Billy the Kid Rides Again: A Short Story, Part 2
Before We Begin
It might help if you read the first chapter of this story before diving into this one. I’ve linked it to the right for your reading pleasure.
Sit back, relax, and follow along as Billy the Kid leads you through the underbelly of the beast, a way of life you won’t find on any tour.
Morning Has Broken
A fiery ball rose in the east, an angry mistress looking for an ex-lover to scorch. I’m sitting on the boardwalk in Atlantic City as the sun rubs the sleep out of its eyes and prepares for another day of work. I’ve got the early morning blues, baby, right on the footsteps of the late night blues. No place to go that seems safe, just me and the gulls looking for scraps and hoping for the best. I’m not sure there’s a lonelier place on earth than the Atlantic City beach in late October. The festivities and gaiety of summer are distant memories. Now it’s all about survival of the fittest and there ain’t many who are fit as I look down the deserted street.
I took the New Jersey Aces from Penn Station to the Express, a twenty-nine dollar fare I couldn’t afford, but it was better than sitting at home waiting for Ivan and his goons to cut my throat. Do you want a word of advice from one who knows? Don’t screw the daughter of a Russian crime boss. Take that one to the bank, my friend. Take that one to the bank.
The first chapter of this story
- Walking the Streets on a Cold Fall Night: A Short Story
Take a walk with me along the mean streets of America
Who Is Ivan?
You ain’t from around these parts if you have to ask that question. Ivan runs Washington Heights. Anything and everything happens in the Heights because Ivan allows it to. He runs girls there, he pumps a steady supply of drugs there, he provides the loans there. You want to own a business there, you pay Ivan protection money. You want a little side job, like selling dime bags of dust, you pay the price with Ivan. Cross the line, don’t pay your respects to Ivan, and your body will be fish food in the Hudson. It’s that simple.
Ivan learned all about free enterprise in the back alleys of Lensk. He broke his first kneecap at twelve. Graduated to assassinations at fifteen. When the Soviet Union collapsed he saw opportunity in the New World and he’s been building an empire ever since.
And I screwed his daughter without permission.
A gull flies overhead, destination unknown to me but clearly doing better than yours truly. I pass two drunks on a tattoo parlor doorstep, sleeping off the screaming banshees, the air around them reeking of cigarettes, vomit and lost dreams. Waves rhythmically count the minutes of the new day, count down, most likely, the remaining minutes of my life. In the south storm clouds form, announcing their arrival, metaphors for my future. Two cats go at it in the alley as I pass, furious humping, primal sounds, reminding me of Room 2B of the Shady Rest, her golden loins sweating beneath the sheets, beneath me, her eyes bottomless pools of promise, calling me to a death Ivan will no doubt deliver.
Her name is Anna, five-feet four-inches of temptations and wet dreams and God help me, man, even thinking about her now I can forget about Ivan and taste her invitations. No excuses! I knew who she was. I knew what she was, trouble with two feet, the end of existence with a tight ass, but it made no difference then and makes none now.
Footsteps rapidly approach from behind me. I spin, gasping, but it’s only an early morning jogger, my reaction as frightening to her as her arrival is to me. I smile weakly, she nods her head and I wonder if she’ll be the last human contact I ever experience. A garbage can crashes up ahead. A siren blares in the distance. My father’s admonition resounds in my head, keep it in your pants, Billy, or you’ll pay to play eventually.
What to Do
Not many choices to be truthful. Run as fast and as far as possible, with thirty-six bucks to finance the disappearance, with no guarantee of success, or return to the Heights and face the music. Maybe the Reverend can intervene. Maybe my previous work for Ivan will count in my favor. Maybe Ivan’s little girl will win him over and convince him that the poor Irish Mick would make a good son-in-law. Maybe Santa Claus is real and this is all a bad dream.
Running is no good. It’s no way to live and that’s a fact, Jack.
I look up as the clouds meet the sun, turning the early morning sky blood red. I turn around and walk back to the Express, my last few dollars paying for a ticket to a future that was determined when Momma decided not to flush me with the afterbirth. God bless her saintly soul.
Good Morning Washington Heights
Three hours later I’m back on the streets of my turf. Bobby Bluefly sees me step off the bus and waves me over. He’s grinning but there’s no happiness in that grin.
“Billy the Kid, are you out of your friggin’ mind? This is no place for your sorry ass. Ivan has the word out on the street. If we see you we dime you, simple as that. A thousand to the guy who locates you. Ten grand for anyone who bags and tags you. That’s serious money, bro, so get your ass off the streets and do it yesterday.”
Bobby Bluefly and I go way back, back to the days of Public School 178 on Ellwood, shooting spitballs at old Mister Barclay and owning the playground with our good looks and bad attitude. He won’t smoke my ass, our shared history guarantees that, but he’s in the minority. His advice is gold, I know that, but I just punch him on the shoulder, thank him for his loyalty and head out in search of Ivan.
Ten a.m., a Tuesday, there’s only one place to look, Petra’s Kitchen, Ivan’s favorite café, back table, facing the door, he’s holding court for a group of six when I walk in the door. If he’s surprised to see me he hides it well.
I spread my arms as I approach him. His number one pats me down, taking far too much pleasure in it, then nods to Ivan. The big man kicks a chair out.
“Sit, Billy!” he tells me. I sit. He turns to his group. “What do you think of man who does not know his place in world? What should happen to such a man? What should happen to crazy Irish bastard who, what is word, deflowers? Yes, who deflowers my precious daughter. What should I do to him?
“Billy, you disappoint me. I have been good to you, yes? Took care of you when you needed help? Paid you good for little jobs? And you show gratitude by banging my beautiful Anna? I think I should cut off your balls and feed them to you, then nail your corpse to street sign, a warning to all Micks out there to keep their Irish peckers in pants and away from Russian women. These thoughts fill my mind, Billy. What do you think of that?”
My father was a crazy bastard. Loved his Irish whiskey almost as much as he loved his son. I never saw him back away from a fight. He told me once that a man makes choices. It’s how he deals with the fallout that defines him as a man. I thought of that while pondering Ivan’s question.
“Ivan, here’s the deal,” I told him. “I’m not going to lie to you. I think I love your daughter and I’m pretty damn sure she loves me. I know, I know, what do I know about love, right? And what’s a stupid Irish punk doing loving your daughter? But the thing is, I don’t give a flying fuck what you think or what you do to me, and I think deep down you understand that and respect it. You didn’t get where you’ve gotten by caring what others think, and I doubt you ever asked for permission growing up on the streets of Lensk when you saw a young woman who increased your heartbeat and left your legs feeling like jelly.
“So you’ve got a choice, Ivan: you can either cut off my balls or give me your blessing. Either way I’m not apologizing and I’m sure as shit not running.”
To Be Continued
Don’t you just hate that? Get all wrapped up in a story only to find out you’ll have to wait a week for resolution?
It’s called a cliffhanger, my friends, so live with it.
See you next week! Or not! Maybe this is the end. Hmmmm!
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)