"You dumbfuck, how could you let her walk all over you like that?"
Blister stands at the bar, bleach-blonde hair spiked like a porcupine, his cigarette dangling from his lips in that oh-so-dainty way where it looks like it's going to fall out at any minute. It never does, Blister is way too cool for that to ever happen.
"You got to give it to her, man," he says with a feral gleam in his eyes. "Let her know you're not gonna take that shit from her or any one of these bitches."
He's right. the Foxglove is probably the sleaziest strip joint within 50 miles, but I have an in since Rocco owes me a favor on that tip I gave him when the cops were gonna raid his upstairs room for the poker game he and his buddies played every week. I remember the night that Rocco won the place wholesale from Doc; rumor was that the stakes had gone up to two hundred and fifty G's in that one hand alone. Since I used to run for Rocco, I knew for a fact that a 50K hand wasn't at all uncommon on those nights, all bets settled in cash at the end of the night. A gentlemen's game, Rocco called it. Nobody had ever had to enforce the rule in the six years that I had been there. Even Doc was mellow about losing the club. He was still there every night, drunk off his ass, chasing as many of the ladies as he could, throwing money at them like it was candy. To him, it probably was.
"Hey, shit-for-brains, I'm talking to you."
Blister's words brought me back to the present, and my current problem with Cherry, or Pepsi, or whatever the hell she was calling herself this week. Somehow she had convinced the Lemur that I had offered to cover her bar tab, and he hit me with a $1200 click, payable by Friday or I'd be banned. Lemur wasn't the brighest bulb in the bag of hammers, but he mixed a mean drink and managed that bar like it was his baby, which is I suppose why Rocco kept him on. His real name was something with a whole bunch of C's and Z's that nobody could pronounce, so we just called him Lemur because he looked kinda like a dirty rodent. And right now he was staring at me with those beady little eyes.
"Lemur, you're a shit," I said. "You can't just put her drinks on my tab like that."
"She said that you were paying for her and her friends."
"Well, I'm not. You didn't even bother fucking asking me, you asshole!"
Lemur just looked at me dully, wiping a glass with a wet towel. "She got ass. You don't got ass. She stays, you go", and he walked to the other end of the bar to refill the glass of a German-looking dude in a grayish-brown business suit.
Blister just looked at me with a shit-eating grin on his face, like this was the most amusing thing he'd seen in a while.
"Blister, you say one word and I'm gonna rip out your vocal cords and use 'em to tie your balls in a knot."
He just held up his hands and kept that big-ass grin on his face, cigarette dangling from his lips.
Cherry was working over some old dude that was wearing a Dubliner coat and sporting a fake Rolex, making small talk, laughing at his jokes and touching him ever so slightly, just enough to keep his attention and keep the money pouring out of his wallet. Once in a while she'd pretend to let her guard down enough to let him touch the bare skin of her thigh, then she'd admonish him for being such a dirty old man, and he'd buy her another drink in apology. Her drinks were ten bucks a pop, of which she got seven as a kickback and the bar kept three; her "drink" was a prune juice and soda. On a good night I've seen her rake in five bills in drink scams alone.
The old dude got up and staggered off to the bathroom, and I made a beeline for the table.
"Cherry, darling, we've gotta talk."
"Boone, my sweetie, I love you. Come buy me a drink."
"Seems like I've been doing that a lot lately. The Lemur just hit me with a twelve hundred dollar tab, all of which is apparently yours."
She took a cigarette out of a ridiculously expensive metal case, showing off a great expanse of leg, and lit up. She inhaled and blew a perfect smoke ring.
"I needed to entertain a few old friends, and I was a little strapped. Don't worry darling, I'll make it up to you." She squirmed close to me and slid her arms around my neck. "In any way you see fit."
"Cash, Cherry. By Friday."
She stuck her lower lip out in a pout. "Don't you love me anymore, my little pigeon-poop?" She squirmed close so her body was pressing up against mine, and I could feel her warmth. She was good. I pulled away.
"Friday, or I tell the shriveled weiner that you used to be a man."
"Okay, you prick. Friday."
The old man was weaving his way back to the table, and I let her alone to milk the man for what more she could get. I knew she'd have the money, she just wanted to play her little game and make me sweat a little. Friday would come, she'd make me work for it a little more, but she'd pay up, and with interest. Whatever else she was, when there was money at stake, she kept her word.
Which made it all the worse when the cops found her dead in my apartment the next morning.
It was turning out to be a lousy day.