Eli Carver Book II
(c) Alan Baxter 2020
My name is Eli Carver and I am not a good man.
My hands are soaked in blood that will never wash off, but it’s like the blood of an abattoir worker—obtained while providing a service. People can survive without meat, but a lot of people wouldn’t survive if the assholes I killed were left alive. So maybe it was even a good service. But that’s rationalization.
I knew I was never one of the good guys, but I didn’t realize how bad I was until my world fell apart. When Vernon Sykes, the boss I’d served my whole adult life, murdered my wife and child, I had what can only be described as a breakdown. I found my way back through seas of blood, the body count higher than I ever thought possible, and all but Vernon’s daughter Carly are dead. She was his victim too, and now Carly runs the old man’s business.
So the wheel turns, nothing changes. And I’m still a bad guy, I guess. I just didn’t realize how bad until that blood washed the shit from my eyes. But I’m not the kind to wallow. I did what I did, can’t change it.
I’m trying to be better. I have new code now. I still have no faith in people and I still have no idea what I’m supposed to do with my life, but I must have some atonement still to make, because the ghosts are back. And the ghosts are telling me I’m about to be up to my neck in blood again. They’re not usually wrong.
Maybe some things never change.
It’s bizarre how I ended up in this mess. Quite the re-entry to life.
After the massacre at Vernon’s place, I survived under the radar in Canada for nearly two years. Rebuilding a life after my breakdown, stealing sometimes, sure, but working too. Taking cash-in-hand laboring jobs, doing some less-than-honest work for less-than-honest people here and there. I don’t really know how to do anything else. But I tried, hiding out after the debacle with Vernon, a long way from the scene of those crimes. In a way it was peaceful for a while, but always looking over your shoulder takes its toll. Then these shithead ghosts started cropping up again. I guess they weren’t part of the breakdown after all. Or maybe I’m lining up to lose it again. That’s an ongoing concern.
“Probably wanna pay attention up here, dude.”
Those words marked their return. Michael Privedi, my best friend. I shot him in the head when we were about twenty years old, to save my skin. It was his fault, he’d crossed Vern, but I guess he still thinks it’s unjust that I took him out. I was following Vernon’s orders or I’d be dead now too. Perhaps that would have been better. Maybe that would be justice. Who knows?
I tried not to look at him on the barstool next to mine, half his head blown away, flesh and bone hanging wet, teeth a rictus grin where his cheek was torn free by the bullet I put in his other ear. His collar burgundy from the blood soaked into it.
“Up where?” I asked quietly. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself, talking to someone I knew no one else could see or hear.
Michael nodded upwards, at the big-screen TV above the bar. Following his gaze I was startled to see Carly Sykes, looking hotter than ever, so settled into her role as a matriarch of organized crime. She’s only twenty-two, but hell, she’s a queen. Frowning, I tried to figure out where she was and realized it was a courthouse. That’s where I’d last seen her, maybe six months ago, on the news. Now she’s at it again.
A scrum of reporters surrounded her. Carly smiled like a movie star.
“Miss Sykes, would you care to comment on the verdict?”
“It’s exactly as I always said it would be, I’m innocent and my associates are innocent. This has been nothing but police harassment from the beginning. I know Vernon was a bad man, but look what happened to him! I’m not about to follow in those footsteps.”
A hyuck of a laugh on my other side and that a racist sack of shit called Dwight Ramsey, a weed grower who pushed us too far so I put a hole between his eyes, was staring up at the screen too. “She’s good, ain’t she, cocheese!”
Fuck, I hate it when he calls me that. And he always calls me that. He glanced at me, then turned back to look up at the screen and the bone flower of an exit wound in the back of his head glistened and dripped. I ignored him.
“And that case was never solved, right?” another reporter calls out. “The police still don’t know who was responsible for the bloodbath?”
That would be me.
Then Carly turned, looked right down the camera, like she was looking right at me. Into me. “I told you guys then, like I told the police, I have no idea who it was. I was kidnapped, kept blindfolded, spent most of the time in the trunk of a car. I only managed to get out once it had been parked at the Lake Maurepas house for hours. I went inside to find the…” She hitched a breath, suppressed a sob. It was almost convincing. “The massacre. I don’t think I’ll ever know who it was. I guess no one will.” She stared hard at the camera a moment longer, then one eyebrow hitched, then she looked away.
“The fuck is she on about?” Dwight asked and hawked a wad of tobacco spit.
“You’re a fucking idiot.” Perhaps the only person who hates Dwight Ramsey more than me, Sylvester Barclay, was standing right by the bar. I put a shotgun hole through his torso in Maloney’s bar, on Vernon’s orders. His organs hang in there, shiny. Calls himself Sly, a Jamaican gangbanger and drug dealer, always stoned, but smart as hell.
“What?” Dwight demanded.
Sly tipped his head toward me. “She’s talking to him.”
“Because,” said Officer Graney, “she needs him to know he’s in the clear.”