Best Kept

Secrets. Everybody had secrets. Brodie Curtis was a man who kept secrets. He was paid to do so, and paid well. So why then does a man so good at keeping his mouth shut, begin to talk? The answer is simple. Someone knows his secret.

He lifted the glass to his lips and drained the last of the amber liquid. How did this happen? He was always so very careful. Brodie knew he had made no mistakes. He was cautious with everything. He drove an ten year old car and lived in a modest apartment to downplay his wealth. He wore department store clothing and shopped for groceries with coupons. Such expert craftsmanship went into his persona to hide who and what he was. Yet, here in front of him was proof that someone knew.

Brodie read the card again: I know your secret. Starlite Lounge, 8pm. Bring an umbrella.

The envelope had been slid under his door. Brodie stood and fastened his ankle holster, fixing the 9mm firmly within. He pulled on a knit sweater before grabbing an umbrella from the hall. He combed his hair briefly and left the apartment. As he waited for the elevator to arrive, he was joined by the woman from the end of the hall. Apartment 9, the only name he knew her by. Though he knew she ate take-out often and had a bad habit of biting her fingernails. Stress? Nervous habit? Brodie didn’t much care, it wasn’t profitable information.

She smiled at him as she spit a piece of nail to the floor. “Long day? You always look tired.”

Brodie nodded. The doors slid open with a chime and he waited for Apartment 9 to enter first, before following.

“You expecting rain? I didn’t catch the weather, but I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be dry.”

Brodie gave a quick smile, “One can never be too careful.”

“You’re number 6, right? Do you read the paper, 6? There was another brilliant heist at the Museum of Fine Arts. It’s like something out of a movie.”

“No, I missed that article I’m afraid. Not much for reading the newspaper.”

The elevator slowed and the doors opened. Again Brodie let Apartment 9 go first. He was not above showing due courtesy to those around him. The parking garage was quiet and dim. There always seemed to be lights blown out. Bad wiring? Juvenile delinquents? A set-up? Not likely, a guy didn’t ask you to meet just to kill you in the garage.

“Hey. Number 6, would you mind walking me to my car? This place always gives me the creeps.”

Brodie looked up, he had forgotten Apartment 9 was still there. He nodded and fell in step beside her as she nibbled nervously on her fingertips. He scanned the parking level, a normal habit, fortune favors the prepared. Apartment 9 unlocked and climbed into her car with a wave. The back seat was packed with boxes and suitcases. Moving? Running away? Didn’t matter. Brodie walked to his car and got in.

He drove across town to the Starlite and parked around the corner. He stayed in the car a moment, surveying the area. Finally he climbed out. He could see the employee and delivery entrance from his car, a possible exit if things went south. Brodie walked to the front doors and entered.

Almost immediately a man waved him over and motioned for him to sit. He wore a fine silk suit, his hair grey at the temples. This was a man who liked to show off his bankroll. Mob? Debutante? Maybe just a rich asshole?

“To be honest,” the man started, “I was expecting a woman to show up with an umbrella. So I assume you know why I invited you here instead of killing you?”

Brodie sat silently. The accent was subtle- Greek? Italian? Yes, Italian. That means mob. Silk suit, Starlite Lounge, the well-dressed thugs watching from the surrounding tables. This was Vincent Bulitolli. Brodie knew many of his secrets. But what secrets did Mr. Bulitolli know?

“I felt obliged to give you the opportunity to return what you’ve stolen from me. It’s very valuable you understand, emotionally more than monetarily. And I have a job you must do, for compensation you understand. Otherwise, I take the fingernails you left behind to the Policia.”

Fingernails? “How is it that you found me, Mr. Bulitolli?”

“Connections. I have many. As sly as you are, even with the disguise, one of my connections followed you to your home. Apartment 9.”

“Apartment 6,” said Brodie.

“Interesting. Then we have a little problem, Mr.-”

“Curtis. Brodie Curtis.”

“You find yourself in a dangerous place right now, Mr. Curtis. People go missing all the time. But, I think we can find a way to save your life. Tell me Mr. Curtis. Can you keep a secret?”

Brodie Curtis was a man who kept secrets. Everybody had secrets.



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