Ok, here is the third installment of The Ballad of John Lee. It’s occurred to me that I should probably put a warning on these stories for explicit language. So there it is. You’ve been warned. The Ballad of John Lee contains cursing. Including some f-bombs and other colourful language.
The Ballad of John Lee Part 3. “Into the Woods”
Getting taken out of the house was far more disorienting for John then being led in had been. Fyodor was heavy-handed and showed little compunction about dropping bombs on a blind man. Pushed, prodded and shoved down the hall he thought he must have looked like a drunken sailor as he staggered to and fro.
When they got outside Fyodor stopped him and stood him straight. “It’s time to make a choice Lee. Easy or hard. You can ride in the back seat or the trunk.”
“She’s pregnant,” John said.
“You don’t give up, I’ll give you that,” Fyodor said.
“Really, your boss’ wife is pregnant.”
“Backseat or Trunk? That’s all I want to hear from you,” Fyodor said.
John tried to calm himself. Fyodor didn’t say it, but he didn’t sound like he was going to ask again, so John decided to exercise what little power he had. “Backseat,” he said.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Aleksi asked when Fyodor told him to get John into the back seat.
“He’s harmless,” Fyodor said. “He’ll be out of our hair soon enough. Just keep an eye on him and let’s go get this over with.”
As the car started moving John heard the automatic door locks click into place. He saw Fyodor’s soul-shadow lean forward and then the radio started up. It was either a sports channel or a sports show and a couple of guys were talking pre-season hockey. Rangers, Islanders and Devils of course.
“Probably not much of a sports fan, are ya Lee?” Fyodor said from the front seat.
“Not much of a hockey fan. I take in some baseball.”
Aleksi just snorted, and even his snorts sounded like they were tossing around casual f-bombs but Fyodor kept up the small talk. “Can’t be much fun for you. Considering,” he said.
John had half a mind to ask his soon-to-be killer how much he was seeing in the radio they were listening to, but the red, yellow and black mist that started seeping out of where he assumed a radio speaker was distracted him. The mist hovered beside Fyodor and coalesced into a thick, pudgy, person-like thing with far too many teeth.
“Smiley,” John said.
After Fyodor had removed the sham-artist, and probable spy, fortune-teller, The Boss gave his wife a bad actor’s overdone apologetic look. “Julia, I’m sorry. I do try to keep you away from such unpleasantness. I would never have thought that fellow would be so violent.”
“Eddie, who was that? He said he saw your wife and child in here.”
“He’s a con-artist honey. He’s been messing with some of the boys’ heads. I gave him a little test here and he failed. He’s was just making a wild guess, that’s all.”
“He’s the one from the party? The blind guy who saved Melanie?”
“Supposedly. Trust me, I’ll be looking into how he set that up.”
“But Eddie, he said he saw me. He said…”
“Julia, don’t worry. I really am sorry to involve you, but you won’t be seeing him again. And he never saw you. Now I’ve got to go look over a couple of things in my office. We can talk later.” Eddie turned and started down the hall before she could say anything more about the matter, but he called to her, “Maybe you could find us a movie to watch.”
Alone in the giant living room Julia put a hand on her stomach and started weighing consequences.
The nearly forty minute drive was not particularly pleasant. First John tried for the Hail Mary play.
“Guys, I don’t want to alarm you but there’s a shark-toothed demon sitting beside Fyodor. He’s arranged this all so you’ll kill me. Whatever your other faults, I’m sure you’re not interested in helping out a demon.”
Aleksi didn’t respond too well to that. “Shut your fuckin’ mouth Lee,” he said.
Fyodor took it better, but even less seriously. “You’re original Lee. I’ll give you that. Most go for bribes of one sort or another. A couple try threats. Pretty much everyone begs at some point. I think I’ll actually be a little disappointed if you beg.”
Smiley just kept grinning his too-many teeth grin and twitched his eyes wider for a real rubbing-it-in effect.
“I’ll try not to disappoint you,” John said.
Next John hoped Aleksi wasn’t paying attention to him and tried surreptitiously reaching into his pocket for a quick-fix ward to use against the demon.
The sudden pain as his right wrist and arm were yanked and twisted in non-owner’s manual approved ways told him that Aleksi had, in fact, been paying attention.
“What the hell are these?” Aleksi asked as two smallish plastic vials fell from John’s hand onto the seat.
“You forgot to say fuck,” John said and winced as the thug torqued his arm a little more.
“What’s going on back there?” Fyodor asked.
“Not sure, maybe this was going to be the bribe? Looks like drugs,” Aleksi said.
“You didn’t even curse that time,” John said and followed up with, “AHH!” as Aleksi twisted once more. “It’s sanctified rice and holy water.”
“Sure it is,” Aleksi said. “Nice street names. I’ll just be keeping your shitty little samples of ‘rice and water’, thanks.”
Up front Smiley chuckled an unfriendly, though very pleased with itself, chuckle that only John could hear.
Julia knocked on the office door. “Eddie?” she said.
“Ya? What’s up?” Eddie said from the other side of the door.
Julia opened the door and stepped into the room.
“What is it?” Eddie asked. “I’ll be done here soon. You up for that movie?”
“Eddie, about the fortune-teller…”
“Seriously? Julia, I told you not to worry. Look, it was a mistake to make you part of business but drop it ok. I don’t want to hear anymore about it.”
The car came to a stop on what sounded like a dirt or gravel road, maybe a soft shoulder.
Smiley leered and said, “Times up John.”
The automatic locks popped open and the thugs two doors opened.
“Sorry Lee,” Fyodor said. “We’re here and your time’s up.”
“Get the fuck out,” Aleksi said.
John opened his door. He wasn’t sure he had anyway out of this. The only slim consolation he could find was that at least it was over. He knew Smiley would come for revenge and now here it was. No more waiting anyway.
“Start walking asshole,” Aleksi said.
John turned to the sound of Aleksi’s voice and spread his arms wide. “Is that a joke?” he asked. “Blind man here. I have no idea where you want me to walk and if these are woods it’s going to be pretty slow going as I trip and fall every few steps.”
“Come on,” Fyodor said as he took hold of John’s elbow. “We gotta get about 30 yards in.”
“That’s it?” John asked.
“That’s all we need around here,” Fyodor said.
Fyodor led John into the woods in a much nicer manner than he’d led him out of The Boss’ house. John stumbled a bit, but Fyodor kept him on his feet.
“Do you think they’ll try and make you dig your own grave?” Smiley asked.
John tried to ignore him.
“Eddie you’ve got to call it off. He’s real.”
“He said you were holding our child!”
“I’m pregnant that seems close enough for a blind fortune-teller. Come on Eddie. He’s real.”
Eddie slammed his fist on the desk. “OK!” he said and grabbed the phone.
“You want a count or something?” Fyodor asked John after they’d stopped walking.
“We’re here then?” John said.
“Yep. So, count or no count?”
“Just get it over with. At least blind I don’t have to worry about seeing it coming.”
A sudden ringing sound nearly caused John to die of a heart attack. Once he realized he hadn’t been shot yet he identified the ringing as a cell phone. Probably Fyodor’s.
“Hold Up. It’s the boss,” Fyodor said. “Yeah?” Fyodor said, answering the phone.
“What is it?” Aleksi asked.
“Boss? Heh, look, I can’t make out anything you’re saying. Can you hear me?” Fyodor said.
John had a sinking feeling and the low laughter coming from Smiley that built louder and louder to near hysterical levels confirmed his worry.
“Eddie, what’s wrong?” Julia asked.
“They can’t hear me!” Eddie said. “No signal or something.”
“But you’ve got to stop them!” Julia said.
“I think it’s too late,” Eddie said as the connection died completely.
“Look Aleksi, I couldn’t hear a thing the Boss was saying. Probably wants to know if we’re done yet. Let’s finish up here and get somewhere with a signal so we can check in.”
Aleksi just grunted.
“Fucking cell phones,” was all John could say before the two thugs finished him off with a hail of bullets.
Back at the car Aleksi looked at Fyodor. “The boss don’t usually check in. What the fuck you think he wants?”
Fyodor shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe Julia’s hungry or something, wants us to pick them up some food.”
John sighed and opened his eyes. His mind reeled under the sudden sensory assault as he tried to decipher what was more shocking: the fact that he could see, really see, or the fact that he was looking at what he assumed was his own bullet-ridden and blood covered body, laying dead at his feet.
“You didn’t think I was going to left you off with simple death, did you meddler?” Smiley asked, then turned and disappeared into the woods, laughing.
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