Wednesday, November 4, 2015
DRAGONFLY: PART NINE
By Daniel Skye
PART NINE: DRAGONFLY
Thursday, November 6th, 2008.
Richie Carter, feeling drained and exasperated, returned to his office and made a few calls. He’d rest only when this case was settled and Nadia Sanborn could rest in peace.
He called Sal Prisco, who used to take bets for the Westfield crew. But he had little to share about Dominic Cirico and his family, and he kept his mouth shut about any business he did with the Westfield crew. He knew Richie’s brother was a cop and he wasn’t about to turn snitch.
He called Roman, his buddy down at the parking garage. Roman knew vaguely of the Cirico’s. He told Richie that their crew didn’t operate in Dorchester, but they were a New York syndicate. And he mentioned that Dominic’s father was only acting boss for a short period of time. But Roman also heard the family still had a lot of connections with the mob.
Roman knew little of the Westfield crew, and knew even less about Kirk Warwick. But Mitch Calloway, a close friend of Richie’s, informed him the Westfield crew were still very active. He warned Richie to steer clear of any remaining members.
“What about the Cirico’s?” Richie asked Mitch over the phone.
“What about them?” Mitch replied.
“Well, I’m working a case for my brother and it involves Dominic and Nico Cirico. But no one seems to know anything about the father. You have any clue about him or his whereabouts?”
“I’ll have to call you back,” Mitch said. Before Richie could respond, the line was dead.
By the time Zack Garton showed up to his office, Richie had made over a dozen calls and chain-smoked half a pack of unfiltered Lucky Strikes.
“I figured I’d find you here,” Garton said.
“And I figured this would be the first place you looked,” Richie replied. He lit another cigarette and offered one to Garton, who declined.
“You know, my dad used to own a cigar shop in the city on West 24th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenue. I used to work there on weekends and I spent a lot of my days there after school. And my parents still wonder how or why I took up smoking. As if there’s anything to wonder about, right?”
“That’s a lovely fucking story,” Garton patronized. “But if you don’t mind, Dominic Cirico nearly blew my head off this morning and I’m a little pissed off about it. I’d like to find him before he tries to flee the state. And before he gets to Kirk Warwick. I need Warwick alive, and so do you if you want to close this case.”
“What are you talking about?” Richie asked, clearly out of the loop.
“Dominic, Nico, Mac Wilson, and Warwick–they were all in on it. They tortured and killed that poor girl, filmed it, made copies, and shopped that tape around to make a quick buck off of it.”
“How do you know all this?”
“I told you I was going to pay Dominic a visit. He confessed to everything. His involvement. Sending you out to Fairview to have Mac Wilson kill you. Hiring Dolph Hendricks to kill us. Paying someone off to murder Fenton Meeks. The only thing he wouldn’t tell me is the name of man holding the camera. I had the drop on Dominic, but I never checked him for a pistol. He fired a few missed shots, and got away. And I have a feeling he’s heading straight for Warwick.”
“Then what the fuck are we waiting for? Let’s get moving.”
* * *
Richie and Zack arrived just in time to see Warwick’s farmhouse engulfed in flames. Garton stopped the car and they watched from a safe distance as the raging fire devoured Kirk Warwick’s home. The structure collapsed, and flaming debris was scattered about the land. The inferno consumed the remains of the property, reducing the farmhouse to a pile of rubble and smoldering ash.
“You think Warwick was inside?” Richie asked. “Or you think he got out in time?”
“Someone in his condition? The last time I saw him, the guy was practically on his deathbed. No way he go out unless…unless someone helped him get out. Unless someone helped him start the fire.”
“You think Dominic helped him?”
“Either that or Dominic started the fire and left him there to die.”
“Fucking hell,” Richie muttered.
“Yes, that about sums up our current situation,” Garton quipped.
“What’s our next move?”
“Next move? There is no next move, pal. We’ve reached the end of the road. It’s just you, me, and that stupid fucking dragonfly.” He motioned with his head to the backseat where the jar rested. The dragonfly fluttered around the top of the jar, circling the perforated lid. “Nico Cirico is dead. Mac Wilson is dead. Fenton Meeks is dead. Warwick is either dead or he’s on the lam. Dominic Cirico is MIA. And we can’t go after his old man. Whether or not his dad had anything to do with that little home movie is irrelevant. You can’t kill a made guy.”
“You can’t,” Richie said. “That doesn’t mean I’m powerless.”
“Richie, you don’t want to go down that road. Trust me. Besides, David Cirico keeps a very low profile. I heard he doesn’t even go by his real name anymore. We’ll never find him.”
“Wait a minute…you and I only crossed paths because we were both looking for Mac Wilson. Except we were looking for him for different reasons. I was looking to question him about the tape. And you were looking for him because you wanted the scoop on Warwick after he hired you. But who put you in touch with Warwick to begin with? I seriously fucking doubt he looked you up in the phonebook. What’d he Google you or something?”
“I never did business with Cirico’s crew, so it wasn’t David Cirico who put us in touch. But Dominic mentioned something about the Westfield crew. I’ve worked for them in the past. They must have put Warwick in touch with me after Dominic reached out on his behalf.”
“Then guess what? We’re taking a little road trip to Westfield.”
“No thanks. I’ve played with fire too many times. I’m not getting burned again.”
“Come on, man up. You know them a hell of a lot better than Warwick does. You probably even know them better than Dominic. Who are they going to side with? They could help us find them. They’re our only shot.”
“The Westfield crew are not going to hand over the son of a made guy.”
“Then we’ll show them the tape. We’ll do whatever it takes to convince them.”
“It wouldn’t change a thing. Nadia wasn’t their family. Even if we offered to grease their palms, they’d still turn us down. They may even kill us just for suggesting it.”
Stymied, Richie pounded his fists on the dashboard in frustration. “This isn’t over. Not by a long shot.”
* * *
Kirk Warwick managed to escape the blazing inferno unscathed. In fact, it was he himself who lit the match. Though, Dominic did lend him a hand. They spread enough gasoline around the house to ensure the fire would consume everything in its path and leave no trace of Warwick behind.
Warwick was alive, but not well. The cancer had taken its toll and now he was without the comfort of his home. On the run with Dominic, their first stop was Westfield, where they paid a visit to Leo Locascio.
Leo was acting boss of the Westfield crew and he felt that he owed Dominic no favors.
“Sorry, kid, but I can’t help,” Leo said. “If it was your old man asking me, maybe. But you’re not your old man.”
“I’m here on behalf of my father and everyone involved,” Dominic told him.
“I’d rather be hearing that from his own lips.”
“You know my father keeps a low profile. He’s not going to stick his neck out for anyone.”
“I’m not just anyone,” Leo assured him.
“No, you’re not,” Dominic said. “And I appreciate you taking the time to see us.”
“Drop the ass kissing routine,” Leo scoffed. “I’ve had enough of that for one lifetime. And who’s the old man? What’s his deal?”
“Kirk was there with us,” was all Dominic said. That’s all Leo needed to hear to understand.
“Look, my crew helped you with Fenton Meeks. We made sure he kept his mouth shut. But we didn’t ask for this. We didn’t bring this heat on. It was you and your brother and his pal, Mac. This is your mess to clean up, not mine.”
“I’ve comprised a list. I’ve gathered all the names, all the addresses. I have it all documented. Every tape that was sold or distributed. You just need to send in a few of your guys. Make the deaths look like accidents if you have to. As long as there’s nobody left to trace it back to us. Your guys can collect the tapes and destroy them, so it won’t ever come back to haunt us.”
“I suppose you also want us to whack that private detective, right? And your hit-man who went AWOL?”
“You put us in touch with Garton,” Dominic pointed out. “This is on you as much as it’s on me.”
“I don’t see it that way,” Leo said.
“Your crew helped distribute the tapes.”
“Before I was acting boss.”
“Either way, it all leads back to you. Garton, the tapes, Fenton Meeks. If I go down, I’m taking you with me.”
“That’s a hell of a threat.”
“It’s a promise.”
“You got some balls, kid. I’ll give you that. You’re as gutsy as your old man. But if it’s a war you want, it’s a war you get. Nobody walks all over Leo Locascio. I won’t just lie down, kid. I’ll step up.”
“I definitely don’t want to go to war with you, Mr. Locascio. But perhaps when we both go to prison, we can share a cell. Or maybe they’ll stick us side by side. They might even stick us in different cell blocks. But we’ll both be under the same roof. I can assure you of that.”
“I can see you’re not bluffing.”
“I don’t need a poker face when all my cards are out on the table.”
“Give me your fucking list and I’ll take care of the rest. As far as Garton and that private snoop go, you’ll have to do your own dirty work there.”
“Well, that’s why I need another small favor. They’re looking for us. They’ll start at Warwick’s place, but they won’t stop there. Warwick and I need a place to hide until things cool down.”
Leo sighed, exasperated. “The mannequin warehouse on Lexington Boulevard. It’s currently abandoned, but I own the lease. I use it from time to time to conduct business. It’s not The Four Seasons, but I don’t have any other accommodations.”
“We’ll take it,” Dominic said and stuck out his hand. Leo reluctantly accepted and they shook on it.
Warwick ran out of breath just walking to the door of Leo’s office. He gasped and coughed up a small handful of blood. His condition was worsening. The cancer had ravaged his throat and spread throughout his body like a baneful plague.
His time was running out. But it wasn’t death he feared. It was the dragonfly. It was everything that the dragonfly represented, what it symbolized.
It was the very definition of Hell on Earth. And Warwick desperately wanted to know the job had been completed. The fate of his soul likely depended upon its demise.
* * *
“I just want to say thanks for helping out,” Richie said. “You didn’t have to go this far with me. You did the right thing, trying to help me find Nadia’s killers. I misjudged you. I thought you were a monster.”
“Oh, I am a monster,” Garton assured him. “Lucky for you I’m a monster with principles.”
On the ride back to Richie’s office, Garton received a call. He took it out from his jacket; a cheap, prepaid phone, just like Richie’s. Burners, they call them on the street. A phone he could easily discard and purchase another to avoid having any calls traced.
The call was from a blocked number. He answered, but didn’t speak. He heard breathing on the other end of the line.
“Garton?” Leo Locascio finally spoke. “You there?”
“I’m here, Leo. What do I owe the pleasure?”
“It’s my understanding that you and a fella named Richie Carter are running around playing detectives. You’re looking for Dominic Cirico and Kirk Warwick, is that right?”
Garton didn’t say a word. He let his silence do all the talking for him.
“I know about the tape. I didn’t sanction it. None of my men were involved. We just helped with distribution. I need this matter resolved, ASAP. I’m willing to propose a trade. You and your new pal forget about our involvement in this and all my troubles go away. In exchange for that, I’ll give you Cirico and Warwick.”
“You’ve got yourself a deal. Now spill out. Where are they hiding?”
“Lexington Boulevard. There’s a warehouse adjacent to the steel mill. That’s where you’ll find them.”
* * *
Lexington Boulevard was an industrial region of Westfield, mainly consisting of factories, warehouses, and a steel mill. They parked a block from the warehouse, near the train tracks. In the rearview mirror, Garton had picked up a tail at the last minute.
Anthony Carter had grown suspicious of his brother ever since Mac Wilson’s suicide. He’d been following them for a while. He’d tailed them from Richie’s office, to the farmhouse, to Westfield.
“Anthony, get back in your car and drive away from all this,” Richie advised his brother. “Now. It’s for your own good. Trust me.”
“No can do, broski,” Anthony told him. “I want answers, pronto. You’ve been working with Zack Garton? Zack fudging Garton?!”
“I’m standing right here, you know,” Garton said.
“I’ll get to you in a minute,” Anthony said. “Right now, I’m having a conversation with my brother. What in Sam Hill is going on around here? Is your car really in the shop? And what really happened to your face? Does it have something to do with Dolph Hendricks? Did Mac Wilson even commit suicide? Tell me the truth, Richie. Now!”
“My car isn’t in the shop. It’s at Roman’s garage. Dolph Hendricks tried to kill us. A bullet grazed my cheek, that’s what happened. I was there when he died. And Wilson committed suicide. Shot himself right in front of me. I swear on that one.”
“In your brother’s defense, he didn’t kill Dolph,” Garton said.
“Yeah, because you probably did. You know what? I don’t even want to know. Dolph had a lot of enemies, and if it wasn’t you, it would’ve been someone else. I’m not concerned with him at the moment. But what else have you been holding back from me, Richie? What are you even doing out here in Westfield?”
“You want to know? Everything on that tape was real. It’s a legit snuff film. Kirk Warwick, Mac Wilson, Dominic and Nico Cirico were the four men on that tape. They did it just for kicks. They filmed it all, sold a few copies to hardcore collectors to make some extra cash. Dominic set me up, sent me out to Fairview to look for Mac Wilson so Mac could kill me. Only Mac didn’t get the job done. He hired Price to do the job and it backfired.
Dominic also paid Hendricks to come after us. And he was behind Fenton Meeks’ murder. He even sent me out to that motel to look for Wilson. He probably figured either Wilson would kill me or I’d kill Wilson and whole thing would be over with. Dominic and Warwick are holed up in that warehouse. We’re going to finish this once and for all. So are you going to stand in my way?”
“Heck no,” Anthony said. “I’m with you all the way on this one. But we do it my way. We take them in alive if possible. But if things go bad, nobody will mourn their loss. Now let’s go nail these lowdown, dirty, fart knockers.”
“We really need to work on your profanity,” Richie sighed, shaking his head.
* * *
They went in through the back. Leo Locascio had not supplied them with a key. It couldn’t look like they were in cahoots. No signs of forced entry would give Leo’s involvement away. If Dominic turned up dead and his father caught wind that Leo tipped Garton off, Leo’s days would be numbered. And the same could be said for Richie and Zack.
Garton pried the backdoor open with a crowbar he took from his trunk. But that wasn’t all he’d brought along. He’d also brought along the dragonfly.
“What’s the deal with the jar?” Anthony whispered to Richie.
“I have a feeling we’ll both find out soon enough.”
They crept through the abandoned warehouse, which was still cluttered with pallets, crates, boxes, and rows of department store mannequins.
Mannequins possessed an eerie, lifelike quality to Richie. He could feel their eyes set on him, staring, watching his every move. And he couldn’t help but stare back at them, as he was half expecting Dominic or Warwick to pop out from between them and open fire.
But the warehouse was quiet. Unnervingly quiet.
They all had their gun drawn; Richie with his Colt .45, Garton with 9mm Luger, Anthony with his service revolver. They were ready for anything.
Garton was silent as he carried the jar under one arm, but his mind anticipated the worst. He was expecting an old fashioned double cross.
Leo sold Dominic out with zero hesitation. What if this was all a setup to get Richie and Garton in that warehouse to kill them? Or maybe Leo was hoping for a shootout, blood spilled on both sides. Maybe in the end, nobody would be left to tell their side of the story.
“Sorry to disappoint you, gentlemen,” a voice stopped them dead in their tracks. A few of the mannequins toppled over as Dominic bumped through them and stepped out in front. “Leo sold me out and then he sold you out. I knew you were coming, so I brought some company of my own.”
There was a young girl in front of Dominic. He had one arm around her throat and a pistol pressed to the side of her head.
“This all happened so fast I never even had the chance to get properly introduced. What’s your name, sweetheart?” Dominic inquired.
“Rh-Rhonda,” the girl said, her eyes wide with terror, tears streaming down her face.
The girl was a teenager, probably still in high school. The boys all knew the hand Dominic was playing. Rhonda was just another innocent pawn in a sick, demented game. Having a hostage gave Dominic leverage. They couldn’t risk taking a shot at him as long as Rhonda was still alive and in his grasp.
“Well, Rhonda,” Dominic said. “Today is not your day. You see, these gentlemen here want to take me away to prison again, or worse, they’ve come to kill me. Personally, I’m not a fan of either scenario. So I don’t want to kill you, but if it’s you or me, I’m afraid it has to be you. So keep those tears coming. Convince them that your life is worth more than mine.”
“You coward,” Richie said.
“Anyone with a gun is a coward, yourself included,” Dominic said.
“So where’s The Outsider?” Richie asked. “That’s what you called him, right?”
“Yeah, where’s the old man?” Garton pressed. “I have a surprise for that geezer.”
Warwick was hiding among the mannequins and stepped out, taking cover behind Dominic. “You couldn’t leave well enough alone,” Warwick said directly to Garton. “You couldn’t just take the money and finish the job. You had to dig up my past. Now look where it’s brought us.”
“I just want to go home,” Rhonda wailed.
“Sure you do, sweetheart,” Dominic said. “Sure you do. And if luck is on your side, you will. What do you say, guys? Why don’t you walk away now while you have the chance and I’ll let the girl go? Then Rhonda can live to see graduation.”
Rhonda’s lips–puffy and smeared with purple lipstick–were quivering. She couldn’t stop her left leg from twitching. The floor beneath her felt like it was vibrating.
Out of desperation, Rhonda did the only thing her frightened mind could think of. She sunk her teeth deep into Dominic’s forearm, and didn’t stop until she drew blood. The sharp pain forced Dominic to release her and she ran into Richie’s arms.
“Run for it,” Richie advised her. “And go straight home. Do not call the police. We’ve got this taken care of.”
“I still have a gun,” Dominic pointed out, setting the pain aside. “This is far from over.”
“And we have three guns,” Anthony noted. “Seems like we’ve got you outnumbered.”
“Maybe we should surrender,” Warwick whispered to Dominic. “We could still make it out of here alive.”
“Not a chance in hell,” Dominic said back.
It was then that Warwick noticed the jar tucked under Garton’s arm.
“You…you brought it with you! You brought that abomination back into my presence! Why couldn’t you have just destroyed the fucking thing?! That was our deal!” His voice rose to a feverous pitch, and he coughed another handful of blood. But he couldn’t have cared less. The blood didn’t faze him. He was transfixed, his eyes glued to the jar.
“Yeah, well I changed the deal,” Garton informed him. “Here’s the new one. You’re going to spill your guts about everything. And depending on how generous I’m feeling after that, I might just let you walk out of here.”
“You can start by clearing something up for me and telling me who was holding the camera on that tape,” Richie said.
“Don’t say a word,” Dominic warned him.
“It’s not like you have any other options,” Richie said. “Spill it.”
“Cherry red convertible,” Warwick whispered.
“You shut your treacherous mouth!” Dominic screamed and backhanded Warwick. “I’ve had enough of you and I’ve had enough of your lectures and quotes. And I’ve had enough talk about the dragonfly to last me a fucking lifetime. It’s nothing more than a harmless insect, you delusional old bastard. And I’m going to prove it to you.”
Dominic fired his pistol and the bullet shattered the jar, glass raining down to the floor. The bullet missed Garton, but his arm was badly cut from the glass. Though he didn’t show any signs of pain. He didn’t even flinch.
The dragonfly hovered in the air briefly before descending upon the dispersed shards of glass. Warwick gasped.
“I warned you, Dominic,” he sobbed. “Satan appears in many unassuming forms.”
The dragonfly swelled and pulsated; a bizarre, inexplicable sight. Silence filled the warehouse. The men lowered their guns and gazed at the dragonfly. Warwick was trembling with fear.
They stood aghast as the dragonfly’s transformation commenced. Its iridescent colors faded. Its transparent wings turned black with decay. It increased in mass at an accelerated rate. Richie wasn’t sure at first, but it looked as if it was sprouting new appendages.
It was mutating.
“What the fuck is happening?!” Dominic shouted.
“You’re about to find out,” Warwick said. “When you bite the devil, the devil bites back.”
The dragonfly, if you could still call it that, now stood before them. A bipedal creature with a dry, rigid exterior. It skin was black and rough as shoe leather. Its long, narrow flapped effortlessly at its sides.
Glowing red eyes stared back at them. Filled with the color of blood. And when it blinked, it did not blink horizontally, up and down. It blinked from the sides, back and forth.
Its swollen lips parted and a forked tongue slithered in and out between four overlapping rows of jagged, razor-like teeth.
“HOLY FUCKING SHIT!” Anthony exclaimed.
“I knew you’d break eventually,” Richie muttered.
They watched in absolute horror as Warwick took his final breaths and the dragonfly claimed his soul. It consumed Warwick from head to toe, leaving nothing behind. But it didn’t stop there. The demon wasn’t satisfied. It had another soul to claim.
Anthony averted his eyes as Richie and Garton observed it tearing Dominic limb from limb from bloody limb. The screams were so horrific they could never be unheard. It didn’t even sound human. It sounded like an animal in its last agonizing moments.
And in the blink of an eye, the dragonfly transformed again, decreasing in mass and reverting back to its prior state. It appeared as nothing more than a harmless, docile insect. But they knew the truth. Warwick wasn’t just blowing smoke. Hell was all around them. Demons walked among the living, and they did appear in the most unassuming forms.
“Nobody would ever believe us in a million years,” Garton said.
“You’re right,” Richie said. “The only logical thing to do is go our separate ways. It’s over. All the men on that tape are dead. Well, all but one. But it’s time to put this all behind us.”
“I don’t know about you,” Anthony said, “But I don’t think I can just forget what I’ve seen.”
“I think it would be impossible to forget this,” Richie said. “But we can never speak of it to anyone else. I’ll tell you one thing, I’ll never look at a dragonfly the same way again.”
“Speaking of which, what should we do with it?” Garton asked.
“The dragonfly?” Richie smiled. It was the first time Anthony had seen him smile in years. But it wasn’t joy lighting up Richie’s face. His smile was really saying, I know something you don’t know.
“Leave it to me.”
To Be Continued