It was just about nine o’clock in the evening. I stood outside on the front steps trying to make that cigarette last as long as I could. Inside they were competing to see who could moan the loudest on every call or every dropped pass trying to cheer up the boss, who just sat there with his elbows on the table and his cheeks melting into his hands. I had followed the young blonde swirled in a red sparkle dress and asked her for a smoke. She was a vision, but she didn’t talk much. I was dressed up like a caterer, what else could I expect? We stood silent and watched the moon rising in the grey sky.
“Thanks,” I said and walked back inside and started gathering up the used plates, while she lingered outside. Everybody watched him as he watched the game. The Falcons scored another touchdown. His cellphone squealed on the table, and I moved closer.
“Yes, I’m watching,” he said. “No. I know, but it’s not a problem. I know I did, okay? It’s going to be fine. Tommy’s a friend of mine. He’s a great friend and a great quarterback, the best quarterback. Listen, Droog, I know them. They’re going to be fine. You don’t understand football over there. We do. We know it. They’ll pull it off, okay? And we’ll all be happy, especially you.”
I picked up the plates from the nearby table and walked them back to the kitchen. I kept my head down. When I returned, he was standing with his hand balled into a small fist.
“That dirty, stinking woman!” he yelled. “Oh hilarious. You’re so funny. You know what’s funny? Someone driving a Kia!”
The crowd around him erupted with laughter.
“Who makes the Kia, the Japs?”
One of the young, dark-haired men behind him answered.
“I believe that’s South Korea, sir.”
“We got a problem with the South Koreans?” he asked.
“Um, no, sir.”
“Well, we’ll see,” he said. “Blondie, get over here.”
The girl from the front steps approached.
“Go tell them to start the car, okay, baby?” he said and gave her a pat, as she swatted his hand away. “What?”
As soon as they drove away, I left the club and headed toward the credit union up the road where I had left my car. The bug I’d planted in the young girl’s box of cigarettes was working fine.
“Get me McNally,” he said. “He’s a good kid, a really good kid. Messed up a little with the flat balls, but somebody you can trust. Blondie, why don’t you scoot a little closer over here?”
We were both using her.
“McNally,” he said finally, “I need you to come up for me one more time, bigly. I’m in huge trouble if we don’t turn this thing. I’ve got a friend, a partner, that’s got a lot at stake in this game, a lot of dinero, rubles, you know what I’m saying (Blondie, please, over here. I don’t want to have to reach to grab you, okay?).”
I started running to the car. The thought of his aged peach flesh scratching against any part of her delicate skin started a brushfire in my brain.
“A drone thingy?” he said. “Sure a drone in a ball, just get it done. Those boys aren’t catching anything. He’s throwing beauties, and they catch nothing. All right. Get it done!”
All I had to do was make a phone call to Houston, but I had other things on my mind. I raced down Summit Boulevard toward the Mar-a-Lago. I had the game on the radio.
“The ball’s tipped. Julian diving! … Did he make the catch?! He did!”
I heard him say Blondie again and took the earpiece out and threw it into the back seat. I pulled up to the Mar-a-Lago. The place was packed. There’s no way they were going to let me in, not in this tuxedo. They’d already seen my face. So he was going to get the game and the girl. But I knew she would want him to pay for it, and that box of cigarettes would tell me right where to find her.