Thanks to Cormac Brown for hosting Friday Flash Fiction.
Thief and Friends
In matters of life and death, one could not forever rely on the judgment of his fellow man. This fact of uttermost importance dawned upon me as I watched an innocent man die.
* * *
Quentin Landry shuffled a worn deck of cards and slapped it on the center of the table.
“Your cut,” he said, and I lifted a fat part of the deck, watched him turn over a two of spades. “Stick a fork in me,” he groaned.
He looked at the board, shrugged. “At least I won't get skunked. Even when you play cards, you can't stop being a thief.”
I laughed. The mountain of chips to my left said it all. We'd been four when we started playing cribbage, a little more than two hours ago. I'd gone on a tear, and both men, friends of Quentin introduced to me as Klein and Paco, were washed out before the beer got warm.
They left, pissed. I had trouble making new friends. Sue me.
“Went to see Leary today,” I told Quentin as he dropped a five of hearts.
I threw down a ten and advanced my peg two spots. “Man should put up a sign in the place, says Fuck first, ask questions later. I had a nice ring. Diamonds. Took it from this place, owner's gone to Greece or something for the winter. Won't know it's gone before Easter.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the stunning figure of Lisa Potter. Her flowing red hair bounced on her shoulders as she strutted down the stairs, one fine hand gliding along the rail, the other holding a half-full snifter.
“Worth at least ten grand, I'm sure,” I continued while Lisa dropped into an oversized leather chair. “Bastard wouldn't give me more than two.”
My eyes settled on Lisa's bare thigh, plump and tanned, revealed by the slit in her skin-tight dress. She'd just come home from one of Landry's night clubs, an upscale joint where she worked in the VIP lounge as a hostess.
Seven of spades on the table. “Twenty-two,” Landry said. “Ain’t personal. Leary's been rough on everyone. Cops dropped in a couple of weeks back, took a long look at his place. Turned everything upside down, came up empty. Now, he's afraid IRS are coming to finish him off.”
I peeled my eyes off Lisa and returned my attention to the cards. I threw down a nine, called, “Thirty-one for two,” and moved my peg two spots closer to victory.
“He'll have more to be afraid of than the IRS if he keeps this up,” I said.
We counted cribs, and the game was over.
“That's it for me,” Landry said as he stood and walked over to Lisa. He kissed her on her forehead, and grabbed the snifter. “Had a good night?” He took a long sip.
Lisa nodded. “Busy. Jim had some trouble with a couple of italian kids, but other than that, it was calm.” She took her glass back. “Check your e-mail. Luke's pissed about something Parker did.”
“Fucking kids, I tell you,” Landry sighed, before making his way to the staircase. He stopped and turned to me. “Shall I talk to Leary?”
I shook my head. “I'll see what I can get on the internet.”
He shrugged and started up the stairs.
After he had disappeared, I stood and pocketed the chips. Landry never kept cash around, so we used chips from his casino. All we had to do was have them changed the next time we were in, and we'd a get a nice cheque written out, minus a ten-percent cut for the house. No questions asked. Perfect.
Lisa glared at me from the couch. “You fleece them again?” she asked.
I shrugged. “They're grown men who should know what they're doing.”
Her full lips curled up into a smile and she showed two rows of perfect teeth. “They should know a thief never stops thieving, right?”
She sipped from her glass, her bright eyes looking at me over the rim.
“We should talk,” she said.
My heartbeat picked up. I wasn't sure I was in the mood for the conversation she wanted to have. “Listen, if it's about the other night—”
She tapped the cushion next to her. “Sit.” Her expression turned somber, so I obeyed.
I could feel the warmth of her body, could smell her sweet perfume. I shoved aside the lusty thoughts cramming my brain.
“It's not as pleasant, I'm afraid,” she explained with a shy smile.
I waited for her to continue.
“Nick Ross was in here the other night. He and Quentin had a few beers while I cooked. I heard everything they said.”
She set her empty glass on the glass, but wouldn't look up at me.
“What'd you hear?” I asked after she had stared at her bare feet for too long.
She swallowed, kept her head down.
“Nick got a contract. A hit. Nick asked Quentin if he should take it.”
Intriguing. Nick Ross was a veteran hitman. I'd heard many stories about him over the years. For him to ask for anybody's opinion was beyond weird.
“What did Quentin say?”
“Said, considering who the target was, he had no opinion.”
“Who is it, Lisa?”
She swallowed again, looked away. Her next word was barely above a whisper, so I had her repeat.