Hoss was outside, leaning on his horn so long I thought it was broken.
“I’m coming, I’m coming!” I shouted as I came out on the porch. He grinned at me from the truck.
“Fourth of July, bud! Whoo hoo!” He howled like a dog. I got in the passenger side, pushing the beers and whisky down the bench seat as he tore across the neighbor’s lawn in a cloud of exhaust and dirt.
“I got a surprise for you,” he shouted over the roaring engine. “Fun times before the fireworks!”
He winked and patted the pistol in his belt.
Thames Watermen are ten a penny, but one what don’t gossip about particular passengers is not so easy to find. That’s where I come in. Special service, discreet and reliable. Local knowledge. I know where the current’s swift, where it eddies, the best way to keep from being observed by those in high windows. I keep a spare black cloak handy, since a man in a hurry might forget such things. This service comes at a cost, mind you. Not your twopence fare at all––sixpence usually, and if you want speed it will cost you a shilling. Mum’s the word.
We never thought of the Japs as men. They was insects to us, deadly insects that would creep up in the night and slit the throat of one man and leave his two buddies to discover him in the morning. And we was right on top of them, since that whole stinking island wasn’t nothing but a bunch of tunnels. Only way to make sure was to burn ’em out. That was my job, seeing as I was a flamethrower operator. I’d stand next to a hole and spray that napalm down into it like they was a wasp’s nest.
It ain’t hard if you got the stomach for it. Walk ’em out.
If you don’t want to hear talking, you can use a gag. Me, I’m interested, Sometimes they want to talk. Funny, most of them don’t beg or bargain or nothing. By the time they get to me, it’s pretty obvious what’s going to happen. They know what they did to land themselves here and there’s no going back.
Funny thing I realized is that they know it’s just business, and being business it will be a professional job. Maybe they take some comfort in that. Maybe not.
“You get him fixed up?”
“I put so much tape on him he looks like a whatsis. A caterpillar.”
“Where’d you put him? Not in the building, right?”
“You think I’m fucking stupid? No. He’s lying in a car in parking lot. It’s parked far enough away that he should be fine.”
“Should be? Or will be?”
“He might get a little hot. That’s okay. Boss will like that part.”
“You got that gas can? Good. Pour it around the base of the stove, there. I’ll get the rags.”
“Sure is a waste. All this great booze.”
“Yeah, well. Rules.”