Complete text of Red Night by Jay Waitkus
GETTING into Manny’s estate wasn’t too difficult. One of the guards at the bottom of the hill gave me a little trouble, but he was out cold by the time it ended. The main house was enormous and well-protected from outside. Fortunately for me, I knew it well. Staying behind some trees near the gatehouse, I worked my way towards the kitchen area, went into a side door, and cut through. Before you knew it, I was in the study.
Manny was sitting at his desk, writing something in one of his ledgers. He didn't notice me until I took a couple of steps forward.
“Hello, old friend,” I said, and he looked up with a start. The expression on his face was one of surprise, and his right hand instinctively went for a gun in the desk drawer.
“Don't even think about it,” I cautioned, pointing my revolver straight at his heart. We looked one another over disdainfully. In that, we’d had years of practice.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he asked me, with the poison of a spitting cobra.
“You know damn well why I’m here,” I said. “Tell me what you’ve done with Carol.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You threatened her life,” I said. “Three days ago at the club. No-one’s seen her since. Now talk!”
“Didn’t happen,” he responded. “Carol’s paranoid. Always was. Her family has a history of insanity. Maybe she’s finally lost it.”
“She was lucid enough to kick you to the curb.”
“For a bum like you. Does that count for or against her?”
“Oh, I don’t know, Manny. I think I stack up pretty well against a scumbucket who beat her up every time she said good morning to him the wrong way.”
“I gave her everything!” he said, angrily. “I never touched her!”
“The scars on her back say differently. You’re nothing but a liar and a thug.”
“Your life’s so pristine, is it?” he asked. “I seem to remember a day when you were running the same numbers I was.”
“A day long gone,” I said. “I got smarter. You should have, too. Now where is she?”
“I don’t know. If you can’t keep track of your woman, what is it to me?”
“I’m only gonna ask one more time,” I said, inching forward with the 9 mm.
“What do you think you're gonna do?” he taunted, as he rose from his swivel chair. “You ain’t gonna shoot me. I’ve got guards everywhere. You’d never make it out of this house alive. Besides,” he added, with a self-assured smile, “we both know you don’t have the guts.”
I lunged forward and pressed the gun hard against Manny’s forehead.
“You’ve got a lot riding on that prediction.”
“I don’t think so,” he responded. “Like you said, you’ve gone legit. You never had what it takes to make it in my business. Your goddamn honor made you a liability. That’s why Carol and I worked so well together. She never had those kinds of problems. You want to know why she left you? It’s probably because she figured out you were weak.”
“Shut up, you piece of garbage.”
“Or what?” he taunted again. “I told you I don’t know where she is. Either pull the trigger or get the hell out.”
The gun was still pressed up against Manny’s temple. He didn’t move, but he didn’t seem bothered by it either. The conversation ended in a stalemate, forged by years of hatred. Every instinct I had told me he was lying about Carol. Manny wasn’t interested in what I thought, though. He didn’t believe for a second that I’d gun him down in cold blood.
By the following morning, the local cops were busy looking into a pair of suspicious killings. One of them was Carol, who’d gone on a bender and rolled her car. The other was Manny, found shot to death in his study, innocent of wrongdoing for the first time I could remember.
Publication date: 11/23/2008
Reissue date: 6/14/2021
Publisher: Elizabeth River Press
Cover image: NZ Graphics