Friday, July 29, 2011

Your Friday Dose Of Pulp Fiction

This was originally published a few years ago in the webzine DEMOLITION run by Bryon Quertermous, which went away for a while before popping its head up again earlier this year.

It's weird looking back at this now and thinking, "Yeah, I coulda done this better." I don't think it's bad, it's just not necessarily what I would write today.

Enjoy.



BREAKING IN THE NEW GUY



Crazy Tommy's got that meth stink on him, where his sweat starts to smell like the shit he's been shoving up his nose. Twitches and shakes. Says he's been trying to quit, but he's not fooling anybody. I figure he's trying to get into Vito's good graces, coming out here tonight with Fat Louie and me to the El Rey Motor Lodge off Pico Boulevard to wait for a guy who owes Vito a couple hundred K. I guess I'm supposed to give the kid a chance, see if he can actually do a night's work without screwing it up. Fat Louie and me have a bet. His money's on the kid.

We're parked across the street in Vito's ten year old Le Baron we've been using for business since he shot Jimmy Callendar and stuck him in the trunk. He waited a couple days too long to ditch the body. The car's been cleaned, but when it gets warm outside it still smells.

"Jesus, can you crack open a window or something?" Fat Louie says. He's sitting in the back behind the kid. He's not fat. At least not anymore. He used to be 280. He got his stomach stapled a couple years ago and now and all he does is drink diet shakes and run in marathons. He's down to 160.

"Why?" I ask. "Need some air?" Fat Louie's never minded the Jimmy smell, but Crazy Tommy's stink must be getting to him. We've been stuck here waiting for the better part of two hours. I can feel Fat Louie glare at me. He's got that kind of glare.

"Fuck you," he says and opens the door. I've pulled the bulbs out from the interior lights so the car stays dark. Won't do to have somebody see us sitting over here behind a dumpster. We have a good view of the motel and we have a picture of the guy. Fat Louie even met him once when he was dropping off a bet at Vito's place.

I'm hoping I don't have to kill him. I don't really have anything against him. I'd rather just beat him up a little, maybe break his nose and have him fork over the cash. But we’ve got some plastic sheeting and a couple rolls of duct tape in the trunk just in case.

Crazy Tommy's tapping a drum roll on his thighs. It's bad enough he's strung out, but he's nervous too. A thought occurs to me and I turn to him. He stops the bass line the minute my eyes land on his. "What do you do for Vito, Crazy Tommy?"

"Why do you call me that, Frank?" he asks.

"It's your nickname. Everybody's got a nickname."

"You don't," he says.

"No, I don't." This crazy Jew, Levi Goldberg, tried to give me one once. Some bullshit thing like Rocky or something. Then one day he shows up at the morgue with a bullet in his head. Nobody tried to give me a nickname after that.

The kid stares at me for a second, wondering if he should press it. He doesn't. He gets a point. Too many more and I owe Fat Louie a couple hundred bucks.

"I sell some weed for him out in Hollywood."

Something doesn't click. "Been working it long?" I ask.

He shakes his head. "Nah. Couple of months. But Vito says I should be doing more. I dunno man. Melissa believes in me, but I wonder some times."

Shit. It all falls into place now. Melissa. Vito's youngest daughter. She's nineteen and has the hormones to match. Vito's been trying to get her to calm down, but it hasn't taken yet. Crazy Tommy's just the latest pearl on a long necklace of slackers.

Melissa's eighteenth birthday Vito sits us all down at his Bel Air house. Daddy's baby all grown up, prancing around the pool in a blue two piece smaller than a goddamn Kleenex. "See that?" he says. Nobody looks. Everybody nods.

"She's precious. Sacred. Got that? Anybody screws with her answers to me." He's got this habit of slapping the back of one hand against the palm of the other to make a point. We get the point.

Vito gives us standing orders. He knows she's going to fuck around. It's natural. She's young. But Vito's still her Daddy. He has final say. These kids she sees, if they don't cut it, they go away. "Culling the herd," he calls it. We've culled the herd for him four times already.

Crazy Tommy says, "What? Why are you looking at me like that?"

"Nothing. I just wouldn't get too attached to things is all."

He stares at me, energy buzzing off him like a high tension wire. Hurt, not sure what to say about it. I'm about to tell him not to worry, that I didn't mean nothing. Fat Louie's knock on the car window stops me. "We're on," he says, opening the back door and grabbing his leather case of knives.

I look up. There's the guy all right. Walking up the stairs to his room. Blond hair, scruffy in a beach bum kind of way, tattered Hawaiian shirt. There's a swagger to money that this guy's just not showing. No way he's got two hundred thousand bucks sitting on him. "Get the tape and plastic."

I pull on a pair of latex gloves and take out the Sig Sauer

We wait for the guy to go in and close the door before hurrying across the street. The parking lot's pretty empty, only a couple of Econoline vans and this beat up Cabriolet convertible our guy drove up in. Fortunately the motel office is around the side and the vans block the view. There's next to no cover and the streetlamps are bright enough they look like spotlights.

"Okay," I say to Crazy Tommy. "This one's easy. We go in and rough him up. Get the money and bail."

"What if he doesn't have the money?"

I just look at him.

Crazy Tommy turns a little green. I think he might be coming down from his high. I just hope he doesn't puke on his shoes like the last of Melissa's boyfriends we had out with us. I have him and Fat Louie hang back while I check the door. It's one of those hollow deals with a crappy Schlage lock on it. No reason to pick it. I'm a big guy. One kick and the lock snaps right out.

Our guy comes wide eyed out of the bathroom with his pants around his ankles, waddling like a penguin, toilet paper stuck to his shoes. Fat Louie comes in behind me, sees this and laughs his ass off. It's pretty funny. So funny, in fact, that neither one of us notices the Saturday Night Special he's got in his hand.

It's a dinky little .22, good for popping cans and pissing off squirrels, but he gets lucky. The shot tags Fat Louie square through the left eye. Those short barrels are louder than fuck and I can't even hear myself yelling. I squeeze off a couple of rounds from the Sig and tear two ragged holes in the guy's chest. He drops like someone's cut the strings on a puppet.

The kid stands in the doorway, mouth hanging wide, plastic sheets dangling in limp fingers. I grab him, pull him in, shut the door. "Turn off the lights," I tell him, smacking him in the right direction to get him moving. The lock on the door's too far gone so I shove one of the two Formica chairs up against it. It won't stop a cop, but if we're lucky, there won't be one. This neighborhood has gunshots like whores have the clap. "I said turn off the goddamn lights." He slaps at light switches, frantic.

The streetlamps outside cast dim shadows through the curtains making the room gray and yellow. The only sound is the radio tuned to some classic rock station. Crazy Tommy's crying in the corner, knees hitched up under his chin, rocking on his heels. I wait ten minutes ducked under the window, listening. Nothing.

Fat Louie and his killer are draining on the carpet. In this light blood's like oil, black and glistening. The puddles are turning into shallow pools. There's no way we're keeping this one clean. I grab some of the plastic sheets, flap them out next to Fat Louie. "Gimme a hand here," I say. The kid just stares at me. I walk over to where he's huddled whimpering and give him a kick to the shin. "I said gimme a hand. Are you deaf?"

"They're dead," he says.

"Help me load 'em up." We drag the bodies onto the tarps. I pull the edges up and over, roll them around and tape them tight. There's blood all over them.

The kid's starting to calm down. Quicker than I expected. Point in his favor. He gives me a hand pulling the bodies near the back window without me having to tell him. I'm planning on tossing them out the window down into the alley below. I can pull the car up and stick them into the trunk. I can get at least four bodies in it if I have to. Eight if I get creative.

The kid's gotten almost efficient, but he's still shaking. He's rinsed his hands and grabbed a towel. He's wiping stuff he might have left prints on. More points. He misses the doorknob of the bathroom. That'll cost him. He drops the towel a couple of times. Getting sloppy.

"This happen a lot?" he asks. This whole time he hasn't said a word, just hunkered down and done his job. I like that.

"Not usually. Guys like this they usually skip town. A couple times a year somebody gets brave." He nods like he expected this answer.

"You didn't answer me back in the car," he says. "Why you call me Crazy Tommy."

"Vito told me that was your name."

"But why? I thought he only gave people he trusted nicknames. I'm not sure he even likes me."

"Of course he doesn't like you," I say. "You're fucking his baby daughter. He probably just wanted to let you feel like you were one of us, or something. Get comfortable. Get your guard down. That way, after I've taken care of the job I can shoot you in the head and dump your body like I did the other four guys."

Crazy Tommy gets real still. He stops breathing. I bet if it weren't so dim I could see the color drain from his face. I chuckle and smile. Big joke. Ha ha.

He finally lets out his breath. "Shit man, you had me going there," he says. "For a second I thought you were ser-" Two shots from the Sig cut him off with a sound like hitting a car seat with a baseball bat.

"Sorry, kid. Just culling the herd."

1 comment:

Mike Dennis said...

Great story, Stephen. Well-told.