The Bad-Ass Bet
It was sheer luck I ran into that slippery bastard Gambler Pete at Hannigan’s Pub and I couldn’t let it go. Been at it too long, been trailing him for years. Bastard was always two steps ahead. Never even seen his ugly mug up close until that fateful night.
It was my one shot. I had just what I’d do. Everybody knows Gambler Pete don’t turn down a nasty bet if you’re talking real big-boy stakes. It’s how he gets his blood pumping. Only I prayed he’d hear me out to start with, because those goons were packing 38’s in their jackets. And Barry “Swiss Cheese” Fitz, he was there too. He sprays you full of holes then runs you over with his truck till you’re just about flat. Nice guy.
“If it ain’t Petey O’brien,” I said as I took off my straw fedora and placed it on the poker table sticky with beer.
Pete did a double take like in the movies. Reaching into his shirt for his knife, alarmed, he said, “Who the hell let this bald sonofabitch in here?”
I drummed my fingers over the starched crochet fedora I’d bought only an hour earlier at the boardwalk. “Wearin’ a hat today, Petey, on a whim. Never knew that’s all I had to do to get this close to ya,” I tried to sound confident but I was shaking in my shoes. Already had two barrels pressing cold into my neck and back.
“You got big balls, Cop,” said Pete. He gave a look to Cheese. Cheese smiled, took a step closer.
Quickly, still cool, I said, “I hear you don’t turn down a bad-ass bet.”
Pete straightened a little. His face changed like when you switch a television channel and there’s another face. He smiled, delighted. “Maybe, maybe not. What’s the stakes?”
Only one thing about wagering with Pete—you don’t renege. He’ll get you, give you a hurtin’ you won’t believe. Anyone you care about too.
“You and me,” I said. “I win, you come to the station with me. No problems.” This didn’t faze him in the slightest. Rather the opposite—I swear the sick s.o.b. started to salivate. His eyes were bubbles about to pop. I remember how my heart raced. I thought, It’s do or die! Gamblin’ Pete had become my life and career, and if I wanted him I knew it’d take some real balls. And no guarantees either way.I said, “You win? I retire, I leave law enforcement forever. Just like that. And with me gone, life’s easy for you.”
The smile was frozen on Pete’s face like he couldn’t believe what he heard. “Back off, Cheese. I like these stakes.” And so I cut the deck and we played a hand.
And that is why I now manage Denny’s store #2234 on Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles.
For some more practicallyserious “noir” action, check out this flash-fiction story!