Yellow Mama Archives II

David Calogero Centorbi

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I’m Not a Lawyer

by David Calogero Centorbi

 

So, in this business doing a job pro bono would seem like revenge, and I don’t do revenge. I had to get paid, somehow, is what I tried to explain to Reggie.

“What about dinner every Friday for a year,” was his solution.

“I come in on Mondays and Wednesdays too, you’re the only Haitian restaurant around here,” I said, trying to up the price.

He laughed a bit. “Well, you do, but sometimes it’s only you and a few regulars. At least Friday I can cover…” I looked at him with a grin that said, how bad do you want him dead. “Ok, ok, yes. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.”

“I tell you what, depending on how hard the job is, maybe I’ll just make it Fridays.  Besides, Togo has to be 80. I might just push him down some stairs, that would probably kill him, right?”

“No… that would be too easy. I want him to suffer. I will tell you how I want it done.”

“Oh…well.” I tried to form a sentence, but the surprise shut me up.

After Reggie finished his torture laundry list I said, ‘Listen, I know what he did to your family, but I have to do it my way. The client doesn’t get to choose. You know that.”

He looked at me. There was less fire in his eyes. His face muscles relaxed.

“Ok.” And he put his head down, but then his request shot it back up again. “A finger. I want his trigger finger. On his right hand. The hand he used to shoot…” 

“Gotcha,” I said, trying to keep it light.  

“And I want him to be alive when you take it.”  He smiled and shook his head, yes, waiting for me to agree.

 

 I would have expected more security in this place, but a Cable Tech outfit and a picked lock, and I was in the house when Togo came home: a quick goodnight injection into his neck, and there he sat in a chair I brought from upstairs down to the basement. His hands and ankles were duct-taped to it, a piece was over his mouth.

His hair and beard were gray now. His black skin was lighter after being off his Haitian King of The Thugs throne for so long. 

“So, here we are,” I said. He tried to talk through the duct tape but it was just a string of “Mmm, mmmm” sounds. “Hold on,” I tore the tape off, along with a mess of gray whiskers.

“Bastard you,” Togo yelled

“Yes, I am.”

“Why are you here? Why are you doing this?”

“You have to ask.  I should have done this years ago.”

“You have no power. I am protected.”

I looked around. “Really? Your boys are long gone. It’s just me and you, and a request from a good friend that I make you dead.”

“Fuck your friend.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. All that shit coming out of this gray-haired old man, some poor kid’s psychotic grandfather. 

“Why so funny?”

“It isn’t. Never was. But your chickens have come home to roost.” 

“My chickens you can’t touch.  I am protected.”

“Yeah, you keep saying that.” And I figured I would make this more interesting. I wanted to get this over, so I pulled out my GI-issued Bowie knife. Togo stiffened in the chair, his eyes widened reacting to the blade. “Listen, I’m not going to play games, but I have a job to do and the first part starts with your trigger finger,” and I walked toward him.

“Stop. You cannot do this. You have no right. I am protected.”

Usually, the mark tries to stop me with money: hey, I can pay you more than blah, blah, blah.  I knew Togo had money, somewhere, but he wasn’t offering.  So I took a step back and sheathed my knife. I had to know.  “Ok, killer, who’s protecting you?”

He laughed. “Now you listen. Now you believe.”

“I’m waiting.”

He leaned his head and chest forward like he wanted to whisper. “Your old boss, C..I..A.”

I took a deep breath. That explained the attitude and no money offer. And deep down I wasn’t surprised. How would I explain this to Reggie is what I kept asking myself as Togo sat there with that familiar, reprieved grin that so many psychos like him had when they knew a higher power had their back.

“Ok. Well…”

“Ok. Well, now you fuck off.”

“Well,” I continued, and walked toward him as I unsheathed my Bowie knife, “What I was going to say is, I’m sure no one would mind if I took souvenirs.”

The next day I met Reggie at his restaurant. He was behind the counter and motioned me to come back to his office. He pushed some papers to the side of his desk.  He didn’t say anything. I sat across and reached into my pocket and put a small metal box on his desk. He opened it. Then closed his eyes and smiled. As he was closing it, I put another one on his desk. He slid it next to the other box, opened it, and shook his head. “Why didn’t you kill him?”

“I couldn’t kill him.”

Reggie stood up, his chair rolled back. “You couldn’t kill him? You couldn’t kill?”

“Reggie…”

“All that he did.”

“Reggie…”

“No, I don’t want these. I want him dead.”

“Reggie! Shut up. Sit down.”

He stiffened and sat down.

I took a deep breath. “I couldn't kill him, it wasn’t my choice.”

“What? What are you saying?”

I just looked at him. His eyes were glassy. His black skin started to bead with sweat.  I didn’t want to tell him why, because I didn’t want to hear myself say it.

Reggie stood up and leaned against the wall. Next to him were pictures of his family. On top of the file cabinet was a smaller picture. It was me and him standing in front of his restaurant in Haiti. He saw me looking at them. “You see. You see what we lost?” 

“Sorry, Reggie. Really, I am.” And I stood up to leave.

He sat down at the desk, his head in his hands. I stood at the door.

“The CIA isn’t God,” he said. Then swiveled his chair around and looked at the wall.

I stood in the familiar, angry silence for a minute then opened the door to leave.

“Thomas,” Reggie said and turned his chair around, swept his right hand across the desk picking up the boxes. “Thank you, at least, for this.”

His eyes were glassy again. His body looked smaller.  “See you Friday?” was all I could say.

He took a deep breath, then breathed out, “Sure, the usual?”

“No, I’ll have that on Mondays.”

Confused, he tilted his head.

“On Fridays, I’ll have Tassot. And Wednesdays, I’ll have Griyo.”



David Calogero Centorbi is a writer that in the 90s earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. Now, he is writing and working in Detroit, MI.

 

He is the author of  Landscapes of You and Me, (AlienBuddha press.)

AFTER FALLING INTO DISARRAY (Daily Drunk Press)

 

He can be found here on Twitter: @DavidCaCentorbi.

Blog: davidcentorbi.blogspot.com

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