rebels unless they have a suicide wish. Occasionally, someone does. What can I say? Every family has at least one idiot. Doesn’t yours?
The football job took place in Chicago, and a few days
Wheek! Wheek! came the brain-splitting cry of my guinea pig, Sartre. The minute I wake up, she reminds me that it’s time for breakfast. She’s affectionate and sweet, but I’ve always suspected that she considers me to be little more than a servant.
“Here you are,” I said as I placed a small dish of strawberries, collard greens and baby carrots in front of her. Sartre grunted and began her feast. I walked to the door of my trailer to get the paper.
When I’m on the road (which is pretty much always), I like to park my RV in Wal-Mart parking lots. They seem to have a camper cult following. At every one I’ve been to, there’s a newspaper at my door in the morning and fresh coffee ready before the shoppers arrive. I like that. It’s a nice touch.
Opening the door revealed a bright, late August. I scooped up the paper and nodded to the older woman standing in the parking lot across from me. It was then that I realized I hadn’t put any clothes on. Huh. I shut the door behind me (but not before winking at the lady) and, after tossing the paper on a chair, threw on some running clothes. Ten minutes later, I opened the door to find her and several other women standing in the same place. I don’t know what they hoped to see, but clearly my having clothes on had been a bit of a buzz kill. Just for fun I grinned and shouted, “G’day, ladies,” with an Australian accent (something I inherited from Dad). That seemed to do the trick. I believe one actually fainted.
A good jog always helped clear my head. With my Bombay-appointed duty over for the year and the carnival season coming to an end, I had to start making my plans for fall. I was pretty sure it was time for a sabbatical. I needed a break.
Back at the trailer, Sartre squeaked indignantly. I scooped her up as I flipped on the television to listen to while I threw breakfast together. Sartre wiggled in the crook of my left arm before sprawling out luxuriously. I found an orange and made some toast while the little pig ran up and down the table. There wasn’t much on in the news, as usual. I had a gig coming up in rural Nebraska. Just a county fair. Then the season would be over for me. Sartre nibbled on an orange peel, never taking her eyes off me. Huh. It’s sad when your own pet doesn’t entirely trust you. But that’s the nature of an assassin pet owner, I guess. I gave her some of the fruit and she devoured it. An ad for Disney World came on and somehow managed to get my attention.
I clicked off the TV and pulled open my laptop. After a few more hours of research, I decided on my sabbatical: Disney World. I had a few connections there—a couple of my carney brethren who had gone legit. I flipped open my cell phone and dialed. Within moments I had a job lined up from fall to spring. After that, who knew what I’d do? I was unattached. A loner, to be clichéd—but it suited me.
Besides, I already had a career. I had travel, adventure, middle-aged women in the parking lot ogling my physique, and the love of a good, elitist rodent. What else could I possibly need?
“Women: you can’t live with them, and you can’t get them to dress up in a skimpy Nazi uniform and beat you with a warm squash.”
Ah. The Saunders County Fair in Wahoo, Nebraska. The name says it all, doesn’t it? Nothing but dirt, horseshit and fried food as far as the eye can see. Sigh. It’s paradise. I checked the crankshaft on the Tilt-A-Whirl before admitting sticky children and beer-addled adults to the ride. People expect a carney doesn’t really give a damn when he checks the safety bars and pushes the button to start the ride. But they don’t know me. I’m a firm believer in safety first, because I actually like kids. Adults, however, are more complicated.
I grinned through my beard and turned on the ride, watching as the little cars swiveled and swirled. I hadn’t had a barfer in two days, but I figured I was overdue. Sure enough, when the ride came to a stop, some green-faced teen was being led off her car. It didn’t bother me. When you eat five corn dogs with a cottoncandy chaser, then go on a ride that scrambles your insides like eggs, you have to expect a little carnage.
Oh, well. This was my last gig before heading out to Orlando. I’d have to use the solution my brilliant scientist cousin, Missi, gave me to erase the tattoos. I’d miss the beard a bit. Even though I generally lived off the grid, I was still a bit paranoid. The disguise kept me from being recognized, and the customers seemed to expect it. It came with the carney image, and I hated to disappoint anyone. I was so involved in my thoughts it took me a minute to realize the woman standing before me didn’t want a ride—at least, not on the Tilt-A-Whirl.
She looked to be in her mid- to late twenties, with chin-length blonde hair, very little makeup and a slim build. I watched for a moment as she shifted her weight from one foot to the other. Definitely nervous.
“Can I help you?” I asked.
She stuck out her right hand as if she had never shaken hands before. I slowly grasped it in my own and she shook it. I could feel her heart beating in her palm. Must be the beard. It scared even Sartre.
“Um, I’m Veronica Gale.” It looked as though she immediately regretted giving her last name. I took no offense. I was used to such a reaction.
“Hello, Veronica.” I thought it might be rude if I didn’t respond. Of course, I still had no idea why she was standing there, but I thought I should at least make her comfortable. And there was something about her. She wasn’t mysterious; in fact, I could read through her like tissue paper over a large-print picture book.
“I’m finishing up my master’s thesis on transient lifestyles and wondered if I could interview you?” Ms. Gale bit her lip, displaying a lack of confidence that I found a little adorable.
Ah. So that was it. An academic. You don’t see many in this line of work. I felt a twinge of nostalgia for the ivory tower.
“Okay.” I stepped past her and admitted more kids to the ride. “I’ve got a break in an hour.”
Veronica jumped back as if she hadn’t noticed the people around her. “Um, fine. I’ll be back in an hour.” She paused for a second, as if her central nervous system had failed her. Finally she turned around and marched off.
Hmmm. A sheltered little thing with no life experience and plenty of attitude. How could I possibly resist? And who was I to stand in the way of a fellow academic and her quest for knowledge?
I checked all the safety bars and switched on the ride. I didn’t really have a break coming up, so I called one of the other guys on duty on my radio. Mort agreed to cover for me in a bit.
I was actually looking forward to talking to Veronica Gale, master’s candidate. I hadn’t had a date in a long time. Sure, carneys have followers—often wealthy housewives with a sexual fetish for tattooed flesh—but a real date? It was too depressing to think about. As I said, I’m a loner, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get lonely for intelligent conversation with a woman. Most of my contact included very little discussion.
Mort showed up less than an hour later. When my “date” arrived a few seconds after, I suggested we hit the beer tent. We bought two drinks and settled at a splinter-riddled picnic table.
Veronica slid her beer to the side and pulled a notebook out of her purse. I smiled. She was starting to grow on me.
“Now, your name is…?” she asked, sounding very official. This chick had to loosen up.
“Coney Bombay.” I watched as she wrote that down. She had beautiful, slender fingers. I like that in a woman. Veronica Gale wasn’t a hottie. She was pretty in an interesting sort of way, with large, questioning green eyes, a classic European nose, a strong chin and dark blonde hair. I found her intriguing. I’d like to think she found me intriguing, but then I remembered her nervousness around me. To her, I
“Thank you for agreeing to talk to me, Mr. Bombay.” All friendliness had gone from her voice. This woman was pure business now. At least, that was what she wanted me to think.
“Call me Cy. And no problem. This is the best proposition I’ve had all day.” I smiled, hoping to loosen her up.
It didn’t. Veronica scowled. “Fine. Cy it is. But this is not a proposition.”
“Too bad,” I responded, never taking my eyes off of hers. It unnerved her. Have you ever tried to keep your eyes on the person you are talking to? Americans aren’t used to it. They look away every now and then to fight their unease. Especially when you are a carney. Veronica was no exception.
“All right. What do you want to know regarding my…what was it? Transient lifestyle?” Hmmm…when you added the word lifestyle it made me sound like a hobo sporting platform sandals and lime green eye shadow.
“How long have you been employed by the…” Ms. Gale stumbled over her words in what appeared to be an attempt at political correctness. “Um…”
“How long have I been a carney?” I stepped in to rescue her. Now, why did I do that? I certainly didn’t owe this woman an explanation of my chosen profession. “Almost twelve years now. I’ve worked with a number of outfits—this one for two years.”
“And what did you do before that?”
“I was a student.” Actually, I still considered myself to be a student. But for the sake of this interview, I thought I’d keep it simple.
Veronica looked me in the eyes. She didn’t seem to believe that twelve years ago I was in high school. I could’ve helped her out, but I held back.
“How old are you?” she asked. Clearly, this woman wasn’t one for social graces. I couldn’t figure out why that was. Usually I’m good at reading people. But was she asking me as a researcher or out of her own personal curiosity?
“I’m thirty-eight.” I could see her doing the math in her head. Eventually the question would come up, and it would confuse her. For some reason, I wanted to let her off the hook. What was wrong with me? I could see Sartre rolling her eyes back in her cage in the trailer.
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