Lou Pine

In spite of my wasting time at Cicero the FM jock's studio, I had managed to book some pretty good bucks for the night. I hung around the train station hoping to pick off a live one or two in town for late night festivities and picked up a car load of sailors from the big naval base just across the state line and hauled them around town to a few after hours places who weren't picky about checking IDs or keeping legal hours and by the time the sun broke over the lake signaling a new day they were drunk, happy and a few of them had even gotten laid. I hauled them back down to the base and got a forty dollar tip for the effort and as an extra added bonus no one had puked in my cab. By the time I got dropped off at home by the day time hack who replaced me I was beat, but not too beat to crack a cold beer and sit down in front of my magnum opus and take a good long look at what I had done. I drank the beer, stared at the painting, got up for a second beer, cracked that and stared again. There was something missing, and it was starting to gnaw at me but I couldn't put my finger on it and it was pissing me off so I went into the kitchen and fetched a third beer out of the 'fridge only this time also poured myself two fingers of Ten High whiskey in the old Smuckers jelly jar I used for a tumbler, tossed in a couple of ice cubes and sat in front of my painting again, sipping, chugging, staring and trying to figure what the hell was missing. There was a hole in it somewhere, but damned if I could see it. I felt like some long-ago archaeologist staring at a wall full of brightly painted hieroglyphics wondering what the hell it all meant, if it meant anything at all and I was the goddamned artist who painted the goddamned thing, for crying out loud.


It was just then that I remembered the papers Cicero the FM jock had given me earlier and fished them out of my pocket. His handwriting, like his on-air patter, was frenetic and it took me a few minutes to get the hang of it but once I did I breezed through the truncated paragraphs.

Johnny Jump- nothing slips by this guy, and if your friend Tank's murder was something more than just a random act of violence he'd know who did it, and why. Read his bio because if you do bump against him you're going to need to know this shit. By the way, nobody knows this about this guy except yours truly, and now you, so keep it under your hat and remember that no one knows like Cicero knows. Good luck and rock on dude.

I read on:

As soon as Luigi Antonio Domenico Pignoli turned eighteen years of age, he changed his name to “Louis Pine,” and fled his parents’ home in Brooklyn and moved to  Chicago to carve his own place in the world. He found that place in a small factory city north of Chicago, first laboring in a small machine shop, saving every penny he could, buying out his boss and then investing the profits from the machine shop in rental property. He subsequently sold the machine shop at a handsome profit, incorporated his rental property business and became one of the largest property holders in the city. He then used his burgeoning profits from his real estate holdings to bankroll a run for political office. He became first an alderman, then City Council President. Local political insiders knew that Lou Pine had a state senate seat in his crosshairs, and then perhaps the Governor’s chair. A resident of the city for nearly thirty years, no one  knew much about Lou Pine’s past. His political rivals (And there were many) couldn’t really dig up much dirt on him, so successful had been his efforts to mask his plebian immigrant roots. He remained a mystery, and the most powerful political force in the city. And state power brokers were beginning to take notice. The congressman of the district had recently been making infrequent (and unannounced) visits to Lou Pine’s home on the hill on the western edge of the expanding city. Lou Pine  had responded with a substantial check to the congressman’s re-election campaign. The people who counted were beginning to notice Lou Pine, and that attention fueled his massive ego.

PS: a word of caution. If you fuck with this guy, expect him to fuck back, and hard, so be very careful.

I thought about that one for a while, then noticed a second postscript nearly lost at the bottom of the second page:

What did you really know about your friend Tank? Do you know who he was or where he came from? Do you know how he made his money and paid his rent? Think about it.

I let the paper slip from my hand, pondering Cicero's last postscript. What did I know about Tank really, except the stories he'd told me? If he had worked for a living I didn't know where, nor had I ever thought to ask. I had met him years ago, when I was set to go to 'Nam, lost track of him and then this past year he had come back into my life. Why? Was it serendipity, or had it been planned? And if it was planned who in the hell planned it why in the hell had they done it?

Too many questions, and not enough answers. Something poked me from behind and I jerked around in surprise and found myself staring down the barrel of a gun. I recognized it, and the face behind it.

"It needs a smile," said Cat Dupree.

"What?" I replied, my voice high-pitched, cracking feminine in my startled reply.

Using her gun as a pointer she gestured, "Your painting. It needs a smile."

I looked at the gun, then back at my painting and then back to the gun again. Things were beginning to get out of control. I felt that once again my life was slipping out of my hands and I was being directed by some unseen force that required me to open doors I didn't want to open and enter some alternative universe peopled by dark shadows baring jagged teeth.

And I was the one who was going to get bitten.


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