We’re rolling now, Mammon fans. More trouble for our buddy Nick. New to the proceedings? You can catch up on the story by clicking here. Got some feedback? Leave me a comment. And thanks for reading along.
Hardin headed east from the Aurora train station, walking through the neighborhood just past the tracks. Area had been pretty Hispanic when he left town, more so now. Means there wouldn’t be enough illegals around that folks there would be that big on paper checking.
Three blocks in, Hardin found what he was looking for. Ten-year-old Honda Civic, pretty beat up, sitting at the curb with a For Sale sign on the dash. Half an hour later, Hardin drove off. Guy’d been a little suspicious, Anglo at his door, but Hardin spoke Spanish (hell, Spanish, French, have a dozen African dialects at this point, enough Italian to get by) so that helped. And paying the ridiculous asking price in cash helped more. Info he gave the guy would never fly with the Secretary of State’s office, whenever they got around to processing the title transfer, but that was weeks out. If Hardin wasn’t out of here by then, he had way bigger problems.
Hardin cruised through his old neighborhood, taking Spring Street east, cutting down Union to Galena. Things looked better, whole shopping area had sprung up at Union and New York, typical immigrant story. Hardin remembered as a kid the whites that could afford to all moving out, the Mexicans moving in, all the bad talk about spics and drugs and gangs, same shit his great-grandparents had heard about the Irish, back in the day. But the houses were looking better, the shops were going up. Way it always had gone. On the Honda’s radio, some blowhard was going on about immigration and sealing the boarders and all the jobs these people were stealing from hard working Americans. Hardin spun the dial, found the Cubs game on WGN.
Hardin checked into the Motel 6 at 59 and 88. Told the teenager at the counter he didn’t have a credit card, so he had to leave $100 deposit, but the kid not even looking at the expired license he’d flashed as ID. Anonymous as he could get. Got a room on the ground floor near the back, put his shit away and called Fouche.
“Hope you got something for me, mon ami,” Hardin said.
“I do. Russians want to play, and they’ve got a middleman in your area who’ll make the buy. Guy named Bahram Lafitpour in some town called Oak Brook. That work for you?”
“Oak Brook’s close enough, that’s good. Lafitpour, though, that’s Iranian. Makes me a little nervous, with the Al Queda angle and all.”
“Not that kind of Iranian. Guy went to the US just after the Shah went down. Used to be SAVAK. He’s not a Koran waver, that’s for sure.”
“OK. How do I get in touch?”
Fouche gave Hardin a number.
Bobby Lee and Courtney Schilst were waiting for a table at the Mongolian barbeque place in Naperville, across Washington from the Barnes & Noble. Twenty minutes on her Facebook, he had all he needed to make his play – chick was big into poetry, modern guys, liked this Bukowski or whatever his name was. Followed her Twitter for a bit, found out she’d just got dumped, that her birthday was today, and that she was going to spend it “at B&N, with CB, the only man worth loving.” So Bobby’d done some quick research, Bukowski as the poet laureate of American low life and so forth, got to the Barnes & Noble early, grabbed one of the two Bukowski books they actually had in stock, slouched into the chair closest to that shelf and waited.
He was careful not to look when she walked in. Watched out of the corner of his eye while she checked out the shelf, a little frown – must have wanted the book he had. She grabbed the other one. Bobby had piled his shit on the chair across from him – people like to sit in the easy chairs along the windows, but one thing he’d learned in Naperville, none of the white folk were going to ask a black guy to move his stuff, not so long as he was wearing his intense Malcom X face. Half were afraid of him on principle, the other half figured they owed him. He’d pulled his backpack and coat off the chair when he saw Courtney hit the top of the escalator.
She grabbed her book, looked at the line of chairs, then sat down across from Bobby.
It was like fishing. You couldn’t force it. You had to wait for it. Finally, he could feel it., could feel her seeing the book, looking at him. Still he gave it a second. Finally, he lowered the book a little, looked over the top.
She held up her Bukowski. “I’ve never seen anyone else reading him in here before,” she said.
He shrugged, gave a little half smile, just being polite.Made her make another move.
“I guess, around here, I mean the life he led, that’s just not their experience.” She was hooked, now. She wanted to talk. And he had his play. The Bukowski, the hint of contempt when she said “their experience.” She wanted to slum.
“Yeah, well, I ain’t from around here,” Bobby said. “Where I grew up, I mean I GET this shit, you know?”
“Do you really?” she said, leaning forward a little now. She was wearing a scoop neck, it drooping down, giving him a nice shot. “I mean sure, maybe the poverty, but there’s something in his take on things, his own genius, I keep thinking I’ve connected, and then I realize I haven’t, I just . . . how do you get inside that, you know?”
“Don’t try,” Lee said. Bukowski’s epithet. Lee’d read about that. It was perfect.
So an hour of BS at the bookstore, then over for dinner. Lee figured her for a project, was ready to invest a week. Way it was going, he’d be boxing her compass tonight.
Lee felt his cell vibrate on his hip, checked his screen. Guy he knew in the Chicago PD who’d feed him tips here and there for a little extra scratch. He excused himself and stepped outside to take the call.
“It’s Lee, what do you got?”
“Hey, Bobby. Remember way back you said I ever see this Griffin guy pop up to give you a shout?”
Lee having to think for just a second. Hernandez, the drug lord. He’d been referred to Lee maybe a year or so back, some upstart gang in Chicago getting on his turf, wanted some faces run down. Lee’d turned the job around in maybe an hour. Then Hernandez tells him about this Griffin. Michael X. Griffin. Just that it was personal, it went back a long way. The guy’d gone overseas or something, disappeared all the way down the rabbit hole, but if he ever popped up on Lee’s radar and Lee got some solid intel to Hernandez, Lee’d be looking at a big fucking payday.
“Yeah, OK, Griffin. Yeah. I remember.”
“We just ran his prints, some homicide down in Area 2.”
Lee made a deal with his contact, guy would get what he head to Lee as soon as he got off shift. Lee headed back into the restaurant. Nice meal, couple hours of blonde strange for dessert, then see what he could squeeze out of Hernandez. Not like that guy had a budget. Oughta be a lot of zeros coming out of this.