After I had called Sweet and banged the cocaine, I had chilling thoughts.
"I've got five whores just like poor Preston had when Sweet crossed and destroyed him. I wonder if Sweet will dream up a cross to steal my whores from me? He knows where I'm padding. It would be as easy as lifting a telephone receiver. Sweet swears he loves me like I'm his son. These seven years on this fast track have hipped me to one solid truth. To a pimp there's nothing more important than copping whores. While I'm holed up, I'll keep my stable headaches a secret, I won't give him a cue to volunteer his help. It would be a bitch to have him handling my stable. I'm sure glad Chris is a boss bottom bitch. Oh! This pressure is really screwing my skull around. Sweet wouldn't cross me. I gotta stop mistrusting the only friend I got. I mean more to Sweet as his friend than any whore. Maybe I should make a run for it and set up shop in some other city. Christ! Why do I have to be red hot with federal heat? Why couldn't it be city or state heat? On this fast track I've only been busted and mugged once. A dozen other times I paid off on the street. That F.B.I. is a sonuvabitching genius. No, I'd better keep my hot ass in town right here in this cruddy pig sty.i The runt's a whore. Maybe her new pimp or a trick will croak her. Then I could walk into the F.B.I. office and stick my black ass out to be kissed. They'd have no case without the runt as a witness. The runt took Ophelia on all those out-of-state trips. I gave the runt instructions and expense money. I ain't never told Ophelia to cross a state line. The runt was screwing Ophelia. That was really the runt's bitch. It's a good thing I holed up in this rat's nest. The F.B.I. would never look for a good pimp in a sewer."ii
It was December, nineteen-forty-five. The war was over. The world was licking its bloody wounds.iii Drugs and the pimp gameiv had hardened away my baby face. My hair was thinning. I was turning twenty-eight but I looked forty.
For seven years I had devoted myself to getting hip to that pimp's book. I had labored with the zeal of a Catholic Brother agonizing for the Priesthood. I had thought and acted like a black God.
I was now trapped in my dingy one-room kitchenette. It was in a very old two-story building. I was on the first floor in the rear in number ten. Down the hall at night, rats would come scampering and squealing from the alley. They came under the back door which hung crookedly on its hinges.
I had a vague disturbing doubt in my skull. Was it possible I wasn't even a poor imitation of a God? Maybe I was just a sucker black pimp on his way to a third bit in the joint.v
Chris was the only one of the stable that visited me. We'd bang cocaine together. I wouldn't let her know how worried I was. God couldn't have skull aches.
I couldn't let the others see me in a crummy setting. After all, how could a God live like a square chump? Chris knew all the reasons why. To her God's farts still had the fragrant odor of roses. I worked out with Chris a smooth system. Even the best pimp has to keep some personal contact with his whores.vi
The system was simple and for a while effective. Chris and I would go out into the hall to the phone on the wall. She could call the stable at their pad. It would always be three or four o'clock in the morning.
One of the girls would pick up. Chris would pretend to be a long-distance operator. It was rare luck that Chris had a talent for mimicry. They didn't get hip to it. It would always be a person-to-person call from me to one of them. Chris and I conned them the calls came from New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.
I would get on the line and talk to all four of them. There were extensions in all four bedrooms. I could con and tighten my game on all of them at the same time.
The first call we made was supposed to be from New York. It took maybe a minute for me to have all their horns to receivers.vii
I said, "Well girls, I know you've missed daddy. You've all probably wondered, when in the hell is daddy coming back to town? Jesus Christ! Has he forgotten a whore needs to see her man some time? Sure we're in his corner. We prove that when we hump our asses off in the street. We check our scratch into Chris to send to him. Goddamnit, what could be so important that he neglects his whores? Well girls, I'm gonna show the kinda confidence daddy's got in you. I'm gonna hip you to a million-dollar secret. I know all of you will keep your jibs buttoned.viii"
Chris cut in crisply and said, "Three minutes are up, Sir. Please signal when through."
I continued, "You are the luckiest whores alive. Your man's got a genius white engraver for his pal. He used to be an engraver for the government. We've got some plates he's just finished. We've turned out three-hundred of the prettiest hundred-slat bills the human eye has ever seen. They're perfect. Even the government couldn't get hip to a difference from real scratch. There ain't any.ix We got one problem we're gonna solve if it takes a year. We've run outta the special paper the government prints its scratch on. My white genius pal even knows how to make the paper. We are playing it cool and traveling and copping inks and other stuff we need. It's tough to cop some of it, but for millions who's going to give up? As soon as we get the paper made up we're gonna run off a coupla million or so slats. I'm gonna breeze back into town the only millionaire pimp in the world.x I'm gonna buy a beach and a mansion in Hawaii for my stable. If we run outta scratch, we'll just run off another bale.xi So stay cool and keep humping. Oh yeah, Chris got a cab to the airport an hour ago. She should be getting home in a coupla hours or so. She's bringing each of you a piece of that beautiful lettuce. Spend it on anything you want. Take it anywhere, even a bank. Believe me, it's perfect."
I hung up. I had electrified them with the story. I could hear the excited thrill in their voices when they chorused goodbye. I told Chris to crack the genius had a way to make all the serial numbers on the bills different. I already knew what my story would be whenever I got the heat off me.
I could stall them a lifetime. I could say the genius got busted on another beef. I had to wait until he got out. He wouldn't tell me where the plates were hidden. He could even croak while doing his bit.
Each time I talked to the stable after that, the genius and I had just copped another vital item we needed.xiv It wouldn't be long now I assured them. Sweet had dropped the word in the street that I was on the West Coast taking off long scratch from a rich square broad.
It was getting almost impossible to sleep. I would almost jump from my skin when a tenant would knock. I would think it was the heat. The tenant would be calling me to the phone in the hall. When I did fall off into fitful sleep I'd have nightmares. Those dreams about Mama would hog-tie me on a sweaty rack of misery. I had an awful fear of another jolt in the joint. The guilty daydreams on the heels of the nightmares were torturing my skull.
I stopped banging cocaine. It only magnified my terror and worry. I remembered how serene Top used to look after a bang of H. He'd sit and coast like he was in a beautiful peaceful dream. Maybe he'd been right. Maybe sable H came after mink cocaine.xv
Chris came on Christmas Eve. She stayed until Christmas Day afternoon. She brought me pajamas, cologne and robes from herself and the girls. She had given them scratch from me.
My one-room kitchenette hideout was crammed wall to wall with trunks and suitcases. I had all those fine threads and no place to go. I was a lonely pimp bastard!
Sweet came to see me at midnight in January, the tenth I think. He took off his velvet-collared Melton benny. He hung it in the tiny closet. It had been ten-below-zero or colder for a week.xvi
It was a brand new year, nineteen-forty-six. The new Hogs were out for the first time in several years. The garage rent was paid for a year for my old Hog. Chris had gone out several times to run its engine for awhile.
I thought "Christ it would be a kick to trade off and flash through the fresh air in a new Hog."
It was the first time Sweet had visited me. He was getting white around his temples. There was less fiery voltage in his gray eyes. That H and the fast track had him looking terrible. He was getting old all right. He sat down on a suitcase at the head of the bed. I was lying down. Miss Peaches was an old lady, but still gorgeous in her mink coat and fur bootees. He slipped off her coat and shoes. He put them on the dresser. She sat on the floor looking up at me.
He said, "'Berg got bad news for you. The street wire says city rollers are carrying a mug shot of you around. You're really hot now. I gotta wire that pimping Poison is nosing around your girls in the street. If you ain't got Chris tight, he'll steal her. She's gonna hip him where you're hiding. Maybe you oughta get outta this joint tonight. Take another hide out. Don't let Chris or any whore you got know where you are. I'm your bosom buddy, sweetheart, and I love you. I'll keep the stable in line for you. In the meantime I could figure an angle to get your balls outta the hot sand. All you gotta do is call your girls. Tell 'em you want Uncle Sweet to look out for 'em for a coupla weeks. It's easy, pal."
I just lay there for a long moment feeling myself tremble. If he had been lovable Henry, my stepfather, saying he hated me, I couldn't have felt worse. True, I had conquered the fast track, but that sucker inside me I couldn't kill was hurting the hell out of me. I looked at him. Somehow I kept my voice steady and the pain outta my eyes.
I said, "Jeez Sweet, I'd have a bitch of a time trying to cop another friend like you. I feel like bawling just to think about it. I ran down my life story to you.xvii You know I love you like I loved Henry. Maybe I love you, Sweet, more than I love Mama. Don't think I'm a chump square when I say it. Sweet, you taught me to be cold-hearted. You're the only person on Earth who could hurt me. The jokers in the street call me Iceberg. They'd laugh their asses off if they knew I was weak for a stud I love like a father. Sweet please don't hip them I got a sucker weakness. Don't ever do anything to croak my love for you. Sweet, if you ever do, they'll all get hip. I'll maybe fall apart and run through the streets wailing like a crazy bitch. Sweet, I'll wait and think for a day or so. Poison can't steal Chris. I'll kick things around in my skull. Maybe you should be looking out for the stable.
The whole time I was talking, he had run his index fingers along the sword edges of his pant's creases. His gray eyes had found the suitcases and cluttered room fascinating works of art. He swallowed air and tented his bejeweled fingers under his first chin.
He said, "'Berg, this joint is wrecking your skull. Sweet would chop his right arm off before he'd cross you. You're the only friend I got, sweetheart. Shit, honey, you could have a hundred whores and I could be whoreless. I'd ask you to give me a bitch. I wouldn't try to steal no whore from you, darling. You need anything? I gotta split. I got two whores I gotta pick up downtown."
I said, "No Sweet, I don't need anything. I'll rap to you tomorrow. If you hear anything, wire me fast. I'm sure glad you dropped by."
I heard his heavy feet pounding down the linoleum in the hall. They stopped. I heard them getting louder. He was coming back. I looked around the suitcase where he had been sitting. I didn't see anything he had left. He thumped the door. I opened it. He had Miss Peaches in his arms. He was flashing the first gold-toothed grin I'd ever seen on his face.
He said, "'Berg I forgot to tell you. They found old Pretty Preston frozen stiff in the alley back of the Roost. The poor bastard had wrapped himself in newspapers. The Greek fired him a week ago for staying near the fire and not pulling marks on the sidewalk. The drunk half-white bastard thought the newspapers could stand off ten-below-zero."
He turned and walked down the hall. I shut the door and fell across the bed. At three Chris called. I told her to stay away until my next phony long-distance call to the girls. I told her Poison might try to tail her, and maybe the F.B.I.
She told me they didn't have a chance. She went in front doors of a half-dozen buildings then out the back doors before she came to me. When she got to my place she'd come in the back door and walk through the front door. She'd go through the alley then through the back door again before she came to my door.
Maybe they couldn't keep a tail on her. I told her to stay away to play safe. I told her not to call from the pad. It would be a bitch if one of the girls picked up an extension.
Sweet called the next morning at one A.M. The broad next door answered the phone. She knocked on my door. I slipped on an overcoat and walked into the hall. It felt like zero out there.
He said, "'Berg, I just got the wire. Poison stole your young bitch, Fay. I hope she ain't hip to anything that can cross you. 'Berg,' you gotta make some moves. I'll keep my horns to the wire."
He hung up. I was in trouble. I went and got back in bed.
I thought, "Poison's gonna quiz that stinking bitch. She's gonna spill that 'queer scratch' con I've been playing. To tighten his game on her he's gonna wake her to the con. He's gonna tell her I'm hiding out in the city.
"It's a good thing Chris is in on the con. I could blow whoreless in an hour if she wasn't. I need her to take the rest of the stable underground. Maybe I shoulda split outta town when I first got hot.xviii I gotta move the rest of the stable fast.
"Poison is a cinch to pull their coats to the con I played. It's the ace to play for a fast cop of maybe the other three. They'll be salty as hell with me if he gets a chance to wake 'em up. Hurry Chris and call!"
At three Chris called. I ran to the phone in my pajamas. I almost froze to death talking to her.
She said, "Daddy, I had to call you from home. Poison just left with Fay and her clothes. The black bastard has wised up the whole family to that game we played. Dot, Rose, and Pennyxix are larcenied to the gills. They're crying and packing their clothes. I can't hold them. They hate me.xx Poison came into my bedroom before he split. He acted and rapped like I was already his whore. If I'd had a pistol I'd have croaked the strongxxi bastard. He said, 'Well Miss Bitch, your nigger is finished. You're the only whore he's got left. I know a fast pretty bitch like you don't want no pimp you gotta solo for. With my Fay cop, I got eight whores. I'm on the inside of this game. None of my whores take falls. I'm top pimp in town. You're the best whore in town. There ain't nobody but me you can take for your man.xxii Bitch, come to me and you can be queen boss bitchxxiii of the eight-whore stable.xxiv Get your domes and get outta here with me and Fay.xxv Iceberg is going to the federal joint.'"
She said, "Daddy, what happens now? Maybe Poison will come back and gorilla me. I'm so upset, I know any minute I'll scream myself into a padded cell."
The zero drafts blasting through the gap under the back door kept me from passing out. I felt cold sweat dripping down my shaking legs. My throat was having dry convulsions. My voice sounded like it came from an echo chamber.
I stammered, "Chris, don't lose your cool. This is Iceberg remember? Like always I'll put an angle together. Now listen carefully. Pack your things. Go down and get the building flunky. Pay him to take you to a hotel near the garage where the Hog is stashed. Check in and leave your things. Go to the Hog. Drive back and pick up your stuff. Go downtown and check into a hotel. Drive the Hog back and stash it back in the garage. Take an El train back to your hotel. Call me then."
I went back and washed my face in cold water. I looked in the mirror. I looked like I had on a Halloween fright mask. I sure didn't look a bit like a fresh-faced kid any more. The whites of my once bright eyes were blood-shot and faded.xxvi The deep black circles looked like some tricky practical joker had conned me to ram inked spyglasses against the sockets.
I started looking for a yellow. I had to put a damper on my nerves. I had a little cocaine. I didn't need racing. I needed some skull pacifying. I was out of yellows.
Somewhere in one of the suitcases I had a notebook. The phone number of a connection no farther than fifteen blocks away was in it. Maybe he had yellows. If not, what the hell, I'd cop a cap of H. One cap couldn't hook me. Horse was a cinch to kick the jitters outta my skull.
It would be two hours at least before Chris would call back. I found his number. I called him. I told him, in code, I'd pick up six caps within the hour.
I had a fat roll of scratch in a sock pinned inside the sleeve of a trench coat. I started to take it with me. I stuck it in my benny pocket. It bulged like a grapefruit. I'd be back before long. I pinned it back inside the sleeve.
I had close to sixty-eight hundred slats stashed there.xxvii I fished out three saw bucks. I slipped pants and a shirt over my pajamas. I put on shoes and a heavy benny.
I was in a helluva hurry. I pulled the door shut. I heard the spring-latch lock. Less than five minutes after I had talked to the peddler, I was on the way. It was four A.M. when I left. The wintry winds almost snatched my lid off my skull. It felt good though. It was the first time I'd walked in the fresh air for months.
A bleak overcast blotting out the sky. Slipping and sliding on the icy sidewalks, I finally got to thexxviii connection. He lived on the second floor over an all-night chili joint. The joint was crowded. There was no one on the sidewalk. I went up the rickety stairs and copped five caps of H.xxix He put the caps into the cellophane shell from a cigarette pack. He twisted the end and balled the package.
I took it and went down the stairs to the street. I had the sizzle in my hand. I started to walk by the chili spot on my way home. Two neatly dressed brown skin studs were standing on the sidewalk in front of the joint.xxx Its bright lights floodlighted the sidewalk. It was like walking a show-up stage at a police station.
From the side vent in my eye I saw them pinning me. They stiffened. One of them reached toward his chest. I looked back. He was showing his buddy a small square of paper. I started walking fast away from them.
I remembered the sizzle. I downed it and walked faster. I knew they couldn't see in the darkness that I had dropped it. I glanced over my shoulder. I saw a rod in the hand of the taller one as they ran toward me. I ran.
They were bellowing, "Halt! Police! Halt! Stop or we'll shoot!"
I had reached the corner and was halfway around it. I saw a fourman squad of white detectives. They were cruising toward me in a police car. They threw a blinding spotlight on me. I froze. They all looked at me. I saw a shotgun muzzle ease out of a fast-lowering rear side window.
The two rollers chasing me skidded around the corner. In a way I was glad to see them. Those rollers in the cruiser probably hadn't croaked anybody in a week. I really didn't want them to break their luck on me.
The two held onto me like I was Sutton. The white rollers shut off the spotlight and moved slowly down the street past us. The shorter one had handcuffed my hands behind me. He showed his buddy the picture. They looked up at me.
The taller one said, "Yeah, it's the bastard all right. Look at the eyes."
They searched me head to toe. They saw the lone saw buck I had. They hustled me back around the corner. We passed a skinny black joker standing on the corner. He nodded at me. I recognized him. He was in my building. I had sent him for groceries and change for the phone a dozen times.
I got a fast glimpse of the picture as the roller slipped it back inside his coat pocket. It was me. I remembered the pearl-gray sharkskin suit and black shirt. Top and I had been together four years ago. The two white rollers who had hit on us hated Top because he had white whores. They wouldn't take a pay off. They booked us on suspicion of homicide and mugged us. Top and I were out in less than two hours. It was the one and only time I had been taken in on the fast track.
They put me into the rear seat of an unmarked Chevy. They were in the front seat as the tall one drove away.
I said, "Gentlemen, it's not gonna put any scratch in your mitts to take me in. Let me give you the price of a couple fine vines to cut me loose."xxxi
Slim said, "Shit, you couldn't cop one bullshit vine in a hock shop with the scratch you're carrying."
I said, "I got more scratch at my pad. Knowing I'm Iceberg you can believe that, can't you? Just run me by there, I'll get it, lay a coupla C's apiece on you and fade away. How about it?"
Slim and Shorty looked at each other.
Shorty said, "You think we're suckers? You got a federal warrant for white slavery outstanding. We didn't hear a word you said about that chicken shit four C's."
I said, "All right, so we're all like black brothers. The bad difference is the F.B.I. wants to lynch your brother in court. You gonna throw me to the white folks for hanging? I'll give you two grand apiece to beat the F.B.I. outta their pound of black meat."
Slim said, "Where's your pad?"
I thought fast. It had been a mistake to crack about my pad. If I told them they could take my whole stash and still bust me or croak me. I was a fugitive. They might even come back to the stash after they took me in. I had the key to the kitchenette in my pocket. I tested them.
I said, "You know Sweet Jones. He's a friend of mine. I can get four G's from him five minutes after we get to his place. I can't take you to my pad. I got a close friend there. Suppose after we got there you'd change your minds about the deal. You'd have to book him for harboring me."
Slim said, "We can't cut you loose. We couldn't do it if you gave us forty G's. I just remembered you were in that spotlight back there. One of those downtown men could have made you. Sorry brother, but what the hell? Federal joints ain't bad to pull a bit in. Thanks for popping up like you did. You make a great pinch for us."
Why not try out say LA, what's all the Chicago rednecks got against travel. "Oh check out my boss ride, I've never driven outta Wichita. I really need all those HP and shit tho! For turning around." [↩]
Cuz the notion of a good pimp even exists for those retarded pencildicks, they're too dumb to get their square ass out of a round paper bag but nevertheless they can tell a "good" pimp from a stale bundle of lettuce.
- Ce frumoasa este viata... [↩]
- But mostly the drugs.
All that girl bangin's very far from "keeping the game frosty" and very close to the stupidest use for money possible. If he just bought superball tickets for it all, at least it'd be possible, however theoretically, to win something. [↩]
- This seems rather a distinct possibility. [↩]
- This is so fucking ridiculous... [↩]
- Whoreference. [↩]
- You may be qualified to win a complimentary all expenses paid totally free aluminum siding job! [↩]
- So they're printing circulated bills or what. [↩]
- So basically he's decided he's never seeing them again. In which case, what the fuck, why even bother with the whole charade, still. Ever. Why have them still "humping", why... What was all the "jewelry" for, what the fuck was it all for ?! Seriously, a coupla desk jockeys in a basement somewhere and that's it, end of the line, the "greatest in the country", the "black God", all's gone in a sudden puff of smoke ?
At least bomb the FBI office, fucken coward. What was it all for! [↩]
- Ahahaha, check it out, in his wildest dreams from the pit of despair he dreams of being... me. [↩]
- I bet they giggled awkwardly like preteen idiots, too. [↩]
- In another few years he might even wake up one fine morning having just turned twelve years old. [↩]
- Too bad this didn't end up taking the obvious path towards religious community, they could wait for the second coming of the harley-sorrybop comet/spaceship just as well.
I'm starting to think there's a main series cons like there's a main series stars, they just go a certain way by accretion mass, volume and speed. [↩]
- This sure is going just down the well greased drain Phyllis predicted. Aren't you wondering at this point whatall this thickskulled nigger omitted in his narrative ? His mammy's life story dun make any sense, doesn't stand up, it's so far from checking out it might as well be a pile of random newspaper cutouts arranged happenstantially. And the runt's does ? Nope, same nonsense, polished smoother but just as poorly fitted, I'm even willing to bet the fake bitch ain't in "the stable" anymore. He quit mentioning "Carmen", didn't he ?
- Good thing he didn't split for Miami. [↩]
- Just like a bitch. [↩]
- Gee, ya think ?! [↩]
- Yup, no Carmen. [↩]
- Good fucking thing he had the presence of mind to identify his mortal enemy early and correctly, in the hunched-over diminutive person of some black chick that gave him her asshole, her Ford, and then topped it off by handwashing his socks in the sink. That was it. Phyllis the runt, his whore, his woman, his one and true mortal enemy. For being there.
Not some dubious crossdressing swamp dweller, o no, not him. Not a whole bunch of tediously uppity dumb old bitches, with notions and ideas about "how things should be". No, none of that, for being too distant, far away and remote to enter his thoughts at all. Gotta hate what you can punch, right ? That's gonna be the enemy, whoever's in range, enmity by proximity, choice by convenience, "black pimps" of kiss my ass. [↩]
- Impudent, fresh. [↩]
- What an utter loser angle. [↩]
- You know, that thing. [↩]
- He's got 7+1 and no bottom ?! Da fuck's this insane nonsense ? [↩]
- He didn't even want the other three ? [↩]
- Lotta front and flash, or how did he call it.
Fucking idiots with their diamong rings and whatnot. What's a diamond ring supposed to do, make a sucker out of a sucker out on the lam ? Anything else ? [↩]
- After seven years ?! Seven years with four-five whores ?! Less than a buck a night a head ?! This retard might be the worst manager the world has ever seen.
He shoulda bought powerball tickets instead, all the way. [↩]
- At least have the common sense to call out multiple, maybe ? [↩]
- Because one cap couldn't hook him. Gotta make sure. [↩]
- Connection sold him out, which is a large part of how "connections" operating from their home atop an all-night chili joint even stay in business in the first place. Da fuck's he doing scoring hot, anyways, what, he's got no-one to do it for him ? O, right, right, he's got no one, I forgot he's no gangster, just some 2nd tier pimp. [↩]
- And go... where ? To do... what ?
He's better off in prison. At least he can play cards in there. Three squares, no girl to bang, he'd live longer and truth be told a better life.
That "skull book" sure paid off for him, huh! [↩]