Homeless. But helping the hopeless. New Fiction from yours truly!

Homeless

By: S. Scott Bullock

The man sat cross-legged in the shade of a billboard advertising the latest Mercedes ‘S’ Class. His clothes were caked in filth and his face and hands grimy. It was August in Los Angeles which translates to hotter-than-hell, yet the man was wearing a tattered sweater over a shirt and knitted vest. He was sweating profusely and would occasionally wipe his brow with crumpled pages of a newspaper he had at his side. The newsprint left black streaks on his forehead, cheeks and hands, multiplying his look of addled destitution. He sat on the sidewalk in front of a used furniture store on San Vicente Boulevard. The blanket he sat on was printed with fading images of Sponge Bob Squarepants which once, no doubt, covered a child in warmth and happiness. Now it simply gave his bony-butt some respite from the unforgiving concrete.

He held no sign. No ‘Will Work For Food’ or ‘Homeless Vet Can You Help’. He simply sat. His head down and staring at his dirt-washed hands as they rested in his lap. Sometimes, the most wondrous of times, someone would give him something as they passed by. Sometimes food. Sometimes money. It gave him hope. That kindness from others gave him hope for mankind. Especially because he never asked for help. He never begged. And he would reward that kindness. He would. He made sure he would reward it.

“I told you to get the frig from outta the front of my store!” A fat woman in a too-tight caftan said to him from the doorway of the furniture shop. “You don’t move and I get my baseball bat you homeless piece of filth!”

The man didn’t look up. He simple rolled off his Sponge Bob blanket, picked it up along with the newspaper, shoved them both into his big black trash bag, and walked away from the store and the cruel fat lady who had yelled at him. He was okay with moving on though. Nobody who walked by had given him anything for a couple hours so he had nobody to reward. It was time for a new location. Maybe his luck would change in a new place.

He turned the corner and moved up a small side street. He turned another corner, walked around an old Hollywood style bungalow apartment, and was back on San Vicente, about a quarter mile further up. It was a residential section of the very long street and he knew he had to walk a good ways to find a suitable spot among some businesses. As he stepped into the street to cross to the other side he saw a flash of red in his peripheral vision. He heard the roar of a car engine. A sports car. Then an excruciating pain. Then the sky. Then blackness.

The conference room was ice cold and Kimberly sat quietly trying not to shiver. Her nerves, chilled by this over zealous A/C, were making it nearly impossible to sit still. She rubber her arms up and down, hugging herself in the process, as the conference room door opened. Alan Masley, a short, round man with a comic book comb-over came to the table, pulled out a chair and sat down.

“It’s warm in here.” He said. “Caroline, is it?”

“Kimberly.” She said pulling her hands away from her arms.

“Oh. Sorry. Kimberly.” Masley opened a file folder. “I’m Alan Masley. Do you prefer Kim?”

“No.” She said a little too sharply.

Masley looked up startled.

“Sorry. No. I really hate ‘Kim’. Don’t know why. Maybe because my brother used to make fun of me all the time. He’d say ‘Kim, Kim her brain is dim!’ And stuff like that. You know how brothers are? Do you have a brother Mr. Masley?” She was rambling from nerves.

“Alan.” Masley said looking back down at the file.

“Your brother is Alan?” Kimberly asked.

“What?” Masley said looking up at her again.

“Your brother?”

“I don’t have a brother.” Masley said confused.

“Who’s Alan?” Kimberly said genuinely confused herself.

“I’m Alan.” Masley said closing the file folder. “You called me Mr. Masley. We use first names around here. Equal playing field and all that other tree-hugging B.S.”

“Oh.” Kimberly said through a chuckle. “I thought you had a brother named Alan. That was almost like ‘Who’s On First’ !”

Masley stared at her.

“The routine? Abbott and Costello? Who’s on…. Aren’t I supposed to meet with Mr. Rusk?” She finished, feeling increasingly uncomfortable. She was also beginning to perspire despite the sub-zero temperature in the room.

“Andrew.” Masley said flately. “He prefers you call him by his first name.”

“Okay. Aren’t I supposed to meet Andrew?” She asked, shifting in her seat.

Masley stood up and walked over to the credenza. He picked up the coffee pot from the maker and held it up to Kimberly.

“Coffee?” He asked her.

“Yes, please, black. And hot! It’s freezing in here.” She chuckled again.

Masley poured two cups of coffee. He opened six packets of sugar and poured them in his cup then three creamer cups. He stirred his coffee and brought both cups back to the table. He set her cup in front of her.

“The thing is Kim, is that Andrew has sort of disappeared.” Masley brought his cup to his mouth as the conference room door swung open. A woman in her fifties, brown bobbed hair, tailored suit, and business high heels stormed into the room.

“You’re kidding, Alan? Right? You’re kidding?” She spat the words at him.

“What?” He said to her putting his coffee cup down.

She pointed at Kimberly.

“You’re telling a total stranger that we can’t find our CEO?”

“Listening at keyholes, Trish?” He said smiling a humorless smile at her.

“Who needs keyholes with your big mouth?” She said lowering her own volume. “I could hear you halfway down the hall.” She turned to Kimberly. “I’m sorry… Miss?”

“Parton” Kimberly answered holding out her hand. Trish ignored it.

“Miss Parton. Andrew, Mr. Rusk, is unavailable for your meeting today as he is across town taking care of some last minute business. Ask Wayne at the front desk to reschedule you for next week. Okay? Nice meeting you. Have a great day now.” She moved toward Kimberly and pulled her out of her chair.

“But we didn’t really meet.” Kimberly said standing up.

“No we didn’t.” Trish said pushing Kimberly through the conference room door. “Front desk.” She said and turned back toward Masley.

“You’re freakin’ certifiable, Trish.” Masley said sipping some coffee. “Sir-Tee-Fiable.”

“Listen to me you fat-fart.” She said stepping toward him.

“WHOA!” Masley said sitting forward. “You watch yourself Missy or I’ll have you over my knee!”

“In your dreams, you sickening bag of bile.” She went to the credenza and poured herself some coffee. “We’re in deep, Alan, and he isn’t here to bail us out.”

“Would you fill me in on what we know, please. I just got back. Remember?” He got up and refilled his coffee.

She reflexively moved away from him as he approached.

“I won’t bite, Trish.” He grinned at her. “Unless you want me to.”

“You out-repulsive repulsive. You know that?” She said moving to the conference table. She sat down and pulled the file folder Masley had brought in closer to her. “Kimberly Parton.” She said reading. “Another one of his ‘hopefuls’? I wonder if she’s any relation to Dolly.”

“She certainly bore two great resemblances.” Masley said sneering and cupping his hands in front of his chest. “If you get my drift.”

“Your drift smells as bad as your breath, Alan.”

“So sweet. You’re so very, very sweet, Trish. Now. Fill me in.” Masley sat across from her at the table.

“He was doing his weekend long, end of the month, charity, slash, philanthropy, slash, giving back bullshit.” Trish began.

“Also known as throwing away perfectly good money.” Masley finished off his coffee and got up to get more. “More coffee?” He asked, holding the pot up toward Trish.

“No. So he goes off on his weekend ‘giving’ spree and he disappears. One-hundred-fifty grand in ‘charity’ cash, one and a half million dollar, fire-engine-red Ferrari and all.”

The nurse’s station was small, under-equipped and understaffed. Working at ‘County’, as the hospital was nick-named, was a thankless and difficult proposition. Nurses here were dedicated to helping people. So dedicated in fact that the horrible working conditions were only an annoyance and not a deterrent. Two nurses, on the midnight to noon shift, sat at the meager station sipping tea between rounds.

“Bed one is iffy.” The white-bread, blonde nurse said to the African-American nurse. “He came in this afternoon. Poor guy was crossing San Vicente and some lunatic in a bright red sports car slammed into him, threw him ten feet into the air and just kept on going. He’s got major head trauma, severe facial injuries and a broken left tibia. Surgery patched him up but we need to keep a close eye on him.”

“That’s sick.” The African-American nurse said. “Running him down and then splitting. That’s really sick.”

“The fortunate are never held accountable, Tina.” The blonde nurse said and blew on her tea. “The cop told me that a witness said the car did stop and check the guy. But get this, this poor homeless guy had a black trash bag with him and the guy in the sports-car took it and THEN drove off!”

“A trophy maybe?” Tina said.

“A what?” The blonde nurse asked.

“I saw this movie on Netflix last Wednesday.” Tina began. “No wait. It was Thursday. No wait, Tuesday. Oh. Anyway. It doesn’t matter. Must have been Wednesday, though. This serial killer named Donner Butterman kills homeless people for fun. Like hunting. Like a sport, ya know?”

The blonde nurse leaned away. “Ewww.” She said and sipped the last of her tea.

“Yeah.” Tina said. “Gross. He was played by a really cute actor though. I can’t remember his name. Ethan somebody or Justin. Or Frank. Nobody real famous. Willy? I don’t remember. But he was really cute so it was really hard to hate him for killing all those homeless people. Cute and creepy.”

“Like so many of my boyfriends.” The blonde said chucking.

“Yeah!” Tina guffawed. “So this Butterman guy kills the homeless people and then takes something of theirs and then glues the stuff he took from them all over the walls of his basement.”

“Yuck.” The blonde said picking up a clip board and standing. “Gotta go check on our charges.” She said and walked away from the station.

“I’ll start at the other end.” Tina said getting up.

A month later the homeless man was discharged from the hospital. He had no memory of what had happened to him. As a matter of fact he had no memory at all. The man in the red sports-car not only took his black trash bag, he also stole the homeless man’s memory. The head trauma had been severe enough to erase the poor soul’s past. And the reconstruction from the facial trauma was so extreme that when he looked into the mirror, he saw a deformed stranger gazing back at him. A lost stranger. He didn’t know his name or where he was from. He didn’t know what led him to this life. He didn’t know anything.

The county placed him in a downtown Los Angeles homeless shelter where he worked to pay for room and board. He served meals and cleaned the kitchen. He did laundry and cleaned up the puke in the bathrooms. He more than earned his keep, in puke-cleanup alone, but he didn’t mind any of the chores. He was grateful. He found himself feeling grateful all the time. Even on the ugliest days when his leg was hurting him or some new bum showed up and puked on his shoes.

He had taken the name a nurse had given him in the hospital. She had told him that she didn’t like calling patients ‘John Doe’. It was too impersonal. So she had named him ‘Sam’. ‘Sam Vincent’. Because that’s where he came from. San Vicinte Boulevard. He liked that name very much. And he had fallen a bit in love with that particular nurse.

Sam had been at the shelter for three weeks and he had already made it his home. Or like the people who place and adopt animals call it, his ‘forever home’. He had made good friends of the other live-ins and staff. He had no idea or memory of his past home or homes, but he had a strong idea of where his current home was. And he felt that he truly belonged there. No one made fun of his misshapen face. No one joked about his odd voice. His vocal cords had been permanently damaged when the hospital intubated him incorrectly and now he could only speak in a hoarse, distorted whisper. No one cared about those things. They only cared about him. The inside him. And he was once again grateful.

Every seat at the twelve-seat conference table was taken but one. The head of the table. The seat that belonged to Andrew Rusk. President, Founder and CEO of Rusk Properties. And current missing person.

Trish Bermudez stood up. Her chair was next to the bosses unoccupied one.

“Okay, gentlemen, let’s get this wake started.” She began and picked up a file folder in front of her. “Here is how it stands. He has been incommunicado nearly two months. The longest time he has ever done this. The last was three weeks in 2014 when he decided that the Maoris in New Zealand needed funding for a National Indigenous Peoples Services Center and he went down there with six and half million to help build it. The time before that was two weeks in 2012 when he went to Arkansas to end child hunger and spent four million on the Southern States Food Bank.”

“Tree-hugging B.S.” Alan Masley chimed in. He sat on the opposite side of the boss’s empty chair.

“Alan.” Trish said, with a tone that one uses to address an unruly child. “Tree-huggers are obsessed with preserving and protecting the environment. Not people. Andrew Rusk is obsessed with helping people. And please hold your outbursts till the end of the meeting. Thank you.”

“Blow it out your ass, Trish.” Masley said and several men at the table chuckled.

“Ah, Alan. Ever the eloquent wordsmith.” Trish said and the others at the table laughed. “All that aside, gentlemen, we are in deep shit. Andrew is supposed to meet face to face with Hiroshi Kagoshima of Nippon Shore International one week from today. As most of you, if not all of you, know, Kagoshima only deals face to face. He does not do email, snail-mail, Skype or Google Hangout. He doesn’t use the phone and he doesn’t text. Face to face. That meeting is set for one week from today. In this very room. This deal has 2.26 billion in the balance. And as of today, the upcoming face to face meeting is minus one face. Our face, gentlemen and ladies. Andrew Rusk.”

“When’s the last time anybody saw him?” A young man in an expensive Italian blue suit asked.

“As the briefing papers we gave you two days ago say.” Trish looked at the young man and raised an accusatory eyebrow. “He was last seen on Friday the 5th of August leaving here in his Ferrari. His nephew was with him. He had one-hundred-fifty thousand dollars in paper-banded stacks of ten thousand each. Petty cash for him. And… well… for lack of a better word. He vanished.”

“They found the car though.” Alan chimed in again.

“Yes.” Trish said scowling at him. “I was getting to all that, Alan.”

“Get to it faster Trish, our asses are growing roots.” Alan sneered at her.

“Police found the Ferrari just south of the Canadian border. It had front end damage and it was left in an unattended parking garage. We reported it as stolen so we didn’t get them or the press involved in this. We can’t afford to have this information out in the world right now. Mr. Kagoshima could very well kibosh the deal if he knew how unstable things are right now.”

“The nephew?” An older man in a well-worn gray three piece suit said.

“You didn’t read the brief either, James?” Trish said scowling. “Why the hell did I bother printing out all the copies?”

“Remind me, Trish. I forget things. I’m old. And I drink.” The older man said.

“Andrew’s twenty-one year old nephew, Malcolm Andrew Rusk, is MIA as well.” She said flatly.

“The punk.” Masley said and got up from the table. He went to the counter and picked up a bagel. He buttered it and slathered it with cream cheese.

“Yes, Alan. Your normal hyperbolic, verbal-flatulence happens to be right on target this time. The punk.”

Sam Vincent opened his eyes and squinted at the light coming through the open-curtained window. It was 6:30am, but he didn’t need a clock to tell him that, he knew by the quality of the light. He loved this time of day. It was an hour and a half before he had to go to work and it gave him time for coffee, extra sugar and no cream, and time to read the paper and think. He was a blank slate and he knew it. He could write on that slate anything he wanted. He was free to create his life, and the very idea of that thrilled him to his core. His life was a world of possibilities.

He sat up in his cot, stretched, leaned to one side and farted.

“Shit. Man.” One of his five roommates, Darnell Plimpton, said. “Why you always got to be doin’ that every goddamn morning?”

“Because, Darnell my man.” Sam said in his odd voice. “The Lord sayeth… ‘Better out than in’.” Sam laughed, stood up, farted again and began making up his cot.

“You stink like last weeks cat box.” Darnell said burying his face in his pillow. “Why you got to be get-in’ up so damn early anyways. Your shift don’t start till eight.”

“I can’t hear what you’re saying when you’re bitin’ the pillow, Darnell.” Sam said bending down and pinching Darnell’s butt through his blanket.

Darnell spun around and violently slapped at Sam’s hand.

“Keep yo fuckin’ hands to ya self.” He said. “Fuckin’ homo.”

“I’m afraid you’re wrong on that one, Darnell. I don’t remember much, but I do remember my love of the ladies.” Sam said walking to the bathroom. “I’ll be off to my morning ablutions now, my good man. Tah.”

“You a fuckin’ nutjob, dude.” Darnell said.

Sam stopped in his tracks bent forward, pulled down his pajama bottoms and flashed his bare butt at Darnell. There was a tattoo of Winnie-The-Pooh on his left buttcheck.

“Give Winnie a kiss.” Sam said.

Darnell rolled back onto his stomach. “If he ain’t a homo, he should be.” He said into his pillow.

Half an hour later Sam walked into the industrial kitchen of the shelter. It was already in full breakfast-preparation mode. The room smelled of fresh-brewed coffee and bacon and was spotlessly clean.

“Coffee’s poured. It’s on the counter.” A beautiful, old African-American woman said. She moved from one side of the kitchen to the other like a dancer. Her movements belied her age. “Extra sugar, Sugar.” She said and winked at Sam.

“I’m desperately in love with you Gracie and I want you to run away with me to the Bahamas!” Sam said picking up his coffee mug.

“I’m eighty-six years old, Sugar. I don’t run. To the Bahamas or no place else.” Gracie said pulling a huge fry pan from a metal rack of pots and pans. “You want some eggs before you start up?”

“Nope.” Sam said, sipping his coffee.

“Bacon?” She asked him.

“Nope.” He replied.

“Hash browns?”

“Nope.”

“Pancakes?”

“Nope.”

“How are you gonna work as hard as you work on a empty stomach?” She said setting the fry pan on the industrial stove top.

“Shear will and a big helping of your love, Gracie.” He said grinning at her.

“Don’t shit a shitter, Sugar.” She said returning the grin. “The newspaper’s in the bathroom. Edward was readin’ it on the crapper. You might wanna put on some latex gloves if you wanna read it now.” Gracie went to the huge refrigerator and pulled out five dozen eggs. “You know Edward.” She said.

“All too well.” Sam said pinching his nose shut. “Did you read it this morning, Gracie?”

“Did indeed.” She said cracking eggs into a huge bowl.

“Anything worth knowing?” Sam asked her, getting up to refill his coffee.

“Looks like we got a bit of a reprieve.” She said, still cracking eggs.

“How so?” He asked her.

“That fella who owns all this property ’round here turned up missin’” She opened a second carton of eggs and begin cracking those into the bowl. “Japanese fella don’t wanna buy it now, so we are gonna have some more time to help the hopeless.” She looked up into Sam’s eyes. “I asked Jesus and he answered.” She said wiping some egg off her hand.

“Did Jesus tell you how long we have?” Sam said sitting back down.

“Don’t be fresh.” Gracie said moving to the refrigerator.

“I’m not being fresh.” Sam began. “I’m serious. Did you get a feeling from the article in the paper or from your convo with Jesus how long we have before this place is sold out from under us?”

“The paper said that the Japanese man backed out and there’s no plans at this time for a sale. It also said that the company wasn’t doin’ nothin’ till they find their head honcho.”

“You talking about Andrew Rusk?” Sam said putting sugar in his coffee.

“Yeah. Him.” Gracie said and poured some milk into the egg bowl. “You want some eggs?” She asked him again.

“NO THANK YOU!” Sam shouted with a grin. He stood up and brought his mug over to one of the massive sinks. He rinsed it out. “Gracie, my love. We are going to figure out a way to keep our home safe. We are going to figure it out.” He went to Gracie. She turned her cheek up to him and he kissed it. “We’ll figure it out.”

Alan Masley stood in the doorway of Trish’s corner office. He was chomping on four sticks of Juicy Fruit gum.

“Are you just going to stand there and chew your cud or have you got something to say?” Trish said looking over her reading glasses.

“It’s been six and half months.” Masley said chomping.

“Newsflash.” She began. “I am very well aware.” She pushed her glasses up her nose and pulled open a desk drawer. “Unless you’ve got something important to say, I’ve got several important things to do.”

“Clients are jumping ship.” He said rubbing his back against the doorjamb. “Damn my back is itchy.”

“Try showering.” She said.

“Wanna join me?” He sneered. “I’ll wash your back and you can wash mine.”

“I’d rather shower with Norman Bates.” She said opening a file folder.

“Who?” Masley asked.

“WHAT do you want, Alan?” She slammed the file shut, pulled her glasses off and looked up at him.

“Rusk Properties owns eight square blocks of downtown L.A.” He began. “The Japs pulled out four months ago.”

“You’re repulsive, Alan. Go away.” She said putting her glasses back on.

“Wait.” He said stepping into Trish’s office and sitting down on her sofa. “The Japs pulled out and now that asshole homeless advocate is setting the wheels in motion to get the building they are in declared a Historical Landmark. He can do it too. The building is over a hundred and fifty years old.”

“I know all this, Alan.” Trish said leafing through her file. “What do you want?”

“We need to…” Masley began. “We can turn this around, Trish.”

Trish closed the file again, took off her glasses and set them down on her desk. She sat back in her chair, crossed her arms over her chest and looked at Masley straight in the eye.

“How?” She asked

“We develop it ourselves.” He said. “We diversify. We no longer just buy and sell real estate, we develop real estate.” He stopped. He inhaled. “Well?” He asked finally.

“That’s it?” Trish asked him raising her eyebrow.

“Whether or not you like it. Whether or not anybody likes it, knows it or admits it, you and I are running Rusk Properties now. We are co-vice presidents that have become co-CEO’s. And until Rusk comes out of hiding or comes back from the dead or comes back from what-the-fuck-ever, we are in charge and we have got to keep this place above the water line.”

“By developing?” Trish asked flatly.

“Yes!” Masley said standing up. He walked over to her desk and leaned down. “Give me your trash can.” He said.

“What?” Trish asked confused.

“Give me your trash can.” Masley repeated.

Trish reached down under her desk and pulled out the brass metal trash can. She handed it to him. Masley spat out the huge wad of chewed gum.

“Oh, Jesus, Alan.” She said recoiling. “Can you get ANY more disgusting.”

“I’m too excited to chew and talk at the same time.” He said handing her the trash can back.

“Thank god you don’t have to walk too.” She said and put the can back under her desk.

Masely sat back down on the couch and leaned forward with excitement.

“First we get this homeless bullshit and that deformed hoarse-whispering freak off our back.” He began.

“And how do you suppose we do that?” She said rocking back in her chair.

“We donate that portion of the properties.”

“What?” Trish shouted.

“Wait.” Masely said calmly. “We donate the little southeast corner of the properties that the homeless shit-hole shelter occupies. We donate it to the City of Los Angeles with a proviso.”

“Do tell.” Trish said rocking back again.

“That the building IS declared a Historical Landmark AND that it becomes not JUST a homeless shelter, but also an ultra-hip rehabilitation facility. I’m thinking ‘The Andrew Rusk Center For Human Advocacy’ or some such other tree-hugging bullshit.”

“Who pays for that?” Trish asked with mounting interest.

“We do.” Masley said leaning further forward. “We sell Catalina shore. It’s a piece of crap for us anyway. Drop…say…. eight million of the profits into the shelter. Build the sucker into a facility that not only takes in the crap-pantsed homeless but also the rich and famous heroine addicts. They live together. Build there lives back up together. All kumbaya and shit.”

“And what exactly do we gain?” Trish asked.

“First of all, the freakin’ write off will be amazing. I already crunched some numbers and we would actually MAKE money off this deal because of the current codes. Second the damn publicity will be like God himself sent a letter of appreciation and recommendation to us. The Rusk Foundation will be synonymous with Mother Teresa. Then, once that dump is revamped, we can develop the properties around it. We can make the area ultra-hip chic. Lofts and artsy shit. Rent them out to rich hipsters for a butt-load of money.” ”

“Wow.” Trish said.

“RIGHT? Isn’t this an incredible idea? Masely asked excitedly.

“I wasn’t ‘wowing’ at your idea, I was ‘wowing’ at the fact that you know what synonymous means.” Trish said leaning forward. “However.” Trish put the stem of her glasses to her lips. “This idea’s got legs.”

“You bet your pretty Mexican ass it does.” Masely said leering.

“My ass, as the rest of me, is Puerto Rican. You racist idiot.” She said picking up her office phone. “I need to make some calls. This could be big.”

Sam Vincent sat in the newly renovated kitchen of ‘The Andrew Rusk Self-Actualization Center’. He sat at one of the new kitchen counters on one of the new kitchen stools. He had his coffee, (no cream, extra sugar), in front of him in the same mug that he had been using for the past two years. The very mug that Gracie Washington had handed him his first cup of coffee in when he arrived at the run down homeless shelter. He loved that mug. It represented so much to him.

“You want some eggs?” Gracie asked him as she pulled a brand new giant fry pan from the brand new pots and pans rack.

“Gracie my love.” He began. “You have been asking me that same question for over two years. Don’t you know the answer by now?”

“I’m hoping one day you’ll wise up.” She said moving to the refrigerator for eggs. “Your skinny white ass just keeps gettin’ skinnier. You work too hard and eat too little.”

“I love you, Gracie. Will you marry me?” He said taking his mug to the brand new sink.

“Sugar.” She said putting eight dozen eggs on the counter. “I’m eighty-eight years old and you look to be about forty-five.”

“If I die, I die.” Sam said laughing.

“That’s a terrible old joke.” Gracie said. “Much like yourself.” She picked up an egg, looked at it for a moment then put it back in the crate. She walked over to Sam who had returned to his stool.

“You saved our home, Sugar.” She said taking his calloused hands into her tissue-paper-skin ones. “You and those fancy ACLU boys got that company to pay out and do the right thing. You saved our home. I love you for that, Sugar. I’ll love you for that till the day I die.”

“I didn’t do it alone.” He said looking deeply into her brown-black eyes. “Lots of people helped and the Rusk company decided to help us on their own.”

“For the taxes.” She said wrinkling her already well-wrinkled nose. “Not from the goodness of their hearts. I can tell you that much. But then. The end results the same. We live in a fancy mansion now and we still get to help the hopeless. That’s what matters most. Helpin’ the hopeless.” She let go of his hands and went back to her eggs.

Malcolm Andrew Rusk, his middle name given to him by his late parents in honor of his father’s brother, sat in a quiet corner of The Highwayman Pub, in Abbotsford Canada. Seated with him was Jason Miller, a somewhat seedy musician slash criminal with long black, greasy hair and a tattoo on his neck that read ‘Pussy Lover’. They both were on their third pint.

“It’s been over two years, dude. You MUST have killed him.” Jason Miller said.

“It was never in the paper. They just say he’s missing. But I’m still not going back. The Beaner and the Jew are running the company now and I don’t stand a chance with them. Anyway, he said he was gonna cut me loose on my twenty-first birthday.” Malcolm said picking up his beer mug.

“Maybe they never found out it was him.” Jason said lighting his hand rolled cigarette.

“Is that weed?!?” Malcolm asked looking around.

“No.” Jason said laughing. “Home rolled. Cheaper and better. Want one?”

“I don’t smoke.” Malcolm said leaning away from Jason. “It kills you.”

“Gotta die of something.” Jason said taking a deep drag off his cigarette. “Is that possible though? That they never figured out it was him? Didn’t you say he was in a Halloween costume or something?”

“Not Halloween.” Malcolm said and downed the last of his beer. “My uncle was batshit. He was charity happy and ‘give money to the needy’ happy. So get this. He dresses up as a homeless guy. He puts on filthy clothes and rubs mud into his long hair. Let’s his beard get all scraggly and he tells me that we are going to give money to the helpers. He called people who help other people helpers.”

“Clever.” Jason said sarcastically.

“So we go out in his Ferrari with a bag full of money… like over a hundred grand and he’s gonna give it away to anybody that makes an effort to help him out. He’s gonna sit on the sidewalk like a homeless dude and if somebody helps him out he’s gonna give them like ten grand!”

“Fuck.” Jason said and took a deep drag off his cigarette. “I woulda just kicked him.”

“Yeah.” Malcolm began. “Me too. Anyway, I was supposed to follow him around at a safe distance in the Ferrari and keep half of the money in the trunk till he needed it. He had half in that trash bag he was carrying. I freaked. I mean come on. The dude is gonna piss away over a hundred grand. I needed the money more than some shit on the street. So I revved up the Ferrari and plowed into him. You shoulda seen it. He flew like twenty feet into the air, man. It was hilarious. I grabbed the bag and split. You know the rest. You found me in this very bar, my man.”

“I did indeed, my dude.” Jason said snuffing out his cigarette. “And now this new deal is gonna make us even richer than your Uncle the perv.”

“Perv?” Malcolm asked.

“Didn’t he like flash you or some such pervy stuff?” Jason lit another cigarette.

“Oh.” Malcolm laughed. “No. He did that to everybody. If you said something he didn’t like he’d B-A you. You know, moon you. He had this tattoo of Winnie-The-Pooh on his ass and he’d turn around, drop his pants and say, ‘Give Winnie a kiss’.”