UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION - 09/2012
MARC SHAPIRO


WHAT'S IN A NAME?

         Gordos on a Friday night. It was the place to be after a night of cruising the boulevard.

         The atmosphere? Pure Tijuana trashy. The drinks? Cheap and powerful. The women? Sometimes legal. Sometimes not. But always easy. Gordos was where the hardcore Cholos and bangers went to cool out after a night of strutting their real or imagined machismo and defending their turf. Only the baddest of the bad were allowed inside Gordos.

         Everything was cool...

         Until the door creaked open. The bad asses physically and mentally backed away. The bartender made a move underneath the bar. On most nights that meant The Peacemaker was about to come out and play. But this night his hand returned to view wrapped around the finest in a bottle Gordos had to offer.

         Only the best for Crazy Loco.

         Crazy Loco moved uneasily into the bar. He was not the scariest looking guy on the block. A pot belly jiggled vigorously from under a ridiculous looking Hawaiian shirt and played fat rhythms against the top of his faded blue bell bottoms. His hair was 60's long on the sides, framing a slow but steady receding bald spot. No tats. No bling. He was seemingly the image of a loser who walked through life wearing a sign that said 'Kick my ass. I deserve it.'...

         But then there was that face.

         If it was possible to be human and look like a reptile...A deep knife scar that literally bisected his face...The eyes that reflected no soul. One look at Crazy Loco and you could see how he got his name. The cat was just not wired right.

         And he had proved it many times if you believed the stories that had grown up around him. Nobody had ever seen Loco lift a finger to remove somebody from the picture and although many claimed that Crazy had personally ordered them out on hits, nobody ever had the balls to say as much with Crazy in the room.

         Long story short, piss Crazy off and you died, disappeared or a combination of both. Bodies were never found, at least not complete ones. Crazy was never a suspect. The locals were convinced that he did his damage through some kind of Satanic/Voodoo shit.

         Crazy didn't say a word. He didn't have to.

         It was legendary in the barrio that he could say more with a look and a gesture than any ten F bomb laden rants. He shuffled slowly over to a corner table that was occupied by a leather clad dude and his old lady du jour. He gave them the death stare. The bad guy instantly got the hint and dragged his squeeze out of her chair and away from the table. She'd be pissed at his cowardice and he probably wouldn't get any that night.

         But at least he would be alive and, perhaps more importantly, in one piece.

         Crazy sat down at the table. The bartender brought over his liquid offering and a clean glass and set it down. Almost mechanically, he began pouring and downing shots. The vibe turned painfully tense. A couple of rough looking toughs immediately got up and left. The rest went stone silent; watching Crazy Loco for that something they knew would soon bubble to the surface...

         ...And mentally crossing themselves in the hope that whichever way his madness turned, it would not be directed at them.

         They did not have long to wait.

         Crazy Loco had no sooner drained the last of the bottle then the empty glass flew across the bar, barely missing the head of a slutty young thing and shattering against a far wall. He slammed the bottle on the table; shattering it into a sharp jagged point which he waved threateningly and uneasily in front of his face.

         "Rodriguez!" he screamed. "I want the head of Rodriguez!"

         Those in the bar knew what the drunken Loco was about. They had heard this rant countless times. But it was a declaration of violence that seemingly had no answer.

         Because Rodriguez was a ghost. But for Crazy Loco he was very much alive and somebody who needed to be put in the ground.

         It had started a bit over a year ago. Crazy Loco's seeming stranglehold on street level organized crime, and in particular the Crack and prostitution trade, had been in steady decline. A tougher crowd with better shit, better prices and pimps who ruled their stables with a violent hand, were slowly taking a serious bite out of Crazy's lifestyle.

         That was the reality. In Crazy Loco's feverish brain the reality was a mysterious master mind named Rodriguez who had chosen to grind his enterprise into dust. He would rage on about Rodriguez at the drop of a hat; mostly idle threats that listeners knew would end up going nowhere.

         Those listening to this latest rant rolled their eyes. They all knew Rodriguez. Or a Rodriguez. Hell, in this part of town you could hock a loogie and hit one. Rodriguez was like what the Gringos likened to 'Smith and Jones'.

         But Crazy seemed to have a method behind this night's madness.

         "That's right! I want the head of Rodriguez laying at my feet! Fresh blood pouring from his neck, forming a red lake at my boots. Whoever lays the head of Rodriguez at my feet will get free drugs and women for the rest of their lives!"

         Crazy suddenly had their attention. Many in the bar lubricated their macho with a major 'Jones' that they fed with petty crimes and hopelessly dead-end jobs. And the rest were always looking for some 'strange' to supplement their wives and girlfriends. Whether they realized it or not, they were leaning forward in their chairs.

         "Just bring me the head of Rodriguez and some kind of proof that he's the one who's been muscling in on my business and all the drugs and pussy on the planet will be yours for the rest of your days."

         They were interested in Crazy's drunken offer. They were beginning to fidget in their chairs. Even the women were getting flushed. The madness of the pep rally was grinding down as the effects of grade A hooch began to take its toll on Crazy. He stood uneasily, looked insanely to the heavens and half-shouted/half-slurred, "So who wants Crack and tail for life?"

         He punctuated his offer by falling face first into and through the table, wood chips and splinters scattering everywhere. He was out cold on the floor, the only visible sign of life a string of saliva curling down his cheek.

         A few bar patrons got up and quietly made their way out of Gordos. Others got up with stoned bravado, scraping chairs and, likewise, stumbling out of the bar. The bar was soon empty except for the bartender who stood over Crazy Loco and the wreckage and rolled his eyes at the absurdity of it all.

         It was just Crazy being Loco. Nobody was going to take his shit seriously.

         It was late. The cops were expecting the usual shit.

         The drive by's, the domestic's, the drug deals gone sour. In this part of town it was everything that began and ended with shots fired. But for some strange reason it was not the usual shit. The police choppers shining their lights saw nothing. Cop cruisers moved through silent streets. All they saw was blocks of empty. They hadn't all gone back to where they came from.

         But tonight they were afraid to be seen.

         Eyes peered out from behind the alley. Two blocks over a bad dude in leather had gone all stealth as he slithered down the sidewalk; eyes on everybody that dared to be out that night. Even a couple of hot bitches who had banded together and were more than willing to split the bounty, if they got lucky. Word had spread along the Chicano Hotline like wildfire. Every crack head and whore hound for miles around was on the hunt. In their fevered minds, everybody and anybody was a prime suspect.

         They were all looking for Rodriguez.

         Crazy Loco staggered into Gordos the next night. It was Friday. The joint should have been jumping. But the only person in the place was the bartender who barely acknowledged him as he stared blankly at the big screen showing the Dodger's game. Crazy sauntered over to his table and sat down.

         "Hey motherfucker! The usual!"

         The bartender brought over the good stuff and laid it in front of Crazy who took a healthy swig straight from the bottle. It went down smooth.

         "Where is everybody?," asked Crazy. "Did immigration swing by and round all the losers up?"

         "You know where they are," said the bartender in a mid-level whisper so as to not upset Crazy. "You told them what you wanted and what you'd give them. They're out there trying to collect."

         "Oh yeah. That head of Rodriguez shit. And I meant it too!"

         "I know you did. Which is why I told every Rodriguez I knew and gave a fuck about to stay indoors and to carry a piece."

         Crazy got that look in his eye that everyone prayed they would never see. He rose from the table and took a couple of unsteady steps toward the bartender, who crossed himself but stood defiant.

         "Senior Loco," called a mild mannered voice at the other end of the bar.

         Crazy and the bartender turned to find a slight, elderly man, visibly shaking and obviously in need of a fix, framing the entrance to Gordos. In his hand twitched a leathery pouch. Crazy eyed the mess in human form and then offered a nod that was the key to his shot at glory.

         The man moved slowly forward. He stopped mere inches from Crazy and, without saying a word, tipped the pouch upside down and shook it gently.

         The bloody human head hit the floor with a pulpy splat.

         The bartender took an instinctive step back. A tremor rumbled through Crazy's face. He bent over and took a closer look. They head was smeared with blood and glistening. The eyes a lazy lull of pain and resignation. The cut across the neck that sprouted pulp, slowly dripping blood and entrails was ragged and sloppy. The kill looked fresh.

         "My God!" gasped the bartender. "He's so young, barely a teenager!"

         "His name was Rodriguez," meekly defended the junkie. "Word on the street was that he used drugs."

         Crazy sneered. "Where did you find him? Passed out in an alley?"

         The shaking old junkie nodded weakly in agreement.

         Crazy bent down and studiously looked over the grizzly orb, going eye to eye with every element of this bloody mess.

         "Any ID?" sneered Crazy as he stood up. The old junkie shook his head no.

         "Well shit man! Then how do I know this is a Rodriguez? It could be a Sanchez, a Martinez, a Rojo...Hell we fuck anything that moves! This could even be a Kirby!"

         The old man was about to make his case when Crazy held up his hand to stop. He was looking wearily past the head hunter toward the door...Where a crusty middle aged Chola, out of shape and looking disturbing in tight black leather, walked through the door, a Trader Joe's back, dripping blood and literally disintegrating in her hands. She sauntered up to Crazy, jostling the junkie out of the way and ignoring the head on the floor.

         "I've got your Rodriguez right here," she boasted. "Now where's my shit?"

         The bottom of the bag ripped open and another head hit the floor. Like the other, this one was spattered with blood. The eyes were open with a' last moment on earth' stare. He looked to be somewhere between 30 and death. The bloody cut looked even and clean. Most likely a meat cleaver massacre. Crazy did a cursory inspection, carefully tilting the head to one side with the point of his boot to get a better look.

         "So this is Rodriguez?" Crazy asked matter of factly.

         "Sure is," responded the woman. "Know it for a fact."

         "How's that?"

         "I've been sleeping with this motherfucker for five years. I've seen his ID millions of times. He's definitely a Rodriguez."

         Crazy flashed an ironic smile in the direction of the bartender who returned the same. They were too cool to admit that they had just had their minds blown.

         "You killed your old man?" Crazy laughed.

         "Why not?" said the woman. "He was so much into the chronic that he couldn't get it up anymore. A woman has needs you know. If he could have popped a chubby a couple of times a week, I might have kept him around. I always gave good head. In the end that's all he was worth to me."

         Throughout the night the heads just kept on coming. Family members, out -of -towners who happened to get caught in the head hunt, even a couple of Gordo's regular customers; all came to a splattering end in a bloody pile at Crazy Loco's feet. Those who brought them in stood silently by as the pile grew, the look of expectant puppies who were hoping for their master's favor and a bite to eat. Finally, as the heads grew to 15 and were starting to get a bit foul, Crazy stepped before the group.

         "Good job. We've got a lot of heads here. A lot of Rodriguez's."

         A lot of smiles, some with teeth, from the masses. Each thought a lifetime of drugs and ass would soon be their's.

         "Unfortunately none of these is the right Rodriguez," Crazy said with a sweep of his arm over the pile of flesh. "I know who I'm looking for and he isn't here."

         There was low grumbling and a couple of F bombs. Those who weren't high or suffering from the DT's looked downright angry. But they knew enough about what Crazy could do and they didn't want their head joining the party.

         "Don't give me any shit," Crazy roared, feigning anger for effect. "Get out there and bring me the head of Rodriguez and we'll all live happily ever after."

         The crowd slowly thinned out, leaving Crazy and the bartender to deal with the rotting pile of flesh. There was a moment of silence as the pair turned their eyes on each other. The bartender countered Crazy's stare with his last ounce of mock bravado. He turned from Crazy to the pile of heads laying mere inches from him. He knew what Crazy could do. But what the fuck.

         "None of these heads are going to be the right one, are they?"

         Crazy laughed, a slow sardonic crowing. "Of course not."

         "Then why?"

         "Because of the barrio telegraph baby! Word gets around that I'm looking for Rodriguez. Then heads start turning up. The real Rodriguez shits his pants and gets out of Dodge."

         The bartender was stunned but not surprised at the revelation. "And if it doesn't turn out that way?"

         Crazy's faced turned horrifying. His eyes bulged. His mouth spread into a wide grin that showed teeth. For the first time in his life, the bartender visibly shuddered. Crazy raised his booted left foot and began stomping on the stack of heads. The sound of squishing skin, bone and spurting blood provided a slow, lazy echo around the bar. The heads were quickly reduced to a massive blob. Crazy raised his blood/brain matter splattered boot out of the misshapen mess and glared at the bartender.

         "Then eventually I'll get the right Rodriguez."








2004-2012 Underground Voices