Remy's Painter

an excerpt



Prologue

Friday, the last week in April

The April rain drizzled down on Ian Sullivan as he stood over the caskets of his father and brother. They were killed in a car accident on their way home near an intersection by the Queens-Midtown tunnel. Ian didn't think their deaths were an accident. His brother, William Thomas Sullivan, Junior, owed over a hundred grand in gambling debts to Salvatore Ferrara, a loan shark connected with the local mob. Sal and his minions roughed Billy up once or twice, but the last time they told him to either pay up or else. Billy was frightened and told Ian that he was going to ask their dad for the money. Ian could have told him how fruitless an endeavor that would be.

William Senior had refused and reported the transaction to the police. Their dad was with Billy when the accident occurred. The police labeled the accident as suspicious.

Sal had shown up at the wake on Wednesday night. Worse, the mob still wanted their money even though his brother was dead. "You, kid, your brother owed me a hundred grand. Somebody needs to pay up, so I'll be collecting from you." Sal stared him down.

"I don't owe you any money. Billy did and now he's dead."

Sal shoved Ian against the wall. The funeral home was empty. Ian was the only family member left, so no help was forthcoming.

Ian was scared. "I don't have any money. The house, the accounts, the business, it's all caught up in probate." Ian's voice was thin, reedy.

"You must have some money, kid. You live at home, you work, and have no expenses, I checked. You're going to get the house and the business, take a mortgage, the interest on your deadbeat brother's loan is accruing as I stand here admiring your pretty face. I want to be paid." Not letting go, he squeezed Ian's arm until Ian knew he was going to bruise badly. Then he went for Ian's crotch. Ian rotated his hips out of the way of Sal's hand.

"Billy owed you money. You say I have to pay Billy's debt. I'll try, but I don't owe you that."

"We'll see." Sal leered.

"Please, I told you, everything is in the courts. It will be two months before I see a dime. I don't have any money. What I had, I spent on the funeral." Ian started to shake.

Sal stepped back. Ian's legs were rubbery. He almost fell to his knees.

"I tell you what, kid, I feel sorry for you. You come up with five grand by next Friday as a gesture of good faith then I'll wait for the rest until the house sells, but the chip keeps growing so it better sell fast, or I'll be taking it out in trade." Sal put his hand around Ian's neck and put some pressure on his larynx.

"I'll be here on Friday, and you already know what will happen if I'm disappointed. I'll take you instead of the money."

Ian nodded his head like an automaton. "Friday, I'll give it to you on Friday." Sal left with his goons, and Ian sat down trembling with fear.

Ian was a house painter, just like his brother and father. All of their outstanding jobs were completed, and there was only one customer left that needed an estimate. Ian prayed he would get the job, or he would face Ferrara's goons or worse, Ferrara himself, and he didn't know if he'd make it out alive because he refused to have sex with a man like Sal Ferrara.

Since he was only twenty-one and not his father's favorite son, his salary from the business was a pittance. His father said he didn't need more because he lived at home. Now, he was alone with no work scheduled in the coming weeks except the estimate he had to write up tomorrow. He tried to get money yesterday afternoon and was told by the bank that he couldn't access the business accounts or the savings and personal checking accounts even for the funerals, so that came out of his pocket.

Ian knew the job that needed the estimate required the type of custom work that very few painters could do. His ability was the reason his father kept him on the payroll after finding out Ian was gay. He was the only one who could work with frescos and faux finishes. He was Sullivan and Sons resident artist, and his artistry was the only reason they got so much upscale work, but you would never have known that had you listened to his father complain about his youngest son.

"My son, the faggot," was how his father referred to Ian. He hadn't used Ian's name once since he found out the truth. Billy was a gambler, a drunk and sometime addict, but he was the good son. Now, because of Billy's excesses, Ian had to sell the family home and rape the business to find enough money to pay his brother's debts if he wanted to stay healthy and out of Sal's clutches.

His father's will left everything to Billy. Fortunately, he made no provision for the circumstance of Billy's death. Despite his many flaws, Billy still loved his brother, and his will left everything to Ian. That however, left everything in probate, and Sal still wanted his money.

He really needed the new job, and he was going to have to do all the work himself because he couldn't afford to pay a helper and still pay off Billy's debts. He also needed the money to live on for two months and pay the loan shark. He wondered how he was going to eat.

As he threw dirt on both lowered caskets, inwardly, he cursed his brother for his stupidity and himself for not leaving his father's business and striking out on his own three years ago when he first came out. If he didn't get the job tomorrow, they would be digging his grave next, because he wouldn't become Sal's boy toy.