Double or Quits
by Derek Paterson
Malone searched his jacket pockets, inside and out. Then his pants. Nope, they were all empty. He sighed. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't work. Tonight it hadn't. He'd learned to be philosophical about it, although he would have appreciated having the price of a cup of java. Just as he was about to unlock his car door and head on home, a voice behind him called out, "Hey, Lucky!"
He turned around in time to meet a fist the size of a ten pound coffee can. Malone experienced a wonderful moment of weightlessness, then he opened his eyes and found himself looking up at the prettiest girl he'd ever seen, a blonde with her hair piled high on top of her head. She wore a black sleeveless dress and long gloves like she was going to the opera. His head lay upon the soft pillow of her lap.
"Are you an angel?" he said. He wasn't sure if he said the words right. His jaw hurt and his tongue felt too big for his mouth.
She looked down at him and the light angle altered her appearance. She was good looking, all right, but there was ice in her eyes as she studied him like an insect under a microscope. She was either a good girl turned bad... or she'd always been bad. They were together in the back seat of a moving car. She said, "Hey, Frankie, our boy's awake." She flicked cigarette ash onto Malone's face. "Rise and shine, honey." She helped Malone to sit upor rather, she pushed him away and then elbowed him sharply in the ribs when he started to sway back.
"I must be losing my touch," the big guy who filled the front passenger seat said. He looked back over his shoulder. Hard eyes peered out from underneath a ridge of healed scar tissue. The guy with the coffee can fists. "Okay, here's how it is. You keep quiet and behave yourself, maybe you'll live to see tomorrow. Tell me you understood what I just said."
"I understood what you just said," Malone said.
"That's a good boy," the blonde said. She patted his thigh like he was a pet. "You know, you've lived up to your name already. Frankie used to be a contender. Some of the guys he met in the ring didn't get up again."
"I could'a maybe won a trophy, but they took my license away," the big man said.
"That's a cryin' shame," Malone said. He stared at the blonde. "Any chance you snatched the wrong guy?"
She chuckled. "You wish."
"What do you want me for? What did I do?"
"It's what you're gonna do, honey."
The car turned into a wide driveway that led to a big house with palm trees and a pool, the kind of house Malone had always dreamed of living in. Only he didn't want to live in this particular house because he knew who owned it.
"That's right, honey." She was watching him closely. "Jimmy the Nose wants to see you. You be sure and make a good impression, now. Oh, and let me warn you. Jimmy don't like smart mouths."
Malone knew for a fact that was true. Jimmy the Nose was king of the gambling rackets on this side of the river. Rumor had it he was spreading his wings, muscling in on neighboring territories. The city morgue had been doing good business for a while now. Some of the victims had their noses cut off and their tongues cut out, which was a sure sign they'd said something to displease Jimmy the Nose.
The car stopped and Frankie got out. He opened the blonde's door and offered her his hand. She stubbed her cigarette out on his palm and climbed out by herself. Frankie smiled crookedly, shaking his head. He beckoned to Malone. Malone slid across the seat, got out and walked inside after the blonde. Frankie brought up the rear.
Jimmy the Nose kept a nice place. Tasteful statues and pictures decorated a living room big enough to host a baseball game. The blonde sat down on one of the black leather couches and crossed her long legs. Malone couldn't help but look. She smiled, letting him know she liked him looking. Frankie stood by the door, his hands clasped in front of him, his expression blank. Malone could live or die here tonight and Frankie wouldn't give a damn one way or the other.
End of sample.