Friday, November 26, 2010

The Salvation Shark, Chapter 24

My dad accidentally drove me through a part of town like this in Boston. There were black people everywhere, and I was afraid that we were never going to see our homes again. In that part of town, someone supposedly gets murdered every night, and the guns going off every few minutes keep children from sleeping. I suppose some people could get used to it, but I never could. When we got home that night, I locked myself in my bedroom for an hour and cried. Then my dad took me out for ice cream.

Anton parks the car in front of a run-down building with most of the windows boarded-up or broken. Lamps glow in some of the windows scattered about, signifying that the building isn’t abandoned. I’m scared to even get out of the car, but I’m afraid of what will happen if I wait here. I’d probably end up robbed, or raped, or murdered, or worse.

“Let’s go,” he says, through a monstrous grin. “We need to hurry, I wasted too much time at the rest stop.” The son of a bitch left me sitting in the car for half an hour waiting for him. Only the rumors I've heard about rest stops kept me from going in to get him.

I get out of the car slowly, not locking it, hoping that someone steals the car. I regret this almost immediately, because I definitely want to be able to get out of this area. “Are we going to be long?” I ask, unable to disguise how nervous I am.

“Maybe,” he says.

I hang my head and follow him in.

Anton stops to chat with a bum that is sitting on the doorstep. I ignore most of their conversation. After a few minutes, we go inside and he leads me up a stairway to the third floor. The light in the hall is burned out. Anton raps hard on a door. There is a shuffling sound within.

Finally, a voice with a Spanish accent says, “Hey!” and the door swings open. A short, greasy man with a mustache but not much hair on his head comes running out and embraces Anton. “Anton Lazarus! How are you?” he cries, backing away. “We haven’t seen you in forever!” Does Anton know everyone?

Anton pats him on the shoulder. “I’m good, Pablo,” he says. “Is Bones here?”

Pablo shakes his head. “Bones got bagged. He’s doing five to ten for armed robbery.”

“That’s rough,” Anton said. “Chico?”

Pablo nods. “The man is here.” He pauses and ushers us in. He keeps staring at my boobs, even though I’m wearing a baggy sweat-shirt. “We was just talking about you, Anton.” He says as he closes the door and turns three locks behind us. “Mephis came by here the other day. He was looking for a gun. He said he was supposed to be meeting you up in New York.”

Anton nods. “We have some work to do up there,” he says. He takes off his overcoat and folds it over an aluminum folding chair, the only piece of furniture in the room. “Where is Chico?”

“He’s in the back with RatDawg.” Pablo says from behind me. He’s standing a little too close. I walk forward and stand next to Anton. “This your new chicky?” he asks in a high voice.

“She’s an employee,” Anton says.

“Ahh!” Pablo says, winking at him.

Anton turns and walks into the room past this one. I follow quickly, not wanting to be alone with this creature. We go through a small kitchen into another room, where a tall black man and a thin white man with dreadlocks are sitting on folding chairs around a 13 inch TV watching a sit-com. They are laughing when we come in, but both stop and turn around. The black man is wearing a baggy sweat shirt and has the butt of a gun sticking out at his waist. The black man turns off the television, never taking his eyes off Anton.

“Anton!” cries the white guy, embracing him.

Anton gently pushes him away and says, “how are you, Chico?” He steps to the side and shakes hands with the black man. “RatDawg, I haven’t seen you in a while.”

“Yo,” RatDawg replies. His eyes are narrow and there is irritation in his voice. He looks me over in a way that makes my skin crawl. “We already had to move once this month...”

“Relax,” Anton says firmly. “She’s fine, she works for me.”

“When’joo start runnin’ ho’s?” Chico asks. He lays a hand on my shoulder and I shrug it away. “Damn! My man only gets the finest bitches!” he exclaims.

I spin around and flash him a hateful look. He raises his hands in the air.

“Don’t worry about my business,” Anton reprimands. “We agreed it was best this way, remember?” He turns one of the folding chairs around and sits in it, crossing his legs. “We’re all happier that way.”

“Chico goes into the kitchen and yells, “Anton! We’ve got food in here if you want any!” I hear the refrigerator open and a paper bag rustling.

“All you have is cheeseburgers,” Anton says. “I don’t eat meat.”

RatDawg makes a move towards the other chair, but Anton slides it to me, stopping the black man in his tracks. I pull the chair next to Anton and sit down.

“Dawg,” Anton says politely. “I’d prefer if you didn’t look at her like that.” He reaches into the inside pocket of his suit jacket. “She isn’t just an object.” He pulls out his black wallet and thumbs through it. “Becki is a very valued employee, whose life I would easily trade for yours.” RatDawg looks angry for a moment, but his face softens when Anton says, “Let’s not forget how much I pay you . I’m happy to pay that extra cash to keep you honest. If you were ever to lie or cheat me, they would find you gutted in a garbage dumpster. If you think I’m bluffing, go ahead and test me. I know a lot more than you think.”

Chico is standing in the doorway, looking tense.

RatDawg’s face is expressionless. “Anton, what did you come here for today?” he asks in a flat tone. His hand is on his hip, not too far from the gun I saw earlier.

“Coke!” he exclaims. “I came to buy cocaine. A lot of it too, as I won’t be able to get down here for a while.” He’s grinning like an idiot, thumbing through the money in his wallet, fanning it to his face.

RatDawg and Chico look at each other for a moment, and Chico says, “How much do you need?”

Anton shrugs and fans out a wad of bills. “How much will this get me?”

“Get you all we have,” Chico says with a smile.

“Now, now, let’s not fib. You have that brief case full in the next apartment. I’ll take that. I’ll see if anything turns up for Bones: new evidence, or maybe a surprise confession.”

RatDawg gives Chico a baleful glare and the two of them walk out of the room.

“RatDawg doesn’t like me,” Anton whispers matter-of-factly. “It makes him very nervous that I know a lot more than I should. He thinks I’m with the cops. The only reason he deals with me is because he can’t turn away the money–which is much more than double what he would get on the streets. The fact that I let him get away with minor lies and cheats convinces him that he does have a rich sucker. If he ever tried anything big on me, he would get a lot more than what I told him.”

I’m hunched over in my chair, watching the door, wanting for any of these three to burst in with guns. Anton is sitting calmly, looking around the bare room. The single window is covered with Venetian blinds, which are closed. There is a filthy mattress beneath it.

After a long wait, RatDawg and Chico return. Pablo is lingering behind them in the kitchen. RatDawg is holding a leather briefcase half concealed behind his back. “Here’s all we got. We’re willing to part with it, on account of you being such a good customer. He is smiling, but can’t hide the hatred in his eyes.

Anton pulls all the money from his wallet and says. “Take out the two bags of flour and we have a deal.”

RatDawg snarls audibly and opens the brief case. Four large bags of white powder are inside. He pulls out two and hands them to Chico. “Here you go,” he says, snapping it closed and holding out to Anton. They exchange simultaneously and RatDawg flips through he stack of bills and shakes his head. “Damn, If you’s selling this shit, you must have a damn stupid buyer to cover this.”

“I told you before,” Anton says as he opens the case and sniffs the plastic. “It’s all for personal consumption, and money is not an option. I want to make sure you stay honest.” He closes the case and looks up, smiling. “Since you did try and cheat me with the flour, I think that means you owe me.”

RatDawg looks nervous. “What... What do you want?”

“You have a man in the next apartment. Ironically enough, he tried to cheat you. He’s a problem you are planning to take care of as soon as I leave.” He pauses and entwines his fingers. “I can see your mind racing and you don’t like the fact that I know this. Keep in mind that you can’t possibly scare me. It would be very much in your worst interest to try anything. What I want is to watch you work your magic on this guy. Keep in mind that both of you can retire for some time on what I paid you, and Bones should be free without a catch in a couple months.”

“Anton, we...” Chico starts.

Anton cuts him off with a wave of his hand. “Don’t disappoint me,” he says. “I don’t like to be disappointed.”

RatDawg turns away. “Fine, you got it.”

“Excellent!” Anton cries. “I love to watch you work!”

RatDawg shakes his head and turns around. “Come on.”

Anton slaps my thigh and says, “Come on, you’re going to love this!” He pauses thoughtfully. “Well, probably not, but I want you to see it anyway.”

“Anton, no...” I say, but he has me by the hand and he’s leading me through the kitchen into the first room and out the front door. RatDawg unlocks the next apartment. Anton leads me inside with Chico following me. The room is dark until RatDawg lights a kerosene lamp that hangs on the wall.

“Hey Simon!” Chico calls out, brushing against my ass, which I’m sure is no accident. “We’ve come to make a business proposition, Simon!”

“Simon Wheton, or Smiley, as he was calling himself on the streets,” Anton says to me. “He was an undercover narcotics agent trying to set up a bust on Chico and RatDawg. They were tipped off by one of his less scrupulous colleagues. That was three days ago, he has been here ever since.”

We walk into the back room, where a black man is duct-taped naked to a folding chair. His entire face is covered with duct tape, except for his nose and one ear. Anton sits cross-legged on the floor and motions for me to do the same. RatDawg hangs the lamp up while Chico rips the tape off the prisoner’s mouth. He takes his penis out and begins to urinate in Simon’s gaping, hungry mouth.

“He hasn’t had anything to drink since yesterday,” Anton whispers to me.

RatDawg walks over, opening a switchblade knife. He jams it into Simon’s shoulder, making both me and the prisoner scream.

“Keep that fucking cunt quiet!” Chico yells, punching Simon in the mouth, knocking the chair over.

I’m wailing and sobbing and crying. “Anton, no, make them stop, Anton, please, tell them to stop! Anton!”

“Shut her up!” RatDawg yells, kicking Simon in the stomach.

There is a large pool of blood forming beneath him. He sounds like he is trying to scream, but only a raspy, choking sound is coming out. His bound body is writhing on the floor and RatDawg is kneeling over him and sawing at his fingers with a knife and I’m screaming and Anton is still smiling.

My world swirls around me and it all ends with two gunshots. I’m snapped out of my stupor. The first thing I see is the broken body on the floor, spilling blood all over.

The next thing I see is RatDawg walking towards us. “Get her out of here,” he growls to Anton.

Go to Chapter 25

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