Evil vs. the Angels of Stony Island
by Jim Heaney



CHERISH AND I WERE DRIVING back to her parents’ house on the northwest side of Chicago. The cookout with her family had been awkward; they seemed uneasy about my Stony Island past, and I didn’t care much for her brothers’ attitudes. We’d gone to a forgettable movie afterwards, and during the show I weighed my options. I felt I had a responsibility to be straight with Cherish, but if I disclosed what Renters Assistance was really about, she might quit. What if I never saw her again? On the other hand, if I didn’t spill, she’d stay on the job and we’d be together. It took me a while to get there, but on the drive home, I did the right thing and came clean.
“Cherish, did you know most people aren’t finding apartments?” She sighed.
“Our customer service is so bad. I’m going to ask Alex to transfer me to that department. It would be good experience for me, and look good in my résumé.” I managed not to swerve off the road. “Cherish, that is not a good idea. either stay right where you are or find someplace else to work.” “Why would I want to work someplace else?” I took a deep breath.
“Cherish, the business is a scam. everyone knows it but you. Nick and Alex are confidence men. The Illinois Attorney General has his eye on us.” She sat in stunned silence as we drove south down Harlem Avenue in the rain.
“The state’s investigating us? I feel so foolish!” We stopped at a red light. I watched her thinking it through. The next question was inevitable. “So why are you still here?” I stumbled through my answer.
“At first, I just needed some fast cash. I realized pretty quickly that you weren’t part of the scam, but I also saw that Alex had his eye on you. He’s a snake, so I hung around to protect you. “Then the Consumer Fraud Unit shows up, but won’t make an arrest because of their on-going investigation. But that’s taking too long, so I’m picking up the pace to make sure Nick ends up in a cage.” I took a deep breath.
“It will be over soon and we’ll enjoy our lives together.” The light turned green. I pulled out a little too fast and the car briefly hydroplaned on the slick pavement. I managed to straighten it out, feeling like a fool. “you say you stayed around to protect me? Why?” Okay, Jimmy, here goes. “Because you found apartments for all those people. you have a wonderful, generous heart, and I’m going to make sure it stays intact.”
“Jimmy, that’s sweet, but who died and made you my guardian angel?” I pointed my thumb up toward the sky. “Oh, this is just great. God told you to protect me?” I nodded and looked into her eyes. Headlights from a pass- ing car lit her face. She looked out onto the road ahead and became quiet again. The Chevy’s windshield wipers swished back and forth against the windshield. I bent over and tuned the radio to a classical station, hoping that it would soothe her. “Jimmy, there’s no way God said that.”
“Actually, it was Angel. The morning I walked into the Renters Assistance Center, I really felt a strong urge to do so. It didn’t feel like a coincidence. And there you were. I was reluctant to get involved but Angel persisted. She just wouldn’t leave it alone so…” The car windows were getting fogged up from the humidity and I reached up and wiped them clean with my hand. Cherish opened her purse and took out some Kleenex and handed it to me. It left lint all over the window. I crumpled it up and threw it on the floor.
“Jimmy, who is Angel?” Okay, now she really will think I’m bonkers.
“My guardian angel. My conscience. My guide to right and wrong.” I could almost hear her eyes roll.
“I’m ready to go home now,” she said.
“you said I could finish.”
“I was being polite.” I pushed on.
“The boys are a lively crowd, but that’s why God told Angel to send me. I know how they think, what makes them tick.”
“And what does make them tick?”
“Ambition. The thrill of pulling a fast one. Greed. Recognition. And I’m going to get Nick so much recognition and money he’ll be locked up for a long, long time.”
“And just how do you happen to be such an expert on shady characters?”
“It’s kind of hard to explain,” I said. The car windows were fogging up again. I turned on the defroster but no air came out. I slid the control knob sideways and hit the panel with my fist, but the fan still didn’t kick in, so I pulled into a convenience store to buy some paper towels.

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