Mystery and Crime Fiction posted July 9, 2017 Chapters:  ...42 43 -44- 45... 


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Granite arrives at The Operator's house

A chapter in the book The Last Laugh

Screams

by mbroyles2


The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.
The author has placed a warning on this post for language.

Chapter 44

Screams.

They ushered her back to consciousness. 

At first, they seemed to call out from a distant cave – hollow and deep.   As Barbara Paige developed a better sense of her surroundings, they became more real – piercing and full of terror.

The cries were followed by an unnerving silence.  The ringing in her ears provided the only sound.  Her heartbeat and breathing increased.  The improved circulation caused her head to throb.  A stinging numbness crawled over her body like a thousand ants.   As her vision cleared, she realized she was naked.  She sat on the floor.  Her hands were over her head and chained to a concrete post.  Swollen eyes, and dried blood blocking her nasal passage, were evidence that her nose had been broken.  She only breathed through her mouth which felt like a box of salt had been poured into it.   Swallowing her blood had nauseated her stomach.    I’m a mess.

Yet, she was not the source of the screams. 

The room was brightly lit with white floors and walls.  The air was heavy and damp, like a cheap overcoat.   At the far end, attached to the ceiling, and looped through an eye bolt, was a heavy duty chain and shackles.  Leg irons were fastened to the floor, and secured in them both was a battered Jimmy Daniels, leaning forward with knees bent, and his arms held over his head.

His eyes were closed, and his head rested on his chest.  At first, Barbara thought he had succumbed to his injuries, but then he coughed and spat frothy pink phlegm on the floor.  He was naked, like her, and his hair was so badly matted with grime and blood she couldn’t tell what color it was.  Even from a distance, she heard him wheezing. 

The Operator approached Jimmy, munching on an apple and waving the ledger at him.  “So I was told you broke the code and understand what all these numbers mean,” he said.   “That’s impressive.  So give me what I want and I’ll let you go.  That’s what you want, isn’t it?”

“I can’t,” Jimmy said in a voice so low Barbara barely made it out.

“You can’t what?”  The Operator asked.

“I can’t give you what you want.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

“Can’t.”

“I see.”  The Operator moved to a table along the far wall.  He placed the ledger down and picked up a pair of pliers.  “Alicia tells me you’re a regular Stephen Hawking.  She thinks you’ve not only figured out the code, but also know what the Ghost formula is and how to make it.”  He grabbed Brown’s hand and examined his fingers.  “You have pretty-boy hands.  Now, since I have the ledger, I’m sure I’ll find some other Einstein who can break it and give me what I want, so really it doesn’t matter to me.  However, it might matter to you.”  He locked the pliers around Brown’s index finger.  “What’s a computer genius do when he can’t type?”

“Leave him alone, you bastard!”   Barbara’s voice was stronger than she expected.  The Operator turned.

“Why, Detective Paige, so good of you to join in.  I was starting to wonder if I hit you a little too hard.  You’ll be glad to know that ole Jimmy and I are just finishing up.  I’ll be with you directly.”

“I said leave him alone.”

“Or what?  You’ll tell your boyfriend on me?  I suspect my brother has already spilled his guts and they’ll be here directly.  So, as you can see, I need to hurry.”

He locked the pliers again and looked at Jimmy.  “Shall we begin?”

Screams.

***

Matthew Granite arrived at the Operator’s house.  He hit the switch that killed the taillights, let the car roll to a stop, said, “Please let them be alive,” and slipped out the door and into the night.

In his youth, Granite had a taste for cocaine, given up when he decided to pursue a law enforcement career, and not touched since then; but now, as he slipped out of the car, and into the trees, he felt as high as he ever had on coke, with the same preternatural awareness, his senses reaching out through the trees to the house three hundred yards away.

Hazelton had given him the lay out.  Alicia had intimate knowledge of the place.  The Operator had converted an old root cellar into his private torture chamber.  There was only one way in. 

Maybe Marko was right. Maybe I should wait on Hazelton and the gang to show up.

Hazelton also mentioned that the Operator may have help.  He was advised to approach with caution.

In the trees, Granite moved slowly toward the old farm house.  There was a lot of light from that direction.  The light threw India-ink shadows behind each tree. Ten feet from the house, he found a particularly deep shadow and lay down in it for five minutes, without moving; watching and listening.

He saw a guard moving across the yard, away from him, he apparently had been assigned to the perimeter.  Granite decided he needed to take him.  He unsheathed his assault knife, a gift from Camille, and lay back in the weeds.  Three minutes, four minutes.  The guard had disappeared around the corner of the house, where a large generator hummed, and now reappeared, having walked all the way around the house.  He was a younger guy, hands in his pockets, peering here and there, but not obviously ready to act.

When he’d gone halfway around the house again, Granite took a breath, and, keeping a tree trunk between himself and the house, crossed halfway to the house.  At the tree, he paused again, watching and listening, and saw nothing.

Ten seconds, and he moved again, paused at another tree, then ran lightly across the yard to the house and lay down in a spreading arborvitae shrub at the house’s foundation. 

A minute passed, then another, and he lay completely covered and unmoving, on his stomach, so he could make a fast dash for the side tree line if he had to, like a sprinter coming out of the blocks.

A minute later, the guard ambled by, his head turned away from the house.  Granite started counting seconds under his breath.  At the same time, moving automatically, he stood up, grabbed the unsuspecting youth, and slit his throat in one smooth motion, pressing his left hand over the guard’s mouth to suppress the gurgling of death.  Granite dragged the body to the bush and turned his attention to the cellar.  He didn’t notice more guards.  He thought again about waiting for backup, and then;

Screams.


 
Matthew Granite       Investigator seeking the assassin and answers to the Ozlet girls' murders.
The “Operator”         The Assassin looking for a mysterious "box" that the Ozlet family has hidden.
Marko                         aka "The Mountain". A private bodyguard hired by Granite.

Camille                       aka "The Shadow". A former CIA agent hired by Marko
Jimmy Daniels             aka "Brown". A computer genius hired by Granite
R.J. McBride                Granite's former partner while on the police force.

Harold Banisek           Granite's business manager
Woody               
           Manager of "Stingrays" a bar owned by Granite
Mutton Chops              The leader of “The Chamber”
Todd Grilliot                 Mitchell Ozlet’s son by Marie Grilliot
John Hazelton               A Detective working on the Melody Ozlet murder case.
Barbara Paige               A Detective working on the Melody Ozlet murder case
 


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