Saturday, 27 March 2010
THE GOOD FATHER by Matthew C. Funk
THE GOOD FATHER
Rodolfo dipped his hands in the St. Charles baptismal font, crossed himself from the three black tears inked under one eye down to the “LK” on his belly, and went to kill the Good Father.
His ride to pick up Antonio and Carlito was a rough one. The lifted El Camino found the streets of New Orleans unkind. They were pitted like track marks. Appropriate, he thought, for a city crazed and sick on the dope of its own soul.
Appropriate for the Good Father’s city.
Antonio and Carlito were sober as doctors, bearing their kit bags into the car from Carlito’s shotgun house. They were going to fix this city by making it theirs.
“Que pasos” were exchanged. Then came a long stretch of silence as they drove into the Lower Ninth. Rodolfo broke it to settle the nerves that twitched in the bass beat of the El Camino.
“Tell me what this loco negro is like in person.”
Carlito snickered. “They say he fucks his hermana—his sister.”
“Nah,” Rodolfo caught his hand straying to the closest kit bag—the one with the poison in it; heroin and enough arsenic to kill a whole warren of rats. That’s what he was looking to do, after all. He was going to wipe out the disorganized rat warren of East New Orleans’ gangs, cleaning house so that the Latin Kings could move in. He would start with the Good Father. Not that Carlito knew it. “Tell us what he’s like as a man, Esse. I want to know who we’re going to be doing business with.”
“Hits the gym a lot?”
“I guess. I mean in all ways, Cousin.” Carlito sounded almost reverent and Rodolfo scowled into the rear view. His cousin had spent too long down in this swamp. He’d fallen to the superstitions.
“Like…he pays back a lot into his people. That new garden at the Missionary Baptist, he put that up there.”
“He a religious man?”
“No religion I’ve ever seen.” Carlito was whispering now.
“Then what, Cousin?” Rodolfo caught himself yelling, his fingers on the kit bag.
“You’ll just have to see.”
The rest of the jarring ride was in silence and when Rodolfo and his Latin Kings entered the home of the Good Father, he saw why. He saw for himself.
Rodolfo watched his hand reappear from the cave of the Good Father’s handshake like a card trick.
“Well met, little brother.” The Good Father didn’t have to raise his voice to make the den boom with it. It came as though from above the uneven planks of the roof and was still echoing in Rodolfo as the Good Father settled his seven-foot bulk on the velvet couch.
“Tight, Bro.” Rodolfo said and tried to sound it. He had to clench his teeth.
Antonio and Carlito set the kit bags on the table as Rodolfo took in the scene.
There was a lot to take in. Renaissance finery spooled and glittered on crusted walls. Statues stood in sleek nude with shotguns and cash stacks at their feet. And in the eerie glow cast by unseen black lights, weird symbols—women arched in snake-handling, deranged flames of graffiti, dire eyes and dancing figures—warped on the walls.
“Have a seat and we’ll have a taste.”
Rodolfo shivered onto one of the cushions set around the table. The room rolled with a leaden humidity, but a chill lurked here, as though a veil of shadow were stitched over everything. In the shadows, sprawled and hunkered, gathered the Good Father’s inner circle. Rodolfo spoke to them like reading a foreign decree.
“Get ready for the flavor of civilization, Holmes.”
“That so?” said the Good Father. The chuckle that brewed from the stripped, ink-dark man got Rodolfo shaking again.
He had nothing to be afraid of, he reminded himself.
“True that.” Rodolfo wished the Good Father wore more than boxers, though—it showed off the ranges of muscle he sported; muscle like some exotic land’s mountains, too dark to take a tattoo and jeweled with scars.
It was the Good Father who should be afraid.
Rodolfo’s hand was shaking all the same as he opened the kit and prepared a shot.
“Your people been living on Turkish trash too long.” Rodolfo cooked a hit of the arsenic and heroin. “Latin Kings going to bring nothing but the sweetest Afghan shit.”
“Got a high opinion of yourselves.” The Good Father took the needle, as Rodolfo had been silently begging he would since landing in New Orleans. “I’ll see for myself.”
“Let’s not exclude your boys, though.” Good Father offered the needle back.
Rodolfo only cursed to himself once. He had given up remorse before his balls dropped. The Latin Kings demanded loyalty, business and force. There was no place for remorse on the list.
“Carlito can fix.” Rodolfo cooked another poison hit as the first was passed to Carlito.
Carlito did. No regrets. Rodolfo accepted his cousin as expendable—they all were. Life was disposable in the Latin Kings and loyalty was forever. Carlito slid the needle into his arm as the Good Father took the second in hand.
As Carlito’s plunger sank, Rodolfo counted the Good Father’s thugs. Only two of them, and both looked stoned already—two, and a girl Rodolfo figured for the infamous sister, draped in carnival dress.
Arrogant negro, Rodolfo thought as the Good Father shot up. Rodolfo had fixed that.
Carlito doubled over. Rodolfo smiled at the Good Father. He wanted it to be the last thing the big upstart saw—a Latin King smiling as his backwater empire became theirs.
Good Father only smiled back.
“Not bad skag,” Good Father spread his hand over his belly as Rodolfo’s grin began to wither. “The arsenic hits me right here, though. Like a bad dose of hot sauce.”
Rodolfo’s mind scrambled as his plan faded under the room’s shadows.
“Probably,” Good Father milled his colossal arms as he stood. “Because that’s what I mix my daily dose of poisons with.”
Rodolfo and Antonio got to their guns too late. The stoned thugs had taken aim by then. Their hands could only hang dumb. Rodolfo shivered, sought a plan, found hope drowned back in the baptismal font. He could only hope for mercy now, as Good Father lifted a double-headed wood axe from behind the couch.
“You want us to kill these fools?” A thug asked Good Father.
“For starters.” Good Father tapped his axe in hand. “Then, every Spanish speaker you find on the streets today.”
The axe reared up. “Time to show the Latin Kings how we do things down in the swamp.”
Rodolfo got out a few words of the Lord’s Prayer in Latin before the axe came down, bringing the room’s hungry shadow with it.
Matthew C. Funk is a professional writer in marketing for corporate America, a writing mentor and the author of several manuscripts that illuminate the beauty of human extremes. A graduate of the Professional Writing MFA at USC, his online work is featured at sites such as Powder Burn Flash; Thrillers, Killers and Chillers; Twist of Noir; Six Sentences and his Web domain.