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Red Triangle - a GTA Fanfic


slimeball supreme
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slimeball supreme

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Those Unwinding Paths

 

Latrell out on the street, alone, saw two cars sitting outside the tattoo parlor. One - this awful aqua Fathom coupe with blacked out windows and these modded rims that’d look fit for one of those ass kinda racing movies. Guys in tuner cars with sunglasses and Japanese streets. That kinda ride. The other was a Coquette, a mid-2000’s Coquette with shot suspension and this cheap peeling yellow paint, the type of Coquette you buy to say you have a Coquette.

 

The wops had given their address here. It was called Anarkiss Ink Tattoo, right up on Sound Span Boulevard with brickwork on wood panel, gold cowboy font on the windows and lip clip-art Latrell was half sure he’d seen somewhere else.

 

Anarkiss Ink Tattoo.

 

A fresh start.

 

There was laughter and some kind of conversing on the way inside when the glass door chimed. Not from the reception dude, had a mohawk and flesh tunnel earrings and tattoos from the chin down the wrist paired with nerd-rim glasses and a white book with a thin cover and Doug Hatchet’s face looming large by a Fruit logo. He looked up, kind of raised a brow, but went back down to the book.

 

That was to his left.

 

To his right were two guys, beefy buff guys half as young and twice as thin as the Italian dudes in Broker. Still unmistakably Italian with that drawl and the ‘ay!’s and ‘oh!’s being spat double-quick.

 

Latrell recognized both of their faces. Just wasn’t sure where.

 

One of them was sitting in the tattoo-chair but wasn’t getting tattooed. Muscular in this barrel chested, natural kind of way. A built, handsome motherf*cker with stubble and a Bull Emic knit cap and a tight guido shirt proudly showing the Didier Sachs logo.

 

The other stood strong with arm waves and booming voice. Wife-beater. Army-print camo pants and black cop boots. Neck length hair and a goatee and full-sleeve tattoos; saints and nuns clasping crucifixes with angelic faces. Thinner on the natural but a wider face to the other guy’s handsome; big cheekbones and a Roman nose. Caesar fringe like he was cut out of marble.

 

“And who the f*ck is this?”

 

“Madon’, you come down here from Willis?”

 

“You got good taste.”

 

Latrell wasn’t sure who said what. “Broker.”

 

“Ah. We get a lotta’ guys from Willis, Wampum, you know,” that was wifebeater. You got an appointment--”

 

“Actually,” Latrell kinda spat out, “I’m here for uh… does Frankie work here?”

 

“Oh, you here for Frankie?” handsome laughed.

 

Wifebeater laughed too, “‘Sgood, ‘sgood, nah. He don’t work here but he’s here.

 

“You here for that?”

 

“Yeah,” Latrell said. “I’m here for that.”

 

Wifebeater chuckled, extended a hand. “I’m Rodney.”

 

Latrell shook. “Rod.”

 

Rod went on, “Lug ova’ thea’s Titus. You had somethin’?”

 

“Nah,” Titus said. “Was hopin’ I’d--”

 

Latrell felt brusque saying it but he blurted out strong, “I swear to god,” he said. “I seen one a you on TV or somethin’.”

 

Titus laughed, “Probably me.”

 

“Nah, both a you two. Swear to god.”

 

Rodney smirked, “He don’t charge for autographs but I do. Titus Lupisella.”

 

Damn.

 

“Rod was on TV a couple a’ times on f*ckin’...” paused. “Wise Bitches?”

 

“Nah.”

 

“One a’ them f*ckin’ shows. You coast, my friend.”

 

“I coast?”

 

“You coast on names.”

 

“And you don’t.”

 

“I’m here in spite a’ that.” Titus pointed. “He’s Gravelli.”

 

Double damn. Latrell felt more in awe with the mob kid than the boxer. And Titus was a boxer - a good one or not up for dispute. And a boxer, as he’d said, in spite of his surname. A connection he’d tried to shun a long time ago but stopped shunning when it got inconvenient. When the performance enhancer suspensions and drug possession charges started piling up.

 

“You knew Jon? He your dad?”

 

“Nah,” Rod said. “My great-uncle, but you know. I knew him. Good guy.” Still kinda cool.

 

“I’m gonna take off,” Titus said.

 

“You sure?”

 

“I already talked to Frankie about...” looked at Latrell a sec, “you know what. So you know. What.”

 

“Ah, then c’mon, getcha sh*t, c’mon,” Titus had no sh*t to get but got going anyway, nodded at Latrell and paid his way. Got into the Coquette curbside and let it rumble a moment before splitting off and squealing out with a puff of black smoke. 

 

Eyes on Latrell. “So.”

 

So.

 

They shot a nod to receptionist fella and headed back, this awkward looking door half orange and half brown with this stuffy little thick-glass window. Door squeaked, opened into a way too large office with tons of sketches on the walls, intricate designs and dragons and Chinese lettering. Water cooler and these so-so felt chairs, Cavendish computer with an eyeball sticker for some reason.

 

And three guys.

 

By the water cooler was gravel face, Phil Donovan. On the periphery of a conversation he wasn't taking part in, sipping water out a paper cup. Wordlessly looked over and gave a friendly nod before dipping attention back into the disposable. Green plaid shirt under fleece jacket.

 

“Mr. f*ckin’ bumper cars, huh?”

 

That was Frankie. Frank sitting on the desk in a full grey sweatsuit rolled up at the sleeves to show off a platinum Gaulle watch. Reuben with black pants and a piggy pink t-shirt - creative pick.

 

Latrell sighed. “Look--”

 

“Hey!” Frankie'd gotten up and did a little waddle with arms outstretched, went in for a bro-hug and patted on the back. Got off Latrell, brushed his jacket clean, “I don't need to look, right? Look. We got things cleared out or up or whateva’ with your guy.”

 

“My guy?”

 

“The guy with the, uh… you know. The chair.”

 

“Slip.”

 

“Sure. That's his name, yeah.” Hand on Latrell’s shoulder, “Don't sweat it.

 

“I want to--”

 

“I got this, uh, this entrepreneurial spirit. Right? And when youse is in the entrepreneurial business you gotta understand that, like, you gotta spend some cash to make some cash. And we’re in the ground floor here. You're in the ground floor.”

 

Latrell nodded. Didn't know what else to do.

 

“Think a’ the other day as… kinda’ like an, euh, an untraditional kinda’ meetin’ or whatever. Elevator pitch and all a’ that sh*t. Now we’re in the boardroom,” signaled out, “and we’re finally holdin’ our first investment meetin’. We’re finally crossin’ the f*cking waters and liquifyin’ some f*ckin’ business.”

 

“Of course.”

 

“Of course! Of course.” Did this grin. “So, Latrell, you seein’ the f*ckin’ Swingers game?”

 

Beat.

 

“I just wanna say sorry.”

 

Hey, come on.”

 

“You people is champs. If someone done did that sh*t to me, yo, I'd f*ckin’ kill ‘em.”

 

Got Reuben’s attention from checking fingernails. He nodded. “Yea’.”

 

“Yeah yeah. You know. So before, like, we get down to no brass tacks or nothin’... I hope we cool. ‘Cause I got told I be down here I got my ears perkin’, motherf*cker I was hype.”

 

Frank nodded through creased face, “Yeah.”

 

“Yo, I love you guys to death. I want you to feel me like I feel you guys, man.”

 

“Well, that’s a f*ckin’ business for you.”

 

“Sure, sure.”

 

Reuben, “Sure!”

 

“And, hey, you know - the respect sh*t is f*ckin’ mutual. Me and Reuben, we always say, you know--”

 

Reuben, “Respect.

 

“--you gotta f*ckin’ respect forward to respect backward, you get me? And we respect youse like a motherf*cker, I swear. You people, you know… we love rap. Right, Reu?”

 

“Sure,” Reuben went.

 

“Biggie. Clip, OG Loc, Eminem. All great. You still don’t like that West Coast sh*t?”

 

Latrell, “Huh?”

 

“‘Cause, like, Tupac ‘n sh*t. You know. Comin’ outta Hepburn! You know, heh.” Pause. “That’s Nas.”

 

“Yeah,” Latrell said. “I know.”

 

“So if you on board, you know. We’re on board. With your peoples.”

 

Pause. Arms swinging. Just kinda empty with Rod standing in the back by the door making faces to Frankie Latrell couldn’t see. Latrell opted to break, “I’m on board--”

 

“So how’s this whole thing work?”

 

Ah.

 

Frankie leant back on the desk with arms wide, got Reuben to move over a little, “Slip gave us a lowdown. We want a lower low down, you get me.”

 

“Kiddy sh*t, really. You seen Badfellas.”

 

“No sh*t.”

 

“Well, you know. We got folks inside. Hey - my b Teflon, he can hook you up. We get homies through visitors, we got some badge jakes got they own people, we move it in by the head or by package sh*t.”

 

Reuben, “Packages?”

 

“When I was - sh*t,” thought a moment, “I used to be the gig guy at the houses, right? That’s rookie sh*t. We get a pallet of soda cans. Right?”

 

Frankie, “Gotcha’.”

 

“Folks stockin’ vending machines or commissary or whatever. So we cut the plastic, knives n’ sh*t, you know. I hollowed out the bottom of the soda can, I take one soda out the case, because the case is wrapped in plastic, right... I stick sh*t in there. I stick it back in the case, the case looks like it's never been touched. Easy.”

 

“So what you got in there?”

 

“Phones. Phones usually.”

 

“That’s what we want.”

 

“Sure. Phones, knives or razors - razors are usually one homie comin’ inside.”

 

Reuben, “We read all about you folks and f*ckin’ razors, huh?” Scattered laughter from desk dagos.

 

“What?” Latrell asked.

 

“Don’t matter, don’t matter… this is Astors Island, right?”

 

“That’s where we send it, sure.”

 

“You can get it in Metropolitan Centers? Big boy prison. Guantanamo on the Humboldt. You know.”

 

Latrell paused. “Probably. I’ll talk to Teflon ‘bout it, but I think so.”

 

Hey, Slip said you knew this sh*t. Knew all the plans and all that kinda’ sh*t.”

 

Shrugged, “Ain’t that uh… organized or nothin’,” L said. “This ain’t no factory. We get young’uns in that sh*t and workin’. We got some small timers inside that spread it around. We’d have to… you got names? Anyone you wanna send this sh*t to?”

 

Reuben half spat, “Dennis.”

 

“Not f*ckin’ Denny.” That was Rod’s first sentence for a while, got eyes on him a moment before darting back to Frankie.

 

“Not Denny,” Frank said.

 

Latrell, “Who’s Denny?

 

“Denny f*ckin’ Denny Denny. Whateva’. Ain’t him is what I’m saying. We got superiors ‘n sh*t, you know.”

 

“You ain’t bosses?”

 

Frank sighed - “No.”

 

Reuben. “Not yet.”

 

Got a laugh from Philly but Frankie went on, “This is… look. We didn’t tell Slip. But this is, uh… down low. You feel me?”

 

Trell squinted, “Why?”

 

“We just need some trials goin’ before we get the big guys on board. Build up a repertoire or whatever, you know how it is. We get some reliable f*ckin’ income streams, a big take, you know… then we can say we did a team up. For now, though, on the low.”

 

“On the low,” Reuben said.

 

“On the low,” went Frank.

 

On the low.

 

“We got more business ideas ‘n sh*t too, you know,” Reuben continued. “We’re f*ckin’ enterprising.”

 

“Call it expansion.”

 

“Get some f*ckin’ cash, take some takes, you know. We’re about risk ventures or what’s-the-word, take on any old.”

 

“Want to pitch something - go. Shoot. You got coke you want inside, we know people got coke. Easy. We got this guy from Lennox Island--”

 

“Slick Albo motherf*cker.”

 

“--he wanted some tight operators. You're a tight operator, right, Bumpy?”

 

“Bumpy,” Reuben laughed. “That’s good.”

 

Latrell nodded.

 

“We was gonna meet the guy in a couple, we bring you along, sh*t’s f*cking beautiful. We got diversity. We love diversity. Youse is diverse, they're diverse, it's a diverse f*cking carousel. Whole city every block is a motherf*cker speakin’ one language or another. We pick up and we drop off diverse people all the time.”

 

Interesting metaphor. “I got ideas.”

 

Frank smiled, “Shoot, Laquell.”

 

“Latrell.”

 

Bumpy,” Reuben chuckled.

 

Latrell thought a moment. Thought hard. Had the paths cross in his head and the bulb go off and his eyes flicker. Anarkiss Ink Tattoo. A fresh start.

 

“I was,” he said, “running this thing with a couple guys.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“The guys went. You get me?”

 

Frank snorted, “Sure.”

 

“Now this… this is one thing. This sh*t is procedural profit, son. But me and these guys was working on something’d get a motherf*cker a lot of cash, a lot of seed capital, in a very short period a’ time.”

 

“f*ck’s a seed capital?”

 

“Startin’ money,” Frank shot. “Go on.”

 

“These guys at the docks. They Italian too, I think.”

 

“Yeah?” That weren’t neither of the guys, that was Philly. First word of the day.

 

“Yeah,” Latrell continued. “They’re big boys. They movin’ weight outta one of the warehouses. No eyes on it. Real quick gig, in, out. Heroin, I think.”

 

“Which docks?” Phil again.

 

“East Hook.”

 

“Only thing in East Hook docks is yuppies and Swedish furniture.”

 

That was they idea, I think.”

 

Phil put the cup down. “Hm.”

 

Latrell scratched his ear, “Just thinking, if you get a couple niggas in there, you get ‘em sprung, they move in… that’s some good money. Just saying. Was a good hustle ‘til the homies split.”

 

“Were they Ballas?” Frank asked.

 

“Nah. Was a thing I was doin’ with these other guys, unaffiliated, no tax, no shakin’.”

 

“Then why’d they go?”

 

“Long story.”

 

“Sounds good,” Reuben said.

 

“Sure. Sure. Sounds good.”

 

“Thank you,” said Latrell.

 

“Hey, f*ckin’... forget about it, eh? We said, we said pitches. We can get up on this sh*t when the ball’s rolling, you know. With the Albo.”

 

“Albo’s slick,” Reuben agreed.

 

“Slick f*ck. He’s got a line on ganj’, this great f*ckin’ line, knows people who grow the sh*t themselves.”

 

Hydroponic.”

 

“Is it hydroponic?”

 

“Some sh*t like that.”

 

“It’s good sh*t either way. Wants us on some sh*t that’s a kinda f*ckin’ mutual kinda arrangement, suits both parties.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

They were just talking to each other at this point. Latrell turned - Rod was gone, door was shut. Didn’t hear. Turned back, two Italians were just gabbing to each other. Weren’t even facing Latrell anymore, just each other, back on themselves laughing.

 

Latrell drifted to the side of the room. Drifted to the water cooler.

 

Drifted to Philly.

 

Pulled out a paper cup and flicked the right button to get the water tinkling down, right up next to the guy. “Philly,” Latrell said.

 

“S’what they call me.”

 

“What they call you?”

 

Guy shrugged. “Jelly. Rusty. I’unno. Philly.”

 

Latrell nodded, blinked. “Why?”

 

Philly pulled a face. “My name’s Phillip.

 

Laughed, “No, I mean… Jelly. Rusty.”

 

Philly, Rusty, Jelly - he had his elbows leaning on the wall with a smirk. “Long story,” he said. “Rusty Irish. I’unno.”

 

Hm.

 

Latrell tried again.

 

“You’re Irish.”

 

“No sh*t.”

 

“You run with these guys.”

 

“Sure, kid.”

 

“You met Blondie Waldroup?”

 

Long story short - Blondie was a tough-boy Botolph gangster. Ran Massachusetts, killed people, the works. Had a film about him made, was gonna come out in a couple weeks. Question got Philly snorting, chuckling, "Irish gangsters I knew were named Gerry n' Derry, but sure. I met Blondie. Real pussycat."

 

"Was he like in the movie?"

 

"Didn't cuss that much, but sure. Peachy keen. Weren’t much a meetin’, he was just at a truck stop someplace up for a trade. The fellas up Mass-way never sent emissaries. Always did the jobs in person. Cowboys."

 

“Cool, man.”

 

“We sold him rifles. Pretty sure he got indicted the next year.”

 

Rifles.”

 

“You know - f*ckin’... Kreugers. Single shot. No autos. He was a funny guy, had jokes on him. Wish I could tell you some.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“It was a one time thing.”

 

“Good, though, right?”

 

“Good, sure. Good. He was a crazy f*ckin’ mick. How things shoulda’ been. Instead… you know. You know, you know.”

 

“S’how it goes, man.”

 

Ice building. Ice built. Latrell paused, took a sip, waited for the inevitable, for the goddamn ice to break. Looked over, saw Phil milling it through his head, the gears turning.

 

“So,” he went, f*cking finally. “That dock thing you was talking about.”

 

Snap. There went the ice.

 

Latrell chuckled.

 

The Glossary

Liberty City Map

Edited by slimeball supreme

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Nutcracker

 

Bar buzzing mad-like late at night. Cash only sports bar not too far away from Kassian’s place, with big black and white checkered floor and wooden tables and mugs with Pisswasser Ice or Logger Light proudly printed on the glass. A dozen or so guys with eyes planted on a flatscreen.

 

The Swingers absolutely pummeling Cottonmouth. 9 - 3 to Liberty as it stood. Pathetic. Expected, but pathetic.

 

Bar had been mostly attentive at the game before but eyes had dropped and brew went down and the numbers kept climbing. Was a safe win for the safest team in the league shining pristine cleats on the cheapest pitch they could find. Two-man team of Asaltacunas and Rapazar throwing balls nobody hit and homing balls going straight on.

 

Whatever. Abbot f*cking hated baseball. Didn't really get it.

 

Vadim had spent a chunk of the poker cash on a new watch; gold Kronos he'd said was the ‘patrician Swiss’, a sentiment Abbot only partly understood. Started going on about watchmaking, then the tech industry, then some sh*t about Silicon Valley. 

 

Abbot had downed his drink and went to take a piss.

 

The bar was on a neighborhood border, Bantonvale to the east and Dartford to the west. Your regular South Broker townies and nobodies striking fierce with guido types wearing sunglasses indoors still scoping the game. Abbot was a couple drinks down and couldn’t give one f*ck or another.

 

The bathroom door swung open.

 

Wasn’t a very appealing sight.

 

A couple stalls flanked by a urinal trough with way too much ice dumped in, dumped so high the toes’d touch if you stepped too close. Dirty mirrors with streaks of brown, dirt and dust, running top to bottom. Doors with busted locks and marker scrawl.

 

It all blurred together. Abbot moved on, hopped up, unzipped.

 

Was alone with his thoughts.

 

It’d been a while since the robbery, a good week, maybe less or maybe more. Mind was swimming. Mind was swimming in what happened a good week or two before that, a couple blocks away. The garage they drove past on the way to the bar with a couple forensics guys still camped outside. Had this feeling in his gut when he saw the cops guarding the exterior eye the car a moment before turning back. Still felt the ache in his back on occasion where the bullet left a bruise. A nasty bruise on the border of bleeding but just that - a bruise. He’d made off better than the other guys.

 

That’s what he’d told Kassian and told Paulie when he asked for the gat back. Three magazines, one unused. One vest that could go back in the armory. Or the shoebox. Whatever. Made his peace with the cash and got a look when he said he didn’t take the oxycodone back. Abbot said there weren’t no time and the drugs would paint a better picture than just a couple pieces of stolen property.

 

Pasha had his complaints, but the complaints stopped when he got the ghzel duck back.

 

Abbot looked at his face in the mirror, the dirty f*cking mirror, when he was rinsing his hands. Hadn’t shaved in a while. Beard wasn’t groomed, wasn’t near groomed. Scruff down the neck length and getting unkempt. Glasses needed adjusting, hair needed cutting, red-out eyes’d been a result of sleepless nights and toked mornings.

 

Filled his hands with water. Cold water, water with no soap. Moved his glasses up with forearm.

 

Scrubbed his face.

 

Felt water drip-drip off his nose and down the face and past lips. Felt his knees kinda buckle a moment. Just alone, just alone.

 

Door swung open again. Dude with a beanie and a leather flight jacket with eyes on the urinal that quickly jumped to Abbot. Had a second to spare; Abbie dusted himself off, got back up, pushed himself off. Played it cool and slipped out while the door was still open.

 

Back into the light. Back into noise.

 

Fly ball, right field - it is off the top of the wall… and gone!

 

12 - 3 now. Some guys in the bar clapping. God knows why, what dumbass, are they gonna hear you in Georgia?

 

Kaz had his foot in the middle between the bar and the seats, waved out a moment and beckoned him over. “Game, huh?”

 

“Yeah,” Abbot said. “It’s a game.”


“I tell you, motherf*cker,” Vadim was half-shouting now. “Is genius. He is a f*cking genius.”

 

“Swingers haven’t had--”

 

“The next billionaires… are today millionaires. You know?”

 

“Sure, Vadim. Abbot--”

 

Rahm Crake. Or Broil. Crake or Broil? He is the Coil guy who make the f*cking electric car.”

 

“Okay, Vadim.”

 

“He’s so f*cking cool. He is so f*cking cool, man. It’s Broil. Rahm Broil.”

 

“I know his name, Vadim.”

 

“No, is Crake. Idiot. Ты меня игнорируешь, идиот!”

 

“Where the hell’d he get Broil from?” Abbot asked.

 

“I make up the f*cking name the Broil name. He think this man is a barbecue. You think he a f*cking soup, Kazy?”

 

“Sure, Vadim.”

 

“Kazy-” Vadim was slurring but he hadn’t even had much. Lightweight. “-you no take the future seriously, no? You no take revolution seriously.”

 

“Call it a revolution when they cut a guy’s head off.”

 

You no liiiisteeen! You no listen to me! Doug Hatchet. Rahm Crake. Motherf*cker motherf*cking Kanye West. OG Loc, motherf*cker.”

 

“Isn’t his manager on trial?” Abbot asked.

 

“That’s Madd Dogg,” Kaz replied.

 

That is the irrelevant because Madd Dogg, he no do sh*t! You stupid! Eduard know this kind of sh*t, Kazy. Eddie is the knower of the future, he understand the wave. He talk to me about these kids we get, you no even ask about the poker. The poker!”

 

“Easy.”

 

“The joker poker. The poker joker. Aha.”

 

 Kaz spat, “Успокойся, Вадим.”

 

“Kanye… listen to 808s and Heartbreak. Do it for me. You listen to this jazz sh*t, you listen to this Charlie Parker or whatever the f*ck. Split Reed. The First Degree Willies. You put Beautiful Fantasy in, motherf*cker, you mind… pfft… explode.”

 

“Kanye probably samples jazz. I dunno.”

 

“Kanye does it f*cking differently!”

 

Abbot tried getting a word in edgewise, “Vadim--”

 

Vadim, Vadiiim,” was the rebuff. “Eddie and me, we listen to- euh… we listen to this music and we get f*cked up, man. We take tabbies, man. Tabby man. Beautiful, man. The f*ck is a sample? Okay, buddy.”

 

Kaz was getting irritated. Abbot just found it funny, “Sample’s like, taking some music and making it different.”

 

“Sure. Then he do it f*cking different, yeah?”

 

“Maybe I'm not saying it right.”

 

Kaz slammed palms on table, “Maybe--”

 

Thud.

 

Look to the bar side, where Kassian had his leg haphazardly straight across the walkway, where somebody'd have to step over him to get past. Look at the floor, where some poor motherf*cker in a flight jacket and a beanie had tripped over. That guy. Bathroom guy.

 

He was still standing, granted. But two pints worth of Pisswasser were on the floor and all over his nice jacket. Still intact glasses rolled into crevices.

 

“What the f*ck is your problem?”

 

“Excuse me?” Kaz went.

 

“The f*ck is with the f*cking foot, fa**ot?”

 

Kaz stood up so fast the chair nearly got kicked over, “What did you just say?”

 

Vadim didn't stand, “What you want, buddy?”

 

“Your friend had his goddamn foot in the way. You're paying for my drinks.”

 

Lick it off the floor.

 

The guy shoved Kaz. One of the guys from the bar stood up, “Watch it, Dylan,” but flight jacket shoved again.

 

Kaz shoved back.

 

Abbot threw himself in between, “Cool it guys,” nearly got a shove for himself from Kassian no less. Wall between the two.

 

Dylan wasn't budging. Pointing right in Kassian’s face, “You're a prick.”

 

“f*ck you.”

 

Guys, come on--”

 

“Your friend here--”

 

“Abbot--”

 

“--is a queer f*cking nobody leaves his foot in the way.”

 

Kaz shoved again, harder, bared his teeth and said something harsh. Abbot weren’t sure if it were Russian or English, but it was mad. Other guy snarled, nearly threw back a fist but stopped himself.

 

Little old man came walking through. Chest height, babbling something, “stop stop stop”s and “woah”s. Guy was holding a mop, started sweeping, kicked the thing half in the middle to wipe up spirits and started cursing in maybe-Yiddish maybe-Libertonian.

 

“You’re lucky, motherf*cker--”

 

You start sh*t, you leave the bar!” little man was going while he was sweeping.

 

“Little baby boy!” That was Vadim. Nobody was quite sure who he was talking to, but everyone got a little more irritated at him in turn.

 

Fizzled out from there.

 

Fizzled out while Vadim was slurring some more sh*t and the guy started picking up his glasses and muttering. Flight jacket walked off, right to the other side of the bar where a friend was sitting, started chittering some sh*t and looking back at Kaz’s table.

 

Swingers were up two more points.

 

Kaz sighed. Rubbed his head. “This game.”

 

Abbot drank. “This game.”

 

***

 

Today billionaire…” Kaz was laughing, doing a bullsh*t accent, “is will be the tomorrow millionaire! Ah? Eh?”

 

Abbot was laughing too.

 

He always played the designated driver when the drinks got drunk, but f*ck it, a couple couldn’t hurt. That was the thought process and it culminated here: a risky as all f*ck drive back the same way they came, eyeing the same people, passing by the same crime scene. Dropping Vadim off at his apartment a little ways up before going down again.

 

Stumbling onto steps at Kassian’s place.

 

Kaz fumbling keys with that stupid smirk.

 

Slumping to the ground to take off his Pikeys and tossing them aside like trash, not like a couple $60 sneakers, leaning back on the wall and letting out a yelp: “You no liiiisten, Abbie. Abbie. Abbot.”

 

“I try.”

 

“You try not to listen, Abbot?”

 

“That's right.”

 

“I try when that motherf*cker is going, I swear to god.”

 

“Ah, c’mon.”

 

“You hear what he was f*ckin’ saying?” Kaz was on his feet now, sockless, “What, he gets at that f*cking guy, he's sitting down acting like he’ll back me up. f*ck him.”

 

“C’mon--”

 

“That cocksucker f*cking, Guberman. Gooberman.”

 

Abbot blew out his nose, “Really?”

 

“Eddie the f*cking goober.”

 

“Eddie’s fine.”

 

“You met Eddie a grand total of one, maybe two times.”

 

“And he was fine.”

 

“Fat f*cking idiot means fine, sure, fine. Fine.”

 

Another blow out the nose, leaned on the wall. Kaz fell down onto the couch, made a noise when he realized he fell on the remote and the TV turned on and gave the little logo jingle when you start the f*cker up. Whole room filled with blue.

 

Abbot turned the lights on.

 

“No, no,” Kaz said. “Keep it off.”

 

“Can I at least turn the kitchen on?”

 

Sigh, “Sure.”

 

Flicked back off, stumbled through carpet with kinda-blurred vision and kinda-cluttered floor, not sure if you were gonna step on some disused trash or a can or some sh*t. Felt his way through silhouettes to the kitchen light, flicked it on. Bulb there was dim, dim as all hell, which meant the house was still mostly dark.

 

Kaz illuminated by late night TV - by infomercials and ads with booming wiseguy voice. “You want a little something?”

 

“Maybe, Abbie.”

 

Didn’t need much more.

 

Back to the cupboard, back to dwindling oxycodone stash in sterile boxes. Pulled a razor out the same spot. “How long you known Vadim?”

 

“I don’t know. He came a little while after you left.”

 

“2000? Two-thousand-what?”

 

“Yeah, around. He was working with some of the Georgian guys, some of the poker guys. I think he met Pytor through this one little prick, you probably know him.”

 

Casing got scraped off with the blade. “Who?”

 

“Vanya. You remember Vanya?”

 

Sniff, “Cat burglar guy. Did insurance scams. Bytchkov, right?”

 

“Yeah, yeah. But you know. A little here, a little there with him. Vannie made off with that per--”

 

Vannie?

 

“f*ck you, sure.”

 

“Just say his name. Same f*cking syllables.”

 

“That wouldn’t piss you off, though.”

 

Laughed. Still felt sober. Needed some more. Pulled the glass pipe from the shelf. Lighter from by the cutlery drawer. Lit up on the way to the sofa and blew smoke out with the feeling rushing down the bones, “You want one?”

 

“Nah,” Kaz said. “Not now.” Drinks did him good enough, he guessed.

 

Guessing no longer.

 

Fell down to his side and let his eyes go back and the surge leak through the stream to the sound of Big Paulie’s f*cking autos and... man. Man!

 

Man.

 

Warm.

 

Warm.

 

Numb. Like you’re walking on air, peace motherf*cker. God.

 

“And you know,” Kaz went on, humming now, just under breath, “Vadim came to us.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“You get the records from Rahim yet? The jazz? We- we could play jazz now.”

 

“No.”

 

“The vinyls.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“You should get them.”

 

Yeah.” Nodding.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Nodding. Nothing.

 

TV noise.

 

Kassian looked at Abbot.

 

Abbot just stared off.

 

“Yeah.”

 

Kassian moved closer.

 

“Yeah,” Abbot said. Murmured. “Yeah. Yeah.”

 

Kassian moved closer.

 

Abbot didn't move.

 

Kassian right on Abbot. Leg to leg.

 

Abbot didn't move.

 

Slowly rubbed his thigh. Kassian went up, Kassian went down.

 

Abbot didn't move.

 

Put his hand on Abbot’s belt.

 

Breath got short.

 

Heads up against each other. Side by side.

 

Abbot froze.

 

Kassian thought.

 

Kassian kissed.

 

Abbot froze.

 

Started to unbuckle.

 

Stopped.

 

Stopped.

 

Stopped for so goddamn long that time stopped, that the air stopped and the little bits of f*cking dust in the air stopped moving with the TV light gone blue now bleeding over, bleeding over. Abbot weren’t looking nowhere but you could feel the eyes, the steely eyes, you could feel them drill into Abbot. Into his temples, his eyes, his neck.

 

Time was still. Breath was still. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

 

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

 

Dead.

 

Abbot wasn’t sure what happened when he hit the floor, but he knew he was shoved. Wasn’t sure how hard. Just that his face met floor, met carpet floor rough on flesh. “Why?” Like a smash cut, like one second he was up and the next he wasn’t.

 

Why’d you do that?!

 

Abbot let out a “What?”

 

“Why? Why the f*ck did you- f*ck, why the f*ck did you do that?!”

 

“K--”

 

Why the f*ck did you do that?!

 

“What?”

 

Stammering, stammering, “You need to get the f*ck out. Get out.”

 

“Kassian--”

 

“Get the f*ck out of my f*cking house!” Got off the couch and knocked something down Abbot didn’t see but felt the hands grab on his arm and back and pull him up still dizzy, “Get the f*ck out!”

 

Wasn’t even sure what was happening. Arm in lock and foot in lockstep. “Yeah--”

 

“Why- why the f*ck? Why the f*ck did you do that?”

 

“I didn’t--”

 

“God f*cking damn it!”

 

“Kassian--”

 

“You f*cking idiot! You f*cking idiot! Why the f*ck did-- rauughh, f*ck!” Arm locked in and Kassian f*cking with the doorknob so hard he might as well have been breaking it, kicked the door and kicked the door and opened it inward.

 

Tossed Abbot to the brick stairs. Not rough, just tossed. Like the shoes.

 

“Kassian--”

 

Get the f*ck out!

 

Door slammed. Lock clicked. Felt heaviness on the door.

 

He was still there.

 

And then he wasn’t.

 

Abbot took off his shoes. Just his elbows on concrete and socks to the chill, fall chill and wind and monochrome. Warm light a long ways away from dark hues he found himself in. Barely registering it, barely registering so much: high as a f*cking kite and not quite sure what happened.

 

But what else is there to do?

 

You get up and walk.

 

The Glossary

Liberty City Map

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Pomp & Circumstance

 

Adam had the Tree open on the office PC.

 

cKCK40t.png

 

Mike La Manna?

 

“The mayor’s a bully.”

 

Was it an obligation to come down to the rug store? Maybe. Maybe a duty. Something to ponder rolling and moving and cleaning f*cking shag or manning the register for the occasional guy, guy, that might come in. One guy - maybe a neighborhood guy trying to score a conversation, maybe a guy looking for a deal or something cheap or something close, because it’s not like a lot of people come down to District Park for rugs and carpet installation.

 

Cohen Family Carpets. A Cohen Family Carpets monitor in the office with a couple pop-up ads for closing and a Tree page open.

 

“I dunno about that.”

 

“He killed that groundhog.”

 

“Sure. But he didn't bully the groundhog, pa.”

 

“So you're fine with the mayor killing the groundhog?”

 

“No--”

 

“He hates cops. He kills the animals. He says all this drek, this socialism stuff, this about the two cities and the rents. He hates us--”

 

“What do you mean, the mayor hates us?”

 

“He hates Jews!”

 

Chuckled, “Ain’t sure about that, dad. Guy’s not bad.”

 

“Look what he does with the mohels!”

 

“Least he hates the Governor, hates that f*cking prick Iorio, pa. Those pricks upstate.”

 

“You don't mind him with the mohels? What he's doing?”

 

“Don't put words in my mouth, pa.”

 

But do you?

 

“What about mohels? What's the guy doing with mohels? Come on.”

 

Adam was by the door, darting in and out, in and out grabbing and moving and checking the register. Stopped a moment going in, going out, going in: got red-faced and leaned on doorway to keep his eyes straight on Abbot. Frustrated, “He’s- you know, he gets these doctors in and you need this oversight and--”

 

“What's wrong with that?”

 

It's a sacred ritual!

 

“Come on.”

 

“You come on, come on. What's with you? There's a privacy to it! There's dignity in our rituals, Abbot! Nebby bureaucrats and these doctors, and these is goy doctors and, you know what Rabbi Maltz tells me?”

 

“What? More mohel sh*t?”

 

Language.

 

“Stuff. Stuff, come on. What?”

 

“He’s gonna ban the horses next. You know, the horses, with the carriages. Me and Mr. Bardach, he comes up to us, and he says he’s gonna ban them from goin’ around Middle Park and- and you know, I mean come on!”

 

“They do it through summer and they get tired, I heard.”

 

“The horses are fine. They’re fine! Your cousin Ariel, his old buddy Igor, he still does it, and the kids, they love it, you know. And he always sends the couples off, and the couples- Igor knows how to make it romantic, how to make it a good time, and he sends ‘em off with a mazel tov and a prayer. He loves those horses more than his own son, they don’t die or get hurt or nothing like that. You want him out the job?”

 

“I ain’t seen Ariel in a long time, pa.”

 

“Ariel don’t drive the carriages, Abbot! He hates us! He hates our way of life!”

 

“Dad--”

 

“And he disrespects the police, and you know what? You know that’d be it.”

 

“How would it be it?”

 

“You head up South Slopes the blacks up there still give you bad looks, I’m telling you. I’m telling you, Abbot.”

 

“Please, let’s not- can we not talk about that?”

 

Arms folded and his eyes narrowed, “What? Like what? I say something wrong?”

 

“That blacks stuff--”

 

“You know what, you know what? Blacks can say whatever they want and do whatever they want about us. Call us names, give us bad looks, you know- take handouts. And what? I say that, and I’m the bad guy, come on.”

 

“I’m just saying.”

 

“What’re you saying?”

 

“The rabbi, you know. I don’t think he knows what he’s talking about, pa.”

 

“Oh, and you do?”

 

“That’s not what I’m saying.”

 

“You’ve got this wisdom he don’t? You always disrespect him. Why? Why don’t you respect the temple, Abbot? You disrespect him, you don’t go to temple, you don’t respect family.”

 

“I- what? I don’t respect what?”

 

“Family.”

 

“I’m here now, ain’t I?”

 

“You haven’t seen Ariel. You know, since when do you even ask about Ariel? Or Igor? Your cousins, they ask me all the time how my sons are, and what do I say? Ariel has his practice, and he tells me he’s got this girl and she’s expecting and this and this, and what? And what you tell me?”

 

“He asks about your sons, huh?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Sons? Or son?”

 

Beat.

 

Felt his phone vibrate.

 

“What are you saying, Abbot?”

 

“What, you seen Achban around recently? He called?”

 

“I- that- you come on, Abbot.”

 

Phone vibrated. “No, you come on. You say I’m disrespecting you, what, he come over? He helped with the rugs?”

 

“Sure.”

 

“When?”

 

“You- you don’t have to- you are being so low.”

 

You’re being low! What does that even mean, low? What am I being?”

 

“Unfair.”

 

Phone stopped vibrating. “At least I’m here. You say I don’t even give a f*ck about family and--”

 

“Language!”

 

“--and for what, dad? When was the last time you even f*cking saw him?”

 

“You don’t talk that way around me. You don’t. What happened? Why you treat me this way?”

 

“I talk, but he doesn’t say anything, does he? He can’t when he’s in Florida, when he’s gone years without nothing and then--”

 

“You don’t know what he has been through.”

 

“Does he? When ma-” phone started vibrating again, “when- I’m sorry.”

 

“What?”

 

“I’ve got to take this.”

 

“You’ve got- what? What?”

 

“My phone. It’s been ringing. I need to answer the call, I’m sorry.”

 

“You say this--”

 

I’ve got a call, pa.”

 

That was it.

 

Adam went to say something, but he didn’t. Just sighed. Threw his hand, shook his head, eyes on the floor.

 

Abbot walked past, shifted by him still in the door, walked through tile out the glass door onto the street. Checked his phone, unknown number, sighed on the up taking phone to ear. “This is Abbot.”

 

Familiar voice, “You pick up the phone now.”

 

Benny.

 

“Mr. Saravaisky, I- you know--”

 

“I don’t.”

 

“I’m with my pa. At his store. You know.”

 

This terse pause before he replied, “I didn’t.”

 

“What is it, sir?”

 

“You come to me. I wish to see you.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“I don’t discuss on phone. Why you come, that is. But you come. You come.”

 

He was thinking about subway rides in his head. “Now?”

 

“Now.”

 

“I’m with my pa.”

 

“I know.”

 

For whom the bell tolls. “Where?”

 

“The Garden. Hove 1st. Don’t wait.”

 

Line went dead.

 

The Garden.

 

Abbot put the phone down and went to get his coat.

 

Adam was by the door still cross-armed and narrow-browed and red-faced with his foot tap tapping, ready to jump back in to “So what the heck are you even saying to me?” but Abbot stopped.

 

And grabbed his coat.

 

“What, you going?”

 

“Yeah,” Abbot said. “I have to.”

 

“Why?”

 

“It’s a work thing.”

 

“In the city?”

 

“Yeah, pop. Emergency.”

 

“So you just are going? Can you not, I mean--”

 

“I can’t. I’ll see you.”

 

The door shut.

 

***

 

They called it Gulag Garden as a joke; got started by old guard emigres in the 70’s, some of whom had spent time in Siberia getting pen-ink tattoos and mining copper. Least it put the memories in a different light, least you wanted to come here. Founded by an old school tough named Argov: moved to the states in ‘75 and died around ten years later from two gunshot wounds to the head.

 

Said it all.

 

Stood on the corner of Mohawk and Hove 1st in jade green paint with GG in gold. Restaurant-Lounge. Place had been a neighborhood staple for going on four decades now, had its own bloody history and its own mythical reputation and its own hallowed halls where the big men wined and dined. At the base of an apartment block, across the street from the old house where Lenny Petrovich once lived, where babushkas sat on folding chairs.

 

Abbot had never stepped foot inside before. Abbot knew he hadn’t, and knew that his pa and his ma sure hadn’t, but wasn’t too sure about the odd one out. About his brother. You don’t go to the Garden unless you matter. Abbot mattered now.

 

Abbot stepped foot inside.

 

Smelt like matzo and kosher wine.

 

Empty stage at the back with all the lights turned off and the stagecraft lying dormant and the tables with pink tablecloth unattended. Took on a plaza shape - a bar in the center with a granite statue standing loud and proud, a forest of a thousand tables radiating off. Everything that weren’t table or stage painted velvet red and rose pink. Red carpet, red walls, green ornate ceiling and paintings and…

 

It wasn’t empty.

 

The bar was still stocked.

 

Meaty men at the bar with their backs turned craned heads to face doorway. Hit Abbot immediately, one was a woman. A large woman with hair in a bun and a mole on the cheek dressed in black with the other two. One of the guys had a ponytail and a mustache and a rat face. Other guy didn’t turn. Just bald.

 

They all scowled a moment before turning back to drink. Woman pointed chunky arm to the room corner.

 

A single table, where bald man Benny Saravaisky sat.

 

Abbot approached. On the way kept looking, realized the place really wasn’t empty, all kinds of goons planted here and planted there with eyes trained and lips parted to lines. A million eyes on Abbot, a million eyes drilling. Enough to hurt.

 

Benny didn’t look up when Abbot came closer. Wore a pistachio green dress shirt with a gold chain and grey chest hair peeking, a glass of rosé and a salad.

 

“It’s kosher.”

 

Blink. “Okay,” Abbot said.

 

“It’s duck. So it’s kosher.”

 

“Duck salad?”

 

“It’s duck salad.”

 

“That’s- okay. That’s okay. I didn’t ask, but--”

 

Sit, Abbot.”

 

The chair legs ground on the wood floor. Abbot sat. “Okay.”

 

Nothing.

 

Benny stabbed the duck and the leaf with his fork, drank his wine, didn’t look up. You’d think there’d be music, there’d be chatter, there’d be something, but you would’ve thought wrong. That ear ringing, chirpy, grinding silence that click-click-clicks in your eardrums.

 

Nothing.

 

“I know what you did.”

 

Good start.

 

“What did I do, Benny?”

 

“You did a very good favor for a very good man. I met Pavel in Germany, Abbot. He knew how to make a good f*cking money. I want to thank you.”

 

“It was no problem, Mr. Saravaisky.”

 

He chuckled. “Good. And what you did, that was no problem for you?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

Benny looked up. “Do you?”

 

Abbot had a thought - he liked it better when Benny wasn’t looking him in the eye. “I--”

 

“You work for me now. Okay?”

 

Blink. “How- excuse me?”

 

“Seva. You met Seva, yes?”

 

“Uh--”

 

“He was at the cafe, Abbot.”

 

“Oh. Yeah. Okay, yeah. I met Seva.”

 

“Seva is- well, he has- he is not with me anymore. Greener pastures, is this what you say? He is in Netherlands. Poppy farming.”

 

Was that innuendo? Didn’t matter, Abbot got the drift; “Okay,” he said.

 

“He used to drive my car. My baby. You see this parked outside?”

 

He didn’t. “Yes.”

 

“My Enus. He drive my car.” He looked Abbot square in the eye again. “You are driving me now.”

 

“I mean,” kind of speechless, kind of breathless, “I appreciate it,” Abbot said. “But I’m not really working- well, you know, I work, but not for anyone particular. You know.”

 

“I know,” Benny said. “And now you work for me. You are going to drive my car, and you are going to work for me.”

 

This was not a choice.

 

This was not a choice.

 

“Okay,” Abbot said. “Thank you.”

 

“You come here. This is where you come to. If I am not here, someone knows. You go to cafe. I have restaurant in Beechwood. You go there. You will see my car, and you will drive it when I am telling you to. Is this understood?”

 

“Yes, Benny.”

 

“You are good to listen, Abbot.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“You have always have been good listener. You always have. The new kids, they do not listen, they do their own thing, they get these f*cking sneakers and tattoos and cars and think they are big shots. But they don’t listen. So they do not go nowhere. They drive their f*cking Lampadati right into police auction, yes?”

 

Abbot laughed. “Yeah.”

 

Benny took a sip. “You remind me of your brother.”

 

Smile went away. “Yeah?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Felt the corner of his lip kinda twitch, took his hands off the table down into his lap. “Is that good?”

 

“I always liked your brother, Abbot. I like you. I like Achban because he come in, he listen, he do what he is told. Smart. Clever. Did not- he didn’t spend his money bad or f*ck around with wrong people. The right people always talk good of him. Right people talk good of you.”

 

“Hm.”

 

“Blond Mr. Feygin at the news stand. Pavel. Peter Poker with the card games. Maybe not Feygin--”

 

“Does Teddy not like me?”

 

“Teddy speaks of you better than his son. But right people… I don’t know.”

 

Hmph. “Teddy ain’t done nothing wrong by me.”

 

“By you, Abbot. Maybe.” Another sip. “What good a man does is not dictating of how good a man is.”

 

Nothing again.

 

“Can I have a drink, Benny?”

 

“Not now.”

 

Okay.

 

The Glossary

Liberty City Map

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Where The Towers Are Tall

 

DB lived in a small apartment in one of the towers; an apartment Latrell’d never been to, in a tower he’d stepped foot in only a couple times. DB was new guard, relatively, young blood who got lucky finding his way into Latrell’s circle.

 

One of the few.

 

New kids were hard to come by these days - went looking for new cliques or went unaffiliated or wore colors without the say-so of the bosses. DB went looking for the real thing when he was 13, reminded Latrell of Latrell, got beat in a couple years after running small drops or guarding stashes or jumping kids at school for green backpacks and showing he had the balls to do the real thing. If it were still 2005, being the real thing woulda counted for something.

 

Now everyone was a Balla. Or Family. Or Lords, or one of the Dominican crews, or Marabunta Grande. You just had to say you were, and you were.

 

Stairwells were dark, chipped red paint turning pinkish and green walls turning teal. Hallways empty, no folks, no friends. Just civilians.

 

There were these kids on one of the floors who didn’t do nothing wrong that much, went by a name that Latrell forgot and went with the other kids and picked fights and bummed cigarettes. Latrell was there at one point, he was, but he wasn’t anymore. Saw them on the stairwells in snapbacks and sagged skinny jeans and one of guys in a bubble vest with a skull face got up in Latrell’s. Did a dog snarl.

 

Kind of faltered when Latrell just looked back at him and stopped on the stairs and stared him down when they kept going. Kid was 15 tops. “Orlando, what you lookin’ at?” He was looking at Latrell.

 

He turned, kept going. You keep going.

 

Door knocked on DB’s apartment and waited, knocked again, waited. Was thinking of turning away when the door got answered and DB wasn’t standing in the crack. Little old woman in thrift store clothes and gray hair frizzed out and slippers, little reading glasses still on. “Hello?”

 

“Hi.”

 

“You want- you want something? We, uh, ain’t no sellin’ we want none or nothin’--”

 

“I’m- you- Delmar. He wanted to talk to me.”

 

“Delmar, huh?”

 

“Yes. Are you his, uh--”

 

“Are you with those boys he hangs out with? The ones runnin’ ‘round the PJs ackin’ like they own the place and causin’ a ruckus about?”

 

“No. Nah, no.”

 

“They wear colors and act a fool.”

 

“You could say, yeah. They do.”

 

“You ain’t?”

 

“No. No, ma’am.”

 

Adjusted the glasses, squinted, unsure. “Okay,” she said. “You wancha’ come in, some?”

 

“Okay.”

 

He did.

 

You don’t have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to the project apartments - they are what they are; old, small. This one was older and smaller than so many others - old white wallpapers and tabletops still clean and old chairs, kitchen avocado-green and plant pots made out of macrame. Couch by the little TV still with plastic cover. “What you want with Delmar, boy?”

 

“I’m a friend.”

 

“I know that, boy.”

 

Little woman shuffled to the kitchen to check the cupboards, Latrell stood doe-eyed in the center. “We ain’t talked in a while, and I weren’t reachin’ him… so, you know.”

 

“You know he’s been hangin’ out with scumbags?”

 

“I don’t- I, uh- I keep my nose outta that sh*t.”

 

“You do, huh?”

 

“That’s right.”

 

“What’s your name?”

 

“Latrell.”

 

“And you’re…”

 

Beat. “I’m what?”

 

“You like to hang out with boys? ‘Cause Delmar, he’s a boy.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“He’s 19, Latrell. How old’s you?”

 

“I- well, you know, man--”

 

“I don’t.”

 

“I’m 27, ma’am.”

 

“And you hangin’ with boys?”

 

“I don’t hang with boys, ma’am.”

 

“Delmar, he- he- he been, he- too many old men. Too many old big men out the projects ackin’ fools and gettin’ the little ones, the little boys, gettin’ em-... you ain’t, you sure you ain’t?”

 

Throat drying, “You sure I ain’t what?”

 

“With the men.”

 

“I’m with-” throat like a f*cking desert, “I work at the community center.”

 

Kinda saw her face flicker. “The where?”

 

“On Bow Lack. You drive past, see the colors- the, uh, the painted colors? We do daycare, recreational, teach kids English, that kinda thing. He ain’t said?”

 

Eyes burning. “No,” she said.

 

“Well- you know. I’m--”

 

What’s he doin’ at the community center?

 

Thought a second, thought hard, “Well… you know. A little extra.”

 

“Extra what?”

 

“You know.”

 

“Honey, I don't.”

 

“Books. Reading. We- I give him, I help him a little. Reading up on things.”

 

“He’s reading?”

 

“You know…” Slip, “Du Bois?”

 

Like her eyes started twinkling, goddamn it, “Nooo. Really?”

 

“Winston King, too.”

 

“Y-” faltered, “you mean Cole?”

 

“Sure, yeah. Yeah. Nah, I ain’t- it ain’t what I was readin’, that stuff. But Du Bois, yeah. He was reading Cole. We got these books--”

 

“The community center got Leopards books?”

 

“Yeah. Well…” faked cupping his mouth, “we got ‘em, but we got ‘em. You know?”

 

Just smiling now. That’s all it was with this woman, woman was staring out cupboards and dusting but slowly just turning and turning to face - now captive, now caught in the eyes. Frail moving closer to Latrell as he just stood dopey, beckoned him to seat, “Why you standing? Why you- c’mon, sit, c’mon.

 

Chair was old. Chair was creaky. Latrell took a seat.

 

Woman didn’t. “Never I never…” muttering, tutting, wowed more than anything.

 

“You his grandma? Delmar’s?” Latrell asked.

 

Her standing dopey in the center now. “Did he tell ya’?”

 

“He don't tell me much.”

 

“I ain't know the boy was headin’ to the center, was- so, we’re…” trailed, “we’re in the same boat.

 

“He ain’t been around as much as recent, why I came. You know. He's a good kid.”

 

“I hope.”

 

“I'd hope you know.”

 

“I thought he was up to...” smiled. She smiled. “You have told me something very good today, Latrell.”

 

“And that's why I came down. Because he's a good kid, he ain't said nothin’, I was worried.”

 

“I thought he wanted to see you?”

 

Chuckled, adjusted collar, “It’s a long story, ma’am.”

 

Please, it's-... it's Verna.”

 

Latrell sighed, “Verna Belcourt.”

 

“That's righ’.”

 

“I heard a friend of Delmar’s,” Latrell clasped hands, “he passed. Or got hurt.”

 

“Del’ been cut up about that.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Name was, euh… name was Kavon, but he had this nickname.”

 

“I just know Kavon. No nicknames.”

 

“The kids got nicknames. They do. They all do, boy got shot - the Kavon boy, Delmar tell you that?”

 

Throat dry again, “No.”

 

“Was dealin’ drugs. And he ain't dead, neither, he’s in the hospital. I knew his parents, they grievin’, they go to the same church as… you go to church?”

 

“I ain't religious.”

 

“Your mother go to church?”

 

“She- yes. Yeah.”

 

Just sighed. “Poor woman. Nelsons were, they was involved. Did what they could. You know how it is. You want a juice?

 

“I’m okay, ma’am.”

 

“I’ll get you a juice.”

 

She rose. Latrell didn’t, just watched. Watched her open fridge with a single bottle of something red and just went “thank you”.

 

“Boys is just killin’ boys, Latrell.” Got a glass. “Nothin’ new, but nothin’ nice.”

 

“It ain't.”

 

Poured shaky, “You seen it.”

 

“Delmar has.”

 

“It ain't nothin’ new. I… I knew this boy similar, when I was his age. Back'n… oh… you know.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“‘56 or ‘57. Huggie.”

 

“They called him Huggie?”

 

“They called him Huggie. And I was a girl too, and y’- kn- y-”  drifted to muttering. “He was a good one. But he got in with bully boys and started-... it’s ancient history.”

 

Glass smacked on bare table. “I'm sorry.”

 

“It's cranberry.”

 

“Where is Delmar?”

 

She just kinda looked off. “You know Martin Luther sat at this table?”

 

Didn't answer his question. “Okay.”

 

“I used to hand out papers with Eustace in Holland, we’d take the train--”

 

“Eustace?”

 

“My husband.”

 

“And he's…”

 

“He’s with my daughter right now. He won't be back for a while.”

 

“That's- okay.” Least he weren't dead.

 

“I'm from North Carolina and we moved up, my family moved up to Broker… long time ago. We’re actually moving back soon, with Delmar. And we got involved with sellin’ the papers and with the freeway they was buildin’ and what they was doin’ to folks, and… yeah. He was with his book and he visited and… I got pictures. You wanna see ‘em?”

 

“Is Delmar here?”

 

Like the flush in her face just went. “Well, y- I wouldn’t want to keep you, of course. He’s up his room up the hall a lil’, but… if you wanna hear some more. I’d be happy.”

 

Latrell got up.

 

Glass was untouched.

 

DB’s room was retrofitted. Might’ve been someone else’s some time ago, you could tell by the smell. Old people smell. Undecorated aside from the desk and the bed and the cupboard and the seventies lead-chip looking wallpaper.

 

Kid was at his desk occupied - laptop, earbuds, head nodding, nodding, nodding.

 

Nodding ‘til Latrell walked up, tapped his shoulder, double-tapped. “Oh.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“‘Sup.”

 

“What's that?”

 

“Oh- yeah, ‘snothin’.”

 

“What you listenin’ to?”

 

“You like Thugga?”

 

“Who?”

 

“Young Thug.”

 

Brows up, eyelids down. DB just shrugged. Latrell went for the bed, sat down, “Your grandma--”

 

“You- sh*t.”

 

“She gave me some’, man. ‘You been steerin’ my Delmar right, ain’t ya’ kinda’ sh*t. You know.”

 

“Shoulda-- sh*t. Sorry.”

 

“I saved it. Don't worry. She thinks I'm out from the community center daycare sh*t up near the graveyards.”

 

“Where- yo, near where them baseheads used to cop up the playground?”

 

“Some’ like that.”

 

Hm.”

 

“You can call a motherf*cker clever, son.”

 

“She gon’ wanna visit, maybe?”

 

Nah.” Thought a second. “Maybe. Nah. Nah, you good. More’n one daycare on Bow Lack, I think.”

 

“You think?”

 

“Homie, I weren't practicin’ this sh*t on the elevator. I- you know, she just asked, sh*t, I ain't up'n f*ckin’ you over tellin’ her I'm a friendly neighborhood representative a’ the local… mu’f*ckin’... what--”

 

“It's--”

 

“Be worse I say I flag.”

 

“It's cool.” Eyes on the ground, DB sighed. “How’s Knot?”

 

“Huh?”

 

“I been meanin’ to visit, but, ch’you know. You know.”

 

“I know,” Latrell. “Hurts.”

 

“Sure.”

 

“I been down a couple times,” Latrell lied. “He’s okay. He’s holdin’. He don’t talk a lot,” laughed. “But you know.”

 

“Yeah. How- you know, his parents, they--”

 

“They okay too,” Latrell lied. “They holdin’. Go to the church and they pray and they hand out what they hand out but, ch’know.”

 

Gets in yo’ f*ckin’ head.” DB sighed, “I rolled with him since the day.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“And the- and the, you know.

 

“I don’t wanna talk about it no more.”

 

“Sure.”

 

Cut out.

 

Nothing.

 

“You always been straight with me, Latrell.”

 

Latrell looked the kid in the eye. “Sure,” he lied.

 

“You workin’, right?”

 

“People gotta eat.”

 

“Yeah… and you got that thing. With them. That whole thing with the cars.”

 

Ha! Nah. They nobodies,” Latrell said through grit teeth. “I ain’t care ‘bout that sh*t. And you shouldn’t neither, man, I’d cut a nigga the f*ck in if it mattered. But they don’t matter. I went to see them, they call me monkey, do all this kinda bullsh*t, it’s nothin’.

 

“I hope.”

 

“Forget it. I will. Gotta tie sh*t up for Slip and then I ain’t give one f*ck.”

 

“Good.”

 

“So what?”

 

DB nodded, kept nodding. “I know these people.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“Wet like Lozano. You know.”

 

“So what? We gon’ start sh*t back up?”

 

“Nah. That sh*t, too much work, too much. That- whatever the f*ck they was pullin’ with the port, drop it.”

 

“I have,” Latrell lied.

 

“But, you know. He straight. He know cats.”

 

“Sure.”

 

DB kept f*cking nodding, “I wanna cut you in. You’d do the same.”

 

“No doubt.”

 

They got fentanyl.

 

Blink. “Yeah?”

 

“Easy to get but this is good. Don’t want no tax from the big boys, and f*ck, I ain’t gonna be here by… April, May no-how anyway. I got the scars but I ain’t a Broker Balla by ‘16. So f*ck it. I get my money, I start my sh*t up, who the f*ck knows what happens.”

 

“They got Ballas in South Carolina, b.”

 

DB shrugged. “I ain’t Ballin’ in South Carolina. I ball with you. I ball wit’ my f*ckin’ dogs. So I cut you in. Maybe Xavier?”

 

“Nah.”

 

“Nah?”

 

“You the only one out hea’ matterin’, man. We get the gravy for you.”

 

Nodded. “Okay.” 

 

Easy. Fret, sh*t, we ain’t frettin’. f*ck a fret. You know. This guy, he good?”

 

“He good. Omar.”

 

“That his name?”

 

“Yeah, but ch’know, you know, he Mex. He got these motherf*ckers in-... I’unno. Vasquez cats.”

 

“He Vasquez?”

 

“Nah. I don’t know. We gotta organize a meet, but…”

 

“I like.” Latrell did. He liked.

 

***

 

“How are you, honey?”

 

“I’m good, mom.”

 

Little woman stirring a pot by the oven craned her neck to see. “You know what happened to the smoke detector?”

 

“They all busted. I talked people say they had theirs broke when they moved in. You know.”

 

Nodded. “I got spaghetti.”

 

“That’s good.”

 

“What you been doin’, hon?”

 

“Talk a friend. Chillin’. You know. We headed to J’Ouvert next week and that, you know.”

 

“You are?”

 

“Yeah. You wanna come?”

 

“I--,” shook her head. “People get up to stuff at that, I- I-, you know. I ain’t.”

 

“I know.”

 

“You ain’t doin’ nothin’, baby?”

 

“No. ‘Course not.”

 

“Good. It’ll be done in a few, okay?”

 

“Sure.”

 

Bedroom door shut.

 

Cut out.

 

Nothing.

 

Latrell took off his shoes.

 

Latrell got down, laid on the made bed.

 

Latrell stared at the ceiling.

 

Latrell kept staring.

 

The Glossary

Liberty City Map

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Y'know?

“This is our f*ckin’ neighborhood.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“So he knows who the f*ck he’s f*ckin’ with if he tries nothin’. But he’s clean. We know the guy a long time, he’s like a cat’s ass. Like a whistle.”

 

Latrell, “A cat’s ass?”

 

Frankie just shrugged. “Sure.”

 

Bantonvale was Bantonvale. Bantonvale don’t need introductions. You read the LC Post and flipped to the crime pages and read about Sal this and Tony that, you already knew Bantonvale. You came down to get good bread or sausage or see your uncle Lou who runs that great place and’s got that little stutter but f*ck, you know, he’s never did f*ckin’ nothin’ to nobody - you know Bantonvale.

 

Latrell knew Bantonvale because a kid got shot on his stoop by a cop here in 1989. But you don’t let that get in the way of good business.

 

He was in the back.

 

Eyes out the window while the car snaked and dipped through grid traffic on a long trek. Starting out in East Liberty and going down, down, down - Frankie reminiscing that his ‘peoples’ used to own a place on Moses Ave, own a cab stand, that he knew people that got into movies, some other bullsh*t. Mostly kept out while the Italians in the front seat conversated and kidded around.

 

Irish was in the back too.

 

Phil Irish wasn't speaking neither.

 

“Too many f*ckin’ Chineses.”

 

Passed another grocer or snooker hall or restaurant with Mandarin on the sign. “Bullsh*t,” Frank muttered. “Total.”

 

Reuben spat, “Too many Chineses all over the f*ckin’ place these days. Period. You know. But the neighborhood, too. You believe that?”

 

Who the hell was he asking? “Sucks,” Latrell said.

 

“We was gonna meet at this place my man Tone used to run, woulda’ played pool with this guy. But you know. We go there, he don't own the place anymore since he's moved down the Florida. It's chink sh*t now. There's these f*ckin’... what is it?”

 

“What?” Frank said.

 

“Banners. Stoogatz. I don't know what they're called but you know, they got all these chinks inside. What the f*ck? Come on.”

 

“Stay in f*ckin’ Chinatown.”

 

“Chinatown’s f*ckin’ teeny,” Phil said.

 

Va fungool, what the f*ck I f*ckin’ know then, Rusty?”

 

“Ain't what I'm saying.”

 

“What, they go up Dukes. Keering. Wherever all the Chineses go, but they go down here.”

 

“He just wants them outta the neighborhood,” said Reuben.

 

“I just want them out the neighborhood.”

 

“I mean, it’s Chinese New Year every f*ckin’ day now. Chinese Easter. What-the-f*ck, you know. We all know. There’s too many f*cking Chinese. Goddamn f*ckin’ Santa Claus with his Chinese goddamn elves.”

 

Phil, “How the f*ck you know they’re Chinese?”

 

Frank, “I got a feeling.”

 

“Yeah, and it’s metaphorical,” Reuben went. “They go politically correct or whateva’ and make all the elves Chinese or black or - no offense, Bumpy, but you the f*ck know.”

 

“Yeah,” Latrell said.

 

“See?!” Frank laughed, “Even he agrees.”

 

Onto 17th.

 

Car rolled southbound past shuttered stores and brick townhouses with the Joe Schmoes of urban Americana. A hundred pest control businesses. Laundromat. Age care clinics. This plumber’s spot, Criscuolo & Sons Plumbing and Heating Supply, place with a bunch of old Italians sitting outside with plastic chairs in front of flashy cars. A Cavalcade, an Obey, a f*cking yellow Progen T20 that Frank pointed and laughed at; “There it is.

 

Reuben stayed on the wheel with eyes to the front, “His prick son’s gonna be there, eh?”

 

Latrell, “Who? The car?”

 

They knew which car he meant, “We’re in with the guys up here,” Frank said. “They’re with us. Friends of ours.”

 

Reuben, “We chose the cafe so we could have a talk after. You know.”

 

“Nice peoples. His son’s always on the f*ckin’ LifeInvaders though.”

 

Phil, “Booby? Booby and his kid?”

 

“Yeah, at the plumber’s.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Reuben, “Swear he was drivin’ a Comet or some other thing, the white one.”

 

“He leased ‘em. So he ain’t drivin’ ‘em,” Frank said. “Or he rented this one, I’unno, his dad’s got a good one with the thing, little spoiled f*ckin’ brat.”

 

“He earn?”

 

They’d stopped the car in front of the cafe by now. It was up the street. “Nah,” Frankie laughed. “Booby don’t let him in the back.”

 

Guess they knew the guys on this block.

 

Parked Frankie’s car, mid-range Fathom four-door sedan painted steel-gray (Reuben’s car was still in the shop. Sorry.), right on the corner behind a black-or-blue Benefactor, front door right in front of a tree meaning Frank had to squeeze out the door so the paint didn’t scratch. 

 

Pointed at the brickwork on the corner cafe, Ramo di Rame, pointed at the green banners advertising paninis and espresso, past regulars sipping coffee on the patio and the flower pots.

 

Stopped. Reuben turned, “Eight o’clock.”

 

Two outdoor eating areas on both sides of the restaurant - place was on the corner, after all. Door in the middle splitting it off. Patio on the 17th Avenue side was full. Patio on 83rd was empty, bar one.

 

One was this slender guy with a garish floral shirt, a lot of red and yellow and blue, tucked into deep-navy ProLaps trackpants. Gray sneakers. Receding hair and a chin strap, crooked nose, top few buttons cut open showing off a double-headed eagle chain.

 

“That’s the Albo.”

 

“You sure?”

 

“Who the f*ck else gonna dress like that?”

 

Hm. Phil, “We talk?”

 

No. No. Follow me.”

 

Albanian gazed out onto the street. The guys headed into the cafe.

 

Cafe was packed decent. Chalkboard menu and tables, lunch time lunchtimers with eyes on the flat-screen in the corner playing sports channel. Went up to the counter where the servers served and got a “What can I do for you?” from a twenty-something brunette.

 

Frank, “Toots, you know Lemmy?”

 

Immediately taken aback. “Uh- you, yeah.”

 

“Yeah, hun, can you get him out here?”

 

“Wh- what, you want me to get my boss?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“He--”

 

“Your manager or what the f*ck. He here? Yeah. He’s cool.”

 

“I- okay. Uh, sure.” Gave this bewildered look and just went back. Frank laughed, leaned back, pointed.

 

“She’s nice, eh?”

 

Reuben, “Yeah. Heh. I’d like that.”

 

“What you think, Bumpy?”

 

Latrell blinked. “Uh, sure.”

 

“Yeah, she ain’t… what’s the word. Ass ain’t enough for you.”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

Pfft, “He knows,” said Reuben.

 

Server came back mild-faced with ‘Lemmy’ in her stead - stout little Italian man with bad skin and goggle glasses, feather-light hair and an apron.

 

Frank grinned. “Thanks, sweetheart.”

 

Server just nodded. Walked back to the register to talk to some guy.

 

Frank kept looking, “She’s good.”

 

Lemmy croaked, “What’s up, Frankie?

 

“Yeah. We’re here for the thing.”

 

Lemmy nodded.

 

Frankie thumbed to the window, thumbed to Albo staring out the road - “He good, Lem?”

 

Lem side-eyed. “He came alone. I ain’t seen nobody. Car stopped out the street and no motherf*ckers followed. Unless, you know. They got some guy out the winda’ keepin’ watch. But he seems legit, you know.”

 

“A’ight. Thanks, Lem.”

 

“No problem, Frank.”

 

“Tell sweet-heart over there she gets the a tip for the tits next time, eh? Maybe she see me she let me signal, she talk nicer than how she did.”

 

Lem nodded.

 

“Good. You expect some customer f*ckin’ satisfaction.”

 

“I’ll tell her, Frank.”

 

Lem walked. The guys went out.

 

Frank muttered something about hospitality.

 

Out the door past the tables to the street, stepped a couple out to look like they never went in - probably poorly. Waited a second, waited a few more, nodded at Reuben and got Reu nodding back before approaching Albo.

 

Oh, Frenkie!

 

“Hey, we didn’t see ya’.”

 

“Nobody- yeah, nobody come to these seats. It’s good. I been waiting.”

 

“And now you ain’t.”

 

Handshakes, handshakes, didn’t shake with Phil or Latrell. “Sit, you guys, come on.”

 

Albo sat back down. Frankie and Reuben took the two seats opposite.

 

Phil to his side.

 

There were only four at the table. “f*ck.”

 

Phil, “What’s up, Latrell?”

 

“There- yeah, ain’t enough seats.”

 

Albo sighed, “sh*t. You okay standing?”

 

“Yeah,” Reuben said. “We won’t be long, nah, it’s no problem.”

 

“Because all of the tables here got four.”

 

“Nah,” Latrell sighed. “I’ll just steal one a’ the others, man, it’s good.”

 

Frankie, “You sure?”

 

“Yeah, man.”

 

“Because, if, you know. Somebody wanna sit there--”

 

“Nobody sitting out on this patio, Frank, it’s good.”

 

Latrell made a grab for the one next-over, dragged it over the cobbles. “Okay,” Frank said. “But you know, if someone sits there, you gotta give it to ‘em.”

 

“They can just take one of the other tables, man.”

 

“Okay. Yeah, okay, sure.”

 

“It’s no problem,” said Phil.

 

“Yeah,” went Albo. “Yeah, he can- yeah. Is good.”

 

Latrell sat behind Frank and Reuben. Square in the middle. Eyeline with Albo.

 

Albo.

 

Albo?

 

What’s his f*cking name?

 

“Can you, uh, introduce?”

 

Albanian - “Excuse me?”

 

“Just, you know, I want to get a feel - we, my homies, we want to get an idea of who you be and all.”

 

Frank, “He’s- yeah. Sure. Say it for my friend, uh…”

 

My name is Mergim.”

 

“Yeah- Mergim, yeah. We didn’t tell you that, Bumpy?”

 

“Did you tell the guy ‘bout me?”

 

Rubbed neck, “Well, we told you you was coming,” Frank said.

 

“Did you say my name?”

 

Albo, Mergim, shook his head. “Just someone who can help. Someone who know he can do some things and get it done.”

 

Latrell, “That’s f*ckin’ me. Latrell, you know. And you Mergim.”

 

I am Mer- yeah. Yes. No sh*t.”

 

“Okay.”

 

Silence.

 

“Okay.”

 

Look, I say introduction ‘cause, uh… you know. I wanna know your peoples. You know. Who you run with, your crew, that kinda--”

 

Frankie put a hand on Latrell’s shoulder, “What we sayin’ is we just- he wants an introduction business-wise, not person-wise. You get me? Because, we ain’t talked about what we doing, just that we’re doin’ it. Good place to get everyone on the station onto the train, right? Especially in a good spot like this where we know nobody gonna know what we know, no?

 

“Okay.”

 

“Mergim, and I known Mergim a long time, he’s got great pot, great dope, but me and Mergim go a long time. Mergim runs with some other guys in Lennox, right?”

 

“Lennox and Bohan.”

 

“Like us, ah? Yeah. Easy come, easy go. And Mergim’s people got a lot of seed capital to give us, and sh*t. And seed capital,” he turned to face Latrell, “if you didn’t know, is a lot of good money to start an expansion.”

 

Latrell blinked. “Yeah.”

 

“So,” went back. “Latrell here’s with some guys who know how to spread that sh*t around. Inside.”

 

Albo smiled, “Sure. You tell me that. You gangsters? Like me. I’m a gangster.”

 

Latrell, “Whatever you want.”

 

“Beautiful,” said Frank. “See? And now we all know each other. We’re all friends. We’s all know each other, we all know who the f*ck we are, now it’s just what the f*ck we want. Okay?”

 

Albo nodded. “Well.

 

Phil, “Spit it out, pal.”

 

“I work with people who are not pleased about the current state of things, okay? I think this is fair to say.”

 

Frank, “Yeah, totally.”

 

Got serious, “We have a problem. With a man. And you offer to solve it. And we want to work with you people,” nodded at Latrell, “and you. But there are problems with distribution and personal affronts to the men I work for which need to be resolved. Is this easy to get?”

 

And that’s why we got our friend here! Help youse take care of this problem.”

 

“A mutual problem.”

 

“You get this, Bumpy?”

 

“What?”

 

“You’re gonna help us get rid a’ this mutual f*ckin’ problem.”

 

Blinked. “Am I?”

 

“Yeah. We need some guy who ain't gonna look like we went and sent him. Same with you, right?” Signaled at Albanian, Albanian nodded back. “Here's the kicker - tell ‘em who.”

 

Albanian was creasing in the face. “Vyvyan Spadina.”

 

Viv the Chick Spadina! Beautiful.”

 

“It’s a- you--”

 

“He says mutual because, you know, Reuben - what’s this prick?”

 

He’s a dumb prick.”

 

“He runs with, the, the uh- well, he’s a made guy. You know. With the Messinas.”

 

“It’ll be like a f*ckin’ movie, you do this guy. Like The f*ckin’ Denoument.”

 

“See, this prick - he come down to this guy we know and he does all this bullsh*t because of this beef he got with this thing. He smashes up this guy’s flower shop, he starts talking this sh*t, he gets his bosses and none them don’t talk to our guys up top. They got their guys in the joint who run things and the street guys won’t send the message up.”

 

They don’t f*ckin’ respect us.

 

“Messinas is a nobody family. They been a nobody f*ckin’ family for years. They got Noto - you know Harvey Noto?”

 

“Sure,” Latrell said.

 

“They got Harvey Noto on 200 beefs, they got this snitch who gets him on tape for a f*ckin’ decade, and every f*ckin’ word he says is bullsh*t. He puts this guy who ain’t even Italian, not a f*ckin’ drop,” could see Phil squirm, “he gets this guy in his number two. He gets all these people killed and talks all this sh*t and disrespects this whole thing we do. Everybody in that family turns rat. Everyone.”

 

Reuben echoing, “Ridiculous,” lapping it up.

 

“You know this already. You see the f*ckin’ papers, disgraceful sh*t. They get half the f*ckin’ families in court, who goes on stand? Harry Hall. Mel Skivs. Noto. f*ckin’ everybody. They are f*ckin’ rats. They are vultures. None of our peoples did that. None of our bosses.”

 

“No boss ever. And we get made to eat the f*ckin’ scraps.”

 

Frank was spitting, “Zito still pays these f*ckin’ chumps! They don’t give us sh*t, they give these pricks who should be in the coffers, should be f*ckin’ extinct, they give them gold cards and tickets to the f*ckin’ zoo. And they disrespect us. And you kill this f*cking guy.

 

Blink.

 

Frank again, “You kill this guy.”

 

Everyone looking at Latrell.

 

Blink.

 

“Okay,” he said.

 

“Okay?”

 

“I’ll get it done.”

 

Albanian was just f*cking wide eyed. “He, uh, f*ck with our pot, too. And other stuff.”

 

“And whatever,” Frank said, “he disrespects these f*cking guys too. Messinas take their asses back to f*cking Montreal, who gives a f*ck, f*cking scumbag f*cker f*cks.”

 

Albo nodded. “Yeah.” Honestly, probably surprised he didn’t have to explain himself.

 

Frank looked back on Albo, “Mergim,” he went. “We gotta get our bosses, my boss. My- whatever. My pops, if you wanna say, we gotta get the okay from him. He gives us the go, we take this prick out. And he’ll give this guy the go because we all want this guy on a f*ckin’ table.”

 

Albo looked at Latrell instead. “You take another. Don’t go alone. He drives- well, I tell you his house. He drives a red Dinka SUV and goes place to place on his own. Answers to someone I-no-f*cking-know.” Craned his neck forward, “I want this public.

 

Frank grinning, “Pow!” Slammed his fist on the table again.

 

“I want it done public. Like the movies. I want him like Gus Gambetti on the barbershop floor, whatever. I want his name and I want his face in the paper so they know not to f*ck with me. Not to f*ck with my friends.”

 

Latrell locked eyes. “Easy go, easy done, Mr. Mergim.”

 

Mergim nodded.

 

“What I tell you, Latrell?”

 

“I dunno, Frank.”

 

“I told you this would be good for us. Because we do this, we get good pot for our thing, and who knows, maybe my pops bumps us up and puts the good word with the folks inside. We go up the ranks a little, get you guys a seat at the table.”

 

Reuben, “Woah, what you mean?”

 

“Make it official.”

 

“But what--

 

Frank cut air, silence it said. “We’ll be with you every step a’ the f*ckin’ way, Latrell. Every step. You do this, we are in it. These guys get what they f*cking deserve. You know?”

 

“I know.”

 

“What I f*cking tell you, Mergim?”

 

“You tell me--”

 

“This guy! Madon’, I’d kiss this f*ckin’ guy, I’d kiss you. We have a f*cking deal, man? We do?”

 

Albo nodded. Albo got up, got handshaking, got smiling, “Thanks and thanks, and you- thanks you, man--”

 

He looked like he wanted to get out of there.

 

They let him.

 

Festival of squawking as everyone was spitting out goodbyes and thank-yous over each other and acting cordial as cordial could be, in that spitting-Italian kind of way where you’re trying to hug the guy as he’s halfway out the door. Thank you, goodbye, thank you, goodbye, thank you, goodbye ‘til he was crossing the street to his Lokus and looking away.

 

Frank staring. “You never know with these guys.”

 

Latrell, “With who?”

 

“Albanians,” said Phil. “Crazy.”

 

“Sell their mothers,” said Frank.

 

“But this guy’s cool?”

 

“Sure, Bumpy. He sells me pot. But you know.”

 

“You know you never know?”

 

“Sure.”

 

The car left.

 

Just them.

 

“We gotta check the deets, guys,” went Reuben. “We gotta.”

 

“We headed to the plumbers, Reu?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Frank got up.

 

Reuben got up.

 

Latrell got up.

 

Frank held out a hand, “Not you two.”

 

“Why?” said Phil.

 

“Euh, you know, we gotta have somebody watch the car. It’s good. We’ll be quick. Youse two can just keep watch here and just, you know- just stay here.”

 

“Yeah,” Reuben agreed. “Watch the whip.”

 

“Okay,” said Latrell.

 

They went.

 

Latrell had to watch the whip.

 

Just gotta… watch.

 

Just street noise and city sh*t and eyes on the ride and back to his phone. Went for texts, went to Xavier, went to type.

 

b6qjpcf.png

 

Hey, kid.

 

Latrell looked up. Looked at Phil. Phil looking awkward and big on a little seat to his diagonal, Phil looking past two chairs. “Yeah?”

 

“You wanted to know why they called me that thing.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“You know.”

 

Latrell put the phone down. “Jelly?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Latrell smirked. “Sure.”

 

“And it’s funny, ‘cause these motherf*ckers meet with this guy and I’unno what-the-f*ck, but y’know. It was funny. But yeah. Y’know why they call me Jelly?”

 

Latrell bit. “‘Sthat.”

 

And Phil was chuckling. Through smiles, “Thing with Albos, too.”

 

“Cute. What happened?”

 

Another chuckle, “Balled this whore was one these guy’s cousins. Took a few bucks after, never rang, nothin’ spesh but what-you-know, these things is these things. And I go to this donut place in Lennox, this is a week later. Rusty Browns, you know.”

 

Latrell was laughing too, “Yeah?”

 

“These Albanian guys jump me. This guy Qendrim a’ somethin’. f*cked Arab name like that.”

 

“And what you do?”

 

Snickered. “Stuck this guy’s head in the fryer.

 

Latrell laughed hard.

 

“Third degree burn.”

 

Goddamn!

 

“See, these guys try jerk you off, I rip off the hand. Y’get me?”

 

Haha, “I get you, son.”

 

“And, y’know.” Shrugged, “Now I’m Jelly.”

 

He was Jelly.

 

The Glossary

Liberty City Map

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Clockwork Dog

 

Enus idled outside the house on 1890 with the radio off.

 

The house on 1890, or well, on the corner of Koodkirk and 19th - huge Victorian mansion painted teal with looping walls and conehead roof like a slice of southern Americana in the dead center of Broker. With big green lawn and thatch patio. Newspaper-on-the-porch sh*t.

 

The home of Benny Saravaisky.

 

It was an upgrade to the 3 train, you could say. Or, you know,  taking the 8 uptown and then switching to the inner line and - whatever. There isn’t wood paneling on the subway. There’s a lot of wood paneling in a Caesar Cipher. Wood panelling and cream leather seats mashing hard with cheap 90’s plastic on the wheel and the radio and the cheapo buttons that Abbot couldn’t parse the function of.

 

Waiting.

 

Waiting.

 

Benny didn’t like the radio. He just liked the cruise.

 

Benny shut the door and tip-tapped out down the steps and half-jogged down the path and onto the street and slammed the back door already halfway into a conversation Abbot hadn’t heard, “-and this f*cking pussy mother, he- you believe this sh*t? You do?”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Step the foot on the gas pedal.”

 

“You get what you needed?”

 

Yes, papa, let’s f*cking go.”

 

Abbot went go.

 

Benny just kept yammering, “I talk to Felix this guy, he says it’s no problem to do nothing, you have to do what you have to do - we go to hardware store on Onondaga - but this--”

 

“We’re going to the hardware store?”

 

“Yes. What, is- when I talk Devdariani, you think he’s heading to this place? You think this cocksucker, he pay this cash to this--”

 

“It’s okay.”

 

“Okay. Yeah, okay.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“See, Revaz don’t need that sh*t because Revaz don’t even give to nobody no more, Revaz- he- he only run these sports books and he get Tamaz to rough up the motherf*cker and he has the brothel, oh, we head up there later, too.”

 

“We head to his brothel?”

 

“Yes. But he commute all the time and he used to have Tamaz to drive but he commute from Gurnesey County, from f*cking Underrock, he wear those goofy f*cking big boy sunglasses, he- god, this- he always think he’s the boss--”

 

“Where’s the brothel, Benny?”

 

“--and hot sh*t because he get tattoos and he work for Catfish in Spain--”

 

Catfish?

 

“Keep up.”
 

“Where’s the brothel?”

 

“I’ll tell you the goddamn brothel we get to the hardware- woah! This f*cking guy don’t even turn on the f*cking blinkers!”

 

“What?”

 

“No, no, go down on Oneida, you don’t listen to the f*cking satnav, you go down Oneida and take right on Glascoe because always the traffic on Montauk Ave and you- but, okay, so- this guy he always was, Revaz- when he was up to--”

 

On and on.

 

Abbot wasn’t really quite sure what Benny was talking about.

 

Was Benny? 

 

--he take this guy to the parking lot of the Grain of Truth, or the Yum Yum Market, cheap f*cking bastard, and he get Tamaz, little boy, think he Cam Odom, he get him to slap the sh*t--

 

Even if he didn’t, he liked to talk about it.

 

Car would turn corners and Benny would squawk and keep squawking about associates and about the traffic and the guy in the other lane who he thought was a c*nt or would tell Abbot to take a road he knew would mean a longer drive, but f*ck it, he’d take it anyway because if he didn’t he’d get berated.

 

All Abbot was thinking was “let’s hope they ain’t bugged the car”.

 

Onto Montauk. Onto Onondaga. Past the big mall on H and the Eris store and the guys lining up by the social security joint and then “Woah, Abbo, Abb, stop- stop, ‘ey, stop--” stopping into the big hardware lot and f*cking around with the parallel parking where the trash cans are all lined up and Abbot going to unbuckle his seatbelt.

 

And then Benny putting his hand on Abbot’s shoulder.

 

And telling him to wait.

 

“Okay,” Abbot said.

 

And Abbot waited.

 

Abbot knew Revaz, sort of, now. Revaz from the card game went from Revaz from the card game to ‘the guy with the tattoos’ who thought he was Vin Falcone and would whine about his brigade not paying up to the boss and who drank vodka like water and got a crossbow as a gift from Tamaz Chelidze, who was a boxer who one time brought a little Armenian man into a parking lot in West Vinewood and beat him until he lost his septum.

 

Once again, lucky there weren’t a bug in this motherf*cker.

 

Benny came back with a paper bag with money in it.

 

“The brothel is in Cork Villa.”

 

“Who was that?”

 

“Geek play wrong card game and borrow wrong due. Next time he threaten to talk to police, next time he threaten to f*ck whole thing up, is next time we do to him like we do to Fat Senya and we take him to apartment to gut.”

 

“W--”

 

“What the f*ck you doing, you wait for red light, dumbass? Drive? Bozhe moi.”

 

Abbot drove.

 

Getting to strollerville in Cork Villa is remarkably easy in a grid system - you’re already on Onondaga. So head up until you hit Gibson Street, go around the little loopty-loop and hug Outlook Park until you hit even more numbergrid streets.

 

This is relatively easy to understand.

 

Benny did not like easy. He didn’t like traffic, or ‘speeder cams’, or every moron driver who would do the wrong thing because “this f*cking city is the f*cking zoo and they smear the sh*t all over the place, you believe this?” Abbot didn’t believe it, really, much like he didn’t really believe he had to zig-zag through Beechwood until he realized Benny was taking him to Soldier’s Plaza.

 

Wow, let’s take a f*cking snapshot, since we’re goddamn tourists on our way to the Lennox Island ferry. Oh look, is that a f*cking bodega? Is that the same bodega we’ve circled twice now because you couldn’t navigate this borough to save your goddamn life?

 

“Okay,” Abbot said instead.

 

The brothel was a brownstone. The brownstone was owned by Revaz’s cousin named Yevdokim, or Kim, who made a habit of going to the Indian casinos in Quinnebaug and betting money he didn’t have on sports he didn’t get and eventually having to turn his apartment into a place where fat little men spunk on Russian girls. But hey, y’know, go Penetrators.

 

Maybe his cousin would give him a good go at one of his betting parlors. Or maybe, Benny said, Revaz would get Tamaz to hold him out of a third-story window.

 

Benny went up the brownstone steps.

 

And Abbot had to wait.

 

And Abbot kept waiting.

 

And Abbot’s hand drifted to the radio, and the dial drifted to 108.5, and Nat King Cole drifted to Orange Colored Sky.

 

Flash! Bam! Alakazam! I got a look at you.

 

Abbot had been ‘sleeping around’. Sleeping around being - sometimes he went to a hotel and paid with cash and a name like Ray Hoffman or Earl McCormick or whatever the random name generator he Duplexed told him.

 

Or maybe he slept at Kassian’s house.

 

Kassian opened the door when he came. But Kassian did not talk to him. Abbot did not try to talk to Kassian either, really. Abbot went into the room where Kaz’s dad would’ve slept and Abbot slept. And then he left. And really, it was as simple as that.

 

Flash! Bang! Alakazam! Out of an orange colored-sky.

 

Across the street, a man walked out of his apartment and went down the stairs and kicked a flower pot by accident and the pot fell down. The pot tumbled and broke and soil split and the flowers rested on pavement. The man swore very loud, not that Abbot could hear what swear it was, and went to pick up the pieces. The man was thin, had Jew curls, looked around mid-twenties and wore a blue v-neck.

 

Abbot could’ve helped.

 

Abbot watched. 

 

Out of an orange-colored, purple-striped, pretty green polka-dot sky!

 

Hey!” Tap-tap-tapping on the rear window.

 

And Abbot turned the radio off.

 

And Abbot unlocked the door.

 

“Radio depreciate the f*cking value.”

 

Sorry.”

 

“Just don’t. Come on. Drive.”

 

At this point, Abbot knew one thing. You don’t have to really know where you’re going on the initial. Only that you’re going somewhere.

 

It took Benny around four minutes to say “We go to the city.”

 

So Abbot would’ve kept driving north onto Montauk Avenue, which he did, and he would’ve passed the MounteBank Center, where “Tamaz going to be do the big match with this black man, this little man, instead of cocksucker who take the steroids and the cocaine and go back to his scumbag rat pasta-eater family”, which Benny was happy to brag, and he would’ve driven up and kept driving until he’d gone through Downtown Broker and onto the Algonquin Bridge.

 

But, woah, buddy buster. “You need to stop here.”

 

“Why? What?”

 

“I want to get something.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“And you follow me into the place this time, okay?”

 

“Okay.”

 

So the car zig-zagged through the brutalist buildings and mock-tall skyscrapers and the rusty looking storefronts and Benny was telling Abbot to trawl, trawl, trawl, whatever the f*ck that meant. Fast fashion stores and street stragglers and Benny gripping Abbot’s arm and telling him to swerve into what looked like a one-way street.

 

It wasn’t, thank god, but Abbot nearly got t-boned for his trouble.

 

Past a Maze Bank branch on Feldspar and Abbot thinking ‘what the f*ck now’ and then Benny nearly screaming, “HERE! HERE!” and Abbot braking so goddamn hard the car burned rubber into…

 

Ah.

 

A Bean Machine.

 

“So after this, we visit this guy in the Papaver Village who think--”

 

“So what?”

 

So what?

 

“So, we head up the city, we stop here?”

 

“What?” Beat. “I want a f*cking coffee.”

 

Ah.

 

Abbot blinked. Benny left.

 

Abbot followed.

 

Abbot walked past crowd and nearly shoulder bumped into some guy and followed past the bike stands into the Bean Machine, which Benny - triumphantly, in leather-gloved hands and black trenchcoat, pushed open the doors and let it close so Abbot had to do the very same.

 

Benny smirked, got out his phone from the coat, pointed. “You head there.”

 

“You want me to wait on line?”

 

“Yes. You get me the coffee.”

 

Ah, f*cking sweet. “What do you want?”

 

Question didn't seem to phase him, “I going to talk to Felyenka, you know Felyenka?”

 

“What?”

 

“Ponytail. I talk to Felix because he talk to Revaz and he is doing moron retard f*cking scam where he get his sexy girl friend of his to f*ck rich man from the online, in Kingdom Come, knock the guy out. Steal his money and his watch. And I tell Revaz this is stupid bullsh*t, this is not sustainable, this will get you in the jail--”

 

We’re in public, Benny.

 

“Who gives a sh*t?”

 

Abbot blinked. Looked around.

 

Turned out, nobody. Too loud, too much chatter. They just wanted their coffee.

 

“What do you want, Ben?”

 

And he sighed like it was obvious, “Medio cup, caramel macchiato.”

 

“You got the cash?”

 

Do you have your wallet?

 

Abbot blinked.

 

Benny went to sit down.

 

Okay.

 

So Abbot lined the f*ck up and stayed on the line and checked his shoes and sniffed and pat his jacket pocket, pat pat to check if the smack for tonight was in there and kept waiting and checked his wallet for the cash - twenty bucks, fine - and noticed the line for the bathroom was longer than the line for the caffeine.

 

And then the redhead at the counter warbled something and Abbot didn’t know what the f*ck, medio Caramel Macchiato, and she said some other sh*t and Abbot just repeated himself, medio Caramel Macchiato, and she asked for a name and Abbot just went f*cking “My name is Quentin” because it’s the first name he thought of.

 

And the register woman blinked and said “Are you okay?” and she seemed genuinely concerned because Abbot was holding up the line and looked tired as sh*t and he was sweating and pouting and had his hands on the counter.

 

And Abbot wanted to say no.

 

But Abbot said sorry, I’m just tired, and then she told him to get the coffee from the other side.

 

Abbot did not take the change.

 

Abbot rubbed eyes and blinked and realized, f*ck, why is this all so bleak?

 

And another guy came back, this doofus with dork spectacles, and he handed the coffee over and squinted and said “Quentin?” and Abbot nodded and took the coffee and saw that Quinton was what they wrote.

 

He was going to complain, but who gives a sh*t? Could’ve been either.

 

Nobody gave a sh*t at f*cking Bean Machine.

 

Benny was looking at his phone again and laughed when Abbot came back and said “This stupid- I swear, Felix- he thinks because he has done all of these things and has been with us for the so long, he thinks he’s high and mighty and the king of the world. Sure, man.”

 

Abbot blinked. “Felix?”

 

“I already tell you.” Coffee went down on the table. “With the ponytail and the nose. Felyenka G.”

 

Abbot just nodded and sat down.

 

“Come on, we go back to the car.”

 

God f*cking damn it.

 

So Abbot got up. And Benny got up. “Papaver Village?”

 

“Yes, Abbot, what I tell you? Felix tells me, you won’t believe this, that Revaz finds f*cking swiss goddamn chocolates.”

 

Door opened. “Okay.”

 

“Like a million pounds of this sh*t.”

 

“Okay?”

 

“And he don’t f*cking tell nobody! Already have these buyers lined up and he don’t even get me to vet him, these piece of the sh*t Georgian--”

 

And onto the street.

 

And to the Enus.

 

And a little f*cking meter maid cocksucker writing a f*cking ticket.

 

“Hey, woah! What the f*ck?”

 

Meter maid stopped.

 

Meter maid was a bike cop with a bike helmet, Asian guy with sunglasses on the collar and the hi-vis vest, and meter maid looked up and frowned. “Sir, is this your vehicle?”

 

“We were here for, like, 5 f*cking minutes.”

 

Sir, you can’t park here.”

 

Like f*ck I can.

 

“This is a crash hazard, the road’s too narrow.”

 

“And nobody’s f*cking crashed.”

 

“I have to write you a ticket.”

 

Benny, “We just get the coffee,” held up his cup.

 

“Sir, I understand, but you legally cannot park here. It’s unsafe.”

 

And what are you going to do about it?” Abbot got up in his face, Meter maid didn’t balk. “Cocksucker?”

 

“I’m gonna write you a ticket. Step back.”

 

“Or?”

 

“Sir, step back.”

 

“This Soviet goddamn Russia?!” Abbot shoved. Meter maid kind of half toppled, pedestrians gawked, guy went stable and stared and went red faced.

 

And Abbot pushed again.

 

Onto the street. No cars, just these guys, just a crowd forming, just Abbot screaming, “What now? What now?!

 

Clenched fists.

 

Abbot threw a punch.

 

Abbot missed.

 

Guy dodged and threw up fists and Abbot scowled, another punch, another miss, went to grab for the torso trying to tackle but cop held steady and elbowed in the back and sent Abbot to the floor. Scrambling, scrambling, Abbot kicking with the legs and cop taking cop boots to Abbot’s dumb f*cking leg.

 

Augh!!” Tried getting up again and the cop went again, pow, kicked Abbot in the cheek and got it purple. Abbot rolled, got up, felt the cheek and felt it bleed and went for another punch and saw it connect in the chest. Saw cop frowning and half-grinning and blinked and bang. Guy was on top of him.

 

Punch.

 

Punch.

 

Kick.

 

Benny screaming, “Что за хуйня? Hey, hey, get off! Get off!” Crowd murmurs getting louder, could feel the phones recording and saw the Russian guy, the big Russian in a trenchcoat, saw him pull off the cop and pull him aside and hear talking.

 

Abbot wasn’t listening.

 

Just head down on the road, on the asphalt. Staring up at the sky.

 

Abbot felt something.

 

Abbot smiled.

 

Abbot felt good.

 

Abbot saw Benny and saw him spitting and mouthing words that maybe sounded like “You stupid f*ck?! What was that?!” and could hear him maybe, maybe telling the crowd to disperse and the cop doing the same, and the cop saying it wasn’t an issue and thanking someone for a donation or something, something, something.

 

Abbot wasn’t listening.

 

Abbot didn’t care.

 

Abbot felt good.

 

For the first time in a while.

 

The Glossary

Liberty City Map

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Yeah, My Bad

 

They were in Alderney now. Tudor. Bad memories.

 

Big Paulie sold budget cars on Emery Street - not Big Paulie’s, just Big Paulie Budget Cars. Advertised himself with a green-white-red caricature of his squinting face for a logo, which, you know. Odd, but whatever. You can count on Paulie.

 

Reuben didn’t come this time. Something with his wife.

 

Just Latrell, Frank, and Phil.

 

“I knew these guys, these Ancelotti guys, who was smuggling cum outta federal prison.”

 

Latrell, “Get outta here.”

 

“I’m dead f*cking serious.”

 

“Who was that?” Phil said. “Was that, uh… Rivetti’s people in East Hook?”

 

“Frenchie? Nah. They was with the Lennox boys, you know, euuh… ah, f*ck, I dunno. Lispy or Red, f*ck. One of those guys used to hang around The Scrapes and flick chins at Old Man Gio. Whatever.”

 

Latrell bit lip and thought a second. “You guys roll with the Ancelottis?”

 

Phil laughed, “f*ck no.”

 

“Those guys, disgrazia. If they smuggle cum out the joint, they got brains like f*ckin’ pebbles. I mean, with Gio in the pen you’d think- ah, whatever. They play a million sides and get burnt. Suckers.”

 

“They drop like flies or they rot in cells, f*ck it. They work with Albos and Russians and those f*ckin’ Alderney goombah retards and all these guys and they think they won’t stab them in the back.” 

 

“Trust your own people. That’s all.”

 

Stung a little but you move on. Latrell, “Ain’t we workin’ with Albanians?”

 

“That’s different,” Frank said.

 

“How?”

 

“It’s one Albanian versus f*ckin’ fifty who you call fags behind their back. We got respect for them. Albanians- f*ckin’, half of them speak Italian, you know.”

 

“But Phil--”

 

“Whatever Phil said- look, it’s different.

 

Latrell blinked. “So who do you guys roll with?”

 

The Fathom rolled down Phalanx Road and stopped on the corner. Frank switched gears. “Well, you know.”

 

Out the car, “I don’t,” said Latrell.

 

Phil tried to phrase it, “Well, you know, look--”

 

“We’re the Broker arm of a Bohan thing, lemme’ put it that way.”

 

Phil muttered something that Latrell couldn’t hear.

 

Latrell kept thinking. “So you guys is Lupisellas?

 

On the corner, Frank and Phil traded glances. “Sure. You want me to say that?”

 

“Yeah, Frankie.”

 

“Then yeah. I’m not f*ckin’... see, I just hope you ain’t got no f*ckin’ thing on you.”

 

Phil kept going, “Frankie’s got his button but… you know, whatever. I can’t. Like it means nothin’ these days no-way.”

 

Got a glare from Frank.

 

And Latrell kept thinking. “But… you roll with that Gravelli guy?”

 

“Yeah,” said Frank.

 

“But- well, you know. Ain’t he with, well, he would be with the Gambettis, right?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“And you don’t hate the motherf*cker?”

 

Frank laughed, “No. Why would we?”

 

“You guys is all rivals ‘n sh*t. You know, Denoument. He the Gravelli kid or nephew or cousin or whatever, he ain’t like, boss or nothin’?”

 

Phil answered, “No. And no.”

 

“You think we roll with Rod f*cking Gravelli? Spoiled brat f*cking reality star f*cking kid? Makes money selling molly to Derney Shore wannabes and throwing firebombs at f*cking pizza parlors?”

 

“He ain’t joking,” said Phil.

 

“Rod’s tattoos is cool to hang out at. And he’s a funny guy. But we hang there because of Titus and their whole thing, they used to box or whatever. Rod goes to court every other f*cking year because he punches some moo-, uh, you know, f*cking idiot in the face or whatever. He goes to parties and gets high.”

 

They were standing stupidly on the corner discussing assault charges.

 

Latrell rubbed his hands together. “We gonna head inside?”

 

They headed inside.

 

Into… Big Paulie Budget Cars. The dealership was this red-brick two story with a glass window covered in jibber-jabber servicing sh*t to the right of the car lot - massive space with only a couple rides inside with tape label stuck to the windshield. A Declasse Merit here, a Dundreary Admiral there. sh*tty cars and land yachts and vehicles with a million miles taken off with sawdust. Up the corner, this trailer-turned-diner called Babe’s Italian Sandwich Shop hawking sausages by propane tanks. Down the street a health and wellness center and a thousand miles of strip mall.

 

Every purchase gets a full tank of Xero!

 

Inside was… well, it felt like a house. It was this old seventies pattern carpeting and desks on shag and water coolers and a suburban staircase by the doorway. Place wasn’t built to be a dealership - made Latrell do the math. Dealership lot probably just converted vacant grounds with the weeds pulled out.

 

Phil headed for the corner, as one does.

 

Was extended a hand nonetheless.

 

The hand was thick, the hand was cut off from circulation - from meaty arms - by gold jewelry and bracelet and watch. The hand belonged to this massive guy with a fat pouty chin and squinty eyes and white streaks in the hair and grease practically dripping to the floor.

 

The man was, presumably, Big Paulie.

 

Big Paulie shook hands with the mick. Big Paulie did not with Latrell. Had this goddamn squawk voice, “Frankie, who da’ heck is this?”

 

“Latrell.”

 

“Who?”

 

“Latrell. He’s doing the thing. We’s is getting the waters for him, he’s gonna be delivering the cups.”

 

Like Paulie’s eyes were coated in sweat. “And he came with?”

 

“He came with.”

 

Paulie looked. “Okay.”

 

Latrell, “Is there a problem?”

 

“No. Just… contractors, they don’t tag along. Latrell.” Turned back to Frankie, “And you know I’m on edge.”

 

“It’s fine. He’s good peoples. He’s tough, but he’s good peoples for this gig.”

 

Paulie kept sweating. “Ain’t polite to just do business and go. You guys want sausage?”

 

Huh.

 

Why not?

 

Kitchen had another guy by the rear exit: slender guy in athletic wear, a thousand lines on his forehead and big black unblinking eyes darted across all four faces. Went in for the hug with Frankie, shook hands - “Vinny Barbosa,” said Frank. Vinny shrugged and kept back to the door.

 

Paulie opened the fridge.

 

Paulie got the pan out the cupboard.

 

Paulie started frying the sausage.

 

Breakfast sausage.

 

Take a seat.

 

Frankie, “You got eggs or nothing?”

 

“No,” Paulie said. “Just sausage.”

 

They took a seat.

 

Table had red-checker cloth strewn and morning light shining through the windows and Paulie keeping up the chatter, “I like a little spice in my sausage, don't matter what time a day,” and Frankie just nodding along and agreeing and spitting small talk while Paulie was dipping back and forth to the fridge. Banana peppers, bread roll, that kind of sh*t.

 

“Paulie has this thing - like, he saturates the sh*t with the juices in the bread. You don’t even need no salt. It’s just the juices.”

 

“Cook-out thing.”

 

“Yeah, cook-out thing.”

 

“We had this thing, you know, it’d be us Bufanos, Barbosas - guys from the ‘Derney wing’d come down and they- you know, this is a family deal. Mazzas and the Procidas too, you guys from Broker. We’d get all the guys--”

 

Phil, “You guys did?”

 

Frank, “Well- you know, yeah. Sure. Just a close knit thing, we invited friends, you know.”

 

Phil frowned. “Okay.”

 

“But you know,” Paulie went on. “It was good. Good times.” Paulie put the peppers on fry. “You guys want eggs, too?”

 

“I asked that.”

 

“Yeah, Frankie, but- you know, I checked the fridge. I thought we ain’t had the eggs and I check again and you know, we have eggs. It’s okay. Youse can have eggs.”

 

Peppers, onions, romano cheese, sausage. Paulie put the eggs on fry.

 

Latrell wanted to say something, but, you know. Free food.

 

It was a thing now.

 

“Where’s Scott?”

 

Phil, “Did Scott go to those things?”

 

Paulie, “Yeah.”

 

“He’d bring-” Frankie stopped, smiled, “you remember his wife?”

 

“The little Vietnamese number was like half his age, yeah.”

 

“They went a few times but they stopped coming because a’ the whole veganisms thing or some sh*t.”

 

“And they’d- Phil, with Gerry Giordano there was always--”

 

Latrell was just lost, “Jerry Giordano? The radio debt guy or what the f*ck? Kill Debt Dead?

 

“That's Jerry with a J,” Phil said. “They's is brothers but- ch’know, it’s- Gerry with a G is Gerardo and he’s with us and he runs at the top and then Jerry's his kid brother. He's doing some bid with Loopy.”

 

Gerardo. Gerardo Lozano. Gerardo Giordano. f*ck. “Is Jerry Giordano with you guys?”

 

And Paulie just turned, “You sure this guy is good for this--”

 

Frankie stared him down. “Yes.”

 

Gruff pause.

 

Phil all quiet, “He makes enough on the TV, you know. Whatever.”

 

“Scott’s with the cups,” said Paulie. “That right, Vin?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Vin says it's right.”

 

Frank, “Did Vin say it was right?”

 

“I said it was right,” Vin said. “You didn’t hear me?”

 

“No, I heard, it’s just--”

 

“I got the sausage.”

 

Paulie had the sausage.

 

Sausage got set down with a thousand other plates and a thousand other pans and a thousand other ingredients and the pepper smell and the eggs and the cheese and the bread and a grater he got out the cupboard and Vin coming up from the door to set the table. Sad eyes on these two guys as they got ready for a meal, an impromptu meal of sausage and peppers and eggs and bread for the f*cking breaking.

 

Half an hour or an hour ago nothing had been there at all.

 

They all went “Salut’.”

 

Phil went “Gesundheit.”

 

Latrell stared at plates.

 

“How’s things been?”

 

Paulie getting the forks, “Life grabs you by the balls and squeezes until it’s nothing. Like crap.” Got out a f*cking six-pack from near the fridge and passed Benedict Light around in cans. “Both of us. Both me, both Vinny, both friggin’ nobody. We all get screwed by the almighty. I don’t know.”

 

Vinny nodded.

 

Latrell, “What happened?”

 

Paulie looked at him like he pissed on the carpet. This scowl. Was it any of his business?

 

Phil jumped in, “Paulie lost his brother. Angelo.”

 

Paulie stuttered, mumbled, something. Nothing to no effect, this vague speech for the sake of speaking. “I’m sorry,” said Latrell.

 

“Got shot by these guys robbed him.”

 

Latrell, “sh*t.”

 

Frankie, “Yeah.”

 

Paulie looking at the ground, at the tiles. “I wanna say these things happen, you know? Happened to Vin, too.”

 

Vinny looking at the ground too. “Yeah.”

 

“His kid brother, Johnny. You know. These things, they f*cking take you out, you know? He was a good kid. He really was a good f*cking kid. But he fell in with these guys and they made a f*cking mess and this little punk who thought he was a bigshot got him and these other guys domed. For what reason, you know?”

 

Vin said nothing.

 

“I’m sorry,” said Latrell.

 

“I don’t even get that.”

 

Vinny, “It was the marijuanas, I don’t know. He was a kid.”

 

“He used to drive his car, the Ruiner, he used to drive the thing really fast, yeah? The 80’s T-top.”

 

I don’t wanna talk about it, Phil.”

 

“Y’gotta remember the good times.”

 

I don’t want to talk about it.”

 

“Latrell, they called the kid, Johnny, they called him Johnny Spaz because--”

 

Paulie, “Drop it.

 

The sausages were getting cold.

 

Vin sat down to eat.

 

To eat sausage. To eat peppers, and eggs, and cheese, and bread, and whatever-else.

 

In silence. With car noise and heater rumble and birds chirping.

 

To eat sausage.

 

Took a long time for anyone to pipe up, for Frank to pipe up with “I’m sorry about Angie.”

 

It was something he’d said before and said a lot, and you could tell. “Thanks,” Paulie said. Seemed he didn’t care how many times, he just wanted to hear it. “Angie weren’t a kid. I got that. You know?”

 

“I know.”

 

“He’d do this f*ckin’ thing, where…” trailed off. Trailed off nowhere. Stared at the checkercloth.

 

“Yeah, Paul.”

 

“He didn’t do nothin’ to nobody. He didn’t. He didn’t.

 

“And--”

 

“Scott was there. Ticky was there.”

 

Latrell blinked. “Ticky?”

 

Phil, “This kid Timmy Zangari.”

 

Frank, “He here?”

 

And Paulie just waved it off and kept going “I pray to God every day and he did and we’s went to church and y’know, it’s just the randomness. It’s the f*cking randomess of it all. You know? Not even a f*cking open casket because these f*cking mutts they… God! God! Vinny- he- sh*t, and- it’s like- f*ckin’- you just- have to-...” Paulie stopped. Just went back to the sausage.

 

Latrell watched him.

 

Watched him poke and pout and watched the wet eyes dart.

 

“They don’t let you smoke in the doors no more, right?”

 

“That’s just public buildings in the city,” said Phil.

 

Frank went on, “So you can do it in ‘Derney?”

 

“You can do it on ya’s property.”

 

“In the city?”

 

“Even there, yeah.”

 

Frankie nodded. “Good to know, yeah.”

 

Could hear the throats clear as the cutlery clicked.

 

Took a while for the meal to go. But it did. Latrell poked, wasn’t hungry but you gotta be polite, was halfway finished when everyone was done. Gave his plate to Vinny as he went collecting and looked Latrell up and down a moment before taking it to wash.

 

Frankie lit a cigarette and got a scowl from Paulie but did it anyway, got up from the table and talked “We get this sh*t out the way?” through pursed lips and teeth clenched. Paul nodded, pointed, took over cleaning dishes and let Vinny lead the way.

 

Out into the back.

 

“Sorry about Paulie,” Vin said.

 

Who was that directed at?

 

Latrell took it anyway, “No problem.”

 

Guessed right. Walked through the screen door into a little back area with propane tanks and a little brick building with a thick door, “Usually ain’t antsy but this was only couple months ago. Was some black guys, too.”

 

Latrell’s breath cut short. “Yeah?”

 

“Or Jamaicans or some sh*t,” Frank said.

 

Vinny, “f*ck’d Jamaicas be doing in Tudor?”

 

“I heard.”

 

Vinny pulled out keys and let ‘em jingle. “It’s ain’t racism, just, euh… you know. You gotta be careful.” Door clicked. “Lowlifes.”

 

“Scott was there. He’d know.”

 

Door opened.

 

Latrell saw Scott.

 

Oh.

 

Latrell knew Scott.

 

Scott was a middle-aged guy with a barrel chest and a gray Eris polo shirt and these massive gold Gnocchi sunglasses too big for his head. Widow’s peak hair and this meaty boxer face, mushed up, cauliflower ears.

 

He knew that face.

 

That was Mushface. Mushface from the gas station. Mushface Latrell’d stuck a gun in the face of and watched get covered in pieces of brain at the gas station for a truck full of f*cking antifreeze or dish soap or whatever. Mushface whose truck was at the bottom of the West River.

 

Latrell froze up.

 

Oh.

 

Latrell knew how Angie died.

 

Latrell left himself a moment and saw himself walk, no, stumble into the room and stop by the wall to observe. To observe Scott, Mushface, watch him get up from a crate and greet with a grin and shook hands and this little tremor in his arms as he did it.

 

He didn’t hear what Scott said but heard the words ‘Vinny’ and ‘Paulie’ and ‘Angie’. Zoned back in to hear him say  “-that bullsh*t was f*ckin’ that. Bullsh*t.”

 

“Was Angie talking this sh*t around when he said it?”

 

“He lost his f*ckin’ head for it if he did. I don’t know. f*ckin’ n- eurgh, whatever. And the kid?”

 

“That’s Latrell.” Frankie cupped hands, Latrell!

 

Jumped out his head. “What?”

 

Kid’s in the clouds, euhh, yeah. Scott was just sayin’ where we was gettin’ the cups.”

 

Scott had this cigar gravel growl, “We don’t want youse gettin’ trails so we got the stash here for youse. You drop the thing in the river and give us a slice for replacements.”

 

Latrell, “Huh?”

 

Stock, boy. Stock. We got the cups here you use so we don’t get no trails.”

 

Latrell shook his head. “Sure.”

 

“It’s two of youse, correct? You got a homie or whateva’ the f*ck,” chuckled.

 

“Yeah. So yeah. Two cups. All we need is two cups.”

 

Scott gave a nod and crossed the room for more boxes - whole little building behind was filled with shelves upon shelves with boxes upon boxes - have to assume that they weren’t all cups, but… you know. There were cups in there.

 

‘Cups’ didn’t mean cups.

 

If you didn’t get the memo before, you knew when the wood box got pulled out and the lid was opened to show a quartet - two .38s, two 9 millimeters. “They’s Boiuna. Brazillio. 9 by 19. Semi-auto sh*t’s is made in the factories they used to make the Chitarras, the MP models, whateva’ the f*ck. Call it an M3PB. Now da’ six shot’s got rubber grips so it’s easy. Easy to load but you get less bang.”

 

Latrell blinked. “Yeah. Looks like the Chitarra.”

 

“They make ‘em at the same factory.”

 

Frankie, “You said that.”

 

Latrell muttered, “Semi-auto’s is good.

 

“Huh?”

 

“The semi. The Chitarra, I’ll- yeah. We’ll take that.”

 

“It ain’t a Chitarra.

 

Phil, “Looks like one.”

 

And Scott nodded, “They make ‘em at the same factory.”

 

Latrell’s hands shook as he pointed and pulled out the pieces and gave them over to Frankie. Noticed Vinny had left, must’ve never entered. Was feeling chills down his spine as he backed up to the door and got listening as Phil and Frankie spat, “This whole thing with you peoples. I’m sorry.”

 

“It’s okay, Frankie.”

 

“It ain’t.”

 

“It’s Paul I worry for, you know. I ain’t lost nothing. We lost money and… you know. What’re you gonna do.”

 

Phil, “I’d f*ckin’ comb through Acter with an AK. Thats’d I f*ckin’ do.”

 

Frankie, “We’ll find ‘em.”

 

And Scott shook his head and sighed and said “No.”

 

“No?”

 

“They was shake-up guys. Stick-up guys. That’s it, right?”

 

“Stick-up, yeah.” 

 

You could see his little head dart to Latrell before saying “They was garden variety titsoon jamoke motherf*ckers. A million of them.”

 

Latrell didn’t know what those words meant.

 

“We took care of those Ancho’ beaners, though.”

 

They was easy to find.

 

“Shouldn’t a’ been.”

 

It’s nothing. It’s done. I’m resigned to that.”

 

Could see Frank and Scott lock eyes. Said something with them they couldn’t have said otherwise. A nod, a pat on the back. “We’re goin’,” Frank said.

 

They went.

 

Vinny was out back smoking a cigarette.

 

Walk was short and sweet back into the dealership with the guns before Latrell tapped Frankie’s shoulder, got him to stop, took him and Phil aside where the desks were while Paulie was still cleaning the dishes and Vin was back outside with the fall air beating down.

 

The three of them.

 

Latrell bit the bullet. “Ancho’ beaners?

 

Frank laughed. “That’s a great story.”

 

“Story?”

 

Phil nodded off, “I’m gonna get a water.”

 

Just two.

 

Frankie sat him down by the desk and leaned back and laughed and clenched his fists, “This was in the fall of ‘08. The bad times. Everybody dropping like flies. You know.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Was these guys. We had sh*t around town and we was working with these guys and we was sellin’ heroin for cheap and it was a good gig. And we had these gigs around town, we had one at Honkers - you know Honkers?

 

Latrell smiled, “Who don’t?”

 

“We did some sh*t at Honkers, we was moving some weight at those construction sites in Chase Point, whatever. And there were these spics. These Dominican guys who robbed us, they shot our guys, they took our sh*t, pain in the ass. But we knew ‘em. We knew their names, we knew where they hang out - Northwood. We knew the three a’ them because they was tryna’ rob everyone in the city f*ckin’ blind. We do more digging and they got these Ancho, Ancelotti connects.”

 

“How?”

 

“One of them was a bouncer at Maisonette 9. Right under our f*ckin’ noses.”

 

Latrell blew out his nose. “Okay.”

 

“So we got the guy. We got two a’ his pals, the guys he was sticking us up with. And we thought Old Man Ancelotti would be spittin’ sh*t because they was with him, turns out we call him up and he wants to cut the guy’s cock off because he killed his in-law. Some sh*t. So we get these wetbacks, we take ‘em to Loopy - Mark Lupisella - we take ‘em to his basement.”

 

Latrell nodded. “Yeah?”

 

Frankie grinned. “And Mark Lupisella cut their cocks off.”

 

Color left Latrell’s face. “Yeah.”

 

“Mark Lupisella’s a mean f*ck. They call him Loopy for a reason. They do. You give the guy a reason and he won’t let go. Used to do the boxing and he beat a motherf*cker to death in the ring. Tried getting this f*ckin’ TV thing done about him being a port worker boss and bein’ a legitimate businessman and answerin’ phonecalls and this guy calls him Loopy on set and he beats the f*ck outta him with a chair.” Frank smiled, kept smiling, smiled like this was so good to him, “I was in that basement. This was a favor when my pa didn’t hate Mark’s f*ckin’ guts so much.”

 

Latrell, “You helped these guys out?”

 

“We was drivin’ along and settin’ the thing up. And Mark is stompin’ down these steps and he’s got this f*ckin’ box cutter out and he’s laughin’ up a storm. And he says he knows these guys. Because one of these pricks f*cked his daughter. I don’t even know these peoples names but he loved it.”

 

“Loved what?”

 

Cuttin’ a motherf*cker’s cock off. He loved it. Take the blade right to the ballsack. Old Man Gio he calls, he says he can deal with the loose ends, all this sh*t with that homo- euhh you know, but Gio wants a gift so Loopy sends him a bit a’ his dick in the f*cking mail. I sh*t you not. And we helped clean up.”

 

Latrell nodded. Look at his feet, look at his foot tapping and tapping and tapping without him knowing and got him leaning his elbow on the knee. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. “Cool.”

 

“That’s what he does to people who f*ck with us. That’s how he does it. There’s honor in this thing and these f*ckin’ animals don’t like the honor, these animals get burnt. They take a friend and a family member away from you and you carve them up like f*ckin’ cheese. Forget about it.”

 

Latrell said nothing.

 

Phil came back.

 

They just kinda stood there a moment.

 

“We headed out?”

 

“Yeah, Phil.”

 

Latrell, “This place got a bathroom?”

 

It did.

 

Door slammed into the wall hard and Latrell keeled over and f*cking spewed.

 

Like his guts were on fire. Eyes red and shot and bleeding and head sweat dripping and the thoughts ending. They weren’t going through his head anymore, no, they’d stopped. You stop thinking in the moment and let the body take over and alleviate.

 

Alleviate peppers, and onions, and romano cheese, and eggs, and sausage.

 

The Glossary

Liberty City Map

Edited by slimeball supreme

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The Dry Cleaners

 

Benny was a restauranteur. That’s what he wrote on his taxes or whatever anyway, he was the professional manager of several banquet halls in Broker; the bankroller, the money man. He started none of them. Two of them were inherited from his bosses - Gulag Garden previously being ran by this little guy named Lev Abbot’d heard about here and there, mouse faced guy, threw good parties. The other was a catering hall for weddings in Hansen Basin his father Lazar used to run, a man Benny only spoke about in past tense if at all.

 

Those, he inherited legitimately.

 

One of the restaurants he ran was an Uzbek place on Koodkirk in Fulham, actually a pretty short drive from his house and, funnily enough, a couple blocks away from the good doctor Yugo Churkin.

 

Stepping into the restaurant, this gaudy looking place called St. Basil Palace with red stucco and a fancy walkway and murals of Moscow landmarks on the interior, with a big ceiling that was painted black with LED lights like the night sky, place was f*cking tacky enough you’d think Benny was in on the ground floor.

 

Wrong.

 

The old owner was named Abdul, and Abdul still ran the joint in person. Abdul also had to put up with the litany of Hove Beach toughs making the place their home away from home. Abdul had to put up with getting a chunk of the proceeds, if not all, taken right out his pocket. Abdul had to deal with the fact he lost a finger in what, to this day, he insists was a car accident on the expressway.

 

Benny took the cash.

 

Abbot stepped in, talked to the maitre d’, stepped into the private room.

 

Past crystal-glass window.

 

No meals were booked for today.

 

Felix and Benny.

 

Felix with the beard and the ponytail and the little scar above the brow and a leather blazer over a turtleneck, room temp probably too hot for it but he looked like the kind of guy who didn’t care. Bald Benny in the pink gingham dress shirt with the chai pendant and aviators on the table.

 

Felix and Benny mid-conversation, Abbot getting half-stopped by a bruiser at the door in a tight t-shirt before a quick “Он в порядке” from Benny letting him in.

 

Felix, “You.”

 

Abbot, “Me.”

 

Benny, “Abbot.” Pitter-pattered on the table and beckoned over, “I need you to do little favor.”

 

Felix, “We should get--”

 

“No, no, no, no,” Benny put up a hand. “Abbot do it.”

 

Felix just shrugged.

 

“What do you want me to do?”

 

Atta boy,” Benny smiled. “A friend of ours.”

 

Felix, “Half a friend of ours.”

 

“Friends from a long time ago need ends met on our thing we have going on in East Hook. They grease the wheels, you know, keep everything smooth. Always had a hand over there so they help us.”

 

Abbot didn’t care how vague it sounded, “So?”

 

Another smile.

 

Benny hoisted this fat f*cking duffel bag from under the table.

 

Wow.

 

“You don’t open this, Abbot.”

 

Abbot nodded.

 

Felix, “They’ll know if you open the bag, Abbot.”

 

Benny pushed it over. “This is our laundry.”

 

Abbot just blinked. “Okay.”

 

“Laundry needs to be cleaned. You take it to one of these Spin On This places, the one on Boot Street, you knock on the door and you go to the back room - you tell cashier it is for the party and they will let you past. You knock on the door, a man answer. You hand him the package and you will come back. Okay?”

 

Abbot kept looking at the bag.

 

Hey,” finger snap, “Abbot?”

 

“Yeah. Okay.”

 

Felix, “I- if you really want him talk to them--”

 

“I do.”

 

“Okay, okay, okay. Okay!”

 

“It’s a big bag,” Abbot muttered.

 

“A big bag you don’t open.”

 

Felix. He understand.” 

 

Abbot nodded. He did.

 

Felix nodded too. Felix nodded deliberate, unsure, eyes-squinted and arms folded and invited him over, “Take it, then.”

 

Abbot took it, then.

 

And f*ck, was it f*cking heavy.

 

Benny noticed, “Don’t ask.”

 

What’s in it? Abbot didn’t. Abbot just took the thing and lugged it out the f*cking door.

 

***

 

Seaside Broker was brownstones and dockland where pizza parlors used to stand. Now what stood there were juice bars and craft beer places and digital bus-stop advertisements and people walking yorkies with their baby strollers. Boot Street had all that, Abbot knew walking by the mailbox with ‘Dismantle Patriarchy’ scrawled on the side with marker and the store on the corner of Wayne Street called PICNIC that Abbot couldn’t discern the purpose or trade of. Did it sell food? You couldn’t tell.

 

But down the street was the catholic church, this big baroque thing Abbot had forgotten the name of, staring off into the sky. You could still see it. They hadn’t knocked the f*cker down to build condos. So you know, the old neighborhood still lived.

 

Spin on This! Charming.

 

There were a few around town, one on Iroquois Avenue Abbot remembered, but you know. It’s a 24 hour chain laundromat and dry cleaner, who gives a sh*t? It’s one with a pretty vulgar name but you take what you can.

 

Inside.

 

Inside, a row of machines, and a row of clothes in plastic covers with yellow name tags and little carts and little laundry bags and a little guy at the desk with a dimpled chin and scratchy cheeks and a nametag that said ‘Ralph’. So, inside was Ralph.

 

Ralph took one look at the bag and his face creased up like he bit a lemon. “You good, man?”

 

“I’m fine.”

 

“Did you walk here?”

 

“I took a cab, it’s fine. It’s for the party.”

 

“The what?”

 

Looked Ralph in the eye, “It’s for the party.”

 

The what? What party?”

 

“Ralph.” Slower this time, “It’s for the party.”

 

And Ralph stopped. And Ralph looked at the bag. And Ralph nodded. “Okay.”

 

“I gotta talk to the guys.”

 

Nodded again, beckoned, let him through to the rear. Led him past more racks and more coats in plastic and more nametags to a door, left him there without a word, without nothing. He got it.

 

Abbot knocked.

 

Could hear chatter, got nothing. Knocked harder, longer.

 

Locks clicked. Door cracked.

 

“Yeah?” Big blobby eyes and greasy neck-length hair and a red tracksuit and face shaved clean. Feathery eyebrows and a Virgin Mary necklace. “What?”

 

“I got the party supplies.”

 

Looked at the bag. “For what?”

 

“You know.”

 

“No.”

 

“For the party. You know, I’m with the guys.”

 

“What the f*ck are you talkin’ about?”

 

Frustrated, groan, “Do- did they tell you about me f*cking bringing this?”

 

And then it clicked. “Oof, madon’!

 

“You get it?”

 

“Yeah. Sure, sure, hey,” clicked the door open, crack went wide, “you come on in.”

 

Abbot looked. “I was told--”

 

“You want a soda? We got eCola in the fridge, you want some of that? Or diet? Come on,” pulled the bag from him, “come on, man.”

 

And Abbot, empty handed, confused, at the edge of the doorway with warm light filling in from laundromat gray, came in.

 

Like a different building.

 

Must’ve been a break room or something like that, fridge and mini-kitchen and amenities and a TV with a couch, dart board, another door at the end. Around four or five Italians in the room excluding tracksuit with the bag - two of them, one in a green track with sunglasses indoors and slicked grey hair, the other in blue jeans in tucked shirt he didn’t have the figure for, both of them sat at a little table.

 

Wood table turned poker table. 

 

Tucked shirt went up, “You bag boy?”

 

“What?”

 

“You bag boy. You get the bag from the fellas with the accents?”

 

“Yeah. Sure.”

 

Red track, “You want lemon-lime? Orange?”

 

“You don’t got an accent.”

 

“No,” Abbot said. “Guess I don’t.”

 

Red tracksuit by the kitchen counter zipping the bag open, pulling sh*t out. Cash bundle, cash bundle, cash bundle. “Is Rud’ still out?”

 

Green tracksuit, “Yeah, we’s still f*ckin’ waiting.”

 

“Hey, bagboy. You mind seatwarming?”

 

“Huh?”

 

“You play poker?”

 

Abbot blinked. “Sure. What, you want me to play?”

 

Green tracksuit, “Rudy’s getting sangwiches. And I’m tired of f*ckin’ waiting.”

 

T-shirt agreed, “I’m tired of f*ckin’ waiting, too.”

 

Abbot looked. They looked back. Kept looking. “You sure?”

 

T-shirt, “You can’t?”

 

“No, I can. Just, can I?”

 

And t-shirt opened arms. “Why the f*ck not?”

 

Why the f*ck not.

 

Abbot shrugged and sat down. Got his introductions; Stu in the t-shirt, Glen in the tracksuit. Other guys didn’t introduce but had their hellos, sat Abbot down in the lone chair with its back to the door and had Glen deal the cards out. Red tracksuit came down with the can of Orang-o-Tang and went back to count buckies after a “good luck.”

 

Abbot checked his hand. An ace of spades, a 10 of clubs.

 

“You’re bettin’ his cash,” said Stu.

 

“Will he mind?”

 

“Maybe,” said Glen, “but he shoulda’ just got sum’n else to get the f*cking sangwiches.”

 

“I don’t get him,” said Stu. “With the orders. Picky f*ckin’... whatever.” Small blind. Abbot was big blind.

 

“You from Russia, bagboy?” Glen asked.

 

“Broker,” said Abbot. Raised.

 

Called, “That’s good, that’s good. See these guys they f*ckin’ send, they’re all foreigners and f*ckin’ jerkoffs who can’t speak the language. Sayin’ all this bullsh*t nobody f*ckin’ gets, you know.”

 

“I guess.”

 

“Where, then?”

 

“Where what?”

 

“Where in Broker?”

 

“Hove Beach.”

 

“So you is Russian?” Stu raised, raised the bet.

 

“My pa’s from Belarus.”

 

Glen called, “Where’s that?”

 

Raised, “Y’know, f*ckin’... East Europe. Still was Soviet, I guess.”

 

“So Russia?”

 

“Soviets were- no, not exactly. I’m Jewish, I prefer that.”

 

Stu half-jumped, “No f*ckin’ sh*t! Rennie’s wife is Jewish. Hey, ho, Rennie?”

 

Red tracksuit looked back up from the bag. “Wha’?”

 

“Where’s your wife from, Ren?”

 

“Broker.”

 

“No, I mean her, uh, familial.”

 

“Her what?”

 

“Where was she born or her parents or what-the-f*ck?”

 

“Uh… I dunno. Slovakia a’ something. Slavakio? Slovakia.”

 

Abbot called the bet, “Okay.”

 

Community cards - 10 of clubs, 9 of spades, 6 of hearts. Stu bet, “Is Slovakia in East Europe?”

 

“No sh*t,” said Glen.

 

“So youse and her wife is from the same country?”

 

“No,” Abbot said, Abbot checked. “I mean, it’s two different countries.”

 

“Yeah,” Glen raised. “So no.”

 

Abbot raised, “Is Rennie’s wife Jewish?”

 

Stu raised, “I just told you.”

 

“It’s just, is she Slovakian or is she Jewish? Or is she both? I dunno.”

 

“Both.”

 

Abbot sighed, “Okay.” Called.

 

Turn card showed its face. 5 of diamonds. Stakes doubled.

 

Stu bet.

 

Abbot raised.

 

“Youse is playing ballsy with another man’s money.”

 

“It’s another man’s money.”
 

Glen folded.

 

Stu just f*cking laughed, “Cheeky f*ckin’ cheeky.”

 

“You know,” Glen said, “if Rudy comes back and he’s a hundred out the f*ckin’ hole, he’s takin’ this guy’s neck. Abbot, right?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“I ain’t the one bein’ thrown in the Humboldt.”

 

“Trust me,” Abbot said. Raised, “I won’t.”

 

Stu laughed. Called.

 

Glen rubbed hands.

 

River card. Queen.

 

Abbot put his cards on the table. Got a laugh.

 

Stu put his down.

 

Abbot got a pair of 10s. Stu got a pair of 9s.

 

Are you f*cking kidding me?

 

“You cocky f*ckin’- Jesus.”

 

“So what,” Abbot asked. “Rudy gets the pot?”

 

Stu muttering, “Least it weren’t no f*ckin’ high. f*ckin’ aces high card.

 

“I mean, you want the cash or you want Rudy the f*ckin’ cash?”

 

“Is Rudy gonna throw me in the river?”

 

Glen didn’t answer quick enough for his “no” to be convincing.

 

“Rudy can keep it.”

 

Stu back up from mutterville, “You wanna go again, Abbie?”

 

Abbot didn’t get to answer.

 

“Look who the cat f*ckin’ dragged in, boys!”

 

The penny dropped.

 

Everyone stood.

 

Like everything started happening all at once.

 

Gus and Stu didn’t wait to finish sentences; stood up, walked over. Rennie dropped f*cking cash to the countertop. Nameless duo by the TV let eyes switch and pushed themselves off to congratulate a man in a crowd, a man with a posse. Rudy - or who Abbot assumed was Rudy, ruddy faced blue-collar type in a beige polo - had brought 3 other guidos in dressed in sweaters and sportswear.

 

Surrounding one.

 

Abbot knew that one guy.

 

Truth is, if you’d been in this town and seen a tabloid headline or a news report over the past odd-ten, twenty years; you knew that guy. You knew the smirk, you knew the hazel eyes, you knew the pretty boy looks and coiffed hair like he was someone to look at.

 

The man was staring at Abbot.

 

The noise had stopped.

 

And he wasn’t smiling anymore.

 

“Who’s this?”

 

Abbot blinked.

 

“Reynold, who- who’s this?”

 

“He’s the delivery guy with the thing.”

 

“And you just let him in?”

 

Abbot got up, put up hands, “I’m with--”

 

I’m not f*cking talkin’ to you. You say sh*t to me when I f*ckin’ talk to you. Who the f*ck are you?”

 

Abbot stared.

 

“I’m talking to you now. Who the f*ck are you?”

 

Abbot kept staring.

 

Man walked closer, “Ain’t the time to be silent.”

 

Abbot blinked. “I’m not going to say my name in this room.”

 

“Do we have a f*ckin’ problem?”

 

Like sharks were encircling. “No,” Abbot said. “In case anybody we may not want to listen is listening.”

 

The man laughed. Threw his head back, almost like he was putting it on, “You really think?”

 

Abbot didn’t break contact.

 

“There’s a guy in this room every hour. They don’t get in here. They had a van outside a’ couple years back, I came out and gave ‘em a box of donuts.” Another step closer, “No rats on this ship and we keep the walls clean so the bugs don’t spread. Who are you?

 

Abbot let that sink in a second.

 

“I’m Abbot Cohen and I work for the accents.”

 

“And they sent you here with the bag?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And you didn’t leave?”

 

“They invited me in.”

 

And the man bit his knuckle and kept looking. Kept looking with hazel eyes and used his other arm to adjust his camel coat. Man thought.

 

“Okay.”

 

“Okay?”

 

“And you know who I am?”

 

“Yes,” Abbot said. “I do.”

 

“They pat you down?”

 

Abbot looked back. “No.”

 

Sucked in his cheek and looked him over again. Searched him, searched Abbot head to toe, eyes down and eyes back up. “They didn’t need to,” he said.

 

“They didn’t?”

 

The man looked at Abbot again, hard. “No,” he said. “They didn’t.”

 

This awkward silence simmering and simmering and all these eyes on these two men. A million guido eyes glaring. No room to breathe in an optical gunfight. Man bat his hand up sharp, “Everyone back to whatever-the-f*ck. Whacha’ f*ckin’ doin’.”

 

The man’s entourage stayed put by the door but let eyes stay fierce. Reynold did the same. But the rest of the room, slowly, ever slowly, orbited back to wherever. Table stayed empty.

 

Rennie. Clear it.”

 

And Reynold cleared the table, cleared the cards, cleared the chips. Locked eyes with the man a moment stood a ways away; backed up, backed up, backed up. Backed up to the counter and backed into the duffel bag.

 

They were alone. Relatively. They wouldn't show it but you knew everyone in the room was listening.

 

Listening to silence.

 

“Siddown’,” the man said.

 

Abbot sat down.

 

The man sat down.

 

Abbot stared into the eyes, dead into the eyes, of Roy Zito.

 

Roy Zito, the boss of the Gambetti crime family. 

 

Roy Zito was Roy Zito. You didn't need an introduction to Roy Zito because every newspaper already did and every other crook saw him like the Messiah. Something like that; this big guy standing 5’11 with broad shoulders who made jokes to reporters and smiled for the cameras. Built like a movie star, dressed like one. Got shouted out in rap songs and took pictures with nightclub socialites. You know the type.

 

A regular Bruce Spade. Goddamn Mac Panza. Celebrity.

 

Roy Zito stared back into his eyes.

 

Nothing.

 

“Bad mark on the face, there,” Roy said.

 

There was. Abbot got cut up bad by steel-toe pig boot, cheek gone purple. Wasn’t gonna leave a scar, wasn’t gonna leave nothing. But for a week, two - purple. “I f*cked up a cop.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Parking ticket.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Roy kept looking. “You done time?”

 

Abbot let it sit. “Yeah.”

 

“How long?”

 

“Two years. Two of probation.”

 

Roy nodded, “I don’t trust nobody who don’t done time. You know? I don’t.”

 

Abbot didn’t reply.

 

“How old are you?”

 

Blinked, “What’s it matter?”

 

Firmer, “How old are you?”

 

“31.”

 

“And you’re Russian?”

 

Beat. “Yeah.”

 

“You don’t sound it.”

 

“I’m as Russian as you are Italian, Roy.”

 

Roy chuckled. When Roy laughs, everyone laughs. Room was unsure but laughed cautious, scattered. “Is that so?” Bit his cheek again, smirked. “Then youse is Russian like Rasputin, ‘cause I’m more paisan than Caesar.”

 

It didn’t sound like much of a joke but the room laughed harder all the same.

 

Abbot kinda laughed too.

 

Reynold in the corner, “Check this f*ckin’ guy, he’s got jokes.”

 

“Rennie, you f*ckin’ listening?”

 

“What?”

 

“We’re talking about bugs over here, this guy’s like a f*ckin’ walkin’ wire. Madon’.”

 

More laughing.

 

But Roy didn’t stop looking at Abbot.

 

Blinked.

 

“I want you to see me, kid.”

 

Abbot said nothing.

 

“I want you to see me.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“You know Stanzino? My spot on Brown Place? In the city?”

 

Didn’t know the address but Abbot knew the place. “Yes.”

 

“Roy--”

 

What?

 

“This guy?”

 

“What, Rennie?”

 

“You wanna talk to Don about this? Talk to Jacky? I mean--”

 

“No. f*ck that. The kid talks to me. I wanna see him.”

 

Reynold took the hint. Reynold backed off.

 

Roy kept looking. “Okay?” he asked.

 

“Okay,” Abbot said.

 

“Okay.”

 

Locked eyes one more time.

 

Wordlessly.

 

Roy put up a hand. And Abbot understood.

 

Abbot left.

 

The Glossary

Liberty City Map

Edited by slimeball supreme
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slimeball supreme

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Tomato Can

 

“I got ‘em eatin’ out the palm a’ my hand, son.”

 

MounteBank Center was a giant rusted f*cking eyesore and testament to the Broker that was becoming the Broker that is. A Broker made for the rich men of Algonquin who made money in media careers to lug their cars over the bridge or under the tunnel into their little brownstones. Forget it.

 

MounteBank Center wasn't just founded by English bankers who sold stock on the FTSE - no. MounteBank Center was Nü Broker, BRKR, personified. Part-financed by Tony McTony and half the real estate developers that ruined the city, built over apartments and groceries they eminent domain’d into dust.

 

Literally made out of pre-rusted metal.

 

A ‘f*ck you’ to Montauk Avenue.

 

Latrell liked it. Picked his teeth and ran his eyes up the monolith to the green gardens and the MounteBank logo planted square onto the facade.

 

Xavier kicked his feet. “Yeah?”

 

It was night. Deep night. Passing through a crowd of people in down jackets and snapbacks and Trauma brand t-shirts. Up on a big LED sign on the looping entrance, in a deep blue, words bore down.

 

ejidQdv.png

 

“Easy as f*ckin’ pie. Wops love me.”

 

Xavier was paying more attention to weaving in, weaving out, weaving in, “And this whole thing is mafia sh*t?”, weaving out. Weaving to the big front facade that looked like one-way glass with the the lights tinted blue on the interior. Past the in-house Bean Machine and the security guards who gave the two an extra long look.

 

“You know,” Latrell said. “f*ck yeah.”

 

The stadium’s gaping maw. The VIG Insurance Atrium entrance, get tickets checked to the right, take the The Mount Experience Bar, don’t forget to get some Broker Hoops merchandise at the f*cking swag shop. Check the lights, check the brands, get the tickets checked.

 

They had got tickets.

 

Slip knew a guy and Slip’s guy got them, got them cheap, got them scalped, got them whatever. VIP sh*t, fine, needed lanyards and all these checks and balances and probably had to get searched by the big boy bouncers up the next few stair flights.

 

Tickets checked. Woman handed them some lanyards.

 

VIP GUEST - TEMPORARY MEMBERSHIP

 

Fair is fair.

 

Xavier needed a breather.

 

Some seats near the stairs.

 

f*ck. This constant stream of people coming in and coming in and security-men sizing them up and Xavier biting his knuckles and grunting “All this for us?”

 

“I guess.”

 

“And what’s his name? Dijon? Mustard nigga?”

 

Latrell thought. “We’ll find out.”

 

Xavier just wiped his face. “Lord.

 

“S’all easy, son. We good.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“I din’t bring a piece, man.”

 

“Well, y’know,” Latrell scratched his head. “They’d check a nigga for that sh*t anyway. They got detectors. I’unno.”

 

“Just don’t feel good.”

 

“You think these clowns gonna just pull a gat out in the VIP’s?”

 

Xavier just stared out at the people.

 

Noise.

 

“X, chill, b.”

 

“You sure this is--”

 

“Yes.”

 

Blink. “I don’t like crowds,” he said.

 

Latrell smirked. “It’s fine.”

 

“You can’t think. I don’t know.”

 

“I feel you.”

 

“Remember we’d head out citylike and we’d get to Star Junction and it’d just be a million niggas and a million lights and niggas dressed up like cartoons ‘n sh*t? Like that. And then you’d see some other niggas and you’d scrap and it’d be nothin’ and- I- I don’t know’m I sayin’.”

 

Latrell didn’t either. “It’s cool.”

 

“Yeah.” Cleared his throat, “And, you know. Your thing.

 

“What about it?”

 

“I don’t know these niggas. I ain’t seen ‘em.”

 

“That’s the point.”

 

Xavier squinted, “Yeah?”

 

“Youse gotta be separating’ the powers n’ sh*t and insulating yourself from that sh*t. They got me for the messages and I conveyin’ that sh*t. And I ain’t gonna leave you out with no nothin’ or nothin’, you feel?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

They dumb. These guys. Or ain’t dumb, we just smart, you feel? Whiteboys is old. I been inside where they hang and they been tellin’ me all this sh*t and I done met their boss and sh*t.”

 

“For real?”

 

“Yeah,” Latrell lied. “And, you know, they hardcore motherf*ckers, but they just what we steppin’ on. We’re what matters here. This sh*t we got goin’ on, you and me, I wouldn’t give this to anybody Ion’t trust, even though this sh*t easy. Because, we do this for ‘em, we get in they good books, who knows. Sunglasses and smoked out cars and sh*t.”

 

Xavier was nodding. “Okay.”

 

“One my hands, they eatin’ outta. The other, I got ‘em by the balls.

 

X laughed. “C’mon.”

 

“No homo, son, I’m just saying.”

 

“A’ight.”

 

“And, yo, and this sh*t we gonna do? We pop this guy? It’s easy. We got the guy’s address, old Italian type dude, we head to his house with the pieces they been got us, we just wait outside his place. We drive your car, we follow the nigga, see where he stops. And then when he does, when he walks into the spot he headed or whatever; two of us walk out and pop him a few times on the sidewalk. And that’s it. We don’t even need masks, b. Daylight movie sh*t. We get back in the car, this is that. We done did it. And then we can get back to plannin’ that thing we was doin’ with Ramon and we can--”

 

“We still doin’ that?”

 

“Hell yeah.”

 

Squinted. “DB--”

 

Hand up, “Ah, well, y’know… the kid, Ion’t wanna get the kid hype or nothin’ and we might not even be doin’ it when he’s here, you know.”

 

“So we ain’t gettin’ him in?”

 

“No. No. Ain’t what matters. You matter. And I’m tellin’ you everything I know on this one, b, you my consigliere, b, you my dog.

 

Xavier looked better. “I- yeah, man, for sure.”

 

“For sure for sure, my nigga, for sure. And, yo, they got dope we can sell and we got sh*t we can sell them and we can do this sh*t without payin’ Slip a cent. We do this to get him off our back, we go independent, we get our names on skyscrapers, son, we got our own f*ckin’ lights ‘n sh*t.”

 

“We still ball.”

 

“Yeah, we still ball, but we ball for us and not for five stars. sh*t, we’ll be five stars. And we’ll get ourselves seats with the mafia and we’ll meet niggas and we’ll be Gambetti f*ckin’ Messina Pavano dudes in purple. Vin Falcone, Altieri niggas. Gravelli niggas. You know?”

 

“Okay.”
 

“So chill.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“You chill, son?”

 

“I’m good, b.”

 

“How good, son? How good you be?”

 

“I’m good.”

 

“We ready to rock, my nigga, we ready to f*ckin’ go?”

 

“Okay, okay,” X was nodding fierce, “Okay, son.” Got him in the moment.

 

Keep hyping. That’s what you gotta do, “We good, baby?

 

“Let’s go, b, we easy, b, we ready, b, let’s see this nigga, b. Let’s go.

 

“Then let’s go, son.”