I’m not a student of architecture but I can tell the building in front of me used to be something else. It had a stately aura about it that belied its current haggard image. It’s funny how you can see strength in things, even when they’re tarnished.
The four story edifice stood silently, darkened not only because it was Saturday, but because this part of Minneapolis had long been forsaken for the western suburbs. There, office parks boasted ‘green’ facilities and quicker access to starter homes that littered tracts where dairy cattle once grazed. Newer, it seems, is always better in some people’s minds.
Nobody was stirring at 675 Hennepin as I made my way up the half-steps to the imposing door. Sven was waiting.
Sven was getting up in years and had to be about ninety, I figured. I hadn’t actually seen him in years, maybe even decades earlier in Vegas.
You may not know of the Minnesota mob, but let me tell you these guys had class and they knew their business. The kingpin of ’em all was Sven. He treated all his guys with class. When we were in Vegas, it was steaks and champagne every night, front row for Frank, Dino and Sammy and a hot tomato waiting in our room for after.
Whenever Sven needed me to persuade somebody, all he had to do was ask. Now, here I was paying a visit to the old man after all these years. As I entered the hulking building’s lobby, I saw an old man in a wheelchair, puffing on a cigar.
“Come here, Mikey-boy, let me get a good look at you.” Sven’s voice, still booming, kicked around in the empty lobby.
“Hiya, Sven, long time, where’s your keepers at?” I was incredulous that a mob boss of Sven’s stature was all alone.
“Those bums, they got the morning off. I got you here to take care of me. You were always my best muscle boy, Mikey, and now I got the ultimate job for you.” Sven may have looked frail, but his spirit was strong.
“Anything for you, Sven. It’s been a while since I’ve done any persuading, but I haven’t forgotten how. Who’s the lunker that needs some talking to?”
“Well, Mikey, that would be me and it’s a bit more than persuasion I’m after.” He paused and drew heavy on his stogie.
“I’m not catching your drift, Sven, what are you saying?”
“I’m saying I need you to whack me, Mikey. Me. I’m ninety years old, can’t make it through breakfast without filling my pants, got no wife, good-for-nothing kids and nothing to look forward to. It’s time. I want to go, and I want to go today!”
I was stunned.
“But why get whacked, Sven, and why me? Why don’t you just take a handful of pills or go sit in your garage with the car running? Why get offed?” I was trying to wrap my head around it.
“Mikey, I was once at the top of my game, respected across the land by the Bigs. Capone, Siegel, Luciano, I even had the Daper Don fly me out to Jersey before he went into the can to pay his respects personally. How would it look if people picked up the papers and saw me dead by my own hand?” He handed me a forty-eight with a silencer. “You were always a quick study and I know you’ll be that way today. This gun here is untraceable, take it. As to why you, it’s because I know you’ll do it, shut up about it, take the satchel of dough I got right here and forget it ever happened. Am I right, Mikey?”
I took the piece, made sure it was loaded and then popped Sven right under the bridge of his nose, knocking him back over the top of his wheelchair, his brains in a pool of expanding blood.
“Yeah, Sven, you’re right,” I mumbled, looking around the old building.
Strength can be found in the strangest places.
BIO: Michael J. Solender is the author of the short story and poetry chapbook, Last Winter’s Leaves, published by Full of Crow Press. His essay, Unaffiliated, is featured in the newly released anthology, Topograph: New Writings From The Carolinas and the Landscape Beyond, published by Novello Festival Press. He is the editor of the online magazine, On The Wing. Solender’s work is found at michaeljwrites.com and his blog, NOT FROM HERE, ARE YOU?