It took ten minutes for Sammy to scale five floors. He found himself giggling to random secretaries on the last dozen steps. His drunk slog and melted into a crawl. By the time he got to the hall door, an accountant wearing a drab suit took pity on him and opened it. Sammy half bear walked, half human walked into the hall. He almost hurled onto the orange carpet and flopped against the psychedelic wallpaper. All its loud colors swirled around him. They churned together in unappetizing patterns, but it wasn't enough to stop him on his journey.
His boss and label owner Gary Morris had his office a recliner sofa down. In order to stand up, he needed to get ahold of its smooth leather armrest. The poor guy failed to get a grip of the thing until wrapping his arm full around. He pulled himself to his feet. The entire bottom half of his body acted like dead weight.
Gary's door was open. Sammy leaned forward to see six other men gathered in the office. Gary stood at his desk. His son Oliver Morris stood behind him. He was a seventeen year old kid in disco clothes and a nervous grin. Rival label owner Todd Willard stood on the opposite end. Both parties were complimented with Bush Stevens, a band front man signed to Gary. He sat in a swirling chair between both groups. Gary had sent him in as mediator.
"Come on, why all of this standing and moping around. Let's smoke some pot. Pass it around. Take it easy," chided Bush.
The remaining party didn't move from their places. Gary and Todd stared at each other like brothers preparing for a fist fight.
"Tell me what happened," said Gary.
"I'll tell you what happened. Just a few guys who wanted to play with fireworks when it wasn't fourth of July," said Bush.
Everyone in the room turned to him in mild amusement, even Oliver. The poor guy was out of place in the situation. He had a lions mane of hair, a net tank top, and white spandex with blue and red stripes. No one knew why he choose to dress in his stage cloths, and no one cared.
"Two of our guys tried to torch a record store. The owner was selling cutouts that weren't our own. The slimy bastard knew we were coming, the place was crawling with cops..." said Todd.
He paused for a moment and glanced at Bush.
"Do you have a blunt, for real?"
"At your service my liege," said Bush.
He took a lighter and a smoke from his pocket and handed it to Todd, lighting it for him and returning to his seat.
"Is he always like this?" asked Todd to Gary.
"Only I can answer that, and I can confirm I'm monkey hour twenty four seven," said Bush.
He grinned like a used car salesman every time he talked. It followed with his usual strained laughter. This grated on everyone's ears, but they had more pressing matters at hand.
"I bet you are," mumbled Todd.
His gaze wandered to the son. The kid was playing with a large shark knife attached to his belt. Despite his awkward presence, his attention remained strapped to the conversation. Something about it made the old man uneasy.
"...When they got arrested there was at least a hundred boxes of our own product in their truck. I don't know how it happened, it was bad, it is bad. At least a hundred thousand down the drain for both of us," continued Todd.
"For as far as I'm concerned this is your problem. It doesn't matter if you can't get back your half. You still owe me mine," said Gary.
Todd took a long drag from his blunt. He stood there silent. Bush gazed up at the ceiling, his legs reclined against another chair. Todd pulled it out from under him and took a seat. The singers black napoleon boots clunked to the floor. He bolted upright, his eyes snapping back to Todd. He gave Bush a snide grin before lifting his feet onto the desk. Like Bush he sported gaudy footwear. They were cowboy boots with chains on the back that clinked against the wood.
"I can stay here all day if I want," he said.
"Now we're talkin! You see Gary, sometimes you've got to take a page from my book every once in a while. We can stand around and leer and give sour glances to each other and argue, but it's not gonna get us anywhere. We've got to be teenagers about this. Have a good school yard fight to let it go and put it behind us," said Bush.
"I wish it could be that way, but something tells me there's more than money to worry about in this thing," said Gary.
"My guys barely shot anything off before they got cuffed. They didn't spill the beans," said Todd.
"They have our cutouts. It's only a matter of time before they trace it back to the warehouse."
"We'll move it elsewhere."
"We don't have enough time for that, we're screwed."
"So this is how it ends. You two are in for a wild ride. What's it gonna be for each of you, sailing off to Venice, or living in that Cuban slum apartment you all love so much?" said Bush.
"I say we flip on it," said Todd.
"And you give me my fifty thousand before running off," said Gary.
"We'll see about that."
"Before we get all doom and gloom about the possibilities, I will say that Cuba is an overhated country. They've got really cool beaches and all these car people," said Bush.
Todd's gaze traveled back to the boy whose fidgeting hands had flickered at the corner of his eye. The strange blade in his hand continued to twist at his belt. Its siblings sat in an unlocked display case behind him. Above it were several mounted sword fish and a spear gun.
"You want to go fishin kid?"
Todd nodded towards the kid. Gary turned to see his son taking out another knife from the case to play with in his other hand. He held them at his waist like two handguns in a wild west shootout.
"Jezus boy, put those down, you're going to split your hand open again," scolded Gary.
"I haven't done that since I was five," argued Oliver.
Despite his retortful words, his voice was monotone and matter of fact. He made no attempt to contort his face into a sneer. Instead, he made a queer slow walk to the desk, placing both knives at opposing ends. With his gentle fingers, he positioned each blade toward each other.
"I didn't come here for a knife fight," said Todd.
"How does a game of darts sound?" said Gary.
"How about a game of cards?"
"How about a compromise?"
Their exchange was interrupted by a creak at the door. Sammy's tired face came bumbling into the room. He leaned hard on the knob in a near freefall into the office.
"Heeyyy guys! What's up?" he slurred.
Bush rushed out of his seat and grabbed Sammy by the shoulders. His once charismatic eyes flashed into that of panic.
"What are you doing here?" he hissed.
Sammy tried to stumble further into the room, but Bush kept him back. He looked towards Gary, flopping his loose frame to get their attention.
"I would totally go to Cuba with you guys, but I'm touring.... I need that tour money...you keep not giving me my paycheck...I need that A..S..A..P," mumbled Sammy.
"You need to leave," scolded Bush in a harsh whisper.
"I ain't going to Cuba without you brother!"
He proceeded to shove Sammy's body out the office. The drunkard ragdolled onto the outside carpet before Bush slammed the door in his face. Sammy rose to his hands as the click of a lock came from the other side. He looked like some black leather clad cavemen, his curly long hair cascading down his eyes as he crawled back to the door. By some miracle he returned to his feet.
"Hey, what gives?" he groaned.
He gave several loud knocks with his sweaty fist.
"How did he get up here? That's the better question," said Gary.
Todd put his head in his hands and sighed.
"This is crazy I can't do this. I can't!" he said.
"Don't be in the mindset that this is your first rodeo. It'll only make things worse. We'll probably make it back here fine once the dust settles. That's usually how it goes," said Gary.
"Your just saying that to make be go along with it. I know what shit we're in, don't bother."
"Let's get on with it then."
Gary pointed behind him to a bookshelf.
"I've got a fresh five million in the safe. We'll divvy it up once we get this sorted," he said.
"I think I might actually use this thing," joked Todd.
He grasped the shark knife handle. Gary laughed with him and turned to Bush.
"Don't worry you will," said Gary.
"We gotta play this same circus routine again? Why can't we go to the roof and tightrope like last time. Gary! Back me up on this one!" laughed Bush.
"I say you're dressed for the occasion regardless," said Gary.
Bush walked to the other end of the office. He took a cutout of himself and posed spread eagle with it in front of him. Despite his humorous disposition, he struggled to stop shaking. Gary and Todd joined each other at the front of the desk. They took their respective knives and stretched their arms.
"What do you say? Out of three?" asked Todd.
"I say one's enough," said Gary.
"And get rid of that stupid piece of cardboard."
Bush threw the cutout to the ground. He repositioned himself, closing his eyes. Gary threw a ruler from his desk to create a line. The duo stepped behind it. As they continued to scope out their aim, Oliver wandered to Gary's chair. He fumbled around with the dozen drawers without notice.
"You first," said Gary.
Todd made a sideways stance. The shark knife blade laid loose between his fingers. He stepped a pace back before making his follow thru. His arm made a full arc, the knife sailing smooth from his hand. It ended its journey in the dry wall with a dull thud. A few strands of Bush's hair floated to the ground. It stuck a pinheads length away from his cheek.
"You think you can best me? Well you're dead wrong," said Gary.
Like Todd he took a step back.
"Don't you dare squirm around. I want to win this fair and square," he said to Bush.
The singer remained immobile. His eyes clenched harder shut. In those last moments, he wondered if he was going to faint. The next thing he heard was a quiet swish followed by a breeze to his other cheek followed by a sharp pain at his ear. Bush's jerk reaction was to yelp and move away, but he was pinned to the wall. A warm thin stream flowed down his face.
"Gotcha!" cheered Gary.
"What do you mean gotcha? I'm the guy who won," said Todd.
"You didn't win I won."
"I got it closest, you got his ear."
"That's closer than you."
"You can't change the rules like that. The goal is to not slice them. That's how we did it last time."
"That's not how it is now."
"You slimeball! You cheat me out of everything."
"A deal is a deal. It's Cuba for you."
"I demand a rematch!"
Todd gave Gary a hard shove. Gary returned the favor.
"You ain't demanding anything in my house," he said.
Soon they were spitting in each others faces. Cycling though the same argument several times. Their voices raised each time around. It was enough to reverberate through the outside halls and nearby offices.
"All your doing is stepping on me. I'm not giving you you're money," said Todd.
Bush groaned and pulled the second knife from the wall. It had punctured the bottom lobe of his ear. He stared at the bloodied tip in his shaking palm for a few seconds, just in time to look up and see the kid holding an automatic in his hands.
"What's going on in there?" moaned Sammy.
He grinned and gave the door a few more hard knocks.
"Knock knock!" he said.
"Who's there?" he answered to himself.
"I am Cornholio!"
He pulled his shirt collar over his head and made disjointed circles around the couch.
"I need TP for my bunghole!"
Sammy returned giggling to the door. He pounded his fist on it again.
Bush came bursting out, crashing hard into Sammy. In pure panic he shoved the drunkard to the ground and slammed the door behind him. Several gunshots rang out in the room. Several more came ripping through the door. Weak splinters of pine came raining down on their backs. Bush got up and went into a full sprint down the hall.
"Run fool run!" he yelled.
Sammy pushed himself up and went into a panicked flounder at Bush's heels. He made it as far as the end of the couch before falling over. Another volley of gunfire came though the walls. Bullets grazed the tight sofa leather and ripped through the powdery drywall. Sammy got up again, but stumbled back to his stomach after a few steps. Bush looped around to drag him away, but his body was loose weight.
"Come on! I'm not dying for you bastard," he groaned.
Bush dropped Sammy's arm and let him flop to the ground. He remained there face down and motionless. He hadn't been shot, but he was blackout drunk. Bush left him in his place. He snapped around and burst through the stairway door. More shots whizzed above Sammy's head, out of range from his dead posture.
Within the office, Todd lay punctured like swiss cheese on the floor. Gary had been hit twice in his leg and once in his shoulder. He'd escaped behind a foldout table and taken out his pistol. Shots came firing in the kids direction. He ducked behind the desk as lead pierced through its thick mahogany. Despite the sudden onslaught, Gary's last stand was short lived. After six shots his gun was emptied. Oliver loaded his last clip and rolled out from his spot. He fired rounds into the plastic table top from behind which his father lay. It all ended in a frustrated cry, then silence.
The kid lowered the automatic to his waist and crept over to the table. Gary was lying sideways behind it, shot to hell and dead. He prodded him a few times to be sure of it before meandering back to the bookshelf. Oliver grabbed several encyclopedias and threw them to the floor. The safe was fastened to the wall between a world atlas and a coin collectors weekly. He dialed the combination with quick fingers and opened it.
To his disappointment, the only bag in the room was the gun case. It lay in the opened secret hatch at the foot of the desk. The kid took it and started stuffing it full with money. He paused for a moment while doing this, looking at the gun, which was empty of rounds. He listened for approaching footsteps or police sirens and heard none. Despite this, a desire to move fast settled within him. His eyes traveled to the spear gun, then to Todd's body.
Sammy still lay half asleep in the hallway. The click of the doorknob behind him brought him to his hands. He turned around. Old hinges opened in a dull creak. From the door came a spear tip, then the gun, then the kid coming out in slow walk. He looked like a young disc jockey that had walked out of a zombie massacre. His shirt and long pants were sprayed with a fine dark blood, as was his newly donned footwear. Todd's boots and their metal chains clinked as he approached Sammy.
He raised the spear gun and pointed it downward. Sammy pushed himself into a panicked crawl. The ammo shot out in a clean hiss. It dug itself deep into a couch cushion. Soft upholstery snowed out from the puncture. The downed man continued his vain crawl. The fluff came down and stuck to his sweating neck. Oliver took another two steps, the gun reloaded. Another spear sailed through the hall. It whizzed past Sammy's head and stuck a record display case on the wall. A small breeze parted his hair before glass rained down on him.
Sammy continued to crawl. His heart pounded hard. At any moment he thought he might faint, but his unreliable limps kept floundering across the floor. He got himself to his feet and attempted a run. The kid advanced again. He aimed the spear gun to the back of Sammy's head. After a few quick steps, Sammy fell again on his face. He lay there, dazed and motionless. The clicking boot chains came closer.
Oliver stopped over him. He pressed the spearhead against the we back of Sammy's neck. A light grin spread across his face. He freed his hand from the trigger and made a shooting gesture to his head.
"Poof," he said.
The kid relaxed the point against Sammy's neck, hugged the gun against his arm and walked off. The last thing the to be victim saw was a bloodied frame disappearing into the stairs.