Short Story
                                       Okay Boys, That’s Enough
                                                                                    By J.B. Toner


    As Chase Hardrock enters the arms depot, the dim light gleams on his grinning teeth and combat knife.
Five soldiers of the Dread Winter Gang close in from stage right, armed with bayonet-fixed AK-47s.
Outgunned and outnumbered, he kicks loose a gas pipe from its moorings, letting potential napalm fill the
ammo-packed space.

    Wait, not gas. Everyone’s done gas.

    He kicks over a barrel of raw gunpowder, filling the air with dust and death. The soldiers drop their rifles
and draw their hook-pointed blades. And here we can have Sing Ka do the stunt: Hardrock dive-rolls over
a crate of RPGs or whatever, picks up one of the AKs, and impales the nearest soldier with the bayonet.
Then he empties the 30-round magazine through his torso into the other guys.

    “Jesus,” said Niles Rupert, director. “That’s, uh—kinda brutal isn’t it?”

    I took a long, deep drag that turned my unfiltered Lucky into ash. “Niles,” I said. “Buddy. Brutal is in right
now. Have you not seen The Raid?”

    “Well, yeah, but I mean. . . what about realism? Wouldn’t all the lungs and viscera clog the barrel or
something?”

    “Nah man, the Kalashnikov never jams. You can literally fire it underwater.”

    “Okay, DJ, whatever you say.”

    My name’s Domingo Jack, proprietor of the Fight Corps: Hollywood’s number one fight
choreographers. We’ve had some ups and downs over the years, but these days our primacy is
unchallenged in the field.

    After a bit more scene blocking, we wrapped up for the day and I headed back to my on-set office. It
was a bright hot California day, just like every other bright hot day in this pandemonic place, and I was
sweat-smeared and weary as death.

    Now, I never walk into my office without drawing my sidearm. It’s a quaint little fancy, I know, but it
comforts me. Also, it saves my life on a pretty regular basis.

    As I edged through the door with my Glock at a somewhat perfunctory center axis relock, I saw two men
waiting for me. They were elaborately innocuous: a smaller fellow with a fedora lounging in my desk chair,
and a big guy with his arms crossed leaning in the corner. In my private space, but non-threatening: letting
me know they could be less civil if they chose.

    When the big guy saw my gun, he straightened up and his hand twitched toward his jacket. I smiled with
the lower half of my face and drew a bead on the smaller fellow’s hat brim. “Let’s make this fair. I’ll give you
till your boss’s brainstem hits the wall to clear holster.”

    “Stand down, Maurice,” Fedora said calmly. “We’re only here to talk.”

    Maurice refolded his arms, but did not resume his wall-propping duties.

    “Mr. Jack, my name is Robert Danton. I represent Mr. Thomas Bledingfield, of whom you may have
heard?”

    “Rings a bell.” Mob boss. “To what do I owe the pleasure?” I kept his forehead in my crosshairs, but
matched his courteous tone. We’re not animals, after all.

    “My organization would like to ask a favor. You see, the current administration has been rather harsh on
some of our business ventures. Particularly those involving a service that we like to provide to victims of
chronic anxiety.”

    “I’m just guessing you mean opiates.”

    “Relaxants, yes. But as you’re well aware, Mr. Jack, the power behind any policy ultimately rests on
public opinion. And public opinion rests, to an incredibly great extent, on what we are shown in the movies.”

    I actually gaped. “Are you— Wow. You guys think big, I’ll sure as hell give you that.”

    “Obviously we won’t jump straight into the leading man shooting heroin or some such. Like everything,
we start small—acclimatize. In your current film, for instance, we envision the hero—Chase Hardrock, I
believe?—consuming oxycodone after a tough fight. In a ‘cool’ way, of course. Chewing it down without
water, perhaps, or whatever would make it appear manly and devil-may-care. Then perhaps in the sequel,
he casually gives himself morphine while, say, cauterizing a bullet wound. Eventually the public will come to
associate opioids with heroism, and the pressure on my organization will ease.”

    “I think maybe you broke into the wrong office? I’m just the choreographer.”

    He waved a deprecating hand. “Don’t be so modest, Mr. Jack, we’ve done our homework. We know
Mr. Rupert kowtows to your command.”

    “Here’s the thing, Bob—may I call you Bob?”

    “No.”

    “Here’s the thing, Bob. I’m a smoker. If the tinsel jockeys wanna make cigarettes look glamorous, it don’
t hurt my feelings. Hell, watch Casablanca sometime and do a tequila shot whenever someone onscreen
lights up; I guarantee you won’t remember who ends up with Ilsa. But I’ve had some buddies who got into
smack, and I don’t have those buddies now. So I think you can pretty much get the hell outta my office.”

    Danton smiled. “We thought you might feel that way at first. You’ll be hearing from us again, sir.” He
rose and left a card on my desk. Then I moved to the wall and the two of them moved to the door.

    Maurice glowered as he passed. “Last time you get the drop on me, Jack.”

    I held his gaze. “I will morgue-fuck your screaming mother on top of your frozen corpse.”

    He opened his mouth. Closed it. Walked away.

    “Pfff, chewing up oxy,” I muttered. “        Affleck already did that in Daredevil. Amateurs.”

    Then I sat down and picked up the phone. “Ma? We got us a problem.”

                                                                                    *

    Shecky Greene, the comedian, used to tell the story of how Frank Sinatra saved his life. Five guys
jumped Greene in a parking lot, and they were just stomping the living balls out of him. So he’s lying there
on the asphalt getting beaten with blackjacks, bleeding and screaming and pissing all over himself, and
suddenly ol’ Blue Eyes walks by and says, real quiet, “Okay boys, that’s enough.” And just like that, they
stop. Hell of a guy, Frank. He did it his way, don’t you know. ’Course, the other half of the story is that
Sinatra ordered the beating in the first place. Not everybody likes a comedian.

    Hollywood is a horrible place. The endless beaming sunshine like the grin of a lunatic—the endless
neon, scraping every shadow off the walls—there’s no place for darkness to hide, so it trowels on its
whore-paint and goes prowling around right out in the open. Breaking news, another actor did coke and
beat his wife, we hate him now. Oh wait, Oprah says he did a week in rehab, we love him again! Why the
fuck should the darkness bother hiding.

    My colleagues and I flourish in this noxious biosphere for three reasons. First of all, we just love movies.
For all the insanity that goes into making the damn things, we live and breathe film, and we’re passionate
about being a part of them. Second, we are extraordinarily good at what we do. When it comes to fight
choreography, nobody out-choreographs the Fight Corps. And third—well, there’s no way to sugarcoat
this. When people get in our way, we tend to shoot them.

    That evening, we gathered in our warehouse for a council of war. Most days, we only had to contend
with interfering producers or rival stunt coordinators. The present situation was a bit more serious.

    “Can’t just whack this Danton cat, I s’pose?” said Joey Damascus. He was our resident badass: six
and half a feet tall, dressed in leather with indoor shades, drinking Cristal right out of the bottle as we sat
around the conference table.

    “A mob boss’s right hand man? You know the answer to that.”

    He nodded glumly.

    “What of the Finns?” suggested Sing Ka. Putting the art in martial arts, Ka held an Oxford degree in
philosophy and could flying spin-kick a wary housefly off an eight-foot ceiling. He was leaning back with
Zen-like calm, smoking a cherrywood pipe. “Perhaps we could simply put the Mafia in touch with them
instead.”

    The Finns were the second-best choreographers in the business; we’d been butting heads with them
for years. “Thing is, they don’t take our holistic approach. All they care about is the fight scenes, they leave
the plot and character shit to the writers and directors. They wouldn’t have the influence that we do.”

    “Mmm. Too true, I fear.”

    “Bledingfield,” said Ma.

    Ma Jack’s a tough, tiny Mexican lady. She raised me in the cloven emerald dales of Donegal, far from
her native soil, and taught me almost everything I know about guns. My father’s an Irishman, who—eh, don’
t ask. Like me, she was sipping decent bourbon as we strategized.

    “What do you mean, Ma?”

    “Want to control Danton. Must go to his boss. Can make him back off, is no more problems.”

    “Go to him with what? We don’t have any leverage on the guy.”

    She shrugged. “Find things.”

    I blew out a cloud of smoke and rubbed my face. “This is the kind of advice that got me beaten up in
kindergarten.”

    “Only once.”

    “Well, that’s true.”

    “Gotta do reconnaissance.” We all turned. “Find the bastard’s weak points.”

    “Didn’t even know you was awake,” said Damascus.

    Tom Waits is our stunt driver. No relation to the singer, as far as I know. He’s a scraggly old honky from
some God-forsaken cleft in the clay of southern Georgia: crazy son of a bitch, but he drives like Elwood
Blues on NZT. He was sprawled in a purple chair that looked like it survived the Alamo, nursing a bottle of
Boone’s Farm Apple Wine. He yawned and belched at the same time, which I would swear to God was
impossible but for Waits.

    “’Course I’m awake, we got foes. I know where to find Bledingfield.”

    I hesitated. “Kay. . . What do you have in mind?”

    “Nothin’ sinister, Jack, we just drive down and surveil the guy. At the very least, you gotta see his face
before you make a plan.”

    True. One point on which God and Satan agree: you ought to see your enemy’s face.

    “Fine, let’s go. But to reiterate: this is strictly observe and withdraw. Yeah?”

    “Sure, sure.” He got to his feet, tottered for a second, and finished his rot-gut wine. “Let’s hit the shit.”

    The fluorescent ugly California sun was wrapping itself in violet shade beyond the waves. We cruised
down Gower, heading east, as the pale cold stars awoke and glittered, coins on dead men’s eyes. “So
where we going?” I asked.

    “Crepuscular Café,” said Waits. “I drove for the mob awhile back. Today’s a Friday, ain’t it?”

    “Uh—” glanced at my phone “—matter of fact, it is.”

    “Bled always goes to the Crep on Friday nights.”

    “Huh. Live and learn.”

    We pulled up near a tall green building lit by orange LEDs. Providence or whatever was with us: half a
dozen SUVs were pulling up to the curb across the street. Doors opened. Men emerged. HKs, Mac-11s,
Glock 18s, swung loose beneath their jackets. A few tall slim blond women stepped into the street. Their
garments hugged their curves. I saw Maurice and Danton; saw one grey-haired broad-chest fellow with a
gold medallion on his neck. He came out last and put an arm around the tallest, blondest chick.

    “That’s him,” said Waits.

    I sat there frowning. Staring intently at Bledingfield, his lady, his lieutenants. Connecting dots and
fabricating stratagems. And finally, I began to smile. “Waits? I got an idea.”

    He jumped in his seat. “It’s so crazy it just might work!”

    “What? But I haven’t—”

    “Enough talk. It’s time for action!” And he stomped on the gas.

    “Tom? Tommy? Don’t do this, do not do this! Waits, for God’s sake, we cannot kill the head of the—”

    Pow. The grille took his knees, the hood took his ribcage, and the windshield took his skull. A starburst
crack, a spray of crimson teeth, a single Gucci loafer floating by. Guy probably finished his sentence and
started another before realizing he was now addressing a stony-faced St. Peter.

    The bodyguards sprinted back to their SUVs as we hauled ass down the street. And as they laid down
blazing rubber in our wake, Waits yanked his e-brake and spun us in a shrieking 180-degree turn.

    Now, Waits genuinely doesn’t understand the game of chicken. He wants a head-on collision. He’s
constantly baffled when the other guy swerves away. But to be fair to the other guy, we were safely
ensconced in a Waits-mobile: a highly modified Volvo 850, which is already the closest thing to a tank you
can buy without actually buying a tank. Three of the oncoming vehicles jerked aside; the fourth came
straight at us, and Waits twitched his wheel just enough that our engine block hit theirs at an angle and
plowed through it like a scythe in a wheatfield. Their left front tire went bouncing and spinning down the
sidewalk, trailing half its axle, and the SUV careened down the road in a shower of sparks until it smashed
into a telephone pole.

    “Waits!” I screamed. But I had no follow-up: I just felt like something should be said.

    “’Sokay boss man, I got this under control.”

    A lot of these mobster guys were ex-military, which explains the (well) military precision of their tactics.
As the SUVs behind us scrambled and maneuvered, they must have been making phone calls—because
half a mile ahead of us, more vehicles were screeching out into the road. Fumbling in my jacket for my
Glock, I noticed a small quivering object on our windshield wiper: one of Bledingfield’s blue eyes, trailing a
long pink optic nerve. I tried to ignore it as I leaned out the shotgun window and opened fire. Our enemies
were firing Tech-9’s, and Waits was singing “Werewolves of London” at the absolute top of his tits. Surreal
place, Hollywood.

    Once again, the pusillanimous pill-pushers veered out of our path, except the blue oncoming Porsche
that we bashed straight into and vaulted over, feeling the sleek, aerodynamic chassis crinkle under us like
tinfoil. I saw one quick brain-geyser from the driver, and then they were just a twinkle in the rearview.

    Half a dozen vehicles behind us. Waits crashed and slammed through medians, abandoned buildings,
palm tree groves, keeping our minimum speed in the low three digits. As he wove our smoking, littered
wake through town, I realized his plan. Dug out my phone, hit speed dial. Ma Jack answered on the
second ring and heard the message every loving mother yearns to hear:

    “They’re coming, Ma, get ready! Ten or twelve—holy shit, look out!” Maniacal cackle from Waits.
“Wiseguys with machine guns, seal the exits!”

    After all the fervid spins through empty buildings, none of the enemy suspected anything when Waits
went howling on two wheels into the Fight Corps warehouse. They followed us in, we skidded out of the
way, and the reinforced doors came down. My dear sweet sainted mother ambled out into the open with a
gushing napalm tank, and blasted flame all over our pursuers. Joey stepped out from behind them with a
God-damn minigun—why do you think we’re in this biz—and opened up. And one poor bastard struggled
loose from all the carnage, only to be throat-kicked by our own Sing Ka. The massacre took less than forty
seconds.

    Waits and I sat breathing hard in the corner of the blood-and-fire-filled space. I glanced over, panting,
and beheld his gleaming grin.

    “Dude, there really is something wrong with you.”

    “No shit, Jack, it’s called bein’ a genius.”

    “. . .I think ‘idiot savant’ is the currently accepted nomenclature.”

    “Fuckin’ bleeding heart.”

                                                                                    *

    This was not well. I tasked my friends with protecting my mother, and I headed back to the studio.
Danton’s card was still on my desk: I picked it up and dialed.

    “Who’s this?”

    “Domingo Jack.”

    “You! Are you out of your mind?! Do you understand what you’ve done? Do you know who we are?”

    “You’re the Mafia. Bledingfield was the boss, now you are. What’s the problem?”

    Silence.

    “Mr. Jack.”

    “Mr. Danton.”

    “I cannot be involved in the murder of my own superior.”

    “You’re not. Bledingfield crossed dicks with a force beyond his scope, and now he’s an oozing cadaver.
As of one hour ago, you are in charge. You can fuck with the Fight Corps, or you can make yourself a
powerful friend. It’s not that hard of a decision.”

    “There’s someone who knows everything. Croydon Bellemont.”

    “Who?”

    “Studio exec. The man behind the money men. I’ve got an understanding with his understudy, but I can’t
be involved in Bellemont’s death either. He’s on set right now. You make arrangements for him, and I’ll be
busy consolidating for the next six months.”

    In this town, six months is a lifetime. “Done and done. We’ll revisit the opioid question in October.”

    I poured myself some bourbon. Drank it down. Checked my sidearm, ankle holster, sleeve-spring
Ruger. Poured more bourbon. Drank it down.  Paced slowly through the twilight. A Hollywood exec, not
hard to find: the biggest trailer on the lot.

    Security guy had a shaven head and a great red beard, and must’ve been three hundred pounds of just
beef. His arms were like unto mighty boulders rolling through lush valleys. Looked like the kind of guy who
would actually use an ancestral broadsword for home defense. He slapped his fist into his palm and
cracked all the knuckles at once. It sounded like a tree branch. “Coom’n ’ave a go ef yeh thenk ye’re ’ard
enoof,” he grinned.

    “I dunno what that means, but it sounds intimidating. There’s just six little things you forgot.”

    “What sex lettle—”

    I emptied my .38 into his sternum. Shame about the pecs, I thought.

    One of the nice things about working on the set of an action movie is that nobody thinks twice when they
hear gunfire. I went inside, tracking gore and spine bits across the fluffy white carpeting.

    One small pale long-haired man, lounging on a pink divan. Wrapped in yellow dyed fox-fur like an opera
soprano a hundred and ten years old. A bottle of some Commie vodka on the nightstand and a sloshing
half-full glass in his puny little hand.

    “Bellemont.”

    “Ah.” He sipped his godless piss. “You must be Jack.”

    “You sold the honor of the motion picture. You put my mom in danger.”

    “The show goes on, my friend. That’s Hollywood.”

    “Hollywood is a horrible place.”

    “And we belong here. What does that say about us?”

    “Only one of us belongs here.”

    I blew his head off.

    “But I see your point.”

    The vodka tasted musty. The tapping drip on the red wet carpet seemed very loud. I kicked over the
minibar, flicked open my Zippo, tossed it in. Tomorrow we’d sell some bullshit story about a pyrotechnics
mishap. Oprah would be heartbroken till the first commercial break.

    Slowly, wearily, I stepped out of the trailer. Smoke and flame spread uncertainly behind me. Even the
universe and God were sketchy on what truth to report in this place of manufactured truth. I wanted, needed
booze and to be left alone. But as I trudged across the studio lot, a familiar voice intruded.

    “Yo, Jack!”

    Turned. “Oh, uh—hey, Niles.”

    “Hey man, glad to catch you. I had an idea about the depot scene. You know how everybody likes to
see actors do their own stunts these days? I was thinking instead of a dive-roll, we could have Hardrock
jump up and swing over the crate of RPGs on a hook so we can see his face! Whattaya think, huh?”

    Shook my head, only half-listening. “I don’t feel like re-blocking the scene, let’s just leave it like it is.”

    And a thunderbolt from cerulean skies: “Dammit, I came up with this and it’s a good idea. For once, we
are gonna use one of my ideas.”

    I opened my mouth to yell at him, but something stopped me: I realized I was smiling. “Okay, ¬Niles. You’
re the director. Didn’t mean to step on your toes.”

    “It’s okay.” He exhaled heavily. “Thanks, DJ.”

    “Come on.” I slapped him on the shoulder and pulled out my hip-flask of Scotch. “Let’s get fucked up.”


Bio:
To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.
About J.B. Toner

J.B. Toner studied Literature at
Thomas More College and holds a
black belt in Ohana Kilohana
Kenpo-Jujitsu. He currently works
as a groundskeeper in New
Hampshire, and he and his lovely
wife just had their first daughter,
Sonya Magdalena Rose. Toner
blogs at jbtoner.blogspot.com and
tweets at
AntiheroCouplet@twitter.com