A very short story set in the world of Dead Again
The situation shifted from could-get-raped to probably-gonna-die when the three gangsters who’d dragged Kajal into the falling-down, damp warehouse found her gold shield tucked away in the extra inner pocket of her jacket.
The older one—tatts, nose ring, endless sniff—grew thoughtful. He seemed to understand they’d stepped onto new, high-stakes territory.
“We gotta tell Kane, man,” one of his sidekicks muttered. “He’ll know what to do.”
Kajal knew that name. Kane was a rising star in the Callahan organization. Max had mentioned him more than once. These three using the name meant she’d really screwed up. She should have sprinted out of the southside once her meet with Max was done.
Only she’d lingered to watch Max’s departure, worried about him. The last six weeks he’d shown jitters. Undercover cops didn’t last for long. The stress got to them. Made them prone to deadly mistakes. She’d debated pulling him in. Suggested it aloud.
“But I’m so close,” he’d protested. “I’m an inch away from Callahan’s senior lieutenants. Don’t make me waste all the things I’ve done. You wanna flush six months of work down the drain?” The look in his dark eyes had said more than the words. There had been a lot of those looks between them. I’m trusting you, his eyes had said. They’d said a lot more, lately. Kajal had been trying to ignore all that unspoken heat. She was Max’s coordinator, his lifeline back to the sane, ordinary world. She had to stay strong for him.
So she’d lingered in the area and been caught by the three nickel-plated, gun-toting minor players in Callahan’s vast network…had Max been followed? That was another terrifying possibility. Was he under suspicion? Was Kane, Callahan’s newest shining star, here to deal with Max?
Kajal realized she was straining at the zip tie around her wrists. Tearing at her skin. The grimy, oily and damp concrete under her ass was colder than an ice rink.
The leader of the three, Tatts, considered Kajal for a long contemplative minute while Sidekick One waited for Tatts to answer his question. Then Tatts shook his head. “We don’t need Kane to tell us what to do.” He spat.
“Oh, man, look…!” Sidekick Two breathed, distressed.
The other two spun to spot the man strolling into the dark, dripping warehouse, their hands jerking up, guns flashing in the starlight showing through the jagged, broken-off walls.
It was Max. Kajal held her teeth together and breathed hard, so she didn’t reveal the huge, adrenal-spiking surge of relief and terror that swamped her. What was he doing here? He hadn’t come back for her…he wouldn’t risk all the work they’d put in.
The two with the guns lowered their weapons. “Kane,” Tatts acknowledged, and spat.
The spike of dismay on top of the fright spearing her made Kajal feel sick. She fought to show nothing of the potent cocktail of emotions swirling through her, making her sweat. Max was Kane!
He hadn’t told her this vital fact. Oversight? Or something more? Was that why he’d behaved so oddly, lately? No, no, it couldn’t be. Max Sloane would not sell out his honour and his badge to join Callahan’s mob. He hated Callahan…didn’t he?
Max circled the thugs, around to her. “What have you found, huh?” He considered her, the dark waves of his hair glinting in the streetlight showing through the walls.
“She’s a cop, man,” Sidekick Two intoned.
“That so?” Max rubbed his jaw with a thumb, whiskers rasping. “That’s a problem, alright.”
Kajal twisted her wrists about inside the zip-tie so she could reach the stiff section on the cuff of her jacket. Bend it, scratch it or break it and an alarm would go up at the station. The built-in tracker would bring Chicago’s finest screaming to the rescue. Max had one, too, but Kajal knew he wouldn’t use it.
Max pulled out his gangster gun—a shiny nickel monster like the others. It hung from his fingers. “There’s only one thing to do with a cop once you’ve got ‘em like this,” he told Tatts.
A chill settled in her middle as Kajal sorted out the raw facts. Either Max had gone over, or he was still playing the role. She had made a mistake and let herself get caught. Now she was a deadweight and Max’s only way out was to kill her. And if he was Kane for real, then he would still kill her.
Send up the alarm! her panicked gut screamed at her.
Her heart protested. Let him finish the job. If he shot her now, he would absolutely be in with Callahan.
She dropped her fingers away from the stiffened section of cuff. The only thing she could do to help Max now was to die.
Kajal swallowed as Max cocked the big revolver. Suddenly, all she could think of was the St. Patrick’s Day parade, last March. Max had spent three hours making sure he wasn’t followed, so he could take a couple of hours to watch the parade with her—a necessary time-out so he could breathe, drink green beer, eat a hotdog and relax. They’d clapped and laughed and pointed. And when he’d tapped the neck of his bottle against hers, their eyes had met.
Only she had stuck to protocol and gone back to watching the parade, her heart hammering.
Should have let you kiss me, Kajal thought now, as Max brought the gun up to point at her heart.
(Plus pick up a bonus story, Dead End.)