Right now it’s a quarter to three, we’re outside Mulligan’s, sitting four-deep in my Olds Ninety-Eight convertible waiting. This guy Sammy Raleigh hasn’t shown up yet. Said he’d meet us here around two-thirty, which is last call at most joints.
Well, last call’s come and gone. My guys are getting impatient, especially Bert who already thinks the jobs I find for us are bunk. And then there’s Percy with his delusions of grandeur, thinking we should be going Big Time, but the reality is we’re tiny fish in a large pond.
We ain’t Italian or Russian, and none of us are connected, really, not to made guys anyways, so any mob work we get is going to be for scraps. That’s just how it is on the lower level. Especially since we don’t screw around with running drugs or stupid shit like that. It takes more brains to rise from the bottom of the food chain. Frankly, that’s just not us.
* * *
Let’s rewind a bit, back to a quarter past midnight.
The four of us head over to the strip on Eden Blvd to pass the time. The trick being to just cop a slight buzz and manage to keep it just that because none of us want to show up at the meet sauced, or in Tevin’s case, completely passed out.
We arrive at a little dive called Geronimo’s where they have four dollar shots from the top shelf. Like any other drinking establishment this place is dark and smoky, only they’ve got a Native American motif that’s pretty cool. The jukebox isn’t so loud that you can’t have conversations at a normal speaking voice. At any rate, it’s the kind of laid back place we prefer. Crowd seems pretty chill, which is a bonus.
We take a seat at a booth near the entrance with Bert and Percy on one side, and me and Tevin on the other. A perky blonde cocktail waitress comes to greet us with a sparkling smile, eager to serve us. We order four shots: Bert—1800 Silver, Percy—Tanqueray, Tevin—Johnny Walker Black, and me, a Grey Goose. Perky-Smiling-Flirting-Blonde waitress leaves to fetch our drinks as we begin to scope the place out. It’s not long before Bert starts in on me about the plan, as usual.
“Zane, why’d you let this other cat set the time and place for the meet, anyways?”
I look him in the eye as I light a Camel, blowing smoke his way, which always pisses him off. I say, “Hell, I figured since we’re kind of at his mercy we might as well let him pick what he’s most comfortable with.”
“Makes sense,” Percy says between puffs on his cigar, “We don’t want this dude gettin’ all squirrelly on us.”
Bert looks away from me now and I follow his eyes to the sight of a lovely brunette sitting by herself at the bar. He says, “At his mercy, huh? We pull a job with this guy and we’re at his mercy?”
After making her way through a line of obnoxious frat boys lining up at the bar, our waitress returns with our four shots on a tray. “I’ve got this first round, honey,” I tell her, passing on starting a tab and paying her with a Jackson. “Keep the change.”
Flirting with us now, she says, “No wives or girlfriends, good looking crew like you four?”
“Yeah, you could say I’m available, sweetness,” Percy says with all his oafish creepiness, which thankfully she has the good sense to just laugh away.
“Yeah, we’re quite the crew,” I tell her. “You got Bert—short for Robert—over here, the token black guy who’s all business and attitude…” Bert glares at me like I stole his lunch money. “…and his unlikely, portly best friend Percy there who’s our resident psychopath,” Percy shoots me a scruffy scowl. “This affable fella to my left is Tevin who thinks being of Irish-Scot decent gives him the license to be a professional drunk,” Tevin gives me the two-bird special. “And last but certainly not least is my charming ass, the loudmouth Aryan bastard who will steal your heart. Gimme me five minutes, it’s a done deal.” I flash her my thousand watt smile.
She mocks us. “Ooh, you sure sound like quite the scary bunch,”
Bert says, “Darlin’, we’re just four scumbags tryin’ to stay outta trouble. And no offense, but beautiful women are trouble.”
“Shit, women in general,” Percy says with his raspy chuckle.
I thank her before she makes her way to another table, no doubt unimpressed by yet another bunch of scumbags at a pub. When I look back at the fellas I see Tevin’s got his panties all in a bunch. “What’s your problem?”
“Man, y’all are like women repellent,” he says. He’s being judgmental, as if there’s any hope in increasing his chances. Trust me, there isn’t.
“Calm down, Red Sox” Percy says, “we’re just entertaining.”
Out of the corner of my I catch the lonesome brunette at the bar looking our way. “Excuse me, gentlemen,” I say to my guys, “There’s a damsel sending out a brown-eyed distress call.”
What can I say? I’d much rather pass a couple of boring hours with a lovely dame.
Brandon L. Rucker has published a dozen short stories over the course of the last five years. Formerly an editor as well, he was the compiler/editor of the print anthology LOCAL HEROES. He’s back where he belongs now after an extended break from fiction to dabble more in journalism. He hails from Indiana where the summers are humid and the winters are increasingly unbearable. Cold weather and gray skies tend to make him rather grumpy. You wouldn’t like him when he’s grumpy.