Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Powder Burn Flash #21 - Jochem Vandersteen

a Noah Milano short story

The look of the two crewcut gentlemen in Hugo Boss suits and red ties screamed ‘fed’ so loud they almost beat the sound of Avenged Sevenfold’s guitars on my CD player.

One of them was a Hispanic guy in his late twenties with a long, flat nose and intelligent looking dark eyes. The other one was at least ten years his senior with salt-and-pepper hair and a small puckered scar on his chin. The older one knocked against my window.

“Please open the window, sir.”

I obeyed. “Good evening, gentlemen. What can I do for you?”

“We’d like to talk to you for a minute.”

“Sure, no problem. What do you want to talk about? Rock music? Comic books?”

“Cut the crap. Get out of the car. Keep your hands where we can see them.”

“All right, relax. Relax.”

I left the car. As soon as I was out my head was slammed flat on the roof of my car. My hands were held behind me and cuffed. The holster at the small of my back was emptied of the Glock inside. I heard the slide being pulled to empty the chamber.

“You have a permit for this?”

“I do. Check my papers. I’m a registered security consultant and private investigator.”

“We’ll talk inside,” the older guy said and pushed me forward. While we walked towards the bungalow I was parked in front of I noticed the Hispanic guy looking around paranoid.

The job that took me to that bungalow was routine enough. An insurance company asked me to do a background check on a new employee. What surprised me was that I couldn’t find much about the subject, John Spiegelman, before a year or so. Oh, there was a driving license, social security number and more of that stuff but I was missing credit card debts, parking tickets, insurance claims, phone bills. A year ago John Spiegelman was a phantom. That made me decide to follow him around a bit, check out the way he was living his life. After following him from work to a local Wallmart I ended up in this bungalow in Laurel Canyon.

I was brought into the kitchen of the bungalow. There were about as many electrical appliances and cooking utensils in it as at my place. That is only a phone to call for a pizza.

On a kitchen chair was another guy in a suit. This specimen had red hair and a linebacker’s build. When he saw us enter his hand went instinctively to the shoulder holster beneath his jacket.

“Take it easy, Brock. We’ve got it all under control,” the older guy said. Then he pushed me into a chair. “Let’s talk.”

“Could you take these cuffs off first? I think the chances are pretty slim I’m going to kill you all with my bare hands, not with all the firepower in this room.”

The older guy nodded. “Hernandez, uncuff him.”

The Hispanic guy freed me. I rubbed my slightly chafed wrists. Why some people were into bondage was beyond me.

The older guy put a foot on my chair, just between my legs. He leaned into me and gave me a hard stare.

“If you’re gonna kiss me please take a breathmint first,” I quipped.

He grimaced. “Funny. Hand me your papers.” I did so.

He glanced over my driver’s license and PI-license. “Milano, huh? You’re Robert Milano’s kid aren’t you? I heard about you.”

“That could well be. What are you; US Marshall, FBI, DEA, ATF? I’m betting US Marshall, right? I think I just stumbled on a Witness Protection deal. The way all of Spiegelman’s official papers are all okay but the unofficial papertrail is non-existant... All of you well-armed suited gorillas hanging around…”

“I’ll be honest with you, buddy. I really don’t like a mobster’s son stumbling in here. Chances are pretty high you’re here to hit Spiegelman. We just can’t take that risk.”

“So what are you going to do? You’ve nothing to charge me with. Are you going to kill me then?”

He seemed to consider that. Then his head exploded.

Brock and Hernandez drew their guns. I dove from my chair.

In the door opening two armed men appeared. One was dressed in a rumpled suit with a tie way too big for current fashion. His dark hair was too long and he wore a porn star moustache that made him look like he just left a Time Machine on its way back from the seventies. In his hand was a smoking 9mm Beretta.

Flanking him was a large, bald man wearing glasses that were so big they resembled skiglasses. He had on a brown leather jacket with a fur coat, a Metallica T-shirt underneath. In his hands he was carrying a shotgun.

The two feds fired their guns at the intruders while I freed the dead fed’s gun from his holster. Then I made a run for it.

The door that led outside was blocked by the intruders so I had to choose the other one. While their guns exploded and the air filled with the smell of gunpowder I crashed through the door into the living room.

John Spiegelman, a thin man with a receding hairline and hornrimmed glasses was cowering in a corner. A goodlooking thirty-something woman with dark hair was trying to work the window open, crying and screaming. That had to be his wife. I guess they’d hurt the gunshots.

The woman turned her head to me. She saw my gun and froze. “Please don’t kill me,” she pleaded.

“Relax, I’m one of the good guys,” I said. “Let me open that window for you.” I used the butt of the gun to break the window.

John Spiegelman left his corner and scrambled to the window. “I gotta get outta here!”

“Ladies first,” I said and took Mrs. Spiegelman’s hand to help her through the window. She placed a foot on the windowsill and went through.When John wanted to follow her a loud bang announced a bullet coming our way. It went through the window, just barely missing us all. I pointed my gun at the source of the bullet. The hitmen had entered.

The three of us fired in unison. I caught the big guy in the throat. Blood spurted out, showering his glasses. I felt a bullet go through my shoulder. It burned like hell and made me drop my gun. Another bullet went clean through Spiegelman’s head. Seventies Man was a pretty good shot.

I was on my knees, my hand clutching my shoulder to try and prevent me from bleeding to death. Seventies Man kicked my gun away from me and put his Beretta against my head. So this was going to be it, I was going to die for some mob snitch?

There was a sound like a whisper, then Seventies Man’s arm went slack, his Beretta slipping from his hand. He crumbled to the floor. Blood ran from his neck down his collar.

In the doorway was an old acquaintance.


Dressed in a black duster, holding a silenced 9mm was my old mentor, my dad’s right hand and assassin. “You turn up at the strangest places. You’re lucky my two men are expendable enough to allow me to save your ass.”

“Spiegelman was in the Witness Protection Program because of my dad?” I asked.

Kane nodded. “He was one of your dad’s accountants and ready to testify against him. He sent us to take care of it.”

I shook my head. “I’m glad I left that life behind me.”

Kane gestured towards the dead body of the big shooter. “You seem to be doing a lousy job. No place to hide from your past, buddy. Just ask Spiegelman.”

“Fuck you,” was all I had to say about that. I am so quick-witted sometimes.“Right. Go outside. Have Mrs Spiegelman drive you to the hospital, get that shoulder taken care off. I’ll clean up after us here.”

I stumbled outside. Mrs Spiegelman was opening her car. It then came to me she didn’t know yet her husband was dead. Shit, I hate bringing bad news.


BIO: Jochem Vandersteen has been writing about Noah Milano for quite some years now and remains his favorite protagonist. For more about the author and his character visit http://www.noahmilano.tk/ or buy his novel, The White Knight Syndrome.

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