Showing posts with label tough. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tough. Show all posts

Monday, September 11, 2017

Weatherman, fiction by Greg Barth

Blaine fidgeted with the zipper pull on the cuff of his leather jacket, flicking it back and forth with his finger. "Thing is, man, Jessie's gonna have another baby."

There was a long pause before Vinton spoke. “You mean, you and Jessie are gonna have another baby,” he said. “That’s what you mean.”

They were in the dry-goods storage room in back of Vinton’s convenience store. The gas station had been built in the late ‘60s. Now days, most goods were shipped in weekly from a warehouse, so there wasn’t much to keep on site.

Vinton had put a couple of desks and tables back there and used the room to manage his various businesses. It was dark and smelled like cardboard, dust, and rat poison; but it served well as a private meeting room.

Vinton was on one side of the desk, sitting on a tattered office chair, leaned back, playing with a red rubber band with his fingers.

Blaine sat on a metal folding chair on the other side, facing him.

Yeah, of course. We’re both having the baby. But she’s the one that up and got pregnant. That shit’s on the girl, you know? She’s the one responsible for the—” he raised his hands on either side of his head, making quotation marks with his fingers “—narrow waterway and the lily-pad at the end. Just ‘cause I pitch one upstream don’t mean she’s gotta catch it. Fucking dodge-ball on her part’s all it is. Barrier shit, man.”

Vinton closed his eyes. Shook his head. He didn’t bother countering the error of Blaine’s logic. He took a deep breath. “So how can I help you?”

While not tall, Vinton was a large man. He stood just over five foot, but he was big around the middle. He walked with an exaggerated lurch due to a bad hip joint and a worse knee. His gray hair was receding and slicked back. A double-chin spread out over his neck under his pale, frog-like face. He wore an oversized Hawaiian shirt with the top buttons loose, his grey chest hair pushing through the top.

Shit, man, I just need more work,” Blaine said. “Something that pays more. I got a bunch of 
debts. Jessie keeps wanting to get furniture and shit. And she’s always buying these clothes. I don’t know what she does with them all. Then she’s got the credit card. And they’re cutting our hours back at the plant too. I just can’t get ahead, man. You know how them fuckin’ credit cards work? You gotta pay that shit, man.”

Blaine was a young man, mid-twenties at best. He was tall and skinny. His dark hair waved over his collar and the tops of his ears like he had been putting off a haircut. He had a thin black soul patch affixed to his lower lip.

Jessie still hooking on the corners?” Vinton said.

Fuck, man. What the fuck? Why you gotta ask that shit for? Jesus, man.”

Cause I gotta know,” Vinton said. “I bring you on. She gets picked up. I gotta know what we’re dealing with. Risk management is what it is.”

No, man. No. Fuck no. She ain’t doing that shit no more. Goddamn.”

Vinton closed his eyes. Frowned. “What did you have in mind, Blaine? More collection work? ‘Cause if it’s that, I gotta tell you, I don’t have a lotta cash out on the streets these days. Nobody can pay no matter how hard you hit ‘em, so I’ve been putting money in other stuff. Stuff that pays.”

It’s that fuckin’ Reagan,” Blaine said.

I know it. ‘Course Carter wasn’t shit either. But that Reagan son of a bitch, worst president ever.”

What’s makin’ money these days?”

Drugs. You know drugs are always good. Drugs and pussy. People always want those no matter what the economy looks like. In fact, the economy goes down, those go up. Those are sound investments.”

Yeah, I don’t know nothin’ about making anything with those.”

Vinton frowned again. “I don’t know that I’ve got anything for you then.”

Blaine’s face fell. “Come on, man. I can do anything. Anything. Just give me a chance.”

Vinton’s forehead scrunched. Creases formed above his nose. He leaned forward. “Okay. There is one thing I been thinking about having done. I’m not even sure I want to do it. You know? Just something I’ve had on my mind.” He paused and thought for a second. Nodded. 

“Yeah, I mean, I might want to do it, if I could find the right guy and all. Thing is, I hesitate to even put it out there. It might be up your alley, I think, but I don’t know. You’ve never done a job like this before.”

Blaine sat up. “What is it? I could do it. I’m good at learnin’ shit.”

Hang on, I’m thinkin’ about it.” Vinton put a finger out and bounced it up and down in the air as he thought out loud, flicking the rubber band. “It pays good. But it’s a real shitty job. 
And it’s a one-time thing, I think. I mean, you do good, it could turn into more, but that’s uncertain. It’s not steady work.”

I’d like to have something regular, you know? But this thing sounds kinda good to start with.”

It’d be the biggest job I’ve ever given you. You couldn’t fuck it up. You couldn’t.”

You know I can do it, man.”

I’d be putting a lot of faith in you just telling you this. Once I say it, I can’t take the words back.”

Come on Mister Vinton, sir. You know you can trust me. Whatever it is, I want to do it.”
Vinton took a deep breath. He bit the inside of his jaw as he studied the man in front of him. 
He nodded. Blaine was clearly eager. “All right. You know Jake Carbone?”

Man that owns the pool hall,” Blaine said. “Yeah, I know him.”

Vinton leaned over his desk toward Blaine. “I want him gone,” he said in a low voice.

Gone where? I’ll get him there for you.”

Vinton smiled. “Gone to the place nobody comes back from.”

Where’s…?” Blaine’s eyes widened. “Oh, you mean…?”

Gone, Blaine. Gone for good. And you gotta be careful. It don’t have to happen today or tomorrow. You pick the time. No witnesses, you understand? You do this. I’ll pay you when the job’s done.”

Blaine’s jaw went slack. He sat there stunned by the weight of the job. “How…how much does something like that pay?

Vinton quoted a figure. “You do this one right, who knows. This shit’s not steady, but I’ve got people who ask for help now and again. This kinda help.”

Why do you want…gone?”

You don’t need to know the details. In fact, the less you know the better. Just know there’s a damned good reason for it. This is a guilt-free job, you ask me. Much worse hassling some poor shlub to repay his loan.”

Yeah…yeah,” Blaine said. Then once more with confidence, “Yeah. I can do this. I can.”

Good,” Vinton said. He opened a file cabinet drawer next to his desk. He pulled out a box of Brown Mule gloves and handed them over to Blaine. “Here. Get a couple and put them on.”
Blaine pulled two gloves from the box and put them on his hands.

Now come with me,” Vinton said. He got up. One hand on his hip, he half limped, half hobbled to the other end of the storage room.

Blaine got up and followed.

Vinton fished a key ring from his pocket and selected a key. He unlocked a set of file drawers and opened the top drawer. “Now, get that pistol there.”

Blaine reached a hand inside the drawer. He saw an old army Colt automatic and reached for it.

Not that one. The .38. The Smith.”


Yeah. That one.”

Blaine took out the pistol. It was a revolver with a short barrel. The walnut grip was busted and black, electrical tape was wrapped around it.

Where’d you get this?”

Don’t matter,” Vinton said. “Thing is, it can’t be tied back to you or me. That’s the important part.”

I see prints on it. Like on the sides.”

Yeah, they can corrode onto a pistol. But they ain’t mine and they ain’t yours. So don’t worry about ‘em. Now, once you do it. You throw that away. Like immediately throw it away. If they catch it on you, then fingerprints and tracing serial numbers and that kind of police shit don’t matter. It’s yours if they catch you with it. And you’re guilty.”

Got it. Throw it away. Yeah.”

Once you know he’s gone. Drop it.”


Yeah, right here.” Vinton fished out a clear sandwich bag containing .38 caliber bullets and handed them to Blaine.

Shit man. Now I’m a fucking hitman. Ain’t that some shit?”

Yeah, you’re gonna be, anyway.” Vinton patted the young man on the back. “Get it done. You make me proud of my decision, got it? Get it done fast, and maybe I’ll throw in a few extra bills. Get Jessie something nice. And something for the baby.”


When Jake Carbone locked up the pool hall and got in his Charger, Blaine was watching from his own car on the other side of the street.

It was late December and damned cold, but Blaine didn’t have enough gas to keep the engine running while waiting on Jake. He started the car and turned up the heat.

He let Jake get halfway down the block before he turned on his headlights and followed. It was late and the streets were nearly empty. It was hard not to be conspicuous while following; but with the lack of traffic, Blaine was comfortable staying well behind the Charger. The Charger had distinct taillights also, which made it easy to follow on the dark streets.

Carbone parallel park outside a massage joint. Blaine made a right turn at the corner before he got up to that block. He made a two-point turnaround on the street and drove back up to the corner. He turned his headlights off. He looked down the street and saw Jake opening the door for a small woman with a faux fur coat. She got in the car and Jake shut the door. 

He walked around the front of the car and got in on the driver’s side. The car pulled away from the curb.

Blaine put the car in gear and followed at a distance.

It was not a long drive. The Charger pulled in at a self-service carwash and parked in one of the wash bays.

Blaine parked at a VHS rental store next to the carwash. He read the movie posters on the dusty front glass. Three on a Meathook. Ghost Town. The Model Killer. He turned his lights off and left the engine running. He checked his gas gauge. An eighth of a tank. This was his chance.

He got out of the car and looked around. This was a shitty part of town. The only thing open was a liquor store two blocks up that was bathed in red neon. Further up was a strip club with its own shade of neon—a blend of pink and purple, a color that you’d need the big box of crayons to figure out the name of.

Blaine zipped his leather jacket up as high as it would go. He turned his collar up. He started across the lot to the carwash. He remembered the gloves and fished them out of his jeans pocket. He put them on his hands. The thin brown cloth helped hold in some heat, and his fingers warmed inside them. He wore a knit cap that was rolled up on the sides and front.
Blaine put his right hand in his jacket pocket and put his fingers around the pistol grip. His cheeks stung from the cold wind; his breath made white puffs of steam in the dry air. He crept up to the car wash bay and stopped at the corner. He pulled his knit cap down over his face. It had holes cut for his eyes and mouth like a balaclava mask.

He peered around the corner. He could see Jake in the driver’s seat from behind. He looked relaxed. Blaine could not see the woman. Getting’ a knobjob, looks like, he thought to himself.

He crept up to the back of the car. The car was moving slightly in a rhythmic manner. Blaine walked up along the driver’s side until he was next to the window. There was a thick coat of ice on the pavement inside the carwash. He had to step carefully to keep from slipping. His feet crunched in the ice, but music playing inside the car, something by Billy Joel, masked the sound.

Jake was inside. The back of his chair was reclined. Jake’s eyes were closed, his mouth open.

Blaine could see the back of the woman’s head bobbing up and down. Her dirty blonde hair pooled across Jake’s lap, all teased up on top. His hands were pressed against the back of her head.

Blaine leveled the pistol at Jake’s head. The muzzle bumped the window glass, and Jake opened his eyes.

Blaine squeezed the trigger. The sound of the shot was deafening inside the carwash bay. Blaine’s ears rang from the shock. The window glass shattered and rained down the inside of the car.

There was a leaking red spot on the side of Jake’s cheek. His eyes were open wide. His 
mouth was open as though gasping for air.

Blaine leveled the pistol and fired another shot into the side of Jake’s head.

The woman inside the car jerked away. She pressed herself against the passenger door. She drew in a long breath and screamed at the top of her lungs. One of her hands was clawing for the door handle. Her shirt was open and her breasts were exposed.

Blaine leaned through the busted window. He pushed the pistol forward. He felt something warm and wet on his hand. He looked down. Jake’s cock was still standing straight up, but a stream of warm piss was flowing from the tip.

Blaine moved his hand out of the stream.

The woman continued to scream and pressed herself as far away as she could.

Blaine shot her just above the waistline. A thought flashed through his mind, She’s the one responsible for the ovaries.

The woman screamed louder. She pressed her hands tight against her belly.

Blaine raised the pistol higher and shot her in the sternum. Her screaming stopped, but she still made a high-pitched mewling sound. She looked at Blaine. He saw the look of squinted anguish in her eyes.

He put a bullet through her chest, and she stopped making any sound at all.
Blaine stepped back. He pushed the mask up over his face.

He looked down at the pistol in his trembling hand. He put the pistol back in his jacket pocket.

He took another step back and slipped in the ice. He caught himself with one hand against the block wall.

Oh god,” he said. “Oh god, oh god. Mm. Oh sweet heaven.”


You did good, son,” Vinton said. He handed Blaine and envelope full of bills. “There’s a few extra in there for you.”

It wasn’t so bad,” Blaine said. “Think I’ve got a knack for it.”

It’s not pleasant work. But sometimes it’s gotta be done, you know?”

So when do I go again?”

What do you mean?”

I’m ready for the next.”

Vinton shook his head. “You mean the next job like Jake?”

Yeah. Let’s do it.”

Now hold on. This kind of work, I mean, it’s steady for somebody that’s got the stomach for it, but this ain’t an everyday thing. These jobs are few and far between. You’ve got good money now. This on top of what you get from the plant, you should be flush for a while. Just enjoy.”

But you mentioned you might be able to hire me out to some others that need help.”

And I will. You seem to take to it. But I don’t have anything lined up for you today. Just relax. Go buy something nice for Jessie. They got pink cassette players down at Jays. She might like one of those.”

She’s got a stereo already.”

Get her a Monchichi doll, or one of them Pound Puppies. You know. For the baby.”

Blaine nodded. “All right. Got it. But I done good, yeah?”

You did great. First time out or not, you did great.”


Where you going, hon?” Jessie said. She was lying on the couch with an ashtray on top of her chest. She tapped her cigarette on the rim.

Blaine was zipping up his jacket. He had his black knit hat on. “I gotta get out for a bit. Something I got to do.”

Can you afford to pick up some Pizza Hut on your way back?”

Yeah. No problem.”

Grab some Chardonnay too. No wait. Sauv Blanc.”

That kind tastes like cat piss,” he said.

So Chardonnay, then.”

Might not be good for the baby, you drinking so much.”

Jessie took a long draw on her Virginia Slim. “First trimester. She don’t even have a stomach yet.”

Yeah. Good point. I’ll pick it up. Still, that don’t mean you gotta knock back the whole bottle.”

Some chocolate too.”

Okay. That’s it. The damned pizza alone will be a hassle. Now I gotta make two stops.”

Get two bottles. Love you, babe,” Jessie said.


It was so damned cold out. Blaine lowered his head to the wind, his arms shivering. He was in a sketchy part of town. The kind of place where people would be out alone and in the shadows.

He walked the sidewalk. Few people were out this time of night. There were a handful of streetwalkers on a corner. He saw one off to herself. She was wearing shorts, stockings, and a heavy winter coat. She had short dark hair that stuck out in every direction. She wore thick makeup and dark eyeliner. Blaine could see that her face was weathered and lined under the makeup. Her belly was rolled and round under her tight shirt.

He approached her.

Fucking cold,” Blaine said. “Your legs. Gotta be cold.”

She smiled at him. “Hey there,” she said.

Hi,” he said back. “Wanna go someplace warm with me?”

Hell yeah. I can get us a good deal on a room at the motel across the street.”

You know what? Nah, let’s go back to my car. It’s warm.”

Works for me.” She locked her elbow around his and leaned into him. “Lead the way.”

They walked a block down the street, making small talk. They came to the mouth of an alley, and Blaine said, “Right here.”

They turned down the alley. It was dark, but the lot on the other end was well lit.
Blaine pointed down the length of the alley to a car parked on the other side. “That’s me right there.”

Halfway down the alley he stopped walking and pulled her up short.

What is it?” she said.

Blaine was breathing heavy. The air felt thick in his lungs. His heart pounded inside his chest.

You okay, sweetie,” the woman said.

Yeah. Mm. Just a second,” Blaine said. He pushed her away from him and turned his back to her.

You sure?”

He turned back to face her. He had the pistol in his hand.

She gasped. “No,” she said.

He pointed the pistol at her belly and fired. She fell to the ground, her hands clasping her stomach. “Oh,” she said. “Why did you do that?”

Blaine stood over the woman and shot her in the face.


Sonya was getting all worked up. The way Brad was kissing her and his hands on her breasts under her shirt—she hated to put out on first date, but she was losing control fast.

He had the best hands. His kisses were soft. She loved the feel of his hot breath on her neck.
They were in the back seat of his car. He drove old Ford with a bench seat in back. They were parked out behind the abandoned bleach plant. A light snow was falling outside the car.
Sonya couldn’t fight it, so she decided to give in, to relax and enjoy. The next thing she knew, Brad’s hand was inside her pants, tracing the warm slickness between her curls with his fingertip.

Bra-ad,” she said.

He pulled away. “Yeah?”

I’m not that kind of girl.”

I know you’re not,” he said. “But tonight is special.”

But…you won’t want to…you know, see me again…if I…”

He leaned back in and kissed her. He worked his fingers in her pants. “I never want to see anybody else ever again.”

She relaxed. Might as well enjoy.

A crunching sound outside.

She leaned up. “What was that?”

Nothing. A raccoon or something.”

No, Brad. I hear something.” She looked out the window. It was too dark out to see anything.

That sound again. Crunch, crunch, crunch…like footsteps.

Somebody’s walking out there.”

It don’t matter,” he said. “Just some hobo.”

We should go, Brad. Please. I’m scared.”

Oh, baby. Just a few more minutes, okay? I’ll protect you.”

Crunch, crunch, crunch

A tall shadow took form by the window.

Oh my god, Brad. Somebody’s out there!”

He looked over his shoulder. “Where?”

Right there. Right there!” She pointed at the window behind him.

There was a white flash of light. The window exploded. Something splashed on her face. 

There was a deafening roar. Her eyes adjusted to the flash. Brad was slumped in the seat, his head on her chest. There was blood in his hair.


She looked out the window. She saw a pistol pointed at her. She screamed.

The bright flash of light again, and then everything went black.


How’s Jessie doing?” Vinton asked. He had his reading glasses on, a newspaper spread open on the desk in front of him.

Being a bitch. She thinks I’m cheating on her,” Blaine said. He shook his head and chuckled.

Hey, now. That’s the mother of your child you’re talking about there.”
We’ll get through it. Just I’ve got some other stuff going on. Keeps me away sometimes. I go out at night. She don’t like it.”

Might explain why you look so much different.”

What do you mean?”

You look tired. Kind of haggard. Like you ain’t been sleeping good.”

Oh, yeah. No, it’s just this other shit.”

Well I hope you’re up for what I want to talk to you about.”

I’m good, man. Never better. And Jessie, Jessie’s gonna be good too.”

You ready for another job then? Nothing local, but I got a friend who could use some help up the road a piece. You know. A job like Carbone.”

Yeah, man. I’m good to go. Plant’s still cutting hours. I could get a few days.”

Good. Hey, you know, funniest thing. That job you did for me? Old Jake? Yeah, well that’ll never come back on us. That gun you tossed? Somebody grabbed it, see. They grabbed it, and they are using it all over the place. Our thing looks like part of some sick psycho killing spree. Like that Zodiac guy. Pretty cool, huh? Fucking bastard’s out there shooting up people at night going all crazy, and it’s covering up our thing.” Vinton laughed.

Huh. Yeah,” Blaine said. “Some bad crazies out there, man.” He grinned.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Arson On The Eastside, fiction by Morgan Boyd

I couldn’t rouse Big Dave as the fire spread through the living room. He had been up for days smoking crystal and drinking cheap beer before falling asleep. I yelled and punched him, but he remained unconscious as the flames leapt around us.
Nate and my girlfriend Tiffany had safely exited the burning house. Tiffany screamed from the front lawn for us to get out. I tried dragging Big Dave, but he was too heavy. The smoke was thick, and the heat unbearable. Begrudgingly, I left my friend and roommate, and crawled on my hands and knees out the front door as a wall exploded behind me into red cinders. In the distance, sirens approached.
Nate, Big Dave, Tiffany and I rented the three-bedroom house near Portola Drive on the Eastside. Our friends called it the Bro-Hive because we partied there night and day. When we weren’t partying, we were surfing Pleasure Point.
Big Dave was an enforcer, controlling the peak at Sewer’s. He’d dunk or chase off anybody that dropped in on us, so we always got the best waves. Nate and I were sponsored, and destined for the pro-circuit. Tiffany worked at a nearby retail shop, selling over priced t-shirts and sunglasses to tourists. She had long blonde hair, blue eyes, a little button nose and just the right amount of curves in all the right places. During bikini season, I felt like the luckiest man alive.
Tiffany told the firefighters Big Dave was still inside. They suited up, and made their way into the burning Bro-Hive. After several tense moments, two firefighters appeared through the smoke, carrying Big Dave. We stood over our friend to see if he was okay, but he wasn’t okay. Big Dave had burned to death.
“Ryan did this,” Nate said as I coughed and hugged Tiffany. “He’s as good as dead.”
We’d been friends with Ryan since middle school. We grew up together surfing the Eastside. Ryan was one of the boys in our pack, and we spent countless nights knocking back beers and burning green bowls with him. The trouble started when Ryan’s parents bought him a jacked-up four-runner for his eighteenth birthday.
He pulled up to the Bro-Hive in his new ride. Nate and I hopped in with a twenty-four pack of beer, and we headed to Hollister Hills for an off-road session. Ryan did some donuts, and then he gunned the engine, launching from a huge dirt mound. He hit the jump off-center, and less than twenty-four hours after his parents bought him the truck, Ryan rolled it. Nate wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, and was thrown from the vehicle. The truck narrowly missed crushing his scull by a few inches, but his right arm wasn’t so lucky. I also wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, and broke my back. Ryan was strapped in, and didn’t get a scratch.
Rehabilitation took almost a year. When I finally paddled into the lineup again, my skills had diminished. I couldn’t snap off the lip or punt for big air anymore. Nate never regained full mobility in his damaged arm, and our surfing dreams evaporated faster than saltwater.
The firefighters doused the inferno, contained the destruction, and halted the threat of the flames advancing toward the neighbors’ homes. When the blaze was extinguished, the Bro-Hive was gone. Like Big Dave, only the charred frame of what once was remained.
The police and arson investigators interrogated us for several hours, but it was all a blur. I was grieving the loss of Big Dave, and coming down from meth. I wanted to forget everything and sleep for a week. When the authorities finally let us go, we walked to Nate’s mom’s place. She lived in the trailer park behind the 7-11 on the Eastside. She bought us several frozen pizzas for dinner, and went to bed. I wanted to crash too, but instead we stayed awake, smoking crystal.
We weren’t always meth-heads. I never touched the stuff before breaking my back. Ryan introduced us to the drug. I can’t speak for Nate, but a profound depression rattled me to the core while rehabilitating. We lost our sponsors, and the lack of physical exertion drove me crazy. The meth got me through those low points. Before long, Big Dave and Tiffany were also smoking, and we began selling for Ryan to supplement our income.
The fallout with Ryan had escalated over money. Ryan owed Nate for a surfboard, but Ryan snapped the board on his first session in the water, and refused to pay. Nate and Big Dave went to Ryan’s mom’s garage where Ryan lived, and demanded money. When Ryan refused, Big Dave knocked him out. They went through Ryan’s belongings, and took his cash and crystal. After their confrontation, Ryan said he’d kill Nate and Big Dave. Nate wasn’t taking the threat seriously, but he was laying low.
We stayed up all night at Nate’s mom’s smoking meth. At dawn Nate pulled out the hide-a-bed in the couch. I didn’t like the idea of Tiffany lying next to Nate. At one point I dozed off, and when I woke, I suspected they were groping under the blanket. Nate’s mom left us a box of donuts before she went to work. I nibbled at an apple fritter, but after smoking more meth, I lost my appetite. Nate went into his mom’s room, and returned with a .38.
“Let’s find that fucker,” he said. “There’s a swell in the water. I bet Ryan’s at The Point.”
“What are you doing?” Tiffany asked.
“Payback for Big Dave,” Nate said.
“But you’ll go to jail.”
“It’s him or me.”
“Severn, please talk some sense into him,” Tiffany pleaded.
“What is there to say?” Nate asked. “Dave was your boy too. You just going to sit there and let Ryan punk us?”
“We should think about this,” I said. “Before doing something stupid.”
“I’m taking my mom’s beach cruiser to Pleasure Point,” Nate said. “You can either get out, or use my sister’s mountain bike, and come with.”
Tiffany should have taken the pink mountain bike, and Nate should have given me a pump on the cruiser’s handlebars, but instead, Nate boosted Tiffany, and I rode the pink mountain bike. We pedaled to Pleasure Point. The tide was low, and the swell was up. An offshore wind hollowed out the curls, making for ideal conditions. Sewer’s Peak was beyond crowded. Back in the day, Big Dave would have managed the herd, and we’d have feasted on the best waves.
“See him anywhere?” Nate asked.
“Nope,” I said. “Maybe he’s surfing the Westside.”
“I’m not rolling over there,” Nate said. “He’ll show up eventually.”
Tommy approached us, and said he was sorry to hear about Big Dave. Nate wouldn’t talk to him because Tommy was Ryan’s boy. I asked him if he’d seen Ryan around, and he said he hadn’t, but there was something in his response that made me think he was lying.
“Come on guys,” Tiffany said. “I’m getting cold, and I have to go to work. Do you think I can borrow some of your mom’s clothes Nate?”
“I don’t see why not.”
We pedaled back to Nate’s mom’s trailer. Nate went into the bathroom, and didn’t come out for a longtime. When he finally reappeared, Tiffany exchanged a glance with him, and also disappeared into the bathroom.
After Tiffany left for work, I called my mom. She heard about the fire and Big Dave, and was concerned because she hadn’t been able to reach me. I asked her if I could visit. She seemed hesitant, but said Scott would pick me up in front of the 7-11 in half-an-hour.
“New ride huh?” I said as my stepfather pulled along side me in a cherry red BMW.
“Don’t slam the door,” he said when I entered. “We saw the fire on the news. I hope you don’t think you’re moving back in with us.”
We didn’t talk much on the drive. It was no secret Scott and I didn’t get along. He thought I was a lazy bum, living off my mom’s money, and I thought the same thing about him. Scott was an alcoholic. He had one of those veiny red noses old people acquire after years of drinking. I never understood what my mom saw in Scott. As we drove through the Capitola Village, I thought about the falling out with my mom.
I had bought a new surfboard with the money I saved working as a security guard at the boardwalk. The next day Scott took my new surfboard out of the garage, and left it on the lawn overnight. In the morning it was gone. I was furious, and demanded he buy me another board, but Scott laughed in my face, so I took my skateboard, and smashed out the windshield and headlights of his truck. He had a conniption fit, and we came to blows. It was the last straw for my mother, and she booted me. I hadn’t been back since.
Scott parked in front of the two-story house my grandfather bought fifty years ago. The house sat on the edge of a bluff over Soquel Creek. Before my mom married Scott, she told me that someday the house would be mine. Scott had other designs. He didn’t want her to leave the place to me, and was constantly pressuring her to sell.
I went straight to the refrigerator, and opened one of Scott’s Sierra Nevada’s. I didn’t see my mom anywhere inside, so I went out back, and found her working in the garden. She gave me a suspicious look, and then she took off her gloves, and gave me a hug.
“Sorry to hear about your friend,” she said. “How are you doing?”
“Still in shock,” I said. “Fortunately I have a great girl helping me through.”
“Why didn’t she join us?” My mom asked.
“She’s working.”
“Is there anything I can do to help? What do you think of Scott’s new car?”
“I’m all right,” I said.
“I know you don’t want to hear this right now,” she said. “But Scott and I have decided to sell. We found a nice ranch out in Corralitos, and with the extra money we can retire.”
“But you said grandpa’s house would be mine someday.”
“I know, but plans change,” she said with a hurt look in her eye.
“This is bullshit,” I said. “What about me?”
“I can help you out with school.”
Scott sat on the couch, watching a local news channel as I stormed into the house.
“Don’t slam the door,” he said.
“This beer tastes like shit,” I said, and hurled the bottle at his head.
He ducked, and it shattered against the wall.
“Get the fuck out,” he demanded, standing up.
I slammed the front door as hard as I could, and walked back to the Eastside in a rage, snapping parked car’s antennas along the way. When I arrived at Nate’s mom’s trailer, Nate and Tiffany sat side-by-side, but they moved apart as I entered.
“Ever heard of knocking?” Nate asked.
“What’s wrong?” Tiffany asked.
“I thought you were working,” I said.
“They felt bad, and sent me home,” she said.
I told her my mom was selling the house. Tiffany tried to console me, but the more I thought about it, the angrier I became. We smoked meth, and Nate said he had something that would cheer me up. He took a smart phone out of his pocket, and turned it on.
“Do you remember this?” He asked.
“You’re old phone,” I said.
“Yup,” he said. “The one I got before my I Phone.”
“So don’t you remember?” He said, and turned it on.
He found a video, and hit play on the screen. I watched the scene unfold on the tiny monitor. Several years ago when we were still friends with Ryan, we had beef with a Westsider named Jerry Fields and his buddies. They thought they could surf wherever they pleased, and tried to muscle in on our peak, so Big Dave sent them packing. After the incident Ryan discovered ‘Westside’ spray-painted across the windshield of his mom’s car. Later that night, Ryan bought a gallon of gas, and we rolled up to Jerry’s parents’ house. Jerry’s green Cadillac convertible was parked at the curb. Nate took out his phone and started filming as Ryan doused the Cadillac’s interior with gasoline.
“Adios motherfucker,” Ryan said to the camera, striking a match, and throwing it over his shoulder into the Cadillac.
The image on the phone went completely white as the fireball exploded.
“Whoops,” Nate said when the video ended. “I accidently sent this incriminating evidence to the police.”
Tiffany was scared that Ryan would retaliate, but Nate assured her that the best defense was a proactive offense. He said Ryan’s hands would be full explaining the video to the police, and that if he went to jail, that meant he wasn’t on the street trying to kill us. Tiffany wasn’t buying it, but there was no arguing with Nate, so she dropped the subject.
Tiffany’s father was on a business trip for a few days, so we stayed at his apartment near downtown. This worked in our favor because Nate’s mom was growing weary of us. Nate scored twelve hits of acid from a UCSC student, and bought a twenty-four pack of beer. After we each dropped two hits, the walls in Tiffany’s dad’s living room rippled in an imaginary breeze as we ploughed through the beer.
Nate gave me twenty bucks, and told me to buy another twenty-four pack. I didn’t want to leave the apartment, but after several hits of meth, I felt up to the challenge. I borrowed Tiffany’s dad’s beach cruiser, and set out for the liquor store. As I pedaled onto the street, a Honda Civic sideswiped me. I went down on my head, and when I got up off the asphalt, I felt half-flattened. Blood dripped down my face. The Honda pulled over, and a young woman exited from the driver’s side.
“Oh my god,” she said. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you. It’s like you appeared out of nowhere. Are you okay?”
“I think so,” I said. “The bike seems okay too.”
“Thank god,” she said. “Here, take this.”
She handed me two twenty-dollar bills, apologized again, got in her car and drove off into the twinkling haze. I climbed onto the bike, and continued to my destination. When I arrived at the liquor store, I felt fuzzy. I grabbed a twenty-four pack of beer, and stood in line.
“What happened to you?” Tommy said, tapping me on the shoulder, as I was about to pay.
“This chick hit me with her car,” I said. “She gave me forty bucks.”
“No way,” Tommy said. “What are you all about?”
“Nothing,” I said. “Just dosing over at Tiff’s dad’s place.”
“For real?”
“Yeah,” I said, and paid. “See you around.”
Holding the case of beer with one hand in my lap, I held the handlebars with my other hand, and pedaled to the apartment.
“What happened?” Nate asked, popping a beer.
“Are you okay?” Tiffany asked.
“I’m already tired of telling it, but some chick hit me with her car. She felt bad, and gave me forty bucks.”
“Who else did you tell?” Nate asked.
“I ran into Tommy at the store.”
“What did you say?” Nate asked.
“That we’re tripping at Tiffany’s dad’s apartment.”
“Jesus Severn,” Tiffany said. “He’s been here before.”
“What the fuck,” Nate said. “You know he’s Ryan’s boy.”
“I didn’t think it was a big deal,” I said as Nate grabbed the .38 out of his backpack.
We spent the night chugging beer, and arguing about what to do. Nate paced the floor paranoid that Ryan would find us. At sunrise, the acid was fading, so we dropped the rest of it, and walked to the park. We lay in the grass, smoking cigarettes.
Eventually we grew restless, and returned to Tiffany’s dad’s apartment for more meth. When we arrived at his second floor landing, the front door was wide open. Inside, the place was trashed. Tiffany was furious. She cussed me out, and hit me several times in the chest. I apologized, but she ignored me, and went out onto the porch to smoke.
It wasn’t safe at Tiffany’s dad’s place anymore, so we walked back to Nate’s mom’s trailer on the Eastside. On the way, we passed the remnants of the Bro-Hive. The sight of the burnt out house angered Nate. He gritted his teeth, and said he’d get even with Ryan. I wasn’t thinking about revenge. I was thinking about Big Dave. I missed him, and felt vulnerable without him.
We stopped at the 7-11 for supplies. Our money was getting low, but I still had the forty-dollars from the woman who’d hit me with her car. We bought more beer, cigarettes and some frozen burritos. I was coming down from the acid, and the left side of my head throbbed.
Screeching tires flooded our ears as we exited the convenient store. A pickup truck bore down on us. I grabbed Tiffany, and got out of harm’s way, but Nate got tagged, and tumbled onto the truck’s hood. The impact caused the beers under his arm to explode as his body shattered the windshield. The truck stopped, and Nate crumpled down the hood onto the asphalt. Tiffany screamed, and tried to run to Nate, but I held her back as the truck revved its engine. Slowly, Nate sat up. Blood dripped down his face. He looked confused, but then his eyes focused. He reached for the .38, and fired several shots through the busted windshield as the truck peeled out, and crushed Nate under its tires before climbing the curb onto the street. The truck passed, and I saw Ryan behind the wheel. Our eyes met, and he pointed at me before speeding away.
Nate lay crumpled on the ground, laboring to breath. Blood trickled from his mouth and ears. Tiffany cradled his head in her arms and sobbed as sirens approached. The police made Tiffany and me get down on our stomachs while they searched us. Medics arrived, and Nate disappeared into the back of an ambulance.
Tiffany and I were cuffed, taken to the police station, and interrogated separately. I came clean, and described to the police the events of the last several days. Nate and Ryan had a dispute over a surfboard. Ryan wouldn’t pay for the board, so Nate stole Ryan’s drugs. Ryan retaliated by burning down the Bro-Hive, which killed Big Dave. Nate returned the favor by texting the police the video of Ryan setting fire to Jerry’s Cadillac, and Ryan struck back by trashing Tiffany’s dad’s apartment, and running down Nate in the 7-11 parking lot.
I told them that Tiffany was my girlfriend, and that we were friends with Nate, but that we had just been caught up in the dispute, and hadn’t wanted to get involved. When I was done explaining things, they held me for most of the day, but didn’t charge me with anything, and eventually I was released.
I didn’t know where to go. My mom’s was out of the question, so I walked to Tiffany’s dad’s apartment, but nobody answered the door, so I walked to Nate’s mom’s trailer, and found Tiffany packing a bag. She said Nate was in critical condition, and had been medevaced to Stanford. His mom would be home from work any minute, and they were driving to the hospital. I said I’d go with them, but Tiffany said no. I tried to console her, but she pushed me away.
“Come on Tiffany, you’re my girl,” I said.
“No I’m not, and I never was,” she said.
“You’re fucking him aren’t you?”
“Get out.”
“I’m not stupid,” I said. “I know what’s going on.”
“I’m not beholden to you,” she said, trying to get by me.
“Yes you are. You’re my girl.”
“No I’m not. Let me go,” she screamed.
I grabbed Tiffany by the wrists, but she struggled free, so I hit her, and she collapsed onto the couch. She held her cheek, and kneed me in the balls, so I wrapped my hands around her neck.
“It should have been Nate,” I said, looking into her wide eyes as I squeezed. “Not Big Dave. Had it been Nate, everything would be okay. We’d still be together.”
Her face turned purple, and spittle dripped from her mouth. I loosened my grip when she went limp, walked into the kitchen, and opened the gas on the stove. Returning to the living room, I lit a smoke, and stuck it between my girl’s lips.    

Monday, July 31, 2017

Whacked, by Jim Chandler

You had to watch Louie's right hand. If it went under his jacket you were in a world of shit. It was close to his lapel now and he was frowning behind his shades. It was not a good sign. I figured to be fished out of the river in a few days with a hole in my head. And on autopsy, they'd find a couple of cracked kneecaps as well.

"You disappoint me, Jake," Louis said. He raised his Cuban to his lips and took a deep drag. The cigar looked like a black dog turd. I felt like the cigar looked, except I might be stomped on the sidewalk.

"I'm sorry, man, " I said, trying to keep the fear out of my voice. "I did the best I could to come up with the dough."

Louie shook his head and turned to Bones the Undertaker. "He didn't try hard enough, did he Bones?" Bones, looking glum as your friendly neighborhood mortician, nodded. In fact, Bones was a mortician. It was a handy way to get rid of things, in his fiery crematorium. "So," Louie added, "What should we do with him, Bones?"

"I don't know, boss," Bones answered.

"I'll make it good, Louie," I said. That just pissed him off more.

"Like hell you will!" he yelled at me. "You had six months and it ain't good yet. Why will things changed now, huh? Tell me wise guy."

It looked like it might be it for me. What the fuck, I wouldn't beg. I'd taken on some bad dudes in my time and I'd always come out on top. But there was no taking on Louie, Bones and Big Rick. They had me cold. My piece was in Louie's side coat pocket. I was a goner.

"If you're gonna whack me, just make it quick will you," I said. "Is that too much to ask?"

"You want me to whack you?"

"Naw, but I figure you're about to," said I. "I don't wanna die man, but I won't beg either."

Louie sort of smiled out of the corner of his mouth and cut his eyes over at Big Rick. Big Rick was a fucking psycho; he was just standing idly by waiting for Louie to give him the sign. Once he got it, out would come his straight razor. I'd seen his handiwork once and it wasn't pretty.

"Damn, he sounds like a made man," Louie laughed. "How 'bout that, Rick, think he's afraid to die?"

"Gimme the word and we'll see, Louie," Big Rick grinned. "Bet I can make him change his fuckin tune in a hurry."

"Fuck you too, Rick," I said, figuring what the hell. I was a goner but I wasn't going to take any shit off him. "Take that razor outta your hand and you're a helpless piece of shit!"

Rick would have jumped me right there but Louie stopped it. "Cool it man!" he yelled at Rick. "Jake's got more balls than I gave him credit for."

"He won't have none when I get done with him," Rick growled. "I'll cut his fuckin nuts off and shove 'em down his wise mouth!"

All of a sudden, the irony of all this struck me. Louie had hired me a year before to do some legwork for him. He needed a private dick, one a bit on the seedy side, to find an old girlfriend. I took the job, found the girl and that was that. Oh yeah, the girlfriend was the one I saw Rick play his razor music on. Meanwhile, my gambling habit got the best of me. The ponies ran sour for several weeks and I wound up twenty gees into Louie. I managed to make the vig for a while but then things went south. Push came down to shove and here we were, with my tit in a big crack. It was going to slam tight and there wasn't a goddamn thing I could do about it.

"Well hell, let's see," said Louie. "You owe me still about sixteen long ones and it's growing every day. But there might be a way to get out from under that. You interested?"

"Is the fuckin Pope catholic?" I said. "Has a goat got an ass?" That got a twitch of lips from Bones, who had never been known to really smile in his life.

Louie laid it out for me then. Staying alive, and clearing my debt, was simple.

All I had to do was whack Superior Court Judge Harry Grogan. A piece of cake, Louie said. Yeah.
As it stood, I had three options: I could whack the judge, let Louie whacked me or maybe set Louie up with John Law. I knew I couldn't do the first and the second wasn't too appetizing either. So I decided to fuck Louie over.

None of the cops were big fans of mine because I tended to get in their way sometimes. Most of them hated my guts, but there was one sergeant who could at least tolerate me. I gave him a call.

"You want Louie Bostone?" I asked Bill Dill. He snickered.

"Everybody wants old Louie," he said. "The feds would give a million bucks for him. You can turn him?"

"He wants me to hit Judge Grogan," I replied. That got Dill's attention.

"No shit! How did you get hung in that?"

"The ponies ran sour," I said drying. "You know the tune."

"Yeah, well meet me off Rock Canyon Road at six, up by the dam. We'll talk more."

"I know the place. I'll be there."

I went to my filing cabinet, bottom drawer, and got my backup piece. Fucking Louie had my .44 Bulldog Magnum, my real firepower. I flipped the barrel down on the owlhead .32 and noted all five cylinders were loaded. I slipped the peashooter in the back of my waistband and stuck a handful of extra shell in my side coat pocket just in case. The .32 was a shitty piece, good only if you were going to cap somebody in spitting distance. But it beat nothing by a long shot.

My office was in the low rent part of town and I was always cautious coming and going. This day I was more cautious than most, peering out the front windows far as I could see in both directions. I was looking for Louie's Caddy, a big blue number. Big Rick would be at the wheel; besides being a primo blade man, he was the best wheel man in town. I saw nothing unusual and slipped out the front door into the afternoon glare.

The sun hung in blue haze back over the ocean like a festering boil. It was one of those July LA days when the air was still in all directions. The thermometer hovered around 98 and the humidity was close behind. You could take Bic Rick's razor and cut a chunk out of it.

I scoped the area casually before crawling under the wheel of my beat up Mustang. I didn't want anybody tailing me to my meet with Dill, else I'd be fish bait before morning. I figured to take the long way around and keep a close eye.

It was like a sauna inside the car. The air conditioning had quit a couple months before, but I didn't have the bread to fix it. I had to support the ponies, fuck cool air. I rolled down the windows and grimaced when the 5.0-liter engine kicked over. The car looked like a piece of shit but it would move when you kicked it. I kicked it away from the curb hard and hung a left, bolting off in a way certain to draw attention if anybody was tailing. A move like that might fool a rookie. Big Rick was no rookie, however.

I made about five miles of unnecessary turns trying to spot a tail. I pulled up in front of a liquor store on Studebaker and got out. I went in and got a bottle of Beam for later, then came back out. Everything looked cool to me, except the mean ass heat rising in the street. I turned north toward the canyon and was pleased to see that the only thing behind me, way back, was a bread truck.

Dill was waiting when I arrived, leaning against the front of his white Ford. He was smoking a cigar and I could tell he was squinting behind his Ray-bans. Most cops are pricks, but Dill was a little less of a prick than most. He was still a prick though.

"You're fuckin late," he said. I looked at my watch.

"What the fuck's ten minutes."

"Yeah, well, it can make a lot of difference sometimes," he said, but grinning a bit. "Like when you're screwing. By the way, you still seeing Margie?"

Margie was something I didn't want to talk about. I'd run out my string with her and it was finished. I stayed away from the club where she worked because I was afraid I would kill somebody.

"Screw that, I came here to talk about Louie," I said. "If you don't wanna talk, I'll walk."

"Calm down, man," he said, flipping his smoke butt. "OK. Lay it out for me."

I did, the whole nine yards. Grogan was supposedly bought and paid for, but he fucked them with Little Stevie Benza. Little Stevie was up on an attempted murder charge because a guy happened to get in the way of Little Stevie's 'Vette. In fact, the guy got under the wheels about four times according to doctors who tried to put him back together. Grogan was suppose to direct an acquittal during the trial, but he didn't. And so the jury found Stevie guilty and gave him 27 years. Little Stevie was married to Louie's daughter, so Louie was sorely pissed. He wanted Grogan wasted. That was it.

"We'll have to wire you," said Dill when I finished. "Then you'll have to get him to say this again."

That worried me. Louie was no fool and he'd had Rick pat me down good before, when he got my shooter. The fucker had been real thorough, even grabbing my nuts. "I don't know, man, they'd probably find it."

"I'll be close and I'll put a couple more guys on it, we'll cover your ass," said Dill. "What choice you got?" He had me there.
"OK, let's do it," I said. What the hell, my options were nonexistent. "I'll try to make a meet with Louie and get back to you."
"Do that," said Dill. "The sooner the better."
But I let it slide right up to the two days Louie gave me to make up my mind. I didn't want to look too anxious to waste a judge because Louie would smell that. I had to play it as safe as possible and that's what I tried to do.

I called Louie. I didn't have to pretend to be nervous. I was scared shitless.

"OK, I don't like it, but I'll do it," I said. "I ain't got much of a fucking choice."

Louie laughed. "I figured you were smart enough to stay alive," he said. "You do this and the debt is clear, capiche?"

"Yeah, but we need to get together and talk about this. I'll need a piece and. . . "

"I'll have Rick get a clean piece to you," he interrupted.

"Fuck that noise, Rick will try to waste me himself," I said quickly. "I trust you, Louie, man I'd rather deal with you." That bit of ass kissing seemed to work. Maybe Louie wasn't as smart as I gave him credit for.

"OK, screw it," he said. "Come by the Shady Lounge at nine this evening. We'll set it all up and you can pick up the shooter then."

"I'll be there," I said, hanging up. The next call was to Dill. Six-thirty o'clock at dam I'd get wired.

I was shaking like a dog shitting peach pits. I didn't like to be scared. It made me dangerous.

I had almost four hours to kill before meeting Dill. It dawned on me that it might be my last day on earth. What I wanna do if I knew it way my last sunrise? I asked myself. That was simple. I wanted to see Margie one last time.

That decided, I piled in the iron and headed for the Chez Sally Club. If I was lucky she'd be working the noon crowd still hanging from a long lunch. I was lucky. Maybe my luck would hold.

I found a stool off to the left of the stage and ordered a double Beam. She worked the pole just as I remembered all legs and tits and blonde hair. I looked at her trim spreading as one leg went high on the pole and the memory of how she tasted made my heart ache. I realized at that moment how much I still cared for her. She saw me then, her face twisted in what was supposed to be some erotic move. Her eyes widened briefly and a tiny smile played over her mouth.
Two drinks got me through her set and she left the stage. A few minutes later she came up, covered now in a blue gown, and slid onto the stool next to me. She put her hand on my arm

"Hi, Jake," she said. "It's good to see you." There was something in the soft look of her green eyes that told me she hadn't forgotten me.

"Yeah, it's good to see you too, kid," I said. "You're lookin' good as always."

Damn. She was 27 and I was 43. We had got on good for awhile, then I got the notion I was too old for her. And I fucked things up big time because of it.

"Kid," she repeated back to me, grinning. "Same old Jake. Thinks he's an old man when he's not."

"I guess it's all relative," I said, smiling in spite of myself.

Her face got serious then. She must have sensed something was up because she asked me, "So, why are you here now, after all these months of nothing? What's happening that brought you here to see me?"

"Maybe I just wanted to see an old flame."

"I don't buy that, you're too bullheaded to come because of that. Please, tell me . . .are you in some kind of trouble?"

What the hell, it might be the last time I ever laid eyes on her. It was time for the truth. So I laid it out for her, or as much as I could. When I finished she had the beginning of mist in the corners of her eyes.

"Oh baby, come home with me," she said. "Please." She took me by the arm. I followed. I would have even if I hadn't believed it might be my last day alive.

She was better than I remembered, much better. You know what they say--good pussy is wonderful and bad pussy is pretty damned good. Margie was somewhere way beyond good pussy. She had a way of slinging that left leg around high on your back and then digging the heel of her right foot into your ass. She could rock you to heaven like that.

At least I had one more trip there before possibly taking the elevator down. She rode me high and hard and she was, yeah, way better than I had remembered.

"And you believe you're too old for me?" she teased afterward, rubbing the hair on my belly. "You wore me out."

"Yeah, well I ain't consistent," I grinned. I reached over and shook a weed out of the pack on the nightstand, firing it with the gold Dunhill. She smiled when I did that.

"You kept the lighter I gave you," she said. "That must mean something."

I laughed. "Yeah, twelve hundred buck lighters don't grow on trees."

"It's more than the money," she said.

"Yeah, you're right about that. I can't deny it. Sentimental value and all."

She rubbed lower. My buddy Willie paid attention, it was hard not to.
I used her shower before I left. It was strictly in consideration for whoever would be taping something on my balls. And I also borrowed the little .22 Baretta I'd given her. It wasn't much but it might be concealed and I wasn't going to the meet without something on me, no way.

I thought about Scarface and the chain saw scene. I'd rather drop in a blaze of glory and maybe take a couple out with me. If it came to that, Louie would get the first one. I hadn't practiced lately but I could still throw a head shot offhand if I had to. And I might have to.

Dill was up at the dam when I arrived, this time in a black van. There was a guy named Roman in the back, a skinny dude who appeared a little on the gay side. I had no big problem with gays, but I didn't relish the thought of one dabbing around my balls with tape. But he may not have been gay because he insisted on taping the box and mike on my chest.

"Fuck no," I said. "Hell, I might as well tote it in my hand than do that. It's a sure way to get killed and I won't do it."

"Yeah," Dill agreed. "Seems a little reckless to me too. Go ahead and put it where he wants it."

I wound up with the transmitter behind my balls and the mike cord around and on my lower belly. I'd worn pouch briefs especially for the occasion. I pulled the .22 out of my back pocket. "This is going in the pouch," I said. Dill shook his head. "I'd have to recommend against it," he said, but not with too much conviction. "They find it, you're fucked."

"If they find it they find the wire and I'm fucked anyway. I got a plan."

"Well, you're right about that," he said. "But don't use it unless you have to, understand? We'll be right outside the building, front and back, in case something goes sour."

"That's comforting, but the pistol stays," I said.

"OK, just be cool."

"I'm always fucking cool," I said. I didn't feel too cool, though. The peach pit shit shakes were coming back. I had to get that under control in about an hour or I was history.

Against my better judgment, I took a big jolt of the Beam after I crawled back in the Mustang. It was so good I took a second. After the third one I capped the jug. It was calming me, but I needed a little edge. Not too much, just that quick jump afforded by a small case of nerves.

About five miles down from the dam I seemed to be getting to that place. I even managed a smile. I was going to fuck Louie, or he was going to fuck me. It was all so simple, just like everyday life. People screwed or got screwed.

Tomorrow we'd know who got fucked today. I hoped the screwing I had earlier was my last one for this Tuesday.
I pulled into a parking lot a block from the Shady Lounge at twenty minutes before nine. I didn't want to arrive early and appear anxious, so I sat for a few moments. The jug looked tempting and I picked it up and removed the cap. But I thought better of it and screwed the top back on. If I survived, I'd have a drink then. One right now might be one too many.

At about five till, I slipped out of the car and started down the sidewalk toward the joint. There was quite a bit of traffic and a lot of curbside parking, but I spotted the van pulled up on the curb directly across from the Shady. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Dill sitting behind the wheel. I knew there were others in it as well and no doubt somebody would be inside the joint.

I yanked one of the double doors open and stepped into the club. It was dark and the air visible in the faint light looked like one of those news scenes of the rain forest on fire. There were a dozen or so drinkers bellied up to the bar and an equal number scattered in the booths. None of them looked like cops in a brown wrapper, but that was good if they were.

Louie's office was at the end of a hallway in back, past the toilets. I went up and rapped on the door. After a few seconds it cracked open and Bones peered out. He turned and said, "It's him." I heard Louie tell him to let me in and he did, opening the door. I stepped in and Louie held up his right hand in a halt gesture from where he sat behind his desk. Big Rick was standing leaning on a cabinet to his right, looking mean as usual.

"Frisk him," Louie said. Rick grinned and started over. It was now or never for me, because the frisk he gave me before would find the gun and the wire. Then it would be razor time.

I raised my hands high and stepped to the sides, spreading my legs wide. I grinned as Rick approached.

"Hey, give my balls and cock a good one," I laughed. "I noticed how much you liked it the other day, must have picked that up in the slammer eh?" His face went red and he gritted his teeth.

"Fuck you man," he said. "That mouth's gonna be the end of you some day." But he merely rubbed under my arms and around my waist and stepped back, scowling.

"This chickenshit ain't got the balls to come in here packing," he said to Louie. Louie nodded and then reached into a drawer and removed a pistol. He lay the .22 revolver on the desktop.

"Here's a clean piece. Pitch it when you're done. You got two days to make it, or your ass is mine."

"No, boss, you promised me it was mine, remember," Rick grinned.

"Two fucking days?" I said. "Christ Louie, I can't set it up that fast, killing a fucking judge!" I wanted to get him to commit to that on the wire.

"Just do what you gotta do in two days," he said like he meant business. "Do it and you free and clear. Don't, and your friends will wonder what became of you."

"He ain't got no goddamn friends," Rick laughed. "Nobody wants a low ass gumshoe for a friend."

It was about that point that the problem began. I felt it before I heard it, felt a vibration in my crotch. I almost went into a panic but I managed to stay cool enough. But seconds later it was making an audible sound, a high pitched beep. Everybody started looking around.

"What the hell, somebody wearing a wrist alarm or a beeper?" asked Louie. Then, the noise got louder and they all looked at me. Louie understood what was happening first, because, his eyes bulging out of his head, he screamed, "The motherfucker is wired!"

That was it. As Rick broke from his spot by the filing cabinet, I spun to my left and made a dive forward, my hand going down the front of my pants. I got the handle and pulled the little shooter on the roll, coming up on my back with Rick closing in fast. He'd fished out the razor and it was about four feet from cutting my throat. I threw the pistol up and popped a cap, watching as a tiny red spot opened up between his upper lip and nose. I triggered again and saw his right eye disintegrate and his head snap back. He stopped in his tracks, sat down limply on his ass and fell to his right, dead before he hit the floor.

About the time I saw Rick die, I heard Louie's 9-mm fire. I was slammed halfway around to the left. Bones had come out with a snub-nose piece, but seems to have a problem because he was fumbling with the safety. I fired two rounds at Louie, missing but causing him to duck, then took Bones out with an aimed shot through the forehead. Louie came back up firing and that's when all hell broke loose. There was a loud crash and the door fell in. It sounded like a reenactment of World War Two suddenly as Dill and his boys came in shooting. Louie took at least a dozen rounds, dancing back to the wall and sliding in his brains down it.

"How bad you hit?" Dill asked, coming over. There was blood seeping through the front of my jacket. "Get an ambulance," he told one of the other cops.

"Hell I don't know, left shoulder is fucked up some," I said. "It's not hurting but it felt like a bat hit me. That fucking wire almost got me killed."

The little guy who had put it on me grinned, then looked at Dill. "It worked just fine, didn't it Sarg," he said. Dill grinned. "It damned sure did," said Dill. "Like a charm."

It hit me then what had happened. "You sons of bitches," I said. "You used me as bait to get these fuckers." Dill laughed.

"Jake, you just performed a hell of a public service. And you saved the taxpayers a big bundle of dough."

"Fuck the taxpayers," I said. "And fuck you too."
That was a month ago. I spent the night in the hospital for the flesh wound. A doctor said if it had been an inch higher it would have clipped an artery and I'd probably have bled to death before the meat wagon got there.

I had to leave town. I'm staying in a friend's cabin in the mountains now, but I can't stay here forever. I'll have to watch my step because Louie had friends. I'll be looking over my shoulder for a long time.

I thought about bringing Margie with me. She'd come, I know, but I decided that was no good. I'm too old for her and besides, she'd be in danger. If they whacked me, they'd whack her just for the hell of it.

So, I screwed Louie and Louie screwed me. Dill screwed us both.

But shit happens, as they say.

And they weren't lying.