Friday, September 5, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 57

The restaurant menu’s Spanish descriptions are more helpful than the English. But all Max really knows is that the Mexican food he ate before tasted squishy. Max likes steaks, pork chops, and Jerry’s favorite, barbecued ribs. Stuff you chew, not mushy-mush things like refried beans, avocados, and gooey cheese.

“What is hamburguesa?” Max says.

He lifts his gaze, finds Jerry giving him a sideways nod that means to look over the restaurant. He and Jerry already check out this Mexican place, the people inside. Max doesn’t see reason to do it again.

“Max,” Jerry says.

Bluefish glances at them over his menu.

Max pushes himself out of the booth. Bartender is making drinks. Big blond guy playing with laptop computer. Austin Carr left two minutes ago, not that Max worry about him. In fact, except Mexican behind bar, nobody in whole place looks like they could slow Max down.

Max nods at Jerry that everything is okay, then points at the restroom sign. “Be right back.”

His business finished, Max glances at himself in the mirror while washing his hands. That empty feeling grips him again. He sees it in his eyes. The same desolation that unnerved him this afternoon looking at the cloudless sky.

A world without life.

Max reaches inside his new sport coat--Jerry says the old one smelled bad--and removes the Smith & Wesson revolver Jerry gave him to carry this evening. The blue-black steel cools his sweaty palm.

The worry hits Max strong tonight. He hasn’t carried his father’s arrowhead for luck in two years.

The gun against his hip, Max pushes open the bathroom door with his shoulder and sticks his head out. Nothing. He hurries to the end of the short hallway where he can see the biggest part of the restaurant’s bar area. Nothing wrong there. Everything look the same.

Holding the Smith & Wesson mostly in his coat pocket, Max strolls through doorway, then stops in main dining room where he can see both Bluefish and Jerry.

Trouble. A uniformed policeman stands beside Bluefish, a pen and leather-bound ticket pad in his hands. The cop talking to Jerry. Shifting his weight from one foot to the other. Back and forth. Back and forth. Glancing now over his shoulder at Max.

Why is cop so nervous?

Max hurries forward, his thumb sliding back the revolver’s hammer.

A woman to his right glimpses Max’s gun. She gasps, then points at it for her friend, another middle-aged woman. The second one screams.

The three explosions come closely together. Max hears them as one long stuttering peel of thunder, a tornado rolling over him from behind. But each bullet feels different, separate from the sound and separate from each other. First bullet burns his back like fire. The second knocks all air from his lungs. Third bullet taps his shoulder like the hand of a small child.

On his way to restaurant’s wood floor, sliding down like a melting snowman, Max watches the nervous policeman draw his weapon and fire two shots, one each into the heads of Bluefish and Jerry.

Max’s weapon tumbles away as he hits the floor. So quick. Everything happen so fast.

He tries to stand, but Max’s legs don’t work anymore. His hands push okay, and he can slightly raise his head.

Big blond guy in shorts and blue T-shirt stand over him now, a wisp of gray smoke rising from barrel of small-caliber handgun. Stinky little twenty-two. Hit man special, Jerry once say. Bullet bounce around inside skull.

Max watches the blond guy aim the little gun at Max’s head. He remembers the morning’s tasteless air. That cloudless sky.

A world without life.

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