Come Again?

Seagulls soared on drafts between the empty buildings.

`Crap, it’s low tide,’ the thug in a frayed baseball cap said.

`Just keep rowing, please,’ the boss said. The bearded mute didn’t say anything. As always.

They navigated through shallows of abandoned cars. It’d only been few years since the polder dams let go in a storm, but the cars were a mess already. The thugs took their time. No good piercing their dinghy on the heaps of rotting steel.

They arrived to a multi-storey parking garage. Decks without walls, just concrete railings and massive pillars. The mute scrambled over the railing. The boss threw him a rope and climbed up deftly. The last thug followed after securing the oars.

`Haul it up,’ the boss said.

The two thugs thought tying the boat by the pillar would be just fine—

`No. It wouldn’t,’ the boss interrupted.

They sighed, pulled the dinghy up and ran after the boss who was already heading up the stairs briskly.

The higher they were the clearer they could hear faint music. The baseball cap and the mute glanced at each other. The boss didn’t seem to be perturbed, though. They pressed on.

All the way up at the level just below the roof, there was a long limo with tinted windows, neatly parked across several of the empty slots. The noise was coming from there, muffled by the thick walls of the luxury car. Two dead lighting panels were pointed at the sliding door of the passenger cabin. A disconnected power line snaked on the floor.

The boss went and plugged the cable to a burned-out socket in a nearby wall. The panels and a ceiling light right above them came alive, blinking in the sluggish rhythm of the waves that splashed in the streets deep down.

The boss came to the front door of the limo and tapped on the roof. His henchmen came closer. They felt increasingly uncomfortable under the flickering light, with the car that couldn’t have driven up there; not with the narrow spiral of a driveway and the water everywhere around.

A tired voice came from the driver’s cabin, `Is that you, Beast?’

`Yes. Would you mind if I opened the door?’

`Suit yourself.’

The boss opened the door. Inside, a little old man with a halo of white mane was sitting, dressed in nondescript grey robes. He was barefoot, dirty legs propped against the dashboard. The man was smiling amiably, but his thin, deeply lined face looked impassive and stark. He was smoking a long metallic pipe that smelled like seven hells and heavens.

`Is he ready?’

`Not sure. He doesn’t speak to me much these days. I wouldn’t bet on it—‘

The rear door opened and the muted tones became an explosion of fast-paced klezmer. The boss didn’t even blink, but the other two thugs sprang into motion. They took their guns out and aimed at … a girl, dressed in a cheap sexy-angel costume, who stumbled out of the car. She squatted and started to relieve herself right next to them. The men shuffled nervously, not knowing where to look all of a sudden.

`Maggie, dear, since you’re out there, would you be so kind and fetch me another drink?’ a voice croaked from the car.

`Jay, maybe you’ve had enough already? You know what we’re here for, don’t you?’ shouted the old driver.

`Shut up, Pops, I’m done when I’m done!’

The driver just looked up at the boss and shrugged. The girl opened the boot and produced a large clay jug. She spilled a little on the way back into the limo. It smelled like very sour wine.

`Maybe we’d better wait some more?’ the boss asked.

The old man said, in a resigned way, `I hate to say so, but I guess you’re right.’

`Okay. Take your time,’ the boss said, closing the driver’s door. And the car disappeared, music, lights, cable and all.

`Come on, boys, we’re done here,’ said the boss and started back to the stairs.

The thugs followed, hesitantly. Weird as the crew of the car was, they hoped they’d see them again rather soon.

©2017 Ronan Hayes. All rights reserved. For reproduction rights, please contact the author. This story has been submitted to a Writer’s Digest competition Your Story #85. The feature image is taken from the competition announcement web page.

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