STREET SCENES by Laura Mason


"Hey, honey. Take that off, too. No, leave the stockings. Always liked garter belts. Sometimes old fashioned stuff is the best, right? Yeah, for an extra hundred you'll pretend you like old farts like me."

I move to my chair, laughing harshly. She looks frightened and about 16. I unzip and kick off the trousers, then unbutton my shirt.

"Don't be afraid, just don't try to bullshit me, okay? I've been around a long time, sweetheart. When you're my age you won't appreciate lies, either." I pull off my holster, and she jumps a little when I toss it, gun and all, at the bed. Then I sit, still in my underwear. "Easy. Yeah, now kneel down. Nice and slow."

Her cool little hands reach inside my shorts and I sigh happily. I always figured I'd retire here. Some people like Florida, but there's not much action down there. I'm old, but I still appreciate showgirls with really long legs. And hookers who'll blow you cheap.

"Yeah, oh yeah. That's good."

Old Man Zuko had the right idea. He came out here in the 50's, ready to move in on Al Dupri's Golden Cactus. He brought me along, part of the muscle. And I never wanted to go back to Chicago. Even when Gianotti told Zuko to stay out of Vegas, Mr. Z didn't make me sell this land. I built the house over ten years of long weekends -- and with Mr. Z's connections it barely cost me a thing. Most of the materials fell off a truck, along with the furnishings. The labor was mostly in exchange for favors.

"Watch the teeth." Shit. The girls back then were something else, and there were always plenty of them to go around. I was pretty hot stuff when I was younger. We had some parties here, entertained some Chicago big shots. Once Joey Melucci set up a poker game where three girls took turns blowing us under the table the whole night. Lost some money that night.

When Zuko died in '87, I thought about retiring. Just moving here to enjoy the sunshine, gamble a little. But Frankie asked me to stay, to help him. It was flattering. And I wasn't really ready to retire, though my Vegas weekends got longer.

"That's better." She's not very good, I'm only half-hard still. And she starts moving faster again; probably trying to get it over with. "Slow the fuck down. I'm 62, kid, this could take an hour. Don't get sloppy."

Now Frankie -- well, he's not in jail. That lawyer was worth every penny Mr. Z. put into him from grade school on. Frankie pulled a gun on a fucking cop, then shot at him in front of a dozen of cop witnesses. He killed his sister. And he got a slap on the wrist; probation. But that's just the official sentence.

"Oh, yeah. Fuck." She's got the rhythm now, hot and wet.

Frankie is a free man, but the Chicago family doesn't look kindly on men without self-control. Frankie never learned to bide his time, to stay cool. His father spoiled him. So now he pays. His businesses have been taken away from him. Michael's plan to put the Zukos out of business succeeded, but at least that little prick is dead and he's not the one profiting. Still, Frankie's out of the loop. He can play basketball all day -- he's still got plenty of money. But his power is gone.

Sometimes I think Vecchio knew that would happen, and knew it would hurt Frankie more than jail.

"Shit!" Teeth again. Stupid bitch. "What the hell am I paying you for? You need lessons, cunt." I grab her hair and hold her still while I shove myself in hard, over and over. She's red and crying now, but her damn teeth are covered.

I was glad Frankie let me go. He wanted me to stay, and I would have been close to the grandkids -- easy work, right? But I told him I'm tired. I want sunshine. I don't want to be where the action is anymore. Except this kind of action.

"Take it. Yeah. I'm gonna come now. Ahhh. God."

The hooker pulls back, her face smudged now, looking a lot older than she did when she first showed up. She stands up and moves toward her clothes.

"Don't get dressed yet. I want to watch you do yourself." But she doesn't turn around, just picks up her purse. "Hey." I'm too tired to stand up. "Listen, bitch, if I have to get up you'll regret it..."

She turns and I see the gun. Shit!

"No, Charlie, don't get up. This is from Frankie."


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