Sunday, September 22, 2013


After washing down a couple of reds with a beer, the ride from Ensenada to Tijuana had passed by in a flash. When he woke up, they had already pulled into the parking lot of the bullring, the scene of that night's matches. He had wrestled here numerous times before and hated it with a passion. The fans were vicious and had been know to assault wrestlers, and the air was hard to breath inside the bullring with all the red dirt dust that was kicked up in the air.
His back was already killing him after he had slipped off the top rope and landed hard on the ring apron the previous night and sleeping on a van seat with shitty springs hadn't done anything to improve the situation.
The other wrestlers had already gotten out of the van and were limping and shuffling towards the dressing room. He sat up, grabbed his gym bag, and followed the others. When he stepped down from the van, his title belt, which proclaimed him the "World Champion of the Mexican Wrestling Federation," slipped out of his bag and fell to the ground. With a groan he reached over and picked it up. Dusting it off, he couldn't help but think how about how he had sacrificed his body and self respect for this leather, plastic, and metal piece of shit.
At one time, he would have given up his left nut to own that piece of garbage. Now it meant nothing.
He slung the belt over his shoulder and headed towards the dressing room.
* * *
My parents were dirt poor when I was growing up in Austin, Texas. They didn’t have a bucket to shit in or the proverbial window to throw it out of. Our house was a shotgun shack on the outside of town with a yard about as big as a postage stamp. Talk about a bunch of fucking hillbillies, we actually had chickens scratching around in the front yard. My brother and I dressed in hand me downs from the Goodwill or the Salvation Army and stood out like a couple of sore thumbs. The kids at school were brutal to us. I don’t know how many times we were kicked out of school for fighting. I had just started junior high when my older brother, Aaron, was killed on his bike when he rode out in front of a dairy delivery truck. Milk grows strong bones. 
I saw it happen. The whole fucking thing was so surreal. When the truck hit him, he flew through the air like a rag doll. His head literally exploded like a grape. I had nightmares for years after.
After that I kinda went inside of myself. My parents had been huge drunks before Aaron was killed. After the funeral they got crank and grass involved in the mix. They’d turn on each other and fight like maniacs, sometimes physically. More than once the cops would pay us a visit. I started staying away from home for long stretches of time.
Then I met the Hultgren twins. Terry and Thomas. They were both like me. Outsiders. The throwaways of society.
Terry was kinda slow, almost retarded, but a good kid. He always stayed close to the home. The farm would always be his life.
Thomas was a wild man. He lived to drink, lift weights, fight, and chase after girls who always turned him down.
The twins didn’t know their father, he had been a one night stand, but their young for her age mother, Ruth, was a damn fine person and she basically took me in. I spent more time in their old farmhouse in my high school years than I did at my own house. She was the only person who ever had any faith in me and was the one who convinced to try to become a writer.
She was also an incredible source of sexual fantasies for me. 
Thomas and I became partners, we formed a bond, the kind you do when you’re young and you don’t ever envision a future. We had had each other’s backs. Anyone fucked with one of us, the other one wouldn’t be far away. We may get our ass kicked in the process but we’d give the prick something to think about.
There wasn’t a day that Thomas didn’t talk about his dream and what life would be like once he achieved it. How he wouldn’t be the small town loser everyone thought he was anymore.
I never told him I thought he was full of shit. But good friends don’t step on each other’s dreams. 
The day after high school graduation he jumped on a train headed towards Los Angeles. The city where he said he could live out his dream. He never told me he was going to do it. I couldn’t believe my friend was gone. I wouldn’t see him again for years.
* * *
The call from the Galveston police came when I was at work. My boss took the call and glared at me as if I had farted and had shit my pants instead. A body had been found floating in the Houston ship channel and someone was needed to identify it. That someone was me, since my name and both home and work phone numbers had been found amongst the victim’s personal affects.
The drive down from Austin took about four hours. It was a Saturday, my day off of course, and I had to fight the idiotic tourist traffic once I got close to the island. It was around noon when I finally arrived and the temperature in Galveston was already as hot as the proverbial gates of hell. 
The morgue was located down in the basement of the hospital and the closest parking spot I could find was about three blocks away. By the time I walked back to the hospital my armpits were bubbling like a witch’s brew and I had completely sweated through my shirt. 
I rang the buzzer on the morgue door and was let in by the duty forensic technician. He had a lit Camel in one hand and what looked like a lizard and peanut butter sandwich in the other. The place was like a freezer inside and I immediately developed a nasty headache as my head constricted from the extreme change in temperature. The room had a weird sweet, formaldehyde funk to it. There was a radio in the corner playing Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold” very loudly. Which was odd considering the circumstances and the location. 
There was pissed off looking man standing in the corner. He was silent but I assumed he was the cop I had talked to on the phone the day before.
The technician walked over to one of the examining tables, jammed the sandwich in his mouth, and with a flourish, pulled a sheet off the body. “Voila!” he shouted with full mouth.
I instantly blurted out the body’s name. I knew it would be him. Who else could it have been? 
“What are you, some sort of fucking smart ass?” The cop had finally spoken.
The cop, actually a detective, I would find out, looked like he had walked straight out of central casting. Huge gut, mutton chop sideburns, beady little pig eyes, spaghetti stained and pitted out white dress shirt, all topped off with a red alcohol flushed face with a cigar jammed in his mouth. Definitely the look of cop who was on the dark side of a long awaited, stress induced heart attack.
He was standing across from the body glaring at me with his hands on his ample hips. I was really starting to regret smoking those two reefers and drinking that six pack of Tecate on the drive down. 
“Well, did your hear me? You’re telling me that’s his name? Are you trying to be a smart ass?” he repeated.
I was having problems concentrating. This was the first and hopefully last time that I would ever be in a morgue. There were three chrome metal slabs inside the tiny room and the other two were also occupied. There weren’t sheets covering them. On the far table there was the body of a dead hooker that was found in the dunes up on east beach. She had been severely beaten and then strangled. Her killer, mostly likely her pimp, had finished the job by shoving an empty bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 up her employment chute. 
Laid out on table number two was a college aged young man who was presumably the victim of a hellacious case of spring break induced alcohol poisoning. Even in death he looked like he was enjoying himself. I hadn’t seen many stiffs but the few I had seen sure as shit weren’t smiling. People came to Galveston Island to party, maybe smoke a little pot, drink a couple cold ones, get some pussy, and have a good time, but sometimes they got more than they bargained for.
Resting on table number three was the reason I was in this hellhole. His little, muscle bound body was green with algae and had been scavenged upon by fish, crabs, and seagulls. Surprisingly, considering the condition of the rest of the body, the X tattooed in gothic script on his right bicep still stood out.
There was a large bullet hole entry wound right in the middle of his forehead. 
“Hey! Dipshit! I don’t have all goddamn day so answer my question so I can get the hell out of here. This isn‘t the little Lindbergh kidnapping case you know. I have more important things than to stand around here and look at a dead dwarf, and one that‘s starting to get pretty goddamn ripe on top of it.” 
He was a midget, I thought. Not a dwarf. He hated being called a dwarf. And he really when nuts when some politically correct asshole called him a “little person.” 
“I’m a fucking midget, not some sawed off cock sucking circus freak!” he’d roar at the offender.
The room suddenly got very hot. The oxygen felt like it was being sucked out my lungs and the walls appeared that they were closing in on me. I looked over at the technician who was leering at me with an evil grin. Really enjoying the show. The sick fuck! 
I looked back to the detective. “Midget X. That’s his name. He changed it legally.” I stammered. Jesus Christ on a motorcycle, I had to get the hell out of here!
The cop made a disgusted grunting noise. “So that’s what I have to go on? A rotting floater you say is called Midget X. And no fucking prints or dental records to work off of to ID the troll! Fucking A! Is this a fun Saturday morning or what?”
When I looked back down to X’s body I thought I saw some movement by his head. When I looked closer, to my horror, a small crab crawled out of the bullet hole wound in his forehead.
The room began to spin. In a panic, I tried to step back away from the table but my knees had locked up and I began to fall backwards as if my whole body had frozen in the upright position. I remembered watching the fights on HBO one night and Larry Holmes looked the exact same way after he walked into a Mike Tyson right hand.
I fell straight back, just like Larry did, only I caught the back of my head on an instrument tray piled high with scalpels and forceps on the way down.
Two years earlier I had been having the time of my young life. Working minimum wage in Texas had lost its allure. I had always loved to write, even as a little kid, so I had dreams of becoming a journalist. Since I had been a shitty student in school, colleges weren’t exactly beating down my door. But a visit to a Navy recruiter quickly solved my problem. The Navy had a journalism school and would even pay you while you attended. 
After boot camp and journalism school, I found myself onboard a small training aircraft carrier home-ported out of Pensacola, Florida. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I shared a four man stateroom with a couple of other journalists, was exempt from most mundane Navy shipboard activities (painting, mess cooking, toilet cleaning), and I worked for a Lieutenant Commander who was both female and as hot as they come for a woman almost twice my age.
My boss, Barb, was married, her husband a civilian with a high paying job as an insurance adjuster. They owned a beautiful home on Gulf Breeze, located just outside of Pensacola. Both her and her husband were staunch Catholics and were very active in the church. They had two children, Martin, who was and eleven, and Lynn, who was eight. 
I also soon discovered that she had a taste for young enlisted men, especially virgins like myself. Along with imported vodka, wild uninhibited sex, and cocaine. Not necessarily in that order.
We carried on an affair that lasted close to a year before the Naval Investigative Service, who got tipped off by a jealous snitch, caught wind of it. 
We were out on a two-week training cruise. It was in the middle of the night and I was in the Commander’s stateroom. We had been drinking, shooting coke, and we were both buck ass naked, sleeping off a night I'd never forget. 
Without any kind of warning, the door to her stateroom slammed open and in jumped the Master At Arms and the ship‘s resident NIS agent who was brandishing a large caliber service revolver and was pointing it at both of us as we broke about every goddamn rule in the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.
Barb was looking over at the two intruders with wild eyed horror and was shrieking incoherently. She was either trying to protest her innocence, screaming rape, or telling them to get the fuck out, all at once.
Barb was allowed to retired gracefully with full pay and benefits. I was offered a deal. Keep my mouth shut, plead guilty to cocaine possession and possession of alcohol onboard a military vessel at my court martial, and I’d get a bad conduct discharge and a day short of a year in the Pensacola Naval Air Station brig. All I had to do was sign a statement saying that I would never divulge any information about the incident for the rest of my natural life. The other option was hire an attorney, fight the charges, lose, and spend long hard time at Leavenworth Federal Prison.
What would you have done? Myself, I took the easy way out. 
I thought.
I was standing at attention as best as I could with my hands cuffed behind me. It had already been a long fucking morning. My head was shaved as clean and slick as a pool ball, I had been de-loused, a medical technician had shoved a rubber gloved hand up my ass looking for drugs or a pistol, and was outfitted in a blaze orange jumpsuit.
The warden was sitting at his desk, reading from a Bible, of all things. His lips moved as he read silently and slid his finger across the passages. My mother always told me that anyone who moved their lips as they read was an idiot. I smiled slightly at the thought. The warden suddenly looked up and caught me in mid smirk.
“What in the heck are you smiling about, son?” He pushed himself up from his chair, walked around his desk, and stood in front of me. His face was about five inches from mine, and his breath smelled like dirty running shoes. 
“Seems to me that a young man in your position wouldn’t have a lot to be happy about.” Jesus Christ! That breath was killing me. I tried covertly to pull my head back a micro-inch to avoid the stench.
He stepped back and took a seat on the edge of his desk as he opened up my file and reviewed the contents. He shook his head in disbelief.
“Possession of narcotics. Possession of liquor onboard a naval vessel. Engaged in unlawful sexual intercourse with a commissioned officer of the United States Navy.” He shook his head again and slapped the file closed. “Disgusting.”
The warden stood up and began to pace back and forth in front of me, his hands behind him, his eyes locked down onto the carpet. “Before I took this assignment I was a chaplain for the first fourteen years of my naval career.” Oh, that’s just fucking great I thought, a scripture reading, Bible thumping warden. Probably has a crucifix in every cell.
“Yes, you might not believe me but it’s true. My degree is in theology not criminology. No, my initial calling was to spread God’s word. But over the years I began to become disillusioned. Disheartened. Even bored. Yes, bored. Bored with the tales of sailors who were homesick and wanted to jump overboard. Bored with the lies from the young men who claimed a death or illness in their family in order to get a leave home. Bored with confessions of the sailors caught masturbating over a picture of their girlfriend or some movie actress, and who then couldn’t handle the teasing of their peers so they wanted to jump overboard. Bored with the maudlin tears from the young man caught washing his best buddy's back in the shower.”
The warden stopped his pacing. This time we were practically nose to nose. I thought his breath was going to make me barf. “I realized that I couldn’t make a difference out there in the fleet. There are no morals anymore out there. Too many distractions with the rap music, the MTV, and the R rated movies. But in here, I can make a difference. Because in here there are no distractions! No television, no movies, no dirty magazines, no drugs or booze, and in your case, no women.” He patted himself on his chest. “In here I can mold minds. Change minds. In here I can make a difference.”
He turned around and opened my file again. Thank you, God. I didn’t think I was going to be able to handle much more of him at that close of a range. “I don’t know how you did it, but somehow you seduced a fine woman and in the process ruined both her career and her life. All for the sake of your filthy little pleasures.” He turned back around and crossed his arms across his chest.
“So what’s our side of the story, son. I really want to hear it. Every inmate or pervert always has a sad story to cry to the chaplain about.”
I was sick of this motherfucker already and I hadn’t known him for more than fifteen minutes yet. 
“Chaplain. Warden. Whatever you go by. I signed the goddamn statement. I agreed to do my time and keep my mouth shut and that’s what I intend to do. But don’t try to paint her up like she was some victim. That woman screwed me until I couldn’t see straight and it was all her idea. I’m just taking the fall for her.”
The Bible that the warden had been reading was one of those old style son of a bitches that was handed down from generation to generation and everyone in the family signed. It weighed a ton and when he swung it at my head, it put my lights straight the fuck out.
I woke up in the prison dispensary with a major concussion. There was a giant black man in the bed beside me. His arms and legs were strapped down to the bed with these thick leather straps. His eyes were glassy and drool was running down his chin as he raised his head and spoke to me.
“Let me tell you about the woman I killed. She was beautiful and she had the most incredible eyes. They were as brown as a fresh steaming turd.”
I realized right there and then that prison was not the place for me. 
I had learned my lesson. I attended the warden’s weekly Bible classes. Did my shitty prison cleaning duties. Kept my mouth shut. I became the stereotypical good little inmate. 
And walked out the brig a day short of a year later. 
When I reported in to the brig I was wearing my uniform. Since that option was gone the prison staff gave me a cheap set of clothes, fifty dollars, and a Greyhound bus ticket back to Texas. I was headed back to where I had started.
* * *
His back was shot and both knees were blown. His days in the ring were over. He now earned his money by performing in live sex acts at seedy bars in Tijuana. On occasion, because there was some perverted interest in it, he performed in low budget porno movies.
When they shot film in San Diego and LA, he earned extra income by muling drugs over the border. On one occasion he smuggled a hundred thousand hits of Ecstasy across the border. Upon delivery, the dealer handed him five hundred dollars. When X voiced his displeasure, the dealer told him he could either take the money or he could get shoved up a horse’s ass. He took the money. 
* * *
For two years there was a string of real crappy jobs after I got back to Austin. I was a pizza delivery boy, cab driver, janitor, bartender, and even a telemarketer selling advertising space. Anything to make a buck. 
The telemarketing job was at the offices of a free weekly entertainment newspaper. One day in a casual conversation with the manager I mentioned that I had been in journalism school. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew, I was a minor contributing writer covering the hot bar scene in Austin.
Things began to look up. 
Until the night I went to cover a hot new band’s performance down at grungy downtown bar called Antone’s.
The band was on break and I had gone upfront to grab a beer. While I was waiting for my drink I could feel eyes on me. When I turned around I saw Ruth sitting across the bar from me. Even though she seemed to have aged a decade since I had last seen her, she was still a very attractive woman. And she was royally drunk.
One thing led to another and after the bar closed we wound up spending the night at my apartment. It was the next morning when we sobered up that she told me the story.
* * *
After arriving in Los Angeles, Thomas had gotten himself enrolled in a pro wrestling school. He wound up wrestling in bars, high school gyms, and in musty old national guard armories, but the big time never called.
It seemed midget wrestling had lost it’s audience in the United States. So he migrated south to Mexico where he found seemingly immediate acceptance and popularity. Wearing a mask and billing himself as Midget X, he quickly won a “world” title and defended his title all over Mexico and South America. He earned a very good salary and the long awaited attention of many women. One of whom he eventually married.
But the constant touring and the physical abuse on his body began to exact a heavy toll. He had to go under the knife six times. Two on his back, four on his knees, and it wasn’t long before he was dependent on a combination of painkillers and booze.
The wrestling promoters finally decided to cut their losses and arranged for X to “lose” his title. Soon after he was delegated to the role of an under-card wrestler. The drop in status crushed him and he began to drink even more heavily and started to play around with brown heroin. His wife, who had enjoyed the money and status of being married to a champion, even a champion midget wrestler, filed for divorce.
Finally, after showing up drunk, stoned, and belligerent for a match in Tijuana, he was fired from the "show".
Stranded in Tijuana, and desperate for cash, he transported drugs across the border into the United States and began making short porno films and performing in live sex shows in front of drunk sailors and tourists from across the border. 
He eventually began to make movies for a gentleman that catered to a clientele with much harder tastes. Together, in a rundown warehouse outside of Tijuana, they made a series of bondage and rape movies.
Then for a collector who paid them a very large sum of money, they made a snuff movie in which they killed a seventeen-year old runaway from San Diego. Nothing was faked. The authorities in Mexico stumbled on to a copy of the film and turned it over to U. S law enforcement officials who were involved the investigation of the missing girl. 
Thomas/Midget X disappeared off the face of the earth.
* * *
It wasn’t long after our initial meeting in the bar that Ruth and I started seeing each other on a pretty regular basis. We’d meet at a club downtown or when my schedule permitted it, I’d spend weekends out on their farm with her and Terry. One Sunday afternoon when I was getting ready to head back to the city, she handed me a large shoebox through my open car window. 
“What’s this?” 
“It’s Thomas’s life story, all stuck in a box. Magazines and newspaper clippings from his wrestling career that he sent me. The rest is what was written about the murder investigation, really everything I could get my hands on. I know he didn’t do what they said he did. I need someone to get to the truth.”
“What do you want me to do with it?”
“You’re a writer. Just do what you do. You know Thomas, so who could do it better than you?”
It took six months of starts and stops along with tons of fact checking but when I finally got the story down on paper, the result was huge. It was printed first in the Austin entertainment paper, but was quickly picked up by a dozen major newspapers, two wrestling magazines, and eventually Newsweek.
It had the qualities that the media is always looking for. Sex, drugs, murder. And as a bonus, a midget.
It got me a promotion and a raise.
* * *
“The little shit was staying in a fleabag hotel up on the seawall. Living with a bunch of hookers and crackheads. All he had in his room was some raggedy clothes, a moth eaten wrestling mask, and your address and phone numbers written on the cover of this magazine.” 
The morgue technician walked over and handed me an ice pack for the lump on the back of my head.
“So this is the same dead midget,” the cop pointed to the body on the table, “as the midget in this article?” he waved a copy of the Newsweek with my article in it. 
I nodded weakly.
“Well, fucking A dilly bar, maybe this hasn’t been a waste of a day after all. I guess I should have read the article on the little fucker before I called you down here.”
I shuffled to my feet. “Can I go now?”
The detective slapped me on the back. Hard. “I guess so. Thanks for coming down. Sorry about giving you such a hard ass time. But I imagine that the Feds are going to be giving you in a call in the very near future so I wouldn’t wander too far from home.”
Driving straight back to Austin I couldn’t get the imagine of Thomas, laying there dead on the table, all chewed up by creatures of the sea, out of my mind. I didn’t know how I was going to break it to Ruth. She hadn’t answered her phone when I tried to call her after the cops had called me at the paper. 
I pulled into the farmhouse yard. Her car was gone. The place was dead quiet. Eerily quiet. I called out Ruth and Terry’s names. No answer.
The door was unlocked. There was still furniture and appliances inside but you could feel that no one was coming back here anytime soon. It had that “let’s pack quick and get the hell out of Dodge” feel to it.
Once more in my life I had no family.
* * *
About a year later.
An email was standing out from all the other Spam and work related emails that popped up every goddamn time I logged into my computer at work. For some reason it made me very uneasy.
I double clicked:
Congratulations! Your article was beautiful. Put me right up front so that when the body was found there would be no doubt. If you had known the scam up front, do you think you would have helped me anyway? I couldn’t chance it. Don’t fault Ruth, she does care for you, but remember that blood is thicker than water. She even sacrificed one of her own to save the other. I feel bad because I’m the one that pulled the trigger. Believe me when I say that I almost cried when I tattooed that matching X on his arm, he was so fucking proud that he was going to be just like me, but I’ve learned that survival of the fittest is the most pure philosophy that one can live by. He lived a good life but I have more to live. But try not to be too judgmental of me. Remember it was you who wrote that article about me. And you did it for a reason. To fulfill your dream! To be famous! Just like I wanted to be at one time. Forgive me, my brother. Maybe some day we will be together again.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Ed "Cool Breeze" Byrd had come to believe that he was a major player in the street scene of downtown Orlando. Although he didn't have a string of whores like some pimps, he did have one, that was a start. Even if she wasn't the smartest bitch to ever walk down the street. He had a good side business going on selling quarters, halves, and ounces of weed to the tourists who were in town to see Walt and the Mouse, and the college kids who were here to get laid and loaded. Ed had even pimped himself out a few times to some white college bitches from some backwater town up north who had wanted to see what a black stud like himself was like in the sack. He hadn't disappointed. He thought anyway.
He had struck gold though with the blackmail scheme. Orlando was not only a tourist town but it was also a Navy town. There was a boot camp here and Florida was full of bases. It brought in sailors and officers alike. And white boys are no different than them white bitches. Them white boys want to see what that black trim is all about. That's where Cool Breeze came in. 
Breeze had his whore, Belinda, dumb as a stump but still a damn fine looking girl, pick up unsuspecting sailors and take them to the Pink Fox motel, which is where Cool Breeze had greased the hand of the manager with a three hundred dollar monthly payment and a weekly blow job from Belinda, to allow Breeze to install a two way mirror in one of the rooms. 
Once the sailor was brought into the room and started getting in on with Belinda, Breeze would either photograph or videotape the session, which he would sell to the underground porno trade. Depending on the john, Breeze would then quite often bust into the room with his .45 drawn and blackmail the john right out of his wallet and any expensive jewelry he might have. 
Twice it had gone wrong. One white boy, a bodybuilder, had actually jumped up and charged the Breeze Man. Breeze, while backpedaling in fright, had fired off an accidental round which caught the john square in the chest. 
The second time the boy had like a religious fit or something when Breeze had busted in and started screaming about what his momma would do if she ever found out he had been tapping a black woman. Breeze had to stick him with his blade to shut him up. He couldn't shoot him. Otto, the motel manager, had almost kicked Breeze out after the time he had shot the cracker with his piece. Breeze even had to rent one of those cleaning vacuums you get at the grocery store to clean the carpet in the room after that one. 
He had dumped both bodies in a dumpster. Once behind a Shoneys, because they were racist bastards. And the other one behind a McDonalds, because once he had gone into one to use their can and the manager had forced him to buy something first. Plus, he hated their fucking fries. No one had fries like White Castle. Couldn't get them in Florida though. He never knew if the bodies were ever found. Breeze wasn't big on the news or reading papers. 
But with two other marks he had hit the jackpot. 
Breeze was behind the mirror one slow Thursday night when Belinda brought in a john and Breeze almost passed out in excitement when he saw who it was. It was the goddamn executive officer of the Naval training facility, the same prick that had signed off on Cool Breeze's very own dishonorable discharge. 
Breeze had enlisted in Detroit and hadn't done well enough on the entrance exam to get a school guaranteed to him. So after boot camp, which took him thirteen weeks, instead of the normal nine, Breeze had to stay in Orlando for on the job training before he was to be assigned a ship, where most likely his assignments would be the chipping and sanding of paint and the cleaning of shitters. While in this rigorous training phase of his career, Breeze had taken it upon himself to expose his crank to a female recruit and had invited her to feast upon it. He had been arrested, court martialed, and discharged within a week. He remained in Orlando because he enjoyed the climate much more than Detroit. Plus in Detroit there was about two thousand people he had fucked over who wanted Breeze either dead or very hurt. 
The man who was now humping Belinda wildly was the same asshole who had had Breeze drummed out of the service, calling Breeze a "disgusting piece of crap" and a "disgrace to the uniform." Breeze now had in his possession the taped around the world event of the officer and Belinda, and he received a six hundred dollar a month retainer to make sure that no one ever would see the tape. 
His second monthly payment came from another officer. This one was a ensign but a female. She had paid Belinda a hundred dollars to go down on her and had gotten so worked up that she had returned the favor. She paid Breeze four hundred a month to keep the video out of sight, but he had also sold the video to his underground buddies. No one was the wiser. 
So all in all, the Breeze should have been a happy camper but he wasn't. He was in fact, a nervous wreck. He was standing on the street, about a half a block from his digs, a fifth floor walkup, in front of his favorite bar and grill, The Bearded Clam, with Belinda, and Breeze felt like he could shit cream corn at any minute. What had happened last night had fucking freaked him. Scared the absolute shit out of him. 
He had been behind the mirror when the door to the adjoining room had opened and Brenda came in with this big, football playing, weightlifting type. He had a military haircut but it almost looked like he was trying to grown one of those mohawk looking things that those Sid Vicious dudes used to wear around Detroit. More like that wrestler, the one in The Road Warriors, he used to watch them on Ted Turner's superstation, it looked more like that. But the guy was big, he was scary looking, and he had freaky fucking eyes. Big tattoo of a pit bull on his back. Breeze decided to let this one pass. He was trouble. 
Brenda had given the dude a half and half and after the Road Warrior had gotten done with the second half, the guy had gotten up, ripped off his rubber and thrown it at Breeze's mirror. It had stuck right in front of Breeze's face, and then the monster had grinned right at the mirror and did one of those finger/gun cocking things. He paid Belinda, had gotten dressed, and then walked out. 
Breeze was freaked beyond belief. 
Belinda had to have told the guy. How the hell else would he have known? He was standing in front of the Clam, holding onto Belinda by both arms, and screaming so loud at her that her face was speckled with Breeze's spit. He didn't give a shit if anyone heard. HOW THE HELL DID THAT GUY KNOW? 
The Warrior was grinning as he watched the couple through his binoculars. He was sitting on a chair in front of a window in Ed "Cool Breeze" Byrd's apartment. The apartment had a cheap lock purchased at Wal Mart. It had been a cinch to pick. The door was such a piece of shit he could have kicked it off the hinges it had wanted to but he was afraid of waking up the neighbors. The apartment was one of those ancient old dumps that had been built in the 1950s, had a grace period of a decade or so, then went straight down the crapper, until a few years ago when it became trendy to fix up old crack and whorehouses and then rent them out at upscale prices. Byrd was the only black that the Warrior had seen in the building. Probably made the yuppies feel good living among the common folk. 
The neighborhood hadn't quite caught up. It was still littered with hookers, tattoo parlors, adult book stores, and pawn shops, but it too was becoming a trendy place to go slumming in for an evening. Looking up and down the street you could see an occasional Mercedes Benz parked in front of a strip club, or a BMW in the parking lot of an old skin flick theater. 
Warrior gazed around the apartment. It was decorated in a 70s kind of decor, like a cross between Shaft and All In the Family. He looked back down onto the street, Breeze was still reaming out his hooker. It didn't take much to shake the place down, it was really just a big studio apartment with a separate bathroom. It even had one of those old Murphy style beds. Breeze had one of those huge, ancient stereo systems set up on a big book case. When he opened the cabinet he immediately found what he was looking for. A stack of videotapes and they were even labeled. The still photos that he had taken were wrapped with rubber bands and had the date and time when they were taken. Holy shit, was this guy anal or just plain stupid? Warrior slipped the videos and pictures he was looking for into the gym bag he always carried on his gigs. 
This job had really been a vacation, lotta other cases had been harder and smarter, but not this dumbass. It was hard to believe that the military actually paid him to do this shit. His dad had been right. All that special forces training would eventually pay off. The old man just would never know how. 
After Warrior located Breeze, who had the nocturnal habits of a pimp, he spent his days on the beach, and nights tailing Breeze. 
The man disgusted Warrior. He was a bottom feeder of the worst sort. But the third night he had done something really stupid. He had snorted up a few lines of Peruvian flake and had picked up Breeze's whore, took her back to the room and laid the coals to her, all the while hoping Breeze would jump him so that he could beat him to death with his bare hands. The chick was hot but that had been really fucking dumb. Gotta be more professional. 
Warrior fanned through some still photos in the gym bag. There he was getting reamed, steamed, and dry cleaned in bright Kodak color. He stuck that packet in his pocket, no need to let the brass see those, and continued searching the apartment. In a wooden cigar box on top of the television was an ounce of some pot that smelled like it came right out of the personal stash of the King of Thailand, or whatever it was called now. That also went into his pocket, but he took a single joint that was in the box and fired it up as he continued his search. 
He wandered into the bathroom as he puffed away. Boy, was this some sweet tasting bud. The buzz was coming on fast and strong. Warrior grabbed the top of the toilet tank and lifted it up. Bingo! Floating inside the tank was a shitpot of cash inside a couple of zip lock bags. He pulled the cash out of the bags, in typical Byrd style it was broken up in twenties, fifties, and hundreds. The hundreds he fit into his pocket and the rest went into the gym bag. Warrior finished the joint and dropped it sizzling into the bowl. A quick check of the window showed Mr. Breeze still in front of the bar. He gave a thought about burning another doobie while he waited for the pimp to come home but decided against it, remembering his boneheaded move from the night before. He opened up a closet door in the mini kitchen and saw a long object wrapped in a beach towel stuck behind some brooms and mops. 
Son of a bitch! It was the most awesome rifle he had ever seen. The fucking thing looked deadly. Warrior pulled back the bolt. It was loaded. Holy shit! This was an AK-47, a Russian made assault rifle. It looked brand new and had been fitted with a scope. Where had a total shitbag like Cool Breeze Byrd gotten his hands on a piece like this? 
The "shitbag" had stolen it out of the Jeep of a retired Green Beret, who while drunk on his ass, had been screwing Belinda. Breeze had shelled out a couple of hundred bucks to a gunsmith to strip the weapon down completely and give it a total overhaul and cleaning. The weapon looked like it had just rolled off the factory floor in Stalingrad. 
The Warrior started to giggle. Wouldn't it be a kick in the ass to pop Cool Breeze at long range with his own weapon? Right in downtown Orlando? He slid the chair back over in front of the window and sighted the rifle in on Cool Breeze's head. He was still bitching and raising hell with Belinda. The neon lights of the bar lit up the couple like it was daylight. 
Here I am in the book depository, he thought. Dallas. Here comes Kennedy. I'm Oswald! Lee mother Harvey fucking Oswald! Cross hairs straight on Breezes' head. 
Just playing around here, he said to himself. It would be totally crazy to waste him from here. Just goofing around. I'll take him out when gets back to the apartment. Be a pro, dude. Can't screw this gig up. Higher ups don't want any heat. 
"Bitch, you had to have known. That cracker motherfucker threw his scumbag right against my mirror after he be done fucking you. Then he smiled right at me. How the fuck else would have known less you told him, bitch? Huh?" 
"Breeze, why would I tell him, huh? He just be another trick. That's all. He was just crazy. Just acting crazy. All coked up and acting up. He didn't know you was there. Dude was probably on them steroids or something. He scared me." Belinda was close to tears. 
"Maybe he a fucking cop, bitch. You ever think of that? Maybe you want to get out the business and ready to punk out the Breeze." He slapped Belinda across mouth, hard. 
A man walking past the two stopped. "Hey! Knock that shit off." He took a step towards Cool Breeze. 
Byrd reached into his jacket and snapped out his switchblade. "You want to be a man, asshole? Get in my affairs?" The man put his hands up in the air and backed down the street. 
"That's what I fucking thought," Breeze screamed down the street. He turned back to Belinda who was wiping the blood from her mouth with a handkerchief. 
"I'm going to the crib and to get me a beer and something to smoke. Clean your ass up and get to work." Breeze began his practiced pimp roll down the sidewalk. He stopped suddenly as he glanced up at his apartment window which was easily visible from the street. 
"What in the fu... " The top of Cool Breeze's head vaporized in a bloody mary mist. He fell straight back against a parking meter and sat there like he had just had one too many to drink. 
Belinda put both hands to her mouth and screamed and screamed and screamed until she collapsed to her hands and knees and puked her Popeye's Fried Chicken onto the sidewalk. 
The Warrior jumped back from the window. "Yes," he yelled, "what a shot, what a fucking shot!" He threw the rifle onto the couch, grabbed his bag, and busted ass out the door. He went down the stairs five at a time and came out in the back alley, where his contact from the base was waiting to rush him to the airfield. 
He still couldn't believe he got paid for having so much fun.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


The mine had remained tethered to the bottom of the Atlantic for three decades after World War II had ended, before it’s chain, weakened from the deep currents moving it slowly back and forth, snapped. Camouflaged by slime and barnacles, it bobbed on the surface for years. Then, spurred on by the winds and waves of an offshore hurricane, it drifted into the Gulf of Mexico.
The water was like glass. 
Bales of marijuana and pieces of the trawler floated in an oil slick around the raft.
I thought it was the end for me. Everyone else involved in the plan was dead. I had seen everyone, except my brother, die with my own eyes. And I sure was wasn’t expecting him to come popping to the surface to save the day like Lloyd fucking Bridges in Sea Hunt.
There was no protection from the sun. When I had hit the water, all I had on was a pair of boxer shorts and those had been torn from my body from the force of the water rushing in from the blown apart bow. 
My body was being slowly basted in its own sweat. Skin a bright red. Eyes swollen to slits. The sun and the oppressive heat had rapidly drained the moisture out of my body. 
The sharks discovered us the first day. When I had been able to sit up, I could see them circling the amongst the wreckage, their dead eyes peering up at me from the crystal blue water. Occasionally one of the bastards would run his snout up and down my back through the floor of the raft as if making sure I was still there.
Karl had been laying across his makeshift marijuana raft. His left arm blown off at the elbow. I thought that he had been dead the whole time, he never had responded when I shouted to get his legs out of the water. But when the shark had snatched him and started off the feeding frenzy, Karl’s eyes had snapped open like a ventriloquist’s dummy, his horrifying screams echoing across the water. 
Karl, my brother’s cellmate from Huntsville. My brother hadn’t been in the joint a week when he had gotten ambushed in the showers. Karl had walked in minutes later, towel over his shoulder, only to find his cellie being ass raped by two big Brothers. One rapist had his jaw and cheekbone broken and lost an eye. The other one had checked himself into protective custody.
No one in the joint ever laid a hand on my brother again. 
Six years ago, the Galveston cops, acting on a tip from a local snitch, had raided our beach house. I had dove out the kitchen window and ran down the beach, leaving my brother passed out on the couch with a couple of ounces of weed on the coffee table in front of him.
We had been running a small marijuana smuggling operation. Nothing major. For me anyway. I just needed enough cash to supplement my surfing and beer drinking habits. Every couple of weeks we’d drive down to Matamoros, catch a cockfight, drink some beer, bang a couple of whores, and cross the border with a couple of pounds of weed in the false gas tank of our VW bus. It was all a big hoot to me. 
But Noah needed the cash. Two years prior to the bust, Noah had come back from Nam, after being released from the military stockade in Saigon, with a dishonorable discharge in his hand. He was bitter, unemployable, and hooked on China White heroin.
The cops tried to implicate me but Noah had taken the full fall. Hard. 
Texas was Texas and the judge didn‘t bat an eye. Noah was sentenced to five to eight in Huntsville State Prison. When he was led out of the courtroom in shackles, I could read his mind when he glared at me sitting there with our father. Where the hell where you?
Paranoid and scared shitless, I emptied my savings account, I gassed up my brother’s Harley, acquired in trade for a kilo of Panama Red, and fled Galveston with no destination in mind.
When the money ran out and the bike was hemorrhaging oil, I found myself on another island. Kodiak, Alaska.
I signed on at a fish cannery. Days I gutted fish. Nights I marinated my brain with booze and dope.
About a year had gone by when I finally got the nerve up to send a postcard to our Dad. 
His reply had been short and sweet. 
You are no son of mine.
I tried to let it all go.
Years rolled by in a blur. Time had no meaning.
Stinking of fish guts, I had gone straight to the bar after my shift. The bars owner, Wendy, was my girlfriend. A follower of something going on in England called the punk movement, she had blown into Kodiak via London several years earlier sporting body piercings, purple hair and strange musical tastes. 
It was a slow night in the bar. We swapped stories, bought each other shots of Cuervo, and sneaked lines of Peruvian flake as pink as a newborn baby's ass.
The next morning I was rousted by the sun streaming through her car window and a rapping on the passenger window. Squinting through ravaged, bloody red eyes, I looked down to find Wendy passed out with her face in my crotch. Leering in the window at her pierced nipples and shaved beaver was my trailer court manager. He was clutching a phone message between two nicotine stained fingers. By the front of his pants it looked like he had been standing there a while.
The phone rang in the hallway of a waterfront fleabag on Galveston Island. Captain Jack’s had long been infamous as a home for the island’s hookers, dopers, retards, drunks, welfare cases, and life’s overall losers.
My brother’s parole officer could now reach him at that address.
If Noah was concerned the phone was bugged he sure didn’t show it. 
We’d cruise the trawler down to Tampico to fill the hold with kilos of Mohican Gold along with ten pounds of brown smack to pay off the Coast Guard. All expenses and front money would be taken care of. All we had to provide was the boat and the labor.
In a smartass tone I asked him what the old man thought about all this?
“He’s be dead for two years. The boat’s mine now,” was the smartass reply.
There would be a ticket waiting for me at the Anchorage airport. 
There were debts to be paid.
The hallway in Captain Jack’s had an unbelievable funk. A combination of sweaty armpits, dirty bungholes, and White Owl cigars.
The door swung open on the first knock. The joint hadn’t been kind to Noah. His hair was long and greasy and he had a jailhouse pallor to him. Never big to start with he had lost a weight. Scrawny would be the way to describe him and the graying, prison issued jockey shorts that he was wearing didn’t help out his appearance.
His room didn’t smell any better than the hallway did.
Lounging naked on the bed, smoking a joint and watching Barney Miller on a rabbit eared TV, her legs covered with scabs and tracks, was a vaguely familiar hooker. She gave me a once over with vacant eyes and went back to her show.
“Bitch can suck start a Harley. Want some of this, bro?” 

Noah dropped his shorts and spooned up behind the whore. 
“We gotta a few minutes before Karl gets back.”
The ride to Galveston had been quite the experience. Karl had picked me up at the airport in a ancient Oldsmobile, and without speaking a word, had driven ninety miles an hour all the way down to Galveston.
“Thanks but no thanks.” I opened up a cooler, pulled out a beer, and squatted against the wall. “Get rid of the whore, man.”
The hooker got up in a huff and pulled on a bathing suit. As she walked out she shot me the finger.
My brother sat up on the bed “You got some shitty manners.”
I shook my head at him. “Cut the bullshit.” I sneered at him. “ Jesus Christ, Noah! Look at yourself. It took one look at you and I knew why you wanted me here. You say it’s because I owe you and maybe I do. But we both know that you’re in no fucking shape to run the boat. How the hell did you stay hooked on junk while you were inside?”
He lit a cigarette and stared down between his feet. His voice a raspy whisper.
“You can get anything you want in the joint, man. Karl and his boys took care of me.”
“Yea, looks like they did a helluva job.”
That pissed him off. “Oh, you’re a real fuckin’ tough guy? You think you could handle hard time? You think you could take someone trying to turn you out? I don‘t fuckin‘ think so.”
“Turn you out? Shit, Noah. You mean you got…?”
That‘s when I found out about all of it. About the rape. About Karl busting up the Brothers. About Karl being a ranking member of a notorious prison gang. 
Noah owed Fred for saving his ass. The rules of prison. And that’s what this dope run was all about. Karl’s gang found out that our family owned a shrimp trawler and making this run would square things with them. Karl had gotten released from Huntsville first, and five months later when Noah walked out the gate, Karl had been at the curb, waiting. 
Waiting for payback.
I literally couldn’t fucking speak.
“We gotta do it, little brother. If not, we’re both dead.”

We pulled out that night. Karl had never been on a boat before and was blowing chow before we got out of the harbor. Noah, strung out and shaky, wasn’t in much better shape.
I called Wendy collect, at the bar, just before we pulled out. I told her the whole story. She had cried, I had never heard her cry, and wanted to know why I was going through with this.
I didn‘t have an answer.
Ten miles out we were hit by a spotlight. Coast Guard! It was pitch black out and the light was blinding.
“This is the spot, fucksticks,” a voice shouted out. “This is were I’ll be and you goddamn better have my shit. I don’t play games.”
Fueled by white cross and caffeine, I never left the helm all the way to Tampico. Even when we pulled in and swarthy, dangerous looking men with machine guns loaded thousands of pounds of marijuana on to the trawler, I never stepped down from the wheelhouse.
Finally, when we were halfway back to Galveston, unable to keep my eyes open, I relinquished the wheel to my brother and crawled into my bunk.
It was still dark when I woke up. A warm front had rolled in and I was bathed in sweat. I rolled out of my bunk and shuffled into the small galley where I washed down some amphetamines with a Coke.
I glanced up into the wheelhouse. Karl and Noah were illuminated eerily in green by the instrument panel. Noah, obviously wired, was chattering on like a monkey about some convict on “E” block who had the “world’s biggest dick” when he suddenly shut up and backed the engines down. 
“Shit! Karl, do you see something floating out there?”
I stepped up into the wheelhouse when I felt the bump.
There was a blue flash.
And I was in the water choking on diesel fuel. 
I didn’t remember climbing into the life raft. The sun was burning in the sky when I came around. Just before dark, Karl was gone, and I knew that in my present condition I wasn‘t far behind.
In a watertight pouch I found a flare gun and six flares. That night I shot a flare off every couple of hours, saving one in case I spotted a boat or a plane.
I don‘t how long I floated.
The sound of water splashing woke me up. Barely able to lift my head and peering through slits, I saw someone standing on the bow of a small boat poking at the remaining bales of weed with a boathook.
“What the fuck happened out here?” he screamed. 
I recognized the Coast Guard agent’s voice.
“Where’s my smack? I didn’t put my ass on the line for you assholes just to come up empty!”
I shook my head and laid back down. “All gone.” I muttered. Where the hell did he think it was?
“Wake up, asshole!”
When I opened my eyes, the agent was over me, the boathook raised like a spear. “Any minute a chopper is going to get scrambled. So you either tell me where my heroin is or I‘ll gut you and throw you to these fucking sharks.”
I raised my arm and fired the remaining flare in his direction. I don’t know if I hit him. All I heard was something hitting the water, and then screaming.
It made major news. The wreckage of a mysteriously sunken boat surrounded by floating bales of marijuana, one survivor, AND a missing Federal agent. How couldn’t it?
I was being held in protective custody, handcuffed to my bed. Everyday a FBI agent with a split personality would visit me. 
One day he would be fatherly;
“We can protect you, son” As he patted my foot. “We know that Walsh (the Coast Guardsman) was dirty and that the load was financed by the Texas Nazis. They’re already looking for you. Just tell us what you know and we can make it all go away. Witness protection, baby.” He’d give a sly wink.
The next day he’d be raging;
“You better come clean you punk motherfucker,” His face beet red with spit flying out of his mouth. “You’ll never make bail so you’re gonna rot in this shithole.” 
But I stuck to my story. My family are shrimpers. Accidents happen in the shrimping industry. I don’t remember a thing.
Three months into lockdown passed. I was in the exercise yard when a guard handed me her letter. Wendy had sold her bar to post my bail. She’d be in Galveston within the week. From there we’d work our to Canada and then catch a flight to London.
Sweet Jesus Christ! Freedom!
I was so caught up in the letter that I didn‘t notice the guard walking away and that I was suddenly unsupervised. There was a whiff of jailhouse brew in the air. When I looked up there was an shirtless inmate standing in front of me. A large swastika tattooed on his chest. The steel shank in his hand was shining in the sun. 
It‘s just business,” he whispered.