American Gangsters: A Hitman Chronicles Short
“Muthafucka, this all you got?”
The old man held his hands up helplessly. “What can I do?” he asked. “People don’t pay with cash anymore. What century did you come from?”
Jaheem grabbed the old man by the front of his shirt and yanked him hard against the counter. “Then you need to start accepting cash only, bi-atch. Next time we come, we want some dollars, nah mean?”
Jaheem and his boy Ray Ray strode out of the television repair shop like they owned the world. Back in the car Jaheem slammed his fist against the steering wheel. “This bullshit ain’t gonna work if ain’t nobody holding cash,” he said.
“Chill man,” Ray Ray said. “What we gotta do is figure out which joints take a lotta cash instead of credit cards. Them’s the places we boost.”
They cruised around the streets of the city, looking for a target for their extortion scheme. Jaheem got the idea from watching the bootleg of “American Gangster” – find some places they could Bogart their way in and demand protection money for them not to kick some asses or burn the place to the ground.
In the beginning of the movie that old school gangster was saying that it wasn’t easy to get to the heart of a business anymore. But Jaheem figured that nobody was running the protection racket anymore anyway, so if they hit whatever was left they’d still bring in some nice bank. They just had to keep their shit undercover so nobody else tried to move in on their game. But they were finding out that the problem wasn’t just finding the mom and pop shops, but dealing with a world that dealt more with plastic than paper.
Ray Ray hit him on the shoulder, pointed and said, “Hey, check it out. There’s that new club I heard about. Man, I heard they got some fine ass shorties dancing in there.”
Jaheem looked over at the establishment, a place called Shadows. “Man, those joints is for suckers,” he said. “Ain’t no way I’m tossing my dollars at some pole dancing bitch that ain’t giving up the pussy. That’s for hard up niggas.”
“Yeah, then there must be a lot of hard up niggas around, cause I heard them shorties be cleaning up,” Ray Ray said. “I saw this thing on HBO…”
“Hold up, Ray. That’s it, man. Them bitches be collecting dollars up in that motherfucker. So you know there’s gotta be a lotta cash in there!”
Jaheem wheeled the car around and parked in front of Shadows.
“I’m sorry, gentlemen. This is a new establishment, and we don’t yet have the clientele to generate significant income on a weekday.”
Jaheem glared at the man behind the bar. He was a skinny dark-skinned motherfucker wearing a penguin suit like he was going to the prom or something. “Nigga, who the fuck you tryin’ ta talk like—Sidney Poitier or some fuckin’ body? You ain’t got a safe up in this motherfucker?”
The man smiled at Jaheem. He didn’t look scared. “I’m afraid I don’t have access to the safe,” he said. “I’m just the day manager. For access to the safe you’d have to speak to the owner.”
“Aw, this is some bullshit!” Ray Ray shouted. “You got money to open this bitch, then you got money somewhere. Where’ that motherfucking owner? Get his ass out here!”
“I’ll call the owner,” the man said, still smiling. “We’ll see if an arrangement can be made.”
“Yeah, do that, home boy,” Ray Ray said, “before I decide to whip your ass just for GP.”
The manager stepped away from the bar, and while he spoke quietly into the phone, Jaheem checked out the action on the stage. The place was empty, except for one old ass dude sitting by himself at a table near the stage. Old School wasn’t paying them any attention. He was too busy staring at the girl swinging around the pole, and Jaheem could see why. That shorty was fine as hell: big ass titties, tiny waist, donkey booty, dark hair that flowed down to that big ass. She looked like an Arab or something. And what had Jaheem’s attention was that the only thing she was wearing were earrings, and not even hooker high heels.
The dancer finished her set while the manager was talking on the phone. She exited the stage and walked past them on her way to the dressing room.
“Hey, hey Shorty!” Jaheem called.
The dancer smiled at him.
“You know, my birthday is next week, and I would love to get my present from you.”
The dancer rolled her eyes and kept moving. Jaheem clicked his tongue and muttered, “Stuck up bitch.”
“The owner has agreed to meet with you,” the skinny dude in the tuxedo said as he hung up the phone. “She will return to the city tonight. She will meet you here, at 3:00 A.M.”
“3:00 A.M.? Nigga, do we look like we work the graveyard shift?” Ray Ray shouted.
The day manager shrugged, unfazed. “As I’ve stated, she is out of the city, returning tonight. She will meet with you after the club closes so that you may present your proposal in privacy, and with the necessary discretion. She will arrive in a Jaguar limousine, and asks that you meet her outside.”
The street was empty. The only visitor to the night was the fog creeping along the ground, so thick that Jaheem and Ray Ray wouldn’t have been able to see their feet if they’d stepped out of their car.
They were parked across the street from the club’s main entry, waiting.
“Man, I don’t like this shit,” Ray Ray said. “This could be some kinda setup.”
“Dude said she was outta town,” Jaheem said, looking through his windshield at the night and the fog. “Ain’t like they knew we was coming today. Besides, that’s why we strapped now—in case some shit pops off.”
“Yeah, but the shit still feels weird,” Ray Ray muttered.
The white Jaguar limo seemed to appear out of nowhere, as if it had materialized out of the night mist. It rolled to a stop at the curb in front of the club.
“There she is,” Jaheem said. He clicked the safety off his nine and stuck it in his waistband under his shirt. “Let’s do this.”
They got out of the car and headed across the street, their shoulders hunched in their best gangsta style swagger. Jaheem tried to step like that cool motherfucker Michael Corleone in “The Godfather.”
As they neared the limo its rear door opened and the vehicle’s interior light came on. Jaheem saw a black woman dressed in white robes and headdress sitting inside. To show how badass he was, he climbed in and took a seat facing the woman. Ray Ray slid in after him.
She looked at them—studied them actually—her head turning slowly back and forth on her slender neck. Jaheem didn’t like that she didn’t seem the least bit scared of them. And he decided that he didn’t like her eyes. They reminded him of some kind of animal. Some kind of animal that hunts.
“You know what this is about?” he asked her.
“You want money,” she said.
She had some kind of foreign accent. It figured. American niggas didn’t own shit….had to play ball or get a rap deal to get paid these days…or do like him and Ray were doing and hustle. Foreigners came over here and got their business on. They got paid.
“Yeah, we want money,” Ray Ray said. “You can’t come on our turf with your game and we don’t get our cut. It don’t work like that, nah mean?”
Jaheem watched the woman stare at Ray Ray. Her eyes were like green ice, and as soulless as the eyes of a doll. All of a sudden he wasn’t feeling too cool about this. He took a breath, and felt the hard butt of his nine pressing into his stomach. He wished the piece was in his hand right now.
“Why should I give you my money?” she asked. It didn’t even sound like a challenge. She asked it like she seriously wanted to know.
“That’s the price of doing business in America,” Jaheem said. “This is how the shit works. You always gotta pay somebody for your hustle. Even politicians do it. Ain’t you been watching the news?”
The woman looked at Jaheem now, and her green eyes locked on his. Now he could see that her eyes really weren’t lifeless. He could see the cold light of awareness in them. It made him think about the way a cat looked at you, like it knew something that you didn’t. He almost wished he hadn’t said anything to her. He felt a lot better when she was looking somewhere else.
Then she smiled at him and said, “How much do you expect me to pay?”
That question caught him off guard. He thought back to the movie, trying to remember how much the crooked cop wanted Denzel to pay him off every month, but under her cool green stare his mind was a blank.
“Um…five large a week,” he said.
The woman’s green eyes locked on him for another painfully long moment. Then she said, “My briefcase is in the trunk with my luggage. My driver will provide what you require.”
She gestured toward the still open door, and for the first time Jaheem realized that someone was standing just outside the open limo.
His heart boomed ad he shouted, “Fuck!” before he could catch himself. His hand shot to his waist, fumbling for his Glock. But then the driver leaned into the limo. Jaheem got a good look and relaxed, letting out a nervous laugh. It was just a shorty.
“Damn baby,” he said to the chauffeur. “You need to make some noise when you move around. I didn’t even hear you get out the car. I was about to bust a cap in yo ass.”
The driver, an Asian chick in a black chauffeur’s uniform, smiled at him. “My apologies,” she said softly.
“Did you hear what they asked for?” the woman in white asked the driver.
“Yes ma’am,” the chauffeur answered. Then to Jaheem and Ray Ray she said, “Please come this way.”
Ray Ray looked back at Jaheem. “Now that’s what’s up,” he grinned.
Jaheem looked up and down the street as they followed the driver to the trunk of the limo, making sure there was no one else around waiting to ambush them. He didn’t see anything, but it was hard to tell because the fog was thicker now. The club owner got out on the other side of the limo and walked to the trunk, too. Why the fuck was she going if she told the driver to get the money?
Ray Ray leaned to him and whispered, “Damn, I didn’t know Chinese chicks had asses like that!”
The fool was checking out the driver’s ass instead of keeping his eyes on the streets. Jaheem still felt uneasy. He wanted to get this over with—to get this cash and jet.
They watched as the chauffeur used the key to open the trunk. The trunk light came on, and Jaheem blinked to make sure his eyes were working. They were. The trunk was empty—except for what looked like a large plastic sheet, like the tarp that painters used.
“What the fuck is this?” Ray Ray growled, reaching under his shirt. He pulled out his Ruger and pointed it at the club owner.
Jaheem looked up and down the street again, looking for an ambush. His heart raced. This shit wasn’t right.
The club owner stood on the sidewalk at the back of the limo, looking at Ray Ray pointing his piece at her. She didn’t look even a little scared. The driver was looking at him too. For the first time Jaheem noticed the driver’s eyes. The club owner’s green eyes had made him nervous. But looking into the black eyes of the driver, he felt his balls shrivel. It was like looking into death.
The black woman looked at her driver. “I’ll be inside, Nikira” she said. “Make them suffer.”
That’s what Jaheem felt, though he didn’t know what had happened to him.
It was in his face…his nose. His nose hurt so bad.
Then he realized that his face lay against the cool asphalt of the street.
But it wasn’t all cool. Where his face lay in his own blood it felt warm. Wet and warm.
A thump, and then something cracking, like a tree branch.
And something was moaning, whimpering.
What kind of animal was that?
Another thump, something hitting the street, hard.
Jaheem pushed himself up. New pain exploded in his head.
He groaned and squinted through the fog.
Ray Ray’s face was right there, on the ground in front of him. Or at least what was left of his face.
Jaheem gasped, his pain seasoned now with fear. Then he saw the hand grasping Ray Ray by his forehead, saw his friend’s head jerk violently to one side, and heard another crack. Now Jaheem screamed.
He tried to get up, tried to reach for his Glock, but suddenly there was a foot on his back, and his arm was jerked backward so hard that it yanked from its socket.
A new kind of scream now. A squeal actually. He heard himself sounding like a terrified girl and he didn’t care. Mama help me…
He was up, in the air. How was he in the air? Flying?
His back slammed into the brick building. His breath blasted from his body. He was falling forward, but he saw her.
Death coming through the fog.
Black hair flying.
Oh sweet Jesus Mama…
Her kick tore through him, broke his ribs; crushed his lungs.
The fog painted night turned red.
Jaheem thought that when you died, everything went black, not red.
That’s what they’d said on The Sopranos.
© November 2007
READ MORE ABOUT SHADOWS GENTLEMEN’S CLUB IN