Yeah, so, next day I’m hanging out head to toe in black on the South side, downtown in the financial district.
The face I was to face was 360 seconds away. But I was nearby; close enough to observe the rendezvous – a mail collection box – without surfacing the G-Sub.
I knew this hide well, and though the grid spread out in front was jammed, it was all first-time buyers, click-clack broads and Americana jet-set-era. Maybe it was a little more crammed than I figured, but I mean, it wasn’t like it even mattered. Only one or two cabs and GM’s were giving me the sweat as they crept and parked and parked and crept along the side street, up to the mail box and then, off they moved.
It wasn’t even a mailbox anyway. I guess it was one of those keeps that bridge-and-tunnel mailmen leave their second round deliveries in. Set back on the inside of the sidewalk like a top-heavy paperweight, perched up about a meter off the ground on a painted black pole. The only mark of any descript on the whole thing was white graffiti on the side that faced me. I remember saying it spiralled into what looked ‘like a Gotham City number three’.
12.55pm. Five minutes now. Man, I think I’m out, where‘s my, where is my timber? Got it. Strike. Ah, that’s better. Counting, counting, counting. Gotta take the edge off. Relax now, G.
Behind the box, what the? No, no that’s nothing. Just the railings that have always been and growth that looks half-agreeable, half-Yellow Stone plastic.
I was foot-to-foot now like a peekabooin’ flyweight by a punch bag. Down the hill, no one showing teeth. Up to the left, yet more realit.v. trash. Some guy walking fast. Far too fast? Ah, must be those dyed out, pink-white denims. Or that suede second skin. Why do peoples wear that?
I bet that fool Alex'll walk straight past too.
My recess was safe still, dark and detached. Like I was looking down a spotlight beam. But I mean, I was getting tepid already. The alcove air mighta been Sun-Pat smooth but the end of the tab was crunchy. Like Vinny always says though, a quick-fire smoke takes the edge off in times like these. Better still, it might lick your tongue serrated.
One minute now and my head is fucking racing. Here I am, standing on the shoulder of the last defender, waiting for a weighted pass.
And then, the telephone.
“It’s Alex. Where are ya?”
“I’m close by.”
“What, in that – oh right – I see you.”
Sprung. By somebody far unwiser than me. Plan B then. (Heh, I never mentioned the plastic dough-&-osives stuck to the underside of the mailbox. Don’t worry about it though, I got the whole handful back later).
“Why you standing here, G?”
As he pocketed cellular with port, he shoved an open palm out to the right, taking me in as he did with a bookmakers squint. Then a straighter, neck-reclining, back-foot-defining peer. He would have been six foot at least if he had a backbone.
“You know what Alex? You gotta be about the stupidest, sleaziest fucking punk I ever met."
"You asked my cousin's moll out for a walk last year, didn't you? Didn't you! You really think – that I think – that you don't know the consequence of that? Ha, or maybe you do but, you are, I don't know, what?”
“Aw no, what? That was nothing."
“You’re damn straight it was nothing you rodent rat fucking peasant piece of shit.”
“Hold on wait a minute, I didn’t know! I’m, that was nothing, honestly. It was a misunderstanding okay. I was having a, I mean, I thought I, it was nothing okay. I swear to God, it was nothing. I swear to God, G. What do you mean, rat?”
All through this I locked on a colden gaze. It was far from sub-zero, though. Matter-a-fact, it was about as close as that creep got to seeing a 37 degree real me. And whatever anyway. It wasn’t like it was my squeeze. Or even my first cousin. Far from it. But I had to make certain that he knew I knew just how pitiable and pathetic he was. It was a tragi-com moment for me.
And then again he was using his hands.
“I’m sorry about that shit, I really am. But it was nothing. And I meant no disrespect."
"It aint about me."
"I know, I know. Please though, the reason I wanted to see you today alright, the reason you’re here okay, is because DC asked you to. And me, I asked DC real nice to see if you could maybe fix me a solution to a problem I got.”
I raised both my eyebrows and smalled my nose. This low life had some serious front.
“You know what I’m talking about... my 2nd Street back room. It’s a regular finger burn. I got a member list of gorillas three nights a week that reads like a Coney Island rash. They got no style. No charisma. No integrity or even any good will. They’re pimps. But I gotta be careful about handling this because I got no sense if anyone's connected. That whole gangster bullshit is spooking me the way out.”
“So what are you telling me for, Alex? You imagine I’ll what, launder your money through your tables? Make known what goes on in da mist? Plant a sniper on the Woolworth? Hmmm, let me think. Nah, no nose job for me on Thanksgiving.”
“I said no thanks, Alex. Don't forget I’ve seen your social, alright. And if you know what I mean, none of your cufflinks or trinkets have been Hallmarked. So if you want my advice, forget about it. Close down for a month."
He just about stumbled. "Can't do that."
"Fine,” I took a breath, “maybe there’s one thing you can do instead."
"Follow them. Follow all of them, one at a time, into the John. Go with the hardest nuts first. All you gotta do, alright, is wait for the right moment. Maybe ten seconds into their leak. I mean, when they're at their most vulnerable."
"Uhuh... for what?”
“To cross the streams.”
“Cross the streams?”
“Sure Alex, you just got to cross the streams. It’s a code familiar with tough guys the world over. Shows you mean business. And believe me when I say that it'll put an end to all of your nonsense.”
"Just like that? Wow. I mean, wow! Thank you. Okay, I'll try it tonight, yeah, tonight. That is, if you're sure?"
"Sure I'm sure."
And with that, he stumbled on unto a certain death.