ON THE ALBINO FARM – CHAPTER 10

I needed a weapon to kill Mikey.

            The second easiest place in the world to get a weapon is in jail.  The easiest place, of course, is Wal-Mart.   When you’re in the lock-up you can make your own from a bedspring, a chair leg, a piece of re-bar, a curtain rod, aluminum doily, or dental drill.  Oh sure, you could, but none of that stuff is available in today’s scientific correctional facility.  You could bribe a guard to bring you a Bowie knife.  But it’s just as likely they’d spend the money foolishly — like on rent.  Then they’d pretend they didn’t know you.  Your lover could hide a Swiss Army knife in one body cavity or another, but the chance of a tragic cork-screw malfunction makes that approach problematic.

            The solution is bring the weapon with you.  That’s what I did.  Yeah, they search you.  They do things to you that are totally inappropriate for a first date.  Some guys enjoy all the prying and probing.  That always leads to trouble.  Guards get nervous when intimidation produces anything approaching a smile.  I made sure not to make the guards uncomfortable.  They could search any part of me they wanted and never find the weapon I carried.  My only problem was how and when to use it.

            If Mikey had killed Terri, as the Mr. Christopher medal seemed to indicate, and if he had sunk so low that he was tangled up in kiddie porn, as Ahmed’s little story intimated, then he had to die.  Or at the very least be maimed.  Mikey was my brother.  He was my responsibility.

            I was trained in hand-to-hand combat by the U.S. Army Rangers.  I studied obscure and very lethal Korean techniques in Wusan.  I was tutored by a member of the Ha’ashish’sin,  the Punjabi assassins.  I can kill you in a thousand ways using a hand, a finger, foot, forehead, elbow, knee, or ear lobe.  You’re dead.  It can be a millisecond or a wonderland of pain through a long lingering week.  I am a killing machine.  My vengeance is swift and terrible.  Look on me and despair.

            Once again I visualized.  I ran the tape.  I saw the future.  I laid down the footprints in my head.  I would maneuver silently behind him.  Like a dancer in the ballet of death, I would become one with the movement.  Tao-Ming, my sensai, had taught me the Spider’s Spike.  The fatal movie ran inside my skull.  I was ready.

            I walked up behind Mikey.  He was unaware of the menace that stalked him.  He didn’t hear me over the TV.  Sponge Bob was trying to tie his shoes.  He was going to die.  Mikey was going to die, not Sponge Bob.  He was on TV.  Sponge Bob was on TV, that is.  Mikey was staring at him.  Mikey was staring at Sponge Bob.  I just want to make  sure you’re following this thing right and not getting confused by the pronouns.

            I was as quiet as a cat closing in on a songbird.  All right, I admit it; the cartoon was on really loud, so I could have been Jacob Marley clanking my chains and lock boxes.  I could have been Al Gore sighing, and no one would have heard me anyway.  I stood behind him.  Two feet away from the pervert who may have, allegedly, I suspected, acting with motive and opportunity, killed my sweet friend.  I was poised two feet behind my doomed brother.

            I stiffened my fingers forming my hand into a blade.  I gathered the spiritual power in my soul, becoming one with my desire for revenge.  I called on the ancient ancestors and coiled the muscles in my arm.  Then a signal flashed down a nerve path.  Fibers contracted as synapses went off like lightning.  The living guillotine arched towards his neck.

            It sliced through the air hissing like a cobra.  It struck.  An explosive crack echoed through the pod.  He never felt a thing.  He never knew what hit him.  But there was a lot of pain… mine.  My hand had hit the back of the steel chair, at least a foot below his neck.  O.K., I lied.  I’m not a trained killer.  I’ve started exactly three fights in my life, and I’ve lost them all.  I hate violence.  Despite everything that eventually happened, believe me — I hate violence.

            Mikey jumped up.  I was jumping, too.  Holding onto my hand, tears in my eyes, I was hopping around like a dwarf trying to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

            Wide-eyed, Mikey said, “What the hell?  What are you doing here?”

            “Sit down, asshole.”  The guy in the second row with the Confederate Flag T-shirt and the “Death to Fags” tattoo was a large one, my, my.  Copenhagen stained the corner of his mouth.  What hidden stains blotched his brains, I could only guess.

            “Did you try to hit me?”  Mikey, as usual, was unaware of his surroundings.  He was focused in on me.

            I was still hopping.  “Owww! Shit!”  There really was a lot of pain.

            “Down in front, motherfucker!”  Jethro really liked his Sponge Bob.

            Mikey was still confused.  He was sure surprised to see me.  “What the fu…..”

            He was even more surprised when Jethro’s ham-sized fist connected with his nose.  Apparently, two warnings are all you get down south.  I think I already told you how skinny Mikey is, how we called him “the Stick.”  Well, if you know anything about physics, you’ll know that the mass and momentum of the big hick’s fist were considerable.  Being smallish, Mikey’s inertia was overcome easily, and he was launched through the air into the wall.  He hit about four feet up and slid to the concrete floor like a slinky going down that final step.  His nose left a straight smear of red blood, and when he was still, his head was like the period at the bottom of an exclamation mark.

            Mikey was dead — well, almost.

            I told you, I’ve been in jail before.  The best weapon, especially for a smart guy, is always somebody else.  I have always found it to be an effective tactic.  I was safer, and my targets were always surprised.

            Jails are full of crazy people.  Most crazy people are harmless.  But a small percentage of them are very dangerous.  Not the schizophrenics or the homeless mutterers; the most deadly are the psychopathic homophobes.  People with primitive religious concepts are the most deadly of all.  Thinking in absolutes always results in violence, eventually.  They get arrested frequently for assault.  Always proving their manhood, they are prone to sudden outbursts of needless mayhem.  Then, when they get in jail, they are on an even more sensitive hair trigger because they’ve got to make it publicly clear that they will be nobody’s jailhouse wife.  Instead of verbalizing this fear, they always choose to demonstrate their inner conflict with an unambiguous, overt gesture.  In other words, they think, “I’ll beat the crap outa’ some shithead the first day, and all the butt rangers will leave me alone.”  And then, they do just that.

            When I had first entered the pod, I spotted Mikey first.  The second thing I saw was Jethro with his oh so obvious body language.  Hell, it was needled on his arm — “Death to Fags.”  I had my weapon.  Thieves are keen observers of the human condition.  All I had to do was get Mikey to block his view of the cartoon hilarity.  I didn’t need to do a thing with Jethro.  He was already in place and primed.  As a surrogate, he was easier than I usually dealt with. 

            It was too easy to arrange.  Once, in prison, it had taken me two weeks to ruin a particularly unpleasant gang member’s afternoon.  He was messing with my cell mate.  For some reason, not that one is needed in prison, the gang banger, named Parson, decided to threaten my friend with some nasty body modifications.  Suffice to say, threats can’t be ignored in a penal institution.  They are rarely empty, always dangerous.  I had to do something to help my buddy.

            I set out to rummage around all the human weapons in the drawer and ran into an above average psychotic biker named Gonzalez.  First I made friends with him.  Mostly this stage consisted of tossing him an extra hot dog when I came back from lunch.  That part was easy. 

            The tough part was making Parson think that I was on his side and that I would eventually help him off my asshole cell mate.   I had to sit through Parson’s little bigoted act more times than I care to remember.  I was sick of his Richard Simmons the first time I saw it.  But I had to constantly praise the banger’s comedic genius.  He loved impersonating ethnic stereotypes like Steppen Fetchit, Charlie Chan,  Pepe LePew, and Alex Trebek.  It didn’t take long to trick him into thinking his Frito Bandito deserved wider exposure.  Finally, one day he did his Mexican jokes in front of Gonzalez, whom I had lured into the common room with a steaming frankfurter.  Parson’s performance was not well-received and got a really bad notice from the psycho-biker-critic that postponed the rest of the gang-banger’s tour for three months — then one more month after a nasty post-op infection set in.  My cell mate was left in peace.  I was never implicated.

            In this case, Jethro was my weapon.

            As Mikey hit the floor, the smooth efficiency of the system swung into action.  A buzzer went off.  Six underpaid uniforms swarmed into the area and clubbed the tatooed big baby, who had mashed Mikey, into the ground.  They were well-trained.  Yeah, well-trained by a little league coach years ago.  Swinging the oversize batons like Louisville Sluggers, the screws rendered him unconscious in about ten seconds.  The action lasted a minute and a half longer, and watching it, in my characteristically detached manner, I couldn’t get one thought out of my head.  None of these guys could have hit a good curve ball.

            By this time Mikey was moaning and trying to roll over.  I hadn’t really wanted to kill him.  If I had murder in mind I would have started the fight during “General Hospital.”  The boys get real territorial when Genie Francis is on.  Hell, I might of actually offed brother dear if he blocked my view of Luke and Laura.  Mikey’s like the mule in the old story.  You’ve got to hit him with a two by four to get his attention.

            They bundled Mr. Lynnard Skynnard off to ”the hole” or whatever.  It was clear that only Mikey’s laughable little shred of pride was hurt since he was sitting up by then, so they ignored him.  Sponge Bob’s friend Squidward was being chased by a large purple hat.  Everything was back to normal.  The pod settled down and I settled down, too, next to Mikey on the floor.

            “Mikey, how’s it hangin’ bro?”

            “You tried to hit me.”  He was even more unattractive when he whined.  His thick black hair was a mess.  The comb-over had become a veil.  He and I handled our male pattern baldness differently.

            “Aren’t you glad to see me?”

            “You told Vandy where I was.”  I had hurt his feelings.

            “Vandy knew where you were, idiot.  I just told him which box you were under.”

            “What did you get arrested for?”

            “Defrauding an innkeeper.  It’s a long story.  But you don’t want to hear my story, do you?  I want to hear your story.”

            “I don’t have a story.”

            “Mikey, you’ve always got a story.  You’re full of stories, among other things.  Pull one out and share it with your loving brother.  Just make sure it’s the right one.  I’m on the verge of disinheriting you.”

            “I’ve got nothin’ to say.”

              “Mikey, I don’t have time for this.  You are in trouble big time.  This is murder, buddy.  They feed you to the ants in this state for that.  Let me tell you what I know.  Then you can explain or make your peace with God.  You decide.”

            His nose was a bloody mess.  It was beginning to swell.  He looked like W.C. Fields after a liquids only spree in the Lesser Antilles.  The wheels were whirring in his head.  As usual, none of the gears were meshing.

            “You listening?”

            “I’m listening.”  He didn’t know what I knew.  So I told him.

            Starting with the argument he had with Terri that night, I mentioned the little incident at Ahmed’s.  I conveyed Ahmed’s interpretation of the disturbing kiddie-porn video.  He turned kind of yellowish.  When I mentioned his Mr. Christopher medal was on the path, the yellow turned grayish.  I closed my little presentation by telling him that Val had found out that the D.A. had something else, too, something that made them feel very secure.

            “My semen…”  Very quietly, Mikey was just gray now. 

            “Your semen?  Yeah, that’s what they got, Mikey.”  I remembered Kensington bragging about his airtight case to Val at the Sans Cullottes.

“Shit, I’m screwed Marty.  My semen.”  I was a little puzzled.  It wasn’t like Mikey to speak so softly, or to use an actual medical term.  “It got on her blouse, I think.”

            For some reason, hearing Mikey say it made me angrier than anything else in this crazy thing had.  I wanted to kill him, this time for real.  I had to slow down my thoughts for a second, take a breath, gather myself.  He fucked her?  Where was Jethro when I needed him?

            Through clenched teeth, I asked, very seriously, “You had sex with her?”

            “You don’t understand…it was…”

            “Tell me what happened.”  I spoke slowly, deliberately.  It was very clear.  This was it, the last chance for brother Mikey.

            “O.K….”  Even then Mikey was trying to find a way through the minefield.  I could see it in his eyes.

            “Mikey, come to Jesus.”  I meant it.  He knew it.

            “I was at the Palomino.  You know, you saw me.”  He wiped his nose.      

            Things seemed to get quiet around us.  I couldn’t hear the cartoon.  I was focused in on what he was saying.  This is important stuff here.

            “I was just hanging out.  I was hoping Reba was working.”

Reba was one of the dancers at the club.  I think her real name was Judy, but she looked like Reba McIntyre and was quite popular with some of the good ol’ boys who occasionally dropped in.  Seeing Reba McIntyre take her top off is a turn on for a lot of guys.

            Mikey went on, “I was talking to Lonnie at the bar…”

            “Talking?”

            “Yeah, talking.  And I might have given him some meth.”

            “Sold her some meth, you mean?”

            “Him, her, with Lonnie it’s all the same.  Great tits, that’s for sure.  Anyway,  Lonnie gave me a little money, so I was just sitting there having a few.  Reba showed up and was dancing to some Dixie Chicks thing.  That’s when Terri came in.”

            He was telling the truth. Except about Lonnie’s tits.  They were awful.  I’d been at the Palomino by then.  I was in the corner by the “Fear Factor” Scratch and Win Lottery machine.  I can be very inconspicuous.  Mikey was pretty close to the facts I had wrung out of my memory.  The only difference was I thought Reba was accompanied by a Michael Jackson tune.  Kind of a cultural collision, but her bouncing boobs made it work.  I saw Terri come in.  I always saw Terri.

            “She was acting strange.  Real serious and stuff.  And she was dressed funny.”

            Terri had been wearing a plain black skirt, not short, very conservative, and a plain white blouse under a black jacket.  Her hair was pulled back into a little pony tail.  She had on some white shoes, little white socks.  She looked clean.  Of course, she was clean.  For the first time in years, she was clean.  That’s why Mikey thought she was acting strange.  She was just acting straight.  Mikey had a hard time computing that.

            Mikey went on, and I put myself back in the Palomino.  Back to that night, with the loud music, the expensive cheap booze smell, the cigarette smoke.  I was there again, in the corner.  Then, I was too far away to hear what Mikey and Terri were saying, but now, through Mikey’s eyes and ears, I was right in the middle.  It all seemed so real.  I could hear what they were saying.

            Terri’s voice sounded so young again.  “Mikey…”

            “Well if it ain’t my long lost friend, ‘the Head’.”

            “Don’t call me that, Mikey.”

            “Sorry, sorry.”  He was a little off balance.  Addicts are always uncomfortable around other addicts who have cleaned up.  He didn’t “know” she was clean, but it was communicated on some subliminal level.

            “I need a favor.”

            “And I need that four hundred you owe me.”  He tossed down his Vodka and Seven.  He held it up so the waitress in the cheetah costume could see he needed a refill.  “I can’t be giving you free drugs, Terri babe.  Those Ativan take some work to get.”

            “I paid you that.”

            “Besides, I thought you were clean.  What are you doing, girl.  Are you selling those drugs?”

            “No, Mikey…”

            “No matter.  I don’t care.  But I need that four hundred.”

            “I told you I paid.”

            “You got a receipt?  Don’t you watch Judge Judy?  Like she says, always get a receipt.”

            “Listen, I will pay you then.  I got a job, but I need a favor.”

            “We could take it out in trade.”  Mikey gave her his patented seductive look.

            Terri just sighed.  A new song kicked in — “Love Machine” or something — and Reba clunked off stage in a pair of those ridiculous platforms these strippers always wear.  She looked bored.  Everybody looked bored.  If you didn’t look bored they kicked you out.  Meg Ryan got up on the main stage.  She was good on the pole.  I don’t know their real names, I just figure out what celebrities they look like.  Mary Hart would be up next, then Loni Anderson. 

            “What do you need?”  Mikey sounded like he might be magnanimous. 

            “A ride and a little cover.”

            “You rippin’ somebody off?  I want a cut.”

            “No, nothing like that.  I…I saw something…I need to grab something, nothing to sell or anything.  I need you to wait outside while I get it, then I need you to take me somewhere up north.  I can pay you.”   She was touching his arm.

            “Got the money on you?”

            “I get paid next week…I hope…When you see what I’ve got, you’ll understand.”  Her face fell when he didn’t respond right away.

            “It’s all very mysterious, dolly.  You rip somebody off, I wait with my dick in my hand in the car…then you pay me, maybe never?”

            “Remember that night at Mossy’s house?…I’ve still got the pictures…”  She made a play.

            He grabbed her arm and shook hard.  He almost knocked his new drink off the waitress’ little tray. “You stupid cunt!  You talk to anyone and…”  He was pissed, but he was also trapped.  Everybody knew Mikey and threats.  The only thing he could carry out was the garbage, not that he ever did.  He tipped the waitress a five.  She backed away quickly with her cheetah tail between her legs.

            “C’mon, I’ll show you something.  You’ll see.”  She was in control now.

            He tossed down the brandy and they left the club.  Obviously, I didn’t follow them that night.  But Mikey kept talking, and once the truth gets started, it’s almost as powerful as a lie.         It starts to snowball.  Mikey’s story got convoluted.  But he emptied all the details out of his mental toybox, eventually.  He babbled on, and I listened.  Here’s the best translation I can give you.

My brother and Terri went outside to Mikey’s tricked-out Honda Civic, with the black lights under the rails, the decals on the windows, and the narrow profile tires.  They headed east two blocks and parked in the shutdown Martinizing lot.  The car’s lights snapped off like closing time at a strip mall.  It was dark. 

            That’s when Terri gave Mikey a blow job.  I don’t believe Mikey’s version here, that there was still a flame burning in their relationship.  There had never been a flame.  It had always been business.  Terri needed drugs.  Mikey had drugs.  She did what she had to do.  She did it in the past and she did it now, because she desperately needed something, and she had no money.  But it wasn’t for drugs this time.  She did it because she needed help.  Terri had made that albino choice, like the old legend said.  Pale danger was surrounding her, and she would do whatever she had to do to escape it.  Whatever the outcome might be for her,  Terri had made a decision, and she needed Mikey to make it work.  At that point, I still didn’t know what her situation was, but I understood what she did. 

            To her, one last time, the blow job was like a handshake — a two minute handshake.  And Mikey, with his warped religious upbringing, always took off his Holy Medal when he was doing something sexual.  I’d seen him do just that in a similar circumstance when he was fifteen.  I still shudder to remember it.  Mikey always took off that medal when a near occasion of sin popped up — pardon the expression.  He didn’t want to go to hell.  So Mr. Christopher went on the dash, face down.  Then, in his mind, God couldn’t see the dirty deed.  To Terri, even the reformed Terri, the medal was payment — sterling silver payment.  That’s when she took it, right in front of his orgasmically closed eyes.  Terri was good at multi-tasking.  Mikey didn’t tell me that she took it, I just knew.  I knew both of them too well.

            So Terri had some silver and she had Mikey’s attention.  Her blouse was soiled, but that was no big deal, Mikey was going along with her — for the moment.  That’s all Terri ever did exist in — the moment.  The car fired up, the lights came on in sequence, and they headed for Ahmed’s.

            On the way, Terri asked Mikey for his cell phone.  She made a call.  Mikey could only hear her side of the conversation.

            “Hello?…   It’s Terri. … No, don’t hang up… I have to show you something.  Something that could damage the Church…  Yes, you helped me.  He asked, and you gave me the job….  That’s why I have something you need to see… It pertains to…  No, I haven’t forgotten how important he is…  You have to see it… “  There was a very long pause at that point.  Mikey could hear the buzz of someone’s voice on the other end.  Finally Terri spoke again.  “I figured you knew that this stuff was going on… Yes, I’ll sell it to you… When? …  Stay by your phone.  I’ll call you back.”  Terri disconnected just as they got to Yablonski’s.

            As they cleared the gate, Ahmed greeted them.

            “Whoa, there, Mikey.  What the fuck do you think you doing bringing your sorry ass to my place?  Didn’ I splain to you…”

            “I gave Crew the money last week, you dumb Pollack!”

            Ahmed could produce a gun from the funniest places.  It looked like that big old Magnum had been under his hat.  Wherever it had been, it was now in Mikey’s face.

            “Say what?”

            “I gave the money to Crew, niggah.”

            “Thas bettah.”  Ahmed didn’t like being called a pollack.  “Hey!  Crew!”  The gun didn’t move.  It takes a little heft to hold those ugly things steady.  Ahmed had heft.

            A skinny, actually black guy stuck his head out of the Chicken Van.  That was Crew.  He was from the Sudan. 

            I don’t like to deal in stereotypes, but Crew was beautiful.  He walked with such grace, like a giraffe.  Most people seem so artificial.  Crew was a real piece of nature.  I don’t know how else to describe him.  Other than to say he was about 6’3” and a hundred fifty pounds, like a two-legged panther.  He and Ahmed were quite a pair.  A couple hard-working immigrants living the American dream.

            “Yes, Ahmed.  What is it you want?”  Crew’s English was perfect. 

            “Did this little anorexic bitch pay up?”  He meant Mikey, that’s who he was pointing the gun at.  Terri just stood there tucking in her blouse.

            “Yes, sir.  He paid the debt in full.  On the eighteenth, around one thirty.  Five hundreds and twenty-five twenties, plus twenty tens, four fives, eleven one dollar bills and sixteen quarters.  His account is current.”  Crew was good keeping track of things.  His slight musical accent was charming.

            Ahmed’s gun disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.  Like three card Monty, you didn’t want to guess where the lady was.  You’d always lose.

            “Can we use the VCR, Ahmed, just for a minute?”  Mikey was cocky again.  It’s a blessing having a bad short-term memory.

            “Oooo, my my,  you and the little thing gonna gets nasty in the back room?”

            “Yeah, sure.  Can we?”

            Ahmed’s back room had a huge entertainment center with all the bells and whistles like Dolby and TIVO hooked up to a big screen.  He would occasionally use it to put on a pirated heavyweight fight.  The admission price was reasonable.  A good little crowd was around for the weekend football games, too.  Crew kept the action all in his head.

            “Sho’ you kin.”  No Sunday night game on, no crowd.

            The Theater, as it was sometimes called, was also known to showcase some pornography.  It hosted “Bachelor” type parties and the like, whether there was a wedding planned or not.  Stolen liquor was served for a voluntary donation.  It was always good clean pornography.  No snuff, bondage, kiddie, water sports, German Shepherds, donkeys, or grandma-type smut was allowed.  Ahmed ran a classy joint.

            I don’t care one way or the other about pornography.  It’s as old as man.  There’s a temple in India a couple hundred feet tall, entirely covered with the most amazing graphic sexual activities you’ve ever seen.  There are thousand-year-old books full of it.  It’s not new.  Some people, Valerie for one, tell me it’s bad because it exploits women.  That’s probably true.  It’s an industry, just like the automobile industry, except more profitable for the kingpins.  I figure when they build a car, somebody gets exploited, too.  That’s the system.  The girls oughta’ unionize.

            So even though it was a little unusual for one couple to use it, well…

            “What eva’ flips yo trigga’, be my guest.”  Ahmed used the word guest as a mere convention.  Mikey gave him a twenty.  Ahmed gestured towards the back room.

            It was full of folding chairs and beer-stained carpet.  Ahmed did have it cleaned every week, but not by Merry Maids.  Mikey and Terri were alone.

            “Now whatta’ you want to show me that’s so mysterious?”  Mikey had the old swagger going.

            “Just be cool, Mikey.  When you see this, you’ll understand.  You’ll see what we have to do.”  Terri found the VCR, slipped in the tape she’d had in her purse, and hit “Play.”

            The normal blue screen fuzzed and crackled, and then there was a full frame shot of a young boy.  The camera pulled back.  The boy was naked.  There was a blur like someone behind the camera accidentally made a gesture that flashed too close in front of the lens.  The picture cleared, and a man’s hand came into sight.  It reached in until…  The hand was stroking the boy’s penis…

            Mikey was in shock.

            Terri hit “Still Frame” and froze the image on the screen.  “Wait, Mikey, let me roll it back a little.”  She started to look for the “Search” function button.  The sick image of the naked boy was huge on the big screen.

            Ahmed exploded into the room.  Men like Ahmed always kept an eye on everything.  This odd couple with a video, well, Ahmed had his antenna up and the peep hole open.

            “What the fuck!  You sick-ass bastard!”  He ripped out the tape just as the camera was zooming in on the kid’s genitals with the older hand…He pulled out the tape and threw it in Terri’s breadbasket.  The tape knocked the air out of her, but she caught it.  Ahmed knocked her out of the way.  Mikey was open-mouthed in a folding chair.  Ahmed slapped him.  That broke the spell.

            Yablonski was giving them the bum’s rush.  Holding them both by the elbows, and not gently, they flew out of the room and then the building.  He tossed them out the gate.  It was that quick.

            “You fuckin’ sick mutha fucker!”

            Mikey finally realized what was happening.  He looked at Ahmed, pleading in his eyes.  Ahmed turned his back.

            Terri held up the videotape.  “Mikey, you don’t understand.  I’ve got to show you something.  You’ve got to…”  She was pleading.

            Mikey took a swing at her and missed.  He was panicky. Ahmed was essential to business.  Without him… Let’s just say, it was hard to do any kind of business without Ahmed’s protection.  He screamed at Terri, who was catching her balance on the curb, putting the tape back in her bag.  “You crazy bitch!  What was that!  What was that!  Don’t you know?  Don’t you know?”  He took another swing at her and missed again. Terri took off running down the street.  Mikey followed, still screaming, “Don’t you know?  You stupid-ass cunt!  Keep running!  If I catch you I’m going to kill you!  What was that!?  Where the fuck did you get that?!”

            Ahmed slammed his gate and locked it.  Then he went inside, slammed his door, and locked it.  Crew just stoically looked out of the old van and shook his head.  Mikey’s voice faded down the block.  It was quiet.

            About ten minutes later, Mikey slowly came back up the block.  He called out,  “Ahmed!  C’mon man!  The chick is crazy.  I didn’t know!  Ahmed!”

            There was no answer, except Crew sliding the van door shut.  Mikey slumped into his car and pulled away.  He didn’t burn the tires like he normally would.  He just disappeared down the block, and the tail lights went around the corner, gone.  That was the end of Mikey’s sad tale.

            Keep in mind, I wasn’t there.  What I’m telling you is all based on the meth-fueled stream-of-consciousness babble that Mikey was spitting out like a cell-phone in a blender – curled up there on the floor of the jail, with his nose oozing blood.  But like I said before, give me the basic facts, the skeleton’s bones, I can put some flesh on them.  Believe me, or don’t.  Either way, that’s what happened.

            Back in reality at the jail, Mikey’s nosebleed got heavy again.  Just talking about that night with Terri had raised his blood pressure.  Somebody had changed the channel to Six to catch Jeopardy.  Final Jeopardy for cigarettes is big in jail.  I always win, even though I don’t smoke. 

            The Pod door opened.  Detective Carl Vandy stepped in, just one step.  That was enough.  He looked at me, smiled, and shook his head.  He pointed at Mikey, slowly rotated his hand, and the finger curled and uncurled.  Just once, that was enough.  He wanted my brother.  Mikey started to get up.  I helped him.  He whispered in my ear.

            “I didn’t mean to make her run.  I thought you’d kill me.  She screwed up my deal with Ahmed!  You’ve gotta understand.  The boy in the video…”

            “Yeah, Mikey, terrible… I know you’re telling me the truth.”

            “I didn’t mean to make her run….  Forgive me!  I don’t have much of anything left…I need Ahmed’s business…Forgive me!… I thought she screwed me up with Ahmed forever!  I blew it…No time to ask her…”  He grabbed me and, face to face, nose to nose, he told me the truth.  “The boy in the video was Torey!  I’m so sorry!  It was Torey!”  he sobbed.

             I would have dropped him, but he caught himself and walked unsteadily towards Vandy, who took the whole scene in.  He shook his head again.  It was all so pathetic through his eyes.

            It was suddenly so pathetic through mine.

            I barely made it to a bench as the door thudded shut.  They were gone.  I had to make myself breathe.  Torey was in a porno tape.  That’s the persity Kensington had referred to.  Kensington… the cops… were they all figuring Mikey was the perp?  Of course  they were.  That “neat little” package of charges Kensington was working up.  Shit!

Mikey wasn’t the perp.  I had to belive that.  But Torey?  It was hard wrapping my head around all the implications.  Torey, Kim’s kid, who had caught Daddy and Terri fucking in the family room?  My little card shark.  Twelve-year-old Torey was on the tape.  Where had Terri gotten something like that?  Why had she gone to Mikey?  What else did she want to get?  Did she think he would care about Torey and help her?  Help her what?  Of course, she figured he would care about his own son.  She figured showing him would get him pissed — he would surely help.  Problem was, Ahmed was closer to Mikey’s heart than Torey.  I was dizzy.  I thought I was going to pass out.

            Terri was playing out her own great idea.

            There was a big problem with it, though, that she didn’t know about.  How could she?  Mikey didn’t react the way she thought he would for a very simple reason.

            Mikey was Torey’s “Dad.”  I was Torey’s father.

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