The week sped by quickly for Ben Baron, construction foreman, as we finished framing the two split ranches in Willowbrook Estates on Friday, right on schedule. The final board of plywood sheathing had been nailed in place yesterday. Today we cleaned up the exterior carpentry by installing soffits, fascia board and tied in the attic sill plates to the ceiling joists. The skin was on the skeleton. The two frames were starting to take the shape of a house now.
Tomorrow night I would mete out proportional pain to a sick pervert who likes to beat up on women and kids. The concept of Retributive Justice appealed to my Sicilian soul. I would only give him a taste of his own medicine. After all, we were not trying to rehabilitate, only punish.
Then, his main sentence, aside from a trip to the hospital, will be his severance of employment and loss of a loving wife and son. He had blown it all the way around, and probably never deserved either the blessings of a loving family or a good job. Those would be gone forever. Frank would be broken and alone. Although I didn’t know this man, I hoped once he hit bottom that he could somehow regain his humanity and build a good life for himself.
As happy as I was to be a Minister of Justice, it was no contest compared to my weekly Friday night date with my smoking hot girlfriend, Karen. I was really looking forward to that. I thought about her mini skirts and skimpy tops, her beautiful shoulder length auburn hair and those eyes. Eyes that could make the devil himself blush. A Friday night foray in feminine fantasy!
It was 8:00 when Nova and I pulled up to Karen’s apartment building on The South Shore. Visions of pulchritude empowered my teenage legs, abounding the stairs two at a time. I reached her third floor apartment in just seconds, and pounded on the door.
“Dinner and a movie?” I said, as she greeted me with a kiss in response. She had to get up on her toes and placed a delicate paw on my chest, as only a pretty woman knows how to do. I felt that familiar charge electrify both body and soul when she did that.
Although Karen was an Operating Room Nurse by day, she certainly did not dress demurely in white for our dates. Tonight she sported a one-piece hot pants jump suit out of some kind of shiny sheer fabric barely held together by some front snaps. I made note of those for later. As I trailed her out of her apartment, I silently thanked God for providing me with an oversexed exhibitionist.
“What movie would you like to see tonight”, I said.
“Oh, Hang ‘Em High”, she said, “I just love Westerns.”
Good, I thought. Get me in the mood for some justice of my own tomorrow night. I had worn my jeans jacket into the new theatre. Not for me, though. I knew my nearly naked nymph would be freezing in the cold air conditioning. My 42 long jacket covered her entire petite body like a horse blanket. Then I wrapped an arm around her blanketed form while Clint squinted and shot bad guys for a couple of hours. All that killing will work up an appetite.
“Italian or Chinese food?” I said, as we left the theatre. With the same alacrity as she did everything, and without hesitation, Karen said, “I’ll take Italian every time.” I took that as a compliment.
After a two-hour feast at Ristorante DiNapoli, the best Italian food on The Island, maybe the whole City, Karen proclaimed,
“Benny, Honey, I have a hankering for something sweet now.”
So did I, but that would be later.
She said, “Why don’t we take a run downtown to that nice place that makes all those flavors of fresh pies.”
“Ah, yes, it’s been some time since we hit Millie’s,” I said. “Great coffee, too.”
I knew we would be heading into the seedy side of town, but it really did not phase either of us. We were both young and invincible. Or perhaps, just more hormones than brains!
Seated in a booth at the world famous pie café, Karen ordered the pecan and I ordered the pie sampler where you got three smaller slices of different flavors (of their 48), presumably to try.
“Hey, Ben” Karen said. “Those are all your favorites. You’re supposed to sample pies you never had, see if you like them!”
“I know I like cherry, blueberry, and coconut custard, so I know I’ll be happy.”
Being a big man I often overhang a booth with a shoulder sticking out into the aisle. Therefore, it was not uncommon for me to get bumped by patrons navigating their way down a narrow aisle to their table. But tonight, I got bumped hard five times in a row from behind.
The bumpers wore green satin jackets with the letters, DIABLOS printed on the backs in big Gothic Red Letters. Early in the season for their Christmas gang outfits. They flopped into a booth across the aisle and down a couple of rows.
I was wolfing down the last slice and the second pot of coffee when I noticed Karen, turned around, eying a scene unfolding at their table. But first, I inspected her pecan pie, barely touched on the plate before her. While I was getting ready to attack her slice too, my gluttonous intentions were interrupted by a
loud male voice.
“Hey, Gringo Bitch, what flavor is your pie, Baby?” The rest of them made kissing sounds as their leader’s arm encircled the waist of a pretty young waitress. She squirmed and strained but could not break away. His arm slid down onto her backside.
From behind the hood and the waitress,
a new voice commanded, “Why don’t you leave the young lady alone?”
The gang and Karen and I noticed an older, very small, Asian man with white hair seated across from them at the next table, on our side of the aisle.
The gang member squeezed the derriere of the struggling waitress and turned to the small man and said, “What you doing here, Confucius? Ain’t no fly lice or no moo goo shit here!” They all laughed like hyenas and slapped high fives, impressed with their own wit.
I was about ready to step up to the aid of the waitress, but hesitated for a moment. I guess it took a second or two to turn my attention from the unguarded slice of pecan pie. The diminutive Asian man spoke first in a stern commanding voice, “Let the lady go.” He said it in perfect English. No trace of an accent.
“Who the fuck is going to make me, Gramps?” The head Diablo challenged as he took a couple of steps down the aisle, so he was now standing next to the table occupied by the old man.
The waitress scurried back to the kitchen, rearranging her skirt as she went.
“Hey, Old Man, your big mouth got your little ass into some big trouble”.
A switchblade snapped open in the hood’s hand from nowhere. I nearly intervened on the old man’s behalf, but he radiated such absolute confidence that I decided to watch and wait a bit longer.
The Hispanic youth thrust the knife directly at the man’s face. Though not seeming to be paying attention to the situation, the old man easily intercepted the lighting lunge of the knife with his left hand while still holding his glass of milk in his right hand. The muscles in his thin forearm expanded like steel cables as he twisted the punk’s wrist.
The young man sunk to his knees, groaning in pain. Still not releasing the wrist, the gray haired man took a careful sip of his milk, then turned the wrist over with a snap and released it as The Diablo screamed in agony and collapsed onto the floor, cradling his broken wrist in his other hand.
His compadres helped him up, carried him away, and from safe distance, said,
“We’ll be outside waiting for you, esse! You gotta come out sometime.”
Our little white haired hero finished his blueberry pie and milk, slowly, as if nothing had happened. When done eating, he strolled to the register, without a care in the world, paid his bill, and sauntered out the front entrance to Millie’s Pie Café onto the mean streets of the gang-infested neighborhood.
I threw a $10 bill on the table and Karen and I rushed out behind him.
The five gang-members were indeed out front waiting for him. The one with the broken wrist held a Saturday night special in his good hand, pointed at the old man. “You’re dead, hijo de perra!”
One moment, the little white-haired man had been standing directly across from the gang of Diablo’s and in the next instant he was gone. He seemed to float on air in a blur, so that he now stood shoulder to shoulder along side his would-be killer. It was as if time stood still and he never moved, but there he was, like magic.
The little man elevated the gun arm up and over his own shoulder that he used as a fulcrum. The hood’s elbow bent the way it is not designed to do with a loud crack as it was pulled down across his shoulder. The gun dropped to the ground with a heavy thud.
In the second blink of an eye, he floated again on air, so he was positioned in the midst of the remaining Diablo’s. A sequence of similar moves was executed so smoothly and fluidly they appeared to the naked eye as an out of focus slow motion movie scene. Hands and feet and elbows attacked everywhere all at once as the lithe little man spun around at amazing speed.
In a moment, the entire gang of Diablo’s was sprawled across the sidewalk holding different body parts; some bleeding, others bent at unnatural angles. Other teens lay unconscious. Noses, eyes, knees, groins and throats were now centers of throbbing ganglia after having been neatly assaulted by this one little old white-haired Asian man.
I realized my mouth must have been hanging open when I heard myself say, “Unbelievable! I’ve never seen anything like that…”
He turned and began to casually walk away, when I composed myself enough to say, “May I offer you a ride somewhere?”
“I prefer to walk, thank you.”
“There may be more of them,” I said, then wishing I had not said that. He turned to look back at me with the look of “Are you kidding me?”
“And, I wouldn’t want you to hurt them,” I blurted out.
He continued walking slowly away.
Karen said, “We’d be pleased to give you a ride home, sir.”
The old man smiled.
“Well, if the pretty lady asked me, I would have said yes the first time.”
Karen mostly, and I talked excitedly on the ride to his place in a little better section of Manhattan. We exchanged names. Karen expressed an interest in learning what he did. “Just call me Master Z. Everyone does.”
He handed her his card. It read:
Master Ziang Tang Chen
Master Z disappeared inside a converted warehouse with the same information printed on the plate glass doors.
On the ride back to Staten Island, Karen could talk of nothing else than how wonderful Master Z was tonight and how she would love to learn how to defend herself like him.
Right then and there I decided to surprise her with Aikijistu lessons for her birthday next week. I would call the diminutive killing machine tomorrow morning to schedule the lessons. They’d make a great surprise for her and it would be something we could do together besides dinner, movies and, of course, sex. Speaking of which we were just pulling up to her condo. I thought of those snaps.