Tuesday, November 2, 2010

POP13: “The Green Club”


“Where are they?” Big Boy asked.

Business at the Green Club came at a trickle.

“They afraid of Fake Face,” one of his hulking friends said.

“What you need, Big Boy,” another put in, “is some experience to run this operation. A man like Jake Pol.”

Jake Pol! Of course. Fake Face’s former Number Two, said to be responsible for the Fake One’s success. Now relegated to lowly club floor manager.

“Bring him here,” Big Boy ordered.

Late one night Jake Pol stepped from the burgundy glass tower within which hid Fake Face’s popular Downtown Club. Jake wore his usual black-and-white suit. From the shadows two large black men appeared, one on each side of him. They were dressed in green. Jake reached for a silver pistol inside his checkered coat. A large hand stopped him.

“You’re coming with us,” a rumbling voice said.

Jake Pol stood inside an office deep within the Green Club, facing an enormous man plopped behind a tiny desk: Big Boy. The walls of the cube-like office were painted bright orange, as was the desk. The room glowed.

The man in green sat so high he must be propped on phone books, or have an enormous ass. Now that he was out from under Fake Face’s dominance Jake’s innate sarcasm spread over his features. His bottom lip curled with contempt.

“So, you’re for real,” Jake said. “I thought you were made up.”

He looked around himself. This guy’s a stooge, Jake thought.

“I’m real,” Big Boy said, adopting a tough guy pose picked up from television mob shows.

Big Boy held an apple in his hand. While staring at Jake he crushed the apple into pulp, then wiped his hand with a green handkerchief. “That’s what I’ll do to Fake Face,” he said.

“What do you want from me?” Jake said.

“I want you to manage the Green Club. I’ll pay double what the Face pays.”

“Sure you will,” Jake laughed. “No thanks. Nobody crosses Fake Face and gets away with it.”

Big Boy had no response to this. He looked perplexed. There was no backup plan.

After a few minutes of puzzlement, he pressed a buzzer. The two men who’d brought Jake entered.

“We’ll have to kill him,” Big Boy said.

“Now hold it a minute!” Jake said.

He’d overestimated Big Boy’s intelligence. Stupidity can be dangerous.

“I’m more valuable to you alive than dead,” Jake insisted.

“How so?” Big Boy asked.

“Look. I’m not going to anger the Face by joining you guys. That’s a given. For me that’d be suicide. It’d be worse than suicide. But I can help you out while still working for him.”

Big Boy was confused. He wondered if this smug shark was trying to trick him. His face reddened and his body swelled within his too-small green suit. He imagined crushing Jake’s head. Jake raised his hand.

“Settle down! What I mean is, I can pass on to you information about Face’s rackets, about his whereabouts. I have no sympathy for the man, only for myself. Every man for himself. I’ll give you all you need to compete with him. The rest depends on how well you make use of it. Take down his activities, if you can. If you’re bold enough. Hurt him, Big Boy. Trap him. Kill him!”

Big Boy grinned like a child.

For the next hour they worked out a simple code to communicate by text message. Morning rose outside. Big Boy’s men drove Jake back to the heart of town.

Things happened quickly. Fake Face’s network of streetcorner drug dealers were chased out of their neighborhoods. Several were arrested. Three afterhours bars which featured hot guns and prostitutes were padlocked. Action seemed to be coming from the D.A.’s office.

“It’s indirect,” Fake Face said to his gang at their Veronica Street headquarters. “The police wouldn’t act on their own. Someone’s prodding them.”

The main members of his gang sat around him. His sourfaced gun moll girlfriend known for her ambition. Several obedient toughs. In black-and-white clothes, the cynic, Jake Pol. The rust-red arched room around them looked archaic; baroque.

“Would the D.A. be that crazy?” Jake Pol wondered out loud.

“No one’s that crazy crazy like a madman like a sneak, but people can be greedy greedy,” Face said. “Temptation gets them every time. Many many stupid people have horribly horribly died that way.”

The eyes within the bizarre plastic face studied his employees. Unease shot through each one of them. A few were guilty of thoughts, if not the reality, of betrayal.

Jake was thinking that his move against Fake Face must be buried in layers upon layers. It could never trace back to himself. He put a blank expression on his face so Fake Face couldn’t read him. The caustic eyes settled on him for a moment, as if they tried to.

A stubble-faced thug named Sal spoke up. “Boss, it’s this Big Boy dude,” he said. “He’s behind everything. He’s throwing around all kinds of money, yo. He’s paying the D.A. and the cops more than you are.”

Fake Face’s eyes looked frantically alive.

“So what? So what are you saying? So what do we do with him? What do we do, what do we plan, who is he, what do we know about him he’s so secure in his ‘Green Club’ this interloper this copycat this idiotic fat upstart, how do we get to him how do we take him down what are you suggesting, what do we DO, WHAT DO WE DO??”

“Boss, we need to set for him a trap.”

Alone among them, Jake Pol faintly smiled. Opportunity had dropped into his lap, in the person of Sal. Jake saw his opening.

(To be continued.) 

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