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I taste it.
Not unfamiliar with me, in all actuality, I miss how it tastes.
Sweet and metallic. Like a dime or a quarter.
And then the voices -
“...have we got it straight, Dutch ?”
What were we talking about again ?
“You are such a fuck....”
The stick comes down four more times onto my ribs and I grunt with pain. Feels like those body shots Harry Slater gave me in my first title defence of the light-heavyweight championship in 53.
I smile and feel the red-sauce drip between my teeth.
“...I want the money, Dutch. So you better get it to me soon. The next thing on my list is your body floating in the river.....”
Yes, sir....yes, sir....three bags full.....
Another whack with the stick.
And so I lay there. The air I’m sucking in feels like a sheet of iron I’m trying to inhale with a straw, and the blood is pouring down my head and all I see is a blanket of stars firing off in my eyes.
I smile and shake my head.
The blood touches the pavement in a dark purple line of spit.
THIS ALL has to do with my no good father and my fifth and final title defence.
It was near the end of the sixth round when I began to feel the headaches.
Like jackhammers and concrete cinder blocks falling onto my scalp.
I sat on the stool trying to concentrate on my corner-men’s instructions but it was no use.
I hear a bussing sound from both of them and I get bits and pieces like a broken radio :
“....bob....stick....move....dance....hook, and hook that.....clinch....”
A spatter of words.
It was in the seventh when I went down. The pain was so unbearable in that round.
I was moving away from a punch that missed me by a mile when I blacked out and fell to the canvas never waking up until the next morning in the hospital.
The paper said I was knocked out by a sucker punch.
The doctor said it was due to a massive migraine headache that put me down for the ten. It was the repeated blows to my noggin’ that did it.
Didn’t believe the doctor.
Signed up for my next two fights.
Lost since I passed out again at both fights in the ring.
I could never box again.
My father on the other hand, couldn’t believe that I couldn’t box again. He insisted that I should continue.
I thought it was because he knew it was my heart to get into the ring.
It was because I was his only source of income.
And he owed big time.
One hundred big ones to be exact.
That was six years ago and now the man he owed the money to was out to collect.
But if you want the real truth, what happened wasn’t for my pops.
Fuck him to hell. He got me screwed and he knew it.
This was for love.....
AND THAT’S why I was on the ground in an alleyway in downtown Los Angeles bleeding and in pain.
My pops owed cash to the worst person to owe cash to : Renny Fenster.
A German who came to America during the war. He disguised himself off as American by learning perfect English. He even talked like a good-old boy from the South.
Twang and all.
He wasn’t a big time mob boss, by no means. He only had two other men under his belt.
But he was the major lone-sharker/bookie/protection runner that was in my father’s area.
My pops still lived in our old neighbourhood back in East LA where I was born and raised.
And in a closed off area like East, it was easy for Renny to be king.
Pops had bet on the fight; he bet that I would win.
He didn’t take into affect that his son would go down in the seventh because of a headache.
Renny told me this outside of The Note, a rowdy jazz club that I now worked at as the doorman and security.
He told me that my father had put down everything he owned and what I owned as collateral for the bet.
He told me pops was confident in his son.
The only reason why they had came so late was because pops had conveniently moved in with me up in the better part of town when I became a prize fighter.
Big house in a very nice suburb.
I bought it after I made so much fighting; not as nice as the ones in The Hills, but it wasn’t cheap.....
Ten years worth of work as a doorman and I STILL wouldn’t be able to come close to paying for half of it.
I was glad I had bought it in full. No mortgage.
They wanted the money.
I’m not a push over. Being a former world champion had made me adopt that idea.
But I also knew that messing around with Renny wasn’t the best thing to do.
I agreed and said that I needed time to figure out what I needed to do to get it.
A few weeks.
The only thing I had was the retirement nest egg I had put away when I was younger. I went to the bank.
$50 000 only.
I went to Renny told him my problem.
“No problem....work the rest off for me.”
So he gives me a couple of jobs collecting cash from people.
I get the jobs done.
Knock out teeth.
I get paid and put it to the debt.
A month passes.
I figure that I’m up at least seventy thousand by my adding.
Laughter in my face.
“You’ve been only payin’ interest, boy....”
Six years ago.
He’s been adding onto the total.
There was still a hundred grand to pay off.
It wasn’t going to happen and he knew it.
He owned me.
THE DAY I figured out what was going on with the debt, I tried to reason with Renny.
This would never end.
I don’t have the cash to do this.
“Hmmm.....you’re right, boy. I’m sorry. What was I thinking ? Listen do these last three jobs and we‘ll call it even....”
That was the end of that.
I only got home at around two in the morning since I had to go all over LA to collect these bad debts.
My father had been dead for almost three hours.....
They had beaten him to death. I couldn’t even recognize him since it was so bad.
I saw his familiar cigar still in his hand.
Back to Renny.
Heavy, black batons come down on me when I walk into his office.
They come down on all directions.
At all angles and on all body parts.
I taste dimes and quarters.
“Nobody welshes on a bet with me....nobody....you still owe me and if you don’t deliver, Dutch Solidaire - my new ex-professional fighter-turned employee, I’ll be going after Sadie next....”
My eyes narrow and I want to leap up and rip his throat out.
Jens and Friedrich see this. Their mouths break out into grins and I know they want me to try it.
I bite down on the inside of my lip to stop myself from flying at Renny.
And I know that the only reason why they had those batons was because they knew if it was me against them, it would be me.
SADIE WORKS at The Horseshoe ; a lounge/gentlemen’s bar near The Note where I worked. I met her there one night.
Went in after my shift and relaxed.
Bourbon on ice.
Watched her move on the dance floor and sing into the mike.
Best version of “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You” ever.
Comes over to sit at the bar.
“Doorman at The Note....”
“Seen you all the time.”
“First time for me.”
“And what do you think ?”
“I think you’re beautiful.”
That was all it took.
I wouldn’t say that we were hitched and were girlfriend and boyfriend. By all means no. We were comfortable.
I didn’t know if she was into that stuff of relationships.
But I think I was slowly getting there.
I loved her long black hair
Loved her beautiful hips.
This was why it all went down the way it did.
She was my whole world.
I was planning on telling her too.
No good father....
This wasn’t going to end unless Renny was out of the picture.
I had a way.
I needed help.
“What the fuck are you calling me for ?”
“Wanted to see what you were up to is all....”
“Dutch, we aren’t exactly the best of friends. I beat you years ago for
your belt, remember ?”
“I remember, Curtis. You seem to always remember that, but forget that in
our re-match a month later I got it back. Knocked your sorry ass out....”
“All it takes is one good one.”
“Listen, I need a favour...”
“...why are you coming to me....”
“Because there’s no one else.”
“Keep your friends close....”
“I need a favour. And what I’m asking for will be very fucked
“Right up my alley...I’m listening...”
“I need you help me take out Renny Fenster...”
“Fuck you. Goodbye.”
“He killed my father....”
“Two days ago. Beat him to death.”
“And they’re going to kill Sadie if I don’t do something...”
“That ain’t right.....”
“It isn’t. Are you in ?”
“Good. Meet me at the cafe downtown. Same place.”
CURTIS STAMPS was a former opponent in the ring. Beat me for the title once. I normally don’t keep my former opponents on my phone list. But Curtis was different.
He was a family guy. Loved the idea of a family since he never had one growing up.
Parents abandoned him when he was ten. Foster homes all his life.
Boxing was his life too, but he had to retire early.
He knew and respected my father. He was the other son to my pops.
This would be personal for him as well.
We met at the cafe and discussed the plan I had.
Needed more help.
Sadie walks in.
She gives Curtis a hug and a kiss.
We all go way back from our days as fighters.
She sits beside me and clings onto my arm and holds it tight. She’s scared.
My plan is ready.
SADIE GOES first.
Yes. He’s cheating on me.
Saw him driving his car up to some blonde floozy.
Sure, big boy....
I’ll have a drink with you.
Tonight but I’ll be busy until next week.
Your house next week ?
That’s sounds delicious....
Here something until then....
CURTIS A WEEK later.
Mr. Fenster, I want Dutch.
He’s been telling people about how he’s scoring with my sister....
Yes, she’s blonde....how did you know ?
Either case. I have information.
For a price.
It’s worth it.
I want $ 5000.
Trust me ?
Dutch has been holding out on you. I know where he keeps all his cash;
A cool $1 000 000.
It’s in a safe underneath his bed. Built into the floor.
Combination is 4-7-82.
How do you know it’s real ?
It’s his father’s birthday. Trusting idiot.
In small bills please.
I WAIT in the dark. I could hear the two of them reaching the door.
The pipe is cold to my hands.
They get inside.
Straight for my bedroom.
I’m in the closet.
The power is cut.
I can hear their German accents as they whisper in the dark.
They put down their sticks to lift the bed.
I creep out of the closet quietly.
I swing my pipe.
One to the back; the other a jab to the face with the end.
I grab the black batons and place them calmly behind me in the closet with my pipe.
Close the doors and wrap a chain and padlock it over the handles.
“Time to rock boys....”
Jacket off. Undershirt. Knuckles wrapped in gauze and boxing tape.
They charge at the same time.
Duck Jens’ swing, smash left fist into Friedrich’s face.
Follow up with a right hook to German # 1 .
I feel Jens’ ribs crack when I drive my body into the hook.
Friedrich touches his face and then raises his arms. I turned to face his bloody mug.
Roll my neck. Hear the crack. Raise my arms.
Like being in the ring again.
My turn right away -
Right Hook - Straight Left combo to the body ; Right Uppercut to the jaw.
I raise up on my feet and practically hop upwards as I drive the fist right underneath the point of his jaw.
He flies in the air with the force of my punch.
Falls in a heap.
Round 2 - Jens.
“Not so tough anymore when the stakes are even, eh ?”
He looks at me and rushes in with a looping right.
Dance around the punch.
Right Hook to the already broken ribs.
Straight Left angled downwards; hear his jaw separate from the rest of his face.
Falls on his face gagging on his own blood.
Pick up my jacket.
CURTIS PICKS me up in the car and we’re heading towards Renny’s place up in the Hills.
Curtis says I smell of blood and bone marrow.
My hands are still taped and stained red.
CURTIS WAS the most essential player in this caper. That was the primary reason why I asked him.
He had contacts from here to Japan.
I needed who he knew.
He had gotten the preparations to put this all into play with the money he got from Renny.
He bought a new car and packed my stuff and Sadie’s and put them in the trunk for our quick disappearance. The car was under my name and I owned it legally. A friend from the Ford dealership did the paperwork for him.
He also handled the business end of the deal by beating the shit out of Sadie’s no-good boss at The Horseshoe.
Seems he didn’t want to let Sadie leave....
He wanted a piece of her.....
Curtis made sure he would never walk again properly.
I smiled at the news.
He smiled like a devil.
He paid off the police for our protection - they didn’t like Renny since he muscled in on their own crooked protection racket they had going in East.
LA’s Finest were on their way now to my place apprehending Jens and Friedrich. They were in the middle of watching their own handy work as arsonists. My incredibly huge, insurance-covered-house, was burning to the ground thanks to the LAPD. Jens and Friedrich are looking at a very tough time in the slammer....
Being German after the war in a jail full of Americans wasn’t a good idea......
I had no idea they loved to play with matches....
They miraculously had a whole bunch with them and they smelled like gasoline when LAPD found them.....
Curtis also bought and paid off a pharmacist he knew for the last part of the plan which Sadie was finishing up with right now.
How else were we supposed to get Pentothal Sodium ?
Don’t knock when we get there.
I push open the door with my shoulder; no grabbing of the doorknob; Sadie left it unlocked for us.
Sadie’s on the couch sipping champagne, holding a full glass in her other hand.
Renny is a drooling, sky-high, gangster across from her.
An empty champagne flute is still clutched in his hands.
“The combination is 46-9-36....”
Sadie says. I sit beside her. She hands me the other glass. I gulp. She cuddles up to me and I kiss her head.
Hair like strawberries.
All this is for her.
I stare at Renny....
Serves you, motherfucker.....
Kill my pops ?
Most of all, threaten Sadie ?
This is revenge.....
Curtis grabs the bottle and gulps while he goes to the safe.
The door swings open.
We get up and meet him at the safe.
There’s a little more than $1.5 million in cash.
Renny’s entire fortune from his businesses.
We take all of it, close the safe and spin the dial. I wipe the safe clean with a hanky.
Just as we’re leaving Curtis pulls out a .22 calibre pistol and fires it at Renny’s forehead.
The blood splatters the painting hanging above his head.
“...that’s for William....”
Pile into the car and drive off.
I TAKE $ 400 000.
My house was insured for at least $ 700 000....
We’re outside of Curtis’ house. It’s 2 am.
“...that’s about a million you’re giving me...”
“Call it a payback for knocking you out in the re-match and a thank you for helping....”
Hold out my hand.
He shakes it firmly.
Smiles all around.
We get into our new convertible; roof down.
Curtis leans on the door frame.
“Where are you of to ?”
“Las Vegas. Spend a couple of days. Then Mexico.”
“Hey...if you need anything....”
Curtis nods with a smile.
“I know...same goes for you....Goodbye Sadie (Kiss)....if someone has to marry this washed-up fighter I’m glad it’s you. He needs a good straightening-up....”
She smiles and hugs him tight.
“We’ll send you postcards....”
We drive off with Curtis waving.
THE BEACH is hot.
My wife is standing on the patio naked. We’re in the middle of nowhere; not a person in a fifty mile radius. She lets the wind brush her skin.
I send Curtis his fifth postcard.
Along with the wedding photo from Vegas.
The beach waves crash and the sea breeze feels good.
I stare at Sadie.
All for love.