Ace in the Hole
by Paul Guyot
......Logan stared at the sunrays spilling through the vertical blinds. They reminded him of prison bars.
......He rolled over. Looked at the back of the woman sleeping next to him. Tried to remember her name. He sucked at remembering their names. Unless they had money, or he spent more than a night or two with them
he couldn't remember the last time he remembered a name.
......He grabbed his pack, set flame to a Camel. Inhaled so hard his cheeks hit his teeth. He glanced at the clock on the nightstand.
......Fuck, he said, rubbing his eyes with his palms. He took another deep drag and swung his legs over the side of the bed. Looked down at his limp cock. Looked like someone had taken a meat tenderizer to it. Felt like it, too. His head throbbed, his cock ached. It seemed like that's how he felt more and more these days. He had to slow down. Or maybe speed up? He didn't know.
......Logan glanced back at the woman and got a flash of the night before: She was bent over the kitchen counter, Logan behind her, pulling her hair, slamming into her as hard and as fast as he could, but she just kept screaming, More! More! in that funny accent.
......There is no more! he'd finally yelled, giving her hair an extra hard yank.
......What the hell was her name?
......He remembered the bar where he found her. He rememberedand telling her he was airline pilot or some shit. Pilot, cage fighter, investment banker. He never told them he was a private dick who'd lost his license and his business over a case of mistaken identity. He tried to remember more of the evening, but the rum still fogged his brain.
......The Camel hanging from his lip, he wandered around looking for his boxers. He gave up, went into the bathroom to pee, saw the boxers waded up in the tub. He took a leak, tossed the butt into the bowl, pulled on his boxers, and walked to the sink.
......His mouth tasted like Captain Morgan's asshole. He splashed water on his face, looked up and saw a picture stuck in the corner of the mirror. Two women in some tropical setting, smiling. One was blonde, one had on a hat with an angry owl on it. The blonde one was chunky with an oddly shaped mouth. The one with the hat was hot. He hoped it was her in the bed.
......He touched the giant mouse under his eye, and had another flashback: The woman on top, riding him like he was a mechanical bull, one hand in the air, the other pushing down hard on his thigh, while she screamed in that accent, Come on! Come on! She was bending backward, so much so that Logan actually remembered thinking she might snap her spine. And then she came.
......Goddamn did she come. She had started to shudder, then sprang forward -- like someone had hit an eject button -- so fast that her fist came crashing down on his face.
......He'd had his share of late night hookups, especially since they closed his business, and he didn't mind when the women were a little freaky. Hell, he even preferred it. But this one, Jesus. He looked like he'd fucked Rampage Jackson. Better get out before she wakes up and wants to climb back into the Octagon. Fucking foreign chicks.
......He found his jeans and shoes in the bedroom, pulled them on. He was searching for his shirt when he heard it.
......He turned and she was sitting up in bed.
......The chunky one. Crap. And what was up with her mouth?
......She was still talking as he ran out the front door. A white cat followed him to freedom.
......Outside, Logan stared at his surroundings. He could have been in another state, or on another planet for all he knew. Rows and rows of, what were they? Brownstones or some shit. Who the hell knew. What he did know is that he was nowhere near the city.
......Logan turned, and saw a smiling man two doors down wearing a plaid bathrobe, and holding a newspaper.
......Logan sucked on the Camel, and nodded.
......Another nice day, huh? the man said.
......Logan squinted through the cigarette smoke at the cornflower sky. He exhaled, tried to nod again but his head throbbed too much.
......Getting an early start on your tanning, huh?
......Logan looked down at his shirtless torso. Took a final drag and flicked the butt in the man's direction. The man said something, but Logan didn't hear him, he had already started walking the other way. His head was pounding now, vibrating like one of The Who's Marshall stacks. He had no idea if he was going in the right direction, but didn't care. Eventually, he'd find some form of industry, call a cab, get back home. He had just rounded a corner when he heard a squeal of brakes, followed by screaming.
......"Meow, he thought, and kept walking.
......After they shot him in the face, Little Hank kicked him for good measure. Then they wrapped the guy's faceless body in his ugly herringbone sport coat -- Hart, Schaffner and Marx, Hank's partner noted -- and dumped it into the trunk of Little Hank's Dodge Dart.
......What about that? Little Hank said, chinning toward the blood and brain matter splattered all over the wall.
......The tall blonde studied it a moment. Looks like a Jackson Pollack.
......Pollack. He that iceman outta Houston?
......Somewhere in Texas, right?
......Get in the car.
......The blonde one slid his six-foot-six frame into the passenger seat as Little Hank, shorter by a foot, trotted around, got into the driver's seat, and put the Dart in gear. He drove out of the alley, the left rear tire rolling over a chunk of the dead guy's chin, his wiry red beard still attached.
......Logan finally made it back to his place around seven. He'd taken two buses, gone through three zip codes, finally ending up back at McGurk's, the place where his adventure had started the night before.
......He had a couple of beers and some pretzels, then talked Magic Harold into giving him a ride back to his place. But Magic Harold had to go see his aunt first. Sitting there for ninety minutes with the daddy of all hangovers, and a cock that felt like it'd been Riverdanced on, was almost unbearable for Logan. He was glad to see the red neon of Lu's Palace when Magic Harold pulled up.
......You gonna be at Ozark Bob's tomorrow? Magic Harold asked.
......Logan grunted a yeah and Magic Harold drove off.
......Logan snagged the last Camel from his deck, sparked up, and headed for the wooden stairs around behind Lu's Palace, the Salmonella factory masquerading as a Chinese restaurant.
......Mr. Lu was dumping a load of trash, and smiled wide at Logan, exposing China's poor dental industry. Ah, Mister Logan, unlucky again, huh? You lose your shirt.
......Then he laughed.
......Logan hated Lu's laugh. It sounded like a cat hacking up a hairball. He looked down and realized he'd spent the entire day shirtless. Maybe that's why Magic Harold's aunt kept asking him if he was cold.
......And your face, Mr. Lu said. Looks like you maybe stole someone's girlfriend, and he found out about it, huh? Bad luck. You need to get your own girlfriend, maybe, huh? And he laughed again.
......Yeah, that's what I need, my own girl.
......Maybe this new one will be yours forever, huh?
......What new one?
......She's upstairs, waiting.
......Logan climbed the narrow steps, praying he hadn't been so drunk that he gave the chunky woman his address.
......Logan's place was a for-shit studio space with a futon he'd had since his career went to hell. Not that it was all that great a career anyway, but at least he could file taxes. Now, even though a P.I. license wasn't required in the state of Missouri, it was a helluva lot harder to find work without it, and the office it hung in. When the judge's gavel came down, and Logan lost the office and the license, and the subsequent income, he was at Lu's Palace, crying into his Kung Pao when Lu told him about the room upstairs. Lu had never rented it out, just used it for storage. He offered it to Logan for free, until he got back on his feet.
......Logan had met Mr. Lu when the old man hired Logan to find dirt on an Assemblyman who was trying to force Lu out of business in order to put a tanning salon - he owned a chain of them - into the space occupied by Lu's Palace. Logan had quickly discovered the married assemblyman had not one, but two mistresses, and three months and a roll of film later, the tanning salon opened up two blocks away. It had been Logan's last case before the mistaken identity disaster.
......The walls of the place were bare but for a worn poster of Stevie Ray Vaughn live at the El Macambo. As Logan entered, he saw the back of a woman staring up at the poster. She wore a black skirt not quite short enough to be a mini, but still exposing most of her tanned legs, which slid down into green pumps. She had a black girl's ass, Logan thought -- rounded, almost bubble-like -- but not too big. She wore a tight top, the color of the pumps, and had copper-colored hair that she was in the process of tying on top of her head.
......Excuse me, Logan said.
......He expected her to spin around at his voice, but she didn't. In fact, she finished tying her hair before she spoke.
......You Logan? she asked, her back still to him.
......Yeah. Who are you?
......She let her arms drop and turned to face him. She had a reasonably flat stomach, but not hard. Her breasts were round like her ass, probably the size of softballs. Her face was almost heart-shaped. Her eyes were green like the top and the pumps. Or maybe it was the other way around.
......I need your help, she said. A friend of mine was murdered a couple of days ago. Police say it was a suicide, but I know it wasn't.
......Sounds like you need a grief counselor.
......That's funny, she said without a smile.
......Why do you think I can help?
......You're a private investigator, right?
......Logan thought about the potential money. He hadn't worked a case in four months. His bank account was on fumes, he barely had drinking money left. And there was a game at Ozark Bob's tomorrow night.
......I am a private investigator, he said. It sounded weird to him. But, uh, I don't have the best relationship with the local coppers. If they're-
......I told you, they think it was a suicide. They've closed it. Dunc said you'd help me.
......Duncan and Delroy Fontenot. Logan used to, whenever business was slow, run down bail skips or deadbeats for these shylock brothers. When his career abruptly ended after the mistaken identity clusterfuck, he turned to them for a few bills, just till he got back on his feet. A year, and about a thousand bad hands of Hold 'Em later, he was into them for over four grand.
......But despite being on the far side of odd, they were standup shylocks. No bone breaking so long as you paid something. Oh, they'd destroy you if you didn't pay eventually, just ask Willie Shoelaces, who ate through a straw now. But they were patient, and it was a classy move to throw this chick his way, basically giving Logan a chance to actually make the money he owed them. Smart business, too. Couldn't pay if his legs are broken.
......I'll take the case.
......Thank you, the woman said. Her name was Amber. Amber Skye.
......Sounds like a porn star.
......Logan waited for her to say she was kidding. She didn't. It's, uh, six hundred a day, two day minimum, he said, pumping up his regular rate based on what it looked like she spent on footwear. I'll need the first six upfront.
......She opened a tiny pocketbook Logan hadn't even noticed, pulled out a roll of hundreds, counted off six, and handed them to him.
......That covered the five hundred buy-in at Ozark Bob's. And left an extra Benjy in the pocket. His head wasn't hurting anymore. He smiled at her and her eyes seemed to linger on his bare chest a moment.
......Have, uh, we met before? he asked, thinking maybe before he hit Ozark Bob's, he and this fine creature might take a tumble on the futon.
......Would you forget meeting me?
......Logan's eyes started at her feet and went up all the way to her hair. No way.
......"I wrote down everything you need, and here's the key to her place, the woman said, dropping a brass key and a folded up piece of pink paper onto the futon. Then she headed for the door.
......Hey, what are you doing right now?
......She stopped and it seemed like forever before she turned around.
......I'm leaving, that's what I'm doing.
......Want to grab a drink somewhere? Or maybe just hang out a while?
......She pursed her lips, not so much pouting as assessing. Then, without another word, she walked out.
......Logan yawned, scratched his balls, and farted. He picked the paper off the futon.
Amber Skye, age 23, worked for Hard-Awn Films
Lived at the corner of sixteenth and Market, apt 3
Call me when you know something - 552-7869.
......Vanessa, Logan said, like he was tasting the name. Maybe once this was over, Vanessa might relax a little, then she'd be vulnerable. Maybe use her grief over the friend, be the big strong shoulder to cry on. Then nail her six ways to Sunday.
......He dropped his jeans and laid down on the futon in his boxers. Sleep now, then he'd check into the suicide tomorrow before cleaning out everyone at Ozark Bob's.
......Shit! Little Hank yelled. You always fucking do that.
......Little Hank liked to bluff. He bluffed all the time. And his partner always called. Because he knew Little Hank couldn't bluff for shit.
......Little Hank threw the money across the table, stood up and looked at one of the girls.
......Come blow me, he said.
......The girl popped her gum, then stuck it behind her ear. Here?
......Bathroom, Little Hank said, and walked into the bathroom. The girl followed.
......Where you guys from? the other girl asked Blondie.
......He didn't answer.
......I'm from O-town, the girl said. Orlando, F-L-A. Florida's my state. Love the Gators, the Magic, the Jaguars. What's your state?
......I don't really know baseball.
......They both turned when they heard Little Hank's voice coming from the bathroom.
......That's right, take the bull. Now cup the balls. Cup 'em. Yeaaaah. Now, suck that bull. Yeah. Oh, the bull's getting angry.
......Why's he call it a bull? the girl asked. I knew a guy once, same business as you, called his thing Darby the Wonder Cock. And you couldn't, like, just call it Darby, or Wonder Cock. You had to say the whole name, Darby the Wonder Cock. She paused to remove a hair from her mouth.
......He stared at her, thought about snapping her neck. The idiots he met in his line of work. There was a knock at the door. He looked at his watch, right on time. He opened the door, saw his boss standing there.
......The thing still in your trunk? his boss asked.
......Yes, we'll go to the river tonight.
......Change of plans, his boss said. We're going to hold on to it for a bit.
......Logan glanced around, making sure no one was watching before he turned the key to apartment three and slipped inside.
......The place was nice. Thick white carpet, white sofa and chairs, it looked more like the home of a real estate agent than a porn star. He wandered around, figuring he'd at least spend a few minutes before heading out. After all, he should do something for the six bills.
......He picked up some framed photos displayed on a white bookshelf. They were all of a very attractive brunette with a very unattractive red-headed guy. How do guys like this end up with girls like that, Logan thought. Must have been hung like a pack mule.
......He went to the television, found several stacks of DVD's. All commercial porn films. On the cover of one was the brunette from the photos, on her hands and knees as a giant guy with hair as white as the carpeting pounded her from behind. The brunette had a look of intense
pain was it, on her face? Maybe not, but it certainly didn't look like she was enjoying her vocation. The title of the video was Anal Ecstasy #6: Amber Skye Gets Cracked Open Again!
......Logan thought about popping it in the player, but decided against it. He'd never really been a fan of the butt fuck. Why bother when there's a nice, wet, sweet hole on the other side? He tossed the DVD back down. Time to go to her workplace, make a good showing. As he left he thought there was no reason to believe a girl wouldn't kill herself after getting cracked open six times. Hell, Logan would probably end it all after one.
......Thirty minutes later Logan was standing in front of the offices of Hard-Awn Films, studying the corporate logo. The d was a penis, and the n was the silhouette of a woman on her hands and knees.
......An elderly receptionist greeted him as he entered the building.
......You the one who called? she said in a smoker's rasp. 'bout Amber?
......Yeah, Logan said.
......Follow me, she said, and struggled to get out from behind the desk.
......The blue-hair led him out back to a swimming pool where Hard-Awn was filming their latest epic. Apparently, the pool man had come to fix a skimmer problem, but was now in the shallow end, between two real blondes and four fake breasts.
......The receptionist pointed to a pair of young women sitting in director chairs off to the side of the pool, both wearing transparent robes. Them's the acorns, like Amber, she said.
......The old woman looked at Logan like he was nine. Acorns. Girls that do anal. It's a special skill, genius. She coughed like she was about to hack up a lung, and went back inside.
......Logan made his way over to the girls. A short, fat, bald guy who was obviously the director started yelling at the pool man about getting it up. The pool man called for a fluffer.
......As Logan approached the women he saw one was a platinum blonde with a black bra and thong under her robe. She had enormous fake breasts, and severe acne scars on her face. The other was an Asian woman with a flat, oval face, wild black hair, and a tiny dragon tattoo between her navel and where her pubic hair would have been if she'd had any.
......I'm Logan. Lady up there said you could answer some questions about Amber.
......I'm Misty, the Asian woman said.
......Rain, Platinum said.
......Sounds like a weather report, Logan said.
......A very average looking woman with a headset stepped up and told Rain that Brock needed a fluffer. Rain whispered something to Misty and they both rolled their eyes, then Rain left with the woman.
......Nice to meet you, Misty, Logan said, and held out his hand.
......I don't shake nobody's hands, she said. Germs.
......Logan took a second to process the irony. So, you knew Amber?
......Sure, we all know each other.
......Were you close with her?
......It not like we eat each other out, that what you mean. But she okay.
......You know she's dead?
......I hear she take a ten-story jump off a nine-story building, right?
......Something like that. When did you last see her?
......Day before she jump. She do a scene with Niko. Misty said the name like it was supposed to mean something.
......Logan set flame to a Camel. Who's Niko?
......Niko? The Gushin' Russian? Don't you know who who in this biz?
......I usually fast-forward through the credits.
......Niko awesome. Last flick I do with him, he really wreck my asshole, man. I couldn't shit right for a week.
......I think Hallmark makes a card for that.
......Logan wanted out of here. He didn't give a shit about Amber or Vanessa (except as a potential fuck) or any of these losers. He needed to be there just long enough so if Vanessa asked, these whores would say, yeah, he came around asking about Amber. He'd go clean up at Ozark Bob's tonight, then wait a couple days before calling Vanessa - make it look like he really busted his ass on this one - then console her grief.
......So, uh, did Amber have a beef with anyone? he asked.
......Her boyfriend always give her shit. He like the money she bring home, he gamble all the time, but he always on her to quit cuz of the fucking.
......What's his name?
......I dunno. Mitch, I think. Ugly motherfucker. Red hair, stupid red beard, always wore this ugly-ass coat.
......The average woman wearing the headset walked over and told Misty she had to report to makeup.
......Know where I can find Mitch? Logan asked, thinking the last thing he wanted to do was go talk to some loser boyfriend.
......Misty stood up. Maybe her funeral? It's tomorrow. I can't make it. Got a gang bang at noon.
......Little Hank drove for a while, then said, Don't make no sense, the risk we're pulling driving around with this thing.
......His partner said nothing.
......And why's the boss want us to do this next thing before we do the other thing? Little Hank asked. That don't make no sense either. Any of this make sense to you?
......His partner lifted his head from the copy of Exit Ghost he'd stolen from Border's and leveled his cold blue eyes at Little Hank.
......Little Hank shifted in his seat. Never mind.
......Logan showed the Johnnies and raked in another pot. He felt like his luck was changing. He'd only been there two hours, but already he'd turned his five hundred into $1650.
......Lucky sonofabitch, Quinn said.
......Ozark Bob shuffled, squinting at Logan through his cigar smoke. You never said what the fuck happened to your face.
......I can't believe I didn't kick your ass the second you walked in, Quinn said. You know you're playing with my money, right?
......Logan had forgotten he also owed Quinn. He counted off three bills and threw them at him. There. We're square.
......Lucky sonofabitch, Quinn said again.
......Ozark Bob dealt. Cutter and Magic Harold folded, and as Romo raised it, the door burst open and two guys in black outfits and black ski masks entered carrying shotguns. One was very tall and one wasn't.
......I don't see everyone's hands, we start shooting, the short one said.
......You're fucking kidding me, Ozark Bob said.
......You think I'm bluffing? I don't bluff, asshole.
......Magic Harold started to cry.
......All the money. Now, the tall one said, tossing a bag onto the table.
......Logan stuffed all the cash into the bag, putting in the money he'd won last. It was hard to say good-bye. The tall one snatched the bag.
......Anyone walk out this door in the next five minutes, we blow your head off, the short one said, and they left.
......Goddman it, Ozark Bob said. God fucking damn it.
......Your security's for shit, OB, Cutter said. You owe me seven bills.
......I don't owe you shit, Cutter. I didn't rob the game.
......Yeah, you do Cutter said, then got up, opened the door cautiously, and walked out. A moment later Romo followed.
......Fuck him, Ozark Bob said. Fuck any of you, think I owe you. And stop fucking crying, Magic Harold.
......Who knew about the game? Logan asked.
......Who doesn't know? Ozark Bob said. Everyone knows about my games.
......You recognize their voices? Quinn asked.
......No, Ozark Bob said.
......Quinn headed for the door. You still owe me, Logan.
......Bullshit. I paid you. They took that money off you, not me.
......Quinn looked at Ozark Bob, who nodded. Quinn spat on the floor. You're a lucky sonofabitch, Logan. Then Quinn walked out.
......One of them was really tall, Magic Harold said.
......How would you know, motherfucker? Ozark Bob said, You were blubbering into your hands.
......Two hours later, Logan was in bed when the door to his place caved in and two masked men entered carrying shotguns.
......Where's the fucking money? one of them asked.
......Logan tried to focus. One was very tall, and one wasn't. Same black outfits, same black ski masks.
......You're the guys from the poker game, he said.
......The two men looked at each other a moment. Then the short one smacked Logan across the face with the shotgun.
......The money Logan, he said.
......You already took all my money at the poker game, Logan said as he tried to stop the bleeding from his mouth.
......Then both men hit him.
......Goddamn it, Logan said, spitting blood.
......He tried to get to his feet, but they were already on him. The tall one grabbed him by the hair while the short one drove the shotgun butt into his gut. Twice. Then swung it like a cricket bat, smashing Logan's nuts. He crumpled to the floor.
......You owe The Monarch sixty-five hundred as of this minute, the short one said.
......The Monarch? I've never done business with the Monarch in my entire life. I don't even know the guy.
......"The vig's on a one hour clock.
......"Who the hell has a one-hour clock? Besides, I took the note off the Fontenots."
......"Not anymore. They put it on Front Street, the Monarch picked it up.
......What? Logan got up, holding his aching nads.
......Sixty-five hundred, Logan. An hour from now it's sixty-six hundred.
......Blood flowed from Logan's mouth as he spoke. I owed the Fontenot brothers four grand, tops.
......New note, new vig. You got the money?
......You took my money!
......The tall one kicked Logan in his stomach. He was puking when he heard them leave.
......The next morning a dwarf wearing jockey silks led Logan into the Spanish style home of the Fontenot brothers. Logan remembered the first and only time he'd been inside these stucco walls: nine months ago when he'd borrowed a little over two grand. At the time, the brothers were scrapbooking. Weird fucking mopes these guys, but they ran an honest shylock biz.
......Duncan, the older of the brothers, handed the dwarf a Triscuit and said, Thank you, Larry. Go setup the DVD, I'll be there in a few.
......Larry left and Duncan turned to Logan, staring across the huge chrome and smoked-glass desk, circa 1980, a plate of Triscuits on it. What happened to your face, Logan?
......You sold my note to the Monarch.
......Why'd you do that?
......Because it was a good price.
......Well, now I'm hearing some bullshit about an hourly vig. Ever hear of that? Hourly?
......Haven't I always paid my debts to you and your brother?
......Duncan nodded, popped a Triscuit into his mouth.
......So, why sell it?
......Because it was a good price.
......Who the hell has hourly vigs?
......Apparently, the Monarch does.
......You gotta buy it back, Delroy.
......The Monarch wants over six grand now. I can't pay that.
......Then you better hide, or get a good plastic surgeon.
......I'm working that suicide case from the gash you sent me. I could've paid you off.
......Duncan shrugged. Hey, you wanna hang around for a bit? When my brother's done, we're gonna watch Phar Lap in HD.
......No. Thanks. Look, just shoot me a joint then. Just enough to cover the note with the Monarch, then I'm back on the dangle with you.
......The Monarch gave specific instructions not to do that.
......Guess the Monarch doesn't like you.
......I've never even met the fucking Monarch!
......Logan ran his hands through his hair. Went to the window, looked down into the large courtyard. He saw the other Fontenot brother dancing with an old Hispanic gentleman in a white suit.
......Logan turned back to Duncan.
......Help me, Delroy. Please.
......Fuck you, too, Quinn! Logan said and slammed his phone down. He looked at his list.
......He drew a line through Quinn's name, and started to dial his mother's number, but then stopped.
......It's not that bad yet.
......Exhausted, he decided a shower would be good. He pulled off his shirt, heard a knock at the door.
......Who is it?
......Vanessa. Maybe he could get an advance from her, tell her there's a big break in the Amber Skye case.
......Logan opened the door. Hi there.
......Do you even own a shirt?
......He stepped back and watched her enter. She had on extremely low-rise jeans, pointy heels, and a tight maroon t-shirt that said Temple Owls. Her hair tumbled over her shoulders like a copper waterfall. Maybe he could still get into her pants once all this shit was settled. Yeah, get a loan from her, pay her back with the old high hard one. Logan started feeling better.
......So, you making progress on the case? she asked.
......Yeah, actually, a lot. Lot of things just aren't adding up. I've got a few leads I need to run down, but, uh, they involve some travel, expenses
......Vanessa looked at her Baume & Mercier watch. Like, about seventy-three hundred dollars worth of expenses?
......Tell me about these new leads.
......Uh, well, I went to her apartment, saw some photos of a boyfriend, and one of the girls she worked with said her boyfriend had a temper. So, uh, I need to track him down
......No need. He's in the trunk of a Dodge Dart parked downstairs in front of that Chinese restaurant.
......Mitch Richards, that's the boyfriend, he owed me twelve grand. He couldn't pay so he got shot in the face. Apparently, Amber, his idiot girlfriend was so distraught she jumped off her apartment building. And now your fingerprints are all over her place, aren't they?
......Logan's mouth went dry. It took him a second to form enough saliva to speak. Who the fuck are you?
......You're a lousy fucking detective, aren't you? she said. Losing your license, losing your whole fucking nut because you investigated the wrong mark. I know all about you.
......It was a case of mistaken identity. The client gave me bad-
......Shut up, she said, and opened a tiny pink cell phone and punched a number. He's ready, she said into the phone, then snapped it shut.
......Logan glanced at the door. Then back at Vanessa. You better tell me who you are, lady, before it gets ugly.
......Vanessa smiled. God, this feels good. Buying that note off the Fontenots was the best money I ever spent, she said.
......It took a second for Logan's brain to process it.
......You're the Monarch?
......The door opened and in walked a very tall guy with bleached blonde hair and a short guy.
......Wait, wait, wait Logan said, backing up. These are the assholes who stole your money! I had your money at Ozark Bob's, but these fucks robbed the game.
......Yeah, Vanessa said. What a coincidence. Kind of like the coincidence of you picking up my sister in a bar.
......Logan stared at Vanessa. Those softballs under that tight shirt. That angry Temple Owl. Then something clicked in his head.
......Temple Owls, Logan said.
......Vanessa's envy-colored eyes gave away nothing.
......You're the one in the picture, Logan said. With the chunky chick with the weird mouth.
......She has a harelip, you piece of dogshit.
......That's what this is about? What is she, some friend of yours? This is some sick women's revenge thing because I left without cuddling or something?
......My sister's in traction at county hospital, you fuck, Vanessa said, some of her cool fading.
......She got hit by a car because of you.
......I don't even own a car! I walked away from her place.
......After you let her cat out!
......Logan was replaying the morning in his head. The cat, the neighbor, the screeching brakes.
......Her cat got run over?
......No, you thick-headed asswipe, Sheila did. She went to grab her cat and the car hit her!
......Sheila, Logan said, finally remembering her name.
......You make a habit out of using women, or was it just my sister you wanted to hurt?
......Hurt her? She wanted it more than me. Nearly fucked me to death, the freak.
......Vanessa's eyes went from green to black.
......Uh, that came out wrong, Logan said.
......My sister has trouble with men. They don't like the way she looks or talks, so they stay away. But those guys are a helluva lot more honest than some rat's asshole who gets her drunk, takes advantage of her, then runs out, letting her get hit by a car.
......How do you know there wasn't another guy there?
......Because I spoke with her neighbor and people at McGurk's who saw you mooching drinks off her. You think I got where I am by being stupid?
......The two men moved toward Logan. He backed up against the wall.
......If you kill me, Monarch, you'll never get your money.
......You're not getting off that easy, Logan, she said. "You like fucking?"
......She turned to the tall man. "Acorn this motherfucker, Niko. Just like he was one of your porn bitches.
......Logan looked at the tall man. Niko? The Gushin' Russian?
......The tall man smiled.
......And Logan, Vanessa said, heading for the door. You're still on the dangle for the note and the vig. Every week you can't pay, Niko here is going to pay you a visit. You try to run, try to hide, that body down in the trunk will be dumped in this room right here, and a call made to the cops to dust Amber's apartment for prints. Then she walked out.
......Logan stared at the two men.
.....Hey, Hank, Niko said. Can you find a sock or something for his mouth?
Copyright © 2008 by Paul Guyot.