By: Tyler Marable
For Joseph Harmon there was not a more exhilarating experience than lying with a young woman—especially one who wasn’t his wife.
Kim laid sleep by his side. Her pink hair ran down her bare shoulders and rested on her breasts. Pink hair? Who had ever heard of such? He loved her for it. She had the confidence to be herself and not give a damn what others thought. That was the epitome of sexy to him.
Her lips quivered as she shifted in bed. What was she dreaming of? Him? He was dreaming of her although he was wide awake. Dreaming of them being together.
But it was wrong. How could he, a Christian man, fall to such sinful temptation?
He left bed and walked to the window, his naked frame silhouetted by city light. Outside the hotel, a metropolis with perpetual insomnia crawled to the horizon. This was the city that never slept and what an apt title. He could not find slumber.
He ran a hand through his neatly trimmed hair and peered down. So high up. So high above it all. Above the filth. Above the crime. Above the sordid creatures walking the sidewalks. Above his wife.
His damn wife.
She stood in the way of happiness. If only he had the courage to kill her. He sighed.
“I can’t do that,” he said to the city below.
“Can’t do what?” Kim asked. Had she’d been watching him the whole time? He forgot she woke easily.
“Nothing,” he whispered. He turned to see her sitting up in bed on her elbows, staring at him with that wondrous curiosity inherent to young women. She genuinely wanted to know what he was thinking about. His wife would not have given a damn.
She smiled that smile of hers; it almost was as magnificent as her breasts. “You’re strange.”
“Says the girl with pink hair,” he said.
She giggled and gave him that wondrous gaze again. “What are you doing out of bed, boo?”
He loved college girls because they said things like boo. “I couldn’t sleep.”
“Well, come back to bed and let me put you to sleep.”
How he loved her for saying such things.
He went back to bed, back to his mistress and forgot his wife. In that instance he no longer knew his wedding vows. He knew not the city below. All was forgotten, even the Word. He only knew Kim’s warm body against his. He only knew he had to get the promotion. He had to make department manager. With the extra money, he could leave his wife for this amazing woman in his embrace.
Ezra Goldman lit his cigar on his menorah and set the lamp back on the desk. A client, Ira Stewart, sat opposite to the Jewish Shark—a nickname bestowed to Ezra by his colleagues for obvious reasons. Ezra’s enforcer, Franky Matthews, stood at his boss’s side with a Louisville slugger.
“Where’s my money, Mr. Stewart?” Ezra said through a cloud of cigar smoke.
“You got to give me more time.”
“I don’t have more time,” the Jewish Shark said.
“Your rates are ridiculous. I have the principal, but the interest is outrageous.”
“So, you don’t have my money.”
Ira’s reply was an unconfident whisper, “I have the principal.”
“You don’t have the interest?”
“The interest is absurd. It’s usury!”
“Then you should have gone to a bank.” The Jewish Shark rose from his seat and walked around the desk. He paced back and forward behind Ira, pulling on his cigar. “Didn’t I tell you what would happen if you didn’t have my money?”
“And you don’t have it?”
“I don’t,” Ira said, his voice cracking.
“What did I say would happen?”
“My legs would be broken.” Ira felt compelled to stand. It might be the last time he got to. He stood and met the Jewish Shark at eye level. “I heard you were a good man. You got to give me more time. Surely you wouldn’t bust my kneecaps.”
Ezra laughed. “I’m not going to ‘bust your kneecaps’ as you put it. For one thing I’m a nice guy. And for another, breaking your legs is cliché. That’s reserved for some blockhead mobster in a campy crime drama.”
Ira never felt so relieved. “Thank you. You’re a good man.”
“I’m not going to bust your kneecaps,” Ezra said. “Franky is.”
Ezra’s goon ambled towards Ira, tapping the bat in his palm. “Louie, meet Ira,” he said to his weapon. “Ira, Louie.” And with that he took the bat to Ira’s knee.
Ezra sat back down at his desk.
He closed his eyes amidst the wails of his client. He hated this business. Thank the Lord his wife and daughter did not know of his extracurricular activities. His wife did not know of Ezra’s secondary occupation when she had married him.
Elochai, forgive me.
He bowed his head in prayer as Ira screamed to the beat of Louie. Ezra asked God to grant him the promotion at the firm. If he made department manager, he could leave this life behind him and support his wife’s and daughter’s spending habits. Then maybe they would finally see him as a real man.
But of course, a man who coveted money above righteousness and common decency was no man at all.
Amir Mohamed placed his last twenty in the slot machine. He believed in using the old fashion one armed bandits than the newer electronics. He sipped his beer and pulled the lever.
The icons spun on the wheel. The first wheel stopped with a cherry in the middle … Another cherry fell.
“Come on, cherry. One more,” he said.
The final wheel stopped, and of course, was an apple. Amir cussed and kicked the machine; it hurt his foot. That pissed him off, so he kicked the machine again and hurt his other foot.
“Is there a problem here?” a man in black asked. An earpiece ran down his neck; he was clearly casino security.
“I was suppose to win,” Amir said. “I’ve been feeding this machine all night and it gives me nothing but two cherries!”
The security guard said something into his cufflink.
Amir took the last swig of his drink. “I’m going to get another.”
The security guard stood in his way.
Two men approached, one another guard, the other dressed too lavishly to be casino security. He wore a maroon jacket (Armani) with white slacks; his slicked black hair reflected the overhead light.
“Is there a problem here?” the other security guard asked.
“Yeah, there is. I’m headed to the bar, and this mook won’t get out of my way.”
“You’re headed home,” the man in maroon said. “You know damn well you can’t hit the machines.”
“Who the hell are you suppose to be? A 1980s pimp? I’m getting me another drink.”
“I’m Tony Mancini,” he said, “casino manager. My father happens to own this joint, and we’d appreciate it if you didn’t beat our machines. I think you’ve had enough to drink.” He turned to the guards. “Escort him off the premises.”
The two guards grabbed Amir under his armpits. He kicked and shouted as they ushered him out into the lobby. “I’m a good paying customer! You owe me another drink. I got credit here!”
“We appreciate your business. We love taking your money, but for now, you’re going home,” Tony said.
The guards forced Amir through the revolving doors, into the winter air. “Come back when you’re sober,” one said.
“I’ll come back anytime I’d please. Sober or not,” Amir said.
He straightened his jacket and tried to hail a taxi. They all passed. What had one black cabbie told him awhile back? ‘I don’t pick up sand niggas.’
He stumbled down the sidewalk, nearly walking into others with his drunken stagger. How far was the bus stop? Two blocks over?
But the bus ride would have to wait.
A homeless man slept in an alley, his head resting on a pillow of garbage. He held a liquor bottle in his grubby clutch. Amir tried to surreptitiously steal the alcohol. In his drunken stupor he fell forward.
“What the hell?!” The homeless man woke and grappled the fool on top of him.
Amir slammed his fist into the man’s jaw. He ripped the bottle away. The homeless man staggered to his feet; he would not lose his precious cargo.
“I’m going to kick your ass,” he said. “That’s all I got. You going to take all a homeless man got?”
A flickering overhead lamp buzzed above them. Its lights shimmered in a puddle of water. The puddle held the reflection of a chrome handgun.
The homeless man stopped and threw his hands up.
“What are you going to do?” Amir said, the Colt shaking. He stepped forward; the homeless man stepped back. “You’re nothing, you hear? Nothing but trash.”
“I don’t won’t no problems, man.”
“Then get the hell out of here, you worthless garbage.”
The homeless man kept his backwards stride until he disappeared into shadow.
The handgun went back into its shoulder holster. The bottle was opened and went to Amir’s mouth. He stumbled off towards the bus stop. The world spun around him, city lights dancing a nauseating ballet.
He was not two blocks when he fell to the gutter and vomited. The city lights continued to dance. Then there was nothing. He went to sleep on a mattress of concrete.
He awoke to a taxi horn blaring at him. A black cabbie stepped out of the car. “The curb ain’t no bed, fool.”
Amir stood, dazed for a second. “Huh?”
The cabbie’s eyes widened. He pointed a wagging index finger at Amir. “See. I told you. That’s why I don’t pick your kind up.”
Amir recognized the man but said nothing. He opened his jacket and flaunted the shoulder holstered Colt.
“Nice gat,” the cabbie said. “I got one, too.” He placed his gun causally on the roof of the taxi. “Get the fuck out of here. I need to park there.”
Amir flipped the cabbie off. He turned and left. Damn, he wished he had the courage to shoot the man in his face.
It was 5:30 AM when Amir walked in the front door, his jacket filthy, his wrinkled dress shirt blotched with vomit, his tie draped around his neck, his hair a mess. The living room was only dark for a second. A lamp switched on. His wife sat on the couch. A suitcase rested by her feet.
“5:30 on a Monday morning. Where have you been?”
He mumbled something and placed his coat on the rack by the front door.
“You look like shit,” she said.
“I feel like it.”
“You’ve been drinking again, haven’t you?”
“What if I have?”
“You’ve been gambling, too.”
“And?” he said. “What of it? You’ve forgotten your place, woman. Maybe we should move back to Saudi Arabia, so you can become reacquainted with your roots. How dare you talk to your husband like this?”
She stood and simply said, “I’m leaving.”
She grabbed the suitcase. Headlights bled through the living room curtains. “I called a cab thirty minutes ago. I’m glad you made it home in time for me to say goodbye.”
She walked past him towards the door.
He did not try to stop her.
She waited a brief moment at the threshold. “Goodbye, Amir.”
He said nothing, only went to the kitchen. She’d be back. She always came back.
He looked under the kitchen sink for his scotch. It wasn’t there. Where had he put it? Never mind, there was always wine to be opened.
Any mini miny moe.
Amir pulled a bottle of sweet red from his collection of fifty. Strangely it had already been uncorked. Maybe he had opened the wine weeks ago and forgot.
He turned the bottle up. Nothing came out. Suffice to say, he was rather shocked. He pulled another bottle from the rack, this time an exquisite port. It, too, had been uncorked and was empty.
“I know that bitch didn’t.”
He selected another wine, this time chardonnay in a clear bottle. The bottle was too clear. He did not need to open it to see it was empty.
Amir ran to the front door. The taxicab sat patiently at the end of the driveway, waiting to merge into heavy traffic, commuters on their way to work. She had been there the entire time. Perhaps he should have confided in his wife, used the little time he had to win her back, than trust the bottle.
No. He shook his head. He was a good man, a good husband. She had no right to pour out his wine. An entire collection of fifty bottles. Gone!
He chased the cab in the road. Car horns screamed behind him. He threw the wine bottle at the taxi, cursing his wife. The bottle crashed to the pavement, shattering to pieces. Apparently the bottle was as fragile as the man who had broken it.
The taxi didn’t stop.
His wife stared at him through the rear window. Her gaze once held affection in it. It housed nothing but bitterness and pity now.
“You’ll be back!” Amir yelled, cars honking behind him.
She didn’t come back. Not the next day. Not the next week. Not the next month.
Maybe if I get clean. If I get the promotion and the pay raise, Jade will come home.
She would. He knew she would.
They all stood by the office water cooler. Levi Hilton joined them.
“So what’s on for tonight?” Joseph asked.
“I don’t know,” Amir said.
“I’d thought we’d go back to the same bar as last weekend,” Ezra said.
“Again?” Amir asked. “I have to watch you fools get drunk and cheat on your wives.”
“We weren’t the only ones hitting on college girls,” Joseph said. “And why don’t you have a drink once in awhile? Have a little fun.”
“I hit on them, but I don’t take them to the bathroom and hit on them,” Amir said. “And you know we Muslims don’t drink. It’s against our religion.”
Ezra smiled and turned to Levi. “What about you? What do you have planned this weekend?”
Levi shrugged. “Nothing really.”
“You should go out with us. Have a good time then come to synagogue tomorrow.”
“Don’t listen to him. You should come with me to church on Sunday. Christ saves all, Levi, even atheists like you.”
“I would tell you to come to mosque with me tonight, but I got to be designated driver for these imbeciles.”
“I think I’ll pass,” Levi said. “You don’t have to be religious to be a good person.”
“I’ll pray for you,” Ezra said.
“Me too,” Amir said.
“You’re so immoral,” Joseph. “I’ll pray for you, too.”
“You do that,” Levi said.
The day came to an end. They all walked home together, except the immoral man. Levi stayed at the office. On a Friday night no less.
“He’s fooling himself,” Joseph said.
Ezra agreed. “He’s not going to make department manager.”
Amir smiled with confidence. “I’m the one who’s going to get the promotion.”
“You?!” Joseph chuckled. “How will you get the promotion? You might be productive if you stopped praying five times a day. Everyone knows I’m the most productive. I’ll get the promotion.”
It was Ezra’s turn to laugh. “Sorry, we all know I’m going to get the promotion. You got to be good with money to be department manager.”
They continued to argue until they came to a panhandler. He sat on the sidewalk, holding out a hand.
“Can you spare some change?” the homeless man asked.
“Spare some money?” Ezra said. “I barely have enough to support myself, let along some lazy bum. Why, I barely had enough for my wife’s Aspen vacation and breasts augmentation.”
“The boob job your wife didn’t even want?” Joseph said. He then turned to the beggar. “Christ helps those who help themselves.”
“As-salam Alaikum. I cannot help you,” Amir said, “for you’d probably just buy alcohol.”
They all stepped over the homeless man, as if he were trash littering the sidewalk.
A few hours later, after he got his work done, Levi happened upon the same corner. The homeless man still sat there. His clothes were tattered, rags really. His teeth were dirty, his nails dirtier.
“Can you spare some change?” the homeless man asked.
“I have none,” Levi said.
The homeless man lowered his head. “I understand.”
“I don’t have money, but I do have food.”
Levi took the homeless man’s hands and pulled him to his feet. He led the beggar to his small apartment. There he set a place at the kitchen table for two.
“I don’t have much,” he said. “I’m still paying off massive student debt. But what I have, I have to share.”
And he laid two plates on the table. The plates were full with green beans, macaroni, mashed potatoes, and a steak. He poured them both a glass of wine. It was cheap, yet exquisite to the homeless man.
When they were done with dinner, Levi ran his guest some bath water, gave the homeless man a clean dress of clothes. And when it was time for sleep he gave the beggar the only bed in the apartment.
“Where will you sleep?” the homeless man asked.
“On the floor.”
Morning came. Levi rose with a start. His guest had left in the middle of night. He jumped to his feet.
What was gone? What had the homeless man stolen? Such a foolish, foolish thing Levi had done, taking someone into his home. He had always said good deeds never went unpunished.
He looked around the apartment, searching for missing goods. To his relief everything was in its place. But there was an addition to the living room. A note laid on the coffee table. It read:
When I was hungry you fed me. When I was thirsty you gave me your best wine. When I was dirty you gave me a place to bathed. When I was naked you clothed me. When I was tired you gave me your own bed. You may not believe, but you understand My Word. And for that I love you.
You may believe no good deed goes unpunished, but I must correct you: No good deed goes unrewarded.
Levi folded the note. He was humbled by the appreciation and yet puzzled. ‘My Word?’
He shrugged and enjoyed the rest of the weekend. Monday came, and Levi set off for work, expecting to find the homeless man on the same corner of First and Amistad. But he was not there.
Levi was disappointed. He wanted to thank the homeless man for the letter and ask him what it had meant. Maybe he would get the chance tomorrow. He had to get to work. Today was the day a new department manager would be announced, since Jerry was leaving for greener pastures.
His friends awaited him at the water cooler, but he had no time to greet them. The company’s vice president leaned out of his office and said, “Levi, I need to see you.”
He complied of course.
“I bet he’s getting fired,” Ezra said.
“Maybe he got the promotion,” Amir said.
“Nope,” Joseph said, “I’ve heard Julie is going to get department manager from a reliable source. Jerry told me himself.”
Levi exited the vice president’s office with a perplex look on his face. He cleaned out his desk. His friends approached, feigning sadness.
“We’re going to miss you, Levi,” Joseph said.
“Yeah,” Ezra said, “but don’t feel too bad. None of us made department manager.”
“As-salam Alaikum. I can’t believe you were fired.”
“What are you talking about?” Levi asked. “I got to move my stuff to my new office. The firm has made me a partner.”
Joseph lay in bed by his beloved mistress. He had not gotten the promotion, but some men found a new gained courage in the aftermath of failure. He did not the need the pay raise to leave his wife.
He kissed Kim’s neck and ran his hand down her bare torso. “I’ll do anything for you.”
“I know,” she said. There was something in her voice he had not heard before.
“Is something wrong?” he asked.
“I have something to tell you.”
“What is it?”
“I’m transferring to another university.”
“Leon and I are back together. He’s moving … so I am, too.”
“I thought you loved me,” he said.
“I do. It’s just … you’re old. I love your maturity and how you treat me. But we both knew what this was.”
“I thought it was love,” he said.
“It was.” She sighed. “But he’s Leon Mancini. His father runs this town. He has money, and you don’t.”
Joseph couldn’t believe it. He rose in bed and straddled her body.
“One more round?” she asked. “Before I leave town?”
Sex was not on Joseph’s mind. He wrapped his hands around her throat.
At first his mistress bit her lip. She liked this new game. But soon she found it was no foreplay.
She scratched at his face while her own turned blue. “Jo … I can’t … breathe.” Her words were a choked staccato.
He tightened his grasps. How beautiful she looked with her pink hair splayed against the white pillow, her face a portrait of horror. At that moment she reminded him of his wife.
How gorgeous Diane had been when he held her under water. Her blonde hair floated around her; sunlight fell through the window to glint on the bath water. How wonderful was the last bubble that floated from the bottom of the tub.
It did not take long for his pink haired mistress to die. About as long as it had taken his wife. He stood, staring at his trembling hands. The adrenaline rush was as powerful the second time as the first.
Why had he done any of this? What did that homeless man at the corner of First and Amistad say when Joseph pulled off and pocketed his wedding band? ‘Young love is rash, it comes and goes. It may leave tomorrow. Mature love is stout and reliable. Put your ring back on. Go home to your wife. Love her and only her.’
Why hadn’t he listened?
He left bed and walked to the window with shaking legs, his naked frame silhouetted by sunlight. Outside the hotel, a metropolis with perpetual insomnia crawled to the horizon. This was the city that never slept and what an apt title. But it was time for him to find slumber.
He ran a hand through his neatly trimmed hair and peered down. So high up. So high above it all. Above the filth. Above the nonsense. Above the sordid creatures walking the sidewalks. Above life.
But not above the birds.
He looked up. A flock of pigeons blotted the sky. He raised the window and sat on the sill and dangled his legs downward towards the city. How he wanted to be truly above it all like the birds. He stretched his arms to take flight, but did not soar like the pigeons above him. He fell twelve stories with their excrement.
Another day came and went. Ezra headed home from his second job. Such hard work, earning enough to keep his trophy wife and ungrateful daughter happy. He sauntered down the sidewalk towards his Jaguar. He had not gotten the promotion at the firm, but still, the Jewish Shark had his part time job.
A homeless man sat on the curb, smoking a cigarette. “Spare some change.”
Ezra recognized the voice. It was the same beggar from the corner of First and Amistad. “I told you, I don’t have money to give away.”
“Just enough for a coffee. It’ll go good with my square.”
“Get the hell out of here,” Ezra said. “If you want money go make your own.”
“Come on,” the homeless man pleaded. He grabbed Ezra’s jacket; his clutch was tight. There was a certain urgency in his voice. “Let’s go grab a coffee and have a talk.”
Ezra pushed the beggar away. “Fuck off.”
Ezra opened his car door. “I’m more than sure.”
The Jaguar sped off. The hell was his problem? Ezra stared in the rear view at the homeless man. The beggar still stood there, gazing at the Jaguar. Odd old man.
As Ezra crossed an intersection, a semi-truck plowed into the Jaguar.
The thunderous clash of metal exploding into metal echoed through the concrete jungle. The car rolled again and again. Ezra was on the roof one minute, the floor the next. Glass shattered. Metal popped and twisted.
The Jaguar came to a stop on its roof. Lord knows how Ezra crawled through the passenger window. One would have thought you’d need a can opener to get him out. He crawled on broken glass, his legs fractured.
Two men jumped from the semi. They walked with a languid swagger towards Ezra. One held a baseball bat, the other held a pistol.
Ezra lay there amidst the broken glass on the cold street. “Call 911,” he said; blood mingled with his words. He looked up into the barrel of a revolver.
A gunshot rang out into the night. Ezra was no more.
The man with the bat was disappointed. “Mr. Mancini told me to rough him up a little first.”
“That’s cliché,” the man with the gun said. “Straight out of a campy crime drama.”
“But I brought Lucille.”
“You name your bat? That’s even more cliché.” The man shrugged, the gun still smoking in his hand. “If you want to rough him up then rough him up.”
And his colleague did; he took the bat to Ezra’s lifeless body over and over.
Unfortunately for Ezra, competition both for department manager at the firm, and in his other line of work, had been rather fierce.
Firefighters use small controlled fires to fight wild infernos; why shouldn’t Amir do the same?
Jade had left because of his alcoholism and gambling; she would return because of them. Sin would be his salvation. If he could only win enough to bring her back.
But such high reward required high risk.
He took out all his savings: fifty thousand dollars. He never held so many casino chips in his life. He would not put such a sum of money in the hands of Lady Luck. No slots or roulette or craps tonight. Blackjack was the game to be played.
Amir took his seat at the table. The dealer was a young woman, her skin pale as the moon, her lips crimson as blood. She looked to be an omen. If Death had a face it was pallid with full red lips.
He stood to leave.
“Where you going, handsome?” the dealer asked.
“To another table.”
“They’re all full tonight. This is the only blackjack seat left. Besides, why would you want to leave my table? I’m Lady Luck.”
“I’m looking for Madam Miracle not Lady Luck,” he said.
She smiled. “I might just be both.”
Amir sighed and sat back down. He had no choice. He had prepared for this game, and this game only.
He looked up into the dealer’s eyes, or was he gazing at Death? He said, “Deal me in.”
And the pale face beauty did. She tossed cards all around the table. Amir’s cards came: an eight and three. The dealer dealt herself two cards; one was face down the other showed a four of clubs.
Amir doubled down. The other gamblers asked for another card then stayed their hands. The dealer flipped her card and busted with a queen of hearts.
The queen of hearts? Surely a sign. Jade was the queen of Amir’s heart.
Amir played at the table … for three hours. The dealer was indeed Madam Miracle. Amir had amassed a quarter of a million dollars in winnings. Such luck caught the attention of other gamblers. A crowd gathered at Amir’s table, peering over his shoulder. They brought with them the scrutiny of security cameras.
Amir asked the dealer to hit him when he should have stayed, to stay when he should have asked for another card. He beat the dealer and the table round after round. But of course one never beats the house.
A security guard grabbed Amir under the arm. “Come with us.”
“I’ll do no such thing,” Amir said.
“We’re not asking.”
They pulled Amir from the table. “But my chips. My chips!” he cried.
“Someone will take care of them.”
The crowd was baffled. “He’s done nothing wrong!” someone shouted out.
“They never want you to win big,” another said, “just enough to keep you happy and coming back.”
“This man’s under arrest,” one of the guards said.
Amir’s heart jumped upon hearing the word. “Arrest?”
They placed Amir’s hands behind his back and fastened them with a zip tie.
“I’ve done nothing wrong.”
“Mr. Mancini has been watching you.”
They pushed Amir through a door labeled Employees Only. Tony Mancini sat behind a mahogany desk. He poured himself a shot of scotch, and one for his guest as well.
The guards forced Amir into the chair opposite of Tony.
“Under what authority do you arrest me?” Amir asked. “You have no right to do this.”
“You didn’t have a right to steal from me,” Tony said. “But that didn’t stop you.”
“What have I stolen?”
Tony took a sip of scotch. “You got to ask? What else is there to steal from a casino?”
“But I didn’t steal anything.”
“You stole my money,” Tony said. “Counting cards is cheating.”
“You beat thousands out of their money every night,” Amir said. “But if a guy knows what he’s doing, then he’s cheating.”
“Have a drink, Mr. Mohammad.” Tony slid the glass of scotch to Amir.
“I quit drinking.”
“Nobody quits drinking,” Tony said. “Cut the zip tie.”
The security guards cut Amir’s hands loose.
Amir stared at the glass. “I told you I quit.”
“You’re going to drink that shot,” Tony said.
“And if I don’t?”
Tony looked to his goons. “Oh, you’re going to drink it.”
One guard grabbed Amir’s hair and pulled his head back. The other guard poured the liquor down Amir’s throat.
The alcohol was strong. He nearly strangled on it. “Please, let me go.”
The guard gave the glass back to Tony. Tony poured it full again. “Another shot.”
He slid the glass to his henchman. Once again Amir’s head was held back. He was made to choke on alcohol.
Nine shots later, Amir stared down Tony with a drunken grin. “Is this all you’re going to do? Give me free shots?”
“Would you rather I have Antonio put a bullet in your head? Or should I have Franco take you out to the middle of nowhere and bury you alive?”
Amir chuckled. “You’re not going to do shit.”
“You’re a brave man when you’re drunk.”
Amir laughed his drunken laugh again. “Aren’t we all?”
Tony opened a drawer. He retrieved a hammer. He stood and walked around his desk to Amir. He sat on the desk, staring into Amir’s brown eyes. “Put his hands down.”
Franco and Antonio grabbed Amir’s arms. They forced his hands to the wood. Tony reared the hammer up and brought it down.
Amir didn’t flinched. What was there to be afraid of? He had lost it all when Jade left him.
The hammer smashed into the desk. “If you’re going to break my fingers then break them.”
“Why would I do that?” Tony asked. “You’re one of my best customers. Breaking your fingers would be akin to breaking Frederic Chopin’s fingers. You’re going home, Mr. Mohammad.”
“I’m not going home. I’m going to the police. I’ll have you arrested for false imprisonment.”
Tony smiled. “You’ll do no such thing. My father runs this town. He owns the police department. On top of that, if you go to anyone, I will send your picture to every casino on the west coast and east coast. You won’t be able to gamble ever again.” He looked to his goons. “Get this drunk out of here.”
They grabbed Amir under his arms and yanked him up.
“But what of my money. I won three hundred thousand!”
“You get what you came with.” Tony retrieved something from a desk drawer and scribbled on it. “A check for fifty thousand.”
“But I won almost three hundred thousand!”
“You tried to cheat the house. You’re lucky I’m being magnanimous.” Tony opened Amir’s jacket and slid the check into a pocket. “I like you, Mr. Mohammed. We need more customers like you.”
Tony gave a nod to his employees. They dragged Amir out of the room and through the casino.
“I won three hundred thousand! I won!” he shouted. “The house cheats you all night every night, but if you know what you’re doing they’ll have you thrown out!”
Amir continued to scream as he was shoved through revolving doors into the crisp night.
“Shut the hell up.” Franco punched Amir in the face. He fell backwards on his ass. His lips swelled as blood filled his mouth. Before returning inside Franco said, “If it was up to me, I would take you to the desert and bury you.”
Amir spat blood and flipped the Italian off. They would not stop him from getting Jade back. He would go to another casino and win half a million.
He rose to his feet and stumbled down the sidewalk. He straightened his jacket and tried to hail a taxi. They all passed.
He spotted one across the street.
The cabbie was talking to a young lady. She wore six inch heels and a tight blue dress which showed her every curve. Cleary a prostitute. Such beauty stood out in this grey city.
It was the same cabbie from before. That piece of shit nigger.
The cabbie noticed Amir and shouted across the street, “Hey! It’s the gutter sandnigga. Shouldn’t you be somewhere trying to blow something up?”
Amir grabbed his Colt.
“Don’t do it,” a voice came from behind.
Amir spun around. The homeless man from the corner of First and Amistad sat on the sidewalk, sipping wine.
Amir yanked the bottle from the man’s hand. “Don’t tell me what to do.”
“That’s all I got. You’re going to take all a homeless man got?”
Amir said nothing but turned the bottle up. He made his way towards the cabbie.
“Don’t cross the road,” the homeless man said.
Amir unholstered his Colt. “Fuck off, old man.”
He stumbled across the street. The cabbie did not notice, for beauty had him blind. He had his arms wrapped around the prostitute, rubbing the curves of her body. Amir had him sighted, the gun shaking in his drunken hand. How easily it is to kill another, especially when one has a gun. How easily firearms allow one to make a mistake which cannot be rectified.
Amir was tired of the city, of the world being against him. He would end this man’s miserable existence. Amir squeezed the trigger slowly.
A horn blared. Amir took his eyes from his target. Two headlights careened towards him. No time to move. Breaks scrubbed, rubber screamed.
He was hit by a bus.
The city was indifferent and pale; a trail of Amir’s blood ran crimson down the street.
There was a huge commotion. Levi happened upon the scene. People lined up on the sidewalk to see the dead body. Some poor bastard had been ran over by a bus. The paramedics showed up and covered the cadaver.
Levi walked past the homeless man; he did not see the beggar, for he did not need Him.