A Solomon Stark Story
by Lono Waiwaiole
“Wassup, Jimmy Bean?”
“Can we talk?” Jimmy said, his eyes jumping around like they didn’t want any part of his skinny face.
“Isn’t that what we’re doing?”
“Yeah, I guess. Thing is, Oswald wants to see you.”
“Not very badly, it would appear.”
“He’s not the one standing here.”
“He’s afraid to show his face right now.”
“Is there a reason I should give a fuck?”
“He’s willing to pay you to give a fuck.”
“I dunno, but he paid me pretty good just to deliver the message.”
“That all you’re ’sposed to do, Jimmy?”
“Whaddaya mean?” he said again.
“Where did that fat fuck tell you to take me?”
“Oh. Uh, one of the Chinese joints in Old Town.”
“I thought he was afraid to show his face.”
“He’s holed up in the office.”
“Tell him I’ll think about it.”
“Uh,” Jimmy said, but his voice trailed off after that like he couldn’t remember what the rest of the sentence was going to be.
“He said to bring you now.”
“If you think you can, Jimmy, go right ahead and do it.”
“I’m not tryin’ to start nothin’, Stark. I’m just sayin’ what Oswald said to say.”
“Well, let me tell you what to say next: Stark said fuck Chinatown. All the best places are out in the ’burbs now.”
“He’s not gonna be happy about this.”
“Who the fuck is happy these days? My guess is he’ll get used to it.”
* * *
Since the city was no longer paying me to be a cop, it didn’t take me long to admit that Oswald had won my attention—and it didn’t take much longer than that to get the fool on the phone.
“How the fuck did you find me?” he said first.
“I asked to speak to you, and here you are.”
“You’d have to know what number to dial.”
“Nobody dials the number anymore.”
“You know what the fuck I mean.”
“Nothing to finding out the number, either.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Considering the alternatives, where else would you be?”
“Which proves my point, by the way. All the best spots are still down here.”
“You could be right. You’d have to pay me to eat that shit.”
“Paying you is exactly what I want to see you about.”
“Pay me for what?”
“Face to face, Stark. This ain’t phone conversation material.”
“So far, I wouldn’t walk across the street to see you.”
The phone in my hand went silent after that, and it stayed that way for quite a while. When Oswald finally spoke again, he had a slightly different tone.
“I need a bodyguard,” he said.
“What difference does why make? The money’s the same whatever the reason.”
“Maybe so, but the degree of difficulty inherent in the job might vary significantly.”
“Look,” he said after another pause. “I stepped on the wrong toes recently.”
“How clumsy of you.”
“The sarcasm is not fucking helpful, Stark.”
“I don’t have to be helpful yet.”
Oswald obviously didn’t like that comment much, but he swallowed his initial reaction and got to the point. “You know Omar, right?”
“Everyone knows Omar.”
“He thinks I fucked him on a deal.”
“I didn’t know it was him when I did it.”
“Sounds like you should be able to fix that shit.”
“Exactly! But this prick is all sideways about it. Says you can’t unfuck someone.”
“I see his point. That’s been my experience as well.”
“Question is can you see my point? I don’t want my ass lit up over this before he cools the fuck down.”
“I can see your point, but I have to say I don’t give a fuck about it.”
“That’s why I’m offering a generous compensation for your trouble.”
“I’m thinking a grand a day until the heat is off.”
“What the fuck is wrong with that offer?”
“Too open-ended. I wouldn’t know when to schedule my next trip to the Mediterranean.”
“What do you suggest, smart-ass?”
“Give me ten grand up front and order the daily special. I’ll have this shit cleaned up before the fortune cookie gets there.”
“How the fuck you gonna make that happen?”
“If I told you how to do it, why would you need me? Just get the money together and enjoy your meal. I’ll come by and pick it up when I’m done.”
“What if you can’t do it?”
“Then I won’t be dropping by.”
* * *
It wasn’t hard to find Omar because he still lived in the house he had grown up in. “Damn!” he said as soon as he opened the front door. “Where you been, bro’?”
“On the opposite side of the street,” I said as I drew him into a hug that went on for a while. “How you doin’?”
“It’s all good.”
“Can we walk a bit?” I said when the hug broke.
“Hell, yeah,” Omar said, and he matched me step for step as we walked past my childhood house and into the park beyond it. We climbed a short hill and looked down on empty basketball courts we had almost lived on as kids, and when I shook my head he knew exactly what I was thinking.
“Nowhere near the same, is it?” he said.
“Nowhere near. Used to have to wait in line to get on those courts.”
“Those were some good days, bro’.”
“Those ain’t the days we in now, though.”
“This when you tell me why you’re here?”
“Oswald hired me to protect him from you.”
“So I heard.”
“You already know?”
“You ain’ the only one knows Jimmy Bean, my friend. Thing I don’ know is how you plan to do this new job you got.”
“Doin’ it right now.”
“Talk ain’ gonna get it done, Sol.”
“Depends on what the talk is.”
“What you need to make this right?”
“I need to light his fat ass up.”
“Have to send a clear message to all the folks not to do the same shit he did.”
“I don’t see you have to go that far. He gets a beat-down and you get restitution should be plenty.”
“And if I don’t agree with that?”
“Then we have a problem.”
“So what—you’re here to threaten me?”
“I’m here to secure your agreement, Omar. We sure as hell don’t need to go off the rails over shit this stupid.”
Omar let the conversation die after that, and I could almost hear the wheels turning in his head while we stood there. “I’ll grant you this shit is stupid, bro,” he said eventually.
“What’s the number you need for restitution?”
“Twenty-five gees would come close enough.”
I pulled my phone out of my pocket and put it to work. “You got some spare feet with you right now?” I said when Oswald got into my ear.
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“You get twenty-five grand over to Omar, you’re off the fuckin’ hook.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“He’s not gonna wait all day for it, Oswald. This offer expires in sixty minutes.”
“Now I know you’re shittin’ me.”
“The thing you need to know is the clock is running,” I said before I cut the connection.
“What makes you think he’ll go for this?” Omar asked.
“It beats the hell out of the alternative, doesn’t it?”
“You didn’t mention the beat-down, Sol. The beat-down’s more important than the money.”
“I’ve got that covered, my friend. Don’t worry about the fucking beat-down.”
* * *
I walked up to the table Oswald was sitting at with Jimmy Bean and two guys I didn’t know by name. “Is that for me?” I asked, referring to a brown paper bag next to what was left of a plate of something in some kind of black sauce that I wouldn’t have touched with rubber gloves on both hands.
“Yeah,” Oswald said. “Not that you did anything but cost me money today.”
“Oh, but I’m not done yet,” I said right before I picked up a porcelain bowl full of white rice and slammed it into the middle of Oswald’s face. He pitched over backwards from the force of the blow, and blood started spurting out through the rice like it couldn’t wait to get the fuck out of his head.
“What the hell?” Jimmy said, but I ignored him and the other two stiffs while I unloaded several more blows with the bowl. It didn’t have much rice in it
anymore, but it was still porcelain and definitely hard enough to make its presence known.
This process was not as bad for Oswald as it sounds because I concentrated on blows that would look much worse than they actually were. Sure, he was unconscious when I finished, but he could still breathe out of his mouth and could count on being able to do so for the foreseeable future.
“What did his fortune cookie say?” I asked as I picked up the paper bag.
“What?” Jimmy said.
“He didn’t read his fortune?”
“Yeah, he did, but I didn’t fuckin’ memorize it.”
I looked at both of Jimmy’s companions, and the shorter one spoke right up like he thought there might be a prize for doing so. “’Beware of glad tidings’ or some shit like that,” he said.
“Not bad,” I said. “I guess these motherfuckers do know something about the future.”
Lono Waiwaiole lives in King City, Oregon (a suburb of Portland), where he is about to become a great granddad. He has also been a high-school teacher and basketball coach, preceded by a career in journalism. He has published six crime novels and one that is not—or, as he describes it, six books with no guys who are actually good and one with no guys who are actually bad.