Monday, September 28, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 187 - Robert Crisman


Dopefiends wear blindfolds and think that no one can see them.

Jeffrey got back that afternoon around five with the two grams of dope that the Mexican fronted. He brought some geek with him.

Leann and Heather, turned out, had a double that night and on Mercer Island, to boot. They had to be there by nine.

Jeffrey, the geek, and the girls all fixed. The girls went off to the can to get dressed. Not too long after, Jeffrey went up to the second-floor can, geek in tow, to top off the groove. Jeffrey fixed in his neck for what seemed like years. Then the geek banged—and got sick as dogs. Good dope but too much. He made it out to the yard and puked up his guts. His nausea fled but his triple vision stayed with him.

At 7:15, they drove the girls out to the island. The geek took them out in his car, Jeffrey figuring he’d save some on gas. The girls sat in back.

Leann, 29, wore all black, top, jeans, and shoes. She looked almost fresh. She had black pools for eyes, an impish grin on those rare days she grinned, and skin once richly buttered but now leached by dope. Heather wore tight, tight blue jeans and a skimpy red top. She had she had big baby blues and those sexy long legs, stood 5’9”, every inch a suburban princess gone wrong. Heather was just 22. Her eyes were 40 years old.

Jeffrey was Michaelangelo’s David, but scarred and bruised and chipped at the edges, and well on his way to becoming a stick at age 35 like all the rest of the skag monkeys out there. The geek looked like used chewing gum.

They went out I-90 and over the bridge and onto the island and cut off the highway some three exits down. They took a road that wound up a hill, cut left at a 7-11, then went right, wound some more, and finally came to this house with a high hedge in front and trees all around.

Big old house. Maybe Microsoft money.

Leann told the guys, wait. They said okay. The girls got out and went past the hedge to the house.

The geek said he needed some orange juice to calm down his stomach. They went down to the 7-11 they’d passed.

The geek got his orange juice. Then he and Jeffrey sat in the parking lot, gassing away. They traded war stories. It turned into a game of Can You Top This? It went on and on and—

Oh shit! The girls!

They patched out, started back. They got lost. All these trees and—shit, man, can’t hardly see where I’m going and—then, by sheer luck, they were there at the house. That big fucking hedge. Now they’d wait.

From the hedge came a hiss: “Jeffrey!” Huh? What was that? “Jeffrey!” Louder this time—and the girls came flying out of the hedge to the car. They got to the door on the passenger side. It was locked and it took Jeffrey a beat to unlock it. They ripped the door open and slammed on inside like the whole Russian Army was after their ass.

“C’mon!” Leann said, “Fucking go!” The car lurched out with a screech you could hear for five miles.

Leann was torqued. “Where the fuck were you?”

The geek bounced the car down the road toward the bridge.

“You, fucking Jeffrey, where the fuck were you?” Leann almost screamed it. Heather was hunched. She sobbed and raged through her teeth. Leann whacked Jeffrey over the head with this newspaper she’d found on the seat. “You fucking cocksucker!” Jeffrey raised his arm to ward off the blows. The geek swerved and drove, still seeing triple.

“Where the fuck were you?” Whack whack whack whack! “You motherfucker!” Whack whack!

“Leann—ow!” She got him one, right in the eye! Jeffrey clapped his hand over his eye. “Okay, Leann, stop!”

They got to the bridge. Leann got tired and stopped whacking. The geek saw three bridges, three lakes, three Seattles beyond. He aimed down the middle. Leann sat back and glared holes in Jeffrey. Heather looked up and said, “You fucking bastard.” Quiet as dry ice with all the venom there is in the world. Jeffrey came close to pleading: “What happened? What happened?”

The girls just sat there, drilling his ass. Then they told him. The guy at the house. He wanted Heather to get in a coffin.

Dead fucking silence. Then—Jeffrey busted out laughing. “He what?” The geek started laughing.

Heather went ballistic. “You fucking bastard!” She busted the geek in the back of his head. He almost put the car in the lake. She called him every kind of cocksucker on Earth. She spit on his ass. Leann had to hold her. Heather slumped and cried.

It hit Jeffrey now that he had to chill this shit out. He put this contrition all over his face. He made apology noises. He explained that the geek got sick, they had to go down to the store, they got lost coming back and—God, what a bummer! I’m sorry man, bummer.

No shit.

It didn’t fly. His sorries sounded as if he was reading off cue cards.

Deep freeze took hold then and held all the way to the city. The girls were like two pissed-off stones. All Jeffrey had left was shrugs. He turned and faced front.

He had a new worry too, now that he gave it some thought. They’d counted on this trick. The dope was way low and Jeffrey owed his main man $300. It was due, uh, tomorrow.

He chewed it over. He had to get his hands on some money. He’d come in late once with main man and the guy’d let him slide—but gave Jeffrey to know that one time was it.

Twice, well... Jeffrey got to work on the problem.

Up through Capitol Hill and toward home, Jeffrey chewed holes in his lips. He rifled his A list of contacts, his B list, both short and both no fucking way. So, what could he steal at this time of night? Could he sell the geek’s car? Turn a trick? Sing songs and dance on the corner of Broadway and John while the girls held hats in their hands?

What could he steal? Candy bars out of some grocery? Beef jerky and— Something nudged him, not really a thought, more a flash. This old Chinese grocer in Wallingford, maybe a mile from his pad. He’d been in the store late one night stealing candy and angling in on the video rack and he’d caught the guy out of the corner of his eye counting money. This thick sheaf of bills... He’d thought at the time he could knock the guy over, just bitch-slap his ass and walk out with the money.

He might have, too, if hadn’t been for this Mexican guy he was meeting in 15 short minutes. Old Main Man himself as it happened.

No meetings scheduled tonight.

Jeffrey had a knife, a butterfly knife he’d picked up for a 20 one time. He always had it tucked in his pocket. He’d take it out sometimes and open it up, sitting in some café bored. Or, he’d see some guy on the street passing by and think about sticking the fucker. Just going up in the guy, urk, just like that. No reason, just to see the guy’s mouth flying open, his eyes all screwed shut as the pain grabbed his ass.

He’d never used it, not once. People these days carried guns. He just like the idea, the feel of the thing in his pocket.

And the old Chinese guy, Korean, whatever, he’d have a gun, right under the counter most likely.

Bring a knife to a gunfight—bad fucking move. But the guy... old, feeble. Jeffrey’d be in there just buying candy, the guy’s half-awake, he’s been there all day, and now he’s just waiting for Jeffrey to leave so he can lock up and go home.

The place was slow too. Jeffrey’d been in there a couple of times late at night, no one else, just him and the old Chinese guy...

If someone was there, they’d be quick in and out. Plus, you could see from inside a lot of the store, if anyone else pulled up in the lot.

It would have to be quick. Go in there, up to the counter, call the guy over, these batteries here, or some fucking thing, how much do they cost? Guy shuffles over and you, bang, snatch him up, press the knife to his neck and hustle him back real quick out of sight and just tell him, man, get the money. He does. You’ve got him, right there with that knife at his neck, and who wants to die on a night like tonight?

Be sure and take that gun that you know he’s got there under the counter—he didn’t have time to think about pulling that fucker—then make him lie on the floor and count to ten million. You fly like a bird.

Jeffrey chewed it and chewed it some more. Something could always go wrong. Some clown could come in, maybe he’s got a gun... Or the old Chinese guy knows kung fu...

And armed robbery, man, it really was not Jeffrey’s thing. The odds on fuckups stacked higher, way higher, in that line of work. Things moved too fast or not fast enough. The wire stretched tighter. It wasn’t like burglary, boosting, that shit, not at all. No slaps on the wrist for armed stickups last time he checked.

So much could go wrong! But, man, still... Quick in and out. He needed some money.

Jeffrey worked himself up. He fed on the fact that he’d danced through some wild fucking shit in his time. Those guys who’s chased once in that car, popping caps. Cops more than once trying to flush him from boltholes. That time with the cellfull of bikers in County—man, that was close! But a miss is as good as a mile and Jeffrey’d walked out with his skin and a cool, breezy stride.

Jeffrey had always danced through. Other dopefiends went down, but God gave him a pass. A couple of times it was close but, hey, no cigars.

This was Jeffrey. Teflon dopefiend.

Of course, he knew that, Teflon or not, he could go in that door and die on the floor. He said to himself, if that be the case, so be it.

A shrug of the shoulders. Fuck it. The fatalist credo all dopefiends live by. Helps tamp the fear down.

A visual: Jeffrey, diving, eyes welded shut, to deep water below. The fear and life’s insufferable weight stripped away, all eyes left behind, as he cut through the air. A blinding instant of freedom.

That feeling, along with his need are what nailed it.

He told the geek, hit the freeway at Roanoake, get off at the 50th street exit, go left.

Leann cocked him a look. The way he’d spit those instructions... Jeffrey’d come up with a mission. What now?

The geek got the exit, wheeled left. Up half a mile. On the left there, a lot. Jeffrey said, “Go in there.”

The geek pulled in. Jeffrey said, “Up by the door.”

Leann said, “Jeffrey, what—”

Jeffrey, half out of the car, said, “I’ll—just wait, don’t shut it off, I’ll be right back.” He hopped on into the store.

Leann said, “Oh fuck.” And almost went after his ass. She knew what this was. But fear froze her. She might go in and the thing had already started.

Heather picked up on the fear. “Leann?” Leann put her hand up: not now! The geek looked back clueless, except—something, the vibe... He kept quiet.

Ten seconds passed and they all stretched out years. All they could see from the car were the bright lights inside and the shelves, and the area just off the counter’s far end, and a door there leading on back. They couldn’t see Jeffrey.

Leann had this impulse: go in and yank his ass back to the car. She couldn’t make herself move.

Twenty more seconds. Jeffrey, c’mon!

Leann saw this young guy come through the door by the counter’s far end. Young, big, Korean. She saw him stop, freeze, with this look. He reached in his pants. He pulled out a gun. He aimed, pulled the trigger—

They heard the shot out in the car, fucking loud—then another, another...

The young man jumped forward, out of sight and—bang, one more shot.

Coupe de grace.

The geek shot out of the lot like a rocket.

Leann now, stunned, numb. She couldn’t absorb it. She replayed it. Death’s freeze frame there at the end...

Jeffrey, deader than Dixie. He’d gone in blind and got caught in the lights and that’s all she wrote, forever and ever amen.

BIO: Robert Crisman writes crime and noir fiction. He spent 15 years on streets in downtown Seattle and has some idea of what really goes on in these realms. He’s had stories posted on A Twist of Noir, and some scheduled on Yellow Mama and Darkest Before Dawn. A movie he scripted, Chasing the Dopeman, is currently in post-prod down in L.A. and, with luck, it’ll be ready to go sometime this fall.

1 comment:

Paul D Brazill said...

Punchy. cracking dialogue.