Outside, the same black sedan that had tried to run me down was sitting at the kerb. Goon number three was leaning against the driver’s door biting his fingernails.
‘All this for little old me’ I thought.
Goon one went around the car and got in the back seat. I looked at goon two, looked at the remaining space on the seat, and raised my hand.
“Shotgun?” I said hopefully.
Goon two shoved me into the car and got in afterwards. I suddenly felt like the filling in a large, badly dressed sandwich. Hey! Breathing’s overrated, right?
As Smith got in the passenger seat, the third monkey suit fired up the car and pulled away from the kerb. Squashed between the chuckle brothers, I could barely see the end of my nose, but even so, one of them produced a cloth bag and, with some struggling to turn round, put it over my head.
“So.” I said. “We going to a show? ‘Cos if we are, can we get dinner first? I haven’t eaten for hours.”
From inside the bag, I assumed that the silence meant they were all doing a good job of stifling their laughter.
I tried to picture the journey, but before long, I’d lost track of the left and right turns, even though I got a pudgy elbow in the rib every time we took a bend. In the end I decide to just see where we ended up.
We drove for what seemed like twenty minutes before the car drew to a halt and the driver killed the engine. I figured that either Smith was going to be true to his word, and I was in for a long wait, or I was about to be disposed of like yesterday’s garbage.
One of the goons hauled me out of the car, and I stumbled around a bit while I tried to get some feeling back into my legs. He dragged me forward across a concrete floor and I heard a door slam behind me. Then we were going up a flight of stairs. I tripped once or twice but laughing boy had a hold of my arms. Ahead, someone opened another door, and then I was pushed into a chair. I had my wrists tied behind me, and my ankles tied to the chair legs. Then they finally took the hood off. I looked around. I was in a small office that looked like it hadn’t been used for some time. A large window at the front of the room looked out over the interior of a large warehouse. The blind was down on the exterior window, so I had no idea where we were.
Smith perched on a dusty desk in front of me.
“Now Mr Able. Like I was saying earlier. You’re going to sit there like the helpful gentleman I know you are, and in a couple of days you get a nice invigorating walk home. In the meantime, you don’t give us any trouble, and we don’t give you any trouble.”
Off to my left, one of the goons cracked his knuckles. Presumably he was hoping that there would be some trouble to deal with.
I turned to study them. They were both the size of houses.
“Say.” I jerked my head at them as I turned back to Smith. “Do those two affect the tides?”
Smith smiled. “Very amusing, Mr Able. May I suggest that you keep your witty comments to yourself? Lloyd and Floyd are usually very good at following simple instructions, but now and again they forget whether I said don’t hit our guest, or do hit our guest. And we’d hate to get blood on this nice floor. Why I only had it cleaned just this week.”
I looked at the dust and rubbish everywhere.
“Maybe you need a new cleaner.”
Smith got up and signalled to the two mountains of lard to follow him out of the office. They closed the door behind them. If I twisted hard, I could just see them out of the corner of my eye, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. Moments later the door reopened and one of the goons stepped back in, while I heard the sound of footsteps on the stairs.
He found another chair and attempted to get the layers of dust off it, then sat down facing me and folded his arms.
“So!” I said, brightly. “Lloyd or Floyd?”
Lloyd or Floyd regarded me with indifference. I couldn’t decide whether he was going for a mean and moody look, or whether he was still trying to understand the question.
“Lloyd?” I tried. No reaction.
“Floyd!” Still nothing.
“You know what?” I said. “I’m just going to call you Lloyd and we’ll take it from there. But I’ll need to make sure I get it right before I go - how else will I know what to put on your Christmas card?”
The guy who might have been Lloyd yawned, but otherwise his expression didn’t change. I gotta work on my wisecracks.
Two hours later and I was running outta material. Lloyd, however, was still doing a fine job of saying jack. Other than getting up to stretch once in a while, he’d barely moved. He certainly hadn’t spilled any details about who he was, who Smith was or more importantly, who they were all working for. I gave up for a while, but then the call of nature... called.
He looked at me.
“I gotta, you know...” and nodded at him. He stared back.
“You know? I gotta go?”
The cogs in his brain moved with the speed of an arthritic snail, but finally he stood up, and pulling a pistol out, he spoke for the first time. I tried not to laugh, as his voice was comically squeaky.
“I untie your feet. Any funny business...” he waggled the pistol to emphasise the consequences of funny business. I nodded. Moving around to the side of me, out of kicking range, he pulled at the ropes with one hand and eventually managed to get my ankles free. He stepped back, the pistol levelled at me.
“Out.” He said. “Left.”
I walked slowly, partly to get the feeling back in my feet, and partly to get a chance to have a look around. There wasn’t much to see. I was walking along a narrow landing that ran at first floor level along one side of a warehouse that hadn’t been used for some time. A few broken crates were down on the concrete floor, while up here was just a series of empty offices like the one I’d been sitting in. After about twenty yards, we came to a door hat was solid, unlike all the office doors, which were glass.
Lloyd jabbed me in the back with the pistol.
I nudged the door to the can open with my foot. It was just a small room with a couple of stalls and a grubby sink. I headed in with Lloyd right behind me. I stopped in front of the first stall and turned round.
“Gonna need my hands, fella,” I said, turning away again to wave my bound wrists at him. “unless you want to help me out?”
This clearly presented a problem that hadn’t occurred to Lloyd. He stood there for a while and I swear I could hear the thought processes as they swam through his brain like a giraffe through treacle.
Finally he seemed to make a decsion. “I untie your hands. Any funny business...” he waggled the pistol again, in case I’d forgotten what would happen if any funny business were to occur.
“Okay, okay.” I said. “No funny business. But can we just get on with it? There’s a certain amount of hurry-up involved here.”
It took Lloyd a minute to untie my wrists using one hand, while all the time keeping the pistol jammed in my back. Moments later, I let out a huge sigh of relief.
Now a look of confusion crept over Lloyd’s face. I was way ahead of him. He’d just about managed to untie my wrists with one hand. There was no way he could tie them up again without putting down the pistol.
He stood there considering his options. At the same time, I thought about mine. If we’d had one more guy... well, one more guy and two more guns, then we could have had a Mexican standoff. As it was we just stood around.
He was at least twice my size. He was armed with a gun, while all I had was a half decent right hook. It wasn’t looking good.
Finally he made a decision.
“Out.” he said, and jerked his head towards the balcony. “Slowly. And reach for the sky.” I stepped out, hands held high, wondering if I could out run him. Maybe I could, but I couldn’t outrun a bullet.
I turned towards the office, with Lloyd right behind me. Suddenly, I heard a gunshot ring out, and I spun round to see Lloyd hitting the deck, clutching his side. I leaped at him and wrestled the gun out of his hand. Seconds later a couple of Police officers came swarming up the stairs, guns drawn.
“Easy fellas.” I shouted. I put the gun down and kicked it towards them. No point in getting dead over a misunderstanding.
Fifteen minutes later, Lloyd was leaving in an ambulance and I was standing talking to Sergeant Mason of the Eleventh precinct.
“I’m grateful, Sergeant, but I gotta ask. You fellas make a habit of raiding abandoned warehouses?”
“Nope.” said the Sarge. “Someone phoned an anonymous tip through a little while ago. Told us you were being held here, probably at gunpoint.”
I stared. “Anonymous? No clue at all as to who it was? Guy? Dame?”
“Guy I think,” said Mason. “dunno. Didn’t take the call.”
I went back to the station and gave a statement, but couldn’t tell them much. A guy called Smith, a collection of muscle and a black car. I kept quiet about the case for now - just said I’d probably made a few enemies over the years and somebody was looking for some payback.
I caught the subway back to my office. Clearly I had a guardian angel somewhere. I just hoped they’d keep their wits about them for a few days more.
Something told me I was gonna need ‘em.