The Writer's, artist's & reader's Guild

The Face of Fear: Chapter Five

face-of-fear-4

Time passed on the island and young Anthony became in need of a tutor. This was brought to his Father’s attention when the Governor-General’s wife one day inquired about how his son’s studies were coming. That day Mr. Hill hurried home to find his son sitting on the porch with his governess, who was teaching him about the folklore of Bali. It didn’t bother him, in alcohol addled mind any education was good education, but a few days later a Mr. Mahr was standing on the porch dressed all in black with a silver handled cane in his hands and a stern bespectacled look on his face. He had come over from Batavia where he had been teaching the society women English. A substantial sum had been offered to him by Mr. Hill, not only to educate Anthony, but also fill in the blanks created due to the time his studies had been neglected. Mr. Mahr brought a semblance of order and structure to the young boy’s life and a male role model that complimented what he received from Charlotte’s husband. An intellectual piece of the puzzle to the physical ones he had already been given. For all his hard exterior the old tutor took a shine to the boy, maybe it was his advancing age and the sense of nostalgia that came with it, or the fact that he had spent too much time with people set in their ways and unwilling to change their point of view that was the cause of it. He had once, during his time as a headmaster at a boarding school, been known for his skill with the switch, but was as sweet as honey to Anthony and often referred to him as ‘my boy’.
Most of the weekday mornings Anthony would stay indoors learning his letter and numbers, this due to the fact that Mr. Mahr, for all his stern looking countenance, had a weak constitution and was particularly sensitive to the humidity of the Indonesian mornings. After lunch though they would venture outside and wander the island and learn from each other. The tutor would point out trees, flowers or animals and give their English and Latin names and Anthony would give the Balinese version he had picked up. They would converse about science inasmuch as the young boy could comprehend it or the folklore of the region, sometimes Mr. Mahr, being a rational man, would scoff at the naive beliefs, yet other times he would halt, look up at the sky or crouch down and consider a flower and give the idea its rightful time to marinate in his mind.
In the evenings Anthony would be handed over to the governess as Mr. Mahr needed time to study the curriculum and grade whatever exams his pupil had handed in. He claimed the rocking chair on the porch and would sit there and soak in the island with a good book and the spirit of the late Mrs. Hill would wash over him, although he did not know it. During Anthony’s time with Charlotte was spent in the wild or in her village playing with the local children and speaking to them in their tongue and during the weekends he would even spend the night. The days did not entail only roughhousing with native islanders, Charlotte’s husband, the seasoned warrior who had traveled the Indonesian islands taught the boy the art of unarmed combat feeling satisfied that his knowledge was being passed down. At night he would go to bed in his hut with a grin on his face secure in the fact that he was passing his family legacy on to someone, even if it was not his biological son, Anthony had become his adoptive one.

========

Tony slipped out of his suit jacket and placed it carefully on the bed. He walked over to the window with its view of both Seventh and College, the intersection where the two streets met. The sun was still setting over the city and the lights had flickered on only moments prior. He pulled at the tie around his neck and it easily loosened so he could slip it over his head. It messed up his perfectly curated hair, but it didn’t matter much now. He moved to his closet and hung the tie on a hanger followed by his white shirt and then pants with suspenders. The apartment was a two room affair, perfect for a bachelor such as him. In fact the entire complex was filled with young single men, but also the odd widower. It was central enough for his needs, close to the radio station and the goings on downtown. It was his second residence since moving to the city, but the YMCA was not private enough even though the training facilities were a boon. He still exercised there; swimming, gymnastics and weight lifting, but coming and going at all hours of the night would have lead to far too many questions and he wanted to avoid that. In his undergarments he entered the closet to dig out the trunk that lay at the back of it. To most who saw the thing it would appear to be your garden variety travel trunk, something ones ancestors might have brought on one of the great ships crossing the Atlantic, and in a way it was true. The trunk had a small note glued to the inside of the lid that read:

Property of James Mahr
Essex, United Kingdom
1929

It had contained the life belongings of his old tutor and he had inherited it, as well as its contents when the ancient educator had passed away in 1944. The trunk was usually placed as far back in the closet as possible and he often covered it in old blankets and pillows. If anyone, in an unlikely scenario, were to rifle through his apartment they might just bypass the indistinct pile of laundry. He carefully opened the lid to reveal the contents and the light fell on what was inside. Tony had always felt like the trunk, the property of his intellectual keeper guarded the tools he had received from his moral tutor.
It was a full body suit in red and blue, made from a stretchy material with a near silk like quality. He had managed to find an old seamstress in the Chinatown of Chicago who had been willing to make the outfit to his specific needs. It had resulted in three suits that she made by hand  for a substantial sum that also included her silence in the matter. He returned a year later to find that she had passed away, leaving her family a sizable inheritance. They subsequently spent the money on the opening of a restaurant outside the neighborhood. Beneath the suit lay a pair of gloves and a set of boots matching the color scheme of the rest of the outfit. There was also The Face, the fanged and horned mask. It lay between the hilts of two blades; a kalis and a kris placed in their sheaths or Wangarakas and stared at him with its red glowing eyes, daring him to pick it up. He did so, gingerly, and placed it on an end table  next to his bed then proceeded to slip into the suit. The stretchy material eliminated the need for a zipper and he glided into the neck hole and pulled it upward. After he had put on the boots and gloves he slung the kalis over his shoulder so it hung across his back and stuck the kris in his belt, but left The Face where it was. He turned off the lights in the room and walked over to the window and stared out over the down town area.
It was closing in on eight p.m. and the police station would be closed for most of the duties by now, a skeleton crew would be working there. He had no time to rest, he needed to begin the investigation in earnest. He wanted to know what was in those crates that were on the truck and where they came from. To get to the bottom of the burgeoning drug trade in the city he needed  to move quickly, before the police picked up the scent . He couldn’t stall any more and needed to move out, he went over to the end table, picked up The Face and pulled it down over his head. With a couple of tugs at it he moved it into place. Once back at the window he flung it open by moving it upward, then deftly swung his legs over the windowsill and into the night.

======

The black Lincoln was running as it stood there and the headlights were cutting through the darkness of the unlit parking lot, illuminating the gravel and the red brick wall of the factory. Geert was sitting in the front seat on the passenger side and was trying to monitor his breathing, which came out in wheezy spurts through his nose. He found it embarrassing and tried to hide it from his chauffeur by holding it , but the strain was too much effort and he often erupted in a coughing fit. Whenever this would occur the driver would react, as if woken from some form of slumber. Once realizing what was happening he would eye the Boss and then return to gazing out the side window.
A figure stepped out into the glow of the headlights, dressed in, what appeared to be a duster and hat, smoking a cigarette. It cast a long shadow against the wall creating the illusion of two twin like persons, a smaller and one bigger counter part. The driver opened his door and stepped around the Lincoln and opened one the doors to the back seat. The figure slid into the back, pulled done the brim of his hat to hide his forehead and pulled a scarf over his nose to hide the lower part of his face. It was mostly for show since Geert knew exactly who the man was, but since he was of a paranoid caste himself, he understood the idea. He decided not to engage the man’s visage in the rear view mirror and kept his eyes on the illuminated brick wall, that the driver was leaning against now, smoking a cigar.
‘So what have you got for me?’ Geert asked the man.
‘Not much at the moment Mr. Geert.’ The man was very obviously trying to mask his voice by keeping it lower and raspier than it was. ‘I have tried to stay in the loop, but for some reason the investigator is playing this one close to the vest.’
‘Can you tell me anything or is my investment in you an enormous waste of my dollars?’
‘Not at all Sir.’ There was a nervous tinge to the voice now, as if it was on the verge of cracking. ‘I can tell you what we are working on and what is believed.’
‘Then do so, my time is valuable.’ It wasn’t. He had a soiree to attend back at the hotel.
‘What the others have revealed so far is that it appears to have been someone else who whacked the mics and our boys. Someone cut them up good.’
‘Cut them up?’
‘You know, knifed them, or something like that. Whatever crew gang did this, they wanted it to be messy and used some form of blade.’
‘And the goods?’
‘It’s kept safe in the police impound lot, awaiting investigation.’
‘Is there anything on that truck or in those crates that might lead to us?’
‘Not that I’m aware, but I’d have to check it out to be sure.’
‘I suggest you get on that immediately then. Were there any survivors at all?’ It was getting chilly out there now Geert observed as the driver slipped on a pair of fingerless gloves and rubbed his arms. ‘Any of our boys make it out?’
‘None of the Irish guys survived, but from what I have gathered there was one who avoided being killed, but I have no clue who it was.’
Geert’s heart sank. He had experienced people dying, even seen it with his own eyes and when he was younger he had even murdered people, especially during the end days of the Leahman gang, but the prospect of his long time buddy Baz Peterson biting it had hit him hard. Now there might be an outside chance that he had survived. ‘Maybe Baz?’ He said with the shiver of anticipation in his voice.
‘Could be, I guess.’ The man in the back seat replied. ‘If anyone could come out of that massacre it would be him.’
‘I need you to find out and check out those crates so that we come out clean. The contents we’ll have to replace some way, but we need to cover our asses in this.’
‘Got it Mr Geert Sir.’ The man said.
‘Report back to me as soon as you have any more information, time is of the essence. Now get out!’ Geert waved his hand to signal that the meeting was over and then waved the driver to approach. The rear door opened and the man vanished into the cold night air and then the driver positioned himself next to him again.
‘Where to Boss?’ He said and flung the cigar out the window.
‘We need to head to the West side.’ He said through gritted teeth.
‘What about your thing back at the Hotel?’ The sound of astonishment in the driver’s voice was palpable.
‘I don’t have time for that at the moment. I need to find some guys and then I need to talk to Diamond.’
‘Right you are.’ The driver shifted gears and drove west.

=====

The police impound lot was surrounded by a tall chain link fence and around the top rusty barbed wire snaked around to deter anyone who might think to enter. It was a large gravel yard with cars lined up in neat rows in the center, a large garage like structure made from sheet metal stood off to one side and on the opposite end, where the gates were, stood a smaller wooden building that served as the guard house. The glow of electric lights shone from the single window that faced the entrance, signaling that the guard on duty was in. Tied up to one of the posts that held up the roof above a low porch were two vicious looking German shepherds, one pacing and the other sleeping with one eye open. Tony was crouched down atop the roof of one of the nearby buildings surrounding the lot. He surveyed the scene while he was pulling at his gloves to make sure they were snug on his hands. The building he was on was too far and high up from the garage to be able to comfortably leap from, and the sheet metal would most likely make too much noise for such a maneuver. He needed to use another method of entry. He crawled over to the edge of the roof and swung over it hanging from his fingers. He hugged the brick wall, searched for a foothold and found it, a window ledge, let go of the roof and found his balance. He glanced behind him to find that the ground was still a bit to far off and he gazed below him. There was another window there and by all accounts it appeared as if no one was home, or at least not in the room it belonged to. He let his feet come off the sill and fell toward the ground, but caught himself on the top part of the window frame below. Now his entire body was covering the window and he dared a look inside. It was a perfectly normal kitchen with a table place before the window, a sink and a white rounded refrigerator. Though the lights were off in the room itself he could see a faint glow through a doorway and shadows interrupted it from time to time. He peered over his shoulder again and then bounced off the windowsill and sailed through the air, flipping over so that his head was facing downward. As he did so the guard dog still awake turned its ears towards him and began to bark. Tony pulled a vial out of his spiked belt and released it from his grip and it shattered a few feet from the animal’s paws. The dog went silent, tilted its head to the side and whined. The vial contained a tincture of Balinese flowers so pungent to animals that it masked his scent while also confusing them. He landed, in a crouching position, with his hands to the ground. The other dog, the one that had been sound asleep, was startled by his friend’s barking and began a whole tirade of his own.
The door to the guard house opened and a middle aged policeman walked out on the porch. He pierced the darkness with his flashlight; first around the lot and then on the dogs, who were both pacing in a worried manner. He sighed while unhooking them both and walked out into the lot. It was uncommon that people tried to break in or trespass. The few times it had happened it had been young whipper snappers daring each other to run through the area without getting caught. Whatever it was it was definitely a person, since the dogs were trained to ignore cats, squirrels or raccoons. He unsnapped the holster just to be on the safe side and raised his hand again to scan the cars as he passed them. The dogs sniffed around wildly, but seemed unable to pick anything up, instead they whined and tried to rub their noses against the gravel or pawed at the snouts.
Tony was hiding, only a car’s width from the officer, behind a blue vehicle. He controlled his breathing as the officer shone the flashlight through the windshields and down the rows. He silently moved around so that he ended up behind the man, carefully maneuvering so as not to allow the gravel grate against each other. He wanted to avoid injuring the man, but realized he might have to if it came down to it. The officer moved towards the garage, where Tony also needed to go. From above the structure had appeared solid, but down on the ground he could see that one of the sides was completely open, making for easy access. When the man reached the building he let the dogs run the length of the chains and then popped his head inside the darkness. As he did so Tony quickly ran do the side of the garage and flattened himself against the sheet metal. Unfortunately he was now hiding in the only possible area that was open, since the opposite side was lined up against the fence. If the officer turned the corner he would be seen, and as he pondered this he saw the light approach. Before he could even consider his next move his legs had bent and then straightened out to send him up to the roof where he clung to the edge as the man rounded the corner. He raised his legs so that they were perpendicular to his hands to avoid his feet touching the man or in the least reveal his position. Once he had passed Tony straightened out and by hand over hand movement got himself round the same corner. Dropping down in front of the entrance he then walked inside.
The street lights from around the lot had lit it enough for him to see what he was doing, but not much more, but here, surrounded by three walls and a roof it was nearly pitch black. He knew that if he produced his own flashlight the officer would see it all too well, so he was forced to move around as best he could. What little light escaped into the garage gave him enough illumination to make out the shapes of vehicles placed therein. There were cars, busses, motorcycles and even boats and there against the far wall the truck, loaded with crates.The floor here was concrete and he could more easily move in silence, so he swiftly headed for his goal and swung himself up on the bed. He looked over the unfinished pine of which the crates were made up and noticed that a few of them had been tempered with. The police had started their investigation, just like he knew they would. In the distance he heard the door to the guard house close and could safely produce his light. Now he could more easily see which crates had been opened and where. He took out his kris, a wavy dagger that looked like a smaller version of his kalis and slid it under the lid of an already loosened piece and it came off easily. He just moved it a bit out of the way so that he had enough room to feel around in the torch light. The pine box was filled with packages made from brown paper and secured with twine. He picked one up and moved it around, shook it and weighed it, but he needed to satisfy his suspicions. He cut into the brown wrapping with the kris and once he withdrew it white powder coated the blade. He plucked a small leather pouch from his belt and with one hand he opened it and produced an envelope. Gently he tapped the powder off the blade and let it fall between the paper, sealed it up and place it back in the pouch. After having put the lid back it was time to more closely analyze the crates. He moved in close to the pine and held the flashlight close. At first glance it looked as if the wood was completely unmarked, but when he let the light shine from an angle some form of stamp was visible. He touched it with his gloved hand and felt ridges, but had a hard time making out what it precisely was. From his pouch he grabbed a pencil and began rubbing the lead against the mark. Slowly an image began to emerge. It was a skull placed in the inside of a diamond, the kind one might find in a deck of cards. A quick once over some of the nearest crates revealed a similar mark in the same spot, the lower left hand corner. It was what he had been looking for.
Spinning around so that he faced the exit it was once again time to head into the night, he had more work to do, dogs to avoid.

====

The Lincoln was traveling down Washington and the yellow light of the streetlights reflected in the window as Geert stared at them. He watched the buildings passed by and slowly turned from homes to storefronts. The car drove across Ohio before it stopped in front of a building made from the same red brick so common in the city. It was an Italian restaurant with a bright neon sign proclaiming it to be The Pizza King. The western part of the city was the home of the Danes who had emigrated to it between 1870 and 1950, while most of the other ethnic groups had declined that population had skyrocketed. Since the Scandinavians, as a rule, were not well regarded for their cooking most of the eateries were run by Greeks or Italians. The driver opened the door and helped the boss out of it by giving him his hand and supporting his weight so that he wouldn’t trip. In an ungrateful gesture he yanked his forearm out the hands of the driver, straightened out his jacket over his dumpy frame and glared at the man. He indicated that the driver should wait by the car and then opened the glass doors to enter.
The interior was dark, mostly due to the dark wood paneling throughout, but not gloomy thanks to the white walls above it. The counter and the booths were all made from the same brown wood and the seats were covered in brown faux leather. A man in his mid thirties with dark, greasy hair combed back and a thin mustache under a pronounced nose, dressed in a dress shirt and black, albeit flour stained slacks, stood at the counter and was arranging baking sheets. It was near closing time and he seemed eager to close up shop, that’s why he gave Geert an annoyed stare when he saw him, but he gave a polite nod and a half hearted smile.
‘What’ll it be Sir?’ He asked in a monotone voice.
‘Just a coffee Joe, I need to speak to my associates over there.’ Geert tilted his head in the direction of a booth occupied by three dapper men in pin striped suits. He would have much rather have ordered a brandy old fashioned to compensate for not being able to go back home, but the protestant church ladies who had made the this neighborhood their home had forbid the distribution of alcohol on the west side, to the ire of the restaurateurs of the area. Joe gave him a nod and sighed as he bent down to fetch a cup and saucer from beneath the counter. Geert ignored this and walked over to the men in the booth, who were the only patrons in the place.
‘Gentlemen.’ He said. ‘I thought I might find you here.’ He sat down in the only seat that was open.
Jensen, Charles and Thorne always dressed the same, even if they did not live together, in fact they lived on the opposite sides of the city, but somehow managed to coordinate their outfits perfectly. Today they wore, in addition to the black pinstriped suits, white shirts and black ties. One could really only tell them apart from their facial hair, Jensen was clean shaven, Thorne wore a mustache and Charles had a full beard, but they were all red heads, most likely due to their Danish heritage Geert philosophized.
‘What can we do for you Mr. Geert?’ Thorne said as he sipped a cup of coffee of his own. The trio were freelancers and not directly under his organization and therefore they often skipped the traditional Boss moniker others used.
‘Well boys.’ Geert paused as Joe placed his coffee in front of him. ‘I need you to investigate something for me.’
‘All right, I guess we can squeeze you in to our busy schedule.’ Jensen snorted and lit a thin cigarette. ‘Your money is always welcome here. What do you need?’
‘You no doubt heard of the incident downtown that took place this morning?’ The men nodded. ‘And as you might have guessed it involved my organization and the Langdons. We don’t really know who is to blame yet, but we are pretty sure it wasn’t the Irish and it sure as hell wasn’t us.’
‘Ok, so you want us to find out who done it?’ Charles chimed in. ‘We can do that, a bit of detectoring, sounds easy enough.’
‘Not really.’ Geert cautiously blew on the hot liquid in the cup, but set it down again before tasting it. ‘While most of the guys involved perished in the garage there appears to have been one survivor. One of our men and he most likely holds the answer to the question of, as you so eloquently put it, who done it. I need you to find out that person’s identity so that we in turn can identify the guilty party.’
‘All right.’ Thorn felt his face, a touch of stubble was beginning to form on his chin. ‘So you want us to investigate so that it can’t be traced back to The Diamond and essence put you out of harms way?’
‘You could put it that way.’ Geert was beginning to sweat, they had seen through his not so clandestine plan. ‘You would be paid handsomely of course.’
‘Of course.’ Jensen smiled.
‘Let us confer my friends.’ Thorne said to the other two, apparently taking the lead on this deal. ‘If you could excuse us.’
Geert rose, downed the coffee in one gulp and headed to the counter to settled the bill. ‘I’ll pay for the gentlemen as well Joe.’ He said and Joe nodded and gave him the total. Geert handed him a five dollar bill, which was more than enough and Joe smiled and thanked him. One he turned back to the trio they were standing in a row before him, all with a black hat with a white band in their hands.
‘We’ll do it.’ Jensen said as he leaned past Geert and stubbed out his cigarette in an ash tray placed on the counter. ‘It’s going to cost you twice the standard fee.’ It was steep, yet still a good price for keeping his name out of it.
‘Agreed.’ Geert said and put forth his hand, the men each shook it in turn.
‘It’s always a pleasure doing business with The Diamond and yourself.’ Thorne said. ‘I hope this isn’t as big a risk as we all think it might be. It would be sad if our relationship would have to end due to one of us dying.’ Geert tried to act unconcerned, but could feel beads of sweat form on his upper lip. The men left in a single file.
‘We’ll be in touch.’ Thorne said before placing his hat on his head and exiting.

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