Vic still wasn’t comfortable getting out of the Hyundai. After years of driving his caddy, the little import made him feel naked, like someone had taken away his gun and cut off his stones. It was more than just the climb to get out of the damn thing. The car had no presence and no power, but there weren’t many cars that did these days. The ones that did he couldn’t afford anymore.
As he hauled himself out of the car, a frown crept across his liver-spotted sixty-six-year-old face. A line of people trailed down the street in front of the We Used to Spin’em CD shop, spilling around the corner. He had been ordered to get his boss’s daughter Selena Gomez tickets under penalty of death, and having no idea who Selena Gomez was, had underestimated the difficultly of his task.
He brushed back the few hairs he had left, and straightened his tie, which was tatty around the edges. There had been a time when Vic wouldn’t have left the house without looking like he was heading out for a night on the town. Sadly those days were gone. He checked his gun in its holster. The last time he clipped the holster to his belt, it had fallen off, misfired, and bored a hole right through his barber shop. He turned away from the line, cursing, and pulled his gold flask from his jacket pocket. He ducked his head into the car and sneaked a pull.
Vic dropped the flask in his jacket, slammed the car door, and plotted a course for the security guard who sat at the head of the line. The guard was a muffin of a man with long greasy black hair, and he was perched on a rickety stool that looked like it might give up the ghost at any moment. Vic felt the urge to punch the lousy turd, but spending the day in jail wouldn’t make his boss happy, or his wife. Besides, how long had it been since he’d hit anyone?
“Hey, white Fat Albert, what the hell is this line for?” said Vic, pulling back his coat and revealing his old six-shooter.
The guard was unfazed. “Can you still buy ammo for that thing?”
Vic grabbed the man by the shirt, twisting a picture of Death Cab for Cutie in his fist. “I’m Detective Kinkenscales. You really want to do this?”
For a second it looked as though the ruse had fooled the guard, as his eyes shifted downward, then looked through the large glass windows of We Used to Spin’em. “You’re gonna get me four tickets…no, scratch that. Make that eight tickets, or I’ll haul your hippy ass down to the station,” finished Vic.
“Hippy?” said the guard, insulted.
Life was one big act; Vic had learned that on the streets when he was making his bones. Problem for Vic was that he sucked at it. His face showed every emotion. He couldn’t play cards, lie to the cops or his wife, and many people had questioned his choice to be a career criminal. His current boss’s father, Antonio Sr., had busted Vic’s peanuts on a regular basis about his lack of skills, but the jesting had been good-natured.
Ant Jr. was another story. He only kept Vic around because his father had made him swear to never get rid of him. Vic had made his bones, and even though the regular world was going to hell faster than Lindsay Lohan could write rehab checks, some things remained the same. Vic had sacrificed a lot for Ant’s father, but he was always worried he would have an “accident,” especially if his earnings didn’t pick-up.
“He’s no cop,” said a short, fat man, with sharp brown eyes and dark black hair graying at the edges.
Vic rolled his eyes as he saw Teng Fong Wang waltzing up the street with the uneven gait of a wannabe gangster. Maybe he had watched too many old John Wayne movies. Vic didn’t know. What he knew was Ten Gun was a serious ass composed of three different flavors. He was one third rapper imitation, one third Jackie Chan wannabe, and one third whoever that Asian guy was in the Hangover movies.
“You don’t give this guy tickets. He no more a cop than me,” said Ten Gun. “You know why they call me Ten Gun?”
Vic rolled his eyes at the guard.
The fat security man said, “Cause your first name is Teng and you have ten guns?”
Ten Gun frowned. Vic knew Ten Gun from around town because he ran gambling for the Asian mafia on the east side. Their paths were always crossing and he had no respect for the fool.
The door to the music store opened, and out came an old woman holding a bullhorn. “Hello. Listen up,” she said, her voice tinny. “The ticket sale has been canceled. Please disperse.” Then she was gone, followed by the guard, who impolitely locked the door behind him.
Ten Gun and Vic were sudden, temporary allies, welded together by their frustration. They began kicking the door and trying to incite a riot. Their efforts failed miserably. Everyone simply walked away. Ten Gun harrumphed and departed as well, leaving Vic alone, with no possibility of scoring tickets for Ant’s daughter. He pulled out his flask, took a swig, and replaced it with one swift motion.
As he retreated to his car, he fumbled with his new phone, trying to hit the button for his boss. When he finally managed to call Ant, a perky, recorded female voice came on the line, and said, “I’m sorry; your service has been canceled. Please call us at…”
“SHIITTTTTT! How can I call you without a phone!” Vic shouted, as he dropped into his go-cart of a car, slammed the door, and tossed the phone onto the dashboard. He started the Hyundai and it purred to life with all the vigor of a mosquito. He closed his eyes, trying to clear his head. He decided to head over to the pet shop, check in on Gina, and call the boss from there.
With the drugs, guns, prostitution, and garbage all monopolized by little Ant’s boys, Vic was left with the dregs: illegal exotic animals. The pet shop he co-ran with Gina Ferrano, a gal pal from the old days, had a back room that Vic used to store illegally imported animals. Snakes, fish, big cats, monkeys, and other beasts were worth a lot of money to people who didn’t give a crap about conservation, or disease control.
A big shipment of snakes, fourteen species, was coming in from India. He had to deliver them to crazy Chico and for that he was expecting a big payout. Telling Ant about the tickets would be easier if he had some money to hand over so he could get Selena Gomez tickets from a scalper. Vic made a mental note to find out who this Selena dame was, and why her shows cost more than Frank Sinatra’s.
Vic could tell there was a problem as soon as he walked into the shop, and saw Gina’s twisted face. There were two customers in the store, so Vic wandered around, waiting for them to leave, taking the opportunity to enjoy another pull from the flask. Gina wasn’t so subtle. She stalked from behind the counter and followed Vic up the bird aisle.
“Chico was in,” said the waif of a woman. She clutched a purple rosary that hung around her neck. “I showed him the snakes.” Vic threw up his hands. “I know you said to never let anyone back there, but he scares me. And he had all his crack-heads with him.”
“He take anything other than the snakes?” asked Vic. In his mind he saw ten large circle the toilet and vanish.
“He didn’t take them. He said to tell you he’s canceling his order because they smell weird.”
“Are you shitting me? You are, aren’t you? Tell me you are before I start shooting birds!” yelped Vic. He pulled his peashooter and pointed it at a white cockatoo.
“Just telling you what he said. Don’t shoot Candy!” snapped Gina. Vic obediently holstered his weapon.
“OK. Put out the word to our Russian and Puerto Rican friends that we have an exotic snake tent sale going on,” said Vic. “Oh, and where’s the great whatsit?”
“You mean the wolf spider for Lance?” asked Gina.
“Yeah. He’s giving me a thousand bucks for the thing. Call him and have him pick it up.”
“Good. That thing gives me the creeps. It’s looking at me every time I go back there.” Vic rolled his eyes, picked up the phone behind the desk, and dialed it.
The phone rang three times before Lisa picked up. “The Supper Club. How may I help you?”
Purchase the August 2014 issue of Fantastic Stories of the Imagination (ebook edition) for 1.99.
Edward J. McFadden III juggles a full-time career as a university administrator and teacher, with his writing aspirations. His first novel, a mysterious-dark-thriller called The Black Death of Babylon was published by Post Mortem Press, and his second novel, Our Dying Land, was published by Padwolf Publishing, Inc.. His newest novel, Hoaxers, is due out from Crossroad Books June 6th, 2014, His steampunk fantasy novelette, Starwisps, was selected for the Tangent 2012 Recommended Reading list. He is the author/editor of: Anywhere But Here, Epitaphs (w/ Tom Piccirilli), Jigsaw Nation, Deconstructing Tolkien: A Fundamental Analysis of The Lord of the Rings (re-released in eBook format Fall 2012), Time Capsule, The Second Coming, Thoughts of Christmas, and The Best of Pirate Writings. He has had more than 50 short stories published in places like Encounters Magazine, Gothic Blue Book: The Graveyard Edition, Tales of the Talisman, Fantastic Futures 13, From Beyond the Grave, Defending the Future: Dogs of War, Apocalypse 13, Hear Them Roar, CrimeSpree Magazine, Terminal Fright, Cyber-Psycho’s AOD, The And, and The Arizona Literary Review. Over the last ten years he has written six novels, all of which are at various stages of rewriting and submission for publication. He lives on Long Island with his wife Dawn, their daughter Samantha, and their mutt Oli. See EdwardMcfadden.com for all things Ed.