Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 183 - Robert Crisman


Ramon took the whole thing as a bigtime affront. Pussy-ass Eddie, stealing his dope and lamming like that—and he spit on Ramon on his way out the door!. Nobody did that to Ramon in this world. When he caught him, Eddie would scream the whole way to hell.

Ramon got to Eddie’s at 12:05 in the morning. He stopped, cut the lights. Miguel’s car was parked on the street. Dennis was down there at Eddie’s, inside.

Eddie’s was just past the gate that fenced in the lot between him and the street. No light shone from his window.

Two taps, the door cracked a little, and Ramon slipped inside. He said, “Open the blinds, get some light in.” Dennis did it. He had a bandage wrapping the back of his head. He sweat tension. He stank.

Ramon scanned the room. A dump like he figured. About right for the ass end of Capitol Hill.

Dennis stood hunched like a dog.

Well, why not? He and Eddie had fucked up the dope heist, killing three people, including an old lady just walking by on the street. They should have danced it on through with no sweat, but Dennis went apeshit when the dopeman wouldn’t roll over.

Every cop in Seattle and ten million snitches were after their ass.

All that—plus Eddie was not going to hang with the killings. Ramon told Dennis to wax him out at the place where they’d stashed all the ill-gotten gains. Dennis and Eddie went back to the place the next night, to divvy the loot, Dennis said—and Dennis fucked up. He tipped his hand and let Eddie get back behind him and clock him.

Eddie booked with the kilo of dope that they’d heisted.

Now, in the pad, Ramon gave Dennis the eye.

“He ain’t showed,” Dennis said.

“Yeah, well. How’s your head?”

“It hurts.”

“You had it taped up, though.”

“Miguel had some stuff.”

Ramon went into the bedroom and turned on the light. The bed, scattered paperback books, clothes tossed on the floor, a mess on the dresser...

Quick riff through the closet. An old, punched-out jacket, two shirts, jeans heaped, miscellaneous crap. No dope bag.

Into the bathroom. The toilet, the tank, in back of the toilet, the bathtub, and nothing.

In the kitchen he opened the cupboards and fridge. Not even a roach. All Eddie had was Drano down under the sink.

Ramon went and sat in the living room chair by the window. He lit up a butt and stared idly at Dennis.

Dennis, an easy 6’5” and 250, his face beefed like Bluto’s. Scrunched on the couch like a wizened old man.

Ramon, Mexican chorus-boy pretty, eyes hooded, took languid tokes and blew smoke rings.

“He’s probably driving around.”

“Yeah,” Dennis said.

“He has nowhere to go.”


“And he’s out there with a bag of my dope. So, where’s he going? He know anybody?”

“Not really.”

“He uses, right?”

“Yeah, but not for awhile. Maybe eight months.”

“But he used. Who’s his connect, you got any ideas?”

“I dunno. I didn’t see him too much. He was out in the District an’—”

“U District?”

“Yeah. I don’t... Wait a minute. There is this one guy. Coupla months back, me’n him’re out on the Ave an’ there’s this guy. Some skag-suckin’ dude, got dreadlocks, an’ gowed like a dog. An’ they’re kickin’ it, right? An’ then the guy splits an’ Eddie’s sayin’ he used to cop from the guy.”

“He got a name?”

“I thing he said Jeff or somethin’ like that.”

“Street action.”


“Still doing his thing?”

“I dunno now. Then? Yeah. After him’n Eddie get done, he crosses the street, an’ we see him there with these junkies, their cheeks’re sucked in an’ they’re beggin’ an’, you know.”

“A maybe then. Could be he’s who Eddie’d go see.”

“Yeah...maybe... Except this guy can’t swing no weight.”

“Yeah, but Eddie, who else does he know?”

Dennis shrugged. “Nobody.”

“He ever talk about anyone else? Any places he went?”


“Okay, so, he has to try and unload that dope, or a piece anyway. And you think, he goes to the guy on the Ave, guy’s going to say, sorry can’t help you? Fuck no, he’s not. He’s going to try and cut himself in, am I right?”

“Yeah, I suppose.”

“Fucking A, he is. So with Eddie, he strings him. He knows a guy, some story, blah blah. Trying to figure out some way to take it.

“Or—he does know a guy.” Ramon smiled like he spit on somebody.

Dennis said, “One of your guys.”

Ramon nodded. “It’s a shot. And, let’s see... If it’s anybody, it’s Felix, most likely. He’s got the District and he’s up on Queen Anne.”

“We call him?”

“No. We’ll go out there.”

Dennis rubbed his face with his hand. “You know, he could’ve gone to the cops.”

“Huh. That’s funny. You said he’d never go to the cops.”

“Yeah, but this—”

“Uh-huh. I don’t think he’s going to the cops. I think he’s trying to sell off my dope and get the fuck out of town. I mean, why take the dope, you know what I’m saying?”

“Yeah...” Dennis said.

Ramon got up from the chair.

Dennis told him he had to piss and went back to the can. Ramon grabbed a pillow up off the couch, tipped on back to the side of the door there to wait. His original idea was schmooze up behind as they went to the door and, bang him, but, this would work.

He heard the flush and Dennis came out. Ramon jumped behind him quick as a snake and, in one easy motion, pressed the pillow and gun to Dennis’s head, pulled the trigger. An Olympics caliber move.

It was as if he’d busted Dennis’s head with a bat. Blood and brains splatzed the doorframe and floor as if shot from a high-powered hose. Dennis flew forward and fell on his face. He shook the whole house when he hit. Ramon knelt with the pillow and gave him two more.

He wiped the piece, dropped it, and split. No prints in the pad. He locked up from the inside and cool-walked on out to his car.

One dipshit down.

Now, catch up with Eddie. Hit Felix’s first to pick up a piece.

He got to the U District early next morning. Felix had told him that Eddie’s old dopeman, Jeff or whoever, worked at a flowershop right on the Ave.

Nine-thirty am. Ramon socked in for some coffee across from the place to wait for the asshole to show.

He powered down three cups, trying to make up for lost sleep. The guy was due around 10. Ten came and went, then 10:15, then 10:30. A delivery car stood out in front of the place, gassed up and ready. Dude was still home cooking his wakeup.

Ten forty, the guy finally showed. Strolling as if he had all the time in the world. He was as Felix described: tall, blond, and thin, with dreadlocks that hung off his head like mud ropes. His rock ‘n roll clothes were all crusted up, and it looked like 10 years since he’d had a showered. He probably had fleas.

This guy with flowers? What kind of geeks would take the delivery?

The guy started into the shop through the door by the alley—and junkies came boiling on out of that alley like roaches. It was just like a movie, the junkies swarming, and dude, like he’s trying to shoo flies. Eleven A.M. on a weekday, smack on the Ave, all these squares walking by, professors and students and so forth, they don’t even look. Like this was an everyday floorshow.

It took the guy five fucking minutes to get in the door. Ramon was thinking, the owner, what’s up with him? Hiring this asshole. He loaded or something? Ramon had planned on catching the guy coming out of the shop and pulling him off to the side. After this, uh-uh. Ramon would wait for the guy to come out and then catch him at one of his stops.

Ramon went to his car and brought it around and parked where he could be ready.

Dude came out in 10 minutes, carrying flowers piled in a box. He tossed them in back of the delivery car, a dinged-up red Escort, then hopped in and turned the ignition. The Escort sounded like Panzers in Poland.

Ramon figured the guy nodded off and hit walls.

The guy pulled on out, hit the corner, zipped right. Within half a block, he reached 50 per, fishtailing already. Ramon couldn’t believe it. Then he swung right and sped toward the bridge. Ramon hoped the cops were on strike.

Over the bridge and down Eastlake. A right, two more blocks, then a left, and the guy pulled in at this house. He got out of the car with the flowers and went up to the door. This guy with flowers, like pigs wearing perfume. He comes in your yard and the fucking lawn dies.

Ramon pulled up behind and sat in the car. On the porch, the guy started knocking again and an old woman opened the door. She looked at the guy like he was the whole fucking zoo on her porch. She snatched up the flowers and banged the door shut. The guy hopped off the porch and Ramon got out of his car.

The guy saw him, stopped dead.

Ramon smiled. “How you doing?” The guy looked around for some bushes. This Mexican guy...someone he’d burned? Maybe owed money? Some kind of cop?

But then, like that, the guy’s whole look changed. His body language, the light in his eye—he relaxed. He knew what this was. Ramon walked up to the guy.

Yeah, the guy knew. This Mexican guy, he brings it like Scarface. His eyes, hunter’s eyes.

The guy’s mind was clicking. Ramon smiled; Click on, motherfucker. The guy, looking shrewd and adding things up—it all meant that Eddie’d been by.

So why waste time? “You want to make five hundred bucks?” The guy’s eyes went wide. Then he got this suspicious look on his face. Underneath the suspicion, hunger showed through.

Ramon knew that the guy had had plans of his own, i.e., rope all the dope for himself. Not anymore.

The guy dredged up sort-of-a-smile. Small, scungy teeth. “Five hundred bucks? Well, yeah, man, hell yeah.” The sly light in his eye winked back on. He was totting up odds. They read, help Scarface out, could be bones coming my way…

Ramon said, “Let’s sit in your car.” Ramon didn’t want the guy scunging his seats.

They went to the Escort, got in and—Sweet fucking Jesus! This fucking car! All dinged to shit on the outside, and inside—the seat on the passenger side was a crate and Ramon had to sit on the fucker. Inside smelled like a kennel. Dog hairs all over. The dashboard was gunked where coffee’d been spilled and never cleaned off, and food was all over the floor. Old Chinese takeout, greasy-ass french fries, and pizza. Whole tons of fossilized garbage. Then—damn!—there on the floor by the KFC box! Rigs! A bunch of them, scattered all over!

Ramon decided, lay this out quick and get out of this car and go shower somewhere.

Ramon laid it out. Money for Eddie. The guy told Ramon that Eddie’d been looking to dump this big brick of dope. Five thousand bucks for a kilo!

Five grand for a kilo of Mexican brown! That desperate, dumb motherfucker.

Ramon could see this guy going, wow! Stairway to Heaven! And then, uh-oh... Where’d Eddie get it? Somebody he ripped? That kind of weight? Rip a dude with that weight, a piano lands on your ass.

Eddie’s story: some garbled nonsense. After the taste, the guy didn’t give a rat’s ass. A whole fucking kilo of good, righteous shit! He’d never been next to a kilo in life! And now, here’s Eddie, a mutt made to take, so fuck where it came from!

He’d turn this one quick and then head for the tall fucking grass. Good dopefiend thinking.

Ramon almost laughed. This dude, a rat casing cheese, thinking, how can he snatch it and keep his ass out of the grinder?

The guy had no cash. He had to try and finesse this. He didn’t want to let Eddie out of his sight. Shit goes way south as a rule in this life and, one way or other, this thing wouldn’t last but a minute.

But Eddie didn’t want to be out in the light. The guy told him, give him a day and he’d round up the cash.

Ramon grinned. This guy, strictly nickels. A blind man could see it. But Eddie, out in the wind with no place to go, had showed up on dude’s door.

Get desperate, get way fucking dumb.

Eddie was supposed to call dude today around one and set up a meet at his pad, this place out by Greenlake. The guy celled in the basement.

Ramon showed him a roll and peeled off $200. A good faith down payment.

Dude, bought and paid for...

Eddie called in and said he’d be by around three.

Two fucking hours. Ramon was not going to let this guy out of his sight. So, nothing to do but help the guy drop off his flowers.

Off they went in the Escort.

Five minutes in, Ramon figured maybe, just maybe, he’d lost his mind. Driving with this guy, a bust in the works if ever there was one. It was as if they’d given Charles Manson a car and told him to work out his issues in traffic.

A half hour in, and Ramon was all done with this shit. He told the guy, drop him off back at his car, then go park the Escort and take the day off. Dude gave him directions.

Ramon stopped and got coffee to fight off exhaustion.

He got to the place at 1:45. Skank fucking pad, like the car. A dingy-ass basement crammed full of junk and it stank, and you plowed through the junk to get to his room, you went in—and the first thing you did was heave up your breakfast.

Dopefiend décor: crap caked on the floor, furniture out of some landfill, and rigs and black spoons and dope on the table, spilled pop cans all over, clothes from a yard sale for winos—and, on the bed, was this bitch. Skank fucking bitch! Sprawled out and dopesick, and bitching.

She didn’t notice Ramon. Ramon noticed her and—goddamn! There were dogs in the bed with this ho! Three of the fuckers, mangy as shit, and yapping away just like she was.

She was slinging it, too! Fucking dude this and fucking dude that, the no-good cocksucker, he’d shot all the dope, no wakeup for her, she was spewing, both ends, and she had a date! If it wasn’t for her, he’d be the one sucking dicks to get well!

The guy futzed around with the crap on the dresser. Going yeah yeah yeah yeah. Her jetstream was all-the-time stuff.

Goo-gobs of noise. He finally told her, Get off my back. He broke out some dope and the bitch blasted out of that bed like a rocket. Plowed through those dogs. The guy cooked the dope and she banged, and now she was going to bang him. He was her man and she loved him and dope conquers all. She tried in his neck with this dirty old rig, ripping away, his blood gushing down. She dug away for ten fucking minutes and couldn’t come up with a vein. Finally she quit. Thank fucking God!

She had to get dressed to get to her date. She got naked right there, fuck Ramon—and showed him bruises stamped like tattoos on her whole fucking body. She had this dress with a nice silken sheen. She must have just boosted the fucker last week.

Dudes paid for this bitch? Ramon chalked it up to a sign that the end of the world was near.

She slipped on her shoes. Now she was ready. She strode to the door. The guy she was dating liked to wear diapers.

Meanwhile, dude was still banging away. Nothing upstairs, so he took off his pants and shoveled away, in his ankles, his knees, the top of his feet, in his ass, nothing, nothing.

Finally, the guy found a vein, his last one in life, in his thigh. He sent the plunger home and tossed the rig on the table. Victory at last! The clock said a quarter to three. Now they’d wait.

Ramon sat in a chair. He put newspaper on it so he could sit down and not die of gangrene or something. The guy was using his crusty old shirt to wipe the blood off his body. He got done with that and flopped on the bed. He started french-kissing the dogs.

Three o’clock got there, no Eddie. Five minutes, ten minutes, nothing.

Three-thirty, still nothing. Eddie was not going to show. The guy said, Oh, hey, man, don’t worry, he’ll get here. It’s traffic or something. Ramon gave it 15 more minutes. Same nothing.

Ramon got up from the chair. The dude said, Hey, wait! I’ll help you find him! Like they were old partners now, right? This mangy cocksucker. He’d hung Ramon up in this shithole, him and his nasty-ass bitch and his dogs. The guy snatched a shirt and a coat and searched around for his keys on the dresser.

A baseball bat lay on the floor near the chair. Ramon picked it up. The guy was running around now, couldn’t find his keys, where the fuck were his keys, they gotta be somewhere! Ramon tipped behind him and busted him right in the melon.

The guy fell in the bed, face-down on the dogs. They scrambled and yipped and one of them bit the guy right on the cheek. Ramon bapped him again, this one a home run. Dude’s head was pulp and all over the bedsheets.

Ramon would have shot him by way of no harm, but he didn’t have time to keep running to Felix each time he stopped at a place. If the guy wasn’t dead now, there was no such thing as dead in this life.

Ramon hosed the guy’s pockets and fished out the money he’d duked him. The guy’d shit his pants. Ramon wiped the bat and dropped it there on the bed. Now, adios.

The bitch, though. She’d seen Ramon.

No problem. She’d come back, see the guy there, grab up her shit, and beat it on out of that room so damn quick that the place would get windburn. The bitch was a dopefiend. Fuck fucking dude. Ramon wasn’t worried a lick. She’d never seen him before and, fucked up as she’d been, she wouldn’t know him from Adam’s off ox. Plus, the last thing she’d want was a chat with the cops.

She could get busted, and sure as shit stinks that would happen, sooner more likely than later, but so? She might want to trade out from under but, fuck it, with what? Some dude she’d seen dopesick, then gowed to the tits? Good fucking luck.

Ramon went and found a motel on Aurora. Late afternoon. He figured, best jungle up while he made some quick calls.

He called Yolanda and told her to pick up his money from Felix and Manny and Reyes. That was Dennis’s usual job, but she didn’t ask about Dennis.

Next he called Felix. Felix told him Miguel had been on the horn about Dennis and, where the fuck was his car? Ramon told him, fuck that, Dennis was busy, Yolanda’d be by, but now he wanted a line on a knick-knack named Eddie.

It took him six calls and three hours to get the word out. Then he lay back on the bed, lit a butt, and dreamed about torture. He wanted Eddie.

Where was he? He might have left town, but, that dope? What could he do, this schluck with no friends or connects? Drive from city to city or something, even assuming he had enough gas, and sleep in his car til he found the right guys? With no toothbrush, no change of clothes, and he can’t even eat? Would he look the guys up in a phone book or something? Hang out on all the right corners? Lip-sync old rap tunes hoping the right guys would stop by and listen?

C’mon. Eddie had to beat town, but the dope was a chain that stretched from his neck to a fencepost.

Cut his losses? Just toss the shit in some dumpster and boogie? And then what? Get to Kent and he runs out of gas? Get fucking real.

Man, all that money. Eddie was stuck to that dope like B’rer Rabbit to tar.

This tar was a little bit different, but Eddie was still stuck like glue. Ramon had to laugh.

But, what would Eddie do? Join the Peace Corps? He had to be sicker than shit of just driving around in his car, if that’s what it was he was doing. Was he celled in some no-tell? Could be. Friends who’d let him surf on the couch? Most likely not.

Was he out piecing dope to the mutts for a getaway stake? Ramon doubted that. You can’t be discreet doing that shit, not really, not on the street, and where else was there for Eddie? Word gets around, and most dopers were tied in some way to one or another of his guys. Plus, with cops and the boogeymen after his ass... Well, maybe—desperate gets dumb—but, probably not.

So, with no money, connects, or friends he could trust, well—

Maybe, just maybe, he’d scuttle on back by his crib. Get out of the rain, grab some clothes, try to figure if maybe Belize is his best shot in life.

Ramon headed back up toward Eddie’s. When he got there he scouted around, circling the block a couple three times to see what there might be to see. There was nothing that felt like the heat, but, best be sure.

Could be Dennis is in there and nobody knows...

He parked on the street above Eddie’s, right by the parking lot fronting his door. Still nothing that said the cops had been through. No crime scene shit or like that. On the other hand, though, if they had Eddie’s name, and they sure could by now, there might be somebody keeping an eye.

Except, it didn’t have that feel. Nothing there on the street that he saw, the parking lot empty, no one but no one around.

Ramon checked the street. Miguel’s car, still there. Dennis, sleeping the sleep of the deep.

Ramon settled in to see who showed up.

He’d gotten there at seven. Rain thickened the darkness, shrouding him there in the car, away from the looky-loos checking things out.

Cops cruised by a couple of times, but they were blues making rounds. Nothing looked funny. A couple of cars came into the lot, and people got out and went toward the church down the street.

The rain came down in sheets. Ramon was tired. He hadn’t slept in a day-and-a-half. Still, though, he was wired; if anything funny cropped up he’d see it clear as a bell on a bright, sunny day.

It was climbing on ten. He figured, give it another half-hour, then split, then come back like every half hour. Give the fucker till two to show up. Later than that, likely he wouldn’t be coming. Tomorrow, he’d put a guy here to watch.

Ten, fifteen minutes—then this car swung into the lot and guess who. Eddie, baby, sure the fuck was! He coasted on down toward his pad, and parked and got out, head swiveling this way and that because monsters were out there.

Just for a second, Ramon had him in freeze-frame—a skinny, sharp-featured guy, hunched over, face pale, even in all that dark rain. If Ramon had a rifle, ka-boom...

Eddie beat it on into his pad.

Ramon popped out of his car and snaked his way down there. The chances were good that Eddie’d be busting back out like a bullet, as soon as he tripped over Dennis.

Off to the right of his door, some five-ten feet down, stood a bush and a tree. Ramon melted into their shadows. He’d just eased his gun out when, bam, sure as shit, Eddie came blasting on out of the pad.

Ramon stepped out. Eddie stopped dead—er-er-errrrttttt! like Wile E. Coyote at cliff’s edge, no shit, his eyes wide as plates.

Ramon backed him into the crib, shut the door.

Okay, motherfucker, the dope.

Tell me, cocksucker, I torture your ass. I shoot off your kneecaps to start with!

Ramon watched Eddie go through mass changes and...the guy was a trip. The way he just—man! He was scared, man, no doubt, getting ready to beg, he was shaking and shit—but then, man, his eyes started closing, as if he was going to sleep...almost like, Go ahead shoot me, I’m done.

And then, man, they opened, like all of a sudden—

Lasers now, pinning Ramon.

Eddie was pissed, practically snarling, lips a tight angry line over teeth! Like he wanted to tear Ramon’s throat out.

Ramon couldn’t believe it! Pussy-ass Eddie!

But—fuck this cocksucker! Ramon had the gun. He cocked the hammer.

You want to jump me? C’mon, bitch, get stupid.

Eddie, slowly shaking his head, eyes dead on Ramon, hardly breathing, face red, as if he was going to explode.

Ramon’s face now went gargoyle ugly. He stepped in closer—and bam, Eddie screamed—and then rushed him! Like a bull, swear to God, his head way down low, as if he was going to try and plow through him! He grabbed at Ramon, almost got him, but Ramon jumped aside and clocked his ass good with a shot to the melon. Eddie flew past and stumbled, ran into the wall and bounced off, sort of tripped, and went down. Ramon was on him, whipping his ass with the pistol, bam bam bam bam! Eddie grabbed at his shirt. Ramon hit him again. Eddie bit at him then. Ramon clocked him. That was it; Eddie quit.

Ramon got up off him and told him to get the fuck up. Eddie rose slowly, his face all fucked up, a gallon of blood on his shirt. He shook his head. Ramon slapped him, stepped back.

Okay, motherfucker, you’re all out of time. Where is the dope?

And now—Eddie, blinking, shaking his head, rasping up breath, saying, Wait! His hands up in front of him there—and then this long fucking moment... His eyes, man! Crazy man’s eyes and—

He spit on Ramon! Spit blood in his face, on his shirt!

Ramon gaped. Eddie told him, “Fuck you.”

Just like that. Calm.

Ramon brought the gun up and—bam! bam! bam! bam!Pounding, yelling, the ceiling was shaking! The guy from upstairs: “Hey, motherfuckers! Knock off that noise!” Ramon’s gun jerked an inch—and Eddie was on him, butting, hitting, kicking, and clawing, and screaming this weird, high-pitched scream. Ramon hit the floor, lost his gun—and Eddie was gone out the door! Ramon shook his head and scrambled, slipped, lunged for the gun. He snatched the gun, slipped again. The guy upstairs, stomping! “I’m callin’ the cops, you cocksuckers!”

Ramon got his legs and lurched out of the pad. His eyes swept the lot. No Eddie, nowhere. Ramon looked at his gun, tucked it.

Shkreee-eeek! Above, a window thrown open, the guy had his head out. “Hey, motherfucker!”

Ramon beat it. He got to his car, peeled out, and was gone.

He turned his lights on at the end of the block and slowed down. Jesus Christ, think! All he needed was some cop to stop him. He cut left at Denny, willed himself into cruise mode, nice, quiet, slow, just a dude in a car headed home down the hill.

Inside he was boiling, nine million degrees, with his heart like an African drum in his ears, along with that weird, high-pitched scream out of Eddie.

Where in the fuck did he go? Ramon sucked a breath. Eddie’s car was still in the lot, so he couldn’t have gotten too far. Ramon wheeled onto Bellevue and started in circling, checking the shadows, up Mercer, down Summit, then Belmont to Harvard, then back down once more and around.

A guy hunched his way down the street doubletime—some faggot, not Eddie. Once more around; nothing but scuts in the dark.

Fuck this. Eddie has gone to the moon. Ramon swung by the lot. Eddie’s car, gone.

So much for that. Time to go. Get away from this shit and think about what to do next. Could be the dope’s gone for good.

Ramon had to get his ass gone from Seattle. But one thing he knew. He’d be back to Seattle for Eddie. And fuck the damn cops.

Famous last words. But this thing, believe it, was personal now with Ramon.

Eddie, the faggot-ass bitch, stole his dope and spit blood on him, man, and then jumped him and boogied his ass out the door. And now he thinks he’s free as a bird.

He’d work on Eddie for hours and hours and hours.

BIO: Robert Crisman could have very easily been Eddie. He spent some years living parts of the life depicted in this story. Unlike most of the people who live it, he found his way out. He brought his ghosts with him, however, and his fiction, about lost dogs stuck on the Road With No Exits, is his way of turning his time in the mix to account.