It was a week before Jacob got around to phoning Archer. It wasn’t that he didn’t need a partner but it seemed a little premature. It was only six months since his old partner had been killed. Jacob felt sick when he thought about it. At the same time, life needed to move on. He still had bills to pay, a wife and kids to feed.
“Archa!” That’s how Archer Houston answered the phone. Staccato fashion. Jacob had intruded into something important or like he was in a hurry to be somewhere else.
“Archer Houston? It’s Jacob Carter here. You mighta heard of...”
“Yeah, I heard of ya.”
“Well, Bill gave me your number and...”
“He said ya might call.”
“Well, I thought we might get together and...”
“Let’s do it. I know where you’re at. I’ll be there tomorrow. 10 sharp. Make sure you got the coffee on.”
“Sounds great I...” but Archer had gone.
The receiver was still buzzing in his ear when the first doubts began to creep into Jacob’s mind. He wanted a partner not a boss. This guy sounded like he liked to be in control. He might not be able to keep up.
Since his partner’s death Jacob had lost a lot of confidence. No, it wasn’t really his fault. His was a dangerous profession but he still couldn’t help thinking, if only...
There were a thousand if only’s... If only the Fabanucci gang had left ten minutes earlier. If only he’d gone to the front door and let his partner cover him from behind like they’d planned. If only he’d been in place at the back of the building like he was supposed to be.
Archer wasn’t there at ten sharp the next morning. For a while Jacob felt relieved that maybe he wouldn’t have to make a decision after all. Then there was a knock on the office door.
“Come in,” he called, but he could have saved his breath. The door burst open. “Bill. What are you doing here? I was expecting Archer. Archer Houston.”
Looking pale and nervous, Bill was out of breath. He walked over to the venetian blinds, pulling the slats apart to scan the road outside. “Archer’s not coming.”
Jacob felt relieved. “Probably for the best, Bill. I’m not sure...”
“He’s dead.” Bill pulled the blind cord so the slats shut with a snap.
“Wow. What happened?”
“It was a Fabanucci hit. They’re out to get you, Jak. I feel nervous just being here.”
“You’re kiddin’ me. The Fabanucci’s are the biggest mob family in this city. What would they want to get me for?”
Bill slumped back into the chair in front of Jacob’s desk. “I don’t know, man. But the second they heard Archer was thinking of working for you they got to him. He was shot, execution-style, as they say.”
Jacob was confused. “But how could they have known? And, besides, how do you know it was the Fabanucci’s? And how do you know...?”
“There was a note Jak.”
“Yeah, a warning note.”
“Well, what did it say?”
Bill reached inside his jacket. “Here, read it yourself.”
“We got your partner, Carter. We got Houston. Give us what we want, or we’re coming to get you.” It was signed, Carlos Fabanucci.
Jacob’s stomach churned.
“These guys are serious, Jak. They’re coming to get you. The only reason they haven’t got you already is that you got something of theirs and they want it back.”
“But... I don’t understand. I got nothin’. What are they talking about?”
Bill shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know, mate. I thought maybe you could tell me.”