Deeper I

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When outsiders think of NYC, they think Manhattan. After the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan on September 11,2001, the American people defied Al Qaeda's wishes of breaking the American spirit and rallied behind the city of New York, namely Manhattan. In just a few years, in typical American spirit, a new 'Freedom Tower' was built that stood taller than ever and Manhattan still stands at the epicenter of a city that will never lose it's heart. Everything from billionaires on Park Avenue, to Italian mafioso on Mulberry, to the Irish gangs in Hell's Kitchen, to your local street hustler peddling smack in Harlem: Manhattan has it all.
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Victor Parry
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Joined: September 1st, 2017, 11:34 pm
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Deeper I

Post by Victor Parry » September 2nd, 2017, 6:34 am

1

Victor stepped outside.

It was raining lightly. He hadn't brought a coat - was wearing dark jeans, boots, a button up over a t-shirt - and he lit a cigarette standing under the awning of the building, taking his time. When the car pulled up he flicked the Parliament butt into the gutter where it sizzled out and stepped off the curb into the backseat. It was a black Lincoln with mud smeared on the license plates and a burly man with no hair and the faint hint of South American ethnicity about him. The car pulled away.

Victor said to the man in the backseat, "Mind if I smoke?"

The man was Victor's height - running on six foot - with slicked back brown hair and the features of an old world aristocrat. Widow's peak, sharp nose, high cheekbones, bright green eyes and a rugged jawline. There was a softness to his face that spoke of growing up in the suburbs, going to a good college, playing football without injury.

He said, "Would you stop if I said no?"

Victor laughed - a raspy sound - and pulled the pack out of his shirt pocket. The driver made a noise, rolled down his window. Victor stared at the back of his head for a moment, then turned to the man in the backseat and said, "This is a social call, Chris?"

Chris Langella smiled thinly. He was the son of Massimo Langella, head of the Langella family, one of the most profitable crime families in New York City. He was perhaps Victor's only friend. They'd met years ago when they were both going to Columbia, doing finance degrees. Victor had gotten in on a scholarship sponsored by a man he'd known in Bayonne, Chris on his father's bank account. They started drinking together after classes, found they both liked the same kind of bars, the same kind of conversation. Victor had grown up in trailer parks and industrial areas around the outside of Bayonne, Chris had grown up in the swankier suburbs of Brooklyn, but they found common ground, somehow. They shared stories - women, sports, drunk nights as teenagers. At the time Victor had had an issue with pills - opiates - Oxy and Xanax, benzos. He'd taken to robbing apartments to pay for it and had build up a reputation as a solid second story man. Chris' involvement with his father's organization was limited but he operated as a fence. They started working together until a FBI bug tipped them off to a Langella stolen goods cache, which led them to Victor. He got five years for B&E, got out in one, never said a word about the family. He went back to stealing for a while after he got out until his older brother got him work doing the other thing.

The other thing was what he assumed Chris had wanted to see him about. Langella ran a hand through his expensively styled hair, the same smile on his face. "Sort of. Sort of. You ever hear of Partridge, Vic?"

Victor shook his head, blow smoke in the direction of the front seat. The driver didn't move a muscle.

Chris went on, "It's a small town, oh, a few miles upstate. Part of a tri-county area, I suppose. There's Partridge, another small town called Stonemill, and Snowtown, all close enough together to be one city but separate municipalities all the same. We've got an...interest up there."

"It's never a social call. When's the last time we just got a beer, Chris, shot the shit?"

Victor had a slight Jersey accent but otherwise his voice was low, smooth, indistinct. Part of the trade. You had to sound like anybody.

"Next time. Dad sent me. Good money for this one, Vic."

"I told you to go through Al for this shit. Not come to me direct. I dunno how many fucking wires are running through this car."

"It's clean."

"I didn't clean it."

"It's clean, Victor." Victor scowled, ground his cigarette out on the car door. It was a Langella car driven by a Langella goon, he figured they could afford to clean up the burn. Chris watched impassively, hands folded in the lap of his thousand dollar suit. "I remember when we were in school, Chris, and you'd pass out on fucking bar stools in five dollar Columbia hoodies. Now you got the Lincoln, the suit. Crazy."

"Time works wonders, Vic." Chris ran most of the white collar operations of the Langella family as one of the organization's captains: stock manipulation, credit card fraud, bleeding union pensions. He was one of the only gangsters in the family with a college education and an understanding of real finance and business. The word was Massimo was grooming him for the top spot in the event of his passing, but nothing was set in stone, and with another captain - Virgil Casella - jockeying for the position, there was sure to be strife. Victor knew all this from conversations with Chris and though the inner workings of the New York mobs didn't concern him he knew one day professional and personal lines were going to get blurred.

"Yeah, tell me about it, you oughta see Al's fucking gut."

Chris laughed. "Anyway - in Partridge, we've got an interest. It's a sort of resort. Golf, sauna, cabins, all the sort of thing, tucked away in the woods. We've got a nice operation going in all three cities, actually - narcotics in Snowtown, union skim in Stonemill, but the real money maker is this resort."

Victor rolled his eyes. He loved Chris, but the man loved to preamble, make his stories come to life. He didn't like to know too many extraneous details about a job - made things harder.

"It's a hang out for people in the Life. I've been a few times myself. There's an escort business there - very pricy, for the boys, quality stuff." He looked out the window, at the rain, was silent for a moment. Victor waited, tapping his finger against his thigh, thinking about his house back in Jersey, about the bottle of Teacher's on the top of the fridge and whether he'd need another and should he buy cigarettes on the way home and --

"They're getting killed," Chris said, and Victor stared at the back of his head.

"Killed?"

"Yes. Butchered. We've got the local PD to keep quiet, but they're sure it's a serial killer. The start of one, anyway. We've reasoned that if the killer is targeting women that work the resort - it's called Kingwood, by the way - he'd know most of the boys that go there, via surveillance." He looked back at Victor. "That's why we need someone unknown. My father recommended you right away at the meeting. I didn't have to say word. He was very impressed with the last piece of work you did for us."

The last piece of work. Victor scowled. He hated doing mob contracts - too messy, too much room for the cops to get involved, the FBI - and they always getting the risk of retaliation from some fat man in a sweatshirt ten years down the line. Good money, but too risky. The last job he'd done for the Langellas, and the last syndicate contract, was a errant bookie in Queens who'd been talking out the side of his mouth about the organization, how they'd never get the money he owed them even though he had it and was spending it at the bar. Victor shot him in the back of the head twice with a .22 in a parking lot at a Home Deport in the suburbs, left the gun and the body there, got paid. It was a job any idiot in the organization could've done - hell, any crackhead off the street - and Victor figured Massimo hired him as a test. More than likely Chris suggested it - he'd been trying to get him to come full time as some kind of enforcer for the family for nearly five years.

"I'm glad your dad likes me. Coming over for dinner'll be less awkward."

The driver laughed. Langella kicked the back of his seat. "Shut up, Vic. I'm guessing you understand what we want, right?"

Vic nodded. "Head up there, meet up with the guy runs the whores, pose as a john or something. Play private detective until I find the whacko, take him out. That about right?"

Chris nodded. "Big pay out, Victor. Double your usual fee, on account of the investigative work. What do you say?"

Victor made a face. "I'll think about it. Drop me at Celia's, yeah?"

2

The car dropped him off in front of a very tall apartment building with art deco statues and stonework and a gilded facade. Victor smoked a cigarette on the curb as the car pulled away. It was still raining. He wasn't drunk yet despite the four beers he'd had waiting for Chris to pick him up and hurried through the smoke, thinking of the bourbon Celia kept for him at her place.

He went into the lobby, got the elevator up. At her door he ran a hand through his wet black curly hair, smiled to himself, and knocked.

She answered in a full minute. Came to the door in a robe, belted at the waist. She was a foot shorter than him with almost black eyes, hair the same color as his, a lithe athletic body. Next to each other they looked like a painting of some doomed Gothic couple from the 1800s. "Hello, handsome," she said, and they kissed and went inside.

The apartment was the size of a house. Victor's place could fit into it twice. She led him to the living room where a fake fire was going in a real fireplace and he lit a cigarette while she fixed him a bourbon and water, made one for herself. When she was done she set them on the coffee table and sat down beside him.

"What'd you do today?" he asked, sipping his drink. It was strong, three fingers, burned going down. He felt some inner tension he hadn't noticed before melting away, in his shoulders and his stomach and his back. She put a hand on his neck, stroked softly, felt his skin.

"I went to the gym," she said, "And I settled some of daddy's accounts, and I had lunch with Karen, who's still dying to meet the mysterious man I've been seeing for nearly a year."

"She can wait a little longer."

"That's what I said."

He grinned. The smile looked odd on his face, like it was painted on. It was gone in a second and he flicked ash into a tray on an end table.

"I had that meeting. With Chris."

"Must've been nice to see him. Been a while, hasn't it?"

He thought about it. "We tied one on a month ago. Went to Bluebird's, me and him and that creep Morrow Banks. Good night. I barely made it home."

"You always have fun, you two. It's a cute friendship."

"Cute. Right. Anyway, he offered me the job."

Celia knew what he did. Her family was indirectly involved in the life - her father, Charles Langham, was a money launderer working for the National Commission, and before that her ancestry was steeped in illegal booze during prohibition. Celia was an accounts manager for Langham Finances, working under her father, and made enough money to support the apartment and a house in Florida and a condo in Colorado. Her and Victor had met at a bar - where else - some party with white collar types rubbing up against heavies that Chris had invited him too. They bonded over movies: they both liked horror and hated everything else. It'd been a year now. He was getting to tell her he loved her but somehow the words never came out.

"Oh? Is it far?"

"Upstate. Some psycho is knocking off whores at some resort. Kingwood?"

"Oh, daddy goes there occasionally. I wonder if he partakes?"

"In whores?"

"Yes, Victor."

"Why the fuck would you wonder that?"

She laughed, finished her drink, said as she went to make them a second round, "I have a dark curiousity. So you have to find the killer?"

"That's right. Victor Parry, PI."

"Did you take it?"

"Money is good. I could use it, my stake is running low. Small towns are risky, though. Much less some resort, people working there full time, some nutjob making everybody's hair stand up..." He sank the double she brought him in one gulp. "Lot of hassle. Be easy to say no."

"But you're going to say yes."

He raised his head to meet her eyes, standing above him. "Why do you think that?"

"Because I think you like the puzzle. When I found out what you did, for a living, it was hard to reconcile with your nature. Or how you are with me, anyway." She sat down next to him, put her head on his shoulder. "Gentle. Kind. I can feel the violence in you, but it seems controlled. Thinking of you going to some state a million miles away and...doing what you do..." He felt her shiver. She got like this sometimes - dramatic, witchy. She was into stones and gems and star charts and aliens and god knew what else. Victor loved it.

"Well, I remember thinking once, when you talking about a job, that the details you always focused on had little to do with the actual...job...it was all outside detail, how you figured it out, the methodology. Like a mechanic talking about repairing an engine." She kissed his neck. "So I think you'll take it..." Her hand crept up his thigh. "Because you want to feel smart when you figure out how to do it."

He turned her face to his and their mouths met. A while later in bed, her head on his shoulder again, she asked him what prison was like.

She knew his story as well as his job, or most of it. Bouncing from one trailer park to another, his older brother in prison half the time, his mom a barely lucid drunk. How he’d killed someone for the first time when he was fifteen for a man who owned a strip club, how he’d been in juvie, how he’d gotten into college for not ratting the man out and how he’d gotten onto pills and then stealing and then prison. He spared her the details of how he’d drifted in murder for hire.

“What do you mean? It was fucking prison. It was bad.”

“I know, you idiot. I mean…what was it like? In there? Day to day?”

“Hm. It wasn’t as bad as you’d think. Boring, mostly. I was safe because of who I knew. Chris had people in there to look after me. I played cards all day and lifted weights and watched shitty day time TV and jacked off forty million times because I was twenty two years old and I was bored.”

“Didn’t get into any fights?”

“Not one. Saw a lot of them. Saw a few guys get cut up. Saw a gang rape.”

“Jesus, really?”

He drew her closer. She played tough – the old ‘40s noir movie seductress, all black dresses and black lipstick and unfiltered Camels – but most of her exposure to his world was through her dad’s stories and men like Chris, who were sanitized versions of the things she saw in the movies.

“He was a white guy and he pissed off one of the black gangs. He wasn’t affiliated with anybody, I think he was in for beating his wife or insurance fraud or some shit like that. Nothing real heavy. But he was a drunk and a loudmouth. They took him in his own cell, it was cross from mine, somebody paid off the hacks. I watched for ten seconds and got outta there. Life’s too short to see that shit.”

“That poor man.”

Victor made a noise. She said. “What?”

Victor said, “He should’ve kept his mouth shut.”

3

The Royale was tucked underneath an expressway on the South side of Jersey City. There wasn’t much around it – a truck yard, a few metal work and industrial work shops, a Korean open market. The diner had its’ own plot and a parking lot to accommodate the big rigs coming in from PA and up from the South of the country. It was a greasy spoon: hashbrowns and bacon and eggs served up by ex whores and ex-cons, people Victor’s older brother knew to be reliable. Most of the staff worked the other side of the fence – Albert Parry had a few things going.

He parked in the employee lot around the back – his car, a Buick Lacrosse nearly ten years old, was rust flecked and dented – and went in the staff entrance. He was wearing a gray sweater, a leather bomber jacket, pegged jeans and boots. The kitchen staff said hello to him as he went through the kitchen to a hallway lined with old porous wood and photographs of the diner through the years – from 1930 and up.

It had started as a drop off point for stolen goods and booze during prohibition, had been a syndicate spot for decades after. Al bought it off a dying man for a pittance when he got out of prison and made it the hub for his criminal activities – which aside from functioning as Victor’s broker for contracts included dealing in pills, off license slot machines, and of course the ubiquitous sports book. Most of the kitchen staff functioned as his enforcers, dealers, and bagmen. Victor, who was on paper as the co-owner of the place for tax purposes, was one of four different shooters Al had on his roster.

One of the others was in the office when Vic came in, packing some papers into a folder. The office looked like an industrial one – metal filing cabinets, a white plastic desk, no computer, two metal folding chairs and an overhead fan and two ashtrays backed with cigarette and cigar butts. There were knick knacks everywhere, shit Al had collected from cross country trips when he’d been running stolen car parts for the Devils back during his biker gang years – toys and bobble heads, dolls, ceramic bowls and little spoons.

Al was behind the desk. He was a big man, at least 6’4, with the arms and shoulders of a boilermaker and a long ponytail running to the centre of his back. His arms were crossed with prison tattoos and he constantly wore tinted eyeglasses with thick lenses. In every other respect he looked like Victor, but beefier – sharp cheekbones, big dark eyes, thin lips.

In front of the desk was the other killer. Morrow Banks. He was rail thin with a prominent adam’s apple and bulging green eyes. His hair was black and always slicked close to his skull and everything about him seemed furtive and knotty and jumpy, like he was always waiting for a car to backfire somewhere or someone to step around the corner of a building and bump into him.

Victor said, “Banks,” and the little man nodded, stuffing the papers into a Filofax. “How ya doin, Vic?” He had a Pennsylvania accent, had come into the fold after a broker there had gone state’s evidence. His speciality was knives – he had stories of skinning men alive for the cartels.

“Same old. Gotta talk to my brother.”

“I was just leavin’. Seeya’ round, Al. Three weeks, yeah?”

Al said, “Three weeks.” His voice filled the room – it was leonine. Banks slithered out and Victor waited a beat until the door to the hallway opened and closed, the closed the office door and sat down, lit a cigarette. Al leaned back and unwrapped and lit a cigar and put his hands behind his head, his biceps straining the material of the polo shirt he wore tucked into trousers, looking for all the world like a suburban dad rather than a small time racketeer and former outlaw biker enforcer. “What’s your story, brother?”

“Chris pulled me. I can’t do nothing for a while.”

“Fuck you mean? I had that thing coming – coming in for Colorado, I fucking told you.”

“It’s a syndicate thing, Al, what the fuck can I do? Say no?”

“For chrissakes.” Though independent, Al’s operation was under the protection of Jimmy Stacks – Jimmy Stagliano, head of the Firenze family, one of Jersey’s toughest crews and affiliated heavily with the national commission, wired directly into the New York branch. Any time the mob wanted them to do work, they pretty much had to do it, or all the police and political protection would dry up and they’d be hung out.

“What’s the job, anyway?” he went on, puffing Roi-Tan smoke.

“Get this. You ever hear a Kingwood?”

“That fuckin’ resort upstate? Jimmy’s always goin’ on about it, talkin’ like he’s gonna take me, like they’d let my skeezy ass in the front fucking door.”

“You know they got all these, like, operations going up there? Whores and drugs and shit?”

“Yeah, in those three cities. I forget the names. What are you talkin about, anyways?”

“Somebody’s been knocking off whores at that resort. They want me to find the guy.”

“The fuck? Like some whacko, it’s not a business thing?”

“That’s their take on it. You wanna disrupt a thing like that, you don’t go after the girls anyway, you got after the pimps, or you get the cops involved, or whatever.”

“Yeah, yeah. You getting paid?”

“Yeah, I’ll get you your fucking commission, don’t worry.”

Al grinned. “Music to my ears. How is Chris, anyway? You ask about Jackie?”

Jackie Langella – Chris’ wife. She hated Victor, found him creepy with all his black clothes, his hard stare. He thought she was shrill and annoying. Al loved all three of them, had them over to his house for barbecues along with Celia, like they were all married couples living on the same block. Victor figured his older brother had some fantasy of living in the suburbs, likely a result of his entire youth spent either in trailer parks or reformatories.

“Nah, I didn’t, it was a business call. I’ll tell him you said hey next time.”

“We’ll get all you guys over for drinks sometime again, huh?”

Victor stood up, ground out his cigarette. “You got it.”

“You just hangin’ around today? I might send you round with one of the boys, do a thing, if you got nothin’ on.”

“I gotta go see Chris again about this thing. Same guy for a car, the other thing?”

“Yeah, Fox, over at that fuckin’ place. Weirdest little guy, huh?”

“Fuckin’ A. What was Banks doin’ here, by the way?”

“Got a thing for him down in Florida. I dunno why but the spics love using that stringy little fucker.”

Victor looked at the wall that separated the office and the storeroom from the main restaurant, imagining Banks in there, hoeing into a three course breakfast. “He’s unreliable. Those fucking pills. He’s gonna screw up one day, put us all in the pot.”

“He’s been good so far. Charlie keeps him straight.” Charlie Marran – a former enforcer for one of the Irish crews in Boston, come to Jersey after inter-factional nearly got him killed – was the third man in Al’s roster. A hulking brute, he was often partnered up with Banks and the two were close friends. Victor thought they were psychos. One job, they had to take out a guy who’d killed somebody’s kid in a DUI and skated. They tortured him for four hours in his house, left him alive, then went to the hospital and killed him with cyanide a week later before he came out of the coma.

“Yeah, Charlie’s another one. Anyway. I’ll see you, Al.”

His brother nodded, bent his head over the desk to start going through paperwork. Victor left the office, walked out through the plastic wings into the restaurant. It was a standard diner – red leather booths, formica everywhere. Morrow was at the counter, his thin leather jacket draped over the stool next to him, sleeves of his shirt rolled up to show off inky black tattoos gotten during a two year stint for possession he’d served in his twenties. Victor stepped up beside him, leaned on the counter. The waitress, a lean night-time stripper named Diane, sauntered over but he waved her off. Morrow didn’t even look up from his plate.

“Banks,” Victor said.

Talking more to the bacon, Morrow said, “Fuck do you want, Vic”?

Diana paused at the coffee machine, stared at the both of them. Victor nodded to her and she made herself busy. “Just be careful on this thing. That last fucking stunt you pulled with Charlie was too hot. You understand me?”

“You ain’t Al, Victor, you’re just his little brother.”

Victor stared at him a moment and just then a few truckers came in, the start of the breakfast rush. “We’ll talk again,” he said, and walked out the front door in the morning sunlight, pulling up his jacket collar. Banks looked up from his food and his hands were shaking slightly as he pulled out a wad of tinfoil and unwrapped it and popped three pills into his mouth. A few seconds later his hands stopped shaking and he resumed eating.

***

Chris was waiting for him at the park. It was outside of an office building, in the city proper, populated by executives on their lunch break and midday runners doing laps around the pond. The trees were already drying up and there was a sharp wind. Chris was wearing another thousand dollar suit and a dark overcoat and looked exactly the same as the rest of the businessmen seated on park benches and picnic tables or lying in the grass with their jackets off. Except his shoes were nicer.

“Mr. Parry.”

“Christopher.”

They shook hands. Victor stuffed his in the pockets of his jacket, pulled out his cigarettes, lit up as they slowly meandered their way around the pond, dodging young women in lycra.

“I saw Celia yesterday, “ Chris said.

“Yeah?”

“Mm. We had a drink together at the Labour Club, there was a good trio on. I think I made the right choice, putting you two together.”

“It’s going well, I gotta’ say.”

“You always had odd taste in women.”

“Can’t argue that. Remember Barb? That fuckin’ nutcase?”

“The one who stole your car?”

“I wonder. Am I crazy, or all these women? I mean, there’s gotta be somethin’ wrong with me for all these broads to show up at my doorstep, right? And every one a them is bat shit.”

Chris shrugged. “Celia told me last night you had a dark aura. Something like that. Maybe that’s the problem.”

“What the fuck is a dark aura?”

“I asked the same question, though without your measured polish, Victor. She told me all living things exude an aura, sort of a colored projection of their soul or inner thoughts. Some are red and passionate, some are blue and cold or blue and peaceful. Mine, she said, was green, like money, tinged with black. I asked her what hers was, and she told me it was purple and white, like a bruise.”

“And she said mine was black.”

“Black as a crow was her phrasing, I believe. I think you’ve got a winner there, Victor. She really gets you.”

“Fuck you, Langella.”

Chris shoved him and Victor stumbled a little and they both laughed. An older woman passing by saw them and smiled and kept walking.

“Alright, alright.” Victor said. “Let’s talk details, I’m sure you got shit to do back inna city.”

“That I do. You’ll be meeting with the man who owns the resort, our main contact over there. Another fellow, a made guy, runs security for all three operations in all three towns and he’ll be meeting with you as well.”

“What’re their names, where?”

“The owner is Benjamin King. I’m certain that’s not his real name and I’m certain you’ll despise him. He runs the club and facilitates things with the union in Stonewell. Our man is Nick Micelli, you know him?”

“Nicky the Mouse. You people and your fucking nicknames, Jesus.”

“You know what they call you?”

“Do I fucking wanna know?”

Chris grinned. “Blackbird.”

“Because of my hair? Jesus Christ. Trust me to get the shittiest nickname in fucking mob history. Whatever. So King and Micelli, and I’m meeting ‘em at this resort?”

“That’s right. They’ve got a room set up, it’s very private, one of the VIP lodges with it’s own parking set away from the main. They can give you more details than I can.”

“Alright. And they got the cops off our backs on all this?”

“They’re pursuing the killer but are aware that the organization is conducting our own investigation that they will not impede, yes.”

“Alright. I’m seeing a guy about a car later today. When do I head up?”

“Tomorrow, if you can.”

“Alright.” They came to stand near the entrance of the park. “Black aura, huh?”

Chris shrugged. “She gets you.” He pulled an envelope out of his pocket. Victor made it disappear.

“First half?”

“Twenty-five. Make it count.”

***

Spenser Fox was a PI who had a corner office in a firm in Atlantic City with almost three hundred employees.

Most of his business was conducted past five PM in a plumbing supplies warehouse in Jersey City.

Victor met him at the gate at 6.30. He was a short man, balding, pudgy the way middle aged men get when they sit in an office all day eating sushi for lunch, drinking lattes. He wore rimless round eyeglasses and his suit was brown and featureless and he drove a Taurus, which he was standing by when Victor pulled up.

“Mr. Ripley,” Fox said. “I’ll open the gate.”

He unlatched everything and they got into their cars and drove in and parked by the loading bay. Fox unlocked a door next to it leading to a set of metal stairs. He had a box under one arm with three things wrapped in rags inside. In the loading bay with the sliding door shut there was a car – a nondescript hatchback.

“It’s a Toyota Matrix,” Fox said. “Not very old. The papers and registration are in the name of James Ripley and will stand up to any standard police inquiry. The plates are clean.”

Victor nodded. “Eight?”

“Yes, thank you.”

Victor went down the car, checked it out – the engine, the wheels, the VIN, the plates. It seemed fine. He took out the envelope Chris had given him earlier in the day and peeled off bills until he passed Fox eight thousand.

“How about the ID?”

“An additional two thousand.”

“It was fifteen hundred last time.”

“Inflation, Mr. Ripley.”

“Show it to me.”

Fox set the box down on a metal table. There was another package inside – a plastic baggie with a credit card and a set of ID in it. The pictures were copied from Victor’s own driver’s license, just with a fresh name. The credit card belonged to whoever the real James Ripley was, maybe a librarian working in Arizona. Victor didn’t figure to use the card but it was necessary for some things and was a good thing to have.

“It looks good.” He peeled off more bills. “Now the hardware.”

“Of course.”

Spenser Fox had been a cop once. In the ‘90s he’d on the organized crime taskforce in Jersey, then the credit card fraud taskforce, before he quit voluntarily after accusations of corruption started to brew around him. He got a PI ticket and took a job with the Ace Investigations and Security firm, kept up with old contacts, and was now at the peak of his other career – a procurer for stolen cars, guns, and identification for men on the run or men pulling a job involved with the rackets. His reputation was solid enough that almost five different brokers such as Albert Parry engaged his services through Mafia contacts up and down the East Coast.

The items he provided often cost him very little and the profit margins were outrageous. The only bad part was the customers. Having to deal with men like “Ripley”.

“I brought you three choices, like last time. Hopefully you won’t have to use them – if you don’t, bring them back to me, and I’ll buy them back at half price, hm?”

“Whatever, just fucking show them to me.”

Fox shook his head. The impatience of these men was just ridiculous. He took the guns out one by one, setting them on the table, unwrapping them like a jeweller displaying precious stones. “They’re all clean, untraceable, stolen off of a hijacked truck in Canada.”

Victor stepped up to them. They were all smaller pistols: a Sig Sauer P320, a Ruger LCP II, a Colt Cobra revolver. Fox picked up the Sig Sauer and ejected the magazine. It was unloaded. There were boxes of ammunition in the cardboard box he’d brought with him from his car, along with silencers for the two automatics. “Easy slide, very concealable. I’ve had no complaints from this model as opposed to the Ruger which might aim a little high.”

Victor took the gun from him. The sights were a little damaged. The serial number was taken off with acid. He turned the gun over in his hands, feeling the weight of it, then picked up the Ruger, went through the same motion. He didn’t bother with the revolver even though they were often more reliable because he couldn’t attach a silencer to it and therefore there wasn’t any point.

“I’ll take the Ruger,” he said. “How much?”

“Street price is around five hundred,” Fox said. “I’m asking a thousand.”

“Fine.” Victor peeled off another grand from his roll. He hated financing jobs. It was one of the things that tempted him to go work full time as the Langella’s pet shooter – you didn’t have to go to independents for work supplies, everything got set up by the syndicate. He was going to make fifty grand off of this job and the first eleven went to setting it up.

“Is that all, Mr. Ripley?”

“Yeah, that’ll be it. Leave the car in the lot at that Holiday Inn out by the airport. I’ll pick it up Thursday. You got the spare keys?” Fox handed them over. “Alright. Leave the gun inside, inna trunk.” He turned and walked to the door and the staircase and they went out together, not saying a word.

4

He drove straight from the warehouse to a bar.

It was called Rusty’s and it was by the train tracks a few blocks from the old rowhouse he lived in in Jersey City. The neighbourhood had used to be an industrial one, filled with workingmen and their families, marred by domestic violence and alcoholism and the looming spectre of prison or the workshop for all the young people who grew up there. Rusty’s was one of the last vestiges of that, a grimy bar still holding onto a slice of that middle class solemnity in a neighbourhood now dominated by yogurt shops and vegan cheese restaurants. It had some odd affectations – they only played country and western, despite most of the clientele coming from the city, and there was sawdust on the floor and you could smoke indoors despite it being highly illegal.

He was six drinks in at the bar, working on a double bourbon neat, when the whore walked in. He’d spent the last hour talking to a man who sold insurance to accountants and was still mulling over the things he’d said and he almost missed her, but she was too obvious. Heels, short skirt in September, the stony face of a woman who’s seen everything the world has to offer and came out disappointed with it.

She sat next to Victor who turned and looked at her a moment then went back to staring moodily at his drink, at his Parliament smouldering away in the ceramic ashtray by his wrist. His hand was shaking and he reached out his other hand to steady it and then turned to the whore and said, “What’s your name?”

She smiled at him and some of the granite went out of her face. “I’m Amber,” she said, extending a hand. The nails were all painted different colours. Victor took her hand, shook it. “I’m…” he coughed, held his fist in front of his mouth for a moment with his eyes closed. “Jim,” he said finally. “Jim Ripley.”

She was smiling at him expectantly. “Oh,” he said, and called Rusty over, a man with all the appearance and pallor of a mortician. “Get this chick a – whaddaya want?”

“Gin and tonic, please. Twist of lemon.”

“Somethin’ nice, yeah, Rust?” He picked up his tumbler, drained the whiskey. “And ‘nother for me.”

“You sure? Jim?”

Victor glared at him. “I’m fucking sure.”

If Amber was aware of the moment of tension she wasn’t showing it when he looked back. “So what do you do,” he said, while Rusty made their drinks. He turned in the stool, put his hands on his thighs. “Lemme guess.” He screwed his face up in mock concentration. “Veterinarian? No? Car saleswoman?”

The smile faded. The bartender brought her drink, his. He drank half of it in one go and she sipped hers and set it down and looked him in the eyes and he realized how slate gray and hard hers were and she said, “What the fuck do you want, asshole?”

He laughed. His cigarette had burned out so he lit another. “You ever,” he said, and leaned an arm on the bar. His eyes were wet. The hand holding the cigarette was still shaking. “You ever do something real bad. Like real fuckin’ bad. And you feel like…like your life was different. Before and after it. Before and after, like before the thing and after the thing, but during the thing you were, like, nothing, you know? Cause you were transitioning. Do you know what I mean?”

She stared at him a moment and set down her drink. She put a pair of dollars on the table and said, “You should go to bed, Jim,” and then turned to walk out.

Victor stood, stumbled slightly, caught up with her. Rusty was watching at the bar, near the phone. Victor took her arms, brought her close. “I’m sorry,” he said, and he was swaying and realized it and let her go and stood there with his shoulders slouched, looking at her face. A few people were watching him. “I’m sorry,” he said again and he wasn’t sure if he was apologizing to her or what for and that was the last thing that he remembered.

***

He never dreamed, usually, but that night they came in a rush like waves crashing through his mind over and over the same thing the car on fire and the faces in the backseat twisted and screaming and blackened hands leaving smears on the windows and the warm feel of piss running down his leg and the sky black with smoke and the smell of gasoline and then his mother in the hospital screaming while they intubated her and the look of Chris’s baby that day that day in the crib when it stopped breathing and the chopped up whores in Partridge and he woke up at two am covered in sweat and he puked in the bathroom and he started crying on the floor there and he didn’t know why

***

At 8 he got up and shaved and showered and dressed in a nondescript green suit with a white shirt and a black tie. He owned three suits and they were all like that, slim fitting, thin lapels, like a young yuppie web developer or something. His house was a converted rowhouse in J.C, and it suited him well enough. He lived alone and most of his furniture was hand-me-downs from his mother’s place or stuff Chris and Jackie gave him when they went to flea markets. Everything was wooden from the floor to the furniture frames and there was dust in places he didn’t go – the living room, the basement, the spare bedroom, the spare bathroom. He spent most of his time on the porch drinking beer in an easy chair he had there, listening to music, staring out at the street and the passing cars and the little park across the way.

He got a cab from there to the Holiday Inn, paid in cash, got into the Matrix. He left the gun in the trunk with its’ silencer, reminding himself to the stay the speed limit. The car started up fine and the gas gauge read full.

He pulled out of the lot and got onto the freeway and headed North.

END

Requests:
- $14,000 (25k minus eleven grand)
- Ruger LCP II
- Toyota Matrix
- NPC contacts: Morrow Banks, Albert Parry, Chris Langella, Spenser Fox
- Property: Royale Diner. No income or anything.
- Critique if you want.


Note: This is a setup piece for a longer story. I figured I'd break it up into two so whoever grades this doesn't have to read like 20,000 words.

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Kingslayer
Posts: 150
Joined: January 5th, 2015, 8:29 pm
Cash on hand: Locked

Re: Deeper I

Post by Kingslayer » September 2nd, 2017, 8:03 am

Jesus Christ Jack, Jesus Christ. This was SUCH an exemplary piece that I feel those who are new to the site should read it because of how fantastically simple it was. You laid a foundation for Victor's world, his pill addiction, his personal connection with Celia, Crhis, his brother, and his tension with Morrow, Charlie, and the setup with Spencer and the job at hand with Kingwood. It was simplistic but phenomenal. I wanted more. I NEEDED more, which is rare. So great. Just fantastic.

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All Approved plus, as a bonus, I'll be adding an additional 25,000$ to the reward! I CANNOT WAIT to read the next installment.
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Just an asshole trying to do good.

Slayer of Kings.
Fucker of Sisters.
Exploiter of Talents.
Ruiner of Games.

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