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Paybacks (STBSS)

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posted on Jul, 20 2005 @ 12:30 AM
I walked into Flannigans bar about seven o'clock. Compared to the bright heat outside, Flannigans was heaven. When I had opened the door, I felt a blast of cool, dry air. I had been coming here since I had moved back to the neighborhood last June. Jimmy, the bartender, was a guy I had known since I was a kid. It felt like home. I bellied up to the bar.

"How ya doin Jack?" Jimmy asked as he slid me a Jack and water.

"Not bad, yourself?" I replied as I took a swallow.

Jimmy grabbed a bar rag and started wiping down the bar. "Can't complain." He replied. The door swung open and a group of college looking punks sauntered in. Jimmy shuffled down to serve them. After drawing them a pitcher, he came back down to me. "Did you hear about Tony?" He grabbed a couple of shot glasses from under the bar.

"No, what about him?" Unease was beginning to eat at me.

Jimmy poured me a shot of Jagermeister and one for himself. He nodded at the shot. We slammed em back and I looked up at him. He grabbed the glasses and said "I guess he killed his wife last night and then climbed in the bathtub and slit his wrists. Had a couple of cops in here today. Said it was pretty messy."

I could still feel the shot etching its way toward my stomach. All of the sudden I didn't feel so good, and I was pretty sure it wasn't the shot. "No crap?" was all I could stammer out. I was pretty sure my unease was starting to show through. "That's a crappy deal. Pour me another shot, huh?"

"Sure thing Jack." He poured me another shot and shuffled down the bar to help a Wall Street looking fella and a girl who was young enough to be his daughter. When he came back, I knew I had to ask.

"One more shot." As he poured, I tried to come up with the best way to ask and not be suspicious. He set it down and I slammed it back. "You didn't hear of anything unusual about it did ya?"

"You mean more unusual than a reasonably happy guy offing his old lady and then himself? Actually yeah, I did. Howd you know?"

"Lucky guess." I drained my glass. He reached for it and I said "make it a double. So, what was it?"

He stirred the drink and slid it to me, all the while looking at me thoughtfully. "It's the weirdest thing, really. They found a comb in his mouth and it had the initials R.M. on it. Hey are you okay Jack?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Just a little spooked by it all."

"Yeah, I know what you mean. Ya probly oughta slow down on that." and pointed at my drink.

"I know, I know. But who would keep you company?"

We both laughed and I got up and went to the bathroom. Jimmy was right, I looked like hell. I splashed a little water on my face and felt better. I went back to my stool. Jimmy was on the phone and I started to think about Ralph Miller.

Ralph was a good kid until he got mixed up with me and Tony. We were trouble from the start. Me and Tony grew up across the street from each other. Our mothers went to church and shopped together and our fathers drank at the same bar, Flannigans. We started stealing little stuff when we were ten or twelve, I don't really remember. We did it for kicks. As we got older, we realized we could make money doing this. We boosted our first car when I was sixteen. There was no turning back then. By the time we were eighteen, we were pretty well established. Then we met Ralph.

Ralph was clean cut and proud of his appearance. Had himself a pearl comb with his initials on it. Carried it everywhere. Constantly combing his hair. I'll never forget that. He was basically a good kid like I said. We met him in school. I liked him from the start. Had that air about him like you could trust him. We started him off small and he showed promise. We bumped him up fast. By the time we were in our twenties, he was boosting cars and ripping off tv's and stereo's. We had a lot of kids working for us and the money was rolling in with no one any the wiser.

One day I'm walking out of the barbershop and this kid pulls up in a stolen car. I'm in the middle of town for Chrissake's! What the # am I supposed to do? He was freaking out 'cause he was almost caught. Almost caught and here he is right in town! I didn't hire these kids for their brains. I told him to get the hell out of there. He shows up later at the shed where we move our merchandise to. Ralph happened to be there. Me and Tony had been waiting for this kid, though. We made the kid disappear. I thought Ralph was gonna be sick. He was all pale and sitting in the corner. I tried to calm him down.

It ate Ralph up. He fell into dope and slid downhill. Started taking stupid risks and making mistakes. We tried to help him, I actually liked the kid, he wouldn't listen though. A few weeks later, he gets busted. Just so happens that a couple of days later I get a visit from a detective. So me and Tony go bail him out.

"Jack, hey Jack! You ain't sleepin on me are you?" Jimmy brought me back.

"No I ain't sleepin. Just thinkin. Bout death and all. Wanna grab me another drink and shot?"

He set them down in front of me and the door opened. A nice looking woman walked in and sat down. That would keep Jimmy busy for a while. I smiled. I glanced around and realized that it was just the three of us. The college kids and Mr. Wall Street and friend had left.

We had brought him back to the shed, to try and figure out if he'd talked. He was real nervous and kept fidgeting around. I asked if he would go with us upstate to drop some things off. He didn't seem real excited about it. We loaded up and headed out. I always carried a bottle of whiskey with me back then. I took a slug and passed it to Ralph. He slammed back a quarter of it. I think he knew what was up. I pulled off on a field road and stopped.

Ralph started crying and wailing. "I didn't tell em nothin, I swear. I never said a thing, I know that what ya think, but I didn't. I swear! It wasn't me!"

I pulled the trigger twice.

As he lay there dying, I heard him say "I'll get you for this. I didn't do nothin. I'll get both of you." Then he slumped over and said no more.

We rolled him onto a tarp. As we did, his comb fell out of his pocket. Tony picked it up and stuck it in his mouth. We then dropped him in the river. That was the last I heard of Ralph Miller. That was thirty years ago.

Jimmy came back down. "Hey, I think I'm gonna close a little early tonight." He gave a half nod to the brunette at the end of the bar as explanation. "So, if ya don't mind.."

"Sure thing Jimmy. How bout one more shot for I hit the road?"

"Anything for you." He replied.

I slammed the shot and set it down on the bar. I looked at him with blood shot eyes and reached for my wallet. "What's my tab up to nowadays?"

Jimmy looked in the book and said "$183. Don't worry about it, we'll work it out later."

"Nonsense" I replied. I set $250 on the bar.

"That's way too much. How are you gonna make it till you're next check?"

"You let me worry bout that. You've earned it. Take care of yourself." I headed for the door.

"See ya tommorrow" Jimmy called after me.

"We'll see" I muttered under my breath.

I hadn't drove down. Didn't want to risk the DUI. So I had the five block walk home to deal with. Forced to live in a #hole apartment and survive off a social security check. I did time alright. Twenty years. It turned out Ralph wasn't lying. Some # ass kid didn't like the cut I gave em and got picked up a couple days later. He rolled over on me. Poor Ralphie. And now poor me! I didn't expect to see the sunrise.

Every alley I crossed was nerve wracking. I would peer down each one waiting for the ghost of Ralph Miller to jump out at me. Soon I was home. I walked in and closed the door behind me. I switched on the lamp and saw my chair spin around with Ralph Miller sitting in it.

"Hi Jack. Long time no see." Ralph leered at me.

"I expected you" I replied. "Not that it makes any difference but I'm sorry I did it. I found out later. I didn't want to do it, but business is business."

"Is that the best you can do? Tony at least begged for his life." Ralph stood up.

"That's all you're gonna get. I'm an old man and have to pay my debts sometime."

"Oh well, I was really hoping for more." He moved toward me with his switchblade gleaming.

[edit on 7/20/2005 by keymaster]


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