Everything was moving too fast. My thoughts were a confused jumble. It was evident that there were undercurrents operating of which I had been completely unaware. For some reason, I believed that my ignorance protected me. Using my convoluted logic made me believe that knowing little made me less of a threat.
The plot to murder me and Canfield opened my eyes to how far out in left field I was. However, still couldn’t seem accept the fact that my life meant so little to Plum. It was such an impersonal way of getting rid of someone. I grasped at straws.
“I bet this was all Flame’s doing. We had a fight and she lost. I bet she set me up out of spite,” I blurted.
“I don’t know her but if she’s an associate of Plum’s you can bet your sweet ass she set you up with Plum’s blessing. Knowing what a control freak Plum is, she’d never stand for one of her minions making such a big move without her say so,” asserted Canfield.
“That can’t be right.”
“You know that it is.”
“But I never did anything to Plum. I only ever did what she told me to do.”
“Right, and since you’ve served your purpose it’s time for you to be put down. Look kid, if it makes you feel any better, I’m sure it ain’t personal. She just can’t turn you loose out in the world knowing as much as you do.”
“But I don’t know anything Mr. Canfield.”
“Oh, I’d say you know a great deal. You just never took the time to connect the dots.”
“I don’t know what you think I’ve been let in on, but I’m telling you I don’t have enough dots to yield anything worthwhile. Maybe if you told me what you know about Plum, then I wouldn’t be completely in the dark.”
“Sorry kid, I don’t have time for show and tell. I’ve gotta get outta here, before they realize this dead duck is missing and sick the hounds on me. Even if I had all the time in the world, I wouldn’t waste it on you.”
My newly freed anger took over and Canfield looked up to find Daryl’s pistol aimed at his head. His eyes widened and then he smirked. I cocked the weapon and he looked indecisive for a moment before resuming his customary bluff attitude with me.
“Look kid, I don’t have time to play with you. Put that damn thing down before someone gets hurt.”
Canfield crossed his arms over his chest like an impatient father. When that failed to yield results he uncrossed his arms and stepped towards me. I pulled the trigger. The bullet winged the top of his left earlobe and his hand flew up to the side of his head. His fingers came away bloodied and he gazed at them in shock and then Canfield glared at me.
“What the fu…are you crazy?”
“If you had asked me that a week ago, I would have said no but now…now I’m not so sure.”
“You could have killed me.”
“You’re right I could have killed you. Want me to keep going?”
Canfield’s lips opened in a snarl and then he looked into my eyes and his bad attitude evaporated. He looked at me as though he were seeing me for the first time.
“What the hell happened to you? How’d you get all those bruises? Did this guy do that?”
“No, he watched while a friend of his did the honors.”
“Gee, I’m sorry to hear that.”
“You can stuff your fake sympathy in a sack Canfield. I don’t need it. What I need from you is information.”
“I don’t know what I can tell you kid. It ain’t like I got the inside track.”
“Well, apparently you know a lot more than I ever did.”
“What do you wanna know?”
“Anything you can tell me about Plum.”
“I don’t think anybody knows much about Plum. Most of the information I have came from rumors.”
“Don’t give me that. The two of you teamed up to suck me into this mess. So you’ve got to know something about her.”
“Well, I know she’s connected up to the Yakuza.”
“What is that? Some sort of gang?”
“I guess you could say that. It’s like the Japanese version of the mafia.”
“Great, you knew she had mafia connections and you let me get involved with her?”
“Let’s get something straight here kid. I ain’t your father. You’re three times seven. It’s your responsibility to get to know the people you hang out with.”
“So, all of those real estate transactions I did were with gang members?”
“What did they need all of that property for?”
“You mean other than using the transaction to launder drug money? I’d say they used those properties for everything from meth labs to massage parlors. The more locations you got the more times you can shift your operations around to evade the cops.”
“Well, this just keeps getting better and better. Wait a minute, how could those worthless properties be used to launder drug money? They’re worth nowhere near what those men paid for them.”
“That’s where you’re wrong. You gotta think outside the box. Those properties might not be worth much to the average Joe, but when you got a real estate appraiser in your back pocket, you can pretty much decide how much you want it to be worth.
Once the appraiser makes the new value official, you can take out an insurance policy on it and a week or a few months later, when the building mysteriously catches on fire or suffers some other mishap. Then all you gotta do is sit back and wait for your big insurance payout. I’ve known guys that hold on to properties like that for years, sorta like a retirement plan. Hell, some of ’em use those properties for a gambling stakes.”
“Well, I had no idea what those people did with those properties. Even if I had known, I wouldn’t have told anyone. Who would believe me anyway? Why am I suddenly such a threat?”
“You’ve seen their faces.”
“That doesn’t matter, they filled out the paperwork and signed their names.”
“You don’t actually believe all of them used their real names do you?”
“There’s no way out of this mess for me is there? If I go to the authorities, I’m looking at hard time. They’d never believe my innocence. Don’t look at me like that Canfield, you know what I mean. I’ll admit that I knew things didn’t seem right but all I’m really guilty of is not doing my homework. It’s a flimsy excuse, but I needed the money. You of all people know that I wasn’t making any money. I was desperate. I thought Plum was my friend, but she’s made her feelings for me painfully clear. I ought to shoot you for getting me into this mess!”
“Whoa, let’s not do anything foolish. You’re just frustrated kid. You and I both know you couldn’t hurt a fly. For damn sure, you ain’t never killed nobody. I killed more times than I care to count. Trust me, that’s not something you want on your conscience. You have to live with something like that for the rest of your life and I don’t think you could handle it.”
“Who says I’ve never killed anyone before?”
Canfield started to laugh but the fierce, unwavering expression on my face made him swallow his chuckles. I saw the first glimmer of fear flash in his eyes. Then as quickly as it surfaced, he shook it off and resumed his bluff manner. Canfield refused to accept my assertion.
His old, insolent anger flashed. I had barely noticed that he’d been inching towards me during our exchange. All at once, he moved to charge at me. I aimed and shot without hesitation. The bullet punched into his yielding flesh, stopping him in his tracks. His eyes opened wide and he dropped to the floor with a deep exhalation that sounded like a shocked sigh. I stood my ground and watched him with pitiless eyes.
“You must want me to empty this gun into you one bullet at a time. Is that it Canfield?”
“Now, now let’s not resort to name calling. After all, you forced me to shoot you. I may be naive but you’re hard-headed. I already demonstrated my willingness to shoot you and yet you cling to the misguided belief that I won’t kill you, if you back me into a corner. Why must you continue to push your luck? Come one now, I know it hurts but you’re not going to die…yet. I only shot you in the shoulder.”
“I’m gonna kill you!”
“Seeing as how I’m the one with the drawn weapon, I’d say the odds of that happening are slim and none. But thanks for the reminder. I’m gonna need you to roll over onto your stomach nice and easy with your arms raised above your head…okay, maybe just the one arm. Let’s go, one…two…three, good boy.”
I pressed the muzzle of my weapon to the back of Canfield’s head to keep him still while I retrieved the other weapon from his waistband. I quickly stepped back out of his reach and allowed him to roll back over. Blood had begun to soak the front of his shirt. I grabbed a pillowcase and tossed it to him so that he could apply pressure to his wound and soak up some of the blood.
He sat up and leaned his back against the foot of his bed, hissing when the movement jarred his shoulder. Canfield began to whine, in an attempt to appeal to sympathy which I did not feel. In that moment, I realized how much I had changed in just a few hours. As harrowing as the assault had been, it unleashed all of the energy formerly tied up with keeping my traumatic memories at bay. I felt torment, but I was no longer afraid. My anger had made me strong and remorseless.