Authors: Victor Methos
The person in the mirror didn’t even look like him anymore. There were wrinkles where there hadn’t been any before, his hairline was pulling back, and his stomach was pushing out. Richard Miller thought he looked much more like his biological father than the picture he had of himself in his head.
He splashed cold water on his face and stared at himself again, hoping the image of his father
had washed away. But it was still there, glaring at him and mocking him. Thinking of his real father made him think of the man who’d raised him—and judged him—his entire life. The connection brought back a memory he thought he’d forgotten. Prom. One of the most painful nights of his life. Not only had his date, Lauren Howell, only gone out with him because her sister, who was dating his brother, had forced her to go, but while Richard was waiting for her in her living room, he’d also heard her parents speaking. Her father told her mother that Richard’s father had called to say that Richard was a runt, and he would be happy to have one of his other, better sons go with Lauren.
Richard’s father had hated him his entire life, and he had never known why
—until a few years before his father’s death. His older brother Chad had informed Richard that he was not actually their father’s son. He was the product of his mother’s affair with a neighbor. They’d kept it secret, so as not to shame the family, and tried to raise Richard as their own.
only gotten to know his father—his real father—for a few years. He had lived in a studio apartment and was a full-blown alcoholic. Richard had only known him twenty minutes before the man had hit him up for money. And the most frightening part was that Richard looked just like him now. The vision of a future that might have been terrified him to his core.
Richard wiped the water from his face with a paper towel just as someone walked into the
bar’s bathroom. He watched the man’s reflection in the mirror. Daniel something. He was a club kid, though he was probably in his early thirties.
“Hey,” Daniel said.
Daniel opened one of the stalls and stepped inside. He leaned against the wall and took out a small vial. He placed a little bit of white powder on his hand then snorted it in one nostril followed by the other.
“You want?” Daniel
asked, wiping the edges of his nostrils with his fingertips.
“Um, well, I’ve never actually done it.”
“You’ll love it, man.”
Richard stepped over and stood in the stall with the man, leaning against the opposite wall.
“Hold out your hand,” Daniel said.
Richard did as he was told. Daniel tapped t
he vial against the back of Richard’s hand. Some of the powder came out onto his skin.
“Just stick your nose over it and snort.”
Richard did that, too. It burned going up, and he suddenly felt as though his sinuses were plugged. He had the overwhelming urge to blow his nose.
“How’s it feel?”
he rush came as though he’d jumped off a cliff. The impact was palpable. Fire coursed through him, his heart raced, and suddenly, nothing seemed so bad. “Wow, that is… Wow!”
.” Daniel chuckled. He took a snort then offered more to Richard, who sucked it all up.
“This is good stuff,” Richard bellowed, standing a little taller.
“It’s average. Cut with baby laxative. But if you do a lot of it, the shit’ll hit the spot.”
Richard did another snort and shook his head. He felt a hundred feet tall. He started bobbing his head
even though he could barely hear the music through the thick bathroom walls. His phone rang, and he didn’t recognize the sound right away. Then he dipped into his pocket.
“Excuse me,” Richard said, hopping out of the stall and going
to stand by the urinals. “This is Richard.”
“Hey, so they selling the bitches tomorrow. The guy needs a day to get the money together. I’m
gonna get ’em tonight. Can you have the money?”
, I can have the cash in the morning.”
“Get it now. I’ll tell you where to meet me.”
“It’s gotta be in the morning. The money’s in the bank and they’re not open.”
Richard caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror as he hung up his phone.
He was still the alcoholic he’d seen in the filthy apartment. But he didn’t care as much anymore.
“You got more, Daniel?” he
“Yeah, man. What’s mine is yours.”
Stanton knew Chinatown well. It was the one place every tourist was told not to go.
Tour guides advised to visit during the day if the trip was unavoidable, and even then, the morning was best, before everyone was up.
Two months prior, three assailants
had gunned a man down in the middle of the street, using assault rifles with hollow-point bullets. The Chinatown drug dealers had nothing to fear from the police because they were better armed than the department was.
Stanton parked in the lot behind the Red Buckle.
A neon sign hung over the front door, and the back entrance was boarded up. He walked around front after checking then holstering his weapon.
The interior was in shambles. The bar looked
as though it were a hundred years old and hadn’t been cleaned since it first opened its doors. The floors were stained, and the tables were more so. One cocktail waitress and a bartender saw to the entire space, with two bouncers by the door smoking cigarettes. The bouncers’ shirts bulged with hidden weapons.
No one checked his ID as he entered and walked casually
up to the bar. He had no photograph of Sticks, so he sat at the bar and watched. The bartender didn’t ask if he needed anything. When Stanton placed a twenty down, the bartender came over, and he ordered a virgin margarita. Suddenly, he felt foolish for ordering an apple juice before when he could’ve just done that.
He glanced around
at the booths. None of them were lighted, so it was difficult to tell who was there. Two pool tables were in back, and he could hear the crack of the cue ball against the others. He waited patiently for a few minutes, until the bartender was near him.
“Sticks here tonight?”
The bartender eyed him. “You a friend of his?”
“Actually, I owe him some money, and he told me he might be here tonight.”
The bartender turned to another customer
who was yelling his order. “He’s in back at the tables,” he said, without turning back to Stanton.
pushed the drink away and rose. As he turned toward the tables, a large man in a ripped T-shirt bumped into him.
“Sorry,” Stanton said.
“You fuckin’ made me spill my drink.”
“How about another one on me
?” He motioned to the bartender. He wasn’t thinking clearly. Sticks was in back, and he just wanted past this guy. If his thoughts had been clear, he would’ve known that backing down as quickly as he had was a sign of weakness. He’d spilled blood in the water with this group of sharks.
“Fuck you, cocksucker,” the man said, pushing him back.
A few people turned around, curious as to what was about to go down.
Stanton smiled. “No harm intended. Let me pay for your next few rounds
, and we’ll call it good.”
“How ’bout I bash your fucking face in
, and we call it good.”
bartender chimed in. “Leave him alone, Hank. He owes money to Sticks. Let the man pay his bill.”
Hank spit a putrid mix of snot and chewing tobacco
on Stanton’s shoes. Stanton stepped around him, and Hank didn’t do anything.
The back room was just two pool tables and a
n unplugged jukebox. A man and a woman were at one of the tables. The woman was dressed scantily, and dark circles hung under her eyes. The man had greasy hair and torn jeans. His face was weathered as though he’d spent a lifetime in the sun. They both looked up as Stanton walked in.
“Are you Sticks?” Stanton asked.
For a silent moment, Sticks kept his eyes on Stanton, who didn’t move.
In a burst of movement, Sticks thr
ew the pool stick at Stanton and tossed the girl to the floor near Stanton’s feet. The girl screamed as Sticks sprinted out the back. Stanton dashed after him, jumped over the girl, and rushed through the back door.
raced through the parking lot. Stanton was right behind him, pumping his arms to keep up. Sticks jumped the fence separating the bar from the carpet outlet next door. Stanton followed. He thrust one foot into the fence and used it as leverage to hoist himself over. Sticks was on the other side, pulling a gun from his waistband.
Stanton hit the ground and rolled, coming up with
his Desert Eagle pointed at the man’s heart. Sticks didn’t even have his gun out yet. He turned and ran.
with the gun at his side, chased him around the store into the street. They emerged onto the main road, running across old, out-of-service train tracks. Sticks was panting and wheezing. Stanton didn’t feel anything but a burning in his thighs.
They sprinted up the tracks to an empty field.
Sticks was slowing down. His breathing was getting louder and wetter, as though he might have been foaming at the mouth. He lifted the pistol behind him and fired.
round went wide. Instead of stopping, Stanton ducked his head and pumped his legs for all they had. He slammed into Sticks at the waist, and another bullet passed so close to Stanton’s ear that he was certain he would’ve heard the buzz if the pop hadn’t deafened him.
The two men hit the ground so hard
they both grunted as they rolled over the tracks. Stanton held on tightly to Sticks’s clothing, making sure the gun couldn’t get near him. When they stopped rolling, Stanton grabbed the man’s right arm, his firing arm. He twisted like a snake, pinning Sticks’s arm in the crook of his thighs, holding tightly to the man’s wrist. His Desert Eagle lay in the dirt, out of reach.
Stanton pulled back with everything he had and heard the soft crack of
Sticks’s elbow. The man howled in pain. Stanton rolled on top of him into the Gracie mount, with his legs wrapped around Sticks’s waist and one hand to his throat. Both guns were in the dirt now.
Sticks rolled onto his back, a classic mistake
for someone in the Gracie mount. Stanton wrapped his arm around Sticks’s throat and pulled up, cutting off his air. Sticks gurgled and went limp after only a few seconds. Stanton waited until he felt the man weaken underneath him, then he loosened his arm enough for Sticks to breathe. He squeezed again, as hard as he could, cutting off the air, just to show him he could. Then he loosened his grip again.
Where’s Sharon Miller and the girl?” Stanton asked, breathing hard.
Stanton squeezed again. His other arm was behind the head, pushing forward, and the two acted like scissors, cutting off the man’s air. Stanton waited until Sticks nearly passed out.
“I don’t have ’em.”
“Who does? Tate?”
“Yeah, yeah, Tate has ’em. Go get him.”
“Where is he?”
“Up your mother’s cunt,” Sticks said then laughed.
Stanton lifted him and slammed his head down, nearly knocking him unconscious. He pulled out his cuffs and slapped them on the man’s wrists.
Tate paced the basement of Lee’s house. He felt jittery, almost
as if he were wearing the wrong skin. He’d called Sticks and told him what was up, and Sticks had said he would be right there. That was three hours ago. And he still hadn’t come. The stupid asshole was probably high and shacked up with some girl. Sticks might not be out to Lee’s house again in time for the trade. No biggie. Tate didn’t plan on giving him a cut anyway. As far as he was concerned, the score was his money and no one else’s.
He pulled out the last of his weed and
slumped onto a couch. The shit was laced with so much angel dust that he couldn’t smoke it. He tried to separate the weed and the angel dust on a table in front of him, but it wasn’t working.
, Lee,” he shouted. “You got any ganja?”
“Yeah, man. Hold up.”
Tate stood and paced the room again. He tried to lay down on Lee’s waterbed, but the wavy motion made him nauseated, and he rose and returned to his pacing. Lee came down a few minutes later, with a bong and some weed.
They sat at the table
, and Lee lit up a bowl and took a hit before passing it over. Tate took three or four lungfuls and seemed to melt into the chair. Each of his muscles instantly felt loose and relaxed. He took another pull then passed it on.
gotta take it easy on this shit,” Lee said. “Primo stuff, baby.”
“Your cousin, he a real pimp
? Or he a fake-ass bitch?”
Dominic been in the game since he was a young kid. Started with his girlfriend back when he was fifteen, man. You believe that? Nigga was fifteen and turnin’ bitches out. He went away for a while, though, but that didn’t do nothin’. He came out, and he wasn’t scared of nobody no more. But he don’t really pimp, though. He just get bitches and turn ’em out and then sell ’em off. It pays, and he ain’t got to be out on the street every day.” He took a pull off the bong and let it rest on the table as he blew circles of smoke into the air. “You been inside, too, though. What was that like?”
“Nah, man. I
ain’t been busted for nothin’ but DUI an’ shit.”
“It’s crazy, man. Different planet.” Tate took another pull from the bong, deep and burning. The weed calmed him
enough that he almost thought he could sleep. “You got everyone split up by race, and they don’t trust each other. But it’s all bullshit ’cause you can’t trust nobody in there anyway. People’ll come up to you at first and be real nice. They’ll bring you sandwiches and cookies and drinks. Some of ’em will bring you ganja and smoke with you. They act like your best friend. And then the second you need ’em, when you at your weakest and need somebody there, that’s when they’ll bite. Like some fucking cobra. And they’ll take whatever you got. If you lucky, it’s just your stuff.”
rapin’ dudes? That happen to you?”
“Yeah, man. It happens to everyone in there. You either get
punked, or you join up with your crew, your race. And some big dog there’ll tell you that that’s the price you gotta pay if you want protection. And sometimes, you just do it ’cause ain’t no women around, and you get so lonely the world just don’t make sense no more.”
Tate’s phone rang. He stared at it on the table and blinked slowly a couple of times before answering.
“Tate. This is Bridge, dog. My dipshit nephew with you?”
ain’t seen Sticks since this mornin’. He took off. I called him and he said he’d be down, but I ain’t seen him.”
“Well if you see him
, tell him I need to talk to his ass. Some cop was down at Jean’s askin’ about him. Stopped up here, too. He and Sticks took off out the back and ain’t no one seen him since.”
“Shit if I know. But tell his stupid ass to call me.”
Tate hung up and placed the phone down.
What dat about?” Lee asked.
“I don’t know. But I get the
feelin’ shit’s hittin’ the fan.”