The Goat was worried, though he tried not to show it. He checked his watch again for the fifth time in so many minutes. Never let them see any weakness. But inside there was no hiding how he was feeling. He had been waiting an hour for Johnny Gunns inside the restaurant. Johnny was never late. He didn’t always have the money, but he always showed.
Where the hell was Johnny? They met here at Frankie’s Steaks every Tuesday night at nine, with Johnny always arriving first.
Something must have happened. The Goat checked his cell for messages. Nothing. He dialed Johnny’s cell, but there was no answer. Then he paged Johnny. Doing his best to keep his cool, he finished sucking down his soda. He took a bite of his greasy cheesesteak, but his anxiety only grew like a three-alarm fire.
Frankie Angiolini, the owner of the joint, came over to The Goat’s booth, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, no problem, Frankie,” The Goat said.
In his late fifties, Frankie made payments to the organization The Goat worked for in exchange for protection and other favors. The Goat was also Frankie’s bookie. So far he hadn’t had to hurt Frankie, which was good because the cheesesteaks at his joint were off the hook. That’s why the place was always packed even though the place was a wreck with peeling wall play paper and cracked tiles on the floor.
“No sign of Johnny?” Frankie asked.
The Goat shrugged. “He had to take care of something. Just running late. Should be here soon.”
Frankie smiled. “That’s good.”
The Goat had to find Johnny. Besides his concern for his friend’s well being, there was the matter of the four grand he owed. The Goat was responsible for the book from Delaware Avenue to Oregon Avenue. Johnny Gunns worked for him and had to pay him four thousand every month, part of which went to The Goat’s superiors. If Johnny was short with the money, things could get ugly. His boss didn’t tolerate his workers coming up short.
Enough sitting around. It was time to do something. He left without paying as usual; he was a bundle of nervous energy. Something was going down. He could feel it.
The Goat got into his BMW and drove the city streets toward Pattison Avenue. Johnny frequented a strip joint called the Cat House. He was a big spender and a favorite among the dancers. Besides cash, he provided them with clothes, furniture and the occasional cosmetic surgery.
He walked into the gentleman’s club and found Joe Senneca, the owner of the joint. Joe also worked for The Goat’s boss.
“Yo. How ya doin, Goat?”
“Not bad. Not bad.” The Goat didn’t want Senneca to think he was feeling a bit jumpy. “So, ya seen my boy Johnny Gunns lately?”
“Of course I seen him,” Senneca responded. “Like he ain’t in here all the time.”
“Yeah, I know that. I mean, ya seen him today?”
Senneca’s brow furrowed. “I think so. Hey, Sam, Johnny Gunns in here earlier?”
A dancer at the club, Sam was a classy gal, studying part time at LaSalle and majoring in Psychology. Petite and small breasted, she was different from the other dancers. Sam possessed a genuine innocence to her that was atypical of most dancers The Goat knew. Her school girl good looks made her popular with the customers. She turned down The Goat flat, making her all the more desirable.
“Sure,” Samantha replied. “He left with Tina a few hours ago.”
Tina, Johnny’s favorite dancer, had serious issues with booze and pills. Rumor had it Johnny was the father of her illegitimate child.
If Johnny left with her, that meant he could be in a number of places. The most likely place was Tina’s row home in South Philly.
The Goat drove to her house. Johnny better have a damn good explanation, or there would be hell to pay. He may be a muscle head, but that wouldn’t stop The Goat from kicking his ass.
He rang the bell to Tina’s row home, and her freaky massage therapist roommate invited him in. Glancing around at the house, he felt uneasy as he told her he was looking for Johnny, but she wasn’t much help, telling him she had not seen him all day.
Damn. He wanted to take care of business soon, so he could go home to see his girlfriend Karen. They had a huge shouting match last night, and this morning she sent a text that read “go to hell”. Hopefully, that meant they could make up. If not, he could always go to the Cat House and find a replacement for her for the night.
He drove to Johnny’s brother’s house. Johnny sometimes took his lady friends there. When he got to the house on Westin Street, he couldn’t find any open parking spots, so he double-parked someone. Screw ‘em. If they didn’t like it, they could kiss his ass.
The Goat searched for Johnny’s car and spotted his bright red Mustang on the street. He walked up to the house and was about to ring the doorbell when he noticed the door was ajar. Something was definitely wrong.
Pulling out his Smith and Wesson, he stepped into the house, immediately catching the rusty scent of blood in the air.
He walked into the sparsely furnished living room. Johnny’s brother was a bouncer at a night club. He was an uncultured brute who had no appreciation for the finer things, like a cool Goodfellas poster here and there. The sofa in the living room was plaid, old and filled with holes. Next to it was an overturned and shattered lamp. It was dark and he could barely see, but he didn’t want to turn on the lights and alert an intruder of his presence.
Stepping past the lamp, he made sure not to kick or step onto the broken ceramic. He held the gun with two hands close to his face and walked through the door leading from the living room. No signs of Johnny, Tina, or anyone else. He went down the hallway, peeked inside the bathroom, but found nothing.
Footsteps came from behind. He turned and aimed his Smith and Wesson, but found nothing but an empty hallway.
The Goat walked up the steps after searching the kitchen and dining room, cursing under his breath as the stairs creaked. This place had too many loose boards. He could wake up the dead, let alone alert an intruder of his presence with all the noise.
After reaching the top of the stairs, he stepped into the master bedroom. All the furnishings inside here were dark. Mirrors covered the ceiling above the bed. No sign of disturbances here, so he kept moving.
He stepped toward the other bedroom. The smell of blood was more pronounced.
This was no time to get weak. Despite what he told himself, he felt unnerved. Just who the hell was he up against?
The Goat walked into the bedroom and gasped. Draped across the bed lying in a pool of blood was the deceased body of his former associate, Johnny Gunns. He wore no clothes and had a large, gaping puncture wound in his chest that spread to his stomach. Bites and scratches covered his arms and neck. His entrails had spilled onto the floor. What the hell did this? He expected to see a couple of bullets in Johnny’s head, not this. This was…uncivilized.
He looked around the room. It appeared that there had been a violent struggle, one which Johnny lost. Johnny had shards of glass in his forehead from the cracked window.
The Goat’s heart continued to beat in rapid fire fashion. Blood was splattered everywhere. It was like a heart transplant surgery gone wrong. He grabbed a sock lying on the floor and walked to the closet. With one hand he held the Smith and Wesson. With the other he used the sock to open the closet door. He would get rid of the sock when he left to avoid leaving prints.
He opened the door and let out a short scream when the mangled body of Tina Monterulo fell toward him. Her body was a mess. He tried to avoid it, but wasn’t fast enough. Tina’s corpse landed on him, knocking him over and splattering him with blood. He landed inches away from his business partner’s corpse.
“Motherfucker!” He had never seen anyone get wacked like this. He was a gambling man and was willing to bet that this was no mob hit.
He pushed away Tina. In the process, he leaned against Johnny’s body, making his skin crawl. He had seen his share of death, but this was too much for him.
Scrambling to his feet as he held the pistol, he backed out of the room as fast as he could. As he passed the door, he turned to shut it. An icy hand gripped his neck and choked him. The hand clutching him was like steel. Whoever this was attacking him was impossibly strong.
He took a good look at his attacker. His skin was pale, his face ghostly. He had long strawberry blond hair and cold blue eyes. He had no facial hair and wore a sly smile, like he didn’t even care that The Goat held a gun.
Blood rushed to his face. Consciousness started to ebb. His mind got hazy. This was it. He was going to die. There was so much he had to do in life, and this inhuman bastard was going to end it all.
Before panic set in, he raised his gun to abdominal level, since that was all he had the strength for. His mind wavered, and he pleaded with his brain to keep it together. With his remaining strength, The Goat pulled the trigger. A shot tore through the man’s waist, sending him flying back as he released his death grip.
The Goat crumpled to the floor and sucked in air, near asphyxiation. He looked up. To his horror, the man he just shot was back on his feet as if the bullet was a mere inconvenience. He tried to catch his breath. “What the… who the fuck are you?”
The blond smiled. He wasn’t bleeding, and the bullet wound had already closed. “I am your bringer of death.”
“Bullshit.” He shot the lunatic again.
The blond staggered back and hit the floor, but got right back up with no visible wound.
“No. Can’t be, asshole.” He fired three more shots, missing one. Damn, this guy really was a bringer of death. This was how it would end. Not in some gangland shooting or a mob hit, but by the undead. “Sweet mother of mercy.”
The man got to his feet and smiled, revealing a set of sharp fangs. The Goat did not want to say it, for to acknowledge such a thing would drive him crazy, but he knew what this thing was.
The attacker stalked The Goat, his cold blue eyes boring into him. He wondered if his demise would be as bad as Johnny’s.
The attacker stopped at the sound of a siren. The sirens got louder, and he hesitated. The Goat met his stare, filled with newfound courage. His Sicilian heritage took over and wouldn’t allow this thing to win a battle of wills. If he had to die, then so be it, but he wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of knowing that The Goat was terrified of this monster.
The man smiled. “You shall live for now, but I’ll come back for you.”
The Goat gritted his teeth. “Not if I kill you first, motherfucker.”
A strong swoosh passed through the air, and he disappeared.
The Goat couldn’t believe his eyes. The police would be here any second, and there were two dead bodies. He had to get the hell out of here.