A DIPLOMAT, A WHORE
& A WHOLE HEAP OF MESS
By Bradford Middleton
Life could be short and cheap in this city by the sea. It could be ended at any minute on any given day and if you were unlucky it could be you who they could get so naturally Tommy took refuge away from places where people thronged. He led the life of a loner, a guy who above all else cherished the concept of his life. It may not have been that great a life but at least it was that, a life, not an existence, not a job title but a life. He had travelled widely before finally settling on the coast many miles from anyone he knew. They all told him he was crazy.
“You’re moving where now?” they would ask him and then when he told them, they would laugh before asking something like “what are you, crazy or something? Do you have a death wish?”
Tommy didn’t care. He could take care of himself and he knew his way around the underground and in this town it was no different. It was all a matter of geography here; as long as he steered clear of certain areas, and there were quite a lot of areas to avoid, he’d be alright. And as it turned out his theory worked out to be true. He found a cheap room in a cheap house in a low-rent white working-class neighbourhood where he could buy anything he needed and there was a local bar where he could go. It was a quiet bar with a long happy-hour that suited Tommy’s needs and when he wasn’t at home he could generally be found on a stool at one end of the bar quietly drinking until he was drunk enough to return to his room. His room was a barely furnished prison cell of a room in a house ruled by an iron-fisted land-lady called Pauline. She generally hated her tenants, she remembered the good old days when middle-class career types would flock to stay under her roof but now, well now all her tenants were either transients, students or drop-outs who couldn’t afford anywhere else. She had let the house fall into disrepair since her husband had died and having no children merely clung on until, Tommy surmised, she had enough money to just go somewhere peaceful to retire.
This day, however, turned out to be different for Tommy. He awoke late and his hang-over was worse than usual. He got out of bed and ran to his sink where he was sick. He grabbed a beer from the fridge and took a hard long swig at it feeling his nausea begin to calm. That was his problem; the hair of the dog always worked so from here he would take his place in the one seat in his room and proceed to roll a joint. Just before sparking it to life he took another long hard swig from the can and as the smoke took hold he felt himself returning to normalcy, or at least his weird take on it. After smoking the joint and drinking the beer Tommy checked his cupboard and found a big bag of crisps before grabbing another can from the fridge. He returned to his seat and this pattern continued, pretty much like any other day, until it was just after lunchtime and time for Tommy’s daily flirtation with people.
After pulling on a coat to shield him from the cold autumnal wind he set off to his regular hang-out. It was only a couple of minutes walk away but was in the wrong direction to avoid trouble; if he had continued for another 20 minutes he would have been in gang-land and that would only mean one thing. Trouble and that would be bad news for all concerned. Turning the corner and walking across the street towards the bar and everything seemed normal. The newspaper guy was out on the pavement trying to hand out free papers to people who didn’t want them whilst a few women walked from supermarket to hardware store to library to home. It was just like any other day and Tommy philosophised that maybe for the first time in a long time his life was working out alright. Sure he still had his issues with drink and drugs but at least he didn’t have to work and had all the time in the world to improve his situation.
Walking into the bar he was pleased to see Simon behind the bar. Tommy and Simon had got on, ever since that first night Tommy had drunk there, when conversation produced a mutual admiration of both Captain Beefheart and Black Flag. They had bonded over music and Simon was always willing to help Tommy out with any drinks that may be left lying around by people with other things to do with their lives. Tommy knew when Simon was working he would be in for a good day and as he approached the bar he asked to have his usual happy-hour set-up; a large house rum and a pint. Before the pint had even been poured the rum was dispatched and another ordered. That first one of the day was always the best; the one he needed the most, the one that stopped those voices in his head from taunting him, telling him he was a failure. After a couple of hours and several drinks Tommy stood from his stool and gently staggered to the toilet. By the back door it was common practice for the locals to relieve themselves outside if the cubicle was in use as it was right now and it was then that life was to get complicated again. He pushed the door open, unzipped, pissed and just as he was zipping again he heard a strange sqwacking noise from around the corner. The whole area was a cul-de-sac of alleyways, there was only one way in and that was the way out too. Tommy peered round the corner and there it was.
“Ah shit,” he exclaimed moving over towards what he was looking at. In front of him lay a woman, a really astonishingly beautiful woman, and she was dead. It was clear she was dead even to someone without Tommy’s trained eye; it was all that blood and stab wounds that gave it away. From the way she dressed it suggested that maybe she could have been one of the street walkers who populated the area at night, eager to please to keep a roof over her head. This one was young, Tommy guessed not much older than 19 and she was blonde, long tasselled hair that flowed down her back. She was wearing a black leather jacket, a white vest that was cut to ribbons, a pair of tight hot-pants and black fishnet tights that ended in a pair of trainers on her feet. Her body was tight and perfection right down to a divine 36c breasts. He knew what he had to do and returned to the bar to inform Simon of what he’d discovered.
With the police called a few of the barflies went outside to inspect the scene, making sure not to touch anything. No matter how drunk they were they still knew that it would be easy to implicate any of them in what had happened, particularly with such vital evidence as fingerprints. It took the cops a good couple of hours to arrive and when they saw her lying there they merely instructed the coroner to take the body away. Simon asked one of the cops what would happen.
“Well, first off we’ll do an examination of the body and then we’ll be back to ask you a few questions so don’t you think of going anywhere. Now which of you found the body?”
There was silence and no one looked anywhere apart from at the floor or at their favourite optic behind the bar.
“Hmm, a wall of silence, well that’s interesting.” One of the cops asked all the locals for their details.
“My name’s Harry Smith and I live at...” Tommy told the cop desperate to keep his own anonymity from the local authorities.
When the cops left, the bar returned to normal pretty quickly but Tommy couldn’t shake something from his mind. The idea that the cops didn’t give a shit about that girl, they probably thought she was just another whore who’d got what was coming her way. They didn’t care that she was a person, someone’s daughter even. It didn’t seem to be humane but what could he do about it? He pondered the dilemma as he drank another beer before Simon appeared with a half-empty pint and what appeared to be a clear spirit and mixer. He smelt the shot and realised it was a gin and tonic and slammed it down his gullet.
“Oh, a free g&t, ta very much mate!” Tommy said leaning over the bar.
As he ground his way through the half it came to him. What he could do, how he could solve the crime himself.
“Say Simon, you ever had any dealings with those women down on Clayton?”
Simon began to laugh again, “Oh yeah Tommy, what’s up? Feeling a little lonely?”
“No, I was just curious. I reckon that girl I found would probably be known down there. They could have even seen who she went off with that fucked her up so much.”
Simon nodded his head in passive agreement, possibly stunned by Tommy’s awareness of what had happened.
“I think I’m going to pop down there, what do you think?”
“I think it’s a bit too early to go down there yet...”
Tommy looked at the clock behind the bar, it read 3.45pm. It was indeed early so he sat back and nursed the half until Simon delivered another drink from nowhere. The late afternoon crowd started to filter in around 5 and a few of the better off types where throwing their money around, offering drinks to some of the regulars as well as their colleagues and friends. Things picked up and then suddenly, at exactly 6, everyone either left or ordered one more drink. Happy hour was over and this was normally the time that Tommy would return home but tonight, well that was going to be a whole new ball-game. Simon’s shift was also coming to an end and he asked Tommy if he could come along and, grateful for the company, Tommy agreed.
Josie stepped behind the bar and Simon grabbed his coat and headed around to the right side of the bar. In the afternoon they had the delights of cheap drinks and interesting company, in the evenings they got a procession of sexy young woman whose dress code was ‘hot and sexy’. Josie was the best looking one of the lot and tonight she was done up like a dancer from the Moulin Rouge with her black, raven hair plunging down her back. Tommy finished off his drink as Simon walked towards him and Josie’s first order was for a bottled beer. Her hot young seductive body bent double to reveal an astonishing bum that pointed heavenwards as if signposting where anyone lucky enough to get there would be touched by divinity.
“Don’t get me wrong Simon, you are a great bar-man but for the love of god that Josie is something else...”
“I totally understand man, the nights I lie awake dreaming of what I would do to that body given half a chance!”
The pair walked off in the wrong direction again, heading towards Clayton, heading towards the ghetto. Clayton wasn’t actually in the ghetto but was one of the mains streets that kept it confined, kept the ghetto where the authorities wanted it. The women didn’t generally live there either; they tended to come over from areas like those where Tommy was staying. It was a well-known spot and any newcomers to the city generally knew that was the place to go to either buy or sell. It seemed that business was rapid as they walked on to the scene at a little before 6.15 and the pair decided to stand back and let business be sorted before asking any questions. It took a few minutes for things to quieten down and Tommy took the lead. He approached one, a girl who didn’t look much older than the one they’d found earlier, and began asking her questions. She said she had known the girl, her name was Tammy or something like that, she wasn’t a local girl. She’d moved here and only recently but, the girl continued, if you really want to know you should talk to him. Her long thin arms and fingers pointed to a thin young man in a good suit.
“That,” she said, “...that’s her guy.”
Tommy and Simon sized him up as they walked over. Tommy reckoned this guy couldn’t be more than 25 years old and could well be, once he realised who he was dealing with, one who could point them in the right direction of the killer.
“Hey,” Tommy said bruskly, “we need a word or two with you” as they approached the smartly dressed youth.
“Yeah and what do a couple of old winos like you want with me?”
“You got a girl whose blonde, about 5-6 tall, real thin?”
“Sure I have, I got all kinds of pussy, that the kind of pussy you want I can get it for you!”
“I need specific details dude stop giving your god damn sales pitch. Now this girl I’m looking for...”
Tommy told the young guy of what had happened, what him and Simon had concluded and how he could now help.
“Erm, well last night...”
“Yes, last night, she was here and she left at some point. Who did she go with mother fucker? Don’t piss me off now...”
“Well, erm... Tammy... well...”
“Stop bullshitting me fucker and tell me who did she go with?”
“Well, it’s kind of difficult to tell.”
“Just tell me...”
“Well, a car pulled up about 10. It was one of those stretch limo types and displayed some countries flag I didn’t recognise.”
“Shit, sounds diplomatic...”
“It had some weird reg plates too...”
“Do you remember?”
“Not really, there was a D in there somewhere though... Last night got really busy about that time so there wasn’t much attention to detail being paid at that point. They literally gave me the money and I told them she should be returned within 2 hours. I ain’t heard from her until you guys show up...”
“No problem man, you’ve been pretty helpful. If the same car comes by again you fancy calling me?” Tommy handed the young guy a slip of paper with his number on it.
“Sure, my name’s Bruno.”
“Cool, well... see you Bruno.”
Tommy and Simon began walking the streets and decided to check out a few of the finer local hotels. There were hundreds of hotels in town but not many of them would be a fit for a diplomat used to being driven around in a stretch limousine. They walked down to the seafront and began walking along to The Grand, the most likely stop-off for someone of this ilk they thought.
The door-man looked quizzically at the pair of middle-aged bums as they sauntered past him and into the entrance hall. It was indeed grand, very grand indeed and not the sort of place that Tommy was used too. He knew they would have to get their information as quickly as possible and then leave before someone complained of their presence and they were asked to leave. Walking up to the front desk Tommy adopted an unfamiliar disguise.
“Hi, I’m Frank Leo, PI, and I’m trying to find some diplomats who are either staying in town now or left this morning. I thought this place would be the best place to start.”
“Well, we do have a group who fit that description residing here at the moment... a diplomatic party but before I give you any more information could I check your ID and ask what the case is about.”
“I don’t have my ID with me, I’ve got to be careful as there are people already chasing me. There seem to be people who know what I’m doing before even I do myself.”
“But the case is murder. The murder of a young woman last night whose body was discovered this afternoon; now can you imagine that poor girl’s parents when they find out what became of her and what you’re telling me, well, the god damn killers could be here right now!”
“Yes sir, I do see your dilemma.”
There was a silent stand-off that lasted a good couple of minutes during which Tommy grew close to just leaping over the counter and finding out the information for himself. Fortunately for everyone involved though the receptionist finally gave in.
“We can find out which room they are in if you are correct in claiming they are driving a car with diplomatic plates. Yes, there you see, there they are. They are from a country called Vanisgrad, ever heard of it?”
“Nope, that’s a new one for me... sounds Russian? Now, what room are they in?”
“Oh, fancy. They have the whole of the 23rd floor, that’s the penthouse suite.”
“Is there anything extra we have to do to get to see them?”
“No, just go to the lift and press 23. You’ll be there...”
Tommy and Simon turned and headed for the lift not caring what was being said behind them. They knew where they were going and they knew what they needed to do. As they climbed in the lift it was empty but at the last second a smartly dressed man with mean eyes and a crow’s nose entered. He looked at the floor indicator and then turned to look at Tommy and Simon.
“What business do you have on 23?” he asked.
Tommy and Simon remained silent until the man turned and pressed the doors open button. He stood there.
This was making Tommy sick to his stomach and he simply took matters in to his own hands. He grabbed the man and pulled him from the control panel as Simon moved over and pressed to close the doors.
“You’re going to be sorry,” the man raged as the lift moved up the floors quickly. Seconds later and the doors to the lift opened. Tommy pushed the guy out through the door and began to look around. Simon hesitantly followed ensuring he was right behind Tommy just in case anything bad was about to happen. It did when the guy shouted out in a language neither of them recognised. Within seconds the hallway was full of security personnel carrying Uzi machine-guns all trained on Tommy. From out of the throng that had developed a person stepped forward.
“What do you want?” he asked.
“We just got lost...”
“They are lying boss, they are dirty liars...”
“Shut up Heinrich...” the boss retaliated. “Now, well, what shall we do with them?”
“We should just kill them boss, we do after all have diplomatic papers, there wouldn’t be a thing the authorities could do about it.”
“True, but we’ve come here to build bridges, not kill lots of civilians...”
“You could just let us go, as you said you’ve got diplomatic...”
“Shut up,” the boss shouted again, “who gave you permission to talk?”
A stern silence filled the room as the boss prowled the floor considering his next move. Slowly time moved on and people grew disinterested and returned to their more mundane duties. Eventually the boss turned to face Tommy and Simon.
“I’m enjoying your country so much I think I’m just going to let you go. There isn’t anything you know that could hurt us and if you did... well, that don’t matter either. Go on, get out of here.”
The pair turned and walked to the lift to take them back down. They were just glad they had made it out in one piece having been unarmed but Tommy knew this wouldn’t be the last time they would see the group.
“I’m sure it was them, ain’t you?” Tommy asked as the lift returned to the foyer.
“Well yeah but as he pointed out what can we do about it?”
“We can tell the cops or we could perhaps do something else. We need to get the plate number off the guy at the front desk.”
As they left the hotel the doorman again peered down his nose at them, glad that their type was at last out of his hotel. They walked across the street and back towards Clayton. There with the time now approaching 7 business had slowed to a steady crawl of punters and Tommy walked straight back over to Bruno.
“Hey,” Tommy said by way of gaining his attention.
“Hi, back already. What you got in mind this time, more information or some pussy?”
“We got a car plate number... you remember saying you’d call me if that group that picked up Tammy last night returned?”
“Sure I do,” Bruno replied.
“Well here’s the number... got it, good, well we’ll leave you to it.”
Tommy and Simon walked off, back to the bar. Josie was still working and was still shaking that tight ass enticing the drinkers to drink more whilst ignoring Simon walking behind to pull him and Tommy a few drinks. It had been a hell of a day Tommy thought as he downed the double rum that Simon placed in front of him but minutes later it was clear it wasn’t over yet. The phone behind the bar rang and after a few seconds Josie brought the phone over and plonked it down in front of Tommy.
“They’re here right now, get here quick,” the voice said.
“Shit is this Bruno?”
“Yes, who else would it be?”
“Those guys are back Simon!”
Downing their beers they ran out into the night air and ran for their lives. It took no time to make Clayton Street and there they were. Checking out the merchandise and making their decisions. Every single one of the girls looked terrified, even the old timers who’d thought they seen everything. It was pointless to call the cops, it was time for some direct action. Decisions made and money paid the entourage climbed back into their limousine and pulled off.
“Come with me,” Bruno unexpectedly told the pair. They followed him to a car that just screamed speed and climbed in. It was a tight squeeze for three but with a plan in their collected minds it didn’t matter, they were going to save some girls’ lives. The limo pulled up outside what appeared to be a normal residential home and Bruno pulled his car over on the opposite side of the road. It was an area of town that Tommy didn’t know, it was a middle-class area that the cops simply wouldn’t let the likes of him walk through.
After a few minutes Bruno produced a bag from under his seat. Tommy looked down and pulled the familiar Walter PPK from the bag ensuring it was loaded before climbing out the car. The other two followed. This time they would be equipped and as they rang the doorbell they unleashed hell. Storming into the living room where the party was taking place. It was a horrific scene. A woman was hanging from a rope in the middle of the room and Tommy knew what to do. He began firing and didn’t stop until every last one of those fuckers was dead. Simon cut down the girl from her rope and Bruno checked his other merchandise was unharmed.
The three scattered as soon as they arrived back at Clayton and Tommy realised, again, that it was time to move.