I turned to Michael. “What’s going on here? Those guys were a joke.”
He laughed. “The dangers of the job may have been exaggerated some to Mr. Campbell, I suppose.” He gestured over his shoulder towards the door. “Our man’s going to be here in a couple minutes with the delivery, we’re going to load all of this crap into it. He’s going to drive off, we’re going to get the hell out of here, and you’re going to go back to sitting in your office being useless and killing yourself with a bottle.”
I let the insult slide. I was too busy opening up the cardboard boxes and peering inside. “This is all art. This aren’t any drugs here. ” I looked at Michael, the cold look on my face masking the confusion I felt. “This is all Henry Rourke’s stuff.”
Michael smirked. “That’s right. Very good, detective.”
“What interest does Vincent Campbell have in this?”
Michael laughed. “What do you think? A bunch of priceless art from all over the world? It’s worth a lot of money.” The smile that had accompanied the laugh, every bit as harsh and as insincere, widened. As it grew, so too did the coldness behind it. “Not what the junk would have been worth on the street, but still more than government spent to train and feed your ass and ship you off to go kill the Nips.”
I was silent. We stared at each other, Michael grinning at me like some kind of malevolent jester and me trying to keep my face like stone. “Who are you?”
The smile fled from his face at that question. He frowned, and for a second, it looked like he had slipped, like he was expressing something besides bitter amusement, cynical detachment. He looked… hurt? No. Disappointed. “It must nice to be able to just shut off the parts of your brain you don’t like dealing with. The memories of the things you’ve done and the lives you’ve ruined.” He shook his head. “You fucking piece of work. You fucking piece of work.”
“Whatever you’ve got to say to me, just say it.”
Outside we could hear a delivery pulling up, stopping a short distance away from the door we’d entered the warehouse through. The engine idled. I could just imagine the driver sitting impatiently inside the vehicle, his eyes darting to the windows, to the rear-view mirror and back again.
Michael sniffed, turned his back on me, picked up one of the boxes. “You don’t get it, do you? You really don’t. I didn’t have anything to say to you then, and brother, I really don’t have anything to say to you now.” He effortlessly hoisted the box onto one shoulder and used his free hand to open the door. He looked back at me, the disappointment from earlier gone. There was nothing on his face but disgust.
It took longer to pack up all of Henry Rourke’s art than it should have. The golden mirror, in particular, was obscenely heavy. We had no choice but to make the driver, a thin middle-aged man with a rat-like face and a wispy beard, help us lift the damn thing. The three guards woke up after that. They watched helpless, angry, frightened, as we robbed them. I thanked God for the handkerchief. I didn’t know if Henry Rourke had paid enough attention to me when I’d gone by his mansion to recognize me from one of their descriptions, but I didn’t want to find out.
Once it was all packed away, Michael climbed into the passenger seat of the delivery. He tossed me the keys for the car we had come in. “It’s all yours, flatfoot.”
I looked down at the keys and frowned. “What am I supposed to do with the thing?”
“Drive yourself back to the office. Hell, I don’t really care. It’s boosted, so you’ll probably want to get rid of the damn thing as quick as you can.” Michael sneered. “Good luck, Sarge.”
Sarge. The word hit me like a punch to the gut. My breath caught in my throat, and my vision went black at the edges like I was on the verge of passing out.
Michael O’Sullivan. Private O’Sullivan. Oh, Jesus.
“Don’t call me that,” I said, but the delivery was already pulling away, disappearing into the night in cloud of smoke and exhaust. I stood there, whispering my plea to the unfeeling city streets. “Don’t call me that.”
* * *
I drove the car a few blocks away from my office, wiped down the steering wheel, the door handles, the seats. I pulled the plates off of it and tucked them under my coat to toss into an alley somewhere along the way. I walked in silence, my shoulders hunched, my head hanging low. I was exhausted. I was emotionally drained. I didn’t even want a drink. All I wanted was to collapse onto my little cot and forget about the world for a while. So that’s exactly what I did.
I awoke a few hours later, still in my clothes, to the sound of the phone ringing. I groaned and fumbled for it in the darkness, picked up the receiver, put it to my ear. “Goddamnit, who is this?”
“Detective Carter!” a woman’s voice whispered. “Detective Carter, thank God you’re there! Please, I need your help!”
I blinked in confusion. The fear and urgency was plain to hear in the voice of the woman, but in my sleep-addled mind, I couldn’t understand what was happening. “Who is this?”
“It’s me! It’s Elizabeth! Detective Carter, please! Something’s wrong! I’ve never seen him so angry! I’m scared!”
I sat up on the cot, tried to rub the sleep from my eyes, to cut through the haze and be a proper detective. “Who’s angry? Elizabeth, calm down and tell me what’s going on.” I could hear noise in the background of wherever she was. Things slamming. Glass breaking. Indistinct shouting.
“It’s Henry,” she whispered, her voice somewhat calmer. “I think something’s gone wrong. Three men came to the door about an hour ago to meet with him, and he flew into a rage. Please, Detective Carter! I don’t feel safe! I–” She shrieked, and then she was silent.
There was no answer. The line was dead. I stared at the dim outline of the phone in the darkness, and then I leaped to my feet, grabbed my coat and my .45, and ran for the door.