Ty was a terrible liar. He told so many untruths that he often forgot what he'd said to whom, and as a consequence he was often either laying low or sporting a new bruise. But when it came to hustling on the street, few had his charm. He was one of those people others just wanted to like, so he took liberties.
One night he was panhandling in front of McGlinchey's with Phil, an older ex-con with large eyes and an auctioneer's voice. "You don't hafta be a Rockafella to help a fella!" was Phil's best line. I was making the rounds from bar to bar, slowly getting drunk. When they saw me, they both took on an expression of urgency. "Oh man," Ty said, "we're in trouble." I asked him why, tho I knew it would end up costing me money. "You know that club," he asked, "where them young Mafia boys hang out?" I knew the place. It was an upstairs, after-hours club with all the street-facing windows blacked-out or boarded. Rumor had it that Skinny Joey Merlino hung out there. I'd never been inside. "Well," Ty went on, "one of them boys gave us some weed to hold, and we gave it to Tamika, to hold." I didn't know who Tamika was, but figured out the rest. "So," I said, "the weed's gone?" Ty nodded. "And now we gotta get it back to them by midnight. Or they gonna kill us." It was like a bad movie. I asked how much weed we were talking about. "Forty," Phil said. "Forty DOLLARS?" I said, "nobody gets killed over forty dollars worth of weed." That didn't seem to help. "We'll pay you back," Ty offered, tho he and I both knew that wasn't going to happen.
A normal person would at this point ask WHY some junior mobster had asked two known hustlers to "hold" a bag of weed for him and why that hustler would ask a third party to hold that bag of weed. Knowing Ty as I did, the story would have been a long twisty road lined with shadowy half-truths.
I was working at the time, and was half drunk, so I went to the bank machine and took out the forty. "You guys each owe me a quart," I said, as I handed Ty the money. "And don't fuck this up," I added, "this is one-time only." Both Ty and Phil thanked me, and swore in praise-Jesus terms that I'd be repaid. Then Ty ran down to the projects to score the weed, and I continued my rounds. A shot and a beer here, a shot and a beer there.
At midnight I found myself circling back to a spot near the parking lot where Ty and Phil were supposed to hand the weed back to the mob kid. Sure enough, there were four figures gathered in the corner of the lot. I couldn't make out who was who. I sat on a nearby ledge and watched. Whatever was going on, it was hushed. No shouts, no punches, no gunfire. After a few moments, the four parted ways, two in one direction and two in the other. The next evening, Ty and Phil were in their usual spot. "You don't hafta be a Rockafella to help s fella," Phil said, and held out his hat. I never did get those quarts.