"Look, the first thing and the last thing you need to do is stay calm. You are in circumstances. That's what we call it. You're in circumstances up to your neck and you're standing on your head. Here's what you're going to do. Do exactly what I say and do not deviate from the plan or else you are not going to get out of this. I will handle this for you. I do this thing for you because of who you are associated with. You don't have to ask me any questions because anything you don't know you don't need to know and what you don't need to know you don't want to know. Now or ever. You just do what I say.

One. Take my car keys and this twenty dollar bill.

Two. Go into the kitchen and get four garbage bags and three grocery sacks.

Three. Put two of the grocery sacks on your hands.

Four. Put the gun in the third grocery sack and bring it to me.

Five. Wrap the body in the four garbage bags, A, left leg, B, right leg, C, left torso, D, right torso.

Six. Bring my car to the side door. Leave the engine running. Leave the door open.

Seven. Open the trunk.

Eight. Open the door and prop it as far open as you can.

Nine. Take the body and put it in the trunk of the car.

Ten. Remove the bags from your hands and put them in the trunk.

Eleven. Go to your car.

Twelve. Drive to the Metropol Movie Theater.

Thirteen. Buy a ticket for the 10:15 showing of "Three Pines" with the money I just gave you.

Fourteen. Buy popcorn with the change.

Fifteen. Go into the theater for "Stealth Force". The movie will have already started. Watch the movie. It will be over at 11:45.

Sixteen. Drive to the East Side Cafe and sit at the counter.

Eighteen. Order coffee. Smoke a cigarette. Pay with the change from the theater.

Nineteen. You will be met by someone you know. Make conversation. At twelve-forty-five, note the time out loud and mention a breakfast appointment. Go directly home, take a very thorough shower and put the towels, your washcloth, your clothes, the soap, and the stub for "Three Pines" in a garbage bag. Put the bag under your bed.

Twenty. Tomorrow afternoon I will come over at exactly three p.m. and give you a ticket stub for "Stealth Force" and take away the bag of clothes. Be sure you are alone at home at that point.

Twenty-one. If anyone asks you about this, ever, you were supposed to meet at the movies, but he never showed up. So you went to the movie. It was 'Stealth Force'. You went to a diner to see if he'd maybe meet you there, but instead you met someone else. You eventually gave up and went home and went to sleep.

You are going to make it through this and nobody needs to know about it. And nobody ever will know about it. But every day from now until the end of your life, you wake up in the morning and you say a prayer thanking Jesus, Mary and every saint you can remember for Mr. Frankie Della Cava because it is because of his association that I am doing this thing for you.

One."


MUTANT TOWN RHAPSODY

PART ONE - Last Kiss For Jake Cody

Twelve hours before Jake Cody was shot to death and wrapped in garbage bags, he was ambling down the street in Mutant Town cramming a hot dog into one mouth and talking on his cellphone with the other. Cody had two mouths, a distorted, long skinny face to contain them, his jaws working up and down, one mouth closing as the other opened, his neck distending as his two throats gulped around each other, one for air, one for food, "Food, baby, I gotta eat, a man's gotta eat." he said into the phone. "What you got for me?"

"VCRs, Code, I got VCRs, Jake baby. There was this truck..." said the voice on the phone. A high voice, it sang through the digital air clear and cool. Great reception on Jake Cody's stolen cellphone.

"I don't need to know from trucks, I need to know what you got."

"Sony 162-A's, never out of the box, only been dropped once." came the voice.

"I call you back." Jake Cody said. "Make it ready for ten o'clock tonight. I call you with where and how much."

"Delivery ten p.m." said the high voice.

Jake Cody had a girlfriend who was named Brittany Martin. Brittany Martin was a regular girl with big hips and thin lips and her genetic structure was such that the only mutant DNA in her body was what Jake Cody shot into her when they made love, which she preferred to do on the hood of Jake Cody's 1984 Subaru. She was on the pill and her mother told her she was going to hell for doing it with a mutant but what did her mother know about hell anyway. Jake met Brittany outside the City Diner when he had about eleven and a half hours to live. He walked up and gave her a kiss on the ear and the cheek at the same time. "Hey baby." he said.

"Hey Jake." she said. "What are you grinning about?"

"Because I got a sexy lady who's waiting for me in a afternoon sunbeam."

"You making money?" she guessed.

"I'm always making money." Jake Cody said. "Everybody's always making money, that New York City, baby, now give me a kiss."

She came into his arms. "High or low?" she said.

"High." he told her, and so she kissed his upper set of lips. There they stood on the front step of the diner, with cigarette butts in the gutter and yellow taxis streaming past, they couldn't change their colors just because they passed from the rest of New York City into Mutant Town.

Jake Cody was a good looking guy above his upper set of lips, his skin tanned and smooth under her fingers, his dark hair combed forward in moussed spikes, his Yankees hoodie unzipped and folded down, he wore it practical, down to earth, like his jeans, like his boots, a guy who works on his feet, works on his phone on his feet, so it looked good on him, he looked so very good, and Brittany wore pale blue scrubs like a nurse or a doctor even though all she did was wash old people and bedsheets at the nursing home five blocks over, she had a knockoff Prada purse that was obviously fake but felt good over her shoulder anyway, with her blond hair up in a high ponytail wrapped in a pink loop of fabric like a girl ten years younger, and kissing him she felt her heart pound and pound, this was her guy, this was going to be it, the love of her life, how the hell did she end up kissing a mutant and thinking maybe someday they'd be in a church, what church would have them, but she still thought about it, and loved every second of the heartbreak thinking about it caused her.

Now at that same time, Francis Della Cava, who ran Mutant Town for the Kingpin of crime, and who would eventually order a man to go and pick up Jake Cody's body, was being told about some hot VCRs that were just about to hit the street. When you're a mutant you can't get a credit card and you can't go to the big discount store and get one of the blue-vested high school kids to look at you, let alone help you, because you've got blue skin or two mouths like Jake Cody's got or colonies of insects inside your mouth, so when you need a VCR you get it from a guy, you get it from a guy who knows a guy, and the guy who knows a guy knows a guy, and maybe they get a VCR somewhere and pass it to each other and pass some money back and forth and every dollar they pass to each other, they pass a dime to Frankie Della Cava, who passes a nickel to the Kingpin of Crime, who doesn't come to Mutant Town because nobody else can squeeze the percentage out of a segregated mutant slum quite like Frankie and who would want to?

"Norton Pratt boosted a truckload of hot VCRs from a Jap freighter early this morning." said Isaiah to Frankie, who was eating pasta in a friend's kitchen. The friend was in the front room snorting cocaine that Frankie had been paid for, by the distributor, by the dealer, by the couriers, by everyone but the Colombians who had made it out of God knows what in a green healthy jungle far from New York City.

"Good man, Pratt." Frankie said pleasantly. "He paid?"

"He paid, but he passed it to Howler Annie." Isaiah said darkly. Isaiah had been born black but now he had orange stains and splotches that slowly moved across his skin like dripping paint or flowing water. If you touched them, they burned your fingers like acid. He went through a lot of clothes in a week. The last time he had gone to prison for Frankie Della Cava, he had wrestled another inmate to the floor of an exercise yard and held him there until his skin sloughed off the bone. Nobody mentioned the rumors that Isaiah was homosexual after that. This afternoon Isaiah had on a smooth black suit that didn't quite fit, and so he had long white cuffs protruding from his sleeves before the black skin of his hands, like little white cloth chunks of ice attached to the scorched darkness of the suit.

"That's a mistake on his part." Frankie said. "Howler Annie doesn't pay." Frankie was Frankie. He had a round face like a fat boy singing in the choir, and he wasn't small, but he was built like a little wrestler, five feet tall in his stocking feet, but built heavy and strong. He didn't have an obvious mutation, but a lot of people could guess from looking at him, like something in his face, or beady blue eyes, or big hands displayed the fatal twist of DNA that marked him as a mutant. Black hair thick and bushy, almost curly. He wore a tiki shirt, all gray and green and the collar spread out wide at his thick neck even though he kept the top two buttons loose. He wore sneakers and didn't need a gun to kill you any more than cholera or Satan does. "Howler Annie doesn't pay us shit."

"Howler Annie still hasn't finished paying for when she put three of our guys in the hospital two months ago." Isaiah mentioned.

"She could play ping-pong with their testicles for all I care if she would just cut us a fucking check afterwards." Frankie said meditatively. "Take care of it, Isaiah. If someone's moving it, they'll want to move it fast. We will want to make an arrangement about that." An arrangement is what Frankie called any sort of business, he liked the sound of the word, it was long and took a while to say, and it could mean shooting a guy or paying a guy a lot of money, so it was a flexible word, and unlike 'business' it didn't necessarily mean money, it could mean favors. Frankie liked to do favors for people and have favors done for him because he did not have to pay a nickel to the Kingpin of Crime for any favors he got. Favors were cheaper than money.

"I'll see what I can find out." Isaiah said calmly.