Friday, July 3, 2009


I had to go back to Santa Monica. That’s where all the action is. It started with Jasmine. Like diving back to hell after you’ve climbed out. But I hadn’t made my way to heaven.

You want me to just leave it all behind.
Keep running away and find another life wherever I land. Is that what you’d do? Run? With less than a hundred dollars on you, two changes of clothes and nothing else? Won’t get far. What do you do when you run out of money? What do you eat? You’re hungry for too long, you get tired and sloppy. So what if I’m in Colorado and away from this hell? I’ll make a mistake up there and get rolled by the cops and they’ll see that I’m wanted for questioning in Ballentine. Then goodbye Trey.

There’s no more running. I have to make this work here and now. This is my shot at living. You’ve probably got a plan. Sitting at your desk, reading this and knowing that you get a raise after three months of more ass-kissing. After the raise, a new car, maybe make some babies. You got a house or a condo or an apartment and food in the fridge. And if there’s nothing worth eating, you have a phone and you can get delivery. You could be reading this while eating a slice of hot pizza.

I’m sitting in a library with a belly that, four hours ago, was full of two tacos for 99 cents. It’s live or die, every tick of the clock out here. Trey isn’t running anymore.

Jasmine wishes I blew out of town. She would’ve been happier if Rodeo used his .45 to perforate me. Except for Tokyo, I think the whole population of this town believes the only good Trey is a dead Trey. They can wish all they want. Until someone does it, I’m going to fuck some things up.

And it started with Jasmine. She’s my closest link to Rodeo. I waited in the bushes by her front door until 1am. Same routine, she came up the street alone, returning from girls’ night. She wouldn’t have a guy with her. Girl like that doesn’t bring a guy to her place. If she fucks someone, she does it where she can make a clean getaway.

Ladies, a word of advice, check over your shoulder before you unlock your door. Especially if you’re alone.

As soon as her door opened, I was behind her and pushing her into her apartment. She gasped for air like she was drowning. I shoved her too hard and she stumbled to the floor. I closed the door and locked it and turned on a light. Never saw someone look so scared. Good. That’s how I wanted her.

“I’ll scream.” She slid backwards on the floor.

“Do it.” I moved toward her, didn’t give her space. “Call the cops and I’ll tell them all about the Nerd and Rodeo and the drop and how you started it all.”

Her mind spun through other options. “I’ll call Rodeo.”

“Yes,” I smiled. “That’s what I want. You call him. Tell him that Trey is looking to tangle with him.”

This gave her some leverage and she stood up, tilting her chin up at me. “You don’t want to find him. He’ll kill you if you try and double-cross him.”

“The fucker double-crossed me.” She didn’t expect this. “We set up the meet and I was ready to hand off the goods. Instead of the money, he tried to give me a bullet to the brain.”

She blinked a couple of times.

The girl was off balance and I kept pushing. “I’m sure that’s what he had planned for the Nerd after the deal went down.” She walked backwards until she hit a tall chair and leaned against it like she was dizzy. “You think he’d let you keep walking and talking after all this?”


“Like you’re not part of it? Like being a hot Arab with tits makes you immune?”

“I’m Persian, you fucking redneck asshole.” Girl has sparks.

“You think Rodeo gives a shit about your sweet Persian pussy? He’ll cut your throat and fry your body with acid in the bathtub until you’re nothing more than a stain.”

She was picturing what I said and glanced to the bathroom. “I’m not involved. I hardly know him.”

“You know him enough to hook him up with the Nerd.”

“We needed the money.”

We, I thought. Mrs. Nerd needed the money. Jasmine has a job and a place of her own.

She still leaned on the chair. Don’t like hurting girls, but it was nice to see someone else shaking for a change. I didn’t let her get any balance. “It only took one phone call. Now you’re involved. You’re as dead as I am.”

“No. No. This was supposed to be simple.” Her eyes welled with tears. It almost felt like a privilege, watching her cry. Don’t think a lot of guys get to see her this way. Then she looked at me and I saw it wasn’t sadness, it was anger. “You fucked it up.”

“Even if I hadn’t picked up that bag, there was no good way out of this. If the deal had gone down the way it was planned, you and the Nerd would both be dead by now.” I laughed because the idea struck me funny. “I saved your life.”

She laughed too, but it was more like she was spitting poison out of a wound. “I’m not going to thank you.”

“No one ever does.” Ain’t that the fucking truth. “Don’t want it. I want payback. I want Rodeo and you’re going to tell me everything you know about him.”

She did. Wasn’t much. She knows him from clubs and bars. Dude is big business, over and under the table. Rumors of a friend of a friend that dealt with Rodeo, gave him some inside tips on construction contracts and walked away with a million bucks. Rodeo’s part owner of a couple of restaurants around town. I got the names, the addresses. I left her place from the back door Rodeo had used before and I heard the locks quick behind me. She probably didn’t get much sleep that night.

I didn’t either. Back to the rooftops. I had found an empty condo building in a decent neighborhood after leaving the college library, but couldn’t make it that far that night. Place looked brand new, but there was no one living there. Climbed to a second floor balcony around back and the glass door was open. Slept alright there on the new carpet. But I couldn’t stay comfortable. I woke up remembering Rodeo pointing that gun at me. And Jasmine was my only way of getting to him.

Making tracks back to Santa Monica and Jasmine, I had passed a big graveyard. Looked like miles of clean white stones. All the same size and in perfect order. Veteran’s graveyard. Like all the headstones were standing at attention in their parade uniforms. I saw my dad dressed with his medals and polished buttons. He was saluting someone. It was a picture from a newspaper or magazine. He kept it flat in a book and I’d find it every once in a while.

After shaking Jasmine down, lying on a Santa Monica rooftop, staring at the blank pink sky, I thought about that graveyard and wondered if there was any room left for my dad.