AN: The character of Chris Scarpa always fascinated me in this movie. His character grows in the short span of time the film covers. He goes from the slick mob nobody with nothing on his mind but money and girls to someone who gives up his own life for the chance to save his friends and family at the end. Something about Chris gets me every time I see this movie and I think he gets too far attention because he's dead at the end and there's no where to take him after the story of the movie ends. He's a great character to play with though. So this is just a one shot exploration of the character around a small section of the story, and likely sucks, as I wrote it up in about two hours... But I wanted to write something between Chris and the waitress forever, and here it is. Its just a pointless character study, more or less. Do let me know what you think though, if you read it. Tempest
Legitimate Tough Guy
By - TempestRaces
Sometimes I blame it on the money
Sometimes I blame it all on me
Pausing in the dust outside a dingy bar that was, as the waitress had told them, named The Shamrock, the four men looked at the front doors, each with his own opinion on what had brought them there, and what they were going to do about it.
To find trouble, try the Shamrock tonight, the restaurant waitress had told Chris, as unimmune to his flirting as every other woman on planet earth, despite the shiny gold ring on her finger. Oh, her vows might have meant enough to her that she wasn't going to give him her body. But yet, she had given him exactly what he really wanted at the time. Information. And the reason why she'd done that, Chris knew from experience, was because she'd contemplated not telling him about the ring on her finger and the husband at home on her couch, and had thought about taking him up on what she figured he was offering with his sharp dressed frame and slicked back hair and winning smile.
But yet here they were. Very big Brooklyn fish in a very small Montana pond, trying to find a bag of dirty money that a stupid coke addict he'd created by accident had lost to some stupid pot addicted kids he'd had nothing to do with creating in this Podunk little one horse town in the middle of no where. The fact that the stupid coke addict was his cousin, and the man he'd screwed over was his best friend, and by virtue of the fact that best friend was the son of one of New York's most notorious, had screwed Benny fucking Chains out of half a million dollars, was the only reason why he was still in town.
You did not lose Benny Chains half a million dollars and live to tell about it. And sure, it was Marbles' stupid fuck up. But he'd fucked over Matty. And Matty was a good kid. But they all knew the old man wasn't going to kill Matty. No matter how much he'd fucked up, or how often they called him 'Dimes' and mocked him for being the Demaret that couldn't pull the trigger, they were not going to put a bullet in Matty's skull. Maybe not even in Taylor's. Everyone knew Taylor embodied the life. Everyone above would know that Taylor came in only to help Matty. Chris Scarpa and Johnny Marbles on the other hand? Collateral damage. Because someone had to go down for half a million bucks. So, it was very important to the health and safety of himself and his stupid, coke addicted cousin, that they find the money and find it quick.
Remembering the short time ago he'd cursed his last name, cursed his father, Chris cringed a bit on the inside. His father, his Brooklyn upbringing, was the only reason he wasn't in a cold sweat of panic right now. Taylor, Matty, Chris Scarpa, they knew where they came from and they knew the life. Chris and Matty only by association, but it was enough to know how to work this backwater blip on a map. Surely in no time at all they'd have what they'd come here for. Guys like these were scared of guys like them, if for no other reason than guys like them had fathers and uncles and friends like they saw on the TV, and who wanted to find themselves in that mess?
As if by mutual decision they walked across the rest of the dirt and up to the door. Taylor was the first to push on the forest green wood with the lucky clover shaped window inset. Chris could only hope the shape of the glass was a good omen for their errand. He was ready to be home in the relatively mundane existence of his father's dining room. Lunch and dinner. Where the name Scarpa was good enough to keep him in tail, and customers for his real money making endeavours. Selling a little blow on the side.
He took up the rear of their group of strangers, feeling very overdressed and out of place inside the saloon in his three piece suit and tie. He'd be willing to bet he was the first man to ever darken the door in a tie that wasn't described as a 'bolo' and wasn't there to sell anything to anyone either. They stopped at the end of the foyer and looked around. A bank of slot machines being played by would be cowboys. Nothing more than old men in bad hats if you wanted to call a spade a spade. Some of the men wore faded jeans, scuffed up boots, and you knew the likely made their living on a ranch somewhere. But was there such a thing left in the world as an honest to god cowboy? Chris had his doubts about that. None he'd ever seen outside the movies, but then again if the cowboys ever took over Brooklyn he'd find that awful strange he knew.
Taylor was the first to break the silence. "Its like a fuckin' homecomin' over here."
His Brooklyn accent sounded out of place in the saloon, even to Chris, who heard that same accent on the voice of everyone he met, day in, day out. Taylor's comment couldn't go unaddressed. "Are you kiddin' me? They got action here Matty, legal fuckin' action."
Matty didn't comment, but Chris knew the stress of failing his old man, of being further branded a fuckup weighed heavily on his mind. "Grab a table, I got the beers."
The three of them left to do as Matty asked, walking across the dusty plank floor toward an empty table with four chairs, over by a pool table where two more would be cowboys were bent over green felt. None of them noticed the pretty blonde waitress in her green Shamrock t-shirt in the opposite corner of the bar, but she surely noticed them, noticed Matty walk by in his expensive leather coat, his every hair in place persona. She went back to the man at her side for the time being. If she played her cards right she could break free for a bit soon. He would need another beer and going to get it for him was her ticket out of his space, if only for a few moments.
"You see those guys walk in here Terri?"
The pretty blond waitress looked up from the tray she was loading into the eyes of her curly haired co-worker. She certainly had seen the men in question walk in and could only think one thing since. "Angela, those boys aren't nothing but trouble." Terri was quick to point out, her pretty blue eyes darting over to the mean trucker in the corner. Nothing happened in this town without Gordie Brucker's say so. And those four boys walking into this saloon was something that Gordie would definitely not have offered his blessing to.
He had close set, mean eyes, a thick goatee, and never went anywhere without a ball cap perched over his bald spot, which belayed his age to anyone unlucky enough to see the man without his hat in all his shiny pated glory. And he had also chosen Terri as his next local girl conquest. No one said no to Brucker. Angela had taken one look at little blonde Terri the day she'd walked through the door, looking for a job at the only bar in this one horse town, and knew the local colour was going to eat her alive. She was constantly trying to convince Terri that she had to quit while she was ahead, as much as she still was ahead at this stage of the game, and go looking for something else to do.
But Terri was pretty, and had that sweet girl next door look about her, that look that appealed to a broad spectrum of guys, and even the men other than Gordie Brucker tipped her well. And Terri was going to make something of herself. Working in the bar was a just a prelude to blowing out of Montana, getting into a good college, and getting a real life from there. Terri, she had confided in Angela one night after close, over the spilled blood and spilled beer they were cleaning, was not going to turn into her mother.
There would be no screaming baby at 20 and job in a saloon or corner store for Terri. No sir. And the girl was smart, Angela would give her that. She was smart enough to make it happen. She just had to save up enough money to supplement what she could get out of assistance and scholarships and bursaries and she was out of Wibaux, out of Montana and into a real life. A real life with no Gordie Bruckers, no allowing men to grab her ass in the hope of a two dollar tip, just college boys, a college education, and finally a real job with a nice husband at home, and maybe 2.2 kids after her student funds were all paid back.
Angela's eyes slid over to the corner, where Terri was leaned over Gordie's table, playing to the man and his posse, always wanting to keep the peace and keep her chances of walking out with a good amount of change in her pocket high. But mostly to keep the peace. Angela had a good feeling that Terri had seen and heard enough fighting at home to do her for a lifetime. Until her father died in a car crash upstate. One too many drinks, one too few hours sleep, and head on into the guard rail. No one could ever determine if it had been a blessing or a curse to the family. On one hand, no more abusive husband. On the other, no more second paycheque.
With a final sigh of relieve she hid, Terri got away from Gordie's corner and headed back toward the bar, trying to walk inconspicuously to the tune of Long White Cadillac by Dwight Yolkum. Knowing that if Gordie took it in his head, he'd call her back over to his side in heartbeat.
Train whistle cries, lost on its own track. I close my eyes. I ain't nevercomin' back.
A pretty, curly haired waitress brought a bowl of peanuts over to them, inquired if they needed anything. Any other time, in another place, with less on his mind, Chris would have let her know there most definitely was something he needed from her. But not tonight, so he let her know with a bit of a leer, and watched as Taylor barely glanced at her retreating ass, and watched out of the corner of his eye as Marbles made a fool of himself to stare at the waitress's no doubt swaying backside as she sauntered away. Chris wanted to slap his cousin upside his empty head and tell him cruelly that there was no way a girl like that was ever giving Johnny fucking Marbles the time of day. But something told him low key was best. For now.
They sat at the table, people watching as the crowd ebbed and flowed and they waited on Matty to join them with the beers. Matty returned, and they quietly watched the crowd a while longer. Marbles got frustrated, with his short attention span, and wandered off toward a gun slinging cowboy robot. Chris, also tired of sitting, excused himself to go see if the jukebox had anything worth playing on its vinyl contents.
As he studied his choices, which consisted totally of people and bands he'd never heard of before, but who were all wearing cowboy hats on the album covers, the curly haired waitress wandered up. Before she could get a word out he turned to her. "Who the fuck are Brooks and Dunn?"
Clearly missing the nuance of his question she answered honestly, "Oh, they're real good aren't they? They're Terri's favourite."
The girl called over her friend named Terri, and Chris watched in shock as the prettiest blonde he'd ever seen walked over, a hint of shyness playing around her open smile. He was forced to take it back. She was not the prettiest girl of any hair colour that he'd ever seen. But there was something open, and honest, and very attractive about her smile. It had been a long time since any woman had made him think of her as more than an easy lay. He didn't think that about this one, about Terri the waitress. He couldn't help but smile back at her. "How are ya dear?"
Terri's friend gave her a little push his way. "People really dance to this stuff?"
Her smile widened. "Sure."
He couldn't have been there for more serious reasons. Things for all four of them were like as not to get very ugly. But he couldn't help the mood that overcame him. If people could dance to whatever the fuck Brooks and Dunn was, he and blonde Terri were about to prove it. "Show me." It was an order, not a question, but it was offered with a playful smile. Just a hint of bad boy around the corners to make sure every red blooded female in a 20 foot radius took note.
"Show you?" Terri questioned, unsure of her situation for a moment.
"Alright." With another little reassuring shove from Angela, Terri let herself be lead out farther onto the plank floor in front of the jukebox. "It's easier than easy," she informed the dark man holding her hands to pull her closer.
Chris watched her feet move as she danced circles around him. He didn't care. Watching her have fun was fun. What was wrong with him that he was musing how much he could like some girl next door waitress in a shitty saloon in Montana when the only reason he was even there was so serious? He held her hand over her head as she executed a little spin in front of him, and then got a little more into the dance, following some of her footwork.
"You dance real good. Where you from?" she asked.
Chris knew it was obvious the answer was at least, 'not here' but he decided the truth couldn't hurt. "Brooklyn," he answered.
"Oh!" Terri answered, and smiled in awe.
Chris supposed to someone who'd grown up in Wibaux, with an x, Brooklyn might as well be the moon. New York with all its fancy things, and its big city problems likely sounded that far away to the woman whose hand he was still holding as she two stepped out a dance to some country crooner in front of him, being awed of him for his big city origins.
When their movements turned them sideways enough that she saw the man almost beside them she couldn't prevent her uttered 'oh great' from slipping out. She spoke quickly in the hope of heading off trouble. "These are nice guys here Gordie, and we were just dancin'."
His hand lashed out quickly and slapped her across the face. "Why don't you keep to yourself?"
Terri's hand cupped her injured cheek, her head stayed turned away. Getting into it with Gordie would just make it worse for her, and for her new friend, and she was well aware. Silence was her only option. She hoped that Mr. Brooklyn knew she couldn't speak up in his defence, that she was ultimately doing him a favour, and that he didn't think she'd sold him up the river for her own gain, or easier time getting out of the bar at the end of tonight.
The tough man slapping a slender woman was all the indication Matty required of who he was looking for. Man thought he was a big deal enough to rough up the female staff of a bar, even a bar like this one, he figured he was untouchable. Otherwise he'd have the male staff and male regulars all over him like stink on a monkey, and everyone who'd spent any time behind the scenes in a bar knew it.
He got up to intervene before Chris could if he took into his head, and was aware of Taylor on his heels. Matty walked up to the belligerent man, knowing there would be a fight, and knowing about how much Taylor held with men who hit women. It was going to be a big mess, but no one could say the tough in the ball cap didn't have it coming his way. Matty couldn't get a word in edgewise before the other man spoke.
"Well you were askin' about me, you got my attention now, don't you?"
"You run this place? You the man? You the man I'd come to if I wanted to sort some things out?"
"No, I'm Brucker. I'm the man asking what the fuck you want. I'm also the guy who decides if you and your friends walk the fuck out of here or not." Chris watched as the self important man got into Matty's face, and mused that this was not going to end well. For Mr. Brucker. You could add being rude to Matty to the list of the man's sins that Chris knew for a fact Taylor was keeping. Matty was the boss' son, and a friend, and friend or no, you did not talk to the boss' son like that. The fact he was a good friend just made that go double.
He thought about walking around to console Terri, but thought better of it for the time being. Much as he knew the shit was already going to hit the fan, he also knew that it would be better in the long run for all of them, Terri included, if it did so on Taylor's terms.
Matty, knowing that he was not the kind of person to go physically up against the kind of person Brucker was, turned to Taylor after he was treated to the large trucker's bad breath up close and personal. "Yeah, he'll do."
His fists already clenched, Taylor traded places with Matty in front of Brucker. "Five hundred."
"Five hundred what, douche bag?" Brucker spit tobacco juice onto Taylor's pant leg before smiling back over his shoulder at his posse like he was dealing with someone slow witted. He then laughed in Taylor's face before laughing with his stupid friends again.
"Five hundred fights," Taylor clarified. "That's the number I figured when I was a kid. Five hundred street fights and you could consider yourself a legitimate tough guy."
Chris watched as a hint of unease, a hint of the obviousness how in over his head he was started to cross Brucker's face. Chris knew the story also tended to make people wonder why Taylor was telling them it all, and Chris really knew it had a point. The point was made at a different time each time the story was told, but it was always made well, and made clearly. Taylor's expression never wavered, never changed, his gaze never left his quarry's. His eyes were always dead level, calm. The calm before the storm.
"You need 'em for experience, to develop leather skin, so I got started. 'Course along the way you stop thinking about being tough and all that. Stops being the point. Get past the silliness of it all. But then," he shrugged out of his heavy leather coat, leaving his upper body clad only in a white undershirt and adjusted his heavily muscled arms for effect while handing the coat off to Marbles.
Brucker's eyes focused on the star of David tattoo on Taylor's huge bicep. "You realize that's what you are."
Serious misgivings about whom he'd decided to start trouble with started to form in Brucker's mind. It was fine when it was the slender kid with the slick hair and big mouth. Big attitude like he owned the fuckin place when he didn't own nothing, and brought his slick little suit wearing friend with him to flirt and dance with Terri, who was going to be his whether she liked it or not. But when you inserted this big, tattooed thug in the Italian one's place, second thoughts came fast and furious. A retraction came to his mouth, it seemed the best course of action. "Look, I got no problem with you." Brucker's eyes softened to show his submissiveness, the fact that all the fight was gone out of him.
It wasn't that Taylor didn't notice. But this man wasn't just some asshole in a bar that hit a woman and had to be shown the error of that way, which was reason enough to Taylor to beat the holy hell out of him. Matty needed him to make a point out of this man, to set an example that when the four of them showed up and wanted something, well the people of this little town better drop everything they were doing and find a way to give them what they needed. They needed this man to be terrified enough to do their leg work, to find that money. So whether Taylor wanted to hit him or not, he was going to, because it had to be done. And Taylor always did what had to be done.
"I tell you, you learn a lot of things along the way to five hundred. But none more important than this." While Brucker was still contemplating the philosophy of Taylor's five hundred fights story, Taylor hauled back and drew the other man into his face, ramming his forehead into Brucker's nose. His posse looked on, knowing they should help, but unwilling to intervene.
Taylor waited for Brucker to pull himself up off the floor before hitting him again, and again, until Brucker refused to move, let alone get back up. And that was when his job stopped and Matty's began again.
Chris watched as Matty sat at 'their' table and watched the beating, trying to feign nonchalance to the violence. He understood why Matty had to look calm and collected. It wouldn't do for it to get around that the mob boss in town looking for his half mill couldn't stand to watch his thug spill a little blood. But the sight of Taylor turning the middle age bully's face into hamburger got hard to take after several minutes. Chris wanted to go and reassure the waitress that everything would be ok, but he knew he should present a solid front with Matty and Taylor, and also knew he could be lying. Everything might not be ok when the four of them left this little town. If four of them even made it out of this town. He shook off that thought as defeatist. Matty was Benny's son, and that would tell when it counted. Not to mention they had Taylor, and after this beat down of the town's toughest, who was going to mess with him?
Matty handled himself like a pro with the downed man, Chris had to give him that. He kept his cool, made it look like delivering ultimatums to a man with broken facial bones was an everyday occurrence for him before rising to his feet. And so they left while they were ahead, Taylor and Matty ahead of he and Marbles, who was wanting to crow about the fight like he'd just won money betting on UFC and Chris knew all the signs. He was glad Marbles was at least smart enough to hold it in, to keep his big mouth firmly shut for once in his life. He watched as Matty slapped a good job pal onto Taylor's back, and Taylor shrugged off the praise. Beating the man up was distasteful to Taylor, and they all knew why he'd done it. Loyalty.
That kind of loyalty was rare in the world these days. Just look at how little the town had for their Gordie Brucker, and he for the people he should show some to. His friends refusing to stop the beating Taylor laid down on him. And did he not know that underneath that lack of action was a lack of loyalty because you just couldn't respect a man that ruled with fear and bullying with no action behind his tough words? That you couldn't have loyalty to a man who had to slap women to get obedience from them, not their loyalty and respect? Yes, Chris knew Taylor could teach Brucker a thing or two about the concept, and maybe just had, when you thought about it.
He thought again of Terri, with her girl next door shy smile. When she woke up with her stinging cheek would that be all she remembered of tonight? Or would she think back on the before and remember the boy from Brooklyn who'd danced to her favourite song with her, without a sweet clue what he was doing, but was doing it with a smile for her anyway?
Things played out as things in their world often did, and the final showdown was staged to their benefit. If Teddy knew how to do anything it was take over a situation to his advantage. Seemed appropriate that the end should play out like a western to Chris, given where they were. And he tried to run, knew running was the smartest move he could make for himself. And then Johnny had to talk about cleaning up messes and sticking for Matty, and it brought back to mind the thoughts of loyalty he couldn't shake before, in the bar, and then in the end he couldn't run. He knew what that likely meant to him, but he couldn't run. Taylor, Matty, they were real friends and he owed them his loyalty if nothing else. So he too picked up a gun and prepared to stick for Matty, to stand for finishing what he started, for once.
Which, he mused as he lay dying from Teddy's bullet in his chest, was the downfall of him. So what was loyalty worth in the end? Whether or not it was worth his life, he'd given it, to save Matty's. Maybe his father had taught him better than he ever thought, he mused as his blood wept out of his chest. Loyalty to the boss, protect your boss at all times. But then, his love for Matty stemmed out of pure friendship that went back to childhood. Their bond might not be as strong as that of Matty and Taylor but it was very real.
Strange then that his last thoughts as his blood seeped out of his chest into the earth floor of the slaughterhouse, were not of Matty and how this scene ultimately would end, but of the fact that he'd always intended to go back to the little saloon with the four leaf clover windows in the doors, and let the little waitress finish showing him the two step, and introducing him to more Brooks and Dunn. Telling her he was sorry that he hadn't said anything that night when Brucker slapped her, hoping she understood. Asking her if she had any interest in a small piece of a Brooklyn restaurant, lunch and dinner, and in learning how to really dance.
Funny when those deserving of your loyalty showed up in your life, sometimes it was just in a heartbeat, and that was all the notice you got. Something in her eyes, her smile had changed him in those moments in front of that jukebox, and there was no going back.
There would never be any going back now, he figured, as from the edges inward his world went black. With how she'd changed him, for the better, she wasn't even aware what she'd done. She'd made him just as tough as Taylor, without the five hundred fights. It turned out to be really tough; you had to know what you were fighting for. And when you knew that, and knew what you had to do for that cause, there was nothing you wouldn't be willing to do to uphold it. He realized all along that he'd been weak, had put his faith and trust and time into all the wrong things. Friends like Matty and futures like he saw for himself in the glass of that jukebox were what really mattered.
There was more than one kind of legitimate tough guy, under it all.
Terri watched for the men from New York to return to the saloon for days after the fight, and cursed fate she never got a chance to say another word to the one who'd asked her to dance. She had so many more questions for him about where he lived and what he did, and what New York was like in summer. As she watched the door for him to walk back through for many nights after the night they'd met, and slowly realized he had left town without coming back, she vowed that she would get her scholarships and she would go to college, and she was going to pick one in New York. And if it took her the rest of her life, she was going to find that boy in Brooklyn, and finish teaching him how to dance.