The Boy in the Bin

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56) CONFRONTATIONS

Raphael got up the next morning and fixed himself a breakfast of Pop-Tarts and Grape Soda. He was aware it wasn’t the healthiest combination, but he liked both. His mother dragged herself into the kitchen and plunked herself down at the table. When she looked at what he was eating, she scowled but said nothing.

Raphael couldn’t help being bored stiff; even though his day just started. He wanted to go to the Penn Station in Manhattan to meet with his old gang. But his cousin warned him he wasn’t exactly in their good graces.

He wanted to talk to his mother about getting his cleft palate repaired, so he might speak correctly. But now didn’t seem like the time because she hadn’t had her morning coffee. In Sylvia’s world, that was an absolute must. The simple fact was that he wasn’t sure when he might get the surgery he needed.

Things had changed so drastically since his father Raul, was recently murdered. His demise happened out of the blue and his mother had much uncertainty about the fate of her deceased husband’s law firm. All things in life seemed on hold for the moment; for both he and his mother since the death.

For the time being though, he hung out in his local neighborhood and go ‘shopping’ as he liked to say. His idea of shopping meant ‘shoplifting’. He got dressed, grabbed a soda from the refrigerator, kissed his mom and took off out the door. On his way towards 2nd Avenue, he ran into his father’s ex-partner Fred, who turned his white Corvette into the alley.

“Hey Raphael,” Fred shouted, “Is your mother home?”

“Yea,” he replied, “she’s in the nkitchen reading the npaper. Are you coming to talk about something?”

“No,” he answered, “I’ve got business to discuss with your Mom about her share of the law firm. Where are you headed this early?”

“I nwant to ntry to nget a new ncomic book,” he explained.

“OK,” Fred smiled, “I’ll talk to you later.”

Fred parked his car and knocked on the door to the kitchen. His visits to Raphael’s mother’s home happened frequently, now that Raul was dead. Visiting here was almost like a second home for him.

To be honest, he intended no business discussion with Sylvia. His only reason for visiting centered on getting a little hot sex from her. Sylvia kept their relationship secret and Fred himself didn’t want things to change either. Sylvia answered the knock on the kitchen door and invited Fred into the house.

“I ran into Raphael headed out of the alley,” Fred announced. “Do you think he will be gone long?”

“Long enough,” Sylvia breathed.

She moved in close and wrapped her arms around Fred.

The black limousine owned by Rolland Sandez cruised into the parking area of Penn Station. When Sammy noticed the Cadillac pull in, he broke away from his friends and went to the rear door. He entered the back seat and sat down.

“Are you ready for some big money?” Sandez boasted.

“Shit yeah Mr. S,” he exclaimed. “You’re talkin’ to someone born ready.”

“This isn’t the typical job,” Sandez stated. “This one involves something of a more dangerous nature.”

“All I need to find out,” Sammy crowed, “is what the job is and how much money I get paid.”

Mr. Sandez took a moment to formulate his sales pitch to Sammy. Up to this point, Sammy pulled off little robberies where they would split the take. This time, he wanted Sammy to commit murder.

“You used to be friends with Raphael Hernandez,” Sandez mentioned. “Are you still pissed at him for making the statement to the police?”

“Yeah,” Sammy remarked. “I’m trying to find out where he lives so I can pay him a visit. He won’t be ratting on anybody else when I get hold of him.”

“Perhaps I can help,” Mr. S. continued. “Perhaps we can help each other.”

“What do you want done, Mr. S?” he questioned.

“I’ve got a little problem with his father’s business partner, Fred,” Sandez confided. “He’s been having an affair with Raphael’s mother. I want you to firebomb the Brownstone where they live. Fred always visits the house on the weekend and if you are lucky, Raphael will be at the house too. Consider this to be killing two birds with one stone; or a firebomb in this case.”

“Uh, Mr. S,” Sammy wavered, “I don’t know about this. To rob a grocery or a shop is one thing, but knocking off a person is something different.”

“I’ll pay you $5,000 for the hit,” Sandez said. “You get half now and the balance when the job is done. You get to deal with your little buddy as a bonus.”

Sammy couldn’t help being greedy. The thought of being 15 years old, and having $ 5,000 in his pocket appealed to his basest urges. Plus the fact of getting even with Raphael for ratting on him made the deal seem a much lower risk.

“I’m not familiar with firebombs, Mr. S,” he cautioned. “You would need to teach me how to set the thing off.”

“The bomb is here, in this case,” he motioned. “All you need to do is push the red button and toss the case through the window. There is a built-in 10-second delay, which will give you enough time to get the hell out of Dodge.”

Sandez showed the black attach case to Sammy and pointed out the red button. He handed him an envelope with a wad of cash inside and told him to count. Sammy counted out $ 2500 in hundreds. On the outside of the envelope, written in pencil, was the Hernandez home address. He stuffed the envelope in his pocket

“The business partners name is Fred and he drives a white Corvette. He usually parks in front of the Brownstone. You can tell when he is inside because his car is parked in the alley. Sometimes he stays overnight and sometimes he gets a quickie and goes home. You decide the best time to do the job, but don’t get caught. I’d hate to go through the hassle of sending someone to find you. You wouldn’t like me sending someone.”

“Don’t worry, Mr. S,” Sammy assured. “I’ll be back later to pick up the balance of my fee.”

Mark Lawrence sat in his office staring at the wall. He wanted to take Sylvia out tonight because he thought he may get lucky with her. He placed three calls to the house but got no answer. So decided to take a ride over to the house and ask her personally.

He pulled into the alley and the first thing catching his eye; a white colored Corvette parked across from the doorway. He recognized the car as one belonging to Fred; her dead husbands’ partner.

What the hell is he doing here? Mark thought.

Mark parked his car at the end of the alley as he thought about the situation. Did he want to believe Sylvia acted like a slut, by having sex with both him and Fred? Sharing Sylvia’s body would totally piss him off. As he stared at the entrance to the apartment, Fred and Sylvia stepped out the front door and walked toward Fred’s car. Sylvia embraced Fred as if he was a soldier going off to war. Mark realized these two must be more than friends.

Much more than friends.

This crushing blow hurt his ego. He put a lot of effort into getting Sylvia in bed. Now this old ‘has-been’ stole his thunder. The situation sucked and Mark needed to snip this in the bud soon .

He slowly backed his car from the alley and headed towards his office. He sat at his desk for a few moments pondering the situation. He opened up the top left drawer of his desk and pulled out a Smith and Wesson .38 caliber handgun. In the silence of his office, he rhythmically cocked and uncocking his pistol.

What to do, he thought, what to do?

Fred turned the key to his Corvette. The car grunted and clicked. Fred realized he somehow inadvertently left the dome light on and drained the battery. He jumped out of the car, cursing all the way, and trudged his way out of the alley to hail a cab.

This happened at the most inopportune time. Fred needed to be at his condo in the Hampton’s by 2:30 P.M. for a meeting with the other property owners. Now, his only recourse would be to leave the car for the weekend and take a cab or train to his retreat.

The clock on the wall read 11:00 P.M. by the time Raphael returned home. The first thing obvious to him; Fred’s car still parked at the house. He quietly snuck in the door, hoping to avoid any confrontation with his mother for being out so late. Slipping through the kitchen without turning on any lights, he sat down on the couch. He assumed Fred and his mother would be in the bedroom and he didn’t want to disturb them.

Now I know why Mom keeps packs of rubbers in her bedroom drawer, he chuckled to himself.

Today turned out to be a good day for Raphael because he got out and about; free to do what he wanted. He got three new comic books and left his mark with spray paint on several buildings. Sitting on the living room couch, he pulled off his jacket and shirt as he thought about the day’s activities.

He drifted off to sleep.

Not long afterward, the loud crash of something coming through the window broke the silence. Raphael woke up with a start. In his dream, he had been wearing a white coat and hat and stood cooking steaks on a portable grill. Awakening now, the odor of smoke filled his nostrils. The smoke detector bleeped its pathetic screech. His living room broke out in flames and now burned with a fury.

He jumped off the couch at the sight of furniture and drapes ablaze. The hallway was filling with smoke and flames; burning all the way to his mother’s room. He couldn’t get down to the opposite end of the house to warn her. His best chance of escape would go out the window.

Try as he might, he couldn’t take in a breath of fresh air. He ran to the window and witnessed the reflection of flames on the wall across the alley from his house. The fire raged with serious intent. Raphael acknowledged he needed to get out of the house before the entire structure went up in flames. He threw on a shirt, jacket and sneakers and kicked out the living room window. He listened to the sirens reverberating through the alley, but they must be at least three streets over.

He leaped out of the window as a wall of flames engulfed the entire living room. From outside, he was shocked seeing the entire structure of the Brownstone ablaze through every window.

While being mesmerized by the flames, a car started up a short distance from Raphael and the lights came on. The tires squealed as the car pulled forward, headed right for him. The car, a black Subaru; looked like the same one he’d seen parked earlier in the day. In the passenger seat sat the familiar face of his ex-friend Sammy.

He dashed down the alley in the opposite direction. Running frantically, he pulled garbage cans out from in front of the other Brownstones, to block the approaching car. Thirty feet, Twenty feet, Ten feet and finally out of the alley into the avenue. Upon exiting the alley, the car was going so fast, the driver lost control and shot across the street into a parked car.

Raphael hurried down the avenue to the next cross street, hung a right and kept running at full speed towards another alley. He made another quick 90-degree turn and burst down the darkened passageway without looking back. He couldn’t keep up this pace for long. When he came to a utility pole, he leaped up and grabbed the low-lying foot pegs; scrambling up the pole. From his perch 25 feet above the ground, he hoped to stay out of sight if the Subaru came looking for him.

Predictably, the car came back.

Raphael didn’t recognize the driver of the car, but even in the darkness he recognized the face of Sammy; grinning like a monkey, eating a jar full of bumblebees. The driver probably would be Sammy’s new best friend Lenny.

The Subaru, with its smashed in front-end, hauled ass through the alley to the next side street. Raphael had no doubt in his mind now; the gang actively searched for him and intended to do him harm. Johnny said he believed Lenny to be crazy and these actions proved him right. They may have even been to blame for setting his house on fire.

Five minutes later, the black Subaru came back down the alley. This time the car moved much slower. Raphael hoped he remained invisible by hanging close to the pole. Perhaps his jacket would be dark enough for his pursuers to not see him. Raphael heard the sirens several blocks away, but the car kept searching; returning to the alley every 5 to 10 minutes.

He wondered about his mother. Did she get out of the apartment? He never thought of what he would do if his mother died. Who would care for him? The fact remained though, he needed to deal with his immediate problems. He hoped to hang on to his hiding place until the danger no longer existed.

Raphael waited another 15 minutes but the Subaru didn’t return. Perhaps the sirens scared them off. He would be forced to climb down soon because holding on to the steel foot pegs made his hands go numb. He took a chance and climbed down from his perch. He wanted to get to his house and survey the damages.

Once he got down on solid ground, he worked his way to the entrance of the alley. He peeked out, looking both directions for the evil Subaru. The morning light was coming up, allowing the details of the street scene to come into view. Traffic moved at a minimum, but a few cars transited up and down the roadway.

He went back the way he came until he got to his alley. He peeked around the corner and saw a fire truck and a rescue truck parked near the entrance to his Brownstone. He could see hoses attached to a hydrant and several firemen dousing the house which still burned. This didn’t appear to be good .

“Hey, you!” came a shout from one of the firemen. He turned around, but he seemed alone in the alley.

“Yes, you!” the fireman hollered. “We want to talk to you.”

Raphael didn’t want the hassle of trying to explain anything to the officials. An inner part of him thought somehow he would be blamed for this mess anyway. He couldn’t believe that just as he thought everything was going so good, this had to happen.

So he ran.

He took off into the alley heading toward the main avenue. Six blocks up, where city housing projects ended he ran into a deserted parking lot. There was nothing there except the last remains of a cement plateau where cars used to park. Looking ahead of him, he spied an opportunity.

He maneuvered his way through the abandoned parking lot towards a compound of storage lockers, accessed only by a single roadway. Since early morning lit the sky, he had no problem navigating the field littered with rocks, weeds and blocks of concrete. Around the perimeter of the compound, a chain link fence rose about 9 feet above the ground.

The only way inside the complex seemed through a single set of security gates at the front side of the fence. The complex held five rows of storage bins within and each row contained about 20 individual garage-sized lockers on both sides of the row. The compound contained 200 separate storage bins. There was no guard manning the entrance. Cars wanting to gain access to the area needed to enter a numeric code into a keypad to open the sliding gate.

Raphael circled around to the back side of the compound, looking for some way to enter without having to climb over the fence. He found a section of fence where the mounting staples holding the fence pulled away from the supporting pole.

Lifting the corner of a section, he opened up a free area and squeezed his husky frame through the fence to the inside. The section of fence snapped back in place, and to a casual viewer, nobody would recognize the compound breach.

In the corner of the compound, near the gated entrance, a row of trash cans stood overflowing with junk. Stacked nearby, there was a collection of old mattresses, broken tables, and other garbage people discarded. He cautiously walked down the inside of the perimeter, examining each row for anything harmful to him; other people.

Raphael noted most of the storage lockers bore large padlocks on the doors. Some enclosures however, showed no locking mechanism . In the fourth row, three lockers in, Raphael found a bin with only a sliding bolt on the overhead door.

He lifted the garage door up about three feet and peeked in to check the contents. The bin appeared empty. He slipped under the door and rolled the door down; safe from any outside view.

He stood in the quiet solitude for a while, listening to the sounds around him. He wondered if he arrived here without being followed from the city. The inside of the bin appeared dark and as quiet as a tomb. The only sounds to reach his ears became the distant echo of traffic. He pulled a Bic lighter out of his pocket and lit the flame. In the dim light, he verified he was standing alone in what would be his new home.

This will work fine, he thought to himself, as long as I can stay unnoticed.

He lifted up the door and slid outside into the cool air. After putting the door back down, he hustled along the fence towards the front of the complex. With nobody else in sight, he inspected the pile of junk, left by other people, stored near the entrance.

He lifted the first mattress off the pile and underneath, he found another mattress; this one clean and dry. He yanked on the end, working diligently to get the mattress out of the pile and placed up against the fence.

Opening up the trash cans, he found a treasure chest of useful items as he went through them one by one. He found a set of matching linen bed covers, a rusty knife, and a pair of old works boots, for starters. There were throw pillows, a compass, a cheap flashlight with no batteries, an old Zippo lighter and a selection of ladies pants and blouses.

He hoped he might find sort of timepiece in this plethora of crap. Unfortunately, by the time he got to the fifth can, his luck expired, leaving him only with a handful of usable items.

Oh well, he groaned to himself, at least I can make a place to lie down when I’m not ‘home’.

With much effort, he grabbed the mattress by the handles on the side and dragged the bedding back to his new place of residence. He lifted up the door and manhandled the mattress inside and went back to his stash to pick up the rest of his booty. Three more trips completed getting everything back inside the bin; which included a semi-sturdy end table.

He left the door open while he set about arranging everything the way he wanted; and a good thing too. He learned of a car approach and stop at the gate. Shortly afterward, he heard the gate opening and he quickly pulled down the overhead door; keeping his location a secret. He tried peering out the tiny opening, but he couldn’t catch sight anything.

They must be in the next row, he hypothesized.

He listened to muffled voices and car doors slamming, but nothing seemed familiar. The noises made him think of his own security; like how he might keep someone from opening up his unlocked bin and discovering him?

He examined the rails holding the door in place. He theorized he needed to put a stop or something in the rail to prevent the roller from going up. A block of wood would be fine for when he stayed home, but what about when he went on one of his expeditions? He decided he needed to investigate the outside of the door, trying to find way to secure his ‘Fortress of Solitude’.

He made a mental note of the items he needed. First off, he needed a set of batteries for the flashlight. He also needed a pencil and pad of paper. Some screwdriver or punch would be useful to make a peep-hole in the door. He wished he’d known he would end up here because his father owned a million tools at the house. To have a tool chest would come in handy right about now. Another item he needed would be a cheap padlock; to keep his bin secure in his absence. He probably could find one at the Brownstone too.

At any rate, nothing would be accomplished at the moment and he felt the fatigue of the day grinding on him. He became vague about the time but guessed the hour to be about 5 or 6 in the morning. He couldn’t think of anything more to do and so he flopped down on the mattress and recounted the events of the day. What started as a normal, boring, ‘more of the same’ day, turned out to be both exciting and fulfilling. His day started in a comfortable house and ended with him living in a storage bin.

He did not understand if his mother made it out of the house alive or not; and what about Fred? Why was his Corvette still parked at the house? Did he and Sylvia get away? Were they even at the house? They possibly went out for the evening, which is why no one greeted him when he returned home from his shopping trip?

He couldn’t think of how to deal with his ex-gang friends. How would he survive? Even with all these thoughts, he trusted one fact; he survived. Somehow he would work his way through his issues.

He drifted off into a restless sleep.

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