A Drink from the Lion's Mouth - Kevin Bauer
A Drink from the Lion’s Mouth
by Kevin Bauer
It was a hot day on the Serengeti. Crow was thirsty but Lion was at the drinking pool and every time Crow got close Lion would try to eat him. Crow had to fly up to a branch to avoid him. Lion had drunk up the last of the water from the drinking pool and had fallen asleep under a shady tree, his mouth open in the heat. Crow flew down and took a drink from the Lion’s open mouth; he drank and drank. Lion woke up thirsty and complained to Crow “Why I am so thirsty now?” Crow responded, “Because you sleep with your mouth open.” Lion sprang at Crow. Crow tried to fly but because his belly full with water he didn’t get off the dusty ground and was swallowed by Lion
African Folk Tale.
* * *
Her arm dropped but the 9mm still clung tight in her grip. A fine mist of blood decorated her face a paler shade than her lipstick.
“Let me have the gun sweet-thing.”
* * *
“The doctor tells me I got an enlarged prostate. Said that’s why I have to piss all the time.”
Colin Cassidy switched out the heavy .45 for the smaller Ruger 9mm from the glove compartment. The bulky gun got in the way if negotiations were required. The aging Gold Gloves boxer negotiated with this left hand first the right if things got more serious.
“Shit man that’s terrible. The doctor- he have to put his finger up your ass?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Colin got out of the Cadillac with the windows blacked out and slammed the door.
Colin was picking up money for his boss Anthony Szaliaro.
* * *
“Where’s the rest?” He slammed the bills down. “Where’s the rest of it?” Colin didn’t have to count it. The way the guy shook told him it wasn’t all there.
“It’s there… I swear,” the man said. Colin used the back of his left hand across the man’s cheek. “Oh gez, just count it again.”
Sweat beaded on Colin’s forehead he felt the urge to piss coming on again. He picked up the pile banged it into a neat stack and rifled through it again. Maybe it was all there.
“Don’t be short again,” he said and shoved the money in a brown bag.
Colin got back to the car the engine was off, the widow down, and Lou was listening to a sports radio program.
“What’s the matter with you?” Lou said.
“Just drive Lou.”
Colin rubbed his forehead and pinched his eyes closed for a few minutes as twenties, fifties, and hundreds swirled in a dizzy dance making his mind freeze-up and race at the same time. “He was getting smart- had to knock him around a little,” he said. And went back to the cavorting numbers jumbled behind his eyes. “I need a drink.”
The Cadillac pulled up to O’Leary’s Pub. The unlikely hangout for Italian mobster Angelo Szaliaro but Colin Cassidy was an unlikely member of Szaliaro’s crew. The property came to Szaliaro as payment of a debt owed him by notorious Irish gangster “Red” Michael Flaherty- “Red” Mike to his friends. Angelo decided to keep O’Leary’s as it was; thinking what better hideout for a bunch of Italians then an Irish pub. So O’Leary’s kept its taps of Guinness, its Irish flag, the Irish blessing posted on the wall, and the Slainte! in brass over the bar. What did change was the menu; gone were Irish stew and bangers and mash replaced with lasagna and sausage parmigiana.
Colin had sort of come with the place. He had been “Red” Mike’s enforcer, bodyguard and sometime bartender. About the same time that O’Leary’s was turned over to the Italians “Red” had gone up for racketeering and extortion. A rumor circulated about a witness who testified in the case but who was never identified. A lot of people suspected that the secret witness was Colin. Most of “Red” Mike’s associates didn’t buy the rumor but suspicion being what it is Colin thought it wiser to stick around this new crew; even if he didn’t like the pasta fagioli.
Colin grabbed the bag of money but not before switching out the 9mm for his .45 and said goodnight to Lou and slammed the door.
“Colin!” the Cadillac’s window lowered.
“What’s up?” He leaned on the car.
“If the boss is there just be careful ok? I been hearing some things.”
“Oh yeah, careful huh?” A vein on Colin’s head was pulsing out a dull pain.
“Yeah- I heard something. Something about money missing, that’s all.”
“That’s all- huh? Goodnight Lou.”
Colin pushed through the door; Angelo and one of his top lieutenants Vito Mazza were sitting at the dark mahogany bar.
Colin nodded to the two men but Angelo had his head over a worn ledger book, and Vito was engrossed in the Louisville vs. Syracuse game on TV. He walked into the kitchen, the smell of garlic pungent in his nose and squatted by the safe hidden behind a false oven door. The kitchen door opened. Vito had followed him inside. He felt his .45 rubbing against his ribs. Once the safe was open, he started to count the bills from the bag.
“Fuck! I told you put a grand on Louisville. No, I know, I know…” Colin lost count; the numbers seizing up in his head, he started again. “Yeah… no, listen- listen to me…. Louisville...” Vito removed the phone from his ear.
“Yo, mighty Mick, the boss wants to have a chat with you.”
Colin placed the stacks in the safe and secured it; went back out to the bar.
“Colin, make me a drink will ya,” Angelo said still bent over the ledger book.
Colin poured a hefty amount of gin into the shaker pounding the shaker furiously over his shoulder filling up the martini glass with three olives in it. Placed it in front of Angelo and took out the whiskey bottle poured himself a shot.
Louisville went up by six points, the game still playing above the bar.
“There’s a grand missing from last month,” Angelo said looking straight at him.
“Angelo come on now, you know I wouldn’t…what are you saying?” Colin’s temple throbbed the urge to piss again was coming on.
“Colin I trust you… more than most these guys but numbers don’t lie.”
“Some fuck must of shorted me. I’ll get your money.”
“This ain’t the first time. ‘Red’ Mike swore by you what is it two years now?”
“It must have been that guy at the shop, shorting us…maybe…”
“Five years. How time flies- right?” Angelo shook his head.
Louisville must have scored the crowd was cheering and air horns were sounding.
The kitchen door swung open. “What’s a matter you micks can’t count or what?” Vito said.
“Maybe he’s been hit in the head to much? ‘The Irish Piñata’ that’s what they’d called him in the ring. Get it. That’s great huh? Irish Piñata.”
“I told you to stay in the back…and shut that fucking game off,” Angelo said.
The crowd at Kentucky U. was chanting “Defense-Defense.”
“Jeez, alright just wanted to get a drink, Colin make me…”
“Get your own damm drink and leave us.” Angelo said.
Vito grabbed a bottle, clicked off the game and went off into the kitchen.
Angelo put his arm around Colin.“Get the money tonight and were good but this can’t keep happening.” He took in a mouthful gulp of the martini. “I’d hate to lose you you’re a dam good bartender.”
* * *
Colin left O’Leary’s and headed home on the A train. In rushing light and noise Colin saw the money, no it wasn’t money it was numbers. The numbers are what he hated. He didn’t know how to deal with them; he couldn’t bully them to do what he wanted. Angelo had put him in charge of collecting from the different operations around town. The Szaliaro family took a cut from bookies, corrupt officials, trafficking, they even got rents and revenue from semi-legit businesses that need protection. How could of all that money gone missing. He knew he wasn’t taking it. It wasn’t the money it was those dam numbers that weren’t adding up. It was a math problem, not a money problem. No one else would dare and steal from Angelo Szaliaro one of the most powerful men in the city. No. Colin Closed his eyes again as the subway car banged through the tunnels. All he knew was he had to give Angelo the money tonight.
When Colin got home he pissed, opened his personal safe, got the grand, and headed out immediately back to O’Leary’s. Again banging back uptown on the train Colin tried to do the figures in his head; if Joe Scanzt gave him $1,200 a month for 6 months and Charlie the bookie from the Bronx gave him $6,000 every two months and he was on the 3 train headed uptown going 60mph. How many bullets would Angelo put in him if he was short again? Colin groaned and closed his eyes.
At the 95th street station a girl with shoulder length shiny black hair wearing a brown raincoat the kind business men wear tied round her waist with a belt got on the train and sat across from him. Her heels were shiny black and looked sharp enough to kill a man with. She had olive skin and a prominent but attractive nose. On her lips she wore bright red lipstick, brighter than a girl would normally wear Colin thought, and numbers were no longer dancing in his head or the thought of bullets ripping open his guts. All he could think about was what could be under that raincoat. Trying not to stare he watched her as she pulled a book from one of the big pockets of the coat. It was titled How to Solve It: A New Aspect on Mathematical Method. Perfect.
She got off at the same stop as Colin but walked towards a separate exit. Colin went back to O’Leary’s and let himself in, everyone had gone, he opened the safe and put the money in and shut it making sure it was locked tight pulling on the handle till he was positive it was not going to open. Who has the combo to this thing anyway? As far as he knew himself and Angelo were it. Vito and Lou didn’t have it or at least he didn’t think they did. Maybe he should bring it up to Angelo. That might be the same as accusing Vito or Lou of stealing the money and disrespecting them at the same time. Shit he went to the bar and fixed himself six shots of Jameson’s.
Colin locked the front door and started to walk home feeling both frustrated and a little drunk. He wandered past a strip club and decided to stop. X-Dancers smelt like stale cigarettes and male sweat, dance music pumped; the bass driving through him. He took a place at the bar in front of the stage. The bar maid who wore a bustier top and a mini-skirt that clung like saran wrap around her ass brought him a beer. Colin just put a pile of cash for her to take from; he was done with numbers for the night. Colin sipped the beer and watched two girls, a redhead, and blonde work the stage. The redhead swung around a brass pole, climbing it, and hung upside down squeezing the bar tight between her thighs, her ample breasts with nipples pink-brown like cherries, facing him, long red hair cascaded down. She righted herself swung around the pole swiftly, and she crept across the stage to him like a jungle cat sinewy and luxuriating in the movement. As she came toward him along the stage the light in the club changed; black lights came on revealing swirling designs painted onto the girl’s body. Colin traced them with his eyes. As she got closer Colin leaned over the bar to offer her some singles as a tip. He noticed the prominent nose and unnaturally bright lipstick. Colin smiled. So that was what was under the raincoat.
The girl accepted the tip by squeezing her breasts together and letting Colin gently place the money between them. The back of his hand felt the moist warm softness of her chest. She smiled at him from between her red, red lips and he felt her cheek graze his, her breath on his ear when she said “Aren’t you a sweet-thing.”
“No, you are the sweet-thing,” He replied. Her breath tasted like cinnamon gum.
Colin considered staying longer but had to leave he had a job tomorrow and it wasn’t like it used to be when he was young and could stay out all night and have a match the next day. But maybe that was why he earned the nickname “Irish Piñata” and never made it big in the ring. Colin left whatever was left of his stack of money as a tip for the half naked bar maid and went home.
Colin felt hung-over the next morning. He contemplated asking Angelo about who else had access to the safe but was unsure of the reaction he would get so decided to keep it to himself; for now. Everything was fine he was out a grand but what was the alternative? Guys like Colin couldn’t exactly just tender there resignation; he knew about way too much. Colin got to O’Leary’s around 11:00 a.m. Vito was there already working on a highball. “Hey it’s the Irish Piñata! Ya got some candy in that big potato head of yours?”
“Ain't it a little early Vito?”
“Hey its happy hour buddy. Hey know what? I will make you a drink how’s about that?"
“No, thanks, I’m good. Have a pickup.”
“I thought you Irishmen drank 24-7”
“And I thought you giny’s kissed your momma’s cunt clean 24-7.”
“What do you say?” he stormed towards Colin.
Lou entered the bar just in time to intercept Vito. “Hey relax, what’s going on?”
“I’m going teach this old mick a lesson- Gold Gloves or not.”
“Relax, will ya, we got work to do.”
Vito pushed a dark lock of hair back on his head “Watch yourself asshole. I don’t forget so easy.”
Colin and Lou heading out in the Cadillac; Colin switched his .45 for the .35.
There was silence as the rode on headed to the Bronx. “How’d things go with you and the boss?”
“Just dandy. What’s up with Vito?”
“Well he is drunk at 11:00 in the morning, and picking fights with me.”
“He’s just he’s been betting on the March Madness like crazy."
“Oh, his bracket ain’t looking so good? Vito he play the horses too?”
“Yeah, he’s a regular at the track, and down in A.C.”
“Yeah well lieuteante or not he steps to me I’m going show him some of my own March Madness.”
They drove on bantering like they usually do they were almost to their destination. Colin figured this was the time to ask Lou about the safe.
“Tell me something Lou, and don’t take this the wrong way, do you have the combo to the safe.”
“Seriously, what are you thinking, I don’t even go near that safe.”
They were picking up some cash from one of the family’s major operations in Sheepshead Bay. Prescription drugs mainly pain meds came in via cargo ships and were sold to shady doctors in the area the family was mainly involved in the port transactions. They were meeting the dock master who would give them a suitcase containing $10,000. It was an easy job doing the pickups, rarely did they run into problems and when they did Colin could handle it. Lou was strictly the driver. But large sums like this had more potential for danger. If word got out it took a few bullets to make ten grand quick.
It was a sunny but windy day. There was a trailer converted into a office for dock master with steel steps leading to the door. Colin still had it in his mind about what Angelo said about the missing cash so he insisted that the dock master open the case and let him count it. Colin took a deep breath standing on the steel staircase leaning the briefcase on the railing. He popped it open and looked at the rows of twenties, the stacks of hundreds, and the fifties. As he started to count he could feel the sweat on his brow cold in the wind, sun hot in his eyes. He stopped and started counting four times. Lou was in the car tuning in the sports radio station. Fuck, Colin lost count he couldn’t keep the fifties straight when he added another stack of bills. The dock master was staring him down. Colin felt hot; said fuck it and just as he was closing the case it fell cash spilling out sideways. The wind whipped up the money it a whirlwind of green. Getting free from its paper bundles and blowing around the yard. Workers just off for lunch saw the money swirling in the wind and grabbed it by the handfuls.
“GET THAT FUCKING MONEY!” Colin yelled.
Lou jumped out of the caddy and started to shove fistfuls of bills into his suit pockets. All three of them plus the workers all scrambled after it. The workers, mostly illegals, bounded for joy with their new found wealth. Colin couldn’t see any more money that had escaped into the wind; he pulled his 9mm firing two shots in to the sky. Brandishing the briefcase in one hand he shouted. “Don’t move INS. If all my money is not back in this case in five minutes I will send you all back to whatever country you came from. So don’t even think about taking a single dollar.”
After it seemed that all the money was back in the case and the case was put securely in the car.
Lou and Colin headed back to O’Leary’s.
“Wow that was a fucking debacle,” Lou said.
Colin could only muster a grunt and shake head staring out of the moving car.
“I need a drink.”
“Me too- I know a place,” Colin Said.
They drove to X-Dancers.
Colin sat sipping beer and Lou a vodka tonic. On the stage the girl with the red hair and lips was doing her brass pole act again. “Shit, I’d like her to climb my pole like that,” Lou said.
She had razor sharp stilettos on and barely there black panties. Climbing to the top she hooked her legs around the pole, and swung down so she was facing the two men. Her hair hung down long and her lips a red, red color. Breasts were slightly paler than the rest of her olive hued body the nipples a light pink-brown like cherries on a sundae.
Lou couldn’t contain himself and started to whistle and clap taking the singles off the table and throwing it at the dancer. As the girl swung up again around the pole her long red hair was slightly askew as she squatted on the stage to collect the money. Lou’s face changed, his face was troubled like when you realize he left the stove on at home or the water running in the bathtub.
“Shit- Colin,” he said to in a low voice, not that he needed to with the pumping music “that’s fucking Angelo’s daughter.”
“Get the fuck outa here.”
“No- I’m serious. I couldn’t tell before with the wig but look at the nose. It’s freaking Angelo’s daughter, look at the nose.”
Colin studied the girl’s nose. It looked good on her face but it did resemble their boss’s nose.
“Shit I was at her christening for Christ’s sake,” Lou said.
“Should we do something?”
“No. Let’s just go. We never saw nothing. Don’t mention it or he will have our asses,” Lou said.
Colin dropped the money off at O’Leary’s making sure the safe was locked pulling on the lever several times. Lou drove him downtown to his apartment. “How did things go there other day anyway?”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s nothing were square.”
“Has it got anything to do with you asking me about the safe?”
“I just need to know. I’m your driver if something’s up I need to know. He might think… you know.”
“No, he doesn’t think anything about me or especially you.”
“Alright Colin, just got a check you know, what a shitty day.”
“Yeah, night,” he slammed the Cadillac’s door.
Colin went to his bed but laid awake thinking of Angelo Szaliaro daughter. It was a lot better than thinking about rows of bills or guns tearing him up all night long
Two days went by before Colin had another pickup scheduled. When he got to O’Leary’s Angelo was there. “Colin how did it go the other day.”
“Just fine boss. No problems”
“Good you got the whole 10 grand from the dock guy right?”
“Yeah, went along without a hitch.”
“Ok, right good, listen Lou had to go upstate. You’re getting a new driver.” Colin was worried did this mean what he hoped it didn’t.
“I trust you. I understand the whole money thing. I can’t blame you for trying. Actually I have to say it was ballsy but something’s you don’t fuck with, right, a man’s money, his business, and his family. Right?”
Colin was confused he didn’t know what to make of the speech. “Right boss, like I said that asshole shorted me. I got your money back.”
“Ok, Ok, I told you, I trust you more than a lot of these guys around here. I want you to meet your new driver.”
The kitchen door swung open. Her hair was shiny black, her lips more preternatural red than normal and a slightly wicked grin on her face. Colin looked between father and daughter and yes the nose was the same.
“This is my daughter Rosa she’s gonna be your driver for a little while.”
Colin didn’t know how to respond whether to thank him or ask him if he was fucking insane.
“Hi, Rosa Szaliaro, nice to meet you.” She said extending her hand the wicked smile still there.
“Um… nice to meet you Rosa.” Colin said shaking her hand lightly while she clamped down on it in a firm handshake.
“I’ll go get the car,” she said as she sauntered out of the bar.
“Colin I know you think I’m nuts and I would prefer you didn’t tell anyone about this, not Vito, not nobody.”
“Ok, I got you but why? I mean why her?”
“Colin you have kids?”
“Not that I know of.”
“Well if you had kids you’d know… you try to protect them and they don’t want your protection… it hurts kinda. They rebel. So I figured the best way to keep an eye on her was to give her what she wanted. She’s smart she went to college, she knows what I do it’s not like when she was a little girl I’d tell her I was a business man but that stopped working a while ago. She’s too much like me she likes excitement. Yours is the safest route. And frankly I don’t trust her with any of the other guys- if you know what I mean. You do all the work. She just drives, stays in the car, no problem nobody knows she’s even in there.”
“Can she drive? Does she know her way around?”
“You're not babysitting. That girl is my blood and very smart, street smart and book smart, went to college you know. So just make sure she stays in the car and things will be fine. Ok.”
“You got it.”
The caddy was out front- engine humming being revved by a sharp black heel. Colin got in and didn’t say anything. Either did she. She had a book propped on the steering wheel when he got in the same one from the subway. She raised an eyebrow and put the book aside and sped away from the curb. Colin could see the light blue of her veins as she gripped the wheel, heel punctured down on the accelerator. “What’s your favorite color,” she said.
“Never thought about it.”
“Come on- everyone has a favorite color.”
“Yours is red right?’
“How’d you guess?”
“So yours is?”
“Told you I don’t have one.”
“What color do people say you look good in?”
“Green, I guess. Maybe it’s an Irish thing.”
“Your funny, green it is.”
“So what are you doing here?”
“How’d you get your father to let you do this?”
“I gave him a choice either I dance or he gives me a job.”
“He found out.”
“Lou apparently told on me.”
“That’s why he’s upstate.”
“Yeah, I feel bad about that but it wasn’t my fault he blabbed. I actual like dancing- it’s fun having power over people.”
“You are just like your father.”
* * *
Colin and Rosa developed a routine. Colin would do his pickups, Rosa would drive, and as per her father’s instruction stay in the car. They made a good team Colin reticence was balanced by Rosa’s willingness to talk or crack a joke. Colin handled the money and Rosa would stay in the car listening to music or reading a book. After the pickups or between pickups they would head to a diner for lunch or dinner. Things were going along smoothly until money started to go missing again.
“I don’t understand it. I’ve been extra-careful, counting it three or four times before I leave and before I put it in the safe.” They sat at their usual table, the sun slanting in making Colin squint his face wiry with crow’s-feet.
“My father seems pissed. He asked me if we made any unscheduled stops. I told him about the diner. He said he doesn’t want me fraternizing with the help.”
“Great.” Colin stared into the light. This last month had been like a balm to Colin. Having the young woman by his side had improved his thinking and his mood even his prostate problem had subsided.
“But I told him to go fuck himself. That you’re loyal… he told me about your last boss and the rumors. Is it true?”
“No. Id’ rather not live than go to the cops or DA or whatever. Those rumors are to protect old “Red”, besides if it was true I wouldn’t be sitting here.”
“Then why did you stay behind.”
“I’m a New Yorker no way I’m going to Boston; I hate the fucken Red Sox.
“Ha, you are funny,” a smile brightened her face. “Why don’t you have a woman Colin?”
“Now you’re the one being funny. With this mug?”
“I think you’re handsome. Your rugged- I like that and confident.”
“You know the fable about the Fox and the Crow?”
“No, tell me.”
“My mum used to tell it to me when I was a kid. I haven’t thought of it in years.”
“I really want to hear it,” she smiled.
“Well there’s this fox and he’s hungry and he sees a crow that has food in his beak. So the fox tells the crow what nice feathers it has, and the crow opens his mouth to thank the fox for the compliment. When it does it drops the food and the fox eats it.”
“So I’m the fox?”
“Well your foxy.”
“Ha, ha,” she laughed playing with the stirrer in her coffee.
They were quiet for a moment smiling at each other in the warm afternoon sunlight of the diner.
“Who do you think is taking the money?” Rosa said the smile fading from her lips.
“I’m not sure anyone is,” Colin’s smile turning into a grimace. “Rosa, I have problems with numbers, when I have to count large amounts or if someone is watching me, or… I... I just start sweating, I can’t think my mind goes blank.”
“You get anxious when you have to do math. You think that’s making you come up short?”
“I don’t know. It must be, maybe, maybe... word got out that guys could short me, I don’t know.”
“I have an idea. When you bring the money back to the car I’ll drive us somewhere and double count the money that way we’ll know if some schumuck shorted us.”
“Yeah it’s just embarrassing. You can’t say anything.”
“Don’t worry I got your back,” her smile returned to her red, red lips.
“Thanks Sweet-thing,” he smiled at her.
He was fighting the urge to kiss her when she leaned across the table; her lips a full oval as she stared at him, he saw she had little freckles going over the bridge of her nose that he never noticed before. Her eyes brown and liquid white.
“I know a folk tale too and this one has a crow as well. One day on the Serengeti Plain a crow was thirsty and came upon a lion drinking from an oasis. The crow tried to get a drink from the oasis but every time he got close the lion would tried to eat him. The crow had to fly up to a branch to avoid the lion. Finally when the lion had drunk all the water the crow flew down and drank the water from the lion’s mouth.”
“That’s a pretty brave crow.” Colin said.
“Brave yes, but it drank too much so when the lion awoke the crow was too full to fly and the lion swallowed him up.”
They sat in silence for a minute glancing around the diner.
“Colin, I have to tell you something.”
He leaned into her; she grabbed the back of his head, pulled him forward, Colin added his own forward momentum knocking over plates and spilling their coffee she pushed her lips forward like a punch, and he felt her tongue finding his mouth.
They routine changed after that day. Colin would get the money like usual and she drove like usual but instead of the diner they would find a nearby motel and she would count the money sometimes before sometimes after they made love.
The money was always all there but Angelo still complained to Colin. “Colin what the fuck you shorted the last pickup $100 bucks what’s a matter with you? If my little girl didn’t take such a shine to you I would of put you in the river already.”
Colin took a hundred from his wallet, and gave it to Angelo. “I must have fucked up this time. It won’t happen again.” Somebody is setting me up he thought.
The money was counted and sitting on the motel dresser presumable containing a Gideon’s bible. “What if we mark the bills? Remember the black light from the club? It’s invisible in normal light.” She was curled up next to him tracing her initials on his chest, he was close to sleep.
“How could I forget?” he said.
“It’s perfect; if someone is taking the money all you do is get them under a black light and see if they have the paint on themselves.”
“Sweet-thing you are a genius,” he turned and started to kiss her.
Colin and Rosa bought ultraviolet paint and a small handheld black light that looked like a normal flashlight and marked the next batch of bills that came through. They put the marked money in the safe, when Vito came stumbling in the front door. Rosa left through the backdoor. Colin came out of the kitchen to see Vito with a bottle of liquor in his hand shirt un-tucked and trying to turn the TV on.
“Shit, What the fuck…”
“You ok Vito,” Colin said.
“Whataya want? I have to see what the score of the game is.”
“What team you got.”
“Louisville, they gonna take it all, got a lot riding on it.”
Vito was stumbling out from behind the bar holding on like they were on a ship going down a drain in the middle of a hurricane. A wet spot was visible on the front of Vito’s pants, racing tickets stuffed into the pockets of his jacket. He got quiet when the game came back from commercial. He put his head down on the bar, and hiccupped.
The next day Colin learned from Sportscenter that Louisville had lost the game. Vito was probably going to be a real pain in the ass today he thought with a laugh. Colin had left him there at the bar where he had passed out to sleep it off.
When he got to O’Leary’s Vito was there watching the TV over the bar drinking in again.
“Bartender can you make me a drink, I can’t make'em like you.” Vito was doughy faced and hung-over.
“Sure.” Colin went behind the bar.
He found the gin and olives and poured Vito a martini. He popped one of the olives from the jar into his mouth. “I heard Louisville didn’t do so hot the other night.”
“Fuck, Colin… ah its nothing, I always cover my losses you know.”
“Yeah I know, I know you’re a man of your word, honor among thieves that sort of thing.”
“What’s that some kind of Irish saying of yours or something?”
“Yeah- Vito its a folk saying like drinking from a lion’s mouth.”
Vito got up ran a hand over his head finger combing his hair back, black strands fell back anyway over his face. “That’s a dangerous proposition. Angelo left a message for you to go to a pickup at Gino Portico’s place in Queens.”
“Angelo usually gives the orders.”
“Well Angelo’s not here and that means I’m in charge.”
“Be there by nine-thirty tonight, alright?”
“Yeah, Yeah, How’s the drink?”
“Angelo was right you are a hell of a bartender.”
Something was wrong, Angelo always gave the pickup orders, especially now with Rosa driving he would tell her the addresses and pick Colin up. Why was Vito giving the order all of a sudden? Did Vito suspect Colin thought he was stealing from the safe. And where was Rosa?
“Did you arrange a driver?” Colin said.
“Yeah don’t worry. Meet back here at eight o’clock. That will give you plenty of time to get over there.”
Colin left O’Leary’s and took a cab to the diner where Rosa and he had planned on having lunch.
“Have you spoken with your father recently?” Colin said.
“It’s strange; Vito wants me at Gino Portico’ place by nine-thirty tonight but your father is always the one to arrange these things.”
“I can call him.”
“No don’t I’m just being paranoid, that’s all. He arranged for me to have another driver.”
“Just tell him you have your own.”
“No, he will start asking questions, he feels like he can’t trust me already.”
“what time do you have to be back?’
“It's only six now…” she smiled at him.
They drove the Cadillac to a cheap motel that let you pay hourly rates. Colin went to take a piss and Rosa closed the blinds. “Don’t come out yet," Rosa called.
When Colin came out of the bathroom the room was dark and Rosa pushed him down on the bed, kissing him with her bright red lips, biting him. He ran his hands over her as she straddled him.
“I have a surprise.” She had replaced the bedside lamp with a black light bulb and her body came to life with ultraviolet designs.
“Oh wow,” he breathed out.
“You like? It’s leftover from the money.”
“I like it a lot.” Colin gently traced the swirls of paint along her stomach, the curlicues circling under her breasts, the long trail she had painted from her toes up to her hips.
As Colin traced the paint, she eased herself onto him, increasing her tempo until they were both sweating and breathing together in one raspy sigh. Afterward Colin felt Rosa’s hand gently rubbing his chest tracing their initials there like a love struck high school girl, and Colin passed out. Rosa shook him awake at eight o’clock they had both fallen asleep. He quickly dressed and threw on his jacket. Rosa was right behind him and drove him to O’Leary’s.
When Colin got to O’Leary’s he was surprised to see Lou sitting at the bar waiting for him.
“Back from vacation huh?” Colin said.
“Yeah-holy shit its hick country up there.” Lou said
“Well, glad your back.”
"Really? Well your late, let’s go.”
Lou spoke little on the ride. Colin was nervous he didn’t like this; no Angelo, Vito given orders, Lou being back. What was going on? Maybe he was just nervous that he was banging the boss’s daughter. They pulled up to a suburban house on a quiet street in Queens.
“I’ll stay here with the motor running.” Lou’s voice was tense not like he usually was maybe something happened to him upstate.
“Be right back.” Colin went to open the glove compartment but remembered this wasn’t the caddy. He would have to live with the larger piece under his arm.
“Looking for your 9mm? Here take this." He handed him his small .22.
Colin went and banged on the door; it swung open on the second knock.
“Hello, Gino, you in there?” he put his hand on the grip of the .22. He walked down a hallway toward what was the living room, the sudden urge to piss came on and went into the bathroom at his left. Over the whooshing of water of the flushed toilet he heard; “Where’d he go?”
Then he opened the door and nearly crashed into Lou.
“What the fuck? What’s the matter Lou?”
Lou hit him with the butt end of his own .45 but the Irish Piñata was tough and absorbed the blow and pulled out the .22.
“It's not going to work. Ya dumb mick,” a voice from behind him said. Colin threw the useless gun down.
Lou held the gun on him and marched him into the living room. Vito and Angelo both sat; Sportscenter on in the background. Vito walked up to him and frisked him for any more weapons then ripped his shirt open exposing his bare chest to check for a wire.
“So you like to steal from me huh? After I gave you every chance to confess? To make it right huh?” Angelo said.
“There was five grand missing this week alone. How do you explain that huh? I trusted you.”
“Angelo I am not that stupid, you really think I would steal from you? I know you will be looking at the money for christsakes.”
“Just cap the mick and let’s go,” Vito said.
“Angelo who else has the combo to the safe?” Colin said.
“What you’re accusing me now- ha,” Vito said “Do you know who I am asshole?” He drew his own gun now and pushed it hard against Colin’s temple. Colin saw the finger tense on the trigger.
“Listen- Angelo I can prove Vito took the money. Look in my jacket, there is a small flashlight shine it on Vito’s hands.”
“This is ridicules,” Vito said.
“No, I want to see this,” Angelo said motioning for Lou to get the light.
“Turn that light off and shine the light on his hands,” Colin said.
Lou did as he was told clicking the light switch off. The room was light only dimly by the television and then he turned the ultraviolet flashlight on and directed the light at Vito’s hands. They shone with the bright fluorescence of the paint. “Check his wallet I bet it’s all over that too. I put that paint on the bills to catch him. He’s been dropping money left and right on gambling loses; of course he took the money. He’s the only one besides me and you that has access to the safe.”
“You marked our own money?” Angelo said.
“That doesn’t prove anything. I got this paint on me from the whores at X-Dancers they put it all over their bodies. Look at his hands,” Vito said. Colin’s hands were also brightly lit up with the paint. Lou swung the light on to Colin’s hands hanging at his side but also on his chest exposing the RA loves CC on his chest that Rosa had doodled on his chest earlier. “Looks like money’s not the only thing he’s been touching.”
Colin saw Angelo’s face go bright red. “That’s it. Lou.”
Colin flinched when he heard the shot that turned Lou’s head into a fine red mist. Vito raised his gun and Colin tackled him when he heard the 9mm go off again. Angelo crumpled to the ground. Colin head butted Vito's and his noise exploded on his face. Colin heard another shot and felt a burning in his shoulder. Then a another deafening shot that made Colin's head squeal from a minute not sure what happened but the struggling body on top of him had stopped struggling and now was just a body.
Her arm dropped but the 9mm still clung tight in her grip. A fine mist of blood decorated her face a paler shade than her lipstick.
“Let me have the gun sweet-thing,” Colin said.
Colin checked on the girl's groaning father. “He’s still alive…”
* * *
Six months later, I wake up next to Verna that’s Rosa’s new name mines Flynn. Verna picked them out. The witness protection program picked out this town for us. I can’t tell you where it is but let’s just say it’s hot, and there are plenty of cacti around or is it cactuses. Whatever. I like it-it’s simple out here. My prostate is still enlarged but I’m taking medicine for it. Angelo survived. The cops showed up soon after the shooting, almost too soon. I spilled my guts to the DA to protect Verna and we got a good deal. In exchange for everything I knew about Angelo Szaliaro and his operation all charges would be dropped against Verna and I. Angelo is upstate now. Today is October 17th its Verna’s birthday. While I was trying to figure out who had the combo to the safe it was Verna had it the whole time 10-17-87. We get a stipend from the government can you believe that? And it turns out Verna had quite a bit socked away so we never go thirsty out here.
BIO: I am a writer living in New York. I am the author of the blog http://ksbauerstory.blogspot.com I have been know to haunt bookstores and to spend hour in the stacks of the New York City public library. I currently work in the publishing industry.