(Patti Abbot issued a flash fiction challenge based on a photo and a name. The photo disappeared, but the name remains: Frank, Jr. I immediately thought of a famous Frank, Jr. who had himself a bad three-day stretch in late 1963. And it might have sounded a little like this.)
“Listen, Johnny, why am I here?”
They stood outside room 417, the snow fall blanketing Reno with an early December coating.
“I thought you and I were here for forty grand,” said Johnny, a skinny 25-year-old kid sitting.
Joe, the older sad-eyed man leaning against the railing, took out a Lucky and lit it. “I mean what’s my job?”
“You just sound tough when Barry gets the old man on the phone.”
“He’s had the old man on the phone. And he’s doing all the talking.” He offered a cigarette to Johnny. “The kid’s insane, you know.”
“Barry. Junior can see what this is. We’re amateurs. You think Junior don’t know amateurs? You know who the old man’s closest pals are?”
“Sammy and Dino?”
“Try Sammy and Jack, as in Giancana and Kennedy. The old man can bring heaven and hell down on our heads any time he wants.”
Johnny laughed. “In case you hadn’t noticed, Jack Kennedy died a couple of weeks ago. There was something about it in the newspapers.”
Joe took a drag on his cigarette and held it for a few before release a tremendous cloud of smoke from his lungs. “All I’m saying is this is nothing we should be mixed up in. The old man’s got clout on both sides of the law. If G men don’t have us breaking rocks in Leavenworth, some of those Chicago guys will just make us disappear.”
“You having second thoughts, Joe?”
Johnny shoved his hands in his pockets. “Look, Barry’s got problems. He lost all his cash. His wife dumped him. His back is killing him.”
“He eats percodan like candy and hears voices in his head.” He threw away the cigarette. “He’s worse than his old man.”
“That’s right,” said Johnny. “You used to date his mother.”
“She was a nice piece of ass, a little dim, but great in the sack.”
“Barry know you had his mom?”
“Do I care?”
“Look, this is a hare-brained scheme, and you know it. We were supposed to nab Junior in LA, but the kid got cold feet.”
“We’d have done it two weeks ago, but they whacked the president on national television.”
“Thought you said it was in the papers.”
Johnny looked at Joe confused.
Joe laughed. “You know why he finally went ahead with it this week?”
“Because it was time?”
“Because we don’t have enough money to pay for our hotel. We need the ransom just to pay for our fucking room. Christ, Johnny, we had to borrow gas money from Junior in there. And do you see that smirk on his face every time we talk? He ain’t scared of us. He knows we’re amateurs.”
“Barry’ll get the money. Barry’s good with money.”
“Then why did he lose it all? And another thing, what if the old man won’t pay? You gonna shoot Junior?”
Johnny didn’t have an answer to that.
“Well?” When all Johnny did was look away, Joe said, “That’s what I thought. See, I killed people. Only it was in Korea. They were Koreans. Armed Koreans, not some peasant trying to scratch out a living in field. Only reason I killed them was they were shooting at me. Since I got out of the Army, I ain’t shot anyone. Only Koreans I see own a grocery store down the street.”
“Barry will get the money.”
“If he doesn’t, do you think it’s worth the gas chamber?”
Johnny seemed to be shaking and pulled his jacket tighter around himself. “You got a smoke?”
Joe shook out a Lucky for him and offered him a light. “So what about it? I didn’t sign on to kill nobody. I sure as hell don’t want to be on the wrong end of the old man’s wrath if we have to kill him.”
“We’re not killing Junior.”
“You don’t know that. For all you know, the woods are crawling with Feds while two Vegas shooters are down in the lobby waiting for us.”
“Look, are you in or out?” said Johnny. “If you’re out, just go.”
Before Joe could respond, the door opened. The clean-cut blonde kid with a crew-cut poked his head outside. “Sinatra just called. He’s paying. Joe, go to the drop and get the money. Johnny, I need you to take Junior home as soon as we count the cash.”
Inside, Frank Sinatra, Jr. shook his head, laughed, and went back to his game of solitaire.