Latest Fiction

Right Down the Line

He finds Petrosyan at his restaurant, a six foot two Armenian wearing a green soccer jersey, sipping vitamin water with one hand while the other taps a pack of Kools against the counter.

You,” Petrosyan says, by way of greeting.

Jonesy holds up a laminated menu.  “‘Gyros Galore,’ huh?  What happened to ‘Shawarma Hut’?”

“Too fucking Arab.”

The restaurant’s almost deserted, but everybody knows it’s a money-laundering front for La Familia.  Jonesy declines comment.  “Got a proposition for you.”

“Another one?”

“More lucrative this time, I promise.”

Petrosyan un-hunches his shoulders.  “Let’s talk,” he says, nodding towards the kitchen.

Once they’re in the seclusion of a storeroom stacked high with pita bread, Jonesy hands him a manila envelope.  Petrosyan opens it and slips out a printed picture.  Some sad-eyed white dude, leaning on a cane.

“What’d he do?”

“Jesus, does it matter?  He’s trying for a big settlement against a construction company.  Too big.”

Petrosyan counts out five grand in new bills from the envelope.  “I take it this is my half up front.”

“Sure.”

“I don’t want to turn you down, but here’s the thing:  I think I’m under surveillance.”

“So sub it out.  I didn’t assume you’d handle the work personally.  You’ve still got a whole crew of beaner friends, right?”

“Those aren’t the only people I know.”

Jonesy makes a show of reaching for the money.  “You don’t want it . . .”

“I never said that.”

• • •

     Five minutes after Jonesy leaves, Petrosyan walks back into the kitchen proper.  His cook, Armando, is deftly carving chunks of beef/lamb combination from a rotating griller.

“‘Mando, I might have some work for you.”

A nicely-sculpted eyebrow goes up.  Armando’s pretty to the point of being effeminate, but he knows his way around a Mossberg.  Several faceless corpses buried in the Sonoran Desert can attest to that.

Petrosyan shows him the picture.  “I’ll pay you two large now, plus another when you’re done.”

“Three?  That’s not–”

“Plus, I help your cousin get his green card.  What do you say to that?”

“When?”

“How about tomorrow?”

Armando checks his phone calendar.  “I’ve got a painting job, early.”

“Well, I can always talk to Rico.”

“Fuck Rico.  I’m your man.”

• • •

     What Armando doesn’t tell his boss is he’s been assigned a new P.O., and the bitch is all over him like grease on chorizo.  So, when the sun comes up to bake the parking lot of a brand new Mattress Warehouse, he shuts off his striping machine and ambles over to Duncan, the recent white-trash hire.

“You want a smoke, man?”

Duncan swabs sweat from his forehead.  He’s got too many freckles to be working outside.  “I’m trying to quit.”

“You mean what you told me the other day, about being a felon?”

“Why you think I’m working here?”

“Killed a guy, huh?”

“Manslaughter, they reduced it to.”  Duncan reaches to switch off his own machine, but Armando grabs his wrist.

“No man, leave it on.  Got something I want to talk to you about.”

• • •

     “Five hundred bucks,” Duncan says.  “I figured you and Jenny could use it.”

He’s talking to Lucas in the family bathroom at Wal Mart.  Lucas doesn’t think it’s so smart, meeting in a place that has loss prevention cameras, but shit, he’s desperate.  His head’s on fire, too, after wobbling all the way in here with only a stroller for support.  Jenny’s back in the diaper section.

Duncan hands him the manila envelope.  “I never looked inside.  I don’t really want to know, you understand?  The guys I work with think I’m some hardened killer, but it was just an accident.  You, though, with your military background . . .”

“Thanks, Duncan.”

Lucas watches his friend leave.  The baby wails just as the door shuts; shit, she might really need changing after all.

“You wait,” he tells the little bundle soothingly.  “Dad’s got a bunch of money coming in.  We’ve just got to get by in the meantime.”

He slides the picture out of the folder.  Frowns.

The sad face there belongs to him.

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