Hardcase

Simmons Dan

CHAPTER 1

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Late one Tuesday afternoon, Joe Kurtz rapped on Eddie Falco's apartment door.

"Who's there?" Eddie called from just the other side of the door.

Kurtz stood away from the door and said something in an agitated but unintelligible mumble.

"What?" called Eddie. "I said who the fuck's there?"

Kurtz made the same urgent mumbling noises.

"Shit," said Eddie and undid the police lock, a pistol in his right hand, opening the door a crack but keeping it chained.

Kurtz kicked the door in, ripping the chain lock out of the wood, and kept moving, shoving Eddie Falco deeper into the room. Eddie was several inches taller and at least thirty pounds heavier than Kurtz, but Kurtz had momentum on his side.

Eddie swung down the 9mm Browning. Still shoving the taller man across the floor and into the wooden blinds on the window side of the apartment, Kurtz had his arm blocked across Eddie's chest, his right hand squeezing the base of the man's upper bicep. He quickly slid his left hand across the top of the Browning.

Eddie squeezed the trigger. Just as Kurtz had planned, the hammer fell on the webbing between the thumb and forefinger of Kurtz's hand.

Kurtz took the weapon away from Eddie and backhanded him into the wall.

"Fucking sonofabitch!" yelled Eddie, rubbing blood off his face. "You broke my goddamn—" Eddie made a lunge for the pistol.

Kurtz tossed the Browning out the open sixth-floor window, held Eddie off with his left arm, and kicked the other man's legs out from under him. Eddie's head hit the hardwood floor with a bang. Kurtz knelt on his chest.

"Tell me about Sam," said Kurtz.

"Who the fuck is…" gasped Eddie Falco.

"Samantha Fielding," said Kurtz. "The redhead that you killed."

"Redhead?" said Eddie, spitting blood. "I didn't know the bitch's name, I just—"

Kurtz put all of his weight on one knee and Eddie's eyes bugged out. Then Kurtz held his left hand palm out, jabbed hard, and flattened Eddie's broken nose against the screaming man's cheek. "Talk nice," he said. "She worked with me."

Eddie's face was alternating chalk white and dark red under the blood. "Can't breathe," he gasped. "Get… off… please." Kurtz stood.

Eddie gasped some more, spat blood, got to one knee slowly, and then threw himself through the kitchen door.

Kurtz followed him into the tiny kitchen. Eddie swung around with a butcher knife. He crouched, feinted, lunged, and then seemed to levitate up and back as Kurtz place-kicked him in the balls. Eddie came down hard on a counter filled with unwashed dishes. He was gasping and retching while he rolled, smashing soiled dishes under him.

Kurtz took the knife and threw it at the far wall, where it stuck and vibrated like a tuning fork.

"Sam," said Kurtz. "Tell me about what happened the night you killed her."

Eddie lifted his head and squinted at Kurtz. "Fuck you!" He grabbed another, shorter kitchen knife from the countertop.

Kurtz sighed, forearmed the thug in the throat, bent him back over the sink, and jammed Eddie's right hand down deep into the garbage disposal. Eddie Falco was screaming even before Kurtz reached over and turned on the switch.

Kurtz gave it thirty seconds and then shut off the disposal, ripped Eddie's bloody undershirt down the front, and wrapped the rag around the stumps of the man's fingers. Eddie's face was now pure white under a spattering of blood. His mouth was open and his eyes were protruding as he stared at what was left of his hand. Someone began pounding on the wall from the apartment next door.

"Help! Murder!" screamed Eddie. "Somebody call the cops! Help!"

Kurtz let him scream for a few seconds and then dragged him back into the main room and dropped him into a chair next to the table. The pounding on the wall had stopped, but Kurtz could hear shouts from the neighbors.

"The cops are coming," gasped Eddie Falco. "The cops'll be here in a minute."

"Tell me about Sam," Kurtz said softly.

Eddie clutched the bloody rag around his hand, glanced toward the open window as if expecting sirens, and licked his lips. He mumbled something.

Kurtz gave him a hearty handshake. This time, the screaming was so loud that even the neighbors fell silent.

"Sam," said Kurtz.

"She found out about the coke deal when she was looking for that runaway brat." Eddie's voice was a gagging monotone. "I didn't even know her fucking name." He looked up at Kurtz. "It wasn't me, you know. It was



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