May He Rest in Peace
Trek's body lay motionless on the floor while Brent wipes his face to make sure no pee rolls into his eyes. He opened his eyes slightly and saw Tony flicking the blood off his big knife onto Trek's body. “ What have you done ?!” he hollered.
“Nothing”, said Cynthia calmly and motioned for Sal to squirt him again.
Brent grabbed the squirt gun from Sal and smashed it under his foot with pee flying everywhere. “Aghh!” hollered Brent as he wiped his hands on Tony's sport jacket.
Cynthia motions for Tony to stab Brent and Brent just has enough time to grab the incoming knife by its blade. Tony pulls the knife back and Brent looks down at his bloody hand thinking he must be cut all the way through his tendons. Again Tony flicks the blood off his knife onto Brent, but some goes onto Brent's face.
“Catsup?” asks Brent, wondering why his blood tasted like catsup. He looked at Tony and seen the blade bend as he wiped the blood from it. “A rubber knife?” asked Brent.
“Of course it's a rubber knife” says Cynthia calmly. “These old guys wouldn't hurt a fly. If I really wanted you dead I would have to do it myself.”
Brent grabs the rubber knife from Tony and rips the rubber blade from the rubber handle.
“Then Trek isn't dead?”
“No. He just fainted like every man who thinks he was fatally stabbed. Women don't faint. They get angry and come after the guy holding the knife with their nails ready to gouge his face off. Women are tougher than men when it comes to the sight of blood. We see it more often, like every month. That's why I will be the one to kill you two if that has to happen.”
Brent kneels over Trek and says, “Come back old friend. You are okay. Wake up.”
Trek comes to and says, “Brent. I was at the gates to Heaven. St. Peter asked me to show cause why I should be admitted to Heaven. He said The Amazing Monsieur Dubert LaTreck should have no trouble doing that. I presented my best case to St. Peter and all he said was, ‘I have read all your stories and you are not as good as the stories make you out to be. You have not convinced me to let you in, but you have convinced me you are not ready to go to Hell either. Go back and live a little more. Do some more good or do some more bad so the next time we meet I will be able to decide. Go. Your friend is calling you.' Brent, I must remember this wonderful moment forever.”
Brent now doesn't want to tell his friend what actually happened. He suddenly smiles and says, “Look! Your blood has suddenly turned to catsup! You have truly witnessed a miracle. You have been to Heaven and have returned.”
Trek looks at Cynthia and says, “I can thank you for this miracle.”
Cynthia sits there with a frown and says, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, Halleluiah. Does that mean you still refuse to help me?”
“I cannot do anything that is against our laws or our Creator's laws.”
Cynthia pulls out a ten inch blade switch-blade knife, the biggest made. “Do I really have to send you back to Heaven with a fifty-fifty chance of getting in? Your friend Brent agreed to work for me.”
“You did, Brent?”
“No, but I think we can work for her if she stops stealing from her customers.”
Cynthia leans over and sarcastically says, “We will let every customer win and make up for the loss by doing more business.”
“Exactly”, says Brent, and continues, “Everyone knows the odds favor the house, so they expect the house to win most of the time. It is the knowledge that someone can possibly win big over the house and the other customers that makes them want to gamble. And yes, the more people that win the more people that think you are running an honest gambling casino and the more that people will want to take their chances on being one of the few that do win. If you try that you will triple your losses and quadruple your profits by handling ten times more money. What do you think Sal and Tony?” and Brent sees the two old men have left.
Cynthia says, “They always try to arrive early for the Early Bird Special at Momma Leone's.”
Brent continues, “So the whole thing is legal as far as the customers are concerned. You would not be stealing their money with fixed dice or brakes on the roulette wheel or dealing from the bottom of the deck. It's still not legal, though, according to the State.”
Cynthia says, “Screw the state. They can get their money from the President who just prints it. Do you think it will work, Trek?”
“Yes. I could work for you then. The State has no business controlling every aspect of everyone's life. All they want is their cut, and I agree they can go get some new money from the Federal Reserve where they just print it from air.”
Trek then asks, “Where are you staying now, Sweet Angel, still in your father's penthouse?”
“It's my penthouse now. I will be the only one earning enough money to pay the upkeep.”
“You mean pay the rent , don't you?” asks Brent.
“We've owned our penthouse for twenty years. We don't rent.”
“You mean you are locked into this building and all we had to do to get rid of you was to move to the other side of the city?” asks Trek.
Cynthia looks at Trek, gets up and runs out the front door.
Brent says, “That was harsh, Trek. I almost think you two had something going together while I was gone.”
The following week Brent started work at Guido's Palace and suggested Cynthia change the name to “The Sweet Angel's Palace” to let people know it is under new management and has changed. Every week the losses doubled, the money handled doubled and the profits doubled until the tenth week when they were tripling their payouts, quadrupling their profits and handling ten times the amount of money. Brent, who was still a womanizer, thought Cynthia's now softened personality meant she might be receptive to his advances. She wasn't. “It is strictly business between us”, she said.
Brent asks, “Don't you have a boyfriend? What do you do for sex?”
Cynthia said, “I dream about it. But it is never with you.”
“What did you do when you were a girl in your late teens and early twenties? Didn't you have a boyfriend then?”
“I tried to learn all about the family business. My Pop only has me. My mother would not give him another child, so he never had a son to teach the business to. I knew he would rely on me, so I learned everything by eaves dropping. I learned at ten years old that my family was thought to be ruthless but I knew they could never hurt anyone. That is why they saved Jimmy Hoffa. … um … eh, I mean someone else.”
Brent looks at Cynthia and asks, “Is Jimmy Hoffa still alive?”
Cynthia says, “I wasn't supposed to say anything about him … ever.”
“I am your Consigliere. Who can you confide in if you can't confide in your Consigliere?”
“Yes. Jimmy is still alive.”
“How old is he now?”
“He was born February 14, 1913. He is ninety nine years old.”
“He must look like a prune.”
“He is a cantankerous old man who just complains now about everything. My father took out a contract on him on July 25, 1975. Everyone thought the contract was to kill Hoffa for two million dollars, but the agreement said, ‘ Make him disappear. ' That was the wording of the contract. Making someone disappear just means making it impossible for someone to see him. Pop then made a deal with Jimmy to save his life. ‘ Ten million dollars to pay for room and board for a place to stay until he died a happy old man ' was his agreement with Jimmy. As far as everyone knows Jimmy disappeared July 30, 1975, but he wasn't dead. All he did was walk right into a secret basement in this building. Poppa was poor until he made those two deals. When he came home with just ten thousand dollars of his newly earned millions to give to my mother she thought he stole it, so she left him. She never knew he earned a lot more than the ten thousand and she never knew it was earned honestly.”
“He's been in this building for thirty seven years?”
“Yup. He has everything he needs right down there in his own apartment in the basement. Good food, exercise equipment, a sun lamp, and good company with Uncle Tony and Uncle Sal who used to work for him. My uncles make up stories about the capers they are still pulling. They bring down bags of hundred dollar bills and tell Jimmy it is his share of the heist. They make up tales of shoot-outs where the cops get scared and run away. Uncle Sal and Uncle Tony always get away. Jimmy gets all excited. He gets tired easy now and falls asleep right after they finish the story. Then they take the money upstairs to put back in the vault. Jimmy forgets about the money by the time he wakes up but always remembers he was happy.”
“You said he was grumpy.”
“Uncle Sal and Uncle Tony only pretend to do one job a week. Jimmy is happy one day a week. The other times he is complaining that he doesn't have pretty girls visit him, and that he doesn't have spaghetti like his mother made. He says he misses his mother and wants to see her before he dies of old age.”
Brent looks surprised and asks, “His mother is still alive?”
“She would be one hundred and thirty three years old. What do you think? Jimmy forgot he went to her funeral July 29, 1975. Poppa waited until she was buried before he ‘ made Jimmy disappear .' His memory is good at some things but bad at others. He forgets his mother is dead but remembers his agreement with Poppa said he would die a happy old man, and now he wants to go out on the street to see the sun again. He is threatening to sue Poppa for breach of contract because he is not happy.”
“How can he sue anyone if he agreed to never leave the basement? And if he leaves the basement he will be breaching his contract himself.”
“He is ninety nine years old, Brent. What does he have to lose? All he wants to do is make others unhappy along with him.”
“Can I see him?”
“Yes, but only through a one-way mirror. Remember he is supposed to have disappeared, so no one can look at him directly.
Cynthia takes Brent down a flight of stairs into what looks like a normal basement for a large building. She unlocks a breaker box and flips the power switch. Then she unlocks a chain around a large vault and presses an electrical button. The large vault slowly flips up at a forty five degree revealing a long flight of stairs leading deep into the ground. At the bottom of the second stairs is a huge room that has a large room build inside of it so one could walk all around the outside of the inner room. There were windows every little way on the outside of the inner room. Cynthia looks into a window and says, “This is a mirror on the other side. Jimmy is not in his bedroom. She walks to the next room and says, “Jimmy is not in the living room.” She walks to the next window and says, “Jimmy is not in the kitchen.” She walks all around the inner room and does not see Jimmy in any of the mirrors. She pulls her cell phone from her pocket and says, “Uncle Sal? Do you know where Jimmy could be hiding where I couldn't find him through the mirrors? … Okay, I'll wait right here.”
Ten minutes later Sal “The Puddle” arrives and says, “I'll go in and'a find him. He must'a be sleeping under the bed or'a something.”
Twenty minutes later Sal comes out with a surprised look on his face and says, “He'sa gone. Jimmy Hoffa disappeared from'a where he disappeared to. Don Catania is gonna be angry widda me.”
Two old men are in the bedroom with Cynthia's father. “What would you have us'a do to this'a young man Don Catania? We are getting old and he is'a young and strong.”
“I know. I know. Maybe we'a put contract on him like we did in the old days.”
“Who takes contracts now? We were the last'a ones to do that and that'a was'a long time ago we did that last'a one. You remember it was'a Jimmy Hoffa we did'a that contract on.”
Fat Mr. Guido “The Don” Catania's eyes get big as he lay in the reinforced bed, and he whispers, “Don'ta mention his name. We never should'a taken that contract. We should'a just made accidents happen to relatives in competing businesses like'a in the old days. As soon as you deal with'a people outside the family you get'a in trouble. That is'a whole new problem when you take'a contracts on strangers. When Al Capone ran things he knew how to get'a things done. People back then were hungry. You could get'a three guys bidding lower and lower to handle a contract. You could get'a someone hurt dirt cheap back'a then. Now, no one want'a work. Everybody says ‘Aw ferget it'. You know why they don't care? Because it ain't their money. Now everybody got'a money. They don'ta care about my money. We need young hungry men in our little mob. How can we grow if'a we don'ta have young strong men?”
The oldest man, Sal “The Puddle” Calabria who was eighty five, said, “You got a beautiful daughter, Don Catania. She should'a be bringing in young men or maybe start'a to learn to run everything herself.”
“She is'a no longer my little Princess. This'a man next to the thief in this picture stole her virtue. She is'a no longer the pure little girl we once'a knew. She want'a revenge on this man. Perhaps it is time to teach'a her the family business. With a little knowledge she could'a become a bigger bitch than her mother, who could cause more pain and misery with'a her words and scowl than we ever could'a with our bats and brass knuckles. A woman can'a be just'a like a snake. They can bring'a down a mighty gorilla with just'a their mouth”, and he hollers, “Cynthia, my beautiful daughter, please come'a join us.”
Cynthia knew her father's image of her had changed as soon as she heard him call her “my daughter” and not as he always referred to her in the past as “my little Princess.” Somehow she knew the easy days of being cared for like a Princess were over and she would have to start earning her own upkeep. She was just thankful she was able to hide the knowledge of her lack of virginity from him for the nine extra years that she milked that image of purity. She entered the room not with a big smile as she always had in the past but with a frown on her face, saying, not her usual, “Yes, father”, but, “What you want, Poppa?”, and for the first time she saw grown men cower from her.
Don Catania held his heart for a minute, and Sal “The Puddle” Calabria wet his adult diapers as he always did when frightened, while Tony “The Flake” Brogano's eyes rolled back in his head while his eyelids fluttered.
Cynthia says, “Ya wet yer pants again Uncle Sal” as she leans over Tony Brogano slapping his face while hollering, “Snap outta it, Uncle Tony, ya freakin' baby.” She then turns to her father and says, “When do I start work?”
“How did you know we were considering taking you into the business?” asks her father.
You spent all dat money on surveillance at yer gambling hall in Center City West to watch all yer customers and employees and all I had ta do is put one little microphone in here to know everything what was going on. If I'm all grown up now and gotta woik, then I'm gonna run the place. Yer gonna retire now. I'll give you some money every week like you gave me. Understand?”
Her father meekly says, “You cannot run'a the business. You are a woman. The others will not take'a orders from you.”
“Who won't? You Uncle Tony? Then you are fired. You Uncle Sal? Then you are fired. I will get new men to run everything for me and if they steal they are dead. That is how you run a business, Poppa. You want someone to go away, you shoot them yourself. You have to be a real woman to run your business where you steal from everybody.”
“You will be in jail in one week if you try to run it that'a way”, says Sal.
“My Consigliere will be the very man who stole from you, and should I ever be arrested I will have the amazing Monsieur Dubert LaTreck, the man who you think stole my virginity and who is the greatest lawyer in the world represent me. I'm sure I will be arrested a few times in the beginning, but after just a few times they will steer clear of me. Remember how I said I will make people go away?”
“The man who I think stole your honor?”
“Oh Pappa. I've been taking my clothes off with men since I was sixteen. Grow up.”
“Who started you doing this? Who was the first one?”
“Louie Patonne stole my cherry.”
“He fell over the rail at Niagara Falls and was never found.”
“No Pappa. He said he was going to tell everyone what he did to me and then he was pushed over the rail. He was my first in bed and the first one I made go away.”
Guido “The Don” Catania shakes his head and looks at Sal “The Puddle” Calabria and Tony “The Flake” Brogano who both just stare back. Suddenly Guido smiles and hollers, “Da mob's gotta new Boss”, and after a couple seconds when it sinks in, Sal and Tony smile and start dancing with each other. Fat Guido could not roll out of bed and just bounced there as though joining them. Cynthia shakes her head in disgust and turns to leave the room saying, “I will be known as Cynthia ‘The Sweet Angel' Catania .”
When she leaves the room Fat Guido motions for his cousins to come closer to the reinforced bed and whispers, “She will be a bigger threat than'a her mother. We will'a call her ‘The Sweet Angel' but a better name might'a be ‘The Mean Bitch'. The Family is about to change, my friends. Even the Teamsters and the Corleone Family will respect us”, and Guido kisses the ends of his fingers.
Meanwhile, Brent Hardbaker is getting tired of flying around Europe in his jet. The gambling crowds all knew him now and he had trouble even getting to the betting tables through all the people who wanted to talk to him either about his stories of The Amazing Monsieur Dubert LaTreck or how he seemed to always come home a gambling winner. He flew back to Philadelphia , Pennsylvania and arrived at the penthouse in the middle of the afternoon. Before he could turn on the lights he was met with a headlock and a punch to the forehead. “Dubby! It's me! It's me, Brent!” he hollered. The lights turn on and Brent sees it is Cynthia who had him in a headlock. “I thought you were Trek”, she said, but added, “You are just as bad. You stole money from my gambling palace.”
“What gambling palace, you dimwit broad?”
Tony “The Flake” Brogano pulls a big black knife from his belt and Sal “The Puddle” Calabria pulls a large green pistol from his belt. “Don't talk to the Sweet Angel that'a way” says Tony.
“Is that a puddle of pee on the floor?” hollers Brent.
Sal says “Yes, but it is from'a my pistol.”
“You are threatening me with a water pistol?”
“Its'a pee pistol. You want'a me to shoot'a you with my pee pistol?”
“No! Gawd no.” as Brent raises his hands. “I remember you two old guys. You work at Guido's Palace in Center City West. What happened to Guido? Did I kill him with that punch?”
Cynthia says, “We studied the surveillance tapes of the fight. Your swing missed him by almost a foot. You didn't even punch him. He faked being hurt so he wouldn't have to fight you, or god forbid, chase you when you ran.”
“I just thought his fat belly was so soft I didn't feel it. His eyes got so big when I swung I thought I killed him when he crashed to the floor.”
“No kill'a him. Just'a scare him”, says Tony still holding his big knife.
Brent looks at Cynthia and says, “And I didn't steal your money. I just won it in a way you don't allow.”
“You count cards. That is just like stealing. Now you have to work off the money you stole.”
“I won four hundred thou. Why don't I just give you some of it back?”
Cynthia puts her hands on her hips and says, “I am the boss here, and if I say you have to work it off that is what will happen.”
“So what do I do, wash dishes?”
“You will be my Consigliere for one year. I will pay you five thousand dollars a week.”
“You want to hire someone who you think is a thief to be your closest advisor. Ordinarily that would be a nice job, but I don't need the money. Why not hire one of your cousins or some other relative goon to do the job? You could probably get them for just a plate of spaghetti a day.”
Tony raises his knife and takes a step towards Brent. “Hold it, Uncle Tony”, says Cynthia, “Let's give him one more chance to work with us”, and she turns back to Brent and asks, “How would it be if I have Tony use his knife on Trek if you refuse?”
“Trek has nothing to do with this. Leave him out.”
“Leave him out – Take him out. It makes no difference to me. What is your answer now?”
Just then Trek comes home from work. “Brent! When did you get back home? Who are these guys? What are you doing here Cynthia? Did you let her in, Brent? She's trouble, you know.”
Sal raises his gun now pointed at Trek and says, “You show respect'a for the ‘Sweet Angel.”
“Cynthia is a sweet angel? She is more like a holy terror. Is that a water pistol?” asks Trek.
Brent says, “He fills it with his pee.”
Trek raises his hands.
Cynthia looks at the two men and says, “Brent will be my Consigliere and you will be the lawyer for my business, Trek.”
“What business is that?” asks Trek.
Brent says, “She took over Guido's Palace in Center City West from her father. She thinks she is some kind of mob boss now.”
“What does Guido's Palace do?”
“It is a small-time after-hours drinking and gambling joint.” says Brent.
“I'll have nothing to do with anything illegal, especially for a girl that sleeps with a guy just for a place to sleep” hollers Trek.
Cynthia is now angry and while looking at her two uncles she flips her finger towards Brent and Trek in a “Get em” manner.
Sal squirts Brent on the forehead with his pistol and Brent quickly covers his eyes to keep the pee out of them. Tony lunges at Trek and thrusts his knife into his stomach. Trek looks at his stomach and sees an enormous amount of blood. He now knows what death is like, for he feels no pain. Everything seemed to go into slow motion as he held his stomach and felt the warmth of his blood coming from the knife wound behind his fingers. Death was not as painful as he thought it would be. He whispered, “Good bye, Sill”, as consciousness left his mind and he fell to the floor.
Trek and Cynthia sit in the back of the restaurant. Cynthia starts the conversation, or, as mentioned earlier, there would have been no conversation at all, as Trek was very shy around pretty girls. “My father has been in the hospital for three weeks. He got into a fight at work and doesn't seem to be getting better.”
“What happened?” asks Trek in a nervous voice as he continued to look at his coffee cup.
“He said he caught someone stealing and when he tried to take the money away the guy punched him hard in the side of his stomach. I think it hurt something inside serious.”
“Did the police catch the thief?”
“No. My father said his employees will find him and take care of everything themselves.”
“What does your father do?”
“He runs a sports club. He never let me go there because he said he didn't want me to get to know his crummy customers. He won't even tell me where it is.”
“I've lived next to you for three years and I've never even seen your father. Does he live with you?”
“I live with him . It is his penthouse. My mother left him when I was young. She said he was a crook. She couldn't afford to have me live with her, so I live with my father. She told me to never mingle with my father's friends. That's pretty easy to do since I don't know any.”
“So why don't I ever see him in the hallway?”
“He rarely goes out. He has an office in the penthouse where he runs his business. He said he has cameras at his business where he can use the internet to see all of his employees and customers to make sure no one is stealing. He sits in his office day and night. The door is locked when he is in there and locked when he is not in there. He lives on potato chips, pretzels and cola. He is very fat and out of shape. That is why he shouldn't have gone to his sports club when he thought he saw someone stealing. I imagine his customers are all in better shape than he is.”
“He should have gone to his own sports club to stay in shape or let his employees handle the thief.”
“His employees are all relatives. They're only in a little better condition than he is. They are all old cousins that he can trust with the money. My father is sixty four years old. Some of his cousins that he employs are eighty five years old.”
“He should hire some younger strong people.”
“He is afraid they will steal from him. Besides, none of my younger cousins want to work for him. My mom told all of them my father was a crook and they believed her.”
“Do you think he might be?”
Cynthia looks at Trek and starts to cry again. “No. He treats me like a princess. He gives me whatever I want. He always tells me to be a good girl. Would a crook tell his daughter to be a good girl? No. He would tell her to go steal something”, and she cries harder.
“What can I do to help you?”
“You just did. I needed someone to listen to me. You are a good listener, Dubby. You are not like Brent who thinks everything can be bought off or everything is funny.”
“Brent is in Europe . He will be there for a while. I think he might decide to stay there.”
Cynthia wipes her eyes and says, “I never stayed in the penthouse alone before and it is so lonely there all by myself. Can you stay with me or can I stay with you until I know my father is okay and coming back home?”
“I have Sill's coffin in the guest room. We didn't know what to do with it after the funeral so we just put there. I don't think you want to sleep in a coffin.”
“Didn't Sill still need it to be buried in?”
“He was cremated.”
“We have mother's old bedroom that is empty. You could stay in there if you wish.”
“Your father would be angry if I stayed at your place and would kill me if I slept in his wife's bed. He would assume you and I were, um, doing something he wouldn't want us to do.”
“He said I was old enough to get married. He must know that means I'm old enough to do things married people do. Don't worry. He trusts me and I trust you.”
“I can't stay at your place. I would be too nervous to sleep. You could sleep on the big couch in my place if you like. I think it would be comfortable.”
“That would be good enough. At least I would know someone was close-by to protect me.”
Cynthia lay on the couch for one hour. When she thought Trek was asleep she slipped into his bed and was sound asleep when he awoke in the morning to find her there. The normally nervous Trek around pretty girls was now quite a little more nervous. She wasn't awake when he had to leave for the office so he left a key to his penthouse on the kitchen table in case she was going out later in the day.
Meanwhile, Brent is staying in the City of Versailles, France, which is just west of Paris . He bought a little chateau just outside of Versailles where it was quiet, and where he was sure no one could find him. But it was too quiet there. Brent needed more excitement than the village girls could supply, so he purchased the large farm next to his chateau and built an airplane runway on it so he could travel to Paris for exciting evenings of drinking and gambling. It wasn't long after that the partying Brent Hardbaker was back in Sylvester Cromley's body. He was again the gambling fool, but a more cautious fool this time. He stuck to losing six to twelve days in a row and then making one large win that doubled or tripled the return of those losses. Everything was back to normal, except he had no friends there.
Brent would think of Trek quite often. When he was with girls he would meet in the evenings he would often tell them stories of his friend, stories he would make up and would exaggerate more and more until he made Dubert LaTreck into a French Super Lawyer, practicing in the United States , who could even keep the Devil himself out of jail. And, as with all superheroes, the great Dubert LaTreck had a clumsy side-kick called Sly Cromley who would die in every episode. People who heard some of his amazing stories would seek out Brent at the places he frequented to hear another episode of the amazing Monsieur Dubert LaTreck. Brent liked the attention his stories got him and liked puffing the imaginary ego his friend. What Brent didn't know was that a small printing company called Marble Comics was making the hero come to life in his own comic book.
The French people loved their super lawyer who now had a new episode in every monthly issue of Marble Comics, where in one issue he was disguised as the short Napoleon, and then the tall Charles de Gaulle in the next issue of The Amazing Monsieur Dubert LaTreck , as he always used an intricate web of chemistry, mechanical and electrical engineering, and the internet to weave an incredible plot, used cunning and his side-kick's life to reveal the real villain. He used the rule of law to show that his client, always a beautiful woman who would fall in love with the hero, was innocent. Every story ended with a picture, from the back of our hero wearing the same torn clothes worn in the scene where he captures the villain after a vicious fight. The seat of our hero's pants always gets ripped off showing his butt crack, so standing hand in hand with his beautiful client who is wearing the most revealing clothes she wore in the story, usually a small bathing suit showing the top half of her butt crack also, with an advertisement for some product above it, in front of Sly Cromley's grave, he says, “Rest in Peace until the next mission, my only friend.”
Brent learned of the comic books when a young girl asked him to autograph one of them. He then contacted Marble Comics about a royalty and several copies of every issue printed. He was turned over to a young comic book reading geek named Charles who was an officer of the company. Brent was given two copies of each issue ever printed and a two penny per copy royalty. His check, covering the back issues was for just a little under one half million Euros. His check for the current issue will be over fifty thousand Euros, but as it is going into its fourth printing that check won't be written until the next issue is printed. Brent was then introduced to a twenty five year old girl named Paulette Rumslay who was to be his liaison at Marble for new stories. He was to only tell her the new stories and no one else. Paulette looked like many of the heroines in the comics and come to find out she modeled for many of the scenes. Yes, she was beautiful, and Brent couldn't help asking her if she modeled the scenes from the back also. Paulette smiled and turned around. She pulled her slacks down a little to show a whiter area at the top of her creamy smooth butt skin where a bikini must have covered and where Marble sells space for different ads whenever her butt is visible in the story. “Aaah”, said Brent. “You did, you gorgeous little dickens.”
“Marvel gets a half million Euros an issue for that ad space”, she says.
Brent smiles and asks, “Do you get royalty for that too?”
“No. I just get a big paycheck every week.”
“It is a very big paycheck that is not dependent on the number of issues sold like your check is. You better give me some good stories if you want to earn money. All I have to do is pull my pants down.”
“Oh sweety. That's all every girl has to do.”
“Don't get on my bad side, Buster. We had a photographer who thought he could touch me and we then had to get a new photographer.”
“You got him fired?”
Charles interrupts and says, “She knows karate. She almost kicked his face off. He ran off and never came back.”
Brent smiles at Paulette and says, “I'll remember to duck.”
Shortly after that meeting at Marble Comics, Trek gets a package from France . In it was one copy of every issue of The Amazing Monsieur Dubert LaTreck. There was no return address on the package, but it was not hard for Trek to know who sent it. He read the stories and was astonished that Brent could make up such fantasies, but really liked how they were written and illustrated. He thought the ending of every story was amusing and thought of Sill, as he was also dead but, of course, always alive in Brent.
Cynthia was now going to bed at the same time with Trek. As she said earlier, she was old enough to do the things married people do, and she liked doing it often. She saw the comic books on the living room coffee table and read each one. She thought Trek wrote them and was jealous of the heroines who always ended up with the hero, who she was sleeping with. She didn't like the stories.
When Trek returned that night he found an angry Cynthia. “Why are you writing those stories and not having me in them? I am the girl who you are sleeping with. I should be the girl in these stories.”
“I am not writing them. Brent is writing them. I didn't even know it until I got them yesterday. I think they are interesting.”
“I want you to throw them out.”
“I will keep them in my room.”
“It is our room. I want them thrown out.”
“I will take them to the office then. By the way, how is your father doing?”
“He said he was faking being hurt, but I wasn't to tell anyone. He loves the attention and food he is getting in the hospital. He is fatter than ever and just has the strength to lie in his bed. I don't think he will live much longer if he gets fatter and weaker, but all he wants to do is eat in bed.”
“What happens if he dies?”
“I will sell the penthouse and stay here.”
“I didn't say you could stay here forever.”
“You said I could stay here until my father is ready to come home. If he dies he can't come home. In that case I could stay here forever. Didn't you think of that possibility Mr. Amazing Lawyer?”
“No I didn't think of that, but I did remember to not have a written contract which you would need to enforce the agreement.”
That night Trek had to sleep on the couch, and the next day while Trek is at the office Cynthia goes into Brent's bedroom and looks through everything there. She finds a picture of him with Trek and keeps it. Meanwhile, Trek stops at the hospital and tells the Director that he has a faker wasting a bed and would die if allowed to remain there much longer, which would expose the hospital to a large law suit. Cynthia's father was kicked out and he returned home on an enormous heavy duty gurney.
Cynthia was kicked out of Trek's penthouse that same day. She sat by her father's bed angry that he didn't die. She told him about Trek and said he took advantage of her and stole her virginity. Her father said he never met his neighbor Trek, whereupon Cynthia shows him the photograph she stole from Brent's room to show what Trek looked like. When the father saw the photograph he pointed to Brent and hollered, “That'sa the thief! That'sa the guy who'a stole from me.”
Dubby and Brent leave the funeral home with a new plan. Since no friends or relatives would be at the cemetery but them, they do not need to bury the casket. They told the mortician the body will now be cremated and for him to tell the people in the cemetery to fill the hole back up, for the plot was back up for sale. They had the casket picked up by a common trucking company and delivered to their apartment. They told the truckers it was empty; it was just a heavy casket. The meat chunks inside the casket were already in small baggies and all they had to do was to take them to the next door restaurant's dumpster. They put the casket in their guest room for a bed as a joke, since they never had a guest. Dubby thought the guest room was sort of like Sill's now, and he felt he should always ask Brent into the Guest Room whenever he wanted to talk about or to Sill, so while they were in there he asked again, “Would you kill me too, Brent?”
“It's going to be harder to kill you , Dubby. You have employees and customers that see you every day.”
“I could quit my law practice and when things died down I could die.”
“You handled all the legal stuff to create Brent Hardbaker. How can you handle everything for yourself?”
“I will have to do it before I die.”
“But you like being a lawyer. What would you do after you die?”
“I have enough money to last another life. All I want to do is change my life.”
“You have to come up with a cool name too before you start anything.”
“I already did.”
Brent smiles and asks, “What is it?”
“I don't like it.”
“It's not cool. Daryl isn't a real cool name.”
“How about Rod Washburn?”
“Nooo. It's better, but you will have this name until you die the second time. What's your third guess?”
“I don't have another one.”
“Let's think about it for a day or two. I'm going to the biker's bar down the street to pick up one of those scummy biker chicks for sex. It's not every day that a guy gets to celebrate his own funeral. Want to come?”
“No. I only have one dick.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I don't have one to spare that I can risk.”
“Good one, Dubby. Good point too. So where do you want to pick up chicks?”
“Girls don't like to be called chicks.”
“Only the ugly ones don't like it because no one calls them a chick, just like they don't want to be treated like women. They want to be treated like men.”
“They want to be treated as equals to men, Brent. There's a difference.”
“Do you remember our conversation at Tony's Lasagna Palace about six months ago? What did I say when we were talking about women?”
“You said women were the most beautiful creatures God ever made, that they were smarter than men and would earn more than men if people were paid according to what they accomplished. It was nice to hear you talk like that.
“And who were you talking to then?”
“No, you were talking to that dead guy Sylvester Cromley. I have to change everything to be Brent Hardbaker, even my opinions. Brent is a hard ass, Dubby. He is a money spending, brute of a womanizer. That is my new persona. That is who I am now.”
“I liked the invisible sensitive Sill better. If I change I want to become a better person.”
“Why not come back as Sill. The names open now.”
“No thanks. I don't like your parents. They are like my parents. They have no love in them.”
“If you don't change everything about yourself then why change at all, Dubby. If you want a nice body like mine all you have to do is work out. If you want to look different but keep everything else about yourself the same then let all your customers and employees know you will be getting some plastic surgery done and that they should be ready to see you look different. Then you can keep your name and life the same while getting a do-over of the old body.”
“I think that is really what I want to do.”
“You need a better nickname though. How about using part of your last name? Treck, spelled T-R-E-K? It sounds technical, sci-fi-ish, and an original cool nickname.”
“Hmmm. I kind of like it. It fits my real name Dubert LaTreck too. Then my business associates and clients can call me Dubert in public which would give me more respect.”
“Respect. That's something the new me will command … not earn, but demand”, says Brent, who adds, “Let's get out of this dead guy's bedroom and get a nice steak at the restaurant. If we knew how the funeral was going to end and that we wouldn't have to bury the casket or open it I would have had some of the steaks that were Sill kept on ice so we could eat them here.”
“That's an awful thought, Brent.”
Brent smiles and adds, “We could have invited Sill's parents over and afterwards tell them that the meat was Sill himself.”
“That's gross, Brent.”
“We could tell them that Sill's last message to his parents was, ‘Eat me'”
Both Brent and Dubby chuckled thinking that would have been funny. As they leave their penthouse they run into their neighbor's beautiful twenty five year old daughter. Dubby blushes and looks down at the floor as he always does when facing an attractive single girl. Brent says, “You are looking gorgeous this evening, as usual, Cynthia. We are going to have a steak at the restaurant. Would you like to join us for a meal of your choice? You can have anything you like. We are celebrating that I am still alive.”
Cynthia smiles her attractive smile and says, “Well now that you mention it, I should celebrate that I am still alive too. I would love to join you guys. Let me just holler in to my parents to tell them where I'll be.”
As the two men wait outside her parent's penthouse Dubby says, “We never got to know her because Sill was just as afraid to talk to her as I am.”
Brent looks at Dubby and says, “Sill was a coward. Brent is a lady's man. He's not afraid of anything.”
Cynthia comes out and walks between them saying, “I'm ready, boys. I hope you have a lot of money because I'm famished” as she tucks her arm around each of theirs.
Brent says, “How come a good-looking chick like you never asked me out before. You must have known I was madly in love with you.”
Cynthia throws her head back and laughs. “You just moved in three days ago. I like to make my men beg and grovel for at least five days” she laughed.
Brent glances at Dubby to let him know pretty girls do like being called chicks, while Dubby just blushed as he held her arm wondering how Brent could change his whole personality overnight. Dubby never said anything all evening while Brent entertained Cynthia who seemed to love being the center of attention.
As the weeks passed Brent would sleep later and later and go out every night staying out later and later. Some mornings Dubby would see hundreds of hundred dollar bills piled on the kitchen table when he woke up, and some evenings Brent would ask if Dubby had a thousand to loan him for the evening. “What do you do all night?” he asked one day.
“Party and gamble and play with woman … all night. It is great fun and exciting. You should come with me some night.”
“You will end up losing all your money by gambling, and you are going to catch something playing with strange girls.”
“I always take just one thousand dollars with me every night. I can only lose three hundred and sixty five thousand a year that way. I figure I have only enough to last a little under two hundred years if I never won. Last night I won fifty thousand dollars.”
“I saw it on the table this morning. How do you win so much in one night?”
“Blackjack. I can count cards.”
“Everyone that can count can count cards, Brent. There are fifty two in a deck. Second graders can count to fifty two.”
“Counting cards in Blackjack means you can remember which cards have been played and can calculate the odds of which of the remaining ones will turn up next. There are only a few people that can do that, and no one in this town seems to be able to do it.”
“Is that legal?”
“It's only illegal in the game rooms. You can't go to jail for it, but you could get beat up by the casino goons for it. That is why I make discrete losses to throw them off. Some nights, as many as ten in a row, I lose my thousand dollars. Some nights, never two in a row, I make fifty thousand. You get the picture. I'm way ahead.”
“It sounds dangerous to me.”
“It did to Sill too. He was too much of a coward to cash in on his ability.”
“I'm ready for my plastic surgery. It's scheduled for next week.”
“That's great, Dubby … I mean Trek. I have to remember to call you that now. Well, see you tomorrow”, and Brent throws his suit jacket over his shoulder and leaves for the evening.
Trek did not see Brent the next day or even the next week. He started worrying and called the hospitals and police stations. No one at those places ever heard of Brent Hardbaker.
At the end of the third week when Trek was ready to assume Brent was dead he received a letter from France . It was short and in sort of a code. It said:
52 of what?
Got me in trouble.
Won big. $400k. Made enemies.
Got in fight. Got hurt. Hurt others.
Might be in big trouble there.
Am okay. Like my new home.
Trek just looked at the letter. He now understood what happened and was relieved his friend was alright. He felt sorry it happened, not because his friend got hurt and was in trouble, but because he would now be alone for the first time in his life, and his only friend would not even recognize him now after his plastic surgery.
There was a knock on the door. Trek thought of not opening it, but decided life alone must go on. He opens the door and finds Cynthia standing there … crying. “Can we go out for coffee?” she asks.
“Brent is not here”, says Trek.
“I need someone to listen to me, Dubby … I mean Trek. Brent is always talking and trying to grab me. I need someone to just listen. Please come with me.”
Trek closes the door and they stand quietly waiting for the elevator as he wonders why someone always bubbly as Cynthia would be crying … and wondering why she would want to talk to him .
Sylvester Cromley was the name on his Birth Certificate. He always hated that name. People called him by the nickname Sly, which he hated even more, because he thought it made him sound cunning and devious.
When he was thirteen his father said he was now a man. Sylvester's first sentence out of his mouth as a man was to tell his father and mother he wanted to be called Sill and not Sly. He explained that when he entered High School in September all of his new friends will know him by his new name which he liked much better. They agreed. That was when Sylvester learned he made his first mistake as a man, for his mother started calling him Sillie.
His second mistake was when he thought if he didn't answer to his mother's calling him Sillie she would just get angry and holler “Sill”, but that she did not do. Mrs. Cromley never got angry. She just thought Sylvester was not in the house, so she went to the front door and hollered out to the whole neighborhood for her son. Well, you know the name she hollered. Sylvester was mortified. Silly then became his new nickname in High School.
Sill didn't have to worry about all of his new friends calling him Sill, for he only had one friend in High School. His name was Dubert LaTreck, pronounced as “Do bear”. He hated his name too, but was afraid to change his nickname of Dubby to anything else for fear he would make a similar mistake as Sill, as some of the kids already had called him “Poo Bear” then “Poopy Bear” and one older kid called him “Shit Bear”.
Sill and Dubby were like twins … not that they looked alike or were from the same parents. No, Sill and Dubby were twins from the same Fate. The only thing they had in common was that they hated their names. Both were sort of forced to be the other's only friend, or they would have no friend at all.
Like most young kids in school, when you are not invited to parties or asked to be on a sports team or in general when you are not noticed by the other kids, all you have left to do is to study. Sill and Dubby had the highest grades in their class. They worked together on different projects in their basements or in their father's garages. Neither was tall or short nor were they fat or skinny. They were completely average looking, other than Sill had more acne than most and Dubby had bigger ears than anyone else in school. They saw that the kids in school who were smaller or “Geeky” looking got picked on, but they themselves were almost invisible. That was the only thing for which they were thankful, as the Seniors were relentless in their torment of the kids they noticed that looked different.
Sill and Dubby were to be graduated from High School with all ‘A's. The Principal asked which one wanted to be the Class Valedictorian. “You could be co-valedictorians if you like”, he added. Sill said his parents were taking him to see some sick relatives so he would not be able to make it to the ceremony. Dubby didn't lie like Sill did. He just honestly said, “I don't want to be Valedictorian and I won't be going to the ceremony.” You see, both of the boys thought they had just made it through a maze of potential high school terror without being injured. To them High School was like the computer games they played, where the hero would be up against an endless number of villains who wanted to kill him. They had just completed the game, but knew the villains' number was endless and they certainly didn't want to draw any attention to themselves now. No sir, they won and they just wanted out of there. They were both going on to the prestigious Hale University in the autumn and were hoping college was not going to be just a harder version of High School, … like an advanced game of Ghetto Zombies. Sill did not know what he was going to choose for a major since he was interested in everything technical. Dubby knew he always wanted to be a lawyer.
Both boys again wanted to be invisible at college, at least until they learned their way around the campus. They wanted to know what was around every corner, even if they couldn't know who was around the corner. But as they were to find out, as you enter college so shall you live through it. Again they were little noticed other than by their Professors who had seen the two as gifted. Dubby went on to the Law School right there on the Hale University campus. Sill went on for his PhD in Engineering there also, still not deciding whether it would be in Chemistry or Mechanical, or Electrical or Computer Science, as he graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Mathematics with a minor in Engineering. He took courses in all of the Departments and wrote his thesis on The Computer Solution to the Mechanical Design of a Multifunctional Chemical Process Using Inline Electrical Control, which had original ideas presented and solved in every engineering department. Every Engineering Department wanted Sill to accept his PhD degree in their department and they all offered him a Professorship also. Sill then realized he would have to teach if he accepted the professorship and would have to get up in front of a class of students … and have to speak … and answer questions … and be the center of attention. He declined the offers and even walked out of school without the PhD degree, realizing it was just a sheet of paper anyway.
Meanwhile Dubby passed his Bar Exam and was allowed to practice law in his home state of Pennsylvania . He chose not to practice in his little town in the foothills of the Appalachia Mountains , but instead elected to practice in Philadelphia . Sill, who of course came from the same little town, wanted to live in a big city also, so they rented a large apartment together, with Dubby going directly into practice on his own doing legal research and writing defenses for other big name law firms who were in over their head on a particular case, and Sill designing machines, chemical processes, Electrical controls, and computer programs for people he met on the internet. Both were earning a lot of money. It was exciting at first, but after only two years both were rich, and, alas, both were bored with the routine. One day on a Sunday morning as Sill was sitting at the kitchen table he asked Dubby if he would kill him. Dubby was shocked. “No Sill! Don't even think of committing suicide either. We need each other for confidence to keep going.”
“I don't mean kill kill. I mean just pretend kill. I don't like this life. I know I can do more in another life and I want to start that life as soon as I can.”
“You only get one life, Sill.”
“Hear me out on this, Dub. If I actually died who would miss me other than you? My parents never call even though I call them every week. I now have to say, ‘It's me, Sill … Sly … Sylvester … your son calling.' If I died in a fire or fell into a punch press they would have a closed casket. Who would know if it was really me inside, or anyone for that matter, especially if I gave you the power of attorney to handle all of my affairs and you said it was indeed me inside. I know it would be illegal to say that, but what would it matter if you knew you would never be caught. Imagine. I would be free to start a new life with a new name and a whole new personality. You could get me all the identification I would ever need for my new life and you have access to all of the records to make it look all legal and proper. Look at how many people live in Philadelphia . Who is going to miss one person, or notice one more added?”
“What would happen if some people recognized you?”
“They won't. I am going to get a face change.”
“Yes. A bigger and straighter nose, higher cheekbones, narrower eyes, bigger ears, but not as big as yours, and a full head of hair. I'll be a new man with all the confidence a man with the name Brent Hardbaker would have.”
“You even have a new name picked out?”
“Of course I do. I've had twenty six years to think of the name I wished I had. So what do you think? Will you help me? I rarely leave the apartment now anyway, so I will just stay in here until my new face is ready for me to visit my new world.”
Dubby reluctantly agrees.
Two months later Sill came home from the doctors with the bandages removed. He hollers through the door, “Brent Hardbaker here to see a Mister Dubert LaTreck.” Dubby opens the door and almost faints, for there stood a dashing man in flashy clothes with a beautiful smile who says, “I am sorry to announce that Sylvester Cromley has passed away. He was crushed beyond recognition by the nine tires on one side of a steel-hauling tractor trailer truck. There is nothing left but his wallet and what looks like raw hamburger with bones. Please notify his parents, would you old chap?”
Dubby looks like he is greeting a stranger but says, “Come in.”
Brent walks in just as though he owned the place, took off his coat and asked, “What do you think”, as he flexed his muscles in his t-shirt and ran his fingers through his long and now blonde hair.
“Where did you get those muscles?”
“I've been working out every day for the last six months. You didn't notice them because I always wore sweat clothes. I just dyed my hair this morning before I went to the doctors. I had my old crooked teeth pulled yesterday and picked up my false ones on my way here just a few minutes ago. I really am almost a new man.”
“You're not even half bald anymore”, says Dubby.
“Transplants, my friend. Your little-boy hairline wouldn't need them. You're lucky, because it hurts when they take them out and it hurts when they plant them in a new spot.”
“What are you going to do now”
“I have a funeral to go to. I hope my parents remember they had a son named Sylvester. I wonder how they are going to take his death. I guess I'll know in a couple days.”
“You're going to your own funeral?”
“Everyone goes to their own funeral, Dubby. They just don't get to talk to their old friends.”
“You don't have old friends, Sill.”
“It's Brent, Dubby. Don't call me Sill anymore. Sill is dead. You have to go to the funeral parlor tomorrow to buy a casket. It has to be one that can be sealed. I'm going to get some stuff you can put in just in case someone opens it.”
“What is that going to be?”
“Cut up animal parts. I would think even a corner would only look quickly and determine the cause of death was from being totally torn apart and then close the casket right away without further testing.”
The funeral was a small one, not because the family was small but because Sylvester had no friends, and the members of his large family all gave excuses why they could not attend, some even admitting they never knew Sylvester even existed. “Mr. and Mrs Cromley. This is my friend Brent Hardbaker.”
“How do you do, Brent. Were you friends with Sillie?” asked Mrs. Cromley.
“We never met, ma'am, but I heard he was a quiet man. I'm sure this is a great loss to you.”
Mr. Cromley said, “We hardly knew Sly. He never said much to us. He would call sometimes and talk for a while but never said anything. You know what I mean, don't you, where people can talk and talk and never say anything.”
Mrs. Cromley said, “I remember once he said I was his father's sweetheart.”
Brent grit his teeth as he recalled that at the time she was remembering he was chastising his mother for doting on his arrogant father and said she was his sweathog . “How sweet of him” he only said.
“I wonder whatever happened to that goofy kid he hung around with. Do either of you know him? Most kids finish school in twelve years, but Sly and that goof took nineteen years to finish. I think that weirdo was a bad influence on Sly, but it may be the other way around.” said Mr. Cromley.
Dubby quickly answers, “He couldn't make it, sir. He was afraid to meet you since he was the sole inheritor of Sill's assets.”
“Who is Sill?” asked Mr. Cromley standing next to his wife who also had the same question on her face.
“Sill is the name your son used in college”, said Dubby.
“Oh well, dear” said Mr. Cromley with a smile, “We're not getting Sly's fortune. I guess that means we don't get his weird clothes or the Nintendo game of whatever he was playing with when he got run over. So how come the casket is sealed?”
“There is nothing but mush inside. It would be an awful sight.” says Dubby.
“Do you want to see it, sir? I'll open it if you want to see it”, says Brent smiling.
“What do you think, dear? Do you want to say goodbye to your son?”
“You won't actually be able to recognize a face in that mush or even tell it is your son, but if you want a good scare I'll open it for you”, says Brent egging them on.”
“The lawyer said it cannot be opened for any reason, Brent”, said Dubby.
“Oh come on. Let them look at the hamburger. The lawyer will never know. It isn't any worse than walking past the meat counter at the supermarket.”
Mrs. Cromley says, “We will take everyone's word for it that it is Sillie.”
“I'm leaving early, dear. I think everyone that is coming was here and left already” said Mr. Cromley.
Brent says, “But the funeral just started. Only the four of us came so far.”
Mrs. Cromley pats Brent on the arm and says, “I have a pot roast in the oven. Trust me, no one else will be here. Mr. Latreck here is handling the burial arrangements so our work is done.” She turns partway facing the casket and adds, “Rest in peace, Sillie.”
“Pot roasts are usually pretty big. Are we invited to your dinner?” asks Brent.
“No. I'm sorry. We will need the leftovers for … um, something. Come along dear”, says Mrs. Cromley.
“Don't you want to know where he is being buried?” asks Brent.
“No” says Mrs. Cromley.
“We never visit grave sites. There is no one there to talk to and there is never any food served” says Mr. Cromley as they leave.
Brent and Dubby were left standing alone in the funeral parlor. They waited for the full three hours the newspaper notice said casket would be available for viewing. No one else came, just as Mrs. Cromley predicted. Brent looked at Dubby and seen he had tears in his eyes. “Are you going to miss Sill?” he asked.
“No. I was just thinking this is how my funeral will go too.”
Brent puts his arm around his only friend and has tears of his own when he says, “Even my only friend won't miss me. What kind of life did I live? I would miss you, Dubby, even if you just died to change into a new person like I did”, and both men hugged each other crying, wondering what they have done with their lives.
Dubby looked at Brent and asked, “Would you kill me?”