This story first appeared in the May 2011 issue of Pulp Empire Magazine.


Pockets called for this meeting. He had concerns that needed to be discussed with the others. These were dangerous times, he felt, and controls were needed to maintain their safety. He wanted to see if the others recognized the danger and if not he needed to open their eyes.


The meeting was convened in the back room of his restaurant, Carciofo’s, which he closed to the public for the evening. There were three others around the table, all powerful men who didn’t always trust each other, but respected Pockets. No aids or assistants were allowed for this meeting at the insistence of Pockets due to the sensitive nature of the subject. As always, real names were not used, only nicknames they had earned or that were thrust upon them by circumstance.


“Thank you all for coming,” Pockets began, “I’m glad this evening finds you all well and safe.” He looked at each of them acknowledging their nods with one of his own. “Please allow me to get right to the matter that brings us together tonight.”


“Please do,” said Semi-Colon, who a number of years ago encountered a medical problem resulting in part of his Colon being removed. “Like you, we are all busy men who have affairs to attend to.”


“It is about Foveo,” said Pockets, wasting no time. Pockets was a fan of Ancient Rome, and “foveo” was Latin for “enforcer,” the name he gave to the man they all used to perform unpleasant tasks when needed.


“What about him?” asked Hours. Hours had once encountered one of Viagra’s side effects and had to have blood drained from the rigid member.


“It is my feeling that we should remunerate him differently.”


“English please,” said Hours.


“I think we need to put him on our payroll, make him report to one of us,” said Pockets.


“Why?” responded Semi-Colon, “I think our arrangement is just fine as it is.”


“I have concerns about the way he goes about his business, very reckless, not respecting the way things have been done,” Pockets replied.


“But maybe that makes him more effective,” said Bambino speaking up for the first time. Bambino made his way through the ranks by wielding a baseball bat against anyone that got in his way. His cohorts would joke that he should have tried out for the Yanks. “You know fear can be a good thing.”


“Yes,” echoed Hours, “he’s good at what he does, that’s for sure. Business has been good since we engaged his services.”


“I concede that,” said Pockets, “but he is a dangerous man. I think we need to have more control over him, have more of a say in how he fulfills his duties.”


“You’re talking about more money, that’s what it will take, right?” said Semi-Colon.


Pockets sighed, they always thought of the money first, not their own welfare. “Look at it as an investment,” he said.


“An investment in what?” said Hours.


“In our security,” Pockets replied.


“What are you talking about,” said Bambino, “you have the contacts, you line the pockets of the big shots so that we can operate without them bugging us, which we all appreciate by the way, there’s our security, right?”


“Yes,” said Pockets, “but Foveo has been doing some foolish things lately, taking unneeded risks, putting us all in danger in my opinion.”


“You know we all respect your opinion,” said Semi-Colon, “but I think your concerns are unfounded here. I actually think it’s to our benefit to have Foveo acting independently. We only pay him, and handsomely I might add, when we need something done. He is so much removed from us that it would be difficult to trace the orders back to us if something went wrong.”


“Yes,” chimed in Hours, “and he pays his own helpers out of what we give him. If we put him on our payroll, we’d have to pay him constantly even though his services might not be needed all the time. Plus we’d need to pay the people he uses to assist him too.”


“That’s a lot of dough,” said Bambino. “I agree with these guys, you’re seeing something that ain’t there. Things are good right now, why mess with it?”


“Because the way he operates puts us on a shaky pedestal,” replied Pockets. “Yes, our current arrangement saves us money, but it is all tenuous.”


“What the hell does that mean?” said Bambino. “Can’t you use regular words?”


“I up my vocabulary, why don’t you up yours?” replied pockets with a smile. He flinched a little at the expression on Bambino’s face getting the sense that if he had his bat he’d be swinging for the fences. But just as quickly the look passed as the others chuckled evoking a smile and a head shake from Bambino. “It means if things go wrong it can all come crashing down,” Pockets clarified.


“It’s not going to go wrong,” said Hours, “after all, what’s good for us is good for him, and vice versa. When business if booming for us, it means more work for him because there will always be bastards who can’t or won’t pay, or our own scumbags who try to cheat us. And when he does his job it keeps the cash coming and our people in line.”


“But he’s building his own power, don’t you see that?” pleaded Pockets. “He keeps hiring people to work for him, buying their loyalty. And both he and his people are careless, doing things in broad daylight, spending money uncontrollably, and flaunting their lifestyle. We don’t need that kind of attention.”


“So what would you have us do?” asked Hours, “just what are you proposing?”


“That we approach him and propose that he works for one of us, I don’t care who, on payroll, reporting to one of our lieutenants.”


“Why would he agree to that?” asked Bambino.


“Because we’d pay him very well, that’s why. He’d have a steady income, job security if you will.”


“And what do we get out of it besides laying out more money?” said Semi-Colon.


“We get to dictate what he does and how he does it. We also get to hire any helpers he needs. We get to discipline him and others if they don’t do things as we say, or if they get out of line in other ways. We basically rein him in a little; buy his loyalty if you will.”


They were silent for a while absorbing this argument. Semi-Colon was the first to speak up. “Pockets,” he began, “I appreciate your concerns, and you know how much your influence means to our success. But we pay you well for that influence; you share in how well we all do. So we all have an equal interest in what each other does.”


“I acknowledge that,” replied Pockets, “it is that cooperation that has allowed us all to thrive.”


“Yes,” continued Semi-Colon, “and with that equal interest comes an equal voice. I, for one, think it is better to have Foveo act without the controls you’re talking about. It is less expensive, he uses his own initiative and devices to get things done, has a financial interest in doing tasks as cheaply as possible with the fewest people. What’s wrong with that?”


“I agree,” said Hours. “After all, there’s nothing to prevent us from going to someone else if we don’t like how he performs.”


“But that’s just it,” said Pockets, “he’s getting too influential, there’s no one else to go to.”


“There’s always some young hotshot willing to get their hands dirty,” said Bambino speaking as though from experience. “Competition can be a good thing, keep costs down, make people control themselves if they want our business, you know? I’m also for keeping things as they are with Foveo.”


Pockets shoulders slumped. “Of course I will abide by your wishes, but I must say that I think this is a mistake. Please cogitate the things I’ve said tonight. Give it some more thought,” a glance at Bambino, “I beg you.”


They ended the evening as it began, nodding to each other as they silently filed out of the room. Eight months later Semi-Colon was shot in the back of the head as he left his Doctor’s office. That same day Hours’ throat was slit as he lay sleeping next to one of his prostitutes, and Bambino had his head bashed in with his own baseball bat.


A month after that, Foveo entered Carciofo’s surrounded by three burly employees. “Pockets,” he said shaking his hand warmly with a two handed grip, “can we talk?”

“Of course,” said a defeated Pockets.


“A shame what happened to the others, a real shame,” said Foveo with mock sincerity. “But life must go on as they say.”


“Yes, what can I do for you?”


“I think you know,” said Foveo. “Whatever arrangements you had with them, I would like to continue. You have valuable contacts, which is very fortunate for you, and I hope for me too.”


“Of course,” said Pockets, “whatever I have is available to you. Let’s work out the details over some wine and pasta.”


They proceeded to a booth in the back corner, all the while Pockets thinking this was the beginning of the end.



The End


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: