Daniel is a resident of Cumming Georgia. He's a project manager for a
large transportation company, and he writes as a hobby.
"Someone call 9-1-1" the pimply faced college kid with curly hair and
black framed glasses shouted from across the restaurant. A small crowd
stood over a large well dressed man splayed out spread eagle on the
sparkling red and white checkered linoleum floor. The curly haired kid
straddled the well dressed man and pushed on his chest over and over.
"Twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen" the kid counted, then he leaned
forward and performed mouth to mouth before resuming the chest
The sight of the curly haired kid's mouth pressed against the other
man's made Big Mike's stomach churn. "Christ!" He pushed the plateful of
uneaten food away and stared out the window. Nothing had gone as
planned on this trip, and now he wasn't even going to get breakfast
before making the long drive back to Queens.
His jet black Mercedes sat parked under the red and yellow Route 17
Diner sign. In the trunk, Franky Gasio's body was growing stiff. Soon it
would begin to stink. He should've never agreed to bring the damn body
back. It went against everything he knew about doing these kind of jobs,
and no one knew more about killing than Big Mike Tortarello, but the old
man wanted to see Franky's body, and he'd pay an extra ten grand for it.
The kid's voice droned on. "Three, four, five, come on big guy hang in
there. The ambulance is on its way." Out the window, the heavy morning
traffic streamed by. The drivers, unaware of the commotion inside or the
location of Big Mike's eighty-fifth victim, passed the little diner with
hardly a glance. Seemingly out of nowhere, a gleaming red motorcycle
materialized and sped into the diner parking lot. The powerful
bike looked familiar, but Big Mike couldn't remember where he'd seen it
before. The memory lapse surprised him.
Big Mike never forgot anything. His powers of recall were so good, in
fact, as a young boy, teachers and psychiatrists used words like
“photographic” and “eidetic” to describe them.
Of course, having a perfect memory brings its own set of problems. When
nothing is forgotten, memories pile up and enter the thoughts at all the
wrong moments. As a child, he'd learned to organize his mind into an
imaginary maze of storage rooms where memories could be neatly tucked
away. When Big Mike needed a memory, he simply went to the right room
and checked it out. Some rooms he visited often, like the room where he
kept the memories of the women he'd slept with or the room that
contained his favorite wines. And then there were other rooms, darker
rooms, he rarely visited. Some of these held images more graphic and
violent than the most explicit horror films, and others held the painful
memories of his childhood, including the early deaths of his parents.
Now, Big Mike went looking for the room that held the memory of the
motorcycle. He was sure he'd seen one just like it on one of the jobs
he'd done for Hiram Silverstein, the orthodox Jew who wouldn't eat pork
but had no problem contracting for hits on people who stood in the way
of his real estate development plans. Mike remembered thinking he'd like
to ride a bike like that someday. Of course, at six foot seven and
nearly four hundred pounds, he was much too large for a crotch rocket.
They didn't call him Big Mike for nothing.
The rooms where he kept the memories of the jobs he'd done for Hiram
took up a whole wing of his memory warehouse, but when he got there he
found most of the wing had disappeared. The rooms and the memories they
held were all gone. Only a handful of rooms remained in the wing, and
none of them held the memory of the motorcycle. This had never happened
before. He'd forgotten. Disoriented and confused, he focused his
attention back out the window.
The rider, dressed in a shiny black jumpsuit, guided the bike to a
parking spot directly below him and remained perched on the seat. In the
background, the kid's counting continued. After each number the kid
grunted from the exertion of pressing on the big man's chest. "One,
grunt, two, grunt, three, grunt.”
Ignoring the counting and grunting, Mike studied the rider. A black
helmet and tinted sun visor hid the rider's face. There was no way to
know for sure, but, Mike got the feeling the rider was staring at him.
After a long moment, the rider peeled off the helmet exposing shoulder
length raven hair, alabaster skin, and candy apple red lips--a woman,
and a beautiful one at that. She made eye contact with him and smiled.
Her eyes were an unnatural golden color he'd never seen before. Jesus,
he thought, that's both sexy and spooky all at once. Maybe he would have
some fun on this trip after all.
With long deliberate strides, the rider made her way into the diner and
seeming not to notice the pimply faced kid or the man dying on the
floor, stepped around the crowd, and to Big Mike's surprise, strutted
directly up to his booth. The glistening black jumpsuit looked to be
painted on. The way it flowed over her breasts and hips left very little
for the imagination.
He ran his hand through his thinning greasy black hair and flashed her
his best smile. "Well, well, well. What do we have here?"
"Do you mind if I sit down?" she asked in a soft, raspy voice.
"Not at all, sweetheart."
The painted on jumpsuit made a crinkly sound as she slid into the booth
across from him.
Without prompting, she placed her smooth white hands on the table where
he could see them just as he'd instructed so many others to do. She
looked as if she'd been carved from marble like one of those statues at
Caesar’s Palace in Vegas.
"Have we met?" Big Mike had never asked such a question before without
knowing the answer.
The gold eyes flashed. "Not formally, but we've been to many of the same
places together. I've had my eyes on you for quite some time now."
"Is that so, darling. Why is it I've never seen you before then?"
bumped into one another more than once."
"Yeah. How many
times is more than once?"
The candy apple
lips curled back in the hint of a smile. "This would be the eighty-sixth time."
couldn't be a coincidence. Jesus, was she some kind of cop. He rubbed his leg
and felt the four-inch switch blade he concealed in his right front pants
pocket; not that he'd need it to do her. She was alone, and if she was a cop she
was either the ballsiest bitch he'd ever met or dumber than dirt.
Big Mike leaned
across the table and peered into the golden eyes. "Listen sweetheart,” he
growled, “I'm not the kind of man you want to mess around with."
There were many tough men who would wet themselves if Big Mike growled at them
like that, but she was unmoved. Those improbable eyes didn't show a trace of
fella. We're in compatible lines of business you and I. My name is Nataya
He leaned back
into the red leather booth. "That's quite a mouthful. You're too freaking white
to have a name like that."
"You can call
me Natalie if you like, but my name means one who carries what remains. I'm an
chuckled. That figured. He had a whole room in his head just for the hookers he
knew who called themselves escorts. "What the hell, I'll play along. Name some
of the places we've been together."
back in the booth and crossed her arms across her ample breasts. "Okay. This
will be fun. How about Detroit, the night of July 2nd, 1977?"
searched the rooms of his memory warehouse until he found the memory. It was the
night he knocked off Donny Pizarro for that mad Greek Niiko Pappagorgio. He'd
blown Donny's face off with a blast from a scatter gun and dumped his body in a
vat of molten iron at a foundry that made engine blocks. Mike sat up razor
straight. "What the hell do you know about that date?"
"Well, I know there are pieces of Donny in twenty three Buicks made that year."
laughed. "How the hell do you know that?"
"I told you. I
was there. Don't you remember me?"
He tried to
return to the room in his head to search for any memory of her from that night,
but the room wasn't there any longer. In fact, all the rooms that held memories
of the jobs he'd done for the mad Greek were gone. "I don't remember anything
about that night."
her head. "That's too bad. How about Key West, February 23rd, 1981?"
He ran through
the rooms in his mind until he found the right memory. He'd slit open Gay Bobby
Hernandez's throat for Pedro Martinez, the Cuban drug king, while they were
alone on the little faggot’s fishing boat. Big Mike slammed his fist on the
table. "How the fuck do you know these things?"
"Don't worry, Big Mike, your secret about what bait you really used to catch
that big sailfish you got hanging over the bar at the Eastside Hunt Club is safe
laughed loudly. Then, he stopped abruptly and looked around to make sure no one
was watching them.
her head. "No one cares about us, Mike."
She was right.
Everyone else in the diner had gathered around the big man lying on the floor
and were watching the pimply faced kid beating on the man's chest. No one seemed
to notice them at all.
"So tell me,
Mike," she cooed, "how did you wrestle that big fish into the boat all alone?"
Big Mike went
back to the place in his mental warehouse that held the memories of all the jobs
he'd done for the Cuban, but that whole section of the warehouse had been
replaced by black nothingness. "What fish? What were we talking about again?"
last memory, Mike. What about Garden City, Long Island, the evening of May 5th,
room took no time to find. This Natalie, or whatever her name was, was a
heartless bitch. It was a room he knew well, but he chose never to visit. It
held the memory of his eleventh birthday and the night he'd intentionally
tripped his grandmother down the cellar stairs causing her to break her neck.
and wet rolled down his cheek - a tear. He couldn't remember the last time he
cried, and he couldn't remember why he was crying now. He wiped the tears from
his eyes on his sleeve and glared at Natalie. "Damn. Who do you work for?"
"You don't know
him, Mike, but he knows you."
"Is that so?
Well, what does this boss of yours want?"
"He wants me to
bring you to him."
"Yes, but I
can't bring all of you."
"What are you
"When you die,
Mike, the best parts of your life here." She tapped a slender ivory finger on
the table. "The love you've felt and the kindness you've shown, they endure and
go with you to the next place. Everything else must stay here. It's my job to
escort what's allowed to pass to the other side."
Nothing she said made any sense.
The wail of sirens drowned out his thoughts and flashing red and blue lights
reflected off every polished surface. The pimply faced kid's voiced seemed to be
right on top of him. "They're here, big guy. Hang on just a little longer; just
a little longer."
Natalie slid out of the booth and extended her hand for him to take. Looking up
at her, she seemed so big and he so small. He reached up and took her hand. He'd
expected it to be cold and hard like stone, but it was warm and soft, and he
held on tight like a child who fears losing a parent in an unfamiliar place.
She pulled him out of the booth, and as they slowly floated past the big man on
the floor with the pimply faced kid pressing on his chest, Big Mike thought he
should know the man's identity. The man's face was familiar like one he'd known
a long time ago and loved. One small room left in his empty mind held a
childhood memory of a long dead man with similar features tucking him in at
"What do you escort again?" Big Mike asked. Though, he was no longer sure he
understood what the words meant.
Natalie's candy apple lips frowned. "In your case Michael, not much at all.