Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Thief - third revision

            Cecil Coyle is digging for his car keys and thinking about eating more pills when the knife presses into his throat. The blade leans from side to side and causes his skin to sting. Hot breathing splashes against his ear and a heaving chest pushes against his back.
            "Sit the bag down slow, motherfucker."
            The man's slurring voice is hoarse and has a twang. Coyle kneels, lowers the bag to the parking lot pavement, and stands again. The man's jerky hands jab into his pockets and pat down his body. Coyle grimaces when he smells the man. The stink of urine spikes the harsh odor of sweat and vodka. Coyle grits his teeth, his stomach rumbling and twisting with swelling rage. There is a sick, broken junkie holding a knife to his throat, looking for anything he can take and if he makes twenty dollars, he will dash away grinning. Coyle clinches his fists. The man is not going to rob him.
            "Turn around, piece of shit. Slow," the man says.
            Coyle whips around and sends a hard kick into the man's crotch. He gasps for air, doubles over, and crumbles to the pavement. Coyle catches a glimpse of his face under the parking lot lights. He is a young white kid, tall, and narrow. His face is the color of chalk. Coyle blinks, bites his lips, and kicks him in the stomach.
            "Thought you had a good score? Wrong motherfucker to rob, junkie."
            Coyle glances around for watching eyes. The parking lot is empty and the distant street traffic will see nothing. He swings his leg back and sends another kick into the man's stomach. The man gasps again and twitches on the concrete. The screaming, shaking rivers of energy bubbling in his nerves merge into a single, boiling river of rage that drowns his brain. While the man writhes on the pavement, Coyle unzips the duffle bag and pulls out his gun.
            Grabbing the man by his clothes and hair, Coyle yanks him to his feet and carries the man towards the corner of the building. There is a deep drainage ditch behind the motel and a thick carpet of tall thistle covers a steep incline leading to an empty pizza parlor parking lot below. No one comes back here. Coyle knows it will be days, maybe weeks, before someone finds the body. He is grunting with every step and his hands are trembling. Piece of shit thinks he's gonna rip off a shipment? Fuck him! He lets go of the man and shoves him to the ground. They shift and move between thin, incandescent streams of fluorescent light. The man tries crawling off into the darkness, but covers his head with his hands and freezes when Coyle steps towards him and taps his gun against the man's leg.
            "Please, man, no! Please don't kill me! Help!"
            When the man lurches to his feet, Coyle raises the gun fast and shoots the man three times. The impact contorts him mid-aid before his chest slams into the ground with a thud. He rolls to the left and tumbles into the ditch.
            A shrill diesel horn screams nearby and Coyle stiffens. The horn is like an alarm sounding. The internal machinery sharpening his focus and deadening his emotions locks up and halts. The throttle snaps and he loses all remaining control. Fog falls over his brain and he cannot stop it. Fear and nausea sweep over him, riding on each other's backs. His weak knees cause him to teeter and he takes a step backwards before doubling over and vomiting.
            Coyle closes his eyes and takes long, shaking breaths, but his heartbeat will not slow. The ephedrine rush of rage spurring his energies inflames and swells his senses instead of clarifying and narrowing them. He grips the gun at his side and his tight clinch on the handle turns his fingers white. His hand aches, but Coyle cannot feel it.
            He steps towards the drainage ditch, holding his head high like someone craning away from a bad smell. He wants to turn, walk away, climb into his car, and make his delivery. However, when he opens his eyes, he is standing at the edge of the ditch. He lowers his head, looks down, and sees the body lying on the slope. The man is dead, on his back, three large bloodstains on his upper body, and his face stares at the sky. It is the first time that Coyle sees him. The man is no more than twenty-five and his eyes are open in the flickering, salty light. His mouth is open, but half-hidden in darkness. He looks like Alan, the fucker looks like Alan, he thinks. The thought rises to the surface and balloons into belief. He starts whimpering and shaking, tears rolling down his cheeks, and drops the gun to the ground. When the whimpering erupts into loud sobbing, he scampers down the hillside. He kneels next to the body, scoops his head into his arms, and brushes the long hair off his lifeless face.
            "I'm sorry, oh, I'm so sorry, son. I didn't know any better. I didn't know. I'm so sick."
            It is not his Alan. It is not his son. Cecil Coyle is behind a crumbling motel cradling the dead body of his tenth murder victim. He is forty-five years old and a thief, drug dealer, and killer for the last thirty. He is a two-time felon running drugs for local Italians and there are four twenty-five pound duffle bags bursting with high quality heroin in the trunk of his car. Despite thirty years of theft, drugs, and murder, he has never been here before. In this moment, behind the Economy Inn, Coyle cannot push his consciousness into a hole like before. The hole he shovels his regrets into for thirty years, a jagged chasm deep within, overflows and there is nowhere left to hide.
            He decides to keep the shipment for himself, sell it, and leave the city forever. He needs time. Before the sun rises, Coyle steals a car from a grocery store parking lot and leaves his old one behind. If he drives the same car, the wrong person will see him. Maybe a bored cop or some street guy grabbing a chance to score points with the Italians, but someone will spot him, follow him, and end his life with handcuffs or gun.
            He will sell the heroin cheap. It will take a call or two and they will flock to him, no one getting any lump in their throat over ripping off the Italians. After he unloads the drugs, he will go back to the room, gather up his things, and it will be over. He has to make a new start. His ex-wife is serving a twenty-year prison sentence for drug trafficking and conspiracy to commit murder. His only child, Alan, is a twenty-two year old cocaine addict prowling the streets and sleeping in empty buildings. There is no buried treasure, nest egg, or retirement plan in place for the day when he cannot steal, kill, or deal drugs. Coyle has to save himself and a trunk full of stolen heroin is the way.
            After stealing the car, Coyle drives back to the motel. He is awake for twenty-eight hours, making pickups and drops, passing messages along, and even keeping his eye for a time on a drug wholesaler who the supplier suspects is keeping too much money. He gulps ephedrine pills by the handful the entire time. He does not drink or smoke, but overdoses himself with amphetamines and over the counter supplements for three decades. He is six hours late for the drop-off, so he needs to be working, moving, unloading the heroin, and getting the money to go, but the inevitable crash has come and he needs to sleep more. However, he needs to makes one phone call when he gets back to the motel.
            A large neon sign towers over the single-level Economy Inn and the building's flaking beige paint forms a scattershot ring around the foundation. Long, warping strips of particleboard panel the walls and their brown stain is fading to spotty, sandy hue. The bed is small and the sheets are thin. There is a small bathroom in front of the room door and thick green curtains hang over the room's single bay window.
            He wants to talk to his mother so she can hear it from him that he is leaving and why. He cannot go see her. Someone might be watching her house by now and a hundred pounds of heroin is more than enough reason for someone to take her hostage or worse.
            "Mom, it's me."
            He hears the harsh clanging of pots and pans. She is doing dishes. "Cecil. How are you doing?" Twenty-five years older than her son, she is a former kitchen manager and there is still a sharp, insistent edge in her loud voice.
            "I'm breathing. You?"
            "Not much better, but better than you probably. You in trouble?"
            "Just wanted to talk."
            She coughs and clears her throat. "About?"
            "You remember Hughie Tyrone?"
            "The barber you used to go to as a kid? On the south side of the square?"
            "Yeah, that guy. Used to teach me chess when I was a kid, about seven or eight, but that doesn't matter. What matters is he tried to teach me something."
            "He liked you." Her voice softens and the words slow. "Your dad never liked him. I think the bastard was just jealous 'cause chess was beyond him." She laughs hard enough to start coughing.
            "Dad taught me how to bust out a lock, hotwire a car, and make a homemade silencer."
            She does not speak and Coyle hears what sounds like a wooden chair dragging across concrete. "Enough of this shit, Cecil. Come out and say what you have to say." Her voice is loud again and she spits the words out in an impatient burst.
            When Coyle's heart starts pounding, he lies back on the bed and starts at the drop ceiling above. He does not know how to say any of the things he wants to say. Hughie Tyrone is a means to an end, but he is groping for words. "Life is too fucking random. We're all dangling off a thin string and if you make one wrong turn, everything changes. You get one father instead of another, you didn't ask for either one of 'em, and you are still dealing with the bullshit from it at forty-five."
            "You get one life, Cecil. Some choices get made for you, but you've got some choices." She shorts. "You made bad ones," she says. She coughs and clears her throat again. "You aren't in trouble?"
            "I've made another choice, mom. I'm leaving. For good."
            "Why? Cops looking for you?"
            "No. I've just got to go. I'm done with it, done with it all."
            They are both silent. Coyle wants to say more. He wants to tell her about how the rotting man behind the motel looks like Alan. He wants to tell her about killing him and the nine other men along the way. He wants to unload the drugs and the past alike in one day, selling one while confessing the other.
            "I've got to go, mom. Need some sleep."
            "I talked to Alan a couple of days ago, Cecil."
            Coyle's heartbeat races and he leans up from the bed. "Really?"
            She pauses. "Yeah," she says. Coyle hears a long, wheezing sigh. "When did you see or talk to him last?"
            Coyle rubs his eyes and forehead. "Oh, I don't know, maybe two and a half years. I've heard shit though."
            "That he's living on the street, begging for drugs, and crashing in an abandoned building by St. Michael's."
            She snorts. "Guess that sums it up, huh?" she says. The frustration in her voice is sharp. "I was coming out of the Costco on 35th Street when he ran into me."
            "How'd he look? What'd he say?" The words tumble out of his mouth and his tongue trips over each syllable.
            "He was rail-thin and pale as a sheet. High out of his mind too. Asked me if I had any money."
            "You give him any?"
            His mother's harsh laughter chokes with phlegm. "As if. I didn't give him a dime. He told me where he's sleeping though."
            Coyle sucks in a lungful of air through his nose and sighs. "Where?"
            "In that old building next to St. Michael's. Used to be a bar I think."
            Pain lashes across the top of Coyle's head and the room spins for a few second. He needs to end the call and sleep before he falls off the bed and onto the floor.
            "Okay. I gotta go, mom. Gotta get some sleep."
            She pauses before answering and Coyle hears a low, tuneless humming in his ear. "Alright, Cecil. Call me when you can." Her voice cracks on the final two words.
            "I will."
            When he wakes, it is mid-afternoon and sweat covers his face. He spends ten minutes using the bathroom, washing his face, and dressing before leaving the room. He loads the duffle bags into the trunk and drives to a gas station on the corner. Even after sleeping for six hours, he is nodding out and needs more ephedrine pills.
            He swallows ten pills in the parking lot and decides to look for Alan. He wants him to know that he is getting out. In thirty years, Coyle never says he is sorry, but he wants to look Alan in the eyes and tell him that he regrets not being a better father. When he sees Alan a year and a half before, his son delivers pizzas and lives with a stripper and her three-year-old daughter, but now his son is homeless, huddling with junkies, and sick. Coyle looks into the rearview mirror but does not see his face. He sees, echoing in his own eyes, mouth, and chin, the face of the old man his son will never be. He drives to St. Michael's Church on the corner of Roosevelt and 85th Street.
            Crumbling brownstones, brick row buildings with plywood covering the windows, and buckling A-frames with small, bowing front porches dot the neighborhood. The sprawling church looms over the area like an immense, hollow skull. The short spire above the entrance and two taller spires flanking each side look like a trio of spikes stabbing the sky.
            Shuffling junkies wander the street and Coyle peers at each one as he passes. Dealers and junkies alike are slinking in and out of open doorways and the sound of laughter, chatter, and shouting wafts from open windows. Coyle does not see his son among them. All he sees are deep, black eyes staring at him as he drives by.
            He turns a corner and cranes his head to look again. There is a tall man wearing a dusty leather jacket slumping against a building. When the man lurches forward and slides his right shoulder against the wall, his face turns towards the sun and Coyle sees his face. It is Alan. Coyle slows the car and lunges across the seat towards the open passenger window.
            When Coyle sees Alan turn his head towards him, he swerves and parks his car alongside the curb. He jumps out of the car and rushes up to his son, but stops at about a foot away.
            "Alan, it's me, it's your dad."
            Alan tries to swing around, but his knees buckle and he crumples to the pavement. His head drops and a shiver wracks his body. Coyle kneels at his side.
            "You alright?"
            Alan nods. "Just got dizzy."
            "Let me help you up."
            Coyle moves behind him and wraps his arms around Alan's chest. He braces himself with his left foot and heaves Alan to his feet. Alan wavers for a second before his legs straighten. When he looks over his shoulder at Coyle, he jerks back.
            "Dad. huh? What do you want?" There is a thick slur in his voice, sores pit his cheeks, and golf-ball size knots choke his long blonde hair.
            Coyle frowns and extends his hand towards him. "I want to see you, Alan. Talk to you. That's all."
            Alan swats his hand away. "We don't have anything to talk about."
            Coyle sighs and stuffs his hands into his pockets. "I've got things I want to say. A lot of things."
            Alan leans towards him. "What then? Say it and get out of my face."
            Coyle looks up and down the street. A couple of middle-age homeless men shuffle by. He kicks the pavement and looks at his son. He does not want to talk here, but if this is it, he will say it here on the sidewalk. "I'm leaving the life. I'm getting out of town tomorrow and I'm not coming back."
            Alan is silent for a moment, his eyes narrowing, and his eyebrows twitching. He laughs. "You? Giving up the money, the scores, all of it? You're fucking joking. Get out of here." He tries to push past Coyle and walk away, but Coyle blocks him with his shoulder.
            "Not anymore, Alan."
            Alan glares at him. "You're full of shit," he says. His mouth puckers and he shoves Coyle in the shoulder. "Where you gonna go anyway? There's nowhere for you to go, motherfucker."
            Coyle steps back and shrugs. "Maybe there isn't. But I have to go." Coyle reaches out to place a hand on Alan's shoulder, but he leans away and when he does, he teeters backwards. Coyle grabs his jacket to keep him from falling.
            "Let me get you something to eat. We can sit down and talk."
            Alan smirks. "Like a father and son, huh?" He coughs and it causes his body to convulse. "I'm sick. Can't eat a fucking thing."
            He leans towards Coyle and his face contorts. "None of your fucking business, man!" The spit flies with his words and Coyle flinches before rubbing it off his forehead and cheeks.
            Alan looks down and his breathing is slow and deep. Coyle hears him wheezing. "Fucking fatherly concern," he says and snorts. "Okay, fine. I want to sit down somewhere so you can buy me some coffee."
            They climb into his car and drive off. The waves of anxiety pouring through Coyle's nervous system give him a weightless feeling. He expects the snarls, smirks, and defiant skepticism, but Alan's scalding contempt feels like a slow moving snake crushing his internal organs and twisting into his chest. Alan stares out the window and does not speak.
            "I saw a place down the street when I was driving over here. We'll go there," Coyle says. He bites his lower lips. "I talked to your grandma and she told me where to find you."
            Alan frowns and blinks a few times. "Yeah?" He looks out the window. "I saw her a while back. I was all fucked up."
            "Yeah, she said she was worried about you. How'd..."
            "Well, she should worry about herself. Just like you. You've got a lot of experience worrying about yourself." He does not turn away from the window, but his voice is loud and drowns out Coyle's own.
            A bolt of pain creases the underside of Coyle's arm. He winces and rubs a free hand over his head while he drives. "Alan, look at you. You're hooked to the gills. How long you been using?"
            Instead of snapping back at Coyle's frustration, Alan shrugs. "I don't know. A while."
            "How much?"
            Alan snorted. "What the fuck ever I can get or take." He turns away from the window and smiles at Coyle. It is thin and his eyes are narrow. "You know the deal. You've sold enough of the shit. Got some, dad?"
            Coyle sighs, grits his teeth, and turns into the parking lot of a small diner on the corner of 68th and Clark. The building is in poor condition. The guttering on the side of the building sags and jagged cracks slash across the once blue facade. Chips of limestone from the foundation litter the ground and splotches of grim spot the windows. One of the letters on the diner sign flickers and buzzes. Coyle peers through the window and sees one customer and one waitress. His son follows him inside. There is a row of booths against a wall, two tables, and a short breakfast bar. Everything has a faint yellow tint. They sit down at the bar and a skinny, middle-aged waitress wearing too much makeup walks over to them.
            "Can I get you something?"
            "Coffee. Black." Coyle says.
            "I'll have the same." Alan lowers his head and stares at the bar surface.
            The waitress nods and walks off. She pours two cups of coffee from a brown coffee mug and carries them back. "Anything else?"
            "Nah, that's it." Coyle says.
            The waitress walks off again and Coyle blows on his coffee to cool it down. He looks at his son from the side. His wide eyes are bulging out of his head and his skeletal face is gargoyle-like and frozen. They are quiet again. Alan raises his head to drink the coffee in brief sips. His hands are shaking and his coffee splashes over the rim. An old man in the booth behind them sways and mumbles obscenities. The wail of a nearby police siren swells before fading again.
            "I'm sorry, Alan."
            Alan does not raise his head, but turns it towards Coyle. He squints and shakes his head. "Sorry for what?"
            "Everything. I was a shitty ass father."
            Alan raises his head and snorts. "Little late for that. It doesn't mean anything to me."
            Coyle straightens his back, sighs, and smacks his palms down on the breakfast bar surface. "Won't you give an inch, Alan? I'm trying to set things right. Maybe it isn't much, but isn't more than I've ever tried to do before?" His voice is shrill and straining.
            Alan turns his body around to face him and looks him in the eyes. "You want me to give you an inch? I don't owe you shit, asshole," he says. He is whispering, but spitting when he speaks and jabbing his finger in the air. "Go ahead and take off. Maybe you'll find someone who will give a fuck, but it isn't gonna be me."
            Coyle twiddles his fingers and shifts in his stool. He wants his son to believe him and nothing has so far. He decides to tell him more without saying a word about the dead man from last night. "Alan, I've ripped off a big shipment I was supposed to deliver. I'm going to sell it today and get out of here by tomorrow at noon. Now do you believe me?"
            Alan arches his eyebrows and leans back. "You're fucking crazy. That's what I believe."
            Coyle sighs. "Yeah, that's what I'm thinking too."
            Alan sneers, snorts at him, and gulps down his coffee. He sits the cup down and pushes it to the side. "Well, I've gotta go. Got someone I have to go see."
            Coyle whips around and grips his son's arm, his fingers digging into the jacket sleeve. "Go? We just got here. Sit down, let me say what I need to say. It won't hurt you any."
            "Nah. Not interested. Thanks for the coffee." His voice is flat and his face expressionless. He yanks his arm out of Coyle's grasp and starts walking towards the door. Coyle spins on the stool and reaches out his hand.
            "Alan, come see me before noon tomorrow. I want to talk. I'm at the Economy Inn, just north of Empire Bridge. Room 20."
            Alan stops, turns, and looks at him. When his mouth curls into a thin smile, Coyle hopes he will walk back over and sit, but instead he turns again and walks out the door. Coyle watches him until he winds around the corner and disappears. He believes Alan will be dead within the year. Someone will find him rotting in a vacant building, a yellowing needle still dangling from his bony arm. Or maybe when he dies junkies will surround him in a humid, smoke-filled apartment. He will spike his vein with a needle, his head will roll like a chunk of lettuce circling a drain, and he will smile. The same smile Coyle sees when he leaves. The warm silken charge sweeping across his body will turn to ice and cause the smile to vanish. His body will stiffen and his eyes will spin into the back of his head. He will slump to the floor and the other junkies will watch the translucent stream of spit leaking from his mouth. They will watch the short, violent thrashing of his body and, when the thrashing stops and Alan is dead, they will say nothing, plunder his pockets, and leave his blue, bloating body alone. Coyle has seen it before. It is as real and as clear in his mind as the stool he is sitting on or the coffee cup in front of him.
            He wants to burst out the door and catch up to Alan just to say he loves him, but there is no use. Coyle stares at the door instead, his back leaning against the breakfast bar. His mind recalls everything he says to his son today and knows words can never be enough. His desire to lighten his load of guilt is his desire alone and Alan has no interest in absolution. Chasing him down the street will push him further away. However, he cannot give up. He will look for him again tomorrow before he leaves.
            Other concerns weigh on him. He has one hundred pounds of Mafia heroin in his trunk and needs to sell it. He pulls his cell phone from his shirt pocket and punches in a number. Someone answers by the second ring.
            "Need to talk to Malloy. Tell him it's Coyle and important."
            The man grunts and drops the phone. Eddie Malloy is a year younger than Coyle and knows him since kindergarten. Their families live within a block of each other and both boys hook up with the Italians in their late teens. They do everything together - sell stolen goods and drugs, pull robberies and burglaries alike, hijack trucks, and murder anyone the Italians trust them to kill. Now he runs out of the west side of the city and runs a group of Irish street guys who sell cocaine, marijuana, and heroin. Coyle knows the Italians are his supplier, but he believes that Malloy will savor the chance to fuck them over for the thrill. And the money.
            When Malloy tells him to come over, Coyle starts driving for the west side. Malloy spends his time at a bar called Player's Inn and Coyle plans to drive there, do the deal quick, and head back to the motel. It is early in the evening and he wants eight hours of sleep before leaving the city. Days of overdosing on ephedrine pills and sleeping a handful of hours at a stretch are wearing him thin. Once he reaches the Interstate, he will not be stopping for a long time.
            The Player's Inn is downstairs from a ground floor pawnshop. Irish families once blanket the neighborhood, but it is now a stew of third and fourth generation Irish living alongside black and Italian families. There are dozens of vacant houses and buildings in the area and the pawnshop door has bars blocking the entrance and steel shutters covering its lone window. Four concrete steps lead down to the bar's entrance.
            Coyle parks along the street, takes a duffle bag from the trunk, and walks inside. The bar is small and reeks of mold. The wooden floor creaks and a long bar starts near the door and spans the right side of the room. A pool table sits on the left side of the room and the sound of The Rolling Stones song "Jumpin' Jack Flash" pumps from jukebox with buzzing speakers. A kid with acne scars covering his face drops his stick on the pool table and walks towards Coyle.
            "Who the fuck are you?" He does not blink, smile, or frown.
            Coyle takes a step towards him. "Tell Malloy that Coyle is here."
            The kid lowers his shoulders and looks back at an older, redheaded man behind him. The redhead nods and the kid walks back to the pool table. The redhead walks up to Coyle.
            "Sit at the bar, Coyle. I'll let Eddie know you're here," he says.
            Coyle nods and sits on a bar stool. A minute passes before two men sit next to him. Coyle does not recognize them and they ignore him. They are downing shots of whiskey from a quart size bottle sitting on the bar and shouting at each other about the split on a cocaine deal. The kid and a thin, middle-aged man play pool while the older man cackles about a hooker infecting the kid with pubic lice.
            A door opens in the rear of the bar and Malloy steps out. He is once thin, blonde, and has a firm jaw line and long neck, but he packs on a hundred pounds in five years and loses the hair on the top of his head while the rest turns white. His firm jaw sags around the cheeks and age compresses his long neck. He waves at Coyle to come into his office.
            There is an oak bar on one side of the office, a large steel desk in the center of the room, and two long rows of fluorescent lights hanging from a drop ceiling above. There are a number of chair and a leather couch sitting against a wall. The redhead who Coyle talks to in the bar is sitting on the couch with another man. The second man has a black eye, black hair, and a wide scar running down one cheek. Malloy is propping his feet up on the desk.
            "Sit, man. Need a drink?" Malloy says.
            Coyle moves from foot to foot and shakes his head. "No, thanks. Just want to get this done and get some sleep."
            Malloy chuckles. "I'll bet you're in a hurry to unload it," he says. "Gotta say, it is a nice way to fuck those cocksuckers."
            Coyle smiles. "I figured you'd approve. I don't owe the Italians a thing. I'm getting out, this is it for me."
            Malloy swings his feet off the desk and leans forward. He slaps his palms down on the desk and throws his head back. "Go get the money, Mick," he says to the redhead. He looks at Coyle and smiles. "What's happened, Cecil? Tell your old buddy. Feeling unappreciated? You should come work for me." He arches an eyebrow and leans back in his chair.
            Coyle smirks, but Malloy's familiar bluster wears on him. There is a threadbare calm holding Coyle together allowing his haywire criminal instincts to flare to life again, but Malloy's babbling threatens to shred his focus on what he needs to do. "Not happening. Things change, Eddie, and people do too."
            Malloy glares at him. "I haven't changed and never will."
            Mick walks back into the room and sits down two thick envelopes in front of Malloy. Malloy nods at him and Mick sits down again on the couch. Malloy peers into each envelope and nods again.
            "It's all here. Hand me that duffle bag."
            Coyle passes the bag to him and Malloy unzips it. He pulls out two bundles, places them on the desk, then opens a drawer, and pulls out a digital scale. He places the bundles on the scale and looks at the display screen.
            "Twenty five pounds on the dot."
            Malloy shoves the envelopes across the desk towards Coyle. He scoops them up, stuffs them into his shirt pocket, stands, and steps towards the door. When he does, Mick springs up in front of him and blocks his path. The second man is standing next to Mick. When Coyle turns and looks at Malloy, his eyes are wide.
            "I've changed my mind. You aren't going anywhere and we'll just go get the rest of the heroin out of your car." He draws each word out, but there is no warmth in his voice.
            Malloy is going to kill him and take the heroin for himself. When the thought hits Coyle's mind, his heartbeat slows, but he feels a blast of energy cover his entire body, filling every limb, and he begins to shake. It is anger, white searing rage, and it will not let Malloy kill him, take the heroin, and profit from his death. They make one mistake when Coyle comes in. No one pats him down and finds his loaded gun.
            Coyle whips around and punches the man with black hair in the mouth. He slumps against the wall and sinks to the floor. When Coyle reaches into his waistband and pulls out the gun, everything slows down. Coyle sees Mick lunging towards him while reaching behind his back. He shoots Mick twice in the face, the impact knocking him back onto the couch, spins around, and shoots the man with black hair in the forehead as he struggles to his feet.
            After he pulls the trigger, Malloy tackles him and both men tumble onto Mick's dead body. Coyle loses his grip on the gun and, when he reaches for it, Malloy drives his elbow into the crook of Coyle's arm. Coyle winces and hears loud shouting from the other side of the door. The lock and dead man keep anyone from coming in. While Malloy is larger and stronger than Coyle, Coyle is quicker. He jumps to his feet and sees Malloy down on his knees. He kicks him in the head, sends him crashing into the desk, and keeps kicking him in the head until Malloy stops moving.
            The pounding on the door does not stop. The room is quiet. Coyle pauses for a second before he rushes around the other side of the desk. He plunges his hands into the drawers looking for another gun and finds a nine millimeter with a full clip. He walks over to Mick's dead body and takes a .38 revolver from his waistband. There is no choice but to shoot his way out.
            He stands in front of the door. He sees four men when he comes in the bar, two playing pool and the two sitting next to him, but that is no help. Coyle starts firing at where the knocks are loudest and the bullets leave wide holes in the door. Coyle hears grunting on the other side. Someone starts shooting back and Coyle dives over the desk. He uses the desk as cover and shoots back. Everything is quiet again and Coyle stands and creeps towards the door with both guns at his side. When he hears Malloy stirring, he stomps his foot hard on his head, unlocks the door, and steps out into the bar.
            The kid's body is lying on the floor with three bullet wounds in his chest. His pool-playing partner is a few feet to the right and the two men that sit next to Coyle at the bar are gone. He thinks about walking back into the office and killing Malloy. His hands are quaking with rage still and sweat covers his face. Instead, he leaves. He is done.
            He weeps while he drives back to the motel. He kills five men in the last two days, loses his son, and cannot sell the heroin he steals to make a new life for himself. It does not matter. He will steal another car in the morning and the two hundred and fifty dollars in his wallet will take him somewhere. Anywhere but this city and this life.
            He fumbles into the dark motel room and collapses onto the bed. His sore left arm stops him from laying on his left side or his stomach, so he lies on his back instead and stares at the city lights outside. The field of light spreading over his room in patches is as faint as a fingerprint and Coyle sees specks of dust floating in the glittering, narrow streams. Coyle thinks this is the best light, the manufactured light masking reality and sweetening the bitter taste of life as it is.
            He opens his eyes when he hears someone knocking at the door. They are hard knocks rattling the door and echoing through the room. He frowns and rubs his eyes. He cannot move his left arm, so he uses his right to roll over and sit on the side of the bed. The knocking continues when he stands up and walks to the door.
            "Yeah? Who is it? What do you want?"
            "It's Alan, dad. Can I come in?"
            Coyle hears nothing but his own heartbeat. "Really?"
            "Yeah, dad, it's really me. Just let me in."
            Coyle turns the deadbolt and flings the door open. When the morning sunlight blasts into the room, Coyle squints and steps back. He opens his eyes and sees Alan standing in the doorway. Two men appear on each side of him, shove him aside, and rush into the room. Coyle turns to go for his gun, but one of the men slams the butt of their pistol into his skull. He falls to the floor and one of the men pushes him over with their foot. When another man walks up and kicks him in the mouth, his head snaps back and his mouth fills with blood.
            He hears the motel room door close and raises his head. There are four people in the room. Two men built like bodybuilders and wearing tank top shirts with sweatpants. His son is standing in a corner and staring at him. His face is frozen. Coyle knows the fourth man. He is tall, thin, and a deep bleached scar in the shape of a comma covers one cheek. Vincent Mirra is a Mafia captain with twenty guys under his command. He is playing with his neck chain and pacing the floor. He looks at Coyle and smirks.
            "Always blows me away when an Irish cocksucker thinks he can get cute. You, though, are the motherfucking king of cute. You think you can rob us, huh?"
            Coyle looks away from Mirra and stares at his son. Alan stands in the corner of the room next to the door. He looks at his father, but does not smile or frown. Coyle hears Mirra laugh.
            "Sold you out for two hundred dollars." Mirra reaches down and slaps Coyle hard on the back of the head. "Hear that? Two hundred dollars. Nice job you did with this kid, Coyle. He's a real piece of work."
            Mirra's men laugh and Coyle coughs out a knot of blood. He wants to speak. He wants to tell his son he is sorry again. He wants to tell Mirra and his men to fuck off. He wants to say something, but his words are slurs and gasps. He looks at Mirra and drops his head. If this is how it has to be, okay.
            Mirra pulls out a nine-millimeter pistol and shoots Coyle twice in the head. Coyle's face snaps into the floor and his body jerks once. He is out.

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