“You shittin me? Mother fucker.” Archie slammed his palms on the steering wheel, reached over, yanked the big revolver from Rifat. “You can’t shoot a motherfucker cause you can’t fuckin shoot? Not, you know, even the motherfucker killed your brother? I thought you Rag heads was ‘sposed to be all secret terrorists an shit, know what I’m sayin? Now we gotta do a fuckin Chinese fire drill in the get-toe? Get the fuck out. An hurry.” He popped out of the driver’s side, gun drawn, gripped sideways movie gangster style, swung side to side like radar. “Motherfuckers down in here be like Zombies an shit, know what I’m sayin, come outta nowhere an be gnawin your foot off fore you know. Hurry.” He continued running commentary about the locals and Rifat’s lineage and camel fucking that Rifat missed most of as they took opposite ends walking around Archie’s long nosed Town Car.
They climbed in, Rifat sliding the driver’s seat back and the seat back up, Archie bitching, “Don’t be fuckin’ with shit in my ride, man. Shit, nigger. Now you done fucked it all up. Don’t touch nothin’ else motherfucker. No radio, no AC… Goddam, now you drivin’ like a old fuckin woman. Case you hadn’t noticed his is a auto-mo-beel, not a fuckin camel… You know where we goin? Goddam Rifat, lissen, you know, watch the fuckin traffic not the hoes…”
Six miles on side streets and half an hour later, Rifat slowed the Lincoln to a crawl on Cahuenga south of Selma, Archie still ragging him.
“You understand profiling, motherfucker? Drive like you mean it, know what I’m sayin, not like you be high an shit thinkin maybe you oughta rob the fuckin C store… Stop. We here.” Archie reached for the door handle. “Stop!” Rifat nosedived the Lincoln, Archie stepped out goddam motherfuckering, leaned in the door, eyes darting everywhere. “Drive around the block. Do it like you a sand nigger with a purpose, you know, on a fuckin mission, like you belong, know what I’m sayin? I cap this asshole for us, you pick me up an we drive outta Hollywood like nothin happened.”
Rifat considered leaving Archie with the man who killed his brother. Instead, he followed orders and drove around the block, through a parking lot full of out-of-state plates, thinking they’d come in handy when he got a new van, drove around the block again. This time Archie stood on the sidewalk in front of the detective’s building, wild eyed, obvious, the fucking gun in his hand. Piece of pretentious shit. Rifat curb bumped the Lincoln on purpose, Archie fell in raising hell.
Rifat scraped his knuckles, swore at the pipe under the big sink in the warehouse behind his mother’s shop, swore at the ringing phone, answering it “ARS Fine Imported Linens and Ladies Wear…”
“What the fuck is going on down there, Rifat? People are asking questions. Important people. Tell me you shipped the fluids.”
“I shipped the fluids?”
“Don’t be a wise ass, diaper head. Answer the question.”
“I shipped the fluids, Mr. Wichtikl?”
“Minus the attitude?”
“Yes, I shipped the fucking fluids, Mr. Wichtikl.” Rifat opened a drawer in the work bench, closed it, opened another. “Cold Medical transport, air express. If they don’t have it by now, they screwed the pooches on their end and they’re lying.”
“I’m not paying for comedy. How’d you lose the dogs?”
“Seven at one time, they made too much noise. Drove my brother crazy.” He closed the second drawer, opened a third. “He said we were being watched, so he stopped the barking and whining immediately after I’d harvested your precious fluids.”
“He decided this on his own?”
“What’s to decide?” The third drawer slammed shut. “None of the dogs we process for you have been returned.”
“What? Do you have any idea how much those dogs were worth?”
“Rich people have insurance.” Rifat opened a crumbling particle board pantry, found the band aids.
“No one, not even a high-end breeder can insure a fucking champion for anywhere close to what’s being paid by my people. North of ten, sometimes twenty, up to fifty grand. Jesus. Put your brother on. I need to know what he means by ‘watched’.”
“I would, but he’s dead,” saying it with one end of the band aid wrapper in his teeth.
“Dead?” Clucking noises on the line followed by a long silence. “How did he die?”
“He wrecked the van with seven dead dogs and a homeless drunk inside.” He managed one side of the band aid on his finger, held in place by the workbench.
“My seven dogs?”
“The seven dogs we stole for you, yes.” He flopped the loose end of the band aid over his index finger, pressed in place with his thumb.
“Don’t get fucking technical with me, Rifat. What made him think you were being watched?”
“He was told someone persistent was asking questions of the dog fighters and private adopters. Our operation is unknown to them. I don’t see the problem.” He flexed his finger, not completely satisfied with the band aid.
“That’s why you’re a grunt and I run things. This is the worst possible fucking news. Your operation—”
“Whatever. The operation must have come up or he wouldn’t have gotten killed.”
“My brother’s death was avoidable. He overreacted to something that might have had nothing to do with us. Even if it had, it would have gone away in its own time had he been patient. We’re… I’m not stupid.”
“That’s debatable. Are you sure he’s dead? I find it difficult to believe there was nothing in the news.”
“Perhaps the news, like you and Archie, feel there is no news in another dead camel jockey. We are as disposable as dead dogs and a homeless drunk.”
“Watch your attitude, Rifat. And your mouth. You know what could happen if anyone were to run those dogs’ numbers?”
“Next time my dead brother kills your stolen property, I’ll be sure to cut their ears off, deep fry them and throw them in the dumpster behind Jack-in-the-Box. Where, in a matter of minutes, they will consumed.”
“You’re really pushing it, Rifat. My name can’t come up if this ‘persistent’ someone keeps asking questions.”
“Archie has taken care of that for you. And me. He called it a two-fer.”
“Flamboyant homicide is the last thing I need. Tell me he was discreet.”
“He was discreet?”
“Damn you, Rifat. I was going to say how sorry I was, about your brother. Being…um…”
“Dead? Now you are not sorry for my brother’s death?”
“Now I’m sorry it wasn’t you.”