It was a sordid affair and, like these things usually go, you know the deal. I could say something sexy and cool here but it won’t matter because the story always ends up the same: with me sitting in some joint somewhere having a drink and thinking about the last woman that I damn near got myself killed over. ..again. So here I was, sitting in this bar having a drink when this knockout of a dame walked in, looking for me. It’s not hard to tell a woman in trouble, because she’ll be looking for me to get her out of it. That’s how I make my living. She took the seat next to me and after getting a light for her cigarette she started telling me her story. Did I mention she was beautiful? No. Well, that’s because I’m trying to forget how beautiful she was. Not in a pristine, diva kind of way though. She was beautiful in that disheveled, stressed out and desperate kind of way. You could tell she’d clean up well if she had the chance. I knew right then that it was up to me to make sure she got the chance.
As we talked this guy walked in. Angry, asking the bartender a lot of questions about this girl he was looking for. I sent her out the back door by the alley with instructions to get a room at the Days Out Motel downtown. The clerk was a friend of mine and he had a habit of not running his mouth. The guy that walked in, well, his name was Vinnie, and he said he was looking for her because he was her boss. So, I punched Vinnie in the mouth.
If there is one thing I’ve learned in this business, it’s that you never punch a guy named Vinnie in the mouth.
But she needed the distraction to get out the back door unnoticed, so I did what I needed to do. Well, to be honest, I didn’t need to punch Vinnie in the mouth, but he probably needed to get punched to get punched in the mouth.
I woke up at the docks with Vinnie and this guy named Joey. Joey had an ugly face and an attitude to match. He wasn’t the brightest guy, but he was good at his job; which is to intimidate guys like me. They didn’t mention the girl, but said that the boss, he had a job for me, pays very well, no questions asked. I asked about the woman, then I punched Vinnie in the mouth again. I’m a slow learner.
I took the job. Not for the money, but for the woman; and because that was probably the only way I was gonna be leaving the docks wearing my own shoes, if you know what I mean. You see, back when we were at the bar, the woman told me that she wanted to leave her employment, but she’d seen some things that she wished she hadn’t and her boss wanted to have a. . let’s just call it an impromptu employment evaluation over it. She worked as a dancer in one of the clubs and wanted out anyway. Now may be the only chance she would have to act on it. Her boss was Vinnie and he worked for the local business, so she had a good reason, and said she’d pay cash for my help. She said that word on the street was that I was discreet and knew how to handle complicated situations like this; and that I didn’t have a big mouth. Funny thing is, that I often complicate situations like this instead of handling them. People get confused on the street. But I knew that Vinnie was on thin ice with the boss, and one more screw up and he would be added to the “unemployment roll.” He’s been unstable, getting personal, drawing too much attention to himself. So, when we saw Vinnie walk into the bar and question the bartender about her whereabouts, I had an idea. I made it personal this time.
All they wanted me to do was deliver an envelope to a local bails bondsman at 2:00am. This guy would be working the desk. Give him the envelope and tell him that Vinnie sends his regards. Then meet Joey and Vinnie at a bar on the corner of North and 25th. Have a few drinks, collect the money, and we’d go our separate ways. The woman was at a motel two blocks away and had instructions to stay put until she was clear to leave town. It wasn’t easy, but I called in a few favors and was able to procure a rental car for he; she’d drive two hours out of town to an airport in a larger city, where I’d have plane tickets to somewhere elseville waiting for her. I had a plan to get Vinnie to pay my fee and fund her trip, so she would have some cash to help her start over. Sounds simple, easy. But, that’s not how things worked out.
I drove around for a while and then went straight to the bar. Vinnie and Joey were there, as planned, but there was a third person sitting at the table with them. They were in a corner, away from everyone else, and no one went near their table. It was one of Vinnie’s joints so they had the home field advantage. When I got to the table, Joey motioned for me to sit down, across from he and Vinnie, next to their guest. That’s when I realized that it was the woman that was supposed to be at the motel room waiting for me. She sat there smoking a cigarette and avoiding eye contact. Vinnie looked at her and then me, and then said, “I would introduce you two but you’ve already met. At the bar, when she offered to pay you to help her leave town. I’m disappointed, and frankly I’m kind of impressed, that you had the balls to take the job. One of the guys caught her slipping out the back of the bar. You think I wouldn’t send a guy out back, or to that shithole motel you always use to hide people? Just how stupid do you think I am?”
I didn’t even answer that question. Instead, I carefully weighed my options. I decided to be straight forward about it. “You know guys like me Vinnie; I work for a living. I offer a service and if you got the cash I don’t discriminate and I don’t ask questions. I have to pay bills just like everyone else.”
Vinnie eyed me carefully, then asked slowly and clearly, “Then what was that bullshit about punching me in the mouth, twice? Was that part of the job?”
“No Vinnie, I just don’t like your face. That’s all.” I meant it as a joke, on the surface, but I wasn’t lying. Joey laughed and then choked it up when Vinnie looked at him.
“So, you’re gonna be a smart ass. Suppose I take you back to the docks right now, one-way trip, for that stunt?”
“No Vinnie, I don’t think you want to do that, not with what just went down at the job you sent me on.”
“What the fuck you talking about? You delivered the package, didn’t you?”
“Yea. I did exactly what you said, but on the way out the guy working the desk said that he had no idea what this was about, that he was filling in for someone else who had an accident, was in the hospital. He’s the guy with the package now.”
Vinnie’s eyes widened. Another screw up, plus the scene at the bar earlier when I punched him in the mouth. The boss isn’t going to like this. “Why didn’t you take the package back?” he asked angrily.
“Because you just said to give it to the guy at the desk. You didn’t tell me who it was I was giving it to. You have to think about things like this Vinnie.” I said.
“So this is my fault,” Vinnie said, his voice rising, drawing attention to himself, “is that what you’re gonna tell the boss? That I didn’t tell you who to give it to? “
“You know the score Vinnie. One more screw up and you’re done. Right now, you need me, because I know who has the package. If the package gets in the wrong hands, you’re done. I can get it back. But I’m not going to do that unless you make a deal.”
“What if I just off you right now? What does any of this matter to you then?”
“You’re not that stupid Vinnie, ” I said, ” because then you don’t get the package back and it doesn’t get to where it’s supposed to go. We’re both dead then. Is that how you want to play it? You need me. “
Vinnie looked at me for a long time. Then he said, “What do you want?”
“I’ll keep it simple. The package, it’s a payoff to someone, I know that. The guy who normally works the overnight shift, it’s his night job, he’s also a cop, so it’s not hard to figure out who you’re paying and what you’re paying for. No one wants that to get out. But you’re a known player Vinnie, so a package containing cash from Vinnie is gonna be a big deal. So, I go back to the kid and tell the kid who got the package that I’m a courier and I made a mistake, get the package back, no big deal. Your face is left out of it and you can get the package to your guy whenever you can. What I want in return is double the fee you promised plus, the girl gets out of town with no problems. If anything doesn’t happen to me, I check in with my lawyer friend who is waiting to hear if everything went down okay. If she doesn’t hear from me, then she goes to the Department of Justice and talks to Uncle Rico about everything. You go down, your friend goes down. Not sure if you want to confront the boss on this one, you’d have better luck with the feds.”
“So I just have to trust you to keep your word on this?”
“As you know, me and your boss have an understanding so you have my word no one goes down if you play along. If not, he’ll throw you under the bus, not me. I don’t want that to happen, so I’m trying to work it out. So yea, you have to trust me.”
“Fuck,” Vinnie said, and nothing else.
“You’re sloppy Vinnie, and you make everything personal. That’s why I punched you in the mouth. To make a scene that would get back to the boss. He wants you to be a good soldier but you keep finding trouble. Let the woman go, give me the money, and it all goes away. Decline my offer and you don’t get the package back. It gets to the boss with your name attached to it. Do something to me and my person tells the whole story. What’s it gonna be Vinnie?”
“What about her? There’s a reason I can’t just let her go,” Vinnie said.
“Give it up Vinnie. You’re gonna have to let her go for this to go down right. Who is she gonna tell? Who’s gonna believe her anyway? She’s gonna go away and start her life over and you’ll never have to see her again. I get my fee and you get your package back. Everyone wins. You in?”
Vinnie knew that he was cornered. Word was that the boss was trying to avoid complications so he needed to keep a low profile and avoid unnecessary attention. He already knew that Vinnie got into a fight at a bar, which is exactly the kind of thing he was supposed to avoid. He needed to get the money to his guy but he couldn’t be seen with him, which is why they asked me to do the job. But now someone else has the money, at least as far as Vinnie knew. The truth was, I still had the money. I didn’t deliver it. My plan was to wait and then bring Vinnie the package with the money as if I got it back from the kid at the bail bondsman’s office. Vinnie’s guy was there, I just didn’t bring it to him. Vinnie and the guy don’t talk, so he would never know what happened. All he knew was that he never got the money, so no matter how this plays out, Vinnie is gonna be in trouble with the boss when he shows up with the money instead of his guy having the money. Vinnie’s girl gets out of town with a new identity while Vinnie is tied up dealing with the boss.
We left the bar and this time I put her up in a nice hotel, one of those 3-star jobs. I used the money from Vinnie to purchase a plane ticket and gave her the name of the guy who would help her go away to never be found again. We spent a few nights together in the hotel, either drinking at the bar or playing hide the goods in the room. Yea, I fell for her and I fell hard. But she had to go. Vinnie wasn’t going to control his impulses forever and she needed to start over, but it was good while it lasted. So good. I don’t know why, but something told me that I hadn’t heard the last from her yet. We had one last romp, said our goodbyes, and she left town while I went back to that joint on the south side of town, ordered a drink, and tried not to think about what was going to happen next. I figured Vinnie won’t be available to cause any more problems and Joey is too stupid to understand what just went down.
I’m a sucker for a woman with a story…