They were standing in front of the old boarded-up church on Bristol Street.
“Gimme a light,” said Kitty, leaning toward Isley, cigarette trembling in the corner of her mouth. Isley snapped a flame from his big silver lighter after three false starts and held it to the tip of her cigarette. His hand was numb and shaking from the cold.
It was one of those bleak November Sundays when everything is dead and the sky is full of sleet and you’re just waiting for the full weight of winter to come down.
“Thanks,” said Kitty.
Peachfuzz was vomiting warm champagne on the granite steps; it hit the stone with a slap, and steam wandered up toward the
“You okay, Peach?” Kitty asked, drawing on her cigarette.
“Yeah.” She straightened up and gave Kitty a weak, wan smile. “Gimme a smoke, willya?”
Kitty shrugged. “My last one.”
“Well, then give me a drag, then.” She gestured toward the cigarette.
“Fuck off. I don’t want your nasty-ass puke all over my filter.”
“But I’m all out,” said Peachfuzz.
Kitty chuckled. “Sorry...”
Isley removed a battered pack of Camels from his coat pocket and offered them to Peachfuzz.
She pulled off her right glove, slipped a cigarette from the pack. “Thanks.”
“How much longer? I’m freezing,” said Kitty. “Any champagne left?”
Peachfuzz grinned. “Just what’s on the steps there.”
“Fuck you, Peaches.”
Isley stood stone-faced, watching the deserted road for Gambol. Isley was tall – six-five – and wore big Frankenstein workboots to give himself even more height. His face was brown and, despite being only thirty-two years old, tough and pockmarked and running with deep lines. He told people he was 83% Cherokee and that his real name wasn’t Isley Louis but Louis Redwolf. Not many believed him. He’d come up from New Orleans six years ago and spoke with a weird, sometimes hard to understand accent that made Peachfuzz roll her eyes and giggle.
“What time is it? Is he late yet?” said Peachfuzz.
Isley glanced at his watch but said nothing, just went back to his silent vigil.
“Thanks,” said Peachfuzz.
“We should’ve waited in the car,” said Kitty, shivering. She sat on the steps and folded her hands between her thighs. She looked up at the church. It was a big gothic monster with an ornate archway and sharp spires that stabbed the sky. The stained-glass windows had been smashed out long ago and covered with plywood. The rest of the building had been violated with spraypaint: names, Fucks and backwards, misshapen swastikas.
“I think I see him,” said Peachfuzz, ascending the steps, careful to avoid the puddle she’d created.
Kitty stood up. Down the street – In the middle of the street, actually – she could see Gambol hunched in his wheelchair, pumping the wheels with his massive arms, vapor puffing from his mouth and nostrils.
“That dude can move,” said Peachfuzz, coming down the steps.
Gambol came to a skidding stop in front of them. Despite the cold, he wore only a long-sleeved T-shirt, jeans, and ratty, paint-speckled sneakers. “The Famous, Well-Equipped Twins and the Isley Brother,” he said, catching his breath. “Glad you could make it.” He smiled. His face and mouth were badly scarred, making his smile tight and crooked and weird. It looked more like a pained sneer than a smile and took some getting used to.
Five years ago, the night of his senior prom, Gambol and his girlfriend Justine Roche had gotten screaming drunk and Gambol, driving over one-hundred miles an hour, lost control of his prized `68 Pontiac. They flew off Oxford Avenue, down a gravel embankment, and into a concrete bridge abutment. Justine died immediately, her head coming apart against the cement corner. Gambol suffered severe head and facial injuries (they removed almost seventy shards of glass from his face) a broken arm, and a broken spine. His legs (and though he denied it, his penis) were useless.
Isley handed him a roll of bills. Gambol reached between his dead legs and slapped what looked like a brick wrapped in brown paper and clear plastic into Isley’s huge hand. Isley nodded, grunted, and walked away.
“And how are the Famous, Well-Equipped Twins this evening?” His smile tightened like parched leather.
“Good, Gam,” said Peachfuzz.
Kitty pulled her purse around to her stomach, opened it.
Kitty and Peachfuzz weren’t actually twins – they weren’t even related – and only resembled each other from a distance. They were both blond, true, but Kitty was three inches shorter than Peachfuzz and a few pounds heavier. Peachfuzz had disarming, ice-blue eyes, Kitty a nice comfortable brown. Peachfuzz had an angular, sharply-sculpted face, while Kitty’s face was fuller, rounder – a Ziegfeld Follies face from the `20’s. Kitty was twenty-four, Peachfuzz twenty-two.
Kitty handed Gambol a white envelope. He held it up. “This doesn’t look thick enough to hold the three-grand you owe me,” he said, sending her a sharp look.
“Um. No. Next time, Gam, I promise. We’ve had so many expenses this month. I mean, the car broke down and that was, like, five hundred. And then Peachfuzz had a dentist appointment and they found, like, three cavities and…”
Gambol put up his hand. “Enough. Just make sure I get it next time. Understand?”
He looked at her for several beats too long, she thought, then nodded and, with gasping effort, tucked the envelope into his back pocket, reached between his shriveled legs and removed another brown paper brick, smaller this time. Peachfuzz stepped forward like a soldier, grabbed it, and plunged it into her purse. She started moving to the side of the church, back to the car.
“See you next month?” Kitty said.
“If not sooner, Kitty-cat.”
“Where next time? Here, or the tire dump again?”
“I don’t know. I have to play this shit by ear.”
“Call me, then?”
Gambol shook his head. “Not if I can help it. I heard some weird clicks on my phone the other night. I think it might be tapped.”
Kitty thought he was just being paranoid again but didn’t dare say so.
“I’ll send Sax into the joint in a couple weeks. Okay?”
“Sure, Gam. That suits us fine.”
“Alright then.” He looked around nervously, as if surrounded by a hundred invisible snipers, then lifted the front of his wheelchair and swiveled around.
Peachfuzz pulled the El Dorado she and Kitty shared to the curb and rolled to a grit-crunching stop behind Gambol.
“See you, Gam,” Kitty said.
Kitty opened the driver’s side door. “Scoot over, Peach, you’re too fucked-up to drive.”
“No I’m not! I just had—“
Peachfuzz slid across the seat. Kitty took her usual place behind the wheel. Gambol’s wheelchair was already halfway down Bristol Street, his huge arms pumping like an industrial machine.
“That dude can move,” Peachfuzz said as Kitty eased into the street and accelerated toward home.