The guard led Snyder out through the stockade’s back entrance. The sunlight felt awful salty on his wounds. A black stretch limo waited. The guard slapped on Snyder’s wrists a set of electromagnetic handcuffs. “If you travel more than a quarter of a mile, these things will provide nasty feedback.”
The guard opened the door to the limo. In-side sat an Italian in a white suit. Verducci was a few pounds heavier since they’d met two and a half years ago, but the syndicate kingpin was unmistakable.
“Kid, get in,” Verducci said. “Don’t worry. We won’t go far.”
The guard rubbed his hands together. “Ain’t you forgettin’ something?”
Verducci pulled a 1 oz gold bar from his inner coat pocket and handed it to the guard.
Snyder got in the limo.
Verducci drove to a Smith’s grocery store across the street. “Do you remember me?”
“Me forget Nick Verducci, food smuggler and alleged racketeer?”
“Racketeer is such an unpleasant word, even alleged. Would you like a smoke?”
“Got a cigar?” Snyder pressed a couple of buttons on the side of the handcuffs. They pop-ped open and slid off.
Verducci raised his eyebrows. “How did you do that?”
“I saw the guard enter the code before he put the handcuffs on.”
Verducci laughed. “Kid, you’re a treat.” He reached in his glove compartment and pull-ed out a cigar box. “Let me cut the end.”
“Thanks, they stole my cigar cutter.”
Verducci cut the end off the cigar, handed it to Snyder, and then lit it. “I was impressed with the way you pulled off that job at the Bartender’s college. It was smooth. Now I hear through the grapevine that you’re in a little trouble because you didn’t act smooth.”
Snyder puffed on his cigar. “What are you talking about?”
“Kid, I know Major Hollerman. I paid his way through college. I got you a deal. Go into a harem girl. He’ll drop the treason charge, and you’ll get a month in the stockade for insubord-ination. Your pal Colonel Dread will be off to Moscow, Idaho. You’ll never have to see his mug again.”
“I am not sleeping with a child prostitute. Not even a teenager.”
Verducci laughed. “Then don’t. Watch holovision together. No one will be the wiser. You’re happy, Hollerman’s happy, I’m happy. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Maybe that is the ticket.
“Kid, I know you’re trying to be noble, but these are the products of unwanted pregnancies we’re talking about. Rejects. No one would die for one of these girls.”
“I know one man. Take me back.”
“Your life, kid.” Verducci handed Snyder the cigar box. “These are expensive. You’ll have to cut them with your teeth, but be careful.”
“I will, thanks.” Snyder put the cigars in his pocket.
The car pulled up behind the stockade.
Verducci handcuffed Snyder again. “Enjoy the cigars in good health—while you can.”
Continued Next Thursday
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