CHURCH, The Television Show
No longer summer, not quite fall, it was the last week of the season to go fishing for tourists and the first to go hunting for fresh college faces.
In The City, early September was The Hustler’s paradise.
Well fed thugs are lazy as lions; you have to ride those horses all the way through to the finish line. The Barracuda rode Hayden
‘Eyes on the street don’t see you out today, Hayden. What are you doing that you can’t go to work?’
‘Go to The Crossing. Market product, pitch the club, and find me a computer. You have all afternoon to sleep.’
‘We were out last night making snow…you know how those parties go’
‘Hayden, you’re like a child. Sleep from 4-10pm. I need you on The Streets right now. I need you at The Club tonight, and my Fiancé wants a new apple computer. See if you can get me an iPod too – I want one of those tiny ones.’
‘Whatever it’s called. Get one with good music on it this time…not that rap crap. Try to get something with some Frank Sinatra.’
‘Whatever. I’m not going to return the one I steal just because it doesn’t have music you like on it’
Hayden jumped from bed and pushed the girl who was sleeping next to him out the front door.
He called every guy on his crew and relayed the message: Their spot was The Crossing in half an hour.
“Hey Hottie, how you doin’?” He called in the direction of two short blonde girls. “Want to come party?”
One turned to the other and spoke Icelandic, “He asked if we want to go party!”
Her friend giggled. She answered in Icelandic.
“My friend says that it’s too early for that.”
“Where are you from? I thought you were a couple of Ivy League School girls when I saw you,” Hayden entranced.
The Girls giggled again. “No. We play fútbol. But we come here on holiday.”
The second girl couldn’t stop giggling, and she only spoke Icelandic.
“My friend says that we left the county without telling our coach – and that we could be expelled for it!” The girls giggled again.
“You should meet us tonight at our club. We’ll get you anything you want,” he said.
“Where is it?” She asked.
“Two blocks that way,” he pointed. “It’s inside The Hotel. Here’s my number doll.”
The Crossing was just that: Crossroads of all The City’s neighborhoods and transit lines. There, hustling was a competition.
“What’s that kid doing?” A black runner asked his cousin. “Those white boys be attracting attention,” he complained.
“Nah. They’re cool. Let’m be. They’re with The Gang. Ain’t no trouble. Watch, The Police turn the other way,” he smiled.
Hayden took his boys for a dozen hot dog free lunch at one of the meal carts The Gang provided passive security for. When people on the street understand you’re with The Gang you’re untouchable, because if you steal from The Gang, or say NO to them, your life will become a series of unfortunate events.
After lunch Hayden and his boys followed a skinny euro-eid wearing headphones.
“Meet me back at the crib,” Hayden told his boy.
They walked up alongside the euro kid, slowed to his pace, and casually pinned him between their two bodies. When the kid looked toward Hayden, Hayden’s boy snatched the iPod off his belt and ran. And when the kid turned back in the direction of the tug, Hayden pushed him to the ground.
By the time the kid realized what had happened, Hayden was gone. He ducked into the back of a kitchen for his second free lunch.
Hayden headed to The City College to pass out a number for drug delivery. And then he traveled to the hip neighborhood and sat in a coffee shop. An associate joined him without ever saying hello.
When one of the hipsters went out for a cigarette, Hayden followed him out and distracted his attention. Hayden’s friend knocked over a chair inside and attracted everyone’s eyes. While a third Gang associate, The Thief, came in the door and snatched the hipster’s apple laptop, took it to the bathroom and concealed it in his backpack, then walked straight out the door.
When the hipster returned, nobody had seen what happened.
Fridays were busy for The Gang: They had people all over The City following guests out the door of their Hotel, pushing people toward their restaurants, snatching cell phones, networking with the homeless through small food offerings, and keeping tabs on all the other groups who were running competing enterprises: Making sure no one ripped off their Gang, their corners, or their people.
Fridays were busy even for The Gang’s brass. The CEO was adept at making telephone calls.
“John, it’s The Italian,” he distinguished.
“What can I do for ya?”
“Do you still have that building over on Federal Street up by The Crossing?”
“Yeah, that’s mine. The banks won’t give us money to renovate it. They’re hoping we lose all our tenants to the more modern stuff so they can buy us out and redevelop the whole block. They’ll probably bribe Urban Redevelopment to get thirty stories.”
“They’ll make a killing.”
“Fuck’m! I’ll never sell!” he said with smoke in his lungs.
“I know a guy,” The Italian announced. “He’s got a couple of pizza parlors called Healthy Slice. It’s what the youth are doing these days, all this healthy crap. My guy, he wants your vacant storefront.”
“Yeah, and Beacon Commercial is asking six G’s a month for that spot!”
“Hey, that’s why I hired them; they know what they’re doing!”
“My guy definitely can’t go that high. He can do three five a month.”
“Come on! I won’t break even on that. Five grand is the lowest I’ll go.”
“Four to you on the books, and I’ll kick you another six G’s for the year upfront, right to your pocket.”
“Four-five, and fifteen up front.”
“Four and a quarter, and ten.”
“Four point five, ten up front and five in the back.”
“Jesus, you’re a blood sucker.”
“That’s prime plus!”
“What else do you need?”
“My wife has a jewelry fetish. She’s sick about it.”
“I can’t help with jewelry; people are killing for that right now.”
“My kid wants an STS, but it would have to be legit.”
“Okay, four and a quarter, ten up front and I have a dealer on NorthCoast that will sell you an STS with every option imaginable at factory cost, which will knock ten K off the sticker. Final offer. Or you can leave your place vacant for another year in this economy.”
“Deal!” The building owner struck.
After The Italian hung up he called his dealer on NorthCoast.
“I’ve got a guy coming in for a Cadi this weekend. You’re going to sell it to him at cost, but he has no clue what that is so print your own invoice sheet. You owe me five K for the referral.”
“What’s in it for me?”
“I’ll send over two full sets of brand new rims. You’ll make your money right back, plus you’ll clear a car, and you’ll rest easy knowing that you’re always welcome at our clubs and restaurants.”
The Italian called The Barracuda. “You know any parts guys up on NorthCoast?”
“George knows them all.”
“Good, tell him to come in earl. I’ll give him a line on some new product in exchange for those parts.”
When Noodle woke up on Friday afternoon he carried The Diplomat’s boxes to the basement.
There he noticed a pile of lingerie tucked into the corner of the room. It was an odd spot for The Tenant to leave his girlfriend’s laundry. The undergarments seemed to have been arranged.
Noodle’s ears rang. He felt a chemical release and his pupils constricted.
He lined the lingerie up with the nearest window and then continued the imaginary line outside. It stopped at the house where a second tree had recently fallen. There a man was in the window, standing, staring back at him.
Noodle watched him for more than twenty minutes. And this man watched Noodle for the same length of time.
But that would be crazy! So Noodle dismissed the apparent stalking and continued about his day.
“What’s up Assassin?” DJ greeted when Noodle got to work.
“DJ, I really think that you should stop calling me that.”
“Why?” DJ smiled.
“You shouldn’t call me that because it sends the wrong message! I’m not a killer, I’m Noodle Church!”
“Where’s the Ultimate Fighter tonight?” Noodle asked Skip Step, the most beautiful bartender at The Club, who moved with the grace of an angel as if she weighed less than air. .
“You mean The State Police Candidate? ” She asked. “He quit. He has another job at another club and he likes it much better there.”
“That’s too bad – he was good security!”
Turnover at The Club was high. It kept people quiet.
“I’m Noodle,” he said with an extended hand. “Are you new? I’ve never seen you working here before.”
“I’m Laos. It’s my first day.”
“Who’d you come in with? Everyone here came in with someone from above. There’re no random applicants here!”
“I’m with The Prince! He brought me upstairs to keep an eye out.”
“Where do you live?”
“Cool, I have a friend who lives near the police station.”
Laos lowered his eyes at the word police. “I live in that neighborhood too. That’s OUR neighborhood,” he mumbled.
“What do you do outside of here?”
“I sell liquor afterhours.”
“That’s kind of sketchy; I hope you don’t sell to children.”
“No. Fuck that. I sell mostly to little old ladies who are lonely and spend all their social security money getting drunk. I also run a security team.”
“What does that mean? You’re muscle?”
“Hell no! My boys and I protect the neighborhood.”
“Hire me! I want to work for you,” Noodle romanticized.
Laos eyed Noodle distrustfully. “I’ll think about it,” he answered.
Doughboy came downstairs and interrupted their conversation, “The Supervisor wants everyone in The Lion Room before we open,” he relayed.
While Noodle was waiting for the meeting to start, he ran into The Hostess.
“Hey, do you still live with DJ Hip-hop on Political Hill?”
“No, I still live on Political Hill, but I moved in with Mr. Grape – you know him – he’s our best customer! At his rate, he nearly owns our stage!”
And then The Supervisor arrived to deliver his pre-shift security brief.
“We have a new guy joining our team, he’s fucking Chinese. The Chinese love to fight, but they’re cool because they’ll never talk to The Police.”
“Fuck that! I’m not Chinese! I’m from Laos!”
“At Majesty we’re proud to profile,” The Supervisor proclaimed. “We’re not like The Government – we can treat people however we’d like. We’re able to just look at a guy and say –He’s the one I’m going to follow!”