Aces and Alibis, by Mary Ann Back
I always knew how to piss Tommy off. He said that was my one true talent. And then we’d make love and he’d say okay, maybe I had two.
But that was then and this was now.
“Trip bullets? You draw trip bullets and think you’re leaving with my 10G’s in your pocket? That ain’t happening, Dottie. One more hand.” Christ but his face was purple.
I know when the lamb’s been fleeced enough.
“Schedule’s a little tight, Tommy. I got a date with Louie.” I blew my Lucky in his face and turned on my heel.
“You ain’t going nowhere, Sweetheart.” His fingers dug into my arm like ticks digging into a dog.
We were in the V.I.P. room of The Oasis Lounge, which was technically the storeroom any other day of the week. Tommy owned this dive from the peeling plaster walls to the leaky john in the ladies’ room. He won it from Dominick Ferretti in a lucky hand of poker. Tommy liked it when the stakes were high.
We started playing Draw Poker around suppertime, five knuckleheads and me. One by one they took their sad-sack faces and empty pockets home. By 2:00 a.m., Tommy and I were the only ones left. I’d played fair and square up till then. I know my cards. But I was done taking chances. I opened a new deck, telling Tommy it was to keep him honest. I swapped it for the spare deck that was sitting on the table when he went to the can. The new deck matched the aces up my sleeve. When he came back we played that $10,000 hand – the one with the trip bullets. That might have been overkill but it felt good. Revenge usually does. Judging by the look on Tommy’s face, I’d hit him where it hurt.
I needed an out, so I said, “What’s the point, Tommy? All the guys went home. And you and me, we ain’t playing slap-n-tickle anymore. Don’t be such a sore loser. Hey, let go of my arm – you’re hurting me!”
“Sit down!” His voice was like a bullhorn but he let go of me.
“You don’t look so good,” I said. “Your face is all sweaty and your eye’s twitchy. Where’s your blood pressure pill? I’ll get you some water.”
I broke for the door but he blocked me.
“I gotta go. Louie’s expecting me.”
“We’ll cut the cards. Double or nothing – high card takes all. Then you and Louie can slap each other silly if you want.”
“Fine,” I said, grabbing for the deck but his fist came down with a bang.
“No way, Toots. Give ‘em here.”
“Why should you cut?”
“’Cause I don’t think I trust you.”
“Yeah? Well you tried to screw my daughter. I win.” I snaked the cards out from under his hand and said, “Let’s do this. I got places to be.” The memory of seeing his hands on my Cheri got my blood boiling.
He let go of the deck but his eyes were glued to it – like they used to be glued to me.
The cards inside my right sleeve jiggled. I’d been begging for that night, for the right combination of guts and timing. He needed to lose what he loved most. And I was going to be the one to take it from him. God Himself couldn’t stop me. I slipped one of those cards into that deck slick as you please and turned my cut face up.
“Well, would you look at that ace?” I asked.
The table went flying and Tommy grabbed me by my hair. “You lousy bitch! How many more cards you got up there?”
He threw one arm around my neck and reached up my sleeve with the other. A fifth ace fluttered to the floor.
“Jesus! How many bullets do you need to win? Fuck me if you ain’t a dumb broad!”
He clocked my jaw and sent me sailing across the room on my backside. When I looked up, he was coming at me with the shiv he kept tucked in his boot.
I scrambled to my feet and pointed my left hand straight at his heart. The .22 inside my sleeve popped like a firecracker and a bright red splotch spread across his shirt.
“That’s for Cheri.”
He groaned and dropped the knife, then staggered backwards, and slumped to the floor, looking at me like he couldn’t believe his eyes.
His last words were, “Damn Baby, what else you got in that jacket?”
I put on some lipstick, checked my hair, and sucked back the rest of my martini. It was time to blow that joint and head to Louie’s. Slipping on my gloves, I went to step over Tommy but something stopped me. I guess I figured I owed him a few words on account of we were close once.
So I bent down, picked the money up off the floor, and whispered in his ear, “You always were the smart one, Baby. And you were always right – just like you used to tell me. Oh, and about me not needing all those bullets to win? Looks like you were right about that, too. Turns out, I only needed one.”
So much for goodbyes. I snatched the money from the cash register and his wallet, too. It wasn’t like he was going to be using it. Besides, somebody came in and robbed poor Tommy before he had a chance to lock up for the night. It wouldn’t make sense to leave the dough behind.
I walked out into the snow covered street and left the door wide open. This end of town, there wouldn’t be a single bottle of hooch left by morning and the cops would find more footprints inside than they could on Main Street. I watched the fog swirl under the streetlight and thought about Louie – gullible, love-struck Louie who’d sell his soul to protect me and my ‘talents’. Right about now he’d be warming up my side of the bed in the classiest house on Cherry Street, listening for me to come through the door. I turned my collar against the cold and picked up my pace. It’s not smart to leave an alibi waiting.
Ms. Back, of Mason, Ohio, was awarded the 2009 Bilbo Award for creative writing by Thomas More College. The characters she creates are from the wrong side of the tracks and are not to be trusted. She kicks them out of the house every chance she gets when some unwitting publisher agrees to take them off her hands. Her writing has appeared in many publications, including: Short Story America, Every Day Fiction, Bete Noire, Apollo’s Lyre, Eclectic Flash, 50 to 1, Flashes in the Dark, A Twist of Noir, The Loyalhanna Review, Flash Fiction Chronicles, and Screenwriters’ Daily.
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Tags: affairs, break ups, crime, gangsters, Mary Ann Back, murder