The following is a section of a crime novel I’d started writing, but put on hold for the moment to focus on other pursuits. In time, I will return to it.

By Christopher Kasparoza
Long Island, New York
The lone defendant, with no expression on his face, did his best to remain stoic as the prosecutor played the tape in the small but packed courtroom. Regret was not an easy thing to hide. But he was determined to hide it from the jury.
“That’s what I was telling him,” Freddy said. “Tried to, anyway.”
Tristan agreed. “What good is a mind, if you don’t know how to lose it?”
“Exactly,” Freddy said. About six feet and stocky. 35 and white. A head shaved because it was bald on top. “I mean, I had to lose it. Exactly. Know what I’m sayin’?”
“Of course,” Tristan said. Also white. Skinny but strong, a little shorter and a lot smarter as they walked around the block that summer night on the South Shore of Long Island. Tristan was also a year older, at 36. Not that it had anything to do with it, though.
Tristan said, “I did my time the same way, my man. Surrounded by fuckin’ spooks. I mean, you don’t lose your keep every once in a while, don’t matter how smart, how slick you are. Word on the tier’s gonna be you’re just another soft-ass white-boy, wannabe gangster.”
“Well, I wouldn’t go that far,” Freddy said.
“You wouldn’t?” Tristan said.
“Not at all,” Freddy said. “You’re acting like the negro youth are the only ones you gotta watch out for these days.”
“You were in state, though. All the Italians are in the feds,” Tristan said.
“You know,” Freddy said, “I gotta be honest.”
“What?” Tristan said.
Freddy smiled. “I wish I was in the feds. So much more relaxed than state time.”
“How do you figure?”
“I mean, not even that it was relaxed, but…”
“But what?” Tristan said.
“It was like, I took a step down in life.” Freddy said, “State time? It was like I was in crime school, but, like, high school crime school. You wanna learn any new skills other than crack cocaine, you gotta go to the majors.”
Tristan smirked. He said, “Well, I’ll tell you this much. People forget. I mean, all the time. You gotta keep your guard up. People forget. Know what I’m sayin’? You know what I’m sayin’. I mean, it’s just that, people, people forget. All the time. People forget that just because we’re not in a jungle… it doesn’t mean we’re not still living in an animal world.”
“Every day I was inside, believe me,” Freddy said. “Four years I just did in the animal world. But, you know what? Fuck that animal world. No more zoos for me. No more bars. No more cages. Fuck those cages.”
Tristan Bolino didn’t roll his eyes, but he came close. If there was ever anyone on this planet close enough to a primate, no doubt it was Freddy “Blemish” Callaghan. “So, what’s the plan, then? Four years you’re gone, now you’re back. We gonna flow now or not?”
“No more cowboy shit,” Freddy said. “No more. But, anything else, within reason, I’m game. You know I’m game.”
Tristan said, “I figured that’s why you came out here tonight. And besides, since 9-11, there ain’t no more cowboy shit. Not in this town, anyway. Not unless you’re stupid. Or, not unless you’re trying to make a name for yourself.”
Freddy stopped their walking. He looked in Tristan’s eyes. “Sometimes I think we made too much a name for ourselves.”
“So, what’d you have in mind?”
Freddy wasn’t sure how to articulate. There were a few things he wanted to say, but couldn’t. Freddy said, “Truth is, it’s a whole new world out here.”
“So you need me to help you adjust. It’s understandable.”
“It’s a lot of things. Though, the truth is,” Freddy said. “I wouldn’t mind it. I can’t do that union shit. I seen Tommy Low the other day, randomly, out it Massapequa. He said he could get me something. Maybe down at the docks. Construction site, whatever.” Freddy paused. “Fucking Tommy Low. Fuck Tommy Low. I’m not trying to be around those fucking people.”
“Tommy’s a good guy.”
“Maybe so. But you know how it is. Those fucking people? Get a favor, you’re in debt for ten more.”
“So what are you saying?” Tristan said.
“I’m saying, with you, I hope it’s less than 5.”
Tristan smiled. “We go back a long way, Freddy. And what’d you think, I’m not grateful? Could’ve been me just as easy doing those 4, or more. I should’ve been there that night. You think that doesn’t weigh on my shoulders?”
Freddy said, “Not to be a leach or nothing, but…”
Tristan looked at him. “But what?”
“What can you do for me?” Freddy said. “Because the truth is, bottom line is—I need a job. At least for the day time.”
Tristan looked around. He thought about it. “Look,” he said. “I got all kinds of connects now. Legit connects. And, truth be told, I could put you in, get you into a lot of different things. And, truth be really told, I did good these last 4 and a half. And the truth is, part of that is ‘cause you were there with me from jump street. All that work we put in? So, you’re gonna be anywhere, you might as well be with me.”
Freddy said, “In what capacity?”
“Look,” Tristan said. “I got these gyms now. I got 3 already, I’m about to open the fourth. And you know what planted the seeds for that.”
Freddy looked in his eyes: “Brinks.”
Tristan nodded.  “Look. I’d have to clear it with my partner, with Justin, but I don’t see him having a problem.”
“A problem with what?” Freddy said.
Tristan said, “I could put you in as assistant manager. But, then, you do good? Maybe we move you up.”
Freddy looked at him. “General manager?”
“Maybe if you lose that gut first.”
“Like I ever had a problem knocking someone the fuck out.”
“Like I ever doubted you. But, this is different. This is business. ‘Cause, I mean, truth is, we’re trying to expand. Lock down locations all over eventually, do the franchise thing. So, the way I look at it? I mean, you feel comfortable there, and you can come up with the cash? I mean, come on, all the scores we took, you gotta have something under a mattress.” Tristan paused. “Do you have something under a mattress?”
Freddy Blemish smirked. “My fucking lawyers got my shit under their mattress.”
Tristan nodded. He knew everyone didn’t have the ability to organize crime like he did. But he also knew Freddy Blemish was more than capable of enforcing it. “Well, look. We’ll see what happens. Opportunities, they just spring up sometimes. They come. Sometimes they go. And sometimes that bitch comes again. But, let’s just say this. This gym thing, you like it? You end up enjoying it, you can work with it? Well then come up with the cash and you can buy into it. A year or so, whatever, down the road, we’re ready, you’re ready, we’re all ready? You want, you help us open a new shop somewhere. Be my partner again.”

Freddy liked what he was hearing.


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  1. Chris, you’re a great writer…. I took the liberty of editing the top few paragraphs. I was trying to show you how I’d approach this material. Always be concise, and show details about your characters. Try to show their humanity. Writing is re-writing as they say. Also remember perspective. I don’t know who the defendant is but I’d show the scene of the audio through his eyes, almost like he’s picturing what happened…(Look, I know we’ve had our differences but that’s not a fight I’m engaged in anymore… We used to be friends… we’re both artists and artists should help each other.)

    The lone defendant wore no expression. His apparent stoicism was evident to anyone who stared him In the face.

    The prosecutor, a sharply attired man with a balding head and full beard, who apparently modeled his oratory style on Martin Luther King’s, was preparing a wiretapped recording for the jury and the many spectators sitting in the small, packed, stifling courtroom. They coughed, whispered, one dropped what sounded like a book.

    Then the recording poured in.

    “What good is a mind if you don’t know how to lose it?” one man asked in a firm, confident voice. Tristan, the defendant thought.

    “Exactly,” another man said. Freddy. The defendant pictured him, tall and stocky, white, around 35. Head shaved to camouflage his male pattern baldness.

    “I had to lose it. Exactly. Know what I’m sayin’?”

    “Of course.”

    Tristan, also white, was skinnier and shorter than Freddy. Despite appearances, everyone knew Tristan was the stronger one.

    The two had been walking aimlessly that terribly humid night, strolling around the neighborhood on Long Island’s South Shore. The occasional cool lick of a breeze was a charm on those sweltering evenings. Long island was a New York suburb but some summer nights could be justly compared to the weather in I Phnom Penh, Cambodia, as Long Island natives knew.

    “I did my time the same way, my man,” Tristan said. His voice was louder, clearer. “Surrounded by fuckin’ spooks. You don’t lose your keep every once in a while, don’t matter how smart, how slick you are. Word on the tier’s gonna be you’re just another soft-ass white-boy wannabe gangster.”

    “Well, I wouldn’t go that far,” Freddy said in a drawling somewhat hesitant voice.

    “You wouldn’t?” Tristan said.

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