Meyers stepped into Wichtikl’s high-ceilinged receiving room, closed the left door, walked to the right door and closed it before he turned around to face the room and the muzzles of four handguns. Wichtikl and both DeMilnes held small, shiny, nearly identical twenty-five autos. Archie had his nickel-plated cannon. Rifat, furthest to Meyers’ right, held the pipe wrench in his right hand, cradled the wrench’s jaws in his left. Everyone looked surprised. All but Archie bore varying degrees of fear in their expression.
Other than the palpable tension that accompanies xenophobia, there was a marked lack of character in the room. As if furnished with a blank check and a designer’s catalogue. Well placed, expensive, colorless furnishings, their beigeness highlighted with small, gaudy embroidered silk throw pillows reclaimed from a Hollywood Chinatown whorehouse set. The garniture limited to a vase here and there and several foot tall bronze whisps of smoke statues, an arrangement of books that appeared glued together, placed for visual balance, not to be disturbed or read. A large, framed painting of the British fox hunt ilk dominated the wall behind a drawer-less desk that resembled a dining table more than a place where thought or work took place. Meyers thought of Marcia DeMilnes’ study, a room she wore like a second skin. Contrasted it to this room that, regardless of population, would feel lifeless.
He took his eyes off the guns long enough to witness a bolt of lightning some distance off the coast silently rip the blue-gray sky apart. He silently counted seconds waiting for the thunder. After twenty without a rumble, he quit, returned his gaze to the sparkling guns. These people. Their chrome weapons fashion accessories worn to dress up their anger and fear. None of them with any sense. Or skill. How the hell had any of them planned to leave this dead room alive? Should he bother to explain their predicaments to them, the old rock in a still, but seething-just-below-the-surface-pond maneuver, and see what happened? Or grab someone’s gun and kill them all? Because if he didn’t, a midget in a top hat on the other side of the doors would clean up any leftover breathers. There were things he needed to know first. Then they could kill each other with no assistance from him or the midget hit man.
“You walk in here like you ain’t, you know, a fuckin dead man?” Archie stabbed the air with his gun.
“Archie, in standoffs like we have here, the first person to shoot, regardless of who they shoot, gets shot by everyone else.” Meyers made eye contact around the room. “So you can all put your guns away, or down, or point them at each other because, as you can see, I’m empty handed.” He raised his chin to Wichtikl, who’d moved behind the dining table desk. “I met your gardeners on the way in.”
That seemed to ease Wichtikl, his gun moved from Meyers to Archie, Archie’s to Wichtikl. Dr. DeMilnes, to Meyers’ near left, was the most uncomfortable person with a gun Meyers had ever seen and he kept it frozen, aimed nowhere in particular. Which made him the most dangerous. Furthest to Meyers left, Marcia, tense as a statue, kept her gun level with her elbow, now on Archie, but ready to swing wherever her scanning eyes landed on a perceived threat or an outlet for her anger.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, people,” Meyers coughed lightly into his fist, “but all the ways any of you thought this was going to play are out the window.” His words met with stares.
“Come, Meyers,” Wichtikl, with an air of superiority saying, “If you think there is an identifiable agenda in this carnival, please. Enlighten us all.”
“Before Cavelli got the money for you, your first plan was for me to pad this meeting. You kill Marcia before she kills you, I kill Archie for you, Rifat too if he tags along. You keep ten grand worth of oxy, use the recordings in your safe to blackmail me into telling whatever home invasion story you come up with because you’re stupid enough to believe I wouldn’t cut your fingers off. a knuckle at a time if I had to, until I got the combination to your safe.”
“Close. How do you know about the contents of my safe?”
“I talked to Cavelli this morning.” Thunder rumbled far away, echoed off the mountains.
“Mr. Cavelli has a big mouth.”
“Had a big mouth.” Meyers checked his watch. “Cavelli is turning into dried baloney in the Nevada desert by now. Word got back to the people keeping him alive that Cavelli was freelancing. Burglary. Mugging. Bug planting. Collecting bids for domestic hits…” He turned to Dr. DeMilnes. “That’s what pissed them off. Cops know Cavelli is connected and the mob doesn’t deal in domestic disputes. Because amateurs like you looking to get their spouse or business partner whacked always make very stupid, very public mistakes. Right now I don’t know if you’re here to stop what you set in motion, or make sure it’s handled, but the midget in the top hat out there is your wife’s button man.”
The slide went back on Marcia’s pistol, latched forward with a small, bright ‘chink’ like a piece of chunky jewelry.
“And you,” he locked on to Marcia. “You had it in mind for me to kill Wichtikl for you as soon as you were sure he had your dog stolen. Him dead, oxy scattered around… Another bored rich man playing a dangerous game with bad people, you being sure that with a fat enough check in my pocket I’d sign off on it and walk away. It’s irrelevant now because your bigger problem is the blue Lotus in the driveway that says your husband thinks he’s already off the leash and allowance you keep him on. I don’t know if you have it in you to kill him and Wichtikl, but they both have it coming.”
“Say we ease up,” Archie waved his massive gun in an arc, “you know, on all you white people killin each other over dogs an other shit I don’t give a fuck about, know what I’m sayin, an somebody, you know, get me my fuckin money. Or, I kill all you motherfuckers with your pussy ass little guns, know what I’m sayin, so none a you gotta worry about who kills who, an me and my sand nigger be on our way with the forty-seven K.” Lightning flashed, closer.
“First he opens the safe,” Meyers moved toward Wichtikl, “or none of us gets what we want.”
“I could kill you now, Meyers.” Wichtikl said, raising his pistol.
“Like I said. Shoot me, everybody shoots you. At that point what’s in the safe only matters to a cop, a friend of mine and Archie. But the truth is I’m your only way out of this room alive. In fact,” He turned his head, clocking each of them, “I’m the only way any of you get out of here alive.”
Wichtikl laughed short and shallow. “I fail to see how that’s even remotely—”
“The DeMilnes are both on the midget’s list. Marcia on the Doc’s order, the Doc for booking it with Cavelli in front of witnesses. You and Archie were already walking dead. Archie makes too much noise in the street, you hired him. Even without that monkey on your back you’re being investigated by half a dozen government agencies. You’re a serious liability, Wick, and I’m all there is between you and your headstone. Open the safe.”
“Wait…” Archie’s voice now into angry female range. “You be callin’ me a fuckin monkey?”
“Motherfucker, say goodbye, know what I’m sayin? You been nothin but—”
Meyers took a step, slapped Archie’s hand, caught the .357. “You aren’t killing anyone. Yet.”
“God dammit.” Archie stared in disbelief at his empty hand. “Coulda shot you you walked in the fuckin door,” his voice still elevated, turned to Wichtikl. “You said no. The fuckin dee-teck-tive, the Messkins took his bullets, let him talk his shit, you know, we kill him later. Mother fucker…”
“Do I need to remind you it’s your gun he’s holding?” Wichtikl raised his pistol a little more.
“I wouldn’t.” Meyers had the .357 lined up on Wichtikl’s forehead. Archie moved slightly. “Don’t,” Meyers said without looking. “I blow Wicky’s arm off, get the combination any way I have to, then blow your foot apart with your own gun and you both stop being my problem. I walk, leave you two to the midget.”
“You be lettin that, you know, fuckin freaky ass midget motherfucker kill me?”
“In a heartbeat.” He pulled the hammer back on the .357. “Open the safe, Wichtikl.”