Hey gang, this has been a busy week at work for me, so I don’t have any new rambling to throw at you this morning.
Rest assured, more Instinct posts are coming, we’re “auditioning” a few colorists at the moment to see who can nail the style I’m looking for.
For now, enjoy your Friday, have a good weekend, and here’s the second chapter of my crime novel “Send Him Round”. (The first chapter can be found here: https://markbertolini.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/a-different-change-of-pace-for-a-friday/)
I stepped out of the warehouse (seriously, the guy picked an old abandoned warehouse to have the shit beat out of me in, I told you he watched too many movies) into the bright sunlight, and had to shield my eyes with my arm. Even though one was full closed now. I had my jacket in my hands, I’d wrenched it free from beneath Sweaty and Beardy before I left. It had blood on it, but the good thing about fake leather is you can just hose it off.
A Fed Ex delivery truck was parked at the curb, and I approached it. It was one of those trucks that had no side door so the driver could jump in and out and make deliveries quickly, and I saw Jerry Moore sitting in the driver’s seat. He wasn’t wearing a Fed Ex uniform, so I could only assume he’d stolen the truck and hadn’t taken up a new profession.
“Christ, Bird, they did a number on you, eh?” He said, and stuck a cigarette in his mouth. Jerry was balding in the bad way, where little tufts of hair were left all willy-nilly on top of his crown. He reached back with one hand and banged on the box of the truck, and the back doors opened and two men stepped out, carrying duffel bags. They were quick and quiet, and moved toward the warehouse. One stopped next to me, held out a hand, and I gave him my little flip phone. Then he disappeared inside.
I climbed into the truck next to Jerry, and grabbed his cigarette pack, fed myself one and lit it with a disposable lighter on the dash. I exhaled smoke, and looked at myself in the side view mirror. I looked like ground hamburger, but I didn’t feel all that bad, so I looked away, over at Jerry. “Ready when you are.”
“You look like shit,” Jerry said. Always with the friendly comments, Jerry.
“I’ve looked worse,” I said.
“There’s a first aid kit behind the seat, at least clean the blood off your face.” Jerry turned the key in the ignition and pulled the stolen truck away from the curb. We didn’t have to wait for the cleaners. They’d be a while, and they had their own transportation. I reached behind the seat, found the white plastic box, and popped it open. I used some sterile wipes to clean most of the blood off my face, and settled back in the seat.
Jerry nodded towards a plastic bag at my feet. “Wanna read some comics? We’re going to be a few minutes.”
I picked up the bag and opened it, looked at all the comic books inside. Jerry was a big fan of comic books, had been since I met him. He made weekly pilgrimages to the local comic store, where he had a pull list so he never missed an issue. I flipped open a copy of X-Men, and saw that someone had gone through the whole issue with a black sharpie and had drawn large penises on all of the men. Even crippled old Professor Xavier was sporting a huge boner. I looked over at Jerry, who tried to hold it in, but burst out laughing. “I did that,” he said, and laughed so hard tears streamed down his face.
“You defaced your own comic?”
He just laughed. Jerry was a weird dude.
We drove for a while. “You hungry?” Jerry asked.
“Nah. I’m good. Let’s just go see the old man so I can go home and get in a hot bath.”
Jerry snorted. “Baths are for pussies.”
“I just got seven shades of shit beat out of me, Jerry. I can take a bath if I want.”
“You know that’s the only reason he keeps you on the payroll, right? Because you can take a beating?”
I shrugged. It was true, and it was my life story. I’d always been able to take a beating and keep going. Like a masochistic energizer bunny. I was certainly built for it, mind you. Six feet two. Two hundred and seventeen pounds. When I was younger, I’d lifted weights, so my shoulders were still pretty broad, but weightlifting doesn’t help much when your job is getting punched in the face several times a week.
I was a brick. Short for “brick shithouse”. A brick’s role is to get used as a plant, a decoy, whatever you want to call it. You get jumped, you get beat, you occasionally get shot. The life of a brick. You take a beating for the greater good. I’m basically as expendable as the burner phone I handed off to the cleaner.
Jerry was just a driver. He used to be a car thief, so the old man brought him in to boost cars and use them for things like picking up thugs who just got used as punching bags. Jerry chain-smoked, drew rude pictures in comic books, and was the biggest coke fiend I’d ever met. From what I could tell, almost every cent the old man paid him went directly up his nose.
You gotta boost a lot of cars to keep up a habit like that.
He turned the radio on, clearly not enamored with my conversational skills, and fiddled with the dial until some awful old shit-kicker country came on, and he moved his hand back to the steering wheel, drumming his thumbs on it in time with the music.
“This is terrible,” I said.
He gave me a look. “The fuck you say. That’s George Jones, show a little respect.”
I shrugged, looked out the window, and tried to tune them both out.
That’s it, that’s all. Do yourself a favor and go listen to Youth Group’s “Skeleton Jar”.