Jimmy stood in the parking lot outside Machus’s Red Fox restaurant, 40 miles north of downtown Detroit. He sweltered in the heat of a July midday sun that beat down on the black asphalt, making the air shimmer. He took a handkerchief from his breast pocket and mopped his forehead. Then he tilted back his head and took a deep swig of Coca Cola. It was still ice cold from the restaurant, and of course it was complimentary. In 1975, for Jimmy, everything he wanted in Detroit was complimentary and had been since the late-50s.
“Ahh,” thought Jimmy. “That Coke was swell!” He guzzled it down, relishing the icy sweet fizz cooling its way down his throat.
He checked his watch. It was 2:45 “Shit! Makin’ me wait in this heat! Somebody’s gonna get an earful.”
The door to the Red Fox opened and the hostess, a short, curvy brunette emerged. She reminded Jimmy of his high school sweetheart from too many years ago in Indiana, back when the summers were free and easy and you didn’t mind being broke, as long as you could scrounge a dime to take your sweetie for a soda.
Jimmy flashed his winning smile. “Hi there Lucille. Changed your mind about steppin’ up to the high life with me yet?”
Lucille smiled back. She liked the way he always flirted with her, despite the dark, purple birthmark that marred her lower right lip and jaw.
“Sure, Jimmy. I’ll just go fix my face first.”
They both laughed at this.
“You’re a bright package, Lucille, and you know what they say about broads.”
“Right, Jimmy, nobody fucks the face.”
Jimmy erupted in a belly laugh – big enough that he had to wipe a few tears from his eyes.
Finally he spoke: “So, you need something?”
“Naw, Tony Jack just called to say he can’t make it here for the meetin’, but he’s sending a couple of the boys to come get you.”
“Fuckin’ Giacalone! He’s got no sense of time. None of them Eyetalians do. I don’t know why I do business with them.”
“Same reason everybody does, Jimmy. The money.” Lucille smiled sweetly, gave a little mock-curtsey, then turned and went back inside.
Jimmy watched as she went, admiring the way her ass moved. Then he looked at his watch again. 2:52. His bottle of Coke was empty. He set it on the ground. When he straightened up, he could feel the damp in his armpits staining his $50 shirt. “Fuckin’ heat!”
A couple minutes later, Jimmy spotted the brand-new Cadillac Eldorado. It drifted slowly into the parking lot and eased over beside him. The passenger window rolled down and a face he knew well leaned out and smiled.
“Hey Jimmy. C’mon and climb in.”
“Hey, Tommy! It’s been what, two days since I last saw you? You do anything about that garlic breath yet? I could get you a bottle of Listerine.”
“Jeez, thanks Jimmy, but I talked with the doc and he says he can transplant my asshole to my face so my breath will match yours.”
Jimmy was talking to Tommy Tagliabelli, an enforcer for Anthony “Tony Jack” Giacalone. Jimmy didn’t like Tommy and Tommy didn’t like Jimmy. They both knew it, but they also knew business was more important than personal likes and dislikes, or some old dispute over a dame.
Jimmy thought of several smart-ass things to say back to Tommy, but decided it wasn’t worth it. It was too hot to stay outside and banter. He approached the rear door and tugged on the handle, but the door was locked.
The front door thunked open and Tommy beckoned him.
“You can sit with me. Plenty of room up front. Be close to the air conditioning.”
Jimmy leaned in and glanced around. Carm Sandino sat in the driver’s seat. Carm was Tony Jack’s lieutenant. Some reckoned he was the real brains of the operation. Jimmy knew he wasn’t. Carm may have been the smartest crook in Detroit, but he lacked the ruthless initiative to be a capo. In the back there was a goon that Jimmy knew as Terrazzano the Ape-man, though nobody ever called him anything but Terrazzano or Terry to his face.
Jimmy nodded at him: “Hey, how ya doin’?” The Ape-man shrugged, made a brief face that said “meh” but didn’t utter a word, not even a grunt of acknowledgment. Jimmy let it slide: Goons aren’t hired for their conversation. Carm leaned over from the driver’s side: “Get in will ya, Jimmy. You’re letting all the cold air out ferchrissakes.”
Jimmy felt a vague prickling at the back of his neck. Was something wrong? “Nah,” he thought, “it’s just sweat from this damn heat.” Tommy scooched over to make room and Jimmy got in, leaned back into the cool leather seat and pulled the door shut. He began thinking about the big pension fund deal he’d been working on with Tony Jack. He just needed to get re-elected and Tony was going to see to that. He leaned across Tommy and spoke.
“Hey-ya Carm. What’s shakin’? You gettin’ enough pussy?”
“Can ya ever get enough, Jimmy? Say, you know the boys, right?
“Know ‘em, wouldn’t hire ‘em though,” he laughed.
Tommy and Terrazzano chuckled briefly and insincerely.
Jimmy could feel the air conditioning gently blowing on his face, relieving the heat that had been broiling him just a moment before.
“Geez! It’s cold as the grave in here.” Jimmy laughed as he said it, head on a swivel, scoping out the interior of the Caddy – one of the finest pieces of Dee-troit iron money could buy. He made a mental note to get himself one. As a gift, natch.
“Hey, hey, cold as the grave,” Tommy and Carm laughed back at him.
“So,” said Jimmy. “You takin’ me to see Tony? Why’d he change the meeting place?”
“Somethin’ came up last minute,” Carm replied.
“Eldorado, huh?” Jimmy let the plush leather and cool air envelop him.
“Nice car boys. Where to?”
Jimmy woke up to a stifling, oven-like heat. He felt paralyzed the way you do sometimes when you wake up in the middle of a bad dream. But this was no dream. He struggled to move and as he did, it came to him: He was on his belly in the back seat of some old clunker, hogtied and barely able to move. He tried to talk but a gag muffled his words. He shifted around with great effort and managed to raise his head just enough to see a faint light through blacked-out windows. He let out a choked-off yell, as loud as he could. There was a sudden, loud smack as a hammer smashed the window spraying Jimmy with nuggets of tempered glass. Tommy stuck his head in as Jimmy tried to shake the glass off his head and face.
“Hey fuck breath,” said Tommy. “You think you’re shit hot? You think you got leverage? Think again. You’re never gonna make that comeback. Tony’s been talking with Fitzy. We’re still gonna be running the pension fund even if you ain’t there. And that was one of Tony’s cousins you had blown up in Fitzy’s car. So, tough shit for you. Nothin’ personal. Just family business.”
Jimmy writhed and screamed.
“Enjoy the ride Jimmy,” said Tommy. “Nice car, boys, where to?” he sneered.
Tommy vanished and Jimmy heard the whine and clank of heavy machinery starting up. With a deafening bang and crash a giant metal claw stabbed through the roof and the car tilted and swayed crazily as a crane lifted it into the air and swung it around. Jimmy knew where he was now – in the back lot at Giacalone’s Auto Wreckers. He felt the car lurch and drop into the car crusher. Jimmy screamed again and kept on screaming. Then another engine howled and screeched into action and was the only sound anyone could hear.
I write commercial copy for a living and short fiction and other prose and light verse to make life worth living. I am a lifelong fan of noir, going back to James Cain, Cornell Woolrich, Hammett, Chandler and Ross MacDonald. I love the tough guy fiction of today, too, as well as science fiction. After sitting on story ideas for too long, I’m now starting to write them down. This submission, Nice Car, Boys, started life as a very short piece (less than 500 words), based on my smart ass assertion that I knew what Jimmy Hoffa’s last words were.