Five minutes later we were back in 22. Somebody had lit the two scented candles on the bedside table. They didn’t give out a lot of light, just enough to make out faces.
“Hope we didn’t… interrupt anything,” Frank leered. Subtlety was not his forte.
I gave him a gritted-teeth grin “Of course not.” I was liking Frank less and less as the evening went on.
He slipped a gear from sleazy to businesslike: “We need to check this out. Johnny, you and me will go down to the front desk. I’m assuming the circuit box is in the office, or somewhere down there. Maybe we’ll get lucky and find the fucker still there.”
I shook my head. I’d been concerned enough leaving Midnight alone earlier. I wasn’t going to do it during a blackout. Particularly when the power had most likely been cut by the guy who was intent on wiping us all out. “No, I’m staying up here.”
Frank rolled his head around, emitting a snort of disbelieving laughter. “You know I’m getting pretty sick of you questioning me, Johnny. Who do you think is in fuckin’ charge round here?”
He was seriously beginning to piss me off. He’d got me too riled up for me to have the sense to keep the fuck-you tone out of my voice. “You’re not in charge of me Frank, only person I answer to is myself. Take Stan.”
“What?” Frank’s right hand tensed into a lump of solid knuckle. Smart time for me to back down. I wasn’t feeling smart.
“Take Stan. I’ll stay here and hold the fort with the others.”
I looked over at Stan. In the half-light, I thought I could make out an expression of hatred. I was beginning to suspect he too had taken against Frank, perhaps even more so than was normal. I was about to suggest Tony as an alternative when Stan surprised me by accepting.
“Fine with me, boss.” Again, I caught a tone of contempt on the last word. Frank was either too harassed or too insensitive to notice it. He just shook his head and made for the door, checking the clip in his gun.
“Whatever - the rest of you stay here. You hear trouble, come running.”
“Sounds like a plan,” I said. Tony, as usual, said nothing.
We listened to the footsteps retreating down the corridor and then sat in silence for a while, Midnight found my hand in the dark again and we knitted our fingers together. Tony riffed through his deck of cards with practiced hands. Out of habit, I checked the clip in my own gun and shook my head when I remembered I’d emptied it back in the diner and never got round to reloading.
“Shit… it’s a good thing that was just Stan behind the door, otherwise I’d be a stain on the carpet right now.”
“You don’t have any more bullets?” said Midnight
“Of course. In the trunk of my car. Wherever that is. Tony, you have a spare clip?”
“Not for a .45, sorry.”
“Great.” It looked like I would have to be even more careful. We were okay for the moment, since at least Tony was armed. We sat in silence for a couple of minutes before Midnight broke it again.
“That Frank guy…” she began.
“He doesn’t seem too… balanced?”
I jerked an eyebrow up at the understatement. “You could say that.”
“Are you sure you can trust him? I mean… not just with the money and all, but in general.”
This was a question I had been asking myself. I had asked it before the job, in fact. I had asked it when we split up afterwards, and tonight I had been asking it more and more. I elected to try for reassurance though, since Midnight clearly didn’t need something else to worry about. Besides, I wasn’t sure I wanted Tony, a guy I knew even less well than Frank, to know about my misgivings.
“Frank’s okay,” I began, aware of how unconvincing I sounded. “He’s rough around the edges, but you can count on him in a pinch.”
“Are you sure?” she said, her tone saying that she already knew I wasn’t.
I was searching for something to say when Tony did it for me. “No.”
We both looked up, almost surprised that he was still there.
“What do you mean?”
Tony ran his thumb over the edge of the deck. It made a harsh rasping noise.
“How many jobs you done with Frank?”
“Besides this? Just the one,” I admitted. “Worked out okay.”
He nodded. “I’ve done a few. The man knows his stuff, but trust him?” he left the question hanging as he let out a low chuckle. It was a chilling sound in the dark. I felt Midnight’s hand grip my own more tightly.
I cleared my throat. “Any particular reason you feel that way?”
“Little things,” he began. “Most folks don’t notice them, but I do. And sometimes not so little things. There was this one job a few years ago – if you’d have been on it, you wouldn’t say Frank was a trustworthy man.”
Tony put his cards away and sat back on the bed, back against the wall. For some reason I was reminded of the ghost stories I used to tell at sleepovers when I was ten. Those always scared the shit out of me in the dark as well.
“It was a few years back,” Tony began. “A straightforward bank job. Me, Frank, Travis, James something and two other guys. Forget their names. Anyway, everything went fine until the end. Some asshole customer had a gun, shot James.”
“He kill him?” I asked.
“No. He just caught it in the hip, about here,” Tony indicated a spot just below his belt. “Wasn’t too bad but he couldn’t walk on it. Frank put the customer down and I dragged James out the door. That was when things went wrong.”
“You mean it got worse?” Midnight asked incredulously. The casual tone of voice Tony was using clearly freaked her out. It was like he was discussing a hockey game.
“Oh yeah. We got the wrong guy to drive. Got about a quarter of a mile down the street before the idiot runs a junction and clips a bus. Totalled the car. No one was hurt too badly, and I was trying to help James out when Frank just gave me this look.”
“Leave him behind?” I asked.
Tony nodded, the shame weighed heavily on his features.
I shook my head, “If he’d done that to me I’d have given the cops his name, address and star sign before they had a chance to call a paramedic.”
Tony paused for a second, then said “Yeah, well Frank must have been thinking the same thing. He shot him in the face before we left.”
Midnight gasped. I didn’t gasp. Because, to tell the truth, that seemed totally in character for Frank. If I’d thought this whole proposition through properly I’d have left it alone, but like I said, I have a bad habit of acting on instinct. And now I was stuck in a hotel in the middle of nowhere with a rapidly diminishing crew led by a guy who kills his own people when they become dead wood.
“Damn…” was all I could say.
Tony pulled out his cards again and began riffing them. “I mean it was probably the smart thing to do, but, you know… cold blooded. The guy’s smart yeah, but trustworthy?” He shook his head.
“And you still work with the guy after this?” I said.
“Well you know, it sounded like a good score…” he trailed off, obviously expecting me to make a crack about that. But I wasn’t about to criticize him, because I’d made the same mistake. Getting involved with a guy I didn’t trust just because it ‘sounded like a good score’. And it was a good score. Just not worth the price we were paying.
I decided we were getting out of here now. It was time to force the situation to a head. The first step was to go get the other two and persuade them to get out of here, the hell with Chief Hardaway and his suspicions. I could live with suspicions. I got up and tucked my useless gun back into my belt.
“Okay let’s go find Frank and tell him we’re splitting the take now and getting out of here. Before he offs Stan or something.”
Tony’s dark eyes looked about to protest for a moment, then he shrugged his shoulders. He was obviously no keener to stick around than I was.
“Okay, Johnny. Let’s try and get out without anyone else getting killed.”
“I second that,” said Midnight, looking into my eyes with a resolve that went a little way towards masking her terror.
“Great,” I said and opened the door. I made a silent promise to myself that I would stick to working alone in the future. And offered up a silent prayer that I would get the chance.