Manchego

Continued from Mayonnaise.

A dozen pictures, on real photo paper no less, of some two bit hood standing around on half a dozen streetcorners. So, he’s a drug dealer. I’ve maybe seen him before, I see lots of folks, but I don’t know his name, and I don’t know him well enough to pin down what crew he might have connections to, not even enough to say what drugs he might sell. But, if he’s like everybody else, it’s heroin and meth. I shuffle over to get a better look and the stupid gun pops out of my drawers and onto the bed, the plastic magazine spontaneously ejecting onto the floor. Fuck. I grab the damned thing and stick it back under the mattress. This is stupid. I can’t make any sense of it. The guy is obviously not swimming with the big fish, and people who have the sort of resources to tail me and the balls to casually fuck with me can usually find little fish all by themselves.

I go back to the sink and notice my toothbrush bounced from the bowl and ended up behind the toilet. I pull it up and stare for a minute at the curly hairs and fuzz stuck to the end. Fuck this, I’ll get a new one later. I turn on the shower and listen to the water heater groan into life, shuddering out a few sprays of ice cold water, then a trickle of brown, and finally glorious, steamy water. I dial it down to just below scalding and step in. I can feel it pulling the beer right through my pores, and stare down at the drain to watch it spiral away.

***

I’m back on the street, and it’s sunny as hell. This is the wrong side of 10am, regardless of how good that shower was. Plus I still have a coating on half my teeth. I’m making my way down to the corners to see if I can get some more ideas on Mr. Picture Guy. Still no clue who he is, if I don’t recognize him, he couldn’t be responsible for too much weight. If Leo doesn’t recognize him, he probably doesn’t even deal, which will leave me straight up a creek.

“Mother fucker.”

The yell doesn’t really startle me, around this place, you hear a lot of shouted expletives, but there’s a certain part of your brain which knows when a yell is directed at you.

“Hey, Leo”

“Mother fucker. You gotta lotta nerve.”

“You gotta lotta nerve mother fucking me first thing in the morning.”

“Haha, don’t trip, don’t trip. it’s all good. Y’all know I’m just playin’ with a nigga.”

Leo is tall, gangly, white. He learned how to speak street through synthesizing drug dealers from after school specials and the skit tracks on rap albums. He would come off as a regular wigger, if it weren’t for the fact that he’s missing most of his teeth. Everything he says has extra lip flap in it, and there’s an odd lisp and nasal resonance. He’s got no septum, it’s sort of distracting. He likes to say it’s from all the gak, but the rumor is he got sold a bag of dish detergent when he was a kid. Even though it didn’t do anything, and it burned like hell, he just kept snorting it until his mom took him to the hospital. He’d stuff pennies in his ass if he heard it would get you high.

“You know this guy?”

I shove a profile shot under his nose and he holds his hands up and starts to back away. I grab his belt and pull him close.

“Leo… Do you know this guy?”

“Shit, I don’t know nothing from nothing.”

There’s a phlegmy whistle when he inhales. I can tell he’s lying, because when he really doesn’t know somebody, he pretends he does, to try to get money from me. Sometimes it works. When he says he doesn’t know somebody, it means he’s afraid of them. That’s weird, this guy isn’t even on my radar. Why would Leo know him?

“You don’t know nothing, huh?”

I stick another picture in his face.

“Yeah, man, that guys like. I don’t know him. Never seen him.”

I flick a finger at his jacket, and he pulls back like I’m gonna punch him. Leo is many things, but skittish isn’t on the list.

“I come down here looking for info from you twice a month for the past three years and you have NEVER known nothing. Even when you actually don’t know anything, you run your mouth, so you come clean now, who is the guy in the pictures?”

“Nigga I told you. There’s nothing, he’s nothing. Nobody is nothing. I gotta bounce, dog. Holla.”

He turns away and starts to walk. I kick him in the back of the knee and he drops to the ground. I’m on him as he starts to scramble back up, the stupid little chinese 25 in the crook of his neck.

“Listen you little shit. I’m gonna go find your mom and tell her where your apartment is unless you get straight with me right fucking now.”

“Fine, shit, B, just fucking, shit, just… just let me up off the ground, just… is that a gun, you pull a gun on me over this?”

“Yes, I’d pull a gun on you, trying to lie to me and then walk away. Get the fuck up. You try to run again I’ll give you one in the ass to think about.”

There’s no way I could hit him in the ass with this thing unless he sat down on the gun, but he doesn’t know that. I shove him into one of the doorways to a burned out row house. I peek around the corner and we seem to be alone, just bird shit and trash.

He looks at one of the pictures, sighs. Starts to fidget. He lights a cigarette and I unconsciously finger my empty pocket again while he takes a drag.

“OK, B, OK. So. That guy moves a lot of weight. Like a lot.”

“Why have I never seen him before? He’s not a corner guy, and he sure as shit don’t look like he does home delivery.”

“No, like. Not like, moves weight. He moves weight. Like… in a car. From one place to another.”

“So he’s a courier. For who?”

“He’s more like THE courier. He’s working for folks above my pay grade. I just know not to fuck with him and that when people start asking, you start not knowing nothing or you end up dead.”

He’s leaving shit out, I can tell.

“And?”

“And nothing, he works for motherfuckers up on high and nobody talks to him unless he talks first. He knows when to bring weight in like the fucking junk fairy or some shit. You get big enough, he shows up and starts to talk volume with you. He don’t take credit, he don’t front, he don’t bring bad product, he don’t get fucked with by no police.”

“Who buys from him?”

“Who don’t buy from him? Everybody who can be selling his shit is selling his shit. Those who fuck up and fall off, they don’t get supplied anymore and they go out of business.”

“What’s his name?”

“I heard it was Ricky but I don’t know the motherfucker to say hello.”

“Yeah, well – you didn’t know nothing about him five minutes ago, but now you’ve got his fucking biography, so why don’t you think hard about what his name was.”

“Straight up, straight up. Ricky, that’s all I know. On the real.”

A pile of bird shit and trash starts to move, and a hand wipes across a face that just appeared.

“SHUT THE FUCK UP”

The junkie rolls back over and goes back to sleep. I’ve kept Leo long enough, and he’s got nothing else for me. I gesture him toward the door and stick the gun back in my pocket. Courier named Ricky, moves weight, everybody likes him, has some deal with the cops. More than I had before.

“Hey, Leo.”

“Bitch, what the fuck?”

“When’s the last time you saw Ricky around?”

“I don’t know, a week? Week and a half?”

“Is that normal?”

“Fuck no, they’re down to the fucking baking soda and baby formula right now. Nobody is getting proper high.”

“And you didn’t think that was pertinent to this discussion?”

“Nigga you need to speak fucking english.”

Leo walks out into the sunlight and the pile of bird shit and trash cuts a wet fart and begins to snore. I stuff the pictures back into the envelope. A missing person, or more accurately, some missing product and a missing person. Which favor to call in… which favor to call in.

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