The clock was ticking. Curtis Merriweather knew it. The Boys called. They wanted to know what was happening with their investment. That’s what they called it—“our investment.” Paulie laid it out for him: Come back in 72 hours with Iommi’s fingertips or don’t come back at all.
Madame Quinault, the psychic palm reader, had sent Curtis to see a man named Harrington. Harrington worked for ULTRA. Curtis met him at the Frolic Room. It was one of Bukowski’s old Hollywood booze trenches. Shoebox-sized. Sinatra on the jukebox. Harrington was drunk and borderline surly, but eventually it came out that he was disgruntled. Some kind of ancient beef with the bosses at ULTRA. Curtis bought him a shot: Maker’s to the face. Curtis pressed him. Curtis cajoled him. Curtis milked him for intel. Curtis bought him another Maker’s. Sinatra segued into Roy Orbison. Roy segued into Iggy. Iggy segued into “Killing Yourself To Live.” The song jarred something loose. Finally, Harrington spat it out.
“You’ll never find them fingertips. They’re in cold storage out in Van Nuys. A fucking warehouse full of fur fucking coats. But here’s the kicker: They’re supposedly in the pocket of one of the coats. We’ve had two dozen guys turning out pockets for days now.”
“How many coats?” Curtis asked.
“Thousands. I mean fucking thousands. Maybe 40, 50K. Too many to count.”
“What’s security like?”
“A pair of armed guards at the gate, at least one on every entrance, plus who-knows-how-many inside. Cameras fucking everywhere, too. You’ll never get in, not in a million fucking years. And even if you did, it’d take you twice that long to find the motherfuckers.”
Harrington blinked. Curtis bought him another Maker’s and left. He went out to the rental and cranked the AC. He turned it over and over in his head: A warehouse full of armed goons, 50,000 fur coats and two dozen hired hands fishing through pockets. How much could these fucking fingertips be worth, anyway? No. There had to be something else. Either that or Harrington was full of shit.
Curtis walked back into the Frolic Room. Just as Harrington tipped back another Maker’s, Curtis smashed it into his face. The impact was audible. Blood spritzed. Curtis grabbed Harrington by the throat. His front teeth were chipped.
“What the fuaaaahhh!”
Curtis reached into Harrington’s jacket pocket and pulled out two plastic baggies. One was half full of cocaine. The other contained four shriveled brown chunks. At first Curtis thought they were mushrooms. They were leather fucking fingertips.
Curtis released Harrington’s neck and dropped him to the floor. Harrington moaned like a dying animal. Curtis slipped the bartender a C-note and put a finger to his lips. “Mum’s the word, boss.”
Curtis goosed the rental and drove out to Silverlake. He pulled into a parking lot on Glendale Boulevard. He called his mother. She went on and on and on about the neighbors and their shitty dog who kept her up all night with the barking. She didn’t actually use the word shitty. She complained about Father Tom at Our Lady Of Good Counsel. He smelled like booze, she said. She was afraid he might be a pederast. Curtis was sure she’d learned that word from the television. She would never just come out and say Father Tom was a drunk who liked to fuck little boys in the mouth. Everyone was up to something. She just knew the mechanic was overcharging her. The mailman was delivering her social security checks late on purpose. She suspected. She speculated. She inferred. After 20 minutes, Curtis couldn’t take it anymore.
“Mom. Where’s my Slayer record?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Mom. Did you sell something of mine? At the record store?”
“Curtis. You know I sold my records years ago.”
“Mom. My records. My records.”
He hung up. He walked into Rockaway Records and scanned the wall above the counter. There it was: dead center. Between a copy of the Beatles Butcher cover and the second Sir Lord Baltimore album. Reign In Blood, original pressing, mint condition, 60 bucks. He threw three twenties down on the counter.
He flew back to Chicago that night. The Boys shook his hand and gave him a suitcase with 20 grand in it.
This bullshit originally appeared in the December 2012 issue of Decibel magazine.