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By Stephen L. Wilson
All events and characters portrayed in this book are fictitious, and any similarities to real people, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Copyright © 2012 Stephen L. Wilson
All rights reserved No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the express, written consent of the author. Self-published by Stephen L. Wilson, Eugene, Oregon U.S.A.
Even at the age of eleven Raymond Richardson knew he had talent. He knew how to execute the bottom card deal perfectly. He could outrun everyone at school. When pressured by bullies, he had once broken one boy’s nose at school, receiving in return nothing other than a bruised knuckle and a letter to his parents. Of course, Raymond’s parents never received that letter. They had been dead for several years. It was Ray’s uncle Eddy who had been the boy’s guardian since he was four years old. Eddy quickly noticed that Raymond was advanced for his age, in certain ways. Eddy saw that Raymond had more in common with older children, rather than his peers. Even at a tender age, Ray seemed to lead rather than be led, unlike other boys from that side of town. Eddy gave Raymond all of the guidance he could, but, being only twenty-two, he was apt to lead his own life and leave little Raymond with more free time than most little kids. This proved to be the best education for Raymond. At age twelve, while most pre-teens were concerned about pimples, homework and fads, Raymond was concerned about whether or not his girlfriend (who was fourteen) was on the pill. Raymond had more going for him than just physical talent. His grades deceived any perception of his intellect. He barely slid by, making C’s if he was lucky, and yet, the local grocers knew him on sight as ‘Slick’. Not only could he walk out of any store with whatever he pleased without paying, he also knew how to make change for a twenty and walk out with forty. At fourteen, he moved away from his Uncle and into an apartment with a buddy and his dad. Raymond’s rent was paid for mostly by the odd
jobs he had drummed up around the neighborhood. The better part of his work consisted of cleaning parking lots and mowing lawns, and sometimes cleaning shop windows. He also made a considerable amount of pocket change by way of gambling. He was a great card player, due, of course, to the fact that he knew dozens of ways to incorporate sleight-of – hand into his game. He also knew the odds on just about any current sporting event as well as the spreads. It was this knack for taking risks that put Raymond in touch with Carlo Vannucci at age seventeen.
“You’re lucky again tonight, Ray. I don’t know how you do it. You’re takin’ us to the cleaners again!” “I seem to recall you makin’ a decent profit last week, Tony.” “Yeah, and the week before was Curtis, the week before that was Victor. It’ so nice of you to let us take turns at second place.” “Well, Tony, I’ve never heard you compliment my card skills with such a proficient amount of jealousy before. I would be much more content, however, if you wouldn’t imply that I was a cheat.” “There you go again with the big words and the psychological bullshit. I wasn’t sayin’ you were cheatin’, just so fucking lucky, that’s all.” “Hey Tony! Shut up and deal!” “Piss off, Victor! You’re just hacked off ‘cause you’re losin’.” “O.K. Since I’m losin’ so damned bad, why aren’t you dealin’ yet, huh? It don’t take a damned brain surgeon to deal and bitch at the same time.” Raymond played for the next hour without added advantage, and still came out forty-seven dollars ahead.
“What the hell is wrong with you people? You’ve been doing a decent job for the last fourteen years and all of a sudden a few piece of shit little gooks are in your way, huh?” “Mr. Vannucci…” “Shut your mouth, asswipe! What the hell is wrong with you? Huh? I hope to Christ you’re not getting spineless! You two asswipes get the hell out of here. I want to talk to Marco alone.” Andre Carmetti and Jesus DeLorenza left the room immediately without a word. Instantly Carlo Vannucci’s mood shifted drastically. “Marco. Please sit.” Marco Valentino, used to the scene, responded with a casual ease as he sat in the high-backed chair across from the boss’ desk. He’d sat here twice before. His confidence was evident as he pulled a cigarette from the gold case in his breast pocket, lit it with his gold Zippo, and inhaled deeply. “Marco, what’s the problem in Chinatown?” Carlo Vannucci’s tall, muscular frame had been transformed from a tense, electrified torrent of boiling energy to a calm, serene, almost fatherly presence in a matter of seconds. “Mr. Vannucci, we’re having problems with Nga Huang.” “Marco, Huang has been cooperative with me for the better part of twenty years. I find it hard to believe that he would turn against me now.” His voice was collected, revealing no evidence of suspicion. His eyes, however, regarded Marco as if he were a child trying to stammer his way out of a lie. Marco misread this as arrogance.
“Mr. Vannucci, Huang has been raking our shipments for some time, now.” “Two years.” Carlo was studying Marco’s face. He sensed, rather than heard, a split-second hesitation. “You are correct, Mr. Vannucci. I know how he is doing it, and it will be a matter of weeks now before Mr. Huang will no longer be a concern.” “Marco, if you are doing as you say, then Mr. Huang is already no longer a concern to me.” Marco didn’t realize he was tense until he felt his body relax. For a brief instant, this played at his mind. “Marco, look outside and tell me what you see.” From Carlo’ penthouse, you could see for miles. From his vantage point at the desk, however, Marco could only see the sky. “Clouds, Mr. Vannucci.” Carlo’ grin softened the hard crevasses of his chiseled face. “Come outside, Marco. I want to show you what God has blessed me with.” Marco was now fully at ease. He was used to the boss’s mood swings and was in no way reluctant to step outside with the man who, not more than ten minutes ago, had seemed ready to snap him in two. “Marco, look around.” Doing as told, he was amazed to see the ocean. Actually, it was only a blue band in the distance, but detecting its presence so far away was more than amazing. It was priceless. Marco wondered how many people had witnessed this view other than himself and the boss. “You’re right, Mr. Vannucci. God is smiling on us.”
Carlo seemed amused at this statement. “You see now why I am not concerned with Mr. Huang? But you were wrong, Marco, when you said God was smiling on us.” He put a comforting arm around Marcos’ shoulders. He had never done this, to Marcos’ recollection, to any man. Marcos’ mind raced with caution. “What do you mean, Mr. Vannucci?” “You see, Marco, God smiles on men like me, but he shits on traitors.” As his body flew forward, Marcos’ mind flared with panic, but it was too late. Carlo Vannucci wondered as to whether or not a man’s heart would give out after a second or so, or if he would shit his pants and think about the fall for the entire four hundred feet. Carlo grinned as he thought of the latter. It seemed, he mused, a much more fitting end for a piece of shit like Marco.
The next morning, Marco’s dramatic fatal plunge was noted as a suicide on the third page of the Houston Chronicle. The front page headline story, though, was of the gangland style murder of the prominent international business man, Nga Huang.
Raymond had been working on the fringe for about four months now. Ray would collect bets from some of the local shop owners and run them down to Charlie, the local bookie. Charlie would then pay Ray a flat rate for every delivery. There was always a foreboding shadow cast over these dealings. Ray understood from the beginning that if his honesty was
ever in question, it would mean involvement with people who were skilled in the bone-breaking business. Charlie was decent enough, and fair in his pay, but Ray had witnessed the flash of irritated contempt cross Charlie’s face on a few occasions. Behind that look was the impatience of a child who had no concern for the safety of anyone but himself. Ray learned to keep Charlie happy, and at an arm’s length, as well. It was through his weekly visits to Charlie Winslow, the local bookie, that he met Sammy Slater. After awhile, Charlie developed an admiration for Ray, and put him in contact with Sammy. Sammy Slater was in the business of fixing races. He made sure that Carlo Vannucci knew well ahead of time which horse was going to win which race. He also made some cash on the side by tipping off valued customers from time to time. Charlie had been sending customers his way for quite awhile, and Sammy soon became used to distinguished people stopping by and using Charlie as a reference. He was perplexed, however, at the thought of Charlie sending a young boy his way. When Sammy saw Ray come through his door, he assumed what he always did when a young man walked into his auto body shop. Obviously the kid wanted a job. “I’m not hiring.” Ray glanced around as if just realizing he was the only person in the shop. “You talkin’ to me?” Sammy’s head snapped up from the pin striping he was applying to an older model pickup. “Whaddaya think? I don’t have a goddamned turd in my pocket. You’re wasting my time. I said I’m not hiring, so leave!”
Ray cocked his head to one side and flashed his soon-to-beinfamous, half-crooked grin. “Pardon my abrupt intrusion, Sam, but my indifference to your reference regarding feces in your dungarees is irrelevant to anything I may query to concerning any employment opportunities. And besides, I don’t care whether you’re hiring or not.” Ray’s grin faded, his look leveled on Sammy. That look meant business, and Sammy knew it. Sammy didn’t know quite how to react. Apart from the last sentence, he didn’t understand three words the kid had said. He did know that it was meant sarcastically, and he knew for a fact that he wasn’t going to take any crap from a snot-nose. “All right, you little asshole! I’m not gonna waste time on small talk. You’ve got three seconds to leave, or you’ll be usin’ those big words on the business end of my boot!” “Have it your way, Sam.” “My name ain’t Sam, it’s Sammy.” A confused look crossed his face. “How do you know my name, anyway?” “Charlie sent me.” Sammy found this hard to swallow. Why would Charlie send a smart-ass kid like this over to him? He was used to dealing with classier people. “Charlie who?” “Don’t be so fucking ignorant. Call him up, if you want, but don’t try playing stupid with me, Sam.” Anger flashed in Sammy’s eyes, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to take on this kid. Sammy outweighed the kid by about forty pounds and had fought a round or two in his day, to be sure. The reality was that his
weight was due mainly to well-marbled beef and ‘his day’ was about ten years ago. Besides, the kid was obviously sharp, and if he had an ounce of aggression to back up his ballsiness, the kid might just get the best of him. Sammy figured his best bet would be to go ahead and call Charlie to find out what was going on. “You just sit your ass tight, kid. And if you have any clue that Charlie won’t know what’s going on, you’d better not be here when I come back out.” Ray grinned and nodded at Sammy. He knew this lump o’ shit couldn’t kick his ass if he tried. Sammy glared again and stormed into his office. About ten minutes after the door had slammed, Sammy came back out looking a great deal more composed than when he entered. “O.K., kid, so Charlie’s heard of ya, which means you came in for a tip. I don’t know if Charlie mentioned this, but I have a finder’s fee, if you know what I mean.” “Charlie didn’t say a word, Sammy. If I were the type of guy a person had to spell things out to, Charlie wouldn’t have sent me. What’s your charge?” Sammy, pleased at hearing his name spoken correctly, softened a bit. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. It’s fifty a race. That doesn’t drop ‘til I get to know you.” Ray slapped a Franklin down on the hood of the old pickup. “I’ll take two races this week.” Sammy was surprised that the kid even had a hundred. Hell, he figured fifty would be too rich for the kid’s taste. He grabbed the bill and strolled into his office. After looking in his race book, he came back out with two races written on a piece of paper.
“Look, kid. In order to keep my ass covered, I can’t have you cleaning house all in one day. It is policy, if you know what I mean. I have you down for a sure bet this week, and one more in a couple of weeks. Say, what is your name, anyway?” “Thanks Sammy. Name’s Ray Richardson. Spread it around.” Ray casually slipped the paper into his pocket and sauntered out into the afternoon sun.
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><> Stephen L. Wilson is an Indie author and publisher who lives in beautiful Eugene, Oregon. Wilson has published and edited several of his own eBooks, and many for others as well. If you haven’t already, you can find Stephen L. Wilson and his works available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Lulu and Smashwords. Thank you!
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