Fearless – A serial web novel
Chapter 2 Legit business
A scrape, a grinding, a slam. Muffled voices, hushed and agitated, steps through glistening darkness, asphalt and men drizzled on by unseen skies. Beyond the length of the wet alley, streetlights strained to spread their fragmented light, they illuminated not much more than the poles they crowned and a depressingly small patch around the base.
In the alley itself, as it stretched between two side streets which were little more than alleys themselves, darkness prevailed. There was no city funded illumination behind The Low down restaurant at all. Besides a shifting square of light cast through a backdoor that opened and closed as shapes moved through it, the narrow street was riddled with shadows of shadows of shapes. The wall opposite the rear entrance to the sleazy restaurant was bare brick; one of the reasons Jake Ponzi had selected the property. Three large garbage bins and a container stood side by side along the brick wall. Surprisingly perhaps, considering the part of town Jake had decided to open a food establishment in, there weren’t much trash lying around. People, even the desolate souls hunting for privacy and cardboard-box sleeping arrangements on a daily basis, knew not to linger in Ponzi’s alley. No one talked about it of course. It was something that everybody knew. That was, anyone hanging around Mispent Street long enough knew.
The van idled, waiting for its load, spewing its exhaust in total disregard of Mother Nature.
Guy Zaffino finished stuffing a small metal barrel in with the rest, four so far, and pushed it until it clanked into place. It was surprisingly light. It never occurred to guy to wonder what was inside it. It wasn’t healthy to wonder. It was never advisable to ask, and over the three years guy had made deliveries for Ponzi, the importance of silence had been pressed upon enough times. Don’t ask questions. The less you know, the better for you, and your family, and your pet budgie. Guy glanced around. It wasn’t the first time there, but somehow today was a bad day. The hard-edged, lanky, Blondie Guy Zaffino didn’t know where it came from, that feeling of unease. A sense of omen waiting to spring and descend over them. Maybe it was just the fucking rain. Guy looked up, into the gray ceiling of misery, for a second, and then stepped back up on the crumbling cement block that served as receiving station for the restaurant. Shitty place. Guy wouldn’t eat there with a gun to the head. But that was Ponzi for you. The guy gave out bonuses easily enough. He even treated his people to trips, gifts, anything to keep them happy. But did he know anything about food? Guy shivered; partly in revulsion and partly from the cold.
Just one more, or two. Was it two? Guy glanced around, pushed dirty blond hair back and stepped back to the dock. Guy tried to penetrate the drizzling dark to count the containers already in the back of the van. Five, six, Guy counted, but couldn’t remember how many were left to move and almost ran over someone standing in the doorway.
“Hey, what the fuck?” Guy stepped back to get out of matt knight’s immediate presence. The little shit stood there waving his hands around, blabbering like always. Knight made guy’s skin crawl. “Slow the fuck down.” The puny excuse for a man flinched visibly. “Breathe knight. Then tell me what the fucking problem is.” It was more of a growl than a friendly request and matt seemed to cower more than usual.
Matt Knight took a step forward but stopped short at the look in guy’s face. He took a deep breath and wheezed his version of a whisper. “Something’s going to happen. I knew we shouldn’t have done this tonight, I just god damn knew there was something.” Matt stopped to take another breath and glanced this way and that, shifting his gaze from left to right, to Guy, then down to the ground. “I think someone knows. I just know it. Come on Guy; don’t look at me that way. I can’t do this anymore.”
“You always think something’s going to happen.” Guy straightened up, arms crossed, turned irritated. Matt was barely visible, but the way the little shit threw his head around and how the whites of Matt’s eyes flashed in agitation… Guy saw Matt’s stare dart to the van. Guy followed it and turned, stepped to the driver side and killed the engine. Two seconds later, the car keys dangled in front of matt’s face, “No.” With a growl Guy jammed the keys in a jean pocket. , time to wrap it up, before matt shit his pants or simply panicked.
Thunk, rattle, screech. “Hey, watch…”
A mountain called Benny suddenly filled the double doorway. It blocked out the light. It stepped through and collided with Matt. Unable to get away in time, matt flew forward, stumbled, and desperately reached out for something to grab. Benny, huge as a greyhound bus and nimble as a steam driven locomotive, took a lumbering step back as matt flew forward. Waving his arms and with a scream that, if there had been air left in his lungs to scream, would have sounded very girly., he crashed into guy. Guy grunted and tried to get out of the embrace, stepped off the edge, and fell backwards. Matt followed guy down, and landed on top. As the back of guy’s head smacked into the edge of the open van hatch, matt’s forehead made solid contact with guy’s jaw.
“Hey, I’m sorry.” Benny said and lumbered over to the edge. He dropped the two small barrels he had carried up from storage, forgetting immediately how many there had been. “Guy? Buddy?” He stepped down between matt’s spread-eagled legs, missing his tiny balls with a hair. “Buddy? You okay? Buddy, I’m sorry. But I said move.” he informed his fallen friends.
One barrel rolled off the short edge of the platform and stopped in the shadows at the wall. The other one rolled at an angle and plopped down on the ground. It kept rolling and stopped only when hitting guy’s bleeding head with a dull crack. Benny reached down and grabbed Matt’s coat and started pulling him off Guy.
Matt, despite scrambling to get up and out of Benny’s choking pull on his shirt, was the first to hear it. It was still distant. Far away, but quickly coming closer. Sirens. Cops. Coming in a hurry. He squeaked and stood, clawing at the shirt. “Ok Benny, you can let go now.” He forced out while trying to listen. This couldn’t be happening. Benny let go and Matt nearly doubled over, but he straightened quickly and croaked. “Thank you.” He had known it would happen. Sooner or later, major shit would hit the chopper blades. The time had come. But then the miracle happened.
For once in his life, matt Knight didn’t freeze. He didn’t even panic… much. In one not so smooth move he grabbed the barrel and turned to Benny. The big baby stood staring at guy who lay unconscious on the ground.
“Benny!” matt barked. “Time to go! Get guy! Let’s get out of here. We are so fucking sold.” When Benny didn’t move, just kept staring in disbelief at the still form at his feet, matt turned around and threw the barrel in with the others already loaded in the van. After a quick check to make sure guy’s head, or anything else that might belong to guy’s body, wasn’t in the way, he slammed the back door shut.
“Benny!” he screamed at the big man. Get Guy! Let’s go.”
As the sirens came closer –they were still quite far off– Matt managed to catch Benny’s fleeting attention. He refrained from yelling as he knew it would do him no good. Instead he spoke calmly, although slightly unsteadily, to Benny. In a few well chosen words he made it clear exactly why they had to hurry. Simple words mind, easy to understand vocabulary, a carefully controlled parental voice did the trick. “Do you want to live the rest of your life with bubba?” he said slowly while looking straight in Benny’s eyes. Suddenly he saw a spark, or maybe it was just a glint, of understanding. Oh, Benny wasn’t such a bad guy. Matt pointed at guy. Despite his own vibrating eagerness to hurry the hell out of there, matt knew there was no hurrying Benny. But there it was; Benny nodded. Matt sighed in relief and rushed to lock the back doors and get in the van.
Benny picked up guy and carried the limp body around the side of the van. He unceremoniously dumped it on the back seat. Benny was perhaps a bit… slow, but once the sound of the sirens connected with the word “cops”, he knew they were in serious shit. Serious shit usually includes a lot of running and that, Benny understood. He slammed the door and squeezed into the passenger seat, pulled the door shut, and sat trembling, not quite sure what to do next. He willed the vehicle forward. It didn’t move. “Uhhmmmmgooooh.” he said and turned to matt. “Uh?”
In the driver seat, Matt reached for the key. It wasn’t there. Now, matt lost the sliver of control he had managed to muster and he felt like crying. The cops were coming. He was going to jail. He would live in a cell with a giant named “Yo Papa”, and he would drop his soap in the shower on his first day there. Matt was shaking all over, stared in blind horror at his other potential cellmate.
That’s when the second miracle of the day took place. Benny thought fast. He thought hard. He reached back between the two front seats and grabbed on to something to grip. Guy’s shirt crumpled nicely in his big fist and he pulled. Guy slid down on the floor with a thump and a groan. Some fumbling and groping later, he thrust the keys at Matt. “Key! Go!” He rumbled.
Marcy watched the van speed away along the alley, turn left with only a small scrape against something; probably a wall belonging to the next house over. She stood behind the corner of The Down low restaurant. When the vehicle had turned again, entering the main road, she stepped out and stopped next to Amy; her friend sat slumped against the wall. Marcy sighed at the sight of Amy’s head lolling against her chest, legs stretched out, and arms flopped down beside her. Then she glanced down at the phone in her hand and silenced the music player. The penetrating sound of oncoming sirens died just as the imaginary cars screeched to a halt close to some made up (Or maybe it was a reality show clip, she didn’t know) crime scene and radios started squealing and beeping. She looked up at where the van had disappeared. “Fun, fun.”
“Hey you!” She said and poked her friend on one of the outstretched legs.
“Whaaaat?” Amy mumbled.
“Time to get you home missy.”
“Fine…” Amy murmured. “Comfy here… Nice here…”
Marcy raised her eyebrows. “Oh yeah, such a wonderful spot to sleep in, I know. I hate to break it too you stupid, but you’re going home.”
“Fine right here, honest.” Amy whined without moving a single muscle.
“Alrighty, then. You have five minutes. I’m just going to check out what’s over there. Don’t move.” She grinned and put the phone in an inside pocket before stepping around the privacy wall.