The Perfect Enforcer

Published October 13, 2004

We were inseparable through high school as we evolved into the men we would become. Through it all was a commitment to raucous times and hellacious nights. We drank together, smoked pot from the same pipe and even snorted a few too many lines through the same straw. We shared everything.

It was only after I entered college that we began to drift apart ... about the same time I started shooting up. "Come on, freak. I got no choice." He falters. If I can turn him in the next two minutes, I'm home free. Ricky doesn't take bribes like some of the guys, but he does have a sense of loyalty.

I shoot the gap. "Remember the time we jimmied the lock on Old Man Franklin's place and drank his beer till the next morning? Remember how pissed he was when he saw what we did? Who took the rap so you wouldn't miss your brother's confirmation?"

"You used that last time, punk. Now let's move."

illustrationOn my left, an enormous shadow grows. It's Floyd's, one of the more sadistic Enforcers Gallow has on his crew. He's ten garages away and struts with an arrogance that makes me sick. "What a piece of shit," I say, watching the fat man's advance, "why do you split your action with him?"

"What he knows," he says, sucker-punching. I hit the pavement hard. "You didn't hear that, Jerzy. I didn't just say nothing."

"No, you didn't say anything, Ricky. I got a lousy memory anyway. If you said something I forgot it by now."

"That's a good boy, Jerzy. I didn't want to hit you, you know."

"Yeah, right. That's why I'm on the ground. Help me up, dickhead."

He leans down, grabs my hand and pulls me up so fast I leave the ground. Touching my side, it feels like he cracked a rib — one of the floating ones at the bottom of the rib cage. I curse as I remember the medical school I had barely begun before I blew it off by falling for the wrong girl and following her into the streets. The day I went broke, she left me for a different schmuck with a bankroll.

Floyd is getting closer, and Ricky tenses. I don't know what the bastard knows, but it's gotta be something good. I've never seen Ricky react with anything but confidence.

"What does this guy have on you?" I ask.

The sedans pull into the alley on both sides, boxing us in. They rumble toward us, two early-nineties Lincolns with tweaked pipes.

"Nothing, man," he tells me as sweat beads on his forehead. "Aw fuck, what's the use? He knows, that's all. That asshole knows and he holds it over my head like a fucking carrot."

"Then what're you gonna do? Take me to Gallow or run with me?" I'm jonesing now that the booze has worn off. I need a fix and I got the money. The Pit is only two blocks away. I can be stoned in less then ten minutes.

"Floyd found out I'm on the take and he's been blackmailing me ever since. I told him to fuck off, I wasn't paying anymore. I think you and I are both in deep shit," he said, looking down the alley.

"Bullshit, man! We can run away. Nobody stops us, man. C'mon, Ricky, pull it together. What the fuck are you turning into a wuss for, man? We can take these pussies. You and me, remember?"

"Yeah, I remember. That's the problem. Those times are over, man. I almost got killed back then, remember?"

"If they're coming after you, why did you ride with them?"

"I didn't. I saw them leaving and followed. Once I recognized the neighborhood, I knew where to find you. I know your pattern."

"My pattern?"

pull quote"You always take the same route. We grew up here, remember? I just put my kickstand down and waited. Five minutes later, you ran right into me. It didn't take much thought."

"So what, you're going to bring me in solo and take all the credit?"

"Yeah, something like that," Ricky says, gauging his situation.

"What if I say you were lying?"

"You wouldn't," he says simply.

"Sneaky bastard. People should learn not to trust you."

"They haven't yet," he says as Gallow's Enforcers close in on us.

"Lord knows I have." As I say this, I see an Uzi barrel poking out of the eastbound car.

"Run!" I shout as I reach under my shirt and withdraw my Bowie knife from its sheath. Bullets pelt the garage over our heads as Ricky bolts through the gate. I throw the knife at Floyd and wait long enough to see the hilt bounce off his shoulder. I'm no good at this game, I think as I take off after my friend.

I hear tires squeal as both cars are thrown into reverse. Those morons are wasted and there's no way either can drive backwards without making a mistake. As if on cue, I hear two crashes. A second later, I clear the fence on the far side of the yard, noticing the open gate as I fly over.

I catch up to Ricky when he ducks behind some bushes across the street. I slide next to him. "What're we stopping for, man? Let's go!" Ricky grabs my arm and pulls me back down.

"Strategy, man. That's always been your problem. You never played the odds. Running's your game. It's stupid. That's why I always caught you when I wanted."

"When you wanted," I scoff, "you caught me when you were lucky."

"If you want to believe that, go ahead," he says. His black hair is matted against his forehead, shadowing his dark eyes. High cheekbones lead to a firm jaw that I know is unbreakable. The bastard cannot be hurt. God knows, I've tried. Lost both times.

"See that, those dorks are cruising past us thinking we're still running. We're probably out to Lunt by now, they think. We're free and clear. You never figured that out. Strategy," he says, tapping his temple.

Usually I'm pissed at Ricky's cockiness, but tonight it serves me well. He's right, though, I never second-guessed the competition. Yet, for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what to do with Ricky. I'm heading to the Pit and Ricky is a known Enforcer. There's no way I can bring him there.