As I crossed the busy street, I prayed for a car to hit me, or an anvil to drop out of the sky. You know, Wile E. Coyote style. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that lucky. As I opened the door to the restaurant, I realized I was going to have to go through with it. There was no way out.
The restaurant was an Italian joint: checkered table cloths, lousy opera music in the background, a man barking orders at people in a thick New York accent. The whole nine yards. It was where we always met. A pretty little thing with short blond hair and a shorter skirt showed me to my table. I watched her carefully as she walked away. Okay, maybe stared is more like it. So shoot me. Skirt like that in a place like this? Tell me she’s not asking for it.
“Everything alright here, son?” I felt my face turn red. I knew that voice. They were early.
“Martin. Yes sir. Just fine.”
“You sure? He looked like he was about to fall out of his booth there for a second, didn’t he Sammy?”
“Sure did, boss.”
“Mind if we uh.. sit down for a minute?” He wasn’t really asking. This was a sort of game he played every time I came by to pay him a “visit.”
“No, of course not. Go ahead.” He and Sammy slid in across from me.
“So you like Sandy, eh? She’s a hot one, ain’t she Sammy?”
“Sure is, boss.” Sammy had this grin on his face. This sick grin. Like he knew what was coming. Like he and the “boss” had a secret.
“She’s alright,” I said nervously.
“Let’s get down to business, shall we? You got the envelope?”
That was fast, I thought. I am so screwed.
“Say Martin. Here’s the thing..” I started.
“Oh no. Don’t start in with that ’here’s the thing’ business. We don’t like ’here’s the thing,’ do we Sammy?”
“Sure don’t, boss.”
“Do you have the envelope or not?”
“Um.. not.” I hung my head. “You’re gonna kill me now, aren’t you?”
“Kill you? Sammy, he thinks we’re gonna kill him. We’re not gonna kill him, are we Sammy?”
“Sure aren’t, boss.”
“Not yet at least. You better have a really good excuse, though. And it better not start with ’here’s the thing.’”
“I do. I swear. I went to pick it up, but the guy didn’t show.”
“Didn’t show? Tommy? I find that hard to believe. Tommy’s never missed a drop in his life. No, here’s the thing. I think you didn’t show.”
I stammered out something about missing the bus and how sorry I was.
“Well you got that right. You’re one sorry individual. Why don’t we go talk outside?”
“I uh.. I don’t think that’s such a good idea, Martin. I’ve really got to get back home. My mom is waiting for me.”
“Aww, did you hear that Sammy? His moms is waitin’ for him. Ain’t that sweet?”
“Sure is, boss.”
“Outside. Now.”
I got up, and started to walk toward the front door.
“No. Back door. What, are you stupid?”
I turned around and made like I was going to walk out the back door, but I made a break for it. I ran as fast as I could. Then I felt what I was sure was the handle of a revolver smack me in the back of my head. The blow made me dizzy, and I lost my footing. I fell face-first into someone’s spaghetti. I could feel meatball in my nose. The smell of tomato sauce was intense.
Someone picked me up by the back of my shirt and turned me around. I came nose to nose with Sammy.
“What should I do with him, boss?”
“Well that all depends on him. What are you doing tonight, son?”
“Um.. homework?”
Smack. The butt of the gun caught me right between the eyes this time. Everything went white for a good ten seconds. I guess that was the wrong answer.
“Let’s try this again. What are you doing tonight, son?”
“Meeting Tommy and picking up the envelope?” I tried, praying that was what he wanted.
Sammy finally let go of my shirt. Actually, he tossed me aside like unwanted garbage. Martin patted me on the back and told me I was a good boy.
“Don’t screw this up now, son.” he said, as he and Sammy started to walk away.
I finally allowed myself to breathe.
Before he walked out of the restaurant, he turned back to face me
and shot me in the leg. It felt like someone, well, it felt like someone shot me in the leg. It was like nothing I’d ever felt before. I fell to the floor and grabbed my bleeding
shin. No one rushed over to help me. No one called 911. A woman at the table next to me kept looking at me and gesturing to her ruined plate of spaghetti.
That was when I learned that once you were in, you were in. There was never anyway out.



Joined May 2008

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A lunch meeting gone wrong

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