A Crowdsourced Novel
Read it here – Say what comes next.
In the huge garage, Frank regained his balance, stepped away from the tool bench and rubbed grease from his hands. Oil soaked through his suit to the skin of his back. Across the garage, a gleaming black BMW was parked in the fourth bay, the limo driver working under its hood. Frank looked back at the two men confronting him.
Gort was huge—some kind of hired goon. The flat nose. The protruding brow. The older man sounded cultured, somehow foreign and wore a better suit than his crony. Probably European. Frank decided to call him Luigi then looked to the other side and peered through a small dingy office, spotting a grey steel door.
“I have clients waiting for me in the morning. I don’t know who this Speck person is and I don’t care. I’m leaving.” Frank started for the exit.
“Gort.” A single sharp command.
Just as Frank reached for the doorknob, he was lifted off his feet. Gort deposited him in a swivel chair and held him down while Luigi secured his wrists to the chair arms with duct tape, tight, then bound his ankles.
“Mr. Speck.” Again the smooth accented tones. “Why do you not cooperate and make it, how you say, pleasant for all of us?”
“I told you, my name’s Smith and I’m due at the office at nine.” Frank felt his face flush. What kind of guy was this Speck anyway, and how did this mix-up happen?
The foreigner sighed. He produced a knife, flicked it open and turned it over in his hands. “I am quite sure your fictitious clients will wait. You are now supposedly a peddler of, what was it? Insurance? Is not hard to rent an office and print business cards.” He clucked his tongue. “Not even a secretary. Yes, I do not think you will be missed.”
Frank knew he was in for a brutal questioning and he didn’t have any answers. “Now look here. My wife will miss me. She’s probably already called the police.”
The man’s mouth distorted in a sarcastic grin. “You live alone, Mr. Speck. You have been in St. Louis only a short time. You were traced to Burlington Iowa where you wisely left the government witness protection program, at which point I was called. You took this obvious name Smith for what reason, I know not. Did you think I would not find you? So you see,” he turned up a palm and shrugged, “there is no point lying. You are in a great difficulty, Mr. Speck. Uomo Grasso demands an audience with you. But, as you say, I have you now. Would you care to tell me where the money is hidden?” Luigi ran a thumb across his knife blade. “I have not been informed in what condition you must arrive.”
A knock at the door. They all turned. Frank shouted for help.
“Gort, silence him.”
The big man shoved a rag into Frank’s open mouth. As he struggled to spit it out, huge fingers tore a length of duct tape and stretched it across his face. The knocking turned to pounding, then what must have been kicking as the door shook. Frank prayed for it to be the police.
Luigi pocketed his knife and opened the door a crack. “I am afraid we are closed, young lady.”
Frank heard a woman’s voice from outside. “Let me in. My car broke down.”
“I am sorry. We are closed for the night.”
“But your lights are on. I need help. Your sign says roadside service—is that false advertising or what? I left my twins and my Beagle in the car and need to get back. It’s just a mile or so. Listen, I’m tired and there’s nowhere else open this time of night. Won’t you please help me? I bet it won’t take a minute for a smart guy like you—hey you’re dressed kinda fancy for a mechanic.”
“Precisely. Will you please go away?”
“How will I get home? At least rent me a car. Let me use the phone—my cell’s dead.” Luigi pulled the door closed as she called out, “I guess I’ll just flag down a squad car.”
Luigi turned with a look of exasperation. “Gort.”
The giant pushed the door open, yanked the woman inside and held her while Luigi stepped behind and wound duct tape around her arms at the elbows. She flailed at Luigi with high heels. She kicked Gort’s shin with a pointed toe then struck him with a knee. The giant dropped her and doubled over.
Luigi struggled to bind her feet and gasped when she kicked at his head. He swore and pinned her legs, wrapping five circles of tape around her ankles. She cried out until he taped her mouth shut. He got to his feet. Wiped blood from his brow with a handkerchief. Straightened his jacket, brushing off grit while Gort lifted her like a rag doll.
Frank was shocked. A pretty woman. Blonde. Twenty something. Designer jeans. White summer top. Spaghetti straps. Pearl buttons straining from the way she’d been tied. She flashed him a fierce look.
Gort licked his lips, then mumbled, barely moving his mouth, barely audible. “You want I should take her out back and ask some questions?”
“Shuttup.” Luigi’s face contorted with rage. He brought up his knife. Sliced off a pearl button and placed it in his pocket as if he’d taken ownership. Grabbed her chin. Turned her head. Touched the point of his knife to her throat and spoke through gritted teeth. “You cause me no more trouble. Capiche?” He turned his back to her. “Gort, put her in the trunk with Mr. Speck. We have wasted too much time. We must get to the airstrip.”
* * *
From his car, Tony Ferragamo watched while the woman got pulled into the garage. That was her problem, not his. It looked like the hired help took the bait. This Frank Smith even bore a physical resemblance to him. He congratulated himself but wanted to be sure the plan worked to completion. It had to fool Uomo Grasso.
Tony skipped out on witness protection just in time—needed a change anyway. Living in a flophouse as Frank Speck in Burlington Iowa almost drove him crazy and he was glad to be on the loose again. A few hundred bucks got him a Social Security card, a drivers license, and credit cards in the name of Frank Smith and he left a wide trail to St. Louis–one he was sure would be followed. Now he’d need a different identity. Frank Smith would die—Uomo Grasso would see to that—and the names Frank Speck and Tony Ferragomo would die with him. Nobody would ever find the money paid for a hit that never happened.
The overhead door rolled open and a BMW backed out. Tony cranked the ignition and followed.
HOW TO PLAY–This is an interactive story based on Nate’s game in my novel. You get to say what comes next:
1.) KEEP IT SHORT – It’s easy to play Nate’s game. Just enter your idea as a comment like, “their jeep drives off a cliff.” Don’t worry about form—just suggest the next step in the story. I’ll pick one, write it, and post it as a scene in serial form.
2.) KEEP IT CLEAN – I hold the veto pen. Since this is an experiment, I get to add rules as we go along.
3.) SHARE – Your posts are a precious gift to me. Maybe you’ll help write my next novel. Maybe we’ll just have a great time. I take you at your word that all ideas are your original thoughts. No criticism. No arguments. No lawsuits allowed. Let’s have some fun.