Thursday, December 20, 2007

Good Eeevening

Everyone knows I'm a big fan of Orson Welles (hence the pseudonym), but I'm also a huge fan of the great director Alfred Hitchcock. That's probably why this post from Ed Gorman's blog caught my eye.

Yes, yes, I know that the post is from April. But, I just stumbled upon Gorman's blog today and tried to catch up with all the back postings that I had missed.

16 Blocks

I finally saw 16 Block the other week on HBO. One of the many films I wanted to see in theaters, but never got around to. I don't remember what critics thought of it, but I thought it was very well done.

Bruce Willis has played cops many times in his career, but his Jack Mosley is not the typical Willis-cop character. He's a beat up alcoholic who seems content to put in his 20 and escape with his pension. He gets assigned the seemingly easy task of transporting Mos Def's Eddie Bunker to the courthouse to testify before a grand jury. Needless to say, things go awry.

The only quibble I have with the filck is Mos Def. He's a fine actor, but his portrayal of Bunker got on my nerves. The character was fine, but I'm not sure what he was trying to accomplish with the put-on voice.

Check it out when you get a chance.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Kids Are Alright!

Here's some highlights last week from rookie defenseman Kristopher Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Can you believe they are his first two career shootout attempts?




Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Whole Lotta Love

In case you've been living under a rock, Led Zeppelin played a reunion concert on Monday night. Words cannot describe how much I wanted to be there. I guess I'll just have to do with the video clips, photos, and reviews. Probably going to try and get my hands on a bootleg. Much like when one of my favorite bands, Cream, reunited the other year, if Zep goes on a tour I'm going to try to get tickets.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Finally Saw: Fantastic Four

Yes, it's taken me a while, but I finally saw the first Fantastic Four movie. It felt to me like a throwback to the larger than life comic movies we used to see before the recent round of great flicks (X-Men, Spiderman, Batman, etc). The one thing that irked me was that there wasn't a real sense of danger. Who is the villain? Oh, this guy. Dr. Doom. What does he want to do? Beats me, let's just stop him.

Don't get me wrong, it's a fun movie. There were parts I actually laughed out loud. And I loved Stan Lee's cameo. Just don't expect too much from it. It's a fine way to waste a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dave Brubeck

Today is Dave Brubeck's 87th birthday.

The classic Take Five.



One of my favorites, Dziekuje (Thank You).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Now I've Seen Everything

The student president at the University of the Andes in Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela bears the very mellifluous name Nixon Moreno. Pursued by the authorities, Sr. Moreno has been obliged to take asylum in the papal diplomatic mission to his nation’s capital, Caracas. His cause has been taken up by the student president of Central University of Venezuela, a neighboring institution.

That brave young gentleman’s name is Stalin González.

Stalin leading protests in support of Nixon?

This is not remarkable in Venezuela, which has been afflicted by a plague of whimsical forenames. Your waiter or cab driver in Caracas is liable to be a Taj-Mahal, a Supermán, a Yesaidú (Yes, I do), or even a Hitler. Things are so bad that the electoral authorities have issued a draft law stating that babies may not be registered with names “that expose them to ridicule, are extravagant, or difficult to pronounce.”

Well, at least it’s hard to detect much revolutionary ardor in most of these names, such as was exhibited in the old USSR by the popular Melsor (Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, October Revolution), or in Mao’s China by Da-yue (Great Leap) and Wen-ge (Cultural Revolution).

(courtesy National Review, December 3, 2007)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Lady from Shanghai

I'm not entirely sure how, but today I stumbled across an entry on Bright Lights Film Journal about the forgotten noir Blast of Silence. There were a couple other entries on movies like the Mike Hammer flick Kiss Me Deadly and a very unflattering review of L.A. Confidential. But, the one that really struck me was the one about The Lady From Shanghai. Author Jason Mark Scott gives a very thorough examination of one of Welles's early pictures. Scott again shines light on the many subtle things that made Welles one of, if not the, best director of all time. The only thing I would disagree with him on is his supposition that this was Welles's farewell to his wife Rita Hayworth and to Hollywood.

If you haven't watched The Lady From Shanghai, I recommend that you go out and find a copy right away. Sit back, relax, and enjoy some good noir and a good flick. Just try to tune out Welles's horrendous Irish accent. :)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The New Trek

Now that all the pieces are together, TV Guide has done a nice job putting a side-by-side comparison of the actors in the JJ Abrams Star Trek with the original actors. My first thought for Chris Pine was "no", but next to a young Shatner, he doesn't look half bad. Same thing with Karl Urban as Bones. I've been a big fan of Zachary Quinto as Spock since it was first announced. The other guys are passable, but as everyone knows, Trek was about the trio of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.

Though, even if the casting was crap, I'd still be there opening weekend because that's the kind of nerd I am. :)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The new TV season: returning shows

Now on to the returning shows:

Monday:
Prison Break - year three is bringing things back full circle. Michael is now in prison and his brother Lincoln is on the outside. The show just keeps getting more and more ridiculous, but the characters are still interesting.
Heroes - after a slow first couple weeks, this week really started to heat things up. Syler is back in the mix and we have more of an idea of the overarching story for this season. The only thing missing from Monday's episode was my favorite Hiro.

Tuesday:
NCIS - a strong start for one of my favorites. After wrapping up the Le Grenouille storyline (for now), the stories have gotten back to the familiar format. The stories are well crafted as ever and the chemistry still crackles. Just witness last week's episode with Gibbs, his former lover, an ex-wife, and his current girlfriend.
The Unit - what were they thinking with that whole disband the unit storyline? I was kind of worried about how this season started off, but things have gotten back to the crisis of the week format. It's going to be a headscratcher for a while about what the writers were doing.

Wednesday:
With Lost off until mid-season, there's really no Wednesday show I watch that isn't new.

Thursday:
My Name is Earl - Earl in prison. Not doing as much karma fixing as he did on the outside, but we're getting to know more of the characters' pasts. I love Henry Monroe....I mean Crabman.
30 Rock - it looks like it's off to a slow start. I like the whole Jenna is fat storyline, but this season hasn't made me laugh as much as last season.

Friday:
Numb3rs - Colby is back (turns out he was a double or triple agent). Like NCIS this show benefits from strong scripts and a great cast. No slipping here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The new TV season

It's been three or four weeks since the start of the fall TV season, so I think it's time to start assessing the new shows. It is surprising, though, that there hasn't been a cancellation yet. Just by saying that, I probably jinxed some poor show. So, here's a rundown of what I've sampled:

Monday:
Chuck - by far the best new series. Good cast. Good scripts. Funny. It just gets better and better each week.
K-Ville - OK cop show. The New Orleans setting is one of the big things this one has going for it. Anthony Anderson and Cole Hauser as the leads are interesting characters, but they are the only ones with any kind of character development.

Tuesday:
Reaper - Tried this on the advice of Gerald and the fact that the pilot was directed by Kevin Smith. Funny as hell. The characters are interesting and the actors portray them well. The only problem is, by about episode 3 the formula really started to show. Hopefully they find a way to grow beyond the cookie cutter stories.

Wednesday:
Back to You - classic sitcom with two classic sitcom actors in Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton. Nothing groundbreaking, but each week tends to get funnier. Good show to turn your mind off and watch.
Bionic Woman - still not sure what to say about this one. The whole first bionic woman subplot is interesting as is the possibility that Jamie was slated to become bionic even before the car accident. I think this one might get another week or two to wow me.
Life - decent cop show. Another one I'm not sure what to say about. The Zen detective bit is unique and the over-arching plot of who set Crews up is more intriguing than the cases they've had to solve up to this point.

Thursday:
Are there even any new shows on?

Friday:
Women's Murder Club - I wanted to watch this last week, but didn't get a chance. I'll try again this week.

Tomorrow I might post about how the returning shows are faring this season.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dutch!




Today is Elmore Leonard's 82nd birthday. Trying to figure out if I should celebrate with something from The Complete Western Stories or When the Women Come Out to Dance.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Come Back Brimstone!

Because of this conversation with Gerald, I decided to check out Reaper (more on that another time). I also combed the imdb message boards for the late lamented Brimstone. For anyone who doesn't know, Brimstone was a late-90's TV show about a cop who made a deal with the devil to return 113 escaped souls to Hell in exchange for a second chance at life. Since it's been nearly 10 years since its cancellation and the fact that I found all the episodes online, I've pretty much gotten over my anger/sadness about its cancellation. Then I find a post about the possible episodes that would've been filmed if the show hadn't been canceled. ARRRRRGH!!

ep 14) RIVALS
Shut down a mere three hours into production, episode 14 pitted Stone with two dilemmas: an escaped damned Soul who is killing illegal immigrants and a beautiful kick-ass damned woman, late of the Irish Republican Army, who the Devil has brought back in order to test Stone. The Deal? Whoever sends this week's Damned Soul to Hell FIRST gets to stay on Earth and hunt the down the rest of the 113 - whoever fails gets a one-way ticket back to Eternal Damnation! Zeke wins, but not before getting somewhat PHYSICALLY involved with the IRA woman, who proves to be almost his match in every way, shape & form.
ep 15) DEADLINE
An episode with a BACKWARDS structure. A Reporter shows up on the scene just in time to witness Zeke sending a Damned Soul back to Hell, then tracks the story BACKWARDS in his attempt to find Stone and find out what's up...
ep 16) ANGEL
Stone tracks down what he THINKS is a Damned Soul, but turns out instead to be a Rogue Angel bored with heaven, desperate to taste everything life has to offer -- including Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, and murder! Stone has to figure out how to trick the bad Angel into going back to Heaven -- with a little help from someone who ain't the Devil and prompts the Devil into yelling at the Heaven's: "He's working for me, not you!" Also in this episode, a mysterious woman shows up and starts asking questions about Zeke Stone -- it's ROSALYN!
ep 17: PARTNERS
Stone tracks another Damned Soul, but this time the Devil shows up and wants to tag along on Stone's investigation! This one's personal for ole' Lucifer, 'cause this is the one guy who never broke, the one guy who never begged for mercy, who did his time in Hell defiantly, always telling the Devil to F-off. Who is this tough-as-nails Damned Soul? None other than a meek, mild-mannered CLERK who looks like he wouldn't hurt a fly! Lots of darkly comic antics with Stone showing the Devil how to be a detective, etc. Also more on Roz tracking down the husband she was sure was dead... until now.
ep 18: INNOCENCE
Stone tracks down a Damned Soul who turns out to be none other than one of his relatives, a beloved Uncle from Stone's childhood who claims that he was innocent, that Somebody Up There made a mistake! Stone embarks on a bizarre quest -- not to hunt down this week's Damned Soul -- but to try to clear him and find the real bad guy...
ep 19: BIRTHDAY
The Season Finale. Maxine finds out that Stone's birthday is coming up and tries to throw a party for her loneliest hotel guest. Problem is she can't find any friends or relatives, except those that claim Zeke Stone has been dead for 15 years! Plus the return of ASH, the return of Zeke's CAT and a stunning cliff-hanger: Max brings a a special, surprise guest to Zeke's Birthday Party -- a guest whose arrival was to serve as our season-ending finale -- his wife, ROZ!

Original post here.

Great Moments in Golddiggery

I came across this post on The Corner by Jonah Goldberg. If the Craigslist posting was for real, it's probably one of the funniest damn things I've ever read (including the guy's response).

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Lew Archer

Good news for fans of Ross Macdonald. By the end of next April, all 18 of the Lew Archer novels will be back in print. I've only read two Macdonald novels, on Dave's advice, but I'm a big fan of his. As any fan of his will tell you, Macdonald is as important to the hardboiled genre as Hammett and Chandler are. His Archer novels started out in the pithy style of Chandler, but added psychological depth and insights into the motivations of his characters that were seldom seen in the genre until that point.

If you haven't read any Macdonald, go check him out. You'll become a fan.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

More Elmore

Elmore's official site links to this article in the Detroit Free Press where Terry Lawson asks Elmore five questions. The questions cover the new movie, 3:10 to Yuma, some aspects of his writing and movie careers, and some more hints about his next book.

Monday, September 3, 2007

3:10 to Yuma


Friday night is the premier of 3:10 to Yuma, the remake of a 1957 western based on Elmore Leonard's short story. I've been pretty psyched about this movie for a couple months. I've become a big fan of EL, and I rented the original movie about a month ago. It was very well done and the remake looks good too. I've been hearing almost entirely positive news about it. Check out the trailer:


http://view.break.com/315989 - Watch more free videos

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Back in Time

Bust out your mirrored sunglasses and your snap bracelets. The '80's are back! Not only with things like the Transformers movie and the rumblings about a new He-Man one, but the 80's car is now making a comeback!

DMC is going to start making DeLoreans again!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Edgar Allan Poe

Everyone knows Edgar Allan Poe as the author of many macabre tales and quite possibly the father of modern detective fiction. Many regard Murders in the Rue Morgue as one of the first published examples of a detective story. His death, as was his life, has always been surrounded in mystery. For years there have been stories of the Poe Toaster, a black clothed figure who visits Poe's Baltimore grave and placed "three red roses and a half-bottle of cognac on the grave". Today, I read a story on CNN that says the Poe Toaster was nothing but a hoax. If Sam Porpora is telling the truth, does it really matter? The story of the Poe Toaster brought recognition to Poe's genius and attention to a sadly neglected important landmark of American literature.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Character Matters

I came across a post the other day on Wellesnet pointing us to a statement issued by Welles on the meaning of Citizen Kane around the time of the movie's release. His statement goes counter to the wide-spread belief that Kane was based on publisher William Randolph Hurst. Was Welles telling the truth? Or was he trying to deny any link between Hurst and Kane? I'll leave that to others to decide, but there is some very interesting stuff in the statement about the type of story Welles wanted to tell and about his decisions in shaping the character of Charles Foster Kane.

Recommendation: Burn Notice

A couple weeks ago, Gerald commented on the series premier of USA's Burn Notice. On his recommendation, I took a look at it. And I like it. It's breezy fun with an interesting cast of characters. I like the voice-over tips Michael gives (on how to lose a tail, escape from a police chase, find out if someone's been in your room, etc) and the overall style of the show.

Now, word comes from TV Guide that it has been picked up for a second season. Good job, guys! Another winner from USA.

(BTW: If you don't watch Psych, you should watch that one too.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Star Trecking Across the Universe

There's been some interesting news regarding the next Star Trek movie. First they cast Zachary Quinto as Spock (good choice if you ask me) and now someone I never heard of named Anton Yelchin as Checkov. Most of the stuff I'm hearing I like, except the fact that they may ask Tom Cruise to play Christopher Pike. Please, no. I'd rather listen to William Shanter sing Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds in an endless loop than see Tom Cruise in a Trek movie.

On a sillier note, when Merrick posted the news on AICN, he added this funny/disturbing video:

Monday, August 6, 2007

Film Noir of the Week

I stumbled across this site a couple weeks ago. Every week they post a review of a different film noir, usually a lesser known one. This week's review is of In a Lonely Place starring Humphrey Bogart. This is a flick I heard about a couple years ago, but haven't been able to see since none of the local Blockbusters carries it. Maybe it's a good argument for finally getting NetFlix. :)

Friday, August 3, 2007

I'm Not Dead

Been on vacation for a bit. I should start posting again next week.

Friday, July 13, 2007

This. Is. Springfield

What do you get when you mash together The Simpsons with the movie 300? I guess something like this:

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Behind Retribution

While rereading the previous Handsome Rob stories (The Auction and The Heist) before posting, I started to remember why I liked the character so much. Especially during The Heist, I came up with another idea for a Handsome Rob story. What would happen after the auction?

Retribution is full of a lot of different things. I think it has a different tone than the first two, probably more in tune with what I'm writing now. Also, it's longer than the first two combined (at over 6000 words). The flashback structure came to me early on in the process, and it reminded me of the TV series Lost, which I am a huge fan of. In fact, whenever I read or wrote the *** breaks, I could hear the wooosh should effect that accompanies a Lost flashback.

I don't know what's next for Handsome Rob or for me. Maybe he'll sit on the shelf for a year again before coming back in a new story. I'm still working on the next PI story. It's not that I plan to be a series writer, but I keep having ideas of what to do with these guys, so I can't really ignore them.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Retribution

Bullets flew everywhere. The table behind Handsome Rob cracked as two of them struck solid wood. A bead of sweat fell from his neck and lazily wound its way between his shoulder blades to the small of his back. Let’s go to an auction, she says. It’ll be fun, she says. Buy that case, she says.

The shooting had stopped for now. Rob reloaded his Desert Eagle and peered around the edge of the overturned table he was behind. He spotted his girlfriend Brenda crouched behind the large platform unsold items were stacked on. It was Brenda’s idea to attend the police auction. He wasn’t having a bad time until he started bidding on that stupid briefcase. It ended up igniting a bidding war between a black man and a Mafia type, with the black man pulling a gun and threatening to kill everybody.

Being fresh out of the joint, spending a whole day surrounded by cops wasn’t exactly Rob’s idea of a good time. But, he would do anything for Brenda. Even though he was in prison for five years, she stayed with him. He filled the long, cold prison nights with thoughts of her. Her perfectly tanned skin. Her silky black hair. Her heart-stopping smile. And her deep, brown eyes that seemed to stare into your very soul.

“You two motherfuckers wanna leave, I let you live,” said Tawruss.

“And let you get that case?” said Nice-Guy Eddie. “Hey, stunade. Why don’t you leave and let me take the case?”

“Yeah? Well, I got me a bargaining chip.” There was a quick squeal.

Brenda!

Handsome Rob looked out again. The black guy had his left arm wrapped around Brenda’s upper body, dragging her toward the center of the room. The gun in the right hand was digging into her temple. Rob stood up with his hands in the air and said, “Calm down, friend. Don’t do anything rash.”

“You can’t tell me what to do, cracker,” said Tawruss. “If one of you two motherfuckers don’t get me my case right now, I’ma blow this bitch’s head off.”

“I don’t have it,” said Rob.

“Me neither,” said Nice-Guy Eddie.

“Shee-yit,” said Tawruss. “Neither one of you has it? My mamma didn’t raise no dummies. Looks like I needs to give you punk-ass bitches some motherfuckin’ motivation.”


Tawruss pulled the trigger. A mist of blood shot from Brenda’s temple, and she collapsed to the floor, dead.

A primal yell came from Handsome Rob. He raised his weapon and fired. His finger kept pulling the trigger until the slide locked open. The contents of an entire magazine were now lodged in Tawruss’s chest. He coughed, stumbled back, then collapsed to the floor like a rag doll.

Handsome Rob ran across the room to the body of his fallen girlfriend. Dropping to his knees, he placed her head in his lap and started stroking her hair. He was quietly sobbing when Nice-Guy Eddie walked over to him.

“Hey,” he said.

Rob looked up at the other man. “I don’t want your stupid case. Just take it and go.”

The sirens outside had gotten closer. Both men could hear heavy footsteps lining up outside the auction hall. Nice-Guy Eddie said, “It’s gone. Here, take this cell phone and get out of here. If you ever need a favor, call the first number under contacts. The cops’ll be here soon. You better go.”

Rob got up and went to the fire door. He turned to get one last look at his fallen girlfriend. The sun nearly blinded him as he burst through the door into the alley behind. He ran to the corner and saw an A subway stop across the street. He crossed, weaving through traffic, and dashed down the stairs. Hopping the turnstile, he squeezed into the last car of an uptown train as it left the station.

Handsome Rob sat down, lowered his head, and closed his eyes.

********

It was a nice spring day. The sun was shining in a cloudless blue sky. It was warm for April, but not too warm. A cool breeze rustled the leaves starting to form on the trees that lined the street of his neighborhood.

Handsome Rob was on top of the world. He’d recently teamed up with another bank robber named Oberg Wyatt who was as professional as he was. In their first couple heists together, they’d pulled in nearly half a million dollars. The two had some sort of subconscious chemistry when it came to crime. Oberg compared it to two world-class jazz musicians jamming. Rob wasn’t much of a jazz fan, he just thought what they did was a great deal of fun.

He opened the door of his favorite coffee shop and grabbed his usual table by the window. The barista saw Rob enter and came over a few minutes later with the coffee exactly the way Rob liked it. He said, “Thanks, Joe.”

Rob scanned the room. It was filled with the usual bunch of college students hunched over laptops and the yuppies who impatiently waited on line while incessantly yapping into their Bluetooth headsets.

“We’ve got a tremendous upsell opportunity here.” Bluetooth Yuppie #1 said, interrupting Rob’s tranquil morning. “We should interface on this offline. If we think outside the box, we could generate a real paradigm shift here.”

Bluetooth Yuppie #1 swiped his debit card at the cash register and grabbed his coffee. As he turned and walked out of the store, he bumped into a young brunette, sending the stack of papers she was carrying all over the floor. He continued out the door without pausing.

Rob shook his head, got up, and went over to help the young lady. He said, “Bunch of savages in this town.”

“Yeah,” she said, “Could’ve been worse.” She tucked some of her long brown hair behind her left ear and continued to pick up her papers. “Thank you,” she said.

She looked into his eyes and Rob felt like he had been struck by lightening. Her eyes were a dark brown and about as deep as the Grand Canyon. She extended her hand and said, “My name’s Brenda.”

Rob had to think for a second before replying, “Rob.” He felt a tingly sensation throughout his body as her skin touched his. For the first time in his life, Rob was speechless when talking to a woman.

“I think that’s everything,” Brenda said as she stood up. “Thanks again,” she said and flashed him a great big white smile.

Rob held the door for her as she walked out. After a couple seconds, Rob snapped out of his trance and bolted after her. He could up to her at the corner. “I can’t believe that jerk didn’t even stop.”

“Well,” she said, “I’ve come to accept things like this about New York.”

“It’s not all like that.”

“I know.”

They walked the next block in silence. Rob said, “I noticed you have a lot of drawings there. Are you an artist?”

“Marketing Manager for a company that makes those little USB Key things,” she said. “What do you do?”

“I work in banks mostly,” Rob said. “On the security end. I try to figure out where the vulnerabilities are and how criminals would exploit them.” No need in telling her the whole truth.

“That sounds exciting,” Brenda said.

“It can be sometimes,” Rob said. He nodded his head to the bank across the street, “This is my stop.”

“Well, thanks for helping me again,” Brenda said.

“Listen, can I see you some time?”

Brenda flashed him another smile. She reached into her purse, grabbed a card, and handed it to Rob. “My cell’s on the back.”

“Great.” Rob couldn’t help grinning himself. Brenda turned and walked away. Rob stared at her until she turned the corner and went out of sight.

Handsome Rob went inside and robbed the bank.

********

The subway car pulled into Penn Station, nearly all the passengers got off. Rob went with them, figuring it was a good idea to be lost in the multitudes. Even on a weekend, the hustle and bustle Penn Station is hardly slack. Tourists from outside the city and country, lifeless stiffs working Saturdays, and the typical New Yorker traveling cross-city all mingled here. To them, Handsome Rob was just another face in the crowd.

The phone in his pocket began to ring. “Yeah.”

“Good. You answered. What’s your name?”

“They call me Handsome Rob.”

“Nice-Guy Eddie,” said the voice. “I think I figured out who set us up. Meet me tonight, 9:00 at Chelsea Pier.”

“I’ll be there,” Rob said and snapped the phone shut. “Brenda, I swear to you, I will find who took that briefcase. And I will make them pay for killing you.”

The respectable people were still out in the city at nine o’clock. Pretty soon the second shift would come in. Despite the respectable image of New York that permeated American culture in the past decade, the night still belonged to the hookers, thugs, and junkies. The sun had recently set, and the air was thick with humidity.

Handsome Rob moved along with the crowd, but disconnected from it. He felt someone fall into step with him and caught a glimpse of Nice-Guy Eddie on his left. Nice-Guy Eddie said, “Nice night.”

“Who was it?” said Rob.

“All business, eh? Let’s stop here.” He nodded to a railing.

They stopped and leaned on the railing. Rob looked across the Hudson and waited for Nice-Guy Eddie to speak.

“The case belonged to a guy goes by the name of Mr. Grey. No one’s really sure, but we think he used to work for one of the Five Families. It was seized in a raid a couple months back, but he wasn’t caught. I guess he saw the case was coming up for auction and thought this was the best way to get it back.”

“Why us?”

“Most likely payback. There was a contract on him a while back. My boys ended up getting his family instead of him. That black guy was horning in on a nice drug trade he had set up. Probably trying to get the competition out of the way.”

“What about me?”

“Don’t know his beef with you,” Nice-Guy Eddie said. “Maybe it’s all coincidence.”

“I don’t believe in coincidences. How do I know I can trust you? Seems like you got all this info very easily.”

Nice-Guy Eddie said, “I’m people who know people.”

“Mafia?”

“If that’s what you want to call it,” Nice-Guy Eddie shrugged.

“When do we get him?”

“Haven’t found the guy yet. It’s only a matter of time. Besides, New York is not as big a city as it pretends to be. Why don’t you stick with us? We can offer you protection in case this is bigger than one guy.”

“Fine,” said Handsome Rob. “But when we find this Mr. Grey, I’m going to be the one to pull the trigger.”

Rob spent the next day with Nice-Guy Eddie in one of the mob safe houses. They were surrounded by beefy Italians who didn’t say much and served fresh homemade pasta by an elderly Italian woman. They were finishing up their linguini dinner when Nice-Guy Eddie’s cell phone chirped.

“Yeah? OK. That’s good news. Take him to the warehouse in Queens. We’ll be there soon.”

Rob said, “Did you find him?”

“No,” said Nice-Guy Eddie as he shoveled another forkful of pasta into his mouth. “But we have a lead. This kid who works at the police auction. When we were all pointing our guns at each other, he grabbed the case and ran out. We figure that he delivered it to Grey. It’s up to us to persuade this scecchino to tell us where Grey is.”

“When do we go?”

“Finish up your dinner first. Then we’ll have some desert. He ain’t going nowhere.”

The warehouse was a couple blocks from Silvercup Studios, where The Sopranos was filmed. The streetlights were few and far between; the only illumination coming from the headlights of Nice-Guy Eddie’s car. They entered the warehouse through the loading docks. Handsome Rob saw a couple heavies standing near a skinny kid tied to a chair with a blindfold over his eyes. His shoulders were slumped and there was dried blood around his mouth and nose.

Almost gently, Nice-Guy Eddie asked the kid what his name was.

“Randy,” he stammered. “Randy Park.”

“Randy,” said Nice-Guy Eddie. “They call me Nice-Guy Eddie. Do you know why they call me Nice-Guy Eddie?” The kid shook his head. “Because nobody wants to see me to get angry. They want me to stay a nice guy. Now, Randy, you want me to stay a nice guy, right?” The kid nodded. “Good. Tell me about the guy you gave the case to.”

“What case?”

“The silver case from the police auction yesterday.”

“I don’t know anything about a silver case.”

“Randy, Randy,” Nice-Guy Eddie shook his head. He then nodded to the heavy standing to the kid’s left. He unleashed a wicked punch across Randy’s chin, almost knocking the chair over. Handsome Rob swore that he saw a tooth fly across the room. “You see, I’m not very happy right now. You don’t want me to ask a third time, so tell me the truth. Who did you give the case to?”

“Some guy named Grey.”

“Good,” said Nice-Guy Eddie. “Now how do you know this Mr. Grey?”

“He contacted me about a week ago,” said Randy. “Asked me to make sure nobody at the auction got a hold of the briefcase. If anything happened, I was supposed to grab it and meet him in the alley out back.”

“So, you know what he looks like.”

“No. He just said he’d be wearing a Yankees cap.”

“The fat fuck with no fashion sense,” said Rob. “I saw that guy hanging around the auction when Brenda and I came in. He was wearing a Yankee hat and a suit.”

Nice-Guy Eddie smiled, “Good. Now, how were you supposed to get in touch with Mr. Grey?”

“I wasn’t,” said the kid.

“Come on,” said Nice-Guy Eddie. “You’re the inside man and you expect me to believe there was no way for you to contact him?”

“I swear, he didn’t tell me anything. Just meet him out back with the case.”

Nice-Guy Eddie pulled a nutcracker from his jacket pocket. He walked up to the restrained kid and said, “Are you right-handed or left-handed?”

The question was greeted with a bunch of mumbles and sobs. Nice-Guy Eddie nodded again and the heavy grabbed the kid’s left arm, holding it steady. Nice-Guy Eddie slipped the nutcracker over the knuckle on the pinky finger of Randy’s left hand. He said, “Now you’ll see what happens when I become not so nice a guy.”

He squeezed the nutcracker down slowly. The pop as the bones around the knuckle broke was almost drowned out by the kid’s pathetic screaming. Nice-Guy Eddie moved the nutcracker to the knuckle of the ring finger and broke that without any pause. He then moved the nutcracker to the knuckle of the middle finger and said, “Changed your mind?”

“Yes. Yes. Oh, God. Please stop. Please,” said Randy.

“How were you supposed to contact Grey,” said Nice-Guy Eddie.

“I don’t have a phone number or anything. He just said to make an ‘x’ in white chalk on a certain mailbox in Washington Square Park before 9am,” Randy said. “If I made the ‘x’, he’d meet me at one of the park benches at 12:30. That’s all I know. Please, don’t hurt me any more.”

Nice-Guy Eddie put the nutcracker back in his pocket and started walking toward Rob. “Time to set a trap.”

********

Handsome Rob tore off his shirt, popping several buttons in the process. He wadded the shirt up and threw it in the corner. Looking at his reflection in the bathroom mirror, the wound didn’t seem too bad. The bullet had just nicked his right side between his bottom two ribs. There wasn’t much blood, but it stung like a bitch.

Rob grabbed a washcloth off the rack, ran it under the tap, and wiped the drying blood off his side. He winced in pain when he accidentally hit the mouth of the wound. He heard the front door of his place open and Brenda called, “Baby? I’m home.”

Shit. How am I going to explain this one? Rob said, “Yeah? I’m in the bathroom.”

“You know, I’m feeling kinda tired tonight. How about we just order in?”

“OK. That sounds good.” He dabbed again at the wound. It was still oozing a little blood, but not as bad as before.

“You in the mood for Chinese?”

“OK. Yeah. That’s fine.”

“Is everything OK?” Her voice was getting closer to the bathroom door.

“Yeah,” Rob said. “I’m just…ow.” He stopped as he hit a really sensitive spot. He bit his lip and prayed that she would just stay out of the room until he had a chance to dress his wound.

“Are you sure you’re…..Oh my God! You’re bleeding.” Handsome Rob turned his head to see Brenda standing in the now open doorway. She rushed over to get a closer look at his wound. After looking at it for a couple seconds, she opened the medicine cabinet and got out the iodine, gauze, and a roll of medical tape.

“Brenda, honey. It’s nothing,” Rob said.

“Nothing? What happened? Were you and Oberg doing something stupid again?”

Any past injuries he got during a robbery or getaway, Rob had blamed on some extreme sports adventure with Oberg. When he tore his ACL scaling a playground fence after a particularly hairy robbery of a First Union bank, he said he and Oberg had gone mountain biking.

“No, it wasn’t Oberg’s fault,” said Rob. “The two of us were….”

“OK, that’s it,” she said. Brenda put the bottle of iodine down on the sink and walked over to the doorway. She turned around and put her hands on her hips. “I want the truth, Rob. Not some stupid extreme sports story. This has gone on too long. Either tell me the truth or I’m leaving you.”

Rob’s shoulders slumped and he put his head down as he exhaled. Without looking at Brenda, he said with his eyes closed, “We rob banks.”

“You …. What?!” She blinked, incredulous.

“We. Rob. Banks.” He stared her straight in the eyes and enunciated each word so she couldn’t mistake what he was saying. “Oberg and I were at the Commerce Bank on Broadway near Washington Square Park this afternoon. We were about to get away when the security guard decided to be a hero. We were leaving the bank. He must’ve grabbed his gun and ran out into the street after us. He got off a couple shots and one of them hit me in the side.”

“You and Oberg rob banks,” Brenda said. “I don’t fucking believe it.” Rob was shocked because on the rare occasions she swore, he never heard her say the f-word before. “How fucking stupid are the two of you? I mean, jeez, they could put you away for a long time for that.”

“We’re careful,” Rob said. “Both of us are professionals. We’ve never killed anybody. We’ve never even fired our guns during a robbery. It’s just…you know that old saying about finding something you’re good at? Well, this is something I’m good at.”

“You’re taking other people’s money. Honest people who work hard for a living. Probably some of them are just scraping by.”

“I know. And sometimes I feel like a world-class heel about doing it. But I give a lot of what I take to charity. That Catholic school down the street? Most of that new playground was paid for with the money I took. I just hope to make the good outweigh the bad.”

Brenda dropped her shoulders and walked over to him. She picked the bottle of iodine up and began to clean his wound. “Listen,” she said, her voice softening, “I can’t be involved in anything criminal. I should turn you over to the cops right away. But, I love you Rob. And I can’t do anything about that. So, I don’t want to hear anything about any heists. If you have to, call it ‘running an errand’ or ‘making a withdrawal’ or something.”

“OK.” Rob said. “I’ll do anything for you. I love you, babe.” He leaned over and kissed her forehead.

********

The mark had been made and the kid was sitting on a park bench. Handsome Rob and Nice-Guy Eddie where in a black SUV parked on La Guardia Place with a good vantage point. Rob said, “Think he’ll show?”

“Who knows?” said Nice-Guy Eddie. “Still got my boys looking for him. If he don’t show, we still got other options.”

Nice-Guy Eddie looked at his watch, “Any minute now.”

Rob peered through the windshield to get a better look at the kid. He seemed nervous. His head was bowed, hands clasped in front of him, and his left leg was bouncing a mile a minute. The normal city traffic of joggers and businessmen streamed by without paying any attention.

The kid’s head jerked up suddenly. Handsome Rob followed his eyes to a silver Buick that had just slowed down. The kid jumped up and started to run, but it was too late. Before he took his second step, the first bullet tore through his leg and spun him. Two more bullets followed in quick succession through the kid’s newly presented back. Plumes of blood exploded from the grey sweatshirt he was wearing. He fell. Limp. Dead.

The Buick accelerated quickly with a squeal of tires. Nice-Guy Eddie started the SUV, yanked it into gear, and pulled out onto West 4th Street to follow the Buick. The Buick sped down 4th Street before making a hard left onto Lafayette. Handsome Rob saw the light turn red just as the Buick made its left turn, but Nice-Guy Eddie said, “Hang on.”

He jerked the wheel hard to the left, cutting of a line of angry New Yorkers. The Buick hung a right onto Astor and blew through the merge with 8th street, causing a yellow cab to slam his brakes and horn. Nice-Guy Eddie hung with the Buick, sideswiping the cab as it tried to pull ahead. The Buick continued straight ahead on St. Mark’s Place until it hit Tompkins Square Park. The driver swung a right and then a left, going the wrong way on East 7th.

Ducking in and out of the oncoming traffic, Handsome Rob couldn’t help but think how good a wheelman Nice-Guy Eddie could’ve been. If he had hooked up with Rob and Oberg, they’d own half of Manhattan at this point. They saw the Buick make a left onto Avenue B, but Nice-Guy Eddie had to slam on his breaks to avoid a U-Haul coming straight at them.

Both vehicles were at a complete stop and the Pakistani driver of the U-Haul hopped out. He started screaming and gesturing wildly in Nice-Guy Eddie’s direction. “What do you think you are doing? You offspring of goat!”

Nice-Guy Eddie lowered his window and flipped the driver off. He then jerked the gearshift into reverse, backed up a few feet, and then put the SUV back in drive. He cut the wheel sharply and slammed on the gas. The SUV smashed in the front end of the U-Haul, shoving it back a few feet. Nice-Guy Eddie didn’t slow down, taking the SUV over the curb, knocking over a blue mailbox in the process.

“Damnit, we lost him,” said Handsome Rob. “Wait. Look there.”

Handsome Rob pointed to an underground parking garage on the next street. The arm was just coming down across the entrance. “Someone just went in there,” he said. “Maybe it’s our guy.”

Nice-Guy Eddie slowed the SUV to a crawl as they both peered in the direction of the garage. A couple seconds later, a man came out, walking hurriedly toward the door of the adjacent building. They both got out of the SUV and walked with determination toward the man.

The man they were watching punched the code in the keypad and the door unlocked with a satisfying buzz. He opened the door, but sensed someone was behind him. He turned around just in time to catch the butt-end of Handsome Rob’s Desert Eagle square across his nose. The shoved the man inside and closed the door behind them.

Nice-Guy Eddie threw the man into one of the chairs in the lobby and placed his gun directly on the man’s forehead. “Where’s Mr. Grey?”

“Who?”

“Your boss. The guy who sent you to the park today.”

“I don’t know who you’re talking about.”

Handsome Rob took out his Swiss Army knife and walked closer to the driver. He said, “Your boss is responsible for killing my girlfriend. This is going to be very painful if you don’t tell us where to find him.”

“I don’t know who you’re talking about.”

Handsome Rob placed the knife under the kneecap of the driver’s left knee, gently pushing on this patellar tendon. “You don’t tell me what I need to know, I’m going to jam this sucker in as hard as I can.”

Handsome Rob started to push the knife in when the driver said, “Fifth floor. He’s on the fifth floor. Apartment 531.”

Handsome Rob walked over to the elevator and pressed the UP button. The doors opened with a friendly ding. “Let’s go,” he said.

Nice-Guy Eddie pulled the trigger, splattering the driver’s brains across the wall. “What did you do that for,” said Handsome Rob.

Nice-Guy Eddie walked past him into the elevator and pressed the 5 button. He turned to Handsome Rob and said, “No witnesses.”

The elevator door opened on the fifth floor hallway. They got out and walked to the left; toward apartment 531. Nice-Guy Eddie put his hand on the knob and turned. The door was locked. He nodded to Handsome Rob and took a step back. He kicked the door open and Handsome Rob went in first.

It was a large, open apartment with white walls and a deep red carpet. The door frames and molding were a darkly stained wood. The big screen TV in the living room was tuned to ESPN and glared across the glass coffee table and black leather sofa in front of it. Handsome Rob and Nice-Guy Eddie both smelled something cooking and went into the kitchen.

Mr. Grey was standing over the stove, sautéing some chicken in a lemon butter sauce. He turned his head in Rob and Eddie’s direction and stopped moving when he saw who was there. After the briefest of pauses, he threw the pan directly at Rob’s face, raining scalding butter on him. Grey then dashed out of the kitchen, but Nice-Guy Eddie went back the way he came and cut Grey off in the dining room. He leveled his gun in Grey’s face and said, “Going somewhere?”

Grey stopped and put his hands up at shoulder level. “Listen,” he said, “I don’t know what you want, but I can make it worth your while. I’m a very important man.”

He turned around, but Handsome Rob was standing right behind him. Grey turned back to Nice-Guy Eddie and said, “You know what we want. You tried to kill both of us. Now it’s time for a little retribution.”

“You fucking guys,” said Grey. “You think you could kill me and get away with it? There’s no fucking way. I’m protected from high up. Higher than you can even imagine. Anything happens to me and you’re dead.”

“I don’t take too kindly to someone trying to whack me, but I’m not going to kill you. He is.”

“No hard feelings, huh,” said Grey.

His answer was a punch to the mouth. His two front teeth were knocked loose, and he fell flat on his ass. Handsome Rob growled into his ear, “You killed my girlfriend. I’m going to make you pay for what you’ve done.”

“Fucking guy,” said Grey. “All he cares about is a little pussy. Broads like that are a dime a dozen.”

Handsome Rob shot him in the left knee.

Grey screamed in agony. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”

Handsome Rob walked over to the fallen Grey and put his foot on Grey’s injured knee. He slowly put his entire weight on that one foot.

Grey screamed out again. Handsome Rob turned to Nice-Guy Eddie and said, “Get me something to tie him up with.”

Nice-Guy Eddie returned a moment later with a leather belt. “Best I could find.”

Handsome Rob took the belt, kicked Grey to turn him over, and secured Grey’s hands behind his back. He yanked hard, pulling Grey to his feet. He walked Grey over to a dining room chair and forced him to sit down. Rob said, “We know why you picked Nice-Guy Eddie and the other guy, but why me?”

“Happy coincidence.”

Handsome Rob pistol-whipped him across the mouth. “Try again.”

“No reason.”

Handsome Rob hit him again. “I know you’re lying to me. Tell me the truth!”

Grey looked up at Handsome Rob, blood now pouring from his nose and mouth. “You’ll never find out.”

Handsome Rob hit him again and again, knocking Grey out of the chair. He picked him back up and threw him in the chair again. Nice-Guy Eddie took a step forward, “He’s not going to talk.”

Handsome Rob turned around, “That’s what you think.”

He looked around the room, trying to find something he could use to his advantage. His eyes finally fell on the French doors that lead out to the balcony. He grabbed the chair Grey was sitting on and began to drag it toward the door. He kicked the doors open and spun the chair, sending Grey skittering across the balcony, finally coming to rest at the railing. Handsome Rob threw the chair back inside the apartment and began to advance on Grey. He picked Grey up and threw him over the railing’s edge, holding on to Grey’s belt.

Grey wobbled and kicked his legs, making it harder for Handsome Rob to hold on to him. He said, “Tell me why you picked me.”

“I told you,” said Grey, “it was random. I didn’t know you were going to be there.”

“I don’t know how much longer I can hold you.” Handsome Rob swung Grey around to demonstrate his point. “Tell me the truth or you’re going to be a greasy stain on the sidewalk.”

Traffic rumbled in the distance. A boat in the harbor blew its horn. A pigeon landed on the fire escape across the building. Kids played on a nearby park. Time seemed to stand still. In the quiet spring afternoon, Grey’s voice seemed to melt into the cool breeze that floated through the alley. “All right. Pull me up and I’ll tell you everything.”

Handsome Rob pulled him back into the balcony. He walked Grey over to the large leather sofa and sat him down. Rob sat down on the glass coffee table, face-to-face with Grey. Nice-Guy Eddie took a standing position behind Rob and slightly to his left.

Grey took a deep breath, held it for a second, and let it out slowly. The words began to pour out of him, slowly and calmly. “I told you I’m protected from on high. That’s where the orders came from. I’m just the messenger. You said you already knew, but I’ll start from the beginning.

“I used to do things for the mob. Sort of an independent contractor. I’ve done things for each of the Five Families. Then one day I was approached by a representative of the Russian Mafia, a guy named Boris Zubov. He offered me a position as his right-hand man, if I helped him take over the protection racket on the waterfront. That meant going up against my old employers. I did. And that’s when they put a contract out on me.

“Nice-Guy Eddie probably already told you about that. His ‘associates’ killed my family while I was out with Boris. Getting you to the auction was not personal,” he said, turning his eyes to Nice-Guy Eddie. “I understand that it was only business to you, and you were just following orders.”

Grey turned back to Handsome Rob. “Tawruss, the black guy, is a drug dealer trying to make a name for himself. He has little or no imagination of his own, but that hasn’t stopped him from being a ruthless son of a bitch. He’s trying to take over the drug trade in Harlem. He got most of the other black and Hispanic gangs out of the way by doing burning necklaces, probably something he saw on The Shield. My employers wanted him eliminated before he took complete control.

“And you, Handsome Rob.” Grey paused and smiled a sick little smile. “This was personal. I agreed to take out Nice-Guy Eddie and Tawruss if they let me take you down as well. Jimmy Shrub was my cousin. You murdered him in cold blood.”

“Shrub was a fucking loser,” said Rob. “The only reason I killed him was because he blew our deal. He promised nobody would get hurt. Then he decided to get high and kill a bank manager for no reason. If I didn’t put a bullet in his head, the cops would’ve sooner or later.”

Nice-Guy Eddie chimed in, “So this was all to eliminate the three of us. The case had nothing to do with anything.”

“No,” said Grey. “My employers wanted that case. If I didn’t get it back to them, they were going to kill me. I came up with this plan. It would get them the case back and eliminate two of the thorns in their side at the same time. If I pulled it off, I would’ve had more clout than ever.”

Nice-Guy Eddie said, “Where can we find this Boris Zubov?”

Grey laughed. “I don’t work for the Russians any more. My new employer made sure they were minimized.”

“Then who sent you.”

Grey stared right in Nice-Guy Eddie’s eyes and said slowly and clearly, “Ferrucci.”

“Bullshit.”

A big smile crept across Grey’s face. “You’ve gotten soft. Ferrucci wanted to put you out to pasture. Once you’re out of the way, I am to be his go-to guy.”

Nice-Guy Eddie tore across the room. He shoved his gun into Grey’s mouth and screamed into his ear, “You’re lying. You’re fucking lying.”

“Hey, Eddie. Calm down,” said Handsome Rob. “Listen, even if he’s telling the truth, you can fix this. We get Grey to tell us where the case is, you can return it and be the hero.”

“Where’s the case?” Nice-Guy Eddie said.

“Bedroom,” Grey mumbled.

“Kinda hard to talk with a gun in your mouth, isn’t it? Rob, check the bedroom.”

Handsome Rob went to the bedroom and looked around. The bed was an unmade mess of silk sheets and a black comforter. There was another huge TV mounted to the wall. He didn’t see the case right away, so he started looking under the bed and in the closets. Rob finally found it on the floor of a closet. He picked it up and went back into the living room.

“Got it,” said Handsome Rob.

“Good,” said Nice-Guy Eddie. He pulled the trigger, sending the back of Grey’s skull sailing into the adjacent dining room. Handsome pulled his gun out and pointed it in Nice-Guy Eddie’s face. Eddie responded in kind.

Handsome Rob said, “What about our deal? You said I’d be the one to pull the trigger.”

Nice-Guy Eddie said, “I altered our deal. Live with it.”

“Nobody’s fucking professional any more.”

“I’ve got bigger problems to deal with than your disappointment. You wanted the guy dead, he’s dead. Now we have to solve my problem. Give me the case.”

Handsome Rob put the case on the floor, never taking his eyes off Nice-Guy Eddie’s and never moving his gun. He slid it across the floor and stood back up. Nice-Guy Eddie picked up the case and made a couple steps toward the door.

Handsome Rob said, “I don’t care about your problem. So your boss turned on you. You got rid of the competition, so your job’s safe.”

Nice-Guy Eddie laughed an evil little laugh. “Safe? This isn’t some corporate take-over. I may have gotten Grey, but there are fifty guys out there just like him who would be itching to take over.”

“Then leave the city,” said Handsome Rob. “Just drive away.”

“I can’t do that. No. I have to handle this my way.”

“Are you going to go Keyser Soze and wipe everyone out?”

“Something like that.” Nice-Guy Eddie lowered his weapon and looked into the distance. “You’re right. This is not your problem. It’s something I have to take care of myself. We better get out of here before the cops come.”

Nice-Guy Eddie turned and walked out of the apartment. Handsome Rob lowered his weapon and looked at the lifeless body of Mr. Grey. He then put his Desert Eagle in its spot in the small of his back and turned to the balcony.

He looked out over the alleyway and adjacent buildings. He could hear the hustle and bustle of the city. Life went on around him. But Handsome Rob didn’t know how his could go on without Brenda.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Another Update

Update seems to be a popular post title for me. Work is still going crazy, but I'm making time for writing again. Handsome Rob #3 is finished and I plan to put it up on Monday. Again, there will be a behind-the-story on Wednesday or Thursday.

Working on the second round of edits for PI#2 and I just dropped 400 words and a brief outline of PI#3. From the feedback I got, PI#2 is better than PI#1. PI#3 has even more potential if I can pull it off.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Movie Posters

Another link for today. I came across Premiere's list of the 25 Best Movie Posters. There are a couple in there that I really want to buy right now. Especially the ones for Gilda and Vertigo (seen below).

Know Your POTUS

I came across this cool quiz today. You have 10 minutes to name all 43 Presidents of the United States. When you're done, you can see a breakdown of the percentage of people who remembered that president. I didn't do too bad (36 of 43), but my brother kicked my butt with 41 of 43.

How did you fare?

Monday, July 2, 2007

Quick Update

I can't believe it's been so long since my last post. I had a great follow-up to the AFI one that I hope to post later this week. On the other front, Handsome Rob #3 is about to enter edit mode. The ending is still questionable and there are still some tone things I want to work out. The character of Handsome Rob underwent some changes in this story, but I wonder if they're too dramatic. I always envisioned him has sort of an honorable rogue, but he's doing some things in this one that put him in the vein of Jack Bauer and Vic Mackey. My apprehensions (coupled with this post from KBS) are making me want to tone down the violence a bit. The plan right now is to have edits done and the story posted before I go on vacation at the end of the month.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Bond That Never Was

I came across this interesting article today dealing with Warhead, the Bond move that never was. Bond fans know about the legal battle between Bond producers and writer/director Kevin McClory over the script of Thunderball and some of the characters therein. Because of this, the Bond producers stopped using SPECTRE as villains around For Your Eyes Only. The legal battle provided McClory with the rights to the Thunderball story, but not much else. This lead to the 1982 non-cannon Bond film Never Say Never Again, basically a remake of Thunderball. The new book The Battle For Bond: The Genesis of Cinema’s Greatest Hero by Robert Sellers has now been released and details how close Warhead actually came to being filmed.

After a quick search, I found this posting on CommanderBond.net about the book and this one (also CommanderBond.net) with some never before seen photos.

It doesn't look like the book has been published in the US, but I'll be keeping my eyes out for it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

AFI's Top 100

Once again, it's time for AFI's list of the Top 100 American movies. And once again, Citizen Kane came out on top. I may be a bit biased, my name is WellesFan, but this time around I agree with the ranking. Ten years ago, I hadn't seen Citizen Kane. I thought that Casablanca should've been the top one. Now, I think that Casablanca would be the only film I could accept as taking the #1 spot over Kane.

I know some people may have issues with this list since they can't stand black and white movies, but to me it doesn't matter if it's b&w or color. What matters is the art of the film. Citizen Kane deserves the top spot because it has something for everyone. A great story, rich characters, fantastic performances, and innovative direction by Orson Welles. Not just every scene, but every shot had something extra jammed into it. A lot of this we take for granted now. Shooting from all angles, overlapping dialog, a non-linear story, all this was groundbreaking in 1941. Director/actor Peter Bogdanovich brought up something I hadn't thought about before. Orson Welles, at 25, played the character of Charles Foster Kane from age 25 to age 85. And was believable at every age.

Like I said, Casablanca is the only film I could take over Kane. The direction by Michael Curtiz isn't flashy like Welles, but he allows the words and actions of the characters to tell the story. It has the perfect script and tremendous performances by all the actors, especially the stars Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Any movie that has the likes Claude Raines and Peter Lorre in supporting roles has something going for it.

So even if you don't like old (or black & white) movies, do yourself a favor and watch both Citizen Kane and Casablanca.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Weekend Update

After a brief delay, I've started writing again. I got feedback from an editor friend of mine on PI#1. He caught a couple of the hack writer shortcuts I did, and it was good to see what worked and what didn't work. I sent him PI#2 this morning, so I hope to get feedback fairly quickly.

As for Handsome Rob #3, it's moving along fairly well. I had the structure and the general plot pretty much in my head when I came up with the idea, but actually filling in the gaps was proving to be more difficult. After writing the opening scene, I stalled for about a week and a half. There's a bit more story to go, but right now it sits at 2,271 words. To put that in perspective, The Auction was a lean 2,217 words and The Heist was 2,094. Number Three is shaping up to be on the order of my current word counts. PI#1 is about 5,000 words and PI#2 is about 6,000.

When Rob#3 is finished (hopefully this week), I'll do the same as with the other two. The story will go up on a Monday with a behind-the-story post on Wednesday.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Congrats Ducks!

Last night, the Anaheim Ducks beat the Ottawa Senators to take the Stanley Cup 3 games to 1. Ottawa surprised me this post season with the ease they dispatched both the New Jersey Devils and the top seeded Buffalo Sabres. But, they ran into a brick wall in Anaheim. Anyone who knows me knows that I said the Ducks would be tough this year. Last summer they acquired Chris Pronger and ended up with two of the best defensemen in the league with him and Scott Neidermeyer.

Congratulations Ducks!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Faulkner or Fake?

I stumbled across a site the other day that gives you a dozen sentences and you have to determine if they're actual prose from William Faulkner or a machine translation from German into English. I didn't do too well, but I don't feel bad because an English major I know only got 48% correct. Check it out.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Fixing A Hole in the Ocean

I've been listening to a lot of The Beatles recently. Turns out that today is the 40th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonley Hearts Club Band. I'm sure there'll be a lot of tributes to what many call the greatest rock album of all time. New York's Q104.3 is playing the album in it's entirety starting today at noon. There's a pretty good write-up here and CNN's article is good too. Sgt. Pepper isn't my favorite Beatles album, but it's my favorite of the Beatles ones that are usually ranked in the top 10 of best albums.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

High Priest of Low-Life America

Probably because of his new book, Up in Honey's Room, I've been reading a lot of interviews with Elmore Leonard. He's always fascinating to listen to and has a unique spin on things. There's a good one by Duane Swierczynski done just before the release of Honey's Room. But I stumbled across this one from 2003 that has become one of my favorites. The "Dickens of Detroit" covers more area and a broader set of topics than most interviews you'll see/hear from him.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Funny Pages

As most of you know, The New York Times has been running serialized fiction in their Sunday paper for about a year now. It started off with a 14 part serial by Elmore Leonard - the reason I checked it out. I've sort of wandered in and out, reading Leonard's and Michael Connelly's. For some reason I thought about it the other day and I noticed that a new serial by Ian Rankin had just started. The first two installments have just been published, and they look promising. I encourage everyone to check them out.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Book Review: Memorial Day

I first stumbled across Vince Flynn in 1999 or 2000 with his first Mitch Rapp novel Transfer of Power. Rapp is set up as the CIA's top counter terrorist operative, but a bit of a hothead with a lone wolf streak. Seven books later, Rapp and Flynn are still going strong. I haven't read the sixth or seventh yet, but I just finished Memorial Day (the fifth) and it could be the best of the series since Transfer of Power.

Memorial Day starts out with Rapp interrogating a suspect at a CIA facility in Virginia. Information from this suspect leads to a raid on a meeting of top al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan and the uncovering of a plot to set off a nuclear bomb in Washington, D.C. What follows is the expected: numerous twists and action set pieces in another page-turner from Flynn.

One thing Memorial Day has over the previous installments is the absence of Rapp's wife, Anna Riley. She was an intriguing character in Transfer of Power, her introduction, and it was interesting to see the relationship between her and Rapp grow in The Third Option. But, in the next two books of the series, her purpose seemed to just be a whiny, home front storyline for Rapp. By the end of Executive Power, the fourth Rapp book, I almost completely hated her character.

On to the more artistic side of things, Flynn sparkles yet again. There are long narrative passages throughout the book, but they further the plot instead of being a bunch of hooptedoodle. His pacing is top-notch as well. It was very easy for me to rip through about 100 pages in a sitting, so this 600 page book was finished in less than a week.

Memorial Day and the whole Rapp series are highly recommended. I'll probably order the sixth and seventh books, Consent to Kill and Acts of Treason, over the summer.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Behind The Heist

As I said before, in writing The Auction I came up with additional stories for Handsome Rob and Nice-Guy Eddie. The Heist was written the weekend after The Auction. I already had Handsome Rob and his girlfriend, and I knew it was going to be about how Rob was sent to prison. He needed a partner, and I decided that it should be his fault that Rob got caught on this job. The character of Jimmy Shrub was born. At first, he was going to be a motormouth and a hot head, but the more he kept talking, the more I heard Quentin Tarantino's voice in my head. So, Shrub morphed into a movie-quoting pop culture obsessed pothead.

The other thing I wanted to show was that Handsome Rob, while a crook, was an honorable man. Hence the ending where he saves the hostages.

Still in the beginning stages of writing Handsome Rob #3. So far, the tone is a bit different than the first two. Not sure if I should try to match it, or continue with the way things are going. Though the new tone does seem to match the storyline a bit better.

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Heist

“Have a nice day at work,” said Handsome Rob as he was sipping coffee from his favorite mug. He didn’t have to be up this early in the morning, but he liked to have breakfast with Brenda and see her off to work. She was a marketing coordinator for a small company that sold some kind of fancy widget or something. Rob was never quite sure what her company did, but he knew they paid her well and she enjoyed what she was doing.

“See ya, babe,” Brenda said. “You going to be here when I come home?”

“Maybe,” said Rob, taking another sip from his mug. “I’ve got a couple errands to run.”

This made Brenda frown a little. “Just be careful,” she said. Brenda kissed him on the cheek and rubbed her had across his shoulder. “One of these days you have to get a real job. You know that, don’t you?”

Rob just nodded and took another sip of his coffee as she slipped out of the apartment. His “errand” was the Chase Bank on 14th in Chelsea. She knew he robbed banks, but they never talked about it directly. He was always “running errands” or “making a pickup.” What kind of person would have the nickname “Handsome Rob” other than a criminal?

It’s not that he viewed himself as a criminal; it was just his job to take other people’s money. He followed the old axiom, “find something you’re good at and do it.” And Handsome Rob was one of the best in the business. He’d been robbing banks since he was 18. He never got caught and had never hurt anyone in any of his robberies. He wasn’t flashy with his money and always gave a large portion of the take to local charities (anonymously of course). The Catholic school down the street from the apartment he shared with Brenda was one of the main beneficiaries of his work.

He finished his coffee and moved into the living room to watch the end of Good Morning, America. The weather guy said it was going to be a nice day and sent it back to the studio where Diane Sawyer was talking to some celebrity about some cause they were fighting for this week. In about an hour, Rob would meet Jimmy Shrub at one of the public parks a couple blocks away.

Shrub and Rob had been introduced to each other by Oberg Wyatt, a friend of Rob’s from the projects. Wyatt had been Rob’s partner for the first couple years, but he’d gotten pinched last year on a solo job. Now he was serving 20 years up in the state pen. Rob and Shrub had hooked up on a more permanent basis then, but Shrub wasn’t the professional that Wyatt had been. Always talking too much during the jobs. Bought himself a flashy Escalade after one particularly good heist. There was usually a third member of the crew too, usually some local muscle on a rotating basis. They never got a big cut of the score, but were an insurance policy in case something bad went down. For the Chase job it was a goon named Max.

Rob switched off the TV before Regis & Kelly came on, and grabbed his leather jacket. He went over to the dresser and opened the top drawer. That’s where he kept his favorite weapon: a sliver and black .50cal Desert Eagle. He made sure the clip was full before sliding it into his belt in the small of his back. His jacket nicely covered the bulge. Even if you knew he was carrying a gun, you couldn’t tell it was there.

He pulled the chain across the door as he left, and headed down the stairs. The building’s landlady was sweeping the floor in front of the door to her first floor apartment. “Good Morning, Mrs. Melnitz,” Rob said.

“Good morning, dear.”

“It looks like it’s going to be a nice day today.”

“Oh yes, I just love this time of year,” she said. “By the way, I saw Brenda on her way out this morning. Such a lovely girl. One of these days you’re going to have to marry her.”

“Yes, Mrs. Melnitz,” Rob said with a smile. “Just saving up a little more money. I want to do things right, you know.” Before she could answer, Rob was out the front door. He walked the couple blocks to the park and spotted Shrub’s Escalade near the basketball courts. He got in the front passenger’s seat as usual. Handsome Rob always rode shotgun and the muscle in the back seat. Those were the rules and everyone knew them.

“Alright, let’s do this,” said Shrub. He turned the key and pulled out into the street. Rob thought he looked a bit more jittery than normal. “I saw this great flick last night, man. It was called The Day After Tomorrow. It was awesome, man. It’s about the weather and shit. Like a second ice age, man. It’s like New York got all frozen over and we all had to go to Mexico or something. Really freaky stuff, man. That global warming’s a bitch. Fucking hole in the ozone layer melts the ice caps and we’re all underwater. Shit, man, we gotta protect the environment.”

Apparently he didn’t see the irony of his speech while driving a big-ass Escalade. “Yeah, I saw that one,” said Rob. “It sucked. Sub-par action movie with that environmentalist pseudo-science thrown in to try to make it more interesting.”

“Man, you just don’t get it,” said Shrub. “Hey Grizzly Adams! You see it?”

“Nah,” said Max. That’s pretty much what you can expect to get out of the hired goons. They pulled up in front of the bank and left themselves plenty of room for a getaway.

“Alright, let’s do this,” Shrub said again.

Once inside, Handsome Rob scanned the tellers for a mark. There was a cute redhead at the second window who looked perfect. Rob sauntered up to the counter and leaned on it. “Hi! What can I help you with today?” asked the teller.

Rob looked her in the eye and flashed her his trademark grin. “Good morning, Nicole.” He read her name off the tag she had pinned to her blouse. “Nice day isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is. I’m glad that the rain is gone. It was starting to bum me out,” said Nicole. He could tell she was interested in him. Handsome Rob had a way with women.

“I’m here to make a withdrawal. I want all the money from the drawer, except the bottom bill in each stack. As quickly as you can, please.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You’re being robbed, love,” said Handsome Rob. “Now, if you don’t do what I say, my partner over there is going to blow a hole right through your manager.”

She looked over and saw Max standing very close to her manager. Rob thought he looked like former mayor Rudy Giuliani. “Oh, and don’t trip the silent alarm. OK?”

Nicole nodded and started putting the money from the drawer into one of the deposit bags she had under the counter. Rob could feel the other patrons in the bank start getting antsy, like they knew what was going on.

At that moment, Jimmy Shrub pulled the shotgun from under his jacket and fired it into the ceiling. “Alright, everybody be cool, this is a robbery!”

Shit, he’s quoting Pulp Fiction again, Rob thought. “Don’t mind him,” he said to Nicole. “Just give me the money. I promise nobody will get hurt.”

“Everybody down on the ground,” Shrub said. “Hurry up!”

“Just cool it, bro. Everything’s under control,” Rob said.

“Shit! Cops,” said Max.

“Alright, everyone in the middle of the room on the floor,” Shrub barked.

Handsome Rob went over to hold the door as Nicole and the other tellers came out from behind the counter. “Don’t worry. Just keep quiet and stay calm. We’ll all be out of here soon. Nobody’s going to get hurt.”

The phone started to ring. They all knew it was the cops. “They work fast,” said Shrub.

Rob answered it. “Live from the Crime Scene.”

“This is Detective Stone of the NYPD. Who am I talking to?”

“Come on, detective. You know we’re not stupid enough to give you names.”

“Alright, if you put down your weapons and come out now we won’t charge you with taking hostages. You know as well as I do what the outcome of this is going to be if you dick around with us.”

“Ah, a cop I like. Tell you what. Why don’t you give us a couple minutes to talk about it and we’ll get back to you?” Rob hung up the phone.

“Shit. Shit. Shit. This is bad, man,” said Shrub. “There’s like 10 cars out there, man. How the fuck did they get here so fucking fast?”

“Just calm down. We’ve got to plan our next move,” said Handsome Rob.

“This is fubar, man. You know: Fucked up beyond all recognition?” Rob noticed a crazy look in Shrub’s eyes. He was more jittery now than he was in the car.

“Dude, are you high?”

“I always toke a little before a job, man,” said Shrub. “It calms me down. I think one of these fuckers hit the silent alarm. It was you wasn’t it?”

He grabbed the manager by the scruff of his neck and dragged him away from the group. Shrub threw him violently against one of the desks and pointed his shotgun right at the manager’s chest.

“Hey! Hey! Calm down,” said Rob.

“This fucker hit the alarm. I’m going to blow his fucking head off,” said Shrub.

“Am I the only professional here? If you kill him, the cops’ll rush this place and they’re going to shoot to kill.” By this time, Rob had his gun out from the small of his back.

“You always talk about being a professional,” said Shrub. “I think you’re just a fucking pussy.”

“You promised me no one would get hurt,” said Rob.

“Well,” said Shrub. “Shit happens.” He pulled the trigger and blew a wide hole through the bank manager’s chest, killing him instantly. A few seconds later, the bank lobby was filled with the sound of shattering glass. The door was kicked in and blue-suited policemen started piling in. Jimmy Shrub and Max took up positions behind one of the desks in the middle and prepared to shoot it out with the cops. Handsome Rob looked at the body of the bank manager, then over at the hostages. He caught Nicole’s eyes and felt her fear. He knew what he had to do.

Rob raised his Desert Eagle and fired two rounds into the back of Jimmy Shrub’s head, blowing it clean off his shoulders. Max turned around with a stunned look on his face. “Shit happens,” said Handsome Rob. He put two more rounds into Max’s chest.

The cops froze just inside the door, not sure what to make of the scene. Rob slowly put his gun on the floor and slid it away from himself. He put his hands behind his head, interlocking his fingers, and got down on his knees.

**********

The trial was quick. The city charged him with armed robbery, no charges for the hostages, accessory to murder of the bank manager, or killing his two partners. Rob had pled guilty to all counts and didn’t make his public defender work very hard. Brenda came every day to watch. Most of the patrons, Nicole, and the first cop through the door, Sgt. Ray Archlend, all testified on his behalf. The judge was stern, but took into account his killing of his partners into consideration during the sentencing phase. He got ten at a prison upstate, with parole available after five years. Rob had no plans to appeal the sentence.

Brenda stopped him at the railing as the bailiffs were leading him out of the courtroom. “I love you,” she said and kissed him on the lips.

“I know,” Rob said. He wished he could give her a hug, but his hands were cuffed behind his back. He kissed her on the forehead instead.

“I’ll be waiting for you,” said Brenda.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Quick Note

The Auction's sequel, titled The Heist, will be published in this space on Monday. Later in the week, I'll post a second story behind the story.

In other news, I'm finishing up the second short story starring the PI I created here. The first draft is about 5800 words. I know I want to go back and flesh out the opening a bit more, so it'll be 6000 or more when finished. I also cheated a bit and started working on the third story starring Handsome Rob (star of The Auction and The Heist).

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Marvel vs. DC

Here are some pretty funny parodies of the "I'm a Mac and I'm a PC" commercials. Watch and laugh.



Thursday, April 26, 2007

It's a Library Kinda Thing

A couple months ago, I happened across a cool new site. It's called LibraryThing. Basically, it's a way to catalog all your books online as well as see other people's libraries. One of the neat features is after you put a couple books in, it starts showing you other people's libraries and the number of books you have in common. There are some groups and a bit of a social networking aspect of the site that I haven't fully explored yet.

There's also a unique feature called "UnSuggester". Unsuggester takes "people who like this also like that" and turns it on its head. It analyzes the books members have recorded as owned or read, and comes back with books least likely to share a library with the book you suggest. Some of the results are pretty accurate, but some are a little funny. For example, I entered the name of Ronald Reagan's autobiography. It returned Stupid White Men by, Michael Moore. Makes sense. But some of the other results are books from the Harry Potter series, Necromancer, Bridget Jones, and Memoirs of a Geisha.

Check it out.

Monday, April 23, 2007

VT Shooting and Hope

It's been about a week since the shootings at Virginia Tech. I normally don't think much about news events such as this, but I came across something rather interesting. During times such as these, a lot of people turn to their churches for guidance and consolation. What I'm going to give you is a pair of prayers released from different Christian denominations. First is the prayer from the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod:

Gracious Father in heaven, You know the shock and sorrow that have resulted following the deaths of 33 students and faculty at Virginia Tech. We are helpless before the evil that afflicts us and therefore cry out to You for comfort, shelter, and protection. Mercifully embrace the frightened in Your love, empower the weak with Your strength, restrain the wicked by Your might, and preserve and comfort the righteous in Your grace, giving us Your peace and turning tragedy to triumph. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

And the second from the United Methodist Church:

The bullets ripped their flesh, and tear our souls, Lord God. Flashing from nowhere, unseen, unforeseen, perhaps unforeseeable, lives of promise ended, others mangled by hot steel and the shrapnel lodged in hearts too stunned to cry. How long, O Lord? How long? And for the shooter, Lord, Forgive. What break in heart, or mind, or flesh moved, possessed, demanded him to stalk these down like prey? We cringe, paralyzed before the mystery of evil. We open our mouths, and join the silence of the disbelieving. Hear us, Lord. Heal us, Lord. Grant them, and us, your peace. Amen.

Blogger Seth Zirkle examined both these prayers with the theology of the cross in mind. "A theology of the cross seeks the beauty of God's grace in the bloody agony of Christ's suffering. At the very least it recognizes that man ... is stained with his fallen nature and Christ's blood; it realizes that even in the face of suffering there is good. And not just any good, but Christ, the ultimate Good. Truly a development of Luther's Deus absconditus, his hidden God, a theology of the cross stands in stark contrast to a theology of glory which goes to the cross once and walks away on the road of the good life in Christ."

I would never have been as eloquent as that. Even as a Missouri Lutheran myself, I probably wouldn't have thought of looking at it through a theology of the cross if not for Seth's comments. What was most striking to me was the hope expressed by the Lutheran prayer contrasted with the near despair of the Methodist prayer.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Behind The Auction

Here's the story behind the story of The Auction. The story was written in response to the second White/Quertermous blog project. The objective was to write a story up to 3,000 words involving an object that is either sold at or taken to a police auction. This one clocks in at a mean 2,733 words. It was one of my first attempts at getting back into the writing game. The story came to me exactly as written; a swirling, back-and-forth piece that shows what happens at the auction and how all the players got there.

In the process, I started to have feelings toward two of the characters: Handsome Rob and Nice Guy Eddie. There was an idea floating around in my head of two prequels. One that explains how Nice Guy Eddie got his name. One that shows Handsome Rob and Brenda before Rob got sent to prison. So, the weekend after I wrote The Auction, I wrote the Handsome Rob prequel (which should be posted in this space in the next week or two). The structure of the first piece felt a lot like a Quentin Tarantino movie, but the prequel was more of a standard story. Though I did add a character who is a motormouth and spoke his dialog in my head with QT's voice.

Re-reading these stories gave me another idea for Handsome Rob. After I put the finishing touches on my current WIP, at least 1000 more words to go, I may swing back to the further adventures of Handsome Rob.

I never did write the Nice Guy Eddie story, and probably never will.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Auction

“Everybody be cool. You! Be cool!” Handsome Rob felt far from cool. He was at a police auction with his silver .50 cal Desert Eagle pointed at some serious looking guys. One of them, the Italian one, had his gold and nickel plated .45 pointed at a black man dressed all in black, but his eyes were on Rob. The black guy had a black Glock pointed right at Rob’s head. This sort of thing wasn’t supposed to happen at a police auction. Where the hell were the cops?

**********

Brenda moaned and rolled over. Her tanned skin covered with a fine sheen of sweat. “It hasn’t been that good in a while, baby,” she said.

Handsome Rob smiled and blew a stream of satisfied air out of his nostrils. “I’ve missed you,” he said and kissed her forehead.

“What do you want to do this weekend?” she asked him. Rob just smiled and put his hand on her naked hip, pulling him closer to him. “I mean besides that. I got a flyer in the mail today about a police auction tomorrow morning. You know, where they sell of all kinds of stuff that they confiscate. Boats. Cars. China. Luggage. All that stuff.”

Rob got out of bed, put on his boxers, and lit a cigarette. “Oh, come on. I just got out of prison a month ago. Spending a Saturday morning with a bunch of cops is not my idea of a nice weekend. Seeing that prick parole officer of mine twice a week is bad enough.”

“Oh, come on, baby. It’ll be fun,” Brenda said.

“We’ve got different ideas of fun.” Rob took a deep drag on his cigarette. “All a man needs is a good beer, a good steak, and a good screw. Why should I go?”

“If you do this for me, I’ll do something nice for you.” She gave him a very seductive smile.

“Oh, yeah?” Rob stubbed out his cigarette and climbed back into bed.

The next morning Rob and Brenda went to the auction. She had made him wear a button down shirt and a pair of Dockers. He felt like such a squarejohn, but she said it made him look respectable. She said it would show those cops that he was a good guy and they should back off.

Being fresh off a stretch, Rob scanned the other people in the crowd when they walked in. Probably out of reflex, looking for someone who might want to stick a shiv in him. He and Brenda got a seat to the left of the center isle, a couple rows back from the front. Most of the people there were standard law-abiding citizen types. There were two Hispanics sitting in the front row, a Mafia-looking Italian guy, and a black guy dressed all in black leather. He noticed Handsome Rob looking at him and slightly nodded his head while not taking his eyes of Rob. Rob nodded back, the universal prison greeting. That guy must have put in a nickel or at least has hung out with lots of criminals, Rob thought to himself. In the back corner, there was a guy in a suit and a Yankee baseball cap. “Some people have no fashion sense,” Brenda said.

Rob smiled and kissed her on the forehead. So he sat there bored for an hour or so while they auctioned off a bunch of junk. Neither he nor Brenda bid on anything.

“Why are we here if you’re not buying anything?” Rob whispered into her ear.

“Because it’s fun.” Brenda wasn’t going to have an argument about it. “Oh, that looks nice. Why don’t you bid on it?”

Rob looked at the next item up for bid. It was an average sized silver Samsonite briefcase. “Why would I need that?”

“Because when you go on job interviews, you’ll look professional,” Brenda said.

“Why would anyone hire me? I’m just an ex-con with no skills,” said Rob.

“Just buy the damn thing, baby.”

“Fifty bucks!” Rob looked at who placed the bid. Over to his right, about a row or two in front of him was the Italian looking guy.

“Seventy-five,” said Rob. Brenda just smiled at him.

“One hundred,” said the Italian guy.

“You could buy a new one for that much,” Rob said to Brenda. She gave him a look that said go for it. “One twenty-five,” he said.

“One fifty!” It was the black guy this time. What did he want the case for?

“Two hundred!” said the Italian guy. This was moving very fast.

“Too rich for my blood,” said Rob. Before he knew it the black guy and the Italian guy were shouting out numbers right after the other had just closed his mouth. The price jumped up to over one thousand dollars.

“What kind of person would pay over one thousand dollars for a crummy briefcase?” Rob quietly asked Brenda. She had a look on her face that showed she didn’t know what was going on either.

“Yo! Don’t make me bust a cap in your ass, boy!” The black guy had just stood up and was staring down the Italian guy.

“Settle down, homey! That’s my fucking case!” The Italian guy now stood up and turned toward the black man.

“I ain’t your homey, honky. Now sit yourself down!” He pulled a black gun out from under his black leather jacket and pointed it at the Italian guy. The people around him scattered and the Italian guy pulled out a gold and sliver gun from his jacket. They pointed their guns at each other, neither one saying anything or even blinking.

Where the hell are the cops? Rob thought. He moved to put himself between Brenda and the two guys with guns. The auction room had emptied out except for him and Brenda, the Italian guy, the black guy, and the auctioneer cowering behind the podium in front. “All right, why don’t we all just calm down. It’s just a stupid briefcase,” Rob said.

The Italian guy turned his head toward Handsome Rob, but kept his gun trained on the black man. The black guy swung around staring right at Rob with his gun pointed right at Rob’s head. “Who are you? You think you’re some kind of hero, bitch? How ‘bout I kill you, kill this other motherfucker, and take that briefcase myself?”

Rob pulled out his Desert Eagle from the small of his back and said, “Everybody be cool. You! Be cool!”

Brenda was now standing behind him and he heard an angry whisper in his ear, “You brought a gun to a police auction?”

**********

The black guy’s name was Tawruss. The night before, he was hanging out in his apartment watching some TV. Today was a good day, he thought. Sold some weed to some cracker high school kids. Got a beep from Kim, and she can fuck all night. Nothing left to do but sit back, smoke some weed, and watch a movie.

He was just rolling a joint when this cell phone rang, “’Sup?”

“Yo, T-Dawg! What’s happening, brother?” It was Smokey. Smokey was his supplier. Anything he needed (weed, crank, heroin) he could get from Smokey. There was no drug he couldn’t get his hands on.

“Nothing, Smokey. Just about to get high and watch a flick.”

“Cool. Which one?”

“I dunno. Maybe Foxy Brown. I love that flick.”

“I know, man. Pam Grier is fine,” Smokey said. “Listen, you wanna do a job for me tomorrow?”

“What is it?”

“Well, there’s this police auction…”

“Aw, hell, Smokey! You want me to hang out with a bunch of cops?”

“Chill, man. The cops don’t know half the shit you’ve done and the other half they can’t pin on you. You’re golden, man. You see, I got this hot tip. There’s this case they’ve got that I hear has the finest horse in North America inside it. Cops don’t know what they’ve got! I figure you buy it, bring it to me, we do a little, then sell it.”

“Buy heroin from cops? That’s some funny shit,” Tawruss said.

“Oh, and get this,” said Smokey. “It’s lot 420!”

“Priceless! Alright, man, I’ll do it.”

The next morning Tawruss got up and got dressed. He thought he’d have fun and play the stereotypical black man and try to screw with the white folks at the auction. He wore black shoes, black socks, black pants, black turtleneck, black leather jacket, even black underwear. At the auction, he sat in the back row all the way to the right. After a while, there was some guy that came in wearing a blue button down shirt and tan pants. He looked like every other person here, but his eyes where hard. He gave the white guy a nod, and he nodded back. Must be some ex-con, Tawruss thought.

He waited through all the crap at the auction, vases, paintings, other junk that nobody would ever have use for. Then the auctioneer said, “Up next, lot 420! A sliver briefcase found during a raid two months ago. Contents: unknown. We’ll start the bidding at $50. Do I have fifty?”

“Fifty,” shouted some guy a couple rows in front of Tawruss.

“Seventy-five,” said con-man.

“One hundred,” said the first guy.

Con-man said something to the girl next to him. “One twenty-five.”

I gotta get into this. “One fifty!” Tawruss said.

“Two hundred.” “Two fifty.” “Three hundred.” This is getting out of control, thought Tawruss. The bidding kept climbing higher and higher until Tawruss decided to take matters into his own hands, “Yo! Don’t make me bust a cap in your ass, boy!”

**********
Nice-Guy Eddie loved to walk down Spring Street this time of year. The weather was warm, but not too hot. All the young girls where wearing revealing clothes. Restaurant owners where standing outside their shops yelling, “Fresh home-made pastas! We got fresh home-made pastas!”

I love Little Italy, Eddie thought to himself. He decided to eat at Da Nico’s tonight. He decided on the Chicken Toscana with a bottle of Tuscan Codirosso. He was just settling in when his phone rang. “Yeah?”

“Nice-Guy Eddie. I’ve got a job for you.” It was a voice he didn’t recognize.

“Who is this?”

“I’m an acquaintance of Mikey Ferrucci,” said the voice.

“Yeah? What do you want?”

“We need you to get a package. Tomorrow morning they’ll be an auction down by the East River. There’s a silver briefcase we need you to buy. Lot 420.”

“Yeah? What’s so special about this particular case? Why don’t you go buy a new one?”

“It’s not the case. There’s a lot of money inside. It belongs to Mikey Ferrucci and he wants it back. Price is no object.”

“Yeah, you got it.” Eddie hung up and dug into his dinner. He’s not the kind of guy to ask questions when it comes to Mikey Ferrucci. Nice-Guy Eddie also wasn’t the type of guy to get nervous around cops. All orders from above him in the family came indirectly and all the orders he gave were indirect. He also knew how to bribe cops so they stayed bribed.

Eddie showed up at the auction after it had started. There was no reason for him to hang around while the cops auctioned off vases and paintings. He knew his item wouldn’t be among the first. The crowd seemed like your typical crowd for one of these things. The only people that stood out where two Latinos, a black guy in the back, and a bigger guy in the corner wearing a suit and a Yankees cap. He looked like he might be one of Mikey’s guys, but there was no reason for him to be checking up on Eddie.

They were on lot 400, so it would be only a little while longer until the briefcase was up. Out of the corner of his eye, Eddie noticed a good looking young woman. She had a nice tan, probably had some Sicilian blood in her, silky black hair, and her tan dress of thin woolen stuff clung to her with an effect of dampness. Decent rack too. I wouldn’t mind getting a piece of that, Eddie thought.

The girl turned to talk to the man next to her. He looked like her boyfriend or something. At that moment, the auctioneer said, “Lot 420.”

Eddie didn’t pay attention to the rest of what he said, and as soon as the auctioneer closed his mouth Eddie said, “Fifty!”

“Seventy-five,” said the boyfriend. He’ll drop out if the price gets too high.

“One hundred,” said Eddie.

“One twenty-five,” said the boyfriend.

“One fifty,” said the black guy. Eddie had forgotten about him. Another one I have to deal with. But, the man said money is no object.

**********

Handsome Rob was standing right in front of Brenda, shielding her from the view of Tawruss and Nice-Guy Eddie. Rob said, “Everybody be cool. You! Be cool!”

She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. These two guys were bidding up a stupid silver briefcase to a ridiculous amount, and then they pulled guns on each other. To make matters worse, Rob had to step in. “You brought a gun to a police auction?” she said. “How stupid are you? Carrying a concealed weapon? They could put you back in for that.”

“Calm down,” Rob said. “Listen, if shit starts going down I want you to stay low and find something big and heavy to hide behind. Got it?”

Brenda just nodded her head. Before she knew what had happened, all three guys started firing their guns. Brenda ran and hid behind the platform where the items up for auction were being kept. She peaked out from behind the corner to see what was happening to Rob. Bullets where flying everywhere. All three of them were diving behind chairs and tables and running around just like in a John Woo flick.

You and your bright ideas, she thought. Come on. What can be more fun than a police auction? Shit. Shit. Shit. Where are the cops?

**********

In the alley behind the auction hall, the guy in the suit and Yankee cap waited behind a dumpster. When he saw Tawruss challenge Nice-Guy Eddie, he knew everything had gone according to his plan. It was so simple. Just 48 hours before, he found out that his briefcase was going up for auction. There was no way he could go to the cops and claim it, or even bid on it at the auction itself. The cops were looking for him for something he had done a while back. He devised a plan to get his case back and get rid of some thorns in his side at the same time.

Tawruss and Nice-Guy Eddie were the easiest. All he had to do was convince Smokey that the case was full of heroin. When that guy was high, you could show him a picture of Pauly Shore and convince him that it was Martin Luther King, Jr. Then he just had to remember which family Eddie did most of his work for. He took a guess at Mikey Ferrucci and hit the jackpot.

Handsome Rob was the icing on the cake. He didn’t have any direct connection with Rob, and had heard that he was trying to go straight after getting out of prison. He checked around and found out that Rob was living with some girl named Brenda. All he had to do was create a fake flyer advertising the auction and put it in the mailbox. That stupid broad did the hard part.

The guy in the Yankee cap allowed himself a brief chuckle over how well things worked out. A door to the hall opened about ten feet away from him. Out stepped a skinny kid carrying the briefcase. “Here you go, Mr. Grey.”

“So what happened with the stand-off?” Grey asked.

“Um. I didn’t stick around. I think someone got shot. The cops showed up and I just booked.”

Grey took the case and handed the kid a wad of bills. He then turned to leave. The kid said, “What’s inside? Aren’t you going to open it?”

Grey turned his head and said, “Kid, one rule if you want to stay alive in this business: never look inside.”