While Pepper ran all over town copping the pads I had the runt drive me up to Sweet's pad in her yellow Ford. We looked just like a coupla squares. Phyllis had on an airy A-line dress and a straw hat, I put on a subdued vine, we could've been a coupla of professors or some other kinda that thing. We went through the whole rigamarole, up to and including Samee welcoming us. We found Sweet in a pair of leopard skin shorts, on his couch. I said "Hello you old bastard! Let me introduce to you the girl I'm gonna marry!" excited like one of them. I turned to her, "Mr. Sweet Jones", then to him "Miss Natalie Runt". He stood up, his mouth dropped open. Eventually he said to me "The hell you say, nigger ?!"
That's when Lulu came in yakking "Hey Mr. Jones sir, everyone's ready. Is it ok if we take the D or do you..." then she caught sight of us. She said "Oh! Hello!" all bubbly. I said "They got time for this bitch to make me a drink, Sweet ?" He closed his mouth and pointed sweetslit to the bar. She shook her big ass all the way there. She was decked in a spectacular golden dress, draping over her substantial assets, cracked in front to grant a taste. It worked wonders for her. I cracked on him "Where's they going ?" Apparently Sweet had taken over Glass Top's trade, because Lulu and the crew were going no other place than the Franklin Arms! I said "That okay if they take this rusty bitch of mine along ? I know she ain't worth two slats, but I figure maybe your legendary cocksuckers learn her a thing or two ?" Phyllis gave me a look. I turned to her "What up, bitch ? You ever ride in a Duesenberg ? That's a sorta short that costs money, what do you know, going everywhere in that niggardly Ford of yours." She looked at her shoes. "Yes, Daddy". Sweet bellowed out his bear laugh, then asked "I thought you were gonna marry the bitch ?" I looked at him from the side and let go, "Well yeah, but I ain't gonna marry her tonight, Sweet." That broke him up. He fell back on the couch laughing, tears in his eyes. Lulu was giggling trying not to spill my golden drink on the way back. Before I had two decent sips the whole lot of them, six of his plus the one of mine, flew out the door. I looked at him. "You figure I just lost a whore, huh ?" He slapped my back. "That whore of yours is better lost, Iceberg. She ever stood up yet ?" I chuckled. "Not in bed, anyhow."
Once the bitches were well out he took me by the hand and walked me past the gold-painted screens. I thought to myself, "The hell's got into the crazy coon ?" To my relief we went right past the toilet with the urinals in it, but then he dragged me in a bedroom! I was just started to say "Listen, Sweet, I know you love me man, but my name ain't Melody nohow, you know ?" when he cracked the rundown on me. It turns out Mr. Jones had a sweet enough connection through a whore of his from down those parts. These fellows flew in the cocaine from way down South, where it grows on trees like cotton, all the way into Canada. They dropped it off nowhere there, direct from the plane. Then later they'd go in by boat, with the treasure map in hand, of where it was supposed to land. They'd pick it up and float it back down South a ways. What he thought was he'd cop a load. The way that'd work out was that we had to drive to somewhere along lake Michigan, also like on a treasure map. It had to be at night. We had to do some lighting show with a coupla flashlights, then the guys would motorboat the load over. Almost like ordering some pie, if you don't count having to drive all the way out to Waukegan, and then back with a hot load. He said to me "Iceberg, the asking price's six a piece." I looked at him, "Six big ones ?!" In truth I was willing to go a little higher than the grand Top wanted for his, on merchandise of same quality, but six times higher seemed to high. He looked at me like I'd never hussled cocaine in my life. "Six hundred, fool." I thought to myself, "That's not so bad." He shook his head like he was reading my mind. "This ain't cut, kid. You thinking of Glass Top's stuff, that was already four to one." I looked dazed. He nodded me along through it. "Yeap. One of this makes four of that." I couldn't help but get excited some. I said "Sweet, that's sweet enough, but... do these jokers have enough ? I mean, for a piece or two it'd be maybe even worth the road, but any less than that... Hell, that army tank you've got probably needs that much in gas."
He put his hand to his forehead like I was giving him a headache. "Listen kid, that's just it. To go in I have to buy out the whole load. These jokers don't deal by the half boat, and I ain't got that." Finally it was landing in my head. "How much is a boatload like that ?" He came right back "Two-fifty. They lay the trip on me with no warning, no nothing. I can't go to the bank and ask for a barrel of cash. I ain't no Top. All I got laying around's ninety large. You managed to scare up sixty from that fiance of yours yet ?" I scratched my head. "Just about. 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. 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, 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 my dead baby brother. 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." He said, "'Berg, 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." I looked straight into those gray slits on his ugly mug. "Show me the ninety, yeah ?"
He reached out to one of the pillows. It wasn't a pillow at all, just a cloth draped over a cardboard box, like the kind vinyl records come in. Stashed in it, slats. All C bills throughout, nine bundles. The old dog figured I'd ask, that's why he dragged me in there. I asked "So you game to drive up there in your Doozy, load up, drive it back ?" He nodded his giant head. He knew I'd go for it. "So run me down again, how does it go ?" I asked. The way he figured I'd go fetch my bundle, bring it over, then in the morning he'd drop off. Then the day after that he gets the wire, that night we go pick up. He figured once he gets the go-ahead he wires me, we leave together and come back together. I looked at him. "Sweetie," I said, "you're too big a guy. Me, I'm just a one-whore chili pimp. Nobody in the world peeps what I do. If you move to do the payoff, it looks bad. It makes waves. It's just no good. Gimme the bundle, I'll drop it off tomorrow for you." It was his turn to look at me. His stony face faced me for a long moment. Then he said "Nigger, you got the sixty or don't you ?" I said to him "Sweet, if I don't got the sixty grand, I hope to hell my whores all run off, my swipe turns to buttermilk and I end up married to the ugliest old broad in the Temperance Union. I gots it, I gots it, if tell you I gots it then I gots it." He looked at me some more. "Because if you're only bullshiting to gain yourself time, thinking like a damn fool you'll sort it out somehow, and then make me look like a chump tomorrow, I'll get cut off. Those jokers ain't ever gonna talk to me about anything again. Then to pass the time..." he was chomping his meat hooks one into the other again, like a wheat threhser on max. "I'm not those chump pimps going in a grand to rap, Sweet. I figure as much. I wouldn't put you in a spot like that. Who else I got ?"
He handed me the box. As I hefted it I remembered what I done. I said to him "Well shiet, nigger. Now I ain't got no way to head back. I sent that bitch down with yours, huh. I figured we just bullshiting around, didn't know I'd need no ride." He looked at me like he thought I'm displaying exactly those qualities required to inspire confidence and ease in a business arangement like what we had. He said "Ain't you the sultan of bums. I ain't flagging you a cab with that haystack, that's for damn straight." I nodded. He said "I figure I gotta wire Mimi to bring your useless dog back. At least if she can't turn a trick she turns a wheel. Chauffeur good enough for a nigger anyhow." I shook my head. "Naw, you hold on now. I gots another one." I dialed, praying to god Pepper's inside. She was. I said "Bitch, hop in the short come pick me up. Sweet's place. You don't know Sweet's place ? Look it up! He's in the phonebook." I said, eyeing him, and I hung up. He shook his head at me "God damned crazy nigger." We sat around rapping about Top and bullshit for maybe half hour, until Pep rang in. Samee came in with the wire. I said "Tell the whore to wait in the lobby. I'll be right down. I don't want this here smooth mack operator copping my one good whore." Sweet laughed. "If you got one good whore, I got one good slat, Bullshitberg." At least I got to see how that whole switchboard deal worked out at the other end. I grabbed the 'pillow' and made out. When Pepper saw me she said "Hello Daddy-honey. Gotta pillow, huh."
The drop-off was an old garage down on 21nd street. I went in there asking for a Mr. Hubert Blaine Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff, senior. Maybe it was something simpler and I forgot. The guy showed up, and corrected my pronounciation. Then I got the paper out that I had prepared for just such an occasion, turned to page 1292, column 3, line 17, and corrected his correction. Then I knew I got the right guy for sure. I handed over the 'pillow'. It had more filling than it started with. Adding those six bundles of my own in there was painful. The cupboard was left almost as bare as Mama's back in `24. Between sixty dumped instead of goose down into this wild boat chase and the twenty-odd Pepper had dumped into real estate like a damn fool, we had maybe three grand left on hand, and not a sawbuck among 'em. Those whores'd better hump their asses off of them, less I had to payoff Delaney in furniture one of these days. I wondered what the going rate for well used beds and whore-stained tubs might be down at the precinct.
Just as we made it back the phone rang off the hook. It was Sweet. "I got a dead whore here" he said. "Storage's a fin a day, and if she freaks off with Mimi that's another double saw, just so you know." The bitch had starred. She cleanned out, walking around naked like she never had no Mama, the other bitches panting to keep up with her turntable speed. Their bundle came to a coupla bills short of five grand, between seven of them. A double saw a trick comes down to almost two-hundred fifty tricks. The runt turned thirty-nine in thirteen hours, that's 33 1/3 fpm. Ain't that right ? Sweet was not paying no bellhop 30% off the top, that's for damn sure, and his heat grease was a roll-in anyway. And Glass Top figured himself the greatest pimp there is!
I told Sweet to send the bitch back in her ride just as soon as she's made eyes again. He said "What, nigger, you mean not send her back to the honey pit ?" I cut into him straight up "Naw, Sweet, I need the bitch around the house. There's dishes piled in the sink and I ain't found my other slipper yet." He grunted like he didn't wanta laugh "Damn fool pickaninnys these days, ain't got no love for cold cash. Ain't got no drive to pimp anymore." but I told him, "Mack, last night I conned a fool out of a pretty bundle. I ain't gonna send my whores out on the street no mo'. I's set fo' life. From now on out, we just spend the rest of our life spendin'." He said he might know that fool, and I said to tell him then it all went smooth and wire the news. Now a green damn fool might rap like he's dictatin' an indictment for himself, but anyone with half a clue knows how to run their jib good, and let the D.A. prove of it what he can.
After that I sat down with the Pep. I said to her "Listen bitch, you know what this top mack's got ? He's got a broad from down in Columbia. Where that peckerwood first discovered these here America. She speakin' Spic and everything. How's that for a connection ?" She looked hard at me. "You husslin' girl ? That's what all that was all about ?" I nodded. "How much ?" I said "Our end, a hundred piece." I opened the empty cupboard for her. She opened the peepers for it, about as wide. She said "You figure we ever see that back again ?" I nodded. "Sweet's tight. A hundred piece uncut's at least half million, out our door. Could be more." She nodded again. "I figure I ain't gonna hustle any. Just nickle and dime it like before. That shit keep ?" She nodded more. "I figure I don't care how long it takes to unload, I don't need the heat. No one's to know the load I got." Instead of nodding this time she said "That's smart." I said "You figure we gone through maybe a piece a month ?" She said "If that". I shrugged. "No skin off my swipe. If it's ten years then ten years I've got. I'd rather have ten years here than ten upriver." She came sat herself in my lap "You got that right."
That wasn't the way it worked out. The next day about one P.M. I got the office from Sweet. Half hour later we were in his livingroom again. I cracked to Pepper "Strip, bitch, and go play with the other whores. Don't leave here nohow. I'll holler when I want you again." He had four of his own bitches at home. We rapped and bullshited around a while then we sat down to eat. Pep ordered some fancy stuff from the best French restaurant in town, like for twelve people. An hour or so later Samee started running back and forth hauling all the stuff. I could tell Sweet's bitches aren't familiar with it any, but could well warm up to it. He too, though he didn't want to let on. Then once it was getting dark we got into his ride. That thing pulls like five hogs. I bet it could pull three trucks. We drove an hour and some, most all going North. The meet was north of Waukegan, sort-of halfway between that and a place called Zion. Better that way, not like Negros were that welcome in Waukegan back then. We figured it'd be a bitch to find, but it wasn't anything like that. An old abandoned dock an old country road led straight into. There wasn't a single house with a light in at least two mile all around. We did the flashlight dance. Nothing happened.
I thought to myself that's good enough then, the most expensive night-time fishing trip in the history of Lake Michigan. Sweet looked at me. I looked at him. Just when I started to say "You figure we bought the Murphy ?" he went "Shh!" at me. Then I could hear it too, like a bumblebee. It got bigger and bigger like bumblebees don't get, and then I could see the runabout wooshing in, a ways off. There were three lumberjacks in it, by the looks of them. Big peckerwoods with moustaches. They said nothing, just started throwing old newspaper bundles on the dock. The title page was something about Capone, from back in '28. I thought look at that, Sweet's mack birthday. I didn't crack anything. They were kinda heavy for newspapers. Inside the bundle sat quietly minding their own busness six one-piece packs. We hauled 'em to the Doozy, half dozen trips between the two of us. It was the most work I'd done since the Tuskegee days. By the time we were done, Sweet's short looked more like a paper salvage cart.
Sweet shot out of there like the white devils were after him, to send him back to Georgia to jump at torches. He was hurling down the empty streets looking straight ahead, deaf to the world. The needle shot past 110. I guess the sucker thought himself in a race. I cracked "Sweet, ease up, man. You take yourself for Rosemeyer or something ? He didn't do so hot." He mumbled something, I don't know what it was. I laid into him again. "Nigger, if these peckerwoods stop us to ask what we're running from what are you gonna tell 'em ?" He mumbled something else. This time I got it almost. Something about the county line anyhow. It must've been, because once we were out of Lake county he eased up on that gas. The night moths stopped flying through my nose straight into my brain in one shot, anyhow. I said "You want me to drive for a spell ?" He shot me a quick glance, then shook his head like I cracked we try for a baby together. I don't know why, I mean maybe parking's not my forte, but driving straight down the road even a cruising hype could pull off. I saw it done with my own eyes. I ain't even snorting any in my life.
As we got to where we could peep the skyline, I also peeped a big black car behind us. I said "Sweet... that ain't good. You figure they got Tommy guns or are they gonna riddle us with old Colts ? Take half hour doing it, one bang at a time." That wasn't what it was. After tailing us for ten minutes they put the howlers on. It was heat. Allman's boys, not O'Banion's boys, what could I had been thinking to confuse one Irish mob for the other. Sweet's gray was the lightest marbled pearly gray I'd ever seen on him, or ever since have. We stopped. They stopped behind us. They got out, their police rods in their hands. They started hollering for us to get out. We did. I said "Gents, before you do anything else, radio sgt Delaney. The less we rap the less likely anyone says anything stupid." They looked at each other. One of them got back in their Chevrolet. He yakked over their radio, then got excited for real. He yakked his heart out, then at last came back out. His buddy could tell what's up, didn't even bother with his rod no more. Sweet was breathing. I leaned on the side of the car. They whispered like Catholic schoolgirls met with a healthy swipe, then turned around, got back in their car and drove off. They didn't as much as wish us a good night. Sweet turned around, bent over, heaved a week's worth and puked. I guess Pepper's French cuisine didn't sit so well with him. After we had enough of hearing out the crickets and an owl in the distance we packed back in the D and eased it away. A coupla blocks before his flat Sweet finally turned to me. "That Delaney sure got pull," he said. I shook my hand. "Just a lucky break, Sweet, that's all. Just a lucky break". He looked at me, shaking his head. I said "I think next time I'm sending a bitch. I'm just not cut out for this much work. I ain't lifted and hefted this much since college." He didn't say anything to that.
I had Pep pull her hog right next to Sweet's Doozy, down in the garage. Then I watched while she hauled the newspapers from Sweet's short into her own. He watched her too. He watched me as much. I think he got a kick out of Pepper toughening up those arms. When she was done we split. Her hands shook a little on the wheel, but I didn't mind. I figured if she wrecks it, ain't even my short in the first place. She and Chris hauled the load up into my room all night. June and Phyllis were out, and I didn't feel like getting anyone else in on it. For hours the convertible sat outdoors, the girl piled up in it like dime bonbons. Who was gonna run off with some old newspaper bundles from a Cadillac parked in front of the Blue Heaven ? A smart till tappin' kid, that's who, but smart kids were fresh out of stock.
I thought about it, and I decided I ain't gonna cut my cocaine. I figured why the hell go out for a half short ton of white sugar, anyhow ? It's good money, that. Besides, what's the grocer gonna think, we're shooting for diabetes ? Cutting's messy. You need a room for it. I didn't have a room for it. Then there's need for cutters. Plural. Whoever's doing it's a cinch to snort themselves out of their mind even if they don't ever line up, just from the air. I didn't want three dozen coked out whores. Bitches gotta be sharp, and stay sharp, to whore for me. It just made no sense cutting it, not for me nohow. Instead of cutting it I gathered all the whores in the house and drilled them down. I said "Bitches, dig good. Daddy's copped some new girl. This girl ain't like the old one. This girl will kill a sucker that don't treat her right. You got to tell the tricks. Then after you told 'em, you gotta line for them. Don't let them do themselves, not at first. Not for a long while. A trick's just like a baby. They'll suck down caustic lye if they find it in their reach. That's why they're called suckers. Do less than half what you did before, at a time. Bitches, do a quarter. If you know the trick goes through a number five cap, cut the number five cap in quarters first, then line a quarter of that for him. Don't let them line it up. Don't let them machine gun. I don't care what they say. Joker does four lines one after the other of this new stuff where he did a line before, he's croaked. I don't want no stiff in my house. You got that ?" They said they did. I drilled them one by one, "What do you do ? What do you say ? What don't you do ?" Then I went over it again. "Bitches, I don't care how long you ain't seen a trick. I don't care you think it's been six weeks and everyone's hip. Nobody's hip. Unless you're sure they're hip they ain't hip. Even if you're sure, they're still maybe not hip. Don't get no joker croaked."
It worked alright. I don't know how it worked, it made no sense that it'd work, but it did work alright. It was almost like if the tricks themselves were pulling not to croak. Like they really wanted to stay alive, somehow. Can you believe that ? The only trouble I had from it was, they started coming just to cop. A sucker that rolled in before with three-four saws in his mitt, looking for a pampering with a side of rolling in the hay now broke down the door with two, even three bills stuffed up his butt, looking for a few caps with a side of pampering and maybe some rolling in the hay. The house was pulling in twice the slats while the girls were getting half the rustling. Some even copped some doss now and again. It's crazy what cocaine can do to a body, I ain't never seen a bored whore in my life, not before I copped that boatload of Sweet's sweet stuff. We went through more than a piece a week, and after a few weeks it was more two to three. It didn't look the haul will last the year, and all the while the slats were piling up to heaven. The shielded crew hit me up for an extra grand, so they'd cop two grand on Saturdays instead of the one, then after a while they brought it up as high as fifteen hundred every day. It was a hike alright, but it wasn't going up nearly fast enough to keep up with the slat tsunami coming in. Not by a damn sight, though I bitched and moaned like they sucked my life dry. At least the pigs still hit the whores as hard as they ever did. They were the only ones left doing it, so in a way it was like I'm paying the heat to lay the whores while everyone else freaked off on smack.
We called it the combo, because the combine's where it's at.