Leg Breakers

The moon rushed through a black sky like the headlight of a speeding train. Stars glittered like chunks of a broken wine bottle. An ominous silence roared.

Nick Hardin pulled the dark Grand Marquis behind a parked white Toyota. “What’s two nice guys like us doing in a neighborhood like this?” Nick asked.

They were in Coney Island near Sea Rise and Graveson. His partner, Large Louie Grillo, grinned and chomped on the Big Mac he was devouring.

Nick, a mean street fighter, and Louie, an ex pro wrestler, were leg-breakers for a Brooklyn loan shark.

“So far so good,” Nick said. “That’s fast Freddie’s car so he really must be in that dump across the street.”

“There’s nothing like a cunt rolling her squeeze when she thinks he’s cheating on her,” Louie said.

They got out of the car. Three tough looking black dudes leaning against the wall of a dive bar passed a toke and glanced their way. 

Nick said, “You dudes mess with that car and I’ll kill you.” 

The black guys sized up Nick and Louie and nodded.

Down the street Nick noticed an SUV, motor running. Nearby, two men were trying to get into a parked blue sedan.

Nick and Louie entered a rundown four-story apartment building. The inside smelled like sour piss. Dim spectrals of light vomited from a 40-watt bulb protected by a rusty mesh helmet. At the top of each flight of stairs Louie huffed and puffed.

Nick pounded on door four-one. “Open up Freddie or we’ll kick the fucking door in.”

No response. Nick kicked door four-one. It didn’t budge.

Louie nudged Nick aside. “You Ukrainians got no oomph. How’d that Kletchko ever get to be heavyweight champ? Marciano would have killed him.”

Nick smiled.

Louie gave the door a shoulder block. The hinges creaked and gave. They switched on a light and saw Freddie lying on a worn carpet. A wet red ribbon meandered from ear to ear.

“What a way to get out of paying us the twenty grand we came to collect,” Louie said.   

Nick went to a window, pushed aside a dirty curtain and looked out. The black dudes were gone but down the street those two guys were still trying to unlock the blue sedan. Nick saw a cockroach skitter across the windowsill.

Louie eyed a half-eaten pizza on the table. “You think that’s any good.”

“You fucking crazy?”

“Just wondering.”

Nick scratched his head. “Freddie borrows ten grand from Vince and now he’s dead. What’s that tell you?”                 

“That somebody whacked him.”

“It tells me Freddie was in on something over his head and got double crossed.”

Dust motes gyrated in the spare light as they ascended the stairs. Outside the moon glowed strange.

“I got an idea Freddie double-crossed his double crossers,” Nick said. “Let’s find out.”

They approached the two guys trying to unlock  the blue sedan. Up close, in the moonlight, Nick and Louie saw dirty faces and ragged beards.

“That’s not Freddie’s car,” Nick said.

The two guys faced Nick and Louie. “Freddie gave you assholes a wrong address,” Nick said. 

One of the men flashed a knife. Nick raised a Glock and shot the man once between the eyes. Blood and bits of brain splattered the hood of the blue sedan. The man staggered backwards and dropped. The other man showed a gun. Louie shot him in the chest with a .357.

“Get the car keys Freddie gave them,” Nick said. He went to the SUV. On the front seat he saw a yellow canvas gym bag. He opened it and saw stacks of bills. “Jackpot,” Nick said. “Freddie’s payoff, but for what?” Nick fingered the money. “At least thirty grand here.”

They ambled down the street to Freddie’s car, the white Toyota. Nick opened the trunk.

“Holy fuck,” Louie said. “It’s loaded with plastic explosives and detonators.” 

Printed on the brick-sized packets was one word, “Semtex”.  “That prick Freddie got out of the drug business and was dealing with terrorists,” Nick said. “We should go back up there and make sure he’s dead.”

“I go up those stairs again and an undertaker carries me down.”

Nick laughed. “What kind of an American are you?”

“I can’t help my country dead.”

In the Grand Marquis Nick said. “We’ll give Vince his twenty g’s, minus our twenty percent, and keep the rest.” Louie nodded. “Maybe we can stop for a pizza. I’m fucking starved.”


NOGO

In a rundown neighborhood in South Phoenix, Eddie Easy Deal Wilson parked his car in front of a shabby little house and swaggered to the front door. He heard violent coughing coming from inside. Good. Shifty Logan was home.

The front door creaked open and a short white man with a pale haggard face and squinty eyes appeared. Somehow he managed to cough without spitting out a burning cigarette that dangled from the corner of crooked lips.  

“I came to collect the three grand I loaned you,” Easy Deal said as he shoved  his way into an untidy living room that smelled like tuna fish. “If I don’t get my dough I’m going to ransack this fucking dump and take what I can sell. If I don’t get enough I’m going to break something. Maybe your kneecaps.” Easy Deal was twenty-eight years old, six feet, and a street-tough 190.

Shifty held his hands up as a peace gesture. “Don’t go crazy on me, man. Ain’t we pals?”

“No. I waited long enough. I want my money.”

“Listen, man. I invested it but I been too fucking sick to cash in. I can hardly breath.”  Shifty took a drag on the cigarette and started coughing again.

Easy Deal rubbed his suntanned face. “Invested it in what?”

Shifty snuffed the cigarette butt out in an overflowing glass ashtray he shoplifted somewhere, bent forward, and put his hands on his knees. After awhile he stopped hacking.

“Stolen baseball cards, man.” He straightened and lit another cigarette. “There’s this Mexican who’s holding them for me. These fucking cards I can get ten maybe twelve thou for from a dealer. Most of it will be yours.”

“Take me to this Mexican.”

“I can’t, man. I’m too sick. You’ll have to do it alone.”

“Do it where?”

“Nogo, man. Mexico. Ask for Raul. The Hotel Montoya. Just tell him you’re my partner and he’ll give you the cards. A piece of cake.”

Three hours later Easy Deal left his car on the U.S. side and crossed on foot  into Nogales, Mexico. It was dark when he found the Montoya, a seedy bedbug hotel a mile from the border and next to a rough looking bar.

A Mex woman with hair dyed yellow and fire red lipstick sat behind the counter in a dim dingy lobby.

“I’m looking for Raul.”

The woman sized Easy Deal up and down. Overpowered by her flowery perfume Easy Deal stepped back. A slow moving ceiling fan kicked dust around.

The woman gestured with a curt nod to the stairs. “Room 2. It’s unlocked. Kill him if you want, I don’t care.”

Raul sprawled on the bed naked except for piss stained jockey shorts. A needle, a spoon, and some powdery brownish residue were near him on the dirty mattress.

“Raul.”

He didn’t answer.

Easy Deal spotted Narcan apparatus on a warped bedstand. He shoved a vial into an applicator and shoved the nozzle into each of Raul’s nostrils. Raul came around, barely.

“You fucked up my buzz,” Raul slurred.

“Where are Shifty’s baseball cards?”

“On the dresser.”

Easy Deal went to the dresser and found a pile of cut pieces of cardboard. “Who put the scissors to these cards?”

“That puta downstairs. We had a fight. Instead of using the scissors on me she used them on Shifty’s cards.”

Easy Deal noticed a dresser drawer slightly ajar. Inside the drawer, hiding under a Magnum .357 and a dead cockroach, he saw a lone baseball card. “Here’s one your girlfriend missed. I’ll take it.”

“That’s not one Shifty paid for. It’s for another guy.”

“Fuck the other guy. I’m taking it.”

“The dude’s psycho. If he don’t get that card he’ll kill me.”

“You probably lived too long anyway.”

With loud music from the bar next door invading the room through an open window, Easy Deal studied the baseball card. He recognized the player. An old timer, Honus Wagner.

“Holy fuck,” Easy Deal muttered. A rare Honus Wagner baseball card like this one just sold in auction for three million dollars. Shifty would get the cut-up cards. He’d keep this one for himself.

There were heavy footsteps in the hall. The psycho dude – maybe.  Easy Deal picked up the Magnum and waited.


Weed Farm

On this cloudy autumn day I take the lite rail cross town through a tunnel under the river to the North Side. I scan a discarded newspaper on the clattering train, read about grisly murders that stretch from Canada through Michigan into Pennsylvania, a letter “S” carved on the female victim’s forehead, the “S” meaning a human sacrifice. I touch the switchblade in my jacket pocket and read my horoscope. “Today you will do something very bad that is very good.”

I am a white male, twenty-four years old, wearing sneakers, jeans, and a dark hooded jacket. I get these migraines from being hit with shrapnel while serving in Iraq, U.S. Marines.

I cut through a park that nestles between the old buildings of a community college and a tough inner city neighborhood. I spot a black dude with dreadlocks following me.

 I stop to watch a pair of squirrels chasing one another and see a gray van with half moons painted on the sides. Five characters stand beside the van, new age assholes, gypsies, three scraggly-haired white dudes and two dumpy looking white broads. One white broad beckons to a pretty blonde haired white girl with a backpack, a college babe I figure. The college girl sidles toward the van. I duck behind a tree and toss the knife into a mound of leaves.

As I exit the park the black dude comes up beside me and flashes a badge. A car pulls up and two white plainclothes cops jump out.

The black cop says, “Matt Kerns, right, MK?”

I nod.

“Narcs baby, spread them.”

I lean forward, legs apart, hands flat on the hood of the car. They pat me down. Nothing. “You jerkoffs got a bad tip,” I mutter.

One of the white cops slaps me hard across the back of my head making my ears ring. “Watch your mouth, dickhead.”

They pile into the car and drive off.

I pass bars, a pawn shop, a soup kitchen with a string of homeless lined in front. A carload of black gang-bangers slows passing me.

I cut through alleys and arrive at an abandoned industrial site with crumbling buildings, rusted debris, and poison ivy everywhere.

I come to a secluded spot, my “WEED FARM”, ten plants, grown from seeds I planted, Alaskan Thunderfuck marijuana seeds, for medicinal purposes at first but then I started selling it, $300 an ounce. I have seven customers. I net $1500 a week. The weed I sell has a heady smoke, a skunky scent, or maybe the scent of grapes rotting in a bowl, and a chocolaty taste.

I’m blocked by buildings but the sound of tires crunching gravel startles me. I sense that those black gang-bangers trailed me.

I slip around a rusted metal door in a nearby building and dig out a duffle bag covered with canvas. There’s a plastic bag holding powdery root toner, small pruning sheers, and a .45 automatic.

I go around the building and see the gray van and the new age assholes holding knives and surrounding the college girl who is naked, tied with rope, and has duct tape over her mouth. A fucking human sacrifice, I think.

“Fun time over, dirt bags. Into the van.” I wave the gun.

They clamber inside. The van spins around and the dude on the passenger side shoves the barrel of a shotgun out the window. I shoot first and his head explodes like a tomato smashed with a hammer. The van speeds away, tires spitting gravel.

I stash the gun and get her dressed, a beauty for sure, sweet smelling, all firm curves, shaking with fear. We leave the site with rain falling hard in slanting lines and her clinging to me.

“Are any of them dead?” she wants to know.

“Don’t think about it.”

“I’ll have to tell the police what happened.”

“That’s up to you.”

“I don’t even know where we were.”

“It’s better that way.”

“I should know your name.”

“Make one up.”

Like lovers, we huddle together under the roof of a bus shelter. A bus comes. I push her on. I stand in the rain with night gathering around me. Life is good.


Night People

From my bedroom window, on the second floor of a three story building I own at a busy city intersection, I can see the diner. Across the intersection from the diner is a bar that stays open late and across from the bar is a hotel. It is midnight and steady rain is falling. When I see the police car pull up to the diner and see Gloria get out I take the freight elevator down to the alley and cross the wet dreary street.

I recognize those in the diner: Rose, a plump waitress, Marty the cook, a cab driver, a red haired transvestite hooker called Cherrybomb, a young female prostitute, a pair of nameless black drug dealers, and Hargrove, a tough looking white guy who did time for robbery and assault.

I wave to Gloria who gets up from a stool at the counter and hugs me. Her blond hair is wet and the damp smell is intoxicating. I step back. She is my height and weight, 5’10”, 150 pounds. She looks beautiful in her blue police uniform. I like the way her lips curve under her straight nose and the sparkle in her blue eyes makes me smile.

“I’ve been thinking about you,” Gloria says. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine.”

“It’s been a year hasn’t it?” Her tongue flicks out and she licks her full lips. “Since your wife left you?”

“I’m over it.” I squeeze her hands with tenderness and she leans into me. I can feel the press of her breasts against my chest.  “I’ve been building the courage to ask you to go out with me. Will you?”

Gloria kisses me on the cheek. “I’ve been hoping you’d ask.”

I catch Hargrove watching us. “He scares me.”

“I’ll make sure he doesn’t give you any trouble.”

I order an egg salad sandwich, French fries, and a pint of milk. When the order comes I leave the diner with Hargrove following.

“Some lousy fucking night, isn’t it pal?” He has a rough voice.

I don’t answer him. I glance back and see Gloria in the doorway of the diner, hands on shapely hips. I always worry that Hargrove, or someone like him, will break into the building some night while I am asleep and rob me and kill me. People have to believe that I have money, lots of it, stashed there. I think of my gun resting on a stand by my bed.

Crossing the street in the rain I peer into the showroom window of my army-navy surplus store, left to me, along with the building, by my father.

I take the freight elevator to the third floor and switch on a light. A naked woman I am holding captive is asleep on a bed in a cage. I keep her drugged to almost unconsciousness. She stirs.

“When will you let me go?” She is sobbing. Her arms encircle her bare chest in a tight grip.

I feel the frown lines in my face harden like cement. “Soon it will be over for you.”

I pass four wooden coffins that are lined along the wall. Three of the coffins hold the gutted and preserved bodies of women I have murdered. There is the faint scent of formaldehyde. In the first coffin is the body of my wife. She never really left me. I grew tired of her and strangled her. The other two bodies were women I attracted and then grew tired of also. I have recently grown tired of the woman in the cage and soon she will occupy the fourth coffin. I plan on constructing a fifth coffin for Gloria, for when the time comes when I no longer find her desirable.

Noise from the door being pried open in the alley entrance of the building startles me. Hargrove, it has to be Hargrove, breaking into the building to rob me.

“Please Gloria, stop him,” I pray, “before he reaches the third floor.” I hold my breath and wait for a gunshot.

The woman on the bed sits up. She is trembling. She seems to be praying too, praying obviously for the intruder to reach her and save her.