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When Frank Met Mike
(© Robert Denham)

Page 2

Castle, having encountered such types many times, had no doubt that the gaudy piece of clunky, "gold" jewelry wasn’t real, and no question of what was going on.

"Crack house?" he asked unconcernedly, sopping up his remaining potatoes and gravy with a roll.

The man nodded solemnly. "Among a few other things. Just from what I hear, o‘ course," he added with an ironic assurance. "All illegals runnin’ it, naturally; somethin’ needs to be done ‘bout that shit. Not right, to the people who come here fair ‘n’ square. Should build a wall, or somethin’."

Castle tended to agree, but he tried not to concern himself with such, well, unfocused matters. He thought for a moment, then said "Can I get my pie? Cherry-apple, please."

The man brought it, then stood again, gazing across the street, wiping his hands absently with his apron.

Castle forked up a smidgen of the clearly homemade cherry-apple concoction, and asked, "How long?" He cocked his head toward the house.

The man considered, for a moment. "I guess ‘bout a year, now, maybe a little more or less. People ‘round here been complainin’ to the cops, but they’re either takin’ their time, tryin’ to make it worth the effort…or, some say, they’re gettin’ a cut."

"What do you think?" Castle asked, after a moment, cutting into the pie he’d been waiting to get to.

The older man shook his head; "Don’ matter what I think," he said dismissively, staring at the scene; "...it’s there, an’ the kids ‘round here are seein’ it go on, ev’ry damn day. Damn spicks; they do keep it pretty calm, though, I’ll give’em that…but there was gunplay there, a few weeks ago…and no police showed up. Mister, we used to get cops in here all the time, but there hasn’t been a cruiser in my parkin’ lot in months."

He looked at Castle, then, with a certain import, a gravity, in his expression, then shook his head and sighed disgustedly. "I’m thinkin’ ‘bout sellin’ this place, if I can find a buyer who’ll take it as is, neighborhood an’ all."

The man wasn’t just bussing tables after all; he owned the place. Castle again chided himself on what a presuming asshole he was being.

"Mister, I been here thirty-five years; started as a busboy an’ dishwasher, when it was ‘Andy’s Place’; came here outta six years in the Navy an’ stayed. Andy was a good guy; took care of his people. Worked my way up to head cook, then closing manager. Managed the whole shebang for him for nine years, after he retired; bought it m’self in ’97. It was a nice neighborhood, then. Nice place. I grew up in that house, right up there."

He pointed to some structure or other farther up the rundown street. "My dad sold tires in a shop, two streets over." He shook his head, again; "Makes you wonder why things go to shit, y’know? And why you don’t really notice it happenin’ until they do, an’ it’s too late."

Castle wiped his mouth on the paper napkin and rose.

"Want your tab?" the man asked, brightening, his solemn reverie broken.

Castle reached into his pocket, produced the wad of cash, and peeled off five hundreds. The man’s eyes goggled when the bills were crumpled into his hand.

"Why don’t you just….close up for the day?" Frank Castle advised, sagely. He then took another three hundred and handed it over; "…and give this to the waitress."

He headed for the door, then turned. "You people might want to leave…quickly."

After stopping at his car for a few important items, Castle zipped up his light jacket and walked unhesitatingly across the street and up the walk to the crumbling, ramshackle house. He climbed up the rickety steps to the porch, and the big bouncer put aside his tablet, from which came telltale sounds of heavy breathing and moaning overt a cheap, funky backbeat, and stood, lifting his overlong flannel shirt to reveal the butt of a .9mm. Even his belly was tattooed, Castle could see, through the thin cotton of the wife beater.

"You nee’ somet’ing’ man?" he asked cockily, with clear threat.

[ Continue to page 3 ]

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Genre:General Horror
Type:Long story
Rating:Need more ratings
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