Eyewitness Blues, is now available!
In the meantime, I invite you to enjoy the first chapter:
Martin wasn’t asking for his life to be a fun-filled ride down a water slide…he just didn’t want to feel like it was being flushed down a toilet every day. Even on those rare occasions when he seemed to catch a lucky break it wasn’t really luck, it was more like getting plucked from the toilet and dropped directly into the cesspool.
How else could you describe his current situation?
The ape literally held Martin’s life in his hands.
“Ple-e-e-ase,” Martin begged. He could feel the blood rushing to his head. If there had been any money in his pockets it would have fallen out.
Martin’s St. Cajetan medallion dangled in front of his eyes, but his attention was focused on the expressionless face of Lorenzo the ape Aponte. Lorenzo leaned over the parapet and looked down at Martin. Lorenzo could have been reading a menu or dangling a man eight stories above the asphalt, it was impossible to tell.
Martin tilted his head back and saw a blue minivan exiting the parking garage below. He looked back up at the ape.
“Please,” he tried again. “I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you. Please.”
Lorenzo released Martin’s left ankle, sending a bolt of panic through Martin’s body. He closed his eyes and waited for the impact with the ground. When he opened his eyes the ape was scratching his nose with his free right hand. He glared down at Martin and spoke for the first time.
“Yeah, yeah!” Martin said. “I will! Just pull me up. Please.”
The wheels that had driven Martin Aquino to his current predicament had been put into motion a year ago with the seemingly innocent purchase of a used car. It had taken him months to save the money, nothing fancy, just a 13-year-old Honda with about a million miles on it, but at least he had a car.
Unfortunately, Martin hadn’t known that the dude who sold him the car wasn’t the rightful owner…he was the guy who had stolen it from the projects in South Providence where some idiot had left it sitting in front of a bodega with the engine running. The Rhode Island DMV hadn’t scrutinized the signatures on the paperwork any more than Martin had; a cursory glance at best, as long as the government got their money they were happy.
For a week Martin drove the car around, unaware that there was twenty-five pounds of pot in the trunk until the pot’s rightful owner, a guy named Mutt, showed up to claim his weed. Mutt gave Martin two choices…he could be buried in the car or he could work off his mistake. Martin wasn’t sure exactly what his mistake had been, other than buying the wong used car, but he knew for sure it wasn’t worth getting dead over.
So he went to work for Mutt.
Martin became Mutt’s errand boy, making pick-ups, drops and, on more than one occasion, ripping people off for thousands of dollars on phony drug deals.
It was better than being dead—until Mutt ripped off the wrong guy.
Mutt’s victim worked for local mob boss, Don Gammino, and the ten grand they got from him was collection money. Needless to say, the mark didn’t live very long after Gammino found out about the con, but he did live long enough to tell Gammino about Martin.
And now the world was upside down—literally.
From Martin’s inverted perspective, the airliner lifting off the runway at TF Green airport looked like it was trying to land on its roof.
Martin’s stomach lurched momentarily when he felt sudden movement, but he felt a wave of relief when he realized he was moving up. The ape dropped him on the concrete deck and loomed over him. Martin froze, except for the trembling.
“Okay, ass-wipe, let’s hear it,” the ape said, “and it better be the truth or your last meal is going to be pavement.”
Martin nodded rapidly.
“His name is Mutt. He made me work for him, I had no choice.”
“Where can I find this Mutt?”
“He’ll kill me if I tell you.”
The ape reached for Martin’s ankle. “You either tell me what I want to know, or we find out if you can fly.”
The look in the ape’s eyes was enough to convince Martin. He told the ape everything he knew about Mutt—where his stash house was, where he hung out and where he liked to eat breakfast.
Lorenzo stepped over Martin to leave, pausing mid-step, his work boot hovering an inch above Martin’s face. Even though he feared his face was about to get squashed by Lorenzo’s size twelve, Martin became oddly fixated on a pebble wedged into one of the treads. The stomping never came. Instead, Lorenzo laughed and continued on his way to his car.
Only after Martin heard the tires of the ape’s car squealing on the level below did he pick himself up and brush the dust from his pants. “Jesus fucking Christ, I hate my life.”
He looked around to make sure nobody heard him. A seagull hovered high above him in the grey October sky. Martin watched it with envy.
“Just fly away,” he said. “God, I wish I could just fly away to an island somewhere. All by myself. No people, no problems.”
The chirp of a nearby car alarm snapped Martin out of his trance. A man in a trench coat, carrying a briefcase, approached a nearby BMW. Martin finished dusting himself off, drawing an over-the-shoulder glance from the man as he closed his car door and pulled away.
Martin rode the elevator to the ground floor and returned to his booth at the garage’s exit. The door of the other booth opened and Frank Edler crossed the garage exit lane.
“You were gone for a while,” he said to Martin. “You’re lucky Marco didn’t—whoa! What’s wrong? You look like death-warmed-over. What happened up there?”
“Nothing,” Martin said. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Don’t worry about it? If Marco had come by while you were up there, I would have been just as screwed as you. I have to worry about it.”
“Calm down, Frank. Marco didn’t come and I’m back. Let’s just get back to work.”
“You go up top with a leg-breaker for Don Gammino and come back a half hour later looking like death and I’m supposed to forget about it? I don’t think so.”
“Jesus, Frank. I got enough shit going on…I don’t need it from you, too.”
“I don’t care what you…”
A pickup truck pulled to a stop at Frank’s booth and the driver rolled his window down.
Martin motioned toward the truck with his chin. “Better take care of that,” he told Frank.
Frank looked over his shoulder at the truck. The driver looked back at him and waved his ticket.
“I’m not gonna get fired for you, that’s all I’m saying.” Frank stomped back to his booth.
A week later, just as Martin finished his shift and was about to leave work, a car pulled to a stop at his booth. Martin’s stomach clenched when Lorenzo rolled his window down and told Martin to get in the car. Martin was convinced that his life, as shitty as it might be, was almost over. With a strange mixture of fear and acceptance he got into the car.
To his great surprise, and even greater relief, the ape took Martin to see Don Gammino, who wanted to thank him for the information about Mutt, ensure him that he was in no danger and, surprise of all surprises, offer him a job washing dishes at his restaurant. It would mean some extra money, not a lot, but God knew he needed whatever he could get.
More than that, it meant he wasn’t going to die…not today anyway.