Evil vs. the Angels of Stony Island
by Jim Heaney

A FEW DAYS LATER, an investigator from the Illinois Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud Division walked up to me outside my Newport avenue apartment. His approach was simple. He handed me his card and asked if he could buy me a cup of coffee. He was about six foot three, and weighed around a hundred eighty.
“Do I have a choice?” I asked.
We walked to the coffee shop on the corner without saying a word to each other. My mind and heart were racing. I nodded to Franco, the owner, as we walked in. We sat down and ordered before the investigator finally spoke.
“you need to find another job.”
“I can’t right now.” He looked at me with steely blue eyes, picked up his spoon, and continued as he stirred his joe.
“These guys are bad. Nick’s a career criminal from Michigan. He’s done time.” What could I say, but “Oh?” “A couple of days ago you discouraged one of our investigators from signing up with Renters Assistance Center. Guy looking for an apartment for his mother. Why did you do that?” I shrugged.
“We must not have had anything that fit,” I said.
“Did you know he was an investigator?” I nodded. “How?” I took a sip of coffee and shrugged. The guy had worn a flowered blue and white shirt and blue jeans, but black dress shoes. He asked more questions about the rental agency than about specific apartments. Between the questions and the shoes, it was pretty obvious what he was up to.
“When are you guys going to shut Nick down?” I said, hoping to change the subject. “It’s not that easy. Our investigation is ongoing. We’re after enough information to put him away for a long time, so it’s best you find new employment.” “That’s nice to hear, but there’s a kid who works there,” I said.
“Doesn’t have a clue. I have to make sure she doesn’t get hurt, so I have to stay around. Unless, of course, you shut Nick down.” “That would be Cherish?” I nodded. “We can’t move in right now. It’s too early.”
“Then I stay until she’s out.”
“Why don’t you just tell her the truth and you both quit?”
“It’s not that easy,” I replied. He didn’t catch the irony. “All you have to do is pull her aside and tell her the truth. That’s not hard. All you—” “Look, I freeze up. I’ve never really had a girlfriend, so I don’t know how to talk to girls. Nothing comes out of my mouth. So you do it. Shut him down.”
“How are you going to help her if you can’t talk to her?” “I don’t know. It’s hard to explain but I have to do this thing. I’ve got nothing in this world, no responsibilities to anybody but myself, and now Cherish. I’m going to see it through.” “you could go to jail!”
“I don’t think so,” I replied.
“We hold everyone responsible, no matter how small they think their role is.” “I’m going to settle this score. Alex and Nick are what’s wrong with the planet and I’m going to help put them out of the game. Thanks for the coffee, sir. I gotta get back to work. Give me five minutes before you leave, okay?” On my way out, I whispered to Franco, “Remember this guy. Someday I might need you to testify that we were seen together. Get a picture if you can, only don’t let him know. Sneak it.” Franco’s mouth made an O, and he raised one eyebrow. “He’s a Hollywood climber. Might be famous someday,” I said. That, Franco understood. He nodded and reached under the counter for his camera.



BY THE END OF SUMMER I was getting used to the two hundred a week. It was like a real job, but easier. I’d sit on the wait- ing room couch, spotting to make sure everyone who came in could pay. Sometimes people looked so poor or clueless that I just didn’t have the heart to let the wolves at them, so I’d scare them off by making negative remarks about the company. Other times, I’d spot a not-very-undercover cop—you develop a feel for that sort of thing after a while—and manage to send him away, too. Mostly, though, things went smoothly, and I even got up the courage to ask Cherish for a date, sort of, to a barbecue at her family’s house. “Oh, I don’t know,” she said. “It would be weird.” “C’mon, it could be fun. “Okay, we’ll go together. I’ll meet you here tomorrow at three.” “Right on. So how are sales, Cherish?” “Jimmy, you and Alex don’t much like each other, and you do as you please. Did you work here before? Are you really the boss?” “I’m definitely not the boss. I’m nobody. Remember that.” Her face crinkled. “It bothers me when you say that. everybody’s somebody. you keep repeating it, you’ll end up believing it. Now do you want to get something to eat?” “Can’t. See you tomorrow.”

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