---Note from the author: The pipefitter who installed the LP gas in our house ran "stubs" where we anticipated future use of LP. They were very short runs of pipe. The ends were threaded and capped. The idea was that the next pipefitter would not have to cut into the main distribution pipe but could simply springboard from the 'stub' anytime in the future.---
Raymond Rojas entered the café at precisely 11:30. He looked around and saw the party who had invited him to lunch.
Raymond was 24 and handsome in a lean, predatory way. One would have expected him to have a way with ladies but his relationships seldom lasted long. The ladies invariably described him as “intense” and as something of a perfectionist.
Uncharacteristically, Raymond entered the café in a hesitant, tentative way. Word on the street was that Tom McDevitt had major “juice” and was not a man to trifle with. McDevitt was sitting in a booth in a back corner. The booth next to his was unoccupied even though the café was experiencing the lunch rush. McDevitt’s back was to the wall and he was facing the door and had a full view of the opening that joined the dining area with the kitchen.
McDevitt beckoned Raymond to join him, which was odd because Raymond could not ever remember meeting McDevitt.
McDevitt did not look Irish. He looked as Indio as an Montezuma.
“Thank-you for finding time to join me.” McDevitt said by way of greeting.
Raymond sat down across from him.
“Can I order you a beer?” McDevitt asked.
“No. I don’t drink.” Raymond replied. It sucked to start out a conversation with your boss’s, boss’s….boss’s boss with a refusal.
“What is the matter? Aren’t I good enough to drink with?” McDevitt challenged.
“It is not that. I don’t drink. In fact, I cannot drink.” Raymond answered expecting the lunch date to be very short.
“Hmmm.” McDevitt intoned. “Tell me a little bit about yourself. I have been told that you are smart. That you have street smarts and book smarts.”
Raymond shrugged. “Most people who claim to have street smarts don’t have any kind of smarts. That is something I cannot speak to. Book smarts? I went to Junior College for two years and flunked out my last semester.”
McDevitt nodded. “What were your grades like before you flunked out?”
“Straight A-s.” Raymond said with a small measure of pride. “I really cannot claim to be good at studying. I just liked the material.”
“What were you studying?” McDevitt asked. He already knew the answer but wanted to see how Raymond presented himself.
“I was studying business with a strong emphasis on economics.” Raymond replied.
“Why did you flunk out your last term? Were you afraid of succeeding?” McDevitt asked.
In spite of himself, Raymond was warming to the conversation even though he was usually reticent when talking about himself. “I have a drinking problem. I was on a binge drunk the week of finals.” Raymond said.
“You said you have a drinking problem but you are not drunk now. What gives?” McDevitt asked.
“I have a drinking problem and will have it until I die.” Raymond asserted. “By the grace of God I have it under control but every day is a struggle.”
“How did you get it under control?” McDevitt asked.
“I started going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. The guys there, well, it was as if they had lived my life. They gave me hope and a path.” Raymond said.
McDevitt pulled a large roll of bills from the front pocket of his trousers. He slowly peeled ten, $100 US bills off and set them in a stack.
“I suspected as much. Where do you usually take your meetings?” McDevitt asked.
“In the back of a small restaurant in Huntington Park.” Raymond mentioned a street address.
McDevitt peeled off another ten $100 bills and placed the stack crosswise on the first stack. Then he placed a napkin wrapped set of table service on top to keep the bills from blowing due to the ceiling fan.
“Do you know what it costs to place a ‘hit’ on somebody in LA?” McDevitt asked.
“I know people who would do it for $50, US.” Raymond said.
“A quality job costs $500 and it is worth every penny. That is fifty day’s wages.” McDevitt said.
“I want some information.” McDevitt said as he counted out a third $1000 and placed it crosswise on the other two.
“Some of my closest associates, people who work for me, might be hitting the bottle.” McDevitt said adding a fourth $1000.
Raymond could smell the money. He was hungry and had found that not drinking and being hungry gave him a sense of smell like a hound.
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