eddie was in chuckie’s place, just starting to dunk his cheese danish into his coffee when he looked up and saw frankie sitting by himself at a table in the corner.
eddie had heard frankie was in town, looking for ray, but he was still a little surprised to see him.
he figured it wouldn’t do any harm to go over and talk to him, so he picked up his coffee and danish and went over to frankie’s table.
haven’t seen you around for awhile.
i guess you haven’t.
mind if i sit down?
frankie shrugged. suit yourself.
eddie sat down. so what brings you back in town, he asked frankie.
i think you know why i’m back in town.
you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.
i’m looking for ray.
you seen ray lately?
a little bit. i do a little business with him now and again. everybody does. everybody has to.
if you say so. so old ray’s doing pretty good, huh?
pretty good isn’t the word for it.
he runs this town, huh?
runs the town? i don’t know where you been, frankie, but ray runs the whole west coast and beyond. and has for a while.
i‘ll tell you where i been, but first you tell me how good ray’s doing. has he still got that big house out by the lake?
no, he sold it or gave it away years ago, when he started getting really big. he lives in a big castle now, in this state he bought up north, idaho or montana or one of those places.
it must be nice. you been there, seen it yourself?
once or twice. you wouldn’t fucking believe it. he’s got everything. he’s got a million guys guarding the place, a fucking army. more swimming pools than you can count. a million game rooms, with every game you can think of, night and day. and if you’re a pal, you don’t have to pay to play. food - the place is one big buffet. every kind of booze ever invented, right there for you.
i suppose he’s got a few women around.
i was just getting to that. he’s got this special harem or palace, just for himself, where he keeps the hottest babes, for the heavy duty, you know. and he’s got another harem of women one cut below, for when governors and presidents and ambassadors come to visit him. but besides that, there’s hot women and cute chicks all over the place, every size and shape and color you can think of, and they know what they are there for, and they do it.
eddie nodded. i think a life like that might make a guy a little soft.
well, ray must have thought of that, because once a year, he goes on this safari for about a month, up in the yukon or some fucking place where it snows all the time, him and his favorite boys, what he calls his mighty men, and they hunt grizzly bears and three thousand pound wild boars and roast them around a roaring fire and tell stories and sing songs and all that shit.
frankie laughed. and that keeps him from going soft? i don’t know about that.
how about you, frankie, what have you been up to?
you mean ever since that son of a bitch set me up thirty years ago? let me tell you what i been up to.
the first ten years i’m in a fucking chain gang, out in death valley. i plot for years to escape, with three other guys. then just when we are about to make our break, one of them finks out. the other three of us get sent to another chain gang, in the middle of the indian ocean, building this new island for the king of this and the shah of that and sons of bitches like that -
maybe like ray.
maybe. anyway, this place makes death valley look like a kindergarten, there is no union or banker’s hours, if you get my drift, and after nine or ten years i snap and kill one of the guards. here is where things start to get tough. they put me on yet a third chain gang, this one on the bottom of the pacific ocean building some kind of radar station where the bastards who rule the world are going to contact the bastards who rule the other worlds out in fucking space. there is not a whole lot of fresh air, and i feel i am finally in hell itself.
but i escape. by myself this time. but i don’t get very far. i come to this undersea kingdom ruled by an evil mermaid and i get captured and made a slave. and the things i did there, and the things they made me do, trust me, you don’t want to hear about.
so one day i am on this gang working on a coral reef. by this time i have just about given up hope.
and i see an abandoned diving bell drifting by. what are the chances i can get to it, or that it will work if i can get to it?
one in a billion. but what have i got to lose? i swim over to the diving bell, with these mean lobster-guards right behind me, and i close the hatch door behind me in their faces, and i pull the first lever i see and what do you know, i go right to the top.
i come up off the coast of fucking japan. i lose myself in tokyo. i get a job as a strikebreaker for this rich guy in japan. i start to save my money. i meet this chick, and it’s beautiful. she begs me to stay, but i am a man on a mission. i save enough for a plane ticket and here i am.
that’s quite a story, frankie.
yes, here i am, ready to pay a call on my old friend ray.
well, it’s no concern of mine, but i don’t like your chances of getting to him.
there is always a way. there is always a way, if you just hang in there.
but look at it this way. you’ve been through hell for thirty years. and ray’s been leading the good life, ruling the world and hanging with the beautiful people, for those same thirty years. how is anything you do going to undo that? neither of you are getting any younger. if the booze and cocaine and babes haven’t killed ray off by now, what difference does it make if you do now? maybe you should go back to that woman in tokyo, if she really cares about you.
the only thing i care about is getting my fingers around that son of a bitch’s throat.
eddie looked out the window. fog was rolling down the street. if frankie is serious, he thought, about trying to get at ray, i am not doing myself any favor by sitting here palavering with him.
eddie finished his coffee and got up.
well so long, frankie, he said, and good luck. you are going to need it.
later, eddie felt kind of bad about saying, you are going to need it, to frankie, because it was not really necessary.
but when a guy is down, it’s just instinct to give him a little kick.
it’s nature’s way.