Tuesday, June 30, 2009

NOT DEAD

Ain’t easy typing when your hands are shaking. Don’t know how long I’ve been awake. Awake and running. Been running since Ballentine. Tired. Tired of running. Tired of people trying to put bullets in me.

Thought it would be different with Rodeo. Thought he was a fucking business man. Guess he is—the kind of business man who wants it all for himself and doesn’t want to pay for it.

Why is it that only the motherfuckers out there have guns? I should have a gun. Always staring at the wrong end.

Should’ve been gone by now. Pile of money. Hop a couple trains. Canada. Find a nice little cabin on some land. Plant some apple trees. Get a cell phone. Give Tokyo a call. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Sounds better than two .45 slugs. One in the heart and one in the head.

I tried to plan it airtight. A way in, a way out. I needed a place to feel safe. Isolated, but not too remote. There’s a VA hospital around here with a lot of parks and grass. I’d wandered past a couple of times, following the flow of the other homeless guys, trying to get a feeling for this city. But those guys are different. Most of them are broken in the head. Me, I was just looking for a little work and a new plan.

Figured the VA would be a good spot for the meet with Rodeo. Might have a government file in one of those buildings with my dad’s name on it. Maybe he’d be watching. I’ll take whatever I can get.

My dad didn’t help me. Payback for me not being ready with the .38 when Sig showed up. Guess I deserved that one, Dad. I’ll give you a gift some time. I’ll give you Sig’s soul so you can crush it under your boot for the rest of time. Maybe then we’ll be even.

Almost got to see my dad for real in the afterlife. Hands are still shaking. It was late last night. After midnight at the VA. Everything was quiet. Couple of lights on in the buildings. Security circulated in his golf cart, but you’d have to set something on fire for him to notice. Seemed like the perfect place.

I waited at a tree and wished I had a cigarette. Don’t smoke much, but it kills the time. Even if I had one, I’d have saved it, though. Didn’t want to give away my position too soon. I came out from the tree when Rodeo’s Mercedes showed up.

He prowled into the VA and killed the headlights. The car rolled to a stop and he waited. I ain’t no car-hop. Or a hooker leaning into his window so he can take what he wants and drive away before anyone can stop him. I stood on the wet grass and let him get out of the car and come to me.

Rodeo carried a heavy duffle bag and I fought the urge to smile. With that bag, and my backpack, which was ready at the tree, I could start it all over. I’d leave that night.

His face was tight and he glanced all around us. He’d done this before. Trey’s no greenhorn either. Made plenty of deals. Not for this much cheese, but I ain’t nervous.

“Open the bag, let me see the money.”

“And hello to you, too.” He put the bag on the ground and showed me a couple of his teeth. Don’t know if it was a smile.

“Tell you what, after the deal’s done, we can douche each other and paint our toenails.” I’d been waiting too long to dick around.

“Business first.”

“Damn right. Let me see the money.” Something wasn’t feeling right. Rodeo was too calm. He was faking something.

Rodeo leaned over the bag and unzipped it. Like he was skinning an animal, its guts made of bundles of money. He took out one wad and fanned it, showing the bills. “It’s all here. A fair price.”

That’s the kind of thing that gets you killed.” My dad, whispering into my ear again.

“Show me another stack.” The dagger was heavy in my waistband. I’d have to get it out of the sheath this time.

“I need to see the thumb drive. I need to know you have it.” His body wasn’t moving, but he was planning on it. Little twitches, adjustments in his joints.

As far as I could tell, the deal was still on. I pulled the black bag from my inside jacket pocket. I watched his eyes when I showed him the thumb drive. Rodeo had been slick, right up to seeing what he wanted.

This wasn’t a sloppy charge with a dork dagger. It was something pretty. Rodeo is a professional. He barely moved and the gun came out. I would’ve appreciated the artistry of it if I wasn’t on the wrong end of a .45 automatic. Should’ve guessed Rodeo would play cowboy with a Colt.

“Throw the drive to my feet.” Like he was talking to a retard. Well, it was stupid of me to trust him.

I dropped the drive back into the black bag. I was real calm for some reason. More calm than I am now. Guess I’m getting used to people wanting to kill me. My brain took everything in: Rodeo’s belt buckle. The .45 was cocked. In his other hand was the full stack of cash. The Mercedes was running, puffing condensation out of the tailpipes.

“You don’t need to kill me.” I took a step closer and pointed at the open bag full of money. “Just give me half of that and I’ll disappear.”

He laughed, ugly. “No negotiations.”

“Dead body’s going to be bad for your business.” A little closer.

“Another dead bum. No one will care about your body.”

I saw my dad, dead in the rain. He might still be lying in the mud. I understood why he crawled into those Vietnam tunnels. You have to do it because the fear will paralyze you. Jump in before you think about it.

I grabbed for the gun. Didn’t think. Couldn’t let myself die.

Rodeo had the pistol at his hip and pushed it forward to shoot, like he had to throw the bullet at me. Some people would try and knock the gun away, give it a twist or chop his wrist. I ain’t the American Ninja. But I do have moves. I grabbed the top of the .45 and pushed back as he came forward.

I could feel the tension in his arm as he braced for the kick of the gun. Rodeo squeezed the trigger with all he had. But my hand had pushed the slide back and blocked the hammer from falling. I was some kind of awesome, cool as a killer robot, but I wasn’t out of trouble yet.

Both of our free hands were occupied. He had the wad of cash, I held the black bag with the thumb drive in it. Rodeo stuffed the cash into his jacket pocket and started to claw at my hand on his gun. I balled my fist around the thumb drive and punched him in the jaw.

It was good and bad. I got the satisfaction of his head snapping back and a grimace of pain instead of a smile from Rodeo. But when he jerked back, the slide on the .45 came forward. I twisted out of the way and, with my hand buzzing from punching him, fumbled with the gun while trying not to lose the drive.

Two men and four hands on one gun. Neither of us wanted to die.

But one of us was cocky and wore thin leather shoes to a killing. You can bet that idiot wasn’t me. I wear work boots. And I stomped on his fucking foot and wanted to break his whole body.

Rodeo yelled in pain, right in my ear. But he was strong. I couldn’t get the gun away, but I did push the magazine release and seven rounds meant for me thudded to the ground.

I gave his foot another smash and knocked him to the grass. I figured, one shot in the chamber. No time to mop it all up, I gave him one shot at me.

I grabbed the duffle full of money on the run. I got my backpack from by the tree and kept running. Didn’t hear the shot. My dad told me, in Nam they said that you don’t hear the one that kills you.

Kept running. Through the VA. Under a bridge or a street or something. Finally stopped in a grove of palm trees. Some kind oasis surrounded by on-ramps and off-ramps of a freeway. Rodeo wasn’t coming. He couldn’t find me in there.

But I wasn’t alone. Other homeless dudes were camping there. They hid under cardboard and tarps, protected from the headlights of the cars coming and going, circling for the freeway. Late at night and still people were driving everywhere. I used the lights of the cars to check the duffle bag. I’m sure you’ve guessed by now. The wads were fake. Couple of tens or ones on the top and cut-up paper in the middle. I stripped the real cash out, about 68 bucks.

That’s when my hands started shaking. Haven’t stopped since. I’m on a college campus right now, in a library. They probably think I’m a junkie or something. But no one’s given me any trouble. They know better. I’m not taking shit anymore.

Hands are shaking because I’m angry. Tired of running. Tired of people wanting me dead. It’s time Trey fucks someone else up.

Friday, June 19, 2009

BALLENTINE

Remember when I said that women get you killed? I don’t take my own advice. But I’m writing this, so you know I’m not dead. And it was worth the risk.

For a second I got a cold chill under the fancy dress shirt. What if I picked a day she wasn’t working? Finally in Los Angeles, Trey got lucky.

Tokyo was looking fine. Snappy blazer and some ass pants that showed off a sweet peach. Her hair was glossy and pulled back and she still had that wise-ass look.

She’s the only one that treated me with any kind of nice in this town. Couldn’t leave without saying goodbye. I slicked myself up with the fancy pants and shirt with buttons and hoped she wouldn’t remember I wore them the last time we talked. If she knew the clothes were the same, she didn’t seem to care.

I strolled into the clothing store like I had all kinds of business to be in the rich part of Santa Monica. Soon, it won’t be an act. We had the place to ourselves and I leaned against the counter as she organized a rack of bracelets. I thanked her for the recommendation on the restaurant, the beer and burger place.

“Glad you liked it.”

“But it was missing something.” I pocketed the business card for the store.

“What’s that?” and she didn’t even look up from the bracelets. I liked that. We were talking like we knew each other. Friends, even, who trusted each other enough not to watch every move.

“You.”

That got her to look at me. Dead in the eye. We stood that way for two minutes, a couple of years. It meant something. It really did. That look was enough for me. The best thing I’ve found in this town.

She didn’t talk, so I took over. “Someday. Soon, I’m going to call this store and I’m going to ask for you. What’s your name?”

She told me, but for her safety, I’ll keep calling her Tokyo. I kept going, “When we talk on the phone, I’ll tell you where I am. Might be far. Out of state. But when you find the time, you’ll come out to visit. And we’ll have a good old time, build it up and tear it down. Because you and me have a lot to talk about and a lot of things to live together.”

It got to her. She didn’t look away or smirk or make an excuse. Like I said, the eyes meant something. She’s game, I can tell. All kinds of questions chattered in her head. I watched her pick one. “What’s your name?”

I told her the truth. “I don’t know yet. But I’ll know by the time I call you.”

Have you ever been that slick? I don’t think so. And then you have to make an exit. Her hand was frozen on the counter and I put mine on top of it. “Don’t forget me.”

And then I was gone. She’ll be hearing from me. I hope she does. The only way I won’t call is if I’m dead. Could happen soon.

My last will and testament: I’m not leaving any of my stuff to anyone. Don’t have anything anyway. Let the dagger rust. The thumb drive isn’t mine. There’s a copy of it on Gabriel Chacon’s laptop computer. Who cares about clothes and shoes.

It would be nice if someone buried me. Back in Ballentine. Home. Where the trouble started. If this is my last chance, I have to tell you what happened.

It’s simple.

Lying in the mud, just outside of Ballentine, Washington, are two bodies. One of them has three 9mm holes in him. He is lying on his back. The rain was hitting his face when I left.

The other body has one .38 special slug in him. He’s twisted, face down, with his arm bent around his back. Never forget the way he looks.

My dad and I were in the trailer, trying to talk and watch TV and drink beers with the pounding of the rain on the roof drowning everything out. Everything except the sound of the Plymouth Valiant.

The rain never bothered my dad and he went out toward the car without a slicker. I stood in the doorway to the trailer and waited. The Valiant stopped in the clearing near the trailer and left its lights on. The rain looked like small, falling fish in the headlights.

Sig got out with two other guys. The Eagle and Rass, Sig’s brother. Sig and his crew are the North River Gang. They handle things in their part of town and we don’t deal with them. Ballentine’s perfectly divided by the river. Plenty of territory for everyone. But Sig doesn’t think so. He wanted it all. My dad and I were selling good weed to the South River Family for years and everything was cool. Until Sig decided he would squeeze out the South River and take the whole town. He wanted our weed and our guarantee we wouldn’t sell to the South River.

I told you before how hard my dad was. Never backed down from a fight and Sig was nothing to him. He stood his ground for months, despite Sig’s threats. It came down to that night.

My dad walked right across the muddy lot. Like crawling into a VC tunnel. No fear. “What the fuck, Sig?”

The last thing I ever heard him say.

Three shots from Sig’s gun were louder than the rain. My dad staggered backwards and tried to stay on his feet. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He made a fist like he was going to deck Sig, then he fell backwards into the mud. The smoke from the Glock hung in the rain.

I killed the lights in the trailer and went to where I knew my dad kept his gun. Sig and Rass were coming closer to the trailer and Sig was yelling, “Don’t do anything stupid, Trey. Your dad didn’t know business. But you can play this right.”

The problem with a trailer is there’s only one door. Didn’t have time to bust out a window. I came out the door and Rass was no more than ten yards away. He didn’t have a gun. He put his hands in front of him, like he wanted to stop me so we could talk. I fired the revolver and put one round in his chest. It knocked him into the air and backwards. He did a flip and twisted himself up, stopping face down in the mud.

Sig screeched something, don’t know what he said. Then the bullets started flying at me. But it was dark on this side of the trailer, away from the Valiant’s headlights. I shot back, emptied the revolver, so they’d think twice about chasing, and ran into the forest and rain and night.

I ran and left my dad there, dead. Getting rained on. I’d like to bury him. I’d like someone to bury me if I don’t make it. Maybe we could be side by side.

The rain didn’t stop and I kept running. Daylight didn’t mean anything and barely dented the steel grey sky. Not a lot of people to trust. No cops. Not for a second generation weed grower. I killed Sig’s brother. He’s got a bigger gang than me. Anyone who wasn’t in his gang would want to be on his side of a fight. Outgunned and outnumbered. No bullets left. I ditched the revolver, making sure there were no prints.

My dad had carried that .38 into the tunnels of Nam. He said the .45 was too loud. You’d go deaf down there if you shot it and then you’d be dead. Usually couldn’t see anything anyway, so you had to rely on hearing and smell and everything else. So that .38 had kept him alive. Except this time. I was too slow. Should’ve had it in my hand when I heard the Valiant. This all could’ve ended differently.

The only people I could trust were old Nam buddies of my dad. Some head-cases that call themselves the Rail Riders. They ride freight trains all over the West Coast, running drugs or guns or looking for excuses to get into fights. Never rolled with them before, but I’d put back some beers with them and knew where to find a couple that day. They hooked me up with the basics of hopping freights, gave me the routes to get to Los Angeles.

I thought it would be new down here. I could start over. But when trouble wants you, it’s going to find you. And I asked for it, too, when I picked up that black bag. But I didn’t ask for Sig down here. Gotta think one of the Rail Riders told him what my plan was. That’s a fucked up double cross. Add it to the list.

Because nothing’s easy, right? Anything you want, you have to take. Snatch it out of the teeth of the shark before he bites your arm off and you bleed to death.

Now you know.

If I die making this deal go down, if it all blows up and makes the news and someone asks about me, tell them the truth. Trey didn’t shoot first. They killed my dad. I shot back.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

THIS DUDE NEXT TO ME IS CRAZY

Battery died on the laptop. Didn’t think to steal the charger, too. I always meant to give the laptop back, my insurance policy if you remember, but I could’ve used it a couple more days.

Instead I’m back in the stinky library and there’s a dude twitching next to me like there are fire ants in his veins. I’m jumpy, too. Still have the energy from the meet with Rodeo. It went down and the wheels are turning.

This guy next to me keeps scratching at an old tattoo on his forearm. A Ka-Bar knife with a snake or a dragon. Can’t tell, its faded and his skin’s raw from the scratching. Looks like he’s around my dad’s age. Probably a cracked VA dude who served in Nam. I’d ask him, he might’ve even known my dad, but I don’t want him to go ballistic in the library. At least not until I’m done writing this.

Wish I could be using the laptop. Feels exposed out here. Don’t think Sig’s looking outside of Santa Monica, but I gotta be careful. You ever steal something? If you need it bad enough, it’s easy. As long as you know what you’re doing. Be confident. Walk in, do it and walk out. That’s how I got the laptop in the first place. Stealing is easy when you need it. Returning things is hard.

That’s when you get caught.

Couldn’t do it when the coffee shop was just open, then it would only be me and the workers. I waited for the first big rush and moved in with the crowd. I slid the laptop onto a counter at the end of the pastry case and beat it before anyone got a look at my face. Slick.

And by now the dude should be happily reunited with his laptop. When it gets charged and he checks it, everything’ll be fine.

But if I get dead, you need to tell him where to look. Find Gabriel Chacon and tell him to dig up the Tunnel Rat folder buried in his computer. Give it to the cops or the Feds and blow the thing open. But only if I get dead. As long as I’m alive, I have a chance at the payoff and the fuck off.

And the chances are looking good. Met with Rodeo a little while ago. It was at an art supply store I’d seen on my way to this library before. Seemed like a public enough place, but not too crowded. And I figured a good looking but scruffy Trey would fit in well with the artists. Knew a chick back in Ballentine that painted. Weird in the head, but fun. The bitches in this art store were hot. Even the one behind the counter. Maybe I’ll open an art gallery when I get my payoff.

I may have fit in well, but Rodeo stalked into that place like he was venturing off the map. This guy belonged in a dark bar with glossy hookers and his friends wearing track suits and gold chains. And carrying Desert Eagles. Cocked.

He spotted me in an aisle with some bent-wire tools for carving clay. We pretended to look at the gear and tested each wood handle and poked our fingers with the tips. Our voices were low and cool. No way anyone knew what we were doing.

Can’t figure out Rodeo’s accent. Russian or Hungarian or Dracula or something. Not too thick, he wasn’t fresh off the boat. He was a business man, carried himself like a professional. And quick, didn’t care about the bullshit of how I got the black bag or what I knew about the Nerd. He wanted to make a deal.

At first he thought I was stupid. “Do you have it with you?”

“It’s safe.” And it is. It was hard leaving it behind, but you don’t bring the goods to the first meet. No one but Batman would find where I hid the bag.

Rodeo wanted the goods, but he seemed relieved to be talking to a real dealer like Trey, rather than a jellyfish like the Nerd.

“What is your price?” He wasn’t annoyed, he was doing business.

“I don’t know what you were going to pay the Nerd, but I’m sure I’m coming in under that. You’re getting a good deal. I want three hundred thousand dollars.” He didn’t flinch. “But there’s something else I need.”

Now he sounded cautious. “Tell me.”

“On the thumb drive, it’s identities, right?”

“Yes.” I caught just the faintest whiff of his anger that I knew what was on the drive.

“The Nerd collects them from what, the internet?”

Rodeo kept it casual. “Everything was funneled onto the drive. It is the only record and this transaction will go very smoothly if you are willing.”

That’s why the Nerd just didn’t make a copy of the information. Suppose he was covering his ass at work. If someone saw a list of identities on his hard drive, it might send up some red flags. But by putting all his eggs in one basket, he took away his leverage. And gave it to me. “I want the money. And I want one of the identities.”

He paused at a block of gray clay like he was trying to see the cowboy he could carve out of it. “Which one?”

“I don’t give a shit. I want one with good credit and a clean police record.” Out of the corner of my eye I saw him nodding and understanding. “We’re good with the money and if you set me up with the identity, I disappear for good. Win win.”

He laughed and I smelled cigarettes. “I like you.”

“You don’t know me.”

“Even better.”

We set the time and place. He’ll have my money and arrangements for the identity. I’ll have the black bag. I’ll disappear like smoke in the rain and you can only dream of the kind of life Trey will be living.

Friday, June 12, 2009

DARK KNIGHT

Fucking Blackberry got cut off. Fucking Big Wes. He needs an extra ass kicking. I was half way through writing to you and I lost everything. But it ain’t no thing to a dude like Trey. I upgraded.

But I’m not cellular anymore and I had to find a shitty payphone to call Jasmine. It wasn’t easy dropping the change in there. I should’ve made Mrs. Nerd get me a
prepaid cell when we were on the spree. Wasn’t thinking.

So that means that Trey was looking extra shady, ducking his head away from the passing cars and pedestrians with the scummy phone to my ear and telling Jasmine what to tell Rodeo.

You might’ve seen me and thought, who the fuck uses a payphone? Only bottom-feeders these days. I guess that’s me. I’m down with the scum, but there’s gold in this muck. Just got to pan it out. So don’t judge when you see a guy on a payphone. He’s doing what he can. It ain’t easy out here.

Hell, look at me. You’re my only friend. How fucked up are things when I have to confide in a stranger? Extra fucked up. But you can’t just sit back and enjoy the show. You’re part of it. If you don’t hear from me, watch the news. You might be the only person to throw some dirt on my face when I’m down for the count. Then you can tell the real story, not the bullshit everyone’ll make up.

Start by saying that it was circumstance that pushed me to this. I’m a straight up guy. Never double-dealt someone who didn’t deserve it. But I’m also a man who makes his own decisions. Can’t put things in the hands of the cops or anyone else who’ll fuck up and leave me in the cold. I’m on my own and everything’s coming down on me. You put a guy under all that pressure, he turns hard, like a diamond.

I’m not happy about all the things I’ve done. Can’t change it though. The bell’s been rung. Started with three shots from Sig’s Glock. Half an hour before that, I was drinking a beer, out of the rain and bullshitting with my dad.


Now I’m sitting on the roof of a coffee shop with a stolen laptop, a silver dagger, and a black bag full of trouble. The coffee shop’s closed, but they didn’t turn their wifi off and I’m poaching.

Like motherfucking Batman, seeing the city from the rooftops. This is the way to go. As long as I’m not caught climbing up, I’m out of the line of fire up here. No way will Sig find me fifteen feet above the ground.


Sorry about the laptop, dude in the blue sweatshirt. Shit, you might have been reading me from this thing. Don’t see my blog bookmarked though. Got some good porn though, don’t you? You gotta be more careful with your possessions. It’s a dangerous world out there. Trey lurks from the rooftops. I know that cream in your coffee is important, but keep an eye on your computer when you get up. Or don’t put it on a table so close to the door. Common sense, dude.

You will get a bonus if y
ou ever get it back, though. Deep inside, in a secret folder I planted, is the contents of a particular thumb drive. Consider yourself lucky. I almost ate a dagger for what’s on this thing and you get it for free. You’re my insurance policy. Look for the folder titled Tunnel Rat.

Might not need insurance. I could be on the othe
r side of this in a day. Got in touch with Jasmine and she said that Rodeo was ready to meet. I was standing out in the daylight, talking into a payphone that smelled like shit and wracking my brains for a place to hook up with Rodeo. All the while, I got eyes all over my head like a fly. Sig was out there. He was looking for me and dead serious. Think fast, right? Set up the meet and get the hell out of the daylight before the North River Gang shows up and shuts down the whole show with one 9mm silver tip hollow-point.

All I knew was that I had to get out of Santa Monica for a minute. Sig knows I got business there and has to be hanging close. I remembered a store near the crazy-ass body odor Los Angeles library and told Jasmine to tell Rodeo to meet me there in a day.

That’s tomorrow.

Tonight I’m Batman on a roof, with someone else’s laptop. I could be in the most comfortable bed in the world.

That’s right, I saw her. Had to cross through Santa Monica anyway, couldn’t hurt to drop in on Mrs. Nerd. Maybe she had heard something from the Nerd. She looked pissed as hell and surprised to see me. But Trey can play it smooth when he needs to. I told her it was getting dicey and I had to take off for her safety. Trey is a dangerous guy to hang with. Trouble follows.


She bought it. Made me lunch. House looked strange, like some things had been cleaned out, couple of bare walls. Selling off the goods to stay afloat. No word had come in from the Nerd. I told her that he wasn’t with the mistress. Mrs. Nerd’s eyes
went wide when I told her I had seen the mistress. Gave her a wink. Never let Trey surprise you, I’m capable of anything.

That got a laugh, then that hungry look on her face. Hungry like starving, like she’d kill someone to cannibalize them. But that window had closed. A good meal, a clean bathroom and a shave. That’s all I wanted. I could feel the chains of Los Angeles falling away from me and didn’t want to get more tangled again. I should be free in a few days and want to slip away clean.

It’s hard to say no to a woman. I played it like I didn’t know what that look meant, but that didn’t last long. Hell, she fed me didn’t she? Trey’s not ungrateful.

But I didn’t stay in the bed. I’m on gravely tar paper tonight. Not the best thing for he
aling my aching body after the throwdown with Sig and his boys, but it’s better than being trapped by comfort. Said my goodbye to Mrs. Nerd and gave her some platinum advice. Told her to cancel the Nerd’s credit cards. That’ll bring him home. She smiled, feeling the idea, then chewed it for a second, like eating glass and liking the taste of her blood. I told her to find someone who knows what they’re doing to look after the Golden Delicious trees in the front yard. Apple trees should bear good fruit.

I’m out of Santa Monica now. Near to the meet with Rodeo. If this were Ballentine, I wouldn’t be laying low on a rooftop. Too much rain.

Some people are out late in this neighborhood. Laughing and all. I should be stomping the town with Tokyo, drinking and talking shit. Maybe in a few days. She can pack her bags and we’ll blow out of this hell hole together.




Clean Library.







Ass on Montana Ave.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

BUY THE RIGHTS

One good thing about Los Angeles is that people want to be seen. Everyone’s putting their name out there, trying to be the next something before they become old news.

Jasmine is no different. I Googled her on the Blackberry and came up with a bunch of hits, different places she worked and credits like “Associate Producer” for piece of shit films no one’s ever heard of. I wrote down the number for the most recent hit, where she was listed as “Development Associate.”

What the fuck is an “Associate?” I guess it’s when you’re not cool enough to be the real thing, they slap that name on you so you can feel better than the rest of the fools out there. Think of me as Trey, “Associate Spy” and genuine ass kicker.

As soon as business hours started, I called her office. No stink-ass payphones for Trey. I’ve still got the Blackberry. Some hot and cold running secretary answered the phone and I asked for Jasmine. When the girl asked who was calling, I gave the Nerd’s name. That got me right through.

First thing Jasmine says, “Where are you?”

The Nerd burrowed so deep that neither his wife or his mistress know where he is. But Jasmine didn’t sound like the annoyed princess, wondering where her sugar daddy is with the next box of chocolates. She sounded like a crook, a backroom dealer with money on the table and a car waiting outside and three other stops that night and no time for bullshit. This is a girl I can deal with.

“This isn’t the Nerd.” But I used his real name. “This is the guy who knocked on your door the other night.”

“I called the cops.”

Fucking great. She told them what I look like. Fuck. Hope they don’t call Ballentine. At least she gave descriptions of Sig and his North River dicks. Maybe the cops’ll take them off my hands.

I didn’t chew her out. I need her on my side. Slow, I explained that the fight at her door had nothing to do with the Nerd.

She asked if I knew where he was. I said I didn’t. But I wasn’t looking for him. “I want to talk to the man in the black Mercedes.”

Jasmine’s slick. She didn’t let his name slip. “Why?”

“I have what the Nerd was going to sell him. The Nerd fucked himself out of the deal. The man in the black Mercedes has to deal with me directly.”

“How do I know you’re not lying?” This girl is as sharp as a knife, I tell you. Cuts through the bullshit. Body and brains.

“Black bag, thumb drive. Identities.” That got a long silence.

Then, “Give me a number where I can have him get in touch with you.”

“Ain’t no number for me.” No idea when this Blackberry’s gonna get cut off. “You have him standing by. I’ll get in touch.”

“Don’t call me here again.” Her voice was low and guarded. First time I heard a little shake in her, the collision of separate worlds.

“Give me a better option.”

Jasmine reluctantly ground out the numbers for her cell phone. I wrote them down on a little piece of paper with a short pencil I boosted from a library. She said it would take some time to get the guy to come around. He’s careful. I said I knew, the dude slipped away before I had a chance to talk to him in person. Trey even went so far as to apologize to the lady for getting her involved. I’m so smooth. And she took it like I meant it. Which is bullshit. She’s probably the one that started this deal in the first place.

I imagined the Nerd lying next to her hot body, crying after he came too fast. She’s stroking his hair and he’s worried about the economy and she’s thinking he might cut off the sparklies. So Jasmine’s sharp brain makes a plan. The Nerd’s in software, somehow she knows he can collect identities. And because she’s hot and parties with people with money, she’s friendly with Rodeo, who’s some kind of high-end criminal. Bang. It all comes together for her.
Everybody wins. Especially her. The sugar daddy doesn’t die and the sparklies keep flowing. She didn’t plan on Trey.

I had to ask, “What’s a development associate?”

“I read scripts and ideas, develop them into movies.”

“I have a great idea for a movie.”

Low laugh. “Pitch me.”

“Super sexy cold motherfucker from the Pacific Northwest comes to Los Angeles, finds himself some trouble, kicks some ass and comes out on top.”

“Who plays you?”

“Michael Dudikoff.”

“Who?”

No wonder new movies are shit. No respect for the classics. Must’ve watched this movie a hundred times with my dad and my friends. “The American Ninja,” I tell her, then hang up on her. Time. She’s got a little time. Then she’d better have Rodeo for me. Let’s get this over with. I want my money. I’ve had enough of this town.

Friday, June 5, 2009

BRICKS ARE HARD

Almost broke my back. The knuckles on my right hand are throbbing like hell. Ribs are tight. My left arm is tingling from the fingertips to the elbow.

I was lazy. You almost never heard from me again. From now on, eyes in the back of my head. Forever.

It isn’t easy being Trey.

Following Jasmine home, I was so focused on her that I didn’t feel the wolves behind me. Sig and Big Wes and The Eagle. They must have picked me up at the open-air mall. I was so conditioned to listen for the Valiant, I didn’t think they could trail me on foot. Stupid.

After Rodeo bailed in his Mercedes, I knocked on Jasmine’s door. Rodeo couldn’t be that far away and she could call him. Then he and I could make a fair deal and everyone would sleep happy that night.

Three knocks into the door and I feel the meaty hands of The Eagle on me. I smell the fried food that’s soaked into his jean jacket.

Oh, fuck. I’m thinking it, but I don’t have time to say it. The Eagle had me flying. There were steps up to Jasmine’s door and I didn’t need them on the way down. I was lucky I had my new backpack over a shoulder. It helped cushion the landing when I fell back onto the brick planter. That’s how I almost broke my back. I said that the backpack helped, but it wasn’t fucking comfortable to smash into the top of a brick wall.

For a second I saw a bright light and thought it was the light at the end of the tunnel, if you know what I mean. Then the silhouette of Jasmine stepped into the light and I knew she had opened her door to see who was knocking. Don’t think she liked what she saw.

Jasmine slammed her door and the next thing I saw was Sig’s ugly face. He grinned like a skull. Like he wanted to eat my soul.

Even flat on my back, pain shooting up and down my arms and legs, Trey ain’t easy to put down. As I twisted to get to my feet, I threw my left elbow out and tagged Sig in the side of his rotten head.

He stumbled away and I’m standing when Big Wes starts throwing. I’ve fought this fucker before. We brawled at a party by the river because the girls were looking at me and not him. Who do you think won that fight? That’s right. Trey.

That time, we were drunk. This time, I was still catching my breath. But I held my own. We traded punches and I got my hands into his shirt. Big Wes is a little taller than me, about six two. He’s got a lot of pounds on me, but I’ve got smarts. I put my knee into his hip and he whipped to one side, putting his beard into my face. Disgusting. I gave him the knee again and threw him to the ground.

And here comes Sig and The Eagle at once. The Eagle’s a big blond dude, all American motherfucker. Sig always looks like his face was just dipped in dirt.

They wanted blood.

Trey’s not ready to bleed. I turned into Jackie Chan, Clubber Lang, Michael Dudikoff, Bruce motherfucking Lee. I was all fists and feet and knees and swinging my backpack around. Got Sig in the jaw. Big Wes limped toward me and I poked my fingers in his throat.

The Eagle hits hard. Didn’t crack my ribs, but I think he bruised them. The next fist was aimed at my face, but I ducked and he nearly scalped me.

I faked like I was going to punch him, then kicked him right below the knee. Slowed him down a little. Gave me enough time to see Sig with his crazy eyes. He pulled at his shirt, at the waist of his jeans and I knew things were about to change fast.

Fight with what you’ve got. I yanked the dagger from my pant leg. It was fast and The Eagle couldn’t get away in time. The thing was made for stabbing straight into the soul of a dark elf and I tried with all my strength to put the blade through The Eagle’s ribs and into his heart.

The tip hit his body and I felt a shockwave slam through me. I didn’t even break the skin.
The fucking knife didn’t come out of its sheath. It scared the shit out of The Eagle, though, and the leather sheath must’ve hurt, but it didn’t kill the dude.

No time to laugh about it. Sig got the Glock out. I remember the gun. Three shots. The smoke lasted, even in the rain.

I didn’t even have time to get the sheath off of the dagger. I elbowed past The Eagle and grabbed Big Wes. We spun toward Sig and he didn’t have a shot. Big Wes got the sheathed knife in the gut, then I threw him into Sig. They tangoed for a second and I ran.

Believe me, I wanted to stay and put that blade through Sig’s eye, but that Glock could’ve come out fast and struck like a snake.

I ran. A tactical retreat as Dad would call it. He’d understand. He knows I’ll get my payback.

There was a victory in running. When I grabbed Big Wes at the end, I felt something on his hip and boosted it from him. So I faced Sig and The Eagle and Big Wes and I lived. I’m full of my own blood ate a couple burgers from the drive-thru, and I’m writing this from the roof of an empty shoe store. That’s right, I’m mobile and talking to you from Big Wes’ Blackberry again. The last message came from this thing. Fucking cool. I gotta get me one of these.

So if you see a story on the news about some homeless guys fighting in front of a hot chick’s condo, you’ll know I didn’t start it.

Now all I have to do is get to Jasmine without Sig and his fucks spotting me.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

JASMINE

I’ve got to catch you up. Fucking hungry and hurting, but I’ll get this out then find some food. No libraries open this late, but it doesn’t matter. I’m mobile, on a Blackberry. Just hope they don’t cancel the account before I finish this.

I’ve seen girls like the mistress before. The same attitude. Nose in the air, the kind of chick that looks right through you. There were a few of them in Ballentine. She’s got the same attitude, but I’ve never seen a body like she’s got. Pictures and movies, sure, but she was 3-D. Boom, boom, boom. The hair, the tits, the ass. Even across the street, from behind some bushes, I could tell she had the complete package.

And I knew it was her without knowing it was her. Waiting and hiding, I had a name and address. But her condo building had at least eight doors. There was no doubt when I saw this chick. Like I said, boom. Dark skin and hair, Arab I think, so I’ll call her Jasmine.

Mrs. Nerd is no hag, and active in the sack, still, Jasmine would make me cheat on her. No doubt the Nerd was easily hooked. I couldn’t imagine Jasmine letting a jellyfish like the Nerd slip it to her, but people are motivated by all kinds of things. Hell, even Mrs. Nerd could’ve done better, but she was still married to him.

Maybe it’s Los Angeles that fucks everything up. Look at me. I came here to lay low, make a couple of bucks before moving on with a plan. Should be easy to be small in a big city. Bullshit. Within a couple of weeks, I’m holding a little black bag full of identities, there’s at least four people who want me dead, I have a silver dagger stashed in my waistband and I’m looking to squeeze a couple hundred large out of someone. I should’ve gone to Arizona.

After leaving Mrs. Nerd sleeping, I caught the sunrise from the park over the bluffs. Some motherfuckers get up early. Joggers and dog walkers were out just after first light. Unless I’m fishing, I’m sleeping in. Not these days, though. Can’t remember the last good night sleep I got. Before the trouble in Ballentine.

Sig and his fuckers aren’t giving up easy. That's for sure. They were probably asleep that morning, so I was good for a few hours.

A little cash from Mrs. Nerd’s purse got me some breakfast. Wearing new clothes opens doors to a guy. They treated me like a human at the diner, smiled and everything. The waitress was cute and I smiled back. And I knew that’s when I would get a bullet in the back. As soon as you’re comfortable, that’s when the hammer comes down. That's the truth. I wasn’t careful enough and I’m paying for it now, but I'll tell you about that after I get through this. New clothes don’t change the old Trey. Finish the business, I told myself in the diner. Did leave a little tip, though.

That meal took me through the day, and into the night. I ignored my stomach and thought about the payday. Couple hundred thousand would set me up fine. Keep it simple. Don’t get lazy, or sloppy. Sitting in the park, watching the people around me, seeing the Pacific Ocean stretching out to infinity, I made all my plans. They changed, the house looked different every time, a car in front, or a pickup truck. Apple trees. Pear trees. Grapes, a vineyard.

I thought the mistress would be working during the day, figured I didn’t need to risk being out in the open watching her place. Wait for the dark.

Two times, sitting in the park, I heard the Valiant rumble by. But Trey’s not stupid. When I picked my spot in the park, I knew I was hidden from anyone driving on the street. If Sig and his dickheads were on foot in the park, it would be a different story. But I wouldn’t mind throwing those fuckers off the bluffs. Give me a stand up fight and I do fine. A little bruised, but alive.

Felt like my dad in Nam. Plants and leaves all around and the enemy out there wanting your blood. He must have been scared shitless at first. But you can’t keep man like my dad down. If he was scared when he crawled into those tunnels with a flashlight and a .38, he didn’t let it get to him. You panic in a situation like that, you’re dead. He lived through it. Lived to raise me right. Now I’m the hard motherfucker I need to be.

Wonder if it’s still raining in Ballentine. Hope it’s dry by now. Maybe sunshine for my dad.
The streetlights came on in Santa Monica and the sun set dirty into the sea. Felt good to stretch my legs. My new boots are almost broken in. I found the mistress’ condo easy, then I had to pick which one was her.

Like I said, I didn’t have to guess. As soon as Jasmine hit the street, I knew. It was easy to follow her through the neighborhood. Girl has a walk.

But I kept my distance and my cool. Didn’t want to get picked up by the cops, thinking I’m a perv. After a block or two she meets up with another girl. Also hot. Three more blocks, another slammin’ chick. This town is crazy.

The flock of birds heads to this open air mall and disappears into a restaurant with a bar. Girls’ night. They must have had the dudes drooling in that place. That’s why a chick dresses up like that, right, with the sparkles on her shirt and the tight jeans and boots and hair shining. I wished me and Tokyo could share a drink in that bar and watch the dudes throw themselves at the birds and get sliced apart by the talons.

But I sat outside, near some fountain, listening to a guy play a decent guitar. I worried about a back door to the restaurant for a while, but eventually the flock of pretties glittered their way out the front.

We took the walk in reverse, dropping the girls off until Jasmine was alone the last block to her condo. I was the monster in the shadows, following the sound of her boots on the sidewalk. You wanted me to grab her then. Shake her for answers. Squeeze it out of her until she’s crying and has to give up all the information. That’s just bad business. All it would get me is arrested, then I’d really be fucked.

Keep your eyes open, that’s what pays. Who was waiting outside her condo door?

Rodeo.

Jackpot. They go inside. Lights turn on. They’re talking about something, I see a little movement. But only two people. No sign of the Nerd.

I creep closer to hear what they’re saying. Can’t get the voices. Her building has wide brick planters in front and lights all over. Fuck it, I thought. Like crawling into an enemy tunnel. I got ready to knock on the front door.

Then the living room light turns out. Another light turns out. Through the sliver of a window, I see Jasmine’s alone now. What the fuck? My answer came in the low tones of German engineering.

Rodeo’s Mercedes slid around the corner and up the street. He must have been parked in an alley. Goddamn back door out of the building. Rodeo’s being careful, knows something’s up after the drop went south. If I were a spy, I’d have some little magnet I could throw on the car and use my GPS to track the motherfucker. Instead, I’m hiding out and hurting all over because I nearly fucked up and got dead. More on that later, I gotta eat something. Lucky to be alive.

Lucky I’m a hard as iron and twice as cold.