He was told to wait.
Sal waited and Sal smoked.
Smoking in the damp New Orleans night mist could sometimes be a struggle for him. But turning his back to the wind and bending over at his shoulders, Sal was able to keep the end of his Marlboro red with dangerous flame; a flame that he knew would eventually lead to his demise. It seems that Sal was good at doing things that he knew he would regret one day. But, something inside of him usually lead him to that place that he was aware that he shouldn’t go. That place that promised brief and beautiful satiation but usually ended in sheer death, dismemberment and disaster.
The same scenario had set itself up earlier in the night at the bar.
Sal had been in the bar just for a nightcap before heading back up to his apartment above the bar. He had lucked out when he first moved to the city and was able to rent it. The good thing about the apartment, other than the insanely cheap rent, was that it was located close to his job at Rob’s meat processing plant.
It was a decent apartment really. Nothing fancy but it had a bathroom, small kitchen area, tiny bedroom and a living room big enough for his large gray and slobbery bulldog, Oscar, to romp about in. The bath had brown rings around the tub drain. The rubber drain stopper on a bead chain was cracked. It was impossible to keep water in the tub for a smoke, a glass of whiskey and a hot soak after a long day pushing heavy meat into a chute where it was processed into circular patties that popped out of the other end like big red hockey pucks.
The rent was cheap because the ceilings and floors in the 80-year-old bar were paper thin. Sal was privy to most of the conversations of the dark side of NOLA. From his living room floor, he could hear the disreputable crews below babble on about the best places to find meth, heroin and a brunette who could make your nights long, sweaty and memorable.
Much of which he also witnessed in the apartment next to his. Many nights the paper thin walls next to the head of his bed kept him up with all of the moanings, occasional screams, chains rattling and bumping furniture. One late night he laughed to himself when he realized that if he didn’t know any better, with those noises next door he’d think he was living next to a haunted house.
So on the hot nights when money and services were being exchanged on the wall opposite his iron bedstead, Sal slept on the couch in the living room. Oscar didn’t mind. Sal made a good bed buddy.
Sal waited on the corner of Poydras and Loyola for the car with the single driver wearing a red ball cap to pull up next to him. That’s all he knew about the setup. That, and that it’d be 1130pm on the dot.
Sal watched the trolly make it’s stops and passes and pondered how the people on there were doing. What were they doing on the trolley that late at night? Coming home from work? Going to the hospital to sit up with sick family? As they stared out of the hazy passing windows of the trolley into the night, Sal felt that they were all safe in the trolley. Maybe they were just out riding around for fun. He envied the security of the riders as they slid past him in a heated red and green trolley car.
He envied them because for whatever reason they were in their transportation, they were not in there for the reason that Sal was about to get into his transportation.
They were not in their nighttime transportation to dispose of a dead human body like he was that dark, lonely and misty night.
Precisely at 1130, the 57 Chevy put it’s yellow blinker on and came to a squeaky stop at the corner where Sal stood chain smoking and trying to remain calm inside.
All he had to do was dispose quickly of this body without anyone finding out. Dispose of the body of the second in charge of the small but growing drug Italian drug cartel that was seeping into NOLA from Chicago.
Sal wasn’t told the details of how the body had stopped breathing. He didn’t ask. He didn’t want to know. That only made it more human and creepy.
All he had to do was dispose quickly of this body and the score would be settled. At least that’s what Carlo had told him. But Carlo would lie to the Pope if he thought it would better his advancement from 3rd in the drug world. In fact, Carlo would slice the throat of the Pope if it would help him be made.
The man in the red cap opened the door, stepped out with black leather shoes that landed with a clunk on the wet pavement, walked to the driver’s back door and opened it. He reached in and pulled out a dark leather fedora.
Taking off the red ball cap, he replaced it with the fedora. With one slow movement, the driver ran his right index and thumb fingers across the fedora brim and cocked it downward on the right side. Shutting the back door, he reached into his trenchcoat and pulled out a cigarette and flipped out a gold Zippo and lit his smoke. Depositing that one first huge exhalation of smoke from his lungs into the streetlamp lights, the driver again repositioned his coat and flipped up his collar to fend off the night chill. The driver turned and walked to the back of the Chevy. There he stopped at the rear and placed his left gloved palm on the trunk. With his right gloved hand, he touched his forehead then crossed his chest. Taking the same hand, he kissed the gold cross that dangled from around his thick neck.
He righted himself again and fixing his coat, the driver came around to Sal. It was a quick encounter as he walked up to Sal on the sidewalk. There was a gloved handshake with a grip that made Sal reconsider his masculinity. The clasp of the hands pulled Sal closer to the driver’s face. He forced Sal close enough to his chiseled face that Sal could detect that the driver had eaten something with garlic recently. A deep and intense squint of the driver’s eyes assured Sal that this had to be perfect, or else.
‘Make it quick. Make it complete. And don’t smoke in the car. That’s just disgusting’ was the only things that the deep-voiced driver said as he calmly strolled off and faded into the night’s wet sidewalk.
The blonde waitress with bright red lips dinged the bell, then slipped the paper order slip for another cheeseburger and fries under the clip on the order carousel and spun it around for the cook at the Ça C’est Bon Cafe.
‘Heya Bertrand!’ she leaned up and shouted to the cook in the back.
‘I don’t know if it’s you or Rob’s meat plant, but the customas are sayin that these here burgas today taste betta. Something spicey about them, they’re saying. I dunno. Almost like they’ve got some ITAlian seasoning in them or something. But I tell ya, they’re liking these burgas today.’
That’s the best I can tell about it.
*Picture taken in New Orleans 2015.
I will, no doubt, be abstaining from all burger emporiums, this week. Oh, my…
Excellent tale for a time of macabre, Mark. Happy Halloween to you and yours.
Thank you! Ima still eat a burger. lol. Hope all is well with you!