Her name was Rose and a day doesn't go by when I don't think about her. It was 1979 when it happened, over twenty years ago, twenty three to be exact, but it seems like just yesterday.
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I was laying on the couch, three Icehouse beers into the afternoon, lamely channel surfing through the tube trying to find anything even remotely interesting to watch when I heard the knock. I had been stealing cable for months and was hoping it wasn't the cable man paying a visit to settle up.
Rolling off the couch I trudged over to the door and squinted through the peephole. What the fuck? It wasn't the cable man that was for goddamn sure. I wish it had been. But it couldn't be who I thought it was. Could it? For two seconds I thought about getting my .38 from under my pillow and shooting the asshole through the door. That would be murder one of a federal agent. A life of getting butt-fucked in the Marion Penitentiary. I quickly dismissed the idea. Shit, the pistol was fifteen years old and I had never shot it. Damn thing was probably rusted shut because of the humidity down here. Maybe I should just jump out the fucking window instead! Third floor, too risky. Compound fractures and all. I ran over and looked out the sliding glass doors and saw two vans that looked like law enforcement pulling in the lot below. What in the hell was going on?
The hell with this shit I thought. So I swung the door open and tried the aggressive approach - the badass approach. "Jesus Christ! After all these fucking years, how can you still be alive?" I actually felt like either puking or shitting in my pants. This wasn't going to be good. “Holy shit, Jerry, you look like refried crap!” I was trying to keep it light.
"Why the hell have you been moving and not leaving a forwarding address?" he giggled. Always the comedian, his voice was raspy, like it was coming out of one of those voice boxes that people use when they have their larynx removed. Too many years of Camels or Lucky Strike straights. Now that I think about it, Jerry sounded like the disabled vet on South Park. Physically he looked about the same. Not like the South Park vet, but imagine Hunter S. Thompson with a David Niven mustache and a shaved head. He was wearing the typical government issued suit. It had to have been a hundred degrees outside. Black pants, black jacket, black shoes, black tie, and a white shirt. I had never seen him wearing anything but that outfit except for one instance where he met me in a bar in Honolulu and he had been wearing an aloha shirt. Old bastard had been probably catching repeats of Hawaii Five O.
I had stepped back into the apartment. "Get in here. I don't want the neighbors to hear this shit." I don't know why I gave a crap about that. My neighbor was a alcoholic tug boat captain who couldn't pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were on the heel, he was such a huge drunk. His wife was legally blind and world class fat, and let some local teens bang her for the company when her old man was out on the gulf.
He shuffled in and closed the door. "Fucking hot down here. Why in the hell would you pick a toilet like Alabama to live in? Nothing but snakes and rednecks down here." He took in our apartment. "Your obviously not dealing dope anymore. Fuck, what a dive. So what are you doing for cash these days?"
"I'm just trying to get by, Jerry," I responded weakly, "Goddamn it! When are you son of a bitches going to leave me alone? There's nothing I can do for you anymore. It's been over twenty fucking years! Haven't you pricks sucked enough out of me?"
Jerry ignored my question. "Get me a beer, boy." He walked over to the couch and sat down gingerly, taking his service revolver from his belt holster and setting it on the coffee table. "Fucking thing digs in my ribs I'm getting so skinny. I got prostate cancer. They caught it too late." He hawked up a lunger and spat it in my ashtray. That was definitely going in the trash.
Good, I thought, I hope you roast in hell, but I said, “Really? God, I’m sorry to hear that, Jerry.” I wouldn't have cared if he died right then and there on the couch.
I handed him an Icehouse and popped another one for myself and stood in front of him. "Jerry, my girlfriend is going to be home in about an hour from work. She doesn't know about any of this shit. So please tell me what you want and kindly get the hell out of here." The glare he shot me stopped me short. "Please?" I whined.
"Sit down and shut up," he barked. I glanced up at the clock on the kitchen wall. I could kill this old bastard, stuff him in a garbage bag and throw him the dumpster, and still have the placed cleaned up before my girl got home. No one would be the wiser. Except for whoever was in those van downstairs.
I sat down.
"This isn't a social call. Your ass is under arrest! You've been AWOL from active duty for over twenty years. So believe it or not, you‘re a felon and subject to arrest."
I swallowed hard. "Now wait a minute Jerry, I know where the body is buried. You bring me in and I'll talk. I'll sing like a fucking bird, I swear to God I will."
That night was frozen in my memory.
The place looked like Mardi Gras had been held there. Booze bottles were everywhere and there was a picture of the admiral and the current Pope laying on a coffee table, with what looked like about an ounce of coke on it. They had been cutting lines with a bayonet. Next to the picture lay a chrome Colt .45 semi automatic. Pasty faced and shaking like a leaf, the admiral was leaning against his desk wearing only his boxer shorts. His stubby, pathetic, pink dick was sticking out of the fly. And he was staring down to the floor at Rose, who looked like the victim of a hit and run auto accident. Beside her head was a bloody crystal ashtray. It looked like it weighed five pounds. I could see some of her teeth in the shag rug. If I hadn’t seen her dance topless at several parties I would never have even known it was her. She had a tiny rosebud tattooed on her left tit. Her face looked like it had been beaten with a crowbar.
"You were there too, Jerry. Me and Zak had to cover up the admiral's shit. It was you that had us take Rose up there. It was you that told us to bury the body. Zak is dead and now I have to go to the joint so you and that old bastard admiral can walk. Bullshit, buddy! I know what this is about, I've seen the admiral hanging out on TV with Bush like they're best buddies or something. This is a cover up!"
He waved his hand with disdain. "I know the Bush administration is full of straight shooters. Jesus lovers and Bible bangers. Bunch of straight laced pussies if you ask me but they still pay my salary so I do what the assholes tell me to do. Let's just say that the admiral since his retirement has seen the light and wants to change the errors of his ways. The president loves the old fucker, he's always the first one in the door at the prayer meetings." He took a long pull on his beer and belched loudly. "And that's what brings me down here to you. Your ass has been in the breeze for too fucking long. You know about too many skeletons in the closet or should I say pineapple fields, so it's time to pay up. The feds want to keep this good mom and apple pie feeling going, want us to tie up all the loose ends. And asshole, you are one big loose end."
'Bullshit!" I was going to play hardball. "I've suffered enough over the years for you cocksuckers for one mistake. I'm not going in, I'll die first! So fuck off and get the hell out of here before I kick your skinny old ass down the stairs!" I reached over quickly and snatched up his Colt. "Not such a tough guy now, are you, Jerry? Without your piece!" I aimed the pistol at his chest, dead center. For as skinny as he was it would be like shooting into a lemon meringue pie. Probably go straight through Jerry and the couch and kill a teenager downstairs balling the captain's old lady. But I knew I couldn’t do it and Jerry knew it too.
Jerry leaned back on the couch on lit up another Camel. His old battered Zippo had the insignia of some Viet Nam era intelligence unit insignia stamped on it. The same goddamn lighter he had the first day I met him. My mind flashed back to the time Jerry told me about him shoving a lit stick of C4 in a gook’s ass and throwing him out of a chopper.
"Scott, don't try the badass routine on me.You know it's not going to work. We both know that you don't have the nuts for it." How could that old fart still read my mind after all these years? Was I that transparent?
I tossed the gun down onto the coffee table and kicked it's leg with my bare foot. "Fuck!" I screamed out in pain and frustration as I hopped around on one foot, spraying beer all over the carpet.
Jerry ignored me as he opened up his day planner.
"I'll tell you why you're going to do this and why you‘re not going to give me anymore shit and why you're not going to talk. You have a brother in Portland, Oregon, who is dealing heavy weight in marijuana with some light dabbling in coke and Mexican brown smack. Am I right?"
I stopped hopping around the apartment and stared at him. As usual, he was right. Jerry's intelligence was always right. I also knew what was coming.
"Your mother lives with him and his wife and their two kids on a farm, that on paper they can’t afford, just outside the Portland city limits. Now I know you don't give two shits in a hand-basket about them but if you try to play hard guy with me I'll drop a dime and make sure that the DEA gets wind of their little operation. The majority of your family could wind up doing federal time while their kids get brought up in state homes. And you know as well as I do that nothing good ever comes out of that."
I knew damn well my brother was a minor league dope dealer, the last time I had seen him I had smoked some weed of his that had damn near made me hallucinate after only two bong hits, but he dealt mostly in ounces and grams. Nothing heavy, I thought, like Jerry was trying to imply. But then again I remember a recent phone call with my brother where he was mumbling something about brown Mexican heroin.
“This is pure bullshit, Jerry, and you know it. Goddamn it, dude. Can’t you cut me a break. Just this one time. Why me? Can‘t you please call off the dogs? Tell them it‘s not me in here.”
Jerry chug a lugged his beer and finished it off with a another enormous belch. He held up his empty. "Get me an encore, bitch."
I had my head in the fridge when I felt the barrel of the .45 in the back of my ear. Jerry always had had cat’s feet but now with the chemo wasting him away I hadn’t even heard the floor squeak in the old kitchen. Son of a bitch was like a cancer riddled ninja warrior.
“Don’t ever aim a weapon at me again you bag of puke.” I stood up straight and faced him. He had backed up but was still aiming his piece at me. His face was ash gray and pouring sweat. “Now you can say no. That’s entirely your right. It always has been. But tell me this, tough guy. Just what the hell is your mother going to say when she finds out that you let her other son get popped and sent to the penitentiary? Can she handle both of her sons in the slammer?” Jerry dropped his gun down and stepped close enough to me that I could smell his breath. Cigarettes, beer, and chemicals from the cancer treatments did not create a delightful combination for the senses. “I’ll make sure that your brother goes to the roughest joint in the goddamn country. He can’t do the time. He’s not the type. Every brother in the joint will be hitting it hard. By the time he gets out of the slammer he’ll have an asshole so goddamn big you could park a Harley in it. Just like you could have had if it hadn't been for me watching out for you and your dumbshit friend in Hawaii.”
I turned and walked out on to the deck of my apartment. The two vans were parked out almost directly underneath it in the parking lot. Four SWAT team members lounged around them, smoking and drinking Starbucks and wearing those fucking mirrored sunglasses. One of them looked up and grinned at me.
During my tour in the navy, Jerry had busted me and my best buddy, Zak, for possession of a pound of high grade Hawaiian weed and a half ounce of horse. We had come very close to doing hard time. Not brig time but real prison time. Jerry had kept us out though. Kept us dealing - only the profits had gone to him. But then the murder had happened. Rose's murder, and things had changed. I had gone AWOL but Zak had stayed and had wound up "mysteriously" dead in one of those unexplainable military "incidences."
If I could travel back in time I would have taken the prison sentence. But it looked like I wouldn't need a time machine for that now.
I turned to face Jerry who had stepped out on to the deck behind me.
"So what's it going to be for me, Jerry? Some military brig or am I going to a federal prison? Can you at least help me out on that? Maybe some minimum security joint?"
He flicked his spent cigarette off the deck, his head like an owl’s, slowly pivoted towards me, the smoke slowly coming out of his nostrils eerily trailing his head movement.
"Nothing I can do. They have something special in mind for you. But it shouldn't be too hard for you to get used to it if you can live in this fucking sauna. Because it's goddamn hot where you're going. They got a brand new spanking prison being built down at the navy base in Cuba."
He looked down and waved the SWAT team on up.
"And asshole, you're going to be a charter member."
Scott L. Anderson