The guys made room in the cabin. One of them with a hearing aid in a button Tommy Bahama asked me if I had a bet to be in the big blind. I felt 7 pairs of eyes turn to me. I should have recognized the look wolves give to sheep.
I found the girl dead by accident. A vibrant green eye turned pastel from the muted glow of suicide. His gaze was marked with an indifference that I envied. For a second, I wondered if this was part of Mickey’s plan, or some weird montage. I scanned the houses and found my target three doors away. I centered the reticle on the breast pocket of his Arnold Palmer polo shirt and tried to keep my hands from shaking. My finger began to slowly pull the trigger and I wondered what it would mean to me to kill the most powerful man in town. I had ten minutes to understand. I thought about how it all started, and what I knew for sure.
I thought I had it all. Woman, child, a decent place in the suburbs. Everything you were supposed to be at thirty, and I was knocking on the door of 29. As far as I’m concerned, I was ahead of the game. The last thing I needed to open this legendary door to “true happiness” was a dream job, and I was undergoing police training on my way to becoming a police officer by the end of it. of summer. I couldn’t make a living on the poker circuit so I went for my other passion, don a uniform and join the thin blue line.
One Tuesday I went to lunch with Lance, another caddy who loved hot wings and wanted to be a cop for the same reason I did – when we played cops and thieves when we were kids, kids with the badge always won. . He had grown up with the same films as me: Heat, Donnie Brasko, Serpico. We practiced our best Pachino driving up to the second lap and we were wrong about how hardcore it would be to go undercover.
The Second Round Bar and Grill was owned by Carlyle Frenco. Everyone in town joked that it was a crowd stunt and maybe they were right. Lance and I wanted to see for ourselves, show our “surveillance potential” to the rest of the cadets. We went there every noon hour during training. Exchanging our police T numbers for plain clothes, we went to try and spot some chubby guys in tracksuits talking about how much they increased from a freight shipment like it would be so easy. The place was always almost empty when we went. Except for a table full of guys who seemed to have nothing better to do than play cards and bullshit on a weekday afternoon. They weren’t wearing tracksuits, but they passed me like wise men. Lance was not convinced.
“Come on man, they look like a table full of grandparents before the house brings them back for dinner at 4 pm.”
“Haven’t you read any books?” I asked him. “The guys who froze Jimmy Hoffa looked like grandparents, that’s how they blend in.” I was sure of that. Lance waved me off and pretended to look over the menu, but I saw his eyes pass over them several times.
I thought I was pretty sneaky hiding behind a menu pretending to examine the flavors of the wings while listening as if they were discussing the latest robbery or murder right there on the free bread. I was fine (at least I thought I was) until one of the so-called grandparents hissed through his teeth and asked if I needed a guide dog. The guy was Mickey Deluca, and when he spun his mace in the cabin the vinyl exhaled air like a runner with a point. He looked at me suspiciously before softening and inviting us to play. I lit. Lance turned pale and said he had to pee. From the way the color escaped from him, I was surprised that she didn’t rush out of him there. Maybe he wasn’t cut out for the undercover job after all. I thought about his faint impression of Pachino and thought maybe he was better placed behind a desk. Let him go hide and empty his pee, one day I’ll be his boss.
The guys made room in the cabin. One of them with a hearing aid in a Tommy Bahama shirt asked me if I had the ante to be in the big blind. I felt 7 pairs of eyes turn to me. I should have recognized the look wolves give to sheep.
I had brought most of mine and Samantha’s down payment for a lucky flop house playing casino poker in the south, so when I saw they were playing Hold’em I took that like my good luck. It had been a while since I played, but I had practiced bluffing baby boomers from their boarding houses during Stu Bringham’s neighborhood poker night.
This table full of bald men looked on par with the guys in the neighborhood. They had crow’s feet and wore chunky New Balance sneakers. I haven’t seen any of the mischievous charms of Robert De Nero or Joe Pesci. Up close, they were more Grumpy Old Men than Goodfellas. I told them I would play a hand. I thought so, despite the familiar drop of excitement in my stomach.
I won three hands in a row. I got the cards and when I didn’t have a pair of kings I took a break on the river. I was playing the game of my life, but I was also moping up everything I could from these guys: names they talked about (mostly nicknames.) Places they went (Mickey talked a lot about a house “in the world.” north ”). on me, but nothing more than where I grew up and who my father was.
I matched the bravado and bullet breakage, getting jabs where I could. I was living my dream of working undercover. I felt a rush that the chart table couldn’t hold a candle. I felt like I had the power to end any of these guys while I took their money hand in hand. I wanted to laugh in my face.
Lance appeared from the men’s restroom, looking a little less like heated death. I wanted this to be my big date, go off with a flurry of money and rub Lance’s face that at least one of us had what it took to keep our shit together in front of the town criminal element. . But when I tried to let the guys around the game table spat vowels and insult me. Lance asked if I was ready to go and the palm tree guy told him where to go and how fast to get there.
They wanted to try to get some of their money back. I told Lance to get in the car and get us a 2-4, that I wanted to celebrate my big win that night. I was arrogant, and why not? I was on a hot streak. If this table full of geezers wanted to come home empty-handed with their bruised egos, leave them. So I tried my luck. I should have seen the scam a mile away.
At the time, I blamed Lance. I thought her leaving the bathroom had ruined my luck. I lost one hand, then two more. I walked out blown away by a guy in bifocals for goodness sake! I got angry and bet big, come to think of it, that’s when my luck turned. When my puny leather wallet had emptied all my puny little paychecks, Mickey put his arm around my shoulders and told me he liked me, that I had balls. He said I could pay it back, and then he explained how the interest worked. I had a credit card, I knew how this hook worked. I told him I didn’t get paid for two weeks. He told me it didn’t matter with the same smirk he had worn since I started losing.
When I left the second round, I was in him for a thousand dollars, with interest starting as soon as my Nikes hit the parking lot. When Lance pulled up in my used Buick with 2pac blasting he told me he bought some top quality pilsner because I felt like I was winning. When he told me what I owed for my half of the beer, it was my turn to blanch.
Wednesday, Mickey called my house. He didn’t answer me when I asked him how he found my number. He answered my question with one of his own, his voice devoid of the jovial camaraderie reserved at the gaming table. He asked me where his money was. I told him I didn’t have it. He asked me if he should go to Lyla’s public school for the money. When he said my daughter’s name, terror crept into my stomach as if I had been shot. His message was loud and clear: Mickey could reach my family whenever he wanted. So Mickey Deluca made me make a choice, either he makes a few calls and a car full of guys comes to pick up, or I do something for him.
“And you can forget to call your pocket pool boyfriend over there. No need to involve cops, even those in training pants.” I didn’t bother to ask him how he knew, the important thing was that he knew it. He gave me an address. He said there was a pay phone there that I should call him from this Saturday night, that is if I didn’t want something to happen to Lyla or Samantha .
To be continued. . .