Zach Marlowe: Privyet Eye Pt 5

From the Story Arc: Lovers and Heroes

Previous Story in the Arc: And Now A Word From Our Sponsor, Pt 4 by Dr. Bella Dawn Parker (Sunday, January 29, 2006)

(posted Saturday, March 11, 2006)

Fei Li rose one elegant brow. "Then as you know, you come to the right place, uncouth barbarian."

Fei Li was feeling friendly. She’d ignored the fact that I kicked her cat and she only called me “uncouth barbarian.” When she wasn’t feeling friendly what she called me involved a mouthful of Chinese that sounded like a cougar fighting a cobra.

“But, there is a price to be paid for entrance to the back room,” she continued archly. “A little bird tells me that the Contessa wished to teach you to swim, and I wish to know why.”

Fei Li brokered all things, and information was one of them. Still…there were people she didn’t sell to, and the Contessa was one of them. And just maybe spilling the beans would get me some friends in low places.

“Contessa put the snatch on a frail, China Doll. Name of Bella Dawn Parker. Client of mine. If word gets around that my clients can be grabbed out of my office, it’ll be bad for business.”

Fei Li’s mouth made a pretty little “o” shape. “There is more to this than meets the ear, I am thinking. Could it be Miss Parker has a brother?”

“And it could be the brother isn’t giving the Contessa what she wants, yeah.” Fei Li was as sharp as ever.

“Well, that is not a bad thing to know. A new ‘product’ would interfere with my business. Very well, o shaved ape, you may follow me to my parlor.” Fei Li turned and moved towards the back wall. Zach followed. The cat took a swipe at his ankles at he passed. Connected too. With a hiss of pain, he turned to kick it again, but this time the cat eluded him and leapt from floor to bar and bar to the rafters with what Zach could have sworn was a grin on its furry face.

If the Contessa had moved like a snake doing the hula, Fei Li moved like a ninja doing a fan dance. Sexy as hell and you knew if you made a move, you’d get sliced to ribbons. Still, Zach enjoyed the view as Fei Li reached up and triggered the hidden catch that turned the wall into a door.

He followed her inside quickly, before she changed her mind.

The Katana Klub made plenty of money, but this place minted it.

Zach tried to breathe shallowly, but within moments he was a little lightheaded from the opium smoke that fogged the air in Fei Li’s “parlor.”

I could see where Fei Li wouldn’t much care for Blue Bell’s brother cooking up a new line of dope for the Contessa. The China Doll had the corner on the opium market down here, but any new joy-smoke would put a serious dent in her business. I didn’t like coming in here myself, but this was where The Chug worked as her backroom bouncer, and I needed The Chug.

“Frank,” Fei Li said, with a raised finger. “Your barbarian friend needs you.”

“Somebuddy need Chug?” The figure that materialized out of the smoke was as big as three of the Contessa’s goons put together, all of it muscle like steel bands and bone like granite.

Chug wasn’t long on the brains in the first place, and being Fei Li’s resident strongarm had cooked out what was left of them a long time ago. That was okay, luckily, I had the brains covered. What I need from the Chug were the size 58 chest and pythons to squeeze the truth out of even the dimmest of bulbs.

“Yeah buddy. I need help pounding a couple’a the Contessa’s goons into the ground like tent pegs,” Zach said. “We gotta spring a gal, and maybe her brother too.”

“Okies,” Chug said, “How come?”

With a glance at Fei Li, Zach tried to make the explanation simple. “The doll’s brother was supposed to cook up something for the Contessa. Only he didn’t, and the Contessa grabbed his sis to make him do it. So we gotta spring ‘em both. See?”

Chug scratched his head. "Okies, Zach...but I purty confuzed...."

“You have my permission to borrow him,” Fei Li said with a flip of her hand. “Just bring him back undamaged.”

We went out the back way. Chug wouldn’t fit through the door into the bar. Not that he was gonna fit through most of the doorways we’d hit once we got in the Contessa’s lair, but I wasn’t worried about damaging the Contessa’s property.

Zach led his massive friend out through the loading-dock door in the alley. “Now we need a wheelman,” he muttered.

“Toots has car,” Chug said, unexpectedly. Zach blinked. “Since when?” he demanded.

“Toots won car. Toots took me for a ride. We went to see my friendz, Mr. Squirrel and Mr. Tree.”

Well that clinched it. If “Toots” had taken Chug out for a spin, even Chug’s opium-dulled brain hadn’t made it up.

Toots was a cute little doll, larcenous as the day is long, and about three side-dishes short of a blue-plate special. Her staircase didn’t go all the way to the top, if you know what I mean. But she had Lady Luck on her side, and what she pulled up in proved that.

“HI!!!” Toots jumped out of the driver’s seat of the long, black limo wearing a chauffeur’s uniform that fit her like a glove. “See what I won, Zach! It was a floating crap game and I won it!”

“I guess you did, doll,” Zach said with a grin.

“And now I can be a wheelman for all my friends! Isn’t that great?”

Well this put a whole different complexion on things. First of all, a limo wouldn’t be out of place pulled up in front of the Contessa’s joint. Secondly…there was room in there for more than just him and Chug. If he could get a distraction going….

“Hey! Did you hear about what happened to La Capitaliste?” Toots continued, practically skipping in place. “He went into Contessa Creymona’s house and nobody’s seen him since!”

“Sacre bleu, Contessa,” the French crimelord swore, white hair standing on end. “You are promising me zis new drug for weeks now, and what? Nossing! I wait and wait, and nossing! I pay you for zis! I am demanding my money back!”

The Contessa regarded her unwelcome visitor with a frown. La Capitaliste was getting to be more of an annoyance than he was worth. He was a power on the Continent, but was it worth continuing to cultivate him?

And she was not going to give him a refund. She had been counting on the full price, in fact, to expand her ranks…so now she had an irate French poof prancing around in her office, a serious shortfall in funds and…

An idea dawned on her. La Capitaliste suddenly became, not a liability, but an asset. She turned to her bodyguards. “Boys,” she said succinctly, “Our customer has just become our guest.”

“Eh?” the old man said, then as the two goons advanced on him, the truth dawned on him. “Zoot alors! Merde! Flee!” he said, trying to do just that. Useless, of course. In a moment he was trussed up like a Christmas goose.

“And you’ll be our guest until your organization comes up with the ransom,” the Contessa said with content, looking down at the bound and gagged captive.

Zach had his distraction team all lined up; a quartet of the city’s toughest. Black and Blue….two thugs with opposite personalities. Black was quiet, almost taciturn, and preferred to operate out of the shadows, at a distance, with a gat at the ready to speak for him. Blue was all personality, with a gleaming smile and charm and fists almost as effective as Chug’s. Both were tough as nails, and both were in need of a serious cash infusion. And two dolls, Lady Midnight and “Jugs” Jadwiga, who would run distraction and confusion for the boys.

“Here’s the plan. Toots will drop you four off at the back. You go in, grab the Frog, and get out. His organization’s offered five big ones to get him back. Meanwhile Chug and me come in through the warehouse and grab the doll and her brother. We all meet up with Toots here at the front.”

“Sounds like a winner, boss.” Lady Midnight smiled from behind her fall of long black hair. “I like your operations, Marlowe. Clean and simple.”

“Yeah,” Zach said. “Let’s hope it stays that way.”