Friday, April 5, 2013

The Deal: A Short Story

            Jerry Diaz scratched his chin. He sat at his kitchen table, working on the tenth basic algebra problem he made up to pass the time. 3b+20=65. He took the 20 from the 65. The amount was 45. Jerry divided it by 3. 15 equaled b. Jerry liked making up basic algebra problems. He looked at his wristwatch on his left arm. Twenty-five minutes before noon. Noon was the time of the meeting Jerry had to make. It was Saturday. Jerry was unsure, yet there was no looking back.
He put his pen in a metal can that was on the table. It was filled with other pens, pencils, paperclips and pennies. He got up, closed his notebook and left his apartment building. It was a two-story one, standing over a bodega on the northwest corner of Lexington Avenue and East 110th St, in the New York City borough of Manhattan. It was a warm Saturday this June. Jerry walked westward, crossing under the elevated Metro-North line on Park Avenue via the pedestrian tunnel. Then he went south on that avenue and turned right on 109th St, going into a public basketball court. Six guys were playing basketball, fierce and strong. At the other end of the court, a lanky man sat on the ground with his back against one of the court’s metal wire gates. He drank a bottle of iced tea. Jerry approached him, avoiding the players.
“You’re Dean Bishop?”
Dean looked up. He had a tough, lean and weathered face. He licked his lips and stood up, leaving the bottle on the ground, “You’re here early.”
“So are you.”
“I like to be. Who’s the guy?”
“Enrique Vlasco. You probably heard of--”
“Vlasco. The drug dealer Vlasco. The pimp Vlasco. The headbreaker Vlasco,” Dean caressed his forehead, “How old are you?”
“Excuse me?”
“You heard me the first time.”
“You’re twenty-three years old. You want me to kill Vlasco, and you’re twenty-three years old.”
“I have the money,” Jerry dug into his jeans’ right pocket. He took out his wallet, opened it and pulled out two Benjamin Franklins and an Andrew Jackson, “I work at a law firm as an office clerk.”
“It’s not the money. It’s the reason.” Dean said.
Jerry let out a sigh, “He stole my girlfriend, Anna. We were going out for two and a half years. I thought everything was alright, but she always wanted to be in the high seat. Money and shit. She got hooked by that asshole.”
“I wasn’t aware there was a snatch shortage. I should get out more.”
“I love her, man. She’s everything to me.”
“Everything’s everything to different people, youngblood. I bet you want to marry her. Get the house with the white fence and the kids.”
Jerry became quiet. Dean cursed under his breath.
“All right,” Dean took the money, “When?”
“Tomorrow. 10 p.m. He hangs at--”
“I know where he hangs, but you have to help me out.”
“Help you out?”
“Three jobs. I have to do them today. All for different people. You’ll get half the pay.”
“W--What? Wait a second--”
“There’s no wax in your ears, and you’re not walking with three legs. Just do the work with me. You don’t, you’re just an accessory if I get into the icebox. I’ve been there before. Twice. But you. You’re just a cunt who doesn’t know it yet. Stick tight and don’t be a fuck up,” Dean took the bottle from the ground and drank from it.
Jerry bit his upper lip, “Okay.”
He followed Dean, who walked out of the court. They came to a black, parked SUV. Dean went to the driver’s side. He opened it with his key, got in, sat in the driver’s seat and opened the passenger’s door. Jerry got in. Both men strapped themselves in with the vehicle’s seatbelts.  Dean turned on the ignition, got the vehicle’s position into DRIVE, got it out of the parking space and drove westward to Central Park. He then made a left on Fifth Avenue.
“What’s the first one?” Jerry asked.
“Muscle job,” said Dean, “Breaking a shithole.”

            Britt Marlowe, the favorite head breaker for the O’Bannon clan. They’re a family that owns a small brewery, O’Bannon Beer. It is a front for their illegal activities. Britt is a favorite because he hits hard. Hits and breaks hard. He used to be a boxer, an upper middleweight. “Smooth Boy”, they used to call him. Could have been a giant in the industry, yet Alfonso “Big Al” Teague, a newcomer, brought him down with a haymaker and an uppercut. No manager would take Britt, legal and otherwise, and he did not want to work in construction, like his dad, a steel beam wielder, who died on the job. Eric O’Bannon, patriarch, then came knocking. $2500 per muscle job, tax-free and Britt could not be any more pleased. His last job: breaking the arms of Gordon Lopez, the nephew of Frankie Delgado, a rival of O’Bannon. Delgado was expanding his business; O’Bannon didn’t like that.
Britt took in a quart of beer, sitting on a bar stool near the counter of Harry’s Tower, a local bar in Hell’s Kitchen. The stench of cigarette smoke, urine, sweat, vomit, booze and blood decorated the air. The bartender, a gravel-faced fellow, was wiping a glass mug and whistling. Two barflies, a man and a woman,  cuddled at a table; they were hammered and in love.
The ex-boxer felt a tap on his left shoulder. He turned around and got a fist against his jaw. The blow didn’t knock him out. It knocked him off the bar stool, to the floor. Britt blinked. The hitter was some Spanish punk, baby-faced and all. He was a scared punk too. He ran outside.
“Hey!” the bartender didn’t like a usual customer getting sucker-punched.
Britt got up and went outside. A hard object met the back of his head. Britt fell forward and kissed concrete. He then felt the object hit the back of his body, then on his legs. He grunted. Britt turned over. Blood came onto his forehead. The person he saw hitting him was a man, wearing a ski mask.  Britt put his arms up, protecting his face and begging for mercy. The man didn’t answer. He kept hitting him with an aluminum baseball bat. The bartender came out to stop it, yet the man in the ski mask hit him in the chest. With the bat. The bartender fell hard. Britt couldn’t help him. He was an aching and bloody mess of a man. The man then kicked Britt in the chest. Twice. Another kick went against his head. Britt spitted some blood and teeth. Some people on the street screamed. Then the man in the ski mask left. Britt didn’t see where he or the Spanish punk went to. The punk was already in the bar, before Britt arrived. He closed his eyes and cried. Britt cried like when he cried after Alfonso “Big Al” Teague brought him down with a haymaker and an uppercut.

Jerry nursed his right hand, “Why didn’t you tell me he used to box before I slug him?!”
“You wouldn’t have hit him if I did,” Dean was still breathing heavily as he drove his SUV northward on 10th Avenue.
“Of course I wouldn’t! Shit! I’m just like the bastard who used to beat me up in school!”
“You too?” Dean stopped the SUV at a red light at West 55th St. He shook his head, “Man, I used to be a target, getting kicked around and shitted on by bullies. Guess what I did about it?”
“I had this shit of a guy, Moyo Smith, in my face.  Big fat guy. Don’t ask me why his first name is that way. I have no clue to this day. After he slapped me around in gym class, I hit him with a chair in science class. Got him in the back of fuckin’ head. Sure I was suspended for two weeks, and it was worth it. Nobody fucked around with me again. Smith was transferred. I hope he’s dead or something.”
“You’re a big man.”
“I’m not the one who lost his girl to a drug dealer,” the traffic light turned green. Dean hit the accelerator, “She probably left you because you’re all uptight and shit.”
“You don’t know a damn--”
“I’m not that stupid, and you’re not smart. If you were, you wouldn’t be here, and you think you’re smart, you’re more of a shit.”
Jerry said nothing.
“Okay. Be a mime. I could listen to the fact that you have no balls. I could listen to your frustration about not able to get out of this situation. Can’t stand it, can you?”
Jerry fiercely stared at Dean.

He didn’t mind. Jaime Mendoza didn’t mind working on a Saturday afternoon at his grocery store on West 121st and Amsterdam Avenue. He owned it for twenty years, getting from his parents who owned it twenty-two years earlier.
“$2.98,” he said to a young man. He bought a plastic bag of garlic-flavored sesame sticks, a case of sandwich cookies (whose frosting tasted like peanut butter) and a can of lemonade soda. Jaime placed the items, on the counter, in a medium-sized brown paper bag. The customer paid two dollars; Jaime gave back two pennies from the cash register. The young man left; Jaime resumed reading his copy of the New York Daily News on the counter. Jaime noticed that the young man was carrying a small, black plastic bag. There were three DVD cases in it. It’s been a while since he saw a movie. Must have been six months ago. Some B-action film called “Dark Justice” that was direct-to-video. Lots of action, some nudity and a sex scene and a shadow of a plot involving a Los Angeles cop becoming a street vigilante. One of these days, Jaime was going to take a day off. Or two. Let Greg, his son, take over. He’s more than responsible. Greg was moving three stock boxes into one of the store’s three aisles. The boxes had inside garbage bag boxes and bug spray aerosol cans.
The door to the store opened. Jaime looked up and saw the customer, “Get the fuck out of my store.”
Dean smiled, “And good afternoon to you too, Vic. Second time, last time, you know.”
“You tell Manny Sanchez he’s getting’ nothing’ from me, you shit,” Jaime took out a 9mm pistol from his pants, pointing it at Dean. Manny Sanchez was the local drug dealer in the neighborhood.
“That’s not nice,” Dean quickly grabbed Dean’s right hand, the hand that held the gun. The two men struggled over it; they were kids fighting over a lollipop. Greg came towards Dean from behind. Dean turned, driving Jaime’s right arm forward. The 9mm barked twice. Greg fell, bringing some snack bags with him. Horror took over Jaime. He was also open to Dean’s right elbow; the blow broke his nose. He fell back hard to the floor. Dean had the gun. He peered over the counter, lurching over Jaime.
“Dumb,” he said, “Just fuckin’ dumb.”
Dean turned and walked to the aisle where they had the bug spray aerosol cans. He took for. Then he went back to the counter. Next to the lottery machine, there was a microwave oven. Dean put the cans on top of the oven. He then grabbed two, big, brown paper bags and raided the store. Five potato chip bags. Twelve candy bars. Seven gum packets. A six-pack of beer cans. A box of disposable gloves. Three pairs of pantyhose (they were for Dean’s girlfriend. It was her birthday today). The money in the cash register: $789.49. Then he placed the aerosol cans in the oven, set it for two minutes and left the store. The CLOSED sign was visible from outside. Dean crossed to his SUV and entered it. Jerry was behind the wheel. The motor ran.
“Let’s go,” Dean said.
Jerry hit the accelerator, “I hope you didn’t kill the guy.”
Dean shook his head, “Just his kid. With his gun. It’s going to get messy in a few minutes.”
“What did you--”
“Just go.”

“Oh...Hmm! Yes, baby! Yes! Fuck me like this! Just fuck me…”
A can of beer and a handful of cheese-flavored popcorn painted Tony Manetti’s throat. What a slob and a plump one at that. His wife and their children, two girls and a boy, were visiting his mother-in-law in Orlando, Florida.  That gave this thirty-seven-year-old insurance salesman a three-week lease on single freedom. The first week was almost done and gone. In his house, located in Flushing, Queens, Tony was on the living room’s couch, wearing a white T-shirt and dark blue swim trunks and watching Sylvia Angel’s Foot Fun on his TV. It was one of five porno videos he purchased in an adult store in Midtown Manhattan. Sylvia was a pretty, baby-faced blonde lady with crystal blue eyes. Nice body, too. She laid on a bed, naked; her legs were straight up in the air. Sylvia held her breasts.
“You want me in pantyhose, don’t you?” Sylvia whispered.
He knew it was just a videotape; Tony nodded.
Sylvia grabbed a pair of nude pantyhose besides her. Her legs went down, resting on the bed; Sylvia’s toenails were painted blood red. Tony took another sip from his beer, smiling. The porn starlet slowly poured herself into the garment. She cooed, awed. The nylons encased her skin. Tony felt his penis swell and throb. Sex with his wife of ten years, Doris, was a bite from a mosquito. Sylvia smiled, “Don’t I look so cute in my nylons? Don’t you want to fuck me hard and good?” She winked her left eye and giggled.
Then Sylvia lifted herself; she sat upward. Her feet fell to the carpeted floor. There were seven different pairs of high heels. Sylvia looked down. Her right hand supported her chin.
“Let’s see. Hmmm…All of them look so good and lovely…I wonder…Aha!”
Sylvia chose the black patent, platform sandals. She picked the left shoe up, smiling, “I know you want me in these. They look so sexy on me!”
She giggled again. Then she caressed the shoe’s heel, placed it near her mouth and sucked on it. Tony’s penis grew larger, wanting to get out of his pants. Sylvia rose her left foot, placed the shoe on it and restrained and tightened the ankle strap. Her right foot received the same. Sylvia smiled as she touched her leather-covered feet.
“Hmmm…I was right, wasn’t I? They look so good. Yes, baby…aha. You should lick and kiss them all over!”
The temptress left the bed and began to walk around the room. Tony’s doorbell rang.
“Shit!” Tony grabbed the DVD remote, pointed it at his DVD and pressed the pause button. He got up, went to his house’s front door and opened it. A young man was holding a photograph of a rottweiler.
“Hi. I don’t want to be a pain, but have you seen my dog?”
“No, but you are a pain. Bye,” Tony burped. He tried to close the door. The young man held it open.
“You probably saw him around here. Sparks. Man, I don’t know what will happen if--”
“Then you should have kept a good eye on him. I want to watch my porno.”
“Shithole, move away from--”
A hard object struck the back of Tony’s head. He fell backward to the floor hard. Unconscious.
“Moron,” Dean waved his aluminum baseball bat he held in his right hand. The Menotti’s home had a back door. With a small lock picker, Dean opened it.
Jerry entered the house and closed the door behind him, “Now what?”
From his pants, Dean took out two pairs of disposable gloves. He tossed one pair to Jerry, “Put them on. We’re going to put Fatty Arbuckle here in the bathtub upstairs.”
“Fatty who?”
Dean shook his head, “Never mind. Guy was before your time.”
Jerry and Dean put their gloves on. Then the two lifted the Tony’s body; Dean held his arms and Jerry held his legs. Carefully and slowly, they went up the staircase and arrived at the top floor. The bathroom’s door was almost open; Dean’s back was near it. He kicked it open a little more, and the two men entered the bathroom and placed the body in the tub. Tony was still out cold.
“Go into the living room,” Dean said, “Find his wallet and bankbook. I’ll be downstairs.”
“Assault and robbery? You have no sense of knowing how fucking low you are.”
Dean went to Jerry’s face, “Do you want to be the guy that tells Nicky Castella, noted loan shark and head breaker, that he can’t have the $350, plus interest, this…” Dean pointed at Tony, “…dumb shit owes him? If you do, you’re more stupid than you look.”
“I’m not--”
Dean slapped Jerry in the back of his head, “Not so loud. Just get them, okay?”
The two men left the bathroom. Dean went downstairs. Jerry went into the older Manettis’ bedroom. It was plush and wholesome. Jerry scanned around the top of the room’s dresser that was decorated with many items: five porcelain figurines of young girls. Old metal, political candidate buttons. A few scraps of paper. Pens. Loose change. Jerry then found Tony’s wallet. And his bankbook. There were both underneath an unused ashtray with had the insignia of the New York Yankees on it. As he was going to leave, Jerry noticed a framed portrait of the Manetti family. The wife was also plump yet pretty; the children were cute and wide-eyed. The family was smiling. It was on one of the two small dressers that surrounded the bed at both sides. He also noticed on the other dresser there was a phone. Call the police, Jerry. Maybe he’ll get arrested, yet the right thing’s the right thing.
Then what about Anna? What about him? His whole life’s over if he makes that call. Dean could kill him. He would kill him. If he runs, Dean knows Brent Niles, an old friend of Jerry’s from Central Park East High School.  Brent pointed Jerry to Dean. Brent knows where Jerry lives. Jerry couldn’t put an old friend in big shit.
He heard footsteps coming up the stairs; they went into the bathroom. Jerry ran out. He saw the bathroom’s door was closed. He grabbed the doorknob. It was tight. The clerk slammed his fists into the door, “Open it, Dean! Don’t do it! Don’t do it or I’ll call the cop--”
The door opened. Dean came out, aiming the 9mm at Jerry’s head. Jerry became mute.
“Please shut the fuck up,” Dean said, “I’m working…and I don’t like being interrupted,” He paused, “Know what? Come on in.”
“No, you can’t--”
“Come,” Dean unlocked the safety, fell back into the bathroom, and lead Jerry in. On the floor near the bathtub, there was a butcher’s knife. Tony’s body was now naked. The clothes were near the knife.
“Get the knife. Cut his head off. The penis and heart, too. Don’t be stupid to use it on me if you give a shit about seeing tomorrow.”
Dean picked up the knife. He had to cut open a dead frog during the lab session of biology class in high school. His lab partner, a pretty girl named Melissa, fainted when he played around with the frog’s intestines with tweezers. The knife and Jerry’s right hand trembled as he came upon Tony’s throat.
Dean whispered, “Do it, you little shit!”
The knife penetrated the throat. Tony’s eyes popped open. Jerry fell to the floor as the fat man let out a terrible howl, waving his arms madly. Tony drowned in his own blood.
“Finish it!” Dean grew impatient.
 Jerry grabbed the knife’s handle again. Tony’s nostrils, mouth and throat erupted with blood. Then the dying man vomited a good speck of blood into Jerry’s face. The law clerk felt his stomach rumble. He ran over to the toilet and vomited into the bowl.  Dean tried his best from laughing out loud. He went over to the body; the head was almost off. Dean grabbed the knife, finished the severing, took the blood-drenched head and placed it in the bathroom’s sink.
The hitman looked at Jerry, who was still heaving, “Don’t be a battered housewife,” He then went back to the body.

The Black Rose restaurant was on Northern Boulevard in Queens. Dean carried a beverage cooler into the kitchen in his hands. Jerry followed him. They both entered through the delivery entrance. It was after business hours. Nicky Castella, a skinny yet tough man, and two big men were also in the kitchen. Nicky ate some honey-roasted peanuts from a small bag. He also had a big, manila-colored envelope under his right arm. His uncle on his father’s side of the family, Salvatore, owned the establishment.
“Stop,” he told Dean and Jerry as they walked towards him, “Drop the cooler.”
Dean did.
“Lucas. Jason.”
The two men came away from Nicky and searched both men. Lucas was with Dean; Jason was with Jerry.”
“They’re clean,” Lucas said.
“Who’s the kid?” asked Nicky.
“A client,” Dean said, “He helped me with Tony.”
Nicky let out a quick whistle, “Poor fuckin’ you. Who’s the hit?”
“Enrique Vlasco.”
“Vlasco?! What the fuck for?”
“Stole his girl.”
Nicky shook his head, laughing. Then he looked at Jerry, “Kid, don’t mess around with sharks. They bite back.”
Jerry sighed.
“Open the cooler, Luc.” Nicky said.
Lucas did. Tony’s head, heart, penis and scrotum were in the cooler, preserved by ice cubes. Dean gave Jason Tony’s wallet and bankbook. Tony’s porno videos were in the SUV. His corpse was still in the bathtub in his house.
Nicky nodded, “Close it.”
Lucas did and lifted it. Nicky toss the envelope to Dean, who opened it. It was filled with a lot of Ben Franklins.
“Forty-two hundred. Don’t be selfish, and I’ll call you when I need you again,” Nicky said. He and the two men left the kitchen, going into the restaurant. Jerry crossed to Dean and saw the money.
“Fifty-fifty. Like you said.”
Dean scowled, “You did two-and-a-half of the jobs. I get the other.”
“We have another job.”
“Don’t be such a fucking idiot! Do you want the money or not?”

The black SUV was in an empty lot near CitiField Stadium, the home of the New York Mets, near the Van Wick Expressway in Flushing. Traffic was scarce. Dean was eating a peanut-filled chocolate bar. The windows were open. The night had a cool breeze.
“Don’t you want any?” Dean asked.
Jerry shook his head.
“Oh, right. I forgot.”
Jerry looked at his wristwatch: 12:42 p.m. “Shit! These guys better hurry up. I got to go to my niece’s christening.”
“You’re shitting me, right?”
“No. I’m not much of a Christian, am I?”
“I say you’re not. You probably have a reservation in Hell by now.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“Just don’t confess your sins. I may have to bump off a priest, if you do.”
“You’re shitting me, right?”
Dean took another bite out of his candy bar.
“I heard you the first time,” Dean then noticed, in the SUV’s inside rearview mirror, a light blue van was entering the lot, “They’re here.”
Jerry noticed too, “You know what they want?”
“You got the gun?”
“Yes. Just be cool.”
The van pulled up to the SUV on Jerry’s side. The driver had a black ski mask on. So did the guy in the passenger’s seat. Both men left the van. The driver whipped out a .45 pistol from his jacket and pointed it at Jerry’s right cheek, “Get out!”
Jerry was shocked. He looked at Dean.
 “Goodbye, kiddo.”
The gunman opened the SUV’s door. He quickly pulled Jerry out, escorted him to the back of the van and hit him with the gun. In the back of his head. As the gunman opened the van’s back doors and placed Jerry inside, the other man gave Dean a big white-colored envelope.
“Mr. Vlasco thanks you,” he said.
Dean opened the envelope. Forty-two hundred dollars were in there, “He’s more than welcome.”
The masked men entered their van and drove off.

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