Al woke up on Wednesday and decided that he would go into Hartford and not leave until he’d gotten the info he needed.  He showered and shaved.  He practised his spiel in front of the mirror until he believed it.  He put on a fresh shirt and the same outfit he’d wore the day before.  He drank instant coffee and chewed a toasted bagel.  He’d break for lunch in Hartford, maybe the new deli in the XL Center.  He hoped only one trip would take care of business.  He hated Hartford.  He got popped for petty larceny and got ninety days.

       The drive on 84 was a zoo.  Al fought against everybody else trying to get to work.  He pulled off the highway and crawled to the XL Center.  He parked in the garage and walked up to Main Street.  Nothing, the street was packed with cubicle rats heading for their offices but not one prospect.  He headed back down Asylum and spotted a couple of potential targets.  He walked toward them smiling.  He introduced himself and started in with questions and all he got was how much they’d get for giving up information.  That was the whole morning, looking for marks and getting a lot of lip about money.  After all, he was from the Mayor’s Comission for the Homeless.  He was there to help them.  He ate lunch at the deli, got overcharged for what he ate and left a fifty cent tip.

        He wandered away from Asylum Street after lunch with a little success.  He got pieces of information but not enough for a social and birth certificate.  Around four he walked back to the garage.  He decided to take another walk around the XL.  He found a drunk fighting the wind.  He walked up to him and gave his spiel.  The guy answered all the questions and Al slipped him a tenner.  He walked away trying not to skip.  He was in.  This guy solved all his problems.  Any blank spots he could make up or find on-line.  The guy was from New Britain.  It couldn’t be better.  He dodged traffic and went back home through West Hartford.  He couldn’t help looking down at the clipboard sitting on the passenger seat.  Tomorrow he’d go for the birth certificate.  A trip to City Hall and ten bucks would be time well spent.

         After a good night’s sleep Al went to City Hall.  He was looking for Emmanuel Ricci in the Town Clerk’s Office.  Manny was an old friend who’d helped Al getting ID before.  For a nominal fee he’d get the paperwork you needed.  He had a sliding scale.  Birth certificates were fifty, death certificates were forty and a whole package, ID and any other paperwork on file was a C note.  He took the information, told Al, sotto voce, that he was shy some information.  No sweat, he’d fill it in, for twenty more.  Al handed over the ten for the birth papers stacked atop seventy more.  Manny palmed it and put the ten in the till and handed back a reciept.  He had to come back the next day to pick the paper up.  Al still had work to do.  He needed a woman.  He wanted somebody who’d keep to business first and anything else seperate.  He drove to the Lido on East Main.  He hoped to meet up with the perfect woman.  He parked out front and walked in.  It was nearly dark in the bar.  The juke box fought with the TV for the customer’s attention.  She was sitting there.  Perched on a stool at the far end of the bar, a red head in tight jeans and square dance shirt was the woman of Al’s dreams.

         “Hello, J.D.. How’s life treating you?” he asked.

         “Al Ferrante, I don’t need a raffle ticket for an invisible Cadillac.”

         “I just want to buy you a drink and talk.”

         “I’m not a B-girl.  This place doesn’t pay me to entertain customers.”

          “No, this is business.”

          “I don’t do that business.”

           “You might be able to make a few bucks, and it’s easy. All I want to do is talk.”

           “Okay, but this better be legit.”

           “It will be, sort of.”

           Al signalled the barkeep and ordered a beer and got what J.D. was drinking.  The moved to a booth and after small talk Al roughed out the plan.  He told her enough to pique her interest.  He held back some to keep her from walking away with the plan and working it with somebody else.  She was interested.  Her ex had been late with child support.  What else was new.  She was bored and working as a temp didn’t exactly fill her bank account.  She was a con artist at heart but her daughter kept her off the grift.  They were through talking around seven.  Al took her to dinner and after she turned him down.  He went home alone.