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"Pronoun Trouble" by Tom Kreitzberg

Twist #298 - June 2015

(Page 3 of 3)

Indecisiveness was not a natural state for McLean. By the time he returned to his car, he had already settled on his plan of action. Doc Andrews would probably set the odds at two to one in favor of Crazy Joey figuring out who killed his son. The twenty thousand McLean had taken from Little Joey's house could get him settled someplace else, but he wasn't about to spend the rest of his life waiting to be found by Crazy Joey.

McLean drove straight to headquarters, parking in the street rather than the underground lot. He took the private staircase up to Mr. Parker's office and entered through the side door.

Crazy Joey was sitting in Mr. Parker's chair-- now his own, of course-- and he took one of Mr. Parker's fine cigars out of his mouth when McLean entered the office. "There you are," he growled. "Took you long enough."

Crazy Joey started to laugh, but McLean cut it short with a quick knife thrust. The dead man slipped onto the floor between desk and chair. McLean bent over him to make sure of his work, and noticed that, even with no warning, Crazy Joey had still managed to pull his pistol clear of his shoulder holster before the knife hit home. McLean shook his head, thankful his aim had been right on target.

The door to the office opened, and McLean straightened quickly, Crazy Joey's gun in his hand. Mr. Parker was walking toward him, wearing a puzzled look. "You here tonight?" Then his expression cleared. "Oh, right. Crazy Joey said he was going to have some fun with you. Before you run into him, we should pick a fall guy for Little Joey's death. I thought--"

Mr. Parker's voice caught as he came around the corner of his desk. He looked down at his brother's body. "What--"

A panicked cry tore from McLean's throat. He raised the pistol and fired twice into Mr. Parker's chest. Mr. Parker's face went blank as he took two backward steps, fell to a sitting position, then flopped onto his back.

Voices and footsteps could be heard just outside the still-open office door. McLean uttered a sharp curse as he threw the gun at the body at his feet.

Four young men, guns drawn, rushed into the office. They stopped short when they saw Mr. Parker sprawled on the floor, and looked to McLean for an answer.

No one moved for several seconds. All McLean could think was that his ears, ringing from the two shots he had fired, would stop ringing once the four men opened fire. At last, one of the men said sharply, "McLean?"

As he opened his mouth, McLean wondered what words he would hear. At that instant, he suddenly felt as though Doc Andrews had whispered the name of a sure-bet long shot in his ear.

In a quiet but forceful voice, McLean said, "Mr. Parker found out the two Joeys were cheating the business. He had me take care of Little Joey, but he wanted to face down his brother himself. Crazy Joey pulled a gun, so I stuck him, but not before--" and he waved toward his former boss.

There was a moment of stunned silence before the man who had spoken before said, "So now what?"

McLean folded his arms. "So now I'm in charge. Let's get this room cleaned up. I need to make some phone calls and go over the books."

As the men moved forward to scoop up Mr. Parker, McLean almost smiled. Like Doc Andrews used to say, you never knew when you might hit a big winner on the last race of the day.

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