A short story by Thought Horizon. All rights reserved.
Michael breathed in the heavy smoke that kept him going. He exhaled, relaxing against the brick wall of the building he was leaning against. Den “The Dealer” Smith enjoyed his cigar, but that was Dealer’s way for you – go big or go home. With them was little Al (though unless you were tight with him you would never call him that to his face); “Timbuk” Tony Ashton, Brian “Brambles” Guinly and “Shawshank” Tommy Dunstead. A good crew to have. Brambles was a little green, but you had to break them in somehow, and the kid was good, no doubt about that. He kept his head down, knew how to score and above all had the best quality you needed – he wasn’t a rat.
They’d been waiting for a solid ten minutes here now, though it was for a good reason – revenge always was. Why else would they be spending time doing jack in a piss stinking good for nothing alley? When they heard footsteps from one end of the narrow alley, they all looked up, some more nervous than others, as a dark figure came round the corner and approached them at a brisk pace.
A copper? A civi?
Na, just Specksy Tim.
Yeah, all good Mike”, Specksy replied in his distinct Midlands accent, “Alright fellas.” He nodded to the group.
They nodded back various mutterings of greetings.
“Is it all ready?”, Michael asked.
“Aye, Jim’s lads from the docks is all in the line to 99 Karats and I’ll go to my place once you head in. So is all good for ya, if you’s up for it.”
“Course we are”, Den called out as he cut his cigar. Never one to waste anything the Dealer.
“Unless Brambles ‘er’ can’t handle it”, Tony jibed as he laughed and bumped into Brian with his shoulder. Brian laughed, hiding his doubts behind a mask of youthful bravery.
“Aah, he’s good as gold he is”, Tommy defended, as he put his arm around Brian’s neck, “He’s just a virgin to this, tha’s all. Is only natural to have the adrenaline pump through ya.”
Throwing his cigarette stub on the wet pavement and crushing it under his shoe, Michael cut the conversation off. “Right, c’mon then, let’s not stand on ceremony lads.”
They headed off at a casual pace. Michael patting the sides of his overcoat just to reassure himself. They made their way briskly to get to 99 Carrots among back alleys. They didn’t dawdle nor speak because, even though this wasn’t their area, they could still be recognized. They were still dangerous, even after the ‘Regiment’ had been burned down. In fact, more so. They were a wounded beast striking out at hunters who were too over confident. The comfort of their apparent victory would be a deadly trap.
From back alleys to narrow streets and rough houses they went until they reached a side street past a commercial block leading them straight to Halton Prospect. Right there in front of them, the flashiest, most expensive club and the Capettis stronghold in New London – 99 Karats.
The night life was in full swing now, despite the chilling weather. The night sky was blocked by a mixture of clouds and glaring street lights. The streets themselves were filled with cabs, trams and pedestrians. The rich showing off and getting into the top establishments (99 Karats being one of them) and the middle and poor doing their best to imitate the rich. Couples and double dates. Friends and bachelors. Yet, over this busy din Michael could pick out Jim and his mob from the Bayland docks. They stood out among the well dressed and civilised crowds of people as their dress, crude language and rowdy loud behaviour signified them as those of the working class. Labourers, roughnecks and unwanted in this respectable part of the city. Exactly what Michael and his ‘Blighters’ needed. Exactly as they’d planned.
He hadn’t even had to pay them for this. Jim was connected to the Blighters and their affairs since the Blighters needed to move valuables and Jim was in an important position as a chief foreman at the docks. Also, a lot of the lads would get to skim off the top for their trouble so the two parties went together like bread and butter. Not to mention, for most of them the ‘Regiment’ had been their local, so this was their revenge as much as Michael’s. Among the ranks of these men you would be sure to find many who had fought alongside them during the war in the Parkland Rifles like Den, Al, Tommy and Michael had all done. Post war life had split them up, many had gone back to their former lives to salvage what sanity they could, others had realized that the old normality had died and turned to other means of living. And so, the Blighters were born.
If Jim and his boys had seen them, they didn’t show it.
“Good”, Michael thought.
Their group didn’t acknowledge them either, even Brian wasn’t that much of an amateur. The boy learnt fast which was good to see. They hung about on the opposite side of the entrance to 99 Karats waiting for the dock workers to get further up the queue. When Michael judged it was right, they moved westward on the street and crossed over. The queue stretched eastward on Halton Prospect, so it worked out that the two groups could now approach the main entrance from both sides. Michaels’ group slowed down to an easy walk and tried to blend in with the other night goers, which was hard with towering figures like Den and Tommy. Even Tony and Michael, who did not present that juggernaut width the former two had, but were still no less tall and imposing.
Michael tapped his sides once again, a final reassurance to himself. By now, Jim and the lads had gotten to the front of the queue. Looking like a bunch of misfit drunks, they were immediately denied entry by the bouncers. Of course, they were. The bigger of the men and even Jim himself made a deal out of it, which quickly escalated. Of course, they did. Before anyone knew it, a standoff became a scuffle, became a fight, became a borderline battle in the street. The several bouncers (all on the pay of the Capettis’, no doubt) who were guarding the front of the club suddenly had their hands full dealing with a dozen rough men and veterans from Hoeport. No one noticed the six figures quickly dart in through the doors from the other side of the queue.
Once inside they were met with a dim and exotic lit corridor, that was several meters long, before one was met with another set of doors which led to the club proper. To their right sat two attractive girls in uniforms behind tills.
“Good evening, gentlemen and welcome to 99 carrots. That’s two shields for each of you.”
With a smile and the slickness of a playboy about to score, Den walked up to the nearest woman.
“No need, we’re… friends of the Capetti’s.”
“And what name shall I put you all under, Sir?”
It took a second for the woman to register the name and then the colour faded rapidly from her face. The other girl looked as if she was about to burst into tears.
“Stay behind here and close your ears love.”
They carried on to the rest of the club. Little Al lent over the desk.
“Word of advice, if I was you, I’d take the money for yourselves and blame it on us”, with a wink and a cheeky, if slightly manic, grin he fell in with everyone else.
“Two shields for fucking entry. Must be ‘avin’ a laugh”, said Tony
“That’s the Italians for ya”, answered Tommy, “Remember that Brian. They’s greedy bloomin’ bastards. Same goes for ‘em shekel benders.”
“Alright Tommy. No need for more racial tension than there already is in the city, or do you fancy more race riots like in March, eh?”
They reached the leather padded doors and could hear the loud music inside.
Focus now. A slight pause. A deep breath. “Let’s dance fellas”, Michael announced as he breezed through the luxurious doors into the dim lit club room.
The previously muffled sound of music now resonated clearly and washed over them as an overpowering wave. To their right, a long bar covering most of that side of the room, was busy with customers and bartenders in flashy white suits. On the left: A selection of booths and tables staggered on two levels and arranged in a semi-circle beginning at the door that they’d entered from. It ended at the exit for the staff, directly opposite them at the back of the large room. In the middle of all this, a mass of moving bodies pressed against each other in writhing degeneracy and drunken happiness. Their efforts at gathering intelligence had led them to find out that the Capettis hung out on one of the higher more private booths in the far corner and, sure enough, across the club was a less populated area where people didn’t walk through which was bordered by some of Capetti’s men.
“Al! Brambles! You know what to do!”, he shouted to be heard over the music. The two men peeled off towards the bar. The rest made their way to the Capetti booths. Michael noticed there were quite a few Capetti’s enjoying the fine night. Some ‘made men’, others a bit lower down the pecking order as a few of the other booths were occupied by some of the more junior members of the family. But it was the largest booth Michael had his eyes on and where he could see the richly dressed Paul Capetti. It was him they were after. Whatever had happened to the Regiment must have been his idea, or at least got the nod from him. It was known Paul kept a tight ship. Nothing happened without his permission.
A commotion began at the bar, with Brambles following in the steps of Little Al and putting on quite the act. The rhythm of the place carried on with people still dancing and the music still playing, but here and there some people looked up at the apparent trouble brewing and most importantly the guards did as well, including the ones surrounding the Capetti VIP booths. Some even left their stations to intervene.
Tommy and Tony were the least well known of the Blighters in their group, so took the lead with Den and Michael partially shielded behind them. The guard standing on the rail blocking them from Paul’s booth was distracted as he was looking toward the bar and was subsequently punished for his lack of vigilance as the thin blade from Tonys’ knife entered and re-entered his gut several times. Weapons were banned here but of course that rule didn’t apply to the Cappetti’s and their men so at the very least some of them had to be carrying gear.
Attention turned to them now as the commotion with the guard turned from some movement in the corner of Paul Capetti’s eyes to a very real and very dangerous threat. In one stride Den and Michael stepped past Tommy and Tony to stand in front of the table and took out the deadly cargo shielded by their long jackets. The senior Capetti members sat around Paul, cigars, cigarettes and drinks in hand, wore the look of dead panicked men, far from the victorious mafia bosses they had been seconds ago.
But who could blame them since they were staring death in the face? More specifically, two double barreled sawn-off shotguns pointing at them at less than a meter’s range. Paul Capetti went to stand, as if to say something and make a last-ditch attempt at trying to control the situation. This was cut short by a cry from Den and Michael.
“For the Regiment!”
Immediately followed by a thunderous raw, amplified by the enclosed space, from the shotguns. The entire table, occupants and objects alike, was shredded in an instant.
From then on everything happened too quickly for one person to take in. Al and Brian kicked off at their end, blasting away at guards taken aback by the sudden discharge of the shotguns on the other side of the large hall. The crowd panicked like a herd of prey not knowing where to go or what to do. A young Capetti lad from the adjacent booth clambered onto Shawshank Tommy in an effort to tackle him from behind, only to have his momentum used against him as he was flung over the walkway that they all stood on and went over the rails to come crashing down on the table below. A man came to the right of Den and Michael, but was struck down by Den who, finding he had no time to re-load, used the shogun in his hands as a club and connected with full force to the assailant’s face. Had it been quieter one would have heard the sickening crack of the bones breaking. Either way the Blighters didn’t care. The ‘Regiment’ was owed their pain.
Desperate brawling and shooting were everywhere mixed in with panicking night goers. The music and laughter in the air had been replaced by shooting and screaming.
One of the barmen had gone for a gun hidden underneath the bar as Al was preoccupied with battering a Capetti grunt. He raised his revolver, but Brian cut him off, splashing his brains over the bottles and shelves behind him.
The room was beginning to empty out now as civilian and criminal alike streamed desperately out of the carnage. Michael had to be sure since they’d never get another chance like this and so emptied his pistol into the body of Paul Capetti. As he reloaded, he took stock of the situation. Al and Brian were smashing and pouring bottles of spirits all over the place, as well as having a few swigs themselves (well it would be a shame to waste it all). Den was on top of someone battering them to a pulp. Tommy had got his famed butchers cleaver out and had begun to hack hands off of both the living and the dead. A tradition pioneered during the war. Tony wiped his thick swept back hair with his blood covered fingers either unaware or uncaring. Michael let out a whistle, ”Let’s move it, cunts!”
They headed for the back door as Al lit a match and dropped it onto the puddles of alcohol. They had left their mark and now it was time to wrap up the show. 99 Karats would meet the same fate as the ‘Regiment’.
The back exit led them past the store rooms, kitchen and staff rooms. Past the few cowering workers or clubbers whimpering and seeking refuge in the corners or behind furniture. One Capetti grunt took them by surprise and suddenly fired at them. While Michael was quick enough to duck, Tony behind him was not so fortunate and hit the floor clutching his shoulder, gritting his teeth and swearing faster than a machine gun could fire. Den and Michael both tried to get shots off on the ambusher, but he dived through a door. They went after him, while Tommy slung Tony over his shoulder and brought up the rear. Tony still swearing.
They carried on the chase till they reached the very back. Bins and rubbish bags and boxes full of loaded goods yet to be brought in lay in little piles across the loading bay. Straight ahead the man who had shot them was running as fast as possible. Michael fired a shot, joined by Den. Out of breath they missed. Yet, suddenly a flash of light engulfed the running man, followed by a van slamming into him and sending his body flying several meters then skidding down the cobbled dark alleyway for a few more.
The front window wound down to reveal a grinning Specksy who beeped on his horn.
“Your ride for the evening, m’Lord.”
How could someone’s grin be so lovable yet also so punchable at the same time? Mike climbed in the front, Den, Tommy and Tony in the back – with some complaints and profanities from Tony. Den banged on the inside for the all clear and before the doors had even closed the small black van pulled off. There was a bump as the van rode over the kitchen ambusher’s legs under its tires. It then made a left at the end of the alley and joined onto St Tristan’s road and disappeared into the New London night, just as the sound of sirens converged on the once popular and now infamous burning club. The Capetti family had payed the price. The Regiment had been avenged.