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122 Rules(5)

By:Deek Rhew



Monica hated the open-table layout of the reading room, so she had long ago found a secluded aisle among the last rows of dusty books. She slid to the floor and cracked the first book—an in-depth review on the criminal code and interpreting statutes—and lost herself in the text.

On the other side of the shelving unit, footsteps echoed among the tomes. She waited for the wandering intruder to find what they sought and move on. They lingered, though they did not seem interested in disturbing her peace and quiet. So she turned her attention back to the work at hand. Just as Monica became reacquainted with insanity and intoxication defenses, more light footsteps approached, and yet another intruder started talking with her unknown interloper.

Monica rolled her eyes and sighed. Really? Inside voices, people! She tried to tune them out. Library conversations should be soft and covert, no more than mere whispering. People could be so oblivious. The two clearly thought they were alone, but they just needed to look past the wall of Shakespeare and Marlowe to know they had company.

Morons.

“So, did you take care of the problem?” a man who sounded like Joe Pesci asked.

Focus, girl! Test looming. One-third of your grade. Professor Doom. But try as she might, she found herself drawn to the conversation.

“Yes,” came the reply. This voice had a smoky rasp, tinged with a slight accent, Latino maybe. “No need to worry. Lenny has been—how shall I put it?—permanently silenced, unless of course he learns how to breathe without a head and through three feet of concrete.”

Ummm... Holy shit! There is no way this is for real. Tom. It had to be him. He knew she came here and, at any second, planned to jump out. “Fooled ya! Ha! You totally believed it!”

But Tom couldn’t convincingly pretend to be a pancake if a piano fell on him. A reasonable imitation of Joe Pesci? That seemed way out of his league.

Trusting her intuition, Monica slouched down until she lay on the floor. She survived because she listened to her gut, and it said to not make a sound. Most people who had been through what she had would have hunkered down, frozen, trying to stay as invisible as possible. But Monica persevered where others perished. She glanced down the long corridor, but no one browsed the aisle in either direction. She could scream for help, but if these guys were half as bad as they seemed, she would spend her whole life waiting for her turn under the blade and in the concrete. What could she do?

Suddenly she knew. Her smart phone, one of the few splurges she allowed herself, lay in her satchel next to Tom’s apartment keys. Careful not to let her jittery fingers rattle the keys, she retrieved it. Monica had been taking notes for years from fast-talking professors and often recorded the lectures. Her fingers clicked and swiped the familiar pattern that started the dictation app. She sat up enough to slip the little marvel of technology on top of a particularly tall book on the bottom shelf, then froze as a shadow passed her hand.

“Good,” the Joe voice said.

Monica breathed a sigh of relief. Joe had shifted his leg but still seemed unaware of her presence.

He continued, “Lenny’s been getting greedy. He and his boys have been shorting orders, delivering sub-par product, and cutting into our profits. I’m a patient, generous man, but if I allowed this to continue, it would ruin my reputation. Did you receive the final delivery before his untimely demise?”

“Yes,” the accented voice said, “and the product has been delivered, just as requested. They are waiting for word from you before sending it out. Here.”

Monica chanced pressing her eye to a gap between books. Two men occupied the narrow space on the opposite side of the shelving unit. A bald-headed man with his back to her handed a thick white envelope to the one who must be the Joe Pesci sound-alike.

“Joe” opened it, thumbing through a thick stack of hundred dollar bills, closed it back up, and tucked it in his jacket pocket.

Oh. My. God. This is for real. Her heart beat so hard in her ears she could no longer understand the conversation. She could only see the back of Baldy’s head, though when he turned, she thought she glimpsed a scar running from his left ear down to his jaw. She had an unobstructed view of the other man, though. He had a short, solid body and dark hair cut in a no-nonsense style. Nothing to note in the looks department until she saw his eyes: black, and as cold and soulless as a shark’s. They sent a chill up her spine.

But his voice… It made the hair on her neck stand up. He sounded like Mr. Pesci but spoke with an icy authority. Do not cross me, the tone said. Ever. This personality didn’t jive with the jovial little man she had come to know from movie comedies. This man was a heartless, merciless machine, about as far from bumbling as possible. How she could possibly know that, she wasn’t sure. But, as always, Monica trusted her gut.

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