Mr. Heart awoke but kept his eyes closed. Something was wrong. He wasn’t in his bed. Pretending to still be asleep, he felt around with his senses. He was bound to a wooden chair. His hands were tied behind his back. The floor was hard, maybe concrete. The air was cool and musty. He guessed he was in a warehouse or a basement. Neither was a good place for a man in his line of work, but it was better than waking up at the bottom of a river.
What was the last thing he remembered? He’d gotten a call from the butler. Jimmy the Cock was dead, assassinated by one of their own. Jimmy had told him that something like this might happen, even paid him in advance in case it did. The chances were very small, he’d said, but apparently, they hadn’t been small enough. After paying the traitor a visit, Heart had driven home. He had parked his car in the garage, had headed for the door, had fumbled for his house key, and then—the smell of chloroform. Had to be Richie the Tongue’s doing. Who else? But if they wanted to kill him, they would have done it already, which meant they still needed him for something. He decided to open his eyes.
The room was dark. A single lamp hanging from the ceiling cast a tight circle of light surrounding him and two others, who were stirring beside him. He turned to get a better look at them and realized they were Mr. Club and Mr. Diamond. Jesus, those tricky gooks had outsmarted all of them. Heart was humiliated and impressed at the same time.
Mr. Club’s dazed eyes focused upon his face. “Heart? What the fuck is going on?” His voice was unnaturally loud, especially for someone who had just regained consciousness. It made Heart wince.
“I don’t know. Shut up.”
Mr. Club had a mouth on him. And he was an idiot. Jimmy had only kept him around because he was loyal and he was part of the old gang. Club idolized Jimmy, would have drunk his own piss if Jimmy had asked him to. “Mr. Club”…Heart had to stop thinking of him by that name, had to stop thinking of himself as “Mr. Heart.” Jimmy was the one who had given them these silly code names, and now Jimmy was dead. Back in the old days, before Jimmy was even called Jimmy, they’d all gone by their real names. None of this alias crap.
The old man was goofy like that. Naming them after playing cards. Calling them delivery men. Heart never bought into that religion bullshit. He didn’t have to justify his actions with talk about God and Judgment. He had a much simpler philosophy. He killed people because he was good at it, and it paid the bills. The way he saw it, death was inevitable whether it came in the form of a heart attack or a bullet. If anything, they were garbage men.
He leaned over and caught Mr. Diamond’s eye. They nodded at one another. He liked Diamond. He was a true professional. He didn’t talk much, just did the job and moved on. Unlike Heart and Club, he wasn’t connected to the old gang. He was a freelancer when Jimmy had hired him a few years back.
“Your boss is dead.” The words echoed from the shadows. Heart recognized it as the voice of Dr. Jung, Richie the Tongue’s hand puppet.
An object flew out of the darkness, bounced off Mr. Club’s chest, leaving a red stain, and landed on the floor in front of them. It was a severed, bloody dick, cut off at the base of the shaft. And one that size, it was easy to guess whose it was. Club screamed, first in disgust, then in rage.
“You sick bastards! I’m gonna kill you! I’m gonna kill all of you!” He stamped his feet and twisted in his chair. Heart kicked him hard in the shin to calm him down.
“It was easy, really,” said Dr. Jung. “Your friend Mr. Spade did most of the work.”
“Spade? Where is he? Is he here? Spade, you little prick! I’m gonna rip your fucking throat out!”
“It’s okay,” Heart said calmly. “I took care of it.”
He’d expected Spade to be halfway to Mexico by the time Jimmy’s death was discovered, but the fucker was taking a nap in his apartment when Heart whacked him. Didn’t put up a fight or anything. It was as if he’d known what was coming to him, and wanted to take it like a man. Heart could respect that. He didn’t know Spade very well, had only met the kid a few times and never worked with him on a job. Jimmy had wanted to keep him separate from the veterans. The old man had taken him in young and trained him from scratch. Taught him the Law of Amorality and all that fluffy bullshit. From what Heart heard, Spade was as skilled as Mr. Diamond and looked up to Jimmy almost as much as Mr. Club—it was a winning combination, and there was no doubt that Jimmy wanted him to be his successor. Heart wasn’t jealous. Like the other veterans, he was too old for the job, and he wouldn’t want it even if it were offered to him. Running a criminal empire was too much responsibility for him. Nevertheless, he didn’t think Spade was right for the job either.
“The kid’s got the madness in him,” Heart had told Jimmy on one occasion. “Remember what he did to those junkies? They were so fucked up, the police couldn’t identify them without dental records. Remind you of a certain chink we know? Remember what that gook did to poor Blake? The kid has talent, I’ll give you that. But he can’t be trusted. You rub him the wrong way, and he could snap. Make an innocent joke about his ma, next thing you know, he’s going all Joe Pesci on your ass.”
Jimmy waved the thought off. “That’s all in the past. He’s nothing like Richie. He’s a professional through and through, hasn’t screwed up on a job yet. Besides, we all get a touch of the madness now and then. That’s what makes us criminals and not…I don’t know…barbers.” Jimmy had burst into laughter, but Mr. Heart had only sighed.
And now Jimmy was dead, and his severed cock was resting on Richie’s basement floor.
“You have two options,” Jung said. It was his voice but Richie’s words. The experience was very odd, like listening to a ventriloquist except the dummy was a real person. “Option number one: Join me. Option number two: Die right here and now.”
“Fuck you,” said Club. “I didn’t betray Jimmy twenty years ago when you melted my shit bag, and I’m not going to betray Jimmy now, that’s for damn sure. You tongue-less, dick-less little goo—”
A shot rang out, and Club’s brains splattered against the back wall. The force of the bullet knocked his whole body backwards and tipped over his chair. Heart jerked involuntarily. Diamond stayed his cool, calm self.
“Mr. Heart? Mr. Diamond?”
They looked at the remains of Mr. Club’s head, looked at one another, and nodded. They had no choice. Heart loved the old man, but he’d fucked up. Heart had tried to warn him about the kid, about the madness, but Jimmy wouldn’t listen. Why should they pay for Jimmy’s mistake? Loyalty—at least rational loyalty, not the kind of loyalty Mr. Club possessed—only extended to death. Jimmy was gone forever; their loyalty meant nothing anymore. Heart didn’t particularly like Richie (his nose was still a little crooked from the time Richie had broken his nose), but if he had to choose between getting paid and getting killed, he’d rather get paid.
“Well, seeing that we’re unemployed now,” said Mr. Heart, “sure, we’ll join you.” Mr. Diamond nodded in concurrence.
“Good,” said Jung. “Very good.”
Richie, Dr. Jung, and two other Asian men stepped out of the shadows into the circle of light. Richie looked the same—well-groomed, stoic, small yet intimidating. The two henchmen untied Heart and Diamond while Richie signed with his hands and Jung interpreted.
“You are absolutely forbidden to tell anyone that Jimmy is dead. Instead, your first order of business will be to dispose of anyone who knows or might know about Jimmy’s death, including his butler, the girls who were in the house at the time of his death, anyone they might have told, and anyone they might have told. Next, you will tell all of Jimmy’s suppliers, customers, and acquaintances that there was an unsuccessful attempt on Jimmy’s life by one of his own people, and now he refuses to speak to anyone directly. You will pretend that all correspondence is going through you to Jimmy, but in fact, it will be going through you to me, and vice-versa.”
It took a second for Richie’s plan to sink in. Mr. Heart had to hand it to him. The man might be a dirty chink, but he was a damn clever one. The purpose of keeping Jimmy alive was two-fold. First, it prevented his more loyal followers from seeking revenge on Richie. Second, since Jimmy’s associates had an established trust with him, it would secretly give Richie control of Jimmy’s people in addition to his own. Why eliminate your competition when you can become it and have a monopoly of power? Richie would be ruling the entire criminal underworld of the city without anybody even knowing it. The police were more concerned with Jimmy than they were with him, and now if they ever went after the former, they would only be chasing a ghost. It was genius. Beautiful, even.
Freed from his bonds, Heart stood up and observed Richie with a strange sense of admiration. A few minutes ago, Richie was his sworn enemy, and now he was his boss.
“As long as you work for me, you will be monitored at all times. I will know when you eat, when you sleep, when you shit, when you jerk off. At the first sign of disobedience, you will be killed. Is that clear?” Anyone else, and Heart would have called their bluff. But he knew Richie was crazy enough to actually follow through with this shit. His house was probably bugged already.
“Yes, very clear.” Mr. Diamond grunted in agreement.
“Good.” Richie smiled for the first time. “It’ll be just like old times, right?”
“Yeah,” Heart said with a slight trace of fear in his voice. “Just like old times.”
“I don’t know how you can eat that shit,” Frank said.
With a mouthful of lo mein, Richie said, “You’re eating the same thing.”
“No, not the food. I mean pussy. How can you eat pussy?”
They were sitting in a parking lot in the hot afternoon sun, waiting for their guy to come out of the office building. All the windows were rolled down, but it still felt like an oven in the car. Frank’s face was drenched with sweat, but Richie only seemed to be sweating from the armpits. They’d been waiting for almost an hour, but there was still no sign of the guy.
Richie took a long drink of his Coke and said, “You don’t eat pussy?”
“Right after a shower, maybe. And I have to be in a really good mood. But I’m talking about your everyday, run-of-the-mill pussy. Pussy that’s covered in piss and farts, that’s been marinating in panties all day. Pussy that smells like licorice that’s been sitting out in the sun. How can you come home and eat that shit?”
“It’s called sucking it up. Taking it like a man. I figure if a chick can blow me and swallow my jizz, the least I can do is lick her love bud for a few minutes. Plus, you got an insurance orgasm.”
“What the fuck is an insurance orgasm?”
“Say you blow your load too soon. Maybe you haven’t jerked off in a week. Maybe the girl you’re banging has a vagina made out of rubber, and it takes her six hours to come. Maybe you’re just tired, and you want to get it over with. If you come early, you can’t feel guilty, because she already came when you ate her out. Now if you do make her come when you fuck her, which is what you want to happen anyway, then the insurance orgasm becomes an extra credit orgasm. Now she’s come more times than you, and she feels guilty and makes you a sandwich.”
Frank shoveled some green beans in his mouth and wiped his forehead with a napkin. “I don’t need no fucking insurance orgasm. My dick does the job every time—regular orgasm, extra credit orgasm, extra extra credit orgasm. I guess you wouldn’t know because you got one of these.” Frank waved an egg roll in front of his crotch. “Me so horny, me love you long time…”
Richie shoved him hard into the driver side door, and Frank cackled with laughter. His voice was still fairly smooth back then. Cigars and old age would later give him that trademark rasp.
“Fuck you,” Richie said. “Just for that, I’m eating the last of the shrimp—hey, is that him?”
They both sat up straight. In an instant, they were professionals again. Frank grabbed the binoculars and peered through them.
“That’s just some fat chick,” he said.
“No, him, in the grey suit.” Richie pointed. A man carrying a briefcase had just walked out of the building.
Frank spotted him and compared him with a photo they had. “Yeah, that’s him.”
The man in the suit was some sort of politician. Neither Frank nor Richie paid much attention to current events. All they knew was that he was backing some new law or policy, and Jimmy or one of Jimmy’s clients didn’t like that. The boss had already tried to bribe him, but he wouldn’t take the money. He was young and ideal, didn’t understand how the system worked. That was okay. Today, they were going to teach him.
Richie picked up the remote control. He extended the antenna, flipped the switch that armed the explosive, and placed his thumb on the detonator. Frank followed the man through the binoculars, and when he was about five cars away from his own, Frank told Richie to press the button. A loud bang shook the ground, and a tower of flame rose into the air. The resulting shockwave shattered the windows of nearby cars and knocked the politician off his feet. He lay on the ground, just meters away from his untimely demise. A couple of brave spectators ran over to him and tried to get him away from the fire, but he wouldn’t move. He just lay there stupidly, watching the fire and smoke with wide eyes. And all of a sudden, that new bill on drugs or gun control or whatever the fuck it was didn’t seem that important anymore.
Frank turned on the ignition and blasted the much needed A/C. He pulled out of the parking lot and onto the main road just as the fire trucks and ambulances were coming the other way.
After a few minutes, Richie said, “I guess you don’t like eating ass either.”
They were Jimmy’s best men. All the high-profile jobs went to them. A lot of what they did was scare people, which was, believe it or not, harder than killing people. Shooting someone was easy. Sawing off a horse’s head, then placing it in some poor schmuck’s bed took finesse and a little creativity.
Frank and Richie worked well together. The former was older and wiser, and the latter was more adept and cunning. He could steal your sandwich while you were eating it and then shoot you between the eyes before you realized it was gone. Jimmy had recognized their potential from the very beginning, and they had quickly risen through the ranks. Now they were two of Jimmy’s closest henchmen. Most mob bosses had one or two areas of business, but Jimmy did everything—drugs, smuggling, fire arms, gambling. He had advisors in every department, but his most favored men, the ones he held with the highest regard, were his hit men.
Frank drove up the path to Jimmy’s home. This was long before all the high-tech security, of course. This was before high-tech security even existed, before it was even needed. The only things protecting Jimmy’s house now was an intercom and a set of wrought iron gates.
The butler greeted them at the door. Frank asked if the boss was available.
“I’m sorry,” the butler said. “I tried to reach you. Master Jimmy had a heart attack in his sleep. He didn’t make it.”
The two delivery men exchanged looks of shock and sorrow. The butler led them to Jimmy’s bedroom. The boss was lying still in his bed, looking peaceful. There were two others in the room—Jeremy Owen Blake and Nathan Fall, the rest of Jimmy’s inner circle of henchmen. Blake, the future “Mr. Club,” was kneeling beside the old man sobbing. Fall, the future “Mr. Heart,” stood silently in the corner with his arms crossed.
“Now that everyone is here,” the butler said, retrieving an envelope from his coat pocket. “Master Jimmy wanted me to read this.” He took out a slip of paper and cleared his throat. “At the time of my death, I, Jimmy the Green, appoint Frank Benito to take my place.” That was all the note said. Short and sweet—typical Jimmy. The butler handed the paper to Frank, bowed, and left the room.
There was a long uncomfortable silence. Nobody moved for over a minute. Frank was the only one who had seen this coming. He’d passed the old man’s test months ago with flying colors, but he’d sworn to keep it a secret from the others.
Finally, Fall stepped forward and took Frank’s hand in both of his. “Jimmy,” he said.
Blake stood up and, with a wide stupid grin on his tear-stained face, did the same: “Jimmy.”
Everyone now turned to Richie, but he was staring down at the old man’s corpse. His whole body seemed to tremble, and his hands were clenched into tight fists. Just as it looked as if he was about to explode, he suddenly relaxed. He looked up with glazed eyes and took Frank’s hand as well. Frank looked at him apologetically.
Richie’s lips spread into a smile. “Jimmy,” he said in a low voice.
Frank nodded and smiled back. He looked around at his friends, his delivery men. He peered around the room. This was all his now. He was the new boss, the new Jimmy. It was the beginning of a new era.
The message went out to all of Jimmy’s associates:
Jimmy the Green is dead. Long live Jimmy the Cock.
He should have been boss. Sure, Frank was older and more experienced, but Richie was smarter and more skilled than all of them combined. He should have been the next Jimmy. Boss Green just didn’t want a Chinaman taking over his empire. Richie was American-born, American-raised, fucked American women, but apparently that wasn’t good enough. What would people think if the Jimmy name was inherited by a gook? Nobody wanted to do business with a yellow-skinned rice nigger. Not then. Richie understood why the boss had done it, understood that he meant no disrespect by it, but Richie still hated him. And he hated Frank and the others for going along with it. Frank was supposed to be his friend. He could have stepped down, should have stepped down, but he didn’t. They all knew Richie deserved the job, they all knew he was better than them, but nobody wanted to take orders from a slopehead.
But soon they would. They would or else.
Dr. Jung appeared in the doorway of his office. “Sir, the girl is here to see you.” Boss Tongue nodded and motioned for them to come in. Dr. Jung led a young, beautiful Latino girl into the room. She couldn’t have been more than eighteen. She took a seat in front of Richie’s desk.
He signed something with his hands, and Jung said, “Tell me what you know.”
The girl spoke quickly with an accent. “He calls him Mr. Spade,” she began. “White. Thin. Young-looking. Maybe mid-twenties. They meet about three times a week. Jimmy gives him lectures, talks about his old days. He mentions ‘delivery men’ and something called ‘the Law of Amorality’ a lot. From what I got, Mr. Spade used to be a street dealer, and then a couple druggies stole his shit, and he went all psycho on them.”
Richie signed: “Does Mr. Spade know about Jimmy’s history with me?”
“No, I don’t think so. He doesn’t talk about you a lot. I don’t think he’s even mentioned the thing with your…you know…tongue. He just calls you a ruthless…chink…says you’re…unprofessional.” The girl seemed reluctant to say these things.
Richie gave her a reassuring smile. “Thank you. You’ve been very helpful.” He snapped his fingers, and Dr. Jung gave her a bound stack of bills. She got up to leave, but Richie motioned for her to wait. He held up five fingers, then made a victory sign with one hand, and placed the V on his lips.
“We’ll give you another five hundred,” said Dr. Jung, “if you ask Jimmy to eat out your pussy the next time you fuck.”
The girl looked puzzled, then giggled. “Sure, I can do that.” Jung handed her a few more bills and then escorted her out.
When he returned, Richie signed, “Find out everything you can about this Mr. Spade character. Get some surveillance on him. I’ve got a good feeling about this one. He might be the man we’ve been waiting for.”
“No,” Jimmy the Cock said. “I’ve known Blake longer than I’ve known you. He would never betray me. The man practically worships me. He’d come in and suck my dick every night if I didn’t lock my bedroom door.”
“I’m telling you, boss,” Richie said, “I’ve got a bad feeling about him. Just the way he’s been acting lately. I don’t know what it is. Maybe he’s going behind your back, skimming a little off the top or something. You know how good my instincts are about this sort of thing. Just let me put his loyalty to the test.”
Jimmy stared off into the distance, thinking it over. One of his beauties was licking his ear; the other was rubbing his crotch. He ignored both of them.
“Maybe I’m wrong,” Richie said. “Jesus, I hope I’m wrong. But what if I’m right? What if your whole operation collapses because of this? Do you want to take that risk?”
Jimmy sighed. “I don’t know…”
“Come on, Jimmy. When you became boss, you said you wanted me to be your right-hand man. You said you trusted me more than anyone else. Well, are you gonna trust me, or aren’t you?”
Jimmy turned to him and nodded. “You’re right. Okay, test him. Just go easy on him, alright?”
The air was thick with the smell of burnt flesh and shit.
Blake was lying face down on the torture table, naked. His hands and feet were bound by metal shackles. A curling iron was sticking out of his ass.
“I’m gonna ask you again,” Richie said. “Are you a traitor?”
“For the millionth time,” Blake cried, “I’ve never betrayed Jimmy, and I never will!”
“I already know you are. Just admit it, and you can go free.”
“There’s nothing to admit!”
Richie turned on the curling iron. Blake screamed at the top of his lungs. Fall looked away. He usually had a pretty strong stomach, but this was too much. He could hear Blake’s insides sizzling. After a couple minutes, Richie turned off the iron.
“Okay, tell you what,” Richie said. “All you have to do is say ‘fuck Jimmy,’ and I’ll let you go. That’s it. Just say those two words. ‘Fuck Jimmy.’”
Blake remained silent. Fall knelt down beside him. “Just say it, Blake. I know you won’t mean it. Just say it and get this over with. Please.”
Blake thought for a moment and then said, “Fuck…you! Fuck you, motherfucker! You fucking chink! Fuck you!”
“Tsk, tsk,” Richie said. He turned on the iron. Smoke drifted up from Blake’s rectum.
“Oh, that feels so good!” Blake screamed. “That feels so good, you’re gonna make me splooge! Oh, fuck yeah!”
Fall couldn’t take it anymore. “Goddamn it, Richie! He’s obviously not a traitor!” Richie ignored him. “That’s enough, I’m putting a stop to this.” Fall reached for the iron, but before he could flip the switch, Richie whipped out a pistol and shot him in the shoulder. Fall stumbled backward in shock. He reached for his own gun in the back of his waistband, but it wasn’t there. He looked up. Richie was holding the gun up in his other hand.
“You know I used to be a pickpocket?” he said with a devilish grin.
The basement door slammed open. It was Jimmy the Cock. “What the fuck is going on here?” He saw Blake on the table and gasped. “Oh my God.” He strode over and yanked the extension cord out of the outlet. He tried removing the iron, but Blake’s asshole had fused to the metal. If he pulled it out, Blake’s large intestine might come with it. Instead, he knelt down beside Blake’s head and wiped the sweaty hair out of his eyes. At the sight of Jimmy, Blake burst into tears.
“I would never betray you, Jimmy…I swear…he tried to get me to say it, but I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t—” His words were lost in sobs.
Jimmy rubbed the top of his head in a fatherly gesture. “I know you wouldn’t, I know,” he said in a soothing voice. “You did good. Don’t worry. I’m gonna get you the best doctors in the world. You’re gonna be fine. Here, have some of this.” He took a flask of whiskey out of his jacket and tipped it into Blake’s mouth. He took a couple gulps and coughed.
With the hand not grasping his wound, Fall pointed at Richie, who was still standing at the other end of the table with a smug look on his face. “That fucker’s lost his mind, boss.”
Jimmy looked up and glared at Richie, as if noticing him for the first time. “Fall, if you’re okay, free Blake, then call an ambulance.” As he spoke, his eyes never left Richie’s. Jimmy stood up, and with two giant steps, he had Richie pinned against the wall by the front of his shirt. His feet dangled half a meter off the floor.
Richie laughed. “You said I could test him.”
“I meant break a couple fingers, not barbecue his fucking colon!” Richie was still holding the two guns, but Jimmy wasn’t intimidated by them. Instead, he pulled out his own gun and jammed the barrel into Richie’s cheek. “Why, Richie?! Why!”
Richie stopped smiling. “Why? Because you’re the boss, and I’m not. That’s why.”
“That’s what this is all about? Because Green chose me and not you?” Jimmy cocked the hammer back and set his finger on the trigger.
Through his tears and snot, Blake said, “Do it, Jimmy. Waste the motherfucker.”
Jimmy drilled the barrel deeper into Richie’s cheek. The pressure on the trigger grew, but at the last moment, Jimmy growled and flung Richie’s puny body across the room. He landed hard on the concrete floor. The guns flew out of his hands and clattered to a stop at Fall’s feet.
“I’m not gonna kill you out of respect for what we once had,” Jimmy said. “Get the fuck out, and don’t ever come back.”
Richie struggled to his feet. There was a red mark on his cheek where the gun had been. He began limping backward toward the door. “I should have been the boss, Frank. You know it. You all know it.” He turned and stumbled through the doorway into the darkness beyond.
He didn’t look back.
Richie the Tongue examined his reflection in the window. The man staring back at him was not the same man who’d sat in that parking lot so long ago, joking about cunnilingus. After Frank had become the new boss, Richie had grown hateful, sadistic. He’d tried to tell himself that these were not the feelings of a professional, that he should feel happy for his friend Frank, but try as he might, he could not snub the fire burning within him. Whenever people called Frank “boss,” whenever that idiot Blake gushed over him like he was some kind of god, the jealousy and rage in Richie’s heart clicked up a notch. He should have been the one that people admired and respected. He should have been the one sitting on the back patio, sipping scotch and surrounded by beautiful women. On the outside, he’d acted as Jimmy’s faithful confidant, but on the inside, he’d been secretly waiting for the perfect opportunity to hurt Jimmy as Jimmy had hurt him.
As much as he had enjoyed listening to Blake’s screams of pain, he would have preferred that Blake confess to his imaginary betrayal. Richie had wanted to show that even Jimmy’s most loyal servant could be broken with just the right amount of persuasion. Unfortunately, he had underestimated the simpleton’s blind devotion. Blake’s rectum was charred black, and yet he still would not admit to treason or utter a bad word about his boss. Never mind. Seeing the look on Jimmy’s face as he burst in, that look of horror and betrayal, was satisfying enough. How does it feel, Jimmy? How does it feel to have your best friend stab you in the back?
After leaving the Jimmy gang forever, Richie had started his own posse, consisting entirely of his fellow yellow-skinned gooks. Dr. Jung, a former hit man, had become his most faithful servant. It was Jung who’d discovered him with his tongue cut out, drowning in his own blood. It was Jung who’d taken care of him during his recovery. And when Richie had grown tired of speaking in vowels like a retard, tired of speaking through a computer like Stephen-fucking-Hawking, it was Jung who had helped him learn sign language. And now Jung was always by his side, acting as his voice, his medium. Even as a mute, Richie had power over hundreds of people, working dozens of criminal activities, with the kind of stealth that Jimmy’s gang would never achieve. He struck fear into the hearts of his enemies with a single glance. Richie had finally gained the respect he deserved. He was finally the boss.
But there was something missing. He felt empty, unfulfilled. After Jimmy had cut out his tongue, he’d become cold and calculating. He watched his empire grow beyond his wildest dreams. He cackled like a maniac when he tortured his victims. But it all felt forced. There was no passion, no heat. In addition, he had lost interest in women. He could have gotten any girl he wanted, but that didn’t concern him. The main reason, aside from the obvious one, was that something was distracting him, something even more powerful than pussy.
It was vengeance.
Every day, he thought of Jimmy towering over him, laughing as he fed Richie’s tongue to the cat. Jimmy had taken his pride away. He had turned the name Richie the Tongue into something ironic. Here was the great Boss Tongue, and he didn’t even have one.
He would have to be patient. Even with Jimmy’s tight security, Richie could have easily sent an army to raid Jimmy’s house through sheer force. He could have dropped an atom bomb on Jimmy’s head if he wanted to. But that would have been too easy. He didn’t want to just kill Jimmy. He wanted to outsmart him, the same way he had tricked him into letting Blake get tortured. He wanted to humiliate him. He wanted his last thought to be that Richie had gotten the best of him. Accomplishing this might take years, even decades, but Richie was willing to wait, like a panther watching its prey in the shadows. He would pounce on Jimmy when he least expected it.
Recruiting Mr. Spade was a long shot, but Richie had done the math and determined that it was worth the risk. He knew that Spade had a rage in him, a rage that Richie recognized in himself. Jimmy had buried the kid’s rage deep with fancy talk about amorality, but Richie knew that the rage never went away, and with a few choice words, he could bring it back to the surface. He also knew that Spade did not take dishonesty and betrayal lightly and that Jimmy had already lied to him about Richie’s past. Jimmy was obviously ashamed of their prior relationship, might even be ashamed of his lack of professionalism when he cut out Richie’s tongue. Even though Mr. Spade had refused Richie’s offer, Richie had seen how the story about his tongue had affected the young man. The perception of his boss, his mentor, had been altered ever so slightly. The seed had been planted, the bomb had been set, and now Richie just had to wait for the spark to detonate it.
This was not his first experience with revenge. When he was five-years-old, he’d owned a toy fire truck. At the press of a button, it would light up and sound a siren just like the real thing. It was his favorite toy, and sometimes he would play with it all day. Then one night, his father arrived home drunk, as he often did. Richie had left the fire truck in the hallway, and his father, in a drunken stupor, stubbed his toe against it. Wondering what all the cursing was about, Richie came out of his bedroom just in time to see his father smash the truck repeatedly against the wall. Pieces flew off in every direction until there was nothing left but a deformed hunk of plastic. Then, in one swift motion, Richie’s father removed his belt and proceeded to whip his son. Richie didn’t cry. He was used to the whippings by now, and he’d stopped crying a long time ago. He just lay on the floor, silently wincing with every lash of the belt. His mother tried to stop his father, but she was too small and weak. All Richie could do was wait for his father to grow tired. And even though he only had a vague understanding of what death was, he looked into his father’s angry eyes and thought the following words: I’m going to kill you.
There was a stone Buddha sitting on a pedestal at the bottom of the stairs. Richie’s parents were not religious; the statue was merely a gift someone had given them. The day after his father had beaten him, Richie spent hours examining it with his fingers, knocking on its hard surface with his tiny knuckles. At night, his father came home drunk again, and when he reached the top of the stairs, Richie had only to give him a little push, and he went flying backward, hitting his head on the stone statue. Richie’s mother came out of the bedroom and screamed. He looked up at her with innocent eyes. “Daddy fell,” he’d said.
Now, staring at his reflection in the window, he wondered if he had inherited his father’s rage, or if his father had conditioned him to be this way. The abused becomes the abuser. Was it that simple? Was all that psychological bullshit true? Could his entire personality be tracked back to a toy fire truck and his father’s belt? If those things had never happened, would he still be a gangster? Or would he be teaching arithmetic to first graders?
Richie didn’t know that the final test to become a Jimmy was to kill, or at least be willing to kill, your own father. Ironic that Richie had already passed this test at such an early age. Ironic still was that this was what made him the least professional. He’d killed his father out of anger, not professionalism. And soon, Jimmy the Cock would encounter the same wrath and meet the same fate.
The phone rang in Richie’s office. When Dr. Jung picked it up, a tingle ran up Richie’s spine. He just knew somehow. This was the call he’d been waiting for.
“Sir, it’s Mr. Spade,” said Dr. Jung. “He’s agreed to do it.”
Richie turned around and signed the words, “Bring me his cock.”
The girl was about to come. Richie’s tongue whipped back and forth across her clit with the speed of a helicopter blade. Her legs were wrapped around his head like a vice, suffocating him against her wetness. Her fingernails dug into the couch cushions. Over her screams of pleasure, Richie didn’t hear the men come in through the back door of his house. He didn’t hear their footsteps in the hall. He didn’t hear them enter the living room.
But then the girl he was eating out screamed a different kind of scream, and he immediately stood up, turned ninety degrees, and swung the edge of his hand into Blake’s Adam’s apple. Fall grabbed Richie from behind, locking his arms against his body. Since Fall was over a foot taller than him, Richie stepped up onto the coffee table, snapped his head back into Fall’s nose, and then, using Fall as a support, jumped up and kicked the choking Blake across the face. Blake landed on the couch next to the naked girl, who shrieked and pushed him away. When Fall released Richie to clutch his gushing nose, Richie elbowed him in the stomach, then turned around and hit him in the nose again with the base of his palm. Fall cried out in pain.
“Watch out!” yelled the girl, but it was too late. Jimmy the Cock came out of nowhere and whacked Richie between the shoulder blades with the base of his gun. Richie fell to his hands and knees. When he tried to get up, Jimmy whacked him again in the same place. This time Richie fell on his stomach and stayed down.
“Get the fuck out,” Jimmy ordered the girl. She didn’t hesitate. She grabbed her clothes and pranced out of the room.
Blake and Fall were still moaning in pain. The former had blood coming out of his mouth, and the latter had blood covering the entire bottom half of his face. Richie cautiously flipped onto his back, only to find the end of Jimmy’s gun staring him in the face.
“You dirty little chink. I spare your life after what you did to Blake, I let you start your own little club of slopeheads, and this is how you repay me? You steal one of my biggest customers?”
“It was fair business,” Richie said. “I gave him a better deal.”
Jimmy shook his head. “No, that’s not how this works. You don’t mess with my customers. I don’t give a fuck what else you do. If you wanna build a rice ball factory and call it ‘Richie’s Faggot Balls,’ I don’t give a shit. But when you start interfering with my business, when you start stealing my shit, that’s when it stops being okay.
“Now I’m gonna be very generous with you. If you give me back my customer and you promise to leave my shit alone, we’ll pack up and leave, and you can go back to suckin’ your raunchy poon.”
“Fuck you, Jimmy. I won that customer fair and square.”
“Fine, have it your way. Blake, Fall, move him over there.”
Blake spat a wad of blood-stained phlegm at Richie’s feet and smiled through red teeth. “My pleasure.”
Jimmy kept his gun pointed at Richie as Blake and Fall each took one of his wrists and dragged him off the carpet onto the hardwood floor in front of the fireplace. They extended his arms so that they were perpendicular to his body, and then held them down firmly with his palms up. Jimmy put down his gun, opened a leather sack he had brought with him, and produced a different kind of gun, one that carpenters used to fire nails.
“You think you’re gonna take over this town? You think you’re some kind of savior? Fine, we’ll treat you like one. Hold him tight, boys.”
They didn’t have to. Richie knew that fighting back would be futile. There were three of them and only one of him. There was no doubt they were going to win. The only thing he could do was take away some of their satisfaction. Jimmy crouched down, pressed the gun against Richie’s left hand, and pulled the trigger. Pain exploded in his palm, traveled down the length of his arm, and caught in his throat. He clenched his teeth to keep the scream from escaping his mouth. Jimmy pressed the gun into Richie’s other hand and pulled the trigger again. The same burst of pain, the same desperate attempt to conceal it. This time a tiny groan leaked out of his throat, and Blake giggled like a little schoolgirl. Richie was now crucified to the floor.
“Hold open his mouth,” Jimmy said. Fall pushed down on his forehead, and Blake pushed down on his jaw. Jimmy reached into the sack again and produced a pair of metal tongs and garden shears. “You take away something valuable of mine, I’m gonna take away something valuable of yours.” Richie suddenly realized what was coming and chose a spot on the ceiling to focus his attention on. Jimmy reached into his mouth with the tongs, grabbed hold of his tongue, and, with two snips of the shears, removed the fleshy organ he loved so much. Red, salty blood quickly filled his mouth, choking him. He couldn’t scream even if he wanted to.
Jimmy held up the tongue and laughed his gravelly laugh. Blake continued to giggle like a girl, and Fall smiled through his beard of dried blood.
“Hey, what do we have here?” Jimmy asked. He left Richie’s field of vision for a moment, and then returned with Richie’s Siamese cat cradled in one arm. Jimmy held the tongue in front of the cat’s mouth, and with a quick jerk of the head, the cat ate the tongue whole.
Blake guffawed. “How’s that for irony! The pussy ate him!”
“I guess you’ll have to use your fingers now, you fucking gook,” Jimmy said.
Richie looked up at Jimmy, but it wasn’t Jimmy anymore. It was the ghost of his father towering over him with a belt in one hand. Blood trickled from the back of his head, where the stone Buddha had cracked it open. Richie looked deep into his eyes and tried to say something.
“I can’t you hear you,” Jimmy said mockingly. “What’s wrong? Cat got your tongue?” Blake held his sides in, howling with laughter. Even Fall chuckled a bit at that one.
Richie moved his lips again, but all that came out was a gargling of blood.
“Sorry, still can’t understand what the fuck you’re saying.” Jimmy set down the cat and picked up his gun and his bag of supplies. “Come on, boys. Let’s get the fuck out of here.”
Before leaving, Blake crouched down close to Richie’s face and said, “You know, the doctors gave me an artificial shit bag. Works great. Maybe they can fashion you a vibrator or something.” He cackled with laughter again, and then followed Jimmy and Fall out of the room.
Richie lay on the floor, swallowing, spitting, coughing blood, and mouthing the same words over and over again: I’m going to kill you.
Dr. Fall, the former hit man formerly known as Mr. Heart, drove through the abandoned maze of unmarked dirt roads toward the house where Jimmy the Cock once lived. It’d been ages since Fall had driven here, but he still remembered the way. Sitting in the passenger seat was Dr. Jung, and sitting in the back was Richie the Tongue, who gazed silently out the window. When they reached the gate, Fall typed the code in the nearby console, and the thick steel door slid open slowly with a loud screech. No doubt the gears had to strain against years of inactivity. On the other side of the gate, they found Jimmy’s estate to be overgrown with weeds and tall grasses that were waist-high. The car moved up the long driveway and stopped at the front door. Richie signed to Dr. Jung that he wanted the two to stay here. He got out and entered the house with a key.
The air was stale. Every surface was covered in a thick layer of dust and cobwebs. The stairs creaked loudly as he walked up to the second floor. He entered the master bedroom where Jimmy the Green had died and Jimmy the Cock had been born. Richie made a motion to sit on the bed but decided against it. Instead, he stood where he’d stood the day he’d taken his friend’s hand and had proclaimed him in the new boss. That was almost forty years ago.
Richie’s plan had been a success. The money from Jimmy’s operations had continued to roll in, and Richie had become wealthier and more powerful than he’d ever imagined. To this day, people still thought Boss Cock was alive and functioning, even though he would be in his eighties by now. Nobody ever saw him, nobody ever spoke to him directly, but as long as business went smoothly, nobody ever questioned it. And why would they? To doubt Jimmy the Cock was what that no-good chink across town wanted. Richie even tried to convince people that Jimmy had died a long time ago and that his empire was being run by his elite henchmen, but all that did was reinforce their beliefs because they assumed Richie was a liar. He was his own worst enemy and his own best ally. Eventually, the jig would be up, but he guessed that Jimmy would be 120 by the time that happened.
Everything was going just as he’d planned, but there was still something missing. He’d thought that killing Jimmy would have filled the emptiness inside him, but if anything, he felt even emptier than before. His need for vengeance was gone, but in its place was a sense of loneliness and longing. The memory of Jimmy standing over him no longer haunted him. Instead, every day for the past twenty years, he thought of that afternoon in the parking lot, sitting in the hot sun, eating Chinese food, talking about insurance orgasms, waiting to frighten some naïve politician. He missed his friend. And he missed the good old days, before either of them had been blinded by power and greed. Back when they were just delivery boys.
Richie went back downstairs and into the main hall which ran along the length of the house. Halfway down, he passed through a defunct metal detector. Nearby were two faded blood stains on the wall, where he guessed Mr. Spade had shot Jimmy’s guards.
He stepped out onto the back patio where Jimmy had spent most of his days. The deck was overgrown with weeds. The table and chairs were rusted. He took a seat in the center chair where Jimmy had sat between his beauties, drinking scotch and smoking cigars. This is where Jimmy lived and died, Richie thought, and he suddenly felt something he’d never felt before. Was it guilt? Regret? He didn’t know. The emotion was foreign to him.
His life seemed so pointless now. He had gained everything he wanted, but had lost everything that mattered. Soon, he would die, and the next generation of criminals would take his place, as if he had never existed. He turned and looked across the backyard, off into the distance, and he wondered. He wondered what it was all for. He wondered what that innocent little boy with the fire truck could have been. He wondered how much time he had left on this earth. He wondered if there was a Hell and if that’s where he was going.
And he wondered if his friend Frank would be there, waiting for him.