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Frankie fiddled purposefully with the cuff-links on his pinstriped suit. “Speak up, my man. I didn’t quite catch that – what day you say it was?”
“Look, I’m real sorry – real, real sorry. I don’t got it today, but –”
“I believe I asked you a question…”
“You don’t understand,” Eddie sputtered. “They just laid me off down at the mill and I ain’t seen a paycheck since the –”
“I’m sorry, Eddie; maybe my memory is getting a little hazy, but I don’t recall asking you about any mill.” Frankie twisted the thick gold ring on his index finger, as he spoke – his voice soft and steely. “I asked you what f***ing day it was. Now, the next time I hear a noise come outta your fat face, the only thing I wanna hear is a word that ends with ‘day.’ Capisce?”
Eddie opened his mouth to explain himself, but was a silenced by the harshness of Frankie’s pupils, as they drilled holes through the top of his forehead. “Tuesday,” he gulped.
“The twenny first. Tuesday the twenny first.”
“See.” Frankie clapped his hands together and clasped them in front of his chest. “That wasn’t so difficult, now, was it?” He licked his lips slowly and spat once on the cracked concrete floor of the parking garage. The thick wet glob landed at his feet, just inches shy of his newly shined black leather shoes.
Eddie shook his head vigorously – his teeth clamped shut to keep his tongue in line. The guys at the mill said Frankie was an oddball, different than his old man – kind of a loose cannon – “unpredictable,” they said.
“Now, Eddie. I seem to remember you and me makin’ some sorta deal about a month ago. I did you a little favor. And all I asked in return was that you did me a solid in return. I scratch your back, you scratch mine. So I –”
“See, that’s what I’ve been meanin’ to talk t’you ‘bout. I swear to god I been meanin’ to –”
“Whoa. Whoa. Eddie. I hope you did not just interrupt me as I was speakin’ to you.” His voice escalating, Frankie continued. “I hope you did not just disrespect me like that. Cuz if there’s one thing I hate, it’s being interrupted. How dare you f***in’ disrespect me.” By the end of his tirade, Frankie’d got to yelling. His last words rang-out loudly across the parking structure.
It wasn’t more than a few moments later that Frankie got back his composure enough to fix up his collar and pretend like nothing happened. He cleared his throat and went back to talking straight and soft.
“So I woke up today this morning and you know what I said to myself? I said ‘I gotta f***in’ itchy back right about now.’ Do not disappoint me. Show me the money. Scratch my back.”
Trembling, Eddie responded. Inching backwards, closer to the door, with each word. “It’s like I told you, Frankie. I just don’t got it. I jus–” Eddie trailed off, his cheeks moist, eyes pleading. “I’ll get it. I swear. I just need more time.”
Seemingly unfazed by Eddie’s emotional outburst, Frankie took out a cigarette and lit it. Watching Eddie intently, he took a nice long drag, exhaling a cloud of smoke out the side of his mouth as he began to speak again.
“I gave you plenty of time…plenty of time.” He snapped his fingers and two burly men in all-black suits stepped out from the shadows behind him. They stood at attention by his side like soldiers.
“Please…” Eddie whispered, getting down on both knees. “I’ll get you the money – double – whatever you want…”
Frankie took another drag. “I wish I could help you. I really do, but I got a reputation to protect here. Can’t have people thinking that they can disrespect me – that I’m some kinda softie. When my father passed, he left this business with a reputation, and I’ll be d*mned if I ain’t gonna protect it. It’s like my ol’ man used ta’ say…” Frankie paused briefly, his eyes scouring the ceiling. “Never mind, I guess it ain’t too important for you right about now.”
Chuckling softly, Frankie readjusted his cuff-links. “Kill ‘im,” he muttered, turning his back and strutting smoothly toward the door.
Eddie barely had time to cover his face with his hands and then it was over.
As Frankie and his cronies exited the building, one turned to him. “So, what did your ol’ man used ta’ say anyways?”
Frankie shrugged. “The h*ll if I remember.”