Friday rolled down Market Street dripping heavy with fog. I was a little reticent about the future after being sucked into the underworld of Two Fingers Kim. I blew on my fingers and raised my collar as I hiked up Market street to meet Ned and Skinny.
I shook Ned’s hand out in front of Tin Man’s Doughnuts at 11:30 AM and it was still bone chilling and damp. When we walked inside out of the cold Skinny was no where to be found, so Ned and I got a cup of coffee and sat at the table near the window where Two Fingers had met with the Vulture. While we killed some time, I decided to fill Ned in on my little foray into detective work.
“The heavyset kid is a runner for Two Fingers.” I said.
“That Korean is bad news,” Ned voiced and took a sip of hot coffee. He shook his head and pursed his lips in disgust.
“I agree,” I said, “he’s seasoned, mean and smarter than I first thought.”
“Smart wasn’t the adjective I had in mind,” Ned answered.
“But he is. He knows what he is doing. He has some business savvy and he’s got it figured out so that others will take the fall when the heat shows up.”
“The fat kid. You have a talk with him?” Ned asked.
“We have an ongoing relationship you might say.”
“What the hell we getting ourselves into Sugar?” Ned asked with true concern.
“Life,” I said, “we’re too darn young to just fold up or walk away.”
Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®
I was led into the Tenderloin District. My boys entered an apartment building about a block from City Hall. Before they entered, Two Fingers gave the Vulture a dressing down. His head dropped and his hands disappeared into his pockets as he stood there like a sponge and soaked it up. That’s how kids get molded into criminals, how terrorists become terrorists, they are weak and easily manipulated by the criminal mind. Continue reading
When the Buzz Cuts disbanded, TBone joined the golf team. He quickly established himself as a scrappy competitor willing to take the risks to win. He became less serious and more happy-go-lucky. His performances on the golf course seemed to be a placebo for his need to entertain. He was soon dubbed with the nickname, Turtle Woods.
Musically, TBone journeyed more into himself. He wasn’t particularly in a funk, he was just very introspective after dealing with the difficulties of trying to hold together two bands at such an early age. Yes, bands were fun, but they were all encompassing entities that were as fickle as the weather. He had needed a break and golf afforded that outlet.
While working his way up the leaderboards, TBone spent his downtime focusing more on song writing. He learned the piano. He dabbled in the blues and had developed a special liking for punk music, but in the end his tendency was the down home feel and sound of folk. His lyrics were oriented around the social issues of the day and the escapades of falling in and out of love. He would often pull out his acoustic guitar and play a few ditties for the golf team while they were holed up in some cheap motel on the road. It was his first foray into what it would be like to be out on tour in a touring band.
On senior ‘Skip Day’, TBone hauled his guitar and an old banjo down to the park. He soon became the focal point for the more artistic crowd as he played some of the popular hits of the day. He interspersed the hits with some of his own creations and got lots of compliments especially from the girls. His song writing had matured along with his performance skills from the hours and hours he had seemingly spent in front of a mirror. Having the attention of a rapt crowd rekindled the performance bug and his dire need for a band. He didn’t have the makings of going it alone; he considered it just too lonely.
Fortunately for TBone, Robbie Slade had decided that he’d had enough of Algebra and skipped off to the park with the seniors. It was a very brave thing to do as a sophomore, not only because he was going to get detention but also because he was traipsing into senior territory where no male sophomore had a right to go. Robbie looked like a geek. He was sarcastic and strong willed with a short fuse.
It was a blessing that TBone had everyone’s attention when Robbie showed up in the park because Robbie walked unscathed and ignored. No one saw the need to confront him or chase him off as he slowly edged his way to the front. He listened attentively to several songs before he latched onto one of TBone’s originals. He had brought along his harmonica and boldly pulled it out. He skillfully bent some notes and folded them subtly into the second verse of TBone’s; Too Fat Shuffle.
TBone was quite impressed. He quickly taught Robbie another of his songs and once again Robbie wove the harmonica in superbly. They intuitively began to play off of each other with skill and comfort. They played for over an hour, egged on and applauded by the gathered crowd.
As the seniors finally wrapped up their ‘Skip Day’ in the park, TBone didn’t hesitate to invite Robbie over to his garage for a little jam session. He was intrigued by the skinny sophomore and not only did they hit it off musically but they were also bonding as friends.
The seeds for the QuickTurtle Band sprouted that day in TBone’s heart.
Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®
Skinny didn’t need to turn around to know who was standing behind him, but he turned anyway and stood up to face me on his broken ankle. We were about the same height. He wasn’t a bad looking kid. He had long eyelashes that any woman would have envied. He also had high cheekbones that gave him an exotic look. His downfall was his perpetual sneer.
“I knew this day was comin,” he said quietly. “I have a rep, old man. You planing to step on me?”
Our noses were almost touching so we were virtually privately engaged in our conversation.
“Not today,” I replied, “I want you to keep your rep, so no, I won’t stand on you.”
“That be cool,” he said and relaxed noticeably.
“I’m interested in making a deal with you,” I said. “Care to hear me out?”
Skinny looked around Tin Man’s. Several of his peers were having coffee and trying to keep their pants from falling all the way to the ground. They were oblivious to our confrontation.
“Shoot.” Skinny said.
“I’m offering you a high paying role in my new venture,” I explained, “It involves being a leader. I need one.”
Skinny looked at me perplexed.
“You’re a natural,” I said. “You have what it takes. You have charisma.”
“Don’t know much about none of that,” he said. “Besides I already got me a job.”
“I ain’t offering you a job. I’m offering you a life.” I said emphasizing life.
His eyelashes twitched. “You want me to be an actor?”
“You’re already one of those, so no, I want you to be yourself.”
Again that puzzled look. I hoped that I hadn’t overstepped myself with my sarcasm.
“You want me to be myself? What kind of BS you talkin here anyway?”
“Not BS, I just need you to be yourself,” I said. ‘You interested?”
Skinny stared at me with his sneer in place. “This high pay, how much you talkin?”
“If you are in, I’d say $1,600.00 a week to begin with.” I said.
“You deal’n drugs or what, old man? I’m not into being served up as jail bait.”
“This has nothing to do with selling drugs or anything else against the law.”
“What is it I got to do for this money?”
“Meet with my partner and I. We’ll fill you in. I know it’ll be a bit cumbersome with your foot in a cast, but we’ll work it out.” I extended my hand.
Skinny stared at me long and hard then tentatively shook it.
“You have a bank account?” I asked him.
“Of course,” he said.
I pulled out my checkbook and wrote him a check for sixteen hundred dollars.
“First week’s pay in advance,” I said. “We’ll meet this Friday. Be here at noon and I’ll come and get you.”
Skinny almost gave up his perpetual sneer and snapped the check. He stuck it under his nose, took a long whiff and kissed it. Then in a flash it disappeared into his pocket.
Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®
I thought they were probably going to take me into the alley by Gordo’s Liquor Store. I had been in there and knew there was a recess about half way down that housed the liquor store garbage containers. It was smelly and full of shadows, a perfect spot for them to do their dirty deed. I’m sure they had it figured to where they’d be long gone by the time I was able to pick myself up and scramble for help.
I was pretty certain I wasn’t going to need any help. Of course a little doubt always seems to elbow it’s way in at times like these and this time was no exception. What if Skinny had the rest of the gang sequestered away in the alley for reinforcements. In that case, I would be overwhelmingly out numbered and in big trouble. This wasn’t a Hollywood stunt. This was real life, mine.
My antennae popped up and went on full alert. I had to be ready for anything.
We paused at the alley and both boys looked around. It was eerily quiet. The street was mostly empty of pedestrians and devoid of cars. Mrs. Cooley was putting out oranges in front of her tiny market and there was a lady walking her black poodle near the bank. Other than those two people nothing was going on. A surreptitious glance into the alley fortified my belief that it was also deserted.
“This way old man.”
Of course it was The Skinny One with all of his bravado that hissed and gave me a yank. I had planned to take them by the garbage cans, but the yank disengaged me from The Vulture and I used the momentum to fall and roll. I grabbed Skinny by the shirt, planted my feet in his groin and tossed him into the alley on the backside of my roll. There was a disconcerting crunch.
“You Mo Fo!” he growled in obvious pain.
That was sugar to my ears. I had him wounded but thankful that it wasn’t mortally.
I rolled back onto my feet into a crouch and braced myself to pounce on The Vulture. But The Vulture hadn’t moved, he was standing frozen at the mouth of the alley. His mind and eyes looked as if they were running on Meth overdrive.
“What the Hell you lookin at?” Skinny railed from the alley behind me, “Get the old coot.”
Vulture mustered a hesitant lurch toward me and then stopped as we locked eyes. He didn’t like what he was seeing and that was enough, he turned and boogied back up toward the bank.
I put my attention back on Skinny. He had managed to get himself into a sitting position up against the brick of the liquor store. His left ankle was clearly broken and was going to need a good surgeon to piece it back together. He moaned.
“I am going to go into the liquor store and call an ambulance,” I said, “But before I do I want to give you a little advice to think about. You do have the capacity to think, don’t you?”
He glared at me.
“I mean what I say.” I emphasized.
He continued to glare but was obviously struggling with the pain. I could see the beginnings of a crack forming in his facade.
“It goes like this,” I said, “The Vulture flew the coop. It is not a bad thing to do when flying is called for. He saved himself a world of hurt and a visit to the hospital. I know in your mind that he saved nothing because he didn’t save you. It is your intention to hurt him bad because you failed to hurt me. I’m telling you to drop it. You and your little gang. Just leave him alone. The consequences of dishonoring me and hurting him are not something you can afford.”
My eyes bore into him. “Do we have an understanding?” I asked as I pressed him harder with my will.
The pain was more than he could bear. He dropped his head and looked away. His body wilted and his bravado vanished into the broken lost child he truly was. A sob suddenly escaped his constricted throat.
I knelt beside him and gingerly put my hand on his head. It was a calculated risk I was willing to take. He flinched but didn’t bite. To his everlasting benefit, The Skinny One gave in. He asked for help.
I rose and turned to go.
“Thank you,” he said or he didn’t. I can’t say for sure, I can only hope.
Part 3 to come soon. Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®