No commentary, let’s just get to it.
The casket closed over Ricky’s face, and he sighed with relief. So long one life, he thought. Now it was time to get to another. He just had to get out of the funeral home alive.
November 23 was the day Ricky Montavlo died, at least by his reckoning. He was in Club Tiesto, another one of Chicago’s never ending parade of dance clubs. Ricky had the world by the stones, he’d thought. He’d stated slinging rock at 18, when it became clear he had no other career options. The family grocery store had become a prison, the girl his immigrant parents had arranged for him to marry, the warden. Oxy had just started filtering into the neighborhood, and like young men before him, Ricky had recognized a growth industry. Two years later, he was running ten square blocks, and had two paid cops in the local precinct. It was good to be Ricky Montavlo.
Now he was here in the club, which he and his supplier had bought into. It was a good way to clean all their drug profits, and provide a refuge from their enemies. Which were growing by the day as the economy had tanked. Less money in people pockets meant less pie to share. And you didn’t get into dealing for the retirement plans or 401K.
So they’d armored the club, mainly due to an continuing problem with o all things, the Westies. He’d figured it’d be the cartels or the Crips, or MS13. But a bunch of pasty white dudes?It was almost embarrassing. Until his suppliers car and driver had gone up in a flash of thermite. But that was seen as just the cost of doing business.
Ricky had been on his third Oxy of the night, crushed and snorted , and making him feel high,alert, and alive. It was breaking one of the biggest dealer rules ever, but Ricky didn’t care. He was so gone it took him five minutes to realize there was someone standing in front of him.
The flashing lights made it hard, but he finally saw the guy was wearing UPS brown. That was how he’d gotten up here. If it was a fake, Ricky had a .22 in the boot, but still. The guy mouthed words, finally handing Ricky an iPad to sign. Ricky did, figuring it was just club bullshit. He’d have to remind the club manager to get this handled. He took the thick padded envelope from the guy, and tossed it on the table ,almost losing it among the empty beers and pill bottles.
Then Ricky noticed the blood on his hand. He looked down at the envelope, and a small pool of it was leaking out of a corner. He picked it up, time slowing down to a crawl when he recalled it in his head.
The smell was first, making bile rise in his throat. The first thing he pulled out made it worse. It was a pair of ears, tied together. They were stapled to a photo of his father. Ricky put two and two together, and promptly sprayed the table and floor with his dinner, the normally non-vomit inducing Ann Sathers.
There were seven photos in the envelope, each with body parts. His mother’s nipples. His sister’s eyeballs. His supplier’s wife’s picture was in there, with what was later identified as her ovaries.
He’d blocked out the rest. But all of his and his supplier’s immediate family had been wiped out in one move.
They’d found the bodies in a warehouse on Lawrence, right below the El tracks. By that point, Ricky was gone. The shock and horror of what he’d caused to his family had cored him like a deer hanging in a tree after the hunt. It was this lost soul that the devil himself showed up to take.
Lieutenant Croucier wasn’t Satan, it was just the term everyone who dealt in Chicago referred to him as. He was the scourge, the wrecking ball. When the Chicago PD decided they needed a neighborhood cleansed of a dealer, Croucier was the one they called. He somehow made deals that wiped out entire gangs with a single informant. He’d turned OG’s by the dozen,and no one was sure how he did it.
Croucier didn’t look like much, Slightly overweight, balding, and mousy. He looked like a mall cop or worse yet, one from the suburbs. And yet here he was, whispering in Ricky’s ear. It wasn’t that hard a sell, though.
Ricky wanted to die. He’d thought about going to the pathetic excuse of a bar the 33 Street Westies used as a headquarters with four of five bricks of plastique strapped to him. He’d think about it, then remember how he’d died inside since the murders, and didn’t wish that on anyone. But any move he’d make would cost him his life anyway. SO he was busy murdering his liver when Croucier found him.
Croucier’s plan seemed idiotic at first. Rat the Westies? Ricky may have been many things, but a rat wasn’t one of them. And what about his partner? He’d likely kill Ricky as well.
“Who do you think led us to you?” Croucier said, his voice like a stage whisper or soft breeze. Through the next months as they plotted and schemed, Ricky never saw Croucier display any emotion, or raise his voice. If he wasn’t ice, he was certainly snow.
Ricky was nervous as he stood outside the Westies’ new bar. Bought with blood and flesh, he thought. All of it his and his partners. But Ricky steeled himself with Klonopin and coke, which put him right into the land of Do Not Care Anymore. He was normally there all the time already, but the drugs kept his rage safe inside.
It kept him through the next four hours, where he faked his way through a surrender to Big Mike Falstaff, the gang’s leader. Once they’d shook hands, even the drugs couldn’t hold him anymore. He’d lunched himself over the desk at Mike, pinning him to the floor. By the time his handlers had blown the front door and taken the gang prisoner, Ricky had broken the man’s skull, nearly putting him in a coma.
The next day had been scary, even for Ricky, who was still numb and uncaring. It had taken a film school student stunt class to fake the accident that “killed” Ricky by putting him and his car into the Chicago River. One bribe to a coroner later, and Ricky was where he was now, being shipped back to a non-existent family enclave in Manitoba Waters, Wisconsin.
Ricky wondered when he could get out of this thing. He was not claustrophobic, but you spend four hours in a coffin and see what it does to your head.
Finally, the coffin opened. It was a gray sky that peeked out above Croucier’s head, as he pulled Ricky out of the box. Croucier was all smiles as he pulled Ricky up.
“Welcome to the land of the living! Well Wisconsin, anyway.” Croucier’s reasoning was that even if the Westies got suspicious, none of them would think to look this close. By then, all the surgery would be done.
It was another four month of hell as Ricky got a new face, a new identity, and spent hours testifying before grand juries. He told everything on everyone. The dead may hold secrets, but not the living dead, Croucier said.
So now they were here, in a small town outside Madison. Close enough to get some civilization, but not enough people to get too nosy. His new identity,Thomas Kane, had some money, but Ricky was going to open a store, just like his father. He owed him that much at least.
Ricky was stocking shelves, readying for opening. He couldn’t count on much traffic, not at the end of the tourist season. But Ricky hadn’t been dumb with his money, and had enough for a few years anyway. Couple that with a foreclosed house, a disability check every month, and SNAP, and he’d get by.
Croucier was walking around the store, face still ice cold. Ricky figured this was the last time he’d see the guy, so he had to ask.
“How do you do it, Croucier, how do you get everyone to turn?”
Croucier’s expression turned into what one could calla smile, but it looked horrible on him.
“Well, you’ve been sworn to secrecy, and you’re dead, so I suppose there’s no harm.”
He went out to his car and came back. He handed Ricky an envelope, and told him he couldn’t read it until he was all alone. He shook Ricky’s hand and then drove off.
That night, Ricky sat on his couch, exhausted from the day’s work. He cracked open a Miller and slit open Croucier’s envelope.
He went numb. He tried speaking, but no words came out. His mind raced, wondering, hoping, that this was not true. He looked inside again, stood up and walked out his front door. Later, the police report said the semi had been doing 80 when it turned him into a pile of flesh.
The police explored, but could find no explanation. No note, no clues, nothing was found. What made the mystery even worse were the two extra fingers the corpse had seemed to have,both sheared off during the crash.