“Connick. Harry Connick.”

“They come to town, I’ll get ya tickets. Best seats in the house. Face value, man. Give ’em to ya for face value.”


“You’re my hero, Chopper.”

“You know it.”

Chopper finished his meal and shoved the plate away.

“Dessert?” I asked.

“Nah. Spoil my dinner. So, you workin’?”

“What do you mean, working?”

“Doin’ one of your Robin Hood things, you know.”

“In a manner of speaking.”

“I figured. Only, you gotta say, man. If you workin’, you gotta speak up. Otherwise, a brother think you’re just shootin’ the shit to be polite, just trying to be, whatchacallit, politically correct—see a cripple and figure you gotta feed ’im a meal.”

“Don’t you mean ‘differently abled’? And when have you ever known me to be politically correct just for the sake of being politically correct about anything?”

“What I’m sayin’ is, you wanna know shit, just ask.”

“Okay. What I want to know is this—what’s new?”

Chopper looked at me like I had just asked him if it was raining outside.

“Fuck, McKenzie, whaddaya mean, what’s new? I got Queen Latifah on DVD yesterday. That’s what’s new.”

“I mean, is there anything happening out there that’s disrupting the status quo?”

Chopper stared out the window as if he were searching for something.

“Gangs fighting over turf, but that is status quo.”

“I heard a big shipment is coming in.”

“A big shipment of what?”

“Hell, Chopper, I don’t know.”


“Could be.”

“There’s always pharmaceuticals changin’ hands, but nothin’ big. Nothin’ bigger than usual, anyway. You’re lookin’ for what’s unusual, right?”


“I ain’t heard of nothin’ that’s unusual.”

“Nothing at all?”

“Only thing I heard about that’s different is cigarettes.”


“Guys bringin’ in a load of cigarettes. Supposed to be a big load of name brands.”

“That can’t be right,” I said.

“Only big shipment I know of.”

“Smuggling cigarettes?”

“Big business in cigarettes,” Chopper said. “Gettin’ bigger. ’Specially with cigarette taxes goin’ up to pay for all them state deficits. Buy smokes in Kentucky where it’s three cents a pack, sell ’em in New York where it’s a buck-fifty, pocket the difference.”

“What is the cigarette tax in Minnesota?”

“Forty-eight cents a pack.”

“Doesn’t seem worth it. All that trouble to make a lousy half buck.”

“Do the math, man. Four-eighty a carton multiplied by say, a hundred thousand cartons. Maybe three days work drivin’ ’em up here. I’d like a taste of that. And if you do it, like, say, every week …”

“I see your point. Tell me more.”

“I don’t know any more, man. I ain’t in that line of work.”

“What about the guys bring them in?”

“I heard wiseguys from New York.”

I must have looked like an idiot, sitting there with my mouth hanging open. Chopper waved his hand in front of my eyes and called my name.

“Okay, Chopper,” I said. “Just so you know, ‘wiseguys from New York’ is what you call a significant detail. Do you have any more? Details, I mean.”

Chopper laughed out loud.

“I think the cupboard is bare, man.”

“You don’t know when they’re coming in or where?”

“No. But I know a guy.”

“And this guy is who?”

Chopper reached into his saddlebag and retrieved a cell phone.

“Chill, man,” he said. “I’ll take care of your ass.”

Chopper punched in a series of numbers, put the phone to his ear, and waited while it rang.

“Yo, my man … Yeah, it’s me. Hey, you get those tickets, man? Were them good seats? Wha’ did I tell ya? … Fuck yeah, man. Anytime. You know my number … Hey, listen, listen. What you were talkin’ about the other day, about them smokes … Yeah, man, but I was thinkin’, I wouldn’t mind a taste of that … Whaddaya mean, do I have a store? … That’s just wrong, man. I can move volume. You don’t need no fuckin’ store to move volume … I got my own Web site. I could use the Internet … Fuckin’ wiseguys, they ain’t never heard of the new economy, man? … Let me negotiate with ’em … No, no, no, no, no man, no, no, man, that ain’t … Fuck, like I’m gonna put you on the spot over fuckin’ cigarettes? … I don’t give a fuck if they’re name brands … No, you’re right, you’re right, when you’re right you’re right, man … Where? Where we … Yeah, I know it … No, I ain’t never been there, I mean, fuck … You got a location but no time … I hear that, I hear that … Yeah, yeah … No shit, man. You call me now. You gonna call me? … All right, my man. Yeah … Be cool.”