THE WISDOM OF SOGHOMON
By Travis Richardson
When he got the call at three in the morning, Soghomon wasn’t surprised. It was inevitable. As he slipped into his Armani suit and knotted a tie, he knew Manoug would die young. At twenty-three he’d already lived longer than expected. Grabbing implements of negotiation—cash roll, drugs, and a .22 caliber Ruger MK1—from his armoire and stuffing them in the appropriate pockets, he knew he needed the who, how, and why, and then fix it. He kissed his wife of twelve years on the forehead and then peeked in at his young sons in the next room sleeping soundly in their beds.
Soghomon sighed as he pulled his Benz up to the warehouse. A maroon BMW with the gold striping and smoked windows sat in the driveway. It cried out for attention—something to be avoided in their line of work, but Razmig was an insecure, sadistic idiot. He was the last person Soghomon wanted to see tonight, but as life had taught him, you work with what the Lord gives you.
A tall, bald thug wearing a T-shirt two sizes too small guarded the door. Looking at his massive biceps, Soghomon wondered if the bulldog could even scratch his back. The guard stepped back and nodded his head in respect as Soghomon passed.
Inside, long shadows hung from precariously stacked freight boxes filled with less-than-legal imports. Soghomon navigated through the narrow path that led to the room in back. He heard the sounds of fists pounding flesh. He inhaled and stepped inside.
Huddled in the corner was a woman in her twenties of mixed race with streaked dark eye shadow and glitter. Razmig stood under an overhead light, flexing his fingers and whispering threats into the ear of a man tied to a chair who was bruised and bleeding, his mouth taped shut. Behind them stood a metal desk with scattered papers and a pool of drying blood on the floor. Soghomon got the picture, but he needed details.
“After my arm gets tired of punching your ugly face, I’m going to cut your stomach open, pull your intestines out, and strangle you with them. You fucked up big time, redneck.” Razmig cocked his arm back to deliver another blow.
“Stop,” Soghomon said just above a whisper.
Razmig turned and disappointment drained the fire out of his eyes. The squat brute wore an open-collared shirt and designer jeans, and gelled his hair spiky.
“I was about to gut the motherfucker.” Razmig swung out a six-inch blade, holding it in front of the man’s face. “But I will wait.”
Soghomon gave him a rebuking look.
“What?” Razmig said in Armenian.
“Buy me a cup of chai tea. Large,” Soghomon said in English.
Razmig’s eyes bugged in outrage at the notion.
“What are you waiting for?”
Razmig threw his hands up, but left quietly.
On closer inspection, the blond man in the chair looked like a kid. No older than twenty-five, Soghomon guessed. His blue eyes watched Soghomon closely, fear keeping his pupils large.
Soghomon turned to the woman and knelt. She crawled back, raising a hand defensively.
“Tell me what happened.” His voice was soft, yet commanding.
She looked at him and then down again. One of her eyes was swollen shut. Her trembling lower lip was busted. Was that Razmig or somebody else?
“Tell me. I will not ask again.”
The woman swallowed, staring at the floor. She was in shock and needed guidance, Soghomon determined.
“Are you a dancer?”
Soghomon took out a notebook and wrote it down.
“Did this man,” he said nodding to the guy tied in the chair. “Did he harm you?”
Her good eye widened and she shook her head. “N-no. He saved me. Please don’t—“
Soghomon held up his hand and she went silent. “Do you snort?”
She looked away and then slowly nodded. Soghomon reached into his jacket and produced several small vials of different colors. He chose the blue one and poured a thin line of a white powdery substance onto a compact mirror, careful not to touch it. He held it under her nose.
She reluctantly closed a nostril with a wobbly finger and took a long sniff, her eye widening as the powder disappeared.
“You will feel better now.”
Soghomon turned to the man in the chair. He twitched and struggled against the ties. Soghomon reached over and yanked the duct tape off. The boy flinched, but kept silent.
“How are you?” Soghomon asked.
The boy shot him a look as if saying, do you really care.
Soghomon crouched to his level. “Had better days, huh?”
A smirk escaped the boy’s bloodied lips. Soghomon smiled.
“Let me tell you how things are. I need to know what happened tonight before that monster returns. It is late, but he will find tea and return shortly. You need to tell me everything and it must be honest. It is the only way I can help you.”
The boy studied Soghomon’s long face and then nodded.
“Please,” Soghomon said.
The boy cleared his throat. “I’m just visiting here,” he said with a twang in his voice, somewhere from the middle of the country. “I didn’t mean no harm.”
“What is your name?”
“Where are you from?”
Soghomon scribbled Prior OK in his notebook next to his name and nodded for him to continue.
“I came out to visit a buddy of mine who’s been in LA for like a year or so. “
The boy bit his lip. A good, loyal man, not ratting out his friend.
“We will get the name out of you one way or another. Please make it easier for both of us.”
Chris tightened his lips, as if wanting to tell, but holding back.
“When Razmig mentioned the…cutting out of entrails and choking you with it. That is real. A miserable Russian practice he learned from them several years ago, but unfortunately he loves gore and torture. Please, tell me: name and location.”
Chris, shaking, gave Soghomon the name Jimmy Freeland and the approximate area of his Burbank apartment. Soghomon nodded after he wrote it down.
“So what happened tonight?”
Chris sighed and looked as if he were trying to recall an ancient memory.
“Jimmy was taking me out on the town. Hollywood, Sunset, all that. So we’re drinkin’ at a bar someplace when this Arab fella comes up to us all crazy like...”
Soghomon winced. Chris stopped talking.
“Armenian, not an Arab. There is a big difference.”
Chris looked like he was about to comment, but censored himself. Smart boy, Soghomon thought.
“Well, he knows Jimmy and Jimmy tells me to be cool ’cause he’ll pay for everything. So we go from bar to bar and then to a strip club where everybody seems to know him.”
“Yeah, that’s it.”
“This Armenian guy, he’s all obnoxious, not just there, but everywhere we’ve been. I wanna leave and sleep, but Jimmy says we need to stay with him. This guy flashes a wad of cash and gets a couple of girls to come with us over to this warehouse next door. He takes her,” Chris nodded to the woman huddled in the corner, “into this room here, leaves me and Jimmy with the other stripper…”
“Did you get her name?”
“It wasn’t real…Delilah I think.”
Soghomon jots the name down and nods.
“So we’re just standing around talking to the other stripper about the weather ’cause we’re too nervous to ask for a blow job or anything. Then we hear screaming from this room. Delilah, yeah that’s her name, takes off and I run into the room, and I see this asshole just wailing on her. He’s pounding her with his fists and I don’t know…I kind of lost it. I kicked him in the ribs, then he stood up and I swung. He fell and cracked his head on the corner of that desk behind me. I didn’t mean to get violent, but he’d been getting on my nerves all night and you don’t beat a woman. You just don’t. It ain’t right.”
Soghomon nodded. The boy had values, a core. A rare commodity anymore. He hoped his sons would have character like Chris someday.
“I didn’t mean to kill him. Honestly…” Chris trailed off, a lone, single tear streaking down his face.
“What happened to your friend, Jimmy?”
“Don’t know. He saw blood everywhere and took off. Just left me with her and that asshole. Before I could even call 911, a bouncer from the titty bar shows up. He takes my phone and won’t let me leave. Some guys take the body away and then that pyscho shows up and beats the shit out of me. Who was that guy…the one I killed?”
“That was Manoug. He is an asshole as you say, but his father is Melik Kazarian. Head of Armenian Power.”
Chris took in the information for a moment, his pale face turning gray. “So I’m fucked.”
Soghomon nodded. “But you did the right thing, saving a woman’s life in danger. It is quite…valiant.”
“But I’m going to die, aren’t I?”
“Eye for an eye. It is how things are.”
“What could I do? He was beating a woman.”
“Manoug was not meant for a long life in this world. Somebody was going to kill him. You did the right thing saving her, truly.”
“I wanna go back to Oklahoma,” Chris said adding another tear trickle down his face. “There aren’t no Armenians there.”
“I will make sure you go back home,” Soghomon said standing.
Chris looked at him for a moment and then nodded. Soghomon heard the rumbling of Razmig’s BMW outside. He needed to be quick.
“So, tell me about this Prior Oklahoma,” he said circling behind Chris, facing the front of the door.
“Ain’t much to it. There’s a Wal-Mart and a hospital.”
Soghomon pulled out the Ruger and screwed on a silencer with well-practiced movements. The stripper in the corner widened her good eye, her mouth starting to form words, but Soghomon shook his head.
“They recently built a Google data center there. Kind of a big deal for us, you know.”
Soghomon heard footsteps coming toward the door. He raised the barrel and squeezed the trigger. Chris’s body jerked, then slumped, his brains scrambled, useless to the body. The stripper let out a weak squeal.
Razmig walked in holding a white paper cup of steaming tea in his hand. He saw Chris’s lifeless body and dropped the cup.
“What did you do? He was mine!” he shouted in Armenian.
Soghomon bent down and scooped up the spent cartridge, pocketing it.
“You spilled my tea.”
Razmig looked down in disgust at the splatter of chai on his jeans and loafers. He kicked the cup across the room. “He killed Manoug. He needs to die painfully. Melik is not going to like this.”
Soghomon shook his head. It was true that Melik would be furious that his son’s murderer died so easily with just a bullet to the brain, but Chris Meadows deserved to go out that way. He had done the right thing.
“What about her?” Razmig said pointing at the stripper as if still hoping to cause pain and suffering.
“Do not worry. She is already taken care of.”
Frustration built in the psychopath’s eyes. He wanted to maim somebody, bad. Soghomon reached into his breast pocket and pulled out his notebook. He tore off a page and handed it to Razmig. “Find this man, Jimmy Freeland, and do whatever you want to him.”
Razmig lit up like he was a child on Christmas morning.
“Have the bulldog outside come here in five minutes. He’ll need to move the bodies.”
Razmig nodded, anticipating the fun he would have as soon as he found this Jimmy from Burbank.
Soghomon clapped his hands. “Go!”
He practically ran out of the room.
Soghomon heard a moan from behind. He turned to the stripper and knelt. Her arms and legs were lifeless, as they should be. She looked at him with a pleading eye. She couldn’t speak, not anymore.
He glanced at his Cartier watch. “You will be dead in another minute. You could not have lived, not for being involved with Melik’s son’s death…Wrong place at the wrong time. Ratzmig would have brutalized you before he killed you.”
Her good eye teared up, but then it blinked and settled on Chris’s lifeless body.
“I did not lie to him. He was a good man. I will make sure he has a proper burial for his family in Oklahoma.”
He watched the light fade from her eye. He shut her eyelid. There was a lot of work to be done today. Pay off Davit at the Fantasy Factory for their dead stripper, determine if the other stripper, Delilah, could be bought off or not, have Chris’s body shipped back to the middle of the country, clean up the mess Razmig would make, and appease and comfort his friend and employer, Melik, in his time of sorrow.
He stood, feeling a headache coming on strong. He rubbed his forehead, wishing Razmig hadn’t spilled his tea.
Travis Richardson was born in Germany, raised in Oklahoma, and currently lives in California. His novella Lost in Clover came out in November 2012 and deals with a young man coping with the effects of a mass shooting. He has had short stories published in Shotgun Honey, Powder Burn Flash, and the anthology Scoundrels: Tales of Greed, Murder and Financial Crimes, edited by Gary Phillips. He also writes and directs short movies. Find out more at http://tsrichardson.com