“Yeah—like Copperfield in the early nineties.”
“So you’d consider Lance Burton or David Blaine to be the Jesus of our day?”
“Correct. I’d even lean more towards, like, a Criss Angel, seein’ as he performs extreme illusions.”
The tan Dodge cargo van glided down Broadway in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. A large magnet with standard block letters spelled Angel City Carpet Cleaners down the sides. Dim reflections of burnt out marquees washed across the windshield as Tony drove, racking his brain at the uproarious theory, not trying to dispel it but prolong it. The verbal diarrhea spewing from his partner was breaking up the monotony of the daily grind.
“So then, why the disciples, Mick? His entourage?”
“Shills—a paid off audience that’s in on the act, followin’ him wherever he performs.”
“What about the whole immaculate conception thing then?”
“His greatest feat—simply put. Loaves and fish and walkin’ on water—all bullshit fluffs to his standard repertoire. You see, Jesus was never able to top the whole knockin’ up a virgin shit and was forever burdened to a life of consistently tryin’ to one-up himself—hence the crucifixion.”
Tony’s eyebrows scrunched. “How you figure?”
“Fucker wanted to off himself but his rep preceded him, bro—would have been hypocritical—in order to be deemed iconic or dare I use the term idolized, he had to have someone else do it for him.”
“Or did he, right?”
“Don’t get me started on Easter, man.”
“It involve Siegfried and Roy, or somethin’?”
“Mock away. I’m being completely rational here and you fuckin’ know it.”
“Can’t believe I have to listen to this shit all day—from the morning when I pick you up till when we make the drop—every single fuckin’ day. You’re the silliest cunt bastard to ever exist, know that?”
Mick smiled, lighting a Winston, careful not to scorch any of his orange handlebar ’stache. They were stopped at a red near the Golden Gopher when a sudden thrashing began in the rear of the van. Sounded like a horse trying to buck through the back doors. A choir of mumbling sounds resonated from their cargo between rapid thuds.
Tony said, “Fuckin’-A, man. Thought you hog-tied ’em all?”
Mick remained unfazed by the thunderous kicks. “Just pull the fuck over and lemme fix it.”
Nightfall had made it safe to duck into any alley for the adjustments. Tony unlatched the two back doors as Mick surveyed the damage. Four, scantily clad girls were on their stomachs bound and gagged, mascara bombing their cheekbones, snot glistening their nostrils. Only the thick one in cowboy boots was squirmy. Mick jumped in and flipped her over, placing his knee into the center of her spine. Like a calf at rodeo, he had her spooled in no time. The doors slammed, the engine glugged, and they were off.
Mick unfolded a piece of yellow legal pad that was lodged in his breast pocket, checking off items with a carpenter’s pencil.
Tony said, “What we got left?
“I dunno exactly. A weird one.”
“What, like a fat Goth chick or one of those tattooed head broads?”
“At the bottom of the list it just says…‘and one anomaly’.”
“Somethin’ outlandish, I suppose. Where they headed, anyways?”
“Dunno, it’s secret this time.”
“Where should we start huntin’? The Valley?”
They reclined in thought.
Tony blurted, “Boystown.”
“West Hollywood? Fuck.”
“Look, I’m not objectin’ to the fact that it happened, alright? I’m sure it was horrible and all that bad stuff. I’m just saying that whenever they have their little Genocide Awareness Day Parade, maybe they shouldn’t be drivin’ Mach-5 through traffic on Los Feliz, tryin’ to make their flags flap. There were three major fatalities the past few years—it’s just irresponsible and counterproductive to their cause—that’s all I’m getting at.”
Tony just kept scanning the boulevard from their parking spot at Del Taco, looking for someone exotic or far beyond strange. Mick was getting antsy from zero response to his intelligence or lack thereof.
“So, do you agree or disagree?”
“Leave the Armenians alone, man. It’s one day a year, they make great food, my mechanic is pretty awesome, and I hope they mop the floor with you one of these days—you’re despicable.”
“See, you weren’t even listenin’ to what the fuck I was sayin’. I’m on their side, man. I don’t want them killing each other by slammin’ into trees or whatever on a day that’s supposed to be about—forget it. Your brain cannot fathom this concept.”
A broad shouldered streetwalker passed through their peripheral wearing a sequence miniskirt, blue wig, and five o’clock shadow. Tony opened the door.
Mick said, “A tranny? Man, that’s not an anomaly in this city—they’re a fuckin’ minority.”
“You ain’t got any brighter ideas. Come on and bring the taser.”
“I got her man, watch and learn.”
Mick waited until the hulking sexpot turned down a sidestreet to pounce. Tony watched as the two began talking in the distance, arms flailing, warm smiles floating between; a bad silent movie without queue cards. Before Mick could even pull the taser, the brickhouse threw a left cross and knocked him cold. He fell on the ground in spastic contortions, fists gunning the sky. Must have been something he said.
Tony busted out in full sprint and started making headway on the bastard. He wasn’t expecting the strumpet to stop in his tracks and b-line straight back towards him. Mick was coming too in the distance. The last thing he could have done was turn and run like a little bitch. He decided to wait till the tranny got close, kick up his leg and hope the fucker ran full speed into a boot to the solar plexus. No dice. All the blow did was knock the blue wig off, and before Tony could go on defense, he swallowed a haymaking right to the septum. The lights completely shut off.
The van mowed down Sunset through Echo Park as both of them sat in silence, dabbing greased mechanic’s towels to their seeping faces. Mick’s right eye looked like an eggplant and Tony’s nose made a right turn. Sweet smells of makeshift taco vendors and tamale slingers filled the outside breeze. It was getting too close to the drop but they couldn’t go back with a light load.
The list had to be completed.
“So, where the fuck am I going, Mick?”
“Just keep headin’ past Elysian Park and pull into the Paradise Motel—it’ll be up on your right.”
Radiant beams of purple neon filled the weathered single-story motel. The parking lot was elevated slightly above Sunset, a bird’s nest for peepers of the damned.
“Hey man, park this bitch were you can get a good view of the convent on the corner.”
“The convent at Beaudry. They should be letting out of midnight mass any second.”
“We’re hunting nuns now?”
“Just shut the fuck up and keep your eyes peeled.”
They sat and waited. A group of taggers sprayed 101 Freeway signs in the distance.
Mick said, “Wanna score some trim after we get paid or are you wiped?”
“I’m pretty beat, man. Why don’t you just hop in back and have your way with one of the broads—save your dough?”
“Pussin’ out—typical. If I wanted gash, I’d give all the bitches in back a dry run. I want trim, man—quality tang.”
“Pussy’s pussy, man.”
“Maybe to you. That’s your problem, man. You settle for measly shit. Me, I know my potential. Kicker is we’re one in the same pretty much.” Tony rolled his eyes. “We’re pretty rad dudes—you don’t even realize that, do you?”
Tony just stared at Mick’s swollen, purple face. “I need a new job.”
Mick pointed. “Shit, there goes a penguin!”
They watched as a single nun approached from the convent gates. She looked in her fifties but now was not the time to be choosey.
Mick said, “Bring the tranquilizer syringe and follow my lead.”
“Watch and learn right?”
She was trapped at a light, waiting to cross for the 24-hour CVS pharmacy. Probably a communal Tampax run. There was no one in sight. They knelt on their knees a few feet behind her, caked with dried blood and weeping. Mick did all the talking.
“Sister, please help us—please! We have nowhere to go. We’re hungry!”
Her eyes bulged at the disheveled sight. She put one hand on each of their faces and gave soft prayer. A single taxi crossed through the intersection, her eyes remained closed.
Mick said, “Do it.”
Tony sprung into action, plunging the rig into the penguin’s buttocks. Mick caught her as she went down. The street was dead and the van was close. She was tied like the rest in no time. Her eyes slightly opened and rolled, attempting to awaken from the narcotic sleep.
Tony said, “Hey sister, you a big Criss Angel fan or what?”
Mick laughed as he slammed the doors, anxious to haul the load back to headquarters, hoping to make it back on schedule.
The drop was always made in Vernon, some old metal industrial building right off Santa Fe. They could see good ole Larry outside the place, chomping a Swisher with his arms crossed, waiting. His shiny head sparkled in the moonlight. They pulled into a loading door. Larry drew it shut the moment they went through.
“You’re late! Got everythin’ right?”
As they exited, he got a full glimpse of their mugs.
“The fuck happened? Tryin’ to wrangle trannies again?”
Mick said, “No way, man. Had to fuck up some junkie—tried to lift the van.” His eyes floated to Tony for backup.
“Yeah Larry, it was fucked. Guy was on dust or somethin’.”
Larry popped the rear doors and immediately got frantic. “Sweet baby Jesus. What’s the matter with you two?”
Mick said, “Two blondes, two brunettes, one chubby, and one anomaly—that’s your anomaly.”
“Shit, I wanted something unique like a natural redhead—a fuckin’ Sister Mary Joseph—you two give me the fuckin’ creeps, you know that?” He slammed the door shut and pulled two envelopes from his breast pocket. “Here you go—a grand each, just like we said.”
Tony jumped in. “Hey Larry, look at us, man. We really took a lickin’ this time out. How ’bout another five hundo to wash our wounds?”
“I say fuck off and die—a deal’s a deal.”
They watched as Larry peeled off the Angel City Carpet Cleaners magnet, reapplying another that read Southwest Overnight Express. He looked back at their busted faces.
“Tell you what, lemme see what Texas T’s gonna pay for these girlies and if the nun fetches a higher purse, you can have the overhead. How’s that sound?”
Mick’s good eye lit up. “Shit, we’ll grab another next week if the price is right.”
Tony nodded. “Thanks a lot, Larry.”
“Don’t mention it. Now, hit the fuckin’ road fellas. You’re scaring the merchandise.”