“How busy are you for the next three, four days?” Meyers spoke straight ahead over the concrete counter of the coffee shop to a wall size print of an attractive brunette perched on a boulder with mountains in the background. Dressed in an off the shoulder peasant blouse and colorful, swishy skirt, her exposed calves, bare feet and painted nails coupled with a come-hither smile completed the plea to smoke Brazilian Hollywood brand cigarettes.
The Bishop, in an expensive suit, sat next to Meyers, stirred his coffee, asked the countertop, “Is this a money job?”
“Not at the moment,” Meyers said to the Brazilian woman.
“I need to shoot somebody. Soon.” Bishop said to his coffee. “Before I forget how.”
“I’ve heard it’s like riding a bicycle. If it goes down the way I think, you’ll get to pop some bangers.”
Bishop considered his coffee. “Fish in a barrel. That’s not work.”
“That’s why there’s no money,” Meyers told the cigarette ad. “Yet.”
“Say I’m available,” Bishop held up a finger for a refill. “What flavor of bangers?”
“The Five Block Cherries.”
“Shit…” Bishop stayed focused on his empty coffee cup. “When did they get to be worth killing?”
“They’re shaking down their turf. Cut up an old couple pretty bad.”
“Denaldo doesn’t know they’re stepping outside their deal?”
“Nobody knows where the mob complaint desk is, so no. Besides,” Meyers seemed to stare through the ad, “this is personal.”
That brought quiet for a few. Bishop’s refill landed. He zipped open a sugar packet, dumped it in his cup with an economy of motion that was close to sleight of hand.
“Her old man still a supreme asshole?”
“He’s still a politician.”
“Sunny is. Can’t speak for the asshole.” He hit his coffee, twice. “The quick version is she was on her way to rob the Russian’s all-nighter in Toy Town. She thought it was the shortest distance to the buck and a half the Cherries were leaning on her for. I changed her mind.”
“So you go south of the Harbor, pop a couple Cherries, stick a canon in hefe’s mouth, let them know Sunny’s a friend and you don’t approve.”
“Can’t yet. I’m on a job. Sutton’s in the hospital.” Meyers heard Bishop’s eyebrows go up. “Somebody tried to kill me with a van. She threw me out of the way, got run over by a dumpster playing hero.”
“Smoke is beginning to clear.” Bishop worked a paper napkin from the dispenser. “You’re on a job or you wouldn’t be down there. Sutton squirrels up out of nowhere, you intervene. Stepping into the spotlight you get made. You can’t get out of it alive without a scene.”
“I gave the Cherries’ shakedown to Purcell.”
“So you made a big fucking scene.”
“Big enough. Now he has undercovers on Sunny to grab whatever fuckwits the Cherries send up to collect. Sunny’s got a girl to cover her shop while all that cooks. I need you to cover her girl, in case.”
“I babysit Sutton’s edible panties boutique, cap any ugly Tijuana broads in men’s clothes decide to be a nuisance. No charge.”
“I knew you’d get it on the first pass.”
“Fuck a duck.” He slid off the stool. “Tell Sunny I said hello.”
“Rifat, that man. He is in my shop again.”
“‘That man’?” Rifat Skroteem stood in a puddle of water, glared at the pipe wrench in his hand.
“The sweaty one. Curly chest hair,” she worked her hands like fans, up and down in front of her chest, her son not getting it. “Goddam, Rifat. Black Popeye.”
“Archie? I asked him to find out who killed my brother. Send him through.”
“Make him go to the back when he sees you in future.”
“Don’t you want to know what happened to your son?”
“My sons are criminals and dead to me many years. Send him to the back next time. He frightens my customers.”
“You don’t have customers. You have tourists and old people who were young when they escaped with the Shah who want to visit a postcard of how it wasn’t. Send him through.” Rifat smiled, thinking of Archie, banging his way around, claustrophobic, surrounded by Saris and sandals hanging from the ceiling everywhere, without order, in his mother’s shop.
“The fuck is it with you camel jockey motherfuckers?” Archie Dubois brushed himself, eyed Rifat. “I know brothers got dirt floor crack shacks cleaner’n that cluster fuck out there.”
“My mother thinks you scare her customers.”
“Me? Shit. Place stinks, you know, like somebody nuked leftover broccoli or some shit. Not my fault, know what I’m sayin’. Stink is why the bitch got no trade. An the goddam clothes? Who buys them? That shit hangin’ like Pier One curtains cut by a blind rag head. Makes no sense.”
“Since when is it tradition, you know, to make your women look like a five-year-old retard gift wrapped a giant Tootsie roll? The ones in tight jeans now, workin’ that little mask, that’s some doable shit, know what I’m sayin’. But the fat bitches in the wrap, they need to forget that shit, go to some kinda African moo-moo thing. Fat sisters get up under a colorful tent, know what I’m sayin’, and the whale look be more manageable, you know, an easier on the eye than the retard gift wrap on Shamu.”
Rifat, his hand sweating, strangling the pipe wrench to keep from swinging it. “What do have for me, Archie.”
“What I have for you is a ec-u-menical matter till I see what you have for me. An put the wrench down, Rifat. My hand’s in my pocket for good reason this part a town, know what I’m sayin’?”
“I’m good for it,” Rifat stalled a second, released the wrench to clang into a metal toolbox.
“Your brother used to say that, an he ain’t good for shit no more. I look like a fuckin’ charity?”
“I’m not my brother. Right now, I need to know what you know so I can tell my clients what fallout they might expect from his death.”
“And what your investor Mr. Archie Dubois expects. Awright, I give you what I found, you get their money flowin’ again before I start visitations into their homelife, know what I’m sayin’.”
Rifat smiled again, thinking about this big mouth gym rat nigger racist going up to the palaces in the canyon, talking his shit, seeing his head bashed in with a six-thousand-dollar putter wielded by a paranoid housewife in a tennis skirt or a kung-fu house boy, maybe getting his nuts ripped off by a Doberman. Thinking maybe holding out on Archie a little longer just so it would happen, saying to him,
“Do what you think you have to do.”
“It’s what you have to do about our current problem.” Archie wiped his forehead with a red handkerchief that matched his side-zip cowboy-from-the-ankle-down boots.
“What problem is that?” Rifat smiling, seeing the Doberman running off across the putting green in tennis skirt’s back yard, Archie’s nutsack in its mouth.
“I go camp out, you know, where the dog barbecue’s at ‘cause I got a funny feelin’… You with me Rifat?”
Rifat nodding, the daydream and the smile fading away.
“Good. Okay, I’m at the barbecue, an first thing I see, I see this white girl don’t look too happy make a legitimate business drop, you know, and some homeless fuck I seen earlier goes from pissin’ the alley to Olympic sprinter an slides in the door behind her. They all cool for awhile, inside, then the white girl, she hits it outta there, you know, like fuckin’ Nascar. But the homeless pisser, he an that skinny old sand nigger, you know, the one cooks the dogs, they’re in there together maybe half an hour. Homeless comes out not lookin’ so homeless, way he walks. You followin’ me, Rifat?”
“Yeah yeah,” wishing he hadn’t dropped the wrench. “Homeless at the mortuary isn’t really homeless.”
“Right. I follow him, you know, an he walks the middle a the street through all this shit down here after dark like it don’t bother him, like maybe he’s got a rocket in his pocket somebody decides they gonna fuck with him, know what I’m sayin’, an right into the Montclair garage he goes like he fuckin’ owns it. An none a the rentacops slow him down. No more I can do, you know, Montclair security, me bein’ positively black with no business there an all, know what I’m sayin’. So I idle on around the block an I wait, get the first tag number comes out. A cousin works for the county runs it. Fuck. A. Duck. You ready? Homeless dude’s a fuckin’ private detective. I learn that shit, an I’m askin’ myself all the way down here to see you what the fuck is a private detective doin’ at the dog barbecue, know what I’m sayin’. What. The. Fuck.”
“Maybe the mortician’s wife wants a divorce,” Rifat, relaxed, thinking the time for the pipe wrench would come. “Maybe he and the legitimate delivery girl have a thing.”
“That fuckin’ camel turd’s so old he ain’t got a thing left to have a thing with, Rifat. An what is he tellin’ the private detective about our business, know what I’m sayin’? He has to be, because, listen, you know, homeless detective is the motherfucker killed your brother. Can you think of a good reason for that shit, him killin’ your bro an bein’ at the cook’s crib? No. So there’s what you wanted to know. What I wanna know, you know, is now you know, what the fuck you gonna do about it?”