I ran into The Vulture as he was coming out of Mrs. Cooley’s market. He was carrying a paper bag with an assortment of healthy looking greens sticking out of the top.
“Good stuff.” I remarked, gesturing toward the bag.
His eyes darted right, then left two or three times before he backpedaled. Then he realized he had nowhere to go but out through me.
“How’s Skinny’s ankle?” I asked, hoping to disarm some of his mistrust.
The Vulture wanted no part of it. He sidled further away.
“He been bothering you any?” I asked.
The Vulture stepped toward me and feigned like he was going to scuttle out past me, but I didn’t budge.
“Those for your mother?” I asked, pointing to the greens.
He mustered a slight nod of his head.
“Good lady. Tell her Sugar says hi and wishes her a happy birthday.”
The Vulture dropped his guard slightly and a wry smile twitched his lips.
I turned to the side and let him scuttle past. He rocketed up the street like a worried crab.
I had already decided that I needed to pay Skinny a visit and my encounter with The Vulture reminded me I had better confront the matter directly. I needed him. He was one of the cornerstones for Ned’s and my endeavor though I hadn’t confessed this point to Ned.
Skinny was fairly smart and in the scheme of things I knew that could be his downfall. I needed to find out if his intelligence could be redirected toward a greater good and that would have a lot to do with how he perceived weakness and strength in himself and in others. I was hopeful after what had transpired in the alley by Gordo’s Liquor Store that I had a running chance.
I found him down at Tin Man’s Doughnuts. It was a popular hangout for many reasons. Mostly it was cheap but the doughnuts were actually pretty good and the coffee was rich and flavorful. The place was also lively. There were always chess games and people playing cards. It was populated by a mixed bag of gamers, gangsters, bookies and cops. It seemed that everyone got along while indulging in gambling and sweets at the Tin Man’s.
I hadn’t been there for a few months, but nothing had changed. it smelled of sugar and stale grease. The Tin Man was parked behind the counter lording over the cash register. He was very large, probably six foot five and 280 pounds. I think that is why everyone seemingly got along.
He cordially nodded at me and I nodded back.
Skinny was at the counter with a pair of crutches leaning against the wall a few feet to his right. His ankle was in a cast. I’d heard rumors that he’d invented a story about how he had been the victim of a nasty skateboard fall.
“I hear you fell off your board,” I said standing directly behind him.
“Yah, took a good one over on Petrero.” He said without turning around to see who I was. “I really busted up my ankle.”
“Tough hill to skate,” I said.
“Not so much,” he replied, “I just don’t give a shit.”
“Me either,” I said, “your version is as good as gold to me.”
Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®