The Vengeance of Thomas (coming soon)
Updated: 5 days ago
The third book in a series that includes The Second Coming of Angela and The Resurrection of Carlo is coming in the near future. A sample chapter to entice you.
Chapter 1 : Joes Tavern
It was half past midnight, pitch black and with a slight drizzle of rain, when the Mustang pulled up to the curb in a more than seedy neighborhood of Toronto. The driver, Thomas De Angelo, shut off the engine and scanned the street. It was empty. Not a soul to be seen. He glanced at the decrepit building to his right. The neon sign in the blacked-out window blinked erratically. More than a few of the letters had burned out, but he could still make out the name. Joes Tavern! It was his destination. He stepped from the car and walked slowly towards the building. The front door was a well-worn oak with a filthy rectangular window no larger than about eight inches high and six inches wide. A dirty and yellowing sign hung from a string on the opposite side of the glass. It said 'Open.'
Through that small window, he could see that not more than four steps inside the front entrance were a set of saloon-type swinging doors. Between the obstructed view caused by those, and the blacked-out windows, it was impossible to see anything of the interior. He quietly opened the door and stepped inside. Bolting the lock behind him, he turned the soiled sign to its opposite side. Joe's tavern was now 'Closed.'
Adjusting his overcoat, he took a deep breath and pushed his way through the swinging doors. Some very foul odors had confronted him in life, but nothing prepared him for what now assaulted his nasal passages.
They say that the nose becomes immune to odors if exposed to them for a certain period of time. There was hope that the period in question was only about three seconds. No such luck. He thought that if one had to describe the smell, they would have to say a combination of booze, stale urine, rotting food, and what he could only imagine might be the odor associated with a rotting corpse. A nauseating combination, if ever there was one.
It was doubtful that this dump had ever received any visitors so immaculately dressed from head to toe. The fact that his color coordination consisted of a black shirt, black suit, and black topcoat may well have given a sinister appearance to his demeanor. If there had been any conversation taking place before his arrival, it had stopped abruptly, and all eyes were on him.
Surveying his surroundings, he absorbed every detail. The place was even more disgusting than its exterior appearance might have suggested. The hardwood floor was almost totally devoid of its original coloring and worn into a furrow on a direct path to the bar. The numerous patterns of discoloration indicated that it had been the recipient of multiple stains from spilled drinks and the occasional blood spatter. Cigarette butts were everywhere, and the burns on the floor were numerous.
The bar, along the wall to his right, appeared to be mahogany and had its share of burns, scrapes, and notches that seemed to indicate that more than a few bored drunks had settled in with a knife in hand to whittle the hours away. Opposite the bar and to his left was a series of booths. Four in all! Appearing to be mahogany as well, they were equally scarred, and the seating areas were covered in a red vinyl that was well-worn, severely cracked, and had more than an occasional strip of duct tape applied to keep the stuffing where it belonged. The entire wall above the booths was a sequence of mirrors. Each one was faded and had that ink blot appearance that comes from age and the deterioration of the laminate applied to the mirror backing. Dingy yellow light illuminated the entire scene. The walls were decorated, if one misuses the word, with beer, liquor, and soda signs. Some were more than simply old. They were, in fact, quite valuable as collectibles. The market for that kind of thing was strong. He found himself thinking what a pity it was that the Mustang had such a small trunk. They'd never fit.
Focusing his attention on the far end of the room, he saw a lopsided pool table with patched and well-worn felt. That was when he noticed someone who didn't fit the scene. A quick count had been taken, and a hasty appraisal had been made of the place's occupants. Behind the bar stood Joe, the owner of the tavern. Burly, standing about six feet two inches tall and well over two hundred pounds, he had a grotesque scar down the right side of his face and was definitely a somewhat frightening-looking vision. His eyes were penetrating and cruel, yet almost overshadowed by the bushiest eyebrows one had ever seen. He seemed more than suspicious of this new visitor's presence.
Three people were seated at the bar on chrome and vinyl stools. One was a mountain of a man dressed in bib overalls and a plaid shirt. He sported a mane of scraggly and unkempt hair that reached past his shoulders and looked like it hadn't seen shampoo for months or even years. He was a mountain, but one with a sizeable belly that kept him seated well back from the bar. The well-dressed intruder immediately nicknamed him Fat-boy, no disrespect intended to the Harley-Davidson of the same name. He appeared no less suspicious or disconcerting than Joe. Three stools down, there was a scrawny little turd of a man. Mousey-looking and appearing just a little nervous about this new situation, he sat there in his polyester slacks and pink shirt with a trembling hand that caused his beer glass to deposit portions of its contents on the floor, adding to the already substantial collage of stains.
Now don't misunderstand. This new visitor liked cleavage. He loved cleavage. He just wasn't that fond of it when it had more wrinkles than a set of bed sheets after a three-hour ride with a coked-up nympho. Unfortunately for his poor eyes, it was the first thing he noticed about the well-worn and well-used hag sitting next to the wimp in the pink shirt. Her hair was dyed so black that all he could think of was that forgotten hostess of horror flicks, Elvira. An old, wrinkled Elvira! Her face was in serious competition with her cleavage for the 'most grotesque wrinkles' award. Her eyes were almost vacant, her mouth absurdly red with lipstick, and her sunken cheeks packed with so much rouge it looked as if she had been punched a few times. Hard! What a rough life it must have been.
That brought him back to the one that didn't fit the scene. Leaning against the pool table was an evil-looking sort. He fit the picture well enough. He was definitely hardcore, short, tattooed, and sporting a Fu Manchu mustache to offset a balding head. His right hand had a firm grip on the shoulder-length hair of the one who didn't belong. Pressed back against the rail of the pool table, with fear in her eyes, was a well-dressed and quite pretty young woman. Blonde hair, blue eyes, and a gorgeous face were the perfect topping for what appeared to be a stunning figure. The first four buttons of her blouse lay strewn on the floor at her feet, and her black bra was askew, causing partial exposure of her left breast. There was the unmistakable feeling that she hadn't been what one would consider a willing participant in whatever was taking place before his arrival. No matter: it was time for the show.
"Folks, I'm here to offer a hell of a deal to anyone with a cell phone. Who has a cell phone here? Anybody?"
There was silence, accompanied by some understandably blank stares in his direction. He deliberately, yet slowly, made his way to the far end of the bar as he spoke.
"Seriously, people, this is a great opportunity. All you need is a cell phone. Now come on, does anyone have one?"
Finally, there were murmurs of sound as one after another mumbled a quiet 'no,' probably wondering if he was insane.
"Ahh, that's a pity," he said. By then, he was at the end of the bar, standing next to the telephone that rested beside a glass of swizzle sticks. It was an old phone. He was sure it was identical to the one that sat on a stand in the hallway when he was just a little kid, and that was too long ago to even contemplate.
He looked directly at the bartender and asked, "Is this the only phone in the place?"
"Yeah! What's it to ya?" came the gruff response.
"Just asking," he said as he retrieved a knife from his overcoat pocket and cut the cord. Once it was determined that there were no cell phones, that phone was the only means of communication with the outside. Now there was none. He wasn't certain what it was about him that had created such a den of silence. A harsher reaction had been anticipated, and yet everyone remained in a state of motionless quiet. All except for the bartender. As distorted as the mirrors behind the booths might have been, they still picked up the reflection of Joe reaching under the bar and retrieving a sawed-off baseball bat. Seconds before that lumber would have made a dent in his skull, the stranger pulled a silencer-equipped nine-millimeter Beretta from the shoulder holster beneath his left arm and shot Joe in the chest. The look on Joe's face was one of priceless shock. With his eyes now less frightening and his mouth agape, he clutched his chest and staggered back against the liquor display case. A few bottles crashed to the floor as he thrashed about. Within no more than five seconds, he collapsed in a heap.
It was hard to say if the patrons were too drunk, stoned, or just too stupid, but there wasn't a sound, even after witnessing a cold-blooded killing. That is, except for the pretty young lady who didn't fit the scene! She let out a brief and somewhat stifled scream before she fainted and fell back onto the pool table. He now pointed the Beretta at each of the remaining patrons in turn.
"Would the conscious among you kindly move over to the booths and take a seat? All in the same booth! Leave the girl where she is." Nothing! Not a muscle moved in any one of them.
"Now! And I won't ask again. I'll start shooting those who don't follow instructions."
That final suggestion seemed to be the proper motivation. With the four of them now seated, the mousey guy next to his aging lady of the night, and the two more threatening characters side by side, the inquisition began. Retrieving his cell phone, he opened the picture file and showed them a photo.
"Anyone know this man?" There was no response. The two tough guys didn't even look. They just sneered and glared directly at him. There was only one thing to do. He pointed the Beretta at Fat-boy and pulled the trigger. The behemoth grabbed his chest, gasped for air, his face became pale, and then he dropped face-first onto the table. Suddenly a chorus of voices confirmed recognition of the man in the photo.
He handed the withered old gal a notebook and pen and told her to write down the information that everyone was about to provide. And there was plenty. He wasn't sure why it was that a group of people who had just witnessed him kill two men in cold blood and could describe him to a tee would believe it when he told them, 'Tell me what I need to know, and I won't hurt you,' But they did. You can imagine their surprise when, after gaining the information he wanted, he did to them exactly what he had done to the others. Surprise indeed.
He stuffed the notebook in his pocket, re-holstered the Beretta, and headed for the pool table where the pretty young thing still lay unconscious. He adjusted her bra to cover the partially exposed breast, straightened her blouse, and hoisted her over his shoulder. With her body wearing down his tired legs, he headed for the back door, which exited into a stench-filled narrow alley between the bar and a boarded-up hardware store.
He carried her the seventy-odd feet to his car, around garbage bins, broken glass, and the occasional rat, and then placed her in the passenger seat as gently as possible. After all, she had nothing to do with this. She was only an innocent bystander who had been about to be raped by the perverts of Joe's Tavern. He got behind the wheel and headed for downtown, the black Mustang GT slithering through the night at the legal speed limit. The three-hundred horsepower engine liked a bit more action than that, but attracting the attention of a passing Police cruiser would have been totally inappropriate at that particular time.
But what to do about this girl? The only plan he could devise was to leave her outside a Hospital Emergency Room and then make an anonymous call to direct them to her whereabouts. Of course, that idea went out the window the minute she regained consciousness.