Thursday, January 22, 2009

SHUFFLE, Chapter Fifteen

I tried to stretch the ache out of my muscles when I woke up but only succeeded in banging my arms against the steering wheel. I opened my eyes.

Where was I? Some cowboy’s truck? Heaven help me! Had I stooped that low to get dates?

I looked down at my janitor’s clothing and the events of last night rushed back into my brain. The monster truck, kidnappers, Runt in trouble ─ things I didn’t want to think about. I shook my head to clear it and peeked over the truck’s window edge. I almost passed out again seeing how far down to the ground it was.

I was in an empty warehouse, and I do mean empty. Nothing was stored in the steel building. No men worked there. It was clean and new. Spotless. Skylights and florescent lighting lit the place up, but for what I didn’t know. There was absolutely nothing to see.

Just the monster truck and little ol’ me inside the building.

Me. All by myself.


“I’m outa here!” I said to myself.

I opened the door of the Dodge.


The noise from the alarm almost knocked me out of the cab. I grabbed hold of the armrest and lowered myself down to the floor. A bathroom sign on a door across the warehouse beckoned me like a hawker at a country fair carnival.


Eddy came running from the back of the warehouse. So much for being alone in the warehouse.


“WHERE ARE YOU GOING?” Eddy yelled above the noise of the horn.

“SHOOT ME! I NEED THE LADIES ROOM!” I screamed back. And I meant it. I needed the bathroom and I needed it bad.


I ran towards the ladies room, flew though the door, and slammed it shut behind me. The lavatory was dirty but useable. But then, in the state I was in, a bucket would have been useable. No windows, I noted, but it had tissue! Like all women I have a tissue issues!

The alarm system on the truck shut down. Thank goodness for that. I was on my last nerve. I hadn’t slept under my own sheets in days. I missed my pillow. I’d skipped more meals than I’d eaten. And truth be told, I was damn tired of being kidnapped almost every day.

OK, Shade hadn’t really kidnapped me. Toni, well, she was just being Toni. Once I figured that out, I wasn’t scared anymore. But this time! This time it the real thing and I was petrified. These men had guns. They’d killed Sloppy. They wanted Runt or else.

I wondered again if Toni had made it back to Shade’s place and if she had, were Runt and Shade looking for me? I was too hungry to think and I badly needed deodorant. Lord knows, I needed makeup. Not that I wanted to look good for these misfits. I just wanted to look good to get my edge back. I missed my attitude. I missed my life. I even missed Shade!

I splashed water on my face and under my arms. If stink was contagious, I’d caught mine from Tom and Eddy. No towels. They could get points taken off for that by the Health Department. I wiped my hands on my jeans and mustered the courage to walk back into the warehouse. Damn. I’d rather walk through cow poop!

I opened the bathroom door. There stood Eddy, hands on his hips.

“Where’s Tom?” I asked.

“He’s got business that ain’t none of yours! Get back in the truck,” he said.

“I will not!”

“Yes, you will. Tom said to keep you there so I can set the alarm and relax.”

“Well, I need to move around. I’m not used to sitting in one place for long periods of time.”

“You deal Hold’em. You ain’t no athlete. I’m not going to tell you again. Get into the truck.”

“ ‘Get out of the truck! Get into the truck!’ Make up your mind,” I said, remembering twice before when he wanted me out of a vehicle. Oh, yeah. This was the Fruit-of-the-Loom-holsterer from the stoplight. The same pants-digging, gun-toting dirt bag. I was sure of it.

“Listen,” I said, giving him my sweet smile. I’d never used it on a scumbag before. Well, besides Dante. “I’m bored in the truck. You’re bored in the warehouse. Let’s play poker.”

“Yeah, right!” He thought for a second, then added, “I got cards but no chips.”

That when I knew I had him. We’d play poker, all right. I’d baited the hook and pulled in a sucker. I tried to help his thinking along. “No chips? That’s not a problem. What do you guys have a lot of?”

He looked like he was studying on the matter. I again got the feeling that Eddy wasn’t a big thinker. I didn’t offer to play with the wad of money I’d won off Dante. I wasn’t that desperate. Yet. The money was still tucked away in my bra, safe and secure. I don’t trust purses. I misplace them too easily, but bras have to stay with me out of necessity.

Eddy was still thinking.

“Peanuts? Matches? Candy?” I asked, pushing his thoughts along.

“Nah,” he said. “We ain’t got a lot of nothing’ here.”

“Popcorn? Jelly beans? That reminds me. I’m hungry.”

“I’m tellin’ ya, there’s nothing’ here. The only thing Tom keeps in this warehouse are sleeping bags and his medicine.” Eddy walked over to a sleeping bag and retrieved a tired bologna sandwich and a warm soda from a paper bag. He handed them to me and I was desperate enough to be grateful for the nasty meal.

“What kind of medicine?” I asked him, chewing on a big bite of stale bread and limp meat. “Pills?”

He walked over to his bedding and laid down his gun. He needed both hands to pick up all of Tom’s plastic medicine bottles and bring them back to me. Maybe I could keep him distracted and he wouldn’t remember his gun again.

“You know,” he said, “aspirin, vitamins, some doctor junk. Stuff like that.”

“Well, it’s a first for me but let’s play with these.”

“You’re kidding,” he said, but I shook my head no. I definitely wasn’t joking. I needed to play poker.

OK, maybe I am addicted to poker.

I looked over Tom’s stash of pills and decided the cheap aspirin would be dollar chips. The vitamins with extra C would be five dollars each. The antibiotics (I didn’t even want to know what they were for), twenty-five dollars each. And the nine Viagra would be hundred dollar chips. Go Viagra. Tom must have a little problem in the sex department.

Eddy dragged in a rickety old table and a couple of chairs from the connected office area. I inched towards the sleeping bag and the gun but before I could make it all the way there, Eddy hurried past me and retrieved it. He stuck it in the back of his waistband and picked up a deck of old and tattered cards, their box gone long ago.

“I saw what you were up to,” he said, pushing me towards the table and chairs. “Don’t take advantage of my good nature. Sit! It was you with the hots to play poker!”

I sat before I ruined everything. I didn’t want to end up confined in the Dodge again. Playing poker for pills was a heck of a lot better than sitting in that monster truck with absolutely nothing to do.

I shuffled the cards. I didn’t even know if they were all there but if the player didn’t care, why should the dealer?

“Ante up,” I said.

He dropped an aspirin in the middle of the table. I threw in two.

“Why’d you get to throw in two aspirin?”

“Chips. Two chips.

“OK, but I only bet one chip. Why’d you bet two?”

I looked across the table at Eddy. Should I explain ‘blinds’ to him? Nah. We’d never get to the hole cards!

“You’re right. I should have bet only one aspirin.” I pulled the extra pill back into my stack.

“Chip,” he said.

“Right, again. Chip.” I dealt the hole cards.

“And you’re supposed to be the professional,” Eddy scoffed.

I shrugged my shoulders and looked innocent. It wasn’t the first time I played stupid to win at poker.

“Bet’em,” I said.

One more aspirin chip for each of us went into the pot. I burned a card and dealt the flop.

“What’d you just do?”


“Right then! You put the top card under the aspirins! You’re cheatin’ already and it’s only the first hand!”

OK, I had a clue here. Not one for the Runt and biometrics situation but one for the Eddy situation. “Chips. Under the chips, Eddy, And all I did was burn the top card. Have you ever played Texas Hold’em before?”

“Burn it. You buried it under the aspirins…chips…hell, whatever you want to call’em! Just because I ain’t never played Hold’em before doesn’t mean you should try and cheat me. I ain’t stupid.”

I looked at Eddy but didn’t say anything. I just wrinkled my nose. He was stating his opinion of himself. I didn’t need to add mine.

My wordlessness must have shown my disdain because Eddy spoke up. ”Ah…well…ain’t Hold’em like regular poker only played in Texas?” he asked.

Hummmm. “Let’s start from the beginning. Texas Hold’em 101.”

Eddy learned slowly and was an easy mark. He had more tells than a dog in heat. He blinked his eyes, kneaded his mouth, and popped his knuckles whenever he had a playable hand. I checked or folded when that happened. An hour later Eddy was out of pills and I had more Viagra than I’d ever need or want. Somehow playing the game for pills wasn’t nearly as exciting as playing for big bucks with Dante.

“I guess I just don’t get all the fine points of Hold’em,” Eddy said.

Well, duh.

A key jiggled in the lock and we both turned our heads towards the office door. A distinguished-looking woman with white hair twisted into a bun at the base of her neck walked through the door. The gray suit said quality. Her soft pink blouse matched the pink leather bag and shoes. Glasses hung from a string of pearls around her neck.

I was up and out of my seat as fast as a rodeo horse is out a chute. Eddy was right behind me but somehow he got there first. Confused as what he should do next, he looked from one of us to the other, then back again.

“Eddy?” the woman asked. “Is everything OK here?”

I spoke up instead of Eddy. “I’ve been kidnapped! Please help me?” The woman looked blankly at me.

“Hey, Aunt Lois,” Eddy said. Again he looked from me to her, then back to me again. “That’s Mrs. Sirlo Senior,” he said to me.

“Mrs. Sirlo, I’ve been kidnapped! Please help me!”

“Aunt Lois,” Eddy said, “this is T.R.”

“I know, dear.” She patted me on the shoulder then turned to hug Eddy, “Eddy is such trash to have kidnapped you, aren’t you, Eddy?”

Trashy Eddy just smiled and nodded his head up and down.

“He’s not like my Tommy. Tommy is such a dear boy, not a bad bone in his body. Lord yes. Isn’t that right, Eddy?” Again Eddy smiled and nodded. Nobody mentioned the fact that dear Tommy had been in on the kidnapping also.

I probably looked like an armadillo suddenly on alert, my head cocked to one side, ears up, eyes confused by this new development. Mrs. Sirlo was OK with her son and nephew kidnapping me? I was doomed! Well, Shade had wondered who else was in on this takeover. I guess we had at least a partial answer.

“What y’all doing?” she asked.

“Playin’ poker. Wanna play?” said Eddy. “She already won all my chips from me. Except we don’t got no chips. We’re playin’ for pills.”

“Lord yes, I want to play. Are you playing Hold’em? I love Hold’em,” the older woman said.

Well, that confirmed my conviction that everyone loves playing Texas Hold’em. But it also emphasized the disappointing observation that this fastidiously dressed middle-aged woman with sterling silver Mexican combs in her hair would be absolutely no help to me in my current abducted status.

“Do we have to play with pills?” she asked. “I have lots of money in my purse.” I noticed how large her purse was and thought again of the money safely tucked in my cleavage controller. Always the gambler, I wondered if I could take advantage of the situation and add to my assets, money wise that is. I may be kidnapped but I smelled a sucker here. A sucker with money, not pills.

Mrs. Sirlo hauled her purse from her side and started rooting through it.

“Money? Real money, like in the foldin’ kind?” asked Eddy, “I think I could play better if it was for foldin’ money instead of pills.”

“Lord yes. Want me to deal? I can be the banker and the dealer.”

Lord yes, I said to myself as I shook my head, not believing the situation I was in. She might not have been the savior I was hoping for and I might still be kidnapped, but at least I was going to play poker with a live one.

Eddy dragged up another chair and I noticed the gun in his waistband was working its way upwards from his butt and I didn’t blame it. That’s the last place I’d want to be too but I felt the situation was dangerous. I could just see it falling out onto the cement floor and going off, shooting me in the foot or worse.

“Eddy, fix your gun,” I offered.

“Lord yes. In fact, put that thing away over there someplace,” Mrs. Sirlo said, pointing to his sleeping bag on the far side of the warehouse. “You’re going to accidentally shoot one of us.”

Eddy did as he was told and came back to the table. Mrs. Sirlo and I had already taken our places. She was generously divvying up her money. Lots of ones, fives, and tens. A large handful of hundreds. She couldn’t help but think she was running a numbers game on the side.

Mrs. Sirlo picked up the deck of cards and shuffled up.

“Now, dear,” she said to me. “I don’t know if all the cards are here. You’ll just have to trust me on that.” She cut the deck. I could see I didn’t have to teach her anything. In fact, I might learn a thing or two. It felt like I was watching myself in my old age, seeing my future. It wasn’t a pretty sight. If I ever got unkidnapped, I thought, I might want to get some addiction counseling to prevent this sort of thing from happening to me.

“Lord yes,” our dealer said. “Now these are hole cards. Let’s bet on them.” I had pocket rockets and a poker face.

“With our chips,” Eddy said, proud to know the poker parlance.

“Lord no. We don’t have any chips. We’re playin’ with real money.”

Eddy looked so dejected at his misuse of gambling jargon again, I almost felt sorry for him. Almost.

Two hours later I was one rich kidnap victim. Somewhere during that time I dropped the Mrs. Sirlo and started calling her Aunt Lois. I didn’t do it because I felt close to her. I just felt close to her money!

To be continued.

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