One for the Road
Sometimes he would dream about the hand. He would see it crawling, fingernails caked with dirt, and the wrist dragging along like a snail, leaving a trail of gore. The hand would stop, and a forefinger would beckon. "Follow me," he would hear. "Follow me, Petey P." He always awoke with a start when he heard that voice.
"I ain’t goin’ no place," Petrine said as he awoke this Sunday morning. He recalled nothing of the dream. His eyes struggled against the day’s glow.
A bright sun drove the gloom away, and for a moment Petrine felt only warmth and enjoyed being bathed in the vivid colors of the day. Outside his window, a green leaf caught his attention. Lucid, peaceful, even serene. If he looked at it just so, he could feel himself becoming a part of the leaf. He became the life moving through each tiny vein, and for a time he was one. There was no ache; there was no gap in his fabric needing filling with whatever was at hand. In these brief moments, he would smell her. Something like the scent of a baker’s yeast; he could almost see her breast and feel the nipple, large like a melon in his lips. From nowhere this sense of being at his mother’s breast became more real that the room around him. He lolled in the a luxuriant sense that she was back and he was all sated desire.
He reached to his left, and the bed was empty. She had not been there for weeks, and still he reached for her each morning. There was no anger about her absence today. Today there was only something approaching sorrow. He could not name the feeling. He was now having trouble even seeing her face, but certain sensations remained. He was alive with the feel of the small of her back, and he confused that feel with the scent of his mother’s breast.
His hand moved down to his groin, and soon he’d driven away the morning’s blissful sense with his usual urgency.
He dozed for a moment, and startled himself into wakefulness by saying aloud: "I’ve got to find that fucking hand."
Feet to the floor now, Petrine was all business.
The Shark had been worse than useless. Petrine had the guy figured for a coward. Mr. Smart-Mouth litigator could talk the talk in a courtroom when marshals had his back. But stick him in the back seat of a car with a gun and a blade? The guy actually cried. "Don’t cut me, Mr. Petrine. Please don’t cut me." Messed his pants like some freaking retard.
"Can it, counselor," Petrine leered. He pulled the blade from Shank’s face. They were driving south on the Hudson River Parkway. The car reeked of Shank’s bowels. No sooner had Shank heard the click of Petrine’s gun than the flood gates opened.
"Yo, Merv. Open a window, will ya? Smells like a freaking outhouse back here."
"So, Sharkman, what’d you spend for that suit. Eight, nine hundred bucks?"
Petrine had his knife out now, and was nicking the buttons on the jacket with quick flicks of the wrist.
"I, I don’t know."
"I, I don’t know," Petrine mocked him. A high-pitched whine, edging closer to The Shark.
"Well answer me this, big mouth. How many nuts you packin’?" The blade’s tip now in The Shark’s lap.
T’, t’, two," The Shark stammered.
"Wanna keep it that way?" Petrine jammed the blade’s tip up and under The Shark’s scrotal sac. He poked toward his groin.
"Don’t move," said a lump of man sitting across from Petrine in the limousine’s back seat. The man shoved the barrel of a small handgun up under The Shark’s chin.
The Shark was still.
"What I need to know is what you know, see?" Petrine said.
"For example, what about Marvelous Marcus A. He’s your boy, and I want to know what he’s got to say."
The Shark was not quick enough to respond. Petrine jerked the knife’s blade upward. The Shark could swear he’d severed a testicle. He leaned forward now and vomited.
"You know, Sharko, you’re like a freaking environmental catastrophe. Shit, puke. Even a little blood. I got all fucking night, but you’re runnin’ out of ways to make a mess. We gonna talk business here, or do I take you out to meet Jimmie Hoffa?"
The Shark was wiping his mouth with a handkerchief. There was blood on his crotch.
"I," The Shark was breathless with pain and panic," I, I, ... what do you want?"
"This is business, Sharko. We both read the papers, right?"
The Shark nodded.
"So we both know that inquiring minds think I whacked the Fuchs kid, right?"
The Shark paused.
"Right?" said Petrine, flashing the knife again.
The Shark nodded.
"So what does wonder boy say? Am I a killer, Sharko?"
For once, The Shark could find no words.
"Don’t play me, counselor. This might be the last ride you ever take. Am I a killer?"
"My client is not prepared to testify," The Shark said.
Petrine’s left hand gripped The Shark’s throat, and he dug finders into the arteries on each side. The Shark was quickly becoming faint.
"This ain’t no freakin’ courtroom, and I ain’t Judge Judy."
Petrine released The Shark, who gasped for breath.
"Am I a freaking killer?"
"Yes," The Shark said.
The Shark was about to vomit again.
"Says who, Sharko. Let’s get real here."
"My, my client," The Shark was shaking.
"Yo, Mikey, pull over when we get near the bridge. I think we’re getting some more tossed cookies here."
Soon the limousine pulled to the side of the road. Traffic zoomed by.
"So what does Mr. Marvelous have to say?"
"You killed Lester Fuchs."
"Is that so? What else."
"He didn’t know it was going to happen. He says he was just along for the ride. You told him you needed to talk to this kid about something. You met Fuchs at the bar, and took him to an alley and knifed him." The Shark found it suddenly easy to break the attorney-client privilege.
"What else he tell you?"
"There was another guy there with you. You took the body and tried to burn it up."
"He said all that?" Petrine smirking now. "What an imagination that kid’s got."
"He also told me you hid the body somewhere. You did not have all of the body, though. You were missing a hand," The Shark suddenly coy. Always the lawyer, even besmirched in his own grime.
"Where’s the hand, Sharko?" Petrine all business again.
"Open him up," Petrine said to his colleague.
A big beefy had now grabbing The Shark’s jaws, and a pair of needle nose pliers suddenly pulling The Shark’s tongue.
Petrine traced a line down The Shark’s tongue with the blade of his knife. Suddenly The Shark’s mouth filled with blood.
"One more chance before I take a souvenir. Where’s the hand?"
"He, he, wouldn’t tell me," The Shark leaned forward and spat out a mouth-full of blood. "He wrote it down in an envelope and made me sheal it." The gathering blood in his mouth slurred some consonants. "This wassh a couple yearsh ago when he was firsht a shushpect."
"Let’s go get the envelope."
"I, I gave it away."
"I gave it to my lawyer, and told him to hold it unlessh shomething happened to me."
"Who’s got it, Sharko?"
"Reardon, Jonathan Reardon. In Belle Grande."
"Get it," Petrine snapped.
"It, it ish not sho eashy. He’sh a judge now. He’sh, he’sh in the criminal court. In Belle Grande."
Petrine eyed The Shark. Was this the truth? It sounded like it. How do you get to a judge, he wondered.
The Shark spat out more blood, and sat whimpering.
"OK, Sharko. Let’s say you’re for real. You’re off the case. Let’s just say you’re my lawyer now." Petrine nodded to his colleague.
"Think about this, Sharko. Today you are alive because I believe you. I hope it stays that way. Go get yourself cleaned up, and I want you to remember that we never had this little talk."
The Shark nodded.
"We’re gonna take a little souvenir to keep you honest, Sharko. Call it a retainer."
The Shark nodded again. When he tried to scream, the blood gathering in his throat transformed into in the gurgling or a downing man. Petrine carved out a sliver of The Shark’s tongue, and then stuffed a rag into his mouth. The Shark passed out. When he awoke, he was dumped at the side of the road and left wandering.