Last week’s blog post found the P.I. team of White and Wong in the midst of early Cold War noir as they pursued a left-handed sprocket that contained a mysterious code. At the closing of the episode’s first half, White and Wong were tied up in the cellar of a pawn shop, held captive by unidentified international spies determined to learn who had hired the pair. Unaware of what measures the spies might take to gain that information, White and Wong are about to find out.
Enjoy the conclusion. Thanks for stopping by.
A Left-handed What? Part II
“Hold on,” White said. “You know who we are, but you haven’t shared your identities.”
I nodded, then boarded White’s train of thought––otherwise known as stalling for time. “Yeah. From the looks of things, you’re probably gonna appease the ape outside the door by letting him beat the last breath out of us, then dump our bodies somewhere. So, what have you got to lose? Who are you? What’s this all about?”
The man in charge glanced at the blond, then White, then at me. A wicked smile stretched his cheeks. “Very well, Mr. Wong. My name is Alexi Voltov.” He waved an open hand toward the blond. “This is my daughter, Anna. The ‘ape,’ as you say––”
“Yeah, Frank.” I flexed my aching jaw. “We’ve met.”
“Fredek, actually. Frank is his cover.”
White winked twice then briefly closed both eyes––our signal to keep stalling.
“And the fat man behind the counter, he part of your commie group, too?”
Voltov grinned. “Fredek’s twin brother, Feliks. Good for keeping watch, but little else. Both are my nephews.”
I snickered. “One big happy family. Okay, Alexi, what’s this I hear about left-handed sprockets and codes?”
At the mention of ‘codes,’ his forehead scrunched into a V above narrowed eyelids. “What do you know about the code?”
White winked again, but held his eyes closed longer.
I winked and lip-shrugged. “Only that the sprocket has ’em, you want ’em, and we’re not gonna to let that happen. It’s the why I’m not sure about.”
Voltov smiled again, then reached into a leather briefcase. He pulled out a small round disc with teeth cut into its perimeter and waved it in front of my face. A letter L was stamped near its center hub. Tiny numbers were etched into each of its five spokes.
He chortled, then returned the sprocket to his briefcase. “It appears, Mr. Wong, that you and your partner are––how do you say––late to the ball.”
Alexi and his daughter shared a boisterous laugh that abruptly ended when he shouted, “Who hired you?”
I leaned back. “Haven’t a clue. Do you, White? ”
My partner sat straight and shook his head. “Nope, nary a clue.”
Voltov sneered. “We’ll see about that. Fredek! Your audience awaits you!”
Silent minutes passed. White and I glanced at one another several times. The last time he winked, then briefly closed his eyes once more. I slowly exhaled. “What’s Frank gonna do, perform a sing and dance routine for us?”
Voltov’s nasty smile revealed perfect teeth. “Fredek does not sing. But a scalpel in his hands is like watching your Fred Astaire.”
On cue, the big ape rolled a cart through the doorway. On top was an array of shiny medical instruments spread across a dark blue cloth. On the shelf below, a wooden handle jutted from a large aluminum pot, its contents steaming.
I winked, then glanced at the cart. Sure hope White has a plan. “Why, Frank, you serving dinner, too?”
Fredek’s response resembled a growl. “First I cut you––many small cuts. Then I take dipper of hot grease and pour on wounds. You not feel so funny then. You wise guys still alive, I use other tools.” He chuckled and reached toward the cart.
White leaped from his chair, grabbed Anna, and wrapped his left arm around her throat. His hand gripped an elk-antler-handled bottle opener, the hook pressed into Anna’s neck. “Everybody stay put or I shred her carotid artery. She’ll bleed out before you can save her.”
Anna’s eye’s bugged wide. Her daddy glared. Fredek scowled. White had the commie trio’s undivided attention.
I grinned. “Your lucky bottle opener. I should have known. You never go anywhere without that goofy-looking thing.”
“They shoulda checked all my pockets. And it’s not goofy. My grandfather made it.”
“Right. The great White hunter.”
My partner hit me with the stink-eye but maintained his grip on Anna.
I turned to Voltov. “Seems the advantage has changed.”
He scanned the situation, then jerked his head toward White.
Quicker than a prom date excuse, Fredek snatched a scalpel. Before he could lunge at my partner, I jerked my feet in an arc and swept the big ape’s legs out from under him. He gasped as he fell face down. THUD! Air whooshed from his lungs, followed by a monumental moan. Then Fredek went limp.
“Bad move, Alexi,” I said. “Now, how you wanna play this? That sprocket worth your daughter’s life?”
He stared at her.
Anna whimpered. Her eyes pleaded. During the excitement White’s bottle opener had nicked her skin. A trickle of blood traced down her pretty neck.
Voltov slowly parted the lapels on his suit coat and exposed a pistol and shoulder holster under his left arm.
I nodded. “I suggest you take out the weapon with your left hand, place it on the floor, then boot it to my partner.”
Voltov hesitated but finally obliged.
White shoved Anna toward him and grabbed the gun.
Father and daughter huddled. He removed a handkerchief from his pocket and pressed it on her wound.
I phewed, told the pair to sit on the floor, then looked at my partner. “Okay, how ’bout taking one of Frankie /Fredek’s scalpels and cutting me loose?”
White stepped over the lifeless man, grabbed another of his knives, then sliced the rope binding my wrists. A few shakes restored circulation to my hands. I stood and looked at my partner. “Weren’t you armed when you arrived?”
His eyes darted side to side. “Just right and left. You?”
I rolled my eyes. “Don’t forget your lucky bottle opener.”
“Oh, yeah, right.”
“No left, remember?”
White frowned but maintained a watchful eye on Voltov and his girl.
I offered a shit-eatin’ grin, then checked on Fredek. No pulse indicated he was either dead or a damned-good actor. When I turned him over, blood had pooled beneath his chest. Only a nub of the scalpel he’d fallen on protruded from his ribcage. The knife had punctured his heart.
The fat man from upstairs stood in the doorway pointing a revolver. White released two rounds from Voltovs’ pistol. Both shots caught Feliks in the shoulder. He dropped his gun and stumbled backward against the wall.
I retrieved the fat man’s weapon, ushered him into the room, and sat him next to Anna. Ignoring his pain, Feliks stared at his deceased twin on the floor. I grabbed a couple towels from the cart and tossed them to the blond, whose injury had clotted. “You play nurse this time and press the towels over his bullet wounds.”
She stared at me with daggers in her eyes, then administered first-aid to her Komrad.
I turned to White. “Okay, now what? Think you could fill me in about why we’re standing here holding guns on commie spies?”
White exhaled. “For God, Country, and the CIA. Seems a war buddy of mine from the old OSS needed me to snatch the sprocket pronto and hold it till he could arrive.”
“Since when do government spooks enlist private eyes?”
“Since he learned the sprocket was here, he had nobody on the ground, and I came to mind.”
“Nobody on the ground? Not even the FBI?”
White pulled me aside. “Didn’t want inter-agency complications.”
I snickered. “You mean criticism, right?”
“Okay, so when is your pal supposed to get here?”
White glanced at his watch. “Umm…right…about…”
Seconds later seven men sporting alabaster expressions, semi-automatics, and three-piece suits poured through the doorway. Four corralled the commies. Two checked the bloody body. One of them focused on White.
“Your pals?” I inquired.
White grinned toward the man striding toward us.
“Agent Bosco––CIA,” the man said. “You must be Wong.”
“Sure seems that way,” I said. “So––”
“Dead,” the duo with Fredek declared.
Bosco nodded, then returned to our conversation. His expression hadn’t changed. “Get what I need?”
“In Voltov’s briefcase,” White said. “So, what’s the skinny about codes?”
Bosco grabbed the briefcase, checked its contents, then herded us aside. “The sprocket contains one of five codes necessary to access classified nuclear information. They were smuggled from a research facility. We’d rounded up the culprit responsible, and the other four codes. The sprocket held the last one.”
“Why us?” I said.
Bosco stared and cleared his throat. “Our resources were spread thin. I remembered White, gave him a shout, and he agreed to help.”
I snickered, then glanced at the commies being escorted out the door. “For God, Country, and the CIA.”
Agent Bosco attempted to smile. He shook my hand. “And getting to know Wong…” Then he winked at my partner. “…from White.”