It was Elvis!
by Gerald E. Sheagren
Richie Bartucci kicked open the screen door with such force that it bounced off the side of the house, nearly catching him on the return swing. Cursing and muttering, he started to pace the porch, lighting up a cigarette and blowing a cloud of smoke through his nostrils. He was mad, violent mad, a vein swelling in his temple and squirming below the skin like a big, fat worm. Growling, he kicked a potted plant on the porch, sending it sailing across the front yard.
“Nadine, get out here, now!”
“I don’t want to,” wailed a voice form inside the house.
“If you don’t get your butt out here, I’ll come in and drag you out!”
Seconds later, his sister appeared in the doorway; hair in disarray and blouse torn, a purple mouse shrinking her right eye to a watery slit. She stood there, sobbing, her good eye unwilling to meet his glare.
“Let’s go, Nadine. We’re gonna find the guy who did this to you.”
“Please, Richie. Let the police take care of it.”
Richie snorted a laugh. “The Keystone Kops in this town; ya gotta be kiddin’ me. They couldn’t find a corpse in a closet.”
Maria Bartucci appeared, wrapping a pudgy arm around her daughter’s shoulder. “Enough of this big brother machismo, Richard. The time of family vendettas is long past, a relic of the ages.” She combed Nadine’s hair with her fingers and gently touched the mouse, causing the girl to wince. “I’m going to call the police right now and you can stop your foolish talk.”
“Pop would have done the same thing that I want to do.’
“Oh, there’s no doubt about that,” hissed Maria, a pained look spreading across her face. “But your father is gone, Richard. He’s... he’s just a memory.”
“An ever-present memory,” added Richie, regarding his mother’s black dress, her black stockings, the black shoes. So now it’s up to me.” Opening the screen door, he grabbed hold of Nadine’s arm and hauled her onto the porch. “Let’s go, sis. We’re gonna cruise until we find this guy. And when we do — God help him — I’m gonna...”
“I’ve been through enough, Richie, pleaeeese.”
Ignoring the pleas of his mother, he dragged Nadine to his candy apple-red Camaro, opened the door and shoved her into the passenger’s seat. Hurrying around, he hopped behind the wheel and sat there for a few moments, fuming, before firing up the engine. The vein in his temple was pulsating, looking as though it was about to pop.
“Okay, tell me again what this guy looked like.”
“Elvis, for crying-out-loud. I told you he looked just like Elvis.”
“C’mon, sis. How much could someone look like Elvis?”
“He could be his twin. Black hair, slick with some kind of goop, and combed, ya know, just like Elvis useta comb his hair. Pouting lips. Even a white jumpsuit with... with red rhinestones.”
“Ah, man, that’s hard to believe. What kinda idiot goes out with a white jumpsuit and rhinestones?”
Nadine bristled, reaching for the door knob. “Well, if you don’t believe me, let’s end this vengeance quest right here and now.”
“Okay, okay, okay. Elvis it is. If the creep’s still out there, he’ll be sticking out like a sore thumb, won’t he?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“No guessing about it,” Richie threw the Camaro into first, stomped on the accelerator and zipped away from the curb with a screech of rubber. “Once I’m finished with the dude and the cops scrape him off the pavement, he’ll be singing the “Jailhouse Rock.”
“And you too, maybe.”
Richie sped onto Main Street, down-shifting and weaving through traffic, ignoring the honks and shouts from the drivers he nearly broadsided. He switched on the radio and wouldn’t you know it, “Love Me Tender” by none other than the King. Nadine sunk lower in the seat, uttering a near hysterical laugh. The syrupy voice was more like the sound of chalk squeaking across the length of a blackboard. Cursing, Richie whacked the radio with a fist, shaking his hand and sucking the blood from a ripped knuckle. Stuck behind a slow-moving delivery truck, he shot to the right, cutting off a car and causing its driver to slam on the brakes.
“Slow down, Richie! What’s the sense of this whole deal if you get us both killed?”
“You just keep your eyes open for the jerk. If you see ’im, jus’ gimme a shout.”
“You mean eye. If you haven’t noticed, I only have one good one at the moment.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. I can’t help ya none. I gotta pay attention to traffic.”
“Oh, really? That’s what you’ve been doin’?”
“Jus’ remember, Nadine; this whole thing’s for you.”
Nadine cackled a laugh. “Bull crap it is. The whole thing’s for you and your precious big brother ego. You, Richie! You and only you.”
“There are plenty of chicks who wished they had a brother like me. Tons of ‘em.”
Once they hit the center of the city, the traffic became bumper-to bumper, carbon monoxide sickly thick on the humid air. It was a little after noon and the sidewalks were crammed with people, rushing off for a quick lunch; men in suits and women scurrying on high heels. Horns blared. Engines roared impatiently. Nadine spotted a policeman and debated calling him over and blurting out her whole story, but thought better of the idea, twisting her fretful hands in her lap.
“Ya seem ’im yet, Nadine?”
“If I did, I would have said something, no?”
“Maybe not. Maybe not, if you want to avoid a scene.”
And, then, if summoned up by thought, she saw him! My God, what were the chances? There he was, white jumpsuit and all, just turning and walking into the underground garage of the Ramada Inn! Should she say something? Should she? But it was too late. Richie’s head snapped as he heard her suck in a breath.
“What? Did’ja see ’im, did’ja see ’im?”
“Nadine, for chrissakes! Did’ja see the creep?”
“Yes, Richie, yes, yes ,yes! He... he just walked into the garage under the Ramada Inn.”
Richie shifted into reverse, and, turning in the seat, backed the Camaro expertly between two cars, fishtailing and nearly clobbering a bumper. Slamming on the brakes, he spun the wheel to the right, thudding over a speed bump as he zipped into the garage. With squealing rubber echoing off cement walls, he braked alongside the ticket dispenser, his front bumper nudging the yellow security arm. Growling as the ticket took its sweet time, he yanked it free and nearly clipped the security arm again when he tromped on the gas.
“Do you see him, Nadine? Nadine?”
A long, weary sigh.
“Nadine, for chrissakes! Do you see the schmuck?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I see the white jumpsuit up ahead. One more time, Richie; forget this macho nonsense and call the cops.”
“One more time, Nadine; not a chance in hell.”
As they rounded a corner, Richie saw Elvis for himself, walking around a vintage, nineteen-fifty-seven, pink Cadillac as he searched for any dings or scratches.
“Wow! Look at that Caddy, Richie!”
“Man, this creep goes whole hog. The King lives!” Richie pulled into an empty spot and kept the motor idling. “Okay, Nadine. You just sit tight right here while I take care of matters. Shouldn’t take long, the guy looks like a wussy.”
“Don’t hurt him too badly, please.”
“After what he did to you, you should be hopin’ I crack his skull.”
Shaking Nadine’s hand free of his arm, Richie opened the door and got out, pushing it quietly shut. Boy, was he ever primed for this! Left, right, uppercut, roundhouse. The guy was going to wish he’s never been born. He could see him now, bleeding and on his knees, begging for mercy. But “mercy” was not in Richie’s dictionary on this afternoon. Running silently on his toes like a ballet dancer, he quickly closed the gap separating them.
“Hey, you, scumbag!”
The man turned and stared, a brow raised in question. Oh, yeah, Elvis for sure! Jet-black hair, shining with pomade and combed carefully into a pompadour. The pouting lips just like Nadine had said. A jumpsuit, white as snow and festooned with bright red rhinestones.
“Are you talking to me?” A syrupy Tennessee accent.
“Yeah, you pervert, I’m talking to you.”
“Pervert? Did I hear you correctly?”
“What else would I call a guy who beats up on a seventeen-year-old girl? Didn’t quite get what you were after, did you?”
“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. You most certainly have me mixed up with someone else.”
Richie barked a laugh. “Oh, I don’t think there’s much room for that, pal. So now you’re going to get a bit of your own medicine. More than a bit actually. A whole friggin’ lot.”
“Jus’ let me alone before I call the cops.”
As the man slipped a key into the Caddy’s lock, Richie rushed in and grabbed hold of his arm. With surprising speed, Elvis whirled and launched a punch which Richie managed to duck under right in the knick of time. He aimed at a large rhinestone and zeroed in a fist to the guy’s midsection, then a knee to the chin as he doubled over, sending him reeling backwards, his arms pinwheeling to keep his balance. A thud as his head struck the cement wall. With a groan and a twitch, Elvis slid to the floor, where he wound up in a sitting position, head bowed, chin resting on chest.
Dancing from foot-to-foot, Richie lashed at the air with his fists. “C’mon, Elvie! You ain’t gonna get away that easy! C’mon, get up!”
Not a move. Not — not even breathing!
“Get to your feet, slime ball! There’s no playing possum with me.”
A terrible thought entered Richie’s brain and he took a few hesitant steps forward, kneeling down and feeling for a pulse in the man’s limp wrist. Nothing! Dear, God, no! He desperately moved his fingers from the wrist to the carotid artery and still nothing! No! No, no, no, it couldn’t be! It had all happened in seconds, a few lousy seconds! Richie scuttled across the floor on his hands and knees, peering out from between the Caddy and a Land Rover. There wasn’t a soul in sight. Thank the Lord for small favors! Jumping to his feet, he dashed to his car and scrambled behind the wheel, taking a few moments to calm his throbbing heart.
“Richie, you okay?”
“What happened? You’re as white as a ghost.”
“Nothing much happened. I just gave the jerk a quick left, followed by a right, and he went down like... like... like a sack of potatoes.”
“There’s more to it than that, Richie. Please tell me what happened.”
“Nadine, please, just shut the hell up. I’ll tell you later, I promise.”
Throwing the Camaro into reverse, squeezing the gear shift knob to steady his shaking hand, Richie burned rubber toward the exit, trying to put on a nonchalant look for the attendant.
The old man squinted at the ticket. “Ya jus’ got here by the looks.”
“Uh... yeah. I remembered that I had a prior engagement. Alzheimers’s at twenty-two, ya know.”
“Well, be it one minute or one hour, it’ll cost ya five bucks.”
Richie struggled out a five and fumbled it, catching it in midair. His hand was shaking so badly that the old man had to reach for it three times before plucking it from his fingers.
“Shaking like that, it’s Alzheimer’s for sure.”
“Take it easy, Pops.”
“And you too.”
Richie sped out onto the street, without even looking, and nearly broad-sided a city bus. With his sweaty palms clamped to the wheel, he felt so dizzy he could hardly concentrate. A bead of sweat stung his eye and he blinked it away, nearly colliding with the bus for a second time.
“C’mon, Richie, what happened back there? You’re a regular bundle of nerves.” Suddenly Nadine’s head snapped toward the sidewalk, her eyes growing as large as saucers. “Wait a second! Wait, wait, wait! It... it wasn’t that guy in the garage after all! That’s him! That’s him over there?”
“Over there, Richie! That’s the guy, that’s the guy who attacked me!”
“What’re you crazy?” Richie looked to where Nadine was pointing and spotted another Elvis; this one decked out in a purple jumpsuit decorated with flashing pink rhinestones. “This is gotta be the... the friggin’ Twilight Zone!”
“No, no, it’s not him either! Over there, coming out of that restaurant! That’s him, that’s him for sure! No doubt about it this time. Oh yeah, that’s the guy!”
Another Elvis, slipping on sunglasses, dressed in a fifties-style sports coat and jeans!
And, then, to cap off the insanity, Richie caught sight of the sign in front of the Ramada Inn, slamming on his brakes so suddenly that a police cruiser smashed into his rear fender. Ignoring the collision, Richie groaned and rested his head on the wheel for a few moments before looking up, his unbelieving eyes glued on the sign.
WELCOME ELVIS IMPERSONATORS OF THE WORLD!
Copyright © 2003 by Gerald E. Sheagren