Dark and, at times, amusing fiction from award-winning author Dave Zeltserman

Monday, June 24, 2024

James & Bond excerpt


An excerpt from the Morris Brick story James & Bond from Detectives and Spies:

VICTOR Specter had good reason to be nervous given the flash drive that he had earlier tucked away in his wallet. If the authorities were to find that on him he’d be in deep doo doo, to say the least. His most pressing concern at that moment, though, was the silver Mercedes sedan three car lengths behind him. He could’ve sworn he’d spotted that same car when he left Janus Global Enterprises and that must’ve been why instinctively he’d gotten off the 110 and started driving aimlessly through downtown Los Angeles. While he didn’t think it likely that Auric Gold would double-cross him, the guy was a reputed mobster suspected of running half a dozen criminal enterprises, including laundering money for the Russian mob, and since ten million dollars was at stake, the thought had crossed his mind that the Mercedes’s presence was anything but innocent. He knew that Gold wanted the flash drive. Forget that, Gold needed the documents stored on the drive, and while he would pay the agreed upon ten-million-dollar price for it, if the mobster could get it for nothing by having a couple of his hired thugs nabbing him after he left work, why wouldn’t Gold try that? The guy was a killer, after all!

Victor used his rearview mirror to catch another peek of the Mercedes and realized for the first time that while the driver was a man, his passenger was a woman. So Gold must have women muscle on his payroll. Why not? The light ahead had turned yellow. Victor gritted his teeth and without signaling or even glancing over, swung his car hard into the left lane. The car he had cut off blasted its horn, but there was no sound of crunching metal. Luckily, he had avoided an accident. The light turned red and he came to a stop. Once again, he glanced in the rearview mirror. The driver behind him was nearly frothing at the mouth as he energetically gave him the finger. Fine. Victor didn’t care about that. What he cared about was that the Mercedes had also moved into the left lane.

As Victor waited for the light to turn green, he gripped the steering wheel hard enough that his hands began to ache. He no longer had any doubt that Gold had sent those two to rip him off. When the light changed, instead of turning left Victor pushed hard on the gas and shot forward, driving straight on 2nd Street. He risked another look in the rearview mirror and watched as the Mercedes had no choice but to take the left turn. Later, Gold’s muscle would circle back and try to pick him up, but they weren’t going to have any luck with that. Victor would meet up with Gold later that evening, but it would be on his terms. He turned right on South Grand Avenue and then another right. He would find a place to camp out and give the Mercedes time to get hopelessly lost trying to find him. Besides, after releasing the steering wheel and feeling his hand shake, he realized that he badly needed a drink.

Eight minutes later Victor parked half a block away from the Royale Bar. Another nine minutes and he was sitting at the bar and had drunk half of a double Scotch. By happenstance, he looked over his left shoulder and caught the eye of a dark brunette sitting three barstools away. Somehow he hadn’t noticed her until then, but she was quite attractive, and he found himself staring at her longer than he should have. Instead of reacting angrily, she flashed him the type of smile that made him feel weak in the knees. He smiled back at her and watched as she got off her barstool and ambled over to him.

“Eva,” she said.

Up close and seeing her standing, she wasn’t just attractive, she was stunningly gorgeous. Like a movie star. He took the hand she offered. It was a slender, delicate hand, and it felt nice in his own.

“Sean,” he lied, which made no sense. Sometime in the next thirty minutes he would be heading to LAX and once he arrived there he’d be calling Auric Gold and arranging to meet him at his gate. It shouldn’t take more than an hour after that for them to conclude their business. Then at roughly five-forty p.m. he’d be boarding a flight to Vietnam. So why lie about his name? He had no good answer for that. But he did know why he wanted her to take the empty barstool next to him. He wasn’t a bad looking guy, and in the past he had attracted his share of attractive and cute women, but never anyone like her. That should change once he had his ten million dollars, but still, this was a first for him. He glanced past her to notice that she had left behind an empty cocktail glass. Since he had nothing to lose, he decided to be bold. “You just want me to buy you a drink,” he said, flashing her a grin.

She laughed at that and lightly touched his arm. “That’s not the only reason.” She gestured at the empty barstool. “Mind if I sit?” she asked.

“By all means.” Victor signaled the bartender to get the woman another drink. The bartender complied, mixing up a gin martini and bringing it over.

“Whether it’s gin or vodka, I prefer my martinis stirred and not shaken,” she said. Her hand was again lightly touching Victor’s arm and he reciprocated by placing his hand on one of her beautifully shaped legs. The fact that she didn’t seem to mind had him recalculating how much time he had before he’d have to leave for the airport.

“I’m not usually here at—” She gave her watch a quick look. “Two-twenty in the afternoon drinking martinis, but it was just one of those days where I needed to get out of the office.” Her smile turned up a notch. “What’s your excuse?”

“I’m not drinking martinis.”

She laughed at that. An easy, soft laugh, and Victor found himself mesmerized by it. He also tried again to reschedule in his mind his next three hours so he could both deliver the flash drive to Gold and also spend an hour alone with Eva.

“You know what I mean, smart guy,” she said with a wicked smile. She reached for her martini and knocked the glass over, the gin and vermouth that had been stirred together soaking Victor’s pants. He quickly got to his feet so he could inspect the damage.

She burst out laughing, but brought her palm to her mouth to cut it off. “I can’t believe I did that,” she exclaimed, sounding appropriately contrite. She was quickly off her own barstool and crouching in front of him as she futilely attempted to scrub at his wet pant.

There wasn’t much point in what she was doing. He would have to buy a pair of boxer shorts and pants unless he wanted to spend nineteen hours on a plane in wet clothes, which meant he wouldn’t be able to juggle his schedule enough to spend any time alone with her.

“Eva, what are you doing with him!”

 The man who had yelled this had just entered the Royale. He was about Victor’s height, but far more muscular, and he also looked borderline homicidal with thick veins streaking his neck. He was also running straight at them, his hands balled into fists.

Eva turned away from Victor to confront this man. “Craig, we had broken up!”

Victor sized up the situation quickly. Craig was intent on doing serious damage to him and Eva weighing all of 115 pounds would be little more than a speed bump in slowing the guy down. Victor had to get out of there fast, and since Craig was between him and the front door, he took off running toward the back entrance. The adrenaline pumping through him left him nearly breathless as he pushed his way through the door and stepped out into the alley behind the Royale. An arm wrapped around him from behind and he was jabbed in the neck with a needle. He tried yelling for help, but a thick piece of cloth was pushed into his mouth, gagging him. The arms that held him were like steel bands and every second he felt weaker. A minute later he was fully conscious but his body sagged as if he had no control over it.

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