I parked the rented Caddy in front of Hoffa’s lake house and ran a hand over its black leather interior. What a beauty. I could get used to the feel and smell of luxury. Part of me was flattered that Jimmy asked me to drive him again, but I’d be lying if I said I was completely comfortable being on Jimmy Hoffa’s radar. Why me? I’d only driven for him a couple of times before. Regardless of the reason, my small chauffeuring business could use the boost, and . . . Hoffa had connections. I was mildly curious, though, how it came to be that his car, which we were going to pick up, ended up in Detroit, and he was here. I knew better than to ask questions. He’d probably been too wasted to drive it home.
I hopped out of the car and headed up the sidewalk in the muggy July heat. An envelope with ‘James’ written neatly on it, had been placed on the top step and secured with a rock. Odd — maybe even suspicious. With Hoffa’s ties to the mob, everything surrounding the former labor union leader was suspicious. I was pretty sure he had more than his fair share of enemies.
Jimmy answered the door. “I’ll be just a moment, Tony.”
“Uhh . . . looks like you got a letter,” I said, pointing to the envelope.
He leaned out the door and glanced up and down the road, then motioned for me to bring the letter in. As I bent down to pick it up, I smelled the heavily scented stationary. Interesting.
I followed Hoffa into his office, just to the right of the front door. I waited there, chauffeur’s cap in my hands, as Jimmy removed a sheet of pastel paper from the matching envelope. He silently read and re-read the note several times, shaking his head, pacing. He seemed as bothered by the letter as I was with his escalating anxiety. Then, without a word, he stormed past me into another room and slammed the door.
What was that all about? I let out a slow breath. I didn’t know the man very well, but this unusual behavior, mixed with the fact that organized crime, corruption, and Jimmy Hoffa ran in the same circles, was troubling. I nervously waited as my curiosity got the better of me. What was in that letter that had him so rattled? Business? Personal?
Keeping an eye on the doorway, I stepped close enough to the desk where the note had been dropped, and read it.
My Dearest James,
With much hesitancy, I believe the time has come for us to settle some unfinished business. I’m sure you’ll recall the agreement we made many years ago, and will make the proper arrangements. Please, love, I beg of you, make yourself available. I shall return on the afternoon of July 31.
Some dame from his past? Blackmail? I could only guess at the possibilities and why it made Hoffa so upset.
Some time later, Hoffa reappeared, cigarette pursed in his lips, a bottle of bourbon in one hand and a glass in the other. He walked past me as if I wasn’t there, poured a drink and gulped it back. He crushed out his cigarette then pulled a revolver from his pants and slammed it on the desk next to the letter. Shit! My heart jumped and sweat started to trickle down the sides of my face. He sat down at the desk and read the letter again as he poured another drink. Retrieving a small bottle from a desk drawer, he washed several pills down with the whiskey then leaned back with a heavy sigh and shut his eyes.
I cleared my throat, “Uh, do you still want me to drive you to the Red Fox, Mr. Hoffa?”
“No, I’ve changed my mind.” He thought for a moment and added, “Come back tomorrow . . . around noon.”
I nodded and let myself out. The mystery lady arrives tomorrow. Would he even be here?
The following day, when I reported in, Jimmy looked like hell — like he’d aged a decade overnight. He was unshaven, shirt untucked and wrinkled, as if he’d slept in it. Had he slept at all?
I stood rigid, just inside the front door, as Jimmy apologized for not being ready.
“Tony. Relax, would ya?” He gave me a smile. “Why don’t you have a seat in the office while I go get cleaned up. My wife is visiting her sister for a few days and I can’t seem to get myself together.”
I entered the office and right away noticed a sheet of clear plastic now covered the leather sofa and surrounding floor. Weird. That wasn’t there yesterday. Was Jimmy getting ready to do some painting? Something didn’t feel right. A sizeable stack of crisp bills sat on the desk next to the empty bottle of bourbon. Awfully trusting of him to . . . Oh shit! Is he testing my loyalty? The gun was missing! My heart thumped faster. I’m just being paranoid, there’s nothing to worry about. I didn’t believe it, though.
After what seemed like an eternity, through the office window I saw a cab pull up. A tall, slim man in dark glasses climbed out and walked up the sidewalk. He wore flashy bell bottoms and a bright orange shirt. Jimmy returned just as the doorbell rang. He took a deep breath then opened the door.
I moved to the doorway for a better look. A nice-looking man, I guessed to be about Jimmy’s age, walked in and perfume filled the room. His half-unbuttoned shirt exposed a hairless chest and numerous gold chains. Hoffa gave him a half-smile, to which the man responded by wrapping him in a tight embrace.
“It’s wonderful to see you, James,” the man said in a honey-soft voice, “It’s been so long.”
Jimmy returned the embrace, looking uncomfortable. “It’s nice to see you too, Jesse.”
He gestured to me, “This is my driver, Tony. Tony . . . Jesse.” I reached out and shook his soft, manicured hand.
“Have I interrupted something?” Jesse asked, his eyes darting from me to Jimmy.
“No, not at all. Please, come in. Have a seat.” Jimmy led him to the sofa in the office.
“I’m assuming you received the note I sent,” Jesse said, frowning at the plastic. He hesitated, but sat down carefully, crossing one leg over the other. Hoffa sat down next to him. I continued to stand near the door.
“Yes. Quite a surprise to hear from you. So, how have you been, Jesse?”
“Oh, you know, still living the life,” he chuckled, then more seriously, “If you want to know the truth, James . . . I’m sick.”
It’s true, he didn’t look well. At first glance, the man had seemed handsome enough, but a closer look revealed a gaunt face, pale-grey, and when the dark glasses came off, even darker circles emphasized his sunken eyes.
“Sick? With what?”
“Oh, God only knows. I’ve been in and out of the hospital countless times over the last six months and still the doctors don’t seem to be any wiser. I’m wasting away.”
Hoffa reached up and gently wiped a tear from Jesse’s cheek.
“Tony. . . will you give us a moment?”
Gladly. I was growing uncomfortable.
As soon as I walked out of the room, the crack of a gunshot tore through the air. I spun around and gasped. Jesse was slumped sideways on the sofa, blood spurting from his head and Hoffa stood over him. Stunned, I turned to run. Then I heard Hoffa shout, “Tony!”
The menace in his voice chilled me to the core and I froze half-expecting to feel a bullet next. I turned to face him. His arms hung by his sides, gun still in hand. I didn’t dare make a move as long as he held the gun.
He spoke more quietly now, sounding almost sad. “I knew when I saw Jesse today that this was what he came here for. I only did what he wanted.”
I was speechless.
“I need you to back the car into the garage and help me get Jesse into the trunk.”
You’ve got to be shitin’ me! My mouth moved, but no words came out.
“Then, you need to get rid of the body. I don’t care how or where, just don’t leave any traces that might lead back to me. I’ll stay and clean up this mess. When you’re finished, come back for me and we’ll drive into the city to get my car.”
What the hell do I know about getting rid of a body?
“You will be well paid.” He pointed to the stack of money.
“Do I have a choice?” Finally, a voice.
He gave me a chilling stare. A muscle twitched involuntarily at the corner of his eye. “Not really.” He paused, softening. “Let me explain something to you.”
My heart pounded. I didn’t want to hear anymore. I knew too much already.
“I’ve known Jesse since we were teens hanging out on the streets of Detroit. Back then I knew I was . . . different. Jesse was different too. He didn’t hide it like I did though — didn’t care what anyone else thought. He was charming and feminine and daring . . . and I was hopelessly attracted to him. We became friends, lovers, spending days in a drugged stupor and nights carousing the bars. Eventually, we moved in together. I worked to pay the rent, and he soon became addicted to the drugs . . . and other men.”
I tried to hide my disgust.
“It was a reckless lifestyle that I couldn’t keep up with, so I left him. We made a pact back then that someday we’d return to each other and die together. God we were so young and stupid. How could I have known that Jesse would hold me to it?” Jimmy sighed. “I knew when I saw him, that day had come. I only helped fulfill a dying man’s wishes.”
“Except you’re still alive,” I reminded him.
“And I plan to stay that way for a long while. Tony, you’d be doing me a huge favor. I could make your life . . . comfortable.” He held up the bundle of bills.
Sweat beaded on my forehead as we carried the body to the garage. Perspiration soaked my shirt, more from nerves than exertion or heat. How had I gotten myself into this mess? Where in the hell was I going to take this body? I thought about the money, the gun, how convenient the plastic had been to wrap the body in and it became clear to me. Holy Hell! He’d been planning this all along! I was screwed! Every nerve in my body buzzed. I had to act fast.
As soon as we heaved the body into the trunk, I reached into my pocket with a shaking, sweaty hand and pulled out the small handgun that I’d found earlier in Hoffa’s desk drawer. He didn’t even have time to react before the bullet hit him in the face. Had he forgotten this gun was in his desk?
My God! What have I done? I was convinced it was him or me. I knew too much — didn’t I? Panic exploded into adrenaline and somehow I mustered the strength to stuff Hoffa’s body into the trunk next to Jesse’s.
Jesus! Fingerprints! My prints were everywhere! I needed to calm down before I had a heart attack. As much as I wanted to get the hell out of there, I needed to clean-up — erase any trace of myself ever being there.
Thirty eight hours later, at around 2:00 in the morning, I pulled up to the old, dismantled missile base in remote Idaho. These days, it was a dump for hazardous materials operated by a cousin of mine. He’d shown me around the place when I visited last summer, and its three, one hundred foot deep silos fascinated me. In the sixties, they’d been occupied by the now obsolete Titan 1 missiles.
I got out of the car and walked to the gate. It felt good to stretch my stiff legs after that grueling drive. The gate was locked, of course. Retrieving the bolt cutters I’d grabbed from Hoffa’s garage, I snapped the padlock. Then, without headlights, I inched the car as close to the edge of the nearest silo as I dared. Under the cover of darkness, I dumped two bodies and two guns.
Standing on the edge of the black hole, I called down, “I did my best not to leave any trace that would lead back to you, Jimmy. . . just like you wanted.” My laughter rippled across the black silence. God, I was tired.