International Writers Magazine: Trust Issues - Hardboiled fiction
cold, biting rain cut through the early Seattle morning. It was
a typical mid-January, Pacific Northwest rain being bullied by a
brisk wind off of Elliot Bay. Most of SoDos indigent citizens
were sleeping off one too many Olys; the weight of yet one
more squandered day lying crumpled on cold linoleum floors like
a pair of old and threadbare corduroy pants.
wet, gray day break was less than an hour away. Only lifes weary
and nocturnal homeless souls moved about in the cracks, crevices and
dark shadows where even the brave of heart dare not go.
Ferrying its cargo of male thrill seekers back to the safety and comfort
of their UW dorm, one lone taxi cab made its way through the watery
darkness. Tires hissing, it sped past Safeco and Qwest Fields where
the hopes and dreams of championships were left swirling in the now
silent and ambiguous promise of next year.
In the quiescent distance the lone wail of a siren tore the drenched
night in half, shrieking its raucous aria into the damp labyrinth of
concrete, steel and glass. The ambulance, its lights bouncing off the
wet streets and slumbering storefront windows where naked mannequins
watched in mute indifference, raced to yet another shadowy corner.
The wipers fought a courageous, but hopeless battle to keep the rivulets
of water off the windshield. Ahead, the flashing lights of an uncountable
number of squad cars filled the night with refracted bursts of brilliance
nearly blinding them as they brought the ambulance to a stop. The driver
and his partner peered intently through the pandemonium of water and
Clusters of uniformed and plainclothes cops roamed the chaotic scene
in Keystonesque absurdity; their flashlights illuminating the gloomy
night. One small group stood near the curb, their heads bent at odd
angles, watching intently as a photographer snapped off shot after shot.
A hand thrust into the air and beckoned to them. The driver jumped into
the rainy night and opened a side cargo door, pulling a large medical
bag free while his partner opened the rear doors and unloaded the gurney.
A small gathering of night dwellers stood off to one side, held at bay
by yellow crime scene tape and two cops who were laughing and joking
about a whorehouse just up the street. A young black man in his early
thirties, made old by years of needles and juice, stood quietly watching
in the back of the crowd wearing the dead mans pork pie hat; snatched
from the sidewalk before the police arrived.
The EMTs maneuvered carefully through the maze of vehicles and
police. The crowd parted as they neared; exposing the center of their
attention. Lying face up, half on the curb was a body. His eyes were
open and stared coldly back at the men who stood over him. His mouth
was frozen in voiceless expression, stopped suddenly at the moment of
his death, as if he were ready to speak the name of his murderer to
anyone who cared to listen.
His right arm was thrown back over his head and his left lay casually
across his waist. His right leg lay along the curb, its battered shoe
a few inches away filling with water. And in the middle of his chest
a deep, dark patch of red gelled on his worn and frayed dress shirt.
His jacket and trousers twisted and blood stained; his hair wild and
Small Change. Thats what they called him on the street. Not because
of his five foot-five inch stature or his one hundred and six pound
bony frame; although most people thought that was the reason. It wasnt
as easy as that. It was simply because he would do just about anything
for a hand full of next to nothing.
At night he prowled the streets; a skinny neurotic lizard pan-handling
for coins or looking for easy prey to hassle and rob. Mostly it was
nothing more than petty break-ins, and stick-ups at neighborhood grocery
stores with a Rossi .38 special he had fired just once. It had been
his fathers a long lifetime ago. Small time. Small change.
He had no obligations and very little ambition for anything else. His
life was just one moment to the next with no thought of the future and
no desire for the past. A nocturnal creature, he slept most of the day
anywhere someone would let him. Otherwise he could be found sleeping
in piss scented doorways or stairwells, oblivious of those made to step
He came to Seattle from Cincinnati bearing the name of Francis "Frantic
Frank" DAngelo. He had no home in Ohio, at least no one knew
of one, and he offered nothing. What only he knew and never shared with
anyone was the violent and brutal past he and his mother lived at the
hands of his alcoholic and sadistic father in the Bronx, New York.
Franks father, Mario, an only child, was left abandoned in Philadelphia
at the age of twelve when his mother died of tuberculosis and his heart
broken father committed suicide soon after. Angry and defiant at his
sudden misfortune, he reared himself in the care of an aunt and uncle
who had seven children of their own and very little time, energy or
money for another mouth to feed and body to house.
At age fifteen Mario left his aunt and uncles home and somehow
made it to New York where he hooked-up with a seamy crowd of local punks
who lived fast, hard, and heartless. At twenty, his sixteen-year-old
girlfriend gave birth to a sickly, malnourished Francis Mario DAngelo.
Marios insatiable need for alcohol and drugs intensified his dislike
for life and the people in it, including his girlfriend and his son.
In fits of violent rage he would often mercilessly beat his wife into
bloody unconsciousness. Something or someone had turned his heart hollow
and cold along the way.
As a young child of three, Frank would scream and cry in fear and horror
when his father, liquored up and in full rage, began his brutal assault
on his mother. His mouth twisted and his face filled with hate, Mario
would stumble towards Frank, slap him with an opened hand, pick him
up and lock him in a closet for the night. In the morning while his
father slept off his drunken fury, his mother would free him from his
cell, change his dirtied clothes, feed him, and then sit with him on
the floor, rocking back and forth, humming nonsensical melodies.
As he got older, Frank too became the object of his fathers twisted
raging. Small and frail, he was no match for the brutality and cruelty
of this evil maniac. Beaten into submission, he was nurturing his own
Years later, his mother nothing more than a mindless shell of humanity,
Frank stepped into one of his fathers intoxicated tirades just
as he was swinging back to slam a .38 into his mothers face.
No longer caring for his safety, he grabbed the gun from his fathers
woozy hand and commanded him to stop. Mario, emboldened by booze and
eager for confrontation, laughed at the young boy, daring him to pull
almost begging him. "Cmon you little fuck! Whatcha gonna do? Shoot me? You aint
got the balls you fuckin faggot prick."
Mario moved clumsily towards Frank, his blood shot eyes glaring with
evil. "Gimme the gun," he slobbered, "sos I can
fuckin kill you and your worthless bitch mother."
Franks long seething malice could no longer be restrained and
he screamed with equal rage at his father, "Fuck you, you fucking
fuck,!" raised the gun and squeezed one round into his fathers
forehead. Mario dropped like a sack of rocks; dead before his knees
Frank stood shaking uncontrollably over his fathers body. His
lungs fought desperately to suck in air through his guttural sobbing.
Unsure of what he had done and what to do next, he stuck the gun in
his back pocket and turned to comfort his mother who was rocking back
and forth on the floor, wailing a dissonant dirge in some far-away place.
Frank knelt down and kissed her gently on her forehead, whispered tenderly,
"I love you, mother," and quietly left for Cincinnati.
He found part-time work at a junk yard pulling parts off of wrecks until
he got caught setting up his own parts business over the back fence.
Thats when he decided to head west.
He tried California, but the alpha dogs preyed on him right away. He
was no match for the ruthless East L.A. crowd and he quickly headed
north. First for a short stay in Portland, and finally ending up in
Seattle. Frank thought that maybe he could change his life in Seattle.
He would find a job, maybe a short order cook or something on the docks.
But that dream was to never be his. His life was cast in iron and there
was no where to go but down.
He hooked up with a wannabe hood who went by the name of Big George.
Big George was a bottom feeder. He salvaged the leftovers and trash
no self respecting felon would touch. A predator by nature, he made
his mark by intimidating those weaker than he. It was rumored that a
few years past, he robbed, shot and killed a young couple pushing their
two year old in a stroller; grabbed the lollipop from the childs
hand and coolly walked away leaving the terrified child screaming behind
him. It was also thought that Big George more than likely made that
story up to bolster his image.
Big George also fancied himself a "mob boss." He thought that
he had the stuff it took to be a big man. But, Big George was neither
fancy nor a boss. He was a mindless and arrogant pig of a man. The handkerchief
in his breast pocket did not
could not ever
rotten smell that came from his grossly overweight body. Big George
could care less.
Gathering up the loose ends of peoples lives, he built himself
a small army of riff-raff dead-enders. Frank fit into this group perfectly.
In fact, he thought himself to be Big Georges second in command;
although George did not give him this assignment nor did he ever consider
Frank, however, managed to convince several drug addled members of Big
Georges motley crew that he was second in command and was entitled
to a percentage of their take each day. He carried the lie further by
telling them that Big George wanted Franks position to remain
quiet, and if they did so, he would confer with Big George about moving
them up the ladder also. But as these things go, Max, a pickled remnant
of lousier days, impatiently approached Big George one evening and asked
about his promotion.
George was confused and asked what he meant.
"You know, Big George," he stuttered, "the chance to
get a split like Frank gets"
Big Georges eyebrows shot up in a flash. "Split? Oh, yeah,
sure. Now what cut was that?" he asked.
"You know, like Frank said. Hes your second and gets a cut
of our take. He said he was talking to you about getting us a bigger
George went red faced in an instant. "That son-of-a-bitch weasel," he thought to himself. "Oh yeah, Max. Sure
me talk with Frank to get this worked out. OK?
George asked Max to let Frank know he needed to talk with him about
a "thing" and to meet him around 2 a.m. at the usual place.
"Dont tell him we talked though
you know." Max
nodded, and believing that his fortunes were about to change, walked
away with a smile on his face.
Frank was fifteen minutes late, but it did not matter. Big George emerged
from the shadows.
"Whats up, boss?" Frank knew George like to be called
"I gotta thing I need you to do. Lemme see your gun" George
whispered as if it were a secret.
"Sure, boss." Frank reached into his jacket and handed the
.38 to Big George. "Whats the thing" he asked.
"What you trying to do, asshole?" George growled through his
teeth. "You want to be big time, Huh!?"
Frank was caught completely off guard. He had no idea what George was
talking about. "Whadya mean, Big George? I dont understand."
"You dont understand" he bellowed. "You miserable
puny fuck, Max told me about you scamming me for a cut!"
Frank went white and his knees buckled as his whole skinny body began
to shake uncontrollably.
it was just a story I told them. Im
not taking anything. Big George, I wouldnt do that!"
George was red faced. A cold rain began to fall on them both. George
smiled. "You wouldnt?"
A weak smile began to form on Franks face. "N-no, boss. Honest.
Big Georges smile faded into a sinister snarl and he put his face
into Franks. "Fuck you, you bet you wont."
One shot rang out and Frank fell hard to the sidewalk. He desperately
tried to call out to him, but Big George had already slipped back into
Frank felt his life slowly slipping away as his blood seeped through
his shirt and ran onto the rain soaked sidewalk. His eyes caught a fading
glimpse of the night creatures that slithered out from their holes to
wait for his death and pick over his remains.
Small Change got rained on with his own .38.
And Big George? Big George went south until the whole thing cooled off.
Raitano Feb 2008
docrichr at yahoo.com
Fiction in Dreamscapes
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