Monday, April 7, 2014

Last Roll of the Dice

Danny Nolan drummed his fingers on the motel balcony railing and stared at the crumbling Minneapolis neighborhood below. Mustafa al’Absi stood next to him, scratching the crown of his narrow head. Inside the motel room, a sitcom laugh track roared from a TV turned up loud enough to muffle screams.

“I’m surprised the kid ain’t going apeshit,” Danny said, nodding toward the room. “How’d you keep him quiet?”

“Dalmar trusts me,” Mustafa said. “We’re like family. He’s Somali. He knows the business of kidnapping: people are taken; money is paid; people are released. It’s not like the movies. He accepts his fate. You’d be surprised at how calm people are when they know they’re trapped.” Mustafa smiled. His teeth looked like chips of dried seaweed. Too much qaat, Danny thought.

Leda sashayed through the sliding door. “Bahdoon called,” she said and stuffed a TracPhone into the back pocket of her skintight jeans. She adjusted the strap on her stretch halter top, her nipples shifting with the fabric. “They dropped the money at the ice rink.”

This was Danny’s last roll of the dice: using a supposedly loyal henchman of an ex-warlord from Mogadishu to help kidnap his boss’s son, the same ex-warlord who owned the backroom gambling spot where Danny had sunk himself $60,000 in debt in six months. It seemed to be paying off.

“I’ll grab the cash,” Danny said. “Leda, stay here. I’ll be back in an hour.”

“Be careful,” Mustafa said. “Bahdoon kills anyone who threatens him or his family.”

“We’re way beyond threats.”


Danny stepped inside. A lamp burned in the corner. A hacksaw, duct tape, and twelve contractor-grade garbage bags lay on the bed. The bags reflected light like black mirrors. Danny pictured himself dismembering Dalmar in the bathtub. His scrotum tightened. It’ll take six bags. Twelve to double them up for strength.

Danny cracked the bathroom door. A slice of light hit Dalmar, a laundry bag covering his head, baling wire binding his arms and legs to a chair. He was big for a seventeen-year-old, as tall as his old man.

Danny exhaled. He thought about the money, closed the door, and waved at Leda. She bit her bottom lip and raised her right hand. Mustafa grinned like a green-toothed hyena.


Back at the motel, Danny hauled a hockey equipment bag from the trunk of his ’98 Corsica and slung it over his shoulder. The weight of $250,000 wasn’t enough to quell his roiling stomach.

One thing left to do. Fill twelve trash bags. Toss them in dumpsters. Then he and Leda would take their $150,000 and sit on a beach for a while.

A muffled sitcom laugh track filled the hallway. Danny wondered if Dalmar would scream when he recognized his fate. He wondered if the TV would cover the sound of sawing. Sweat beaded his upper lip. He unlocked the door and shouldered it open. The room smelled metallic, musky.

Mustafa stood at the window. A smile spread across his reflected face. He glanced over his shoulder and turned off the TV. A chair sat at the foot of the bed. Danny shut the door and dropped the bag on the mattress next to the twelve trash bags.

“You got the money?” Mustafa said.

“Piece of cake,” Danny said, wiping sweat from his lip with his sleeve. “You want your cut before I get rid of Dalmar?” He frowned. “Where’s Leda?”

Mustafa turned, a 9 mm in his right hand. He pointed at the balcony. Six packages wrapped in black garbage bags and duct tape lay by the railing. Four were stacked like cord wood. One looked like a small suitcase, one like a bowling ball. Danny groaned.

“Cousin Bahdoon,” Mustafa said.

The bathroom swung door open. Bahdoon walked out, his hands and face flecked with dried blood, his wrists and ankles welted from the baling wire restraints. He gripped a machete as long as his arm.

“Hello Danny,” Bahdoon said, his voice as deep as a 55-gallon drum.

Danny collapsed into the chair. Mustafa clicked on the TV. Danny felt himself drowning in the laugh track. He could almost see his reflection in the black mirrors on the bed.