Crime Fiction Friday: FANCY FOOTWORK by Robert Dean

  • Selected and introduced by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

One of the great things about hard boiled crime fiction is it’s visceral appeal. I recently met an author from our home base in Austin, who goes by the name Robert Dean, who has that down. In this take on the boxing crime story, Dean delivers a few fresh takes and a lot of brutality. If you’re a fan of Frank Bill or Benjamin Whitmer, you will like Robert Dean and if the first paragraph of this story is too much, the rest of it will kill you.


Fancy Footwork

By Robert Dean

A fist the size of a phonebook crashed into Jimenez’s mouth like driver spinning on a DUI. He felt the sting of the knuckles moving past the lips, through the canines and headed straight for his molars. Canines rocked loose in their sockets while blood pooled where the rips of flesh barely held the teeth in place. Goddamn, did this son of a bitch have a punch.

Despite having a skull like a bag of concrete, the strikes Jimenez endured felt like a whole new agony. Defenseless, he sat with his arms tied to the back of a metal folding chair.

Chuckie May, Anton DeRulo’s goon was hard at work beating the ever-loving fuck out of him. Chuckie struck Jimenez like he was living out a fantasy, taking shot after shot, but also turning the event into a strange sexual exploitation as he threw fists into the meat of Jimenez’s core.

“Yeah girl, you think you’re king of the ring. Watch a real motherfucker go work on that pussy. Mmmm.” Another solid kidney shot. Jimenez nearly vomited.

“You like that baby? You like that? Let daddy give it to you.” Chuckie was punch-fucking him like a bad tape-to-tape copy of dime store porn. The big man’s eyes held desire inside them. They were hard for violence.

Switching jabs and coming in with a wicked left hook, Chuckie worked like a counter clockwise machine. Jimenez took each hit with grace. He absorbed the pain as he’d been trained to do, but his body was a lumpy mound of clay at this point. Every strike to his midsection or face was thrown with intent. Punches are signatures to pain.

Chuckie May had swagger behind those hands. Jimenez took notice of the left cross, it had weight to it, and boy howdy, it stung when knuckle met orbital. It was all those years shaking guys down, beating whatever was owed out of them. While his technique wasn’t pretty, it sure as hell was effective. Chuckie struck again with a grunt, this time connecting below the right ear, fracturing the jaw line. Inside of Jimenez’s head, it rang like a police siren was two feet away. The tendrils of noise were deafening, despite Chuckie’s insistence of anal probing.

“Imma make you my bitch. Teach a motherfucker what’s up. Yes sir. Want this dick in your ass, sweet thing? You gon get it.” Jimenez’s jaw felt like it was about to fall off. But, he managed to slip out a few mocking words.

“I fucked prettier.”

Chuckie’s eyes grew wide. The thought of this clown challenging his fantasy, his dominance made his eyes red with fire. Chuckie wanted to emasculate, to tear this bastard down with his X-rated threats of rape and now Jimenez was playing with him? Using his rhetoric against him? He was incensed.

“You think this is a game, son?” Spit hung off his lips while his chest heaved up and down from the cardio. “I’m gonna knock your head clean the fuck off and blow my load on your corpse. That’s what daddy is about to do.”

“Promise? Sleepovers are my favorite.” Sweat and blood beaded off his frame as he continued to feel the wrath of Chuckie’s fists. Jimenez let the strong man work him. He took the punches like a professional, because he was one.

Four days ago, Jimenez was supposed to take a dive. Instead, he broke his opponent’s face wide open with a left hook that started in Texas and came up all the way to Maine, at about ninety-nine miles per hour.

Jimmy Vargas, some tough asshole out of Cincinnati was his opponent. Just before the bout, Vargas made it a point to let Jimenez know, “he fucking hated every Mexican on earth. It would be his pleasure to show him how a white man got it done.”

Vargas never saw the punch that shook the cheap seats coming. Jimenez didn’t mind beating the shit out of this guy on behalf of all Latin people, but he made a critical mistake, the Cardinal Sin in his small minded bigotry: Jimenez was Puerto Rican. If there’s anything either nationality hates, it’s when white folks mix the two up.

When the meat of the glove connected to Vargas’s face, time stopped as Jimenez’s muscles drove the strike – it nearly killed Vargas upon impact. The fight didn’t last a single round. Just shy of ten minutes, Jimenez had broken this racist piece of trash. Stepping into the ring confident that your blood is superior? Boy, it was time to dance. Jimenez attacked the perimeter and Vargas never expected the sheer violence that radiated through his opponent’s gloves.

Jimenez thought about Anton DeRulo’s cash, about how if he didn’t go down, there would be consequences for his actions. But, in boxing, pride is a motherfucker. Instead of dropping in the sixth, Jimenez went to work and dismantled Mr. White Power like it was checkers, not chess.

Vargas lie in a pool of dark brown blood as scores of fans, bookies, and crew scrambled around the sweating, shaking Jimenez, hoping that he didn’t just murder Jimmy Vargas with the scud missile of knockouts that would give Tyson a raging stiffy. Jimenez shattered Vargas’s nose into so many pieces, that he shattered parts of skull beyond the cartilage, too. So much for taking that dive – the match turned out to be Jimenez’s greatest performance.

And now, here he was.

Too proud to skip town, Jimenez took his purse and limped home to his girlfriend and their kids. He knew Anton wanted his head. But, coming up on these streets, his title, and his name, meant something to folks around the way. He wasn’t going down without someone putting a bullet in his dome. That just how you came up in the streets. The men he saw on the corners, the one’s he grew up around, they never snitched, and they never backed down. He didn’t want to take the dive. His legacy was everything. Sure, he’d lost a few here and there, but he’d earned some bucks. His family wasn’t starving. His kids wore fresh clothes. What did he need that cash for that he couldn’t buy himself?

A loss in the boxing world is worse than college football. One bad match and your stat, your numbers are changed forever. If he was gonna take the loss, it had to be because the guy on the other end earned it.

He’d never get his national shot by letting some redneck dickhead take him down. No way, no how: Jimenez wasn’t taking a dive for no one.

And now, because he stuck to his guns, Chuckie May continued to beat the piss out of him.

Anton DeRulo sat at a card table a few feet away from the action. He was in his shirtsleeves with the cuffs rolled up. His dark blue tailored jacket hung jacket across the back of the chair neat and tidy. He watched each punch like it was a dollar bill in a register, with the appropriate DING as the bone met meat.

As Chuckie sucked in breath from a combination of a cross, followed by an uppercut that sent Jimenez’s head snapping back like his spine would uncoil from his skeleton, Anton waved him off.

“Take a breather, Penthouse Letters.”

Chuckie’s heart raced as he’d given his best boxing performance. He was drenched in sweat like he was competing for a title fight. Through the pain, Jimenez wished they could touch gloves just once and show him what it’s like to dance with a man.

He’d cracked Jimenez’s ribs to pieces, and Jimenez’s face was a blistered, red disaster. Jimenez’s head hung low. He was exhausted from the continued abuse.

“Regular Rocky fuckin’ Marciano. Like watching a ballet, Chuckles. You coulda been someone in a different life. Too bad in this one, your stupid ass belongs to me.” Anton tossed Chuckie a towel to dry off. His enforcer was gasping for air after that workout.

“Love you, too,” Chuckie offered as a retort, “good to know I got a purpose.” Chuckie’s voice was slightly muffled as he wiped the sweat out of his hair.

“You got that right. You fat, jackhammering fuck. Think you need to see a shrink, or at least grab a few beers in Boy’s Town. You got some shit to work out, pal. Some men got ghosts in the closet, you got fuckin’ graveyards.”

Anton noticed Jimenez was about to pass out from Chuckie’s pitiless blows. He motioned for his stooge with a snap. Chuckie grabbed a pail of water and threw it on Jimenez, shocking him back awake. Anton moved out of the way, making sure he didn’t get any water on his alligators.

“Oh no you don’t, you ratfuck. You ain’t passing out on my watch. We got plenty to chat about, you and me.” Anton stood in front of Jimenez with his hands in the pockets of his tailored slacks.

“All I fuckin’ ask for was for you to go down in the sixth. Just give these people a show. Just a little razzle dazzle. That’s it. You coulda walked outta there with a cool seventy-five fuckin’ grand in your pocket. Tall fuckin’ green, kid. But, you didn’t. You’re all high and mighty. Can’t do something immoral. We live in immoral times, motherfucker,” Anton makes a finger gun and points it to the side of his temple and pulls the thumb. “And now, look at ya. You’re a pile of shit covered in blood. Your own blood, too. You fucked up, Jimmy-nez. You thought by not tainting your record; you’d get your shot in the Big Leagues.”

Anton began to shadow box to illustrate his point. He ducked and weaved, putting on a 1950’s redemption flick styled performance.

“Too bad, that ain’t happening, my guy. You screwed the pooch. You’re 28, dude. That shot ain’t ever coming. You’re too old. And, let’s be real, you ain’t ever gonna box again after tonight. That’s a fact just the same as death and plastic tits.”

Jimenez took slow, concentrated breaths. His lungs ached, and the skin tears from the knuckles smashing against his raw skin stung like small daggers. Crimson-colored spit bubbles popped from his lips. His left eye was swollen shut. Chuckie sat at the card table, drinking a bottle of beer.

They were at Anton’s headquarters, his warehouse out on the western edge of town. Situated in an industrial park where no one heard the noises erupting from this building in the middle of the night. This room was built out amongst the offices, the storage areas, to be quiet. Anton had picked it on purpose because there was a drain in the center of the concrete floor.

A little soap, water, maybe some bleach and whatever was once a crime scene was now nothing more than a room with a card table and chair.

As Anton looked over Jimenez, he wondered if Jimenez truly understood the gravity of the situation, the depth of acreage of shit he was actually in. Sure, he was getting his ass handed to him, but he severely and fucked up. When Anton DeRulo asked something of you, it wasn’t a favor: it was a command – those who bucked him ended up on the wrong side of a gun.

Just last week, Anton ordered Chuckie and some other toughs to send a message to Juan Carlo, a pimp who was making a play to run his neighborhood, Brighton Park. Juan Carlo was a low-level shitbird who paraded out a bunch of slobs for lowlifes to fuck. Because his merchandise was low rent, and bottom dollar, money was steady. Juan Carlo built equity, and he started chipping away at Anton’s infrastructure, pilfering little nuggets of business. If Juan’s Carlo had the balls to sell dope in the parks, or attempt running a numbers game, and offering protection to the neighborhood shops – well cowboy, it was lesson learnin’ time. Anton owned those rackets. Numbers, protection – that was bread and butter.

In a city like Chicago, with gangbangers on the corners, it paid to have protection because the 5-O sure as fuck didn’t come when a local punched nine eleven in their phone.

It was message-sending time. Juan Carlo needed to know where his dinner hung. Chuckie and his crew kidnapped Juan Carlo’s number two, Nettie Boy. Thrown in a trunk after catching a roofing hammer to the back of the noggin, Nettie Boy woke up in the same chair which Jimenez now sat. Only thing was Nettie Boy’s brains got blown out.

One bullet at close range split open Nettie Boy’s face wide open. Blood and gore went everywhere, spattering the walls and floor with brain matter. The stink from the guy voiding his bowels was atrocious, but it was part of the job. The shit-covered corpse lay there while his face was a disaster area. Nettie Boy’s momma wouldn’t be able to ID him from the neck up.

The impact of an M1911 bullet at close range ripped the head into two pieces and shattered teeth. As the body lie on the concrete, the blood pooled, but eventually slid inward toward the drain. As the body seeped it’s last ounces of blood, Chuckie turned on the hose and grabbed a bottle of lemon scented Palmolive. In a steady stream like a laser, the lemonade flavored dish soap cut the blood’s thickness immediately. With a few flicks of the water streaming from the hose, all signs of murder were erased. The room smelled like a hot summer day.

When Anton had one of his posse pick up Nettie Boy’s corpse, it was clean and tidy – rolled up in a shower curtain and ready to be propped against Juan Carlo’s front door.

Anton looked down at his loafers. He admired the texture of the leather. They were comfortable immediately. Crime bought these shoes. Corruption bought this building. Insolence bought this moment.

“I have cut motherfuckers heads off for less,” he paused and licked the spit off the front of his teeth, “I had easy money on Vargas taking that purse. You were the favorite. You coulda been a peach and helped out. Put on your show and get some hits in, I get it. But your ass needed to go down. You fucked me. I lost my ass. I lost five fucking hundred thousand dollars. For those of you playing the home game, that’s a half a million fuckin’ bucks.”

Anton walked over the to the corner of the room where a Louisville Slugger rested. He picked it up and weighed the powerful piece of pockmarked oak in his hands. The handle was taped up for a no-slip grip. Anton came toward Jimenez, who was clinging to coherence. His head bobbled and back and forth, unsure of the weight of his head and how to keep it centralized.

Chuckie worked on his beer and checked what was happening on Facebook. He didn’t bother looking up from his phone. He’d seen this song and dance before.

Anton gripped the bat like he wanted to put a ball into the bleachers. He eyeballed Jimenez’s frame, looking like it’d survived a car wreck, but barely. Most of the work Chuckie did was all about the belt. So, he naturally went below it.

Anton swung for the fences. The Louisville Slugger struck Jimenez’s shins, snapping the bones on impact. His shine bones crumpled like an empty beer can. Shards of bone jutted through the flesh. Despite being half alive, Jimenez screamed in torture. Every neutron and electron in his body amplified with throbbing ache. Anton flipped the bat like he’d just won the game with a walk off. Jimenez wailed.

“There we go. That’s the sound I wanted to hear. You can take punches, kid. I’ll give you that. But, I needed to hear you cry. Makes it more real. I’m a stickler for believability.”

Droplets of sweat and blood fell to the concrete floor, staining it like an abstract painting. With each millimeter of movement, Jimenez cried out. He needed a doctor.

“Back in the day, there was this thing called The Hays Code. Meant movies had to have a resolution. Like the bad guys couldn’t win. If someone got murdered, there was justice and shit. There was always a happy ending. Well, boyo. I got news. There ain’t gonna be a happy ending.

That law doesn’t exist anymore. We’re free and clear to kill as many motherfuckers as we want in the movies. Times have evolved. But, one thing that hasn’t changed is you’re still up shit’s creek. I ain’t decided how we’re going to ruin your life. But, know for as long as your heart is still breathing, I am going to break the fucking fibers inside you, bub. Because here’s scoop Viki Vale: it ain’t about the money, it’s about not knowing how to be a good dog. Mr. Repressed Emotions, over there chuckling at a cat video, and me, we’re going to break you in half. I may leave you tied up and let you bleed out. I may hook your nuts up to a car battery. I may get bored and just blow your fucking dome clear off. We’ll see how it goes.”

Anton walked over to Jimenez’s right side, just behind him. The perfect place to double tap him in the back of the head. He paused for a moment and flicked Jimenez’s ear lobe, just for kicks. Let him know who was boss.

“Once, this kid who was selling heroin for me thought he could undercut my prices, try to build himself a little empire. Started making moves here and there. Buying his own package from a different supplier. Tried pushing some coke and meth, too. He thought I wouldn’t mind if he worked his own hustle alongside my money. That motherfucker thought wrong. Playing with my money is like playing with my emotions. So, I cut his right hand off with garden sheers. One snap and it’s on the floor. Looked straight outta the movies, seeing a perfect hand like that. I got that paw in a box in my office. I got it in a glass display case and everything. Museum quality. I shoulda known better and showed it to you. But, my bad for thinking you weren’t an idiot.”

Anton made the scissors motion with his index and middle fingers, signifying cutting something.

“Only reason the kid is alive is he’d dating my cousin’s daughter. He’s a handless fuck, but he’s breathing. Don’t see him much at family get togethers. But, the moral of the story is I like revenge. I’m a spiteful cunt. But, today – I’m feeling wacky. A little zany if you will. Maybe we’ll play Let’s Make a Deal or The Price is Right for your life. We’ll see what happens. I’ve got an open mind right now. I’m feeling like Miss Cleo, but you know, violent.” Anton’s eyes got big as the word “violent” drifted off his lips and stitched itself to Jimenez’s psyche.

“Maybe we’ll take a hand. Maybe we’ll take an eye. Who knows? Let’s spin the wheel.”

Off in the far distance, Jimenez could hear the faintest sound of a police siren, headed off to save the day. He knew with certainty that siren was not meant for him.

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2 thoughts on “Crime Fiction Friday: FANCY FOOTWORK by Robert Dean

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