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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Huston Charlie

«A Dangerous Man», Charlie Huston

sweet Virginia

at last


MONDAY, JUNE 20, 2005


I FIND THE GUY in the Laughing Jackalope just like they said I would.

I take a seat at the bar, order a seltzer and ask for a roll of quarters. I let the seltzer sit and start slowly dribbling the quarters into the video poker game built into the surface of the bar. I stare at the cards as they blip across the screen. I play a quarter a hand, flying in the face of the most basic rule of video poker that says you always bet the max. Quarter bets pay a bare fraction of the max bets. Hit a big hand on a quarter bet and you’re gonna feel like an asshole.

I hit a straight flush with a quarter once, paid 1,200 to 1. Sure enough, I felt like an asshole. Well that’s happened before and it’ll happen again.

The machine blips me a pair of jacks along with a nine, a ten, and a king. I pass on the even money the pair promises, throw one of the jacks and go for the inside straight. Deuce. I drop another quarter in the slot.

There’s only a handful of people in here. The guy; the bartender; a couple sitting on stools, feeding nickels to one of the slots; an old-timer nodding a bit at the bar; and the evening cocktail waitress straightening the tables and getting things set for the crowd that will come in when the shifts change across the street.

I keep my face in the game, sneaking peeks at the guy, keeping my hand next to my face, hoping no one notices the palm-size patch of white scar tissue around my right eye. I’d just as soon no one remembers that scar if the cops come around later. But really, I only have to worry about that if a body turns up.


I’M ON MY third roll of quarters and little has changed. The couple’s shifted from the slot machine to the jukebox, so now “Crazy on You” complements the blips of the poker games and the recorded come-on of the slots. The guy still hasn’t moved.

He’s been sitting at the far end of the bar, sliding C-notes into his own video poker game and going through them about as fast as I’ve been going through my quarters. Every fifteen minutes or so he throws back another shot of chilled Jager and bangs the glass on the bar, indicating the bartender should get his ass over there and give him a refill.

Back in the day, when I had to do that job, when my biggest worry was getting the drunks out the door before the sun came up, I’d never have put up with that shit. Someone banged a glass on my bar or snapped their fingers or something like that and they’d be sitting dry a long fucking time before I remembered they were there. This bartender is different, he’s working the day shift at the Laughing Jakalope for Christ sake, glasses banged on the bar are the last fucking thing he’s gonna raise a sweat over.

The bartender pulls the frosted green bottle of Jagermeister out of the cooler, fills the guy’s shot glass and puts the bottle back. The guy doesn’t even look at him, just keeps peering into the game screen, his credits rolling up and down as he scores on two pair here, three of a kind there; searching for a full house or a straight flush or even a royal.

There’s a blast of sunshine as someone opens the tinted front door and two drunk couples come stumbling in. They’re college kids, the boys in shorts and tank tops, their faces sunburnt except where their eyes have been raccooned white by their sunglasses, the girls in shorts and tube tops, skin tanned cancer brown, harsh bikini lines climbing up out of their stretchy tops and creeping around their necks. All of them are double-fisting plastic cups full of something bright blue and frozen.

The bartender looks down from the TV hanging above the bar. He’s been watching one of those behind-the-scenes shows; this one cracking the lid open on a reality show that teamed up stars from older shows that have already been behind-the-scened. He sees the cups the kids are carrying and shakes his head.

– Uh-uh, not in here, can’t bring outside booze in here.

One of the guys, his tank says DON’T DRUNK WITH ME, I’M FUCK!, looks at the drinks in his hands and back at the bartender, trying to connect the dots.

– What the fuck, man? We been carrying drinksh in and out of cashinosh all fucking day.

The other guy, his shirt says I’M WITH ASSHOLE and has an arrow pointing up at his own face, hoots.

– Been drinking all fuckin’ day! All fuckin’ day! Gonna drink all fuckin’ night! All fuckin’ night!

The bartender nods.

– Sure, just not those drinks in here.

Everyone’s watching now; the guy, the old-timer, the slot couple, the cocktail waitress. Asshole takes a couple quick sloppy steps toward the bar.

– The fuck, dude? Gonna drink!

Drunk Fuck grabs the tail of his shirt and yanks him back.

– Dude, no, sheck it out.

He drapes an arm over his buddy’s shoulder, spilling a little blue slush down Asshole’s arm, and whispers in his ear. Asshole listens for a second and then busts up.

– Yeah, yeah, dude, tha’sh it!

He straightens up and bows to the bartender.

– Yesh, shir, we will be pleashed to do ash you wish. Fuckin’ A.

He gestures toward the door and Drunk Fuck leads the way. Asshole pushes the door open and they turn into dark silhouettes against the fierce late afternoon sun. Asshole points out the door.

– After yoush.

Drunk Fuck bows.

– Shank yoush.

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