(The continuing misadventures of a gang in the book business trying to consolidate and monopolize its position in a ruthless and primitively competitive urban landscape while taking on several rivals. Low budget. Black-and-white. Not on video or DVD.)
CHAPTER TWO: "Turf Wars."
"Pretty Boy" Bronson arrives in the anteroom of the Boss's huge office and takes a seat. He carries a portfolio of paperwork. Across from him waits The Kid, also with a portfolio. The Kid is sweating profusely and shaking a bit. "It's not good. It's not good," he says over and over. Bronson wonders what drug-of-choice The Kid is on this week.
"What happened?" Pretty Boy asks.
The Kid begins rambling. "I was ready to jump. It was the meds. No-- my girlfriend. We didn't get them. The warehouse bomb went off but we didn't get them. Not all of them anyway. Took out five I think-- maybe others. Their leader and a few more escaped. Our informant-- he's a screwball-- was wrong. The ULA yet lives."
The Kid takes a snot-covered handkerchief from his pocket and wipes his brow. Then his shaky eyes zero in on Bronson.
"Who's this new bodyguard the Boss has? I mean, I think that's what he is. He never says nothin'. The black guy. He just goes with the Boss everywhere like an unspeaking shadow."
"I don't know," Pretty Boy answers.
At that instant Boss Eggers appears in the corridor, silent bodyguard next to him. The two others realize he's heard every word. Boss Eggers shows no reaction. He nods to the bodyguard, who departs.
Eggers opens the door to his office. It's an entire soundstage, with an enormous desk-- fit for a gangland boss. Backdrop is a matte painting of the city of San Francisco. Eggers gazes possessively at the backdrop for a minute, as if he owns the world.
"Reports?" he asks while sitting in the leather chair behind the huge desk.
Pretty Boy, a former bond trader, knows the Manhattan landscape well. "They're moving into our territory," he says, reciting figures. "N+1 is pushing their stuff" ("stuff" said as if it were illegal whiskey) "on the shelf right next to ours!"
"Do we still have allies?" the Boss quizzes.
"Oh yeah, sure. Loads. Whitney and others like her. The rich boys of course."
Eggers's fist slams suddenly hard onto the desk, startling Pretty Boy, and The Kid also.
"Then motivate them!" Eggers shouts.
He takes a minute to calm himself. His eyes are very intense. The camera zooms in on them. Instantly he calms, as if nothing had occurred.
"We don't have even this town locked up 100%," he smirks in his cute-but-cynical postmodern way. "Show me who we've got in The Room."
The three men walk down a long and spooky corridor. With a ring of keys, The Kid unlocks a heavy steel door, then leaves them. Inside sits a man bound to a chair in the center of the naked room.
"Who is this creep?" Eggers asks. Pretty Boy consults a clipboard.
"He calls himself Ed Rants. A gangster wannabe-- playing the role around town for a couple months pretending to be a big shot. Got into a scuffle with Gessen and his boys. Note the black eye. We found him in a movie theater. Had seen four movies in a row. He blew his cover-- was complaining to the usher about stale popcorn! He's a goof."
Eggers frowns. Pretty Boy continues.
"We told him we'd have The Ogre play with his head. Note the photo."
On the wall opposite Rants, in plain view staring at Ed every minute, is a blown-up photograph of mob enforcer Daniel Handler, aka The Ogre. Rants looks at the photo. His eyes bulge from his head in terror. Unknown to him, Handler is already in New York to set up the coming visit. The Boss nods to Pretty Boy, who removes the gag from Rants's mouth.
"Sarvas is an idiot!" the man screams uncontrollably, saying what he thinks they want to hear. "Sarvas is an idiot!"
The gag is replaced. Boss Eggers glances at Pretty Boy, then laughs. Pretty Boy follows him from the room.
"When he begins to say," Eggers calmly tells his advisor, "'Gessen is an idiot,' then we'll know we've made progress."
NEXT CHAPTER: "The Literature Police."