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Bone in the throat, p.6
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       Bone in the Throat, p.6

           Anthony Bourdain
 
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  "Tommy, you gonna invite us down, or what?" laughed Sally.

  Tommy backed down the steps. Sally helped the other man down.

  "You should get a fuckin' light down here," said Sally as the other man stumbled. Tommy squeezed past them in the dark hallway to close and lock the doors.

  "So, how you doin'?" said Tommy feebly. The man with Sally smelled of peppermint breath mints and sweat. Sally introduced him.

  "This is a good friend of mine, Freddy. I promised Freddy here some a that good French food you keep tellin' me about. You ready for Freddy?" asked Sally.

  "Freddy's ready," said Freddy. He patted his stomach and grinned stupidly. "Bring it on, garçon!"

  Tommy led them down the hall toward the kitchen. He saw that Freddy was unsteady on his feet, heard him get his foot caught up in the dirty aprons and kitchen towels on the floor, heard him bounce drunkenly against the shelving, breathing heavily. Sally was right behind him, guiding him.

  "I'm ready for one serious fuckin' meal here, Tommy," said Freddy. "Your uncle talks about you a lot."

  Sensing sudden movement, Tommy turned around, thinking Freddy had tripped. He moved to catch him. Instead, he saw Sally coming up with a .22-caliber Hi-Standard pistol. Frozen, he watched as Sally put the gun behind Freddy's right ear and fired three quick rounds into his skull.

  For what seemed like a very long time, Freddy stayed on his feet. His eyes jerked up into his head, a little saliva bubble forming in the corner of his mouth, his lips trembling as if he were trying to form words.

  Then, suddenly, Skinny was there. He pushed roughly past Tommy, who saw that he was naked, wearing only bright blue rubber gloves and holding a kitchen apron in one hand and a boning knife in the other. He whipped the apron quickly around Freddy's leaking head and, at almost the same time, jammed the boning knife into Freddy's chest and twisted. There was a crunching sound. He withdrew the knife, and then, with Sally holding the bloody apron-wrapped head, let the body slowly down onto the floor.

  "So that's that," said Sally.

  "You should get him on some plastic bags," said Skinny.

  "Oh, shit," said Tommy, paralyzed by what he had just seen. "Shit!" He thought for a second he was going to cry; instead, he just stood there, staring down at the dead man on the floor.

  "Get some plastic bags," said Sally, pushing Tommy toward the kitchen with his palm.

  Skinny poked at Freddy's buttock with his big toe.

  "He's gone," he said.

  "Oh, shit," said Tommy. He took a few dreamlike steps into the kitchen and returned with two large plastic trash bags. He felt like he was underwater, somehow going deaf. His vision began to get cloudy around the edges.

  Sally put the bags down on the floor, and he and Skinny rolled Freddy onto them.

  "Okay, Tommy," said Sally. "You can go in there or upstairs for a little while and get yourself a drink or something. We'll let you know when to come out. You got a mop around here?"

  "In the garbage area, right back there," said Tommy, pointing a shaking finger toward the cleaning supplies. He walked stiffly back into the chef's office and collapsed into the swivel chair. His head hurt. There was a pounding behind his ears and in his temples. Sally and Skinny dragged Freddy past the office door into the kitchen. Tommy heard them, the sound of dead weight on crinkling plastic, pulled along the rough concrete. He watched Freddy's feet disappear from view, leaving a long trail of blood, like snail tracks. Skinny got the mop and the bucket and cleaned up. Tommy was reminded of the little man sweeping up after the elephants in the cartoon.

  "MAKE SURE IT'S CLEAN," said Sally to Skinny. "I don't wanna leave nothin' like that around." He inspected the floor.

  "We got time," said Skinny. "I like to let 'em sit for a while anyways. Blood gets lumpy. Makes it cleaner, easier later on."

  "Alright," said Sally, "Let's get him up on there. That's good. This is good. There's a drain and everything. We can spray it down with that thing after."

  The two men lifted Freddy up off the floor and heaved him onto the prewash area of the dishwasher. Freddy's face came to rest in a pile of dirty dinner plates and half-eaten food.

  "Hey, Freddy got his dinner after all," said Sally.

  "I just gotta open him up a bit," said Skinny, holding the boning knife. "So nothin' floats, they take him. out on a barge. You don't know where it's gonna go. Just in case." He walked over to the sauté area and looked around under the cutting board for a minute. He came back with the chef's $450 custom-made Japanese knife. "I'm gonna need somethin' bigger like this for later. Help me get his clothes off."

  MUCH LATER, Sally lit a True 100 cigarette. Skinny sucked on a Pall Mall.

  "It's a fuckin' mess here. We gotta wash up these fuckin' dishes, spray down this shit," said Sally

  "Let the kid do it," said Skinny. "He's just sittin' in there strokin' his fuckin' meat."

  "I dunno how he's gonna like that," said Sally. "This is his first piece a' work and all."

  "I'm not washin any fuckin' dishes," said Skinny. "I did the mopping. I hadda chop the cocksucker up. Somebody else gonna do the dishes."

  "Don't look at me," said Sally. "I don't even know how to turn onna fuckin' machine. And I ain't gonna fuck up this suit."

  Skinny peeled off the bloody rubber gloves and threw them in the garbage can, along with the bloody trash bags, the bloody apron, Freddy's bloody clothes, and the gold-rimmed aviators. "Well, I ain't doin' it, so it's gotta be the kid." Skinny used the sprayer to rinse himself off. He soaped himself up to the elbows and then rinsed again. Sally washed his hands in the pot sink.

  Freddy, neatly packaged into eight plastic bundles wrapped in butcher's twine, lay stacked against a reach-in.

  "So we're gonna put him out with the garbage . . ." said Skinny, looking at the bundles. "Spread him aroun' between the cans. Mix him up so the bags ain't too heavy."

  "We don't want anybody gettin' a fuckin' hernia takin' it out," said Sally.

  They distributed Freddy evenly among the garbage cans in the kitchen, burying each bundle under the chicken bones, fish racks, oyster shells, and coffee grounds. They tied up the bags and dragged them back to the garbage area.

  "Hey," said Sally, "I just thoughta somethin'. It'll be the Brooklyn guys taking him away."

  "That's good," said Skinny. "That's ironic."

  "So long, dickhead," said Sally, waving to a garbage bag.

  Back in the kitchen, Skinny wiped himself down from head to toe with some Handi Wipes from his jacket, while Sally helped himself to some cooking wine from the speed rack.

  "I put the other one with the dishes," said Skinny. He held up the chef's expensive Japanese knife. "What do I do with this?"

  "Minchia!" exclaimed Sally. "Skin, you really beat the shit outta that thing."

  "It's a piece a shit," said Skinny.

  "They should get that knife they got on TV. The ones they sell, whaddaya call 'em—the Ginsu. Shit saws through a fuckin' nail," said Sally.

  "So whaddaya want me to do with this?" asked Skinny.

  "I dunno," said Sally.

  "Should I throw it out? I think I should throw it out," said Skinny.

  "No," said Sally, "Somebody might go lookin' for it. Just wash it off and put it back where you found it. They'll blame it on some fuckin' dishwasher."

  While Skinny dressed, Sally went into the office. "When's the garbage pickup tomorrow?" he asked Tommy.

  "Ten A.M.," said Tommy. "But there's nobody to put it out on the street. The porters aren't here."

  "Right, right," said Sally, furrowing his brow, "So, it waits till the next day. That happens sometime, right? That's nothin' new. You gotta do that onna weekends, right?"

  Tommy nodded.

  "This sucks, Sally," said Tommy, quietly, so Skinny couldn't hear him in the kitchen. "This sucks so fuckin' bad." Sally reached over and rubbed the back of Tommy's neck. "C'mon, it's not so fuckin' bad."

  "It's bad. It is bad, this is really, really bad,"
said Tommy. "I can't believe you did this to me."

  "What can I tell you, it hadda be done," said Sally.

  "You dropped me right in the shit. You didn't even ask, you didn't even tell me what you were gonna do . . . Why'd you fuckin' hafta do it here? Why me? Why'd you hafta do it here?"

  Sally continued massaging Tommy's neck.

  "It was a rush job, hadda be done in a hurry. Hadda be done tonight. It couldn't wait. There was no place else. I wanted to find another spot but it didn't work out. This guy, this guy was a rat bastard. He hadda disappear off the face a the earth. He hadda go. And he hadda go tonight . . ."

  Tommy blinked back tears. He flashed on a moment in his mother's kitchen, Sally standing there in the doorway, holding a new basketball for Tommy, some flowers for his mother, the same look on his face he had now.

  "Don't be a crybaby," Sally was saying. "Don't be pissin' and moanin' about this. Especially in fronta Skin. You don't want him to see that. He'll start to be gettin' thoughts in his mind about you."

  Tommy thought about Skinny thinking about him, and he shuddered. After a minute, he said, "You put him in the garbage?" He was trying to be tougher now, trying to get the image of Freddy's eyes, jerking up into his head, out of his mind.

  "Yeah, he's all mixed up with the fish heads an' the eggshells."

  "Where's Skinny?" said Tommy, hearing a reach-in door open.

  "Maybe Skinny found where you keep the cheesecake."

  "They count that shit," said Tommy, still trying to be hard, trying to be nonchalant.

  "So, blame it onna fuckin' waiter, they always stealin' shit."

  "I can't believe this is happening," said Tommy, his resolve wavering. "I can't believe you did this to me."

  "I dunno what you cryin' about," said Sally. "If you wanted to, this could really help you. You come in with me, this could really help."

  "What did he do?" asked Tommy, ignoring the suggestion, hoping it was something really, really awful this man Freddy did, something that would make him hate Freddy, make it easier to live with the knowledge he'd been shot and stabbed and then gutted like a big striped bass just a few feet away, broken down into pieces, portioned out.

  "Who?" asked Sally, "The guy?"

  "Yeah, what did he do?"

  "He made some people mad," said Sally.

  "You whacked a guy out right in front of me," said Tommy. "Right in my fuckin' restaurant. And now you want me to clean up after, right? I heard you in there. You want me to do the fuckin' dishes, clean up the fuckin' blood?"

  "It don't look bad. I rinsed it off for ya," said Sally.

  "Oh, great, fuckin' great, thanks," said Tommy, incredulous, feeling sick to his stomach, all the vodka he'd had rising in his throat. "How about tomorrow? I gotta work tomorrow. I'm gonna come in here and work, and know there's a fuckin' dead guy sittin' there inna garbage the whole fuckin' night I'm workin'? I'm supposed ta act like normal?"

  "So call in sick, you got a problem. Don't be a fuckin' crybaby," said Sally.

  "I'm not crying!" said Tommy, grateful that he was getting angry. "What if it starts to smell?"

  "It's just one day that he's gotta be there," said Sally. "I seen your garbage. I seen your garbage and it smells a fuck of a lot worse than anythin' we put in there. Don't worry about that."

  "What if somebody finds him there?" Tommy whispered, aware of Skinny moving around in the kitchen.

  "Nobody's gonna find him, awright?" said Sally, removing his hand from Tommy's neck, growing irritated. "Don't get all hysterical on me. I'm fuckin' countin' on you here."

  "You want me to wash the dishes?" said Tommy, knowing he'd have to.

  " 'Less you want me to ask Skinny to do 'em. I don't think you want me to do that," said Sally, ominously. "It's just a few things, and some pots that got a little dirty. Take you five minutes. Me and Skin, we'll have a drink upstairs while you finish up. Skinny and me, we got everything else. Tomorrow you call in sick. Awright? Now let's be a man."

  Tommy finished the dirty dishes in the rack and sent them through the dishwasher. It took five loads to get them all. Then he took the sprayer and a rubber squeegee and cleaned the whole area, pushing pink water down the little drain.

  He was taking off his apron when Sally and Skinny came down from the dining room.

  "We all done here?" Sally asked.

  Tommy nodded weakly.

  "You should throw out that apron," said Skinny.

  "You'll feel better tomorrow," said Sally.

  "I guess so," said Tommy, for Skinny's benefit. He didn't like the way Skinny was looking at him.

  They left the restaurant together. Tommy closed the metal trapdoors behind them and snapped on the Master lock. It was starting to get light on Spring Street. A bakery truck pulled up in front of the Count's, a man left brown paper bags of Italian bread in the doorway. Down West Broadway, a garbage truck hoisted a Dumpster, beeping as the driver put it in reverse.

  They walked over to Varick Street and approached a dusty Buick. Somebody had written WASH ME on the rear window with their finger. Sally went around and unlocked the driver's side door, got in, and started the engine. He leaned over and unlocked the passenger door for Skinny.

  He called out of the car to Tommy. "We give you a lift?"

  "No, thanks," said Tommy, "I wanna walk for a bit."

  Tommy saw Skinny looking at him through the windshield, a smirking expression on his face. He waved to Tommy as the car pulled away.

  Twelve

  Tommy woke up at one-thirty in the afternoon, still in his clothes. He wasn't due in till four—they were serving brunch today. He lit a cigarette and tossed the spent match into a beer can on the night table. The television was on with the volume down low, and Tommy searched around in the sheets for a remote. Unable to find it, he pulled himself out of bed, walked over to the set, and turned it off.

  He finished his cigarette, cleared away the empty beer cans, picked up the phone, and called the restaurant.

  Harvey answered.

  "Harvey, it's Tommy," Tommy said, his voice constricting, "I'm not coming in today. I'm sick."

  "What have you got, the flu?" asked Harvey. "You don't sound too good."

  "I don't know. I just feel real sick."

  "You should drink some tea. With lemon," said Harvey. "You throwing up?"

  "I've been either hugging the bowl or shitting like a mink all night long," said Tommy.

  "Well," said Harvey, "get some rest. I'll get Ricky or somebody to cover. My fucking luck it'll be slow tonight anyway. You just feel better. When do you think you'll be back in? You gonna be able to work tomorrow?"

  "Yeah," said Tommy, "I'm sure I'll make it tomorrow. If there's any problem, I'll call you back."

  "Okay. Feel better. Should you see a doctor? I can get you an appointment if you need."

  "No, thanks anyway. I think I just ate something bad maybe."

  "Not here?"

  "No, no. I had something to eat over the Count's the day before. Maybe I ate something bad."

  "That explains it," said Harvey. "That fuck poisoned you. They should close that place down. It's not safe."

  "I don't know for sure, maybe it's the flu."

  "I think it was something you ate over there. What did you have?"

  "Please, Harvey. I'm gonna puke just thinking about that place. I gotta go."

  "Okay, Tommy. Get well soon. Take care of yourself."

  Tommy lay back in bed. After a while he peeled off his clothes; then, he took the longest shower of his life. He decided to try to forget the whole thing.

  "I AM HAVING the worst fucking day of my life," said Harvey. He sat behind his desk, the sun streaming through the dirty Venetian blinds. Across from him two men in dark Brioni suits sat quietly sipping coffee. Harvey wiped his glasses with the end of his tie.

  "My sous-chef isn't coming in today. I've got no porters till later and the garbage is piled up to the fucking ceiling down there. My chef is threatening to su
e me 'cause somebody wrecked his knife and on top of all that it looks like it's gonna be busy. Look outside. First nice weekend we've had in I don't know how long and of course we get it today."

  "That's the restaurant business for you," said the short coffee drinker.

  "It's unpredictable," said the other coffee drinker, a big man with no neck.

  "I've been in the restaurant business," said the short coffee drinker.

  "Just when you think you know what to expect when you come in the door—" Harvey began.

  "Somebody give you a good kick in the crotch," the bigger man finished.

  "Listen, Harvey," said the smaller man, cheerfully, "we think we can be helpful. About what we talked about on the phone."

  "That's great," said Harvey. "That's really great."

  "We've spoken to our principals," said the smaller man, "and we think we can do something here."

  "Well, that's great," said Harvey.

  "It's a lot of money," said the larger man.

  "But we think we can do the whole amount for you," said the smaller one.

  "Twenty thousand?" asked Harvey.

  "We just need to iron out a few things, schedule of repayments and all. You need it for six months?" asked the smaller man.

  "Six months," said Harvey.

  "That's no problem there. We can do that. That'll be when you pay the principal," said the smaller man, putting his empty coffee cup on the desk. "You know how this works. It's five points per week."

  "Five points!" shrieked Harvey "Five points! That's completely unreasonable. Five fucking points? I can't pay that much. I won't pay that much! I don't pay the other guys that much, anywhere near that much! Two points. Two points I can do. I expected that. I can do two points. But five? Five points I may as well cut my own throat and fuckin' bleed to death right here. It's unreasonable."

  "There's another thing," said the larger man.

  "What other thing?" asked Harvey, patting down his hair on both sides and adjusting his tie. "What?"

  "Your current lender," said the smaller one. "You're up to date with them?"

 
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