Billy Kring is a MysteryPeople favorite. Whether he and his fictional border patrol agents, deal with issues and evil on the Texas-Mexico line or his private detectives Ronnie Bacca and Hondo banter and and take down L.A. bad guys, he demonstrates and understanding of crime fiction and a craftsman’s approach to writing. We were excited when he asked if we’d like to print this original short story about gangsters and a good employee.
by Billy Kring
He answered Carmen’s help wanted sign one morning and went to work that afternoon as the butcher in her store. His first name was Rick, but he went by McKenna.
Carmen liked him because he didn’t say much, did his work and stayed busy doing things without being asked.
The day Teddy Corso came in, McKenna and Carmen sat at a table eating a lunch of pastrami sandwiches, chips and soft drinks.
Teddy stopped behind Carmen’s chair and played with her hair, a New England Patriots Super Bowl ring prominent on his ring finger. McKenna noticed the tape wrapped around the bottom so it fit Teddy’s finger. Teddy said, “I’m here for the pickup, Babe.”
Carmen moved her head away from Teddy’s hand, “You came by two weeks ago.”
“It’ll be three a month from now on.” He suddenly realized he didn’t know the man sitting with her. “Who’s this?”
Carmen said, “McKenna, he works for me.”
Teddy asked, “You’re not a local.”
“Not for a while.”
“About the time our family took over the neighborhood, right, Carmen?”
McKenna put his sandwich on a napkin, the bite showing like a small knot in his cheek, “How’d that happen?”
Teddy smiled, “What it was, Vincent Gennaro had this area but wasn’t sharing wit others, so…” Teddy spread his hands, “Somebody decided that wasn’t a good thing.”
“I read about it. That you?”
Teddy grinned, tapping two fingers to the back of his head, showing where the bullets went, “I don’t brag, but it happened. People know. So now I make rounds for the family.” He looked at Carmen, “Give me the money, Carmen, and throw in a couple ribeyes. I got other stops to make besides yours.”
“I don’t have the money.”
Teddy gave her a cold stare.
“I can have it in the morning.”
“You better, sweets. You don’t want Teddy Corso mad wit you.”
McKenna went to the meat counter, catching Teddy’s eyes by holding his thumb and forefinger an inch apart.
“Make it two.”
McKenna cut, trimmed and wrapped the thick steaks in white butcher paper, handing the bundle to Teddy, who said, “You’re pretty handy with that knife.”
“I try to keep my boss happy.”
Teddy said to Carmen as he left, “Tomorrow morning.”
McKenna returned to the table as Carmen said, “He starts coming three times a month, I’ll have to let you go.”
“How often has he been collecting?”
“Only once the first year, but every month since. It crept up fast. Now it’s twenty times a year, plus he’s pushing hard to get in my pants, says he’ll make it worth my while.”
McKenna raised an eyebrow, and Carmen said, “I’ll close this place down before that happens.” She pushed her half-eaten sandwich away and said, “Can you close up? I’m not feeling too good.”
It was a little after ten PM when Teddy tapped on the front door’s glass above the Closed sign. McKenna looked up from the meat counter, and Corso motioned to open the door.
McKenna opened it and Teddy followed him to the meat counter saying, “I’m throwing a party, gonna need another ten steaks. Tell Carmen it’s interest on what she owes.”
McKenna went to the cooler and brought out the meat and used the long thin blade of the knife to cut steaks.
“Hey, you remember this?” Teddy held up a laminated page of a newspaper showing Gennaro’s body face down in an alley. “See, right there? The two holes in the back of his bald head.”
McKenna finished with the last steak and said, “What about the one in his eye?”
McKenna’s eyes changed, “I shot him in the right eye and put two in the back of his head as a message. Papers never mentioned the eye. Then I had to leave town because of the heat. I’m not leaving again.”
Teddy grabbed his pistol as McKenna rammed the knife into his temple and wiggled the blade.
When Carmen came in the next morning, Teddy’s Super Bowl ring was on the register, with a note from McKenna, I like to keep my boss happy.
About the Author: Billy is an author and sometimes actor, and in another life, he was a Border Patrol Agent and consultant on terrorism and international border issues. He has worked in South America, including Columbia and Ecuador, and in Eastern Europe along the borders of Chechnya, Ingushetia, Daghestan, and Turkey, as well as Mexico’s southern border. He has also worked in the Caribbean and Pan Pacific, instructing officials on how to handle the aftermath of a terrorist attack.
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