“Ah,” the large man had said. “You’ve worked in construction. You were a bookie. What makes you think you’d be skilled in our particular field?”
The young man fidgeted. It was hard finding work when you needed it. This was his twentieth job interview of the month. He had to say the right thing. He couldn’t afford to louse it up.
“Because, I’m one hell of a fast learner. I’m strong. And quick with my hands.”
The large man nodded, as if he were sincerely taking this all into consideration. “And your Uncle Tom, he’s done freelance work for us in the past. He vouched for you. He’s good people.”
Goddamn nepotism, Gene had thought. Just like everywhere else. But who cared? His wife, his kids had needed food and clothing.
“Yes sir.” For a minute there was silence, except for the faint trace of Roy Orbinson’s voice in the background, “There goes my baby, there goes my heart…”
Then the large man behind the desk spoke again.
“Tell you what. I’m going to have Fred here show you the ropes. School you in on our way of business and, if at the end of the day you’ve decided our line of work is for you, you’re hired.”
“Thank you so much,” Gene said, shaking the large man’s hands gratefully. “Mr Voglia. I can guarantee you: you won’t be disappointed.”
Fred was a large man, like the boss. He had on his face always an easy-going, affable expression. No wonder he had excelled so in his vocation. A nasty-looking person would last five minutes in this business.
Fred had his left hand on the steering wheel, with the other he was adding emphasis to his words to Gene. “You have a gentle face and you aren’t too big. And you dress modestly. That’s good, Gene. Fantastic. I just hope you have a good memory, because what I’m about to show you, I can’t do over again. Here.” He handed Gene a 9 mm. Glock, surprisingly without a silencer. “The kid’s name is Hotto Kahan. Asian kid, good-looking, very respectful. But his gamblin’ has gotten out of hand. He owes too many people too much money he’ll never pay back… That’s why we’re here.”
Fred parked the Cadillac in a carport outside a middle class-looking apartment complex. In the streets were kids, of mostly Asian descent, playing stickball.
Knock knock knock knock, on apartment number 202. No answer. Two knocks more and there was Hotto.
The three of them — Hotto, Fred and Gene — had sat at a modest-sized dinner table. Atop it were exotic Japanese fruits and a Buddha draped in colorful necklaces. Some looking, some almost gaudy. Hotto had looked terrified, but Fred had assuaged all fears.
“It’s okay, Hotto. Calm down. You think I’ve come here to hurt you? You’d have already been dead. I would have planted a bomb underneath the hood of your Mercedes.”
Fred smiled to himself. No he wouldn’t have. Never would he put the lives of children in danger.
Fred’s jovial face winced with pain. “Shit, goddamn prostate’s acting up this morning. Hotto, where’s your bathroom?”
“Down the hall, past the second Buddha to the left.”
When he had left Hotto and Gene had started talking. About business. Love and family. Hotto flipped open his wallet and showed Gene a picture of a beautiful Asian lady. “She’s carrying my baby,” he said proudly. “The doctor tell her we can’t ever have baby together, that we have to adopt. But we showed him different, all right.” Hotto smiled.
There was the after sound of a toilet flushing and from where Gene sat he could see Fred, silenced-pistol in leather-gloved right hand, creep up behind Hotto.
“We get married next week,” Hotto continued. “Her family fly out from west coast.”
BANG! A mist of Hotto’s blood along with the sporadic chunks of skull and brain matter came hailing down on both Fred and Gene.
“Shit.” Gene gazed down at his wristwatch. Two fifty-five. Hotto’s girlfriend is due home from work in five minutes. Let’s get the hell out of here, Gene.”
As they walked away, Gene had noticed Hotto’s face slumped down on the dinner-table. It lay in a river of blood like a boat docked at the pier. There was a happily serene look on it–a man who had seen both worlds and was happy about it.
“Hotto was good people,” Fred had said once they were back inside the Cadillac. “He just went overboard with his gambling, is all. But I liked him. I might even miss him,” Fred said wistfully. “But what type of man would he have been if we let him live? What kind of husband and father? Because of his addiction, he and his family wouldn’t have a pot to piss in.” Fred stopped to gather more air, then he continued. “I sure as hell hope he had insurance.”
Gene watched Fred talking it up with a nice-looking silver-headed man donning a Giorgio Armani inside of Salvatore’s Pizzeria. The place had been deserted except for Salvatore, the owner, and the three men.
Fred had a lot to tell Senator Brigman tonight. Words straight from the old man’s mouth.
“What’s wrong with you, Senator? You don’t answer the old man’s calls no more. You treat him like garbage — you disrespect our Borgota and all we have done for you.”
Senator Walter Brigman had felt safe, secure. He had no idea Salvatore and Mr. Voglia had gone back years. Decades. Salvatore’s Pizzeria was on not neutral territory.
“Just ask Mr. Voglia to be patient,” Senator Brigman had said, shoveling a piece of cheese-and-bell peppered pizza into his ignorant, arrogant beak. “The press already has stories about how we’re in bed together. I can’t afford the publicity. Let’s just lay low awhile, and then when I make it to the White House there will be no stopping us.” A pause as Senator Brigman sipped on his Cherry-Coke. “Deal?”
“No deal, buddy-boy.” And with that Fred stood up, reached into his bright-blue Polyester coat pocket and extracted the Garrotte wire.
The senator’s finely polished black shoes had kicked with desperation as Fred had twisted the wire around his thin, red neck. There was a frantic gurgling noise as the senator’s eyes had begun to bulge to the size of large walnuts.
Together Fred and Gene had grabbed Senator Brigman’s head and feet.
They hobbled him into the small men’s room which Salvatore had already furnished with plastic. There on the sink wrapped in a Turquoise-colored Polyester napkin were the tools. Butcher knives, suitcases,and plastic bags. Near the end of the washbasin faucet was an old, orange-colored carpet cleaner.
Fred had looked at Gene merrily as he snatched one butcher knife for himself and then the other for Gene.
“Just like carving a turkey,” Fred chuckled. “A very ugly turkey dressed in a four-thousand-dollar suit, paid for with your tax dollars.” Fred pointed the knife playfully at Gene.
Gene had felt a tremendous rush of fear go all throughout his body, from his spine on down to his knees. Even in his limited intelligence he could tell the difference between a United States senator and a small-time gambler-fuckup like Hotto Kahan.
Fred frowned as he had locked eyes with Gene. For a second he must have noticed a moment of reluctance, of weakness. It would be a shame if the kid had decided to balk at the last minute but at least there was plenty of plastic in the restroom.
Fred’s voice had taken on a more steely, malicious tone. “I hope to Christ you aren’t wimping out on me, Genie. We still got a long night ahead of us.”