Mystery! Mayhem! At the Market! Part 2: the flower vendor
"Couple of them Dungeness crabs," said Hank, "and make sure I'm happy."
The seafood dealer busied himself with the crabs, offered them neatly wrapped and packed in ice.
"I'll pick them up after lunch," said Hank. "How much I owe you?"
"N-no charge for you, Hank," said Leo.
"You're never going to stay in business giving it away," said Hank, enjoying Leo's discomfort. He strode down the sidewalk of the Pike Place Market, whistling a happy tune. Hank. It had been a long time since anybody other than his mama had called him Henry. He was Hank now. Had been Hank since the afternoon 19 years ago when Dapper Dan stood there in his canary-yellow suit and asked him if he wanted a job. You got smarts and guts, kid. Remind me of myself at your age, Dapper Dan had said, but Henry? What kind of name is Henry? Henry is a kid with glasses who eats his Brussels sprouts. Hank, that's who you are. And that's who Henry had become.
Hank plucked a ripe plum off a fruit stand, rubbed it and took a bite. Spat it out as he glared at the owner and kept walking. Crowds were a little thin at the Market this afternoon; blame it on the lousy weather. The wind was cold off the Sound, the sky gray, a light rain falling. Most folks looked miserable as drowned rats, but Hank was warm and cozy in a dark cashmere topcoat with the collar turned up.
About the author
Robert Ferrigno is the Kirkland-based author of several critically acclaimed Southern California-based mysteries, including "The Horse Latitudes," "The Cheshire Moon," "Heartbreaker," "Flinch," "Scavenger Hunt" and "The Wake-up." He was the first editor of the legendary Northwest music tabloid, "The Rocket," where his pay was so low he had to supplement his wages by playing professional poker.
His most recent novel, "Prayers for the Assassin," imagines America as an Islamic republic with Seattle as the capital. It was a New York Times best-seller and recently won Mystery Ink's 2007 Gumshoe Award for Best Thriller. Ferrigno is working on the second and third volumes in the "Assassin" trilogy.
The Seattle Times commissioned Ferrigno to write "Double Strike" to commemorate the Market's centennial.
He glimpsed The Seattle Times on the corner newsstand, something about Korea and President Truman warning the Red Chinese. Starting off 1950 with a big mistake. Hank didn't follow politics, but he knew warnings were a sign of weakness. Hit 'em hard — send them a message, not a warning. He saw his reflection in a shop window and smiled. He made a good impression. Tall and broad-shouldered, hard and handsome. A man to be feared, which was just he way he liked it.
Say what you would about Dapper Dan, the man had an eye for talent. He had scoped Hank out within the first moment they met, impressed not so much that Hank stole his lucky silver dollar but that he would lie to his face about it when caught. Dapper Dan taught Hank everything he knew. Extortion, prostitution, loan sharking, all the classics.
Hank was a fast learner, and he had an aptitude. Whatever it takes, that was his motto. Three years ago, when Hank had learned all he needed to, he woke Dapper Dan up one bright, sunny day, pressed the barrel of a gun into his right nostril and pulled back the hammer.
That's a terrible sinus condition you got there, Dan, said Hank. I hear the dry air in Arizona's just what the doctor ordered.
Dapper Dan blinked rapidly as the barrel of the gun pushed further into his nose.
I guess you better start packing, said Hank.
Dapper Dan left town an hour later. Hank had just turned 30. It was the best day of his life.
Hank winked at the old lady who sold hand-knitted scarves and caps, but she didn't react. Tough old bird. Probably did a good business, judging from the steady stream of customers clustered around her stall. Something to think about.
He rolled his lucky silver dollar across his knuckles with a practiced motion. Miss Liberty with a busted face. Double strike. Kind of reassuring that even the U.S. government made mistakes. Like Hank needed proof.
Only rain on his parade was the Dougan brothers, who had some funny ideas about what was his and what was theirs. He was going to have to straighten them out. Show them the error of their ways. Yeah, happy days except for the Dougan boys ... and his mom. The more he tried to do for her, the more she turned against him. He bought her a house on Capitol Hill and she gave it to the church and lived in one of the bedrooms. Bought her a car and she gave it to the Salvation Army and took the bus. Crazy woman talking crazy talk about blood money. He tried to tell her, It's all blood money, Ma, but she wouldn't listen. He crossed the street toward the bakery, his head down to avoid the rain.
* * *
Emilio Rodriguez stood buffeted by the wind, tending Mrs. Nishimura's flower stall and considering whether to move back to Mazatlan. Seattle was colder than he anticipated, it rained too much and he was so homesick his stomach ached. Only reason he had a job was, Mrs. Nishimura and her husband were both sick and needed someone to work the stall. He shifted from one foot to the other, teeth chattering. His cousin had sent for him, promised to get him work at the restaurant, but the very day Emilio arrived, his cousin had been arrested. Now, of course, everyone in his family blamed Emilio and his chronic bad luck. Ojo malvado. The evil eye.
Emilio watched a man cross the street, a rich man from the way he carried himself and the fine coat he wore. Some guys had all the luck. He inhaled the faint fragrance of the flowers around him. Even the flowers smelled sweeter in Mexico. Emilio jerked as two men charged at the rich man, started beating him with baseball bats, concentrating on his knees and elbows. The two men finally ran off, leaving the rich man sprawled against the curb, moaning. Something rolled out of his hand ... kept rolling down the sidewalk, rolling through the shoppers' feet, rolling until it landed against Emilio's shoe. He bent down and picked it up. A dollar. A beautiful silver dollar.
A crowd gathered around the rich man, but no one moved to help him.
Emilio turned the silver dollar over. Miss Liberty had two faces. He shivered. A dollar was nothing to a rich man, but to Emilio, this silver dollar that had rolled right up to him, this dollar that had sought him out above all others was a sign from God. Emilio crossed himself. Truly, his days of bad luck were over.
* * *
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
Most read articles
Seattle Times Special