By Greg Shipman.
I’ve been in this doorway for an hour. The streets are empty, except for the junkies posing as zombies. I watch the drug crew across on the other corner going efficiently about the business of feeding the walking dead. One or two of them could be fifteen; the others hardly break double-digits. Bet these little bastards didn’t watch Romper Room as tikes.
I never thought I’d be here, but I am. I thought I beat the streets. I managed a high school diploma and a bigger one from Columbia University. Another two years and I wound up on Wall Street. Quite a ways from the Baltimore projects. I had arrived in NYC… big time.
I never thought drugs would touch me because I never touched drugs. Funny how you can’t predict how things will go… how life will roll the dice that determines your fate.
I check my watch. It’s almost ten. The moon hangs crooked from the sky and occasional police choppers buzz overhead like birds of prey. There’s a light rain, but the walking dead are impervious to Mother Nature in any of her guises. And now, here I am… Mr. Columbia Grad, among life’s ultimate failures.
I’m waiting for Eddie. We grew up together… from training wheels to Camaro Z-Cars. He had my back as many times as I had his. Eddie is as successful in his business as I am in mine. His business is feeding these zombies, and business is good. I never thought I’d be searching him out. Life can turn on a dime. It’s a bitch with a sense of humor… very dark humor.
A dark blue BMW glides to the curb. I can barely hear the purr of the engine or the slight swishing sound of the wipers. A few minutes pass before Eddie climbs out of the passenger side and the driver slides out of his side. I recognize him. It’s Bootsie. He’s crammed thirty years of murder into sixteen years of life. He’s been Eddie’s bodyguard for a year. Saying he’s dangerous is like saying the Mississippi is a stream.
I push myself off the moist doorway and head across the street. Bootsie’s radar picks me up right away. He look’s over at Eddie who’s looking at me approaching. I wave. Eddie nods to Bootsie. Bootsie retracts his claws.
“Hey, Eddie,” I say as I step up on the curb.
“Nelson, I ain’t seen you in a whole buncha full moons. What brings you outta the bigger city?”
“Need to get something from you, Eddie.”
“Not you, Nelson. You the dude beat the odds. You the dude chucked the system and brass-ringed your ass outta here. You lookin’ for what I got?”
There’s a slight frown on Eddie’s face… a look of disappointment. We ran the streets together and I made it out… fairy tales supposed to be happily ever after.
“Can you fix me up, Eddie?”
My friend sighs. “That my business,” he says, “see my man, Nutty.” He points to the fifteen-year-old sitting on the marble steps.
I nod without speaking and turn towards Nutty. I take two steps and reach inside my coat while spinning quickly towards Bootsie. Bootsie already knows what’s happening, and he’s reaching for his gun. He’s fast. I’m faster. The berretta in my left hand puts two in Bootsie’s chest. He’s gone.
Eddie’s next. He’s puzzled but street tough. He reaches inside his coat. I put a bullet in his kneecap. He screams and drops. By now there’s a second Berretta in my right hand. I aim it at Nutty as I spin to face him. He’s really the last threat. The rest of the crew dogged out with the first bullet fired.
“It’s not worth it, young brother.” I say it gently as though there’s love in the words. Nutty goes for whatever is in his waistband. I squeeze the trigger on the right hand Berretta twice. The two holes in his chest put an end to his attempt… and his life.
I turn back to Eddie who is lying on the ground moaning. “What the fuck, Nelson?”
I say the words without passion. “You hooked my baby sister on this shit you selling.”
My friend raises one hand towards me. “She wanted it, Bro… what could I have done?”
“Been my friend,” I say. “She O.D.-ed on your shit last week… in my mother’s house.”
“And you blame me? That was business. She didn’t get it from me, she’d a got it from someone else.”
“That someone else wouldn’t have been my friend.”
“This ain’t right, Nelson.”
“It is for me,” I say as I put a bullet in the head of the friend who had my back as many times as I had his.
A native East Baltimorean, but now a Fairbanks, Alaska resident, Gregory K. Shipman has a day job which often extends into the evening hours. His passion is writing about the steamy, noir side of life… past, present and future. He has yet to earn a dime from his scribbles but has the satisfaction of knowing it’s all non-taxable. Greg is an active member of the on-line community, Writer’s Carnival, the Community Writer’s Group of Fairbanks, and a board member of The Fairbanks Drama Association. He lives a life of hardly quiet desperation with his pet laptop and unreliable Jeep. He enjoys Jazz, Blues, Theater and the occasional diabetic coma…