The Double Cross, Pt. 1

Despite myself, I fell asleep in the pen. The weight of helping Michael O’Sullivan rob Henry Rourke and then being woken up by the old man’s’ wife, Elizabeth, and framed for his murder had proved to be too much for my poor little eyelids to handle. I fell asleep on the foul-smelling, stained bench in the holding cell, the only other individual to keep me company a dirty-skinned, ratty-haired drunk who’d pissed himself and passed out in a corner. God only knew in what order.

It wasn’t the worst place I’d ever fallen asleep or woken up in, but it was damn close. My sleep was fitful, my head full of nonsensical dreams of strangling that bitch Elizabeth, of Vincent Campbell putting a bullet in my brain, of Michael O’Sullivan turning me into ground beef with his oversized fists. Again, unpleasant, but not the worst I’d ever had.

At least no one was screaming as they burned to death.

I woke up when the February morning sun began to poke through the window at the end of the hallway. It was brighter than the dim bulbs that lit the cells, warmer. Impossible to ignore. I thought, “Christ, a decent night’s sleep on a real bed, that’s all I ask. When I was the last time I got that?” I couldn’t think of an answer, partially because I was still half-asleep and partially because I truly had no idea. That irritated me enough that I woke up the rest of the way.

I sat up on the bench and sighed. My drunk roommate was still out cold, snorting and muttering and rolling around like an old dog. It’d be funny in a way, if I wasn’t preoccupied by thoughts of spending the rest of my life behind bars for the murder of Henry Rourke. I mean, I hadn’t murdered the old man. And if nothing else, Rourke’s body didn’t have any bullet holes or anything like that. The most likely thing that could be “proved” would be that I’d busted into the house and the old man had dropped from a heart attack. But then, the district attorney could probably get playful with that. Or some of Vincent Campbell’s men, crooked cops in the pocket of a former movie star turned mobster, could play fast and loose with the evidence or with witness testimony.

I shook my head and lay back down on the bench, my arm draped over my eyes to block out the sun. “How’s one man get so screwed?” I muttered out loud.

Elizabeth Rourke. Last time I take a case from a dame that looks like that.

I fell asleep again. Sometime later I was woken up by the sound of boots echoing off the walls of the hallway. “Maybe they’re going to formally charge me with something,” I thought. I shifted my arm and opened my eyes just a sliver to look at the cop standing in front of the cell door. He was an older man, his face lined from long years on the force, his mustache flecked with gray. We said nothing to each other, and after a few moments, he pulled out a ring of keys and unlocked the door.

“Get up,” he said. “Your bail’s been posted.”

I sat up on the bench and eyed the cop suspiciously. “Posted? By who?”

The cop didn’t say another word. He just turned and left, and as he did so, another figure stepped into the room. A man in his thirties, dressed sharp as Hell in a dark overcoat, a grey suit and a grey hat. He had a hard face, strong and cold as granite. The face of old money. A face like his dead father’s.

“Hello, Detective,” Patrick Rourke said, eying me like I was some kind of insect. “Let’s talk.”


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