Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By Mark Kodama


            I dreamed of the perfect woman hanging on my arm. But who was I to have these silly dreams. Short and uneducated with little in the way of manners, I followed orders. But this was about to change.

            I worked for the local mob boss Clyde “the Killer” Costello in the small city of Bakersville. Hell, the city did not even have a minor league baseball team. The most ambitious and talented people left. The buildings and people looked like something from the Andy Griffith Show. But Mr. Costello ran the top crime family in that town and that counts for something. And we did everything the big boys did: gambling, loan sharking, theft and prostitution. We even ran drugs.

            When the rival crime gang the Blues tried to kill Mr. Costello, my partner Jimmy the Gent and I fought in the gun battle. It was a fight to remember. It made the papers and everything. The shooting began when the Blues ambushed Mr. Costello as he walked to his car, outside the office, a five-story brick building on Main Street, in the business district of the city. His black town car – parked out front – lay stretched in front of the building like a swimsuit model in a Vargas pinup.

            I don’t know how they missed killing the Boss but they did. Bullets flew everywhere, embedding the walls and shattering glass. Smoke and the smell of gunpowder filled the room. We hid beneath our desks. It was just like in the movies. I manned the shotgun and when one of those Blues bastards stuck his head through the window I blasted him.

            We drew matches to decide who would save the Boss. I drew the short one. So I ran through the front door to the town car where the boss lay in the back seat. Shorty day dead in the front seat. Blood ran from his head and his eyes stared vacantly into space.

            Bullets snapped past my ear. I opened the passenger door driver’s door where the boss lay on the floor. I made a lucky shot with my .45 wounding a Blues gunman. I did not aim but fired at where the bullets came.

            Thick blood dripped from a crimson crease across the Boss’s right forearm as I helped him escape from his car back to the office. Jimmy called for reinforcements. After our men arrived, the Blues beat a hasty retreat. I shot another one as he fled to his car, killing him dead.

            After the fight, Mr. Costello made me his bodyguard. I was just as scared as everyone else. Thinking back I was dumber too. I chose the short match not by accident. It turned out to be the luckiest thing that ever happened to me.      


            Mary McNeil was my girl. Her moon face peered at me, her dirty blond hair tied in a bun.  She was plain but loyal. But who was I to judge? I was no Casanova or Hollywood movie star. Mary cooked a nice Irish lamb stew made the way I like it:  celery, onions, carrots and potatoes with warm crusty bread.

            “You could have been killed,” Mary said.

            “I survived,” I said.

            “You should get a legitimate job,” she said. Her eyes narrowed and her thin lips tightened. Her pale white face flushed pink. She set my bowl of stew on the small wood kitchen table with a thump.

            “What skills do I have?”

            “My uncle could get you a job at the grocery store.”

            “I could not make the money I’m making now.”

            “One of these days you are going to get killed.”

            “We all have to die.”

            “Don’t count on me being around when that happens,” she said.


            Clyde Costello – dressed in a dark pin-stripe suit made in Hong Kong – rocked back in his black leather desk behind his steel desk on the upstairs floor of his new office. The building – five stories high – stood higher than the other buildings on the block. The Boss – his right armed wrapped in gauze bandages – rubbed the dark stubble on his face with the back of his hand. He was 40-years-old with a balding crown and a slight paunch.

            Bobby, one of his men, sat in the corner his fedora hat low over his eyes. He wore a gray flannel suit with a red carnation. His handgun budged beneath his suit jacket. A workman dressed in denim overalls replaced the shattered window.

            “Hey, Danny my boy,” Mr. Costello said.

            “Hello, Mr. Costello.”

            “You are some shot,” he said. “You are a useful young man. There is always a place for someone useful.”

            “Thank you, Mr. Costello.”

            “You saved my life,” the crime boss said. “No one ever said Clyde Costello did not take care of his friends.”

            “You are too kind.”

            “Hey, Bobby why don’t you run over to the deli and get us some sandwiches? What’ll you have, Danny boy?”

            “An Italian.”

            “How about two Italians and get one for yourself?” Clyde Costello pulled a crisp new twenty from his wallet. “And three sodas.”

            “You are cool under fire,” Mr. Costello said. “I can use a good wingman.”

            “They shot at us, and I shot back.”

            “You shot back while the others hid under desks. Do I have to do everything myself around here? I decided to make you my bodyguard. You will go wherever I go. Would you like that?”

            “Yes,” I said. “Thanks, Boss.”

            “Good. The thing I value most in a man is his loyalty. How long have you worked for me?”

            “Five years.”

            “You were just a kid when you started.”


            “Can you keep secrets?”


            “You can’t even tell your girlfriend.”


            “You will be well paid,” he said. “And there will be a lot of perks like girls. You can laid all you want.”


            Gianna – the most beautiful woman in Bakersville – sparkled like a diamond among quartz. In a bigger city she would be just another beautiful face in the crowd. But in our town, she stood out. She was a 25-year-old dark-haired Sicilian woman with beautiful large eyes. She had full red lips and a full smile that lit up the room.

            Her breasts were neither large nor small and she had a tall thin athletic body with nice curves that naturally swayed without calling too much attention. She wore a silk dress with floral patterns. Her plastic face never seemed to sweat. Clyde Costello was married with two sons and a daughter. Gianna was his mistress.

            I drove the Boss to Gianna’s apartment downtown. She had her own bodyguard, a young punk named Johnny Tough. I waited downstairs on the street outside the car for about two hours. My partner Jimmy the Gent sat in his car, reading a book and smoking a cigarette.

            “Say, Jimmy how long do you think we will be here?”

            “I dunno,” he said.  “As long as the Boss takes.”

            “What are you reading?”

            “Greek mythology.”

            “What’s that?”

            “The story of Daedalus and Icarus.”

            “So what is the story about?”

            ‘King Minos of Crete held Daedalus and his son Icarus prisoner,” Jimmy said. “Crete is an island so Daedalus invented wings for he and his son used to fly away.”


            “Icarus flies too high and the sun melts his wings,” Jimmy said. “Icarus falls into the sea and drowns.”

            “Is it a true story?”

            “It is a myth,” he said.

            Mr. Costello brought a bouquet of flowers and left with a smile on his face. “Let’s go,” he said as he got into the backseat of our black Town Car.


            The Boss was in a great mood. He wiped his forehead with his cotton handkerchief. “You are young like my sons so you do not know this yet,” he began. “When you get a little older like me you still feel like the same person inside you. But one day you will be looking at your hands or staring at your face in the mirror and you will not recognize yourself.”

            “Yes, boss.”

            “You don’t know what I mean yet,” he said. “But some day you will.” He pulled a flask of whiskey from his pocket and took a sip. “Want a swig?”

            “Mr. Costello, I’m driving.”

            “That’s a good boy,” he said. ‘I was just testing you.”

            We turned onto Main Street. Jimmy followed us in his car. We then drove to the highway and out to the Boss’s mansion in the country.

            “What keeps your young is a young woman,” the Boss continued. “Yes. A young woman is like a freak’n fountain of youth and psychiatrist all in one. A young woman is what keeps you from going crazy.”

            “Yes, Mr. Costello.”

            “I notice you don’t wear a ring,” he said. “You have a girlfriend?”

            “Yes, I do,” I said.

            “Good. I don’t much like tuity-fruity men. What’s her name?”

            “Mary,” I said.

            “Every young man needs a girlfriend.”

            “Any kids?”


            “Good. A man is not a man if he does not have a family. If Mary is a good girl, you should marry her.”

            “Yes, Boss.”

            I flashed my pass to the guard at the gate. The guard waved us through. I drove passed the fountain and let off the Boss by the front door. He waved good night and I parked the car.   


            Jimmy was the same age as the boss. He had worked for Mr. Costello for twenty years. He became my blood brother when I became a made-man five years ago. Jimmy was my sponsor. He was married with a daughter in high school.

            “So how do you like our new assignment?” I asked.

            Jimmy shrugged. “Safer than breaking legs.”

            “Safe is good.”

            “I’m getting too old for this shit.”

            “What do you mean? You are as strong as an ox.”

            “I have just about enough saved to open a small business.”

            “Like what?”

            “Maybe a restaurant. Something legitimate.”

            “Why would you want to do that?”

            “Getting older. Soon my daughter will be going to college. Maybe she will meet a nice man. I need to be respectable for her.”

            “That would be nice.”

            “When you are young, you think you will live forever,” he said. “We all need to think about our future.”


            Jimmy the Gent and I were assigned to hit Frankie Fremont. Frankie had engineered the attack on our office. We drove out to Old Candaules Road and hid in a trailer full of cartons of stolen cigarettes. When Frankie and his partner Giambi opened the back of the trailer we blasted them. We then drove deep into the woods and buried their bodies.  

            When we returned to town, we called the Boss from a phone booth.

            “Hello,” the Boss said.

            “We finished our pack of cigarettes,” Jimmy said.

            “How was it?”

            “Everything was fine.”

            “See you in the morning” the Boss said and then hung up.


            The next day, we left the office early, around 11 a.m. I drove the boss first to the florist to buy a $100 bouquet of flowers and a box of European chocolates. “Never visit your best girl empty handed,” he said and smiled. We stopped off at a fast-food restaurant where the Boss brushed his teeth and combed his thinning hair.

            As we drove down Main Street, Mr. Costello opened his briefcase and studied his financial records for the month. He grinned. “This month was better than last month and last month was better than the one before.”

            When we arrived at Gianna’s apartment, he told me to park the car in back. “Do you want to come up?”

            “Yeah, sure,” I said.

            “Gianna’s not home now but she will be here in an hour. Do you think Gianna is beautiful?”

            “Boss, you sure know how to pick ‘em.”

            He smiled. “She looks even better naked.”

            I looked away.

            “She has a perfect face, perfect breasts and perfect body.”

            “I wouldn’t know.”

            “Do you want to see her?”

            I thought he was testing me again. “Of course, no.”

            “C’mon,” he said. “You can hide in the closet. She will never know.”

            We took the elevator up to her apartment and he opened her door with his key. He handed me the key. “I will take her to lunch afterward in the town car. You lock up and call Jimmy. He will pick you up.”   


            Gianna was as beautiful as she was wild. She had all the sex toys. She held nothing back. She climaxed again and again. Afterwards, she and the boss showered and dressed. When Mr. Costello went back to the bathroom to urinate, she came to the closet to put her toys away. When she opened the closet there I was. Her mouth opened in an O and then her eyes glared at me. She closed the closet door.

            I told Jimmy what happened when he picked me up. “Not good,” he said. “Why did you go up to Gianna’s apartment?”

            “The Boss told me too.”
            He slapped the back of my head. “If he told you to jump off a cliff would you do that too.”


            “I see big trouble.”


            “It is like the story of Gyges as told by the Greek writer Herodotus.”


            “Yes, the father of history, the father of lies. King Candaules was the king of the Lydians. He had the most beautiful queen in the world. So Candaules invites his bodyguard to see his wife naked. The king hides him in his bedroom.”


            “The queen notices Gyges but does not say anything. Later, she gives Gyges a choice: Either die or kill the king.”

            “What does Gyges do?”

            “Don’t know,” he said. ‘I have not finished that part yet.”

            “You will have to tell me.”

            “One thing for sure.”


            “Nothing good can come from this,” he said.


            That night Mary and I made furious love. I made her cum over and over again. I came too. All I could think of was Gianni. In the end, Mary began to mew like a cat. When she looked into my eyes tears rolled down her cheeks. “I – I- I love you,” she stuttered. She put her finger on my lips and kissed me.


            The Boss sent Jimmy and I to kill Mr. Blue himself. “I want that mother fucker dead,” the Boss said. “Nobody tries to kill Clyde the Killer Costello and lives to tell about it. Dead I tell you.”

            Bobby, Eddie the Assassin, One-Eyed Jake and Red, our best men came with us. We waited until Mr. Blue dropped his eight-year-old son off at the local elementary school. We  followed him onto the highway. We honked our horn and pulled up along side his SUV. He was riding shotgun.

            When he rolled down his widow, I blasted him with my sawed off shot run from the backseat of our town car. The driver of the SUV lost control of his car, drove through the medium onto the grassy center divider before his vehicle overturned.

            We exited the interstate and were gone before any one was the wiser. Surely, Mr. Blue was dead.


            The Boss was elated at the news of Mr. Blue’s apparent demise until the news reports came in that he somehow had survived. This meant all-out war.

            I drove Mr. Costello out to see Gianna. He asked me to come up again. This time I refused. When he finished seeing Gianna, he drove himself back home. Gianna’s body guard called in sick so he ordered me to guard her in her apartment.

            I knocked on her front door. “Who is it?”

            “Danny, Mr. Costello’s bodyguard.”

            I could see her looking at me through the peep hole of her door. She unlocked her door and let me in. She was barefoot and dressed in her panties and tank top without a bra, her hair  tousled.

            “You were the Peeping Tom hiding in the closet,” she said.

            I swallowed.

            “Admit it,” she said her eyes cold.

            “Mr. Costello told me to do it,” I said. “I did not want to do it but he insisted.”

            “I knew it,” she said.


            “Well,” she said pulling down her tank top.

            “Well what?” I said. My face felt so hot.

            She took off her panties. “Did you like what you saw?”


            We made love like we were insane. My one thought was to please her. I did everything she told me to and let her do everything she wanted. After we had made love, we showered and then made love again.

            After we were done, she got up from her bed and revealed a hidden camera. “Smile. You are on candid camera,” she said. She picked my pistol and sat in a large reclining chair squatting like a bird. “Did you like having sex with me?”

            “It was all a mistake.” I said.

            “Now I have you by the balls. Do you like chess?” she asked.

            “I don’t know how to play,” I said.

            “Check,” she said. “Now you will do as I say.”

            “I don’t want any problems,” I said.

            “You have a choice: Either you kill Clyde Costello or I will have Clyde kill you.”


            A few days later we will killed Johnny Tough, Gianna’s body guard. The Boss sent Jimmy and I to kidnap him and take him the warehouse. The boss gave us a small tape recorder. “I want to hear him suffer before you kill him,” the Boss said. “I think he’s been fucking Gianna.”

            “Yes, Boss,” Jimmy said. “We’ll take care of it.”

            “One thing I won’t stand for is disloyalty,” he said.

            We took Johnny as he left Sam’s Pizzeria on Main Street. We shot his arm with a sedative, tied him up, put him in the trunk of the town car, and drove him to the warehouse. “I can still hear his screams.” Finally, we put a bullet in his head and buried his body in the woods.


            The Boss now made me Gianna’s bodyguard. “I need to give Gianna a bodyguard I can trust,” he said. I waited in the living room while the Boss took Gianna in the bedroom. I could hear everything. Afterward the Boss left, Gianna had sex with me. After we finished, she roughly kissed my lips. She put on her strap on. “Now, it’s my turn,” she said.

            After we showered, I carried her to bed. “What did you decide?”

            “About what?”

            “I want you to kill Clyde.”

            “I can’t.”

            “Do you love me?”


            “Then you must kill him,” she said.


            The Boss sent Jimmy and me to Bakersville Community Hospital at Croesus Plaza to kill Mr. Blue. Bobby, Eddie the Assassin, One-Eyed Jake and Red, our best men, piled into and SUV and followed us there. Jimmy, Eddie the Assassin, One-Eyed Jake and me climbed up the back stairs to avoid detection. Although it was past midnight, the place was crawling with coppers.

             When we got to the Fifth Floor, we were dressed in suits so the nurses assumed we were undercover cops. We flashed our fake badges to the nurse in charge. We waited until the police guard went to the men’s room. Then we made our move.

            Eddie the Assassin and One-Eyed Jake entered Mr. Blue’s room while Jimmy and me covered for them. Bandages covered Mr. Blue’s face, his left leg was in a cast and he was hooked up to an IV. Eddie smothered his face with a pillow while One-Eyed Jake held him down. When the cop returned from the men’s room, he drew his gun. I shot him in the chest.

            A gun fight ensued with plainclothesmen at the nurses’ station shooting at us. The cops killed Eddie the Assassin and captured One-Eyed Jake. We escaped down the flight of stairs in the confusion.   


            The boss sent Jimmy and I to collect the daily cash profits from our gambling joint on Main Street. After we delivered it to the office and walked to the town car, Jimmy whacked me with the butt of his pistol. He then punched my face.

            Someone grabbed me from behind and threw a cloth bag over my head. Someone shot a sedative into my right arm. I blacked out.

            When I awoke, I lay tied up on the concrete floor at the warehouse. My hands were tied behind my back. Jimmy and Red sat on their chairs pistols in their hands.

            “I warned you,” Jimmy said. “Now I am going to have to kill you.”

            Red pulled the tape recorder from his pocket and set it on a metal folding chair. He placed his gun in his shoulder holster under his suit jacket. He pulled his switch blade knife from his sock.  He smiled. His front teeth were missing. “Kid, this going to hurt you a lot more than it is going to hurt me.”

            I tried to crawl away like a caterpillar. I managed to wriggle one hand free. I could hear Red walking toward me. The dank smell of mold filled my nostrils.

            As he neared me, I swung my legs and took his legs out from under him. He fell backward. His switchblade clattered on the concrete. With my free hand, I grabbed the switchblade and sliced his throat.

            I grabbed his gun from his holster and shot Jimmy in the face before he could fire his gun.  I shot him twice more to the head to make sure he was dead.


            I drove to Gianna’s apartment. When I got to her apartment, it had been ransacked and Gianna was gone. I drove to my own apartment and Mary was gone.

            So I drove to the office, parking a couple blocks away. Night had fallen. The lights were still on. I strode through the back alley and climbed up the fire escape and entered the second floor through an open window.

             When I burst into the office, Gianna and Mary sat in chairs their hands tied behind their backs. Mr. Costello and Bobby bent over the desk and conferred. I shot Mr. Costello and Bobby  before they could draw their guns. I shot Bobby in the head as he curled in a fetal position.

            Mr. Costello grasped at his left arm and then tried to crawl to his pistol on the ground. I shot him twice in the side of his face and head. Blood and brains sprayed on the walls and soaked the carpet. 

            I cut Gianna and Mary loose with my switchblade knife. Gianna walked over to Mr. Costello’s body and turned it over with her foot. “Bastard,” she said.

            Mary ran to me and wept, throwing her arms around my neck. “My darling,” she, burying her face into my chest. We could hear sirens so we escaped out the window, down the fire escape and into the alley.

            Gianna, Mary and I took the town car straight to the airport. Gianna flew to New York City and then to Europe.  At the airport, Gianna shook my hand and smiled at Mary. “My bodyguard,” she said.

            Mary and I flew to Mexico.

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