The man smiled. He was handsome, like a movie star, all dark hair and blue eyes and just a hint of wrinkles. A strong jaw and flawless teeth. Even though I knew I was helpless and even though I knew this man would slit my throat or put a bullet through my head just as soon as look at me, all I could think was, “My God, he looks just like a movie star.”
But then, he was a movie star. Or at least he used to be.
His smile became a grin. “Do me a favor and tell me who I am. I always love it when fans recognize me.”
I swallowed. I always figured I’d meet a bad end, even once I’d survived Japan in one piece, but I never thought I’d wind up dead in a warehouse on the edge of town, left for the rats to gnaw on and some bums to stumble across one night. But still, nothing to be done about it. “You’re Vincent Campbell.”
Campbell nodded, still grinning. “That’s right. And do you know who you are?”
I said nothing.
Campbell just smiled and kept nodding. He rolled his eyes, took a deep breath, exhaled. And then he lunged across the table, grabbed me by my shirt, and pulled me over until his face was just inches from my own. His mouth twisted into a snarl. “You’re the dumb son of a bitch that busted up my junk ring!” He shoved me and I toppled over backwards, my hands still bound behind me. I didn’t try to move, though. There was no where to go and no way to fight back. All I could do was keep my face as stony as possible and try and face my death with a stiff upper lip.
Campbell walked over to where I lay on the ground and stepped on my throat. My stiff upper lap vanished instantly as I gasped for air and grunted in pain. “Do you have any idea how much fucking money you cost me? Oh, the drugs were cheap Army surplus shit I had smuggled back stateside, but do you know how many people I had to pay to look the other way? How many cops and judges and politicians and lowlifes?” He twisted his foot and pushed down harder on my neck. My vision started to go black at the edges, and then he stepped away from me and gave a quick nod of the head to one of his men behind me that I could barely make out. “Michael. Pick him up.”
The man Campbell had addressed stepped forward. He was huge, six and a half feet tall with a smashed, ugly face that sat underneath a shock of thin red hair. He reached down with arms like logs, and dragged me to my feet. I shook my head, like I could will myself to shake off the effects of someone doing a tap routine on my neck, and that’s when I saw it.
On both of his forearms were large, dark tattoos of an eagle, a globe, and an anchor. The Marine Corps emblem.
I looked up into the face of this brute and held his eyes. “Hello, Michael.”
He just grinned, a cruel animal sneer on his face. “Detective.”
Michael turned me to face Campbell, and I saw that the man’s hair had just the slightest hint of grey. His days of being an icon were ending, if not over, I supposed. Maybe that’s how he got into organized crime. Maybe some mob boss had been the first to give him his break. It didn’t matter now, if it ever really did.
“You cost me a lot of money,” he said in a low voice, his head shaking slowly from side to side like a father chastising a child. “A lot of money.” But then his cold mask broke and he was the movie star again, his smile easy, his eyes warm and friendly. “But that’s okay. I forgive you. We all make mistakes. And besides that, you’re going to help me get some of it back.” He broke into a grin, and he clapped me on the shoulder.