The Diner Scene

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Walking in the front door of Lily’s his eyes were assaulted by stainless steel, and boomerang patterned formica basking in the glare of fluorescent lights. Jerry squinted through his headache and fatigue to find his partner standing and waving at him from the far booth of crowded the diner.  He hurriedly walked toward him past rows of work a day people shoveling pancakes into their mouths.

“Morning Jerry!” Mister Davis took him by the arm, grabbed his hand and pumped furiously; Jerry thought the motion was going to make him vomit. “I went ahead and ordered us up a pot of coffee kiddo.” He said guiding the younger man into the booth. “You seem like you could use it, you look like unadulterated shit.”

“I haven’t been sleeping much lately. Been up for days getting my head wrapped around your Maslow problem and I…”

“Way I see it kiddo Maslow’s your problem, at least for the time being.” The smile on Davis’s face narrowed just a bit as he leaned back against the red buttoned cushion of his seat. “That’d be why you’re the one whose stayin” up late thinkin’ about him.”

“Alright then,” Jerry poured himself a coffee out of the carafe on the table, “I’ve been working myself sick on the Maslow problem.” He wrapped his hands around the cup feeling the warmth of the hot liquid; absent mindedly he began to roll the it back and forth in his  hands. “I think what I’ve decided is that Peter Maslow and I should become very close friends.”

“You’re fidgetin’ with your drink again, I told you to be careful about that,” the older man admonished. “Look, I thought it was agreed we needed him out of the picture. You were going to get rid of him and then take over his position. I’m not sure I get where you’re goin’ with this angle Jerry.”

“We do need him gone, but just to make a vacuum in the organization, if we just take him out there is no real guarantee that I’ll be the one to fill it. I got to thinking about something you said a few weeks back. You said I should find a way to get alongside him.” Jerry blew across his coffee, watching the surface of the black liquid ripple outward. He set it back on the table without taking a sip; he could feel Davis’s disapproving look, but decided he was too exhausted to care much about it. “The way I’m looking at it, if I get in good with our boy he’ll introduce me around to his friends. If I get them to trust me, I get shown around meet the real players. That way when some unfortunate fate befalls poor Peter, They already know me, I’m in a better position to take his place. Then I work my way around, get a good look at the operation and find out who’s pulling the strings.”

“Kiddo, I never said that you should get friendly with the guy, I just meant you needed to know who you’re dealin’ with. The game we play is mostly about research. A successful job is usually seventy percent done by the time we hit the field.” Davis produced a flask from under the table and poured a small amount of its contents into his mug. “Sounds like you got your heart set on this angle, and it’s your play to make so just make sure you got your ducks in a row before we start.” He raised the flask and offered it towards Jerry.

“Christ Davis, ” Jerry groaned, “what is it with you? I mean, the entire time we’ve been working on this it ‘s been like being on a three-month bender. Your telling me to have my ducks in a row and every time we get together, we end up drinking like it’s Spring break. Give it a rest.”

The old man looked genuinely hurt. “Just bein’ sociable, you don’t want any just say no, preferably with a fuckin’ thank you at the end of it.” Davis dropped the flask into his bag. “You know there was a time when people had some damned manners, knew how to be gracious.”

“I’m sorry, I just meant. Look I’m just really tired and I’m getting snappy.

“Whatever kiddo,” he fished around in his bag and produced a thin plastic card which he tossed on to the table with out ceremony, “There’s your expense account, start by gettin’ yourself some breakfast. Pretty much anything on the menu is good, though I’d avoid the Hollandaise sauce in your condition. Then go outfit yourself with the right wardrobe. You can play this anyway you want just be ready to go by the end of the month.” Davis stood, and slung his bag over his shoulder. “You know how to find me if you need anything”

“Really Davis, I mean it. I really am sorry.”

“So you said. Job get’s the best of all of us sometimes, each in our own ways.” The old man started walking away, buttoning his coat.

“Hey Davis,” Jerry started.

“What is it kiddo?”

There’s this thing I’ve got on my mind that I can’t shake, Jerry thought, but if I try to focus on it, really think about it, it’s like it moves farther away. If I look at it too long my head starts to throb and everything gets all fuzzy. That’s why I can’t sleep, that’s why I snapped at you. There’s something just on the edges of my thoughts that I just can’t keep a hold of, but I know it’s something important.

Instead he just said “Nevermind, I’ll see you around.” 

Davis raised a quizzical eyebrow, “Yeah, ok kiddo. You take care, and get some rest.”

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The Toolkit

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The alarm clock went off and Davis snorted awake in his chair. A few moments of fumbling around managed to resolve the noise and he slid his feet off the crowded desk, taking a pile of papers with them. He stood and reached his arms out and upwards and then rotated them in a wide orbit back to his sides to stretch. He pulled the chain over his head and the light on the ceiling fan came on. He looked around a moment and then retrieved his satchel from the coat hook next to the door. He set the bag on his desk and admired it for a moment as he opened it.

It was a good bag. The cracked and faded brown leather gave it a nice antique look that can only be found in clever modern design. The functioning straps and buckles he always made a large show of fussing with, hid small magnetic clasps for fast access to its contents. It was the perfect size; small enough to stay out of the way while slung, yet just large enough to have the possibility of containing practically anything when examined from the outside. Inside, a few custom alterations made its contents easy to find in a hurry, provided you were the one who packed it. With a smile he began to load it for his day.

He took the silver flask of whiskey from the shelf behind him and turned it over in his hands, the engraved letters “J.D.” glinted briefly in the lamplight. He tried, for a moment as he nestled it into the inner reaches of his briefcase, to think of how many people tried to guess his first name based on just that small inscription. The truth always kept a secret for his amusement, he had won it in a poker game long ago, and the initials stood for Jack Daniels.

He leaned over his desk and reached for his cigar case. He had given the habit up years ago but he was sentimental about the old brass object, it was the only thing his last ex-wife had given him that he ever really liked. It contained three imitation Cubans, quality knock-offs that were sometimes useful as bribes. He set it gently down in the bottom of the bag.

Next he pulled from his drawer the gun. The loathsome, inelegant thing. He hadn’t fired a gun in years, and only included it as one of his possessions because he was ordered to start carrying one again. He had chosen a simple on; a Smith and Wesson 642 revolver; it weighed less than a pound unloaded, and held only five thirty-eight caliber bullets. He knew from experience that if he needed more bullets or a bigger gun he was already screwed. He casually tossed it in hoping it would find away to lose itself. He quickly packed his notebook, reading glasses, wallet, and a few other mundane things on top of it. It wasn’t so much that he was opposed to the use of guns, they were just noisy, vulgar, and impersonal in his opinion. No wonder so many people liked them.

The last thing to go in the bag was the small package, wrapped in plain brown paper and tied with butcher’s twine. A gift for Jerry, hopefully the kid will make quick work of its contents. Davis reached down to the desk lamp and picked up his watch.

The silver Bulova his father had given him for his eighteenth birthday was still one of his favorite things.  The glass was slightly scratched and the band had been replaced several times and you look hard to see the original date stamp of N2 on the back. He strapped it on and held it up to his ear to listen to the satisfying, high-pitched hum of the tuning fork contained within. Over forty years-old and it still had its original timing element, this fact always gave him comfort.

He slid on his coat, buckled the satchel back up, and looped the strap over his shoulder. Opening the door, he turned and looked at the mess that was his office. He nodded to no one and flipped the light switch, cutting off the fan and overhead light.

It was going to be a long day. He should pick up a couple of sandwiches on the way the Jerry’s place.

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This scene of fiction was inspired by a Weekly Challenge.

Conversational Russian

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The door opened and Mr. Davis stepped into the apartment. In one hand was a plastic bag from the deli on the corner,  over his shoulder was the shabby, brown, leather briefcase he always carried when he left his office. He strode towards the kitchen and set the to go bag on the counter. After a moment of fiddling with the buckles on his satchel  he reached in a pulled out a large, plainly wrapped package, which landed next to the plastic bag with a dull thunk, rattling the coffee pot.

“What’s that?” Jerry asked motioning towards the older man with his chin.

“Meatball sandwiches,” Davis grinned as he took off his jacket, “from Sal’s, they make the best tomato sauce in town. There’s one in there for you.”

Jerry sighed, he wasn’t in the mood for this. “The package, Davis. What’s in the package.”

“Oh that, it’s a language course, conversational Russian. Totally immersive, software, books, audio files, online content, the works.” he said, removing the foil wrapped sandwiches from the bag.

“Alright, I’ll bite. Why did you bring me a course on Russian?”

“Cause you’re gonna learn it.” Davis informed him. “Our guys say most of the people we’re lookin’ at seem to be from Slavic families, a lot of them from the mother’s side of the family, so it took us a bit to make the connection. Good chance you’ll run into some heavies from the old country as you work your way up the chain.”

“Don’t you think it might make them suspicious,” Jerry pointed out as he walked over and picked up the package, “that I conveniently speak Russian?” He turned it over in his hands glancing sideways at Davis.

Davis just smiled and rolled up his sleeves. “You don’t need to speak it, you just-,” he stopped and looked around the kitchen briefly. “Say, you got anything to drink around here?”

“Not really,” Jerry shrugged, “haven’t had a chance to get out to the store today.”

“Damn it,” he swore under his breath,  “I can’t eat one of these beauties without  beer, it’d be damned near a sin.” The old man sighed and pushed the sandwich away from  him. “Any way, we don’t want you to speak one god damned word of Russian, not in front of anyone. We want you listening in it. Make sure these guys buy into the fact that you don’t understand a damned word of what they say if they start talkin’ in it. If you can get at least a basic grasp of the language we won’t have to wire you for sound, and that’ll be good for your life expectancy.”

Mr. Davis unrolled his sleeves and reached for his jacket. “You have to learn it as you start making your moves on our boy Pete. How’s that coming along? Never mind, we’ll talk about him when I get back from the store with our drinks.”

“I guess I wasted my time taking french in high school, huh?” Jerry suggested as he started opening the package.

“That depends kiddo,” Davis mused as pulled on his coat, “did bein’ able to speak French ever get you laid?”

“Not that I can remember.”

“Then you probably wasted your time Jerry.” The handler affirmed as walked outside.

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Inspired by a Daily Prompt.

Getting to Know Him

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Photos and scraps of paper peeked out from folders scattered across every surface of the small, dimly lit office. Jerry paced the room flipping through the file he was handed shortly after he arrived. “What am I supposed to do with this?” He asked the heavy-set man.

“Peter Maslow, that’s our guy’s name. That’s his life in there, well the good parts anyway.” Davis was leaned back in his chair , eyes half closed, with his feet on the desk. “That’s one you’re gonna go toe to toe with. That’s who we start with, so you better start learnin’ a little somethin’ about him.”

“I thought you said we already had this guy, that he was looking to get out.” Jerry tossed the file onto one of the piles. “We make him disappear, I take over for him right?”

The old man put his hands behind his head and shut his eyes the rest of the way. “Yeah, he’s lookin’ for a way out but, until we get you in position we can’t approach him. If you took the time to do your homework you’d see he probably ain’t bright enough to act his way out so we got to make it real for him.” Davis sat up and reached for a bottle on his desk, he waved it at Jerry who just shook his head at the offer. “How ’bout I give you the cliff notes, just to get you started.”

“His  family’s been middle management for some years now. He kinda just fell into it when his old man had a heart attack a while back. Kid barely finished the college degree that got bought for him and, bam! He’s swimmin’ with the sharks. He’s only got a basic understanding of what his dad was into and now he’s supposed to run the whole show. His mom’s not much help to him, when she’s not loaded up on Xanax, she’s in Miami doin’, well you get that picture. He’s come so close to exposing other people in their operation on a few occasions, including being put under investigation for a small time racketeering charge over an idiotic book-keeping error that he’s afraid he’s gonna get removed, and not the nice way. He’s probably right except they ain’t figured on who to replace him with yet; besides he’s still more valuable to them scared than dead, at least for the time being. So he’s faced with a long and miserable life under the thumb, or a short, messy and probably painful death if he screws up again. This poor kids life was ruined for him, comin’ outta the gate. Now here we are, coming to screw him over just a little more. It’s kind of sad, once you wrap your head around it. 

“What? Now you want me to feel sorry for this jackass?” Jerry shrugged, he gave into the temptation and poured himself a drink.

“Kiddo, how you feel ain’t got a damned thing to do with what I want,” Davis answered bluntly, raising his voice a couple of notches, “or what you have to do. I’m just sayin’ you get a guy like this, you know; well-connected, raised in a family that’s been basically morally bankrupt goin’ on three generations, only marginally intelligent. How’d you expect him to end up.” Leaning forward he squared his face up with Jerry’s “What I am saying, is before we make a decision on how you’re gonna to deal with him, we all need to take some time; watch him, listen, ask few quiet questions about him. Try and get up a long side him and find out who he really is, and how he thinks, and what other people think about him.”

“Alright, alright, I get it.” Jerry said picking the folder back up “I’ll look it over and take some notes.”

“Good, be quick about it kiddo, your boots are on the ground in a couple of weeks. This Maslow guy is the weak link, if we don’t compromise him it’s only a matter of time before someone else does.” Davis sipped his bourbon and smiled. “Still go ahead and take a couple of days to read that through, really get inside his head. ”

Jerry nodded, slammed his drink, and headed for the door.

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Inspired by a Weekly Challenge

Smell the Witch

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He woke slowly, letting the pain going on inside his skull take its own sweet time to register. The aromas of cigarette smoke and scotch hung in the air, while the smell of sweat clung to the sheets of the empty bed.  I can still smell the witch, Jerry thought grimly as the perfumes of last night swirled around him; it was the scent of the woman whose enchantments he could never seem to break free of. The late afternoon sunlight filtered through the blinds, as he sat up on the corner of the bed and held his head in his hands.  He groaned and began to rub his temples. It was like this every time.

Nights with her always started out full of excitement and promises and concluded with him falling into slumber in her embrace. When the sun came up, she would always be gone leaving him hung over and tangled in the sheets; drained of everything but anger, shame, and regret. He rose and staggered out into the kitchen, there was coffee waiting in the pot, the warmer still turned on.

He poured a cup and made a silent vow this would be the last time, he knew from experience that it was a futile gesture, but he felt compelled to swear it anyway. In a few days, or weeks, or whenever the whim would strike her, she would show up out of nowhere and he would fall under her spell again.

He stood there staring out the window of the cramped apartment, sipping from his mug, mulling his thoughts. She was trouble, a dangerous liability he needed to be free of. After all, he still had a job to do.

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This story was written in response to the Song Title Challenge hosted at If all else fails…use a hammer.

Street Credit

“Reputation, it’s all about reputation,” Mr. Davis began, “And that, my friend, is just a matter of perception. You can spend years and years trying to build a reputation but if no one buys into it you are screwed. That’s where we come in.” He took a long pull of his bourbon, draining. The ice clinked together as he set the glass back on the table. “We could use a sharp-looking kid with a good head on his shoulders, much like yourself to head up this project. You got the chops, boy let me tell you we seen that, but what you ain’t got is the standing in the community.We can make that happen for you.”

Jerry looked down at his own, untouched drink and scratched his nose with his thumbnail. “What do you have in mind?”

“Well for starters, no one knows you around here, so we work that to our advantage; build you from the ground up. You’re from New York right?”

“Trenton, New Jersey. It’s the capital.” Jerry replied and reached for his glass. He held it but didn’t lift off the table.

“You’re from New York now, one of the boroughs. Doesn’t matter pick one.” Davis waved his hand to get the waitress’ attention. “You ain’t touched your drink. Whats the matter, ain’t you thirsty?”

Jerry picked up his gin and tonic, swirling it a couple up times and then put it back down. He watched the lime bob around for a moment and said, “I’m plenty thirsty, I guess. I’m just trying to pay attention here.” He picked it up again and took a short sip of it. “Go on, what else?”

The waitress dropped of another drink for Davis. he picked it up, took a sip and began to gesture with it, his index finger pointing out as he spoke “Right, that’s good. Just a little advice though, don’t fiddle with your drink so much. Makes you look nervous, it’s bad for appearances Where was I?

“New York.”

“New York,” Davis leaned back and a small burp escaped his lips, “Well, we got a guy in New York who’ll vouch for you. He’ll say you did solid work for him, nothin’ too heavy. Moving product, maybe a little strong-arm stuff. We can fill in the details later.”

“That don’t sound like it’d do much for my reputation,” Jerry scowled.

“Just the beginning my young friend. We got a guy here that’s looking to retire, you know get out. Now normally that ain’t easy to do but, we can make that happen. We set you up in his territory, there’s a small power struggle, you win. He leaves town for greener pastures, it looks like you ran him out. I don’t maybe we make it look like you whacked him, we’ll play it by ear.”

“Won’t that piss his bosses off?”

“Maybe. Maybe not. He’s kinda screwin’ things up on his own as it is but, they just don’t like getting rid of people unless they have to. Kinda makes the rest of their herd nervous,” he looked down through the ice at the bottom of the glass. “Point is they’ll notice you, they’ll do some digging and they’ll find what we set up for them find. They’ll look at your credentials and try to avoid a problem by getting you to work for them.”

“That easy, huh?” Jerry took a long swig off his gin, “You really think for one minute that if I waltz into their town, start working their streets, and get rid of one of their boys, that they’re just going to up and offer me a job? Sounds like bullshit to me.”

“We’ve done it before,” Davis replied. “I ain’t talking about you marching in like some damned storm trooper. We’re looking at a slow burn here, months of set up. Really take the time to build up your reputation, see. But you’re right it is bullshit. A whole great big mound of it, the trick is that we pile it up high enough that no one’s able to see around it. ” He finished his second drink and pushed the glass to the middle of the table. “So how ’bout it kiddo, you in?”

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This piece of fiction was inspired by a Daily Prompt.