Illustration by Rob Clayton
WAYNE PICKED THE LOCK.
He worked two picks. He tweaked the bolt. He jiggled hard right. Deadbeat patrol/room 6/Desert Dawn Motel.
Sonny said, Motherfuckers got two last names. Sirhan Sirhan.
The door popped. They stepped inside. Wayne toed the door shut. Check the four-wall dump-site.
Soiled bed. No rugs. Horse-race posters/jockey silks/racing forms stacked.
Sonny said, Motherfuckers a track nut.
The room smelled. Scents mingled. Spilled vodka and stale chink. Stale cheese spread and cigarettes.
Wayne checked the dresser. Wayne pulled drawers. Wayne sifted junk. Acne swabs/booze empties/cigarette butts.
Sonny said, Motherfuckers a pack rat.
Wayne pulled drawers. Wayne perused. Wayne sifted junk. Racing forms and tip logs. Scratch sheets and hate tracts.
Cheap-paper tracts. NonWayne Senior stock. Text and cartoons anti-Jew stuff.
Dollar-sign skullcaps. Bloody prayer shawls. Fangs dripping pus. The Zionist Pig Order/The Vampire Jew/The Jewish Cancer Machine. Jews with claw hands. Jews with pig feet. Jews with scimitar dicks.
Wayne skimmed text. Said text waxed repetitious. The Jews fucked the Arabs. The Arabs vowed payback.
Sonny said, Motherfucker dont like the Hebes. 100
The text rambled. Typos reigned. Longhand margin notes crawled. Kill Kill Kill!/Death to Israel!/Zionist Pig-Suckers Must Die!
Sonny said, Motherfuckers got a grievance.
Wayne dropped the tracts. Wayne shut the drawers. Wayne kicked a chair back.
Well give him two hours. He owes Pete a grand and change.
Sonny chewed a toothpick. Barb split on Pete. Frankly, I seen it coming.
Maybe I got to her.
Maybe Petes evil ways did. Maybe she said, Quit selling hair-o-wine to Sonnys fellow niggers or Ill leave your white ass, you honky motherfucker.
Wayne laughed. Lets call her and ask.
You call. You the motherfucker whos in love with her and too motherfucking scared to say boo.
Wayne laughed. Wayne chewed his nails. Wayne tore a nail back.
The Pete thing hurt. Pete bruised his balls. Pete trimmed his balls back. He was wrong. Pete was right. He knew it.
He called Wayne Senior. They talked. Wayne Senior pledged Work. Good work/in time/soon. He might take it. He might not. He owed Pete rotations: Saigon/Mississippi/the funnel.
Sonny said, Lets go to L.A. Well find Wendell Durfee and shoot his black ass.
Wayne laughed. Wayne chewed his nails. Wayne tore hangnails back.
Sonny said, Lets kill some street nigger and say its Wendell. Itll put the fucking quietus on all that shit you carrying around.
Wayne smiled. The door jiggled whazzat?
The door stuck. The door popped. A doofus walked in. A young guy/all swarthy/thick rats-nest hair.
He saw them. He trembled. He crap-your-pants cringed.
Sonny said, Ahab the A-rab. Wheres your camel, motherfucker?
Wayne shut the door. You owe the Golden Cavern eleven-sixty. Fork up or Brother Liston will hurt you.
The doofus cringed. Dont hurt me. His shirttail hiked up. Wayne saw a belt piece. Wayne snatched it fast. Wayne dumped the clip.
Sonny said, How come you got two last names?
Sirhan gestured. His hands moved mile-a-minute. He made geek semaphore.
Forgive me. . . I take falls . . . race horses . . . many headaches. . . I forget I lose money if I dont take medicine. Sonny said, I dont like you. You starting to look like Cassius Clay.
Sirhan spieled some Arab shit. Sirhan spieled singsong. Sonny threw a left. Sonny hit the wall. Sonny tore plaster.
Wayne twirled the gun. Brother Liston knocked out Floyd Patterson and Cleveland Big Cat Williams.
Sonny threw a right. Sonny hit the wall. Sonny tore plaster. Sirhan moaned. Sirhan exhorted Allah. Sirhan dumped his pockets fast.
Booty: ChapStick/pen/car keys. C-notes/fives/dimes.
Wayne grabbed the money. Sonny said, What you got against the kikes?
Wayne hit the Cavern. Wayne unlocked his room. Wayne saw a letter on the dresser.
He opened the envelope. He smelled Barb straight off.
Im sorry for that night & I hope it didnt cause any trouble between you & Pete. I told him you were justified, but he didnt get it. I should have told him that I tried to stab you, which might have told him how far down Id sunk & how much sense you made.
Im a coward for not writing directly to Pete, but Im going to invite him to Sparta for Christmas, to see if we can work things out. I hate his business & I hate his war & Id be an even bigger coward if I didnt say so.
I miss Pete, I miss the cat & I miss you. Im working at my sisters Bobs Big Boy & avoiding the bad habits I picked up in Vegas. Im starting to wonder what a 35-year-old ex-shakedown girl-lounge bunny does with the rest of her life.
Wayne reread the letter. Wayne caught subscents. Theres the Ponds and lavender soap. He kissed the letter. He locked up his room. He walked to the lounge.
Hes drinking. Hes smoking. The cats on his lap. Hes watching the Bondsmen Barbs combo sans Barb.
Wayne shagged a waiter. Wayne passed him the letter. Wayne tipped him five bucks. Wayne pointed to Pete. The guy understood.
The guy walked over. The guy dropped the letter. Pete tore at the envelope.
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He read the letter. He wiped his eyes. The cat clawed his shirt.
Reprinted from The Cold Six Thousand
©2001 James Ellroy, published by Alfred A. Knopf Inc.