“Yo,” Tank Top Tony said. They were in Tony’s Bensonhurst apartment, third floor brownstone. “Like I told ya. The best shit around.”
Joey threw his arm up, fist clenched, the twenty-one inch bicep popping. He admired it as if it were some object separate from his own body. “Cause I ain’t never made gains like this. Not even with growth.”
“Hell yeah, bro,” Tony said. “The Russians makin this shit in some lab. From scratch.”
“Cool,” Joey laughed, said, only half-kidding. “Make sure you throw an extra box in there, huh?”
“No friggin way.” Tony counted the last of twenty boxes of myovar. Each box was slightly smaller than a pack of cigarettes, held three glass vials, each vial containing two cc’s of myovar. “These guys’re all over me.”
“Man, I’d kill for the recipe. Specially with all the shows coming up.” Joey swung both arms up, hitting a double bi shot. Checking himself out in the full-length mirror on Tony’s closet door. “Shit’s expensive, bro.”
Tony shrugged. “The fuck you want me to do? Get yourself a gay-ass sponsor.”
“Yeah right, man.” Joey said. “I got a better idea.”
“Can’t wait.” Tony lifted the cardboard box loaded with myovar off his bed, put it on the hardwood floor against the radiator under the window.
“Dude. You know these guys. Where the lab is. Hook me up. You don’t have to do a thing.”
“Fuck no.” Tony raised a blender full of frothing white liquid to his mouth, took a swig. “They find out, I’m a dead man.”
“Tell me where it is. How to get in. I do it myself. No one else involved to screw it up. I get caught it’s only me -- Gimme a sip a that shit.”
Joey pulled a long swallow from the glass pitcher, taking his time.
“I don’t know man. Don’t sound too good.”
“Come on.” Joey rested the pitcher on the wood dresser top, smoothed back his hair. “I make it look like a big job. Looking for money, the whole thing. They’ll think it was a bigger job than it is. Just get me in.”
Tony reached, plucked a box of myovar from the pile on the bed, twirled it around his fingers.
“I gotta win that show. Tony baby, whattaya say?”
“Why should I risk it?”
“One paisan to another.”
Tony shook his head. “You’re Sicilian. My family’s from up North.”
Tony took a deep breath. Started stuffing boxes of myovar into Joey’s gym bag, staring ahead hard.
Joey leaned on the dresser, regarded Tony.
The D train to Coney Island screeched the elevated subway tracks three blocks away. They waited for it to pass.
“Queens,” Tony said finally. “And I don’t know you. We never talk again.”
“Serious?” Joey said, shit-eating grin on his mug. “Fuckin A.”
“I’ll give you the security code, the time to go. Directions. It’s over by the Queensbourough Bridge.”
Joey spun to the mirror with a grin, fists on hips, hit a lat spread, back flaring like wings. He released, slapped Tony on the back. “The fuck is your name again?”
Joey cruised the BQE north from Bensonhurst in his white 78 Corvette, held the wheel steady, rode the speed limit, which was unusual. The flickering Manhattan skyline to his left always got him revved up. It was 2 am. He was in game mode -- just like a contest.
He checked the directions scribbled on a piece of paper, then tossed it to the passenger seat, thinking the whole score should be quick and easy. After all, he knew the code and where the shit was stored. He knew Saturdays were the one night operations shut down early at the lab, giving people a chance to enjoy themselves for a change. The lab should’ve been empty for hours by now.
He looped onto the LIE and headed west a short distance, toward Manhattan. He got off on Van Dam Street in Sunnyside, Queens. He crawled along 31st Street, crossing over 48th Avenue, digging the hum of the engine. Navigated his way through empty backstreets, mostly factories and storage places, finally finding the street.
He drove the length of the block, wanting to drive by for a look, nothing too obvious. He spotted the address, a freestanding building next to a carpet warehouse.
Joey read the sign out front, Cytoheme Inc.. Trying to come off as a real lab. Right. Supposed to be a place for standard blood work, pathology and routine lab tests. Joey grinned as he rolled by.
He parked the car two blocks away, walked, an empty gym bag slung over his shoulder.
He punched the security code at the back door, thinking this was so easy, candy from a baby. He’d get himself stacks of delicious myovar. He’d be good for a year, maybe two. Hell, the Russians might not even notice any missing if there was as much in the joint as Tony said.
The door sprung open right on cue. He glanced around, stepped in, gently closed the door. He was in a small anteroom, a place to hang coats, drop shit off he guessed. There was another door in front of him, just like Tony said.
He opened it, peeked in. It looked like the business end of the operation, but smelled like a doctor’s office. Even though it was dark he could tell there were desks, computers, cabinets and some bookshelves. Just like Tony said. He stepped in, let the door click shut, dropped the bag on a table.
And that’s when the lights blinded him.
It took a second for his vision to clear. Wouldn’t you know it. There was Tony standing in the center of the room, smirking, three other guys with him. Two of the guys fisted black shiny pistols.
Joey took a breath, felt some adrenaline kick in. Figured, dang, all I did was stroll in. I didn’t take nothing yet. I’ll tell em Tony was just foolin around. A gag.
“Tony,” Joey said. “What the fuck, bro?”
“Tell em we were just fuckin around, bro. You dared me to come, right? I said, no way. I wasn’t gonna steal nothing. Tell em, man.”
“Joey Joey Joey.” Tony shook his head. “You’re a dumb fuck. Always were.”
“The heck you talking about? Tell these guys who I am.”
The serious looking guy in a suit stepped forward, cigarette dangling from his lips. “No. Let me tell you who I am.” The cigarette fell to the floor, mashed it. “Stanko Vasilev. This is my lab you apparently stumbled into. I am the owner and founder of this great company. I make myovar. Lots of it. I understand you like my myovar, yes?”
“Yeah.” Joey relaxed a bit. This wasn’t sounding too bad. Yet. “The shit is great Mr. what? Vatsolef? Yeah, the shit is the bomb and I love it. That’s why I came here. I’m fuckin crazy about it. The best shit ever. I was just out of my mind. Crazy. Don’t know what got into me. I apologize, sir.”
“I see,” Stanko said. “Then you meant no harm? You just wanted a great steroid? You would go to great lengths to get it, no?”
“That’s right. Yup. I wasn’t in my right mind. Tell em, Tony. I forced Tony to get me in. My fault all the way.”
Stanko circled Joey. Studied him up and down. “What are you, six-foot, 240?”
“Close. Five-ten, 245.”
Stanko rubbed his chin.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Vatsolef,” Joey said. “I’ll just buy the shit like I’m supposed to. Maybe I gotta get a sponsor, huh? Right, Tony?”
Stanko stopped in front of Joey, eye to eye, about two feet away now. The two guys with pistols stepped around, flanking Joey. They reeked. A combo of shitty cologne, smoke, vodka.
“I have a deal for you, Joey,” Stanko said. “Because you like myovar so much. See, the reason it is so good is because extensive research went into designing it. It’s not like other anabolic agents. It’s very unique. We have done our homework. And the research never ends as we fine tune this wonder drug. It is not exactly perfect -- yet. But close.”
“Yeah, I’ll take it,” Joey said. “I been on your shit a couple months now anyway. I’ll let you monitor me. Just like a lot of docs do. That’s cool. I even got a big show coming up, Mr. Tri-State. Gonna need a lot a juice.”
“Perfect,” Stanko said. “Only the monitoring is a little more involved than blood work. My scientists need more. They’d like tissue samples of subjects in various stages of usage. We need to look at certain bodily responses, histologic changes, the gamut of endocrine interactions.”
“The heck does that mean? Tony? What do you mean, sir?”
“For starts,” Stanko said. “My head investigator indicated he needs a sufficient sample of seminiferous tubules, and as a bonus he’d like some epididymal tissue.”
“Freakin what? Semitubes?”
“Joey.” Stanko was dead serious. “He’d like a testicle.”
Joey backed up. The pistol guys got close, had the metal at his head now.
“Come on, guys,” Joey said. “I’ll give some blood, that kind a shit. I’ll work with ya. That’s all you’ll need, right?”
“Relax, Joey,” Stanko said. “We’re not complete barbarians. We are going to do this the proper way. The way a good controlled experiment should be done. There is an operating room downstairs. We have a complete staff -- nurse, anesthesiologist, urologist. And guess what? We’ll even give you a prosthesis.”
“A fake testicle. Only it’ll be better than that. It will be complete with tracking device. So we can be sure you don’t miss any of your follow-up appointments.”
“No fuckin way!” Joey squirmed, pumping fists, veins rising on his neck.
“Yes, Joey. And this is just the beginning. I don’t know what my scientists may need next. They were saying something about pituitary tissue. But don’t worry; we have a good neurosurgeon on staff too.”
“Get me the fuck outta here! Tony! What the fuck?”
“And you won’t think about seeing another doctor. The prosthesis is a deluxe model. I will have the capability to detonate the testicle any time. Remotely. At my leisure.”
“Fuck that!” Joey swung wildly at Stanko, missed. One pop with the butt end of a pistol sent Joey to his knees, head spinning. The other guy clocked him once more for good measure, sending Joey to his stomach, unconscious.
Stanko stepped back, glanced down at Joey, fished in his pocket.
“Tony….” Stanko lifted a cigarette to his mouth, fired it up. “Tell them we’re ready downstairs.”