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La Voz

Not every audiophile is a button-down nerd escapee from Hi-Fidelity.

Down here in the Gutter, they're a lot like you.

La Voz by Preston lang

The singer on the radio had the world on a string. Full of confidence and optimism, the man was equal to anything. Joey drummed on the steering wheel as they sat at a red.

“I don’t like Sinatra,” Buck said.

“That doesn’t mean anything.”

“It means I do not enjoy his music.”

“And that’s meaningless. You can’t say that.”

“Well, I just did.”

“It’s like saying you don’t like a sandwich. You don’t have to like every kind of sandwich—”

“No, it’s nothing like—”

“You don’t have to love every song. There are songs I don’t like—My Way, Strangers in the Night? I got no use for them. They trade on cheap emotion. But you can’t just wave away Sinatra altogether. It doesn’t mean anything.”

“You keep saying it doesn’t mean anything. But I’ll tell you what it means: we can hear this song to the end, but then I really need you to put on something else.”

Seven Nelson Riddle arrangements later they reached La Voz. It was just past nine AM—not open for business. Joey had to knock and wait for a kid with a mop.

“We’re here to see Aidan,” Joey said, pulling out a twenty. “You go get a haircut or something.”

The kid grabbed the money and took off—didn’t even put on his coat.

The door to Aidan’s office was closed but not locked. When he looked up from his computer, he was angry, then confused, then nervous as hell.

“Joey. Hi. Sit down. Welcome, sit down. You want a drink? Who’s this gentleman?”

“I think he’s someone’s nephew.”

“Hey, we’re all someone’s nephew, right?”

“Not when all your uncles have died off. You have the money?”

Aidan shut his laptop and considered standing but decided to settle back in his chair instead, fidgety and probably bumped up on morning coke.

“All right. Look. No one else is paying the points we do. The Castle does twice the business we do, and I know for a fact they’re paying a flat 6,000. I pay 8,000 on my worst month. There could be Ebola next door—your cut would still be over 6,000. How is that fair?”

“You owe 11,400.”

“Look. I’ll give you 6,000. That’s what they pay at the Castle.”

“Don’t talk about The Castle. Don’t talk about Ebola. I need 11,400 dollars.”

Joey looked over at Buck who might as well have been doing his nails, standing there watching like it was daytime drama.

“What? You want me to go rat pack on him? Ring-a-ding-ding?”  

“He owes eleven-four. Get that for me.”

Buck hesitated, just to show he didn’t jump when Joey barked, but then he grabbed the stapler off the desk and held it out towards Aidan.

“You know what I’m going to do with this? I’m going to take—”

Joey ducked behind a cabinet just before Aidan fired eight times into Buck’s chest. There was an empty click and then the sound of the gun falling on hardwood. Joey peeked out and saw Aidan standing, unarmed and stunned.

“I am going to help you get this body out of your restaurant. I’m going to make all this right with people. Otherwise, someone is going to kill you in the next few days. But first you open the safe and you give me what’s inside. You understand?”

Aidan’s hands were shaking, but he opened the safe behind his desk and handed over nearly 40,000 dollars.

“And one other thing. I was in here for dinner the other night. You were playing some kind of new age yodeling. That lady with a harp and—”

“Amutiya Bjornson,” Aidan said mechanically.

“Yeah. Well, Amutiya is out. I’m eating Penne in a nice restaurant, I need to be hearing the Chairman.”

“. . . Who?”

No, it wasn’t going to work. Aidan couldn’t hold his part together, and Joey would have to explain too much to the old guys. Even if they believed him, someone else would cause trouble. There was only one story he could tell—Buck went in like an amateur and the little weasel capped him.

“I’m sorry,” Aidan said. “Who is this chairman?”

Joey shot the man through the eye.

What a world, what a life. 

Preston Lang a writer from New York City. His first crime novel, The Carrier, was published in March 2014 by 280 Steps, and his second, The Blind Rooster came out October 2014 from Crime Wave Press. His short stories have appeared in Thuglit, Spinetingler, Near to the Knuckle, and All Due Respect. He also writes a monthly column for