BY JEREMY RIDDLE
About the author
“…enough power to contact” static “last time. You…” indecipherable “sound alone. We don’t know if this will work, but we had little choice but to make the attempt. There was” sound disappears for a moment “…unable to destroy” long burst of static “did damage it significantly, but not enough. We didn’t want the facility intact when Manson’s forces retook…” Garbled. “…have been bypassing our control, and trying to trying to communicate with someone from your time.” Fuzz. “…believe we have successfully scrambled these attempts, but our efforts have been crude and may have been ineffective. Be warned” static “ally to aid them. We will now make one last attempt to” destroy? “facility, and we can only hope…”
The last line was cut off by a tremendous explosion that jolted Parks awake, his ears ringing from the racket though he was in his own bed in his own apartment.
“Godammit, I hate it when that happens,” Parks growled, but he was only talking to himself.
The cops who had smuggled Braden out of the Fabrizzi compound were plenty pissed off when they found out he was gone, then they were even more pissed off when they found out Parks had taken him, figuring Parks had gotten their scoop. When they caught up to him, there was a lot of fuming, yelling, cursing, but nothing came of it all in the end because they couldn’t very well do anything about it.
They had covered up Braden’s existence, hauled him off to a broken-down cop-house several light years from their rightful stomping ground then sweated him down. No booking. No logs. No records. When Braden had asked for a lawyer, they had refused. Officially, Braden had never been in their custody, and if they tried to nail Parks for turning him loose they’d have to explain all this. It was quickly decided by all involved that the matter was best dropped. Robbery-Homicide was looking for Braden, and he’d probably turn up soon anyway.
But he didn’t. 375 pounds, and nobody saw hide nor hair of him after Parks cut him loose.
Probably in Siberia by now, Parks thought.
Parks had been working several angles in the weeks since the gangster murders. First, he tried to find out who had called him before he let Braden go, or, more accurately, who had been reading his mind at that moment. This dead-ended when he tracked the call down to a pay-phone fifteen miles from the station. Could have been anybody, then.
He spent some more time looking at what Braden had told him, found out it all panned out pretty much even with the fat man’s story. Then there was the flak jacket the Reaper had left at the Fabrizzi compound. The lab had gone over it, said it was shot to shit and whoever had been wearing it was probably dead because lots of rounds had gotten through it, and there was a lot of blood on it. The blood was preserved, and they could use it in a DNA test if there was ever a trial.
Don’t hold your breath on that one.
None of this led anywhere in particular, but Parks did find something interesting when he looked into what the Reaper had said to Fabrizzi.
For Harold King and what you would do to the future, you will die by my hand.
Harold James King had been a boxer who had the rare good sense not to stay in the ring past his own shelf-life. He never made a mint as a pugilist, but he did manage to sock away a little dough over the years and, when he retired still a young man, he bought a gym and hung out a shingle as a fight trainer. He did so-so business, mostly nickel and dime trade among the fight game's bottom-feeders. Then, one day, a young middleweight comes in the door and brings down the house—shitcans the best mid-pounder the place had to offer in three rounds—and suddenly it looks like King may have an honest-to-God contendah on his hands. Here’s where it gets interesting; the middleweight was Johnny Fabrizzi.
King takes Johnny under his wing, starts working on him. For two years, the kid does pretty well. He fights steady and gets a lot of knockouts, but he never learns self-discipline; can’t control his temper, loses his patience in the ring and gets careless. King does his best to brush the mean streak out of him without result. It doesn’t matter much at the time, because Johnny is just fighting bums—easy prey; young idiots who stand right in front of him and try to slug it out. Johnny gets impatient with the constant third-stringers, wants to do rounds with a real fighter for a change. King tries to talk him out of it, tells him he isn’t ready, but he keeps at it until King gets him a fight with a class opponent, a Grade A blood-and-thunder bruiser named Rico Villalobos.
Going into the fight, Johnny had never been knocked down. Villalobos took 28 seconds to remedy this oversight, then, just for good measure, did it six more times before the fight was over. He ended Johnny’s knockout streak, marked off his undefeated record, and, in five rounds, stole Johnny’s soul. See, Villalobos had Johnny dead-to-rights in two minutes, but, instead of putting him away, he decided to play with him a while. He’d dance around until Johnny had himself together a little then lay into him again. Between rounds, he pointed, laughed at Johnny, wisecracked with his corner guys. Johnny had spent two years convincing himself he could take anything, he was the best, he could become champion of the world, and the experience unnerves him so much that he leaves the ring forever.
King apparently tried to get Johnny to come back to no effect. They remain acqaintances, but information on what their relationship consists of from this point on is sketchy at best and often contradictory. A few months after the fight, something happens. Johnny shows up at King’s gym ranting and raving, wants to know where the fuck Harry is; he goes to a bar across the street and breaks up some guy pretty bad because the guy can’t tell him. Then he goes off and nobody sees him for two days.
Later, some very powerful people would claim they know where Johnny went; they were with him the whole time, in fact. One was a judge. One was a retired Senator, now an insurance lobbyist. That they were both widely rumored to be in the pay of mobster Anthony Fabrizzi was, of course, completely coincidental, just like the fact that Johnny flew off the handle like a madman a few hours before someone shot Harold King to death. The body showed up in a gutter outside King’s gym the day before Johnny showed his face in public again.
Parks learned all this from a reporter friend of his named Schultz and a detective named Levin. Both had worked the King murder in their respective occupations. Both told Parks it was Fabrizzi who pulled the trigger. Both were convinced this could never be proven. And on that Parks agreed. Now the question is this: if the Reaper is some sort of superbeing trying to alter future events, why does he care about all this?
Maybe there was more to it. Parks dug a little deeper. Turns out King had a wife who died of cancer three years ago. They had a son, David, still alive. Kid was seventeen when his old man died. Went through an emancipation hearing, and apparently still lives in the city. It was a longshot, but maybe he could help.
Maybe, except Parks couldn’t find him. There were lots of people who knew him, but it was like he had fallen off the face of the earth. Like Braden. Parks asked around, found out the kid knew lots of people, had a few friends, was sort of an introvert. Everyone called him Fortune because he was supposed to be able to see the future.
Had to be something like that, didn’t it? Couldn’t just be an ordinary kid—oh, no—not on this case. If it wasn’t such a cliché by now, Parks would have probably sighed and shook his head, and maybe even muttered something to himself like I’m getting too old for this shit. As it was, he just decided weird shit came with the territory in this case and tried to move on.
Something else weird turned up. David King’s best friend was an older kid named Tommy Lazare. At first, he couldn’t place the name, but he went back through his notes and found it in what he wrote when he talked to Mike Casey. Lazare had been one of the guys at Mike’s B & G the night Sam Braden had come in raving about the Reaper.
As it turned out, Lazare was also the last person to see David King. Lazare said he talked to him, told him all about Braden and what he had said. King acted really strange, the way he did sometimes, then said he was going for a walk, and that was the last anyone ever saw of him.
Parks didn’t know if it was worth the effort to try to track him down or not. He only wanted to talk to the kid because he hoped the kid would know what had happened between Fabrizzi and King. There were all sorts of rumors, nothing solid. Why would Johnny go ape-shit and kill his former manager? Does it matter?
Time will tell, I suppose.
Death Deals is copyright Jeremy Riddle. It may not be copied or used
for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews.
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