One day, Linc Marani vowed to himself, he would drive a car like Kyle's and
wear five-hundred-dollar suits.
He moved out from the shadows beneath the trees where he had been waiting,
and stood under one of the lamps along the lakeside drive as headlights appeared
on the ramp leading down from the bridge. It was after nine. The Park's daytime
population of joggers, strollers, ball-players, and duck-feeders had retreated
to their homes and the safer nightspots, leaving the territory to the alcos,
junkies, and other nocturnal urban life forms. Linc would have gotten a kick
out of meeting Kyle openly on the street, where everyone would see he had connections
and was heading for the better life. But it couldn't be that way, of course.
Some things, you just didn't advertise to the world. The first lesson was to
be professional. Always professional.
Eighty thousand dollars' worth of Cadillac eased to a halt in front of him,
showing white panels and side-stripe on pale yellow in the glow from the lamp
above. City lights from the far shore reflected in the shine. Kyle Nass lowered
the window and rested his elbow on the sill, and Linc stooped to bring their
faces level. The girl in the passenger seat sent him a cool look that didn't
quite mask her curiosity. Linc had a quick impression of a heavily made-up mouth
and eyes, hair streaked with blond flashes against hues impossible to distinguish
in the shadow.
"So, how ya been?" Kyle opened.
"Oh . . . getting by," Linc answered.
"I got a job that needs doing," Kyle said. "You want some work?
We wouldn't want to think of you starting to get hungry out here."
"I do okay. Hey, if it's something that needs doing. . . ." Linc
turned a palm. "That's good enough."
Kyle looked away to talk to the girl. "See what I mean? Dedicated. This
is Linc. He's gonna be a great soldier one day. Linc, say hello to Mitzi. She's
the new light of my life. Ain't she really something, though, huh?"
Linc peered past him to take in the red leather coat thrown open, revealing
a low-cut white top, barely clinging to the ends of ample, outthrust breasts.
He nodded expressionlessly, complying with Kyle's request but giving nothing
anyone could take exception to. "Hi."
"So, we have business? Okay, let's talk." Kyle climbed out from the
car, letting Linc close the door for him, and crossed the riverside walk to
the water's edge. Linc followed. The yellow waves of Kyle's head bowed as he
paused to light a cigarette, his features illuminating briefly. He blew a stream
of smoke into the night and resumed in a lowered voice.
"We've got an overdue collection for two grand. The mark is a Spic who
goes as Gabriel Colomada. Fleshy with a beard, some kind of accountant with
habits that eat money, rents in a greaseball apartment house called Amigo's
on Twenty-Third off Canal, number C-8. Most Friday and Saturday nights he puts
in an appearance at that Irish bar that those two brothers run--a couple of
blocks away on Griffin."
"That's the one. The message needs to be delivered this week."
Linc nodded. "Sure. Nice and clear." He knew the routine.
Kyle reached inside his coat. Gold rings flashed in the lamplight as he produced
an envelope. "The Man likes the way you've been operating, Linc. There's
a hundred here over the last figure. Same terms. You cover your own expenses."
Linc took the envelope and pocketed it. "The same bonus?" he checked.
"Ten percent off the top if you collect before Sunday," Kyle confirmed.
"Any other questions?"
Linc shook his head.
"Well, that's just great, kid. You're gonna go far." They walked
back to the car.
Mitzi looked across again as Linc held the door open for Kyle to get in, perhaps
trying to reconcile the image of a fifteen-year-old that she had been expecting
with the person she glimpsed outside in the night: muscular frame touching six
feet inside the black suede jacket and gray polo-neck; hair cropped short and
glistening; not bad looks, but with features hard and unyielding, darkened at
the chin and upper lip by stubble already proclaiming the man.
Linc caught her eye as he closed the door. There was an interest there, but
restrained--not quite hidden by the aloofness that she was trying to project.
Maybe one day, the look seemed to say. Try me again when you've made
the grade, kid.
Damn right, Linc told himself as he watched the Cadillac reverse, turn, and
drive away back up the ramp. One day he'd have a chick like that in his