A distant church-bell tolled nine-times as we went outside. And a night that was now several degrees colder than we had left it felt less friendly and more out of sorts.Its first defect was that neither Jean-Baptist or his silver boy-racer Prius were waiting where we left them, which was unsettling because Jay-B was a no-man-left-behind kind of ex-marine.Then there were the flashing lights of a Ford Explorer Interceptor patrol car, softened but not obscured by a mist that was lower now, smothering the street.
But it was the grotesque king-leers of Lady-Cop Dowd and Man-Cop Tyrell that branded the night hostile.

Tyrell twisted his right fist into his left hand repeatedly like a drill as he scoured Monica with a pawnbroker’s gaze. Dowd spat chewing tobacco at a puddle so violently as she pulled herself out of her slouch she created waves.  Then she cleared her throat like she had something big to say. So, I waited for her to get it off her Alpha Elite™ body armor protected chest.[i]“Someone or something you know missing Degas?” She asked, only it was more than a question.“Uh-huh, my driver was wait and return.”  I replied looking mostly at Monica who shrugged me off and then intently at the cops.“Yeah, about that,” Dowd leaked through a disfiguringly broad smirk. “Some mutual friends of ours were having a reunion at the station. They sent us out with a party invitation Jay-B couldn’t refuse.”“He left you his car keys,” added Tyrell, waving the keys in front of us like a red-rag, before tossing them at Monica who caught them with minimal movement and slung them right back. “Only the car got towed on account of some unpaid tickets.”“Lay an extra-circular paw on Jay-B and I’ll have your badge,” I snarled flaccidly for a crowd that consisted of Monica who was looking another way, before swinging my gaze round the houses to Dowd, to Tyrell, too late to dodge a fist full of silver knuckles that exploded with engineered violence on the left side of my forehead and spun me around.I teetered back and forth like an unstable stack of dominos for a beat or two, before tumbling to the sidewalk serenaded by Dowd’s staccato cackles. My impact with the ground knocked me semi-conscious.

I rolled onto one side seeing stars on a no-star-in-sight night and attempted to rise, but the trouble with treading on motherfuckers’ toes is that they’re connected to their feet, and Dowd dimmed my lights for good with a kicked uppercut.

I regained consciousness in fits and starts collecting snap-shots of my surroundings and in three exits worked out I was lying on the backseat of a Lincoln Town Car with my sore-head resting on Monica’s lap, weaving through tail-lights that streaked like brushstrokes on the mist  travelling south on I-95, which was as good place to rehabilitate as any. So, I milked it with moans and groans.“You know why we cry Degas?”I had a few ideas on the subject, but I kept them to myself because my head hurt from the crushing blow and my dalliance with rock bottom.“I think we cry when we can’t meet or haven’t met our own expectations.”  She said as much for herself as for me. “You have to have a plan to truly exist and be certain of your value to win!” She added in a disassociated and yet scolding manner that stung my thin skin.I struggled up to a slouch and opened a window to let fresh air in.The wind carried with it hard rain, wild shrieks, and, from a passing boom-boom-boom-boom sound truck, the la-la-la sweet bachata sound of Prince Royce’s “La Carretera” with its super-flanged, arpeggiated, guitars and haunting lovelorn lyric about a guy (like me) driving (like me), in the rain (like me), under a faraway moon (was missing from our scene), drowning his sorrows in Brugal (seemed like a pretty good idea. So, I suggested it).“¿Monica, vamos a darnos unos traguitos?”“Where?”“Salsa Con Fuego, because it’s Wednesday night!” I chirped brightly in a  parody of a smooth radio-ready voice. “Enjoy a 3-course dinner for just $25: includes your appetizer/mine’s Masitas De Puerco, your entrée/mine’s Pernil served with Pigeon Pea Rice and Potato Salad, and our just desserts.”“Ok, so long as you promise to keep your fists in your pants!” She slapped back, spinning her rock a few turns to remind me she belonged to a higher power.As I redirected the cabbie to take us to Cedar Avenue, my S7 danced in my pocket with a barrage of texts from Jay-B.  His first text let me know he was ‘out and about’ and reunited with his car,  having ‘reached an understanding’ with a desk sergeant that owed him for taking a rap that would otherwise have been shared. The second text was a warning that I should ‘watch my back,’ because Monica was marked, which I’d already worked out and brushed aside.  The third text attached a photograph of the front plate of the X5.I texted back that I would run the plates (though we both knew they would lead us to someone dead or aggrieved at having had their car stolen) and that he should meet us at Salsa Con Fuego.  He replied that he’d wait outside; to give me a little room to maneuver I supposed.We took exit 9 off the Deegan Expressway, and stopped in a line of traffic at West Fordham Road where a fiery preacher preached the virtues of virtue from the bed of a star-spangled Ford F150 truck clad in speakers that were distorting under the weight of her distortion of Genesis 7:4:

“For seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living thing I have made. And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him because we were anyway destroying all he’d created. But we did not learn, and today we are as greedy as ever”

The city was humming. I knew its themes, its lyrics and their melodies. So, I hummed the-fuck along.

The restaurant was its usual riot of barely dressed youth over-dressed cougars, viejevo’s sugar daddies  and professionals taking a peek at how the 99% live under a restless sky of fat primary colored lights.Henry, the dark dapper seen-it-all, done-it-all manager, knew us both separately but looked quite confused by the sum of what it meant that we were in his house together.  So, he punted with a firm shake of my right hand and whispered a sweet something to Monica as he landed twin-pecks her cheek.He took our coats.He ushered us in.On the way to the table, I landed a predatory gaze on a honey brown temptress in waiting in a transparent black lace body suit, who teased us all by letting it stick.“Seen something you like?” Mocked Monica musing on my lack of self-discipline.“She looks back, and sometimes that’s all that counts,” I replied confirming it.“Sometimes all you’ve gotta say is please can I have.” She said playfully. Though her eyes were back-holes that absorbed my interest and gave nothing back.The room darkened, the song changed, and with an immaculate segue we were back to “La Carretera.”Princesa, me permites este baile contigo? I replied, laying it on a bit thick.“You’ll have to do better than ‘princesa’ Degas, better even than queen. I’m a fucking goddess. Tendrás que joderte bien duro para tenerme.” She snarled, her voice loud enough to stop conversation at the next table, where a wild-bunch of young Trinitarios who might never live long enough to become men were telling and retelling war stories decked out in head-scarfs and jackets of gang-appropriate lime green, flashing forearms tattooed “Dios, Patria, y Libertad;” the official tag of the Dominican Republic whose flag decorated their XXXL tees.The slogan translates more or less to God, Fatherland and Freedom, which translates more or less to ‘Blut und Boden’ the official tag of Hitler’s Nationalist Socialist party, which translates more or less to Blood and Soil.To the Nazi’s this meant that the right to exist was based solely on ethnicity and the territory controlled. To the Trinitarios, a murderous drug-dealing mob born out of the pressure-cooker violence of Rikers Island jail, it means the accumulation of wealth by securing and continuously expanding their retail territory by brutally eliminating any and all competition.

Rule #1 in the Trinitarios membership handbook is to move in and take over the corner drug trade after exterminating or effecting a hostile take-over of the neighborhood dealers.Rule #2 is that anyone who disrespects the Trinitarios must be swiftly, and severely, punished. The punishment typically follows a pattern: A crowd of Trinitarios, armed with machetes and knives, hunt down and swarm their victims, stabbing and slashing them multiple times.[ii]Two men — known on the street as “Junito” and “Caballo” — founded the Trinitarios in Rikers Island Jail in 1993, to protect themselves from other prison gangs.As the gang grew, it developed a complex, swiftly enforced set of rules. No new group, or “set,” could be formed without being sanctioned; members had to follow a strict chain of command; meetings were held, and bylaws were upheld; and discipline enforced with savage brutality.The Trinitarios are blood relatives of and the spiritual successors to the goons Trujillo used to keep and expand his piece. They’d been given the gift of citizenship by Lyndon Johnson, as a reward for providing the CIA a brawny anti-Castro anti-Soviet buffer in the mid-Caribbean, and in recognition of their contributions to US corporations sweet sugar profits.   And rumor has it that ties to the CIA remain strong.What it meant to these kids I did not know, but I suspected that they were going to get hurt finding out.“What’s the occasion?”“I don’t need to be celebrating to dance.  We just need to be alive.”She spread her lips like she was going to say something tremendous but thought better of it and settled for ‘Sí’ and led me to the dancefloor, which was the few spare feet between the tables.

She was like a lot of girls I’d tripped over that became goddesses at unstable high speeds --- equal parts enticing, powerful, brilliant and naïve.

One, two, three, tap.  Five, six, seven, tap, and I pulled her towards me, holding her hands loosely at first, and then fingertip to fingertip to channel sparks.

Forward, two, three, tap.  Backward, six, seven, tap and I pulled her closer to me trailing my arm around her waist, neck, and breasts.

Left, two, three, tap.  Right. Two, three, tap. Up that close her hair rubbed up against my cheek,  felt like fraying nylon, so I tightened my grip to stop it tickling and I reeled her in closer.

Sway in place, two, three, tap. Sway in place, two, three, tap. She brought her face slowly up to meet mine and pushed my lips apart to vacuum in my tongue like I’d never be deep enough inside.

Grind, two, three, grind. Grind, two, three, grind and she slowly slid up and down and around my thighs.

Push, two, three, tap. Push, two, three, tap, harder, until my heart beat through my dick at her ass more intensely with every tap.

The thought crossed my mind she might be jerking me off to jerk me off, but masturbation has an uncanny way of making us settle for what we already have and know, so I just closed by eyes and enjoyed the moment.

I pushed her away to extend the ride as the track segued to Daddy Yankee’s bubble-gum Reggaeton twerk-anthem “Shaky-Shaky.”And then for a few seconds the room went boom-boom dark .I knew she’d had left under the cover of the deep throbbing blackness, because the air smelt less fragrant and my dick felt less powerful.When the lights returned they dazzled.  And the crowd roared.  And I was suffocating in a sea of twerking asses.And Robert “RR” Ramos Esq., a broad-nosed, sweat-glazed, overweight, grimy, Bronx criminal defense attorney, who’s spent the past 5-years in jail for stealing millions from a rogue chemist who’d made billions cutting heroin with fentanyl and retailing the lethal mix under the brand name Cure, was in my face wrapped up in an Ermenegildo Zegna charcoal wool blazer and a Kunt-red tie, playing tipsy well.[iii]

I supposed he’d seen me with Monica and was sharing my good fortune. It turned out that he had more to share than that.“Degas, you’re a brave man,” he slurred into a growl that was as belligerent as it was deep.“I am?” I offered. Seeing but not raising.“Yeah, you’ve gotta have huevos de oro, las bolas bien puestas to mess with Monica Rivera,”  he dribbled admiringly, tracing my balls in the air with his forefingers.“Nahhh, I’m just soft on pretty,” I replied laughing him off.“There’s plenty of pretty out there —” he leered, pointing to the wave of bouncing asses, “that’s much less dangerous.”“Seems like you’ve studied market,” I flipped back wryly but without conviction.

“You’re on the wrong side of this one Degas. They’ve got all the weapons and the big-time, pathological friends. Shit, they could take you and pretty Monica out and there’s nobody that’s gonna love either of you enough to get in the way,” he said handing me a black Samsung Entro burner phone as if today was my birthday.

“I’ve never given a fuck about being on the winning team, I just go with what makes me feel good,” I said to myself and the wind as we do when going with what makes us feels good is the gateway to a string of knowingly bad avoidable decisions. “Consequently, I’m not as big-time as I wanted to be, but I can still look in the mirror without begging for absolution.”“You don’t have any fucking idea what these people do to their enemies? But if you play it their way they treat you like family,” RR leaked through a mercenary smile that he twisted savagely into a scowl at the end, as if he was worried that the gravity of his message was not getting through.And then he shrugged me and my pettiness off. “Monica gave me the burner to pass to you. It’s my good-deed for the rest of my life.  If I were you I wouldn’t answer it when she rings!” He said, as he waddled away, parting the bouncing asses.A couple of tables later he wrapped his arms around twins that hustled as a pair  and twerked waving his right hand by his asshole to mimic escaping gas. His parting shot being he was an asshole on the dark side and the Samaritan turn was an exception — most likely in payment of a debt or to suppress a story.The burner rang.I could tell Monica was close as we both bled Shaky-Shaky, which made for a bad connection.

She told me to keep the burner with me and that she would replace it when we met, which she said would be soon, but wouldn’t elaborate.  Meanwhile, I should look out for a text with a link to 5-folders in secure storage. Each folder contained the outline of a story she was researching on Kunt.  Each story by itself was enough to bring Kunt down. She’d deposited $25,000 in my client account to cover any expenses, which, she said giggling, I could return when I got my inheritance. And then she hung up.

An unmarked black Mercedes Sprinter van reversed towards the melee with its back doors wide open to showcase a Nikolas Cruz[iv] looking Blackshirt waving an AR -15 semiautomatic assault rifle with serious intent[v]  He fired a 30-shot barrage into the clouds and the retreating shaken and stirred Proud Boys and escaped by clambering into the back of the van and sped away singing the ‘Proud of Your Boy’ theme song from Disney’s Aladdin in chorus.They left two Backshirts behind unconscious on the sidewalk and RR face down in a pool of blood that matched his tie, encircled by strangely subdued crowd of never noticed, never consulted, never appreciated, and quite superfluous extras to the big dance, shivering in skimpy clothes chosen to solicit a nod, a wink, a glance from a blind world.According to the off-duty nurse by his side, RR had suffered a minor-stroke. I wasn’t planning to stay around to find out exactly how his one good deed had gotten him punished.I’d met the Proud Boys once before, the month before, outside #DaddyWillSaveUS[vi] a pro-Kunt art-exhibition at gallery on West 18th Street in Manhattan,  where I’d gone to meet their maker, Gavin McInnes a crypto-fascist, crypto-humorist, crypto-journalist, crypto-Führer and coward who’d co-founded the hipster bible VICE Magazine two decades ago to dabble in provocative and taboo topics — generally under a thin veneer of irony,[vii] which he ripped away tweet by tweet, interview by interview. The lowlight being when he answered a New York Press reporter who asked him what he thought about his Williamsburg neighbors, with “Well, at least they’re not niggers or Puerto Ricans. At least they’re white.”I was there to take the Proud Father’s deposition in a lawsuit brought by Joel Vangheluwe and his dad, Jerome who he had falsely accused of driving the car that killed Heather Heyer during the racist “alt-right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017.[vii]The Proud Father was there to present “HASHTAGS” three pieces of below-the-belt ironic art  #ABOLISHCOLUMBUSDAY about the unfathomable shame that white people should not feel for coming to America 400 years ago, #SoSorry about the shame that white people should not feel for the bad shit every white person in history has ever done, and #Rape to reassure white hetero males they are not collectively responsible for rape.The Proud Boys were there to protect The Proud Father from a gaggle of protesters that might have been larger if their intent were better known..I found Jay-B idling one hundred yards down West Fordham Road as a wailing procession of emergency vehicles passed on their way to tidy up the scene.“I knew she was trouble.” Jay-B whispered to himself. And then he murmured the blues, “If trouble were money, Degas would be a millionaire,” again and again like a mantra, until I said enough.By the time we slid back onto the Deegan it was a few minutes past midnight and the moon had done a Cinderella behind puffed up silver-grey clouds, which left the sky darker than before,  the rain heavier than before, the wind stronger than before, and the Prius a cozy place to be in a quiet storm.Monica’s text arrived with the link to secure storage as we swung off the Deegan at 161st and took the right onto Macomb’s Dam Bridge. I asked Jay-B to pull over at Jerome, by the  monolithic, floodlit, mausoleum-like, limestone exterior of Yankee Stadium, where I hopped on free Wi-Fi and used my S7 to browse her files.[ix]A #notmypresident folder contained 5 others.#putinspuppet was the first folder I opened, and it contained a video labelled RCH_Moscow 11-09-13, a file labelled CS-memos, a folder marked Blackstone, others marked Hacking (Lazy Bear), GRU and a crude mock-up of the front page of the Gotham Post .

#notaselfmademan contained tax returns from 2010 to 2015 for the Kunt organization,  James Alexander Kunt and various brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, nephews and nieces; a folder labelled JC_Loans, another labelled Race, and another called WI-Hotel and a crude mock-up of the front page of the Gotham Post.

#pussygrabbing contained 27 folders. All except one was labeled with a woman’s name.  The exception was a fat folder called Baby-K.  And there was a crude mock-up of the front page of the Gotham Post.

#bigkoks contained folders with names of prominent Kunt’s backers Robert Green, David and Charles Kok, Peter Teal, Carl Kane, Sheldon Diamond, the odd folders out were Oligarchs, and VP Cent who was on the client side. And a crude mock-up of the front page of the Gotham Post.

#thebadseed was my story: some folders like Cohn & Kennedy, JK_Will,  I now recognized, but others like DNA, Bastard and files like share.xlsx and surveillance, let me know I had a lot to learn. And a crude mock-up of the front page of the Gotham Post.

Exhilarated, I told Jay-B I’d walk the rest of the way home, and I stepped into a night was getting dry and old, but still had the graciousness to provide me with a breath of chilled fresh air.I sculled it.The 5 stories were a bastard’s guide to taking Kunt down.

And, I was that bastard.