LET'S MAKE A DEAL
by Scotch Rutherford
The Glitz Bus ran twice a day, Anaheim to the Neon City. It was a four and a half hour trek, and at $69.95 round trip with comps included, it was a real steal. There was always a 60 minute window between the arrival of the junket dropping off, and the one picking up. Most of the clientele were elderly, and filed into the coach a half hour early, so it was always within ten minutes of the top of the hour that the west bound driver received the cash on delivery.
Leon Diggs watched as a non-descript elderly gentleman loaded the black rollaway bag into the side luggage compartment of the coach. The old man walked away as the driver snapped the luggage bay shut. As the driver entered the coach, he felt the cold steel hard pressed against the back of his head near the brainstem.
“Hit the release switch for the luggage bay, or you’ll be staring at your brains on that dash.”
The driver hit the switch, and Leon nodded to his partner Jesse; both were wearing trucker hats and sunglasses. Jesse grabbed the rollaway bag and checked it; black on the outside, green on the inside. He didn’t count it, but to him it looked like 40 grand. Leon kept the barrel on the driver, as he backed away.
“Don’t turn around.”
Then he and Jesse made their escape. But even after he knew they were gone, the driver didn’t reach for the phone, or call for help. He didn’t dial the PD or anyone else; he didn’t have to.
Leon sat comfortably in his Lazy Boy recliner in front of the TV watching Let’s Make a Deal, as he cleaned his father’s Navy issue Colt .45, nursing a cold Bud Lite. He watched Wayne Brady call on a platinum blonde in a devil costume.
“Now you’ve got $400 right now, or you can let it ride on what’s behind door number two.”
“I think I’ll take the 400 bucks, Wayne.”
“Stupid cunt”, Leon grunted.
His father had been a long time fan of the show since back when Monty Hall had the helm, and they’d never missed an episode. 5 out of 10 times people would take the money.
“Anyone with a pair of balls knows they’ve got a 50/50 chance, so it’s worth a shot”, his old man would say. Half the time they’d end up with a lifetime supply of Turtle Wax, the other half would win a new car, or a Carnival cruise.
“Let’s see what’s behind door number two”, Brady said.
“It’s a full size custom Airstream RV, complete with a 5 day 4 night stay at The Sunset by The Sea—south coast Florida’s premier luxury RV park”, rattled off the announcer to the blonde devil’s dismay.
“A Florida trailer park by the sea—that’s one way of finding oil”, Leon chuckled to himself.
“Baby, that’s where we need to live. It’s a decent place to raise a family”, Luanne said.
She was prego. Only eight weeks, but on her tiny frame it was already starting to show. It had happened the night he’d finally hit her button—three days later, she was late. Leon had been her first. They’d hit it off right away, when her step dad; Leon’s cousin Jesse had introduced them. At the time she was far from legal; but Leon had done the right thing, he’d put it in her ass all the way up to her 16th birthday.
“Rent’s due in three days. Teddy upped it to twelve hundred”, Luanne said.
Teddy Bixby had doubled the rent park-wide at the King’s Court Mobile Home Park. For most people it wasn’t worth it to pay through the nose for a park-owned trailer on a poorly maintained lot. People were packing up daily, and the park numbers were down to a single digit retention rate. This had weighed in heavy on Leon’s mind. Not to mention that his Chevy S10 pickup had been repossessed and he’d been stuck driving Luanne’s shit box Dodge Neon. Luanne was a sweet kid, but sometimes she didn’t know when to shut the fuck up.
“Shut up, will ya? I told you I got it covered. Fuckin’ inbreeder”, Leon said.
“Fuck you, you fucking piece of shit”, she snarled, slapping his wrist, almost knocking the .45 out of his hand.
Luanne had indiscreetly given her cousin a blowjob on his 18th birthday.
“I told you that wadd’nt even sex—I can’t believe you brought that up.”
It was time to go.
It felt good to get out of the house. Leon’s trailer didn’t have AC, and August in The Neon City was no joke. The Fresh Produce section at Albertson’s was a nice escape. His shopping cart glided smoothly between isles of fresh fruit, until it ran into the bottom of an expensive sole of Italian design.
“Leon, what’s crackin’ homes?”
Frets Findlay was a grifter and a knee-capper, who worked for the designer dope man himself, Max Castle. Leon made like he didn’t know, but he knew.
“Who the fuck are you?”
“Tough guy, huh”, barked a foul breathed chicone with a clean shaven head, four inches from Leon’s face, as he knuckled onto the side of the shopping cart. He had cold dark eyes, like a shark’s, sporting jailhouse ink, and looked fresh out of Warm Springs.
“Chill Diablo, Leon’s just a little confused”, Findlay said, leaning in over the front of Leon’s shopping cart. You owe a certain associate of my employer some money. Does the name Ray Copperhead mean anything to you?”
“Copperhead’s dead”, Leon said.
“But your debt ain’t. It dies when you do, not him. Max handles all Ray’s action now—and don’t even start with that Max who stuff. And Leon, you can forget about those bullshit two points—it’s now 5 percent. You got five days before we come around looking for payment,” Findlay said, as he backed away from the cart.
“Maricon”, Diablo barked four inches from Leon’s ear, rattling his cart.
“That’s what being a gambling junkie will get you, before two broken knees”, his old man would say. Leon was glad his old man wouldn’t be around to see that.
Luanne figured winning the bingo tourney at the Holy Christ Church in Henderson was the best way out of their financial problems. At least, for the ones she knew about. Leon had other plans. Luanne was a devout member of the church congregation, and was a lot more comfortable committing sin in God’s house, rather than inside a casino, or out on the street. Leon was indifferent.
Luanne sat directly behind her lucky treasure trolls, amidst a sea of blue hairs, pounding her daubers to paper; sometimes three sheets a game, for nearly four hours, until she watched some tweaker beat her and the geezers for just under two grand. Leon had seen enough, and was already outside. He thought about Findlay, and how he’d gotten the name “Frets”; clocking roulette wheels, until the boys got wise. This was back in the 80’s, before it was all corporations—so he walked away with his record untouched, and a broken hand. Then Leon thought about all the other goldbrickers that ran a gambit on the so-called above board houses that shafted the everyday sucker, and how all those grifters had gaffed the slots and the table games and gotten away with it. There were more than a few that had dodged Gaming Control, and the Leviathan Black Book. But none of them, none of them had taken a shot at bingo.
“How ‘bout I just end your miserable life right now”, Leon said, jamming his father’s Korean War issue Colt .45 against the tweaker’s frail ribcage.
The guy was a three time loser, and more crooked than any cop in Clark County, so no mask was needed.
“Hand it over.”
“What the fuck man, I just won this fair and square.”
“Fuck it”, Leon said, as he cocked the hammer.
“Okay, okay—listen, I got the 411 on a serious fuckin’ score, man.”
“There’s this gambling junket out of Anaheim—”
The tweaker laid it all out. Leon lowered the .45 and listened.
“Now that’s a good fuckin’ tip on a score. C’mon man, let me keep half.”
“Fuck you. Hand it over, you junkie piece of shit”, Leon said pressing the barrel of the .45 against the tweaker’s sternum. Leon took the bankroll, and slipped it into his pocket, still holding the pistol firm. “Now hand over your stash.”
That night they ate dinner in silence. Luanne was still worried about the rent, and Leon was yet to share the news of his new found wealth. He waited until she was in the bedroom, with the door shut, and the light out, before he stepped outside, took out his cell and dialed up Luanne’s old man; his cousin Jesse. They arranged to meet at Terrible’s Town Bowling Alley and Casino off Boulder Highway.
“Forty grand—are you sure?”
“That’s the average. Sometime’s there’s more.”
“They’re running powder out of a fuckin’ junket—are you sure?”
Jesse watched Leon’s ball roll down the lane, almost veering off into the gutter, before righting itself.
“No, but that shit bag tweaker I rolled told me how it’s gonna go down. The way I see it, if a lone geezer puts a single rollaway bag in the luggage bay of the outgoing Junket, 50 minutes before it boards; then we move on it”, Leon said, nailing a strike.
“Well shit, it’s worth a case I guess. But right now, I need some of that high elevation you promised.”
“I got your lift ticket right here, cuz”, Leon said, slapping his pants pocket. “So where’s my snow bunny? I’m not tryin’ to hit the slopes without getting my cock sucked.”
“Hey, can I bowl a frame?” chirped an adorable teeny bopper in skin tight jeans, and what looked like a belly shirt spray painted over her perky breasts.
“See, what’d I tell you?” Hey cutie, where’s your friend?” Jesse asked.
“She got grounded”, the teeny bopper replied.
“Yeah, she still in high school”, she said talking in that homey slang, the way most white girls her age did.
“Oh, but you’re past that, right?” Leon asked, ogling her c-cup bust.
“Actually, I dropped out. And Jes,” she said, turning to him, “If it’s all the same to you, I kept her half, so I’m down to blow his horn, while you tailgate me”, she said, before her lips curled into a shit eating grin.
“Here that? Jesse said. “She’s down to play bumper cars.”
“In that case, we’ll flip to see who gets to rear-end her first.”
Jesse met Leon at The Eiffel Tower Experience, in front of The Paris hotel, half a block down from a place they called The Four Corners; where the Flamingo met the strip. Jesse pulled up in a Honda Prius he’d stole out of Long Term Parking at McCarran Airport.
“Put these on”, Jesse said, as they waited at the light, handing Leon a trucker hat, and a pair of wrap around shades.
The vast front lot at The Mandalay Bay hotel always had heavy traffic rushing in and out, especially mid-day, when congestion was high. Once they found The Glitz Bus junkets, Jesse pulled into a space with a great vantage point of both the glowing chrome shuttles, from behind tinted glass.
“Here we go”, Leon said, glancing at his watch “It’s ten past.”
They watched the elderly courier step out of the incoming junket, and walk the black rollaway bag up to the luggage bay of the outgoing shuttle.
“That’s our cue”, Leon said, re-tucking the .45 under his un-tucked tee shirt. Jesse pulled up close enough to make a quick escape, as Leon dashed out the passenger side to make his move on the driver. The junket driver snapped the luggage bay shut as Leon power walked in his direction. When he stepped back on the coach, Leon followed, jamming the .45 against the back of the driver’s head.
Jesse heard the loud snap of the luggage bay release, and quickly moved in to snatch up the rollaway bag. He checked it for cash, and gave Leon the nod.
“Easy money”, Jesse said, as Leon dove into the passenger side.
“This is a great tune”, Leon said, as Jesse peeled his trucker hat, and gunned the yellow light.
They both were surprised at how smoothly the whole thing had gotten off, as they tore out of the lot onto Vegas Blvd South, to the FM sounds of Molly Hatchet’s Flirtin’ With Disaster.
Jesse dropped Leon off at The Last Chance car lot at the crossroads, where Blue Diamond crossed the 15, then drove off to ditch the Prius. Leon picked out a pristine cream colored ’68 Continental. It was puff, and the dealer wanted 100 yards.
“Make it 95 hundred. All I’ve got is cash.”
Leon picked up Jesse a couple miles down the road, a few blocks from where he buried the Prius.
“68 Continental”, Jesse said, and remarked on the suicide door, before it slammed shut behind him, the way a car door should. “This thing rides smooth. You should have gotten a Caddy, though. They’ve got a better cruise.”
“Don’t start with me”, Leon said.
“What are you doin’?”
“Gotta make a call”, Leon said, pulling to the curb. “No cell phones.”
He pulled out a powder white business card from the bottom of his pants pocket, lifted the receiver, and punched in the numbers.
“Oh, hello Leon. You better not be calling about an extension.”
“Nah, I got the whole thing.”
“The whole five percent?”
“No. the whole thing. The principle and the interest.”
There was a pause on the other end.
“Oh yeah? How soon?”
“As soon as you want it.”
“You know The Key Club on the north side?”
Leon and Jesse snorted some dust, and took a long ride through the desert to kill time. But no matter how smooth the cruise, or how high he got, Leon just couldn’t take the edge off. Not to mention he’d been backed up since the day before.
“You look like you’re wound pretty tight. You want me to go in with you?”
“Nah, I got it covered”, Leon said, pulling the .45 from his waistband, and dumping it in the glove box. “Just leave it running. I’ll be back in 20 minutes.”
He recognized the doorman when he walked in. “Diablo, right? I’m here to see Frets.”
Diablo patted him up and down, and Leon thought he spent a little too much time frisking his ass.
“Looks good to me”, Diablo said, tipping his head to the right. “In there.”
Leon walked past three topless dancers gyrating mindlessly to electronica; meeting Frets Findlay on the opposite side of the tri-corner stage. He sat coolly in a leather upholstered booth, with bling around his neck and ice on his fingers, sucking an oyster off a half shell.
“Leon, my man. Whatchu got for me?” he said with a smug grin. Bronze tanned with a high forehead, Findlay had the kind off off-white look that could’ve passed him off for anything, with beady black eyes that narrowed when he smiled. Leon figured him for Filipino.
“I’m impressed Leon’, Findlay said, counting the kale, as Leon laid the scratch on the table. “Looks like it’s all here”, he said, digging back into his plate of half shells, without looking up.
Leon held out his hand. Findlay raised an eyebrow when he glanced up at it.
“So this is it—I’m square, right?”
“You certainly are”, Findlay said with a snicker, and shook Leon’s hand. “Come back any time. Your credit’s always good here”, Findlay said, as Leon headed for the door.
Paying Findlay off should have been a relief, but Jesse could see Leon was still backed up like the Hoover Dam, as he slumped into the passenger side.
“I know what you need”, Jesse said, as he pulled away from the curb.
That night Jesse hired the same teeny bopper he and Leon had double tapped the night before, but this time she brought a friend. They hit the Motel 6 by the airport, and set up pretty maids in a row, snorting line after line until they ran out of coke; passing the teen pros back and forth between them.
It wasn’t until the next morning that Leon realized he’d started to come down. His eyes were heavy, and the fatigue from being up two nights running had set in, as he stumbled from the car back to his trailer on lot 142. As he struggled with the lock, he realized his appetite was back, and he was ready to move his bowels. He tossed the rollaway bag with what was left of his half of the 40 grand in the stand up closet by the door, and headed for the porcelain throne.
No sooner had he gotten his pants around his ankles and pressed his ass to the seat, the bathroom door was flung open.
“You were out all night.”
Here we go, Leon thought. Since she’d been pregnant, Luanne practically never left the house, and never dressed past a pair of panties under one of Leon’s undershirts. Her eyes kept a serious pitch, but her mouth curled into a disarming grin.
“You won a jackpot didn’t you?”
Leon was tongue tied.
“I knew it. You gonna drive us to Florida in your new car with all that cash you got in the closet, aren’t you?”
“That’s the plan. And who knows, maybe we’ll make it official—maybe I’ll start screwing you straight”.
To that tune Luanne peeled Leon’s undershirt, letting her perky D-cups breath, before she got down on her knees, taking Leon’s length into her mouth. Soon after that Leon felt the ultimate release. As soon as he felt regular—he went, and at the same time he came; her little head bobbing furiously under his palm. And she swallowed it all down as Leon moaned. Then he reached for the TP.
Hours later Leon awoke in his recliner to more of the same. Then Luanne zipped up his pants, wiped her chin, and brought him a cold beer.
“Take this over to Teddy”, Leon said, pulling the wad from his pants. “We’re gonna need another month to sort things out before we go.”
Luanne took the cash, slipped on a pair of flip flops, and left to pay the rent without any questions.
Leon waited for the front door to slam before he cracked open his beer. For once, the place was quiet, and so were his thoughts. He’d only managed one sip of his Bud Light, before Let’s Make a Deal came on. He put down the beer, and picked up the phone.
“I need your half of the money.”
“You’re still high, aren’t you?” Jesse said.
“Look, you trusted me before.”
“Jesus fucking Christ—”
“Look, Findlay’s tapped into you know who—we can triple our money. The stuff’s so primo it’s gotta be cut three times before sale.”
There was silence on the other end.
“Did I lose you?” Leon said.
“I’ll be over in the morning. No guarantees though.”
After Luanne made dinner, Leon took a ride. He drove Boulder Highway, until he found the closest roadside payphone.
“It’s Leon. I want to make a deal. I’m interested in a diamond.”
“You’re interested in a diamond?”
“I’ve got half karats, one karats—what are you looking for?”
“One karat—okay, the price is 3-4”
“All I’ve got is 2-53”
“It’s flawless—the price is 3-4”
“You said I’ve got good credit”
“After 24 hours—you’ve got some balls—you—”
He could hear someone call to Findlay in the background, then a slight rumble as the mouthpiece of the receiver was muffled. Leon waited.
“Hey, 2-53 is fine. Remember where you met me the other day?”
“Be there same time tomorrow. It’s a go. Okay buddy, see you then.”
Buddy? Leon wondered why Findlay had become so chummy. 2-53 was wiretap code for 25 and three zeros. And as much as he wanted to put a ring on Luanne’s finger, the diamonds were Max Castle’s premium synthetic mother of pearl; so in essence, the best cubic zirconia money could buy. Now all he needed was Jesse to come through with the money.
It was early Monday morning when Leon heard the loud knock at the door, and his heart jumped out of his chest. Then he glanced at the alarm clock; it was 8:35. It couldn’t be the cops, the dawn patrol always showed up before 6 AM. He slid on a pair of pants, and pulled the .45 from the night stand, and made his way to the door. When he looked through the peep hole, he saw three ruggedly built cholos he’d never seen before. Leon cocked the .45, holding it at the ready, parallel to his thigh, pointed at the deck. Before he could ask, the guy closest to the door held out a jumbo Ziploc of powder, stating his business without a word. Luanne appeared in the bedroom doorway, looking like she usually did.
“Go put on some clothes, hon. We’ve got company.”
Leon un-cocked the .45, and slid it into his waistband, then pulled his un-tucked tee over it, obscuring the weapon.
“You guys friends of Findlay’s?” Leon said, with the door open about halfway.
“Yeah man”, replied the guy with the jumbo Ziploc.
“I wasn’t supposed to meet him ‘til tonight”, Leon said.
“He goin’ out of town, so he told us to come early. Catch you before you left for the day. You still interested?”
Leon thought about it
“Yeah. I don’t have all the money just yet, but you’re welcome to wait inside.”
The guy with the powder introduced himself as Octavio, as he perched a pair of red lens sunglasses over a head full of sun browned black hair tied back in corn rows. He didn’t offer the names of his two associates. One looked stoic behind big framed sunglasses that hugged his face like a windshield, the other had crazy eyes when he half-smiled revealing a mouth full of gold teeth.
Leon offered Octavio a seat on the sofa closest to his Lazy Boy recliner, as he sat down. The other two took seats without being offered. Leon heard the hum of a phone on vibrate, then fished around in his pocket for his cell.
“Must be yours”, he said, as Octavio pressed his Blackberry firmly against his ear.
As he listened intently to the party on the other end, Octavio gestured with a chin bob to the guy with the gold teeth, as Leon glanced out the window in the opposite direction. The guy with the gold teeth asked to use Leon’s bathroom, and Leon pointed him towards the back.
“When can we expect your friend?” Octavio asked.
“He said morning, so I assume any time now.”
“Look what I found”, Gold Teeth said, with the barrel of his 9mm tight against Luanne’s cheek.
Leon felt his heart jump, then a driving pressure in his temple, as Sunglasses jabbed his 9mm up against it, and cocked the hammer.
“Whatchu got?” he said, patting Leon down before pulling the .45 from his waistband
Then he and Gold Teeth zip tied Leon’s ankles and wrists to his Lazy Boy recliner.
“I’m only gonna ask you once, you little white cunt”, Octavio said to Leon with a steel trap glare, before glancing over at Luanne. “Where’s our money?”
“Your cousin got more of that same bullshit. We ain’t after no bullshit. They sweatin’ my boy over at the bank right now over your bullshit.”
The little tweaker must’ve tipped the junkets off. Should’ve let the little junkie keep his stash, Leon thought.
“Now look, if you got someone you can call, if you got some of the real deal stashed somewhere—you better let us know right now.”
“Look, we put down a score—I didn’t know it was fake. I know better than to pay you guys back with phony bills. C’mon, you gotta believe me—I didn’t know”, Leon said.
“But you know what’s gonna happen next, don’t you?” Octavio said, as Sunglasses peeled a 9 from his waistband. Luanne shrieked as she watched him blast both Leon’s kneecaps.
“Shut the fuck up bitch”, Gold Teeth said, ripping Luanne’s head back, gripping a handful of her hair. Then he pulled the 9mm away from her temple, un-cocked it, and slid it back into his pants. Then he reached around, and undid Luanne’s jeans. But when he fished his hands into her panties, she grabbed his arm and bit it. Then he grabbed her by the throat, and punched her so hard, he knocked out her front row of teeth.
‘Where’s our fuckin’ money?!” Octavio blasted six inches from Leon’s face. Leon was going out of his mind the pain was so intense.
As Luanne spit blood, hugging the floor, Gold Teeth grabbed a fistful of her hair, yanked it back and said, “Now you can’t bite me.”
What happened next was hard for Leon to watch. Before they’d even started their gruesome violation, Luanne had pissed herself. The look on her face was a look of horror that slowly paled to blue, as Sunglasses grunted with pleasure. When she started to shriek in pain, Gold Teeth started face-fucking her.
Leon sat helplessly, strapped to the recliner, with two shattered knees, bleeding copiously through his jeans. His face tightened, and his eyes clamped shut. He would’ve given anything in that moment, even the chance to trade places with her. And if there had been any doubt before, he knew then that he loved her.
Sunglasses moaned as he came, cursing “fucking” back and forth between “whore” and “cunt””, as though he had Turrets.
“Okay, that’s enough”, Octavio said. “Yo, we don’t need dude’s boy jumpin’ our shit. Somebody post oustside.”
Sunglasses did up his pants, and walked out the door, as Gold Teeth took his place at the mound, pushing his way inside.
Two shots rang out and everybody froze—nobody knew who dropped the hammer. The sound of tires spinning and the roar of a high performance engine in first gear gave way to a loud knock at the door.
“Leon”, yelled Jesse’s familiar voice, “How many?”
Gold Teeth kept his gun on Luanne, and Octavio put his gun on Leon, who didn’t dare speak. Then both men opened fire on the door, as it swung open. Jesse aimed for the gold teeth, as he squeezed the trigger eye level with the top step, below both men’s line of fire. Then he tipped the barrel to the left, and shot Octavio dead. He ran over to the recliner, and cut Leon’s zip ties. But when he hovered over Luanne’s tiny violated body, as she convulsed on the floor, he caught two 9mm slugs in the head and dropped.
Leon watched the shooter with gold teeth gurgle his last breath, closing his crazy eyes; but the damage was done. He pulled himself to the floor, screaming in pain when his bloody knees rubbed raw, dragging his weight using his elbows, all the way over to Luanne. He found her shirt on the floor, and slid it on her, then pulled up her jeans, and zipped up the front of her pants. She was trembling, and wasn’t able to speak. He put her hand in his, and squeezed until his knees went numb. Then the whole scene became like a lucid dream, until the picture went flat and everything faded to white, as Leon let go.
Scotch Rutherford writes about dark corners between the bright lights. His work has appeared in Pulp Metal Magazine, The Flash Fiction Offensive, The Battered Suitcase, Voices from the Garage, and Darkest Before The Dawn. Links to his work can be found at: http://www.myspace.com/scotchrutherford.