This is just a skeleton. I would like to hang it with things – but it interests me as a skeleton, too. Ah, choices!



I stare out the window.

“Just try to relax,” he says, driving through a yellow light. “Take deep breaths. Have a fucking cigarette.”

“I don’t smoke.”

“There’s nothing to get nervous about. Right? This is just a regular day at the office for you.”

His knuckles on the steering-wheel are white.


When I came to Boston I had a suite at the Lenox. Now I’m in Everett after dark.

“Are you lost?” I ask.


“I don’t like being late.”

“Just relax,” he says. Angry eyes in the rearview mirror.

“It won’t look good if we’re late,” I say.

He doesn’t reply, stares straight ahead. I let myself smile.

He sees something, runs a red light to get to it. Must be the street we’ve been looking for. He pulls in behind a minivan full of hubcaps.

“I’ll be waiting out here,” he says. “Don’t try anything. You hear me?”

I ignore him and get out of the car.

I turn while the door’s still open. “By the way, if you run another red light tonight I’ll shove a fucking icepick down your throat.”


I close the door, walk across the street and ring the bell.

I’m standing on the street wearing a suit. I’ll almost feel safer inside.

I can feel eyes on me. I stand back a step, raise my head, let them look. The door opens; a mom in tight jeans. I step inside.

She walks me through her living-room. There are plastic toys pushed into the corners. Up a flight of stairs – I fight not to grab the banister. A hallway with three rooms. The one with the door open contains three guys, and more than three guns.

She knocks twice on the second door then turns and walks away. I can tell she’s trying not to run. I bet he knocked on her door an hour ago and told her what was going to happen, what she was going to do. That’s how he works.

The door opens. A fat guy in a good suit looks me up and down. “Turn around,” he says, “spread ’em all.”

“Better idea,” I say, taking off my jacket. And starting to unbutton my shirt.

“What the fuck-” the guy says, and reaches out for my shoulder.

“Don’t do that,” says a voice from behind him.

He drops his hand. I shrug, strip off my shirt.

I go down to undershirt and boxers and socks. The undershirt is made out of packing tape and stacks of hundred dollar bills.

I point to my chest. “I thought about bringing a knife, but…”

Mr. TSA produces a small folding blade and slices down my chest. A fortune falls to the floor.

I hold up my arms. “Frisk away.”

He gives me a perfunctory pat-down. He stands between me and his boss while I put my clothing back on. I nod at him: I appreciate it.

He stands to the side. It’s a kid’s bedroom. Guy sitting on the bed, leather jacket, red polo shirt. Red leather briefcase on the pillow. He could have given me a shopping bag, but he went to Newbury Street and bought Italian leather. It’s a sign of respect. I nod at him: I appreciate it.

“You should come to town more often,” he says.

“Lots of towns,” I say.

This one just happens to be his.

He stands up and hands me the briefcase. His caporegime takes the money and leaves the room.

“Code’s 2-7-0-2,” he says.

“Thank you.”

“Gonna open it?”

“I trust you.”

He doesn’t have to nod.

“Tough neighborhood,” he says. “Want an escort?”

I shake my head. “I have a driver.”

Wariness: “I noticed.”

I shrug. “He’s my driver.”

He pats me on the back as he walks by me, out of the room.


I take a breath, out, down, out, and climb into the car.

“How’d it go?” he asks me.

“Drive,” I say.

He fights himself. He wins. He drives.


There are no cars on the road. Still I can feel us being followed. Then we cross into Medford and it goes away.

“So everything go okay?” he asks.

“Yes. Everything.”

He looks at the briefcase in my lap. “You check inside?”




“Maybe he fucked you.”


“You think Papi Aquila’s too scared of you to fuck you?”

“No,” I say. “But this isn’t for me.”

I’m not sure he gets it. That’s okay. I don’t care.


I have him pull into a deserted supermarket parking lot. I open the door, get out, and hold the door while I throw up.


We drive two blocks to a gas station so I can buy water and some mints.

It’s midnight. We drive through sleeping Somerville. He pulls in front of a driveway, blocking in two cars that won’t be moving until it’s time to commute. I get out, cross the street, ring a doorbell.

I don’t hear a bell. There are no lights inside and none come on. I count thirty seconds, turn, go around the back and open the door.

A large kitchen, cast-iron on the stove, glasses hanging from a high-rack. A thoughtful night-light to guide me. I open a door and head down a flight of stairs. The door is steel.

Basement of a Somerville Triple. No windows. Ventilation fans in the ceiling, air exchangers, silent. Along the far wall a room-within-a-room, walls floor ceiling all hanging sheets of plastic. Single-use. Low trace. I shake my head.

Two tall guys with long arms, goatees, Krav Maga types. I can feel another behind me: he’ll be the gun. Guy in his forties, lab coat, steps out of the clean room holding a pair of blue gloves.

“Welcome to the humble abode,” he says.

I smile him at ease. “Thank you.”

He looks at the briefcase. “Can I get you anything? While you wait? Coffee, something?”

I shake my head. “Thanks, though.”

Pointedly: “How about the guy in the car?”

“My driver’s fine,” I say.

I let him twist for half a second, then hand him the briefcase. He fumbles with his gloves, takes it, and disappears behind the clear plastic.

It’s a nice little lab. Amateur equipment, professionally arranged. He opens the case, cuts one of the bags, scoops a sample, gets to.

There’s a pool table and a TV and a bar. I pour myself a shot of bourbon, sit on a bar-stool, and don’t drink.

I hear the rustling of plastic. “Everything looks good,” he says.

I nod.

He reaches into the clean room, grabs a box. “You want it in your case?”

“Keep it.”

Residue. He smiles. I passed his little test.

He drops it in a GBH tote. I nod my head; I appreciate it.

As I climb the stairs I can hear them cutting down the plastic for the incinerator.


I climb into the back seat. He turns the key and puts us on the road.

“Go OK?”

“Yes,” I say. “No Rodriguez.”

“Shit. Can’t have everything, I guess.”

I tell him the next address.


I repeat it.

His eyes panic. “Two stops.”

“No. More.”

He turns to look at me. “They told me-”

“Watch the road.”

He turns back. “Fuck this, we’re only supposed to do two stops.”

“You were told wrong.”


“One more stop. We-”

“No, you fucking listen to me, you-”

“Don’t you guys want your money back?”

Wide eyes. “It’s not-”

I hold open the tote. There’s a bag of ice and a six-pack of test tubes.

“Shit.” He grips the wheel. And keeps swearing. But keeps driving.


We go through Harvard Square, stop at the late-night falafel place. I force myself to take a bite. I find I’ve finished it. And we’re on our way.

We cross into the city. Four blocks before we pass a car. Boston is the only city that remembers how to sleep.

It’s a skyscraper, forty stories.

“Garage?” he asks.


He has to park two blocks away. I tell him he has time to take a walk.

“I’m sitting right here,” he says. “Until this shit is over.”

“Have fun,” I say, and head for the garage.


I walk down a long ramp. No cars come. The lot is almost empty. Maintenance vans, a few plastic two-doors. And an Escalade with tinted windows, a man behind the streeting-wheel, tracking me from the corner of his eyes.

I take the elevator to the fifteenth floor, cross a dark corridor to another lift-bank and ride to the roof. It’s dark. It’s cold. The grass is so fertilized it almost glows in the dark.

I sit on a bench beside a low lamp and stare at the buildings to every side. Several are taller. Their windows are dark. A thousand lines of sight. Thousands of eyes that could be on me.

A man fades from the black. A security guard, uniform, night-stick. I stand up. He points. He follows behind me to a sliding door, which I slide.


The executive boardroom has a glass ceiling.

A woman with silver hair and bronze posture. Another uniformed guard, night-stick at his belt. She stands at the head of a long table. I sit on the table next to her, let my legs dangle.

“Trouble?” she asks.


“Why do you have a driver?”

I turn to her. “Because he’s my driver.”

She stares at me for a while. I guess that’s what she thinks she’s supposed to do.

“It’ll take some time to confirm the identity of the proteins,” she says.

I slide her the tote.

Minion Prime takes the tote and exists stage right.

“Would you like anything while we wait?” she asks.

I look up. There’s too much city-light to see the stars.

“Fresh air,” I say.

Her other security guard follows me as I wander their gardens, breathing the night.


The moon travels. I keep being surprised when I look to the horizon and don’t see dawn.

I feel something, turn to look at the guard. He has his fingers to his earpiece. A minute later and he’s escorting me back to the boardroom.

The woman’s there, alone.

“Thank you for your patience,” she says.

“Of course.”

“I was told to convey to you our profound gratitude,” she says. “And our great interest in continuing our working relationship.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

“I was also told to offer you this.”

She holds up a poster-tube.

I try to keep my face empty. “Premium?”

“Thirty percent.”

The only reasons I could have for turning this down are reasons that I cannot have.

“I need ten thousand,” I say. “For the driver.”

She goes to the board’s liquor-cabinet, pulls out a short stack of green.

“Thanks, Jane,” I say. “I appreciate it.”

She shakes my hand. “We appreciate you.”


I walk very slowly out of the building.

I stop every ten feet on the way up the ramp. Just before I hit the street my cell phone gets a bar. I call a number. Three rings. Hang up. Then call back with one. Wait: sixty seconds. My phone rings. I answer.

If he’d called back immediately I’d have dropped the phone down a storm drain.

“Speaking?” he asks.

“I’m in a bind,” I say. “Can I come over.”


“Eight hundred kinds of trouble.”

“Well then, deal with it yourself.”

I let out the breath I was holding.

“I can’t.”

“Yes. You can.”

“Listen, I’ve always been a friend to you, I-”

“I don’t do this anymore,” he says.

“I need this,” I say. “Harry, I’m begging-”

“Fuck off,” he says, and hangs up.


I resist the urge to skip.

“Where the fuck were you?” he asks as soon as I open the door.

“I said it would be a while.”

“Fuck you,” he says. “You have no idea how fucking lucky you are. If a fucking janitor’s van had come out of there we’d have searched it on the street.

It takes me two seconds to control my temper. But it doesn’t matter now. It’s all but done.

“You’re getting what you wanted,” I say. “And then some.”

“Do you have any idea how much more complicated this makes things?”

“Yeah,” I said, “doing your job’s a bitch.”

He turns in his seat. I think he’s actually about to lunge at me.

“You’re attracting attention,” I say. “Drive.”


I tell him to go towards the airport like we’d arranged.

“Who was there?”

I shrug. “Two security guards. Kids.”

“And how does this help us?”

“I don’t know.”

Eyes in the rearview: “And you’ve got the money?”

“No. One more stop.”

He slams on the breaks.

We’re in the middle of the street in the middle of Boston and he turns around in his seat. I actually think he’s about to lunge at me.

I stare at him.

“Fuck you,” he says, very slowly. “We’re going back to the station.”

“No. There’s one more stop.”

“No,” he says.

A car passes by.

“Last stop,” I say. “Or this was all for nothing.”

I stare out the window. He screams.

At length, he drives.


We drive through the tunnel, park in the airport garage. I tell him not to go anywhere. He just stares straight ahead.

I walk across the lot to where he can’t see me. I find a taxi stand, get a cab. Out of the airport. Back into Boston. Back up to Harvard. I hand the driver a hundred, tell him to wait.

I go around the corner and get a different cab. Off to South Station. Pay him off.

Cab number three. Circle the park for ten. Then to Beacon Hill. Pull up in front of a townhouse, tell him to wait.

I ring the doorbell. He opens the door in his bathrobe. He opens the tube, unrolls the painting. Plays around with a magnifying-glass.

“Nine hundred,” he says.

“I heard a million.”

I’d heard seven fifty.

He shakes his head. “Nine hundred. But I have a buyer.”

I smile like an idiot.

“I thought you’d like that,” he says.”

“You sure?”

Suspicious: “Rather.”

“Then you won’t mind spotting me two fifty now?”

His eyes go narrow. “What’s going on.”

“You’ll read about it in the paper tomorrow.”

If he wasn’t in his own house he’d be running.

“I need you to tell me-”

“You’re fine,” I say.

“I don’t-”

“Harry,” I say, “look at me. You’re fine.”

“Are you?” he asks.

“I will be. With two fifty.”

He shakes his head. Disappears up a flight of stairs, ten minutes later comes up from the basement with a cheap black valise.

“I’m charging you ten percent,” he says.

“You’re an asshole.

He shrugs. And smiles.

I squeeze his shoulder. “Thank you. I appreciate it.”

“Have a goodnight,” he says, and I see myself out.


Cab to Harvard. Cab back to the airport. Into central parking. Back to the car.

He looks at me, daring me to speak.

“We’re done,” I say, and hand him the bag.

He takes it. Then walks past me towards the nearest taxi-stand.

“Be at the station before noon,” he says. “Or I’ll find you.”

“Goodnight,” I say. And wait for the shuttle to my hotel.


I’m in a interrogation room. My lawyer’s there. He brought croissants and tea. We don’t say a word.

I know what the headlines will be.

Today: Peter Aquila, mafioso in charge of Everett and Revere, arrested along with six men. Weapons charges. Also possession of a significant amount of cash for which he will not be able to account. Operation is credited to a source inside his crew.

Tomorrow: drug lab raided in Somerville townhouse. Arrests linked to larger Dominican drug-smuggling ring. Information gleaned during interrogation has already led to four more arrests and dozens of warrants. Operations ongoing, and expected to reach into other cities. Operation the result of months of controlled purchases by local police.

One month later: FBI raids major Boston pharmaceutical company on accusations of corporate espionage. Share prices dip twenty-eight percent in a single day. Undisclosed settlement is reached; no prosecutions result. Jane Caliban, CTO, announces early retirement with generous golden parachute.

One year later: Painting returned to Stuttgart museum. Not seen since its theft in 1993. Insurance company credit unnamed bounty hunter with its reacquisition. Stuttgart museum repays original insurance reimbursement ($200,000). New insurance estimates at two to three million.


The Suffolk County DA comes in. He shakes hands with my lawyer. Even shakes mine. Thanks me for my contribution. Tells me I’ve put some very bad people behind bars.

“We could put you in protection,” he says. “We’re very good at it.”

“No. Thank you.”

“I hope you’ll choose to see this as a lesson-” he says, but I’ve already stopped listening.

He talked to my lawyer for a while. He tears off a piece of croissant, brushes crumbs from his tie.

“So I can go?” I ask.

He looks at my lawyer. Then he nods.

“Stay out of trouble,” he says.

“I will,” I say.

The DA turns in the doorway. “I’m sorry we had to take your money,” he says.

I think about how much I lost – and how much I made.

“Thank you,” I say. “I appreciate it.”


~ by davekov on 7 April 2013.

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