I’m not quite sure what this piece below will fit into. I need to finish writing the prequel to The Three Lives Of Richie O’Malley. This guy, Vinny (speaking here) is such a great character. I’m adding a link to the free short story that eventually will become that book. You can download it here, along with another free book from a few years ago.
Tough guys in a tight circle of park benches, under a maple tree outside a courthouse in Newark, NJ. A warm and breezy autumn afternoon. The persistent wind shakes the dead maple and makes it sound like a bag of angry snakes.
Eddie G. pulls a pint of brandy from the paper bag he has stuffed in the pocket of his beige Harrington jacket. Eddie is getting fat; he can’t zip up the front. Our lawyer, for the four of us, is inside beating out a deal and deciding our fate. A couple of guys take long slugs from the bottle, some talk nervously. I sit quietly trying to be alone in this circus of confederates.
Styrofoam cups of coffee and hard rolls with butter arrive in a bag with Sammy T. Sammy hands it to me. I take mine and pass it down the line. He putsdown his coffee and places his hands in his pockets and jumps up and down, rocking on his heels and toes, looking side to side, like his body is charged with nervous electricity.
Three weeks ago, the same group and a different scene; a bar at night. Drinks flowing like from afountain, strippers and VIP rooms. We took over the place and everyone else left. Probably a good move. The party was to celebrate some grapevine news that the case was going to be settled without a trial, maybe thrown out entirely. We could all breathe again. The state had some heavy evidence, but it all somehow went away. The magic of money and high dollar lawyers.
A tight-fitting story, carved carefully around some versions of fact and truth. Like carefully cut jigsaw pieces, every story had at least some elements of the truth and how things actually transpired. A tenuous relationship between what went down and the story we are all desperately selling.
There was a girl and there was sex and a lot of money and a handful of politicians and police, and even more money. Hidden money, lucky money, and dirty money. Alliances formed and failed. Somehow, the sex and money always muddies up the story and breaks the bonds of loyalty. Blood may be thicker than water, but like that song said, ‘Money changes everything…’ Now, the same high dollar lawyer who told us we could relax has called us all here to this chilly park. We expect good news. We plan to hear it’s over. We are no longer under any kind of threat of indictment.
We all know alliances crumble in the face of fear and defending number one. Loyalty fails hard in the company of insincerity and lies. Who actually is fucking who? The guys who always had your back, you find, are now too busy watching their own asses.
Off in the distance, the first thing I see is the suit. Eddie G. notices it too. He walks like a man who wishes he had a big dick, but he ain’t got a big dick. The suit is shiny; it fits perfectly. Before the suit can speak, Eddie yells out, “Look at that fucking thing, it must have cost five hundred dollars!” Sammy jumps in. “No way man, that’s a thousand dollar suit.”
The fancy shiny suit arrives at our little coven in the park. Sammy half-heartedly apologizes for not getting him a coffee, and Eddie offers him a little of the brandy. The suit finally speaks and declines the offers. At five hundred an hour, I hope he makes this quick. He holds up his hands like he’s pushing back a wall that’s closing in. The words are almost surreal and hard to swallow. Like, I hear the words, but my brain can’t place them or what they mean. Words about how he can no longer represent us and is giving us notice of his resignation and the trial and is on and we’ll be informed of the date and the evidence just revealed is damaging and damning.
A flurry or noise like chickens in a coop chasing a handful of tossed corn. Someone calls the lawyer a rat as he turns and walks away. Rat is not a term to use lightly. Life as a rat is living is dangerous. I don’t think the lawyer is a rat, not at all. He’s a coward. The rat is somewhere near me on these benches.
A pall of mistrust falls over the scene. The unspoken and often repeated oaths of loyalty and brotherhood vanish in a flood of fear-fueled suspicion. Faces and conversational tones turn hard.
The shiny thousand-dollar suit said he believes one of us, one of this crew of undying loyalty, has talked to the prosecuting attorney. That was it, really. He said little more. He didn’t need to, truthfully. It was like throwing blood in a pool of sharks. We all got up to leave in silence. A covenant broken. We separate and walk away from each other, like the five points of a star.
I walk away feeling I misplaced my faith and trust. Putting my faith in people exactly like me, that was a stupid place to put it. I’ll go home alone and wait for the news and fall asleep in a chair, cigarette burning in the tray, ice melting and diluting the Clan MacGregor in the sweaty glass. Awakening already in prison, some big ugly thug mouth breathing and sweating down my back. Life inside a Hell of my own making and no exit door I can see. The terror of the moment when everyone I know and care about sees me for exactly who I am and who is known only to me. Eyes open in the darkness, I stare into the mirror of my sins.
All the bravado I can muster leaves me at 3am. I wait now for the news and the knock at the door. My amigos are now my enemies.