Nicky V. hustled. He went to community college and worked at the bowling alley. He’d been there long enough to be able to run the whole show. He sprayed disinfectant in the rental shoes when he had to, but where he really shined was shmoozing the moms who came in to have birthday parties for their little brats. He’d make sure the bumpers were up and that they kept off the hardwood with the pizza and soda. Nick couldn’t help but look at those moms with their shiny SUV’s and wish he had some better wheels.
In the summer months, business fell off at the alley and Nicky worked over at the Delcrest Swim Club. His cousin Jimmy “One Thumb” Valenti was officially the manager, but Nicky did the work. Jimmy just picked up a check – nine fingers or not, he had no problem with that skill. Nicky should be so lucky.
Nick was a bit of a player with the lovely young ladies at the pool. This summer was different. Nicky was tired of the teenagers, he had his eye on bigger game.
Nicky figured the woman was in her 30’s, and she had him in some kind of trance. She was built like a centerfold. Strippers should have studied the way she moved. Her name was Crystal Light, just like the diet drink mix. Funny, because her old man looked like he’d never been within a mile of lo-cal anything. Nicky looked at that fat slob and dreamed of having his life. As if having a knockout like Crystal wasn’t enough, the round man owned a classic Caddy. It drove Nicky crazy that this guy had it all, and more chins than a Chinese phonebook.
When Crystal started chatting with Nicky down by the diving well, he thought maybe she was going to hit him up to work on the Caddy. The trunk lock had been popped and it was held closed with clothesline. He couldn’t believe that tub of Beefaroni would drive a number like Crystal around a classic car rigged like that. Where was the justice?
He was trying so hard to look cool that he wasn’t sure he heard her right. She smiled, then turned and walked away to find her husband at the snack bar. Nicky tried to recall her exact words, but the sight of her walking away wasn’t helping his thought process. He was convinced that she wanted Mr. Light turned off for good.
Nick was no murderer, but he kept imagining driving the Caddy with Crystal snuggled up against him. He pictured himself pulling into the driveway of the Light’s split level over on Belmont Terrace. He deserved that life. He’d do it.
That’s how he found himself crouching in a cluster of rhododendrons at the edge of Light’s property, his fingers sweating as his grip tightened on the handle of the gun he’d lifted from One Thumb’s desk at the swim club. That 500-pounder-with-cheese was bound to come out of his house eventually, and Nicky would be waiting, swatting mosquitoes.
Nick felt the presence but didn’t even have a chance to turn around before the bowling pin cracked across the back of his skull and knocked him into dreamland.
The man stood over Nick, wearing torn jeans and a badly scuffed leather jacket, scrapes on his hands and face.
He said, “Sorry kid, but there’s already a line formed for guys who want to kill that fat bastard.”
Willie Prader pulled out a Lucky and leaned back down into the shadows of the bushes to light it without being seen.