Wednesday, September 20, 2006
PART I: SUCKER PUNCH
It happens every once in a while. Right at the moment of truth, my gun jams. “Shit!” I try to move out of the line of fire, but too late. The hammer of his gun explodes down screaming out, through it’s blunt, dark muzzle, a bullet with my name on it. The bullet grazes my left arm ripping my royal blue blazer. I fall to the black asphalt examining the tear down to my skin. My blood boils. Lucky for me my gun didn’t jam the second time. My bullet races from my barrel and rips into the man’s neck severing an artery. He falls back bathing in a fountain of his own blood. I walk over to the man and look down on him watching him die. I reach into my blazer and pull out a cigarette with one hand and dig for my matches in my left pant pocket. I light. I take a long drag. I watch the life drain from his eyes. Smoke creeps out from my nostrils as if I’m some angle of death. I was paid well to kill this guy. But was I getting soft? I thought about if this guy had kids. “Bad luck buddie.” I say as I walk over the man and walk toward my black Packard. I only have one place I wanna be right now home. Taking a shower and getting some well deserved shut eye. My arm stings from the bullet grazing me. I drive off down the midnight streets vanishing into the darkness of the city of angels.
They told me when I got my house that Bugsy Seagll used to hide out here. Sorta’ of a safe house for him in his earlier days. Its set back nestled in the Hollywood hills near the Hollywood bowl. Towards the end he feared no one. What a sucker. I peel off my clothes while walking off to the bathroom. The hot shower feels like heaven. That guy took me three days to track down. I never know when I’ll get a call or what poor chump I’m going to rub out next. They never tell me and I never ask. I’m strictly business. Half up front and the other half when the job is done. I soak some cotton balls in some rubbing alcohol and clean up my war wound. I wonder though. “Get a grip.” I say to myself slapping my face. Staring into the bathroom mirror. Who cares who these guys are. You make a good living. You have a great house. You’re the best. You’re a fuckin star. Your cool daddy. At least that’s what all the dames think. When I was a kid I wanted to be in the pictures. Not just any pictures but gangster pictures. The phone starts to wail in the other room. I wrap a towel around my waste and go out to answer it. She had the sound of desperation in her voice. “Jack thank god.” Her voice purred. I light a cigarette. “Calm down, now take it slow.” That’s right take it slow babe. For her life was fast. Yvonne Costello married to Santos Costello of the Costello crime family. Talk about a women you need to handle with kitten gloves. Any man caught with her can be sure of a permanent splitting headache straight in from the back of the head with a ice pick. I knew Yvonne before she shacked up with Santos. We have a history you might say. Her legs could stop a war. She’s six feet of pure alabaster in the flesh. “What’s the rub.” I ask her coldly. “It’s Santos.” She whispers. “Tell me something I don’t know.” I take a drag. “ He killed my brother.” Convenient. Yvonne’s family was very well known in Los Angeles. D.A. James Marshall Yvonne’s brother number one missing guy in the city. D.A. of Los Angeles. The big cheese. A job that has been in there family a generation. Handed down from father to son. The media has had a field day on this one. They dug up all sorts of dirty laundry on him. Drugs, money laundering, young girls not to mention a nark. Turns out that Mr. D.A.was a puppet for the crime family. Santos had his hand all the way up his ass. The D.A. would give the family special treatment. In return he got greens. Lot’s of doh-Ra-Me.. Well it seems that good ol’james opened up his yap to the wrong people. He knew his time was up. So to try and save his skin he did a little song and dance to the FBI in exchange for a quick trip out of Los Angeles. Needless to say he didn’t get very far.
Word has it that D.A. James Marshall was last seen singing like a canery to a couple of G-Men. Seems that big time crime boss Santos Costello doesn’t like what Mr. Marshall has to say. Could be cement boots for Mr. D.A. Looks like it’s been a bad month for Mr. Mayor. A missing D.A. and the Sleepy Lagoon murders. What’s next? Remember folks you heard it here first. And that’s the TRUTH. –Truth Magazine June 1949.
“What do you want me to do about it.” I tell her. A silence comes over her. “I think I’m next.” I take the towel off from around me and start to dry off my hair. “I think you’re a little paranoid babe.” I laugh. “I’ll meet you at Canters at 2:00am.” CLICK. The phone goes dead. “I hate that.” Cigarette in ashtray. I get dressed wing tips and all and head out into the night. It’s 12:00am I had time to kill so I head to Mickey McGuire’s. Mickey was a short roly-poly irish guy with the temper. But as bookies and information go he was my man. Packard pulls into parking lot at Rosewood and Labrea. Wingtips hit asphalt. Like cool Jazz. Bell on door rings as it opens into a barbershop called Moe’s. Walking to the back back of shop. Buzz cuts, pomp’s and curls. I push aside some green curtains. Crowd. People place bets left and right. Fights, dog races, horse races you name it. A cloud of cigarette smoke hovers above heads. “Hey Mickey.” I yell and walk over. He stands in front of a desk. Chalk board behind him. Numbers and names written out on the green board. “Jack Stark how the hell…” His gravely voice yells. A thin rail of a man raises his hand putting 50 on Sugar Ray Robinson. “50 on Ray? That what you want?” Mickey asks with a huff. “YES!” The rail responds. “Okay give me your money.” The man hands him a fifty. “Okay now get out of my face.” He turns back to me. Beads of sweat jump from his Irish red forehead. “Yeah so what brings YOU here.” “Killing some time.” “Yeah. Here let’s go to my office.” The volume of voices rise as some men lose on a horse race. I follow Mickey to a side office. A small fan whirls back and fourth a thin red ribbon dancing from its grill. The faint smell of piss hits my nose. “What the hell.” I cover my nose. “Oh just cat piss. So what brings you here Jack?” “Not like you to come here not wanting something.” Mickey reaches into his paper-cluttered desk and pulls out a bottle of JD and two glasses. He knew to pour me a glass without asking. He wipes the inside of the glasses with a white handkerchief. “Can’t a guy just come by to see old friends?” I smile. “No.” JD down the hatch. “I need some information.” I sit taking out a cigarette lighting it with Mickey’s statue of liberty lighter on his desk. “On who?” “Costello.” Mickey’s face loses all expression. At first it’s as if someone has punched him the gut. “Are you out of your fuckin mind.” He lights a cigar. Cat comes out from behind a cabinet and purrs next to my leg. “I think Yvonne may be in trouble.” “SO.” Mickey barks. “Serves that cunt well.” Two years ago before Yvonne met Santos and after me she tried to swindle 150 clams from Mickey. Using her tits and ass as her ice pick. Mickey has never forgiven her. “No. Sorry Jack I can’t.” “Don’t make me beg.” I say calmly. Smoke pours from my mouth. Mickey suddenly stands up like an arrow. “Jesus Christ!”. Mickey stands up looking over my head into the next room. I notice my left shoe has a scuff. I bend down cleaning it off. Mickey walks out of the office. I stand and turn and see two men fighting on the floor. It looks more like wrestling. A big fat guy on the ground is crushing the skinny rail guy. Mickey walks over and picks the guys up by the collar like some father. “Get the HELL outta hear! Let’s go!” They both apologize to him. Like crying kids. I turn and sit back down in the chair. Mickey walks in. Sweaty. Pours another glass of JD. “I’ll see what I can find out. Give me until Friday.” He pours me another glass, I take a swig. The cat pees on the rug. “Thanks.” I say as I stand to leave. “Yeah just be careful with that broad. She’s trouble.” He slides open a drawer and puts the bottle back into his desk. “Thanks.” I walk out. Wingtips hitting asphalt stepping into Packard. Dark Hollywood night. Neon dancing off the shine of the car. Jazz hops out of bars and jukeboxes. Soilders walk up and down the street. White, green, blue uniforms. Some with women. I pull into Canters on Fairfax at 2:10am. I’m late. Smells of fresh breads and corn beef fill the air as I go into Canters. The waitress walks up to me. But I know exactly where I’m going. Dark thin stringed dress. Red diamond lips. Blond vanilla hair. Curves upon curves. My senses new where to go. I sat down leaning back into the brown vinyl booth. “You’re late.” She barks putting some powder on her nose. “You’re bossy.” I say lighting up. I scan around the room. Something I do out of habit more than necessity. THEN. I saw them. I knew something wasn’t right. Sitting back in the shadows. Thin strip of light coming across them. I turn to Yvonne. “What is this?” I ask her under my breath. “What are you talking about?” You know.” I grab her hands and squeeze. “Let go of me.” “Trying to set me up?” “NO!” “Then what’s with the heavy’s over there.” She slowly turns her head. Eyes lock. Ice through her veins. “Jack I swear to god I didn’t.” I get up from the table. “Jack?” she calls out. “Where are you going?” She reaches out and grabs my jacket. “Don’t wrinkle the jacket.” I pull her hands off me. And start to walk out of the restaurant. I have a bad feeling about this. I think as I pull my pack of smokes out from the inside pocket of my jacket. I light a cigarette. Blond busty babe with a suicide red dress walks past me, gives that smile. I think to myself. This is just the beginning.
Part II: Slug to the head
Los Angeles-June 24, 1949
Well guys and dolls chew on this juicy story called in by one of our undercover reporters on the prowl. It seems that a body was found floating in the Hollywood resvoire last night. Face pummeled beyond recognition. This one even had the corner heaving in the bushes. It seems that some of the Costello’s family was lurkering around the scene. Notably Tony Costello the son of Santos Costello. Heavy. Also seen with Tony was Santos main squeeze Yvonne. Hubba-Hubba. She was sporting a new love tap, a shiner on her right eye. Ouch! Play safe kiddies. Word has it that the body was that of Neville Dingman. That’s right folks Neville Dingman of Neville Casinos in Vegas. Word has it that congressman J.Parnell Thomas had Dingman on his big list of would be communist. Tsk, Tsk. Doesn’t look like Mr. Dingman will be confessing anytime soon. Remember you heard it here first. And that’s the TRUTH-Truth Magazine.
I was checking which tie I should wear when the phone rang. The red diamonds or the blue stripes. I answer the phone still looking at the ties. “Yeah.” “Mr. Stark.” The monotone almost electronic voice asks. “Speak.” I bark. “We have some business to discuss.” Maybe the red with the gold would look better I thought to myself. “Hello?” the voice says. “I’ m still here.” I say. “We have…” I interrupt. “Right business, well get to the point buddie. I don’t have all day.” I’ll settle for the blue stripes. “Meet me at the Labrea Tar Pits at 3:30.” “Right.” The phone hangs up. The only thing on my mind was getting paid. I was going to meet George Winsberg at the Pantry. George is a regular customer. I pause for a moment thinking on how ludicrous that sounds. Having a regular customer in my line of work. THEN! A loud and heavy knock bombards my front door. Hummm, I’m not expecting anyone I think to myself. I put down the two ties across the bed. I reach to my nightstand and grab my silver enforcer. Lock, load, safety off. I walk over to the front door. “Who is it?” I ask. “Open up Stark.” The calm monotone voice ordered. “Yeah, Yeah don’t rush me.” The cold round muzzle of a .45 licks the back of my head. “Don’t make me use this Stark.” The voice was familiar. I turn my head. Tony Costello standing with three guys dressed in darks, cheaters covering their eyes. Tony was sporting a dark navy suite cap to match. “ Nice suite.” I smile. I look over past them and see my back door open. “Forget to lock your door?” Tony grins. One of his goons reaches over and unlocks the front door. More dark suited goons walk into my house. “Look at it this, one big happy family.” I state with a grin. “Don’t get smart.” Tony barks. “Your coming with us.” Tony says putting a tooth pick in his mouth. “Let’s blow.” Tony orders. Two guys one on each arm push me out the front door. The shove me into the black Dodge Coronet. I’m squeezed in the middle between two gorillas. Tony gets in the front with the driver while the others follow behind in another car. “Who do you think you are Stark.” Tony asks staring straight ahead in front seat. “Bad news.” I answer. Tony turns around in the big high back black leather seat like a coiled rattler. His fist is cocked and ready to break bone. Fist hits face. Nose crushed. Blood. Lights out. I had no idea why Tony and his thugs wanted me. They all know my M.O. I came too in a dark and dank dungeoness type room. I had no idea where I was. My face felt like road kill. My nose was broken. Darkness all around. A small sliver of light shines through a crack under a door in front of me. Resting up above me on a landing a rusted metal ladder hugs the wall.
.....To be continued