red riding "'hood"
The fire-red Harley Davidson Screamin’ Eagle V-Rod roared to life. James Esposito, better known as Jimmy ‘the knife’, took one final look back at his two storey Italian styled house, before speeding off down the street. Jimmy was known in certain circles as a reliable guy. If shit went down, Jimmy was the one you wanted with you. He was handy with a knife (or two or three) and this had gained him notoriety all across the state of New York, and indeed across America. On this particular day, his objective was relatively simple- deliver a package to his employer at a strip club, used as a front by the organisation. The strip club was a fair way away from Jimmy’s house, but on a day like today he didn’t mind making the journey. It was a beautiful spring day- the last snows of winter had long since melted, the sun was out and Jimmy knew that he had nothing else to do today except make this drop. He chose to ride his beloved Harley, as he had not ridden it all winter and he wanted to feel the warm spring air rushing at his face.
As usual, Jimmy scanned the road constantly. He wasn’t concerned about the police, they would never stop a guy like him, and even if they did, his employer had bribed the New York police department enough to ensure that he would never get a ticket. Any large police action against his other family wouldn’t happen on the street; that would happen at the each individual’s house so to ensure that the police could plant evidence in peace, without too many reputable witnesses. But in a profession like his, there was always the possibility of a rival family trying to gain more power. Being well respected within his family meant that he was a prime target and even though things had been quiet lately, Jimmy’s eyes scanned every nook and every cranny of every building as he sped past.
About halfway to the strip club, Jimmy sped around a corner and almost collided with a stationary van parked in the middle of the road. His bike swerved as he fought desperately to keep from hitting it. He hit the kerb and flew in the air, luckily landing on two wheels, with a resounding thud. He switched off the bike, inspected it for damage and, when he was satisfied that there was none, turned angrily to confront the idiotic driver who had almost destroyed his pride and joy. “What the fuck is your problem?” he yelled, “You fucking asshole, I almost smashed right into you! Get this piece off shit of the fucking road!” He moved closer and closer to the van as his rant continued. He still couldn’t see a driver or anyone close to the van. Jimmy circled the van but still didn’t see anyone. He decided to teach the van’s owner a lesson. He started kicking the van as hard as he could, leaving massive dents on the driver’s side. He smashed the driver’s side window and almost kicked a hole through the door.
Suddenly he felt a tap on his shoulder. “Excuse me,” a voice said, as he turned, “what are you doing?” Jimmy felt the rage rise anew from within him. Continuing with his destruction of the van, Jimmy screamed “Is this your fucking van? I almost fucking smashed right into it, you fucking son of a bitch! Get this fucking pile of shit out of my fucking way, before I kick the fucking shit out of you!” The owner of the van replied calmly “All right. No problem. No need to get angry. I broke down and was waiting for a tow truck.” It was only then that Jimmy turned and noticed something strange. The body of the van’s owner was definitely human, but the face was hairy, with big, sharp teeth, like a wolf’s. “Bit fucking early for Halloween, aren’t you?” asked Jimmy. The van’s owner simply smiled, showing the sharp teeth inside his mouth as he leaned closer to Jimmy. A low, guttural growl escaped the wolf’s throat and Jimmy could feel the hot, putrid breath of a wolf on his face.
You would think that this would have frightened Jimmy. But he had taken a lot of drugs from his teens into his mid-twenties. He was used to getting flashbacks like this one. But this one seemed different, in a way that Jimmy couldn’t quite put his finger on. Even though he just wanted to get back on his bike and ride away to clear his head, he felt compelled to stare at the wolf’s head. And when it spoke he couldn’t resist answering. “Where are you going today?” the wolf growled at him. “To the Firecracker strip club, to deliver this package to the boss.” Jimmy replied. “Well, off you go. He’s probably waiting for you.” said the wolf. Jimmy got on his bike, switched it on and resumed his journey. He took his time for the rest of the journey, trying to shake the bizarre meeting from his mind. He even stopped along the way to get a sandwich and a coke, thinking that food might help his addled mind.
Meanwhile, the wolf made his way to the Firecracker club, by a different and faster route. John Lombardi, aka ‘Johnny’, aka ‘Johnny Coke’ (a reference to the thick glasses he had worn since childhood), aka ‘Johnny C’, aka ‘Johnny Sightless’ (never to his face), aka ‘The Boss’, sat in his office at the rear of the club, waiting for the arrival of Jimmy. He too had nothing else to do, but had still arrived at the club almost four hours ago. He hated being at home with his wife, who was constantly nagging at him to get more money and to be careful. Careful! In his line of work- where every day he considered himself lucky if he came home at all. Unlike Jimmy, John had never touched drugs. He was old school, which meant that pretty much anything goes, except drugs. One of his friends from the old neighbourhood, Michael Satrioni, had tried LSD once and John had seen the result. Within two days, the whole neighbourhood had known about it. Michael had been beaten so severely by his father that he had to be taken to hospital, and when he returned, his father had shipped him straight off to military school. When he came back two years later, Michael was a changed boy. He had started saying strange things, yelling at invisible people on the street and scaring the whole neighbourhood, until his parents had enough, and he was finally sent to the asylum. John only visited him there once but that was all it took for him to decide that he never wanted to end up in that terrible place.
John wondered what was taking Jimmy so long. He was normally so prompt and efficient at everything he did. Suddenly he felt hot breath on the back of his neck. He spun around in his chair to see a wolf with a man’s body, staring down at him, saliva dripping from its fangs. It was the last sight he ever saw. The wolf’s teeth ripped through his neck, spraying hot blood all over the desk. John tried to scream, but air could no longer reach his lungs. He felt his life blood flow down his body as he slowly sank into the abyss of death.
Jimmy was feeling much better after eating. His mind had cleared and the confrontation with the wolf had faded to a dim memory. He was now sure that it had just been another acid flashback, possibly brought on by not enough sleep. “I have to stop seeing these damn broads every night of the week!” he thought, “Get myself some decent shut-eye.” The car park of the Firecracker was almost empty as Jimmy rode his bike in. If this had been any day between Thursday and Sunday he would have been suspicious, but it was Tuesday, early afternoon. Not many customers for a strip club this early in the week. He parked his bike in one of the spots marked ‘Employees Only’ taking care not to hit the poles between which chains could be strung, should the place need to be locked down. After dismounting he stopped for a few seconds to admire the bike. He whistled between his teeth as he rubbed a loose piece of dirt off the fuel tank with his sleeve.
The club was quiet as he walked through the front door. Not one customer sat at the either of the bars (one that served drinks and one in the front of the stage). No music was playing and there were no girls on the stage. Not much point performing just for Larry, the security guard, who stood looking bored on the far side of the club. Larry noticed Jimmy come in and raised his hand in greeting. Jimmy returned the gesture, then pointed to the door to the office, signalling that he was going to see the boss. Larry went back to reading his newspaper.
The first thing Jimmy noticed as he walked through the door was the darkness. Only one light was on at the other end of the office, leaving most of the office, including the desk where John sat, in shadow. “Can I turn some lights on boss?” Jimmy asked. “No!” John replied, in a particularly gruff manner, “I’ve got a splitting bloody headache! Let’s just do this and then I can go lie down.” There was no chair in front of the desk so Jimmy stood a few metres away. He peered into the darkness trying to see his boss. There was something different about him but he couldn’t quite make out what it was.
“Boss, have you been working out? Your arms look fucking massive.” Jimmy said. “I’ve been working out a little. I was losing my touch swinging a bat.” replied John, in a deeper than normal voice. “What’s with your voice, boss? It sounds different to normal.” asked Jimmy. John replied, “I’ve had a cold, it’s been fucking with my throat the past few days.” Jimmy peered into the darkness, sensing something wrong, but not quite sure what it could be. John did seem to be acting a little bit strange, but hey, he was the boss and was entitled to act however he wanted. Besides, it wasn’t Jimmy’s place to question the boss, he was just muscle in the family. He wasn’t even part of a crew, he just performed the tasks that the boss asked of him. “Are you sure everything’s alright boss? Your eyes look kinda strange?” Jimmy said, still craning his neck to try to see into the darkness. “What is this- a fucking trial? Enough with the questions! Did you bring what I asked you to bring?” John yelled gruffly, and, seeing Jimmy nod, added “Well don’t just stand there, bring it over here.”
Jimmy took a step closer to the darkness, the package held out in front of him, as if bringing an offering for sacrifice. As he got further and further into the gloom which shrouded Johnny’s desk, he noticed more and more things that seemed odd. Johnny’s shirt and jacket seemed to be bulging, as if they might rip at any time. His glasses, usually pressed against his eyelids, were perched on the tip of his nose, like he was looking over them rather than through them. Jimmy’s senses kept tingling, urging him that something was wrong. But he ignored them, sure that it was the strange run-in earlier in the day that was making him feel like this. Jimmy kept his eyes on the desk as he neared it. As he placed the package on the desk, he glanced upwards at the figure sitting on the chair.
With an almighty roar the wolf leapt over the desk, hitting Jimmy in the chest with its powerful shoulders. As he fell backwards, Jimmy fumbled for one of the many knives he always kept on his person. But the beast was too fast for him. It pinned his arms to the ground, as hot saliva dripped from its gaping jaws. Petrified, Jimmy tried to squirm free, to release the grip of the nightmarish creature. But it was too strong for him. He could only lay there as the wolf’s head lowered, seemingly in slow motion, to bite into the soft flesh of his neck. As his vision faded, he saw the wolf rise up and seem to remove its face but the explanation escaped him as his brain dissolved into nothingness.
The assassin stood above her latest victim and gloried in another job successfully completed. She removed the wolf’s head with its animatronic jaws and voice altering technology, grabbed the package from the desk and calmly escaped out the back door. Her employer would be pleased- both targets eliminated and a package to bring back as a sweetener. She removed the rest of the wolf disguise, quickly made a small pile of the clothes, wolf’s head and gloves and burnt them, then walked out onto the street. No alarm had been raised as yet, so no police or other gangsters were present as yet, but it wouldn’t have mattered even if there were. No-one ever suspected a grandmother.