Authors: Peter Blauner
Tags: #Hard Case Crime
I realized I’d barely spoken to Rosemary since the day we set Terrence up. I decided to stop by the club and see how she was doing. I looked at my watch and saw it was almost ten-thirty. She’d just be starting her act now.
“She’ll be fine,” I told Frank.
“Good thing, too. There’s been enough surprises around here already.”
ROSEMARY WAS STILL FURIOUS
at ten-thirty when she came out to do her last show at the club.
The cycle was complete. Every man she’d ever known had let her down. Her father had died, leaving her and her mother broken and mired in poverty. Her husband, Bingo, decided he loved heroin more than he loved her and had probably passed on the weakened immunities that killed their second daughter. And here Anthony had broken his promise to provide for her after she’d helped set up Terrence. Sending his father back to menace her. These deals you made with yourself. They were never worthwhile.
Just to make matters worse, the club had added a special feature tonight, inviting male members of the audience to join her and the other Foxy Boxer in the ring. A drunken insurance salesman who called himself Ben stumbled between the ropes, wearing a pair of green-and-pink-plaid pants, a navy blazer, and a bright yellow necktie with naked mermaids on it. Rosemary forced herself to smile.
What was it about men? Did their brains release a secret enzyme that rendered them unreliable once they reached a certain age? The bell rang and the match began. She had to tell Ben to wait in her corner. He was just the manager, there to give her a rubdown between rounds. But he followed her out to the middle of the ring anyway, reaching around to squeeze her tits. She gave him a playful shove back into the corner and got down to the humiliating business of wrestling another woman. Miriam the busty redhead was making a big show of scratching and biting tonight. Rosemary had to keep throwing her into the ropes just to get away from her.
As the bell rang to end the round and she returned to her corner, Rosemary happened to glance up and see Anthony waving to her from the club’s entrance. The lousy prick. He didn’t even have the nerve to fire her himself. She’d been treated with more class in the backs of Hondas. She resisted the urge to give him the finger and instead turned her attention to Ben the insurance salesman, her “manager.” This jerk had already stripped off his jacket and shirt, leaving his tie hanging listlessly between his sagging hairy pectorals. He reached for her again and she could smell the Jaegermeister he’d spilled on his chest. When she put up a friendly hand and asked him to slow down, he tried to pull off her bikini top.
The men in the audience began to stomp and shout, “GO FOR IT!” She had to slap Ben’s face to get him to stop.
“Don’t make me do that again.” She smiled.
But after the next round, old Ben was coming at her again, trying to throw her down and get on top of her. The men in the audience were on their feet, cheering louder, their voices like storm troopers’ boots on a tarmac, “FUCKHERNOW! FUCKHERNOW! FUCKHERNOW!”
They were all the same. All trying to strip her of whatever pride and dignity she had left. It was enough. Something inside her snapped. She grabbed Ben’s flabby arm, and using his sluggish weight against him, she performed an old-fashioned judo flip, pulling him over her shoulder so that he landed on the canvas with a loud
He lay there for a few seconds with his eyes glazing over, like an immense useless baby.
“OH C’MON, BEN!” someone shouted from the audience. “HOSE THE BITCH!”
Rosemary flashed her best little-girl smile and then dropped onto Ben, straddling his marshmallow stomach with her strong tawny legs. Miriam the redhead handed her a can of shaving cream and Rosemary began squirting it onto Ben’s chest and face. He tried to squirm away but she pressed down on him with her full weight and used her legs to pin his arms to his sides.
She quickly moved up to his face and began to smother him, thrusting her pudendum down on his mouth and nose so he couldn’t breathe. He tried to throw her off, but he was too drunk to do more than struggle like a spider under a paperweight. Now the men in the audience did not cheer so loudly.
Smiling more ferociously by the moment, she turned around and went to work, ass to his face, as she opened the top button of his plaid slacks and squirted shaving cream down the front of his underwear. The momentum had shifted in the last few seconds, and the other men in the audience were now laughing and urging her to abuse Ben in any way she saw fit.
She looked up to make sure Anthony was still watching from the entrance before she fired another shot of shaving cream down the front of Ben’s pants. More laughter. But then she stunned them all into near-silence by reaching in after the shaving cream and pulling out Ben’s flaccid penis. Oh yeah. Tits are great. Pussy’s better. But let no woman expose the shrunken totem pole to ridicule.
She began yanking on it. One yank for Bingo, who’d put her out on the street. One yank for Anthony, who’d promised her the moon and left her in the gutter. And one yank for his vicious old man, coming by to kick her in the head when all she needed was a job. Yank this. Ben began to groan like he was in great pain.
The other men in the club groaned along with him and soon someone at one of the front tables saidwhat they were watching was rape. Damn straight, thought Rosemary. Ben’s penis grew taut and his body began to convulse.
“Lose the bitch, Ben!” they were shouting. “Kick her off.”
But it was too late. Ben’s left knee began to tremble and his face closed in on itself. He was coming in public. As his body gave one final jerk, Rosemary leaped to her feet and pranced around the ring, flicking drops of foam at the men in the front seats.
“Here he is,” she sang with her brightest smile yet. “Mr. Premature Ejaculator. . . Here he is, your ideal...”
Ben rolled onto his side and covered his face with both hands.
Her fists raised triumphantly, Rosemary climbed from the ring and saw Anthony still standing at the back of the club, his mouth hanging open a little. She walked right up andkissed him hard on the lips. Not a lover’s kiss. More the kind of kiss one mob guy would give another before killing him. She grabbed his hair and pulled his head back.
“Terry was ten times better than you,” she whispered.
She spun away and went out the side door into her dressing room, her cheeks bouncing in her bikini bottom.
Anthony slowly smoothed his hair and then smelled his palm, as if trying to figure out what she’d left up there.
“WHAT THE HELL WAS
that all about?”
It was ten minutes after Rosemary did her little performance at the club. I was in her dressing room, still trying to decide what she’d rubbed into my hair.
“What do you think it was about?!” she said, throwing a red high-heeled shoe at me. “You have your father come back here and threaten me? And fire me from a job I need to feed my child? Is that how you keep your promises?”
The shoe had sailed past my ear and broken against the far wall, the heel separating from the sole. I picked up the pieces and tried to put together what had happened in my mind. My father must have come back here and tried to scare her off, thinking Teddy would find out I was cheating on Carla. Now I had my work cut out for me. I had to convince Rosemary that everything was still the same between us.
“Look, I don’t know anything about what my father said.”
“How can I ever believe you again?” She untied her bikini top. “First you say you care about me. Then you use me like a common whore. And then you break your word.”
“You make it sound like that’s never happened before,” I blurted out.
“But I expected better from you!” she screamed.
And what made it hurt was that I did too.
She picked up a quart bottle of Evian water and threw it at my head. It bounced off my shoulder and splashed on the Gianni Versace shirt I was wearing.
“Hey, come on!”
“Anthony,” she said. “I didn’t think it was possible, but you broke my heart again tonight.”
Her bikini top fell off. Her breasts looked like they were about to open fire on me from across the room.
“Rosemary, I’m sorry. This was all a mistake. My father doesn’t know about the understanding we have.”
“Anthony, do not insult my intelligence,” she said in that arch way of hers. “All I want is for you to keep to the terms of our agreement.” I started to say something, but she cut me off. “I don’t want to hear any more about affection or see your stiff prick. I just want half the cash you’re making from this fight. Because you couldn’t have done it without me.
She pulled off the bottom of her bathing suit and stood there, naked and intimidating. This is what they called a tough broad. If she’d been a man, she would’ve had a crew ten times the size of Teddy’s. The water she’d thrown at me was soaking my skin and raising goose bumps on my chest.
“Listen,” I said nervously. “I was just over at Frank Diamond’s suite at the Doubloon nailing down the schedule of the payments. Everything’s just about set.”
Though now I had to figure out how to cut her off a slice of the money I’d have left after I’d paid off Danny Klein and Teddy.
“I can even get you a job at the fight, to put you on the payroll,” I explained. “It’s a lock. It’s guaranteed.”
“Well, that’s one thing you’ve got right, Anthony. Since I’ve got insurance.” She came toward me like a panther stalking her prey.
“What’re you talking about?”
“I know about you and that guy Nicky they found under the Boardwalk.”
I felt pressure building up behind my eyes as my skin turned cold. “I told you I wasn’t responsible for that.”
“I heard.” She stood five feet in front of me and looked right through my eyes down into the pit of my stomach. “You said it was your family. I’m sure that would be enough to interest the police, or the F.B.I., or whoever’s investigating that case.”
“I wouldn’t talk about that if I was you.” I clicked my heel on the concrete floor. “Something could happen.”
“Fuck you,” she said. “Don’t pull that with me. Yourfather already did it. And he’s way better at it than you are.”
She picked up her panties and began to put them on. Here I’d been worried she’d talk and ruin the deal I had with Frank Diamond. And in the meantime, she was thinking about putting me in prison for life on this homicide. I began to have what I think is called an olfactory hallucination—when you smell something that isn’t there. Except it wasn’t Nick under the Boardwalk that I smelled. It was that terrible cat odor in my house.
“Is this any way for two people who care about each other to talk?” I asked.
“It’s the way people who don’t trust each other talk.” She slowly started to pull on her bra. Somehow she didn’t seem as threatening with her clothes on.
“Come on. Let’s go for a ride. We can get a drink somewhere.”
“Forget about it, I brought my own car.” She fished her keys out of her handbag and rattled them at me. “From now on, you and I are not friends and we’re not lovers. We’re just business partners. And the only word you have to remember is ‘half.’ As in ‘half the revenue.’”
She put on the rest of her clothes without talking or even looking my way. I was still shivering from the water she’d thrown on me. I knew I should just go and cut my losses, but there was one question that’d been bothering me the whole time we were talking.
“That thing you said before?” I asked her. “About how Terrence was a better lay than me? You said that just to hurt me, right? You didn’t mean it, did you?”
“Oh yes I did.”
I WOKE UP AT
about ten one morning the week beforethe fight to the sound of my kids playing on the jungle gym I’d built them in the backyard. It was the nicest thing I’d heard in months.
I went out onto the back porch to have a look at them. Carla was lying in a deck chair beside the jungle gym, with her belly swollen and a wet towel over her face, not wanting to deal with the world. And I was sorry all over again that I’d abandoned them in the name of getting ahead. All I ever should have wanted was an ordinary life.
But before I could get the screen door open to go out and play with my kids, a voice from the kitchen stopped me.
“Where do you think you’re going, you little cocksucker?”
I turned and saw Teddy sitting at my kitchen table. I must have walked right by him in my daze. He looked terrible, like he’d dropped about twenty pounds in two weeks. His skin had a pale cast and for some reason, his eyes reminded me of an old lady’s. But the most unusual thing about him that morning was that he wasn’t with my father.
“Siddown a minute, will you?”
I sat. “How’s it going, Ted? I haven’t seen you in a while.”
“All right, enough of that bullshit,” he said, cutting through the social amenities. “I want to have a serious talk with you. Because of the great affection between your father and me, I sometimes feel I can’t speak my mind in front of him. Particularly when it comes to you.”
“Speak your mind.”
I was wearing just a pair of white boxer shorts and I suddenly sensed he was staring at my legs. I crossed them and moved my chair away from the table a little.
“As you must know, our
has been under a lot of pressure lately because of these fuckin’ homicides and federal investigations. Especially on account of this fuckin’ Nicky gettin’ whacked.”
“I know what you mean.” Ever since I’d killed Nicky, I’d felt as if there was a cage around my heart.
“Anyway.” He coughed and frowned. “When they put pressure on an organization like ours, people sometimes don’t do the right thing, and they turn on each other. So I have three things I want to tell you.”
“Shoot,” I said. And immediately realized that was exactly the wrong word to use.
“Number one,” he said, raising an index finger that was as fat as a thumb. “If I ever find out you or anybody else is talking to the feds or the local bulls, I will sever your motherfucking head. Is that clear to you?”
“Number two.” I’d never seen Teddy go so long without eating. “If I ever find out you’ve been running around on my beloved niece with another woman, I will sever your fucking head.”
“Okay. That’s fine.”
“And number three.” He stopped talking for a second and his lips quivered. I wondered how sick he was. “Number three is this,” he said. “I heard a rumor that you were managing a fighter and getting a big casino contract. But at the hospital the other day, your father told me that wasn’t true.”
“Yeah, right, it’s not true,” I lied with a poker face.
“Well, I just wanted to come over here and emphasize it for myself. That if I ever learn you been making money off another business, like a trucking concern or boxing promotion, and not paying back the money you owe me, I will sever your motherfucking head. Now what do you think of that?”
“It sounds like you’re kind of anxious to sever my head, Teddy.”
He didn’t crack a smile. “You know, your real father,Mike, he liked to make a joke outa everything too. And look what happened to him.”
His words put a chill inside my heart, and I knew for the first time with absolute certainty that Teddy was the one who’d killed my real father. I just stared at him for a long time, wondering if I could kill him without destroying all the legitimate things I’d tried to do in my life.
“Remember,” he said, starting to stand up. “You got ninety more days to pay me the money you owe me. Or else you come work for me full-time.”
“Give my love to Carla and the kids. I never get to see enough of them these days.”