The last thing Paul Flores and his younger brother Eddie expected to see as they exited their parents’ house, only hours after attending their father’s funeral, was a gun pointed at their faces...But that’s what happened.
“Get in,” the guy with the gun said, sitting in the backseat of the Lincoln Navigator parked along the curb. “Now,” his voice growing louder, impatient.
Paul and his brother looked at each other, sunglasses hiding their hazel eyes, the two of them in sharp black suits, suits they would never wear except to a wedding or, as in this case, a funeral.
“Don’t stand there thinking about it. Just get your asses in here,” the guy with the gun said. “The longer you stand there staring at each other like a couple a fruits, the more likely you are to try and do something stupid, like run away. Then I gotta go and do something crazy, like put a bullet in your back. Now get in here,” paused, eyes fixed on the two brothers. "If somebody walks outta that house and sees us here, I’m gonna shoot youse both.”
“Why do you want us in there?” Paul said, nervous, but remaining calm for the moment.
“Don’t worry, I ain’t gonna rob or rape yas, youse ain’t my type. Just be cool and get a move on.” The back door opened. The bulky guy, kind of old, probably sixty-five but in damn good shape, pointing the gun, slid back toward the other side of the spacious Navigator, making room for the grieving brothers.
Eddie, not saying a word, looked at Paul, then started toward the gunman in the white sweat suit.
Paul grabbed Eddie’s arm. Eddie stopped and turned to face his older brother. “What?” Eddie said.
“What what?” Paul said, trying to talk low enough so the guy in the Navigator wouldn’t hear. “What are you doing?”
“I’m getting inside,” Eddie said. “The guy’s pointing a gun. You wanna get shot? I know I don’t.”
Paul said, “But he’s probably looking for someone else―” eyes to the bulky guy with the gun, and speaking louder now, “I think you got the wrong guys, sir?”
“Youse David Flores’s boys?” the gunman said.
“Yeah,” Eddie said, Paul nodded.
“I got the right guys,” cocked the gun and aimed, tilting his head down, lining up his eyes with the top of the gun, like he was getting ready to pull the trigger. “Now get in.”
That convinced them. Paul moved forward, bumping into Eddie and shoving him along. “Hurry up, Eddie,” Paul said, his voice edgy, the sunglasses hiding his wide eyes.
“I’m going, calm down, Christ,” Eddie said.
Eddie climbed in, then Paul. Paul shut the door and the Lincoln Navigator drove down the narrow suburban street.
Paul sat rigid, staring at the houses flying past as the Navigator cruised down Route 611 doing forty, heading toward Philadelphia. All week long he couldn’t stop thinking of his father who dropped dead of a heart attack last Wednesday while on the job as a mail carrier, but this did it. The only thought running through his head now was wondering what the hell was going to happen to him and his brother.
They were in the SUV for about five minutes and no one said a word. All Paul could hear was the faint sound of music coming out of the speakers, sounded like hip-hop.
The older brother and elementary school teacher turned to the old bulky guy, whose leg was touching Eddie’s, and said, “Could you tell us where we’re going?”
The bulky guy, who Paul thought looked just like Lawrence Tierney, even had that same gravelly voice, put his hand on Eddie’s chest. “’Scuse me, pal,” he said. Eddie leaned back, the bulky guy came toward Paul and rammed his fist into his nose. Paul yelped as his head shot back and sent his sunglasses flying from his face, his hands covering his throbbing nose.
“Fuck me,” Eddie said, surprised. “What’d you do that for?”
“That’s for standing back and making us wait when I told your ass to get in the car.” The bulky guy said, “I tell you to do something you do it, you don’t stand there tugging on your dick.”
The pain was so intense it was making Paul’s eyes water. He felt his nose clogging up and knew it must have been bleeding. His hand came to his nostrils and wiped. He looked at it and saw blood on his fingers. “Jesus. I’m bleeding.” His gaze went to the rearview mirror where he saw the eyes of the driver looking at him. The driver, fat guy with a thin beard that tried to accentuate the jaw line that was all but gone with the aid of a double chin, smiled then chuckled as he watched Paul’s (probably) broken nose let out a stream of blood down his mouth and chin and onto his nice white shirt.
“Watch where you bleed, dawg,” the driver said. “I just got this bitch detailed.”
“Now to answer your question, we’re taking youse down to see the man we work for.”
“Who’s that?” Eddie said.
The bulky guy raised his index finger to his face. “The Finger,” he said, and that was it. He stayed quiet, staring at Eddie and Paul. Paul’s eyes were going from the bulky guy to the blood on his shirt, trying to stop the bleeding while, at the same time, trying to pay attention to this guy who was completely bald on top, but was overdue for a trim of the brown hair that graced the rest of his head, reminded Paul of a monk.
“Who the fuck is the Finger?” Eddie said, sounding way more relaxed than Paul felt.
“Sit tight, kid,” the bulky guy said. “You’ll find out soon enough.”
Elmo “The Finger” Shanahan―but don’t dare call him Elmo, he’s liable to kill you for that―sat at a small table in his personal speakeasy that was more of a social club for the members of his crew. He sipped his beer from a longneck, licked his lips as he brought the bottle back down on the uneven table, and squinted at the television hanging from the ceiling in the corner. There was a commercial playing, an Asian guy pitching an appliance store, using a baseball bat to smash washing machines and refrigerators made out of cardboard: ...Those other places charge five hundred dollar for a brand new refrigerator, swung the bat, smashing the faux refrigerator, You’re out of here! He stopped and looked into the camera, breathing heavy, At Lo Appliances you can get a new, barely used refrigerator for only three ninety-nine ninety-five. The camera followed him to the cardboard washing machine. Those other places like to charge four hundred dollar for a brand new cleaning machine, again, he’s smashing the shit out of this piece of cardboard, doing his best Harry Kalas impersonation, Watch it, baby...out of here!!! Then he stopped and looked to the camera, his face red, At Lo Appliances, new, barely used cleaning machine, deep breath, two ninety-nine ninety-five. So come on down to Lo Appliances at Red Lion and Roosevelt Boulevard, and ask for me, Lenny Lo, and I’ll let you take advantage of our Lo, Lo prices. A small Asian woman, looked like she could be Lenny’s mom, inched into the frame holding a sign that read: LO, LO PRICES!!!
The screen went black and Shanahan’s eyes drifted to the star of the commercial, Lenny Lo, sitting across from him. Lenny looked nervous. “What you think, Mister Shanahan?” Lenny, co-owner of Lo Appliances, said, talking fast, with a heavy Chinese accent, to his business partner.
“How much did this thing cost?” Shanahan said.
“What thing?” Lenny said.
“The fucking commercial,” Shanahan said.
“Five thousand for that shit.” Lenny frowned. “Christ, Lenny, you called a washing machine a goddamn cleaning machine.” Lenny stared, like to him there was no difference between the two words. “And what the hell is Watch it, baby? You trying to do Kalas?”
Lenny nodded, smiling. “Yes, I like Harry Kalas.”
“Well for future reference, Lenny, it’s, ‘Watch that baby.’” Lenny squinted, his thin small frame sitting there in a Lo Appliances T-shirt and dark blue jeans. “You know,” trying to do his best Harry Kalas voice, “Watch that baby ...outta here! Home run!”
“You sound just like him, Mister Shanahan,” Lenny said. Shanahan knew he didn’t sound shit like Kalas, nobody could ever sound like Harry. “But besides that, do you like it?”
“No,” Shanahan said, growing agitated. “You need to reshoot the son of a bitch. Get rid of the bat and smashing the fucking appliances. Look like a raging friggin’ maniac, swinging that bat around, fucking people’d be afraid to come anywhere near your store.” Lenny stared, disappointed. “Throw in some girls in bikinis, big tits and all, rubbing up on you, laughing and giggling, that type of shit, know what I mean?”
Lenny nodded, a sad expression taking hold of his face. He went to the corner where the television hung and removed his DVD of the commercial from the player.
Shanahan saw the front door opening and looked over. Bobby Mullen strolled in, followed by two guys who looked like Davy’s boys, then behind them, Owen “Owney” Benjamin, who was not only Shanahan’s best friend since childhood but also his bodyguard for over forty years. Bobby was about twenty-six or twenty-seven, Shanahan wasn’t sure, but he was a smart kid, even though he dressed with his pants hanging under his wide ass he knew how to get things done, and that’s why Shanahan used him so much. If Shanahan had a go-to guy then Bobby was him.
Shanahan himself made money any way he could, most of them illegal. He was part of Jesus Rodriguez’s drug empire that stretched across six states with origins in Puerto Rico, and he controlled most of the trafficking going on in the Mayfair and Rhawnhurst sections of Northeast Philly. He laundered his earnings through multiple businesses, including Apocalypse, a nightclub on Castor Avenue, just blocks up the road from this social club, and Lo Appliances. But Shanahan was a low key guy. He didn’t like attention, especially with all the money he made. He was married, no kids. His wife, Barbara, stayed at their house on County Line Road, just on the border of Bucks County, while he tended to business in the city, watching over guys who worked for him, simple shit, supervising.
Bobby approached the table where Shanahan sat and said, “Here they are,” and stepped to the side, letting his boss get a good look at the Flores brothers.
“Hey, boys,” squinted at the older brother. “Sweet Mary, what happened to your face?” Shanahan turned to his old friend and said, “Owney, you do that?”
Owney, standing at the front door, behind the Flores brothers, his arms crossed, said, “He made us wait, Shan.”
Throwing his hands up, satisfied with the answer, Shanahan said, “Well, there you go,” smiling at the brother with the bashed face, “you don’t make Owney wait. He doesn’t like to wait.”
“So are you the Finger?” the younger brother said, his voice with a bit of an edge to it, as he removed his sunglasses.
Shanahan tightened his eyes and glared at the kid and said, “You don’t call me that. You got it?”
The younger brother, who Shanahan thought was Edward, looked to his older brother with uncertainty. Then his hazel eyes went back to Shanahan in the chair. “Yeah.”
“Call me Mister Shanahan.” There was a moment of silence. Then Shanahan pointed at the kid with the attitude. “You Edward?”
Shanahan looked to the brother, his face and shirt stained with blood. “And what’s your name?” squinting, trying to remember. “I forget.”
Shanahan grinned, saying, “Yeah, that’s it, Paul. Sorry about your father’s passing.”
Paul and Eddie looked at each other. Paul said, “You knew our father?”
“Knew him,” Shanahan said with a chuckle. “Davy Flores worked for me for over twenty-five years.”
“Davy?” Eddie said, wearing a disgusted expression.
“That’s what I called him,” Shanahan said. “He didn’t have a problem with it. You’d better not.”
Again Paul and Eddie exchanged stares, then Paul moved forward and put his hands over the top of the chair across from Shanahan. “I think there’s been a mistake. You say you know our father. Maybe you got the wrong guy? Our father was David Flores; he was a mailman for almost thirty years. I mean, I don’t know what you do, but...” looked around the dim social club, “you know...this place...”
“What?” Shanahan said, offended.
“He means this don’t look like no fucking post office, Jack,” Eddie said, interrupting the two.
Bobby busted out laughing. Shanahan looked at him leaning against the far wall, then he joined in with a deep laugh that sounded almost as if he was coughing. Owney stood by the door, dead serious. Lenny was quiet, standing under the television behind Shanahan, clutching on to his DVD like he was afraid someone was going to steal it― Shanahan almost forgot he was in the room he was so quiet. Paul looked scared. Eddie seemed too tough for his own good as he gazed at Shanahan.
As the laughter began to fade, Shanahan said, “Sit down, boys. I wanna tell you about your daddy the mailman.” The brothers sat in the two remaining chairs at the small table, Eddie seemed a little hesitant. “Your father was a mailman, yeah, but on top of that, and what’s obvious you don’t seem to know, is the fact that your daddy also worked for me. And I’ll tell you what he did for the years he worked for me, because I know you won’t run and tell the cops or anything stupid like that, ‘cause if you do, then I’m gonna have the both of you join your father, wherever the fuck he may be, God rest his soul.” Eddie tightened his lips, glaring at Shanahan. Shanahan ignored him and continued, “Your father ran errands for me, all kinds of things, I won’t get into what, but most of the time it was moving money from point A to point B. And he did it while on duty, and no one thought the wiser. The guy got away with it for so many years, because, really, who the fuck would ever suspect the mailman. Right?”
The brothers listened, Paul seemed shocked and Eddie, pissed off.
“I can tell you probably don’t believe a word of it, but I really don’t give a shit. I didn’t bring the two of you here to tell you what your daddy was doing behind your backs. I brought you here because last week Davy had five duffle bags of money that totaled five million bucks. He picked it up from point A, and that we confirmed to be a fact―”
“Yes, that is a fact. But the money never made it to me, I swear,” Lenny Lo said, interrupting his boss.
The brothers’ attention went to Lenny as he came up behind Shanahan.
Shanahan squinted at the Chinese guy, who laundered Shanahan’s dirty money through his appliance store for the past ten years. Shanahan said, “Relax, Lenny, you’re getting panicky. Have a drink or something. You get all nervous I can’t understand a word you say, talking so fucking fast and all. It’s bad enough to try and figure out what you say when you’re calm.”
“Apologies, I just don’t want to be blamed for, uh, stealing. You a good man, and I would never never do that,” putting his right hand to his heart, then holding it up.
Bobby chimed in, saying, “Shut your bitch ass up, Lenny.”
Lenny, nervous, looked at Bobby and nodded.
To Lenny, Shanahan said, “Bobby’s right, just be quiet for a minute.” He turned back to Paul and Eddie and said, “So, what?” trying to remember where he left off. “Yeah, anyway, Davy made the pickup at point A and was supposed to deliver it to point B. The bags never made it to point B. That’s when Davy had the heart attack. He dies on the job, right there in his mail truck. As soon as Lenny here sees the drop-off is late, he calls me, I get Bobby here on the prowl, he finds the mail truck, the paramedics’re already there, and guess what?” He waited to see if the brothers would say anything, they didn’t. “The bags are gone. He got rid of’em before he died.”
“I still can’t believe any of this,” Paul said, shaking his head, then looking at Eddie, like he wanted him to jump in with his two cents.
“Well it’s true,” Shanahan said. “So my money is gone. The fact that the bags weren’t in the truck when he died shows he planned on running off with it or some shit. Now you either know where he hid the money and are lying your asses off, or you don’t know shit. But, regardless, Davy owes me five million, and since you’re his sons, and Davy’s dead, you owe me five million.” Eddie scoffed. Shanahan stopped and gave him a hard stare. “You remind me of your daddy when he was young: a stupid ass kid with all heart and no brain.” He turned to Paul and said, “Today’s Tuesday. I want my five million, in cash, here by Friday, nine am. If that money don’t get to me by then, you boys are gonna have a big problem.”
Eddie spoke up, saying, “Where the hell do we get five million dollars by Friday?”
Shanahan shrugged. “Not my problem.” He paused. “Now get the hell outta here and find my money.”