Condition Zero

Null & Boyd Noir #1

by Gary S. Kadet

Detective Lieutenant Kay Boyd, head of Boston’s Organized Crime Task Force, saw her husband and children butchered by Boston’s rising crime crew “The Family.” Gambler junkie Joseph X. Null, a former low-level bagman for “The Family,” was tortured by their chief enforcer until he lost his mind.

Due to an experimental therapy to bring him back from a mutilated, catatonic state, Null recovered everything but his humanity, remaining in effect a chemically reconstructed psychopath. A one-man killing machine now, his single-minded mission is to whack out “The Family” down to its last man. A conflicted Boyd is out to stop him, even though the Boston Police Department unofficially couldn’t care less about “who takes out the trash.”

Believing he’s owed a debt, and having once been her CI, Null wants to recruit Boyd to help him destroy “The Family.”

When Boyd lost her family, she became a functional alcoholic, unable to deal with her guilt and grief. Like Null, she too is maimed. Null and Boyd may be different from each other, but they’re also exactly the same. "Dead survivors." And “The Family’s ace hitman Theron “Thing” LeCoeur is out to remove the “survivor” part from their mutual equation permanently.


Chapter One


The eyes tell the whole story, even if you can’t believe it.

Even if it makes no sense.

The eyes have a history in them, if you just take a moment to cut through all the useless junk, focus and read.

It’s hard in the dark to read the fine print of the soul in the eye—true. Not so hard at all for someone like Malek the Mallet Turbot. Truer still.

Malek just drew a bead on his target to point of penetration then  fired and fired and fired.

Everything was a target to Malek the Mallet.

A wiry, anxious man whose hair was wirier and even more anxious than he was, Malek affected wraparound sunglasses round the clock to cover his untreated amblyopia. He looked emotionless, but beneath was a taut, roiling jumble of paranoia. Even outside of the Ork, he was a legend on the street.

Ork was for Orchestra—a reference to the old T stop by Symphony Hall where back in the seventies the first few cops were laid out dead on the tracks as a warning to the old gangs—The Patriarca’s, The Flemmi’s, The O’Doyles—to show that patronage was just as cheap as Slavic blood.

During the last gang war that bloodied up I-93 all the way to Brockton, Malek found himself on the spot. Next in line not to be promoted.

So, he met with his predecessor in a bid for mercy.

He has been known ever since as the Mallet for the most uncomplicated of reasons: he caved in his predecessor’s head with one forty-five times before taking his place.

“Don’t fuck with me!” he drawled at the big man sweating terrified before him. “Don’t fuck around.” The big man was losing it, honest-to-God trembling before him! This he’d seen before, okay, but it wasn’t from The Mallet this time—oh no—that much was clear. The clarity of it pissed him off. “You bring me fucking fairy stories for business and I shouldn’t burn you down now without a thought? You think this is comedy? I should have Abbott and Costello here show you who’s on first.”

Nobody laughed.

In fact, the big man in the debased and sweat-disheveled Ermenegildo Zegna cloth suit seemed to be holding back actual tears.

His eyes swelled wide devouring all scant light of the room.

Tears welled.

The story was there alright, but the eyes didn’t tell it so much as they bemoaned it. His thick chest heaving deep and fast, Nadio “Fester” Solecise,” mad starets and caporegime of the most aggressive crime crew in Boston known simply as “The Family”—not for old-time Mafia ties, but for something else—went and begged. Pathetic, amateur night stuff.

Malek was almost too repulsed to act.

It was like this guy was one of the local deadbeats from the track making the usual mercy stop on the way to receiving his own personal beatdown. He was fucking pleading right there in the cramped basement of Armenian Specialties down on South Street where Malek liked to take his more serious meets. This was supposed to be serious?

Doing the song and dance before the fists of the inevitable came spinning down in his face?

The Mallet was perplexed. ‘This guy had whacked out too many mooks to just be written off as a pussy.’ The Mallet remembered the big man bearing down on him in a deal gone wrong once—just with his fists—and he knuckled, cringing, terrified.

But this whole thing before him now—a pussy move!

He nodded at the men flanking him.

Their names were not Abbott and Costello. Whatever their names were, you did not want to know them. You did not want to see them up close. You did not want them at all, nor did you want them to ever, ever want you. They stood thick and imposing like some great gutter Praetorian Guard—mottled, gristled, muscles and guns poised tight under the kind of baggy suits that did not impede movement.

They were the muscle of the Ork.

“Well, I got Martin and Lewis behind me says you’ll listen,” Fester countered.

Two other shadows moved behind Fester. Pockmarked, semi-shaven faces came into the light. Huge men yet again.

“Well, well,” croaked the Mallet. “What do we do now, Dean?”

“I’ll pay you, Malek. Name me a price.”

“For what? One guy? One fucking amateur? Jesus fucking Christ, Fester, what are you setting me up for? You jerkin’ me off and I can’t come!”

Uncle Fester “The Confessor” pounded the card table hard in response without rising from his chair. “It’s not a fucking set-up, strunz! You ain’t got word shit went down? You ain’t got no fucking street-briefing or what?”

“I hear all kinds of shit. So?”

At first, The Mallet had been interested, but now that he had at last penetrated the target, he was bored. He got up and paced in the darkness, wondering if and when to blow this particular target to pieces.

The eyes told the whole story to a slice of light from a passing car coming in from the dingy street-level window. The words backed it up.

“I—I’m—afraid.” It sounded weak and vulnerable—a blood-call in this world. Malek licked his lips without knowing it.

“Fester. Fester, my buddy—”

“I don’t care how it sounds. I’ll pay.”

Malek went for him out of the shadows, grabbed his collar and smacked him again and again, smiling. “You’ll pay, that’s guaranteed.”

Looking unmoved, almost bored, Fester leveled a gut punch from where he sat that sent Malek the Mallet across the room and knocked the wind out of him.

The Mallet fought for gulps of inarticulateness rather than let dead air count him out. No, not a pussy at that.

Red-faced, Fester got up and braced Abbot and Costello, breathing in their faces.

“You think it’s funny? That I’m terrified like a punk? Fucking Hilarious, huh? You wanna laugh?”

Abbott grinned and Fester easily creased his neck with his elbow just as Costello pistol-whipped him from behind, cool and jerky as some makeshift louver in a Rube Goldberg machine.

The Mallet rose coughing, still doubling over. He signaled to his guard to stand down just as Fester did to his own men while struggling up against the concrete wall just to sit.

“Keep your dicks in your pockets, boys. We’re dealin’ here.” Fester was being optimistic, and they all knew it.

“Fuck you. This is your own game, Fes. You got juice enough. You don’t need Ork juice or Mallet juice, or anything you say. You just need a shrink. A blowjob, maybe. A lay.” He made his way back to his seat, playing with a fish-gutting knife in his hand as he did, as if for luck. “Fuck all, Fes. I’d kill your ass now, if a war with your friggin’ Family didn’t cost so damn much.”

And maybe I don’t need a war, he didn’t say.

Fester stood up rubbing blood from the back of his head with a silk handkerchief.

“But you know it would.”

“Which is why you get to leave here walkin’ with your two girlfriends there.”

Fester kicked the table and made his plea. “I need muscle out the ass, Mal. A fucking army, if I can get one. I mean it. This is no grift. I’ll pay, up front!” He nodded to Lewis who produced a cheap metal strongbox with the stationery store tag still stuck on it. He unlocked it and shoved it across the table to where the Mallet now sat. He opened it with a single finger.

“Fifty large, fuckwad. Now, tell me I’m jokin’. Tell me it’s pussy fucking shit, asswipe.”

The Mallet’s eyes were slits. The play had been made and the trump was his.

“Sorry, Charlie. The tuna stays off the hook.”

The eyes told the whole story all over again: weakness, desperation—hopelessness.


“You fucking have to take it! It’s free Goddamn money!”

“Go get laid, Fester. Better yet, go get fucked.”

He slid the money back across the table without a second thought.

Fester stood. He was slow, imposing, and despite his huge size it seemed he was carrying a weight he could barely handle.

“We were friends once, Malek. Back in the day.”

“Ya. We were.”

“For the old times. Help me out here. Please. I’m bein’ genuine.”

“I believe you. I really do”

“I’m afraid. Afraid...!” His eyes were tearing. Malek could see that he had been without sleep; he knew this from his own sleeplessness, the result of doing what had to be done. Small price.

“Okay. Let me get this right. One fucking guy?”


“A degenerate fucking gambler, a low life non-member, a douchebag, right?”

“That’s him.”

“And you need an army for that? For this one little racing form dipshit maricon thinks he can bet on the ponies legit and win? Stick yourself with a fork, Fester. See about gettin’ out before you can’t. You feelin’ me?”

Now it was Fester’s turn to get up and pace back and forth before his protectors in the shadows.

“I feel you. It ain’t just one guy. He’s not—just a guy.”

“Well, he ain’t a chick, that’s for sure. Or is he?”

“He ain’t fucking human. He’s not like anything you ever seen. You can’t stop him. I couldn’t stop him. He’s like the boogie man. He’s like fucking Dracula, this guy—”

Fester stopped at this point as all the guns in the room were now drawn but his, the black eye of each barrel staring him down.

“I don’t fucking care he’s Ozzy fucking Osborne with his own fucking family sitcom. When it’s like this, you know it’s over.”

“Yeah. I do.” Fester sighed and let his shoulders slump.

Change up—disinterest. “Usual stalemate, Fes’. Crawl out now and don’t be coming back.”

“I gotta know why ya wouldn’t do it. Why you wouldn’t help an old-time guy like me who you came up with?”

“Simple Fester. Simple.”

“Ya. I’m stupid, so I gotta ask.”

“You-gotta-ask.” Sneering.

“So what?”

“So this. You’re definitely worth more than 50k to me, sure—” Mallet cut himself off here to chuckle and shake his head. Then, breaking the silence of Fester’s perplexity, he added two words.

“—But dead.”

* * *

They knew they were being followed down Prince Street, so Fester had to walk between Martin and Lewis, whose respective Magnum and Glock were both drawn and cocked. Footsteps clacked loudly on the pavement. Fester crouched down when both fired.


They hurried him into an apartment building for which they had the keys and hustled the big man up six flights to the roof. There was a peace garden of Christ on the roof and a number of satellite dishes for pirate TV signals. Fester was pushed flat by his men against a dormer while the two bodyguards did perimeter surveillance of the entire roof to secure it.

Fester was breathing hard.

He closed his eyes and prayed.

He entered a dark space.

Time in terror becomes another thing; fear compresses the moment and can make hours the single skip of a heartbeat.

“Got a match?” said a voice.

It was the wrong voice.

Fester slid down the side of the dormer, not looking up. “Please, God. Please God. No.” Eyes closed, trembling, hands held up to his face but weakly.

“Let’s not bring God into it. Yet.”

“I’ll pay you! Anything. Anything...anything—please!” Fester, a thug, a career criminal with the Family who had beaten perhaps ten men to death in his career with a grin on his face, who had tortured, disfigured and raped countless others, was whining and blubbering curled into a ball like a small child.

Standing over him was a stooped, dry little man half his size. A nervous type appearing slack and relaxed. His expression was as colorless as his skin, as blank as his deep-set eyes. He didn’t look sick, and he didn’t look well. He didn’t look sane, and he didn’t look crazy. In fact, he didn’t look like much of anything at all.

He was, beneath his unfastened overcoat and in the shadow of his pork pie hat, in every way a man in between.

“I don’t need any money, Fester. I don’t even need a match, really.” The voice was toneless, mechanical, yet not dead. “But I’m trying, you know, to remember. What it was like? So, I might still smoke now and again. Even though I lack the habit. The need.”

Fester eyed him from where he sat slumped. Could he rush him? He was a light guy, small like a bird. He could take him. No, he couldn’t. He knew. Where were Martin and Lewis? Where the fuck were they?

“So. If you could help me out?” The voice was even, without depth, had less charm to it than a prerecorded message.

“S-s-sure.” Fester stood up, shaking and fumbled to light a match. He failed, and the smaller man nimbly grabbed the book from him and lit a filter-tip smoke.

“I remember this was good. Doesn’t do anything for me now, though. No, not a thing.”

He reached up in a relaxed motion and put the cigarette out hard on Fester’s cheek, forcing his head into it with his other hand.

Fester let out a cry, charged him, swung and missed. It didn’t stop him from keeping it up.

The lighter man made a startled sound when he finally managed to connect.

Nevertheless, Fester kept pounding him, grunting and growling, “Take that you fucker, take that you piece of shit! Take it! Take it! Take it!” He powered triumphant relief into his blows, landed them all with the full fury of his weight.

It went wrong too fast to control.

"Condition Zero" by Gary S. Kadet



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