Archive for May, 2021



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Doughboy turned up the hill at Third Avenue East. They were passing by the alley above Fourth Street when Frank pulled the thirty-eight from his jacket and shoved the barrel into Loy’s bulbous, pillow-y middle, thinking now he knew what a tub of lard felt like if you jammed a pistol into it. Shit, he’d wanted to jam the barrel hard into Doughboy’s ribs and give the fat fucker a jolt, but instead it was like he’d buried the thing in a goddamn mattress.

Doughboy tried to jerk away from the pistol, his movements like ripples in a bowl of Jello, but there was nowhere to go. He wheezed. He winced. He tilted his head down toward the pistol and gave Frank a hurt, questioning look. “What the fuck are you doing, Ford? I thought we were going to your place.”

“There’s been a change in plans, Maynard. Instead, you’re gonna take me to see Artie, and the three of us are going to have a little talk concerning what took place at the Paul Bunyan the day my brother disappeared.”

“Ah, come on, Frank, I already told the cops everything I know, why you picking on me?”

“I’m picking on you because you were there that day, you stupid sonofabitch. And I know that Artie had some kind of scam planned that Ray didn’t like. That was the subject of the disagreement, according to what I heard. So you want to tell me what it was about or do I keep shoving in this gun until it hits something hard. You never know, thing could go off by accident. Just bought the piece and I don’t know how reliable it is. Might not kill you but sure as hell will do some damage,” Frank jammed the gun deeper into the corset of fat.

Doughboy’s breathing was strained and uneven. Frank could see sweat popping on the fat man’s forehead in the dim light, the skin on Loy’s face red, like barbecued pork. “I can’t drive with that thing stuck in my side, Frank.” Doughboy pulled the Dodge to the curb and stared at Frank with a frightened-but-determined look, Doughboy having had plenty of practice dealing with bullies, it seemed.

“Okay, Maynard, you got it,” Frank said, pulling the gun away, thinking maybe he should wipe it off or something, but instead resting it on his thigh with the barrel pointing at Loy. “But now that I’ve done you a solid you need to return the favor and tell me what Artie and Ray were arguing about, or this little devil goes back into your roll,” lifting the .38, waggling it.

Doughboy slid the shifter arm into park, wiped the sleeve of his gray sweatshirt across his forehead, swiveled his head around for a look outside then inhaled deeply and gave Frank a nervous smile. “Ray was doing some kind of speedball that day. He’s talking a blue streak and he starts going on about how Judy’s got this pharmacist on a string and how she’s getting all these pill samples from him. All the big companies are handing them out by the ton these days, he says. Well, Artie hears this and pretty soon he’s in Ray’s shit telling him we need to share the bounty. How if Ray don’t cut us in he’s going to drop a dime and bust the whole scheme wide open. But Ray dug in his heels and told Artie to fuck off.” Doughboy looked out the window again and then back to Frank. “So that’s what it was all about.”

Frank knew the Doughboy was an efficient, practiced liar, and believing what he told you was the essence of foolishness, but still he sensed a ring of truth in what the man had said. Just a light ring, though, like one of those push-top bells at the meat counter in a butcher shop. “And so, Maynard, when we get together with our mutual friend Artie, is he gonna back up your story or spin a totally different tale?”

“Of course he’s gonna back me up, Frank. I ain’t shittin’ you. But I don’t know where Artie is tonight, I swear. I got no idea.”

“Oh, please, Maynard, stop the shit. Artie is who you were waiting for at the bar. And I think Artie is meeting up with Nurse Judy tonight for a supply of fresh pharmaceuticals courtesy of the illustrious Mr. Pills. And I also think that whatever dope you took tonight is either just kicking in or just wearing off and either way you’re falling apart and need something else. You took a chance on me because you know Ray was getting a ton of shit from his ex and that made my story believable.”

“You mean you don’t have anything?” Loy’s voice was a grating whine in Frank’s ears.

Frank shook his head in disbelief and gave Doughboy a hard stare. “No, Maynard, I don’t have anything. Afraid you fell victim to the hunk of cheese in the rattrap, because you is the big fat lab rat. Now get this piece of shit on the road to wherever your partner in crime is.”

“I told you, Frank, I don’t know exactly where he is. He said he’d find me.”

“I tell you what, Maynard. Put your drug-sniffing nose out the window and pick up the scent. I know you can find drugs like a bloodhound finds blood.”

“He could be out at Squirrel’s, I guess.”

“Squirrel’s it is then. Drive on, Jeeves.” Frank waggled the gun in a circle like a master of ceremonies at a circus, which, come to think of it, he kind of was. A twisted, stinky, exploitive circus—just like the real thing.

Loy whined some more. “Aw, c’mon, Frank, it’s way out in the West End, I’m in no shape to drive all the way out there.”

Any patience Frank once possessed had gone out the door with Nikki a few hours ago. He lifted the pistol from his knee and drove a corner of the butt into Doughboy’s bulbous bicep, hitting something firm beneath the layers of fat.

Loy yelped, grabbed his arm and continued whining. “Frank—Jesus, c’mon, would you? I was just saying, man, just telling it like it is… ease off, all right? Artie might not even be out there. I told you… I’m not sure where he is.”

“Feeling more alert now, Maynard? Think you can get us to Squirrel’s?”

Biting down on his lower lip in an exaggerated pout while rubbing vigorously on his bicep, Doughboy flashed Frank a hateful glance then gingerly lifted his arm, dropped the shifter into drive and peeled away from the curb in a cloud of dust and a roar of un-muffled V8.

(To be continued)

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