Swab Dogs

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The Job Interview

“Can we talk for a while?” Moretti asked, his voice soft, his face soothing and his manner warm and comfortable. Obviously, he thought little of Miller and was glad to be rid of him.

“So, you look like you could be Italian to me.” His eyes asking the question his mouth was too polite to ask.

“Cherokee, mixed with a little German and English.”

“I see the Cherokee, that’s where the name comes from.” He tilted his head back and said the name like his tongue was feeling it. “Tennessee Tanner,” it rolled out slowly, “only seventeen.” He added. “So, you don’t like Italians?”

It was Tennessee’s turn to look directly into Aldo’s eyes.

“I don’t trust them. Some of my best friends were Italian when I was young. In my experience when Italians show up, the shit hits the fan, and the shit is always ugly.”

“Ahh yes, your Dad was killed a couple of years ago. The guys that did it were killed in a most disagreeable way, as I remember.”

“Look Aldo,” Tennessee said, now being the right time to show a little balls.

“An Italian can be your uncle on one side, holding you there, under his arm, safe from the world, smiling that smile you can only love. Then with the other arm he will cut your heart out.”

It was registering now, it was clear. The District Attorney had said he could be marked and sooner or later, they might come for him. Nothing had happened for three years. Tennessee silently cursed himself for leaving without anyone knowing where he had gone. Poor old Miller knew nothing about what he had gotten into.

The hair rose on the back of his neck, as he scanned the room for an escape route, without turning his head in the least.

“Calm down, boy.” Aldo said. “What’s wrong with you?”

“Are you sure you’re Navy?”

Aldo smiled slightly.

“Well yes, but I have other jobs as well, all for the Government, I assure you.”

“How do I know that? How can I be sure exactly what the hell you are?

“Relax kid. I just remember your name from the papers. You’ve got to admit it’s a little unusual.”

What he was saying was a lie. Tennessee scanned the room. It was fight or flee time and here in a public place would be his best chance. He searched the room again, expecting to see Nicky or someone like him stationed nearby. There was no one, and he would have seen them. He would have seen them at eight years old; it was a gift. He eased slightly.

“It’s been three years. I’ve blown no whistle, rang no bell and did only what I had to do.”            Tennessee tried to remember some Italian words that might help, but none came. It had been too long.

“What do you people want?”

“Who do you think I am?” Aldo asked.

“I don’t know what to think. I know damn well who you are, or at least what you are.” A little anger was starting to seep into his voice.

“It’s not what you think.” Aldo said as he calmly took a sip of wine.

He was good, he was cool, in another world, Tennessee might respect him. Aldo flattened his palms on the table.

“Just calm down, you’re safe.

“Give me your gun.”

Aldo’s eyes smiled, but his mouth refused to get caught up in it.

“Give me your gun.”

Tennessee said it more slowly.

“Under the table.”

“I don’t have one.”

“Look either you’re a dumbass peckerwood or you think I am. If we’re going to talk, give it to me. You damn well got one. I’d bet my life on it.”

Aldo stared at Tennessee and waited. Sometimes, if you say something and just shut up, people believe it. That wasn’t going to work on Tennessee, this was the deal breaker and Aldo knew it.

“Pass the gun under the table or you’ll have to shoot me in the back, right in front of all these nice people. That won’t be too calm or quiet will it?”

Tennessee flashed him a triumphant housewife look. Never looking around and with almost no noticeable movement, Aldo passed his gun under the table. His mouth did get involved; his face became a large bewildered smile.

The gun was a military forty five, which meant several things. He probably did not kill for a living, and he had not planned to kill Tennessee with it. They were too heavy, too loud and too expensive to be a one use, throw away gun. Tennessee stared into Aldo’s eyes, while under the table, he dropped the clip, cleared the chamber of its round and snapped the firing pin. He then stuck the gun between his legs, dropping the clip and extra round into the tea pitcher on their table.

Aldo smiled again and shook his head.

“Seventeen, holy shit.”

“I would have done the same at fourteen.”

“I have no doubt.”

“What does that say about you?”

Aldo turned his head slightly and raised his eyebrows.

“That’s a conversation I’ll have with myself for the next couple of weeks I assure you.”

Tennessee looked around the room and passed the gun back to him. No one had noticed their exchange, cattle all of them. Aldo looked at the clip in the bottom of the tea pitcher and nodded his head toward it.

“If you were an adult, I’d say that was an asshole thing to do, but given your age, I’m too impressed to be pissed off. Look kid, I know exactly who you are. I know where you’ve been, and if I were after your ass, I’d have had you a long time ago.”

Tennessee knew he was right. Luck had always been his friend. After three years, Tennessee had dropped anything resembling caution.

The waiter drifted up and grabbed the tea pitcher. Tennessee placed his hand on top of his glass, signifying he wanted no more tea.

“Not very hungry tonight?” The waiter asked.

It was true; they had eaten little, being too busy dancing around the table. The waiter thanked them, bowed slightly, wished them a good night and strolled away, pitcher in hand. Tennessee watched it as he sat it on a table with other pitchers of tea and water. He and Moretti raised their eyebrows in unison. Their conversation now had a time limit and both knew it.

“I guess that’s our cue.” Aldo said. “Good job, numb nuts.”

He then bumped Tennessee on the knee. Tennessee reached out, and Aldo placed the gun in his hand. Aldo smiled a full smile as the shock of what he had done registered on Tennessee’s mind and face at the same time.

“If the waiter finds that clip before we get out of here, it could be damn uncomfortable.”

Aldo rose from his seat.

“It’s late, and I’ve got to hit the rack.” He stretched and yawned.

“Besides you started this Tosto, let’s see how you handle it.”

Tennessee was horrified. No one knew that name. He stuck the gun in his waist and rose also, all the while watching the waiter pick up the pitcher and head to a large table near them. Turning, he headed for the door and almost made it. Three steps from the door and right between the Maitre De and cops, the clip audibly clinked into someone’s glass.

Tennessee did an about face, within two steps, Moretti ran into him. Kissing Aldo full on the mouth and doing a terrible impression of a gay man. Tennessee said.

“Had a fabulous time Aldo baby. See ya!” Then added in a whisper. “Now, we’ll find out what you are.”

He then dropped the forty-five in Aldo’s jacket pocket; it was too bulky to fit.

The woman who had received a tea glass of forty-five clip screamed, and as Tennessee stepped away, the Maitre De spotted the gun sticking from Aldo’s pocket which was suddenly in plain view. Turning, Tennessee made for the door as the Maitre De screamed louder and more bitch like, than the woman who had received the clip. He backed into the wall, knocking a picture of Fat Luige, or whoever the hell owned this place, to the floor. Within two steps, Tennessee was out the door and crossing the busy street. Aldo stood inside with his hands up, surrounded by cops with weapons drawn. His eyes never left Tennessee and the smile never left his face.

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