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Gary Lovisi
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dosomething.jpg
Art by John and Flo Stanton

Do Something About It!

 

A Vic Powers story

 

Gary Lovisi

 

 

          When Ronda called me she was angry and almost hysterical with rage.

 

          “That son-of-a-bitch has been up my ass too damn long now. This is the last time, Vic. I want you to do something. Straighten him out, once and for all!”

 

          I didn’t say anything, I’d heard this all before. Ronda was a pint-size young gal who had had it with some two-bit moron neighbor who was causing her all kinds of grief. She told me daily stories about how he’d tailgate her small Honda with his big truck down Gerritsen Avenue, terrorizing her when she came home from work, then parking in front of her house instead of his own. Annoying certainly, but not deadly. Your generic Brooklyn bigmouth with shit-for-brains.

 

          “You there, Vic?”

 

          “Yeah,” I said. “What do you want me to do about it, Ronda?”

 

          “What do I want you to do about it! Are you a freakin’ retard? I want you to kill the bastard! I know you’ve killed people before, and some of them a lot less deserving than this freak. I want him dead!”

 

          I laughed. “I don’t think I can do that.”

 

          “I can,” she said and there was no doubt at all in her voice. “I hate him.”

 

          We were silent for one very long second. Then the second was over.

 

          “Will you come over?” she asked.

 

          “Yeah, I’ll be right over.”

 

 

 

          It only took me fifteen minutes to drive from my rented dive in Canarsie to Ronda’s small one-family cottage in Gerritsen Beach. She lived alone in the co-called new section, cute tightly-packed homes and bungalows on narrow streets by the water. The whole place looked more like a scene from a New England fishing village mistakenly dumped into the ass-end of Brooklyn.

          I could see Ronda waiting in front of her house as I drove down the block. I saw there was only one parking spot, smack dab in front of Ronda’s house like it was Kismet or something, and I headed straight towards it.

 

          Out of nowhere a huge shiny black pickup made a screeching turn from the other corner, cut me off, and shot into the spot like I didn’t even exist.

 

          “What the fuck!” I shouted. Where the hell had he come from?

 

          The guy, your generic young muscle-bound moron-type parked in my spot and was about to get out of his truck when I pulled up beside him. Real close. My passenger side door was blocking his driver’s side door from opening. He was trapped in his truck, just where I wanted him.

 

          I lowered my passenger window. I looked at the big mook, trying to keep calm, wanting to keep it gentlemanly. I didn’t want to start trouble with the guy. I figured, with the deepest respect, I’d say, “Hey, fucking asshole, that’s my damn spot!”

 

Well, that’s what I wanted to say, instead what I said was, “Excuse me, I think you took my spot.”

 

The guy looked at me like I’d just arrived from Mars. His face twisted when he realized my SUV was blocking him from opening his door to get out.

 

“Fuck you!” he shouted. “Move your piece of shit out of my way!”

 

Well, this didn’t seem to be the proper attitude to take at all and I was about to tell him so when he jerked open his door, smashing it into my door.

 

Now I saw red.

 

He just laughed viciously, like the big jerk he was, not even caring about whatever damage he had done to his own vehicle. Muscle-bound morons can be like that –all hyped up on ego and testosterone. I saw he had an old guy in the cab with him, most likely his father, and it looked like the relic was already passed out drunk. It wasn’t even noon yet.

 

“You took my parking spot, now you smashed my door!” I shouted in disbelief.

 

“Too fucking bad! Now move off, asshole!”

 

I heard loud booms behind me and was amazed to see Ronda banging with her fists on the back of the guy’s truck.

 

I sighed, that Ronda, what a gal, she was always ready for trouble. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to calm her down, now that she was all revved up.

 

Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw another woman bolt out of one of the houses nearby and take Ronda down with a running tackle. Ronda was flung back and both women were on the ground, embroiled in a fierce fight on the small lawn in front of Ronda’s house.

 

This was all turning to shit way too fast for me. I moved my SUV forward away from the guy’s truck and double-parked up ahead. Then I got out and ran back to the two women to break up their fight.

 

I tried to find an opening where I could pull Ronda off the thin peroxide blonde. Ronda, while smaller, was a spunky angry little bitch and was beginning to beat the crap out of the other woman, I was kinda proud of her, but I couldn’t let her face a felony beef. I knew I had to stop this before it got too serious.

 

“Come on now . . . ladies . . .” I finally got a hold of Ronda and was about to pull her off the other woman when I felt a huge hand wrap itself around my arm.

 

“What the fuck!”

 

“Let them fight, asshole.”

 

It was Muscle-head.

 

I looked at him serious now, “Get your hand off my arm.”

 

“Make me.”

 

I smiled, ripping into the steroid-hulk and hammering him with my fists. He never knew what hit him. My knuckles smashed into his face and gut non-stop like a battering ram. His face was soon transformed into a bloody mess. In sixty seconds I had him on the ground and was knocking him senseless. He tried to fight back, but I wasn’t no kid or woman, which I presumed was his usual beat-down partner. He never expected the force and fury of my attack. I was so relentless, so quick, he never had a chance to get his breath, much less go on the offensive. My motto: “Never give an asshole an even break!”

 

Once he was down and out, I went over and pulled Ronda off the anemic blonde.

 

“Vic, let me finish her off!”

 

“Ronda, the poor girl’s got no teeth left, enough is enough.”

 

Ronda smiled. “I’m glad you came over, Vic. It’s always good to see you.”

 

“Yeah, it’s nice to see you again, too,” I said with a shrug. “Now that this shit is done with, why the hell did you want me to come here anyway?”

 

“You just did it.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Little Abner. Least ways that’s what I call him. You gave him a beating he won’t forget. Thanks, Vic.”

 

“My pleasure,” I said. “What about the wife?”

 

Ronda laughed, “Oh, Daisy Mae? She ain’t nothing. I can take care of her, myself.”

 

“You sure as hell did. I never realized there could be so many problems owning a home in this neighborhood.”

 

“You have no idea what I have to go through, Vic. No idea. I won’t even tell you about the problems with all the spoiled out-of-control kids and the stray cats. But the worst is Little Abner. I hate Little Abner.”

 

I smiled. Ronda could be like that sometimes. “I don’t think you’ll be having any more trouble with Little Abner and if you do I’ll be glad to come over and give him another attitude adjustment.”

 

“Thanks, Vic, you’re the best. I knew I could count on you to do something about it.”

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2009 by Gary Lovisi. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

stoopit.jpg
Art by Lonni Lees 2010

 

Stoop-It

 

 

Gary Lovisi

 

 

          Jack smacked me upside the head so hard I swore I could feel my eyeballs rattle inside their sockets.

 

Jack liked to smack. He was very good at it.

 

          “Wha-?” I stammered, confused. I was just happy to be out of my cage and working again with Jack.

 

          “Stoop-it!” He said it just like that, using separate words, ‘stoop’ and ‘it’.

 

          “Look, Jack, I know I’m stupid for loosing the cash and all . . .”

 

          I can be slow sometimes.

 

          We’d been doing jobs all along the East Coast, but it had gotten too hot so we decided – well, actually Jack decided – we’d take a trip out West and check out the lay of the land, as he put it. Plenty of young gash and green cash, he said, out in La-La-Land. So we took the plane ride – wow! – got a place, then Jack made calls to people he knew. The unsavory kind. Then he began to line up jobs for us.

 

          “Now listen to me, moron! Don’t be getting stoop-it like you were back East. This here ain’t New York City and don’t let the fucking palm trees fool you, the skells out here may have blonde hair and perfect tans but they’ll cut out your heart, eat it raw, and then shit it back out at ya before you ever know what hit you. You got it?”

 

          “I understand, Jack,” I said, trying not to be scared. Sometimes I think Jack told me stuff just to make me scared and then he’d laugh at me, but he wasn’t laughing now. I knew that he didn’t want me going soft in the head like I do sometimes. He told me I had to focus, pay attention to business and above all, remember the rules. The rules were important. I broke the rules when I lost all that cash the first time. Or was it the second time? I forget which. Jack gave me cash to take some place and someone took it from me, but Jack was always right there to surprise them. Then they were made dead and I was safe. That was our main rule. I always did just what Jack told me to do and he always came and made me safe. He rescued me. Jack was happy because he got his cash back from the bad man he had to pay.

 

          Thing is, Jack and me was partners in crime and partners in blood. He told me we were identical twins, meaning we looked so much alike no one could tell us apart – ‘cepting that I was the stoop-it one.

 

          Jack always told me I was a shit-for-brains, numb-nuts, brain-dead cretin. I used to laugh at them words because they sounded so funny when he said them. I didn’t even know what cretin was. But I wasn’t all that stoop-it and I was glad to have Jack to look after me. I called him my saving grace, like mama used to say before Jack made her go away. Jack did a pretty decent job looking after me even if he would loose his patience at times. I mean, I guess I deserved a smack now and then.

 

          Thankfully I had Jack to look out for me. He was real smart, so I knew I had it made.

 

          Out here in L.A. no one knew us and Jack said that was good. I shrugged, usually I agreed with Jack. After all, Jack was always right. A lot of times when he would work what he called a set-up, he’d have me come out and show myself, then the goons would all come after me. See, I was Jack as far as they were concerned and then Jack would slam the mark with a heavy hit. Down he’d go, deader than dead, never knowing what hit him. It worked good.

 

          Jack always kept me out of sight until he needed me. I had a room in the basement and he gave me a bed, and I even got a TV. I watch it all the time. Mostly cartoons. I love cartoons.

 

          I always knew we got a new job coming when Jack unlocked my room, then I’d hear him call out, “Hey, Stoop-it moron! Wake the fuck up! We got work to do!” Then he’d shave me, wash me, fix my hair, and give me new clothes to wear, clean clothes that didn’t smell bad and that I hadn’t made my business in, yet. When I was all cleaned up and dressed I looked exactly like Jack!

 

          You could not tell us apart.

 

          I liked that. I liked it when I looked like Jack. But I don’t think Jack liked me looking like him at all. He said he only tolerated it because we had a job to do and we got money for it. Jack got all the money, I never saw any but I didn’t care none. I didn’t need money and Jack said he needed money real bad.

 

          My part was always simple. Jack told me two, maybe four times already, made me talk it all back to him so I’d be sure I got it right.

 

          “The job,” I told Jack, thinking hard to remember it all correctly so I wouldn’t get smacked, “is let some people think that I am you. I pretend to be you and go where you tell me to, like some dumb-ass without a care in the world.”

 

          Jack nodded, holding his temper.

 

          I said, “I act . . . o-bliv-vi-ous?”

 

          “Know what that means, stoop-it?”

 

          “Ahhh . . .? I said. “Ahhh, Jack . . . ?”

 

          He smacked me upside the head. “Now pay attention, moron! It means, like you don’t know shit. Which you sure as hell don’t! Understand? I don’t know why I have to explain it to you every time we have a job. We always do the same plan. They’re gonna follow you, think you are me, so they can get the drop on you. When they do, I surprise them. Got it?”

 

          I said, “Yeah, Jack, sure, you surprise them.”

 

          I didn’t let on to Jack that I had no idea why we were doing these things, nor why we were out here in L.A. doing them. It didn’t seem right at all but I knew Jack was my saving grace and that he’d be there to help me if there was any trouble just like he always did.

 

 

 

          I walked to where Jack told me to, at a corner by an alley. I never saw anyone following me, but Jack said they’d be there. I didn’t care, I was acting o-bliv-vi-ous, just like Jack had told me to do. So I walked down Sunset and then cut into a dark alleyway. It was dark and quiet, real scary, and then I heard the footsteps behind me.

 

          There were two of them. Big guys and they looked mean. They already had their guns out. They walked closer and I tried to walk back away from them, pretending not to notice them as Jack had told me to do. I walked farther back but I was running out of alleyway. I was in a dead end.

 

          One of the men said, “This is great, almost too easy. Jack Rawlins, trapped like a rat, and now he’s going to die like a rat.”

 

          “Pretty damn stupid, Jack,” the other guy said, pointing his gun. “We figured you for better than allowing yourself to get caught in a fix like this, but me and the boys appreciate you making it so easy for us.”

 

          I got nervous. It looked like they were going to shoot me. I wondered where Jack could be. I knew they thought I was Jack, but I wasn’t! – but of course I couldn’t tell them that. Jack said that was against the rules.

 

          Finally I saw Jack by a window, looking down at me in the alley below. He was smiling, watching, but not doing anything. I saw him and knew that he saw me, but instead of him giving me the signal that he’d be coming down to help me, he turned his face away and closed the curtains.

 

          “Jack?” I whispered. “You’re my saving grace, I don’t know what to do without you.”

 

          The two men with the guns just laughed and came closer. I knew now they were going to kill me and that Jack was not going to come to my aid. Jack knew what was happening and he had turned his back on me. I could hardly believe it, and it hurt so much. I couldn’t figure why Jack had broken the rules and left me to die. I was in a panic when it all suddenly came to me. I had figured it out. Instead of Jack setting up these men for the fall, Jack had set me up for the fall, but why? “Why did you do it, Jack? That’s not right, you broke the rules!”

 

          “You have the wrong guy!” I blurted to the two men.

 

          They laughed, then aimed their guns at me.

 

          I had to think fast. I said, “You’ve gotta listen to me, Jack and me are twins, I’m his brother. I’m . . . slow. Jack uses me to . . .”

 

          They were on me now, shoving me to the ground, holding me down with their guns to my head.

 

          I shouted, “”We’re twins and Jack is here watching us. He thinks if you kill me, he’ll get away scot free. Look up there, at that window, you’ll see him watching us. Look, damnit! Look up!”

 

          One of the men did look up. I saw a strange expression come to his face, then he turned to his partner, “Joe, that rumor might just be true after all. I think I saw him, or someone who looked just like him, and just like this guy here. I’m going on up there and find out what the hell’s going on. I don’t wanna off some freakin’ retard and let Jack get away again.”

 

          The man named Joe got up and left, the other man stayed with me, keeping his gun to my head, telling me, “Now don’t be stupid, shut up and lay still.”

 

          I said, “I’m not stupid.”

 

          He smacked me in the head. “Shut up!”

 

          I said, “You smack just like Jack.”

 

          The man just looked at me then, said, “Damn, I guess it is true, twins, and a freakin’ retard at that.”

 

          I said, “I’m . . . slow.”

 

          Slow ain’t the word, buddy, now shut up.” Then he lowered his gun, “If what you say is true, you won’t get hurt.”

 

          I said, “Thank you, I don’t want to get hurt or made dead. I just don‘t know why Jack didn’t save me.”

          The man just shook his head. “See, we were after Jack in New York. Now if we thought you was Jack and we killed you, we would go back home and tell the boss that Jack was dead. Only Jack wouldn’t be dead, he’d be alive and safe from us being after him. You’d be the one who would be dead.”

 

          I stood frozen in panic as I realized Jack‘s plan for me. I didn’t like it at all.  Jack had broken the rules. Now I knew I had no choice but to break the rules too.

 

          I heard the shots from inside the building behind us soon afterwards. Then I heard a crash of glass and saw something fall down at us.

 

It was Jack. He was screaming but when he hit the ground he was quiet and still. He was bleeding.

 

          “Jack?”

 

          He coughed blood, tried to talk, said, “Damnit, I fucked up.”

 

          The other man ran away now and I went over to Jack. We were alone. I tried to help Jack. I held him in my arms and tried to wipe away the blood but it just kept flowing and I couldn’t stop it.

 

          Jack just kept mumbling but he couldn’t move.

 

          I said, “I’m sorry, Jack. It’s all my fault you’re going to die but what you did wasn’t very nice. You broke the rules. You were supposed to help me. Those men were going to kill me and you were going to let them!”

 

          Jack laughed, more blood gushed out of his mouth. I wiped it away. He said, “It should be you laying here instead of me, stoop-it. I’m the one that had a life and a future, not a shit-for-brains nothing retard like you.”

 

          That hurt. Jack could say some hurtful things sometimes. I just said, “Well, Jack, I may be the stoop-it one, but I ain’t the one that’s dying. Goodbye Jack, I don’t think I want to partner with you anymore.”

 

          Jack’s last words were, “Stoop-it! Stoop-it! Stoop-it!”

 

          But for the first time in my life they didn’t bother me because I knew Jack was talking about himself and not me.

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2010 by Gary Lovisi. All Rights Reserved.

 

 


fearofwinning.jpg
Art by Stephen Cooney 2013

For Fear of Winning

 

By

 

Gary Lovisi

 

 

          I scooped up my winnings. They was mostly union government greenbacks and gold coin, but someone had snuck in a useless Confederate Twenty which I certainly ignored. It didn’t matter at that point. I’d won and I was happy. I’d done a right proper job of cleaning these fellas out of all their money and was getting set to say my heartfelt good-byes.

          “Hold on there!” The guy with the black beard growled, I never did get his name.

          “You ain’t going nowhere, son,” the one named Taggert added harshly.

          I looked over at Taggert, then at the rest of the men in the room. They were as hard and grim a bunch as I’ve ever seen. Oh, ten hours or so ago, they was all jovial enough, laughing and drinking, drinking and backslapping as they told stupid jokes. Each one drunk and figuring he’d win a bit, lose a bit, go home none the worse for wear and a good time. Well, ten hours had passed and the alcohol had run out and left them a nasty bunch, but what drove them to their worst was that the game had drastically changed all their fortunes. Instead of them taking turns winning, losing and winning back, I’d won consistently through the night and with that last big pot, now I’d won it all!

          Of course I’d cheated.

          I used two sets of hidden dice. One loaded, one shaved.

          “The boy’s gonna give us a chance to win our money back,” Scanlon, a low-down gunman said meaningfully. “Ain’t you, boy?”

          I smiled. I thought it impolite to point out to them that they had no money left to wager with so as to win their money back.

          They awaited my response a bit too keenly.

          “I guess I could stake you some,” I said lamely.

          “Stake me!” Scanlon barked, hand on gun now. He looked highly insulted but what did he expect me to do about it?

          I shrugged, collecting my winnings.

          “I said you’re not going nowhere,” Taggert broke in leaving no doubt about his intentions.

          “I’m the winner, the game’s over,” I replied sternly, trying not to show my nervousness. “Now I’m going to get some sleep.”

          I heard the hammer of a pistol cocked back.

          “Sleep is what you’ll get for damn certain if you step away from this here table,” one of the other men said. I didn’t see his gun but I would bet that it was drawn and pointed at me from under his coat.

          That’s how it was. We was in Bonfiglio’s Barber Shop and Gambling Emporium. Haircuts done cheap and fast in the two-chairs up front – high-stakes craps thrown on the walled table in the back room. It wasn’t strictly casino and not exactly street gaming but it was busy enough and there was always good action and plenty of cash.

          I’d determined months ago to take them all with my crooked dice. I switched them off on the boys using hidden pockets in the lower sleeve of my heavy coat. That coat clinched it for me, because Bonfigio’s was a clapboard storefront with a busted stove tailor made for my shenanigans. Even when it worked that stove only heated the front of the store. The back room, in this particularly freezing cold winter weather was as cold as being outside, but without the howling wind. Smoke came out of all our mouths as we breathed or talked, mixed with cigarette and cigar smoke, half a dozen beer and liquor smells and the odor of various unwashed bodies.

          “You ain’t going nowhere…” Scanlon repeated, “…if you want to continue living.”

          “See, boy, we all know you cheated!” Taggert blurted it out plain as day and as sure as a game cock rooster.

          Well, that was it! It was said and out there now and I had to do something about it. Let me tell you, it was a tough situation to be in. Of course I protested loudly, indignant as all hell. Convincing enough so that a couple of the guys called for the dice off the table to do a check.

          Thank God I’d already palmed my loaded set and had them tucked safely away in the secret pocket—replacing them with the good dice now on the table.

          Bonafice Rogers checked the dice carefully and pronounced them good.

          That got a few of them thinking they might have been wrong. The guns went down but the ideas was flying high and fast, and ideas on this bunch could lead to trouble. That might mean a search—a search I could not allow.

          “Look, guys, suppose I stake you all,” I said fast. “We’re playing a friendly game and I want to keep it friendly. Let’s do one last toss of the dice. If I win, you let me go with my winnings. If I lose you let me go with what I got left after you take your winnings.”

          A few of the fellows nodded assent. They liked that idea. They said it seemed fair.

          Hell, it was more than fair, it was robbery!

          Taggert looked at me cold and hard, “Boy, if you win this round – you’re dead!”

          I swallowed hard, took the dice handed off to me by the stickman, who kept hold of the dice when not in use. He was a lax fellow who hadn’t paid close attention all night and that’s the reason I was able to palm the dice and make the switches so clean. Now, however, like all the others there he was wide alert, his eyes glued to my hand and the dice in them.

          I realized I’d gotten myself into one of those darn tricky and precarious situations for a cheat. I’d been too successful. Now, no matter what, I had to lose.

          I knew if I could make the change to the shaved or gaffed pair in my left sleeve I could game the table and ensure my loss—but I could never make the switch now. Not with them watching so closely. I’d have to use the good dice on the table—it would be just my damn luck that I’d win.

          And winning could be the death of me!

          As if to augment that danger in my mind I saw Scanlon and Taggert point their revolvers at me. Even old Bonfiglio the barber, placed a six-shooter on the ledge in front of him. I was afraid these boys was primed to go off and might start spraying hot lead any moment.

          This was the first time as a shooter that my life could be decided by one roll of the dice and I was nervous as a virgin in a whorehouse. I started to shake those dice hard, realizing that I might be playing craps for the very last time.

          I’d dumped about half of my ill-gotten winnings on the Pass line. Since none of the fellows had any money left it was arranged in advance that they would each take a 10% share of what was there if I lost.

          And I had better make sure I lost.

          I swallowed tightly and let go of the dice. They flew across the dirty felt and hit against the back table wall. My come-out roll was a Twelve, Boxcars, and thankfully I’d crapped out. Which meant that I had lost. I sighed gratefully. Losing never felt so good. Now, maybe I could get the hell out of here.

          Huge greasy paws raked in the winnings and it was doled out equally to the boys by Taggert and Scanlon. There was some confusion and antagonism but they were a happy crew, after all they had gotten their money back. Some like Scanlon and Taggert were getting more than they’d even come to the table with originally.

          I picked up the remainder of my cash ready to bolt out the back door.

          “Hey, where you going?” Scanlon blurted.

          “What?”

          “He said, boy, where the hell you going?” Taggert barked. “We ain’t done with you yet.”

          “Come on, fellas,” I said appealing to their sportsmanship and trying to keep it cordial, willing to put some backbone in my tone to let onto them that I’d had just about enough of their little game.

          Taggert pointed his Colt, “I know you cheated us. I don’t know how you pulled it off, but I know you cheated.”

          “That’s a damn black lie!” I shouted, as indignant and insulted as I could muster.

          “Then stand down for a search,” Bonfiglio said casually.

          I gulped. I couldn’t do that.

I said, “Why, that’s a downright insult. I swear I played fair and square, won my share rightly. I also note that I just lost a big pile of money, fairly too. You all took back a cut of my winnings. Bonifice checked the dice before my throw. He said they were clean. What more do you boys want?”

          I heard the meaningful sound of the hammer on another revolver pulled back. I felt a cold chill run through me.

          “What you’re planning to do is robbery…and bloody murder!” I barked, stammering as I got the words out, rage and fear fighting in my mind. That seemed to hold them off a bit, they wasn’t tried and true killers – least not most of them. Not yet. “You had your chance to win your money back and you won it. So leave me be. I’m going now.”

          “You gotta lose the rest,” Scanlon said seriously.

          I looked at him, then around at the other faces. They were all serious. “That’s all I got left.”

          “It’s either that or your life,” Taggert said sharply. There was no bend in his manner or attitude, he meant business. They all did. “Of course, if you can stand a search then maybe there’s no problem.”

          I couldn’t stand a search and he knew it. I kept my mouth shut.

          “I didn’t think so, boy,” Taggert replied with a wicked grin.

          The stickman, Bonifice, handed me the dice again, growling, “Shoot ‘em!”

          Taggert reached over and grabbed the rest of my cash from the table, all that was left of my winnings for the night. “Your choice where it goes down, Pass or Don’t Pass?”

          I shrugged, did it matter? Maybe it did, because if I shot and made a point I’d have to keep shooting and if I kept shooting I might just post an honest win. I figured that winning now, with these legit dice, couldn’t put me in any worse of a fix than I was in already. It might even set things on a new path. Leastways, that’s what I hoped.

          “Alright, place it all on the Don’t Pass line.”

          Taggert grinned wickedly and put the pile where I had requested.

          I blew on the dice once for good luck, which was all they’d allow me. Some pilgrims feel dice heated by a shooter’s breath can turn a trick or two when rolled. My one breath was just for luck, and only for luck, which is what I needed most right then.

          Then I let loose with the dice. They sprang across the felt tabletop, slamming into the backboard and rolling all over the field in opposite directions. My come-out roll was Snake-Eyes, a Two. I would have lost on a Pass line bet but with a Don’t Pass bet I’d have to shoot again now to make point. I rolled a second time and it was a Six. Six was the point so it came down to the fact that I needed a Seven to win.

          I took the dice in hand again for a third time.

          There was tension all around the table. I was sweating bullets and part of it was from the very possible fact that I might be feeling some real bullets soon enough.

          I needed a Seven, a Seven-out would end it for me and I’d be a winner. But what would the reaction be from the fellows here? Even if I won legit, they still might kill me. Some of them looked pretty mad. If I lost, they’d take all the rest of my money, and then probably kill me anyway. So, if I was a dead man regardless, I’d go out my own way with my own winnings. I decided to try and make the Seven-out.

          I shook the dice in my right hand. I was fearful of winning, I was fearful of losing. In the end I might get a bullet either way so what did it matter?

          “Come on Seven!” I shouted. Then I let loose with the dice.

          Those dice rolled like Mexican jumping beans, which was not a good sign. They rolled across the felt like rain off a beaver’s hide. Slick. Fast. When they stopped I saw a Four, and then as slow as molasses in summer a Three came up.

          “Alright Seven!”

          I’d made my point. I’d won the toss.

          I looked over at the hard faces of the ten men in front of me. I tried to ignore the shooting irons some of them still held out and ready. The hell with them! I’d won legit and I was going to collect my winnings and get out of there.

          I reached over to the pile of cash lying on the Don’t Pass line and grabbed it up.

          “I should drill you right now,” Taggert growled, none too happy.

          “He won, fair and square,” Scanlon admitted, lowering his piece. “That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

          Bonifice nodded, he checked the dice again. “They’re clean. He won it with honest dice.”

          “Of course I did,” I said, grabbing my money and stuffing it into my pockets.

          “Hold up!” Taggert shouted. I heard a revolver shot; I looked back in fear. He’d let a round go into the ceiling -- some wood splinters fell down onto the table. I gulped nervously, this wasn’t looking good.

          “I’m done and I’m going!” I demanded.

          “No you ain’t!” Taggert said and clicked back the hammer of his Colt. “The next one won’t be in the ceiling, it’ll be inside you.”

          I stood frozen. I stammered, “What the hell you want?”

          “You’re gonna stand for a search.”

          I looked around at the faces of the other men in the room. Most were ambivalent at this point but they were coming around at the prospect of some further entertainment at my expense.

          I was unarmed and had to think fast.

          “You shouldn’t have won that last toss,” Taggert added. “I left you an out and you didn’t take it.”

          “You left me an out!” I barked, “You call me a cheat, you force me to stake the table for two rounds, I lose the first one and you take half my winnings, then you want everything else I won. I won’t go for that.”

          “Put the money back on the table, roll the dice again, just against me, one last time,” Taggert ordered. “If you lose this time you get to walk out of here alive. If you win, you’re a dead man.”

          Well, this was just plain robbery now. It was also clear to me that I had to lose and lose fast. It was I versus Taggert. He had a gun trained on me and I was unarmed.

          The stickman passed me the dice with a wicked grin.

          I was beginning to hate this damn game. I was beginning to feel it might be the death of me yet.

          The men around the table were grinning widely, some drinking, laughing, placing side bets on whether Taggert would blow me to Kingdom Come or make me run out like a beaten whelp with it’s tail between it’s legs.

          “Come on, roll ‘em!” Taggert shouted impatiently.

          So I rolled ‘em -- flinging both dice as hard as I could right into Taggert’s eyes. He winced, got off a shot that went wide, then I was on him. In a flash I was pounding away at him for dear life until the other men grabbed me up and held me fast.

          “Let me go!” I growled. “Who the hell does he think he is!”

          “I don’t think so,” Scanlon said, looking around at the other men. “What should we do with him?”

          Taggert came close to me then, “I think I’ll shoot him dead. But first, he’s gotta stand for a search.”

          Then they held me fast and searched every inch of me and my clothing. Bonifice the stickman finally announced with some surprise and perhaps even remorse, “He’s clean. I mean really clean. No dice.”

          “See! I told you I was clean.”

          There was silence for a moment. Taggert had been so sure of his accusation but now there was doubt on his face also.

          I gave them my best self-righteous, told-you-so glare, showing disgust for each and every one of them, and damn if some of them even withered under my gaze. They knew now they’d been wrong.

“Thanks for the game fellas,” I barked out. “Now I’m leaving and I’m taking my winnings with me.”

          They were quiet so I got the hell out of there fast while the getting was good. I was on my horse and on the way out of town when I heard a thunderous howl of rage.

          I smiled, Taggert had found the two sets of dice I had planted on him.

          It wasn’t long before I was on my way into the next county and I wouldn’t stop running until I was into the next state. While I still have tremors about Taggert tracking me down to this day, I don’t get no more nightmares about the fear of winning.

 

 

END

 

Copyright 2013 by Gary Lovisi.

 

 

Gary Lovisi is an MWA Edgar nominated, and WWA Spur Award winning author, who is also the editor of Hardboiled and Paperback Parade magazines. His latest books include Sherlock Holmes; The Baron's Revenge (Airship21) and The Great Detective: His Further Adventures (Borgo Press), and forthcoming hard crime collection Attitude. You can contact him or find out more about him or his work at his website: www,gryphonbooks.com.

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