Serial Killers: Valentine’s Night in the 70-Shot Club (Part 3) by Christian McCulloch

  1. Serial Killers: Valentine’s Night in the 70-Shot Club (Part 1) by Christian McCulloch
  2. Serial Killers: Valentine’s Night in the 70-Shot Club (Part 2) by Christian McCulloch
  3. Serial Killers: Valentine’s Night in the 70-Shot Club (Part 3) by Christian McCulloch

Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

Valentine’s Night in the 70-Shot Club

A Hangout for the Excessively Rich

Note: 1929. Members of Chicago’s North Side Gang were lined up against a wall and assassinated by unknown assailants, some dressed as police officers. Seventy shots in all were fired. Al Capone was suspected of having a significant role in the massacre, as were members of the Chicago Police Department. ‘Bugs’ Moran, Capon’s arch-enemy, either escaped or was absent.

Part Three

I grabbed the first thing I could focus upon and somehow pulled myself into a car seat – an uncomfortable car seat I noted; one that I remembered.

We must have been 100 yards away before I was able to pull myself into a sitting position. We were travelling down the back street behind the 70-Shot Club.

I glanced at my rescuer and driver. Two sets of headlights were coming up behind us fast.

We were quicker. The driver threw a look at me to assess his situation. He shouted something that made no sense. It sounded like, ‘…saw ’em go in …knew some’ink weren’t right…’ Then he told me I was lucky but I couldn’t understand what he meant. He was laughing. I needed to know why.

‘It’s what I’m good at! Car chases! The movies! My job! I do high-speed stunts – hang on!’

We barrelled through the back streets at treacherous speed. I was thrown, first against the passenger door and then against the Honda driver who pushed me roughly away and changed gear perfectly smoothly. I was impressed.

In my confusion, I remembered the first time I conquered my childhood fear. I remembered the capsule ride on the fairground. I faced my fear and thought I was becoming an adult. It was just before I threw up and would never be able to share my epiphany with anyone.

The driver swung the car a hard left, causing such a sudden shift of weight that the side of my face was smashed against the passenger window and held me there. My vomit hit the dashboard. I heard the driver groan with disgust. ‘Oh, Man! That’s gross!’

A thought, straight out of left-field struck me about the seven of us back in the Club being shot in the back by vintage weapons against a wall. ‘What’re you talking about?’ asked the driver. I said, ‘What?’

‘Just now! You said you somehow expected more… more what?’ I had no idea what he was talking about. I thought it must have had something to do with the vomit on the dashboard and pieces on my best shoes. Brain matter! Body parts! I wasn’t thinking straight. Surely bullets ripped up flesh? Neat holes seemed surgical. There was nothing surgical about puking. There was nothing surgical about having your head shot off! Maybe ‘surgical’ wasn’t the right word.

Fake?

‘You OK, Grandpa? I think we lost them! Some neat driving, wouldn’t you say?’ I checked over my shoulder, then slumped back into my seat at an angle I could watch the driver. Perhaps, being a stunt driver for the movies did help him to keep his head. Perhaps it just taught him to drive fast.

He caught me staring at him. It seemed to unnerve him. ‘What?’ He was shuffling in his seat. He was turning over logs in his mind looking for something to say. As his agitation grew, my composure returned and the stuttering, fragmented words and ideas were untangling themselves. I felt I was on the edge of understanding something important.

‘Why are we stopping here?’ I asked. Somewhere when I wasn’t focused, the driver had pulled into some private estate or parkland. We were on a stretch of private road with benches along both side. It was a thoroughfare designed for golf carts or slow-moving processions of long black cars with tinted windows, chauffeurs and widow ladies in the back behind veils.

Perhaps it was inspiration or instinct on the driver’s part. There again, it could’ve been a set-up. That idea seemed like overkill after what had happened inside the 70-Shot Club.

‘The Black Dog Society?’ I said. ‘Does that mean anything to you?’

‘Listen, Grandpa. I was paid to pick you up and bring you here. I done what I been paid for. Like, I was told to drop you here. I’d appreciate it if you’d make like a shepherd… Get the flock outta my car. I gotta get my motor cleaned. Jeeze, Grandpa! Look what you done! None of this were part of the deal.

‘So, would you mind?’ He reached across me, opened the door and gestured a polite exit. I complied and the car was moving away before I was ready to close the door or thank him.

I was left standing on a patch of private land which, when my vision had adjusted and the full moon showed itself between the clouds was a cemetery. I could see a car in the distance and decided to make for it.

I couldn’t get my mind to concentrate on what had happened at the 70-Shot Club.

***

It was then that a sleek Bently pulled up. The chauffeur got out and opened the door for me. Finally! I was being treated like the man of means that I am. A pretty face appeared.

‘Good evening, Mr Hartley. May I give you a ride? My name is…’

‘Minnie?’ I said.  ‘You play a pivotal role in the company that I used to own. Regrettably, I have no idea what you do – other than driving around in the moonlight on the one romantic night of the year.’

‘Please, step inside. Make yourself comfortable.’

‘And where am I going? Are you going to take me home?’

‘Is that where you want to be?’ A  loaded question. I tried to sound flippant as if being in a gangland massacre was something I went looking for when I was bored and had finished tidying my sock-drawer. ‘Hey, it’s Valentine’s Day. The night is young.’ I wanted to tell her that she smelled exciting and her voice… well, she had the kind of voice that would soothe a frightened child awakened from a nightmare. ‘What exactly do you do in the Company,’ I asked.

Your Company, Mr Hartley,’

‘Yeah, right!’ I wiped the dribble of cynIcism from my chin. I slumped back into the upholstery and tried to think of nothing. That seemed to be the limit of her courtesy and engaging conversation.

Ten minutes later we were outside The 70-Shot Club again. To my surprise, the club doorman was back on duty monitoring the long queue waiting to be admitted.

The chauffeur opened the door and I stepped out. Flashbulbs lit the eager faces turned to see who the celebrity could be. Minnie slipped her arm through mine and we stepped into the club. ‘Are you having a good time?’ someone called after me. Another loaded question. I thought about the puke on my shoes and wondered if there was any blood on my trousers. ‘Fine,’ I answered. Minnie looked up at me and smiled but said nothing.

Where were the police? The real police. What was I doing back in The 70-Shot Club?

The music was loud. The dancefloor now full. At the end of the bar were all the people I recognised from earlier. Dolls and Molls and Sugarbabes in their 1920-skimpies, delicate straps and bib-bobbed hair. Young girls in uniforms, a sharp contrast to the young men. Their shirts were ripped and blood-smeared.

Glasses chinked together. Excited voices raised in the celebration of the post-performance party. My presence was noticed and everyone stopped to give me a round of applause and raise their glasses.

Dusty detached himself from the group I remembered entering with the policemen. He placed a drink in my hand and stepped back to take a hard look at me. ‘I was worried you’d have a heart attack or something but Minnie said your doctor gave you a clean bill of health at your last check-up. Minnie, by the way, is your Head of Operations, in case you didn’t know.’

‘And what do you do in this little charade?’ I asked. I won’t disguise the sense of relief I felt. I had to admit I was full of confusion but I felt ten years – Hell – twenty years younger!

‘I’m glad to hear it,’ said Dusty, making a show of removing a piece of brain-matter from his sleeve. I hadn’t quite reached the point where I could check my thoughts before the words left my mouth.

‘It takes a moment or ten to adjust and collate two divergent realities. For some folk it takes days, some never make it. Minnie said it wouldn’t be a problem. It certainly looks as if she was correct. She usually is. She’s…’

‘Pivotal?’ I suggested and raised an eyebrow. Dusty laughed and placed an arm around me. ‘Pivotal? That’s a good word for it, I guess.’

I asked, ‘Would I be spoiling your fun if I asked you what this was all about?’

‘Perhaps, you’d allow me to answer that, Dusty.’ Minnie stepped forward and took centre stage. ‘I’d like you to think of this evening as my Valentine card to you, Robbie.

‘Dusty, Frankie, Joey and the others make up the team I’ve put together. I have a proposition that I’d like to put before you. I think you’ll enjoy it. Unfortunately, it will require retiring some, if not all, of the board members who thought they couldn’t teach an old dog new tricks. I don’t suppose you’ll mind that too much.’

I didn’t think I would mind too much at all. I had something very special in mind for them – very special indeed.

I turned to Dusty. ‘There’s the small matter of a wager,’ I grinned. Dusty looked a little sheepish.

‘I have a confession, Mr Hartley. I don’t own a Porche or a Lotus, Sir.’

‘That’s fine,’ I said. ‘I’ve never learned to drive.’

Christian McCulloch

Christian McCulloch is a prolific British writer with a colourful background. He’s been an International teacher in British West Indies, Singapore (Principal), Japan and Hong Kong, also 10 years in Special Needs in UK. He now writes full time. He has written 10 novels, 12 novellas and many short stories.

Stephanie Ellis

Stephanie Ellis is a member of the HWA and writes dark speculative prose and poetry which has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her work includes the novel, The Five Turns of the Wheel and the gothic novella, Bottled, both via Silver Shamrock Publishing.She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org/ and on twitter @el_Stevie.

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