The Dead Shoe Society combines murder, mystery, mayham…and so much more! A “killer” anthology you don’t want to miss!
“Taken” by Lori Gordon
He’d let his hair grow out while he was in treatment. It whipped across his face as a gust of wind kicked up from the east, courtesy of Lake Michigan. Ethan pulled his black hair back into a makeshift bun and strutted down the obnoxiously long block until he reached an alleyway. He rounded the corner and swore under his breath. A semi idled in the alley, the large mouth of its back door yawning wide to accommodate corrugated containers from the shoe store being hand loaded into its belly.
Wanting a closer look, Ethan pulled up the collar of his leather jacket, lowered his head, and began weaving down the alley like a misbegotten drunk. His nostrils flared as he staggered into brick walls, cursing up a blue streak in the belligerent way fellows who’ve had a few too many often do, and mumbled to himself as he neared the truck.
Two men clad in black overcoats stood at the back door, supervising the loading of the containers, their breath coming out in cold puffs of air as they spoke. Ethan could tell by the cut of their coats and the sheen of their shoes that their garments were pricy — these were no ordinary shop employees. From a distance, he couldn’t hear what they were saying, but it was clear that they were speaking either Russian or Polish — though he had no basis for feeling the way he did, something about that struck him as off. Had he been in Ukrainian village, or the Northwest side of Chicago, he might have felt differently, but here in the alley behind expensive boutiques, in the middle of the night?
Ethan did his best to make enough ruckus to draw their attention. The larger of the two, a burly, bald-headed type, broke off the conversation, frowned, and eyed him with suspicion. His right hand slipped beneath his overcoat — a telltale sign that his fingers now coiled around the barrel of a gun.
Bugger. That was a complication Ethan hadn’t been looking for. It meant these bastards had something to hide which didn’t bode well for Shark’s little friends. Son of a blooming bitch. A little voice inside his head mocked him, telling himself that he should have left well enough alone, but it was too late. He was here and in too deep. He figured he might as well make the best of it and see if he could get a bead on what was going on. No time like the present to put on a good show.
“Hey!” Ethan grinned and waved both hands in the air, affecting his best New York accent. “Hey, do you think one of you guys can help me out?” He let his jaw go slack, rubbed the stubble on his left cheek and concentrated on making his eyes as unfocused as a man on a drunk. “I’ve gotten twisted around.”
The bald-headed man barked out a stream of guttural Russian/Polish to his companion and approached Ethan with a menacing look in his eye. “What is it you are wanting? You have no business here.”
“Business?” Ethan stumbled forward and clutched his belly as he laughed. “No business, not tonight.” He let his legs propel him sideways where he laid a hand on a brick wall for support. “No, man. I was supposed to be meeting my friends at a gentleman’s club after dinner.” He winked and leered, finally getting the man’s attention.
“A gentleman’s club you say? How is it you are lost here?”
Ethan raised his hand to give the bald man a high five, dropping it when the man didn’t respond. “Women,” he sighed. “My girl called to check up on me, can you imagine that? She’s not used to me being out of town. My friends went ahead without me and I don’t know where the hell they are.”
“Women,” the man grunted in agreement. “They need to learn their place, no?”
“Yes!” Ethan pointed a finger in the air. “Damn straight.” He lurched forward, slurring his words, “They don’t understand sometimes we men need a little fun, to blow off some steam, you know?”
Badly smiled, revealing a golden front tooth, and waved towards his companion to join them. “This man is looking for a gentleman’s club. What is the closest one nearby? We help him get where he wants to go, yes?”
The smaller man scurried forward, hands stuffed in the pockets of his coat. The bald man narrowed his eyes. “You and your friends, you have a lot of dough?”
“Oh.” Ethan nodded. “Yes, absolutely. They said this was a high class place, all the way.”
“Not exactly downtown, but I am guessing you are looking for VIP’s on Kingsbury Street — oddly enough a block or so off Hooker Street,” the man snorted with laughter. “You will need to take a cab, my friend; it’s not far from North Ave, which on a cold night is quite a walk from here.”
Ethan knew the gig was up; he had no reason to hang around. He also had no reason to make the men suspicious. Putting on his best obnoxious tourist act, he backed up and pointed at the men with both index fingers. “You guys are golden. Thanks. I owe you one.”
“Hey.” Baldy’s hand clamped on tight to Ethan’s upper arm. He leaned in towards Ethan, close enough for him to smell the mint on the man’s breath. “You go there, ask for Pepper. Tell her you get a lap dance and anything else you want on Vlad. Go. Have fun. Enjoy.”
Ethan nodded. “Thanks. On Vlad. Thanks, man. Have a good one.” He turned back the way he’d come and waved to the two men, anxious to get the hell out of there. Vlad. A Russian name. Did the Russian mob have a presence in Chicago? Who the hell could keep track of these things, certainly not him; he’d lived most of his life abroad.
He did know one thing for sure. There was an odd smell coming from the truck they’d been guarding, and it sure as hell wasn’t from the scent of shoe leather being transported in the wee hours of the morning.
The Dead Shoe Society is Stephen Penner, Mark Souza, Jonas Saul, Kate Cornwell, EVictoria Flynn, Christi Craig and Lori Gordon. Seven Stories, Seven Genre’s, Seven Authors.
Cover Design by Heidi Sutherland
You can purchase The Dead Shoe Society at Amazon: http://amzn.to/zGuJAn