My lifelong friend Mark was patiently awaiting my arrival at the coffee shop across the street from my apartment. As I left my home for what was possibly the last time; I wished I could’ve gone back up to them, waved a magic wand, and made this all go away. I thought I would ask Mark to go up and speak to them but it was out of the question. After all, who was he to them? Not family. To me he was someone I could bounce problems off of and receive reasonable, as well as sound advice. I wasn’t a patient person. I would go headstrong into most situations, disregarding the steps leading to a positive outcome, letting the chips fall where they may. Occasionally, my actions would result in failure; like this morning and other times they would yield a positive result. Nevertheless, I lived this way my entire life and I wasn’t about to change, even though I feared it would all end soon.
“Took you long enough” Mark stated as he stepped outside of the shop with a cup of coffee in hand. I wasn’t hungry and informed him that I needed him to take a ride with me. We continued back to the parking garage under my building to get my car.
“Sorry, I was busy,” I replied as I was shaking slightly from just happened.
“Ok,” he answered as he entered on the passenger side of my BMW M3 realizing I was in the mood to drive today. Ever since I purchased this car, he hadn’t driven it when we were together. I loved this car so much. I had a Benz before this, which I liked as well, but there was something about this car that made me feel connected to it. It was a strange feeling to explain; boys with toys stuff I guess.
I sped out of the garage, gave a wave to Steve, the parking attendant, and surveyed the area still wary if Peter and his crew were still nearby. I should have been more alert when I first entered the garage, but I was depressed about my family; or soon to be ex-family. There wasn’t a soul in sight that resembled a threat, even though we were on the streets of Manhattan. Traffic was heavy for mid-morning, as the streets were flooded with cabs, delivery trucks and other commuters. The sidewalks, filled with people on their way to work or wherever they were going.
“You seem edgy,” said Mark. “Is everything alright?”
“No, everything is fubar,” I answered pulling up to the traffic light, admiring a blonde passing by in a short, leather skirt who looked like she was still in high school.
“Yeah. Fucked up beyond all recognition!”
“Oh, ok I got it. So you want to tell me about it or keep staring at that blonde whose obviously too young for you while the light is green?”
We shared a laugh as I hit the gas leaving behind another girl I would never sleep with.
“Well, one of my clients and his cronies broke into my place today, held us at gunpoint and gave me a Sophie’s Choice type scenario to play out for their amusement. In the end, I nearly killed Brian, lost my family and lost the stash in Lincoln.”
Mark swished his tongue around his mouth, forcing his face to bubble out. He closed his eyes, juggled his head for moment, which he always did before he gave an answer during a serious situation. He was usually unflappable, never having a kneejerk reaction to something said or thrown his way. However this was different as he displayed his thought process without communicating through his body language.
“I’m sorry. I knew that sooner or later the bubble would burst on this.”
“Yeah well it has… and I have to tie up some loose ends before I head to Tampa.”
“Well only you, me and Greg know of about Tampa right?”
I turned away, which presented my answer without saying it. He let out a disappointing sigh, as he shook his head in obvious disgust. “Who else knows Jeff?”
“I took Stacey there a few times and Sal knows too.”
“Well before we leave, I think you should call Greg to see if everything is ok. We should go straight down there but I know you’re going to pay a visit to Stacey and Sal and see what they know. I wish you would’ve taken my advice and not been so careless. That’s a lot of money and now you’re down.”
As I pulled the Beemer around the corner having to stop for another traffic light, I couldn’t help feeling that this whole affair could’ve been avoided if I, as Mark said; had not been careless. Now my family was gone, some of my money and if the other stash has been compromised, some pretty shady characters would be hunting me down like deer in season. I glanced over at Mark. He was everything I wanted to be. We were both the same age, but he appeared younger. His brown hair was cut perfectly compared to mine, which was thinning, with a poor excuse for a comb-over. He was in good shape, his muscular-frame filled out his clothes, as I had to struggle to fit into my 42 long suits every day. Even his voice exuded confidence to my almost nasally sounding tone that I detested. It was so bad that I had other people record my phone messages since I sounded even worse on tape.
“So who should we see first?” I asked comparing my faults to his assets.
“I think Stacey would be a wise choice. After that, we can go find Sally boy. I’m sure we’ll find him gambling as usual.”
Mark had always been suspicious of Sal. Since day one, he said there was something about that guy that rubbed him the wrong way. Sal annoyed him enough that Mark chose not to be around when Sal was present. I always wanted them to be friends, but I kept a buffer between them to avoid any fireworks.
“Hey I just remembered. I was told that Scott had a part in this as well.”
“Yeah. Supposedly he had a setup in Frisco and from what I gathered; he tried the same scam on Peter and his friends. Apparently he told them I was about to run off with the money; so that’s why they confronted me this morning. Not only did they assault me and my family, but they got to Steel as well. The whole stash is gone.”
“I know, you told me that part. But what confuses me is Irving and the connection to Nebraska,” he said rubbing his chin, squinting his eyes, deep in thought. “There is no connection. He knew nothing about the nursing home or the day care center down south. That’s why I don’t believe he was in on this alone. I think someone else helped him. You said the only people who knew of the stash were Stacey and Sal?”
“And Irving knew nothing about the hiding spots?
“So I think you have your answer.”
“Yeah, unfortunately I do.”
The guy behind me laid on his horn as I realized the light had turned green. I put my hand up in an apologetic wave, continued through the intersection and headed towards Stacey’s place; plotting my next move. The car behind me, a mid-sized Nissan pulled up alongside of us at the next light. The man inside couldn’t have been more than thirty and was shouting obsenities at me as I continued my chat with Mark. I rolled down the window as he was still yelling.
“Why don’t you shut up or me and my buddy will come over there and kick your ass,” I shouted back as he gave me an odd look and pulled away calling me fucking-wacko or something to that accord.
“What an asshole,” I said as I slowly drove down the road, hoping not to catch up to the belligerent driver. The last thing I needed today was a fight.
“Yeah. You should be glad he didn’t want to fight,” Mark said.
“What good would I be?
I wondered why he said that. He would’ve been able to handle that guy with ease. Maybe he wasn’t in the mood to fight today? Come to think of it, in all the years I’d known him, I couldn’t recall Mark ever speaking of or being involved in a fight.
“Have you ever been in a fight?” I asked.
He tilted his head, shaking it side to side and gave me look conveying his answer.
That was all I needed to see.