DIVINE CHILD
Evil vs. the Angels of Stony Island
by Jim Heaney

“We have a boss in the making here.” But then his face grew serious.
“Jimmy, my gift comes attached with a favor from you. Our friendship must be a secret. Society would frown upon it. The police would frown upon it. Can you keep our secret, no matter how difficult?”
“yes, sir. I’m good at keeping secrets.” If you only knew how good, I thought. “Then it’s done. Go with Nickels. I look forward to our next visit.” “yes, sir. Thank you!” “C’mon, kid. Let’s take a ride,” Nickels said.
We DROVE DOWN HARPER, turned right at Ninety-second Street and pulled into the alley behind the motel.
“What room?” Nickels asked. “Number 2.”
“When you’re done, bring him to me,” Nickels said to the other men in the car. I crouched down between the front seat, and the next thing I knew, the skinny pimp came flying out of his room onto the blacktop. He had on the same silly red pants and white shirt, only now there was blood was splattered down the front. Uncle Frank’s associates picked him up off the ground, stood him up against the wall and one guy went to work on the pimp’s stomach area. He hit him four times, let him fall to the ground and then did a tap dance on his head. The others joined in; it looked like football players kicking field goals. Then two associates picked up the pimp under the shoulders and dragged him to the car. When his face was at the window, Nickels lowered it. “Pack your things and move, Pimpey. The party’s over. There’s nuns living here and my boss says you’re done. you know who I’m with, right?” The pimp nodded. He looked astonished when he saw me in the back seat.
“This kid here is Jimmy The Saint. He’s a friend of ours. And his friends are friends of ours. If anything should happen to him or his friends, we’re blaming you. If they trip on a crack in the sidewalk, we’re blaming you. If they get it by a car, we’re blaming you. If they even skin their knees, we’re blaming you. Anything at all happens to these kids, we’re going to break all your bones and bury you alive in Indiana in a box covered with dirt, you fucking eggplant! Move your girls to the West Side. you’re done here, you understand?” The pimp nodded.
“Say it!” Nickels barked.
“I understand!” the pimp whispered through what was left of his teeth. Nickels motioned to his boys and they dropped him on the ground, kicked him a few more times, and then started back to the car. “Nickels, don’t leave any loose ends,” I said. “What do you mean?” He asked. “The owner. If we don’t drop the owner, he’ll just let someone else set up shop.” Nickels paused a second and then told his guys to straighten out the owner. “Make sure he understands that no one else takes the pimp’s place.” The scene was replayed as the owner we called The Arab was thrown out of his office head first and beaten, although somewhat less severely than the pimp because the associates were getting winded. Nickels, however, still had lots of energy. “There’s nuns living here! What the fuck is wrong with you! Anyone operates out of this motel again as long as the penguins are here, we’re going to come back, take you, your fucking wife, your fucking children—” “Not his children!” I cried.
Nickels paused.
“Okay, not your children, but your children will have no parents because we’re going to lock you and yours into one of your flea-bitten rooms, tie you up face to face, turn the television on loud so no one hears your screams, and pour gasoline all over the both of ya. Then we’re going to burn your fucking motel to the fucking ground with you in it. you understand me, you freaking turban head?” The Arab nodded, and Nickels reran his “Say it!” routine.
“I understand. I understand!” the Arab said. By this time he’d spotted me. “And don’t you say a fucking word about any of this,” Nickels yelled.
“Now both you and Skinny get the fuck out of here!” The associates jumped back in the car and we drove out the alley. Nickels turned from the front seat, laughing.
“You need any- one else in the neighborhood taken care of, kid?” Raising my hand to my chin, I thought for a second. Nickels laughed again.
“Can you believe this kid? He’s thinking it over! Listen, kid, we’re connected like twins. Keep our secret, huh?” He shook his head, “No loose ends, huh? you always make such good plans?”
“I try to. Um, Nickels, you can stop the car. I’d better get out here. I have to beat my dad home. Wish Little Frankie ‘Happy Birthday’ for me, and tell him I’ll buy him a pop later.” “I’ll square it with him kid. you did the neighborhood a favor today.”
On the short walk home, I thought that I should have told Nickels that the Sisters weren’t, technically, penguins; unlike Sisters who wore black habits with just a little bit of white around their faces, Sister John’s Dominican Sisters wore mostly white habits with a black veil. If you were going to call them anything, it would be polar bears, not penguins…but somehow it just hadn’t seemed the right time for a discussion of the fine points of Catholic religious uniforms. Then I remembered Nickels asking if there was anyone else he could take care of for me. I wondered if he’d been serious. There was Larry, and there was my dad. Maybe he could take care of them, not necessarily in that order.

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