A new serial on the noir side of life
Updated: 2 days ago
No One Else to Call - Episode 1
By Douglas Lutz
An underworld fixer stages a daring escape to start a new life as an upright citizen and private eye. The more he tries to do good and find happiness, the more he finds his old skills in demand, especially when there is no one else to call.
“A preacher man once told me if I prayed enough, the good Lord would provide. Then he pushed a donation bucket in front of me. Now, I’m not a religious man, but to be safe I threw in a hundred dollar bill and told the Padre it was a downpayment on future problems. He laughed and said it didn’t quite work that way, but I’m here to tell you, this afternoon I prayed for a dead body, and ten minutes ago? I came across one. Heaven sent. Had to have been. Glad I didn’t go cheap with just a twenty, or worse yet, plain stiff the Man upstairs.
Divine intervention or luck, I didn’t care. When the gavel slammed down the guilty verdict, the judge left for lunch, the prized witness took off running, and a very angry man threatened to kill everyone there as two bailiffs escorted him back to a nearby holding cell. Family members cried, U.S. Marshals, all former coworkers, slinked into the background, hoping to distance themselves from the guilty party, and a dozen reporters stalked the crowd, looking for anyone ready to make a statement. The whole scene was like a circus full of drunk clowns searching for their little car, no disrespect to drunk circus clowns intended, but you get the picture.
I slipped out a side door leading to the stairwell. Earlier in the day, I had stashed a set of plumber’s coveralls in a first floor utility closet, and before anyone was the wiser, I changed clothes and calmly walked away. I couldn’t go back to my car now; it wasn’t far, but letting the old rust bucket get towed was a better choice than me ending up in a junkyard car-crusher. My testimony didn’t put the retired Marshal away, but it certainly didn’t help his cause. The man had friends, and some of those friends still wore badges. The top of the court docket might as well say the next case involves Revenge.
My addiction to cigars kicked in, and had it not been for two thugs scoping out the parking lot looking for any witness, I would have lit the emergency stogie hidden in my toolbox. No need to bring attention to myself, though. The felon had demanded a sacrifice, and Rocko and Sluggo, for lack of better names, eventually found one. They grabbed the last witness as he tried to board a city bus, tossing him in the back of a black, four-door sedan, a govie by the looks of the six number license plate. And by back I mean the trunk. The rest of my day would be on foot.
The witness’s name was Rex, nicknamed Mardi Gras for his Cajun roots, and until he doesn’t show up for work tomorrow he’s a low-level clerk at the Federal Courthouse in the historic shipyard town of Newport News, Virginia. His testimony proved the guilty party, a retired U.S. Marshal, bribed several clerks to accidentally leave paperwork out on their desks at the end of the day so he could read through it. No one had bothered to get his office key after his retirement ceremony, apparently. Bribery was just the first conviction. Charges of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit aggravated murder were in the works. I would get pulled into that trial, as well. This is not normally what happens when you are a fixer like me. Most of the time, you make things happen, get paid, then disappear until the next job.
Bad guys killing other bad guys? I’m good with that. But ordering a hit on a kid, for any reason, isn't right in anyone’s book. And just because his dad testified? There’s still a line and the retired Marshal crossed it. I told him to do it himself, but who the heck thought he would actually try? I don’t do pro bono work often, but I saved that kid. And his family. No charge. All it took was an anonymous tip called into our fair city’s only investigative reporter, Henry “Hank” Raeburn. He brought a camera operator to the family’s house just as the Marshall arrived, guns drawn. Done deal. It didn’t hurt that the fool left zip ties, chloroform, and a large blanket inside his car, but in plain sight. Even so, Hank, a smart cookie by anyone’s standard, as a precaution called the family beforehand. The Marshal failed to anticipate storming an empty house. Made great television that night.
The FBI had my deposition. They had the recording of my phone conversations confirming what the Marshall needed done, and for how much. My physical presence in a courtroom was no longer needed. It was time for me to run.