What does this post have to do with banjos? Absolutely nothing! It all started when I came back to my dorm room after work to find several new emails in my inbox. They consisted of the following stories written by a friend and my roommate, along with an email reading “your turn!”
First story, written by my friend:
“Well… *sigh* .. since i find myself alone and destitute (but still stunningly beautiful) .. i have no choice but to wander away into the cold dark world.. quite,quite alone.. *snif snif* .. farewell,” said the notorious gangster G-money, AKA, G-Daddy, AKA the Big G-Z, AKA Agent Z. It didn’t matter what you called her though–she had had enough. She was getting out of the game for good, and doing it the way she did things best–with a good old-fashioned killing–back where it all began on the Richmond docks.
G-Daddy pulled a knife out and slashed a long hole into the side of a heavy bag full of quick-mix cement. She deposited its contents into a small tub of water and began mixing the solution with her hands and then her shoeless feet before standing motionless in the center of the tub.
Waiting for the cement to harden was the worst part. If she went over the edge before the concrete was set her feet would come free and her survival instincts would kick in. But that would never work. If the New Jersey mob under the vicious Mr. F. knew she was still alive they’d go after her family–maybe even her wittle puppies. She hoped the water wouldn’t be too cold. She pictured it in her mind, over and over again as she waited. The rush of air, the brief feeling of weightlessness, then the splash, the darkness, the cold blue monster pushing its way in through her mouth and nose, the internal screaming, the silence.
It was time. The young girl who was without her guns, without her bling, again merely Grace Zockoll gracefully let herself fall toward the water.
thud? not splash?. She opened her eyes. She had placed the tub too far from the edge of the dock! Frantically she tried to pull herself toward oblivion, but the tub was too heavy. She stood up again and tried hopping toward the edge, but the cement held her feet motionless. She gathered her strength and sprang toward the edge of the dock, but only succeeded in nearly pulling her knees out of joint.
There was no more struggling, no more strength to draw from. There was no point. There was no rush to oblivion. She had cemented herself smack dab in the middle of the dock accidentally saving herself from a painful cliched death. Zockoll sat as best she could and resigned herself to being discovered in the morning by dock workers. The shame of her failure to perform a simple suicide overcame her and silent tears left a soggy dirge on her proud cheeks. High above her, a single solitary star danced brightly enough to penetrate the thick smog. All else was darkness.
And this concludes tonight’s episode of “America’s Dumbest Crime Lords”
Second story, written by my roommate
You guys think so small . . .
Whispered notorious felon Tim the Fence. Stupid coppers. He squinted down at them from the roof. They were searching his flat again .. probably planning on sending him up the river if they found out who he sunk in the river.
His thin lips twisted into a wry smile. Well, he hoped they’d enjoy the little surprise he’d left for them. Might get a bang out of it.
Tim watched the last policeman step through the door far below him, then jogged to the fire escape and slid down a pole into the dark alley below. Walking briskly up the sidewalk, he pulled a little black box from his pocket and flicked up a hidden lid. Tim’s thumb rested lightly on the small red button and he bit his lip to suppress a rising chuckle.
A sudden voice in the shadows made him pause. “Not so fast, Fence.”
Blast. Another second was all he needed. He stopped walking, closed the lid, and turned cooly to the smart aleck in the doorway.
“So, Arty. Trying to foil my plans again, eh?”
The tip of a revolver darted through the shadows and pressed against his abdomen. Tim looked down at the black metal shining in the light of the streetlamps and his grin twisted into a dark scowl. He grabbed a fistful of the collar in front of him and pulled Arty Tinsdale into the light.
“Thought so. Starting to get wise, huh?” He slammed the smaller man against the brick wall.
“You got no business down here, Fence.”
“Don’t forget who introduced you to the boss, kid. I set you up .. and I can knock you down again. But I hope I don’t have to.” Tim examined his nails in the dim light. “Hate to get my hands dirty.”
Arty swallowed but pushed the revolver harder against Tim’s ribs.
“Look, the boss told me you’d be down here. He says he doesn’t want any trouble with the cops. Says to tell you he’s through with all that. Says from now on, we’re underground. And you are too.”
Tim shifted the black fedora back on his head and narrowed his eyes with a tight grin.
“Does he? Well, I’d like to see who’s gonna make me.”
“Pretty sure lead speaks for itself.” Tim heard the sharp snap and knew the gun was cocked.
Tim licked his lips. “I’d think that over, if I were you, Arty. Seems I found a little something you dropped on our last raid.” He fished something out of his pocket, something wrapped loosely in an old handkerchief. Lifting a small corner, he waved it in Arty’s face, then shoved it back in his pocket. “Think the feds might want a look at it?”
Arty paled and shook visibly. He snatched the gun from Tim’s abdomen and shoved it in his holster.
Falling on his knees in front of the older gangster, he grabbed Tim’s shoe and whispered desperately, looking up in the Fence’s small black eyes.
“Tim, please! I’ll do anything! You know what’ll happen if they tie me in with that!”
to be continued..
Continuation, written by my friend
Continuation, Part the First:
Something like a smile lingered on Tim’s lips for a second. Maybe two. “Yeah, Arty, I do.” He licked his lips again, savoring the almost gone cherry tootsie-pop flavor lingering there. It might only take three licks to get to the center of a tootsie-pop, but it takes a lifetime to get the flavor out of your head. Sort of like organized crime, only less sticky. He shook himself free from the part-time thug and took a step back reaching inside his trench coat.
“That was real smart, putting your gun away like that, Arty.–good way to get killed. You live by the gun, kid, or you die by the gun. You put the gun down like that, and you’re not living by it anymore, see? That’s when you end up dying by it.”
Tim slowly pulled his arm slowly out from inside his trench coat and leveled a tootsie-pop at Arty’s head.
“You want it? Grape’s all I got left.”
Arty shook his head. “I quit a couple years ago.”
Tim tore the wrapper off and deposited the sucker in his mouth. “I bet you did.”
The sickening sweet smell of grape flavored fructose permeated the night air as the two men stared in momentary silence. Knight to King’s Bishop 3. Queen’s Pawn to Queen 4. Stalemate. The same game played over and over in both their minds with different openings, different moves, but always the same result. The stakes were higher on Arty Tisdale’s side though, stuck as he was between the hand that fed him and a walking steel trap with handfuls of seductive tootsie-pops at the center. That meant he had to play the more careful game. Or change around some of the pieces.
“I’m going to go talk to Baby-Face first thing tomorrow. Before the Boss knows you’re still alive.”
“You do it, Arty, and I’ll kill you myself. I’ll worse than kill you, you understand? I’ll let everyone know what I have here” gesturing toward his pocket.
“What do you have against her?”
Nothing, really. But this was all part of the game. Control the board, constrict the opponent’s movement, and win slowly, piece by piece stifling the poor sap sitting on the other side of the board. Baby-Face Zockoll was a queen of crime and the other person in on the raid with Arty and Tim. She would complicate things for sure, maybe even side with Arty if Arty caught her ear first. Tim had been bumping into some of her boys on the east side of town, and no one was happy about it.
“Look, you just go tell the boss you finished me off, ok kid? I’ll pull through somehow and lie low for a while. We both got too much at stake here to go after each other now.”
It didn’t take long for Arty to think the idea over. He’d never been the killing type anyhow, except for in self-defense. “Ok, it’s a deal. But you stay low! I don’t wanna hear a word about you for a solid month!”
“You got it, kid.”
Tim the Fence watched Arty walk away propelled by short skittish legs and disappear down the fire escape. This time the smile lingered on his face for a long time. He pulled out the detonator and leaned far out over the edge of the roof to catch as much of the explosion as he could. The cops had finished searching his flat by now, but what did that matter to the bomb? What does anything matter to a bomb? The shockwave threw Tim on his back and left a ringing in his ears and a tingling sensation of pure excitement all over his body. He rushed back to the edge, unwilling to miss any of the glorious flame-dance. True Beauty. If there were a tootsie-pop that tasted like fire he would eat and drink nothing else. He sat watching deep into the night until only a blackened hull and a faint glow remained.
A half hour later, hiding a new stash of tootsie-pops, Tim the fence crawled into a cab. “East. Le Chateau de Grace.” It was high time Baby-Face found out what else Arty had been up to. And, he knew from experience, she had a weakness for Raspberry.
to be continued.
Final story, written by me
The night air whispered through the curtains as Grace silently approached the bed where her master slept. Her knife glittered menacingly.
“I don’t ask for much,” she muttered through clenched teeth. “Just High Lord of Virginia. Or perhaps my real name. Just a little respect.” These words had become her mantra. Just a little respect…just a little respect….
She had faithfully served Tim the Fence for years. She had been there to rescue him the time he got caught in barbed wire, the incident that gained him his famous nickname. She had tended the wounds that became his iconic scars. She even washed his socks and ironed his shirts and made him ham sandwiches, all without grumbling and for sub minimum wage. She could’ve turned him in at any time. But she never did. And was she ever thanked? No! Never!
Grace clutched the knife harder. She stood poised over the bed. She hesitated. Then she remembered that just the day before he had called her a withered old hag and said her ham sandwiches weren’t even that good. Her face hardened. The knife moved a fraction of an inch.
“Grace, what are you doing with that knife?” said Tim. Grace stepped back startled.
“Yes, I’m awake, ” said Tim, opening his eyes and sitting up. “Put the knife down, Grace,” he said coldly. “I wouldn’t want you to get hurt.”
“Wh-what do you mean?” she said breathlessly, still clutching the knife fiercely. Then her eyes rested on the gun pointed directly at her.
“Yes, I have a gun,” Tim said slowly. “And it would be tragic if I had to pull the trigger.”
“But what you don’t know is that I have a bazooka!” Grace shouted hysterically.
That’s when the police came in with a herd of purple polka dotted elephants and Frank Sinatra appeared singing “My Way” at the top of his lungs.
“Woah, what a weird dream!” thought Grace as she stared at the top of her bunk. “My subconscious scares me.”