Monday, February 2, 2009

Day 1, 3,068 words

I knew I'd fall short on this day. I had too much work-related stuff to do, running a small Superbowl Party at the theater. But It's a decent start. We'll see what happens the rest of the week. I may be able to get way ahead, count-wise, and get some extra points in my column.

Here's a bit from what I wrote:

The two men came down the stairs together, the chagrined gangster first, followed by the bald stranger. Gino Nguyen stood in front of his soldiers, annoyed. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go down. They should have already been rolling that short sonofabitch up in plastic wrap, not watching him stroll downstairs like he was looking to rent the place.

The basement was spacious, with low ceilings, odd bits of plumbing, and mostly full of crap. Of course, it stank of vermin and urine. But it was private and through some quirk of city management, still had electricity running to the single, wire-enclosed fixture that swung from a frayed cord overhead.

“Sorry, Boss,” Rocky said, ducking his head in supplication and moving off to one side.

“These things happen, Rock,” said Gino, in a tone that suggested in fact that these things didn’t happen and the matter was far from over. To the bald man, he said, “No hard feelings, I hope?”

“Not at all,” the stranger said, slowly raising his hands to show that they were empty. He mirrored Gino’s move, swinging wide, putting himself as far away from all of them as possible. He made a show of slowly reaching into his coat pocket for the stack of cash. This he threw in a gentle lob over to Rocky. “This is the money we agreed on. I would be willing to take possession of the merchandise now.”

Gino smirked. Maybe this wouldn’t go so badly after all. “Yeah, well, there’s just one little problem with that arrangement.”

“You don’t have the merchandise,” the man said. He ignored their unconcealed surprise. “In fact, you never had it. You haven’t had it for some time, now. Ever since the Two-Nine Crew got scooped up by the police, your crew has been cash poor and you’ve been pulling this little hustle...” he made a twirling motion with his fingers. “ try and raise some capital.”

Gino’s stomach rolled, and his nervous surprise became a guilty anger. “Okay, so you know alla this. What’s your deal? And you gotta understand, if I don’t like what you’re selling, you won’t make it out of this basement alive.”

The man kept his face impassive. These children were not men of honor, and dealing with them was a perversion of his higher ideal. Nevertheless, he had his orders. Keeping his voice as light as possible, he said, “I am part of a much larger organization. We have a quantity of drugs that we want to sell.” He reached slowly into his other pocket and pulled out a small, tightly wrapped package. This time, he lobbed it at Gino. “Do you know what that is?”

“Black tar heroin?” Gino’s eyes went up. “How pure?”

“One hundred percent. And we have a large quantity. This is unique, very special. Very clean. And very potent.”

Rocky had been diligently counting the bundle of money. “It’s all here,” he said to Gino.

“Yes, of course it is. And I want you to keep it, along with the heroin. A gift of good faith. You need product to move, and we need to move product.” He met Gino’s hard, lifeless eyes with his own thousand yard stare. “You understand that I’m speaking about a long term arrangement?”

Gino smiled. “I’ve been trying to place that accent for a while now. Where you from, man? And I guess what I mean by that is, where is this coming from?”

“I was born in Pakistan, but I have lived all over the world,” he replied. It was only a small lie.

One of the gangsters behind Gino said something in Cantonese, smiling. Gino barked back and his soldier fell silent.

“Tell you what,” Gino said, trying to think faster than his mouth was talking, “you get us a small shipment that we can cut up and move around. Test market, ‘n shit. Everyone’s happy, we’ll pay you for the H and order some more. If there’s any problems, quality-wise, or we can’t move it, whatever, you know what I’m saying, then we go our separate ways.” Gino met the man’s gaze again. “I know you want to build, like, a mutual relationship. But I just don’t trust you.”

“Then I will earn your trust,” the man said. “We just want to do business and we lack the contacts here to do so.”

Gino handed the bundle to Rocky and stepped forward, hand out. “All right, we’ve got a deal.”

As the two men crossed the distance between them, a sharp and hollow buzzing sound broke out, fast clicking and clacking that was instantly recognizable, even to these children of the city. It was a rattlesnake rattle.

Both men jumped away from each other, looking down at the floor. The rest of the gangsters did likewise, trying to find the source of the noise. It seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. Gino looked up at the stairs just in time to see a figure swing over the handrail and land on Rocky with a sickening crunch. “God-DAMMIT!” he shouted. Not him. It’s supposed to be all bullshit, he thought as he clawed for his pistol.

The rest of the gangsters were following their leader’s example. That is, most of them. Julio suddenly ducked behind the card table they used for counting. Chickenshit, Gino thought. He turned to the bald stranger to accuse him of bringing this newcomer to them, but found that the man had disappeared into the shadows.

After that, there was no time to think. Bullets filled the basement like a swarm of bees, and the gangsters scrambled out of the way even as they continued to fill the air with flying lead. The man who took out Rocky with a single vaulting kick crouched low in the corner and let the bullets thud all around him. As soon as everyone had burned through their clips, he stood up and pandemonium broke out anew.

He was dressed in a three piece business suit, dark brown, with a curious diamond weave to the material. He wore a brown snap brim fedora on his head, and affixed to his face was a black mask that covered the area around his eyes in a generous ellipsis. Over the suit, he wore a light brown trench coat with the same, strange diamond pattern woven into the cloth. As he stood up, he reached under the coat and withdrew a pistol-grip sawed-off shotgun.

“You are the last remnant of a vicious gang,” the man said in a raspy, hollow voice that seemed to fill the basement. “Your reign of terror ends tonight.”

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