Owner Is Anxious For A New Tenant, a short story

Posted on November 5, 2011


This is the second of my Craigslist backstory short stories.  The premise:  the story explains a real life Craigslist ad (featured at the end), rendered in a hardboiled style.

Craigslist backstory – Owner Is Anxious For A New Tenant

La Spezia Fine Italian Eatery.  Established in 1937.  Dis-established today.  It was a straight muscle job, and I was it.  I like to work muscle jobs solo, and I don’t like to know the story.

Frank Kerrigan was an old friend of my dearly departed dad’s, from way back.  He was never Uncle Frank, exactly, but he was around when we were growing up.  He pulled a nickel out of my sister’s ear once and really impressed her.  She was so eager to find some more cash that our mother made her wear mittens for a week.  Frank took me to a boxing match once, when I was thirteen, and I think he was sizing me up.  I didn’t talk much.  I was a shy kid.  I think I disappointed him.

Frank owned a bunch of properties all over town.  You name it, he had a piece of it.  Of course as far as the government was concerned Frank’s dead grandmother still owned the car dealership.  His idiot cousin owned a newsstand; which was funny because he couldn’t even read.  His business empire, such as it was, wasn’t strictly legal.  One of the biggest hassles of running a small-scale criminal enterprise is that you can’t turn to the normal avenues when you have a problem.  If you’re big enough you can just buy the cops, but if not you’re stuck.  You can’t have the bulls storming into your places of business: eventually they’ll get curious and go finding something you don’t want found, and if you start buying them off people on the street will start to wonder about your too cozy relationship with them.  So you have to improvise, and you have to hire guys like me.  I’m always looking for work, and I have a reputation, so Frank gave me a call one day.  I didn’t want to let him down.

Frank owned an Italian restaurant that he leased out.  The guy currently running the place was this insane Greek guy, Petros somebody.  Everyone called him Pete.  His blood boiled when people thought he was Italian, so he was really in the wrong business.  Frank told me that I was to stop by and “remind him about the value of following through on one’s commitments”.  He talked like that all the time.  Not everyone could work for Frank.  There were some thick guys who honestly never understood what he wanted them to do.  They’d think they were supposed to read a guy poems instead of roughing him up.

I parked my Ford legally and surveyed the scene before heading inside.  I was hungry.  La Spezia made a nice meatball sandwich.  I had this tidy little wooden baton inside my jacket.

“Where’s Pete?” I ask some peachfuzz teenager, mouth slowly becoming agape.

“He’s not here right now” stumbles out of his mouth.  I pick up a blue and white ceramic vase as though I’m contemplating it.  Then I make like I might pitch it at the kid’s head.  Maybe I will, maybe I won’t (I won’t).  He points to the kitchen and tries to become real small.  I wink at him.

Pete knows what’s coming and he’s ready.  Remember I said he was insane?  I swing open the door to the kitchen, he sees me, and tosses a big skillet right at me.  I block it with the door and he’s making for a cast iron pot.  I scramble and grab a tray of glasses.  I fling the glasses at Pete and he ducks as they shatter all around him.  He throws the pot at me, misses, but gets tomato sauce all over my pants and shoes.  I notice that he’s been screaming at me in Greek.  I have a pretty good idea what he’s saying.  My baton comes out and he grabs a knife.  We size each other up, and I tell him that I don’t want to hurt him.  A good muscle guy never wants to get involved in stuff like this, nobody will hire you if you get hurt too bad.  This guy’s foaming at the mouth and murdering me with his eyes.  Not good.

Our little dance ends soon enough.  I catch his wrist with the baton when he tries to stab me for real.  He drops the knife.  I move in quick and pin him down.  Then he starts speaking in English and Greek, it’s almost harder to follow.  I’ve never seen a guy so mad; he doesn’t seem to realize the jam he’s in.

Then the back door opens up, it connects to the apartment upstairs, and she walks in.  Teodora.  Everything clicks, and comes into focus, hard.  She sees her old man on the floor and she sees me and she goes white.  I met her a while back when I was taking a night course.  Psychology.  We started seeing each other, and then seeing more of each other.  We always met at my place.  I said some things to her, things I like to keep to myself, but they just came out.  She talked about the future, and maybe our future.  I never liked a girl more.

Then one day on a job I saw her walking into a deli, arms entwined with those of some punk.  Giggling.  He looked like some uptown asshole, wearing a mint green sweater.  She saw me seeing her.  Later she said that I was a real catch, for someone else.

I looked at her across the wrecked kitchen, and started trembling.  I didn’t say a word.  I broke her old man’s arm without taking my eyes off her, and dropped him to the floor.  He’s yelling at her to get out, but she’s frozen.  I hightail it back to my Ford and break my hand on the dashboard.  I never see her again.

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fully equipped restaurant for sale or lease (mi ave )

Fully equipped restaurant for sale or lease. Newly remodelled and ready for use. The business is open and operating so no setup is required. Across from Ford Motor Company and in front of apartment buildings. Owner is anxious for a new tenant, problems with current one.Please contact for more details or to set up a day to come and see.

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Posted in: Fiction