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No Place Like Home
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Art by Kevin Duncan © 2020





Gary Lovisi





           I couldn't get the thought of all that cash out of my head.  Not for a moment. It had to be more money than I'd ever see in a whole life of driving a stinking lousy cab.

           I drive for Able Taxi, around the city, out to the 'burbs and airports, into the ghetto to get rich white kids their drug toys.  I usually make $27,000 a year with the tips. Not bad really, but I wanted more. If I worked until I dropped dead I'd never make as much money as I thought I was going to make on the deal Fuentes was bragging to me about that day in the cab.

          He said it was big money. I believed him. I knew he was some kind of mobbed-up guy, kissed the butts of the Italians that ran Red Hook. I saw it as a wild, one-time score that would set me up pretty for the rest of my life. Hell, man, I was pushing 40 hard, a chance like this  wouldn't come along again. So I'd do the sure-fire smart thing -- I'd knock off Fuentes and take the upfront money for myself.

          "I've got a big deal going," Fuentes told me yesterday. "I hear you work cheap and ask no questions. That's good. I gotta make a delivery.  I've got some heavy cash and I'm supposed to bring it to the back room of the Hermoso Bodega on 5th Street. You drive me there tomorrow. Just you and me. You park your cab outside the place, then take a walk with me inside."

          I said, "Sure, whatever you want. What's my cut?"

          "Oh, say $1,000. Cash. Not bad for an hour's work."

          "Sure, man, not bad at all." I was drooling.

          "Then you pick me up at 10 A.M. tomorrow morning, sharp."

          "Sure, Fuentes. I'll be there."


          You can bet your ass the next day I was there. Ten minutes early.  Fuentes was there early himself, so he liked that.  He got in the back seat of the cab. I sped off to 5th Street.

          The city was quiet that time of day. The streets looking deserted in the mid-morning chill. It was a frigid March day, unusually cold considering the recent mild weather, so it kept the people off the street. That was fine by me.

          I saw the small briefcase Fuentes carried, resting so delicately upon his knees where he was sitting in the back seat of the cab. He looked nervous. Sure, with that much cash anyone would be nervous, I thought.  That briefcase had to be filled with big money. Maybe all twenties. Maybe all hundreds!

          Soon all that money would be mine.

          There was an alley back of 6th Street tailor-made for the job I had in mind. I'd drive down 5th Street, making it look like everything was going according to plan. Drive right up to the bodega. Then I'd turn around and slug Fuentes when he least expected it, then keep right on  going into the alley back of 6th  Street.  I'd take the briefcase full of money and drop Fuentes back there with a welt on his head that he'd never forget.  And that would be the end of that. By late afternoon I'd be on a nice beach in Bermuda with the best babe I could find and no worries.

          I drove past 4th Street. The city was quiet. No one on the street but there was a lot of traffic. The bodega was on the next block, but when I stopped at a red light on 4th Street Fuentes got my attention -- by pulling out a damn gun.

          "Keep the brake on, amigo. This is where I get out. You stay here and don't move." Then Fuentes was out of my cab like a flash, running through the traffic, down one of the side streets to be lost in the city.

          It had all been so unexpected I hardly knew what to do. I watched him go, astounded by his action. None of it made any sense to me then.  He couldn't have known I was going to mug him.  His actions really didn't indicate that, they indicated something however, but I just wasn't sure what it all meant.

          Then I noticed he'd left the attaché case. My eyes riveted to the back seat where the case sat so innocuously. Not like Fuentes to leave behind a briefcase full of money -- no matter how much in a hurry or frantic he was -- unless the suitcase wasn't full of money at all!

          My mind screamed, "Set-up!"

          I flew out of the cab, rolling across the curb, managing to get under a nearby parked car just as my cab blew up in the biggest damn explosion I'd seen since a Nam napalming twenty years before.


          When the smoke cleared and the screams of the local people quieted down I saw what was left of my cab. It wasn't much, just a mass of melted metal, while glass on every store on the block littered the street. My head rang like one of those giant Chinese gongs -- but as far as I could tell I was still in one piece and I didn't see any blood.

          I was alive and that's what was important to me then. Once I was assured of that basic fact my mind later focused on other items of interest.  Like, where was the money? Where was Fuentes? Why the double-cross?

          When you're planning to do someone dirty you never figure he'll do you dirty first, but it seems that's exactly what happened to me. It sure messed up my plans.

          Fuentes had disappeared into the muck of the city. No one I asked knew anything.  I had a few contacts, but I guess Fuentes had better ones. It seemed to me he had gone deep and wasn't moving.

          At first I was just happy to be alive after what I'd been through.  Then it began to get to me. The thing was, I felt like I was supposed to have died in that explosion. Like it was actually meant for me. I just couldn't figure out why.

          I took a drastic reevaluation of my life up to that point. Enemies.  People I'd offended.  Jealous or envious types. Not many of these. It just didn't jibe. I've always kept to myself since I came back from 'Nam. I've never been in jail, never arrested, never caused any trouble. Had an amicable divorce years  ago,  no  money owed the sharks, and didn't use drugs. I was a 39 year old working drudge, honest (relatively) and clean, you could tell because I was such a damn failure. I even paid my taxes.

          Then why the set-up?

          I began to do my own investigating when the cops couldn't get me any action. What did I really know about Emileo Fuentes? He was an up and coming hood, into loan-sharking and gambling, dabbling in drugs and women. Just a guy out to make a buck -- any way that he could. The word said he was moving up.

          I asked around. I didn't get much. Nothing concrete. No one seemed to know anything, they were shut as tight as a clam at a fish fry. There were a couple of Puerto Rican guys I knew down in Sunset Park. I went over to see them. One didn't know a thing. Told me to move on out. Right away. I moved.

          The other guy was a small-time gangster named Pedro. He'd been an old time buddy. He said he knew all about it.

          "Okay man, come on, spill it."

          "You're not going to like it, amigo. I heard it from a very reliable source, a woman I'm doing." He laughed, a smile crossing his handsome face as he remembered his latest trophy. "It's Fuentes' wife, my man! Seems she'd be a good source, don't you think?  She gets lonely for a real man. So we get together sometimes. Usually when Fuentes isn't around. Sometimes when he is. She is a very nice lady. Very tasty."

          "What'd she say?"

          Pedro shook his head, took a deep breath, "You're right, amigo, it was a set-up."

          "But why? I've never done anything to Fuentes. Why does he have it in for me?"

          "That's the thing, it's not what you think."

          "Then what the hell is it, Pedro!"

          "Easy, amigo. This is the story I heard from Rosa. See, Fuentes is a small player, but he's been climbing the ladder to success lately.  He wants to be one of the big boys real bad, have a lot of fancy cars and hot young putas. Maybe he's been seeing too many gangster movies. He's on his way up but the spaghetti benders are in his way. They run things here and in Red Hook and extract a price for what's called 'upward Mobility.'"

          "Get to the point, Pedro."

          "So, amigo, you were the price. Or part of it. See, Rosa told me about this hit Fuentes has to do for his guinea bosses. A dangerous job. It's against a made man. So it's not 'legal' and has to be done just right. Fuentes is the only one to do it. It involves a big cash payoff. Fuentes is scared shit but has to go through with it. The plan is for him to meet with this big capo. They'll drive up to a corner in a limo somewhere in Brooklyn, Fuentes gets in and gives the capo an attaché case that's supposed to be filled with money. Then Fuentes jumps out of the limo and B-O-O-M! No more capo. Get it? It seems that you were the training, amigo. You're no one. A cabby without a family.  Fuentes just wanted to see if he could perform the contract according to specifications.  So he had to practice. You were the practice.  The dry run.  You screwed it all up though.  You weren't supposed to have lived through it. Fuentes knows you're after him. He's in hiding for now, scared, but he's still got the contract on that capo, so he'll have to come out pretty soon."

          I didn't know what to say.  All kinds of emotions were boiling over inside me, anger uppermost of all. Then that drifted off into a kind of numb apathy. Fuentes was right, I was a nobody. No friends. No family. No contributor to society at all. Nothing! I wouldn't be missed. No one even knew I was there! The reality sobered my thoughts. I didn't know what to do anymore. I couldn't even think about it.

          Then the door burst open and two of the biggest guys I'd ever seen rushed in, guns leveled into our faces before we knew what was happening.

          They pushed me to the floor and told me not to move. I didn't. My lips kissed the floor, I shivered. Then they started to rough up Pedro. It was obvious he was the one they were after.   I figured Pedro had sold them some bad dope or something.  It got intense. Pedro cursed them in super-quick Spanish.  The goons roughed him up more. Harder. I saw drops of blood hit the floor around me. Land on my arms and face. It was warm and wet.  I couldn't bring myself to look up at what was happening.

          Then I heard another voice. Rough but commanding. It was Fuentes!  I kept my face to the floor so he wouldn't see who I was, so far he hadn't noticed or cared who I was. He had more personal matters to attend to at the moment.

          I guess the news about Pedro fooling around with Rosa finally got to Fuentes. People just love to talk and Pedro had a dick for brains when it came to women. And the one thing everyone  without money talks about is sex and who's doing who. That talk gets around. It must have got around to Fuentes too.

          I heard them mention me, the gringo. They glanced my way. Fuentes never guessed it was me. I made sure my face was hidden from them as I shook for dear life. One of the goons saw this and laughed.  Fuentes said it would be a shame to kill such a fine coward. I just couldn't stop shaking.

          Fuentes left the apartment, his two goons dragging the unconscious body of Pedro between them. I knew Pedro was going for a one-way, I'd never see him again.

          They were gone almost as quickly as they had appeared and left me on the floor alone sweating rivers. I counted my lucky star that Fuentes hadn't recognized me. I guess I looked like just another gringo buying drugs from Pedro. I'm sure he never would have guessed the guy looking for him knew Pedro, was in fact, in his rooms at the exact time he went after Pedro.

          Neither could I.

          I can be a gutless wonder when I'm scared, but when someone tries to kill me -- and for no real reason -- it's amazing how that will stiffen even my backbone. I wanted revenge. I wanted to kick Fuentes' ass. Who the hell did he think he was anyway?

          I knew Fuentes had to move on the capo soon. I figured to follow him and make my move when the time was right.

          It didn't take long.  The days moved fast, the time shooting by. I followed Fuentes. Stayed clear of his two goons. Watched and waited.

          By the third day I could feel the time drawing near. Early that morning Fuentes left his house.  He was alone. Not the usual routine, and he carried a small attaché case tightly in his hand.  He looked at it constantly. Carefully. I knew this was it.

          Fuentes took a cab to Foster and 11th Street. I followed in an old beat-up hack I borrowed from a friend who used to drive nights, but was shot two weeks ago in the Bronx.

          Fuentes looked nervous. Or maybe it was just my imagination and I was the nervous one. The cab let him off at the corner of 11th Street. He walked to the corner of 12th Street. A big black limo waited there. The driver, decked out in a shark-skin suit, and showing a noticeable bulge under the armpit, opened the door for Fuentes to enter the back of the limo.

          Fuentes put one foot down on the velvet carpet. Hunkered down and slowly moved forward. I watched him move in. Saw him say hello to the capo, who was sitting there like a big Italian Buddha at the opposite end of the seat. They shook hands. Fuentes sweated.  I could see it running down his face through the sights of the scope.

          I pulled the trigger fast.


          Fuentes ate two in the back of the head near the stub of the neck.

          The spray drenched the capo in blood and gray matter. He shouted in panic, tried to move Fuentes body off of him, tried to get out of the limo but then thought better of it.

          The driver bodyguard was taken by surprise but responded quickly drawing his piece, guarding the car, looking for me but unable to pick me out. The capo yelled for him to get Fuentes out of the car and get the hell out of there. The bodyguard helped him dump the Puerto Rican in the gutter. Then the capo saw the attaché case.

          The bodyguard handed the attaché case to his boss, closed the door of the limo and ran to the driver side of the big car. He jumped in and gunned the car out into the traffic.

          I watched them drive away. They'd gone about five blocks when the capo's curiosity got the better of him.

          The explosion blew the doors and sunroof right off the limo.  It mulched the capo and the bodyguard into a hundred red beefy pieces.

          I watched the EMS workers gather Fuentes out of the gutter and place him onto a gurney, then roll him into the back of a truck.  The head guy gave the thumbs down sign over the body. The EMS workers put down their equipment and lit up cigarettes. That's all I wanted to see.  Maybe I lost all that upfront money, maybe it never was there to begin with, but Fuentes lost a whole lot more. He's one bastard who won't be messing with me again.

          See, I didn't mess up on my dry run. I don't need practice.




Copyright 1991 & 2020 by Gary Lovisi. All Rights Reserved.

Dry Run" originally appeared in the UK in New Crimes #3, edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Robinson Books, hc, 1991.


Gary Lovisi also has a YouTube book collectors channel, which is under his own name in the search. This channel has over 100 videos on rare and collectable paperbacks and other books.

GARY LOVISI BIBLIOGRAPHY:  (Recent and partial):

 Sherlock Holmes:

 The Secret Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Series:






HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. HOLMES (Gryphon Books, 2016)




THE GREAT DETECTIVE: HIS FURTHER ADVENTURES, edited anthology (Wildside Press, 2012)




SOUVENIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (Gryphon Books, 2002, non-fiction, new edition forthcoming)


SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE GREAT DETECTIVE IN PAPERBACK & PASTICHE (Gryphon Books, 2008, large-size, spiral bound)



BATTLING BOXING STORIES, edited anthology, (Wildside Press, 2012)


 MURDER OF A BOOKMAN (Wildside Press, 2011)


DRIVING HELL'S HIGHWAY (Wildside Press, 2011)

THE LAST GOODBYE (Bold Venture, 2015)





DIRTY DOGS (Gryphon Books)



BLOOD IN BROOKLYN (Do Not Press, UK only, 1999)

 Science Fiction / Fantasy & Horror:

 GARGOYLE NIGHTS (Wildside Press, 2011)

MARS NEEDS BOOKS (Wildside Press, 2011)

WHEN THE DEAD WALK (Ramble House, 2014)

SARASHA (Gryphon Books, 1997)

 The Jon Kirk of Ares Series: (Wildside Press)

 #1 THE WINGED MEN, 2014



#3 THE SPACE MEN, 2015

#4 THE MIND MASTERS (forthcoming, 2017)

#5 THE TIME MASTERS (forthcoming, 2017)

 Other Fiction:



THE SEXY DIGESTS (Gryphon Books, 2001, large-size)

THE PULP CRIME DIGESTS (Gryphon Books, 2004, large-size)


DAMES, DOLLS & DELINQUENTS (Krauss Books, large-size trade paperback)

BAD GIRLS NEED LOVE TOO (Krauss Books, hardcover, 2010)

MODERN HISTORICAL ADVENTURE NOVELS (Gryphon Books, 2006, large-size, spiral bound)

THE SWEDISH VINTAGE PAPERBACK GUIDE (Gryphon Books, 2003, large-size).

Kevin D. Duncan was born 1958 in Alton, Illinois where he still resides. He has degrees in Political Science, Classics, and Art & Design. He has been freelancing illustration and cartoons for over 25 years. He has done editorial cartoons and editorial illustration for local and regional newspapers, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. His award-winning work has appeared in numerous small press zines, e-zines, and he has illustrated a few books. 

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