* * *
HIDE AND GO SEEK
I heard footsteps on the wet sidewalk and the sound of keys. How many sets of footsteps? I concentrated. That’s one. Two. Three? No, two. For sure.
I tightened my grip on the gun, made my breathing as quiet as possible. I couldn’t see them, so no way could they see me, right? Here’s to hope.
?Nelson? Where are you? We know you’re there, shithead. Come on out and face me like a man.@
That’s Paul B. Wilson. Yes, the Paul B. Wilson. Uncle Paulie. The very same jerk you saw on the six o’clock news much of last year during his trials for extortion, dismemberment and first-degree murder. Needless to say, he beat all charges. (By the way, the B. stands for Bitch, but you didn’t here it from me, cool?)
Now, he was back to his old ways. Only this time, he wasn’t leaving anything to chance. No witnesses was his new motto.
Say, guess what I was?
Give yourself a pat on the back if you answered witness. Daily Double if you said witness to the murder of a crack whore who’d crossed Uncle Paulie and whose torso and head now rested in a freezer in the basement of Paul’s house.
?Hey, Nelson, you nosy little prick. If you come out now and play nice with your Uncle Paulie, I’ll go easy on you. That way, that sorry-assed mother of yours can give you the send-off you don’t deserve. What say you, Nelson?@
How many bullets were in my gun? Checking would make noise, so that’s a no. I know I’ve got at least one. I hope I’ve got more than that, because, no matter what you might have heard before, from me or from anyone else, I’m not that good a shot.
Oh, and I’d rarely shot the darn thing, much less killed anyone with it. I’d never even seen a man die. My gun was a prop, a tool really, to take with me on robberies and shakedowns, scare folks who couldn’t tell I was petrified.
?Oh, Nelson, where are you?@ Uncle Paulie singing like a child.
The rain wasn’t letting up. I was freezing. My raincoat was useless now and my clothes were drenched. Sitting in a growing puddle wasn’t helping. My legs were asleep. Not the ideal conditions to be stuck in the predicament I was in at this very moment.
One might say I’d gotten myself into this shithole and deserved what was coming to me. And one might be correct, seeing as how I went knocking on Paulie’s door way back when to ask for work like a zit-filled kid going to Mickey D’s and applying for a minimum-wage job where he could don a paper hat and nuke deep-fried quasi chicken.
?Do you know who’s here with me, Nelson? Your friend Jackson. He’s pretty pissed off. See, Jackson’d only just asked me for time off, on account of he’s getting tired of kicking ass. Oh, he enjoys it, alright. But it’s getting to be hard on him. All he wanted was to spend some QT with his woman, but you had to poke your ugly nose where it ain’t welcome and fuck that up for him. So, he’s pissed. And the only thing that will make him happy is using you as a pinata.@
The footsteps started again, only now, they were getting closer. What if Jackson walked by me? Could I take him, one on one, mano a freako? Go ninja on his fat ass and take him down?
Maybe I wouldn’t have to. I did have one card up my sleeve. Might be my ticket out, if I played it right.
?Paulie,@ I called out as I stood, gun drawn.
The man stood some ten or twelve feet away from me, just now turning to face me and my gun.
?Well, well, well, lookit what we have here,@ he said, flashing his yellowed teeth at me. ?Dead man packing.@
Behind me, Jackson had stopped to look at us. Something told me he was just waiting for the words to turn me into dog food. I turned my eyes to him, still holding my gun on his boss.
?Remember what I did for you, Jackson,@ I told him. ?Shithead over there wasn’t there to help you and your sister when it was needed. He don’t give a damn about you.@
?Don’t listen to him, Jackson,@ Paulie pleaded. ?Take him out and go back to your woman.@
I cocked my gun, shutting him up. ?What’s her name?@ I asked Paulie while looking at Jackson.
They both asked, ?What?@
To Jackson, I said, ?I bet he don’t even know her name. Go on. Ask him.@
Silence as Jackson turned his gaze to his scared-out-of-his-wits boss.
?Monique. Mona. Juanita.@
Jackson shook his head with every wrong answer. ?Bastard.@
I turned the gun in my hand and held it out butt-first to Jackson.
?Enjoy,@ I said as he took the weapon and rubbed his hand on the grip, getting a feel for it.
He took two steps forward, got between Paulie and I.
Paulie was bawling now, his knees slapping together, eyes wide as they made contact with the barrel. ?You want money, Jackson? How much? A hundred? Two hundred thou? More? Name your price!@
Why is it that people hold their hands out when a gun is pointed at them? Do they really expect their hands to turn back the bullet? Like Superman?
Yeah, it didn’t do Paulie a lick of good. The bullets (turns out there were three left) tore right through the hands and proceeded to shred his face and most of his skull, pieces of which littered the sidewalk, soon to be washed away by the downpour.
?How’d it feel?@ I asked Jackson as he lowered the now-empty gun and turned toward me.
?Goo--@ He stopped when he saw the gun pointed at his chest. ?Motherfucker!@
Gotta give it to him, his hands stayed down.
About me being a good shot? I underestimated myself: I put one in his heart. He crumbled to the sidewalk, falling face-to-bloody-face with the man he’d sworn to protect.
Paulie really cherished his luscious lifestyle. He never settled for anything less than the best.
So I enjoyed the ride in the high-end Benz, speeding through the rain all the way to his lakefront home. There, I could have listened to any CD in his collection on his Bang & Olufsen system, or watched a movie in his miniature version of a multiplex, complete with popcorn machine.
But I had other meat to mince.
I made for the basement, opened the freezer.
Some part of me thought I should stop and thank the frozen torso of Diana the crack whore, who’d been an unknowing, yet vital, actor in this play. I decided I’d have a fruity drink in her memory in my next life.
I moved the various body parts out of the way like they were vulgar TV dinners, and got to the bottom. I tore at the side panel until it loosened to reveal an opaque plastic bag. I pulled it out and closed the lid, dropped the bag on top, tore it open.
Loot! Wads and wads of cash. All mine.
Upstairs, in his bedroom, I found a leather duffel, filled it to the gills with used green bills.
Back into the Benz. Ask the GPS for the quickest road to the airport.
There had to be a flight leaving soon for somewhere, right?
I wasn’t picky or anything.
So long as it didn’t rain, I’d be happy.