The drive was quiet and Frankie was uncharacteristically hung over. They stopped before getting on the Garden State for beer and ice. Then he and Jones drank and talked about baseball and the weather and the trucks and where they would look for work after this went down.
They were discussing it a little like another day at work, simply another bad job they had to do. “Mexico,” Jones blurted out. “Ever been to Mexico? I have a friend who is a coyote, smuggling people across the border; pretty good work, unless you get caught.”
Frankie said, “Yeah, I could see that. I guess this is going to end our careers in the flower business, huh?”
Jones said it had to end anyway. Nobody could keep up that pace forever. “We just need a new gig.”
They rode on into Brooklyn and Church Street. Frankie looked at Jones, “I guess we need to do this, Mr. Jones. I don’t like who I’ve become; I don’t like that I have to take on everyone’s wars. I miss a simpler life. I miss having a way back and a way out. I know this guy deserves to die, but I don’t know how many more I can carry, Mr. Jones. I’m still young, but I feel very old. Inside, I feel thousands of years old. I don’t sleep. I lay awake at night and hear the moaning of the ghosts, my grandfather telling me to turn it around, but every day I walk closer and closer to that line: the edge, the line too far, the line I want come back from, a border just too far. I don’t want to kill this guy, but I don’t want Eddie dead either. All these things are out of my hands. I hope he puts up a fight. I hope he makes me earn this death. Part of me hopes he wins, hopes he kills me. That would end the war, wouldn’t it, Mr. Jones?”
They were waiting on the street until John Quarry’s sister left the building. It was about 8:45 a.m. Frankie turned in the backseat and opened the cooler, grabbing two more beers. “I don’t know how tough this asshole is; if we can’t get him in the car, I guess we’ll do it right there in his apartment. I don’t want to do this. Last night I dreamed I was talking to Sammy’s ghost. This is just one step closer to the line.” He then looked Jones in the eye. “I’ve already crossed the line, haven’t I?” Jones glanced down at his beer.
Frankie looked up. “There goes the sister with the kid—it’s time. I’m still young, Jones, but I feel a thousand years old. I know how I’m going to die. It won’t be clean and it won’t be pretty, and I hope it’s not today. We’ll go in, buy the weed, maybe burn one with him, then we’ll tell him we have a guy, big time guy, big player, wants to buy quantity. We need to take him to meet him. I had Fat Joe call him yesterday and tell him about it. He’s a stupid, greedy fuck. We get him in the car. I’ll take his keys and his car; we’ll drive out there to the swamps, then kill him and leave him.”
They walked out of the elevator and knocked on John Quarry’s door. John answered; he was very high, very agitated. He started saying things that made no sense and he was very confrontational. He asked Frankie how much money he had brought. Frankie just looked at Jones and said, “Do you believe this asshole?”
John came right in tight to Frankie’s face. “Asshole? Asshole? Who are you calling an asshole, motherfucker?”
Frankie became confused and concerned. This was not part of his well-orchestrated plan. He tried to downplay everything. “Come on now, John, we only want to do business here. We don’t want trouble.”
John returned, “Don’t tell me shit about what you want,” and he pulled a six-inch, bone-handled switchblade out of his back pocket. Jones reached for his pistol, but Frankie waved him off.
“John, seriously, we don’t need to do this.”
But John was getting very bold with the blade. He screamed, “I know who you are!” He lunged at Frankie, and in a move that was almost choreographed, Frankie quickly stepped aside and John went flying toward the wall, and tucked and rolled. Frankie reached down and pulled him to his feet and slammed him hard in the temple with his right fist. John collapsed to the floor. Frankie grabbed John’s right arm and twisted it back, bending it almost behind his back as he grabbed the knife from him. Grabbing his shirt collar and neck, he pulled John up. He stared into his eyes, making sure he was still conscious as he pulled him up against the wall.
Frankie said, “Asshole, I’m going to kill you now. It is purely intentional and do you know why?” John stared into his eyes. He could hear him.
Frankie plunged the switchblade into him, right below where the rib cage meets, inches above the navel. He pushed the blade in deep as he said to John, “I wish you’d never killed my friend, Eddie, you asshole, but it feels good to kill you. Now I’m going to watch you die.” As Frankie plunged the blade deep into John Quarry’s body he saw blood run, it reminded him of Billy’s and Sammy’s blood. He pushed the blade in deeper like he was fucking him with the knife. He felt the warmth of John’s blood running from his dying body on his hand as he watched life end and escape, like a whisper. The blade felt like it reached John’s heart as Frankie saw the last glimmer of life pass from his eyes. Frankie stood there and stared at him, feeling the weight of John’s lifeless body now, feeling that he was supporting all of his weight on the knife blade and his right arm. He pulled the blade from John and pushed his dead body to the floor.
Jones finally spoke, “Well, it wasn’t supposed to go down that way—”
Frankie said, “Let’s grab his weed, guns, and money and get the fuck out of here.” Jones looked at him, questioning. Frankie said, “Jones, you want to leave it?” Frankie took John’s wallet, went into the bedroom, found about a pound of weed and a small stack of cash. Jones said he had found a couple of guns. They threw the weed and guns in a bag and bolted for the door. Jones started the car. He took off before Frankie had made it fully into the passenger seat.
“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye played on the radio. Frankie quietly said, “I don’t know, Brother Marvin; I really don’t know.”
They didn’t say much until they hit the Garden State. Frankie rolled a couple of joints and they passed them back and forth. At about 10:30 a.m., Frankie finally asked if Jones wanted to go to a bar. Jones didn’t want to. Instead, he offered, “Let’s just grab some beer. I want to get back down to Jersey and figure out our next move.”
Frankie was just barely holding on to sanity. He was hearing voices. He kept seeing Sammy’s face and John’s face. He finally said, “Is this weed bothering you. You feel okay?”
Jones said he felt fine and pulled into the parking lot of the 7-11. Frankie sat in the car while Jones went in to buy beer. He was shaking inside; not visible to anyone on the outside, but clear to him. He couldn’t stop it. Frankie sat in complete silence for a long time, trying to silence the noise of all the voices—the old woman, Alex, Pam, Billy, Sammy, Landry, and now John and Eddie.
He started talking to Eddie. It was like his dead friend was sitting there next to Frankie. Eddie told him that he never wanted Frankie to avenge his death. “What was the cost you paid for that? You couldn’t forget this, let it pass? These events become who you are, Frankie. I never wanted this for you, and I’m still dead and you’ll live with this man’s ghost forever. Was that your plan, Frankie, to carry my weight and now his too? You’ve done something you can never undo; now you need to live with this. I’m sorry, Frankie, you did nothing for me; all you did was ruin yourself.”
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