Diana’s Leap: Chapter Two

—Good Friday—

Friday, April 14th, 2017

Bistro on Rue Lagrange, Paris, France.

—1—

Danny Alexander was sitting at a table by the front window of a bistro on Rue Lagrange, not too far from Notre Dame Cathedral. The day was unseasonably warm for a Good Friday in Paris. It was more like one of those hot, humid days in mid-summer when the prickly Paris heat makes the clothes stick to your skin. In fact, Danny couldn’t remember another trip he’d taken to Paris at Easter when it had not been raining or threatening to. The bistro was packed with people taking a break from work or shopping to get some coffee or a little lunch, and the steady hum of conversation and the clatter of glasses and plates combined to create a kind of background music for the room. The cheerfulness of it seemed entirely inappropriate to Danny considering the very real possibility that he might not live to see the end of the day.

From where he sat, Danny could clearly see the Café Panis on the other side of the street. That was where he had told Jimmy, a 24-year old drug dealer originally from California, to meet him. He’d called Jimmy fifteen minutes ago and told him to come to the Café Panis at noon, its busiest time of the day. It was 11:55 a.m. now—only five minutes before Jimmy was due to arrive. Looking north from the bistro window, Danny could also see the south tower of Notre Dame Cathedral and Pont au Double, one of the many bridges that crossed the Seine, connecting the left and right banks. If Jimmy walked to the café from his apartment on the right bank, as Danny expected he would, he would see him come over Pont au Double and walk along Rue Lagrange toward the Café Panis. If Jimmy drove his car or took a taxi, Danny would still see him get out of the car and go into the café. Either way, Danny would see him coming.

Danny was not alone in the bistro as he waited for Jimmy to arrive. He was much too cautious for that. With him was Gustavo, a male prostitute that Danny had picked up that morning in Pigalle. He was sitting on a stool at the end of the bar about 10 paces away from Danny’s table. Gustavo had told him he was Swiss, but from his accent, Danny suspected he was actually of Eastern European origin. Danny looked at him now and gave him a wink. As instructed, Gustavo responded with a lecherous grin and thrust his hand inside his jacket. Danny nodded his approval and turned back to the window to scan the street.

Had he not taken precautions, like enlisting the aid of his amorous friend at the bar, Danny would have put his chances of surviving his lunch date with Jimmy at about fifty-fifty. Those odds were much too high for Danny’s liking, so he planned the meeting with some unexpected twists to turn the advantage in his favor. Of course, it wasn’t Jimmy that Danny was afraid of. It was Jimmy’s boss, Tommy Hill, and his nasty friends from south London that worried Danny. He knew Tommy would blame him for the money that had been lost while in his care. What he didn’t know was what Tommy intended to do about it. Would he be willing to give Danny some time to get the money back, or would he just kill him outright to save face and set an example? Danny’s elaborate plan for his meeting with Jimmy was all designed to give him the answer to that question.

—2—

As Danny sat waiting for Jimmy to show, his mind drifted back through the years and circumstances that had conspired to bring him to this place and this moment. For the last decade, Danny had been running a lucrative business catering to a small, but extremely wealthy clientele. His customers were members of organized crime syndicates based mostly in the U.K and Western Europe. They were involved in illegal activities that generated huge profits, most of it in cash. The service Danny provided was to convert the mountains of cash generated from illegal activities into funds that appeared to have come from legitimate sources. It was not something Danny had set out to do; it was something he had just kind of drifted into accidently.

Towards the end of his last year of high school, there had been some family trouble involving Danny’s mother, and his relationship with his stepfather had become severely strained. He left home at the end of that summer and went to Boston College on a football scholarship. He made the team as a second-string running back in his freshman year, but a knee injury ended his season in the third game of the season. The following winter, he went through re-hab, but he was never able to get back to his previous form. He lost the athletic scholarship, but he managed to stay in school with a small academic bursary and by working part-time jobs. He earned a business degree with a major in finance and a minor in computer systems.

After graduation, Danny bounced around for a while before landing in the banking industry as an analyst specializing in international finance. He quickly learned the ins and outs of moving large sums of money between financial institutions and across international boundaries. He also learned how to leverage his formidable computer skills to transfer money, snoop for useful information and cover his tracks when necessary. It all came easily to Danny, and he quickly grew bored with it. Moving up the corporate ladder was difficult without the right contacts. He was good at his job, but that didn’t seem to count for much in the world of corporate banking. After a decade with no significant promotions, Danny was ripe for something new and different in his life.

That’s when Peter showed up, and Danny had his first brush with organized crime. It started out innocently enough: Danny met Peter at a party thrown by a friend. Danny was sitting on the couch in the living room when Peter, who had been drinking steadily for hours, lurched into the room and installed his tall, lanky frame in an adjacent chair. Peter was a little sensitive about his last name, and he made a joke about it during the introductions.

“The name’s Peter…,” he said. “Peter Roach. You’ve probably heard about my chain of economy hotels… the Roach Hotels?”

Peter was about the same age as Danny and moved in the same circles. He began bumping into him now and then at parties and bars around Boston. Peter appeared to be a young business professional like himself, except that he had a lot more money than Danny did. He wore expensive clothes, drove a vintage Mercedes Roadster and threw money around like it was water.

The first deal Danny did for Peter seemed more like a favour between friends than a felony offence. Peter called him at work one day and said he was in the neighbourhood. He asked Danny if he wanted to stop by a local bar on the way home, and Danny took him up on the offer. They talked sports, women, the usual, and then about 40 minutes into the conversation, Peter started telling him about a client of his who was having problems transferring some money states side from an Eastern Bloc country. There would be a commission in it for Danny if he could help. The problem didn’t sound all that difficult, and it wasn’t. Danny was able to move the money discretely, and he earned a tidy profit for a few hours work. Other deals followed. Peter contacted him once every month or so to do a discreet transfer, usually from an off-shore account.

They always met at the same bar, the Eire Pub on Adams Street, and the meetings always went the same way. Peter would arrive about 15 minutes late, and when he finally showed up, he’d order a drink from the bar on his way to Danny’s table. He’d sit kitty-corner to Danny and start talking about something inconsequential, like a trip he’d just taken or some girl he’d shagged. While he talked, he scanned the room looking for anything out of the ordinary; he barely made eye contact during the first part of the meeting. Then, when he felt comfortable, he’d suddenly fix Danny with a stare and in a lowered voice, he’d give Danny the details about what he wanted done. Danny had to memorize the information. Nothing was ever written down. Then, Peter would leave abruptly, usually without finishing his drink.

About a year after his arrangement with Peter began, he and Danny had quite a different meeting. When Danny arrived at the bar, Peter was already there, and he wasn’t alone. There was another man with him. He was slender with thinning hair and an expensive suit. He spoke with an English accent, although he didn’t talk much during that first meeting. After the introductions, Peter did most of the talking. The other man, George Abramson, just sat there sipping his drink and watching Danny. When Peter finally finished explaining the deal, George suddenly spoke up.

“…Oh, and there’ll be something extra for this one mate: A job, working for me at Bartletts Bank in London. All expenses paid.”

Within a month Danny had made the move to London, and was working in a well-paid job, strategically placed in International Finance. Of course, it was understood that doing financial chores for George’s mob contacts was part of the job. George would drop by his office or call him to go for coffee when something came up. As with Peter, everything was done by word of mouth—nothing was ever written down.

The arrangement with George at Bartletts continued more or less without change for five years. But as Danny got to know some of George’s contacts better, they began coming to him directly. As time went on, Danny began to see a future where he could quit Bartletts and live a comfortable life with very little work as an independent financial consultant for the mob. It was not the career he had envisioned for himself when he started out, but once he started down that path, it was hard to turn back. No one ever spelled it out for him, but Danny knew he couldn’t just walk away. Criminal organizations did not take kindly to quitters, especially ones who knew their business.

Even so, he had begun planning an exit strategy almost from the day he had quit Bartletts and gone out on his own. He had bank accounts in different names all over the world. Sometimes, he used them to move money for the mob, but he also maintained balances in some of them, so he could access cash abroad in case he needed to leave the country on short notice. He also kept two packed suitcases in his flat at all times. One contained clothes and other necessities for a two-week trip and an unloaded gun stored in a special, hard-sided container. The storage container for the gun had been custom-made for him. It satisfied all the requirements for transporting firearms in checked luggage on commercial airliners, and it was designed to look like a jewelry case to avoid attracting unwanted attention from border guards or anyone else who might be curious. The other suitcase contained cash in several different currencies, pre-paid credit cards, gift cards and sets of identification documents like passports and driver’s licences under different names. It also contained an eight-Gig memory stick that Danny updated regularly containing the details of transactions Danny had conducted for the mob going back more than a decade.

Danny used many different identities to do his work, and many of them were known to his mob bosses. But there was one name they didn’t know; that was his real name—Danny Alexander. When Danny first made the move to London to work at Bartletts, he changed his name as a kind of insurance policy. The only person in England who knew his real name was his boss at Bartletts, George Abramson.

Danny provided many different services to his underworld clients, but the one in most demand was laundering cash—making it appear that the huge amounts of cash collected from illegal activities, like prostitution or drug dealing, had actually come from legitimate sources. The service involved a three-step process: First, the cash was deposited in domestic banks or foreign financial institutions by making lots of small deposits to avoid arousing suspicion. Next, a series of complex financial transactions like wire transfers or conversion of cash into bonds or stocks was performed to separate the illicit funds from their source and disguise the audit trail. The final step was to deliver the funds to the client, less a sizable commission that Danny liked to call the laundry bill.

For the last couple of years, Danny had used a local solicitor named Mike Babcock to complete the final step of the process. Mike was a partner in the firm Babcock Morgan Solicitors, and Danny liked him because he was lazy and unprincipled and not very likely to ask embarrassing questions if Danny brought him a deal that looked a little shady. Typically, the transaction involved the sale of a property that had been purchased with dirty money, usually from several different sources. The cash from the proceeds of the sale would be deposited to Mike’s trust account, often for just a few hours, and then transferred to Danny’s client as legitimate funds. Mike would collect a generous fee, and Danny would get a hassle-free transfer to his client.

It all worked like clockwork until Danny’s deal with Tommy Hill. Danny had purchased a villa in Tuscany using funds from different sources that Tommy wanted laundered. A few months later, he sold the villa for £2.4 million, and he arranged for the proceeds to come through Mike’s office. The transfer into Mike’s trust account was supposed to take place early on the Thursday afternoon before the bank holiday on Good Friday. Danny would come to Mike’s office later that afternoon to pick up a certified cashier’s cheque, which he planned to hand deliver to Tommy by tea time the same day.

A couple of weeks before the transfer, Danny went to Mike’s office to confirm the details of the transaction. About 15 minutes into their meeting, Mike called in a staff member to join them. A young woman in her early to mid-thirties arrived a few minutes later. She was a little on the plump side, but still quite attractive decked out in her smart business attire, with a stylish haircut and make-up. Mike motioned for her to sit in the visitor’s chair next to Danny.

“Susan, this is Geoff Andrew,” Mike said to the woman. ‘Geoff Andrew’ was the alias that Danny used for his dealings with Mike.

“He’s closing a real estate deal in a couple of weeks, and I’d like you to handle the transfer. Geoff, meet Susan Brown.”

It sounded like a made-up name to Danny.

“Pleased to meet you, Susan,” he said.

“Likewise,” she replied, curtly.

Danny had a bad feeling about Susan right from the start. He sensed an attitude of entitlement and self-assurance from her that gave him pause. He feared she might be one of those people who believe the rules simply don’t apply to them—and in Danny’s business, those kinds of people were dangerous. He tried to make eye contact and engage her in conversation, but she barely returned his gaze. She kept her responses terse and mostly monosyllabic. When Mike was done discussing the deal, Susan went back to her cubicle, and Danny decided to ask a few questions about the moody Miss Brown.

“Has Susan been with you long?”

“Not really. She joined us a few months ago.”

“Where’s she from?”

“East side, I think. Worked for an accounting firm there.”

“Good references?”

“Oh yeah, of course. The best.”

Danny was pretty sure Mike hadn’t bothered to do a background check, and he wondered if his preference for lazy real estate solicitors was finally going to bite him. Two weeks later when Danny arrived to pick up the cheque, the £2.4 million deposit was missing and so was Susan Brown. He and Mike turned the office upside down looking for information, but no one seemed to know anything about the transaction. It had all been left up to Susan, and she had left early for the day and could not be reached. When the futility of getting any information from staff became obvious, Danny took Mike into his office for a private chat.

“Listen, Mike. You must realize that I can’t tell my client that the money is missing. Not this client.”

“… but I don’t know where the money is, Geoff. There’s barely enough in the trust account right now to cover month-end disbursements let alone a £2.4 million real estate pay out.”

“… so, what are you going to do about it, Mike?”

“Well, we’ll have to wait until Tuesday when Susan comes back to work after the holiday, and then we can ask her about it.”

Danny shook his head in disbelief. He could see that Mike was completely oblivious to the trouble they were in.

“That’s not good enough, Mike.”

“… why not?”

“Because Susan isn’t coming back to work on Tuesday, or any other day after that either.”

“What? You think she took the money?”

“Yes, Mike. I do.”

“Well, what can I do… should I call the police?”

“No, Mike. You can’t call the police. You can never call the police, not with this client.”

Danny could see his face clouding over as the full import of the situation finally dawned on him.

“This client of yours, Geoff? He doesn’t know about me, does he? You didn’t tell him the transaction came through my office, did you?”

Danny didn’t bother to answer. He just turned and walked out of the office. He went home to his apartment, picked up the two packed bags—the one containing the two-week supply of clothes, and the one containing the identification and cash—and he left. After driving around aimlessly for an hour or so, he stopped at a pub for a pint and a bite to eat. No sooner had his order arrived than his phone started vibrating. It was a text from Tommy Hill—the last person in the world that Danny wanted to hear from.

—3—

Of all his clients, Tommy was the one Danny feared the most. He had never seen it, but he’d heard that Tommy liked to use a small upholstery hammer to torment his enemies during interrogations or sometimes just for the fun of it. The story was that Tommy’s father had an upholstery business, and he had always hoped that Tommy would follow him into the trade. He had given Tommy the hammer as a gift when he was a teenager in Camberwell, South London. A few days later, Tommy used it to commit his first murder.

The striking end of the hammerhead had a long narrow neck with a small square face, while the peen was formed into a claw for removing nails. It had a wooden handle stained with blood and despite its small size, Tommy could use it in devilish and imaginative ways to exert maximum pain on the poor unfortunates that fell into his power.

Tommy Hill began his criminal career as a smash-and-grab specialist knocking off furrier shops and jewellers in South London. It wasn’t long before he attracted the attention of the Richardson Gang, which had little tolerance for freelancers working their turf. He was given a choice: he could join the gang, or he could face the consequences. He chose to join the gang, and he didn’t have to think about it very long. He knew a punk like him would have little chance of standing up to the Richardson Gang.

Tommy became a feared enforcer for the Richardsons, and he proved to be a valuable asset during the gang’s bitter rivalry with the Kray twins of East London in the late 1960s. The Richardsons had a vending machine business in those days that served as a cover for their drug and prostitution rackets. It had a repair shop in back that was also used to interrogate and intimidate deadbeats or members of rival gangs like the Kray Twins.

Tommy was a witness to the torture on more than one occasion, and he willingly participated in inflicting excruciating pain on the hapless victims. He saw men having their teeth pulled out with pliers or their fingers lopped off with chain cutters. He once witnessed another Richardson goon named Harry Fraser nail a member of the Kray gang to the floor by driving a couple of six-inch spikes through his hands. After the man had told them everything they wanted to know, Fraser pulled out the nails and made him clean up his own blood before he and his goons threw out him into the street.

The story was front-page news for weeks when the so-called Torture Trial was convened at the Old Bailey in 1967. Fraser was charged with several counts of torture and extortion. The cops offered Tommy a deal to testify for the prosecution, but he wouldn’t do it. His refusal to cooperate did not go over well with the prosecution or the judge adjudicating his case, and it earned him a 10-year sentence at Belmarsh Prison. The silver lining was that when he finally got out, he became a trusted member of the Richardson Gang’s inner circle. His unpredictable nature and his reputation for ruthlessness and violence helped him rise quickly through the ranks to become a kingpin of the London drug trade.

Danny took a swig of his beer and clicked open the message.

Thomas Hill:

Where’s the package? Expected delivery at tea time.

Geoff Andrew:

Slight snag. Package missing in transit.

A call came in on Danny`s phone. It was Tommy, but Danny didn’t answer.

Geoff Andrew:

Sorry. Can’t talk. Too public. Low battery.

Thomas Hill:

We need to meet. Now!

Geoff Andrew:

Today’s no good for me. What about tomorrow?

Thomas Hill:

2-day!!!!

Geoff Andrew:

Sorry Tommy. No can do. What about tomorrow?

Thomas Hill:

In Paris tomorrow.

Geoff Andrew:

O.K. Saturday then, first thing. Will call to set up. Low battery. Got to go.

Danny gulped the rest of his beer and started walking toward the door. His telephone rang again as he reached the street. It was Tommy calling him back, but he didn’t answer. He tossed the phone in a dumpster on the way to his car. He dared not go back to his apartment, and he was glad he had thought to pick up his travel bags before Tommy called. He stopped at a phone store to pick up a new phone, a disposable with a camera, and then he just drove around for few hours thinking about what to do next. Slowly, a plan began to come together. Tommy had said he would be in Paris the next day, Good Friday. Danny would be there too.

He stayed at an Inn on the outskirts of the city that night, and he paid cash for his room. He knew Tommy had friends in law enforcement that would trace a credit card purchase if he asked them. The next morning, he drove to Victoria Coach Station and caught the 6 a.m. high-speed train for the two-hour trip to Paris via the Chunnel. He disembarked at Gare du Nord in Paris and took the subway to Charles de Gaulle Airport, where he stored his luggage in a locker. From the airport, he took a taxi to Pigalle and walked the streets looking for a suitable accomplice for his meeting with Jimmy. He spotted Gustavo not too far from the Sexodrome on the Boulevard de Clichy. Gustavo looked about right for the part—he had a muscular build and an odd smile that might appear sinister in the right context.

Danny took him to a local coffee shop to explain the deal he had in mind. Gustavo would receive €100 up front and another €100 from Danny’s friend Jimmy if he had sex with him later that day. Danny explained that Jimmy was an old and dear friend who had recently confided his attraction to men but had never actually consummated sex with one. It was Jimmy`s thirtieth birthday, and Gustavo was to be Danny`s special gift to Jimmy—Jimmy`s coming out party, so to speak.

Gustavo was more than willing to accept Danny’s strange request, and he was keen for the opportunity to score an additional €100. After the coffee shop, Danny took Gustavo to a second-hand shop a few blocks down the road and bought him a blazer. He chose a dark jacket that fitted loosely enough to conceal a gun. Danny paid for the jacket and then he and Gustavo took the subway to Pont Neuf Station. From there, they walked across the Pont Neuf bridge to the left bank. About half way across, Danny handed Gustavo his disposable phone, and asked him to snap a picture of him. Danny’s backup plan was still in the formative stages, but he thought the photograph might come in handy if his meeting with Jimmy didn’t go well. He sat in one of the concrete seats built into the outer balustrade of the bridge, and Gustavo took his picture with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

“Smile!” Gustavo said, enthusiastically, but Danny could only manage a half-hearted smirk.

After the photo, they continued to the bistro and when they got there, Danny sat Gustavo down at the bar to go over the details for the meeting. He explained that Gustavo would sit at the bar where Jimmy could check him out. Danny would talk to Jimmy at a nearby table and explain the arrangement. If Jimmy decided to go for it, Gustavo would accompany him to his apartment where they would have sex, and Jimmy would pay him the other €100.

“So, Gustavo… all you really need to remember is to make eye contact with my friend Jimmy when I turn towards you and wink.”

“Oui, oui… is simple. You wink, I blink.”

“No, Gustavo… no blinking, just steady eye contact and a sly, devilish smile. Like this.”

Danny demonstrated. Gustavo responded with a big toothy grin. He looked more like an absurdly enormous puppy dog than a hit man.

“Too big, Gustavo. Make it smaller—more devilish.”

Gustavo tried again. It was marginally better than the first attempt.

“Good. That’s perfect. And when you smile, I want you to slip your hand inside your coat like this.”

Danny guided Gustavo’s hand so that it looked like he might be reaching for a gun in a shoulder holster.

“Like I am holding une gross banane. Oui, monsieur?”

“Oui, Gustavo.”

“And to finish… a twirl!”

“…a twirl?”

“Oui, monsieur… a twirl!”

Gustavo demonstrated by jumping off his stool, spinning around and thrusting out his buttocks.

“You know. To show the… be-hind,” Gustavo explained.

“…not quite the message we’re looking for, Gustavo. Let’s just go with the smile and the hand thing, okay? No twirl.”

“Very well, monsieur… you are the boss.”

Danny sat down at a table by the front window and checked his watch. It was 11:40—time to call Jimmy and set up the meeting. He hadn’t called Jimmy earlier because he didn’t want to give him any time to think. He just wanted Jimmy to react. Danny knew Jimmy lived only a few blocks from the Café Panis; he would have just enough time for a quick call to Tommy and a brisk walk to the caféto make it there by noon. If Tommy had put out the word that he was looking for Danny, Jimmy would know about it, and if Jimmy knew Tommy was looking for Danny, he wouldn’t waste any time giving him up. He would call Tommy as soon as he finished talking to Danny, and then he would try to stall Danny at the Café Panis until Tommy arrived. That was why Danny had decided to switch up the location of the meeting at the last minute.

Danny called Jimmy on his cell. He answered after the second ring.

“…yeah, Jimmy’s here.”

“Hey, Jimmy. It’s Geoff… Geoff Andrew.”

“Geoff! Hey Geoff, how you doing dude? Where are you at, man?”

For someone Danny knew only as a casual business acquaintance, Jimmy sounded awfully glad to hear from him. Something was definitely up.

“I’m in your neighbourhood, actually. Feel like joining me for some lunch?”

“Sure man, sure. Where abouts?”

“The Café Panis. But you have to get here by noon. I haven’t got much time.”

“No sweat, man. I’m leaving right now.”

Danny hung up. There was nothing to do now but wait. About fifteen minutes later, Danny spotted Jimmy at the south end of Pont au Double near the intersection at Quai de Montebello. As Danny expected, Jimmy had decided to walk instead of taking a car. He watched as Jimmy crossed the street and started walking the short distance down Rue Lagrange to the Café Panis. Jimmy was walking on the opposite side of the street from the bistro. When he was almost directly across from it, Danny got up, walked to the front door and called to Jimmy across the street.

“Hey Jimmy!… over here.”

Jimmy turned to look across the street and spotted Danny standing in the doorway of the bistro. He looked confused and pointed down the street at the Café Panis. Danny shook his head and motioned at him to cross the street. Jimmy didn’t look very happy about the change in plans, but he did as Danny directed.

“Hey, dude. I thought we were meeting down the street…” Jimmy said, as he approached the bistro. “… at the Café Panis.”

“We are. Just come in here for a minute. There’s somebody I’d like you to meet.”

Jimmy came in, and Danny steered him toward his table by the front window. He motioned for Jimmy to take the seat closest to the window, and then he sat down with his back to the room. From this vantage, he could see the Café Panis across the street and talk to Jimmy at the same time.

“Who are we meeting?” Jimmy asked.

“My friend, Gustavo. He’s sitting over there at the bar.”

Danny turned toward Gustavo and winked.

Gustavo responded by sliding his hand into his jacket and smiling at Jimmy. His odd, lecherous grin was enough to make the hairs stand up on the back of Jimmy’s neck.

“…whoa, dude… this isn’t going to be… harsh, or anything, is it?”

“No, Jimmy. I just want to talk… ask you a few questions, that’s all.”

“Sure, dude, sure. No worries. Whatever, you want to know.”

“Did Tommy Hill say anything about me recently?”

“Tommy? No, man. Nothing I can think of.”

“… are you sure?”

“…yeah. Sure, man, sure.”

Jimmy was beginning to feel the heat. Like most establishments in Notre Dame, the bistro had no air conditioning. A tiny bead of perspiration popped out on Jimmy’s forehead.

“Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy. Why don’t I believe you?”

“I don’t know, dude. Maybe you got a suspicious nature.”

“…or maybe you’re not a very good liar, Jimmy. Maybe people can tell when you’re not being truthful.”

“I swear to God, dude,” Jimmy said, holding one hand to his heart and touching his first two fingers to his temple in the international salute of the Boy Scout.

“Tommy never said anything nefarious about your ass, man. You shouldn’t be worried, you know. What I think we should do… is we should go on over to the Café Panis like we planned and get some lunch. It’s kind of hot in here.”

“I don’t know, Jimmy. I kind of like it here, and I know my friend Gastavo likes it here. It’s one of his favorites.”

Jimmy shot a nervous glance at Gustavo, who responded with another blood chilling grin.

“Jimmy, did you tell Tommy about our meeting at the Café Panis?”

Jimmy licked his lips.

“What? Me man? Of course not.”

“Are you sure about that, Jimmy?”

“Okay, okay, dude. Maybe Tommy did say something about you—something about some cash that went missing, or whatever. But he’s cool, man. He’s cool. I really think we should just go on over to the Café Panis like we said. Maybe we could call Tommy. Get this whole thing straightened out.”

“We could call Tommy from here.”

“Yeah… I guess,” Jimmy said doubtfully.

“You already told Tommy I’d be at the Café Panis, didn’t you, Jimmy?”

“I swear to God, man. I never said nothing.”

Danny had been keeping a close eye on the Café Panis through the front window of the bistro while he and Jimmy talked, and at that moment, a car pulled up in front of the café, and two men got out. One was tall and blond, and the other was shorter and balding. Danny didn’t get a good look at the two men because they had their backs to him, but he was pretty sure he’d never seen them before. He knew very few of Tommy’s goons because Tommy liked to keep the money and the muscle sides of the business separate as a precaution against collusion, and that was just fine with Danny.

The two men rushed into the café with their weapons drawn, while a third man waited in the driver’s seat of the car. Danny could see the man plainly through the open window, and he recognized him immediately—it was Tommy Hill. Anyone who ever saw Tommy Hill did not soon forget him. He had a face as wrinkled as a California raisin, and it stuck in your memory like the fragments of a childhood nightmare. The lines of age and care that covered his face revealed his evil, violent nature, but it was his eyes that scared you the most. They were cold, dead eyes, and when you looked into them, you got the chilling feeling that there wasn’t a real person there—not real in the normal sense anyway.

“Well, well.” Danny said gesturing at the window. “Look who’s here.”

Jimmy turned and looked across the street and saw Tommy waiting in the car. As he and Danny watched, frightened patrons began streaming out the front door of the café, followed a few moments later by Tommy’s men. The tall blond man shook his head and shrugged at Tommy as he watched from the car. Tommy was obviously unhappy with the news, and he turned and looked menacingly across the street. Danny had the sinking feeling that Tommy was looking right at him, but he knew it was impossible for Tommy to see him inside the bistro—not with the bright sunlight beaming down outside. Tommy motioned for his men to get back in the car, and they drove away at high speed.

Danny looked at Jimmy. He looked as nervous as a stray cat at the dog pound. He had sweated through his shirt at the armpits and his forehead glistened with perspiration.

“I wonder how Tommy figured out where the meeting was going to be, when the only person I told—was you, Jimmy.”

“Listen, dude. You have to understand. Tommy was totally pissed about the money. I mean, majorly, man. You know what he’s like. He’s not like normal humans. When he found out, he put out the word to everyone.”

“…what word was that, Jimmy?”

A bead of sweat rolled down Jimmy’s forehead and stung his eye. He wiped it with his sleeve and then he sat there blinking, his focus bouncing around the room like he was looking for somewhere to hide, but there was nowhere.

 “…that he was, you know… looking for you.”

“…looking for me to…”

 “…to off you, man. He was going to waste you, okay?”

Danny nodded.

“Listen, dude… Let me give you some good advice, okay? You need to split, man. You need to go someplace nobody’s ever heard of you. You need to disappear, man, I mean totally.”

“Thanks, Jimmy. I’m going to go now. See you around, or not.”

“Whoa, wait a minute man. What about your friend Gustavo? What’s his story?”

“Oh, I think you’ll be quite surprised what Gustavo has in mind.”

Danny got up and headed for the back door of the bistro passing by Gustavo at the bar as he went.

“He’s totally into it,” Danny said to Gustavo as he breezed past him.

Gustavo beamed at Jimmy, then he slid off his stool, strutted over to the table where Jimmy was sitting, and he did the twirl.

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