SAFE, CLEAN, SMALL, CHEAP: ISLE OF DOGS PART 4
First he went to Officer Quick. They were walking down Broadway. It was a hot rainy day. The rain
came in squalls of high whipping winds and then
would abruptly cease. The sun came out and baked
the streets dry until another band darkened the island.
They approached Julian’s, a pool hall.
“That prick owes me,” said Officer Quick.
“We were here last week,” Sargon reminded him.
Keeping track was a part of his job.
“Yeah, so what. He shorted us. He sells heroin
now. Plus the new machines. Did he include the new
Julian’s wasn’t operated by Julian but by Elliot.
Julian was Elliot’s dead twin. Twenty years earlier,
Elliot watched his brother die a horrible death and
hadn’t spoken to anyone since, except for business.
He also owned the BowL-O-RamA on University,
a bowling alley decorated like a Hindu temple. The
workers had blue skin and dressed in gold pantaloons.
The doorways were decorated with gold leaf and
painted scarlet flames, like portals between heavens
and hells. They served the hottest curry on the East
Side. But the pool hall was traditional.
Elliot had grown tired of patrons going up the
street to buy heroin. He might as well sell it himself,
but he didn’t want to pay the tax, and he didn’t want
to schtupp the cops, so he stiffed them both. But
Quick knew everything that crept on the street. If a
roach got fucked by another roach, he knew.
“Elliot’s OK,” said Sargon. “He’s just sad about his
“It’s been decades. You know how he bit it?”
“No one ever says. They look away in shame.”
Quick nodded grimly. “Let’s get some coffee. I
need a boost before shaking down that prick.”
They took two stools at The Last Grind and
ordered from Jill. Last Grind waitresses’ breasts burst
out of skimpy bodices with nipples etched on the
front, and they wore silver Statue of Liberty crowns.
Jill brought them coffees and smiles.
Quick slowly stirred in three spoons of sugar, one at a time, before
adding a plop of cream. “Always melt the sugar first,”
he muttered, as he had on numerous occasions before.
Quick regarded all information to be of equal value
and was solemn in his belief that his job was to impart
to Young Sargon a steady stream of chestnuts. Leave
the safety on. Wipe a baby’s ass front to back, never
towards the genitals. Avoid stepping into puddles on
the corner. Never walk on sidewalk doors. Muzzle
control. Always clear the chamber before you clean
your gun. Use a condom with street whores. Rain
gear brings the sun out. Shake down junkies before
they buy if you want money. The most important
thing to learn is a patrol officer rarely draws their gun
and hardly ever uses it— “In thirty-five years of patrol
I’ve fired it once, and that was to take down an armed
gorilla. How the beast got the firearm we were never
sure, but he weighed 600 pounds and had a head like
a coconut.”—Sargon had definitely blown that one.
They sipped their coffee and Quick, looking out
the window at the evaporating puddles, said, “This
used to be a good town. Used to be everyone knew
their place. Who to kick up to, how much and where.
Whores stayed on their corners, punks gave it up
when you leaned on them, the bosses took care of the
cops. Woman goes into labor, cops’ll deliver it and
bring her to the hospital. That’s good police. Peace on
the streets. Everyone gettin’ by. Students were polite
to their teachers. The garbage got picked up, none
of this strike bullshit, horses and people crapping in
the gutter, graffiti so bad you can’t see out the train
windows, criminals and anarchists on the streets, dogs
everywhere biting people and shit, rats. I hate rats.
Came to work this morning and twenty rats come
racing out of a garbage bag. Saw two rats fucking in
an alley. Ever see that before? No. The streets are like
their living room now. We’re fucked.
“The Red Suits don’t know shit about public order.
Sure, business is up. For us, bad times are good times.
People afraid, they live for today. Fuck tomorrow.
Booming business for bunko. I’d rather have it quiet.
You take Elliot. That son of a bitch never felt the
need to sell heroin. He had the tables and the booze
and the cigarettes and that was enough. But now he’s
thinking, what if I have to fuck off in the middle of
the night? How’m I gonna to pay the border guards
upstate, how’m I gonna cross the Mohawk Nation
and get to Canada? If he goes south, what’s there for
him? Nothing. A northern man heads north, he never
goes south. Remember that if you’re ever chasing
fugitives. Go south you don’t turn up shit, but go
north, there they are, in some cabin in the woods not
five miles from their mother’s house. I hate fucking
cabins in the woods. Gimme the creeps. Did you ever
see that movie—”
“How did Elliot’s brother Julian die?” Sargon asked,
not aware of interrupting as his mind was wandering
over Phaedra’s face and body, her scent on his lips and
Quick sipped his coffee and looked away. Without
feeling, he said, “Cut to pieces. They used a serrated
knife, so it would hurt more. Elliot had to watch.
He was tied up. We found him in a warehouse on
Delancey Street screaming because wild dogs were
eating the body parts. The reason he respects us now
is that when he needed something we gave it to
him. We saved what was left of Julian for proper
burial. We didn’t just let the dogs eat the rest. It’s
important for them Christians. Get this—they believe
that the body rises up after death and flies to Heaven.
Wouldn’t it be nice. Not so nice for Julian, because
part of him came up as dog shit in the park.”
Forcing himself to focus, Sargon said, “I have a
favor to ask,” as they left the counter and walked
up the steep, dimly lit stairs, two floors straight, to
Julian’s Pool Hall.
“Uh oh,” said Quick, winded.
“I need an apartment.”
“So look in the paper.”
“I’m fifteen. I need an adult.”
“You live in a Fifth Avenue mansion. Your pals
live in that high-rise. What the fuck you need an
apartment for? I live in one. Believe me, it ain’t
“It’s for a friend, who needs to hide out. He needs
somewhere safe and clean but small and cheap.”
“Safe, clean, small, cheap? What city do you think
“How about small and cheap?”
“Let’s go small and see where that gets us. What
He took his nightstick and rapped
three times on the door. A vacuum cleaner whined
back and forth. They waited and he rapped three
times again. The peephole popped open.
“Downtown is best,” Sargon said.
“Very popular place to live. Harlem would be
easier. I know a landlord there.”
“Downtown is better.”
He scratched his grey hair and rubbed the white
stubble on his florid cheek as they pushed past the
janitor. “Landlords down here are scumbags.”
It was a large dark loft with two dozen tables and
a horseshoe bar in the middle. There were no
distractions save the grimy view of Broadway
through windows and metal Venetian blinds that had
never been cleaned. Elliot was a spare man with a
hard mouth, slight of build. He sat with a calculator,
peering through reading glasses at a sheet of copper
electraweave. A short clay pipe sat smouldering in
an ashtray next to a discolored mug of coffee and a
rocks glass of whiskey. He didn’t look up but said, “I
schtupped you last week.”
Quick raised the nightstick above his head and
brought it down on the bar hard. “Fucking roach.
Don’t insult me.”
“What?” he asked, pushing the glasses up his nose
and drinking the shot of whiskey.
“You know what. The heroin and the machines.”
“The machines! I bumped for that.”
Quick smirked and shook his finger. “Not the new
ones. I know you added three slots and a poker. Plus,
the dope you’re running is worth a grand every two
weeks. Otherwise I’ll shut your ass down.”
“C’mon Quick, we’re friends. I gotta make a living.
You take a grand more and I’m fucked. I can’t pay
Lawrence here. He’s got a family. And I got debts.
You think Martini gives a crap about my expenses?
He wants the vig on time.”
“And so do I.”
Quick said, “Don’t make me look bad in front of
Elliot said, “The kid? He makes more’n I do off this
place with his stick. Shake his ass down.”
“My next move is to send the Red Suits in.”
“Balls busted! Fuck me. I thought we were friends.”
“We are friends. That’ll be one k, and don’t weigh
my pockets down with silver.”
Elliot shook his head, yawned, and drank the rest
of the coffee before descending the stairs to the
basement, returning with two diamonds in a
cellophane bag. “Motherfucker. My margin just
shrank to bupkis.”
“That’s a pile of goatshit and you know it. I’ll tell
you what—you can skip a week if you do my partner
Elliot looked at Sargon with brief, but evident
affection. “Sure. What’s the kid want?”
“A safe, clean, small, cheap apartment downtown.”
Elliot laughed for the first time in twenty years.
“Get outta here. I don’t wanna see you for two weeks
unless you’re renting a bucket of balls.”