For the Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenge, “Fifty Characters“. RNG results below.
Hollywood. Tinseltown. It has a lot of names, and so do the people that live here. Actors have screen names. Musicians have stage names. And if that woman on the corner was actually named “Champagne” by her mom and dad back in Pleasant Corners, Bread Bowl USA, I will eat my own hat.
I don’t even use my own real name. I don’t think the guy riding shotgun with me does, either. What kind of name is “Nick Vegas”, anyway? Sure, it looks bully on a business card, but he’s not really in a line of work where you just hand those out. You don’t want to leave a paper trail when you traffic in narcotics.
I’m waiting in the car while Nick talks to Mel. That, at least, is a short version of the kid’s name. Kids don’t normally go in for serious pseudonyms until they get a bit older than Mel’s twelve years. And, honestly, if my parents had saddled me with “Melvin”, I’d be looking for a change, too.
“Good kid, but lazy,” Vegas says to me as he climbs back into my car. Mel heads off down the street, slingshot in his back pocket. I wonder idly if he’s going to egg someone’s house after he does Nick’s errands.
“Let’s not talk about it.”
“Hey, my cousin asked me to get the kid a job, and I needed some packages delivered. What’s the issue?”
“He’s a twelve year old kid, Nick. That’s a little young to be making deliveries for us.”
“First of all, there’s no ‘us’. We’ve been over this, I got the contacts so I run the operation. You just drive the car and keep it warm if any John Q Laws start snooping around. Secondly, how old were you when you started?”
“My mother didn’t let me get into any of this business until I was sixteen, no matter how much I asked her.”
“Oh yeah? Didn’t know you were such a mamma’s boy, Sally boy.” Nick leans towards me as I pull the car away from the curb. I know where this is going. “Are you still a mamma’s boy? Do you call her at night when you get home so she knows her baby is all safe and sound?”
“Shut up, Nick.”
He laughs. It’s the laugh of a schoolyard bully. I remind myself that I have car to drive and a job to do. Our next stop is down by the RKO studios. I grease the night watchman’s palm and we pull around to where the trailers are set up, stopping outside of a smaller one. Nick gets out, and a plain-looking gent meets him at the trailer’s door. I don’t know many actors by sight, and this isn’t one of them. He probably got cast in some bit role due to his ability rather than his looks. Good for him, I guess. I light a cigarette while they do business.
Nick’s back in the car and we’re driving up Sunset Boulevard. Our last two stops are up on Mulholland Drive. I’m pulling us through traffic when Nick starts talking again.
“We’re making good time tonight. You’ll probably be in home in time for dinner.”
I don’t say anything. I don’t want to engage him. I can feel him leering at me.
“With your momma.”
“You really ought to shut up, Nick.”
Before he can respond, I turn on the radio. If the drive is going to be long, I don’t want it filled just with his jibes and jabs.
“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men…”
I lean back and drive. The Shadow calms me down. We listen for a bit but then Nick speaks up again.
“I’m more of a Lone Ranger kinda guy.”
“Get outta town. The Shadow is definitely better than the Lone Ranger.”
“Are you trying to tell me the Shadow wouldn’t get put down by a silver bullet or something?”
“The Lone Ranger would have to find him, first.”
“That’s why the Ranger has Tonto, dummy.”
“Has Tonto ever been in a big city? Between the food carts and the pipes backing up, it’s a bit harder to track someone’s scent, kemo sabe.”
“I’ll give you a kemo sabe if you don’t drive the car.”
“You mean like I have been this whole time?”
“Quietly, damn it.”
I smile and keep quiet. It’s good to know his skin isn’t that thick.
A while later, we’re up on Mulholland. There are some really nice houses up here. The first one we stop at is owned by a diplomat. I’ve run packages in there before, when Nick hasn’t been feeling well. The guy likes to throw big parties, with celebrities and girls and live music. He might not be American, but he’s certainly living the American Dream, as big and loud as he can, and I for one can’t fault him for it.
Our last stop is the furthest one out. The house is one of those ‘modern’ jobs, all harsh angles and round windows and weird lighting. Nick told me that the guy living here designed it himself. He also told me that the architect’s wife hates it. I catch sight of her briefly through the windows on the top floor – curvy, long hair, dressed in a bathrobe, on the phone with someone, not happy at all. The architect meets Nick at the door. He’s a sliver of a man, shorter than Nick (who’s a few inches under me), with a pretty browbeaten expression on his face. You don’t need a scriptwriter to see how these two got together, or how it’s likely to end.
Nick climbs back into the car, looking mighty pleased with himself.
“Want to grab a drink? It’s on me.”
I shrug. “Sure.”
We start driving back towards Los Angeles proper, and Nick finds, of all things, The Lone Ranger. I wait until the big chase sequence begins and the familiar horns of the William Tell Overture are heard before I pull the car over.
Nick turns to me to ask why we’re stopping and he gets a blackjack in the face for his trouble.
He’s not out. He’s dizzy and seeing stars. I reach past him, open his door, and shove him out into the dirt. I climb over the gearshift, grab my gloves from the glove compartment, and step out after him. He’s trying to get to his feet. I reach under the wheel well, finding the gun taped there, and I give Nick a crack on the head with it.
He’s holding his head. “What? What the hell is-?”
“I said talk.”
I wallop him again for good measure. He cries out.
“What? What do you want? I don’t understand.”
I cock the revolver, a little snub-nosed .38, and aim it at him. “Say ‘what’ again.”
“Okay! Okay. You got me. My name isn’t Nick Vegas. It’s Greg.”
“How much longer were you planning on ratting us out, Greg?”
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. One of my brothers is on the Vice Squad. They didn’t want to put a cop in the car. They knew you’d smell it.”
“Why is that, Greg? Do you know who I am?”
He shook his head. “All I know is your name is Tony and you work for one of the families. That’s it.”
“If you’re not a cop, how in the hell did your brother talk you into doing this?”
“We want to make the world better. Cleaner. More educated.” He fiddles with the ring on his finger, and shows it to me. “I’m a Freemason.”
I examine the ring with a scowl. “And your ‘brother’ is a Mason too?”
He nods. “Yeah. Called it a ‘moral obligation’.”
“Well, let me tell you something, Greg. Your ‘moral obligation’ is gonna get you killed. Where I come from, we don’t tolerate rats. Tell me how much your cop buddies know and I may let you walk home.”
“I told you. They know your name and who you work for.”
“Do they know what I look like?”
“They never asked for a description.”
“Dumb cops, then. The thing about Hollywood, Greg, is nobody uses their real name. My name isn’t Tony. It’s Nick.”
He blinked at me. “What…?”
I shot him. He went down, grabbing his leg. I walked closer as he squealed, drawing the hammer back again.
“Wait! Wait! You said you’d let me walk!”
“I said I’d think about it. And I did. Besides, you think you’re walking far on that leg now? Ciao.”
I fire two rounds into his chest. I’m turning away, and I hear him gasping for air. I make a face, turn, and shoot him once in the head for good measure. I then toss the gun into the brush and kick the body into the ditch.
It’s a long drive back to the city, but I’ll be home in time for dinner.
It’s lasagna night, and I never miss my momma’s lasagna.
18 – The shiftless rascal.
42 – The puerile, aloof smuggler who belongs to a secret organization.
40 – The plain actor.
34 – The tactless ambassador with big dreams.
22 – The weak, tolerant architect.