She’s a pretty little girl, he thought. Dark, dark hair, and clear, liquid-blue eyes. And such a lovely voice. What was she reading, Frost …?
“Home is the place, that when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”
Yeah, Frost. Where’d she find that? Must have seemed appropriate under the circumstances, he thought. But he really wasn’t paying attention to the words, just her voice, so sweet, clear. Neither girlish nor yet womanly, it took him to other places in his mind.
“I wish I could dance like Fred Astaire.”
She paused. “Excuse me, Mr. Graham.”
“God, that guy could dance.”
“Um, is … Fred … a friend of yours, Mr. Graham? Does he live here at the home?”
“Huh?” Her question bewildered him, but it brought him back to the moment. He chuckled.
Now she was bewildered. “Shall I keep reading, Mr. Graham?”
Before he could answer Rawlins plopped her luscious, wide-hipped ass next to him. “It’ll have to wait until I take his blood pressure, hon.”
He glanced at her and pretended to scowl. “Damn, Rawlins, you look just like Rita Hayworth.”
“Aw, come on … she danced with Astaire too, in ‘You Were Never Lovelier.’ She had gorgeous red hair, just like you, nice curves too.”
“You coming on to me, you old alley cat? Maybe I should get you some Viagra.”
“Naw … better a raisin muffin, whole bran. At my age a good bowel movement feels just as good as … oh, Jesus.” He nodded toward the teenage girl who sat wide-eyed with a book of Frost poems clutched to her chest. “Sorry, sweetheart, it’s the Alzheimer’s makes me talk like that.”
“Baloney,” Rawlins laughed. “You haven’t forgotten a thing. Alzheimer’s my ass. Don’t pay him any mind, kid. He’s sharper than an arrow in your heart.”
“Lauren … honey, it’s time to go.”
The girl turned toward a woman wearing a spotless white skirt and powder blue blouse. Graham noted the resemblance immediately.
“Okay, mom. This is Mr. Graham.”
The mother’s voice reverberated off the walls. “Hello, Mr. Graham, very nice to meet you.”
“You too, dear. No need to speak so loudly.” Why did they always think because you were old you were deaf?
“Oh,” she replied, still too loudly. “Well, have a nice day, won’t you?”
The girl joined her and turned to wave before following her out of the day room.
“Good-looking woman,” Graham said. “I can see where the girl gets her looks.”
“Barbara Grace … yeah, she’s a looker, and she’s well off enough to pay to stay that way. Her husband’s a big developer. But, you’re right; her daughter is a really pretty kid.”
“Mom looks a bit like Paulette Goddard, doesn’t she? I was thinking the girl looks like Jennifer Jones.”
“Rawlins, you can’t be that culturally deprived.”
“Sorry, I’m not much for old movies. So, when did the world go color?”
“Rawlins, I’d give you a good smack across that pretty ass of yours, but …”
“I’d kick yours, right?”
“No, you’d just like it too much and miss the point.”
Rawlins slipped the blood-pressure cuff off his arm. “Bet you spanked a lot of pretty asses in your time.”
“I don’t hit girls … unless they need it. So, am I gonna live another day?”
“You got to last at least until your birthday, another week. Eighty-one … You’re practically archaeological.”
“Very funny. I stopped counting.”
“Wanna go out for a walk later?”
“You gonna hold my arm?”
“Yup, someone’s gotta prop you up.”
“What’re you gonna prop up?”
“Fresh old bastard.”
“Uh-huh,” he chuckled, “that’s me.”
* * * * *
Come twilight she came to fetch him. He apologized for not shining his shoes; he’d dozed off. She suggested he leave his slippers on. They were only walking around the block, after all. Then she took his arm and let him guide her to the front entrance.
Outside his pace quickened and his cane clicked a lively cadence.
“What’s the hurry?” she complained.
“I just love this time of day. Can’t keep up?”
“I just don’t want to have to carry you back on my shoulders cuz you wore yourself out.”
“I take a lot of grief from you, Rawlins. Good thing you have such a fine ass, or I’d have complained and got you fired long ago.”
“You’d miss me, you old fart.”
“Got that right … on both counts. Damn, Cassie, I hate living so long. No one to talk to—present company excepted of course, even if you are abysmally ignorant.”
“Thanks … I think. You know, if you tried to make friends with some of the other …”
“It ain’t a jail, Nick.”
“No, it’s a goddamned warehouse. And I’ve never made friends with people I couldn’t respect.”
“They’re just old … like you.”
“Some of them might as well be dead. I got no problem with them; they can’t help it if their hearts have outlasted their minds. It’s the ones who let themselves be coddled and talked down to like they’re children. Just willingly given up their dignity, go to bed when they’re told, eat the gruel they’re given when they’re told, allow their asses to be wiped for them.”
“Some of them can’t help it.”
“Yeah? Well the day comes I can’t wipe my own ass, I’ll fall on my cane.”
He looked over his shoulder then all around them. He lifted the cane and pushed a button near the handle with his thumb. The length of the cane slid away like a sheath to reveal a sword-like blade.
“Shhh, don’t ever tell anyone.”
“Where the hell did you get a thing like that?”
“Had it since 1949. It was a gift from my boss. I’m never without it.”
“God, Nick … you scare the shit out of me sometimes.”
“I’ll tell you something else, Cass, I’m sitting on a ton of money, but I got no use for it. I let them put me into this shitty place so the feds’ll think I pissed it all away.”
“Don’t tell me you’re leaving it to me.”
“I can’t leave it to anyone … not legally anyway. But I want to let you know where to find it … when …”
“Don’t talk like that; I wouldn’t want it anyway.”
“Horseshit. But I would like to do something … one more thing … something that’ll make a difference in someone’s life.”
“Well, you’re gonna have to live a bit longer, I guess.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
When they returned Bruno and Mangar were berating old Mr. Denton, scolding him in the lobby in front of everyone.
“How many times have I told you to tell someone when you leak?” Mangar wagged her finger at the man. He didn’t answer, just let his head hang.
“Mrs. Mangar is asking you a question.” Bruno loomed over the old man who shuffled in place, a streak of liquefied shit penetrating a trail down his pant leg.
“Leave him alone,” Graham snarled.
Bruno turned toward Graham, a sneer of anticipation on his face. “Oh, we gonna have a problem with you, Mr. Graham? Old tough guy, huh?”
“C’mon, Nick.” Rawlins turned Graham around and guided him back toward his room. “What the hell are you thinking?”
“He’s a fucking bully, and that bitch Mangar must have gone to a nursing school in Auschwitz, or something.”
“Nick, you’re eighty, okay? It’s not the old days. That guy outweighs you by at least a hundred pounds.”
“More than that, most likely. The tub of shit, easy enough to bring that fucking blister down to size.”
“Promise me you won’t antagonize him. I wouldn’t put it past him to hurt you and say you had an accident.”
“Let him try it.”
“Okay … I promise. If you show me your tits.”
“I dunno. It’ll come back to me.”
“Sure, and while we’re waiting I’ll catch a chest cold. C’mon.”
He’d been enjoying the privacy of his room since his roommate died. Maybe the next one would be a quiet one too, with no pain-in-the-ass family to visit.
“Tired?” Rawlins asked.
“Not too. Think I’ll sit by the window a while.”
“Not much of a view.”
“Oh, I don’t know. After a while the neighborhood cats come around and try to catch rats coming out of the Dumpster over there. It can be pretty entertaining.”
“You want to sit in the TV room?”
“What for? Nothing but garbage on. Sure would like that little girl to come back and read to me again. Pretty voice.”
“I’ll let her know if she comes back tomorrow. Meantime, I gotta look in on some other residents. Can’t have you monopolizing my time.”
“How bout my peek at those tits.”
He settled in to his chair, knowing she’d be back later to help him into bed. He smiled, thinking that in his younger days he might well be the one helping her into bed. He wondered if she had a boyfriend—it would be a shame to let that body go to waste. But she was probably too smart for a lot of guys. Most of the lugs he knew were afraid of smart girls. Not him. Brains combined with a generous set of curves … perfection.
He watched the cats gather around the Dumpster, crouched, ready to pounce. But one rat they gave a wide berth, a surly vicious-looking bugger. Only one cat would take him on—like each of them had a history of bad blood. This night was no exception. It was a husky tuxedo cat. He and the rat would come at each other head-on, tear each other up a bit and then break off to fight another day. One day—soon, he thought—one of them would have to end it. He was betting on the tux.
* * * * *
He munched a piece of toast and scanned the dining hall. At least he still had most of his teeth, he thought and smiled. The coffee wasn’t half bad.
He preferred to sit alone with his back to the wall. That way he could see anything coming at him. This morning it looked like it was Mangar. She was built like a square of shredded wheat, tiny arms, but solid columns for legs. A small head with piggish eyes. The façade of her chest had collapsed so her tits, like dead seal pups, hung down to her waist. She walked like she had a stick up her ass.
“Just toast and coffee again, Mr. Graham?”
“No fooling you; is there, Mrs. Mangar?”
She smirked. “Perhaps I should order a laxative for you.”
“I assure you, dear lady, your face is a most potent laxative.”
“If I say so, we could force feed you.”
“Judging by the swill served here, it’s a wonder you don’t force it on everybody.”
“Always with the sarcasm, eh, Mr. Graham? I know about you; I know you should be in jail.”
“Aw, but Mrs. Mangar, you have to be guilty of something to be put in jail.”
“Ha! I heard you’ve gotten away with murder.”
“Self-defense, dear Mangar. Self-defense. I’d never hurt anyone who didn’t try to hurt me first.”
She glowered, but she backed off.
He made his way to the day room and waited. Some of the other kids who volunteered to read to residents had arrived, but not Lauren. He allowed himself to doze.
“Hey, look who’s here.” It was Rawlins. Lauren was with him.
“Hi, Mr. Graham.”
“Hello, dear, nice to see you again.”
“I thought I’d finish reading for you. I don’t think I’ll be able to come back … at least for a while.”
It surprised him, the way his heart sank.
“Oh? Is that so? Well, I shall miss your lovely voice, dear.”
She sat on a chair in front of him as Rawlins left on her rounds. She opened a book, not looking at him. He thought he detected a slight tremble of her chin.
“Is there something troubling you, dear?”
She looked up and he saw it in her eyes, some burden a girl her age shouldn’t have to bear alone. And he could tell she was desperate to talk to someone.
“Look, dear, I’m just an old guy in a nursing home. Nobody talks to me, and I don’t talk to anyone else. If there’s something you need to get off your chest, feel free.”
That’s all it took.
“My … my mom and dad.”
“I … I think my dad’s in some trouble. He was developing a project at the riverfront. At first he was really excited about it, but I guess some things went wrong. I don’t know, he never tells me or mom about his work. But I think he needed to borrow a lot of money.”
“Well, big projects like your dad works on never go up without some hitches, maybe …”
“No. I heard him talking to my mom; he couldn’t get the money from any of the banks. So he went to man named Zinti.”
No. Zinti? He was dead … long dead. Right after his brother was whacked.
“This man,” he said. “Have you seen him? Do you know what he looks like?”
Lauren wiped her eye. “He’s kinda short and boxy looking. He looks like his nose got pushed in. Black, black hair and black eyes. He always looks like he’s smirking at you. He’s had dinner over my house a few times. Gave me the creeps.”
“I see, well the way you describe him …”
“It isn’t just that. It’s the way he talked to my mom, the way he looked at her. He said he wanted her to work for him while dad and he were partners.”
“Work for him?”
“I guess as a secretary or something. But …”
“He’s just … I couldn’t stand the way he looked at me too, and the things he’d say.”
“Like if I was a cheerleader, and how he’d like to see me in uniform, and if I had a boyfriend. It made me feel like bugs were crawling over me.”
“Didn’t your dad say anything?”
“I think my dad is afraid of him.”
A voice from the doorway called, “Lauren … I’m sorry, honey, but we’ll have to cut this visit short.”
Graham looked over and assessed the perfect businessman: a sharp, but conservative suit, hair with just a hint of gray. He could tell the father was even more tightly wrapped than the girl. So tightly wrapped a prod or two would make him burst wide open.
He stepped over to them, “I’m sorry, Lauren. Your mother … has to go away for a few days.”
“But mom’s never gone away on business.”
“Please, Lauren, I want you home.”
Graham could see she was struggling to hold back tears. “It’s all right, dear, Perhaps another time.”
“Bye, Mr. Graham.”
She stood and faced her father, her eyes conveying all her bewilderment and hurt. “I have to pick up some things I left at the desk.”
“Okay, then. Hurry along.”
As his daughter left, he awkwardly turned to Graham. “Mr. Graham? Alan Grace.” He held out his hand. “Lauren’s quite fond of you. You know, my parents passed away right after she was born, and my wife’s mother, well, she lives on the other coast so she hasn’t really had grandparents …”
“I knew a man named Zinti.”
Grace took his remark like a sucker punch, and bent like he’d lost all his air.
“He was one mean sonuvabitch. He ran a sort of nightclub and got into a beef with my boss. His little brother got knocked off. Oscar Zinti … his brother’s name was Abe.”
“I … I don’t know what my daughter may have told you, sir, but this is my business …”
“I was hoping all the Zintis had died out, become extinct. Where’s your wife, Mr. Grace?”
“She … she …”
Oh, yeah, he couldn’t hold it inside anymore. Not all alone.
“She … She’s with him.”
“I couldn’t make the first repay on time … not all of it. Damn, I’m good for it; the leases are really picking up …”
“Why does he have your wife?”
“He said … oh, God. He said she was ‘collateral’.”
“And you let him have her? What if he sends a couple of boneheads to pick up your daughter, too?”
“No, I’d never …”
“Listen, Grace, I’m going to help you, because I’m very fond of your girl.”
“What? Are you serious? Some old guy in a nursing home? What the hell can you do to help me?”
“You’d be surprised at my resources. Have you talked to the cops?”
“I can’t. Zinti could … will do certain things that would ruin me … embarrass my family.”
“What’s this Zinti’s name?”
“Ah, I see.”
Grace spun around. “Yes, sweetheart, let’s go now, okay?”
She waved, “Bye, Mr. Graham.”
“Rawlins, you ever hear of Oscar Zinti?”
She laughed. “My grandparents used to talk about him like he was the boogieman. Didn’t he run one of those secret clubs way back in the Twenties?”
“Speakeasy … blind pig. But his club served a lot more than hooch during Prohibition. That’s why it kept going strong even after repeal. So did the old Sans Merci, for that matter. Hey, did I ever mention that my Old Man ran bootleg booze to all the speaks in town?”
“A few dozen times. So, was Oscar any relation to Hugo Zinti?”
“You know about him?”
“Only that he ran a strip club on the edge of town and now he’s an up-and-coming community player. I’ve seen him in the paper and on the news. Kind of an ugly, dwarfish guy. Why, what’s up with him?”
“Of course, Oscar’s nephew.”
“Oscar was a vicious bastard. Liked to hurt people, but he had a brain, good business sense. Never let emotion get in the way of a deal. His brother, Abe, was just a fucking thug. He got himself whacked. Unfortunately, it happened right after he beat the living shit out of his pregnant wife. While he was taking a cap to the head, his wife went into early labor. She died, but the kid lived. Ugly kid. My boss used to say he looked like a cross between an Edsel and a chimpanzee.”
“What’s an Edsel?”
“Christ, Rawlins. Am I gonna have to take you back to school, or what?”
“Nick, what’s up?”
“Zinti—I suppose he works out of that joint you mentioned.”
“I dunno, I think.”
“Give me a ride out there, will you?”
“C’mon, I need to get out there and talk to this Zinti.”
“Can’t, I’m on duty until 3 p.m. Can’t you wait …?”
“Need to do this quick.”
“You can always use the Provide-a-Ride van.”
“Shit. Okay, but I need you to do something for me on your lunch break.”
“I eat on my lunch break.”
“I’ll buy you dinner. In my room, in the closet. I have an old woolen coat—black. There’s a secret seam inside the chest pocket. There’s a long piece of ticker tape. All my safe deposit locations are listed. I want you to pick up the first two on the list for me. The password’s listed. Just bring back what you find and pick me up at Zinti’s place after three.”
“Jesus, you’re serious.”
“Serious as a heart attack.”
* * * * *
“I don’t see where you have permission to leave the facility, Mr. Graham.”
“Mrs. Mangar, as much as you wish this place were a jail, and you the jailer, everyone here, including me, has the right to come and go as we wish. Now, I need to catch that van.”
He started making his way to the door when Bruno stepped in front of him.
“I think you should apologize to Mrs. Mangar.”
“Your mother should apologize.”
He watched the blood boil to the surface of Bruno’s face.
“Whacha gonna do, greaseball? Beat up an old guy in front of a dozen witnesses?”
Bruno stepped aside.
He gave the driver the address and sat at the back. He thought it would take forever to get to Zinti’s club. A dozen old dames were dropped off at a dozen doctors’ offices and one market.
Finally, only he and the driver occupied the van.
“Had to leave you for last, pal. This is way off the beaten path—gone to visit relatives?”
When the van pulled up to the Clam Shack, the driver seemed confused. “This can’t be it.”
Graham stood and headed for the door. “It’s it.”
“Whoa, slow down, old timer. I can’t leave you off here. This is no place for a nice old gentleman like you.”
“It’s my stop; open the door.”
“Uh-uh. I’m taking you back to the home. Better sit down.”
“Is there something fucking wrong with you? This is where I want to get off. Now open the goddamned door.”
Instead the driver peeled away. Graham fell back in a seat. “You asshole! Stop this damned van.”
But the driver didn’t listen. He was yammering into a cell phone.
He pulled up in front of the home and made a dash for the entrance. Bruno, Mangar and three other orderlies returned with him.
“Off the van, Mr. Graham,” Bruno ordered.
“You sons-of-bitches are all guilty of kidnapping!”
Graham thought of hopping in the driver’s seat, but the jerk hadn’t left the keys. He stepped out and was hustled inside.
“Get your goddamned hands off me!”
Once in the lobby they let him go.
“So,” Mangar boomed so the whole facility could hear. “Dirty old pervert going to a nudie bar … well not on a taxpayer-funded van, you’re not.”
“C’mon, Graham, time for bed … right after we clean you out.” Bruno grabbed his arm, but he wrenched it away.
“Enema and laxative,” Mangar grinned. “Constipation backs you up and poisons your system. Can’t think properly. We’ll fix it so you’re thinking properly again.”
“Nick! What the hell is going on?
Everyone turned toward Rawlins who had just entered the lobby. It was a momentary distraction, but enough. Bruno’s knees came together and he bent forward, his eyes bulging and his mouth forming a perfect O. He looked down at the shaft of Graham’s cane firmly embedded in his crotch. Then he made a squeaking sound and fell to his knees.
Graham extricated his cane from the vice of Bruno’s thighs and lifted it high.
“Nick! No, don’t do it!”
“Aw, I wasn’t gonna hit him.” But he swung in a wide arc. The cane caught Bruno across his cheekbone; it split open spewing a fine red mist. “I lied.”
Bruno whimpered like a child as Graham stepped over him and strode toward Mangar. The other orderlies gave way.
“You know all about me, huh?”
Mangar looked like she was having trouble drawing breath.
“You don’t know the half of it. I can make you both disappear. You and greaseball bugger boy. Fuck him up so bad even his mother won’t be able to identify what’s left.”
A high note emerged from Mangar’s constricted throat. Graham turned toward Rawlins.
“You get my stuff?”
“Yeah, but Jesus, Nick, they’ll …”
“They ain’t going to do anything. C’mon, drive me out to Zinti’s.”
Once in her car, he asked. “Where’s the stuff?”
She handed him the packages.
“Did you peek?”
“No. I was afraid to look.”
“Ha!” He unwrapped one package. Several blocks of hundred dollar bills spilled into his lap.
“Holy shit! You … It’s all true.”
He unwrapped the second package to reveal the biggest, blackest gun Rawlins had ever seen.
“Wanna hold it; it’s heavy.”
“Christ, no! Nick, what the hell are you going to do?”
“A little negotiating. That one last thing I told you about. Just stick with me on this, please, Cassie?”
“Oh, man. I got rocks in my head.”
“Ha! Love yah, kid.”
* * * * *
The Clam Shack was a deceptively huge building. What faced the street was nothing more than a large triangular lobby. Stepping inside Graham and Rawlins noted the lounge on their left with three runway stages. It was darkened, but lurid colored lights bathed various sections. Two girls were gyrating for a minimal audience, but it was a weekday and rush hour had just begun.
To their right the lobby expanded toward a set of hallways, like an economy motel.
“That’s where the real action and money is made, I’m guessing.” Graham said.
They made their way to the only one of three standalone bars with a bartender. Rawlins helped Graham onto a stool. The girl tending bar had a pile of hair too blonde to be natural.
“Well, bringing grampa out for a treat, are we?”
Rawlins’ retort died in her throat as Graham squeezed her arm. “How’d you guess? This is my favorite little granddaughter.”
“I’ll bet. Well, gramps, ever had a lap dance? Totally nude and you can touch all you want. I can call a girl over, sidle right down and see what pops up? Whadya say?”
“Aw, sweetie, mine is so defunct—you know what that means, right? Anyway, the poor girl would have to work awful hard and long just to get it to tickle.”
“Well, maybe your favorite granddaughter would like one. Lots of ladies enjoy them.”
Graham squeezed Rawlins’ arm again. “You know, what I’d really like to do is meet your boss, Mr. Zinti. Is he here?”
The girl’s face lost any semblance of sass or swagger.
“Yeah, but he doesn’t see anyone, especially old duffs who wander in off the street. Listen, gramps, I wouldn’t be too eager to meet Mr. Zinti.”
“But I knew his family—very well.”
“Sorry, I can’t help you. Now, since you don’t want a girl, can I get you a drink?”
“Couple of drafts, please.”
“She’s scared shitless,” Rawlins whispered.
“The Zintis were scary people.”
The girl brought their beers and Graham turned to monitor the lobby. “Whoa, what’s this?
He and Rawlins had a clear view into the well-lit lobby. A sharply dressed older man with an entourage of beefy lugs entered. Graham watched as they were greeted by Zinti. God, he thought, he was an ugly bugger. Abe’s kid, Oscar’s nephew.
“Is that …?” Rawlins breath caught
“Barbara Grace. Yeah, looking like the perfect little soccer mom.”
Zinti appeared to introduce her to the other man, but instead of shaking hands, the man grinned widely and took hold of both of her breasts.
“What the …? Nick, are you seeing this?”
“Yup, got my good glasses on.”
His lugs and Zinti were laughing. The man held Mrs. Grace’s chin in one hand and patted her cheek with the other. Then the pat turned into a sharp slap. The woman didn’t protest. The group then followed Zinti to the left and out of sight.”
“I know that guy,” Rawlins said. “I mean, I don’t know him, but I’ve seen him on TV and the papers.”
“That’s a genuine philanthropist. He’s always sponsoring this or that charity event. The mayor’s always calling on him to help with schools, hospitals, whatever. His name’s Rush.”
“What was that all about with Barbara Grace? He was pawing her … Mrs. PTA. Holy shit.”
“I have a hunch.”
“I don’t think I like this.”
They left the darkness of the lounge and crossed the lobby just as a group of guys who looked like a softball team tumbled in. Rawlins followed Graham along the wall to the last corridor. He began testing the doors. Some opened, others that were locked he opened with a pick he took from his jacket pocket.
He opened the fifth door in the series and peeked inside. “Aha, this one.”
He turned. “Okay, Cass, go back out to the car and wait for me.”
“Wait? For how long? Jesus, Nick …”
“I’ll be okay. Don’t panic if I’m not out in a while, and for crissakes don’t call the cops.”
“Nick, take my cell phone.”
“I don’t like those things.”
“Look, if you get in trouble just press this button … You’ll get me.”
“Whose phone will I be calling?”
“Just a spare … in my car.”
“Okay. Now get lost.”
Once he was confident Rawlins was out of sight and out of danger, he quietly entered the room. It was set up like a small theater. A long, undivided window looked in on another room where Zinti and his guests had gathered. Graham assumed the glass was one-way.
Cameras and video equipment hummed recording the people in the other room. A young woman sat monitoring everything. He crept closer until he stood behind her.
“Can you crank up the sound?”
“Jesus!” The girl bolted out of her seat. “Who the fuck are you?”
“Just some old guy who wandered by. What are you getting paid for this job?”
“Fuck you, I ain’t …”
“I’ll give you five grand now,” he said, and held up a block of bills, “and another five when you do something for me.”
The girl spoke, but she couldn’t take her eyes off the money. “Zinti … He’s my boss, if I ever …”
“Do your job for your boss; I just want a copy of everything … everything you tape and record. I’ll give you a card. You send it to the address, and I send you the rest of the money. And you’ve still done your job for your boss. Deal?”
She hesitated, then snatched the money from his hand. “I’m taking a big fucking risk here.”
“Then maybe I’ll consider a bonus. What’s your name, sweetie?”
“Okay, Shelley. Now, can you crank up the sound?”
She turned and adjusted some dials. Graham watched as Zinti presented Mrs. Grace like a piece of merchandise to Rush and his bodyguards.
“Perfect little suburban wife, isn’t she? Chairman of the Republican Women’s Committee, isn’t that right, cocksucker?”
Rush chuckled, which gave his thugs the green light to guffaw.
“Well, Mrs. Grace, how many times have we met? All those events for so many good causes. You always dressed … well … whether a business outfit or an evening gown, so perfect, so lovely. So … did you realize then that all I could think about was a fat long cock filling your ass … you lovely little cunt.”
Another burst of laughter.
“Stanley … show Mrs. Grace your cock.”
Stanley was a big bellied slob with jowly red cheeks. Happily he dropped his pants and held out a pale, floppy cudgel of a dick.
“What do your friends call you, Stanley?”
“That’s right. Stanley is our horsecock. Mrs. Grace … Barbara … show Stanley how much you admire his big cock.”
The woman lifted her eyes for a moment, then reached out and took Stanley’s dick in her hand. She looked at Rush, who nodded as if to encourage her.
“Ask him if you can kiss it … you want to kiss it, don’t you?”
She nodded and fell to her knees. “Please … Stanley, may I kiss your cock?”
Stanley nodded as the others laughed. “Kiss it? Baby, you can suck it.”
“You heard him, Barbara … you little slut.”
Her lips stretched over Stanley’s cockhead and then she stroked with a determined rhythm.
“Cocksucker … your name isn’t Barbara anymore … It’s cocksucker.”
“Aw, shit … She’s too good. I’m gonna blow.”
“No! I want that cunt fucked up the ass. Strip her.”
The girl recording the scene shuddered. “Christ! They didn’t say I’d be taping a rape.”
Graham put his hand on her shoulder. “That’s not a rape, kid. Not by a long shot.”
Barbara’s clothes were shredded then three of the men lifted her over the back of a chair. Stanley positioned himself behind her.
“We can stop now, Barbara … I mean, cocksucker. Unless you really want Stanley’s cock up that pretty pink ass. Oh, by the way, do you let Alan fuck you in the ass?”
“But you like Stanley, don’t you?”
“Tell him then.”
“God, please, Stanley, fuck me … fuck my ass, please fuck my ass.”
“Grease her first. I don’t want her damaged, just sore.”
Zinti handed one of the men a plastic bottle with a nozzle. He slipped it into her anus, squeezed and Barbara moaned. Stanley positioned himself again and pushed.
“The bitch is tight … ahhhh!”
Barbara whimpered and groaned as Stanley pounded her from behind.
“God,” Shelley gasped. “She likes that?”
“Yeah, I’m afraid so.”
Rush stood and motioned to the other two men. “Enzo, fuck her face. Frank, make her jerk you off.”
“This is just a piss-poor porn gig,” Shelley said.
“But nobody’s acting.”
Enzo’s face told them he was draining his balls down Barbara’s throat. Then Frank wiped his dick off in her hair.
“Fuck!” Stanley shouted. “I gotta come.”
He made one more ass-clenching thrust and staggered back. Barbara Grace hung limp over the chair, a trickle of semen draining from her distended anus.
“Well, Mrs. Cocksucker Grace, I believe your asshole’s been stretched so … so I could drive a Buick through it.” Rush chuckled. “Or your husband’s head.”
He walked up to her and lifted her head by the hair. “Kinky little cunt. I’m going to enjoy seeing you again and again. Is that what you want?”
“Yes … please.”
“Hmm, you filthy bitch … you pig. I’d really like to piss on you now … but I’m in a bit of a hurry. Community Chest meeting tonight. Next time.”
He let her head go and turned to Zinti. “Excellent, Hugo. I love what you’ve done to the bitch. Clean her up.”
Rush and his goons left. Zinti strolled to the chair where Barbara remained panting for breath. He brought his hand down hard on her ass cheek; she yelped.
“Very good … you did very, very good. But then, you can’t get enough, can you?”
“No.” Her shoulders heaved in a sob.
“That’s right, cry. It gets me hard.”
Graham felt the touch of cold metal to his neck.
“Who the hell is this? What’s he doing here?”
Shelley jumped and turned. Her eyes were wide with fright.
Before she could talk, Graham said, “She didn’t even know I was here. I was just about to say ‘boo!'”
He was spun around by a heavy, solid hand. “What’s this grampa? You a stalker or something?”
“Oh, I was just going to give her a little tickle.”
“I’ll fix it so you can tickle your own asshole with your nose. C’mon.”
At the door, he flung Graham at the wall and turned back to the girl. “Keep the fucking door locked from now on.”
The guy must have been six-five. He practically carried Graham along until they stood before a red door. He knocked.
“Not now!” It was Zinti.
“Sorry, boss, but I caught a guy spying on you.”
The door was yanked open. Graham was pushed into Zinti’s presence. Barbara had slid off the chair and sat in a fetal position leaking cum onto the carpet.
“Who the fuck are you?” Zinti demanded.
“Just an old guy … who used to know your uncle, Oscar.”
“Knew your father too.”
“Wait a minute …”
“You remember me? Then you got a better memory than I was going to give you credit for.”
“You’re alive? I thought when that guy died … Havilland. I didn’t think anyone was left from those days.”
“So, your uncle educated you. That’s good; you should have a grounding in history, especially your own family’s.”
Zinti tugged his chin. “Nick … Nick …”
“Yeah. Shit! I told my uncle I’d make my bones by tossing you in a trash compactor and giving him what came out the other end as a present. I was five years old.”
“Yeah, charming little kid.”
He laughed, a dry, mirthless laugh. “So, what you want? A job? Maybe you can sweep up around the club, take out the garbage.”
Graham smiled, shook his head and pointed to Barbara. “I want her.”
“The fuck you say. I got lots of clients who pay me big money for a session with that little cunt.”
“She isn’t yours; she’s just collateral.”
“What, you been talking to her pussy husband? Look at her; she’s got jizz dripping out of every hole. Even her nose. You think he wants her back?”
“What does he owe you?”
“Right now … seventy thou.”
Graham dropped the remainder of his cash at Zinti’s feet. “There’s about thirty-five there. I had some expenses to attend to today. Count it. I’ll send the rest to you tomorrow morning by courier. She goes home.”
Zinti shrugged. “Fine, you want to pay off that pussy’s debt? That’s okay. For a guy who tosses that kind of dough around, you don’t dress so good.”
“I was never a slave to fashion.”
“Carlo, you frisk this prick?”
“Hey, he’s just an old guy.”
“Do it now.”
The big man padded Graham’s chest, legs and ass. “Shit, what the fuck you got in your pants, bricks?”
“Depends on what?”
“He means diapers, you idiot.” Zinti laughed until he coughed.
“Loose bowels … happens.”
“Yeah … when I get that old, I’ll shoot myself.”
“I don’t think you’ll get that old.”
Zinti’s eyes narrowed. “Get the money. She stays tonight. Maybe I want to play with her … get her a nice tattoo on her ass … something tasteful, like ‘cockslut’.”
His malevolent grin returned. “Good night, grampa.”
Graham turned toward the woman who cowered on the floor. “Mrs. Grace, your daughter’s waiting for her mom to come home. I’ll be back to fetch you tomorrow.”
“Oh, yeah,” Zinti sneered. “I think maybe she takes after her mommy … likes dick and a lot of it, only she don’t know it yet. I know guys’ll pay plenty to pop that cherry.”
“You wouldn’t,” Barbara pleaded.
“That’s right, Mrs. Grace,” Graham warned. “He won’t.”
He made his way to Rawlins’ car, but had to lean on his cane a moment.
“Hey, you okay?”
“Yeah.” He got in beside her. “Get dizzy sometimes. I’ll be fine once I get these damned disposables off.”
“I thought you could wipe your own ass.”
“I can.” He lifted the gun out of his pants. They just make great padding … you know, in case you’re frisked.
“Damn, Nick. You scare the shit out of me.”
“Oh, you want me to wipe your ass?”
“You’re an old pervert.”
* * * * *
She parked close to the entrance to the home. “C’mon, better get you to bed.”
“What? No foreplay? I thought we were going to neck a while.”
“Tempting, but I said I’d cover Maria Ramirez’s shift in twenty minutes.”
“Let’s just sit a bit.”
“Okay, five minutes. So, what’s going on with Barbara Grace?”
“The lady enjoys sexual degradation.”
“What? Mrs. Prim and Spotless? Noooo shit.”
Graham shrugged. “On a scale of mild to extreme, I’d say she was a bubble past plumb toward extreme, but I’ve seen some off the scale.”
“You’re kidding me, right?”
“No, I’m not. Rawlins, if you’d been around when the Sans Merci was in operation … well, it might have opened your eyes.”
“I don’t know if I want my eyes opened that much.”
“Fair enough. Just remember, people wear different faces throughout their lives. There’s very little that’s absolutely right or absolutely wrong.”
“But there are absolutes.”
“Absolutely.” He winked.
“We got to get inside. I’ll pick out your PJs and tuck you in.”
“Deal. But first, I need you to take care of some more business for me tomorrow. I need to get around forty grand to Zinti tomorrow morning.”
“Christ, Nick, how much money do you have salted away?”
“I’m not sure—maybe a million and change. But it’s not all cash.”
“I don’t fucking believe this.”
“Tuck me in, huh? Let’s go.”
* * * * *
Graham was awakened in the pre-dawn by a high-pitched squeal. He didn’t have to get up to see; he knew the tux had nailed the bastard rat for good and all.
He spent all the morning and most of the afternoon getting to know his fellow residents. Since his encounter with Bruno he had become a celebrity of sorts, and was surprised that he actually enjoyed their company—some of them, anyway.
Around six he slipped on a pair of high-polished shoes and his best attire. He called a cab from the lobby and told the driver to take him to the Clam Shack. He gave the driver a large tip, straightened himself up and sauntered into the lobby, twirling his cane every few steps.
He was intercepted by two lugs, and wondered if Zinti kept a few hundred of them in a warehouse somewhere.
“I’m expected,” he announced.
“Yeah,” said the least thick of the two. “Boss is waiting for yas. C’mon.”
He followed them along the corridor to the theater room. They opened the door and motioned for him to enter. Zinti was arguing with the big man who discovered Graham the night before.
“Did you fuck her? Leave her fucking crippled someplace?”
“No way, boss. I never touched her. She just didn’t show up for work today.”
“Fuck! She’d better.”
Graham looked past them and through the one-way window. Three naked men, middle aged, had Barbara Grace stretched over a pool table, her legs dangling off the edge. One was fucking her as another knelt above her jerking his dick over her face. The third waited his turn, pulling his own dick.
“What’s this?” Graham demanded. “I told you I wanted her back, clean and ready to go home.”
Zinti grinned in the dark. “You know who those guys are? Partners in one of the biggest law firms in town. Everyone wants to fuck a sweet little soccer mom. I gotta get a few more in my stable.”
“You little prick.”
“Watch your mouth, old man. She likes it; asked for it. That’s what you paid for, chump, a horny cunt who don’t want to go home. But there’s something else I want you to see.”
“You got the money, then.”
“Early this morning. I wasn’t even up to sign for it. But c’mere. Wait’ll you see this.”
Zinti led him to a door to an adjoining room and invited Graham to open it. Graham turned the knob and swung it open. It was a smaller room with one-way glass that opened onto the room where Barbara was being fucked by the law partners.
A man wearing only his dress shirt was bent over a rail at the window. A girl stood behind him, slapping his ass and berating him.
“You like it? You like seeing your pretty little wife being fucked like a whore? Do you?” She slapped his ass hard.
“Yes, yes … God yes.”
“You’re not a man, are you? You’re just a pussy … aren’t you?”
“I’m a pussy.”
“You ought to be fucked like a pussy.” Graham watched the girl guide a rubber dildo into Alan Grace’s ass. He reacted with a high whine.
“There’s a nice big dick in your ass now … pussy! … cunt!”
“Oh, Jesus.” Graham said, and shook his head.
Grace turned his head toward the door. His eyes went wide and he looked like an animal desperate for a place to hide.
“Graham … oh, Graham … I’m sorry … you have to understand … you can’t know what it’s like. I’m sick … I know, I’m sick.”
“Shut up, Grace. You’re not sick.”
Zinti pushed past him and hurried to the window. The three partners had climbed onto the pool table each with his dick aimed at the supine woman. He flicked a switch.
“Gentlemen, no pissing on the table. Your time’s up. You wanna piss on that cunt, I’ll fix it for you in our water sports room … next time.”
They laughed. Grace hung his head. Zinti turned to him and grinned. “Bet you’d like to see that, eh, bitch? Your pretty wife taking a golden shower?”
“Well, Graham, you look surprised.”
“Shit, no, Hugo. I’ve lived too long to be surprised.”
Zinti shrugged. “Well, since we’re all together, let’s have us a nice chat.”
The partners had left Barbara on the pool table. Zinti opened a hidden panel and directed them into the larger room. Grace went first, but Graham tapped his shoulder.
“Grace, take that thing out of your ass.”
Grace never looked at him, but tugged the dildo out of his ass and handed it to the girl.
Zinti stepped around them. “Hey, cocksucker, sit up. Darling hubby is here with company.”
Barbara pushed herself up and sat at the edge of the pool table. Her hair hung down in sticky, cum-drenched clumps.
Zinti turned to Graham. “Well, see what your money bought you? Mr. and Mrs. Slut-whore.”
Grace stepped over to his wife but he couldn’t look at her. She took his hand and squeezed it and he began to break down.
“You can’t know,” she said to Graham, tears filling her eyes. “It … It’s like an obsession … It’s … taken over both of us.”
“Stop it, Mrs. Grace,” Graham said, his voice quiet, even. “I don’t care if you like being fucked and degraded by a half-dozen men. I don’t care that your husband likes to watch while you get fucked and degraded by a half-dozen men. You’re not sick; you’re like everyone else in the world, punk or pope, everyone’s got a kink.
“Sometimes, a kink gets us through the day, maybe it gets us through life; without it we might all go crazy—that’s what I think anyway. I used to work for a guy who ran a club, a safe haven for people like you … people who could afford the luxury of acting out their darkest fantasies. I expect that’s why you got mixed up with Zinti here.
“But my boss really offered a safe haven. No one outside knew what went on at the Sans Merci. But Hugo here, he’s following in the family business—blackmail. His uncle, Oscar, ran a club too. It attracted plenty of swells looking to blow off some steam; he catered to their very naughty predilections. Only he took pictures surreptitiously and he soaked them for the rest of their lives.
“That’s what this blister planned to do to you. The other night, Mr. Grace, when Mr. Rush watched his goons fuck your wife …”
Grace’s face conveyed a sudden pain. “Barbara? Carl … he … he …”
“Yes, Alan, I didn’t know it would be him, I … I’m sorry …”
“Hold on, Grace,” Graham urged. “Rush … he has a kink too. He likes to watch sex. Or as they say in Hollywood, he likes to direct. Reminds me of a crazy millionaire at the Sans Merci; couldn’t stand to be touched or touch anyone, but he sure liked to watch. But anyway, Zinti was going to blackmail him too. He had the whole encounter taped and recorded, your wife getting gangbanged, and Rush orchestrating the whole thing and getting his gun off.
“That’s right, Graham.” Zinti’s grin was so wide it divided his face. “So these two cumsluts can go home if they want. They’ll be back.”
“And they and Rush will pay you off and give you entrée to polite society.”
“That’s the plan, man.”
Graham noticed Grace put his arm around his trembling wife.
“What made you think you could trust this prick?” Graham asked. “Well, as it turns out, he doesn’t have anything on you.”
“What the fuck you saying?” Zinti demanded. The Graces held each other, their eyes darting between Graham and Zinti.
“You know, my age … it keeps me from seeing things as simple as I once did. I made a deal with your girl Shelley for copies of everything she recorded the other night. I just got it in my head that it was for Rush. Stupid … I wasn’t thinking. I was going to use the copies as insurance … what they used to call during the Cold War ‘mutually assured destruction.’ He didn’t know he was being taped too. If he threatened to release his tapes, I’d arrange for its companion to be released showing him as the evil maestro of your degradation, Mrs. Grace.
“But then I realized Zinti’s the joker in the deck. He was going to hang them over all your heads. So, I have all the tapes and Shelley is fifty grand richer … enough to give her a new start far away from you, Hugo. She’s on a plane even as we speak; I don’t know which one, I left that up to her.”
“Mr. and Mrs. Grace are leaving now.” Graham pulled his revolver from his waist and leveled it at Zinti. “Get going.”
“Why?” Barbara asked.
“I told you your kinks meant nothing to me. Hell, it would be a calmer world if we all got to fulfill our own every so often. But you two have a sweet young daughter at home. She’s at the age where everything, all the mysteries are going to hit her at once. You two get exposed, you’re embarrassed, humiliated … but so is Lauren, she’s not going to understand any of this. Is she going to college in the fall?”
“Yes,” Grace answered.
“Away from home?”
“By the time she’s through, she’ll be a young woman in her twenties, not the same little girl who came to read to people in the old folks home. She’ll find some things out about herself, maybe come to realize she has a deep dark yearning too. Then she’ll be ready for a talk with her mom and dad.”
“Yeah,” Zinti laughed. “Bet on it. A cum bucket just like her mother.”
“You won’t come near her,” Grace warned.
“I can guarantee that,” Graham said. “Now, both of you get out. You come in separate cars?”
“Good. Leave separately, discreetly. Just in case the local rag’s grown some balls and has gotten wind of what’s going on, though I doubt they’ve got a reporter with enough sand to sit in the lot of this joint.”
The Graces hurried toward the door, scooping up Barbara’s clothes as they went. They turned briefly to look back at Graham.
“Shut up, and get out of here.”
“Now what?” Zinti said, his sneer twisting into a scowl.
“You die; your family goes extinct.”
“I don’t think so.”
A voice at Graham’s back, said, “We couldn’t stop ’em without someone seeing, Boss.”
“That’s okay. We’ll deal with them later. Time to take out the garbage.”
Graham turned slowly, keeping his revolver trained on Zinti. The thugs positioned themselves to his right. He shrugged, “You still die, Hugo, even if your bums drop me.”
“Think you can squeeze off a shot in time, Graham?”
“Just like riding a bicycle, Zinti. You say Uncle Oscar told you your family’s history? Did he tell you he fucked your mother regularly? See, that was Oscar’s kink. He couldn’t get any satisfaction from fucking girls or boys, unless they belonged to your father. Fucking Abe, what a dumb shit.”
“Fuck you! You’re full of shit.”
“Am I? Your father had two wives; both pretty little girls from the old country. The first one, she couldn’t speak a word of English; she was a sweetie. She didn’t understand what a family of shits she’d been married into. So when Oscar raped her she told him she was going to tell Abe. Couldn’t have that, so Oscar managed to have her disappear—off a bridge—weighed down with a few hundred pounds of chain.
“Your mother, well, Oscar told her what happened to the first wife. Poor girl just endured, but Abe suspected she was fucking around. Aw, hell, he was a nutcase anyway. Beat her; beat her a lot. You know, maybe you’re not even Abe’s kid.”
Graham studied Zinti’s frantic eyes. “Nah, you’re Abe’s kid. He was an ugly fuck too; I think Oscar was sterile.”
“Cock … sucker! I’ll cut you to pieces.”
“Funny, that’s just what your dear old dad said … before I put one between his beady little eyes.”
“Kill this prick!”
Graham turned toward the thugs. Everything went into slow motion then. They fumbled for their guns and let loose a torrent of bullets. Graham held his arm steady and listened to the beating of his heart in his ears. He felt the shockwaves of the bullets as they tore through the air around him, and the cracking of the plaster as they ripped into the wall behind him.
He squeezed off one shot; the thug to the left fell. Steady aim, and he squeezed off a second. The other thug stumbled back still firing and landed with a thud on the floor.
More firing from Zinti’s direction. He turned to see Hugo desperately trying to unjam a pistol.
“You shitbums with your semiautomatics. Can’t shoot for shit; you sure can’t aim. Fire off a bunch of bullets thinking one’ll hit something. That ain’t any way to win a gunfight.”
Zinti’s eyes bulged as he looked down the barrel of Graham’s revolver.
“Shit!” Graham grabbed his left arm; the pistol fell from his hand. It was the worst fucking cramp he’d ever had, in his arm for crissakes. “No … no … no. Not now.”
His chest felt like it was being squeezed in a steel coil.
Zinti laughed, but then his face turned murderous. “I’ll beat you to death with my own hands.”
He advanced on Graham, who raised his cane in his right hand. But Zinti came on too fast. He grabbed the cane and tried to wrest it from Graham. Graham pushed the button near the crook.
Zinti stumbled back and almost fell on his ass. Bewildered, he stupidly looked at the shaft of the cane he held high in his hand. Then he looked down. The blade was in his belly up to the hilt, its tip tenting his suit jacket in back. It didn’t hurt, he never felt it going in, but when Graham withdrew it his insides began to sting.
“It’s a three-edged blade,” Graham said. “It can’t close. Die now, Hugo.”
Zinti fell back onto the floor. He began to shiver.
“You get cold as you bleed out … it won’t be long now, Hugo. Bye.”
Hugo’s lifeless eyes stared up at him, questioning.
Graham leaned against the wall and fished for Rawlins’ phone. He pressed the button and she answered on the first ring.
“Rawlins … you gotta … come get me. I can’t …”
He slid down the wall onto the floor. The pain in his chest eased a bit, but he felt weak, his body that of a rag doll’s.”
Then Rawlins was with him. “C’mon, Nick, we gotta get you out to the ambulance.”
He looked around, confused. “What are all these cops doing here?”
She helped him up and out to the lot. Cops were coming from all directions.
“No ambulance!” he croaked.
“Your car … hurry.”
She helped him to her car and eased him into the seat. Then they were speeding past all the flashing blue and red lights.
“Nick, tell me what you’re feeling.”
“Not bad now … better. Kinda sick to my stomach, but it’s gone. Felt like an elephant stepped on my chest.”
“Jesus, you’re having a heart attack.”
“We’re almost at the hospital.”
“No, Cass, too late. Park over by the river.”
She careened into the lot and pulled up just outside the emergency entrance.
“No, stop it, Cassie.”
“But, Nick …”
“Where’d all those cops come from? They just showed up … they … aw shit. Cassie, you’re a cop.”
“I’m an investigator.”
“Geeze, what’s the fucking difference?”
“I’m not a cop, Nick. I work for the Department of Health and Hospitals. They sent me in undercover to investigate reports of abuse and thefts from patients. I got a panic button, like the cops have when they need to call in an ‘officer in trouble’ call. Just in case.”
“Bruno and Mangar?”
“And three or four others. They’re going to jail. But I’m not a cop, Nick. Your secrets are safe with me.”
“Good. Cause I got no one else to trust. Cassie, please, do something with the money. If not for yourself, then … drop a few thou in a Salvation Army kettle every other Christmas, please.”
“Promise.” Her voice cracked.
“Gonna go to sleep now.”
“No, Nick, c’mon, hang on. Nick … Nick!”
“Hi, Nick, well it’s about time. We’ve been waiting for you.”
“Rita? Jesus, Rita? Is it really you?”
She answered with that cute head nod like she did in “Gilda.”
“Gee, whiz, Nick I didn’t think you were ever gonna get here.”
He looked her up and down. “Rita, you got no clothes on.”
“Don’t have much use for them here.” She looked down. “Looks like you’re happy to see me.”
He followed her gaze and was amazed at the steel-hard erection he sported.
“I ain’t seen the old johnson this excited in … in a long time.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment. Now, let’s dance.”
“Aw, Rita, I can’t dance … never could.”
“Yes you can. C’mere, put your hand around my waist. Yeah, like that.”
He stepped into her arms, his cock nestling between her cushioning thighs. Then they were twirling around a gleaming dance floor. His hands roamed around the sexy curve of her ass and up her back … she was so soft, silken. Then he stopped.
“Nick? Is something the matter?”
“Rita … this isn’t heaven, is it?”
She shook her head. “No, Nick. It’s just the last thing you remember. But, you know what? … You remember it … forever.”
“Nick! Nick! Oh, Please, Nick, don’t go yet.”
Tears fell freely over Cassie’s cheeks. She brushed her fingers through his sparse gray hair and leaned forward to kiss his forehead. But when she saw the crooked smile on his lips, she had to grin.
“Good for you … you old alley cat.”
© 2008 Robert Buckley. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.