Monday, January 28, 2013

The Iommi Job (Part 2)

Bel Air, high fucking noon. The manse at 773 Stradella Road had seen better days. Sabbath practically destroyed the place in a blizzard of cocaine and vodka back in ’72, but that’s not where its current sorry state derived from. Several years after Sabbath cleared out, TV miniseries queen and former Charlie’s Angel star Jaclyn Smith bought the joint and installed a heart-shaped swimming pool allegedly modeled after the curve of her own ass. After becoming even more insanely wealthy thanks to her gaudy women’s apparel and home furnishings empires, she upped sticks and sold the pad to a shadowy investment group called ULTRA, LLC.

Curtis Merriweather had yet to determine who was behind ULTRA. But they had let the place go to seed: Broken windows, bricks stacked in the front yard, about three years’ worth of leaves clogging the drains of Jackie’s ass-shaped pool. Curtis peered through a broken window and saw the usual detritus: broken furniture, drop-cloths, spider webs galore. The chances of Tony Iommi’s missing leather fingertips being somewhere inside 40 years after the fact? Curtis figured them at about zero. But the Boys seemed pretty sure of themselves. And they were paying the tab for this goose chase.

Curtis was just about to B&E the place when he heard a voice behind him.

“What do you think you’re doing, guy?”

Curtis fingered the grip of the .38 snubnose tucked into his belt.

“I wouldn’t.”

Curtis turned slowly and found himself staring down the barrel of a sawed-off. Behind it was an incredibly obese man with a Hitler mustache, a bowler hat, and a shit-eating grin. He must’ve weighed 400 pounds, easy. 

Curtis smiled sheepishly. “I’m with the alarm company. Must’ve been a rat that tripped the wires or something. You haven’t seen anyone else up here today, have you?”

“Don’t fuck with me,” the fat man snapped. “I can smell a lie like I can smell the dog shit on your shoe.”

Curtis looked down. He had totally stepped in dog shit.

“Let’s try again,” the fat man said. “Next wrong answer costs you a kneecap. What are you doing here?”

“Okay, you got me.” Curtis shot him another patently disingenuous smile, ten times worse than Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange. “A friend of mine left something in this house a while back. He sent me up here to see if I could find it.”

“And what might that be?”

“A desk clock. Some kind of family heirloom. You seen anything like that inside?”

“Get dorked, guy.  Put your hands over your head, stroll out of here real slow, and I’ll pretend this didn’t happen. But if I see you or smell your dog shit shoes up here again, I’ll shoot your dick off and feed it to the coyotes.”

Curtis followed the fat man’s instructions. As he passed within kicking distance of that sprawling front-bum, Curtis had the urge to spin around and pistol-whip his oppressor right in the stupid mustache. He could almost see the instantly cleft lip, the smashed teeth, and all that righteous blood. But he figured—correctly—that he probably wasn’t fast enough to pull off that kind of maneuver without taking a load of birdshot to the face.

Curtis knew he’d have to hatch a plan. He climbed back into his rental, goosed the engine, and waved. Fatso lowered the sawed-off and flipped Curtis the bird. 

He knew the Boys would expect a status update soon. He wasn’t sure what he’d tell them—about the house, about Iommi’s fingertips, about any of it. But he knew this: The fat man worked for ULTRA. 

This bullshit originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of Decibel magazine. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Iommi Job (Part 1)

They sent him to Los Angeles to steal Tony Iommi’s fingertips.

It was an earn-your-stripes type of deal. Word was, Iommi had left a set of his custom leather fingertips at the house in Bel Air where Black Sabbath had stayed during the recording of Vol. 4. The Boys said: Deliver the fingertips to us and you’re in. A made man, more or less: A steady gig plus a nice percentage of the slot machines operation. They gave him a round-trip plane ticket and a grand in cash for expenses. Accomplish the task and Curtis Merriweather could look forward to a silver future in the organization.

The Boys were not exactly Johnny-come-latelys on the Iommi Job. Their interest went back to the early ’70s, when Mickey Cohen was still nominally in charge. Cohen was their patron saint and founding member. He’d been tight with Don Arden, Sabbath’s manager and Sharon Osbourne’s estranged father. Arden had cut Cohen in for a percentage of Sabbath’s earnings back in those days. And not just Sabbath’s: ELO’s as well. Word was both Arden and Cohen bought new houses off of “Don’t Bring Me Down.”  The reason Arden made the deal was never explained. The Boys never explained anything. They just gave orders. His orders: Pinch Iommi’s fingertips, STAT.

But first Curtis had a stop to make.

Cut to: 1621 N. Hoover, a cul-de-sac in Hollywood. Curtis parked the rental up the street and inhaled a double-double from In N’ Out.  The zit-faced burnout in charge of wax paper had accidentally wrapped it in the regular cheeseburger packaging. Thus, Curtis’ hidden Christian missive of the day was Revelation 3:20 instead of Nahum 1:7. He knew the passage by heart.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock: If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

Curtis interpreted the passage differently than the congregation at Our Mother Of Good Counsel just up the street. It wasn’t God knocking. It was opportunity. And he who heeds the knock of opportunity is a wise man indeed. This, Curtis was convinced, was the prevailing narrative of his life.

He checked the rearview. She was just leaving the house: Janice Merriweather, DOB 7/13/55. She was probably headed to church right now. Curtis watched her ease into her ’83 Pontiac Parisienne and drive off.

He picked the lock in under a minute. He walked into his old bedroom and grid-searched it, up-down-left-right. At the back of the closet, he hit what he thought would surely be the jackpot: Three boxes of LPs in alphabetical order: A-J, K-Q, R-Z. He tore the lid off of R-Z and went directly to S. There they were, in chronological order: Show No Mercy, Haunting The Chapel, Hell Awaits, South Of Heaven, Seasons In The Abyss…wait… just wait a minute. WAIT.  Where the shit was Reign In Blood?

Curtis flipped through the rest of R-Z. No dice. Same deal for A-J and K-Q. The fucker was gone. But where? Did it get mixed up with Janice’s Engelbert Humperdinck LPs? He had a flash: Janice had hauled the Humperdinck records to St. Vincent de Paul back in ’95, when she finally switched over to CDs. Curtis had moved out by then. Fuuuuck. Did his pristine copy of Reign die an agonizing death in the 4-for-a-buck bin surrounded by musty, ring-worn copies of Hotel California and Frampton Comes Alive?

Curtis went back to his rental and cranked the AC. He saw Janice pull around the corner and into the driveway. He wanted to confront her about the missing record, but he didn’t think he could withstand an actual conversation with his mother. Besides, he had a set of leather fingertips to hunt down. Reign In Blood would have to wait. 

This bullshit originally appeared in the September 2012 issue of Decibel magazine.