Monday, July 4, 2011

In the Air Tonight

I never got used to the speed of the Ferrari. I always thought that was a good thing; it kept me grounded. This wasn't our car, this was all part of the job. Crockett thought like that too but he would never admit it. We both needed something to remind us that none of this was real. It was all part of the game. On the streets, in this line of work, the line was blurred often.
Crockett stopped off at a pay phone, said he had a contact that was waiting for a call. I think he called home, but within a few minutes we were off, our hair blowing in the wind, the radio blasting just to take our nerves off the business at hand.
The more I saw of Miami the more I missed New York. Sure, the weather is nice and the women are beautiful but it's all like an illusion. New York looks like trouble. You can smell it. This place is paradise and you never know where to look for it.
We finally pull up to the marina just outside of town. The Carteret.
"You ready?" Crockett asks, screwing a cigarette into his lop-sided smile.
"Yea I'm ready. Now remember we're just here to talk, Castillo is already on our asses."
"Hey, I'm cool." Crockett takes a deep drag and walks ahead.
I know the job is getting to him.
We're meeting Elisha Sanchez, a local girl who has agreed to make a connection for us with her uncle Livian, hired muscle for the Cortez gang.
Elisha was waiting for us and though she put on a brave face, I could tell she was scared.
'You're late," she snarled at Crockett.
"We can go if you'd like?" he shot back.
"Let's just do this fast."
She lead us down to the dock to a yacht. On the deck chair sat her Uncle Livian.
"So what's this all about? Why did you want to me?" he said lighting a cigar.
"Mr. Sanchez, we know that you might represent certain interested parties who would want what we have," I said to him staring him straight in the eye. If I've learned anything over these past three seasons, it's to always look them in the eye or they're liable to shoot you on spot.
"Oh and what is that?"
"How about enough of product to keep his business running smoothly for the next four months," Crockett chimed in.
"Hey man, who am I talking to you or him?"
"You're talking to me," I jumped in. Crockett looked flummoxed but he usually took the lead on these things and I felt that I was due.
"Ok, so how much is this going to cost him? That is if I represent somebody and if they're interested in whatever it is you might be selling."
"We won't worry about price now. If this is something he's interested in tell him to meet us back in town at a place called the Florida on Canal, tomorrow round 11 pm., that's not too early for you is it?"
"No, that's not too early for me, if anyone is interested maybe we'll see you there. If not maybe we'll see you some other time then."
We backed away and went back up to the car.
"How did it go?" Elisha asked.
"We'll find out tomorrow," Crockett snapped back.
"What about my cut?"
"Darlin' right now any percent of zero is zero so why don't you make sure you put in a good word for us with your boss."
"He's not my boss, he's my uncle. I don't work for him."
"I believe you." Crockett answered tenderly.
"I had nowhere else to go and I've had to stay with him."
"That must have been rough on you."
"It was," a tear started running down her cheek.
"There now don't cry," Crockett rubbed her face gently.
I took this as my cue to leave. Crockett had used this trick many times. He missed his family, sure, but he also was a man in a white Armani suit and when he had that suit on he became the character he was playing. Suave and ruthless. I on the other hand could shut it off, at least I thought I could. I caught a cab back to my apartment. It was a hot night in Miami.
The air conditioner was broken. A lake of neon pink ran through my window from the motel sign across the street. I was tired and I was lonely and I was bored.
My Atari 2600 was often the only thing I had to take my mind off the job, but how many times  can I play Pole Position  and Pitfall before I go crazy?
The next night Crockett knocked on my door, two coffees in hand and the cocksure smile of a man who had accomplished what he'd set out to do the night before.
We headed off to The Florida Club over on Canal street. They offered an early bird special of scrambled eggs, sausage or bacon, and toast for only $3.99 every weekday. It was a deal I took advantage of on many sleepless nights.
Our situation seemed bleak when we arrived.
Elisha was there and seemed like a new girl.
Crockett took her to the side and I only made out part of her conversation but I definitely heard the words "but we could leave this place, forever" thrown in there. This was all part of Crockett's game. He had the girl convinced that between the money he made in this score and the percentage he was going to throw her for making the connection they could start their lives over together somewhere else. Away from all of this. Maybe he believed it but I knew that when all this was over we'd just be going after some new drug dealer, with some other young pretty thing caught in the middle, and I'd be at home cursing the sensitivity of my Atari joystick.
"Tubbs you still with us?" Crockett yelled.
"Yeah," I answered.
"Mr. Cortez asked you a question."
I had hardly noticed Emanuel Cortez, the dealer we'd been chasing for the last few weeks was standing before me. I had so often deferred to Crockett in these situations I almost forgot what to do.
"Yeah, so do you want to buy some stuff?" I mumbled.
"Some stuff?"he answered disgustedly.
"Yeah," I snapped out of my fog, "Do you want to buy some of our drugs, I have drugs to sell and I want to know if you want to buy them?" I said forcefully.
"What the hell is this are you some kind of cop?"
"Yeah that's right I am a cop, undercover Miami Metro!"
"Tubbs what are you doing?" Crockett cried.
"Son of a bitch you set us up," Cortez reached into his jacket pulling out a chrome gun and pointing it at Elisha.
Before I could realize what was happening Crockett dove, almost in slow motion in front of her, yelling "no" for what seemed to go on for at least 10 or 11 seconds.
He was too late, Elisha was shot
Cortez then turned his gun towards me as did several of his henchman.
Except Livian, who was overcome with grief at watching his niece shot before him, he pointed his gun at the hench man, who, not expecting such an attack were quickly mowed down. Livian then aimed the gun at the back of Cortez's head.
"Drop it," he said in a clear distinct tone.
"What are you doing Livian?" Cortez growled.
"Emanuel Cortez you're under arrest," Livian said, reaching for handcuffs in his back pocket.
"What? You're  undercover?" I shouted.
"Yeah, FBI. Name's Larkin" Livian said
"Livian Larkin?" I asked.
"No Agent Larkin," he corrected.
"How did you know we were cops?" I asked.
"Your partner there, he slept with my contact, told her he was going to get her out of all this, stuff like that, sounded like standard undercover stuff."
"So she's your partner?" Crockett asked.
"No, I just met her a few weeks ago, told her I was a long lost uncle, her mother's brother and that I was going to take care of her."
"She's not in on this then?" I asked.
"No, I was deep in on this,"
"So she's really shot then?"
"Oh yeah, she'll probably need medical attention."

An hour later the ambulance lights blazed
"That girl," Lt. Castillo said grimly, "she didn't make it."
Crockett looked stunned, His eyes welled furiously with frustrated tears.
"Was it worth it Lieutenant?" he said.
"Is it ever Sonny?"
I guess there are some lessons we're all still learning.
The ambulance was gone. A squad car took Cortez away to a life sentence for murder. But someone else would pop up in his place next week. They always did.

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