“Deuce” Larry Long Jr. sat in the Laughing Goose Casino & Bowl’s card room on East Sprague. He drank fifty cent Pabst pint house specials offered because the Chiefs netted three in the second. The room held an aroma of free fried chicken, stale pasta and abused carpet. His weathered blue eyes, thinning gray hair and lines wore heavy. His fingers tapped childhood piano lessons from muscle memory on the table. His age was south of fifty. Seven of the last twelve years spent in state accommodations.
His position in Renda’s organization lasted less than three months after his release from county. The old man decided Larry was too soft. A ninety-two-year-old sporting massive arms and dark angry eyes, Renda’s New England fatalism peppered his decisions. Through jagged teeth with neglect, he shouted orders to eliminate associates declared “damaged goods.” Larry kept his cool after he received the same determination.
His spirits lifted when the waitress, Sarah, replenished his draft despite the special expiring. “How’s business?”
“Slow,” Sarah said. “Fantello’s asking for you on lane six.”
Larry smiled. “Thanks.”
“What about tomorrow night?” Sarah said.
“You’re next door but never come over.”
“I’m an old man.”
“You’re only as old as you feel.”
Larry: “Sounds about right.”
The woman of thirty-two left disappointed. Larry downed his Pabst and used a twenty as a coaster. He found Fantello pounding a bowling screen amid pin smacks by union league members rolling a two-thirty-eight score. A Bluetooth in Fantello’s left ear offered illusion of demand; incoming calls went unwitnessed. Larry pointed at the screen.
“Hitting it doesn’t make it work?”
“I feel better,” Fantello said.
Fantello enjoyed being connected. He fed customers lies of being at the Series final table by bluffing a Spade Ace-High to explain reluctance at entering his own house tournament. He beat back his mid-forties with a leased Porsche and a pinkie ring. Fantello pointed to a ball bag on a chair. “It’s there.”
Larry grabbed the bag. “Tips aren’t cutting it for Sarah.”
Fantello shrugged. “She got a raise three weeks ago.”
“Business is slow.”
“You can’t be eying that strange.”
“Who’s enforcing it?”
Larry: “The kid?”
“He reminds me of you.”
Jersey Banks was tough but no brains. “Renda gave it to him?”
“You can’t help her anymore.”