The Straight and Narrow


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The Straight and Narrow


“Thanks for coming by, Raf. You wanna have a seat?”

“Oh, no thanks, Macky. You know my feelings about you, my friend, are still the same since the… change, but I sure liked your last office a lot better than this one. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s nice, as far as final resting places go, but it kinda gives me the heebie-jeebies, especially compared to your old place on the coast.”

“The feeling’s mutual, Raf. Unfortunately, the Monterey County tax assessor won’t accept payments from a man who’s legally dead, and there’s something to be said for a place with a little less sunlight and a little more shade for someone in my.. condition. Speaking of conditions, that’s why I asked you to stop in.”

“Oh really? You figure out a way to go back to normal, or a way to finally pay off the, uh, agency, that you made your deal with?”

“No, no, nothing as good as all that, but that ‘agency,’ as you called it, made a change to our arrangement. Seems I don’t have to go in and report for six months.”

“Six whole months, Mac? That’s great! I mean, in the grand scheme of things, it ain’t that long, compared to how long guys like us get locked up for, but for a situation like yours, it's awful generous. I know the commute was killing you, interfering with your business and everything else, to report all the way down there twice a month.”

“Yeah, Raf, you said it. It’s a good option to field whatever cases come my way six months at a time, but be careful with that ‘guys like us’ talk, will ya? Debtor’s prison and criminal’s prison aren’t exactly the same thing.”

“That depends who you ask, Mac, and what you’re guilty of. And anyway, I maintain my innocence of any involvement with the ‘illegal importation of luxury beverage’ that the State sent me up for. The Governor’s daughter didn’t have no problem drinking that fancy Bourgingoines, nor did any of the other rich people what could afford it. I just got caught in the middle because old man Brown was afraid she’d taken a shine to me, and took it upon himself to drop the hammer.”

“Sure, Rafael, I’ve heard the story a thousand times. You’re innocent in the corruption of innocence, lah di dah. I’m not sure how exactly the young Miss Brown became infatuated with your charisma and your access to illegal French vintage if you DIDN’T have anything to do with illegal importation, but save it for the jury in whatever case you catch next.”

“Aww, Mac, that ain’t nice; there won’t be no next case. I’m a reformed man, straight as an arrow. Not so lucky as you, as to be on report only twice a year, but I do my court-appointed, on time, and by the book. I’m treading the straight and narrow.”

“Good. Good for you, Raf. I hope it won’t be too much trouble, or divert you from your righteous path to keep an eye out for any unusual coins that happen to be passing through the city.”

“Coins? You joking, Macky? Rafael Aires is about that paper! You know; greens, bills, dividends! Small change is for chumps…. unless… wait a second, have you got a line on something, Mac? Do you know that copper or nickel is gonna spike on the market from some underworld tip you haven’t shared with me yet?”

“Raf. Stop. You know I can’t tell you the details of the case as a matter of professional security, not to mention for your own safety. You’re a good friend, and I don’t want you getting mixed up with the individuals I’m dealing with. So forget about the get-rich-quick schemes, and keep an eye out, but keep it quiet. Just let me know if you hear anything on the street about unusual or rare specie.”

“Specie? You talking about animals now, Macky?”

“Coins, Raf. Specie means coins. You know, money that’s not ‘greens, bills, dividends’?”

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