A sure thing, p.1
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       A Sure Thing, p.1

           Daniel Hoover
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A Sure Thing

  Daniel LaGrave.

  Copyright © 2011 by Daniel LaGrave

  To say that the place was located on the seedy side of town would have been the understatement of the year. The street lamps glowed, but their light could only hold the darkness of the night at bay, struggling only to come at long last to a stalemate.

  Of course wasn’t that always the way of things, you didn’t come to this area of town during the light of day, almost as if these places didn’t exist until the twilight of dusk.

  Alex Stetson laughed off this last thought; it was a sound that even to his ears reeked of nervousness, but what choice did he have? After all he couldn’t be held at fault for the things that had happened, it was supposed to be a sure thing. You’re just like your father…his mother’s voice made rough by years of smoking rang through his mind.

  What made them sting though, was that she was right. From the moment they took up residence in that tiny two room apartment they situation failed to improve. His dad always planning, and scheming did well to die young. The fact was you never saw an old gambler. His mother on the other hand had only gambled once in her life, on his old man, and had lost considerably. What money they’d had at the beginning of their marriage had been quickly squandered, flittered away.

  Still Alex had watched his father, noted every mistake with the keen interest of a second season lemming. He’d learned the real rules of the game, and wouldn’t make the same mistakes.

  He succeeded in that; his father had never gotten in deep with a loan shark, let alone several. His life at this point was hardly worth the cost of a cup of coffee, probably less.

  It got worse when Nicky no nose had offered to let him recoup some of his losses accrued from Nicky’s bookies, and from there it was one loss after another. Things leapt up to the next level of trouble when he was rounded up by some of Nicky’s associates, and given a ride down to the docks.

  Of course Nicky had been waiting, not looking at all pleased to see him. Neither had it been a surprise that Nicky’s favorite accessory, a Louisville slugger, leaning against the desk in the middle of an empty warehouse. While these things were troubling, the twin five gallon buckets at the other end of the desk were cause for concern; one held a low grade adhesive, and the other broken glass.

  Depending on the mood he was in, Nicky would hit you with either just the bat, or as he called it the “shredder”. You could rest assured though that the presence of the bat meant you would be hit-guaranteed.

  “Hey there Nicky, what’s up?” Alex said. He tried to be likable, so much more so at that moment.

  Without preamble Nicky snatched up the bat, and buried its end in Alex’s soft gut earning an Umph from his victim. After that, the meeting was a blur of begging, pleading, and poundings sometimes with the bat mostly with fists.

  Fortune though smiled on Alex, the bat never ended up in the glue or the glass. Instead Nicky asked a favor of him, though there was no room for no. Alex agreed, and found a silver metal briefcase shoved into his hands.

  Nicky’s goons hustled him back into the car, and drove him back to where they’d picked him up dumping him like any other stray. While he lay on the ground coughing, one of the goons brought the case around, and placed it gently next to Alex before stepping back a few feet.

  “Nicky says that you need to get this to our buyer down at the 3rd street subway station by seven o’clock tonight. He also said that you should be careful with it, very careful.”

  With that they got back into their car, and left, it took a moment to struggle to his feet, however unsteadily. Retrieving the case he idly wondered what was in it, then considered tossing it off the parks brothers’ bridge, but thought better of it. If there was any such thing as a sure thing it would be that Nicky no nose wouldn’t look too kindly on that, most likely he would have the goons come back to cure his gambling permanently.

  No the prevailing wisdom would be to do as he had been instructed. He looked around, searching for a street sign. Walking to the end to the block he found was he found the sign. They’d done him no favors dumping him were he had been, on 23rd street, if he wanted to live another day he’d have to run.

  Horns blared, other pedestrians swore at him as he blasted through, and there were a few moments were the grill of a car or bus threatened to finish the job Nicky no nose had started. Still block after block whizzed by, he felt his heart thunder in his chest, and lungs burning threatening to burst.

  By the time he reached the entrance to the subway station Alex had to cling to the handrail to keep from falling down the stairway. He looked down at the worn Rolex watch, the only memento his father had left to him, the hands on the face read a few minutes after seven. It’s only a couple of minutes; those trains are always…they’re always late.

  Any hope those words had given him died once he made it down the stairs and found the station empty. There was no one waiting to receive the briefcase, and no chance that

  Nicky wouldn’t kill him.

  Staggering over to a bench he collapsed, his mind spinning, trying to figure out his next move. Surely he would have to leave town, but to where? He’d have to move very far away, and no doubt would probably have to change his name.

  Another thought crossed his mind; I’m going to need money. He felt the case’s weight again for the first time since he’d been given it. Whatever this thing is it’s valuable, maybe it’s valuable to sell? He felt a buzzing in his pocket, his cell phone. Without looking he knew who it was, in this age of lighting fast communications the man he’d been sent to give the case to left, had called Nicky, and now Nicky was calling him.

  He stood, phone now in hand considering weather or not he should answer, what are you stupid? Alex thought. Instead he walked to the stairway; his legs still trembled from his earlier race, and climbed them. The phone went silent for a moment, only to begin ringing again. “Yeah Nicky’s pissed.” He dropped the cell phone into the garbage can as he made it to the top of the stairs, and hustled down the street stealing glances over his shoulder as he went.

  Ducking into alleys and entryways Alex fled. He knew the faces of most of the goons, but there were some he didn’t know. Paranoia drove him now, moving from place to place more frequently until at last he found his way to towns’ end. It was an old name for an old neighborhood that had once been the towns’ center, but now sat all but forgotten except by the lowest of souls. Those who still resided there did so only because they couldn’t afford to get out, and anyone who ventured there usually only did so out of some desperate need.

  He found himself with such a need, hurrying down crumbling poorly lit sidewalks his eyes searched for a damaged neon sign he’d only heard rumor of before.

  Checking his watch beneath a street lamps’ amber light he found it was almost one in the morning, surely whatever place he’d been searching for had closed hours ago. Alex’s mind now worked feverishly, they would no doubt consider town’s end, but had they already had that idea, or was there still time? In the end it didn’t matter, his apartment was no doubt being watched, so he couldn’t go home.

  He needed a place to stay until he could search again in the morning. “Who knows, maybe there’ll be less heat tomorrow, yeah, maybe they’ll have figured I’d already skipped town.”

  Slipping again into the shadows he looked for any shabby motel with a vacancy. Such wishful thinking perished, speared by twin beams of light moving slowly down an adjacent street. There remained enough distance that the figures inside the sedan were still only vague shapes, but as the car made a turn the man sitting in the passenger seat bore a distinct profile, Nicky.

  Fortunately the car had turned away from his where he hid, but it would only be a matter o
f time before they doubled back. He hurried in the opposite direction hoping that they would waste time turning over any possible hideaways while he put some distance between them and himself. Alex had only turned the corner to the next street before he skid to a stop, ahead of him stood a little shop, it’s lights still blazing, a dingy window with a flickering neon sign. He waited a breath watching the sign, while it typically read Pawn shop. Buy, Sell, and Trade when the neon tubing flickered, it became Pawn u. It was the place.

  His mind raced, if he could pawn this thing whatever it was, and get out unseen then he could still make his escape. Running as far as the storefront he paused noticing for the first time the strange glow of the street lamps, it was unsettling. As if an unseen fight were being waged.

  The shine of headlights reflected off of windows, ending his hesitation. Pushing through he was met by the jingling bell above the door, and it made him jump.

  “Well howdy.”

  He spun around to the sound of an older man’s voice. “Hi.” He said.

  The man grinned, “Sorry if I startled you, but we were just about to close.”
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