Mr. Simmons Goes to Washington - Chapter III

Posted by Whit Barringer , Monday, December 29, 2008 9:46 AM

Author's Note: So it's been a while, and since I'm on Christmas break, I thought I would write another chapter for this long held story, just in time for the main character's (and my) birthday. I found some inconsistencies in the first chapter, so let me make it clear: It was Benny Villa, one of the capos for an unmentioned crime family, who was killed, and it's William Langley who's seen as a likely suspect, not the other way around. There was a bit of confusion when I first wrote it (mostly because I didn't know where it was going), but I'll go back and fix it sooner or later.

To read the other chapters of this story if you haven't already (you'll be lost if you don't), click the "Mr. Simmons Goes to Washington" button on the side panel.

The Creative Commons license and the image credit are at the bottom. Please enjoy and comment, if think to do so.

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I nearly have to roll my jaw up to get it off the floor. I’m stunned, shocked.

“Are you yankin’ my chain, Yak? It’s two o’clock, and I can’t take a bad joke right now.” I can hear the Yak sigh, and I see the smoke he exhaled swirl in the lamplight. We’re old friends, but I’ve always only been able to take the bastard in small doses. It would be just like him to mess with my head, but I got a feeling that he’s not lying and it scares me.

“Now why…” he takes another drag, “would I joke about a thing like that?” I’m about to lose my mind. I know it’s two o’clock in the morning and that I’ve had too much to drink. Even a man like me knows he has limits. Why did I take this case? I want to say that it was out of character for me to do it, but I don’t know that’s not true.

“Yak, what the hell is going on? Why would you do something like that?” I hear him stand up. He walks out into the lamplight, and I can see the glint on his glasses.

“For me to tell you that, we’d have to get out of here. I trust my men but I would never push my luck with loyalty. Especially when it’s bought and paid for.” Yak looks at his watch. “The bar closes as long as they stay around, but I may be able to shuffle them out a bit early.” I look at him, eyes wide and feeling completely knocked off balance though I’ve got both feet on the ground.

“Yak, do you realize what –“ I say, a bit too loudly. Yak moves quick and punches me in the stomach. I double over, not expecting him to do something like that, but this is a night for surprises.

Keep your goddamn voice down. These are hired men that will talk. Luckily, they don’t have anything to talk about, unless you give them something to say.” I’m coughing and sputtering as Yak heads out behind me. I hear him tell the guys guarding the entrance to pick me up and carry me to the bar. In no time, the jerks have their hands on me, dragging me out into the main room and back to Pete. They drop me with a thud, and Pete’s roaring with laughter.

“Need another drink, Tony?” I climb up to the barstool and nod.

“Yeah, but only one. I think I’ve got a long night yet.”
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It’s about 3:30 when Yak finally runs out the patrons by saying that he had it on good authority that the police were coming to the area. It was a good way to get all the kids out of the bar, but it was also a good way to have no business for a few days. Who wants to come to a raided bar? A few more came in, and there was a call for two more rounds on one guy who looked like he just tapped into his trust fund and bought a yacht. True to my word for once, I only had one shot of gin, though I was feeling everything a guy drinks to get away from come back to the surface. Yak needed to hurry his ass up if I was going to keep myself from taking all of his gin with me. Finally, he walks over to the bar.

“Alright, Tony. Let’s get in the car. You good enough to drive?” I laugh, but it sounds like a cough. Damn cigarettes.

“Yeah, Yak. You can put me behind the wheel.” Yak looks at me for a long second before shrugging.

“I could, but I’m worth more than you and more people want me dead, so I need to ride in the back.” I laugh again, longer this time.

“Are you sure about that?” Yak puts his hand on my shoulder.

“Time to go.” He turns around and heads for the entrance I came in earlier.

“Are we going out the front door?” Yak shakes his head.

“Nope, one of the back ones.” He opens a door that looked like part of a wall, across from the entrance where I came in earlier. There’s a staircase, and Yak limps up the stairs. I hear him grunt when he reaches the top. I’m not that slow, but I’m not taking the chance of running into something else. I follow. Breathing hard, Yak says, “We’re going up to the third floor. We’re going – to cross into the building behind the bar, and go down the stairs – on the other side.”

I follow him through the building. It’s obviously his entire business. I hope it’s not the only building, because single targets are easy targets when it comes to the mob. There are beds in many of the rooms, kitchens, bathrooms – a full living setup for fifty, seventy-five, a hundred people – though the only people here are a bunch of drunk guys playing poker in one of the rooms. They see Yak and nearly leap to their feet. When he doesn’t look at them, they come out in the hallway behind us.

“Boss? You need us?” Yak waves a hand.

“Nah, you guys play. I’ve got other business.” The guy looks at me hard and goes back into the room.

“Yak, are you running a full-fledged operation here? I thought it was just a bar.” Yak doesn’t answer. We reach the other set of stairs, and Yak goes down slowly, panting lightly. That left leg is killing him.

I can see the dark street out ahead and a black Rolls Royce. Yak gets in the backseat and gives me the keys to start it. I fumble in the dark for a minute, find the ignition, and crank that beautiful engine. Even when business was good, I could only hope for one of these.

“Where to, Mr. Olivetti?” I say, tipping my hat to him. He chuckles.

“Just drive. Safe areas are preferable.” I pull out onto the street and do as he asks. I figure I’ll drive him toward the poor part of town – the rich part of town is where all the guys who wouldn’t like Yak would be.

“Alright. What the hell is going on?”

“Exactly what I told you.”

“That doesn’t help my aching brain. I’m on the case now, whether I want to be or not.”

“Tell me more about your end of this.” I tell Yak bits and pieces of what had happened since midnight, keeping the William Langley’s name and the fact that I knew where the body was and even saw it to myself. Yak doesn’t make a noise for a good minute.

“Something seems wrong. Why would a girl like that go into your office at midnight? How would she have gotten into the building, anyway?”

“Yeah, I thought about that too, but by the end of it all, I had so many things running through my head it was impossible to stay on one thing.” Yak laughs.

“If you’d stop drinking, you’d have less trouble.” I hate it when people point out the obvious. I feel like a goddamn shooting gallery at the county fair – all easy shots, except with no prizes.

“I don’t have enough of a problem to quit.” I hear Yak sigh, and I grip the steering wheel tighter.

“I drink, too. I’m not saying you need to stop. You just need to keep from draining a bottle every time you sit down. Why do you drink anyway?” I can barely keep from yanking the steering wheel out of the car.

“I self-medicate.” There’s a pause before the Yak roars.

“Yeah. Yeah. I guess we all do.”

“You got sidetracked, Yak.”

“Yeah, I did. Where were we?”

“Why did you have Benny Villa killed?” Yak gets out another cigarette and talks with it bobbing between his lips while he reaches for his lighter in his expensive three-piece.

“He was the importer for the mob. Bringing in the booze for the ‘easies. For some reason, he thought he could retire. While not in itself a problem, it did become somewhat… inconvenient… for people like me-“ I hear him flick the lighter and see the bright orange out of the corner of my eye “-when he started skimming off the top for retirement. As soon as I knew what was going on, I sent in my best unknown, thus untraceable, man for the job.” He takes a long drag and I’m trying to process what I just heard.

“You mean to tell me that you killed that sonofabitch for money? Just for money? What’s happened to you, Yak?”

“Money makes the world go round, Sweetheart. I don’t know how it is on your side of town, but on mine, it’s still true. You can’t be all smiles and rainbows over here. It’s tough. It’s the city. It’s the blood and guts. You have to be willing to roll in the mud every once in a while if you’re going to live in the sty. If it makes you feel better, the mayor was never going to give him the key to the goddamn city.”

“Not the man I knew.” Yak leans forward.

“I wasn’t exactly planting daisies and singing Dixie when we met, Anthony. I’m exactly the man you knew.” I shake my head, knowing he’s right because-
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We met during the war. I was an infantryman assigned to Yak’s unit after they suffered quite a few casualties in an offensive. He was introduced to me as Yak Olivetti, but I found out later that “Yak” was short for “Jakob.” His mom was a second-generation German immigrant, and his old man had come over from Sicily to get away from the mafia running the island. Once we got to talking, Yak told me that his mom fell head over heels for his dad, but her parents decided to disown her. When he was around four, he saw his dad gunned down by mob men at his fruit stand in a case of mistaken identity. “Irony is a bastard,” Yak told me. His mom died not long afterward from not eating, a side effect of her grief.

I wasn’t an enthusiastic soldier, but Yak took to killing like a fish to water. Yak was always too gung-ho for war, and he ended up getting shot in his left knee because he stopped being careful near the end. One time we finally made some headway and took a little town next to a river. We found four German soldiers sleeping in the basement of one of the houses. There were three of us, Yak, a guy named Paul Vincent, and me, as the rest of the lazy bastards had called the building clear. We just wanted to see if they had anything good to eat, potatoes or something, just as I imagine the Germans had wanted to.

Instead of waking them up and taking them prisoner, Vincent shot one of them in the head with his rifle, scaring the others awake. I just stood there, looking at him, feeling the glue seep out of the hinges of my mouth. Yak looked indifferent. I begged Vincent not to shoot anymore of them. He finally agreed, and we started to walk them up the stairs out of the basement, our guns pointed at them. When we were on the top stair, Vincent kicked the lead guy in the chest and knocked him and the others down the stairs like he was playing nine pens. He took a grenade and threw it down the stairs on top of the soldiers, pushed us out the door, and locked it. The boom nearly rattled the door of the hinges, and I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed. I put my hand on Vincent’s shoulder and turned him around. Only pure shock kept me from tearing him apart.

“What the hell did you just do?” Vincent shrugged and grinned – I’ll never forget that grin.

“All of the food was rotten anyway.” I reared back to punch him, but Yak caught my forearm.

“Let it go, Anthony.”

“What the hell are you on about? Didn’t you see what just happened?”

“Trust me. It’ll be taken care of.”

“But-“

“Trust me.”

The next morning at roll call, Vincent wasn’t there. He was listed as AWOL until they found his body in a ditch hacked to bits. He was on his stomach when he was found, a blood trail behind him. He’d been trying to crawl out. I never asked Yak about it. When I went back to my bed that night, there was a package wrapped in bandages from the infirmary. I unwrapped it and found a trench knife with dried blood. I wrapped it back up, went out, and dropped it into the river at the edge of town.

When we came back from the war, things changed quickly for Yak and me. After the war, I went straight into –
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I shake my head, getting out of my thoughts. Yak had leaned back against the car seat. I know he was watching me and watches me still.

“Yeah. You’re the same guy.”

“So what do you want from me, Anthony? Why did you come and see me?”

“I figured if I knew anyone with an ear to the ground, it would be you. And now I know who killed Villa, but… I can’t tell that broad that.” Yak laughs.

“No, sir, you cannot.” I’m trying to think, but my mind isn’t dry yet. The gin’s still making my eyes swim. There’s something wrong with all of this.

“Yak, we gotta go back my office.” Yak shakes his head.

“No way. I agreed to come along and tell you what I could, but you need to take me back before you go anywhere else. Hell, take the car, but I can’t go with you.”

“Alright alright. But answer me this: where did you have your man leave the body?” Yak reaches for another cigarette.

“Why do you need to know about the body?”

“I can’t take anymore right now. Stop playing games with my damn head.” I park the car and turn around to face him. “Tell me what you know, or I’m not taking you back.” Yak rolled his eyes and puffed hard on his cigarette.

“He was dumped off in the river on the south side of town where he would be dragged under and swept out to sea.” I felt my heart stop like I’d been shot through the chest.

“Are you lying to me?” Yak should his head.

“Why would I-“

Are you lying to me?” I yell at him, my face no more than two feet away from his.

“Why would I lie after I’ve told you so much? Jesus, Anthony.”

“Yak, I didn’t tell you, but… I saw the body.” I see the cigarette light drop, the whole thing about to come out of his mouth.

“What?”

I saw the goddamn body.” Yak takes the cigarette out of his mouth. I can taste the panic rising in my throat. I feel sick, and I’m almost sure that I’m going to throw up.

“That’s impossible because-“

“Because you told your guy to dump the body, but he didn’t, Yak! It was behind Katz Grocery on Putnam!” I finally feel picture coming together like a jigsaw puzzle. “What was your guy’s name?” Yak stays quiet, but I have to push him. “Was his name William Langley?” Yak’s eyes grow wide. He runs his hand through his hair, and finally nods.

“No, but his name was Langston. Billy Langston.”

“Yak, the man was an agent for the Bureau of Investigation and Villa! That’s at least what that woman told me. You’ve been set up!” Even in the dark, I can see that all the blood had drained from Yak’s face.

“The bar!” I immediately turn on the car and gun the motor. “Faster, goddammit, faster!” We got back within five minutes, though it took nearly taking most of the corners on two wheels. When we pull up where the taxi let me out earlier, Yak breathes a sigh of relief. “Oh, thank God nothing’s-“

At just that moment, an enormous explosion blows up the front of the bar, knocking out all the windows in Yak’s car. The faded neon sign lands in front of the car, narrowly missing the motor. The entire bar was in flames. Yak screams bloody rage in the backseat, but I have to reach back and punch him in the left knee to keep him from jumping out of the car. He looks at me with murder in his eyes, but he doesn’t move. The blood is back in his face, and he’s so furious that I think his head will blow off just like the sign.

“Jakob… we gotta find that broad.” Yak is shaking now.

“And when we do… I am going to kill her with my bare hands.”

To be continued…

Creative Commons License
All of this work except the picture is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The photo of the Rolls Royce Phantom I is from the Rolls-Royce website under "Car History", which can be found here.

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