Each week, Friday Fiction presents a short story by a talented emerging writer. This week, it’s Phil Rossi, who provides us with yet another gritty tale, a modern version of traditional noir. Bad Dogs is a wild ride, a brief excursion into a darkly comical underworld from a writer who specializes in the humorously bizarre.
by Phil Rossi
To tell you how far I’d fallen, I was ordered by drug dealers to whack a neighborhood watchdog. In between parole visits and the job search, I honored a sit-down with a bad-ass named Benny Eggs.
Despite the handle, Benny wasn’t all that sunny side up with the mooch program. The bookies around here might like the ‘rope-a-dope’, where they tie a guy to the bumper of a car and drag him down the street, but not Benny. He preferred zapping deadbeats in the basement vats of a chemical plant over in New Jersey. Thanks, but no thanks.
I didn’t show up expecting an amnesty deal much less a payment plan. I owed the money and planned to pay unless Benny forgot about it. Problem was, he didn’t.
The debt I owed Benny hatched before the big dive. I went up river owing the state three years and Benny Eggs five grand. While paying off society, Benny cranked his interest dial. When the numbers settled, he fed me an eight large bill. At this juncture, I couldn’t swing eight bucks.
Benny had a problem he needed taken care of. I was the chump to work the wheel and tow him out. That’s when I learned I’d have to shoot and kill a German Shepherd dog. Un-fucking-believable.
One of Benny’s dealers was in diapers and bubble wrap gauzing stitches on his ass. You guessed right, the strike from a land shark. Benny skipped on calling in the police, downloading the bad guy’s handbook for this one instead.
Drugs might be a dirty business, but profitable. Most guys crushing it won’t enroll in night school or find another corner. They’re already called, and once you get your piece, it’s your pig farm along with the problems. You start moving around, you’re only looking for a fight.
In this town, that means hand to hand, house to house. It starts with the daylight shootings before the Ricochet Rabbits show up. Now you’re scraping people off the street. The mayor cracks down, the riot gear marches in, and the place is a pedal to the metal Fort Apache.
The real bitch was in order to plug the dog, I’d have to hump dope. My luck, I’d bump into a narc. A real gas since I’m clean and done, not to mention the hot gun and Three Strikes program.
Anyway, the order of business was to meet Benny and hash our situation. The job was the job, and I was in. The money was a non-issue. No use in coming up with it now. If I did, I’d be up eight grand, keep my mouth shut, and split town after the deed.
I took a ride around the hood with Benny and his driver named Noodles. The company car was a black on black Hummer. From the inside, the rig floated like a magic carpet. On the outside, a mean machine from hell, letting everyone know the ghetto was in business, up and at ’em.
We watched a guy in a military jacket, camo pants, black boots, and one of those bush hats strolling with a German Shepherd. If it were a search for Charlie mission in Vietnam, he wouldn’t have stuck out so much.
“That’s the cracker, right there. I oughta get out and cap that dog here and now,” Benny said. Sounded good to me. We could find another means to settle up.
The Shepherd walked down the sidewalk wearing a leather muzzle and a custom-made kevlar vest. The only thing I knew about German Shepherds were from prison. The dogs the warden used to snap the jocks in line and chase the ones cutting class. During orientation, I learned all about their bite. Schooled in pressure and pounds per square inch, I remembered thinking teeth aren’t so square.
The young ones in the playground swore the devil walked by. You know all about kids and pups. Not this gig. The kiddies stayed glued to the see-saws and swings while the baby mamas blocked any incoming.
Before Noodles nodded the Hummer through a cross section, the dog noticed the covert sting, and stopped to stare at us grumbling past. Even through the jet-black tinted windows, I could see the eyes of the dog. It looked right at us.
Pissed to hell over the drought of his cash flow, Benny wanted the payback posted tonight. He ordered me to go character shopping while he bundled my care package.
I showed up later that evening in my best drug dealer outfit. I became whitey in the hood, acting all wannabe. Baggy sweat pants, work boots, camo jacket that fit like a tent. If it were leather, I’d look like the sidekick to Superfly. Oversized ball cap with the silver dollar gummed on the roof of the bill.
I found the staff car without my Map To The Stars, pulled the rear door and boarded. Benny handed me a Glock. Glad he had the brains to put a muffler on it. Some big piece of snuffy, custom made for a Lee Marvin comeback.
Benny also had pouches of heroin, crank, and coke he gladly forked over. Noodles navigated while Benny worked his magic. In minutes we reached the area and Noodles pulled over.
A few blocks later I was in Benny’s territory. I walked up and down the street, nice and slow. I had the pitching all right, just waiting on the bats to come around. They sure as shit popped in once I lapped the corners.
When the eyeballs in the shadows watched me rebound, they knew my ass was in the game and open for business. By my second turn, I smacked high cred, unloading a few bags. Still no dog or mountain boys.
All warmed up, I hit that kiddie park down the block. Once I touched the apron of the pathway, a voice called out from the bushes.
“Hey you,” he said. I turned, and didn’t see anybody. I doubted I was hearing things. I gave you my word, I no longer touch the stuff.
“Yeah you. The cat with the jacket,” the same voice called out again. I turned to gaze back at the speaking bush. No flames, only pitch dark.
“You got anything good?” He asked.
“What are you looking for?”
“Whatever you got. As long as it’s primo, I want it,” he said.
“Meet me by one of the benches,” I said.
As I turned up the walk, it was the Shepherd owner. He scooted from the hedges and darkness to cut my path further into the park. Bugshit weird, even for a drug deal.
“Could we do it at my house instead? I live down the street, and there’s too many cops around,” he said. Now he had me. What could I do? The best transaction one could hope for, if you’re a real gangsta. I tailed him back to his bunk.
Now I’m really thinking of my end. Tossed into some kinky machine that will churn my ass into a month of Alpo. I started jonesing for Benny’s cannibal pots and pesticide baths over in New Jersey.
We entered a house that flunked the bait and switch test. Furniture from the Archie Bunker line fanned the parlor. The Colonial collection with armrests made of wooden paddles, nautical wheels etched in the fabric. Go figure. I stepped into a time warp on steroids.
On the way through, my heart stopped when I spotted the dog curled by a fireplace. Lazy blinks for the company, sedated to hell.
“Don’t worry about the dog. He won’t bite,” he said. Yeah right, I thought. I only wished for a foamy demo suit like the Michelin Man wears to stem the attack.
The dude lead me into the Kitchen of Tomorrow from the 1964 World’s Fair. It was kinda cool and funky if you kept the cheese radar locked up. The chairs had those muffin cushions with the metallic finish. We each broke wind once our asses splashed down.
Anyway, we had some dealing to do. Before the guy sampled, he wanted to spill some garbage on his mind.
“You like my dog?” he asked.
“Yeah, I guess. Why?”
“I trained him to hunt down niggers since he was a pup,” he said.
“I don’t get it?” I was getting warm, but needed to play him a little more.
“You know, Hitler was right. Damn was he a genius, and misunderstood…,” he started in.
Now I really got it. The muzzle was good eye candy, but the dog might bite black kids out in the wild. He was gaming the system. The dog provided the element of danger, while he toed the high road of superhero.
A mild tweaker at best, this was a recruit call. He pitched the movement, the local chapter, and cowboys they like to flag. He also invited me to next week’s up with the people.
I knew these guys from prison. I won’t bore you with it, already detesting the bird. Time to bang out a better solution.
I never killed much, outside the lost and errant cockroach. But this guy, not the dog, had to go. Kill the dog, he trains another, and so on. Kill the man, the street is down to one devil dog. Canine services show up, defang it, reeducate, and ship it to some love sick kid up in Buffalo. By then the dog will have forgotten all about the brotherhood and be real again. Either way, I was on the clock. Only one of us could leave the building.
I pushed myself from the table, and dug a mitt into my pocket. I pulled the cannon, pointing it right at him. He lit up, stunned to shitsville. Most Nazis are moogs. Despite the ‘ideal’ make and model, they’ll never sport the horsepower to break from the pack. Except for the wizards and bikers, the leftovers are loud in the crowd dipshits.
His heart fluttered for Hitler, but his ass belonged to me. He started to hiss, cursing himself for letting his guard down. He didn’t even have a butter knife handy.
What they call the ‘yips’ on the golf course came over me. My damn hand wouldn’t stop vibrating as my head filled up with helium. All dizzy, the moron across the table sprang three heads. Great. I tried to focus on the monkey in the middle. Before this gig made the bloopers show, I squeezed one off.
I delivered a minor league shank. Even at point blank range, my shaky grip nearly fucked things up. The bullet grazed his cheek and left through the window over his shoulder. The glass shattered, and the slug slammed the aluminum siding of the bastard’s tool shed.
The sequel made more sense, pelting his larynx. By now his blood washed the table top as if spilled from a gallon jug of Hawaiian Punch.
He grabbed his throat, gargled, and stared at me just like the police captain from the Godfather. I better make like Michael and finish this show. Despite my first rodeo, the guy was further out than in. The blood from his throat ran down his neck, soaking his shirt.
This is when I decided to go pro. Time to channel my inner grasshopper, settle down, and finish him off. I straightened out, stiffened up, and by my third take, I jacked it out of the park. I zinged the maniac between the eyes. I was Dirty Harry and the second coming of Shane, all wrapped up into one hot stuff homey.
The force of the strike sent him back as if gliding in a rocker. The front legs lifted off the floor, but not enough to topple him. The chair returned, and so did he. Only for a second before he spilled from the seat. His body hit the floor, and you could hear his dead bones rolling around from the impact.
I scooped the shell casings, and buried them in a front pocket with my keys and subway fare. I passed the dog on the way out. It got up, and scampered into the kitchen to figure things out. By then I was off the cursed property.
When I left the subway, my phone blinked back to life and I called Benny Eggs. I told him all about the detour and where it went. Benny liked what he heard and offered me a job. Said he’s short and needs guys that could sell and think on their feet.
I told him thanks, but no thanks. I’m all done with movements and brotherhood.
THE AUTHOR: PHIL ROSSI (Mob Recruits; Bad Dog; Long Gone Alley) is a fiction writer and short filmmaker from northern New Jersey, right outside New York City. Phil is the author of two coming-of-age novellas and is currently developing a series of stand-alone, hardboiled novelettes. His short fiction has appeared in Out Of The Gutter, Near To The Knuckle, and other various webzines, shortlists, and anthologies. http://www.phil-rossi.com