Saturday, April 16, 2016

# 99 Easy Street, Part Twenty-Four. Louis Shalako.

Louis Shalako

The pounding from above started up, Man-Child as he was known, totally oblivious to anything in the outside world as people like that often were. Amy desperately struggled to get a hand into O’Hara’s pocket, looking for the key. He was a bit overweight and the polyester slacks were tight. He was laying on his side, out like a light.

With a rope no longer around his neck, Mark was practically dancing in rage. The urge to kick that slightly-pudgy face, lying face-down on the floor was practically overwhelming. Would he ever like to bust that cocksucker’s ribs.

I really should be able to do it…it was a personal failure.

She pulled out a key ring. Holding it up, she looked at Mark in horror. O’Hara’s body twitched and they both stepped back.

“Shit. It’s a real small one—hurry, try it.”

He turned around and she grabbed at his wrists.

“Shit. Shit. Shit. Fuck—” It was the third one she tried, and then both of Mark’s hands were free.

She threw the cuffs aside.

O’Hara, after a few initial twitches, had subsided into a low moan, his hands pushing feebly at the floor but his eyes were still unfocused. They were unfortunately open again, which meant bad news in anybody’s book.

The right arm moved just as Mark was going forward to pull the gun off the guy. Mark couldn’t see the gun, it had to be under him somewhere. He was a big, heavy guy, and moving again.

Mark stepped back in panic.

O’Hara made another little snuffling sound. The head came up off the floor and gave itself a little shake.

“Come on.” He grabbed Amy’s hand and pulled her towards the door. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

Remembering the cat, Mark shoved Amy out into the hall.

“Go up to Duke’s—if he’s not home, Maude lives down the hall on the same side. She’s right at the back.”

She nodded.

“What—what are you going to do?”

“The cat—the fucking cat.”

Amy seemed to understand, and so did he. She backed off down the hall, turning and sprinting upon hearing another low groan from O’Hara.

Mark wouldn’t have much time, but the window was open and the cat was smart enough when you got right down to it.

Theoretically, he really should call the fucking cops…


Amy wasn’t being left behind. Duke pulled the clip on a Beretta nine-millimetre pistol. He took another look and then inserted it. Snip, snap, and the thing was all set to go.

It seemed like Duke had a pretty good idea of how to use it. Mark nodded and opened the door after a peek through the peephole and a long listen.

Cocking the gun, Duke led. He went through first, all set to shoot. The three of them crept down the stairs, ears straining for any sounds of O’Hara. No one came out or up or down while they were in the stairwell. Duke checked around the corner. Mark’s hallway seemed relatively quiet, just the usual sounds of television coming from behind the usual doors. The east end of the hallway was very quiet, but that guy worked afternoons somewhere and the lady on the other side was a real church-mouse.

The apartment door was closed—and O’Hara was armed.

Duke moved to the far side, gun leveled. Mark, keeping Amy way back, reached, turned the knob and gave the door an awkward shove inwards. Using the ultimate extension of his wrist and his hand, the door frame ensuring a short throw.

He stepped back, realizing that Amy was just in the way, and yet she wasn’t leaving the two of them either. He gently pushed her back some more—

Nothing happened.

Nothing happened, an unexpected outcome, and yet what they had all been hoping for. Duke took a quick look, standing with some protection from the doorframe. He pushed the door in and stuck the gun in and had a good look.

“Where was he?”


“Laying right there on the floor.” Mark risked a look.

O’Hara was gone. The rope was gone. The knife was gone. There hadn’t been much else there to begin with. The chair was still in the closet. The closet door was still open.

The cat, on the other hand, had come out of hiding and was sitting there with an expectant look on its face in the dead centre of an otherwise empty living room.

Thin cotton curtains billowing on the front window sort of implied a method of escape. They’d been away long enough, that O’Hara might have just as easily taken the stairs. Of necessity, Mark had been forced to explain as best he could before Duke could sort of see the need to get involved…which he would have much preferred not to do. There was just no way. Duke never would have let Mark have the gun and go off on his own with it. Not for any reason. For one thing, it was registered in his name, necessary for concealed-carriage of a firearm.

In that sense, he was just being a responsible person.

Mark had few words.

“Fuck. What—what do we do now, Duke?”

With an imperative jerk of the head, Duke indicated that they should all go back upstairs.

Mark nipped in and grabbed the cat before it could get away again, and this time grabbing his wallet and the keys. Interestingly, the knife and what was presumably his suicide note were gone.

“Mark—my purse.”

“Right.” He grabbed it and tossed it in her direction, with Amy making a good if hasty catch.

The door was locked when he left.

For all the good that would do.


Duke’s apartment was only going to be so safe for so long. What O’Hara might do next was open to guesswork. It was a safe bet that he wasn’t going to take it lightly. He’d just been about to kill a man, and surely now that Mark had escaped, he must do something.

Surely Mark would call the police and freak out. O’Hara would do something.

The only real question was what. And when, and how. As to why, that was almost irrelevant.

“The fucker was trying to kill you.” Duke was finding it hard to accept. “This is just nuts.”

He had only his faith in Mark and Amy’s corroboration to go on. It was Amy that had convinced him—her being real smart and all of that.

“Yeah. It is nuts—maybe there really is no other motive.” Cop goes nuts, starts killing people.

For no reason at all, other than some severe and undiagnosed mental illness of a sort that left your faculties intact and no one around you remarked upon—and of course cops could get around on the public dime. They had all sorts of mobility.

It could be just as simple as that. It would make a wonderful headline for the tabloids, or a cheap psychological police procedural…

Shaken as they were, Mark and Amy needed a plan. The apartment was off-limits…probably forever, thought Mark with a horrible sinking sensation. There wasn’t much there to hold him—a couple of horns and some clothes. A toothbrush.

“What are you thinking, Mark?” Amy had a good point.

“You and I have to get the hell out of here.”

Duke nodded sharply.

“Yeah—I might be all right. But you guys definitely got to go.”

It was right about then a female voice, coming from somewhere in the building, up above on the next floor by the sounds of it, began screaming in a hysterical fashion.

Duke strode to the door, opening it up, gun in hand. The first thick tendrils of smoke came in and somebody right about then pulled the fire alarm.

Duke closed the door with a quick slam.

“Shit. Where’s that fucking cat?” The thing had leapt out of Amy’s arms and bolted into the inner rooms.

Duke shoved the gun down the rear waistband of his pants.

He’d rather lose a buttock than a testicle…or worse.

As Mark and Amy tried to corral a suddenly-skittish animal, Duke went through the place in a quick flurry of precise, no-nonsense maneuvers. Money went into one pocket, a large bag of dope in another. His best hash-pipe went into the bag, and a pair of jeans, a favourite shirt. There was a silver-framed picture of an elderly woman, presumably his mother…

A half-finished pulp novel. He had a few small things. It all fit into a gym bag. A look of sadness crossed his face and he fell into a chair for a minute. After thirty seconds he put on some shoes, got up and pulled on his jacket. There was smoke coming in from under the door.




They only had so much time.

“All right. Let’s get the hell out of here. You guys better take the fire escape. Do that now. I have to check on Maude, then there’s that old lady on the fifth…good luck. Run, guys. Run and don’t come back. Don’t stop running until you get to the coast.”

Mark’s mouth opened to protest, and then Duke’s hand went to his pocket. He pulled out the wad of cash, forcing Mark to take it.

“I want you guys to promise, okay. You too, Amy. Even if you’re safe, he’ll be watching you—you can almost count on it.”

Amy began to sniffle, nodding.

Mark stood there, unable to speak.

Everything was changing again—fuck.

Duke handed Amy an envelope, picking it up off the table beside the door where he kept the keys. 

For some reason they weren’t in a big hurry. The building was all masonry, although the smoke would be death if they didn’t get going.

“What’s this?” She was mystified, besides, they needed to get.

“My draft notice. Don’t worry about me, okay? Maybe we’ll catch up someday.”

Duke gave Amy a strong shove towards the window. There was definitely a lot of smoke coming in, getting pretty heavy now.

His draft notice. Of course. Mark suddenly understood the life-style. It was all about denial—

Only when she was halfway out did Duke turn back to Mark.

“Let’s swap wallets. Please. Just trust me on this one.”

Mark sure as hell didn’t have any great plan. He handed over his wallet, accepting Duke’s in return.

“When you get so far, just dump it in a ditch, okay?”

“Sure, Duke.”

“I’ll be in Canada if you need me—and I’ll be careful to lose your wallet in Montreal. Something like that—capiche?” If he left it behind in the right place, some responsible person would find it

The right thing to do, would be for them to turn it in to the police—a nice touch.

“Wait. Wait.” One more inspiration.

Duke whipped off his leather bomber jacket.

“Here. Let’s swap coats. That fucking cocksucker’s probably right outside, you know that, right?”

The roar and crackle of flames was right on the other side of the ceiling.

“Shit.” Mark stripped off the parka even as the temperature climbed and the air was getting real bad. 

“Whatever you want—I’ll hang onto this for you.”

Duke looked at him.

“Sure.” He swallowed. “Good luck, buddy.”

That would have to suffice. There might even be some wisdom in it. As for Mark, he was plumb out of ideas. He was losing his friend.

Duke might turn out to be the best friend he ever had—

He and Mark shook hands quickly. With a nod in the direction of the window and the fire escape, Duke opened the door and went out, bent at the waist and feeling his way along the wall. That was the last thing Mark saw before slamming the door. After some initial yelling and the pounding of feet on stairs and fire escape, it was terribly quiet out there. It was just smoke, lots of thick, billowing smoke of a highly noxious nature. The air was hot and billowing up from below.

The cat, the cat.

The God-damned cat.

Mark’s face was inches from Amy’s feet.

He wanted out of there real bad, and going down that damned fire escape in the middle of the night was going to be something else. His heart was really going. So far it had kept going…

The cat struggled in his arms and he was ever so grateful when she reached in and took it from him.

Let her handle the damned thing for a while.

Sooner or later, if this kept up, the way things were going, Mark Jones was going to get angry.

Very, very angry.

(End of Part Twenty-Four.)

Thanks for reading.



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