Evil vs. the Angels of Stony Island
by Jim Heaney

THEY HAD A PARTY FOR ME at the office. Even though it was late on a Friday afternoon, everyone was waiting around for me to show up, everybody but Nick-in-Detroit. It felt good to be wanted, even if it was by a crew of bad guys. Bob brought out a big cake with candles on it.
“We didn’t know when your birthday was, so we decided to celebrate it today.”
He started the singing.
After a few choruses of “Happy Birthday To you,” Alex asked what the temperature was in Chicago.
“Cool. Real cool. The polizia have moved on to something else.”
“Was your phone tapped?” Alex asked.
“I’m not sure, but no one followed me here.”
“That’s good.” He reached into his pocket and brought out an envelope. “Here’s your stake.”
I counted the bills inside the envelope. The tally was five thousand dollars. “I don’t need this much.”
“Jimmy, when you say you’re committed, it means you take what comes. your ideas made us a lot of money in Chicago. It’s the least we can do for you.”
The phone rang. Bob answered it.
“Jimmy, pick up line three.”
“Hello, Apartment Finders,” I said.“How may I help you?”
“Morning, kid. How’s it going?”
“It’s going, Nick. How are you?”
“I’m taking care of a few things, but I’ll be there soon. Did you get your money?”
“Yes, thanks, it will help.”
“Kid, you’re mumbling. We’re family. Let’s hear some enthusiasm.” I felt like throwing up.
“Sure thing, Nick. Good-bye.”
And then Angel showed up, just in time for a piece of super- market birthday cake.
“I hope you’re happy, because now you’re in.”
I wiped the frosting from my lips.
“I have no job and no future. It’s this or nothing. I have no choice.”
“You always have a choice,” Angel said.
“Alex, I’m going out to walk off this cake,” I said. “I’ll be back in half an hour.”

I SAT STARING INTO A CUP OF COFFEE at a hole-in-the-wall down the street from the Apartment Finders office, thinking about what Angel had said. I detested Nick to the point of being ill, yet I was afraid of the future. I was so low, so scared, and so sad about losing Cherish.
I placed my face in my hands to hide the tears rolling down my cheeks. Inside, I screamed, “Help me. Help me now!”
“Finally, a beginning!” Angel said, in a voice that sounded suspiciously like Sister John’s.
“Stop it,” I shot back. “You’ve been no help at all lately. All you’ve done is put crazy ideas in my head.”
“I’ve been with you since the beginning. When you suffered, I suffered! I’ve always protected you. I’ve tried to steer you away from making bad choices, but most of the time you don’t follow my suggestions.”
“I need help—real Help with a capital H, not suggestions.”
“Jimmy, you have all the help you need right here. Feel the room.”
“More coffee, young man?” I looked up at the waitress.
“yes, please,” I mumbled.
“Girlfriend problems? I know all about that! Would you like to tell me? Sometimes when you let it out, it makes a person feel better.”
“Not a girlfriend problem, not really. I need a job.” “What do you do?”
“Nothing. That’s the problem. I don’t have any training, but people like me. With the right product, I could be a good salesman.”
“Now isn’t that something! See the man sitting over in that booth?”
“He’s a regular. We’re friends. He’s the boss at Parklawn Cemetery. He has this crazy idea to sell funeral plots to people who don’t need them, like young married couples who have their whole life ahead of them. you know the slogan ‘six feet deep’? Well, Parklawn’s selling twelve feet deep.”
I jumped right in. “Or bunk beds for the dead.”
She laughed. “Oh, that’s a good one.”
“Are they legit?” I asked.
“Of course it’s legit! Where are you from, anyway? Half the important dead people in D.C. are buried in Parklawn Cemetery.”
“I could sell that. Would you introduce me?”
“Sure, honey, only he takes his cemetery real serious, so I’d leave the bunk-beds-for-the-dead joke out of your interview. Now you just sit there and I’ll be right back.”
I sat breathless as she talked with him. After a minute, the man waved me over. It was a long walk from one table to the other and with every step I was being sized up.
“Hello, I’m Jim Heaney,” I said as I shook his hand.

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