Authors: Seymour Blicker
The Last Collection
For my brother
orrie Hankleman sipped at his drink and gazed slowly around the large boardroom in the offices of Shenkler and Bregman. On a long credenza he observed several dozen potted plants and various assorted floral arrangements each with its own card congratulating Marty Shenkler and Earl Bregman on the opening of their new office in Place Centrale.
He spotted his own plant dwarfed by a gigantic cactus next to it and regretted that he had not gotten something larger.
He sipped at his drink and let his eyes drift from person to person, trying to guess their line of work.
A large part of Shenkler and Bregman's practice was devoted to criminal law and so Morrie Hankleman knew that of the hundred-odd people who were in the room, more than a few had some links with the Montreal underworld.
He spotted a large, heavy-set man dressed in a flashy checkered suit which seemed several sizes too large for him. To Hankleman he definitely looked like a criminal. He had the face of a killer, Hankleman thought. Ruthless, cruel.
A few minutes later the man was introduced to him, and he recognized the name as that of the leading real estate lawyer in the country.
He made a few more attempts at categorization, but was proved to be wrong on every count.
The man he thought to be a judge turned out to be a disbarred lawyer, the woman he thought to be a high-priced prostitute was in fact a movie producer, the young man with the long hair whom he judged to be a drug pusher was Marty Shenkler's eldest son.
Morrie Hankleman walked over to the credenza. Humming nervously to himself he deftly removed the name card from his flowers and slipped it onto the large cactus. Then he removed the original card from the cactus, glanced at the name and shoved it in his pocket.
He laughed to himself. Lawrence Wellish. He could picture the scene between Shenkler and Bregman tomorrow.
How come Wellish didn't send a plant? I don't know. We'll have to raise our fee for him.
Morrie Hankleman laughed to himself again, but he wasn't happy.
He wasn't even having a good time. It was actually a nice party. A lot of people; a lot of action; the kind of party where a person could make some good contacts. He should have been really enjoying himself, but he wasn't and he knew he wouldn't be able to until he had done something about Artie Kerner. For the last month he'd been unable to think of anything else but Artie Kerner, who had become a 24-hour-a-day obsession with him.
Morrie Hankleman's thoughts were suddenly interrupted by Earl Bregman's voice. “You enjoying yourself, Morrie?” Bregman said, putting an arm around Morrie Hankleman's shoulder.
“Great party, Earl. Just wonderful. Great mix of people.”
“Yeah, yeah. Everyone seems to be having a good time. I'm pleased. I'm very pleased with it.”
“You should be, Earl.”
Earl Bregman nodded appreciatively. “Did you try to identify any more people?” he asked with a devilish smile.
“Were you wrong or right?”
Hankleman shrugged. “Umh .Â .Â . half and half.”
“Looks are deceiving, eh, Morrie?”
“Look over there,” Bregman said, pointing towards a corner of the room.
Hankleman turned to look at a group of five men who were standing around in a small circle.
“You see those guys there?”
“Yes, I see them,” Hankleman replied.
“What line of work do you think they're in?” Bregman asked, smiling wryly.
Hankleman studied the men in the group for a moment.
Bregman shook his head with self-satisfied authority. “No. Uh, uh. That's the boys,” he said, proudly.
Hankleman looked again. All of the five men appeared to be in their late forties or early fifties. All were dressed in well-fitting and obviously expensively tailored suits. Four were heavy set, paunchy men. One was slight in build and seemed no more than about five-foot-seven or -eight. The bigger men were crowded around him, listening as he spoke.
“If you had to choose one to lay on some muscle, which one would you pick?”
Without hesitation, Hankleman pointed at the largest of the five men. “The big guy with the pushed-in face.”
Bregman laughed knowingly. “C'mon over. I'll introduce you.”
They walked over towards the group. As they approached, Hankleman could see that the slight man was still talking and everyone was listening intently. Bregman didn't intrude on the group. He nudged Hankleman. “Listen to this guy,” he whispered.
Hankleman nodded and pressed slightly forward.
“Anyway, so Moishie here lends em de dough. .Â .Â . What was it, eight big ones, Moishie?” the thin man asked, looking at the large man with the pushed-in face.
“Yeah,” the big man replied. “Eight hundred.”
“Right,” the thin man continued, “so he gives em de eight hunnert an he waits. De guy is supposed to repay in turdy days. I mean it was like peanuts, right? Buptkas.”
Hankleman was now interested. He pushed up against the thin man who gave him a quick, hard look and continued talking.
“Anyway, a munt goes by .Â .Â . nutting happens. Moishie calls em. âTomorrow,' de guy says. Tomorrow comes .Â .Â . no dough. Moishie sends em out a letter from de office, right?”
Everyone nodded, Hankleman included.
“Again nutting. .Â .Â . Moishie calls em an tells em in plain talk to come up wid de scratch fast. De guy says, âgimme an extension till nex munt.' Moishie's a nice guy, right?”
Everyone nodded. Hankleman followed suit.
“So Moishie says, âOkay, ya got till de end of nex munt.' De end of de nex munt comes, Moishie don hear from dis chaim putz. .Â .Â . Moishie gives em a call. âI ain't got de dough,' de mooch says to Moishie, âgimme till tomorrow.' Moishie gives em till tomorrow. Tomorrow comes, no mooch, no money. Moishie gives em a call. âWhere's de dough?' Moishie asks. âI ain't got it,' de guy tells Moishie, âand furdermore,' he says, âyou ain't getting it. You want it, sue me!' Dats what he says, jus ly dat.”
A series of deprecations were now loosed by the men listening.
“What did you do, Moishie? What did you do to the shmuck?”
“Listen to the Hawk. The Hawk is telling the story,” Moishie said.
“So what happened, Solly?”
Hankleman pressed closer to the thin man, now tentatively identified as Solly the Hawk.
“Anyway, so I'm at de shvitz when Moishie calls ta gimmie de word,” the Hawk continued in his laconic manner. “I got a liddle problem wid a mooch,' he tells me. âDon worry, Moishie, jus leave it wid me, I'll handle it.' Moishie gives me de address of de mooch. I ged dressed an I go up ta see em. He's a big zhlob. Like even bigger den Issie Shissel.” The Hawk raised his hand a good foot over his own head and then spread both his hands to show the breadth of the man. “An wide ly dis. .Â .Â . He's dere wid some breezod; a real meece bear dat looks like he jus lugged her from de lower main street. Someting dat you wouldn't fuck even wid a flag over her face.”
Everyone laughed appreciatively at the Hawk's vivid description.
“Like wid no teet so she'd be perfect for a blow job.”
Again everyone laughed.
“So go on, Solly,” someone urged.
Solly the Hawk continued in his slow, easy-going manner.
“So anyway I tell him who I am, why I'm dere, an I tell him dat like Moishie needs de dough and he wants it right away. Of course, I tell him in a nice way because I don wanna offend like his magismo, you know his manliness, especially in front of his ugly breezod. He looks me up an down like he's going to measure me for a suit, an me, like I know what he's tinking, because you know, I been trew dis many times before already. So he's tinking, âDis liddle jerk wants money? I'll trow em out on his head.' Finally, after he gives me de once over, he says wid like a smirk on his face, âI can't pay. I ain't got de dough,' he says, âand I'm not paying!' Me, like I'm ready to try an reason wid de mooch, but before I can open my mout, he says, âAn you can tell dat Jew dat he ain't never gonna get paid.'”
The Hawk paused as his audience reacted with a volley of curses.
“Dat burns me up for tree reasons. Number one because he's insulting Moishie in front of me; number two because he's like trying to make points on me like as if he don't know I'm a Heber tooâas if anybody couldn't tell from one look at my face; and number tree because he's trying to look like a hero in front of his ugly broad at de expense of me, especially after I was careful not to offend his magismo in front of de breezod. Anyway, so I figger it's enough. I'm not going to waste my time putzing around trying to reason wid dis mooch. So I tell em, âLook, mooch, whadda ya jerking me off here? Tomorrow I'm coming back. Eidder you have Moishie's dough or I break boat yer arms an put you in de hospital for a couple of munts.' De broad looks at me like she's gonna drop a shit hemorrhage. De mooch sits dere like he don believe what he jus heard. I walk out. A minute later, I'm on de street walking up to my Lac which is parked near de corner, when like I suddenly hear a noise behine me. So I turn around an I see de mooch is running for me like he wants to cut my nuts off. He rushes up to me and I can see dat he's out for blood. What do I know? I don't know from nutting. Right away I give em a shot in de batesem. He goes down. I give em anudder shee-zot; dis time in de hee-zaid. It's good because I'm wearing my heavy shoes. Right away he starts ta bleed, but he's, you know, like rolling to get away. So I give him anudder shot in the kishkas. De mooch makes like an âoofhh!,' you know like a big balloon wid all de air coming out. Den fer good luck I lay a few more inta him; like one in de balls, anudder one in de haid, an so on and so fort. Next ting I know, somebody grabs me from behine, like around de neck.”