Murph the Mooch had attained senility after decades of racketeering, contract murders, and domestic violence. Worse, he was cheap. Murph had required underlings to pay for their meals together, occasionally having them offed later that day.
And I needed to make Murph my best buddy.
I’d been approached by Dave Walters, with whom I’d worked undercover. “We need you on an assignment, Liam.”
“Bad joke. I’m seventy-two years old, and you’re not much younger. My social life is fueled by blue pills. Why are you really here?”
“For this job we need decrepit Irish. We need you to drug and interrogate a retired mob boss who’s been consigned to an elder care facility.”
“Bad idea, Dave. If his goons don’t kill me when I make the play, his associates will find and kill me later.”
“Hear me out. He’s senile and has short term memory loss. Even if he remembered your talk, nobody would believe it wasn’t another delusion. And there’s benefits.”
Dave looked around my run-down condo. “It’d be three or four weeks staying at one of the most expensive nursing compounds in the country.”
“The cheapest unit is three quarters of a million dollars, and maintenance fees are seven large a month.”
I was trying to live on forty thousand a year. “What the hell costs that much?”
“Snob appeal and amenities. A golf course where the caddies are health professionals, a fully equipped and staffed rehabilitation gym, two gourmet restaurants and dine in ordering, masseurs and masseuses who fondle to taste, you get the idea.”
I stared at him. “You can’t afford those kinds of operating expenses.”
“No, we can’t, but fortunately the resort president has large tax problems we’re willing to overlook in return for installing you and covering your expenses.”
Dave looked pained. “Isn’t that enough?”
“Okay, we pay you two month’s salary.”
“Chump change. Two months for the attempt, the rest of a year’s salary if I succeed.”
Dave looked even more pained.
“Where’s your esprit de corps?”
“You cored it out with your crappy retirement package. Yes or no.”
“Who do I play?”
“Murph the Mooch.”
I winced. “I want more money.”
Dave smiled. He never could smile sincerely. “Too late.”
Some people age into craggy distinction. Murph had the complexion and consistency of rice pudding. His short-term memory was a window screen with holes in it, but his long-term memory had held up. He had enough chemically enhanced virility to keep a dowager resident named Danielle occupied.
Getting chummy proved easy. No one other than the well-endowed Danielle could stand him, so Murph’s only other companion when I got there was an orderly named Steve, who was built up and bulged out like the armed bodyguard he was.
Murph liked to play gin rummy. When functional, he cheated and I pretended not to notice.
“That’s twenty-four dollars I owe you. Cash or on the tab?’ I asked.
“Cash, you shanty Mick. You could be dead before I can collect.”
Murph wore Depends, and figured he could let fly when it pleased him. I wondered if Steve tended to his cleaning, a chore about as endearing as clearing restaurant drains.
“No problem, Murph. Here’s twenty-five. You got a single?”
He didn’t check his wallet. “Nah. I’ll owe you.”
“Nah, Steve and I got something to take care of. Besides, yah bog-trotter, I’d just kick your ass.” Murph used his silver handled cane to stand.
I forced a smile. “I’ve got a bottle of Middleton Very Rare Irish Whiskey at my villa. You want to come by later for a snort?”
A look of suspicion hit Murph’s face before subsiding into his usual sneer. “Middleton, huh? The good stuff?”
“Three hundred a bottle.”
“Tell you what, bring it over to my place around six and we’ll have a pop.”
“Done. See you then.”
Steve had been hovering upwind, and moved in to help Murph into his golf cart.
I showed up on Murph’s ornate porch at five after six. Steve let me in and then went out to the pool. Murph didn’t like him inside the villa, either because he didn’t trust him, or because he didn’t want to have to give Steve food and drink.
Murph stayed in his easy chair and asked to see the bottle. “Looks Kosher,” he grunted. “All right, pour. Neat.”
The butter I’d eaten to coat my stomach sloshed as I walked over to the bar and got our drinks. Murph guzzled while I sipped.
The chemicals kicked in quickly, and I began recording Murph on my phone as he began rambling about his past. We started with Louis Falcone.
“Oh yeah,” Murph said. “Lingerie Louie ordered Sam the Chef to cleaver Pimples Artie.” I got fifteen minutes before things went to hell.
Murph came to cursing, grabbed his cane, twisted the handle and pulled out a three-foot blade. He lurched up and at me, sword pointed.
I jumped up, grabbed a green sofa cushion, and swung it at the blade. The cushion got skewered and its swing carried the point back toward Murph. Murph’s feet slipped out from under him, and he flopped forward onto the floor, the point ramming into his chest. Murph the Mooch had fallen on his sword.
He thrashed, squealed, and flopped over onto his back before expiring. He looked like a mound of pudding with an olive stuck on top.
I pocketed the recorder, rinsed the glasses, and called out to Steve.
Steve ran in, gun out, and looked down at Murph. “About time, ya rank bastard!”
“He tripped, Steve, it was a terrible accident.”
Steve shrugged. “Just tell the cops that. No way an old fart like you could ram that sticker through him.”
Dave called two days later. “You can leave tomorrow.”
“Yeah, thanks, but I think I’m going to stay the week.”
“There’s a woman named Danielle who assures me she needs consoling.”