That afternoon Biggy took his ride on the streetcar. Spotting the three clients along St. Charles was a piece of cake. Jake’s instructions had been very detailed. It was late in the afternoon when he got back to Jake’s Place.
Peggy was already sitting at the bar. Biggy sat down near but not beside her. Jake set a Jax in front of Biggy. Biggy didn’t notice him make a mark on a slip of paper laying by the cash register. One of many laying there.
About five Jake called out to Biggy, “Hey, Big Un, want a po-boy?”
“Shrimp. Dressed. With chips.” Biggy said.
“Be here in about half an hour.” Jake said. He already had the phone in his hand and was dialing the number for the fish market.
Biggy stayed until about nine and then got up to leave. Before he could get more than a few steps from the bar Jake held up his check and called out, “Hey, Big Un. Aren’t you forgetting something?”
Biggy looked around and returned to the bar. Jake handed him the piece of paper. There was a mark for each beer Biggy had. At the bottom it said. “Hand me a couple of bucks and say ‘Thanks’. I’ll see you at your place around 2:30.”
Biggy fished the bills out of his pocket, placed them on top of the receipt, handed them back to Jake and left.
He was asleep in his chair with the James Lee Burke book open on his lap when Jake knocked on the door at 2:30. Biggy got up and opened it for him.
– Page 30 –
Jake came in carrying a bottle of Jack Daniels and two small glasses. He crossed the room and set them down on the dinette table. He also laid down a list of all his clients and two-hundred-fifty dollars in cash. “Count it.” he said, “and then put it somewhere safe. Sorry about the thing with the bar tab but it dawned on me earlier if you were a regular customer you’d have to pay your tab, and from now on I’ll expect you to actually pay it. We’ll consider it part of the expenses you have from week to week. We’ll increase that if it’s necessary. That way no one will suspect that we are anything more than old school chums.”
Biggy smiled. “Got it.”
As Jake sat down at the dinette he asked, “Got any ice?”
Jake poured Jack Daniels into the two glasses. He handed one to Biggy who was sitting opposite him.
“Okay, Big Un. As I tole you this afternoon, we’ll mostly meet over coffee at Peggy’s a couple times a week but I have to talk to Peggy about it first. We won’t meet in the middle of the night very often but for now it’s safer. I make myself be a little paranoid about this business. It’s why I haven’t had any problem with the law for the last ten years like many other distributors. I never do business with anyone I don’t know. My clients are handpicked and are reliable. I think. I hope. At least, they have been so far. I figure it’s better to be safe than sorry. In an emergency you can come by the bar before I open at three but only in an emergency. ”
“Now, are you ready to go to work?”
“Now. In the middle of the night?”
Jake sipped his whiskey and smiled. “No. Not right this minute. But I have several more things I want you to do this weekend and I want to give you some more details about making drops. Tomorrow I want you to take the streetcar back downtown. But this time I want you to take a daytime walk through part of the French Quarter. Then I want you to do the same thing again tomorrow night. Many of our drops down there are made at night, sometimes late. You might as well get used to going down after dark when the crazies come out.”
Jake lay a sheet of paper on the table. Biggy picked it up and held it close to his eyes. The forty watt bulb hanging from the ceiling provided only scant light. Jake went over and got the lamp from next to the chair. He plugged it in and set it on the table.
“Where’s your map?” he asked Biggy.
Biggy got up and went over to the overstuffed chair. The backpack was leaning against the side of it. He took out the map and came back to the table. Jake spread it out under the lamp, folding it the way he wanted.
– Page 31 –
Jake pointed to the paper with the list. There were twenty-one names on it. At the top Biggy saw Napoleon Bar and Grill, Remy’s Patois, Tavern at Lee Circle, the three places he had located earlier. Next came Clotille’s Tavern, and King Rex Bar and Grill which was underlined with a heavy line. The list continued underneath the line but Jake stopped here.
“These are all between here and Canal Street. You’ve already found three of them. I’m just adding two more. Memorize all five. Tomorrow, get off the car before it crosses Poydras and walk the two blocks to Baronne and locate Clotille’s Tavern. Just walk by before going back to catch the next car. You’ll pass King Rex on Carondelet just a block before the car gets to Canal.”
Jake pointed to the next group of names on the list: The Jazz Place, Absinthe Lounge, O’Tooles, and Willie’s Tavern. “This group is on Bourbon. The first three are between Bourbon and St. Peter. The last, Willie’s, is about a block and a half further. St. Peter is a good street to remember. Pat O’Brien’s and Preservation Hall are both on St. Peter between St. Peter and Royal. A block further past Royal is Jackson Square.
“Start out from here about eleven-thirty tomorrow morning. — Well, this morning actually. It is Saturday, right?” Biggy just nodded his head. Jake continued, “That’ll put you getting downtown about noon. Remember, when you go strait across Canal from Carondelet you’ll be on Bourbon. After you’ve passed St. Peter and found Willies Tavern, cross over to Royal and come back down Royal to Canal. If you want to walk around some more, I recommend going over to Jackson Square and across Decatur. You can go up a few steps and see the river, even cross over to the boardwalk if you want.”
Biggy’s head was beginning to spin again. Jake’s overly detailed instructions were just becoming too much. Jake sensed it. He raised his glass of bourbon. “Here’s to our new partnership, Big Un.” As their glasses clinked he said, “Don’t worry. I know this all sounds like a lot right now and it is. Not to mention it’s the middle of the night. But tomorrow morning it’ll all be clearer.”
“I hope so.” Biggy said. The two men drained their glasses and Jake refilled them.
“All you have to do today is try and remember the first nine places on the list. Don’t worry, if you forget one or don’t find it. There’s going to be plenty more opportunities. As a matter of fact, I would like for you to repeat the exercise after dark tonight. Stop in and have a few drinks somewhere, just not at any of the client’s. You’re not going to become a regular at any of them. The later you go down this evening, the better. Just make sure you’re back to the car stop at Canal and Carondelet before midnight or you may wait an hour or more to catch another car back uptown. The cars run all night but after midnight they can be few and far between.”
– Page 32 –
Biggy just smiled. The lateness of the hour, combined with the two glasses of Jack, were getting to him fast.
“Sunday morning, we’ll meet at Peggy’s at ten. When we leave there we’ll take a drive and go by all the places you’re going to find today. You’ll drive. We’ll also go by all the other places on the list. Sunday morning will be a good time for you to get used to driving in the city.” Jake held up the list. “Remember that the list never leaves this room and the map never gets marked with locations of clients. Okay?”
“Got it.” Biggy said.
“Anyway, Sunday morning you’ll drive me around and get used to driving in the city.” As he was saying this Jake stood up and walked to the door. He made no move to pick up the bottle of Jack Daniels or the bar glasses.
Biggy asked, “You gonna take your whiskey?”
“Naw. Keep it here.” Jake said as he opened the door. “And get yourself some ice trays. I’ll see you in the morning at nine.”
Biggy thought, “Where am I going to get ice trays? I haven’t even figured out where to buy food yet.”
– Page 33 –