Ground Zero for Pete Costa

12/05/23

-Morgan?

-Yeah?

-It’s kind of cold out here, man.

-It’s December, blockhead.

-I know it’s December. I mean, I just thought—

-Thought what, Gene? Where’s your coat?

-I’ve been in Tampa for the last two months, dude.

-And yet, world traveler that you are, you fly up here to New Jersey, a week before Christmas, and neglect to pack properly.

-I thought we were swinging by my storage unit first, not going on some half-assed frozen safari.

-Maybe if you didn’t dress like a little kid.

-What’s that supposed to mean?

-I need to point this out to you? You’re wearing sneakers.

-Everybody wears sneakers, Morgan.

– don’t. Not when I’m working.

-Oh yeah? Well, I didn’t expect to be standing in a marsh behind someone’s house.

-And yet, here we are.

-This sucks the big one, man.

-Jesus, Mary, and Joseph…you’re a real piece of work, Gene, you know that? Not a peep since I picked you up at Newark and now, after driving all the way down here and following this character, this guy who, lucky for us, happened to be at the same rest stop when we were getting gas, now you can’t stop chirping?

-I lost my wallet, Morgan. I didn’t know who else to call.

-That’s what you want to go with? You didn’t know who else to call?

-Yeah.

-That’s perfect. That’s just cherry. How old are you, Gene?

-Twenty-five.

-So, let me get this straight. A whiny pup like you, you don’t have apps and shit on your smartphone like the rest of the douchebags your age?

-We’re supposed to use burners, man.

-That’s for work, genius. And fuck burners. I know you’ve got a smartphone. I’ve seen you futzing with it.

-I got one for Draft Kings and checking the internet.

-Meaning jacking off to porn.

-Sometimes. But I didn’t think bringing my smartphone to Florida was a good idea.

-Smarter idea is not to have one period. So, what happened to your redhead?

-What?

-That piece from Brigantine you were plowing. Why didn’t you call her for a ride, huh? I’m sure the Burning Bush would’ve loved circling Newark airport at ten-thirty at night with every terrorist known to man.

-We broke up before I went to Florida.

-Oh.

-But get this, Morgan. After we split up, like, before I put my stuff in storage? That redhaired bitch robbed me blind. Took my entire watch collection. I had me, like, a limited-edition Longines in that box.

-You see me crying over here?

-Christ, bustin’ my balls nonstop. Haven’t you ever had to call somebody for a ride?

-Sure, I used to call your mother. She’d pick me up, make me some mac ‘n cheese, and then blow me.

-I say we forget this, Morgan.

-What—him? Are you nuts? You work for Dante Donofrio, chief. And Dante Donofrio wants Pete Costa’s head in a Macy’s shopping bag. That prick in there hasn’t shown his bloated mug in south Jersey for, like, three years now. Him folding his tent. Him thinking he’s so smart with all his supposed Trenton connections. Do you know how much time I put in twisting necks on those paving contracts?

-So what’s he doing in there?

-The fuck should I know? Maybe he’s off his meds. Maybe he’s visiting his cousin. Maybe he’s horny for a sloppy bounce on the snatch trampoline. I mean, I’ve spent time with Costa, but he never struck me as no chubby chaser.

-Big girl.

-Fuckin-a right she’s a big girl. And her wearing grey sweatpants? It’s like she’s heaving around the tailfin on a destroyer in there. Listen, my guess is Costa will finish whatever he’s telling that pig in there, and then he’ll go back out to his car. Our luck is running good tonight. No streetlights on this dead end, so we take Costa before he gets behind the wheel. Me with this doubled-up sock of golf balls, and you with that fungo bat. One-two-three, bam-bam-bam. Once Costa’s down then we bail. Eventually he’ll get to a hospital.

-We’re not taking him with us?

-You got a hardon for federal time? Like I said, eventually he’ll go to a hospital. And while he’s getting all patched up, we’ll check in with Mr. Donofrio, find out what he really wants us to do with him.

~ fin ~

kieranshea2020

A huge fan of the interpretive private eye films The Long Goodbye (1973) and The Drowning Pool (1975), Kieran Shea‘s stories have appeared previously in Shotgun Honey, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and elsewhere. He’s also written a couple of novels and one short story collection.