The Bergman Files Nr3
The Gospel According to Luke
Or Pithecanthropus Erectus
A story by Ben EriksonBen_erikson23@yahoo.co.uk
The punches landed in sudden flurries; in rapid groups of three, four and five. Fists began to pummel at me mercilessly, changing target -chest, stomach, face, chest. Face again.
A furious, swirling river turning tidal, turning to full flood.
At one point they were more like desperate slaps, then an eddy of fists again. I didn't resist. What the hell would be the point? I rode out the initial storm until they lost their power, became un-coordinated. Gradually, I could feel the fury which drove them on lessening and lessening until the energy behind them whirled in useless, angry, undirected circles round my head.
"I hate you. I hate you. I hate you."
I looked at Luke's eyes, gauging just how far out he was, how slow I'd need to play this to reel him back in to shore.
"That's alright Luke. You're allowed to hate me. Prefer it if you didn't but..."
That's when he started kicking. Not bad, actually for a 10 year old without any training.
Jello grabbed him from behind and tried to contain his fury on his lap.
"Come on, Lukie, my man. We're all tired, we're all upset...it's been a long night. You know, sweetheart, it reminds me of the time I..."
"Oh, shut the fuck up!" Lukie's less than generous response.
I looked at Jello, he looked at me and we both burst out laughing at once. Luke took the opportunity to squirm free from his grasp and aimed a few more kicks but our laughter seemed to disorient his attack and he gradually subsided into helpless sobs, his little face washing itself with cleansing tears.
"I want to see Kirk." he said simply. "I want my Dad."
He wasn't ready to let me hold him or comfort him but I risked leaning in towards him some. We were back at Kirk's grotty apartment - I hadn't needed my set of picks this time - had Kirk along himself to let us in. He was in the bedroom now with Maddy having a much needed heart to heart.
"You can't Luke. I'm sorry. Ma...your mother needs to talk to him in private. He's not well, he's sick. Maddy's sorting things out with him now. We're going to make him better and then...well, I don't know what then but you can't see him just yet. They won't be long, they..."
A rapping on the door and we froze as if in some stupid pantomime. We looked at each other, no-one saying it but each of us knowing exactly who the visitors were. I, at least, had been expecting them but not this soon, I must admit. I hadn't thought things through this far, had been running on pure instinct since back at the Odessa Club.
I don't remember precisely when it came to me; exactly what I was going to have to do.
Funnily enough, it hadn't struck me as odd or unusual or totally fucked up at the time, sitting there in the booth with Luke crushing my nuts with one hand, picking his delicate little nose with the other. The band didn't help. The Mingus cover they had started with kept up a sinewy, erotic beat that crept into your skull and allowed you to view the strangest thoughts with a creepy, unconvincing objectivity.
Let Luke work his way round my balls? Why not? Get him naked in the shower back at the hotel, soap him and work him into a lather, lick the little fucker clean? Only natural.
Kidnap Kirk at gunpoint? Nothing fucked up about that thinking, Mike. Go for it, baby, that's my advice.
I watched the three of them; Kirk and his two would-be gangsta cronies. They had a fix on him somehow - for sure - a drug debt paid off bit by bit by petty crime and kick-value. The kind of debt you somehow never seem to fully pay no matter the crime, no matter the kick.
I'd made Maddy go to fetch my rented car three blocks away, sent Jello off with Luke to meet out front in ten. Had sat back in the booth, still feeling Lukie's unsuspecting grasp around my nuts and listened as the tenor sax screamed into chorus number seventeen in overblown harmonics.
I reached down in the booth and eased the pistol from my ankle rig.
"That's Scratch and The Ghetto. Betcha everything I got!"
"Scratch? And the what?"
Jello and I looked at Luke and then at each other, all laughter gone.
"That's those two kids who came looking for Kirk yesterday, right? The ones you were so scared of it took me twenty minutes to calm you down?"
"Scratch and The Ghetto. That's their street names of course - The Ghetto's really called Charles but don't tell him I said so! He`s the scary one. But they`re OK, really. Daddy likes them. He goes out to clubs with them all the time."
The banging on the door resumed. So did Luke.
"Cha...The Ghetto bought me a gold watch as a present once but Daddy took it to look after. He's got it hidden somewhere for safekeeping. They're just so cool really. I wasn`t really scared yesterday. Daddy said he pretends to be scared of them sometimes so I was just pretending too. Are you going to get the door?""
I watched Luke's face as he prattled on; a troubling mix of genuine innocence and would-be streetwise smart.
"Luke, listen. You seem to know an awful lot about these guys suddenly. Listen to me, kid. They're not the good guys in this picture, OK? They're not cool, they're not your daddies friends and right now they're pretty pissed at me in particular. Now I can handle that, I can handle them. I'm not sure I can handle you looking up to them like they're some kind of superheroes just `cause they bought your silence with a stolen watch which Kirk then took from you to sell to buy drugs. Sorry, kid. But that's the truth here. I just want you to know the picture before I open that door, OK?"
There was quiet outside now. Maybe they'd given up. Maybe.
Luke glanced nervously towards the door then down at the floor.
"I...I...know that Ki...daddy...I mean, I know that he buys drugs...but...he doesn't use them himself. Gospel truth. And I know he sold the watch that time...I only pretend to think he's keeping it for me because it makes daddy happy that way. And it makes me happy too. I like to pretend things."
He looked at me with the sweetest, most innocent smile that tugged right at my old, cynical heart. I wanted to take him in my arms and hold him; I wanted to spank him hard and then comfort him, make it up to him; kiss him better. Do whatever to get him away from this scene.
"OK" I said. "It's just sometimes we need to know the truth, yeah? Know where we stand. There's...er...nothing else you want to tell me? Nothing more you know about what's going on here?"
The banging started up again. Luke thought hard, seemed to. He furrowed his brow, made his freckles dance around his face.
"...pel truth, I know. OK. You go with your uncle J into the kitchen and the both of you stay there till I say it`s OK to come out, right?"
"Right, Mike. Got it. Come on, Lukie. You stay with me, man. We'll be fine."
"I need the bathroom. If I don't pee right now I'm going to wet my pants!"
I knew how he felt. Gospel.
I'd used the darkness as cover. Back at the club. The Odessa. I held the Smith & Wesson discreetly in my right hand, close against my thigh as I snaked round the shadows towards their table. I'd been working out the angles since I'd spotted them; sightlines, alternative escape routes, different scenarios based on exactly how they responded. I had it all planned out. The one thing I wasn't sure of was the car being outside when we got out the door, although, in the event, Maddy did me proud. They still hadn't seen me and I was able to make use of a couple of empty booths next to theirs for cover.
The awkward part was getting Kirk separated from his companions; he was sandwiched between them behind the table and I'd had to think hard about that. I thought about the subtle approach but decided on crude, relying on the shock value to carry it off. I steadied myself, crouched a couple of paces away from them, unseen. I got my breathing where I wanted it to be and sprang up noiselessly, the gun pointing straight at Kirk's head.
"Stand up! Do it now!" I said evenly but in a voice loud enough to carry to them through the wailing sax. I'd taken a good thirty seconds working out exactly how to pitch that voice, the tone, the volume, exactly what phrase to use.
They all three looked at me with open mouths. If he didn't stand within the next five seconds I'd have to go to Plan B which was a degree or two more violent and therefore the less welcome option.
"What the f..." a stupid, sloppy grin spread across Kirk's face.
"Don't you know who...?" then the realisation hit him. "Mike?...Mi...?"
"Stand up! Do it now!"
Another second. Plan B.
"...er...OK, Mike...I...er...have you met...?"
He stood slowly, uncertainly. The instant he moved, I'd shifted to my right and tucked the gun snugly under the left ear of the larger of the two youths; the one who'd made me for a cop, had called me "paperboy". The next few seconds would be vital. I grabbed Kirk's left arm with my left hand and put sudden force onto a pressure point below his inner elbow. He groaned and I felt his legs sag under him. I was already pulling him towards me, keeping the pressure of the pistol barrel at the boy's ear. When Kirk had squeezed past and was free of the table, I switched the gun quickly to cover the second youth in case he tried anything but he still hadn't got over the shock of my initial appearance and was staring past me blankly, slack jawed.
I urged Kirk forward towards the entrance with renewed pressure on his arm, and followed him with my gun arm waving behind me first at one, then the other of his erstwhile companions. The one who's ear I'd just released stared hard right back at me, his hands carefully laid palms down on the table in front of him.
"Fuck man, that was some bold move. Did you see that? Fuck me, man, that was that cop from yesterday, man. Man, that was like in some movie, man. That's guy's a real pla..."
"Shut the fuck up! Do it now!"
Earache re-establishing his authority. Boy, did he looked pissed.
I sat for another minute listening as the banging on the door built up to a furious crescendo; thought briefly of Lukie's little fists against my face. I didn't want any gunplay in the apartment and had already decided to leave mine holstered. I presumed that The Ghetto would be waving his around as soon as I opened up. I would need to control that situation, calm things down but the point is, I wasn't surprised to find myself opening the door empty handed and having what looked like a reconditioned Desert Eagle pushed into my face. Revenge for the earache I'd given him at the Odessa, I suppose, and fair enough in a way.
"Hi Charles." I said "What kept you?"
His eyes narrowed further and his mouth twisted wide in fury.
"Where is he? Where's Kirk?"
Down to business straight away, a good sign.
"He's in the bedroom, having a lie down. He won't be coming out just yet; it's me you've got to deal with now. Let's say I'm his representative, yes? I'm not a cop, by the way. That was just kidding about, you know?"
"No shit!" he said. He took a step back and keeping the gun levelled at my head, turned his face away and aimed a mouthful of spit past Scratch and over the low balcony to the sidewalk three floors below. We all paused a moment to listen for the splatter as it landed.
"Yeah, like a cop would pull that stunt back a the..."
"Shut it, Scratch."
"Yeah, shut it Scratch." I said. "Let's talk business - what exactly is it you want with Kirk?"
The Ghetto snorted noisily.
"You mean you don't know? You don't fuckin' know?"
"I know you've been stringing Kirk along, getting him to deal for you, do whatever else it is he does for you...you obviously have got some kind of hold over him, you..."
"He owes me, man and I `aint letting this one go. Not for thirty grand! No way, motherfucker!"
"Kirk owes you $30,000?"
"Near enough, yeah. Straight up business deal and now it's payback time!"
I heard the noise of water flushing through an ancient system. Luke in the bathroom.
"Does Kirk look like he's got thirty grand stashed away? Think he'd be living in this shithole, he had green enough to bust out?"
Before he had the chance to even think about this, the logic, the sheer obviousness, the whole scene tipped away from my control, my careful plan to play things cool.
"Ghetto, Ghetto, Scratch...don't shoot, it's me!" Luke playing the drama for all it was worth. What a line - you couldn't have got away with that in Hollywood! He ran past me and more or less threw a small, tightly wrapped bundle at the Ghetto, who grabbed at it, fumbled once, recovered and secured it in his one free hand. Without missing a beat he loped his gun hand round Luke's neck and held the pistol loosely, waving it at me in vague circles.
"OK, Luke." he said. "Be cool, you won't get hurt, OK? Now let`s go find your daddy, yeah? But don`t you fuck with me or else I`ll..."
We never did learn what Ghetto would have done. The hammer, the hammer I had previously taken off Jello, came hurtling past Luke and Ghetto hitting Scratch full on the chest. He yelped and staggered to his knees, then stumbled up and ran away at speed, a look of sheer terror on his face. Jello was hurtling full tilt towards the door. All his mad, psychotic rage unleashed and focussed on the threat to his beloved Luke, his lovely ex-wife's lovely son and honorary nephew. His mouth was distorted in a wordless scream that carried all the pain and fury of the last few years, his anger, humiliation, his hurt at squandered love and talent, frustration at the joys he'd given up, the degradation he'd embraced.
But something else, something clear and strong and vivid, something born of life, of hope and deep, deep love.
The Ghetto released Luke and aimed his gun at Jello. I grabbed Luke into me and pulled him clear and as the gun went off, saw Jello take The Ghetto in a full embrace and sail with him over the low balcony, the two of them entwined and spinning once, maybe twice in midair before the crash, the silence, the screams starting somewhere below, the rumble of a distant subway train.
Ghetto had dropped the package Luke had thrown. It spilled out $100 bills across the balcony.
"J?" was all that Luke could say. "Uncle J?"
"Go into the bedroom. No-one to come out till I say, you understand?"
He didn't move at first, then looked at me, white-faced and did as he was told.
I let the water wash over my body, squeezing my eyes tight shut, giving myself over to pure sensation. Lukie did the same. I ran my hands through my hair, breathing deep, rubbing in the complimentary shampoo. Lukie did the same. We had the game going now, he was clearly intent on copying my every move. I made exaggerated circling motions round my chest and arms. He copied me. I took my cock and massaged it up and out. Luke squealed in delight and rubbed vigorously at his own.
"Look, Mike. Mine's big too! I've got a stiffie just like you!" we both laughed out loud at the unintended rhyme and admired each other handiwork.
"Come here, you little devil." I said.
He leaned into me under the shower and examined my cock up close.
"Wow!" he said. "Will mine be like that when I'm old?"
"Something like that, yeah. And I'm not that old, little boy."
He giggled, leaned right into me, his hands around my buttocks, playing with the hairs, fingering me abstractly. I stiffened some more and he looked on in wonder. He bent his head and kissed my navel softly, then again further down until I caught his chin with my hardon and he kissed that too.
"You can kiss my ass!" he singsonged. "Kiss my butt! Kiss my stiff willie!" all the time giggling like a boy half his age.
"I'll spank your butt. See if you've still got a stiffie after that."
"No" he said shyly.
We were back in the hotel room after another quick getaway from Kirk's apartment. I'd clocked the scene down below his balcony and called 911 but knew already it was too late. I figured to get Maddy, Kirk and Luke away before the cops arrived. There'd be explaining enough to do without the usual crime scene trauma to go through and frankly I'd had enough for one night. I'd bundled up the $100 dollar bills and hustled the three of them out of there with as little fuss a possible. I didn't want any more surprises. That Kirk was trying to rip off The Ghetto on some drugs deal had been surprise number one but that little Luke knew about it all along -even knew that the money was stashed in the toilet cistern - that was the night's biggest surprise. And there was just time enough for one more - something not even Luke had known about.
At the last minute Kirk had insisted on going into the kitchen, had rummaged around in a crusty jar of salt at the back of a cupboard and drawn out a small plastic bag. I thought it was his stash but he pulled it apart proudly to reveal a gleaming gold Rolex. It looked like a fake even from where I was standing but Luke just beamed. He tried it on but it was way too big for him and I ended up taking charge of it for safety's sake.
"I knew you didn't sell it, dad. Didn't I say, Mike? Didn't I say, Kirk would never sell my watch?"
He looked up at me, his eyes urging me to share in his lie. To pretend one more time.
"Yes, you did Luke." I agreed "That's what you said." Why the fuck not?
I'd come up with a story to keep them all out of it - just me and Jello in the apartment when the action went down. Jello going crazy. I'd made some calls and would be going downtown in the morning with a lawyer and a young detective who I'd kept in touch with from years ago who agreed to smooth my way with his boss. Maddy was driving Kirk out of town with the thirty grand - get him into rehab, get him his life back. So here I was with Luke, waiting for Maddy to get back, to pick him up, say their goodbyes and take him and his new gold watch away from New York forever. Fine by me. I'm an LA man now, remember?
"Dry me" he demanded.
"Come here then"
I sat him on my knee, a towel draped over my lap and let him bounce up and down as much as he liked, which, it turned out, was a lot.
"I can feel your willie on my back!" he squealed.
"And I can feel yours...in my hands." I said, grabbing his soft little pecker in my fingers and squishing it about gently and once or twice, not-so-gently. He gurgled with pleasure as he stiffened some himself, leaning back to kiss me full on the lips.
"I love you, Luke. We all love you. You know that? Whatever happens in this mad old world, we all love you for who you are. You know that, don`t you?"
"Yes!" he said emphatically. "I love you too!"
"You sure? That the truth?"
"Gospel" he said, grabbing at my erection through the towel.
END OF STORY