Sky Lamborsky and Michael "Fingers" Cunningham feel it's time to move forward in life and shed the transgressions of their youth. That means disconnecting them-selves from the Gin, a hole in-the-wall dive bar in Arizona that is a trap for criminals, the kind of place where hard men go to drink, gamble, fight and chase women. The two have a lot in-vested in the place, but even more to lose if the authorities ever catch up with them.
But leaving the Gin and its under-the-table activities is not going to be easy. The place is underwritten by Norwood Mira who, on the surface, is a high-profile politico. But underneath, he's a gangster who uses his political connections to further himself in illegal activities. Mira is not a man to cross.
In order to begin their new lives, Sky and Fingers must find a way to get out from underneath Mira's control without going to jail-or losing their lives.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.55(d)|
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By William L. Kostow
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 William L. Kostow
All right reserved.
Five Years Later
Nester Shylak doesn't like the name Nester. He prefers to be called Shylak.
Shylak needs to get out of prison. He's got trouble. Veto, another inmate, wants him. He wants Shylak to do whatever Veto wants, and then be tossed aside. Shylak wants none of it.
For Shylak, fighting off someone like Veto isn't an option. Shylak and Veto had one serious altercation. It wasn't much of a fight. Veto beat Shylak up until the guards intervened and pulled him away.
Shylak's nose was broken, and his face was covered with scrapes and bruises.
Veto spent ninety days in isolation. Shylak spent three days in the hospital and thirty days in isolation. He was found to be partially responsible.
If Veto wants him, Shylak has three things he can do: run, hide, or be Veto's. In prison, you can't run far, and there aren't many places to hide.
Veto has a lot of respect. He's in for kidnapping, assault, and armed robbery. On the inside, respect comes with the crimes you commit. The more violent and dangerous, the more respect, especially when you can back it up. Veto's long, thick neck bulges with muscles and spreads into his thick shoulders. He looks dangerous.
A tribe surrounds Veto. They've earned the right to associate with a bad man by being bad in their own right. Even though they, like every other inmate, are dressed in a mandatory department of corrections jumpsuit, they stand out. They look bad. Everyone sees it.
Shylak is in for illegal bookmaking. It's a white-collar crime. He's thin and not too tall. He doesn't warrant much respect. At least not anyone on the inside thinks so.
Shylak knows the tribe by sight. He watches them walk out of the darkness and into the afternoon sun. They're walking tough.
He comes out early, trying to beat them. It gives him the advantage of not having to find them on the yard. He knows where they are when they exit the cell block. From there, it's a matter of keeping track.
Distance is one of Shylak's allies. Another is time. The more time he can spend keeping his distance, the better.
Being wary is stressful. He doesn't sleep, and he's lost more weight than his already slim frame can stand. If he doesn't get parole, he doesn't know what he'll do.
* * *
Shylak's been through this type of thing before. It was a different time in a different place, and there wasn't as much at stake, but it all works the same.
Someone will ask questions. Are you rehabilitated? What have you done to improve yourself? How are you going to support yourself? What are you going to do to keep out of trouble? It's all the same, no matter where you are.
Shylak has the answers rehearsed. I'm a changed man. I've taken classes and learned to respect others, and I've learned to read and write. He could always read and write, but it's best they know he's still working on it. He might add, I've sworn off whoring, drinking, and smoking dope, like every good Christian. It isn't true, but neither is any of the rest of it.
Being prepared and keeping one step ahead is the key to convincing them to grant parole. They think he's guilty, so denying it isn't going to get him anywhere. Admit it and move on.
He'll tell them he has a job working with a friend. A change of environment and a strong support system will make him better able to make a positive contribution to society. Having a job and a strong support system are positive factors in the parole board's decision.
Shylak's got a place to stay. He wrote a friend, asking if he could stay with him. His friend provided a statement saying Shylak could. There is no job, but Shylak doesn't plan to bring that up.
He has to show them he's prepared to go into society and be productive, honest, and well mannered. It's like a job interview. He wants to keep them focused on the future. All the good things he's going to do.
* * *
Shylak remembers the circumstances well.
It was the national championship of college football—a game where he had bet a bundle of money on the number one undefeated team. He doesn't remember who they were, except that they were supposed to win.
Down to his last dollar and needing a place to stay, Shylak stumbled into the sweetest deal he had ever seen. He took a job bartending at an exclusive gentleman's club. This wasn't the tittie bar where the boys from the factory went to forget their problems. It was a place where highly connected men met. It had naked women and money, and Shylak thought he would be sure to find success.
He knew he could learn things from them. If he hung around rich, powerful men, he could learn how they think, their weaknesses and tendencies. He didn't think of it as a job; it was more like research with benefits.
Most of the club's members had one or two special girls they were paying for additional benefits. Shylak thought the benefits would extend to him, but it didn't take long for him to find out that to the dancers, bartenders weren't on the menu.
In addition to girls, members liked to bet on college football, an area Shylak considered an expertise of his. When they needed someone to hold the money, he was available. He held several thousand dollars in side bets each weekend. There had to be a way he could make out on the deal.
When the number one team was playing for the national championship, Shylak made his move, betting the money he was holding. His plan was to double the money, take his cut, and pay out the members. It was going to be no problem. Unfortunately, no one told the other team.
Mostly, people don't like your betting and losing their money without them knowing it. Judge William T. Carlson, a club regular, in particular took offense. The judge was angry. He was very angry with Shylak! When a superior court judge called the chief of police and the prosecuting attorney, both of whom were also club members, Shylak paid a price.
Two years in jail later, Shylak's confident all is forgiven. Who holds a grudge for two years?
* * *
In reviewing his file, the chair of the New Jersey parole board reads that at twenty-seven, he's two years into a five-year sentence for illegal gambling and bookmaking. He's been in trouble several times as a juvenile, less so as an adult, but there are only a few convictions. He's done serious jail time only once.
The length of his sentence surprises her. It seems a little tough.
She notes a letter from a superior court judge and is impressed. It's unusual for a judge to put a personal note in a prisoner's file. There's also a request to move out of state under probationary supervision. There will have to be a special dispensation granted for that, but considering his crime, she doesn't see any reason to waste any more of the state's money housing him.
Chapter TwoSomething to Remember
When he calls the escort service, Shylak asks for a nineteen-year-old. He doesn't think she looks nineteen. Nonetheless, for someone who's been locked up for a couple of years, she is just right! It doesn't take him long to do whatever he wants, and she leaves as soon as he's through.
Shylak takes another long drink straight from his bottle. The woman was good, but the hot gin flowing down his throat is ambrosia. His addiction fed, Shylak almost forgets he ever went to prison.
Shylak doesn't have much money. The hooker, motel room, fifth of gin, and a few decent clothes have taken almost all he has. He has just enough for his bus ticket.
For Shylak, money doesn't go far. He doesn't want to flash too much cash, but having money is better than being poor, and he's leaving town. Maybe he'll open a couple of checking accounts. It'll give them something by which to remember him.
* * *
Shylak needs to be on his toes, which is hard, because he didn't sleep well due to bad dreams about Veto making him do whatever Veto wants.
Pam Hillman, the new account representative at the central office of the New Jersey Central Credit Union, is nice. Shylak thinks she's homely, but as long as he doesn't have to look at her for too long it's okay.
He needs to connect with her on a personal level. If he can do that, she's more likely to be flexible with the credit union's rules. He needs the money from his checks available now—no holds put on the funds.
He asks, "Is the picture on your desk of you and your husband?" as he hands her the new account form.
"I'm going through a divorce," she answers.
That means she's distracted.
She says, "It's an unusual story. My husband's an abuser. I mean, my soon-to-be ex-husband. Not that he ever hit me. He would never do that. He is more evil than that."
"Really?" Shylak asks.
"I had to have him arrested because he breaks things. He always fixes them afterward, but he breaks things around the house. The police say that people who break things are dangerous."
"Do I need an ID?" Shylak is trying to help her along. He notices a security camera pointing at him and tries to keep his head down.
She continues, "I tried to get him to go to counseling, but he refused to talk to them until I had the judge order him to go. Once the judge ordered him to go, they told me he's a psychopath."
"Judge?" Shylak asks. Judges make him nervous.
She continues, "He was arrested. When you are arrested, if you don't go to counseling, you're a psychopath. He had my mail forwarded to a post office box and took my name off the credit cards. I'm selling the house. The judge said I can sell the house."
She's doing something on her computer. Shylak hopes it has something to do with opening his account and that it doesn't take too much longer.
She goes on, "Now he doesn't want to make the house payments. Can you believe that? It's his house. I don't know what I'm going to do when I sell the house. I have to live somewhere. I know people who stay married for money, but not me. Sarah sits right here," Pam says, pointing to the next desk. "She stays married for money."
Sarah's not at her desk.
"He bought a bass boat," she drones on. "He doesn't need a bass boat. He can afford a boat, but he can't make his house payments? They told me at his job that he quit. I talk to everyone over there. They know all about him. He has a new job, but he won't tell me where it is. I'll bet he makes five thousand dollars a month. I hope my lawyer finds his new job. I'll call them and ask them where my support is. They can take it right out of his check."
Shylak notices she's done with the computer and is relieved.
Smiling, she asks, "Can I take your deposit? Let's see. That's two checks totaling $753.97, and you want $250.00 cash back. Is that correct?"
"Yes, that's correct," Shylak answers, hoping there is no hold on the rest of the funds. "I'll be right back," Pam says. She smiles happily to herself as she takes the checks for deposit. That is a nice man. He understands.
She brings back the receipt and hands it to Shylak. She says, smiling, "It was nice talking to you."
Cash back and no check holds, thank you very much. It'll be three days before those checks start bouncing. He smiles and says, "Have a nice weekend," and then thinks, because on Monday it's going to suck to be you.
It's over eight miles to the only other branch the New Jersey Central Credit Union has. Shylak needs to get there before Pam, her boss, or whoever wises up. He needs to move fast. Get his money and hit the road.
One call by anyone to the bank the checks are drawn on, and he's caught. He opened the account at the bank half an hour ago, and there's only twenty dollars in it.
That's the deal. Open a checking account at one bank with twenty dollars. Get checks and use them to open an account at the credit union for $700.00. Then run as fast as you can to another branch, where they don't know you, and take the money out. Then get out of town before the checks bounce.
His taxi driver doesn't have a clue. Shylak asks, "You speak any English there, Hakmad?"
The driver smiles in the mirror. The taxi's seats are greasy, and it's getting on Shylak's new pants. Arriving at the credit union branch, he instructs the driver, "Stay here. I'll be right back."
Closing an account doesn't take any time at all. "My account number? ... My identification? ... Please close the account ... Cash please ... Thank you. Have a nice day."
Seven hundred and fifty-three dollars and ninety-seven cents, less the twenty he originally deposited in the bank. It's not bad money for forty-five minutes' work on a Thursday morning.
"Hakmad, take me to the bus station," Shylak says, counting the money. "No, wait! Make that the airport. I got an upgrade."
* * *
Sleeping on an airplane is easy for Shylak, especially when he's flying first class. The hustle, bustle of the airport followed by the comfort of sitting in luxury puts him to sleep. The seats are leather, big and comfortable. The drinks are complimentary and abundant.
They haven't yet pulled away from the Jetway, and his eyes are starting to droop.
Shylak's legs are heavy. He's trying to run. Trying to keep up, but his legs are heavy. They won't move as fast as everyone else's. He struggles and pulls, but his legs are stuck in the sand. They sink deeper and deeper.
He has a bat in his hands. He hits the ball. The crowd is cheering. He's the hero. Run the bases.
They see he can't run, and they are turning against him. They're starting to jeer. The crowd is starting to hate him. He struggles and his heavy, slow legs move, but he makes no progress. The crowd is starting to throw things at him.
A stout, hairy arm grabs him by the scruff of the neck and holds him tight. His legs are free and move easily now. Light as air, they swing wide and long, running fast, but there's still no progress. Now it's the arm holding him back. The crowd hates him. They know he can't move. He's helpless. Looking back, he sees the arm and tries harder to get away.
Suddenly the arm is Veto. The mono-browed Italian grows bigger and bigger. His mouth opens, and his yellow teeth are sharp and wicked looking. His mouth is getting bigger and bigger, opening as if to swallow Shylak.
Suddenly, Shylak has no pants on. No one in the crowd can see that he has no pants on, but Veto knows ... Shylak can't move. He can only do whatever Veto wants.
Talking in his sleep, Shylak jolts awake.
"Sheeet, boy! Get yourself together." A concerned, leathery old face looks at him over reading glasses. "You have a bad dream? They've got counseling, or something that might help you out."
"Screw you," Shylak says, turning his back and trying to go back to sleep. He doesn't have any luck. Veto still scares him too much for sleep. So he spends the rest of the flight staring out the window.
Gradually the green farms of the Midwest turn into the brown desert of the Southwest. Heat rises in waves off the desert floor, and Shylak watches them disappear into the blue sky. The sky is so blue it hurts to look at it. There are no clouds. It's too dry for clouds. The blue sky stretches from horizon to horizon. Shylak rubs his eyes.
Shylak's headed to Phoenix. He wonders what sunglasses will look best with a leather jacket, and then remembers that wearing a jacket in 107-degree heat will probably kill him.
Phoenix is in the desert. It averages less than eight inches of rain a year. Most of it falls in a few storms concentrated in the middle of winter and in the monsoon season of summer. Often the storms of the monsoon are short and violent. They have high winds and heavy rains for thirty or forty minutes, usually in the evening. The next day is filled with fallen trees and higher humidity. It doesn't take much humidity to be oppressive when it's 107.
Phoenix grew up as a city in the late fifties and early sixties. Prior to air conditioning, living in the desert was tough, and not many took on the challenge. Because the city came of age later than most, it grew up around the automobile.
The streets are long, straight, and wide. Outside of rush hour, traffic flows fast.
Due to an abundance of affordable land, the city grew out rather than up and distances are measured in how long it takes to drive rather than how far it is.
Excerpted from THE GIN by William L. Kostow Copyright © 2011 by William L. Kostow. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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