Neon Lights & Green Fire (2010)

We stole the sports car that took us to Vegas – V12, 460 brake horse power. Vroom, Vroom, just a Goblin and an Elf speeding down the I-15, swigging cheap tequila as we drove. The little blue Goblin screamed for me to drive faster as his flopsy-dopsy ears trailed in the wind like the headscarf of some Hollywood starlet.

Course, the cops soon pulled us over. We kinda hoped that they might. Blue freaked them out at first, turning to anger when he managed to vomit liquor all over their nicely polished shoes. Green Fire took care of them – all consuming, burn baby burn. Blue cackled with the fire as the P.D.’s finest sizzled and popped.

We checked into a penthouse at the Emerald Sky Hotel – a little over the top for my tastes, but Blue insisted. He said we needed to maintain our cover. So whilst he was popping out to the ice machine, I took a shower. Maybe I should have worried when the little shit still wasn’t back by the time I was done but I figured what harm could a little freak do in a city full of freaks. How wrong, Daddy-O. How wrong.

He came back in the small hours of the morning, a girl on each arm, promising to do things with that big ol’ tongue of his that would have made my momma blush. He said one was for me – Trixie, her name was; told me she was originally from Minnesota. Fuck it, I was too nervous to sleep anyway, so sat there on the couch, drinking the minibar’s bourbon as Blue and the girls did lines off the clear glass coffee table.

I woke the following morning with a hangover like an ogre’s punchbag and an aching ballsack that Trixie had pumped dry. She’d already left, obviously ol’ Blue hadn’t paid for the overnight service. I checked for my watch – you can never be too careful, especially in Vegas. It was where I’d left it.

Still there was the small matter of the briefcase. If that had gone, Blue and I were a whole new level of fucked. Careless I know, to leave it just lying around when you’ve got company, but you don’t think about these things when you’re being blown to Shangri-La and back.

Blue was passed out in an armchair, both face and cock skywards. No sign of his girl either, but the briefcase was beside his chair. I fumbled at the combination, eyes still trying to remember how to focus. 8-9-1 5-2-7 Bingo!

Ahh, the smell of money! Can get you high even if it isn’t yours. Best narcotic in the city. I did a quick check before grabbing a pile of fifties and slapping Blue hard round the face with them.

“What-the…” he stirred.

“Hey motherfucker,” I shouted. “Care to tell me where two thousand dollars of our hard earned ransom money has gone?” I was so angry I was beyond pissed, even though my shouting was making my own drink-fogged brain shrink and yelp.

“Relax dude,” he said still sleepy and a fair bit too casually for my liking. “I used some to buy the girls and drugs.”

“You did what?” Now Blue’s done some pretty fucked up things in his time, but I had to reckon, standing there in front of him, that this had to be the most stupid thing he’d ever done.

“It’ll be fine. Go back to bed.” He rolled over in his chair and curled into a foetal position.

“And you don’t think Ol’ Marcello ain’t gonna be counting his money.” Now Marcello ain’t known for his brains, but I reckon even he’d be able to tell when he’s two thousand dollars short. And from what I heard, Marcello wasn’t known for his generosity of spirit when people fucked him over.

Blue waved me off with his hand like some royal subject.

“You screw this up Blue,” I said. “I swear to God I’ll burn you like those cops.”

It was several days until our meeting with Marcello; several days in which a merry dance needed to be played, where they checked us out, tailed us about the city and generally made sure we were the type of people they wanted to do business with.

Blue’s spending habits hadn’t died down. He spent most of the day at the slots, cup of quarters in hand, feeding them religiously in a prayer of higher fortunes that never came. With the nights came lines of coke and girls, of which I did not personally partake. I was too highly strung about our dwindling funds to enjoy a fuck on them. Blue on the other hand was screwing his way through Las Vegas and half way out of Nevada.

I was equal parts nervous and relieved when the day of the meeting came. Nervous, because our funds had now dwindled to less than four thousand dollars; relieved that Blue didn’t have any time to spend any more.

“It’ll be fine,” he said. “I have a plan.” Forgive me if I did not share the little shithead’s optimism.

Marcello came with four men, carbon copies with broad shoulders, expensive suits and slicked back hair. Marcello on the other hand was small and grey, with an uncontrollable mismatched toupee that looked like it might jump and attack you at any moment.

“Good morning gentleman,” he said in a squeaky, nasally voice. “My people tell me you’ve been enjoying your week here. I trust you’ve not spent all your money?”

I gave a nervous laugh. We’re fucked. For once Blue was completely deadpan, like a man facing up to his adversary in some wild west showdown. Personally, I was impressed that the coked up little imp could even manage to get both eyes looking in the same direction.

“Can I see it?” Marcello asked, nodding towards the briefcase. Blue reached towards it but my instincts cut in.

“Woah! Hold up there crazy horse!” I said. “If we’re going to tango, I wanna see the goods.”

Marcello thought about it for a second, shrugged, and nodded towards one of his goons. There was an uneasy silence as they left the room for what seemed like ages before returning with a fairy.

I say, a fairy, when in fact, it was the fairy: the reason we were in Las Vegas, the reason we had a briefcase of money. Princess Daodii, daughter to King Mendulus III, heir to the entire Fairy kingdom and from all accounts, a complete and utter bitch who was always getting herself into trouble only for daddy to come running to make it all better. And this time, Blue and myself were the band aid, opportunists hired by the King to bring his daughter home safe.

But whether the girl had a rotten core or not, the apple itself looked sweet. Red hair tumbled messily to the shoulders contrasting her pale complexion and magnetic blue eyes. She wore a green dress that seemed too short for her liking, given how she kept tugging at the edges – most likely Marcello’s choice, the dirty bastard. And out the back of the dress were 2 huge semi-opaque wings that glistened as if they were kissed by morning dew. I’d never been attracted to fairies before, given their nomadic heritage and weird customs, but Princess Daodii ticked a lot of boxes and I would have been willing to let her tick a lot more.

“You all right Tinkerbell?” I asked.

“Who the fuck are you?” Charming, I guess the rumours about her attitude were right.

“Your father sent us,” I lied. Technically, we’d gone to him and pleaded for the job. I can be kinda pathetic when there’s money at stake.

“You?” she snorted. Ahh shit baby, and we were doing so well.

“Hey, I can always leave you here. No skin off my nose,” and half of me was mighty tempted to do so. But nothing speaks to an elf like the promise of gold, and if we could just get past the small problem of Marcello we’d be rolling in enough money that Blue and I could keep ourselves supplied with blow and hookers for years to come. Mendulus was a very good employer, and one, unlike Blue, I was keen not to screw over.

“She clean?” I asked, delaying that gut churning inevitability. I pointed at one of the goon. “Lurch here hasn’t been tampering with the goods?”

“Fuck you” Daodii and the goon said in unison.

“So,” said Marcello rather impatiently. “The money?”

Blue stepped forward smiling and handed the briefcase over to one of the goons, who held it as Marcello opened it and started checking through all of the bills. I did all I could from turning the brightest shade of red because I knew things were gonna get real nasty and I wasn’t sure Blue had a plan.

“Are you fucking with me?” Marcello asked, his weasely face even more pointed as he screwed it up at us. “It’s not all there.”

I opened my mouth to say something. I don’t know what, because at that moment I was all out of plan, but before I could say anything, Blue jumped in, cool as a cucumber.

“Of course not.”

Marcello’s face changed to one of shock.

“Like we’d have all the money here.” he laughed. “You think we’re that stupid.”

Marcello looked at Blue for a second, he obviously thought we were.

“Where is it then?” he asked impatiently.

“My Elven friend here will take you to it.”

Oh great! Whoop de doo. Blue’s great plan was to dump me in the shit. I could have strangled the little fucker there and then.

Marcello didn’t look impressed. He nodded at two of his goons. “Danny. Antonio. Go with the little prick and get the rest of the money. I’ll wait here.”

Danny and Antonio nodded.

“Tie his hands as well so he can’t do any of his voodoo shit. If he tries anything, kill him.”

Ahh shit! That was my plan out the window. With my hands tied I couldn’t conjure green fire. I played out a million different scenarios in my head but all of them came to the same conclusion: You’re fucked. I even thought about giving up the pretence and trying to burn them all, Blue included, there and then. But Marcello’s men all had guns and I reckoned I’d only get three of them down before the fourth could get off a shot even if I was lucky.

So I gave in and offered them my wrists. I knew when I was beat. All I needed to do, was to keep them busy long enough to come up with a plan.

Danny, or Antonio – seriously they were so alike I couldn’t tell one from the other – cable tied my wrists together, pulling them so tight I thought they’d cut off the blood flow to my hands. Then they shoved me saying “Come on, we ain’t got all day.”

As I left I caught Blue flash me a smile and to this day I’ll never know whether it was a smile of compassion – a ‘we’ve got them now’ grin – or a smile at the knowledge he’d screwed me over so badly that I probably wouldn’t walk out of this one alive. I figured the latter, little cocksucker.

Either way, my problem was no longer Blue, it was Danny and Antonio, who would shoot me dead without a second thought if they felt I was dicking them around.

I took the stairs, telling the goons, “Ain’t gonna look too good if someone gets on the elevator at floor 5 and sees a guy with his hands bound and a gun in his back.” They seemed to buy that. But more importantly, it gave me time.

My mood sank with our altitude. I said nothing, but I can tell you, my brain was galloping like a racehorse. My shackles were too tight to slip out of – those babies weren’t coming off without a knife.

We’d reached ground floor and I was still none the wiser as to how I was going to escape my predicament. I didn’t even have a clue where to lead the goons now. I could feel panic rising in my gut.

I saw the washrooms and without thinking said “Guys, I gotta poop”. It’s the oldest trick in the book and one I knew these guys wouldn’t fall for – get them to remove your shackles whilst you go to the bathroom, then commit you own special kind of mojo whilst their backs are turned.

“Seriously, guys,” I said. “I’ve got a bowel condition.”

“You can shit yourself then,” said Danny or Antonio. I’m guessing Antonio.

“You don’t want an elf shitting themselves. People will know from a very long distance away, and I’m sure you’ll agree we don’t need to be drawing attention to ourselves.”

I held up my bound hands as if to reinforce the point.

And this is where I said the thing that saved my life: “You can both come in, I’m not up to any tricks.”

They treated this with suspicion, giving each other looks that communicated in a way I didn’t understand.

“Alright,” said… one of them. “I’ll go with you. Danny will wait outside.” Guess that’ll be Antonio then.

So there I was sitting in a toilet cubicle, armed mobster waiting outside, with no plan how I was gonna get out of this mess. Sitting there, pants round my ankles I would have even of settled for a plan that only involved serious maiming. I knew whatever I was going to do, I needed to do it now. Once we left the washroom and they said “which way now” the game was up.

I tried to use the toilet roll holder to break the cable ties, but those little suckers weren’t going to break for anyone. Trussed up like a turkey, ready for Thanksgiving.

In a frantic, silent panic, I looked around me for something, anything, I could fashion into a weapon, whilst a little voice in the back of my head told me that Danny and Antonio had guns and were about to kill me.

The toilet tank had a hefty porcelain lid, maybe not heavy enough to bludgeon a man to death, but definitely enough to do some serious damage. It was the best shot I had. Now if only I could get the top off without Antonio hearing.

“What you doing in there?”

Shit!

“Getting your money tweedledee,” I said without really thinking. “Needed to stash it somewhere you guys wouldn’t think to look.”

I gripped the tank lid and fumbled the door lock.

“Can you give us a hand?” I asked. “It’s not easy with my hands tied together.”

I watched the cubicle door, hands gripping the tank lid ready to strike, waiting for Antonio to enter gun first.

“Alright,” he said, “but no funny…”

I didn’t wait for him to finish, as soon as I saw the door open a crack and Antonio’s gun wielding arm poke round it, I charged. My plan was to slam the door into his arm, make him drop the gun and then render him unconscious with the tank lid.

Except it didn’t happen like that. I charged the door with all my force, causing the wood round the hinges to splinter, and Antonio, door and myself to careen across the washroom and into the line of wash basins on the far side. The lid flew out of hands, smashing on the tile floor and joining shards of wash basin where Antonio’s head had made contact with it. Water mixed with blood as we both ended sprawled across the floor.

The fall had certainly rattled my brains but Antonio was out cold, possibly dead considering the amount of blood that was oozing out the back of his head. Dead or unconscious, who cared as long as he wasn’t trying to kill me. I reached for his weapon when there was a bang and something zipped past my ear. Behind me, a glass mirror shattered – seven years bad luck, hopefully not for me.

I looked up to see Danny standing there pointing a smoking gun at me. Without thinking I gripped Antonio’s weapon, closed my eyes and shot wildly in Danny’s direction. One – two – three – no that one wasn’t mine – three – four – five – six – click – click – click.

I opened my eyes a fraction, not wanting to see the bullet heading towards me with my name on it. But there was no bullet, just a tile wall with six bullet holes, one which contained the remains of Danny’s brains. Danny himself lay face down on the floor, and you’d have thought him sleeping were it not for the fact that he was missing the back of his head. Icky!

Joy at still being alive overruled any feeling of wanting to throw up this morning’s breakfast. Tomatoes suddenly seemed very unappealing. That feeling was soon replaced with panic. Here I was holding a gun with two dead men and a clear up operation that was not going to make the maid pleased. The gunfight could have probably been heard all the way back to L.A., which meant that the police, hotel security and possibly more of Marcello’s goons would be here any second.

I picked myself up off the floor, ignoring the aches and pains from my awkward landing. I quickly checked myself over in a mirror to ensure I’d not sustained some serious injury that shock was blocking out, but other than a small cut on my forehead from the fall, I wasn’t leaking anywhere.

My gun was empty, so I chucked it on the floor, and picked up Danny’s instead. Then I was out the door, back towards the Penthouse. And not a moment too soon. No sooner had I rounded a corner than I heard shouts behind me.

“In the washroom. I swear it was gunfire.”

“Did you see anyone come out?”

“No, but I wasn’t watching too carefully.”

That possibly bought me some time. I was feeling particularly lucky given how I’d just dodged a bullet, so decided to risk the elevator.

As I stood there waiting for it to arrive, wondering if I’d made the right decision given how slow the elevator seemed to be, two men in blue shirts and blazers came running round the corner towards me. Hotel security, I reckoned. I quickly stuffed the gun into my pants pocket, and stood close enough to the elevator door so they wouldn’t see my bound hands.

“You see any one come this way,” one rasped.

“Yeah, actually,” I said facing away from them so they wouldn’t see the cut on my head. “Ran up that way covered in blood.”

“OK, thanks,” he said, as the elevator binged and the doors opened.

“No problem,” I said, stepping inside and pushing the button for the penthouse.

The shock was now starting to wear off, and I was feeling sicker than all my hangovers combined. I retched a couple of times, but managed to convince myself that this wasn’t over yet, and now wasn’t the time to be throwing up.

I fumbled, trying to get the gun out of my trouser pocket. Careful now, you don’t want this to end with you blowing off your own balls. But by the time the elevator dinged, and the doors opened, I was ready.

The door to the Penthouse opposite was open, and I was almost concerned for Blue until I remembered, it was his fault we were in this God Almighty fuck up. If Marcello had killed the little fucker, I’d probably have shaken his hand. But Marcello was in no state to receive thanks from anyone. He lay in the hallway in the midst of a puddle of blood. It was almost artistic. Likewise, the two goons who stayed behind had met a timely demise. Given the smashed furniture and the fact that one goon was missing both his eyeballs, I figured there had been a struggle.

I searched around for the telltale signs of blue blood, looked under the beds and in the cupboards in case he was hiding. But his stuff was gone, and most importantly the briefcase too. No sign of the Princess either. Obviously she liked her cock blue.

Swearing under my breath of all the things I’d do when I caught up with him, I went into the kitchen area and carefully used a knife to cut my shackles. I managed to nick my wrist in the process – nothing bad though, I’d live.

It was as I was wandering around the living room sucking on my cut to try and stop the bleeding, that Hotel security finally caught up with me. Shit, the gun was on the side in the kitchen.

“Freeze motherfucker,” one who obviously watched far too many cop shows shouted.

“Jesus, Frank,” said the other looking at the body in the hall, “that’s Marcello Valentino.”

“Put your hands up,” Frank shouted, slightly fearful.

With pleasure. I lifted my arms and started to make the three gestures.

“Up, I said,” shouted Frank before bursting into green fire. I was already two thirds of the way through a second round of magic kung-fu, and Frank’s partner joined him burning and crackling in the hallway before he’d even had chance to raise his gun.

Time to get out of here. I’d worry about Blue and the Princess later. For now, I had to get away. If hotel security had found me, it was likely others weren’t far behind. I went into the kitchen and grabbed the gun. Magic is good, but bullets are better.

It was about then that the fire alarms went off and the sprinklers kicked in. And I’d always thought green fire was smokeless. Who knew? But this did put me in a new predicament. If hotel security had any doubt where I was, they probably knew now.

No time to pack, I just needed to get out the building… somehow. For the first time today, however, I had a plan.

I ran to the stairwell, and bounded down steps two at a time. I knew somewhere, far below, people who’d very like to meet me would be heading up. I thought I could even hear their shouts echoing up. But about three floors down, doors burst open and the hotel guests began filing down the stairs, evacuating the hotel. I mingled in and followed the flow down.

Mixed with the crowds, I’d become less obvious, but I was aware that once hotel security dealt with the fire they’d be coming down the stairwell after me.

Consequently I was keen to descend, and whilst the procession of people snaking down gave me some cover, I noticed our particular section seemed to be moving slower than those a couple of flights down.

The cause, half a flight ahead was an elderly woman with huge Jackie O glasses. How very Vegas. Now, it wasn’t that ol’ Jackie O was particularly slow but it seemed she was more concerned about moaning to the person behind her than concentrating on her next step.

“Making us walk down all these stairs,” she droned. “I’m sixty-two you know.”

By the time she was onto the story of how she’d “been carried out of a hotel in Athens and that had been a false alarm too” our little group was nearly four flights behind the main body. I heard a door above slam and the unmistakable sound of radios. Shit, pick up your speed Jackie O.

I decided that there was nothing for it, but to do some overtaking. I jumped out my spot and started bounding down the stairs. Several followed me, fed up with Jackie’s incessant whining.

As I drew level she saw me, and stuck out her cane to block me passing

“Hey, slow down. There’s a fire on don’t you know.”

My fellow sprinters bunched up behind me, and Jackie O stopped, determined to give us a piece of her mind.

“You know I once saw a person fall down a flight of stairs.”

A door below us clicked open and over Jackie O’s shoulder I saw what were unmistakably new Marcello goons, heading upwards towards us. Behind me I could feel the growing tension and frustration of our little crowd.

Hotel staff coming down, Mobsters coming up, and me as the jam in the middle of this fuck-up sandwich. There was only one thing to do

“You need to stop your yabbering and start getting down those steps,” I yelled.

As expected, Jackie O exploded.

“Why I…” her nasal whine almost droning out the alarms. I pushed the cane aside and jumped a step in front to face her, my back to the rising group of mobsters who, a second later, rounded a corner and were ascending directly to us.

My fellow sprinters squeezed in around me and Jackie O like a cloak, as the mobsters pushed past on their way upwards.

“I’ve never met someone so rude as you in all my days,” Jackie continued.

“Can we get a move on?” a voice shouted from the back. “This could be a real fire.”

This diverted Jackie O’s attention long enough for me to break away. Down and down I raced, keeping close to the walls to minimise the chance of anyone looking over the railings above to see me. Freedom drew ever closer and I met up with the main bulk of hotel guests at the bottom, managing to mix inconspicuously into the tail end as people bunched up around the exit. Once outside I was soon able to slip away. Somehow I’d managed to get away with it.

Jackie O owned a Cadillac, which almost made me forgive her for being such a bitch. As I drove East in the car whose keys I’d pick pocketed on the stairs, she was probably wondering if she’d left them in her room and was no doubt arguing with Hotel staff that someone needed to go find out right now, even if the fire at the top of the building was as bright as the lights in the Strip.

By the time she reported it stolen, I’d have already dumped it. I’d go north, south east and west, swapping the car with each direction. I’d stop at every diner, drink at every bar, read every newspaper, listen for weird tales of a small blue man.

I cast my circle every wider, continuing to search. Sooner or later he’ll fuck up and reveal his location to me. And when I find Blue, I’ll introduce him to green.

Copyright 2010 Adrian Faulkner