First You Die: Chapter Two
First You Die, Chapter Two: Rick’s Late Night Visitors
Rick was asleep when he heard the buzzer ring. He turned over, glancing at the clock. Christ, it was almost three o’clock in the morning. He stumbled out of bed towards the door and pressed the intercom button.
‘Soopie’s been hurt and you must come immediately.’
‘What happened?’ He was still waking up, rubbing his eyes.
‘There was an attempted robbery. You must come right down.’
‘Okay, give me two minutes.’ Rick went to the phone and dialed the restaurant number. The line was busy. Shit, he thought, dialing the local precinct.
‘This is Rick Randel. I own Ricks Bar at 1240 Layfaette Street. What’s happening there?’
‘We’ve had no reports, nothing has been called in.’
‘Send a car over right away. I’ve just been notified of a robbery.’ Rick slammed down the phone.
He lived in New York City, lots of screwballs out there. New Yorkers did not open their door at the slightest knock- mostly to keep out the Chinese delivery boys from dumping menus in the hallway and it was too late at night for that.
Rick pushed the intercom button. ‘Can you come up?’ He pressed the door release button.
‘We’ll be right there.’
The voice sounded slightly Asian and there were two of them, at least, since the man had said “we” and who in New York called Sonia by her real name? Rick pondered these thoughts as he walked over to his refrigerator and opened the door. There wasn’t a lot of food inside. Usually he and Sonia ate at the restaurant or went out to investigate the new restaurants, see what was happening in the city.
Rick picked up his .38 caliber Police Special from the second shelf of the refrigerator. The Colt was a short nosed, five shot, small-handled weapon. It was an extra pistol that Rick kept in the apartment. Rick took the red and white bag of KFC chicken and shook out the pieces into the sink.
Amazing how Sonia could eat this stuff and still stay so slim he thought. The phone rang at the same time that there was a knock on the door. Rick ignored the phone as he slipped the KFC bag over the hand that held the pistol. Christ, he could feel the grease on the backs of his fingers. He would have to talk to Sonia, get her to stop eating this shit. Rick knew that if he opened the door the gun would not be apparent, just a bag of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
The phone shrilled insistently, ringing and ringing as Rick looked through the peephole. There was an Asian man in a dark blue windbreaker outside. Rick could only see one man, but he had said “We’ll be right there.”
‘Who are you?’
It’s the police, open up.’
‘Police men with no uniforms?’
‘Are you going to let us in or not?’
‘I don’t think so.’
Rick saw the man raise something from his arms. Rick stepped back from the door as a burst of automatic weapon fire exploded in the hallway.
He heard a scream as the slugs ricocheted against the solid steel door. Rick grimaced as he thought about the men outside catching some of their own bullets. Rick had not only a solid steel door but also a tempered steel doorframe with a foot thick concrete slab running a yard on either side.
This was New York City, not Ohio. Rick had steel jimmy bars bolted along the frame and door. The first thing the bad guys did was to take a crowbar and try to snap open your door if you weren’t home. The jimmy bars prevented that. If the crooks were really smart, they carried a small car jack and simply jacked apart the doorframe until the door swung open by itself. That would be impossible here. Rick’s loft, it was an entire floor, had never been robbed and besides, along with him and Sonia, he had twelve girls staying in the place and their safety counted.
Rick picked up the phone again and dialed 911. As soon as the operator came on line he shouted, ‘Shots fired-officer down-227 Franklin Street’ and hung up. He knew that if he stayed on the line she would ask questions for another ten minutes and he didn’t have time; he wanted to get over to the restaurant. He knew that the officer down part insured an immediate response. The phone rang again as soon as he set the receiver in the cradle.
‘It’s me-are you okay? They said they were going to kill you.’
‘I’m fine, what’s happening there? What about you?’
‘Don’t open the door. He said they were coming to kill you.’
‘I’m all right. I’ll be over as soon as I can. I just called the police.’
‘Yeah, I can see some red lights flashing way down the street.’
‘Go behind the bar and hold on to the Sig until the cops get there.’
‘I have it already.’
‘I just shot some guy.’
‘How is he?’
‘How do you think?’
‘Don’t tell me, I can guess. If you’re safe, put the gun down and your hands up. Cops get jumpy in these situations.’
‘What do you mean put my hands up? Aren’t you supposed to say that to criminals?’
‘For Christ sakes, can you listen to me just once? I’m coming right over.’
‘Rick, be careful,’ Sonia shouted.
He threw the phone down along with the Colt and ran into the bedroom. Rick picked up his Glock-18 and opened the front door. The floor was littered with brass shell casings and spots of blood were splashed on one wall. Rick raced down the stairs and across the street to the garage. The attendant was sleeping on his chair, his head back against the glass booth.
Rick slammed on the door. ‘My keys, give me my keys.’
The startled attendant groped for Rick’s car keys. Rick snatched them from his hand.
‘I’ll get it.’ Rick ran to his Jaguar and jumped in. He turned the key in the ignition and slammed the shift into drive. Rick roared out of the garage, turning left, heading towards Lafayette, his wheels screaming and bouncing on the cobble-stoned street.
Rick thumbed the safety forward on the Glock and set it on the tan leather passenger seat. The 9mm was cocked and ready to fire. It was a powerful and popular handgun. William Bratton had forever endeared himself to the transit police when he was the chief of transit by arming his officers with this fourteen shot semi-automatic pistol. The other departments, housing and city had to follow suit. Bratton later become police commissioner and dramatically lowered the crime rate in New York City, ending up with his picture on the cover of Time Magazine much to the chagrin of the Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Not everyone in New York carried guns. Rick was a businessman and had obtained a carry license from the city although they were mighty difficult to come by. By law the gun had to be on his person or kept in a safety deposit box.
As Rick turned onto Lafayette Street, he could see three blue and whites in front of his store, their red lights still flashing. He screeched to a stop by the front steps and jumped out. Two officers drew their weapons. Rick held his hands out in front
where the cops could see that they were empty. ‘I’m Rick Randel. I own this place. Who’s in charge?’
The officers nodded their heads towards the door and Rick bounded inside. Sonia was speaking to a heavyset man in a rumpled suit and tie. He wore fat thick-soled black shoes. He was obviously a cop and one of the largest men that Rick had ever seen. At about three-hundred and fifty pounds, he looked to be at least a hundred pounds overweight. He was wider than a refrigerator and his suit jacket hung on him like an old blanket thrown over a huge sofa. He looked as if he would have no trouble subduing a perp or even a half-dozen of them.
Sonia stopped talking as soon as she saw Rick. She threw her arms around him and hugged him. ‘Rick, I’m so glad you’re safe.’
‘You too,’ Rick said, kissing her, holding her close. Rick looked up to see bunch of uniformed officers eyeballing Sonia. She was tall for a Thai and had large expressive eyes, flowing dark red hair and skin the color of rich honey. In a city filled with beautiful women, Sonia was a standout.
‘Your guys got nothing better to do than hang around here?’ Rick jerked his thumb at the officers as he spoke to the detectives. There were two of them. The other one held out his hand.
‘I’m Detective Verrone and this is Detective Dutcher. You can call me Louis. We have to wait until the medical examiner gets here and pronounces the suspect dead. We have the pistol in custody. You can show me your permit of course? Hey, you guys,’ Verrone hollered, turning towards the group, ‘show’s over, you can go back to your coffee and donuts.’
Detective Verrone wore a light gray sharkskin suit with a silk tie and a white on white shirt. His hair was slightly graying and he had a neatly trimmed full beard streaked with silver.
Rick walked behind the bar, punched open the cash register and shuffled through the papers underneath the change drawer. Rick slid the business license for the pistol along the zinc-topped bar.
‘Did anyone ever tell you that you look just like Kenny Rogers?’ Sonia grinned, looking at Louis.
‘Sometimes, on a good day. Soon they’ll be telling me that I look like Willie Nelson. After we get done here, we have to go downtown and take your statements.’
‘We’re downtown already and it’s late for that. Can we come in tomorrow? I want to go home; it’s been a long day.’ Sonia tilted her head down slightly and looked up dewy-eyed at the cop. She blinked twice, her long lashes fluttering in a mix of innocence and trust. This was usually enough to get grown men to fall to their knees and she knew it.
‘I’m afraid not, Miss- Sonia is it?’ You just shot someone and you say it was self-defense and that’s supposed to be the weapon there on the floor, right?’
‘So if that’s a knife, it’s closed. It’s hardly a deadly weapon unless you bludgeon someone with it and I’m afraid it’s too small to be used as a club.’
‘So?’ Sonia frowned, crossing her arms in front of her.
‘We go by necessary force here in this country; you can’t just kill someone unless your life is in danger and there’s no place to flee.’
‘What do you mean flee? This is my restaurant and I’m not fleeing anywhere.’ Sonia scowled and scrunched up her face.
Louis raised both hands slightly, palms up and shrugged his shoulders. ‘See, that’s the problem. How could this guy threaten you with a closed knife?’
‘Maybe he fell on it and it closed by itself.’
‘Hey Louis, take a look at this will you.’ Dutcher leaned over the knife, pointing to it with a pencil. ‘It’s a Gerber combat folder. It has a ceramic blade, sharp as cut glass, which it is, reinforced with nylon threads, and the handle is Krayton hard rubber. Civilians are not allowed to buy these things, let alone carry them. Metal detectors can’t pick them up. I’ve only seen pictures of these. The blade locks into place, takes two hands to close it. So that blows the fall on it and close it routine. The lady’s got some explaining to do.’
The M E arrived and put a stethoscope to the dead man’s chest. Sonia just shook her head as this was a ridiculous thing to do. The man was obviously dead. A uniformed officer started to take pictures with a 35mm flash camera.
‘So if I let him cut my lips off and then shot him, you would be happier?’
‘What did you say?’ The examiner stood up. He wore wire-rimmed glasses and had a circle of white hair around a mostly bald head. ‘Say that again?’
‘I said this maniac wanted to cut off my lips and this cop here,’ Sonia waved her hand at Louis, ‘says I shouldn’t have shot him.’
The medical examiner ran his hand over his head, brushing a few strands back in place. ‘I just had a case the other day; an Asian girl had her throat cut and her lips sliced off along with her vagina. It was pretty gruesome. She had this huge bloody grin, laying there on the floor of a hotel room, blood all over the place.’
‘Jeeze, that puts a different light on things. But you still have to come to the precinct. They’ll want to compare these two cases for sure.’ Louis voice was a bit softer now.
Sonia picked up the reservations book and turned to the back page, holding the phone in her other hand. She ran her finger down the page looking for a number. When she found the one that she was searching for, she punched it into the receiver.
‘Who’re you calling at this time of night?’ Rick asked.
‘Larry the Lawyer. These guys want to talk; they can talk to him, just wait a minute.’ Sonia spoke into the phone and explained the situation to Larry.
‘Sonia, do you know what time it is? If I have to get out of bed and come down there now, you know how much it’s going to cost?’
‘Yes, I know exactly how much it’s going to cost.’
‘How do you know?’
‘You’re going to do it as a favor. So it’s not going to cost anything.’
‘What do you mean favor?’
‘Who gets you a table when you waltz in here with no reservation with some young thing that you want to impress? Who rolls out the red carpet-makes you look good?’
‘Okay, okay, first let me speak to one of the officers in charge.’
Sonia smiled and pushed the phone over to Detective Verrone. Let him get an ear full of Larryspeak. Not many people even knew Larry’s last name. Everyone called him Larry the Lawyer.
Larry had a cubby-hole office in the Empire State building and shared a secretary with a real estate attorney. Larry was short and solidly built. He resembled Jason Alexander who played George in the Seinfeld series, good-looking, pleasant and a bit on the harmless side. Larry was a great guy, always laughing and joking, a joy to be around until he had a client or got down to business; then he turned into a vicious, ravaging pit bull. It was an amazing thing to watch the transformation take place. Sonia waited to see Verrone’s face change as Larry talked to him.
‘This is Larry Reinlieb and I represent Soopies Nakhonsithammarat and Rick Randel. My clients have had a very long day and I would like to ask you, as a courtesy, to let them give their statements tomorrow. They’re tired and want to go home. I personally guarantee that they will be in tomorrow.’
‘No shit? Listen, I’m tired and want to go home too, but they have to come in and straighten this out, there’s a man been murdered here.’
‘Murdered? Murdered, did you say?’ Larry’s voice grew louder. ‘Do you know that’s prejudicial? If you take them in now, I’ll have the triple A in front of the station house first thing tomorrow morning and in front of your house too.’
‘I meant to say killed and there’s nothing wrong with my car, no flat tires or anything so you can send anyone you want.’
‘I’m not talking American Automobile Association here. I’m talking Association of Asian Americans. This can turn out to be a racially motivated incident.’
‘I don’t see how; one Asian shoots another.’ Detective Verrone was getting fed up with the conversation already.
‘No, I mean the incident between you and Sonia, the incident that’s going to take on a life of its own, explode in your face, you don’t cut some slack. It would really be too bad if this gets into your file. A thing like profiling minorities could make it hard to advance in grade. This kind of stuff gets into the papers, and you know who reads the papers don’t you?’
‘I have a feeling you’re going to tell me.’ Verrone’s mouth started to twist up on one side.
‘The Brass that’s who-all the Chiefs sitting at their desks in the morning, thinking about the bad publicity; seeing your name there.’
‘This is bullshit and you know it.’ Verrone’s face started to turn red.
‘Do you want your wife to wake up in the morning, have twenty protesters out in front of your house, placards with your name on them.’
‘My wife left me a long time ago.’
‘Little wonder given your insensitivity to women, Detective. Quit while you’re ahead and let my clients go home. I’ll be down in the morning with them.’
‘I start my day at four in the afternoon, you can come in then.’ Louis slammed the phone down and glared at Sonia, ‘You’re free to go. See you at four tomorrow.’
Sonia waied to Louis, bowing slightly, placing her palms together, touching her forehead. She handed him a key.
‘Can you guys lock up when you’re finished? I’ll pick up the key tomorrow. Keep an eye on the liquor will you.’ Sonia flashed a huge smile, put her arm around Rick and walked out the door. Sonia was still smiling as Rick opened
the car door for her