Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Bearded Beast of Berkeley Boulevard

I tapped on the row home door on Berkeley Boulevard, just down from University City—the prime market we sought rights to—and grabbed my Luger from my jeans, ready for the Beast of Berkeley Boulevard. Louie spit laughter. “She’s going to lie down. Dominic’s just fucking with us. She’s just some nasty old Medicare—”

The Beast cracked open the door, and the chain caught. “You Girl Scouts selling cookies?” Her voice rattled like a rusty muffler, and the reek of sour cigarette smoke burned my nose—Lucky Strikes. “Dominic sent us,” Louie said. He reached into his Eagles hoodie pocket and fisted three ball bearings to weigh his punch. I noticed four plaster spots sealing holes in the door.

“Fuck!” I threw Louie down onto the rat-shitty runner. “What the fuck, Vincent?” Gunfire blew my ears; slugs burst new holes in the door and sprayed stone shards from the opposite wall. “Dominic can kiss my fat hairy ass,” she yelled through the portal. “Been my territory since them commies killed Kennedy. I pay up.”

“I’m the fucking wolf, Granny,” Louie yelled back. “I’ll huff and I’ll puff.”

“I’m more of a man than you two pussies,” she said then cackled. “But if you’re real nice and blow me, I’ll give you a free hit. Would you like that, sweeties?”

I peered through the crack and spotted a walker’s aluminum legs—one good push. I backed up and kicked off the wall and dove into the clapboard door. The chain popped, and she tumbled and crashed on the other side. Louie jumped over me and rushed the flat. “I’ll take away all your pain, bitch.”

The walrus wobbled on the Turkish carpet and reached for her walker. She’d dropped her gun out of sight. Oak moss grew a fine beard from her chin, and her flowery dress had pulled up over her wide thighs and exposed brown granny-panties. Light glimmered off a heart-shaped locket concealed between her sagging tits.

I reached to help her up, but Louie yanked my arm and rolled his eyes.

“I’m not a psychopath like you. I still have some respect for my elders.”

“Natural law on the streets of Philly,” he said. “This shit must be done. We need a territory to deal.” Louie rolled the bearings.

We had a deal for percs from a pharmacist Louie owned, and all the southern territories were taken. Dominic—a local skipper for the South Philly mob—suggested we come out and ask Beatrice Burnside to retire. Beatrice’s doctor wrote scripts for dead Medicare recipients, and she sold the pills.

“Fucking kids,” she muttered, rolling to her side.

“Don’t call him that,” I said. Louie stood just to my chest, and I’m no basketball player. I felt sorry for the assholes who called him ‘Kid.’

“King ‘Fucking’ Louie,” he muttered. He drove his fist at her head, and she grabbed her lost .45 from under the couch then fired. Louie dodged, and it grazed his shoulder, shredding the green fabric. I aimed my Luger, and she dropped her piece. “No respect,” she said. “Kill me. All I got is my trade. My worthless Ronnie never visits. Never calls.”

“Happy to oblige, bitch,” Louie said, aiming to punch her neck and shatter her windpipe. Dominic would clean it up with the cops. She had a bad fall. This is how we exacted business in South Philly. She resigned for death and opened the locket, revealing a young boy’s photo. “Damn it,” I said and held Louie’s arm.

“The fuck you doing? It’s ours.”

“The territory. Sure. But we know shit about the clientele.”

Louie nodded, and I felt grateful that he recognized the logic.

“What if we gave you a cut?” I asked her.

“I’ve got boils older than you,” she said. “Never trust boys, like my ungrateful shit son.”

“What do you want?”

“You come and visit me on Sundays,” she said. “And we’ll go to the park. Once a month—tea and maybe supper. I’ll bake a ham.”

“Jesus Christ,” Louie said.

“Never had a Granny before,” I said.

~FIN~