Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Three
Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Three
by John Kraft
“Now I know why tigers eat their young.” — Al Capone
Once the night faded away the streets were wet and the sky promised more. Terry Jarosz was at his Boss’s office at 8:30. He had slept on Gloria’s couch for a few hours using the three grand as a pillow. He dreamed that the money was his, but he knew it wasn’t and now he was at the office to turn it in and get his cut – five percent. The Boss was waiting for him.
“Did you get it all, Terry? Three grand?”
Terry nodded and emptied his pockets out onto the desk. The last two dollars was in quarters. “I got it all, Mr. Walker.”
“Good job, Terry.” He looked at the Boxer’s bandaged fists. “Jesus H. Christ, what happened to your hands? Was he hiding the money in a meat grinder?”
Terry looked at his bandages. They were feeling tight. He was swelling.
“No. He got physical with me, him and one of his boys. I’m OK. I’ll take it easy for a day or two and I’ll be OK.”
“I hope so. You look like you went twelve rounds with the Marines.”
“I’m OK, Mr. Walker. A hundred-fifty dollars?”
Walker peeled off a couple of wrinkled Fifties and the rest in Twenties and Sawbucks.
“Five percent of three thousand – a hundred-fifty dollars.” He threw in an extra Twenty. “A bonus – to cover the cost of your bandages, Terry. Take your girl out for a nice dinner.”
“OK. Thanks Mr. Walker. I’ll do that. I’ll be ready to go again in no time.”
The former Champ was urging his swollen fingers to fold his money into his wallet when the office door behind them opened. Two men, big men, walked in like they owned the place. Walker quietly opened a drawer in his desk. Terry saw his move but made like he’d paid no attention. His fingers weren’t cooperating as he fumbled with the wallet.
“Morning, Walker,” said the smaller of the two. He walked up to the desk, ignoring Terry altogether, as if he wasn’t there. The second man, a really big man, a fat man in a suit three sizes too small, stayed by the door. Nobody in. Nobody out, except through him.
“Morning, boys. I didn’t expect you until this afternoon.”
Walker may have had a “legitimate” business to the casual eye, but under the surface he gambled with some very dirty playmates. These two were there to collect on some overdue bills of their own. They worked as a team. They didn’t even try to be civil about it.
“We got business to discuss, Walker.”
“Well, can’t you see that I’m busy? Why don’t you come back later, after lunch and we can – “
“We’ll talk now. You can tell your Speed Bag here,” hooking a thumb at Terry Jarosz, “to come back later, after lunch maybe.” He finally looked at Terry. “What the hell happened to you? You try to make it with a streetcar? I need you to be someplace else, Sluggo. Now.”
Terry pushed his wallet into his pants pocket. “Thanks, Mr. Walker. I’ll be ready to go real soon, OK?” He paid no attention to the man standing a foot away from him. Walker gave a small nod and Terry headed for the door. The man who looked like an overcooked bratwurst blocked his way. Terry looked him square in the eye.
“Y’know, you might tell your Boss there to pay you better so you can buy some clothes that fit. You look silly dressed like this. Or go on a diet, I don’t care, but fat ain’t muscle.”
He stopped talking and just stared at the man who wasn’t used to being spoken to like that – not since grade school anyway. After a second or two to take in what he’d heard the big man stepped aside. Terry smiled. His jaw hurt. The Bratwurst whispered as Terry started through the door. “It ain’t easy finding clothes in my size.” Terry leaned closer to him.
“Over on Fourteenth Avenue. A place called ‘Jorrey’s.’ He can fix you up right. You’ll look good. Tell him Terry Jarosz sent you.” They traded quick nods and Terry felt the door close behind him. Nothing personal.
Instead of going straight back to Gloria’s he sat down at the empty Receptionist’s desk. He waited to see if he might be needed. Things smelled like they could get ugly.
The two Collectors were a step or three up the ladder from Walker. They were a presence from a group of men, Old Country men, who smiled a lot, but had no patience, none at all. Walker owed them money and that was that.
In the umbrella caddy behind the Receptionist’s desk was a Louisville Slugger, an attitude adjuster that worked every time. Terry took and laid it on the desk. His fists wouldn’t be too effective right now, but thirty-four inches of varnished Ash would.
The noise from the other side of the door went up and down. Somebody, not Walker, was making only some of it. The other man was yelling something about money – the usual. You got it – I want it. As long as they were just yelling there was no need to interfere. He knew that his Boss had a sawed off boot-blaster in that open desk drawer. One look at that puppy ended most arguments fast.
There was a loud crash from inside the office. It sounded like a wooden chair being busted up. The fat guy must have been trying to look scary. Good luck with that. Terry grinned looking around the room at six other chairs the same as the one that just got busted up.
More yelling. Walker giving it back now. Two voices again, then silence. Silence is not a good sign in an argument. Terry looked at the door wishing it was a window. One voice – Walker. Silence again, then two again, on top of each other. Without warning there was the crack of a small caliber pistol smothered by the bark of the dog-leg, up and out of the desk drawer.
Terry jumped up, holding the bat and headed for the door. The knob was already turning. He stepped up and as the door opened he could see it was the fat man looking like he’d seen a ghost or two. He might have seen some ghosts, but he didn’t see Terry or the bat as it slammed into his jowly face. Blood and teeth. He fell back into the office followed by Terry ready to swing again despite the pain in his hands. The fat guy bounced as he hit the floor. He wasn’t getting up.
The fat man’s Boss was on the floor too with a large red mess where his face used to be. “They’re gonna need to ID him with fingerprints,” thought Terry as he shifted his focus to the desk and his Boss who was clutching his shoulder.
“Mr. Walker? You’re bleeding.”