Monday, February 17, 2020

El Dulce

“I didn’t call any plumbers,” Louis barked at us through the tiny slit made by the chain lock.   His breath smelled bad and that didn’t do anything for my mood.  My head hurt and the aspirin I took in the van wasn’t even touching it. I sighed and stepped back.   I looked at Green Johnny and he kicked in the door with maniacal glee.  At least one of us was in a good mood. 

The apartment was a mess; a disaster of take-out containers, empty beer cans, and candy wrappers. The garbage crunched under our feet as our noses were assaulted by a spoiled bouquet of chocolate and sweat.   Green Johnny set the tool box down and checked the bedroom and bathroom to make sure we were all alone. 

“God damn, Louis,” I said, “This place smells terrible.  Least you could have done was tidy up a bit, maybe taken a shower. It’s not like you didn’t know we were coming.”

Louis was standing in the center of the room between a table covered with garbage and a small mound of crumpled cans.  His early bravado had disappeared like a deadbeat dad.

“I-I didn’t call f-for a plumber” he stuttered.

I don’t blame the man for being scared.  Greenie and I have been working collections for the Boss for a while and people don’t like seeing us.  I square the Boss’s ledgers with a flair for the Old Testament.  Green Johnny, well, he’s easily suggestible. 

“We’re clear, Priest,” Green Johnny said, flashing me a thumbs up. I looked over at Louis.

“You know we’re not plumbers, but we can’t come up in here dressed like hired killers.  This isn’t Reservoir Dogs.

Louis just stared at me. 

“See, Louis, I’m going to level with you.  That van was really fucking hot and we had to wear these uncomfortable outfits all because you didn’t pay the Boss’s tribute.  30% off the top and you can continue to do…shit, what do you do again?  Greenie and I have a bet. 

“I-I robbed a store.”

“Greenie, I owe you a steak.  I thought our boy Louis here liked to dabble in the ‘ole plug and tug. Now, if you’ll just give us 40% —that’s 30% for the Boss and 10% for our trouble—we’ll let you get back to your shithole existence.”

“I d-didn’t get a-any m-money.”

“I’m sorry, what?” My temples pounded.

“I r-robbed a c-candy s-store.  S’alls I g-got was c-candy.” 

“Priest, did he just say what I think he said?”

“I think he did.  Toss the place.  He’s gotta be lying.”

I knocked a few candy wrappers off of a chair and watched Louis as Green Johnny searched for the cash.  After ten minutes of banging and cursing, he was still empty handed.

I wiped the sweat off my forehead with the rough cotton sleeve of the overalls.   My headache was turning into a migraine.

“Aw, hell.  We’ll just take our cut out of the candy. Louis, where’s the candy?”

He looked around the apartment at all of the candy wrappers, despair clinging to him like body odor.  

“Greenie, you remember your nephew’s birthday party?” I said, rubbing my temples. “How all those kids hit that piñata until its guts bled candy?

Without answering me, Greenie opened the tool box and took out some rope and threw me some zip-ties. Louis tried to run but he slipped on the garbage. We pounced on him and zip-tied his hands behind his back. 

“Just remember, Louis, you did this to yourself,” I said.

Green Johnny held him still while I harnessed him with the rope.  We slung one end of the rope over the crossbeam in his ceiling and tried to pull him up.  The beam shattered into splinters and Louis fell with a thunk.   He looked up at us, his eyes wet and pleading.

“We’re just looking for our 40%, s’not personal,” I said, as Greenie handed me a crowbar from the toolbox.    

We beat him until our arms ached, each whack in cadence with the pounding in my head.

Louis was a shitty piñata; what came out of him didn’t look like candy at all.   

~FIN~