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keith laufenberg

New Fiction


by Keith Laufenberg


“Forgetting is Woman’s First and Greatest Art.”
—Richard Aldington, The Colonel's Daughter, p. 138.

      Gary Greb pulled his cab to the taxi-stand, just in front of the voluminous Fountainbleau, the largest hotel in Miami Beach, and rubbed his tired eyes. He nodded at another driver, who was walking towards his cab, "Hey G-Man, when’d yah start drivin’ for Central again?"
      "Eh, you know how it is Eddie. Sometimes I get a Yellow, sometimes a Central—they’re all independents. I ain’t filed a tax return in years. Split sixty-forty, ‘cept for high-flags, y'know?"
      "Yeah, I always flag any ‘port jobs myself."
      "Yeah, you gotta slip it on when you hit the ramp though. I get a flat rate outta ‘em before I start the trip. You know, hell, they all know anyway they think they’re gettin’ a deal."
      "Yeah, I usually get fifteen or twenty smackers flat-rate myself. Hey when you fightin' again G-Man, next Tuesday is …"
      "I know Eddie you're fightin' the main-go—yeah maybe I'll get on man—I dunno—depends on how I feel and if Chris … hey …" Greb smiled and nodded towards the Fountainbleau. It was a favorite stand, a Beach landmark for decades, you figured people who paid a hundred bucks a night—minimum—for a room, could well afford to leave you a good tip, although not all did. Eddie followed Greb’s nod and saw that the line was moving, as several cabs were already heading up the ramp. He quickly ran to his cab, as you never knew when another driver might pull in front of you and steal your job, although the paradoxical thing about that was that you never knew where the fare would be to—and—if you pulled in front of another cab and stole his fare, you lost what would have been your next fare, which may have been a better one—this being one of the many reasons why Greb had—long ago—decided that it wasn’t worth it to steal anyone else’s fare. He pulled his cab forward and was surprised when the doorman waved several cabs up, it was a plethora of activity even for Friday evening. He glanced at his wrist-watch, just after eleven p.m. He watched as the cab in front of him pulled up and Eddie jumped out and began loading suitcases in his trunk, a sure sign of an airport job and a smile turned his lips upwards when he too was whistled forward, up the ramp, to where a lone female opened the passenger door in his cab and cooed, "Oh cabbie, could youse-sah help me with my baggage, please?"
      "Yeah, yeah sure," he said and jumped out but his smile reversed itself when he saw the baggage, several boxed items and an evening dress on a rack. The woman had been shopping in the expensive Fountainbleau shops. Greb put them in the trunk with the woman pleading for him to be extra careful with the dress. He nodded and slipped it on the backseat hanger, then spread it across the seat. The woman got in the front seat. "Oh, thankyew so much, I have to go to Dee-Leedo Eye-lin’ please."
      Greb frowned as he pulled the cab down the driveway and onto the street. DiLido Island was a short trip to an expensive private Island community—and its residents were notorious among the cabbies for their stinginess when it came to tips. He pulled onto the Island—fifteen minutes later—and stopped at a guard shack. The guard stared into the cab and the lady rasped, "It’s me Jason, Clo’ Fah-bah,"
      "Oh, okay Missus Farber, well, all right then, go ahead, then, cabbie."
      Greb pulled past the guard-shack, as the security guard pushed a lever and a small wooden bar went from a horizontal position to a vertical one. The woman directed Greb to her house, which turned out to be an enormous, two-story duplex. Two large patios faced the street and, as she motioned for Greb to pull into the driveway, she pointed at one. "That’s my place, they-ah. We have separate entrances. Could youse help me with the packages—please?"
      Greb nodded at the woman and grunted. She was fifty-one years old but appeared a decade younger, having bleached her hair a striking reddish-brown—her polished and manicured nails were painted the same auburn tinge and her body—kept in shape with thrice-weekly aerobics classes—was nothing short of major beauty pageant proportions. Greb sighed when he got out of his cab. He was twenty-eight years old and didn’t even contemplate making a play for the woman, realizing she was out of his league, she smelled of money from a mile away, and he, after all, was a working class stiff—a cab-driver. He grabbed the packages from the trunk. "Guess, I’ll come back for the dress?" he said, smiling.
      "Certainly," she said and sashayed to the front door and opened it, with Greb appreciating the performance. He followed her inside and was setting the packages down when she continued her strut towards a staircase, turning her head slightly sideways. "Oh, cabbie, could youse please bring them upstairs?"
      Greb grunted and followed her up the stairs. She walked into a bedroom and sat on a huge, oval bed. To say it was a king-size would be giving it short-shrift—it was one of a kind, a custom-made waterbed with a speaker system that included an AM-FM radio, a cassette and CD player, a telephone and an intercom that was connected to the front door. Greb nodded at the woman, who crossed her legs, showing her shapely gams to a foot above her knees. Greb was staring at them when she purred, "Oh, by the way, I’m Clo’ Fah-bah from Sheepshead Bay, in New Yawk."
      Greb stared at the outstretched hand then cautiously shook hands.
      "My-my, look at all these callouses—what ah they from, sugah?"
      Greb besides being a professional fighter was also a carpenter when not driving a cab, and he frowned and was about to expostulate on the intricacies of construction work when he realized she was rubbing his calloused knuckles. A boxer for over a decade, he still trained at the 5th Street Gym in Miami Beach—never knowing when or if he might fight again. "Yeah, well, I ah-num sometimes I fight, yah know box. It’s, ah from dah heavy bag, yah know?"
      "Oh, my—youse are a boxer—well-well." Farber leaned back and, as she did so, gripped tighter on Greb’s hand. Her weight carried him onto the waterbed and Farber giggled. "Oh-my, oh, did I hoit youse, sugah?"
      Greb smiled when Farber rolled slightly against him and he felt her size 36 D-cups press against his arm. She kicked off her shoes just as a voice crackled from the intercom: "Clor-eese, CLOREEZE—it’s me, Jimmy—are youse upstairs?"
      Farber paled and scrambled across her waterbed to the intercom. "Oh, Jimmy—yes—I’ll be right down."
      "Just buzz me up, Clo’. What’s this taxicab doing here?"
      Farber bounced off the shivering mattress and reached her hand out towards Greb, who had already clambered off the bed. He smiled, "I think this is where it all began—huh—sugah?"
      Farber smirked and pulled herself off the bed, then ran to her dressing table to fix her face and sneered at him. "Why, whatevah do youse mean, sir? Please, fetch my dress, will youse?" Farber’s chameleon-like change in attitude caused Greb to frown then scowl, when she veritably hissed, "I need that dress please—now."
      Greb’s blue-collar mentality quickly snapped back to reality and he marched out of the room and down the stairs. Opening the front door, he confronted a tall, thin man, dressed in an expensive, gray pin-stripped suit. A large boutonniere was pinned to his lapel. Greb smiled as he walked past him. "Hey man—nice flower."
      The man stormed up the stairs, as Greb strolled to his cab and opened the back door. He grabbed the flowery, pink satin dress, slung it over his shoulder and headed for the front door.
      "Oh-oh my, pul-leeze," Farber shrieked running to the doorway, as Greb walked into the room and gently took the dress out of his hand. "Oh, is it dirty? You didn’t drag it on the ground, DID you?"
      "Naw man, it’s perfect, okay?" Greb glared at Farber, then the man, standing next to her. He looked around the room. A big-screen television with a built-in VCR, several paintings and a dresser full of what appeared to be expensive jewelry, and she was doing the ‘no-tip routine’. Greb had been the recipient of the no-tip on numerous occasions. The passenger would complain of something, anything, a gesture that would justify not giving the driver a tip. Greb stared at the man in the Brooks Brothers suit, who growled at him. "How much is the fare, cabbie?"
      Greb, sensing no tip, growled back, "Nine-thirty, man."
      "What? The meter was on seven-twenty when I saw it, Jimmy."
      Greb sneered. "Lady, 'at was before I came up here wid yah boxes."
      "Jimmy. He was getting fresh with me, just before youse came up. It’s a good t’ing youse were on time, sugah." Farber put her arm around her latest boyfriend’s arm and sneered at Greb.
      Jimmy Levine, a real estate developer who owned several shopping malls, pulled out a ten-dollar bill and threw it at Greb. "Keep the change."
      Greb bent down and picked up the sawbuck from the floor, glared at Levine, and stood up. "Geez, thanks a bunch, Rock-ah-feller."
      Levine blanched. "I got jah Rock-ah-fellah, Mistah," he barked, "youse bettah get outta he-yah, befah I call the cops."
      Greb shoved the two bills into his pocket and strolled out of the room. He got in his cab and noticed Levine and Farber were standing on the second-floor porch staring at him and he immediately stepped down hard on the gas-pedal—causing his rear tires to spin hard, spitting gravel to both sides of the circular driveway. He popped the gearshift from park into drive and his tires squealed, as the taxi pulled out onto the street. Greb noticed that Levine had a phone in his hand, as he screeched away. As he neared the security guard’s shack, he slowed down and stopped. The gate, a single, eight-foot long by one-foot wide piece of white plywood was down. The guard nodded at him and scribbled something on a clipboard. He came out of the shack and Greb grimaced, thinking Farber had called him with a complaint. More time wasted. But, he simply walked to the plywood strip and raised it in the air—then waved at Greb with his other hand. "Damn thing ain’t workin’. G’wan through cabbie," he said.
      Greb smiled and pulled past the shack. He glanced at his watch, just past midnight, and he figured his take for the night was less than thirty dollars. Then, he stepped on the gas and shot down 5th Street, there was a call, a pick-up on the beach. Maybe, just maybe, he’d get lucky, this time.


“Bad luck often brings good luck.”
—Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia. No. 834

       Gary Greb walked onto the beach and strolled over to where a lone female laid, on a large beach-towel that she had spread out on the sand, just adjacent to a life-guard tower. "Hey—how yah doin’ today—on vacation I see."
      "Yes, I am, if it’s any ah yah business."
      Greb shrugged and dropped to his knees, onto the sand. "My business … what …?"
      The girl looked past Greb then sneered at him, as a stocky man in a bathing suit approached them. "Jerry," she said, "he was getting nasty."
      Greb did a veritable double-take and quickly jumped up, when he saw that the man was charging towards him. "I’ll teach you," he growled and threw a punch at Greb but it was an amateurish move that Greb easily countered, throwing a left to the ribs that took away the man’s wind, then an overhand right that put him onto the sand—on his back. The girl yelled, as Greb strolled off the beach and a lifeguard, one of many who disdained Greb, for moving in on what they considered their territory, responded to the ruckus and had the police there within minutes. They took Greb to the station house where the girl and her boyfriend signed a complaint. Greb was charged with assault and battery but would beat the rap, when it was disclosed in court that the boyfriend had thrown the first punch, but, nevertheless, he would spend two nights in the hoosegow. He had spent time in jail-cells before and had hated every minute of it, but this time he almost felt lucky to have done the time because on his second night in custody, he met Sam the Sham, the Second Story man.


      Greb had had the misfortune of being arrested on a Saturday and would have to wait until Monday morning to have his case heard, and, consequently, thrown out.
       Of the half-dozen prisoners in the cell, only Greb was still awake, sitting on the over-abused, filthy mattress that the county provided its inmates when the Second Story man came in—dressed in a black turtleneck shirt, black pants and black tennis shoes. He was being escorted by two men dressed in suits and Greb immediately pegged them as cops. The turnkey opened the cell and the Second Story man strolled in amidst the two cops smirking. "I tol’ youse I’d see you behind bars, Medula," one of them said, smiling. "I knew we’d catch up to youse, yah slowin’ down in youse ol’ age, Sammy."
      He turned to the other cop and then the jailer and smiled. "Ol’ Sam’ll be out in no time, guys," the jailer said, nodding at both cops. "Yup, he never spends more’n a couple hours in our cell. Got that big-time shyster behind him—huh Sam?"
      "Yeah, youse might be right, diz time, but we’re gonna put him back in the pen for good one ah deze days, huh Sham-man?"
      The jailer nodded at the taller cop, he knew the shorter, rotund detective—but hadn’t seen this one before. "Oh, you know this guy, huh?"
      The detective smiled and coughed—he smoked three packs of cigarettes a day and his voice was a harsh growl. "Yeah me and Sam Medula go way back—oh yeah, every robbery dick in the city knew Sam Medula. Hah! He was known as Sam the Sham the Second Story man. Yeah, he used to rob all the beach-houses out in Rockaway, burglarized Glendale and Ridgewood, worked all ovah Queens, huh, Sam?" We caught 'im on a roof one night, dat’s when we give ‘im the name, see he wuz aw-ready known as Sam the Sham, he had a story fah every bust and back in doze days Sam the Sham and ah Fay-rows wuz still hot, youse know?" The cop nodded at the jailer. "By the way, I’m Detective Pinkzweiz—Joe Pinkzweiz—just been down here since Novembah but I been a cop twenty years. Most ah that time wid dah One-Oh-Four in Queens." The detective and the jailer shook hands.
      "Let’s go get some chow, Pinky?" Pinkzweiz’s partner said and Pinkzweiz smiled.
      "Yeah, good idea partner—hey—see youse in court Sammy. Yeah, it’ll be just like ol’ times, huh?" He walked away snickering.
      Sam the Sham, the Second Story man, walked to a bunk just adjacent Greb’s and fell onto it. He glanced up at Greb then rubbed his hand over his face. His two-day-old whiskers sounded like sandpaper inside the cell. He nodded at Greb and growled, "What youse in fah, man?"
      Greb stared at the man but said nothing—then—just as he began to lie back down, Greb nodded at him and smiled. "Assault’n bat-ree, but I was just defendin’ myself though, some punk showin’ off for his girl."
      "Oh yeah, youse from aroun’ here then huh," Sam the Sham said.
      "Naw, D.C., but I been here about six years off and on—y'know?"
      "Yeah, well, I’m Sam and youse kin call me Sam the Sham if youse want. What ah youse do?"
      Greb sized the man up. He figured he was trying to get over on him, like all cons do but shook the man’s outstretched hand anyway. "Gary Greb but you can call me the G-Man. Mostly, I-ah, drive a cab."
      "Oh yeah, hey I drove a hack in ah City for awhile, man, back a few years ago—in ah sixties, y'know. Now, shee-it, damn gypsies all ovah the place there now, G-Man."
      "The city, New York, huh, I see that cop knew you."
      "Knew me? I did a deuce in Riker’s t’anks tah him."
      "Yeah, what’d they get you for?"
       "Shee-it, same ol’ shit, I’m a secon’ story man, G-Man."
       Greb frowned. "A second story man," he said, "you mean up …?"
       "…I aw-wees liked tah climb, youse know, on roofs and shit. I aw-wees go t’rew dah top flo’, youse know wha’ I mean?"
       "The second story—huh? I tell yah there’s a second story place over on Dee-Leedo Island I’d like to get in and set it on freakin’ fire."
      "Oh yeah DiLido Island huh, why’s dat G-Man?"
      "Well, I’ll tell you what, Sam the Sham, this broad, I pick her up at the Blue, you know, Fountainbleau hotel. Rich bitch, man. She tries tah put the make on me and her boyfriend comes to the door. Man, it’s like she don’t even know me. Tells this punk I was gettin’ fresh wid her and she got all kinds ah gold jewelry and paintings, man. Who knows what its worth?"
      Sam Medula, a.k.a. Sam the Sham, the Second Story man, looked at Gary Greb and his eyebrows squinted in thought. He had cased the Island in question on more than one occasion and knew it was a gold-mine. He opened his mouth to speak when he noticed a large black man, with an ugly scar running down his chin and neck and into his tee-shirt, standing over him. Another black man, skinny as a rail, stood next to him. Both men had scowls painted on their faces.
      "Hey you honkey muhfuh shuddup, men tryin’ tah sleep in here."
      Sam the Sham glanced over at Greb and saw he was smiling. He wanted no part of this black gangster or his partner—he had never been a fighter, nor had he ever pretended to be. Greb, on the other hand, had always been a fighter and had never had to pretend. When it came to a fight, Greb was in his element. He rolled off the bunk and stood up. "Why’nt you just go back to yer bunks, man."
      "Wha’…wha’ jew sez, man? Mohfuhin' honkey, better not mess wid me. I ain’t playin’."
      Greb walked up to the speaker and smiled indolently. "You ain’t playin’, huh?" He made a fist with his right hand but held it waist high, his left fist dangling by his left thigh. The man’s scrawny partner gasped audibly.
      "Hey, man. You’s is Gar-ree Greb, the G-Man, I knows you."
      The black man with the ugly scar turned his head sideways, causing Greb to smile—he could have put him on the floor at least a half dozen times since he had been within punching range. The man was no fighter and—obviously—his size had been his major weapon in past encounters, only this time it would not be to his advantage, for Greb hated bullies and the bigger they were the more he disliked them. "Who he be Slim …?"
      "He a fighter man—I seen ‘im once at the Beach Aud-to-ree-yum."
      The large black man turned his head back towards Greb. "Punk honkey, I don’t gives a shee-it ‘bout dat boxin’ shee-it, I knock yo’ white-ass out—shee-it—punk-ass." He made a motion as if leaving, than threw an overhand right at Greb’s head, a sucker punch and a telegraphed one, at that. Greb saw it coming almost before the man threw it.
      It happened so fast that Sam the Sham wasn’t so sure he had even seen anything happen. All he knew was the black man had been standing and now he was on his back, on the floor, his lip flowing blood like a water faucet someone had left on. Greb glared down at him. "That was a left jab man followed by a left hook—you wanna see the right?"
      The skinny black man helped his partner up and they moved back to their bunks. Greb smiled and Sam the Sham rasped, "That house on Dee-Leedo Eye-lin’G-man. I, ah-eh think maybe we kin ah-rah, youse know, woik sumpin’ out."


      Florence Farber walked to the patio, on the second floor of the 7,000 square-foot home she shared with her sister Clorese, and sat down. She adjusted the lounge chair to the upright position and nodded at Martha, a rotund, black maid who traveled from Liberty City, a predominantly black ghetto in Miami, to Farber’s house five days a week, to clean, cook and do the Farbers’ clothes. She walked hurriedly onto the patio and poured Florence Farber another cup of coffee, setting the coffee pot on a wrought-iron table with a clear glass top, which she quickly wiped clear of coffee stains and debris, then frowned and waggled a long, spindly finger at Florence Farber. "Now, don’t go and drinks too much ah dat coffee now Miz Flo’, you know how it gibs yo’ a tummy-ache. Well, I gots ah git down and do y'all’s laundry now but y'all call if you needs me." She waddled into the bedroom and began picking dirty clothes off the floor and putting them in the crook of her arm. Florence Farber smiled and sipped from her antique, china coffee cup.
      "I just don’t know what we’d do without youse Martha?"
       Martha Johnson smiled indolently—she knew what they’d do without her—they'd live in a pig-sty. She arrived at seven in the morning, Monday through Friday and began working from the time she arrived until the time she left—some ten hours later—at five p.m. She had worked for the two Farber sisters for almost two years, beginning in 1981. The two sisters had inherited the house from their wealthy father, when he died of cancer in 1979, selling their house on Long Island, in 1980, and moving permanently, to Florida. At first, Martha had found it difficult to work for the two sisters. Their constant bickering had driven her to consider quitting but then Clorese had hired a contractor and he sealed up a half-dozen doorways and turned out what looked remarkably like a duplex, with two separate entrances. Both women had been married and divorced several times and were constantly being squired around town by various suitors. Although Florence was a decade younger than her sister, it was Clorese who attracted the most men. With her delicate features and model’s shape, she was like honey to a bee and they buzzed around her constantly, although not as incessantly as a decade ago. At fifty-one, the ravages of age were finally beginning to catch up with Clorese—miniscule reminders that no one is immune to Father Time—no matter how hard she battled against it. Small crow’s feet that had appeared the previous year, at a re-celebration of Clorese’s immortal thirty-ninth birthday, had been removed with laser surgery but were beginning to reappear. Small, brown, aging spots were appearing on her hands and the rouge she used to cover them was not impervious enough to water to camouflage them for long, while her five-year-old face-lift and tummy-tuck were beginning to wear off and she planned on having a repeat performance before the decade ended. Florence—at age forty—finally had something that Clorese could not buy or win, almost eleven years in her favor, and she planned to use it to her advantage any chance she got. With her aquiline nose and somewhat plumper figure, Florence had always been second fiddle to her older sister but, after she noticed Clorese’s beau’s looking her way she had begun an exercise routine that had slimed her five-foot four-inch, 145 pounds down by almost ten pounds. Her ample bust-line had even appeared to firm up and she gladly flaunted it at every chance. Three decades of jealously was beginning to plant a thought in her subconscious that she owed it to herself to steal one of Clorese’s boyfriend’s and she meant to do just that, although she dis¬dained Clorese’s latest, an arrogant real estate developer named Jimmy Levine. Maybe she would get her real estate license, as Clorese had, even though she, like her sister, didn’t need to work, both having ample trust funds, nearing seven figures. She stood up, now, as Martha walked out of the bedroom with a handful or dirty clothes. It was nine a.m., time for her twenty minute aerobics workout.


“Opportunity makes a thief.”
—Francis Bacon, Letter to the Earl of Essex

       Gary Greb sighed and headed for his ‘71 Chevy. He had sparred ten rounds that afternoon, then had driven a cab for over twelve hours, making only twenty-five bucks which had furthered a desire to get home and forget the whole, miserable night. He heard something, as he approached his car, and turned. "Wha' ... what …? Who is it?" A bulky, stooped figure appeared from the shadows.
       "Hey, G-Man, its Sammy, remember me, from jail?"
      "Oh, yeah-yeah, the Second Story man, sup man?"
       "Hey, I beat dah rap on 'at las’ job, they couldn't eye-dee me, man. Hey, could I rap to youse about a job?"
      "What job?" Greb replied, eyeing Sam the Sham speculatively.
      "Dat bitch youse took tah Deelee-dough Eye-lun, G-man."
      "What? You ain’t serious? Man, you wanna rob her?"
      "Somethin’ like dat. Lemme run it by youse, if youse too beat, how ‘bout tomorrow?"
      "Well, I’m in ah Fifth Street at about noon."
      "The Fifth Street Gym then … huh …?"
      "Yeah, might take a fight in the Bahamas."
      "Shee-it, we do diz deal, youse nevah have tah fight again brothah."
      Greb smiled lopsidedly and shook his head. It sounded like another get rich quick scheme. He got in his car and pulled away from the curb, leaving Sam Medula, a.k.a. Sam the Sham, the Second Story man, standing with a perplexed grin on his face, wondering if he should cut this palooka in on the best deal to come his way in over three decades.


      Sam the Sham—the Second Story man—watched as Gary Greb pounded on a small speed bag. It sounded like a machine gun firing, then, every minute or so, a loud bang when he hit it hard against the platform, one punch at a time. He moved to the sit-up board and quickly cranked out 200 crunching sit-ups, then moved to the dressing room. Sam the Sham followed him inside. "Diz is a deal youse gonna want in on," Sam the Sham said, nodding at Greb, who frowned and began unlacing his boxing shoes.
      "Yeah, how much green you think is in it?"
       "At least a couple ah mil-yun … yeah … maybe even more …?"
       "What? C’mon, I been in ah house, ain’t no way."
      "Lis’en man, diz is somethin’ else." Sam the Sham glanced at a couple of black fighters, as they began stripping off their workout clothes.
      "What, man?"
      "Lis’en, how ‘bout we talk somewhere private—youse know?"
      "I usually go down to the beach after, check out the female situation."
      "Good choice. I’ll wait outside for youse, G-Man."
      Greb nodded and began stripping his gym-shirt off, as Sam the Sham walked through the entrance to the dressing room, a pair of red curtains so filthy that the color red had—long ago—been color-modified with splattering’s of grease and grime.
      Greb showered and walked out of the gym, with the Second Story man. They walked towards the 5th Street Beach and Sam the Sham pointed at a small Cuban restaurant on the corner of 5th Street and Ocean Drive. "Hey man, less jump on in here—c’mon—I need a coffee."
      Greb shrugged and they walked into the nearly deserted cafe. They found a table in the back and sat down—the closest people being several tables away. Sam the Sham smiled and nodded towards a waitress, who sashayed over. "Hola Seen-yore-ees, can I-ah he’p-pah you," the Cuban waitress said, repeating a line she had memorized in English.
       Sam the Sham ordered a cup of Cuban coffee and Greb ordered a glass of iced tea and a Cuban sandwich. When the waitress left to get the orders, Sam the Sham smiled at Greb and nodded. "Look, G-man. I know diz guy, see. He comes to me wid a deal youse wood-din believe, man. He knows diz guy lives on Dee-Lee-dough Eye-lin, see, so dah guy is a millionaire and he got property insurance up dah ass. So, he’s in some kinna fix see, don’t wanna make payments on some expensive paintings and shit he bought see, so all-us we gotta do is loot his house and we get a sweet half a mil, guaranteed G-Man."
      Greb sat silent as the waitress brought a miniature coffee cup over and sat it in front of Sam the Sham. She put Greb’s iced tea and sandwich in front of him, then handed him a straw. When she walked away, Greb took a sip of the iced tea. "Where do you know this guy from?"
      "Shee-it, Tommy Mo’, he’s a solid con I did time wid 'im upstate, in the big A."
       "Yeah, man. He’s good people, G-man."
       "Why don’t he do it himself?"
       "Scared 'cause he ain’t no burglar. They busted ‘im for sellin’ drugs, uppers and downers, man. But, don’t worry he’s clean for a couple years."
       "Don’t sound right. How you gonna get all this shit? Where you gonna put it?"
       "Dat’s dah beauty ah it, G-man, the rich guy’s gonna be in ah Bahamas diz Sat-day and he’s gonna leave us his boat. We kin dock at his dock, everything’s been worked out. He got everythin’ insured big-time. We grab dah stuff, load dah boat, pick up Tommy and he takes us to get paid."
      Greb frowned and glanced at the Cuban coffee Sam the Sham was gulping down. As he motioned for the waitress and she refilled the Sham’s small cup, Greb smiled and nodded at the cup. "Man, how can you drink that shit? It looks like mud?"
      "Naw G-man, its pre’ good man, wakes me up, bay-bee."
      "What’s in this for this guy Tommy Mo’ and what do yah mean he takes us to get paid, takes us where?"
      "Dah Eye-lins, man. Yeah. See, we get the boat at the 5th Street dock, den, aftah dah job’s ovah we pick Tommy up back on the 5th Street dock. So, anyways, G-man, Tommy Mo takes us, on ah boat tah the Bahamas man. Tommy says he’s gettin’ fifty gees outta it but who knows, G-man? So anyway, he checks his stuff out and pays us. He’s got a fence payin’ ‘im for it. C’mon man, dey do diz shit everywheres, G-man, youse know? Rich people like dat. He gets paid to steal ‘is own shit, man. Dah fence pays ‘im and he rips dah insurance company. C’mon, I met ‘im and he seems straight up. Hey, I checked out dat address on 'at Farber’s house and dig diz, it’s right behind diz dude’s house, G-man. Yeah, we could rip ‘er, if youse want, G-man. Yeah, aftah we load dah boat. What ah youse say, man?"
      "Why you need me?"
      "Man, I seed youse kayo dat splid dude, G-man. I kin use youse, man—youse nevah know what could happen, youse know? Dee-Lee-dough gots security on it, c’mon, I'm gonna split wid youse, two hun’red 'n' fifty gees, G-man, shee-it, easy money, what ah youse say, G-man?"
      Greb smiled and shook his head. He knew there was no such thing as easy money; he also knew he was in. "Sounds good tah me, Sham."
      Sam the Sham stretched forth his hand and Greb took it. They sealed the deal. In less than forty-eight hours, the two men would pick up the boat and steal an estimated two million dollars worth of jewels, paintings and other useless, intangible baubles that only the rich truly coveted.


      "Triple Tee Realty, this is Jennie, how can I help you, please?"
      "Yeah, ah-rah, is-ah Clo’ Farber in?"
      "No. I’m sorry but Miz Farber has gone to New York for the weekend but she’ll be back Monday. Something I can help you with?"
      "No-no, thank you," Gary Greb said and deposited the phone on the receiver He smiled and fingered the card that Clorese Farber had inadvertently left in his cab and smiled. Maybe he would loot her house, or at least throw a rock through her window. He glanced in the mirror and his grin widened. He had on a black turtleneck sweater, black pants, and a black woolen pea-cap. He nodded at Sam the Sham, who was dressed identically as he was. "She’s in New York for the weekend."
      "Hey great G-Man, we’ll hit it aftah. C’mon it’s almost seven. Let’s ride aroun’ awhile. We got some time to kill we ain’t due at the pier ‘till midnight."


      Lieutenant Joe Pinkzweiz nodded at his partner, Detective Sergeant Bill Bottoms and smiled. Pinkzweiz glanced at his watch, half past twelve, in the a.m. He lit a cigarette and hunkered down on the cabin cruiser. "I see it, man, just now pullin’ out." Bottoms smiled at Lieutenant Keith Keremski, then Pinkzweiz.
      "Lemme see the knocks, man." Pinkzweiz reached over. Bottoms handed his partner the pair of binoculars and Pinkzweiz raised them to his eyes. He saw the purple and white cruiser pulling away from the 5th Street dock and smiled. The sting operation was working perfectly. They would put a lifetime career criminal away for good and get further testimony from Thomas ‘Tommy Mo’ Mohane, a small time drug-dealer and addict, who had rolled over on the mob, fingering several members of two of the country’s largest crime families. In return, Mohane would get a new identity and be protected by the federal government, in the witness protection program.


      Sam the Sham pulled the big twin engine boat into the dock specially built for it and smiled at Gary Greb. He nodded at Greb, who threw a rope around a pilaster riveted to the bottom of the bay. Both men jumped off the boat onto the dock and headed for the huge, thirteen-thousand square-foot mansion. Once inside, they went about collecting the items on the list that Tommy Mo had provided for them, mostly jewelry, paintings and antiques. They deposited all the booty on a large couch and Sam the Sham smiled widely at Greb. "Tol’ youse it'd be a piece ah cake, G-man. Hey, less see what’s in ah ‘fridge?" Both men cackled and thirty seconds later were helping themselves to a large turkey. "How ‘bout dah broad’s house? Dere it is right dere."
      Greb followed Sam the Sham’s head-nod out the kitchen window and saw the duplex. "I’m ready, let’s go, man."
      "G-Man, I’m gonna show youse how a real pro woiks. By dah looks ah it dere ain’t no way in ‘cept t’rough the back do’. Too dang-raws goin’ t’rough the front, man. Lights, security patrol, youse know? Well, less roll ovah there G-Man."


“Indeed there is a woundy luck in names, sirs,
And a main mystery, an’ a man knew where To vind it.”
—Ben Jonson, Tale of a Tub. Act iv, sc. 2

       Florence Farber pulled her Mercedes convertible into the garage and yawned. She had been to a party and had been stood up by a former boyfriend of her sister’s—it was now just past one a.m.—and she had been up sixteen hours straight. She walked into her house and upstairs to her bedroom. Lying down on the bed, she quickly felt sleep overtaking her, but the shrill jangling of the telephone awakened her. It was Jolene Marks, a close friend, who had thrown the party that evening. "Flo’, its Jo’, did I wake you?"
      "Ah-nah-no, what is it?"
      "Flo’ guess who just walked in, looking for you? Gary Westberg, your date. He's, here, let him tell you."
      "Hah ... hello Florence, this is Gary, Gary Westberg. I really want to apologize—I was with a client. I know that sounds crass but I tried to call but Jo’s phone was busy. I really looked forward to meeting you; I’ve heard so much about you. Can I come over? I’d really like to make it up to you. I brought you something that I’d really like to give you."
      "Well-lah, well, I ... lah ... ah, well, I guess that’d be okay."
      "Hey, that’s great. I’m leaving right now."
      "Do youse know where I live?"
      "Yes-yes I do."
      Florence Farber rang off and smiled. At last, one of her sister’s boyfriend’s was coming to see her. She got up and put on a silk negligee, then layed back on her bed. All the lights were off, save a small bed-stand lamp, and, as she layed back on the bed, she worried that she might fall asleep and it only took five minutes before she did just that.


      Lieutenant Joe Pinkzweiz frowned at the five other cops. This was supposed to have been easy. They let Sam the Sham, and his accomplice, whom they had yet to identify, get the goods and, then, as soon as they came out of the house the cops would arrest them. Pinkzweiz knew that Sam the Sham had no history of carrying a weapon but that didn’t mean he might not have one now; also, his partner, not being identified, was deemed to be armed and dangerous. Lieutenant Keith Keremski nodded at Pinkzweiz and rasped, "What the hell’s keepin’ ‘em, shee-it it's one-fifteen now Pinky?"
      "I dunno. Youse t’ink we should go in?"
      Keremski nodded at two patrolmen they had brought along. "Bobby, you and Tim go around front, see if you see anything?"
      "Yessir," one of them replied and, as the two cops moved towards the side of the house, Pinkzweiz exhaled audibly.
      "Gee-zuz, twenty-one years on ah job and it don’t get any easier."


      Sam the Sham walked to the back of the darkened house and shook his head. "Shee-it, man, youse din’ tell me it was a doo-plex?"
      "What’s the big deal?"
      Sam the Sham stared at the large house. "Somebody did woik on 'is place. Look, see where they put separate entrances? I see it's like that in ah front too, look—they got little balconies there too. Sam the Sham strolled to the front of the house with Greb and both men looked the place over.
      "Man—cheap people—freakin’ rich people, they might rent the place out, man. That broad might not even own diz place. Shee-it, plus, if it’s a doo-plex, dey might be somebody at home. Youse only checked on 'at dame youse had in yah cab, right?"
      "Yeah, right, hey we can still get her stuff, right?"
      "Youse din’ like diz broad, huh?"
      "Ah-ehhh, maybe I should just break a window?"
      "What? What ah youse crazy? Dat’s all we need’s a bunch ah noise. Nay G-Man; it don’t look like anybody’s home. Everythin’s dark. C’mon." Sam the Sham looked over his shoulder then scanned the area. He moved silently towards the two rear doors and tried both of them.
      "Shee-it G-man, they gots ‘em bolted on ah inside but it don't look like nobody's home."
      Greb frowned. "Well, hell wid it man. Let’s go, then."
      "Shee-it, youse talkin’ tah Sam the Sham the Second Story man. My faddah, God rest 'is soul," Sam the Sham made the sign of the cross, silently, before continuing, "wuz in ah navy G-Man. Yup and I went wid 'im when I was a kid, I spent two years on Hawaii and five on Guam."
      "Navy, Hawaii, Guam? So what Sham?"
      "Youse evah seen dah trees in ah South Pacific," Sam the Sham said. "I can climb a coconut tree like a monkey."
      "Yeah, so what," Greb said and followed Sam’s gaze and then quickly realized what he was getting at. There were several palm and coconut trees in the yard. One, in particular, was located less than two feet from the rear wall of the house. Greb smiled and rasped, "You can climb that?"
      Sam the Sham walked to the tree and shimmied up it to within about two feet above and beside the rear patio-porch, a cement-floored six by twelve foot structure, with a three foot wrought-iron railing spanning the front. Sam the Sham’s feet were almost touching his hands when be reached towards the railing and, when his hand made contact with it, released his grip on the tree, propelling him onto the wrought-iron railing, where he seemed to levitate for an instant, before crashing to the cement-floor. He rolled over and moaned painfully, then glanced down at Greb.
      "You aw-right, Sham …?" Greb said, shaking his head and smiling.
      Sam the Sham rolled over. "Piece ah cake, youse gonna climb up, G-Man?"
      Greb, who had been in the Marines for four years, and was in twice the shape Sam the Sham was—nevertheless—stared at the coconut tree as if it were the enemy. He wrapped his arms around it and began attempting to copy what he had seen Sam the Sham do. Five minutes later, he was halfway up the tree but his shirt was soaked with sweat and bark from the tree. Sam the Sham was smiling, despite his pain. "C’man, youse ah almost they-ah," he barked.
      A few more feet and Greb reached out and grabbed the iron railing with his right hand. He released his grip on the tree and swung towards the railing, hanging by one arm, but quickly grabbed the top of the rail with his other hand and pulled himself up and sat next to Sam the Sham, breathing heavily. "Man that shit sucks. How’s your arm?"
      "Eh-aww-eh its mah shoulder. I think I pulled something." Sam the Sham was now sitting with his back against the wall. He glanced up at the sliding glass door that entered into a large living and dining room."
      "Hey, youse ah in luck, man," Sam said, nodding.
      Greb followed Sam the Sham’s gaze and noticed that the glass door was slightly ajar. He walked over to it and slid it open, then stepped in to a darkened bedroom, then quickly back out. "You comin’ in man or …?"
      "Yeah but my show-dah feels like it's got an iron rod stuck in it, man, well let's go in. They stepped inside and both men heard the cars and saw the lights across the street at the house they had just looted. "Damn—its Pinky and dem—we wuz set-up G-Man—shee-it—dat rat bastid Tommy Mo—shee-it—hey look. Sam the Sham walked to a dresser that was half-open and grabbed a bottle of Scotch. "Hey Johnny Walker Red—just my drink baby, heh-heh" He grabbed a glass and then saw an ice-bucket and opened it up. He took two cubes out and sipped the Scotch. "Oh, yeah baby—yeah—my-my."
      "Hey c'mon Sam we might's well see what's in here huh?"
      "Yeah go ahead—me—I'm stayin' here awhile."
      "What do you think I should take Sam?"
       "I don’t care, G-man. Shee-it we safer here then anywhere's else on diz Island right now."
      "Yeah …? Yeah, you're right lemme check this place out."


      Lieutenant Keith Keremski frowned and sat down on the couch, next to one of two large duffel bags filled with looted items from the house. He took a proffered cigarette from Lieutenant Joe Pinkzweiz and lit it. Inhaling deeply, he shook his head, dejectedly. "What spooked ‘em, Pinky?"
      "I dunno, Keith—the Second Story man’s a real pro though, I can tell youse dat—what ah youse t’ink, Billy?"
      Detective Sergeant Billy Bottoms smiled at Corporal William ‘Billy the Kid’ Bonnie, a ten year veteran trying to get in plain clothes permanently, and proffered the same question. "Man, I dunno, what ah yah think, Kid?"
      Billy the Kid looked towards Robert ‘Big B’ Brokowski and Tim ‘Bulldog’ McGhee, two patrolmen they had brought along, for back-up. They were both avid weight-lifters and Keremski liked to use them for their bulk, both men being in the vicinity of six feet four inches and two hundred twenty pounds. The Kid well-knew he couldn’t very well ask their opinions on the matter and, since everyone else had worked down the chain of command to him, he shrugged and looked at Pinkzweiz. "I think they must ah seen something and beat it out the front door," he said. "Maybe we can get them, yet, Lieutenant, you know? I mean, they came on the boat, they gotta be on foot?"
      Lieutenant Joe Pinkzweiz smiled deceptively and shook his head. If the Kid wanted to get in plain clothes permanently—as he had informed Pinky—this definitely wasn’t the way in. "Kid, let’s go out and scour the neighborhood, huh?"
      The Kid was nodding and had taken a step towards the door, with the two bulky patrolmen, when Pinkzweiz stopped. "Hold up a second, men."
      Lieutenant Keith Keremski smiled at Detectice Sergeant Bill Bottoms and both men exhaled streams of noxious smoke through their nostrils. Both bulky weight-lifters stepped slightly backwards they didn’t want to inhale any of the cigarette fumes. Their bodies were trained and honed to perfection, ‘too bad he couldn’t say the same thing for their minds,’ Keremski, thought, as he watched them come to within only a few steps of leaving the house. The Kid noticed that neither Bottoms nor Keremski had moved from the couch. He caught on as soon as Pinkzweiz proffered the first question. "Youse t’ink Nasty Nagler would like diz collah?"
      Pinkzweiz shot Keremski a nod when The Kid cleared his throat. "Yessir," he said. "I see what you mean, nothin’ on ‘em."
      ‘Maybe’—Pinkzweiz pondered silently—‘The Kid would get in plain clothes permanently, after all’. Pinkzweiz smiled and Keremski chuckled when Bulldog McGhee barked, "Whose Nasty Nagler?" Bottoms and Keremski almost choked on cigarette smoke, laughing, when Big B. Brokowski waved his hands. "Hey, we’re losin’ time," he barked. "We could collar these guys yet."
      "Nasty Nagler’s Sam the Sham’s mouthpiece, and if you’ve never heard of him it’s because you haven’t been in narcotics or homicide, yet."
      "But this is burglary, sir?"
      Pinkzweiz smiled. "Yeah but high-line stuff, Nagler’ll go anywhere when James Madison calls." Pinkzweiz smile widened when even Billy Bottoms’ face registered a question mark and Pinkzweiz rasped, "It’s his retainer, five grand."
      "Who’s James Madison?" Bulldog McGhee barked, showing everyone he had flunked third grade history. His partner frowned and said, "He was President—stupid."
      "Hey-yay what ah yah mean President and who you callin’ stoo-pid, Bee?"
      Before Big B Brokowski could answer, Pinkzweiz smiled and shook his head. "He was the third president of the United States, Dog." Bulldog’s questioning frown metamorphosed when Pinkzweiz laughed aloud. "His picture’s on ah five t’ousan’ dollah bill," he said.
      "Bu’… but why can’t we make the collar, sir?"
      Keremski stood up. "Bulldog, why you think we were waiting for them to come out of the house with the loot?"
      Bulldog McGhee showed his superiors he thought like a cop and that he was destined for future promotions, when he smiled widely. "But sir, we can say we got them with the goods. I mean there are six of us, sir?"
      Keremski glanced at his watch. It was one-thirty in the morning. "I tell you what, let’s search the Island, if we nab ‘em we’ll take ‘em in for questionin’. What say, Pinky?"
      "Sounds good, less roll men," Pinkzweiz replied.


       Greb walked throughout the house and gathered up several items stuffing them in a pillowcase he had found in a hall closet and then walked downstairs to the front door. He looked out the window and smiled when he saw that the coast was clear. Leaving the almost-full pillowcase in the hallway, he opened the door and stepped out then glanced towards the other duplex. He walked over and tried the front door and it opened, just as a car pulled around the street in front of the duplex and he quickly went inside and peered out the small window on the top of the door. When he saw the car was gone he looked around. It looked exactly like the other duplex and he decided to look around—beginning by searching the first floor where there seemed to be little of much value, that could be slipped into a pillowcase—it being primarily an entertainment room—with a pool table and television sets and a small kitchenette and bathroom. He walked upstairs and walked into a bedroom. Walking to the dresser, he opened all the drawers but found nothing—they were empty. There were no clothes in the closet and the bed appeared not to have been slept in for some time and he flicked the switch off and headed for the front bedroom. Maybe no one lived in this side—Greb pondered—as he walked into the other bedroom realizing he was not in the same side of the house as he had been with Clorese Farber. He flicked the light-switch on and was startled when a woman popped her eyes open and rolled to a sitting position on the bed. She smiled at Greb. "Oh, Gary—hello—how long have youse been here?"
      "Ah, jes’ got here." Greb smiled wondering what was happening.
      Florence Farber stood up and walked over to Greb. "My sister used to have such a crush on youse."
      "Wha’…what, Clor-reese Farber," the G-Man rasped.
      "Of course, silly and how did youse get so dirty?" Florence Farber put her arms around Greb’s neck and stared at his turtleneck shirt. It was covered with dirt and remnants of tree bark.
      "Oh-rah-ah-um-er, that is, I—ah—had to change a flat tire."
      "Oh? Why don’t you just take those things off, then, and clean up."
      Greb didn’t move and Florence Farber walked over and began stripping his turtleneck sweater off and when she saw his physique, she rubbed her hand across his chest. "Now I see why Clo’ was so enraptured with youse. What did youse bring me?"
      "I brought you this," Greb rasped, and leaned over and kissed her.
      She smiled seductively and walked to the light-switch. Flicking it off, she removed her negligee and strolled to her bed. Grabbing Greb’s hand, she pulled him on top of her. "Let’s get these pants off," she whispered and Greb inhaled deeply—he wasn’t sure if he was hallucinating or not but whatever was happening he was definitely a player.


      Gary Westberg glanced at his watch and frowned. Half past one in the morning and he was still on I-95. He had stopped at a flower shop and bought a dozen roses and a box of candy. He knew Florence Farber would be easy to score—Clorese had told him so on many occasions—and he smiled as he thought of her, then a loud pop startled him as the steering wheel on his Lexus SC 400 whipped his car to the highway’s shoulder, where it crashed against the steel guardrail. Westberg’s Lexus was equipped with a car-phone but he couldn’t use it—he was unconscious.


“Each cursed his fate that thus their project crossed;
How hard their lot who neither won nor lost!”
—Richard Graves, An Incident in High Life

       Sam the Sham stared at the police car hypnotically. He inhaled a large gulp of air and swallowed another gulp of Scotch. Sticking his head out of the curtained, sliding glass door, he watched as the patrol car sped past the house. He got to a standing position, holding his left arm gingerly by the elbow; his left shoulder was aching unmercifully. What should he do? Pinkzweiz had called in the troops and they couldn’t go back to the target house and they couldn’t walk off the Island, how would they explain their presence to the security cops, and the cops were obviously scouring the Island for them—at that very moment. He poured himself another shot of whiskey and quickly took a long, sustained swallow and his shoulder no longer became a matter to consider. He glanced at his watch and then the half-empty bottle—how long had he been drinking? Should he take another drink or go and find Greb? Deciding they were in as safe a place as any—Sam the Sham put the glass to his lips and let the cool, numbing liquid flow down his throat, forgetting everything else.


      Gary Greb awoke and glanced at the luminous dial on his watch and saw it was four a.m. He rolled out of bed, threw his clothes on and snuk out of the house and entered into the other duplex. He went upstairs and saw Sam on the floor of the master bedroom, two liquor bottles and an overturned glass sitting next to him. He was snoring lightly and Greb shook him violently. "Gee-zuz—Sham—Sham, wake up." Greb slapped Sham’s face and his eyes popped open, slightly. One of the bottles was empty, the other one half as much, and Sam the Sham’s eyes looked like two red balls of flame. Greb leaned close to Sham’s ear. "It's four in ah mornin’," he said, "and we gotta get outta here."
      Sam the Sham smiled. "Shee-it, shhhh-um-mumb, fumbkin’ cops ah everywhere—we need-ah stay in ah house-sah, yub-bub, gotta stay here ‘till light-humb."
      Greb stood up and inhaled deeply. If the cops were still on the Island they would surely still be searching for them and they couldn’t get off the Island, now. "Shee-it, what ah we gonna do, man? Sham, Sham?" Greb slapped him again but Sam the Sham was all but unconscious. The Demon Rum had worked its mind-numbing madness on him. Greb decided to do what seemed the only sensible thing to do. He went downstairs and then back into the other duplex and upstairs where he tiptoed back into Florence Farber’s bedroom and removed his clothes. While he was getting under the covers, she rolled over and hugged him. "Oh, please more, give me more, I love it bay-bee—oh I love it—please baby, please—more."
      The G-Man smiled and did what any sensible man in his position would do—he did the only sensible thing there was left to do—he gave her more.


      The G-Man opened his eyes and glanced at his watch. Half past six in the morning. He got up and got dressed, wondering how they were going to get off the Island? He glanced out the window and saw Florence Farber’s 1983 canary yellow Mercedes 600SL, convertible sitting in the driveway and went to her dresser and spotted the keys immediately. There was a large silver one that he was positive went to the Benz. He slid them into his pocket and hurried down the stairs and outside and then into the other duplex and up the stairs to the bedroom and saw that Sam was still in a stupor. Slapping Sam the Sham awake proved harder than he expected and when he heard a car engine he made his decision and ran downstairs and out the front door. He grabbed the pillowcase full of stolen items and quickly exited the duplex and walked to the yellow Benz. Getting in, he slipped the key in the ignition and it fired immediately. The G-Man screeched out of the driveway and—two minutes later—sped off the Island.


      Florence Farber glanced out the window and gasped audibly. She thought she’d heard something. Where was her Benz? She slipped on her negligee and headed for the door when the phone rang. "Hel-lah-low?"
      "Flo … Flo … ah …?"
      "Yes, who is this?"
      "This’s Gary—Gary Westberg."
      "Where are youse? That was some night, last night."
      "Yeah, you’re tellin’ me. I had a flat tire and hit the railing on Eye-ninety-five."
      "I know, youse tol’ me, remember?"
      "Wha'…what, tol’ you …? Tol’ you when?"
      "Why las’ night—wha’ … where are youse?"
      "I’m in ah hospital. I was injured. I’ve been here all night."
      "Say this isn’t funny. I don’t know who youse ah but I don’t appreciate this kind ah …"
      "Hey, this is Gary West …"
      Florence Farber slammed the phone onto the receiver and stormed out of her bedroom. What was going on? She walked downstairs and into her kitchen and had a glass of orange juice when she heard a car pull up outside. Seeing it was her sister and her boyfriend—the real estate developer—Jimmy Levine—she opened the door. "Wha' … what are youse doing home Clo'?"
      "We came home early … why don't youse come in for some breakfast? We have some fresh bagels?"
      Florence Farber nodded, she wasn't sure what was going on but she walked into her sister's house and took a seat at the kitchen table, while her sister went upstairs to unpack her suitcase. Jimmy Levine smiled at Florence and was opening the bag of bagels when they both heard Clorese's scream and they ran upstairs to see what had happened. Clorese was standing in the doorway to the bedroom and pointed at the man now sitting with his back against her bed. "Wha' … who the hell are youse … who are—"
      Sam the Sham looked up from his lowly position on Farber’s bedroom floor. His face was a veritable inebriated question mark as Clorese Farber barked out the same question she just had—again—but in a voice that would have made a marine drill sergeant proud. "I SAID WHO THE HELL ARE YOUSE?"
      Sam the Sham raised his hand, signifying he had heard the question and would answer it. Raising his head and swelling his chest, he proudly barked, "Why-yumb, I’m Sham dah Sham—heh—dah Sheck-kun Shorey Man."

Keith G. Laufenberg was born in New York and grew up there and several other places throughout the world as his father, a naval officer and Government Service worker, was transferred several times during his childhood. He got into a lot of trouble in high school and was considered a juvenile delinquent when he voluntarily joined the Marine Corps, at age 17. His novel, Semper-Fi-Do-Or-Die was a direct result of this service and his other stories are greatly influenced by it. He began writing poems after his discharge and soon moved to short stories and novels. He has had over 100 poems and short stories published in numerous journals and magazines and has one poetry chapbook, five books of short stories and five novels, all which can be assessed on his webpage as well as in the Amazon bookstore and Kindle e-book store.

The following stories, in a somewhat different format, have been previously published: "(Another) Death in the Ghetto" in One Million Stories, 2012; “Childhood” in Pleiades Magazine, 1999; aaduna, 2011; Alternative Witness Magazine, 2012; “Peace on Earth” in The Oracular Tree, 2005; Short-Story.Me, 2009; & rigor mortUS., 2012; “Muhammad’s Revenge” in NuVein, 2005 & Spoiled Ink, 2006; “Big Sugar” in Short Story.Me, 2010; “Sonny Liston’s Eyes” in The Spillway Review, 2006 & Author Trek, 2007; “The Good Father” in The Oracular Tree, 2005 “Danny-Boy” in Struggle Magazine, 2005; “The Kiss of Life” in the Euonia Review, 2011; “Fly the Friendly Skies” in Short Story.Me, 2009; “Scumbag, Scumbag & Scumbag” in Neonbeam Magazine, 2007; Carnival Literary Magazine, 2012; “Bad Medicine” in OMG Magazine, 2008 “The Blues Act” in The Pink Chameleon, 2005 “Cain and Abel” in Pot Luck Magazine, 2010 & The Corner Club Press, 2011; “The Shill” in Prole Magazine, 2010 & Pulp Empire, 2011 “Downsized” in The Write Room, 2011; “Doughnuts for Danny” in The Ultimate Writer, 2010 & The Fringe Magazine, 2011; “Thunder and Lightning” in AuthorTrek, 2008; Frontier Tales, 2012; “The Ketchup Man” in the Whortleberry Press, 2009; “Wooden Indian” in Northern Stars Magazine, 1999; The Maryland Review, 2000 & “Perry Terrell Publishing, 2001; “The Bee” in AIM Magazine, 2000; “The Ants” in The Pink Chameleon, 2005; Write from Wrong Literary Magazine,2011 & The Fine Line,2011; “The Highest Mountain” in Danse MaCabre, 2011 “The Human Beings” in An Electric Tragedy, 2011 & Amaterasu, 2011; & rigor mortUS. 2012 “Rudy the Bang’s Drumroll” in The Writing Disorder, 2011; “Drive-By” in, 2011; 2012; “Pointman” in Mobius Magazine, 2007; “About Writing” in One Million Stories, 2011 “Christmas” in Philae Magazine, 1999, Northern Stars Magazine, 2000 & The Legion of Light Magazine, 2001; “Liberty City” in The Phoenix Magazine, 1980 & The Oracular Tree, 2004; “Double-O” in Crimson Rivers, 1996; Philae Magazine, 1998; “1-Hour, 13 & 3” in The Washington Pastime, 2011; “Scarecrow” in Rymfire Books, 2011; “Sandcastles in the Sun” in KZine Magazine, 2011; & rigor mortUS. 2012; “My Name is Nobody” in Mobius Magazine, 2011; “Reform” in Struggle Magazine, 2006; “Big Mac with onions in the Rio Grande Press, 1998; “Onesimus in Pond Ripples Magazine, 2005; “In the Great State of” in Struggle Magazine, 1999; “Unbreakable” in Struggle Magazine, 2000; “We Just Wanna Play” in Struggle Magazine, 2002; “Leaving L.A. in The Story Shop, 1998; “Wildfire” in NuVein, 2007 & The Earth Comes First, 2011; "I Am an American" in Aim Magazine, 2005; “Open the Book” in The Pink Chameleon, 2006; “Bodybag in Stepping Stones Magazine, 2000; “The Soul’s not for Sale” in NuVein, 2005; “Buffalo Soldier in Northern Stars Magazine, 1999; “The Snake” in Pleiades, 2000; “The Worm” in Northern Stars Magazine, 1999; “Two for the Night” in Down in the Dirt, 2005; "The Duke in One Million Stories, 2011; “Ode to a Revolutionary” in NuVein, 2007; “D.O.A.” in Crimnson Rivers, 1998; “Dead and in Living Color” in the Whortleberry Press, 2011; “Life Without” in Struggle Magazine, 2001 & aaduna, 2012; "A Moment in Time" in Decades Review, 2012; "Frankenstein" in The Bacterian, 2012; "Lollipop" in Thadd Presley Presents: Murder, 2012; et al.

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