By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Illustration by Gustavo Vargas
Wouldn’t life be a dream if everyone had a real, live guardian angel, someone who could fix any problem? Like the big brother you never had, who would beat up neighborhood bullies? Or your own personal version of TV’s Equalizer, a professional jack-of-all-catastrophes? Well, Matty the Mechanic is that man, a walking, talking solution to your pressing needs.
Somebody owes you money; he always collects. Somebody’s stalking you or yours; he puts an end to it. Somebody cuts into your dealing or whoring turf; Matty slams the brakes. Yep, he’s better than Maaco, the Pep Boys and Mr. Goodwrench rolled into one.
Not that he’s a grease monkey or, for that matter, a halo-headed, white-clad apostle. Matty’s name isn’t derived from "Matthew" or "Mateo"; it’s a play on his gang handle, El Matón — The Killer. Just call him your "Guardian Satan"; he won’t mind, as long as you pay up.
"I can fix anything — a debt, a death, a loss of face. You name it," he says coolly, as he stares out the window of a Santa Monica one-bedroom apartment that he shares with his girlfriend and their pit bull.
His last job was to resolve a lovers’ quarrel between Betsy, a Beverly Hills porn actress, madam and musician, and her onetime boy toy, a would-be rocker who refused to return her gear, including her high-cost recording system, her new Beemer and even her beloved pooch. Not to mention that Boy Toy has been taunting her and disrespecting her in public, knowing that she has good reason not to involve small-claims court or the cops. Boy Toy laughingly suggested that she "hire a hit man to come get me" if she wanted her stuff back.
What a concept.
Of course, Matty is leery of any transaction where the love bug has bitten. He’s seen other fixers torched after the client gets sentimental about a permanently former or severely maimed lover, which might mean a song to the cops. But in this particular case, Betsy (not her real name) is also paying him a $2,500-a-month retainer as a bodyguard/driver, and he hates gigolos almost as much as Chesters and rapists.
Before moving, Matty grills Betsy for every particular: the dude’s hangouts, his demeanor, every quirk and fetish — he may need it all. One of Matty’s favorite tactics is a full recital of personal vitals to his target: He’ll tell you where you live, your phone number, your blood type, where your mother lives — right to your face without blinking. So cold-ass and mono tone is his delivery that the quarry often caves in on the spot.
A coupla days later, Matty saunters into the Sunset Strip coffee shop where Boy Toy is holding court like the king of rock & roll. The sight of this fey New York émigré coming on like Elvis’ grandson makes Matty want to reach for his Glock on the spot, but this is strictly business, so he takes a deep draw of filthy Hollywood oxygen and proceeds to the rocker’s booth, then smiles at Boy Toy and his two companions.
"You’re excused," Matty says to the two young ladies, and without missing a beat, they follow his pointing thumb right onto the sidewalk. They know what time it is even if lover boy doesn’t. Boy Toy smiles patronizingly, but the mechanic registers no emotion.
"I bought your debt from Betsy Ann," Matty says calmly. "She sold it to me for $3,500." The rocker gets the full view when Betsy herself struts in. "Is this the guy, baby?" asks Matty calmly. She nods. "You have a day to pay it back. If you don’t, it doubles. Three days in, it’s 10 grand."
Matty says no more. He doesn’t have to. Boy Toy gestures them out to the BMW and asks in a choked-out croak if all the gear, plus the pink slip, car keys and dog, will do. They will.
The value of the merchandise — his take-home pay from Betsy — is 10K. So Matty’s profit for this one conversation is $6,500. Matty returns the items to Betsy the next day after pulling up to rocker boy’s house in the same BMW.
The state has designated Matty a "validated gang member," because he’s suspected of murdering more than a half-dozen fellow inmates in the service of his "klika." But at age 36, he’s put behind him his days of running with the El Monte gang he joined at 12, and he’s even loosened his ties with the prison-based Mexican Mafia.
"If I was a member, I couldn’t do what I do," he notes. "When you’re a member, all your jobs are done for the coach, for the fellas. Or, they’ll demand a cut. I’m what you might call an independent contractor, or I’m like you, Johnny, a freelancer."
Nor is he a hit man by trade, or a killer by inclination. Unlike some former pen peers, ã he regards violence as the absolute last resort, because it’s brainless, and not painless.