The Making Of Fletcher - Poem by Peter Bakowski
(for Lawrence Block)
Some close calls,
a few bullets removed by bent doctors
for the right amount of hush money,
but never dealt
that bad hand,
capture, sentence, jail.
Thirty-five unbroken years of being
a hired killer.
Looking into the shaving mirror,
Fletcher didn't see a monster,
only a bald, fifty-eight years old Caucasian man
of medium height
who lived alone,
could cook a variety
of pasta dishes.
There'd been women in his life
but each one,
whether feisty, exploratory or optimistic,
never reached below
died in a car accident
when he was three.
The next fifteen years
Fletcher was shunted back and forth
between reluctant relatives.
Home was something that belonged
to other people.
Eighteen when he hit New York City,
Fletcher looked older.
He hung round bars,
listened all the while,
slept under pool tables,
in all-night moviehouses,
one rainy night,
in a phone booth.
Mario, an older guy,
already with a nickel's worth of prison
up his sleeve,
taught Fletcher all about guns,
in an abandoned warehouse
empty wine barrels
and rats' droppings.
walking back from their weekly target practise,
Mario said to Fletcher,
'It's tears that are expensive,
bullets and lives ain't.'
Six days later
victim of a hit and run
in a Coney Island backstreet at 4 a.m.,
far from his home turf,
far from his roominghouse,
its single bed,
Playboy calendar still showing Miss January
though now it was March.
a thousand days and nights
plus some change.
Fletcher spent them
in bar-rooms paupered of sunlight,
where the sullen and bragging gathered,
got their elbows and racing forms beer wet,
or alone in the abandoned warehouse,
aiming steady at human outlines
that he'd chalked on the brick walls.
Fletcher felt himself ready to be in on
an armed robbery.
The bank was upstate,
the town should have been called Sleepyville
the lone guard was good
had retirement not heroics
foremost in his mind.
The getaway was smooth,
the cabin, back off the Interstate,
didn't draw any heat,
only the gossip of summer flies,
a curious deer.
Even with a three way split
there was ten grand each,
which went a long way in 1968.
Fletcher checked the impulse
to kill his partners,
then torch their corpses in the cabin.
Instead he watched them play poker,
heard their sandcastle plans
of doubling their money in Vegas
then hitting half the whorehouses
in New Orleans.
The end of the third week in the cabin,
they talked it out,
agreed that the bank job
was now a dead-end file.
They could move.
Fletcher let the two others have the car,
walked the fifteen miles
to the nearest Greyhound station.
The agent yawned
selling him the ticket.
Fletcher got out at Port Authority,
found a hotel room.
The next day
F1etcher walked the streets of Queens,
inspected a quiet front room,
stopped the landlady's volley of questions
by paying a year's rent in advance,
told her he was workins on
The Great American Novel.
F1etcher trawled the bars,
bought drinks for the thirsty,
told certain players
that he was looking for solo work,
possessed a cool head,
a steady hand, a strong stomach
and during and after a job,
One night in Ferguson's
Wi11ie Seven came up to F1etcher's 1eft ear
whispered, 'Lady, I'd like you to meet,
she's sitting over in the back booth,
nearest the kitchen door.'
F1etcher went over,
sat down opposite the woman
who called herself A1ice Long.
not quite forty,
A1ice laid it out.
'I'm a broker,
I get calls from other brokers
who have clients.
These clients want the professional I hire
to rid their world
of a certain person.
Sometimes there's a time frame,
sometimes the death
needs to appear accidental,
sometimes the death
needs to make a real impression
in the press and on the street,
serve as a lesson to others.
The client's needs,
the status of the target,
the difficulty of the hit
all are factored into the price,
set or negotiated by me.'
Alice removed a large, thick envelope
from her shoulder bag.
'In the envelope,
_ there's a return airline ticket to Clearwater, Florida,
a black and white head and shoulders photo of the target,
their name and current residential address on the back
and ten thousand dollars in used hundreds,
another ten thousand to come once the client's satisfied.
The time frame is two weeks.
If you want the job
pick up the envelope,
contact Willie Seven when you get back,
he'll know how to reach me.'
Fletcher picked up the envelope,
walked out of Ferguson's,
hurried towards the subway,
first drops of October rain
hitting his broad shoulders.
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