The man pronounced it "nucular." Sitting in my Lincoln, watching my mark, and a homeless man
screams outside my window about the end of the world. "Nucular holocaust," goes the mantra.
I turn to the man, to his beard of pine needles and his ten- piece wool suit. I turn to him
and tell him to leave before I make his world end. And in this moment that I confront
him, off goes my mark. I can only hope that he sticks to his normal routine else I lose him
For three weeks I have watched him. Seen the way he drives, the way he spends more time
looking in his rearview mirror than he does the road. And that makes me think I'm done. Found
out. Part of me is watching him, and part of me is waiting for the hit. My death. My final
The reason I'm here, the reason I'm following him, is a tape. A tape we see Tony carry
everywhere. A tape that friends ask him about, of which he says nothing, gets tense. A tape
that must be evidence, an opera of our demise. A tragedy that no one can be allowed to hear.
And I know I will have to kill him for it. Shoot him and take the firestorm that goes along
with it. Kill a man I love to gain a notch. Get the tape, gain another. Sorry, friend-- duty
calls my name.
So I find him again. This time outside a medical building where he stops on Tuesdays to get
his prostate checked. I wonder if he brought that tape. But I see it. On the console, nuzzled
between the bucket seats. On a sixty minute tape is my ticket up and his ticket down. I bust
out the window with my elbow.
I play the tape and realize I'm dealing with a very clever man. It starts out with music. And
not even his kind of music. This is a Riverside Drive beat. Low thumps with beeping sounds. A
growling voice. Clearly something is up here. That guy would never listen to this. I fast forward,
waiting to hear his voice on the tape, waiting for him to be frank about the business. But it
doesn't come. Just music. Not even anything backwards. A code? Something is being said in code.
Frank is here. The old crooner that gives all of us glassy eyes (but not glass ones-- he saved
those for Sandy Duncan). You know it was a good year, Chairman. A Christian song by that Jewish
guy with the wind and the farm? This has to mean something. The Boss is here, too, but it
ain't no "Glory Days" he's singing about. This one feels like 4 a.m., getting pulled over by a
cop when his dead mother is in your trunk. Tense.
I'm trying to figure out what this means. What this tape says about him, about me, about the
business. And it says something. Something that ain't obvious. It's in this song called
"Complicated Shadows." It's by the guy, what's his name, who didn't even have the courtesy
to finish a song he started on "Saturday Night Live" a few years back. This kid had to stop
and do a new song. Costello, eh... you know the guy. He has this song that makes sense of the
life. One verse says, "You can say just what you like in a voice like a John Ford film/ Take
the law into your hands/ You will soon get tired of killing/ In those Complicated Shadows."
Maybe that's it. He's leaving. The wise guy wised up. I listen closely hearing the explosion
of sound in this song. I think about pulling out the classifieds again while these guitars
blare in my ears. I put down the highlighter and press rewind one last time.