The Job

He stayed up late every night thinking of her.  Even though it had been many years since they’d seen each other, every night he’d ask himself if the magic he felt in the air around her would still be there the next time they would meet.  Would her hair come down just right on her shoulders as that endearing smile beaconed to him from afar just as if they were once again across the room from one another?  Would his senses catch fire standing next to her just as they had when he imagined himself within the glance of her peripheral vision?  Somehow, when they’ll see each other again it will all make sense and reality . . . well, reality is the inconvenient thing that melts away whenever one falls in love.

Things ended badly last time.  They had to.  What with Perry getting carted off to prison along with him and Chico having been taken for ransom, but wasn’t it worth it if it was all for her? At least that’s what he’d tell himself.  Henry told himself he’d do it all over again and not change a thing so long as she waited for him as she had promised.  Don’t they all promise that though?  Every dame who’s ever had her man go off to the big house that’s what they say, “I’ll wait for you.  You know I will” and all that jazz.  Henry knew better, but still he wanted to believe.  After all, there’s got to be one honest dame out there.  Every other one he’d been with had all been users but not Becky.  No, she’d be true, and he’d do anything for her.

Still, in order to win Becky back, he had to get back in the game.  There’s no way to woo a woman like that with just a few dollars in your pocket, a rap sheet, and a bartending gig.  Anyway, there’s no escaping the life. Once you’re in it, you’re in it for good.  You either die a soldier or live out the dream in some old age home forgetting that you once ruled the streets of New York as the nurses changed your diapers.  Henry just figured it was better to bank on finding happiness within the shorter life expectancy rather than count on reaching the age where no dame worth her salt would give a shit about him anyway.  “Make the best of your youth,” that’s what good Ol’ Uncle Richie would always tell Henry when he was just a boy and wouldn’t you know it, Richie was right.  Ol’ Uncle Richie went out making love to two vivacious ladies just as a Scarpini hit man put two slugs in the back of his head. Uncle Richie never saw it coming, but you know what? At least he died happy.

So, Henry thought if he could just have one more night with Becky. . . just one night like all their  nights before he went into the slammer . . . . with a nice bottle of whiskey, two glasses, some careless talk, and ending with a passionate embrace and their lips firmly pressed together in an infinite kiss just before they were force to depart . . . . Well, Henry figured, just one night like that with Becky and I’d die happy.  Just as before, Henry knew she’d never leave that louse of a husband even though every ounce of her body belonged to him.  Maybe there will be more longing, more passion this time or maybe it all fizzled out while he was out of the game.  Still, he had to see for himself.

Henry strolled into Cesar’s Clam Bar downtown as if he owned the joint, walked passed the heavy guarding the VIP section who had been eyeing him slowly, and sat down across from his boss, Vince Maglio. Vince knew what he was there for and Henry knew he would get it as long as he could prove himself and as long as he hadn’t been turned.  Henry laughed as he was patted down, “What you expecting a wire, Vince? You know I just did all my time and never said a word.”

Vince snarled in his casual gray single breasted pinstriped suit and smiled back at Henry, “Just taking precautions, Henry.  Just precautions.”

“Well, I’m no rat. I came here to earn my way again, Vince.  You know I’m one of the best men you ever had.”

“That you are, my friend. That you are. . . . You still crazy about that dame. . . . That uh Becky broad?”

“What’s it to you?”

“You know she did you in?  If I weren’t a gentleman I’d skin her alive if I saw her again and the mood caught me just right.”

“Vince, that shit that went down ain’t on her. She’d never –“

“She did, Henry.  She did.  That’s just what happens when you get your head stuck in your pants. Stay away from that broad.  She’s bad news.”

At this point, Henry knew what he was supposed to say.  There was no way out of it other than to appease Vince, but he knew deep in his heart Becky would never sell him down the drain. The coppers must have gotten their information from somewhere else.  For all he knew the fucking rat could be sitting in the very clam bar amongst Vince’s confidantes.  Henry just wanted to hear the magic words that every soldier wants to hear, those words that meant there’d soon be some serious cash in his pocket.  He could take a lecture from Vince as well as anyone, but until he heard those sweet words coming from his mouth none of it mattered.  Then, the words came as a light a cool breeze on a hot summer’s day . . . the words, “I got a job for you, Henry.’

That’s all Henry needed to hear in that conversation, and that’s all he’d usually get in the past.  A small paper would be slipped to him with a time and date on it and so long as he showed up and did as was instructed he’d have his pay day – piece of cake.  What would be this time?  Another truck full of swag?  A stick-up? Hell, Henry figured he was ready to hold up the Federal Reserve if he had to so long as it got him back to Becky. It almost didn’t matter what was expected of him.  Henry had a one track mind. Becky was all he could think of and one more night of bliss with her was worth the cost of his pathetic life.  All Henry had to do was prove himself to Vince with this one job and everything else would fall into place and she’d finally leave that stupid husband of hers.  Henry turned the paper over and all it said was “Scarpini warehouse, Houston Street 11pm.”  Henry knew what that meant. It meant the rivalry was starting up again.  It meant Vince wanted to strike at the Scarpini Outfit and takeover all the drugs, cigarettes, and booze Scarpini had ready for downtown distribution.  It might spark a war if all didn’t go as planned, but what did it matter to a soldier anyways?

Since he had no place to stay for the time being, Henry checked into a Brooklyn motel. The job wouldn’t be until Sunday night so he had another day to kill before having his life made in the shade.   He thought a few times about calling Becky straight off the bat to meet him there initially resisting the urge, but eventually relenting.  She was just too hard to resist. He’d just tell her that he’s about to get back on his feet very soon . . . that’s all.  If she was as crazy about him as he was about her then she’d understand.  There would be a few months wait before they could grace the floor of the Copa, or hit the casinos down in AC for a long weekend.  All that would come later. For now, it would just be the two of them alone in a room . . . Ha! Like a normal couple, the thought made him laugh.  There would be nothing normal about seeing Becky again.   All those things they sing about in those Frankie Valli songs – well, that’s what Henry felt each time he was around her.  It was like hearing “Sherry” and being a teenager in love for the first time with his heart pulsating like the engine revving on a Mustang.   Each time he closed his eyes during his stint in the big house, he imagined she’d be there when they opened.

The phone rang and rang until she finally picked up, “Hello.”

“Why hello Mrs. Parsons. Have I got a surprise for you!”

“Henry?”

“No, it’s WLKW and you’ve just won a trip to Hawaii.”

“Henry, stop foolin’ – so you’re out?”

“Yeah, baby. I bet you can’t believe it.  Can you get out and come see me?”

“Ralph’s away on business. I‘ll spend the night with you.  Where are you staying?

“Over in Brooklyn.  Temporary place til I get back on my feet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun.”

“Especially the kind of fun I want to have. I’ll bring the booze.”

Henry anxiously waited until he heard the knock on his door. Her voice sounded a bit coarser than before, a lot less delicate and fragile than what it used to sound like but that’s what the years do to the best dames. Sometimes the voice is the first thing to go before they hit the wall especially if they smoked, but Becky had a long time to go before that would ever happen. Henry figured he’d be six feet under long before Becky lost her looks.   Those saucer-like brown eyes that could hold him in a hypnotic trance for a lifetime if they had to; the curves on her body that would soften as she’d lean in to kiss him; and the way her body trembled and quivered underneath him as he passionately made love to her – all of those elements that were uniquely hers danced in his brain incessantly ever since the last time he saw her.  Those were the memories Henry wanted to relive before going to his grave.  Now that she was coming this night it almost didn’t matter if he died pulling the job on Sunday Night.  Still, he felt almost incomplete meeting her again without fully reclaiming his position.  It’s something that guys like him struggle with. It’s hard to accept that a dame might love you before you’ve reached the top of your game.

The knock came and sure enough Becky stood before him in all her glory donning a brown trench coat, nothing underneath, and holding bottle of Templeton Rye in one hand and a black leather pocketbook in the other.  Her black hair blew lightly in the breeze behind her as she stood in the doorway and her eyes spoke to him in volumes before any words could leave her lips.   When she came inside and he opened her trench coat to reveal her nakedness underneath he thought to himself, This is my Becky and isn’t she glorious. They immediately began gratifying each other without so much of a word spoken between them.  All those years in prison had failed to cool their desire for each other despite the fact that they had each aged to the point where they were no longer young.

There were two glasses over on the corner desk of the dingy motel room.  Henry imagined that soon he could afford a proper apartment after the job, and perhaps they’d have a more respectable place to go back to. He told her just that as he always had a habit of saying whatever was on his mind to her. “I’m pulling off a job at the Scarpini warehouse on Houston Street tomorrow night and after that everything is sure to come up roses.  We could start making plans to be together a little while after that.”

With the blanket draped around her as she sat up Becky explained, “It’ll be a lot harder to get away from Ralph when he’s in town.  He suspected something was going on the last time.  Things have been quite normal between us since you’ve been away.  I stayed true to you though – as true as I could anyway.”

“I know you did, Becky,” said Henry as he poured their drinks.

“I just can’t imagine myself waitressing.  That’s the only reason I haven’t left him. You know that, Henry?”

“Honey, if all goes well with this job tomorrow not only could you leave Ralph for good, you’d never have to worry about money again. I’ll take care of you.”

“That’s exactly what you said last time.  You said you were one more job away from having it made and look what happened.”

“It’s different now, Becky.  First off I wouldn’t have taken that job if I wasn’t so desperate for us to be together. Something smelled about it from the beginning.  Don’t get upset, but I think the coppers were tipped off.”

Becky face looked stunned.  It was the first time Henry could detect anything awkward in her appearance.

“Vince thinks it was you but I know better.  You wanted that score to work out just as much as anyone. No, no it had to be someone else on the inside.”

“How could Vince think it was me? You boys planned it out.  I was only supposed to be the decoy, remember.”

“Yeah, I know. You were supposed to distract the guard and boy oh boy did you give him a thrill.”

“Flashed him right in front of the customers and got him to come to the ladies room alone with me right before the three of you burst in.”

“We hit Scarpini again tomorrow, you know 11pm.  How far did that bodyguard get with you anyway,” asked Henry had he swallowed another swig of whiskey.

“Far enough to remember me but not far enough to brag about it,” said Becky.

“That’s my girl,” said Henry proudly.

The last time, someone had tipped Maglio’s operation off about a Scarpini casino operating on a skeleton crew, only one guard at the door and another in front of the count room.  Getting passed the guard at the door was easy.  After all, everybody was supposed to get along and what did it matter if Maglio’s men wanted to gamble there anyway – the house always wins and everyone’s money is just as good.  This was peace time after all.  As for the count room guard, well, Vince had been convinced of Becky’s talent to distract men just judging by how all his own men fawned over her whenever Henry brought her around.  As stunning as she is now, Henry thought, she was even more stunning back then almost like a movie star. Men tripped over each other just to serve her drinks, and yet she was all his (at least on the nights she could escape that husband of hers).   Bringing a girlfriend into a job isn’t a normal thing, but everyone was convinced it would work, most of all Henry, who imagined that the cuts both he and Becky would get from the job would guarantee her freedom from her marriage.  It almost worked until the coppers arrived just as Henry, Chico, and Perry burst into the count room.  It was as if they knew the exact moment when the job was getting pulled off.  Henry never ruled Chico out as a rat. That sonofabitch got out of the whole thing too easy.  The Scarpini men who escaped took him at gunpoint with them and negotiated his release with Maglio, and in the end Maglio caved to preserve the peace.  If he had let them off Chico, there would be no choice but to go to war.  That’s what Maglio’s own men would expect from him, and a general is nothing without his army behind him.  Peace was negotiated and struck while Perry and Henry went to trial and did their time soon afterwards.  Henry got out sooner since he didn’t kill anyone in the melee as Perry had once the bullets started flying.

Now, Henry found himself on the verge of another job only this time it had to work.  This time, he’d win Becky’s freedom and they would be together at least that’s what he thought to himself as he paced the room once Becky fell asleep with the sheets wrapped around her in the buff.   He swigged the cradle of the bottle thinking of how beautiful Becky looked as she slept peacefully only to accidently nudge her pocketbook on the floor. As the contents spilled out, he saw something he never wanted to see.  He bent over, picked it up, and squinted his eyes at it in disbelief.  It was a wire device.

Henry found himself overwhelmed with sobbing and disbelief.  He cradled himself and rocked back and forth as he looked back in the direction of his sleeping Becky. How could this be? He let out a yelp and Becky turned over only to see him holding the item in question through her sleepy blurry vision.  Her naked body eased itself out of bed and she put her trench coat back on.  She then approached him, put her arm around him, and said “I wanted to tell you. I really did.  Everything I felt . . . was real.”

Henry couldn’t talk as he sat stunned on the floor.

“My real name is Anne Roland. I’m a Special Agent with the FBI.  This thing isn’t on now. I shut off last time you went to the bathroom after you told me when and where the job will be pulled off.” She paused and swallowed deeply after sighing and began again, “I really do care about you Henry.  Do yourself a favor and don’t go tomorrow.”

Henry brushed her arm away from him and stood up, “No, you don’t get it. I have to go.”

“You don’t have to do anything, Henry.”

“If I don’t show up, they’ll know something’s up and when they get busted pulling off the job they’ll finger me as the rat and then I might as well be dead.  How could I be such a fool?”

“It’s not your fault you fell in love with me.  Henry I swear the feelings were real for me too.”

“So, all this time it was you.  I thought Chico had sold us out, but it was you.”

“Will you warn Maglio now?”

“If I do that he’ll kill me for even seeing you again and ruining this job.”

“What are you going to do, Henry?”

“I’m going to be a soldier.  I’m going to turn up for the job as planned.  Only do me a favor.”

“Anything, Henry.”

“When the bullets start flying make sure I go down and make sure it’s quick.”

“Henry?”

“Do this for me and I’ll know you really love me.”

Not another word was spoken as she left him alone in the room.

Sunday 11pm came before Henry knew it. He was tasked with sneaking into the warehouse through the back window without being detected. Once he was in, he’d take out the main guard and give the signal for the rest of the crew to crash into the doors with their vehicle and guns at the ready.

Henry slipped inside only he didn’t find what he expected.  The entire warehouse was empty as the eye could see.   The lights started to flutter on illuminating the entire space.  There was nothing.  No crates, no boxes, no drugs, money, or booze.  There was nothing but the stale gray smell of a warehouse floor. Vince had double crossed him, probably striking a deal with Scarpini to get his own house cleaned. Vince knew Henry couldn’t resist telling everything to Becky, and once he knew that Henry was nothing but a liability.

“FBI!!! FREEZE!!!,” came a gruff voice just behind him.  Then a sigh from that very same voice, “Ah shit!  It’s a set up,” he yelled to the men behind him.

Henry turned around.  He could see Becky, his Becky – not Anne Roland- standing in her uniform gear behind the man who barked the order to freeze at him.  Please let her be my Becky . . .please one last time, thought Henry.

“DON’T MOVE!!!!,” Yelled the lead G-Man.

Henry shrugged his shoulders, looked endearingly at Becky, reached for his revolver, closed his eyes and charged with all his might.  The song “Sherry” played in his head as he fell back having been shot in the chest.  Becky rushed over in tears.  He could see her and feel her as she held him in her arms.  She kissed him once, and just before everything faded to black, Henry uttered his final words, “For you Becky, it was all worth it.”

Anne stood up, wiped the tears from her face, and knew she had a job to do. She took a moment to dream about what life would have been like if she were really Becky, but just then Special Agent Carter interrupted, “Roland, are you alright?”

“Yes, I just didn’t want it to come to this.”

“Maglio double crossed him, but that’s stating the obvious.”

“Yeah, it is.”

“We’ll get to him another way.  You know . . . some of these tough guys, they’re all mushy and gullible deep down inside.”

“That they are, Agent Carter.”

As Agent Carter was about to get into his car, he stopped, looked at Agent Roland and asked, “I’ve always wondered what could make a man so weak when it comes to his love of a woman.  After you worked a man like Henry Costello, surely you must have the answer.”

Special Agent Roland turned away from Carter walked towards her vehicle as it started to rain and mumbled to herself, “Maybe Henry wasn’t the weak one.”

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