Through the light rain the black limo sped along the long ribbon of empty asphalt. Headlights knifing through therain and gathering dusk with narrow beams of white/yellow intensity.
The countryside. A few miles outside the city.
Beyond dusk. But not quite night. That in-between when certain colors in the gathering dusk seem to feed into a long smear of various grays while other colors became vividly brilliant. Outside, through the rain, the bottomless pits of his jet black eyes watched the oranges and yellows and dark reds of the forest foliage flash past in one long continuous monotony.
A brisk cold wind. Rain. The promise of a harsh winter.
The promise of death gripping the earth six or eight months.
The colorless grays . . . the cessation of spontaneity; of laughter. Of friendships. Of Life itself.
Life and Death. The full circle. Filled with all the vagaries associated with it. The lies. The deceits. The treacheries. The loyalties. The promises broken. The promises kept.
Sitting between the two mountains of men on either side of him, hands behind his back and firmly tied together by a strand of rope, he sat in the tomb like silence of the limo and watched the rural colors surrounding the highway. The twin peaks beside him said nothing. Remained motionless; their eyes staring straight ahead. But they were massive. Their mass squeezing in on him as he sat between the two in the leather of the limo’s rear seat.
In front sat two men. One, the driver, was much smaller than the others. He was a man in his late forties with a high forehead, a strong jaw line; a Latino look to him. There was a hard set to his lips as he worked the steering wheel in silently. The look, possibly, of a man being forced to do something distasteful. Doing something he had to.
Sitting on the passenger side of the front seat was an older man. Older, white haired, jowly. He was dressed in a superbly tailored three piece business suit starkly conservative in cut and smoking a very large Cuban cigar. As the Latino drove the white haired man kept tapping the window of the passenger side door with the metal of a heavy ring filled with diamonds. An irritating, repetitive tap tap tap of coiled, suppressed anger.
The silence was broken after the man sucked on the cigar once, blew smoke above his head and half turned to glare with maleficent intensity at the small man sitting between the two mountains of muscle and bone.
“I don’t get it, Smitty. I really don’t get it. You just breeze into town and try to set up a hit on me by making promises to Jorge here. You think the boys back east would be smarter than that. Jorge’s been with me for four or five years now. The boys back east must be going soft. No wonder they’re losing their touch.”
The Latino behind the wheel said nothing as he drove. But the muscles in his jaw hardened. Eyelids narrowed.
A moment of silence followed. Broken suddenly but a grunt of amusement as the fat man shook his head in disbelief.
“What the hell did they tell you, Smitty?Did they tell you Jorge would turn against me?Jorge?He’s like a son to me. He’s married to my daughter, for chrissakes!Surely your boss must have known the moment you approached him with that crazy assed proposition Jorge would call and tell me the news. Come into town with an offer to turn my organization over to Jorge with the addition of more territory to come if he agrees to do nothing to stop you from killing me?I mean, come on!Just how stupid do you think we are out here?Christ!Just stupid. Just fracken stupid!”
The fat man barked out a harsh grunt of laughter, glanced at his son in law, then, still beaming, stuck the cigar between his thick lips and glared out into the rain filled dusk in silence.
For a half hour they drove. As they drove the rain began to drop from the heavens with a grim intensity. At the end of the half hour the big sedan slowed to a crawl before turning off the pavement of the highway and onto the white gravel of a sweeping curved driveway leading up through a heavy line of dark trees. Coming to a halt the twin peaks sitting on either side of him moved for the first time. Throwing doors open the rolled out into the rain and looked the rural setting over before one of the men reached in with a meaty hand and pulled the dark eyed man rudely out of the car.
“Over there,” the fat guy said, using the cigar between stubby fingers to point in a direction.
From behind the big limo one of the mountains of flesh appeared with a shovel in his hand. The other reached inside a pocket of his rain coat and pulled out a switch-blade. Snapping it open he turned Smitty around and sliced off the plastic strap that had bound his hands together. Turning around again the shovel sailed through the air forcing Smitty to catch it with one swing of a hand.
“Far enough,” the fat guy rumbled and then chuckled.”Start digging, Smitty. Make the hole deep. You’re gonna be spending a long, long time in it.”
The rain continued to fall steadily. As he dug the four men stood hunched over in their raincoats and fedoras and watched in silence. Between two colorful Popular trees deep in a large swath of trees the grave began to take shape. It was hard work digging through the mud and near frozen ground. Hard work. Steam drifted off his brow and top of his head from the his exertions as he dug. But Smitty kept digging. Never slowing. Seemingly impervious to the rain. The cold. The physical work.
And the rain continued to fall steadily.
As Smitty dug the four men watched him silently but with eyes which began to be filled with puzzlement. The hole was not deep. It was maybe three feet deep. But it was wide. Wide enough to hold several bodies at a time. When he stood up and tossed the shovel to one side, turned, and stepped out of the hole to face the fat guy Smitty had a smile on his face.
“What the frack is going on, Smitty?What the hell are you trying to do here?”
“My client said you and your organization had become an embarrassment to them, Booker. New leadership had to be found. Leadership that both would listen to new ideas and willing to take some risks. But the top of your organization had to be removed swiftly and cleanly before the new leader took over. That’s why they sent me here. To make sure their wishes were complied with.”
“But you’ll notice we’re the ones holding the guns,” Jorge said, smiling wickedly.”Apparently your plan didn’t work out so well, eh amigo?”
“Just the opposite, Jorge. Just the opposite. My task was to get to you and to your father-in-law. Take both of you out at the same time. I knew how loyal you are to the man who is the father of your wife. I knew if I approached you first with the idea of killing him you would run to him immediately. Tell him everything. I knew doing that the two of you would personally make sure I was rounded up and dropped into the river or a grave as soon as possible. So here we are. The grave is ready.”
Jorge looked at his father in law and shrugged. The fat guy looked at his son in law, a look of puzzlement . . . and growing fear . . . clearly visible in his face. Turning their attention back to the dark eyed man standing in front of them. Jorge, angry, took a step forward and lifted a . 357 Colt Python up and pointed it at Smitty’s chest.
“So who is it?Who’s supposed to take us out?”
A cruel, unnerving, half sneer spread across the dark eyed man’s lips.
“Who suggested coming out to daddy’s farm and burying me in a deep hole?”
“No . . . . !”
Two rifle shots. Spaced together so close it sounded like one. Jorge’s head exploded into a cloud of thick red vapor. Brain matter and blood splattered all over the raincoat of father in law as Jorge’s body lurched forward and dropped into the wide hole in the ground now half filled with rain water. The splash of water from the dead man falling into the hole soaked the fat man’s shoes with dead leaves and muddy water.
Behind the fat guy one of the mountains of flesh caught the second rifle bullet in the chest. The shock of the bullet ripping a hole as big a fist into his chest made the giant ram into his partner, forcing both of them to lose their balance and fall into the grave.
The harsh thunder of Jorge’s . 357 now in Smitty’s hand barked once and the remaining mountain flesh was as dead as the first. Turning to face the last remaining man alive, that cruel sneer on his lips, Smitty saw the fear, the terror, the disbelief in the fat guy’s eyes.
Movement to one side caught their attention. When the fat guy turned and saw who had materialized out of the forest with a bolt action Remington strapped over her shoulder, all color drained from his face.
“Meet the new boss. Your daughter, Booker. You trained her to take over the business. You taught her how to be ruthless. Taught her how to shoot a gun. Paid for her college degrees you knew would help her run the organization more efficiently. But she’s a woman. Just a woman. And you knew deep down in your soul she wasn’t up to the task. So when Jorge shows up and flashes his charm around you see a miracle. You force your daughter to marry Jorge. You tell her she’s not going to be your heir. You tell her job now is to be a good wife and have lots of babies.”
“I told you, father, I was going to divorce Jorge. Didn’t I? I told you I wanted to run the organization. Didn’t I, father? Didn’t I? But you wouldn’t listen. You’ve never listened to me. So . . . I made a deal with the devil. And here we are. Goodbye, father. I love you!”
Somehow Jorge’s.357 was in her hands, smoke curling out of the barrel as her father’s body dropped into the rain water followed by a tidal wave of muddy water and settled into the mud beside his dead son in law.
The colors of Fall.
The cold. The rain.
The gloom. The treacheries.
Death and Life. One never knows until the moment comes.
Another Smitty story by that crazy old grump, B. R. Stateham. He writes’em and hopes someone, somewhere, actually reads’em.
4 thoughts on “The Colors Of Fall by B. R. Stateham”
Great to see Smitty the dark angel back.
I liked the ending, Brr, with the daughter taking over.
The atmosphere of this story is about as cold and daunting as one can get. The beginning and end are like bookends- open and shut in one dark hole. Forever.
Good to read you here again.
Short, stabbing lines effective in compounding the narration. Nice work.