After The Punjabi took me back to my car that morning, I decided to just stay away for a while. The last thing I needed was another guy “in love” with me.
I figured I could just stop in whenever his truck wasn’t there. But my first time back, he was there before I finished paying for my cigarettes. It was almost as if he’d been notified somehow.
Outside, he questioned why I never called him. “Then give me your number,” he said, “I won’t forget to call you.”
My lame excuses just weren’t enough to keep him away. He wanted to know where I lived, which store did I work at, what times did I work? I made my best attempt to dodge his questions.
He asked me to go for a ride, “We’ll talk business.” He said. I was starting to feel desperate. ’I’ll just go this one time and I’ll do better at dodging him the next time,’ I thought.
In the truck, he handed me a roll of bills and small bag of the white stuff. “For you, my Heartbreaker.”
He drove to a few different gas stations, each time bringing me inside and introducing me to the cashiers and showing me around. “This is The Heartbreaker,” he’d say, and go on to talk to the cashier in their language. Each time, he’d end up shouting at the guy about orders not coming in and the like.
When we left, he’d tell me all about how he acquired the store and I soon realized he owned several stores, not just the two I’d known about. I believe the total was in the 30’s somewhere, all throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.
He told me about his long-time girlfriend who was in very poor health. They no longer had a working relationship. She was morbidly obese and couldn’t be with him intimately. But she was the first person in America to help him, to give him a chance. And for that, he promised to take care of her – and her parents and children – until she died. Something about that story made me think he might be a good guy.
Then he went on to tell me about others he’d helped out – and what happened to those who crossed him. The one that sticks out most in my mind was a guy fresh out of jail that needed a chance. The Punjabi gave him a job at one of his stores, but the guy was soon robbing him through a money order scheme. So The Punjabi’s men took him to the north woods, beat the shit out of him and left him there alone.
“I really better get back, I have commitments today.” I finally said.
“What you think,” he said as he pulled the truck alongside my car, “You want a job?”
“We’ve been through this.” My tongue was salty – I was fed up with him.
“No! Not that job,” he replied, “I need you to drive me.”
“Drive you??” I said, “You can drive.”
“I have big meeting in Rochester and boys, they like to drink. I need you drive so I don’t go to jail. I give you $250.”
“Fine.” I said, “When?”
“Friday, nine in the morning, I pick you up – not at my store, at the market.”
“Yep, Friday, okay. See you then.” I tried to hurry – my friends really were expecting me.
“Heartbreaker,” he called after me, “Look sexy, too.”