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The Tough Guy the Syndicate Couldn't Kill

Copyright 1975, 2002 by Bruce Jaeger. All rights reserved. 

     I pulled on my clothes, kissed Tina a quick goodbye and jumped out into the hallway, just as Big Al's guards came thundering around the corner. My 45 bucked in my hand, spewing lead death at the bully boys as they stumbled over each other in useless attempts to dodge the deadly hail of bullets.
     I legged it down the hallway, pausing a childish instant to place a slug right between the eyes of Big Al's portrait that hung on the grimy wall at the end of the corridor. I ducked into an office and listened to a lot of shouting, back from where those guards were stacked over each other like a bunch of bleeding red dominos.
     A dozen feet were making noises my way as I looked around the room. A greasy junkie with a patch over one eye was sitting at a battered old schoolteacher's desk, counting big stacks of the long green and writing numbers in a book. I took out his other eye with a snap shot from the hip before he could ever put down his pencil. Looking around, I saw there was a back room, so I grabbed a stack of C notes and hit the door.
     The room was empty. It must have been Big Al's own office--the carpet was so thick I damned near tripped on it. Another of his crummy pictures was on the wall, and there was even a plaster bust of the fat crook sitting on a corner of a desk. I was busting that up with my gun butt when the guards crashed into the outer office. I emptied another clip of dum-dums at them just as they started jabbering about the flunky I'd hosed off.
     I left through the outer office, walking carefully and trying not to step on the pieces. Another bunch of jerks started shouting as I found a door leading downstairs. This guy had his own damned private army! I locked the door behind me and ran down the steps, taking them four at a time until I nearly broke a leg and forced myself to slow down.
     The steps ended at a steel door that had one of those little glass windows with the steel wires in it. Luckily, it was meant to keep people out, and not in, and I opened it to step out into an underground garage. There was a shark-faced gunny standing guard, and I clobbered him before he could open his mouth to cry mama. I wiped his face off the butt of my pistol onto his shirt, then climbed behind the wheel of a huge silver-gray Cadillac. The keys were in, so I twisted the motor into life and got out of there. The garage door didn't hardly slow me down.
     I got about a block. They had the road blocked with one of those big garbage trucks with the crusher on the back, and before I could slam the lever in "R" some other creep jammed me in with a rusty monster old Buick. I tried to be cagey and sneak out the passenger side, but one of them must have made it past the third grade. Because all of a sudden I saw stars. Then nothing.

      I came to back in Big Al's office. Sitting behind his desk and knocking bits of plaster on the floor was Big Al Fiona himself. He looked like a toad wearing a shirt. I tried to bust his face for him, but I couldn't move. They had me tied to one of the chairs from the outer office--and they hadn't even bothered to wipe the gore from it.
     Big Al spoke, in a croaking whisper that made him even more like a toad. "I'm going to kill you!" Hell, he didn't need to tell me that!
     "See, how come?" I asked. Who knows, maybe I could stall him enough to find a way out. "Is it because I made ground beef out of about twenty of your creeps?"
     "No," he replied, still with that voice that made me feel like I was growing warts. "They were pretty stupid, if you could kill them that easily." Real flattering.
     "Um, how 'bout because I took all that money?" I was working my wrists back and forth behind the chair, but whoever tied those knots could give seminars to Boy Scouts.
     "No. That money was peanuts to me."
     "Is it because I smashed your statue? Heck, I'll buy you a new one!" Those damn knots weren't slipping!
     "No." He stretched his fat toad fingers, then flicked a chunk of plaster into my lap.
     "I scratched up your new Caddie?" I felt the muzzle of a gun touch my neck, and I stopped working my wrists.
     "No," he croaked. "You're going to die because you kissed my girl, Tina."

     I knew right then that he was slaying me for a pucker.  


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