Whether it's with cash that's legit or blood-stained,
In The Gutter, bills still have to be paid.
In The Gutter, bills still have to be paid.
Baked Goods by Rob Pierce
“Look,” Williams said. “This is a job a lotta guys wouldn’t want. Let me know if you don’t want it. There’s this runner across town, thinks he don't have to share, got his own protection, makes him hard to get to.”
Williams was the size of a retired NFL lineman, plenty fat with what looked like a ton of muscle beneath. It was amazing he sat as comfortably as he did on the little café chair.
Vollmer sat, both palms on the metal table, didn’t pretend he was here for coffee. It was just him and Williams, he wouldn’t stay long. He didn’t care how big the man was. He cared because Williams worked for Rico, and Rico worked for Tenny, and Tenny ran most everything in this town. “You want me to visit the runner?”
Williams shook his head, his cheeks full of coffee, seemed like they should have sloshed. He swallowed. “The protection. Send a message.”
Vollmer smiled. Big. “Hell yeah.”
Vollmer studied Cuccero, a slim guy, dressed sharp, good with a knife and pistol they said, armed at all times. Who wasn’t? For this it didn’t matter. A fair fight was the last thing Vollmer had in mind.
The protection guards the man who guards the money. He doesn’t work seven days a week. A lot of nights the man doesn’t carry big money. Cuccero got a day or two off most weeks, sometimes more, but never on days his boss ran big games.
Vollmer didn’t give a fuck about the big game days. He wanted this asshole relaxed. A guy like Cuccero would be too hard to follow without being seen, probably had radar behind his ass. Except maybe on his days off.
Cuccero left his apartment around nine most mornings he didn’t work, walked down the street a few blocks to the local bakery and loaded up, sometimes took it home, sometimes took it somewhere else.
Vollmer was in the bakery by a quarter to nine, got a couple crullers and a coffee. He kept his head down the whole time, even when he ordered, and took a table with a view of the line. Which was only a half dozen people and moved fast. The big crowd came earlier. Vollmer didn’t care. He nibbled on his first cruller and sipped at his coffee.
After a few minutes, Cuccero joined the straight line to the counter, three customers between him and the register. Cuccero looked at the display case. As often as he came here, he had to have that shit memorized. Two of them ordered. Cuccero was next, after the guy at the register.
Vollmer stood, stepped away from his table, stretched his arms over his head, which still faced the floor, and brought them back down, one hip forward, his legs no longer parallel. Cuccero still looked straight ahead.
Vollmer ran. Cuccero turned, but Vollmer had him by the back of the neck and rammed his head into the display case. It was plastic and cracked open. Blood from Cuccero’s forehead fell on tiramisu. He did too.
Vollmer grabbed Cuccero by the head, a palm pressed against each temple, and slammed the man’s dessert-covered face against the bottom shelf over and over. Blood spread around the cakes. When he knew Cuccero couldn’t possibly be alive, Vollmer turned, head still down, and ran the hell out of there.
“Be nice,” Williams said, “if you coulda done that without making every fucking paper on the coast.”
“The runner scared?” Vollmer asked. “Fuck you.”
There weren’t many men who’d say that to Williams. The murder in the bakery scared more than just the runner.
Williams held his coffee cup tight, his fingers red. “That place got a security camera.”
“One fucking camera, keep your head down and it don’t see shit. You think I don’t study security? And nobody there can ID me, guaranteed. Also don’t want to. You shouldn’t give a fuck anyway. My face, not yours. He pay yet?”
Williams nodded. “But you ain’t gotta be so obvious.”
“You think anyone ain’t scared of you now? You should suck my dick. ’Cept I’d shoot you if you tried.”
Williams laughed, like Vollmer was joking. Like he’d better be.
Vollmer looked calm. He didn’t smile, his look didn’t change.
Williams drank coffee. “You’re tough, that’s good. But the guys up top, the guys who like you now? They decide you’re crazy, they won’t like you no more.”
“They don’t gotta like me.” Vollmer stood. “They just gotta pay me.” He walked away.