CHURCH, The Television Show
The Italian rarely spoke to anyone directly; not his wife, his son, not his girlfriend or any of his employees, not even his lawyer. Things worked better that way. It was easier to keep control when no one had any account of what you said. The Underboss was his only confidant. They had been running in stride for their entire lives.
“Does The Barracuda have what he owes?” The Italian asked.
“He hasn’t passed anything up.”
“That kid must have some kind of balls to drag his heels on shit he tracked indoors. This is turning out to be a real mess.”
“I agree, but ‘Cuda’s family now.”
“What the hell was he thinking? And I really saw something in that kid. He had killer instinct, he’s quiet about family business but sociable to outsiders. Family or not, if he’s going to say NO to US, we’ll have to cut him off.”
“He’s not saying no. He says he’s looking out for the family.”
“What do you think?”
“Well…Noodle’s quiet, but he’s not like US. He’s got nothing to hide.”
“‘Cuda thinks it’s suspicious a guy like him isn’t drinking or dating our girls. Nobody knows him.”
“Sure, but how well do we know her? There’s a chance they’re working together.”
“Noodle’s just a weird kid, nothing more. We can’t let someone come up from there and take someone here, inside – even if Noodle doesn’t work for US it sends a bad message, it makes us look weak, and guys will think we’re vulnerable. Confidence and action are all that matter in this world. Noodle was a tourist in Southern City and the cards didn’t play for them. If they wanted to take him there, that would be fine. But they can’t do it here. ‘Cuda fucked up. He really fucked this one up.”
“The Barracuda says that he’s on the verge of proving Noodle’s a tourist here, too.”
“What do you mean? I thought Noodle was from here.”
“He thinks that Noodle’s playing stupid, quietly surveying our guys, and dealing on the side; and that he’s been planning to flip all along. ‘Cuda says he saw it in a movie.”
“In a movie! Movie’s aren’t real, what’s his proof?”
“He won’t tell me, he wants to talk to you directly.”
“Fine, but it’s time we move quickly. Tell him if he wants to talk to have cash in his pocket ready to lay it at my feet; or else I’m going to feed him to my two dogs,” The Italian said and The Barracuda came into the room.
“This better be good,” The Italian said without making eye contact.
“Here’s what I have: When Noodle came in he said that he was joining The Army, but Captain Angry is long gone and Noodle’s still here.”
“So he’s a loser, pay me.”
“Double or nothing, Italian you gotta hear me out.”
“Double or nothing,” The Italian smiled.
“Noodle’s a fucking Rat, he went to Southern City, someone took his phone, he runs to the cops and rats so hard that our friends loose a million dollar earner. We don’t pay to save rats like that, we pay to exterminate them.”
“He was young, he was a tourist. You dredged it from the grave. Pay me.”
“Double or nothing.”
“Come on ‘Cuda, you’re already at twenty K. Hand it over.”
“I’m serious, double or nothing.”
“Do you have that kind of money? I’d take care of you for a debt on something so trivial.”
“The night my best earner got arrested in First College Square he stopped by The Club to sling Noodle some pot. Noodle says he’s from MetroNorth but none of our friends remember him going to school there. He told The Good Looking guy that he knows about the cleaning job. He’s a Narc. He’s a god-damn fucking Narc sitting right under our noses and he’s about to get whacked! Those are the priceless moments that make me smile and think this bullshit’s worthwhile.”
“Your guy was loud, Noodle’s a yuppie, the window washer is clean, and none of our dealers inside The Club have been busted. Pay me.”
“No! How would a chump like you have the kind of money to throw at something you’re going to lose, unless you’re stealing from me?”
“This job from Southern City paid a hundred K,” The Barracuda confessed. “At this point I’ll give it all to you, regardless of what you decide. Noodle has to die.”
“Here’s the eighty,” The Barracuda surrendered.
“You only owe me forty.”
“You’re going to hear this,” The Barracuda said and went at his meal; he saw Noodle floating above him like a colorful clown fish.
“When I put my guy The SquishHead on him, the first thing that comes back is Noodle saying he’s Spartacus. Have you seen what happens in that television show? Nobody knows where Noodle gets the money to own a home; he’s posting on PeopleFace about selling ecstasy and inviting people to The Club. He’s playing with US. If he’s not DEA or ATF, then he’s working for the Columbians or the Irish. He’s working for someone! He’s playing a game and we’re eating out of his hand. He’s The Bait!”
The Italian’s jaw dropped. “Not a word of this to anyone! Get out of my house!” The Italian screamed and walked away.
The Barracuda left with the eighty K still in his pocket. “It’s going to happen,” he whispered to himself and smiled.
Manager met with DJ. “Word on the street is that The Italian’s going to let Noodle go. He’s not going to involve himself.”
“Smart man,” DJ retorted.
“How can we afford to protect Noodle without help?”
“How much have you collected?”
“We have money from The Script. The staff won’t contribute anything against The Gang.”
“I heard that’s coming out over the summer. They’re going to call it Origin Code!”
“We’ll put it on The Spook. He controls The Universe; Noodle’s got a fifty-fifty shot.”
“How can you be so heartless?”
“I lost all feeling after what they did to me,” DJ shrugged.
On Friday night The Dark Angel came up to Noodle and stood before him, requesting to get on stage. The black tattoos running down his neck were breathtaking.
“What’s up dude!” Noodle exclaimed. “Of course you can come on to the stage,” he smiled.
The Dark Angel, with massive shoulders and thick arms, stared into Noodle’s eyes. “Mulligan Station,” he said then walked away.
Noodle didn’t know what that was about. ‘Yeah, Mulligan Station,’ he thought to himself.
When the lights came on, Hayden walked by; he was a puppy compared to The Dark Angel.
“Be safe out there tonight,” Hayden said, winked, and walked away.
“What was that all about?” The Roommate asked.
“I don’t know, every time I see that guy he says ‘Be safe out there tonight!’ But I don’t know what I’m trying to stay safe from!”
“Do you want a ride home?” She asked.
“Let me come too,” The SquishHead chimed. Halfway through The City, The SquishHead broadcast his latest text message.
“My brother in law is in The City tonight. He says they’re still up.”
“Cool,” Noodle responded.
“He says I can come by.”
“What do you want to do?” The Roommate asked.
“I don’t know, on one hand it’s really late and I just got off work and I want to go home and sleep. But on the other hand I don’t have anybody lying in bed, waiting for me at home and they have a hotel room and people over.”
“Well, what are you gonna do about it?” Noodle asked.
“They’re staying at The Conrad.”
“I don’t think there is a Conrad in this City,” The Roommate advised.
“Noodle, do you know where the Conrad is?” The SquishHead asked. “I don’t know what to do!” He squirmed.
“Ask him where it is,” The Roommate advised, “and I’ll take you there.”
“I’ll get out here.”
“Are you sure? It might be on the other side of The City.”
“It’s okay; I’ll get out here and figure it out.”
“Good luck,” Noodle said, lifted the seat to let the SquishHead out, and slapped him five.
“I hope that kid’s going to be okay,” Noodle sighed.
On Noodle’s way home from The Club on Monday night he swore he saw Seamus McCafferty sitting across from him on the train, one of The Investigation Bureau’s most wanted men. Noodle looked away and then back at this old man. This gentleman looked just like Seamus McCafferty. Noodle stared as the sun set on the passing landscape flashing behind him. He was about the same age; he had the same white hair, glasses, and the demeanor of a man who’d been around the block a hundred times more than everyone else.
Noodle tried to picture the almost political hero’s mug-shot. The living legend’s photograph had been flashing on the news for well over a decade, but Noodle couldn’t see it in his mind. Without anything to compare this gentleman sitting across from him to, he surely could pass for Seamus McCafferty.
But that would be crazy!
This guy was slightly heavier, Noodle thought. He didn’t look quite as experienced as a man who’d been eluding authorities for a dozen years. Nah, Noodle thought, that wasn’t Seamus McCafferty. He got off the train at Mulligan Station and went home as if nothing had happened. Nothing had happened.
A couple of nights later, Noodle got off the train at Mulligan Station, and waited for the bus to take him home. A long line formed when it pulled up, and Noodle bent down to tie his shoe. There was a man beside him, standing to the side of the line. Noodle looked up, then back down to finish tying his shoe-lace.
‘Boy, that sure looks like Seamus McCafferty,’ Noodle thought, pulled the knot tight and stood up.
He nodded at the man who was standing two feet from his breast. The man was the same age, height, and build as McCafferty. He was covered from head to toe, wearing mittens and a woolen winter cap. He was very pale; this guy looked like he never went outside at all. But the rumor was that Seamus McCafferty was strapped to a dialysis machine eighteen hours a day and living in a cave in some other country. There was no way that he’d show his face in The Country, much less in his old territory, right on the border of the two historic neighborhoods he controlled; one block from a police-owned bar, a block from The Truck Gang, a block from the armed robbery capital of the world.
Noodle smiled at the gentleman. The man smiled back. And Noodle thought, that couldn’t be Seamus McCafferty; that would be crazy!
So Noodle got on the bus as if nothing had happened. Besides, Noodle wasn’t a Rat.
But the man never got on the bus. He looked Noodle over then walked away. The reward for Seamus McCafferty was two million dollars. Two Million dollars and Noodle would have been called a hero!
Noodle sighed. Even if it were him, and Noodle had called 9-1-1 and The State’s Police showed up it wouldn’t have mattered. McCafferty was so gangster that he had protection from The Federal Police. If it was him, he’d have a getaway car parked on the street with the motor running; this was, after all, the most sought after man next to The Terrorist.
Whoever that man was, Noodle thought, he sure looked like a real nice guy.