“Fuck it,” Louie said. “If this asshole Max doesn’t pay us tonight, we’ll dump his body in the Delaware.” Louie rolled ball bearings in his Eagles sweatshirt pocket, fisting them for when we finally met the guy. We’d only worked with subordinates of the master drug dealer of South Street, never meeting their boss. Max liked to keep it that way—fewer witnesses—but we had a beef. We’d staked Max with two large worth of percs, and we’d yet to see our end. Dominic, skipper of the local crew, arranged a meeting. He warned us to be polite and smiled that ever-knowing diabolic grin. He liked to play with people, never telling them everything.
Louie leaned up against a streetlight. It flickered off and on, exposing the collapsing row houses that lined Ferry Street in Philly. “He ain’t going to pay,” Louie said. “I’m gonna fuck him up. This is our cred. We’ll look like pussies.”
“Cool it,” I said. I scratched my facial piercing then pulled back the chain hanging from my eyebrow to my lip, clearing my vision. I gripped the handle of my Luger snug in my jeans, ready for some shit to go down.
“I’m going to get laid after,” Louie said.
“And pay for it. No one’s ever going to give it to you for free.”
He fisted the bearings and cocked his arm, ready to crack my skull. “Bitches are trouble. I’d rather pay, then I can tell them to get the hell out.” But his eyes looked down at the sidewalk like a sulking child. I’d hit a nerve.
“How about this one?” I asked, referring to a rotund woman walking towards us in heels squeezing her elephant feet. A crucifix tattooed her right cheek.
“Vincent?” she asked.
“Your money is still coming,” she said. “Some people have to learn how to wait.”
“Holy shit,” I said. “Max?”
Her aspect looked familiar, a face associated with danger, and my instincts told me to be patient, to negotiate. I couldn’t figure out why. Louie gripped the ball bearings. He had no intention of being diplomatic. It didn’t even bother him Max was a woman. He’d beat the shit out of anyone who crossed him.
“You’ve had a month,” I said.
“I’m good for it,” she said. “These things take time. You’re new to this business, or you’d understand that.”
“Fuck a whore,” Louie said and lunged at her, having to angle his fist up to her face. Louie only stood equal to her shoulder. He struck her jowl, and she spit bloody saliva.
Stunned at first, she shook her head. “Did that just fucking happen?”
“Ball bearings, bitch,” Louie said. He hit her again, hammering her cheek. She toppled into the brick wall. “Our money.”
She rubbed her face. “You two dicks are so fucking dead. Do you have any idea who I am?”
“A bitch with a broken jaw?” Louie asked.
“Calm it, Louie,” I said. A cold shadow crept over my heart, and my stomach clenched. Her indignation worried me. She acted with all the entitlement of a queen, and her bearing said underworld royalty.
“Joey Minnow is my godfather and blood uncle,” she said, slurring her words and spitting blood.
“Joey Minnow from Trenton?” I asked. She nodded. Fuck. I knew she was familiar. Her uncle was next in line to be a boss in Jersey. Hitting her, we might as well have kicked him in the balls. Dominic must have been laughing his ass off.
Louie reached to hit her again. “Fuck you and your uncle,” he said. I grabbed his arm.
“Are you trying to get us clipped?” He punched my chest, and I knocked him back into a rusty dumpster on the side of the street and shook him until he calmed.
“Max,” I said. “I apologize. We didn’t know.”
“Too late assholes,” she said. “You’re dead.”
The lowlifes and dealers of Philly called her uncle The Undertaker. He’d built an empire on death, and we’d be just a couple of roaches under his Italian leather loafer. I had to figure this shit out, or we’d have to flee Philly tonight. I had no money or product.
Louie never exercised self-control, and he’d killed us tonight. No wonder no dumbass woman would ever love the freak. That gave me an idea, a slim chance. Everyone’s lonely. Everyone wants to be loved in the darkness.
“Do you have a boyfriend, Max?” I asked, as she turned to walk away.
“He’s going to cut your balls off and feed them to you before you die.”
“No. Wait. You don’t understand.” I punched Louie’s shoulder, my way of telling him to go along with this crap. “You have to forgive my friend. He’s not skilled in the ways of women.”
She shrugged and lit up a cigarette.
“He’s got a thing for you. It’s like in kindergarten when you pull on a girl’s pigtails. He’s just not mature enough to express himself properly. So he just hits.”
She looked over Louie and disguised a grin. This shit was working. Everyone’s lonely. Everyone wants to be loved.
“Don’t play with me,” she said.
“It’s true,” I said. “Tell her.” I threw Louie forward. I hoped he’d realized this was our only chance. He stood in front of her, puckering his lips to speak. Instead, he punched her in the shoulder. Fucking Louie.
“See. That’s the only way he can communicate affection.” Louie bowed his head, looking bashful. Shit. He really might have had a thing for her.
We forgave the debt as a favor to her uncle. She dated Louie for six months then dumped him to marry a made guy. Louie rampaged for a month and secured our street cred.
BIO: T. Fox Dunham resides outside of Philadelphia PA—author and historian. He’s published in nearly 200 international journals and anthologies. His first novel, The Street Martyr will be published by Out of the Gutter Books, followed up by Searching for Andy Kaufman from PMMP in 2014. He’s a cancer survivor. His friends call him fox, being his totem animal, and his motto is: Wrecking civilization one story at a time. Blog: http://tfoxdunham.blogspot.com/. Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tfoxdunham & Twitter: @TFoxDunham