Friday, September 25, 2009
Their routine was simple: be at Windward early with half-a-dozen races scouted from the morning lines, exchange information, and whittle their picks down to the best three. They'd scout the paddock before every race, making sure their choice wasn't showing any signs of stress, watch the trainers talking to the jocks and watch the bets coming in on the board. If something looked funny, they'd pass. If not, they'd pull the trigger and place the bet.
If they were betting one of the late races, Jo left the track early in order to get back to Edgar's, meeting up with Fisher after closing. When she walked through the door and saw their winnings in stacks of cash on the bed she'd strip naked and dive in.
They continued to make love by candle light even though the electricity had been turned back on in the apartment. Neither wanted to jinx the streak. Seven trips to the track, seven big days of winning. On the seventh night, as they lay naked in bed surrounded by cash, Jo traced the triangles of hair on Fisher's chest.
"Have you ever been married?" Jo asked.
"I never saw the percentage in it.”
“Why, you come from a broken home?”
"Yeah, and that's why I suck my thumb and kick frogs."
"If you don't want to answer..."
"No. It's just the whole, I don't know, marriage, kids, the dog, the house, falling asleep face down in the plum pudding... somehow I missed that train,” he said. “That everyday normal train. Somehow it pulled out without me.”
“What about you?”
“What about me?”
“I don't know. You got married.”
"Yeah," said Jo. "I did." She took a drink of from her glass. "Not exactly your picket fence, plum pudding kinda deal either." She finished the whiskey and shook her head.
"What?", said Fisher.
"The every day normal train." She slid back the covers and lowered herself between his thighs. "I guess I missed that train too.”
Fisher drove his car towards the shore. After making good on the delinquent payments and interest, it was nice to have his own wheels back. He watched the gulls heading bay ward. Ride the streak, yeah, ride the streak; the bettor's credo. He could feel the wind from behind, he felt if he stretched out his arms he would be carried into the sky, he could glide in the jet-stream circling high above the every day below and never come down. A trailing car honked bringing Fisher smack down to earth. He waved the car by and watch it pass. Bless you sinner, you are forgiven. He was in no hurry. None at all. He made the turn for Edgar's, pulled into the lot and parked between a black Lexus and a beer truck. He strolled into the restaurant like he owned the place.
Inside Edgar's, Fisher could hear Cajun music pounding from somewhere. Steam streamed from behind the kitchen door, waitresses were setting up tables for lunch, the liquor delivery man was stacking cases of beer on top of the bar. When Fisher inquired if the owner was in, the man pointed the way downstairs.
Fisher had yet to be below the main floor. He walked down a steep narrow stairs into shadows. He could hear the music getting louder. He reached the bottom step and waited for his eyes to adjust to the dimly lit space. Towards the back Fisher could see a shirtless man in a bandanna lifting bags of flour off a hand truck. The music came from a boom-box perched on a shelf above.
The basement was huge. Taking in the end to end rows of boxes and bottles and sacks of dried goods, Fisher whistled. The shirtless man turned around.
"I'm looking for Jo Landy."
“She's not here,” the man said gruffly.
“Upstairs the guy said...”
“He's wrong. Anything I can help you with?” the man challenged, taking off his work gloves.
Yeah, thought Fisher, you can help me kick your ass. But his hand was still hurting from taking down the ton of fun at Winward, and this was Jo's joint. He wasn't going to cause any trouble.
“No. It's uh... personal.”
“Personal?” A knowing grin split the man's face, and Fisher felt his stomach flip over as he realized the worker's tan line corresponded more to an Izod golf shirt than a t-shirt. “Your name?”
“All right, Mr. Fisher. I'll let my wife know you dropped by.”
“You're Jack Landy?”
“You got it.”
“Then you... yes,” Fisher started skating as fast as he could. “Yes, you can help... I mean since it has to do with you.”
“I'm with the Dispatch.”
“Never heard of it,” Landy said dismissively.
“It's the county local.”
“Right. The skinny little one.” Landy shook his head and went back to work wondering why he was wasting even one more second on this worthless gnat. “Look, if this is about advertising for the restaurant, I'm really not..."
“No, I'm a sportswriter. I wrote the story about the three holes-in-one on the Black Course."
Landy stopped. Ah, vanity, Fisher thought, like to see your name in the paper.
“I wasn't able to reach you,” Fisher pushed on. “You had, uh, gone to Florida, so I had to... your wife filled in what facts she could.”
“Did she?” chuckled Landy.
“We ran it. I don't know if you saw it?”
“No, I'm sorry. I stick to the major newspapers.”
“They mention you much?” Fisher shot back.
Landy yawned. “Look. What can I do for you?”
Fisher had seen Landy's stripe before, guys who thought their shit didn't stink, big splashes in small ponds who could never cut it once the crawled out of their tide pools. At another time in another place, Fisher would've told Landy to go fuck himself, but right now he had blundered in and put Jo in jeopardy. He needed to play to Landy's ego.
“I was planning to do a follow-up. A longer piece, a profile. But if now isn't a good time...”
But the fish took the bait. “In the Dispatch? Huh. Well I guess somebody reads it. Ask away partner.”
Fisher pulled out his notepad and followed Landy around the storeroom lobbing softball questions: how many other hole-in-ones had Landy shot? Four. Which was his longest? A two-hundred-and-twenty yard three iron at Blue Hills in the semi-finals of the qualifier for the Nassau Open.
Landy stopped to towel the sweat off his torso. There was nothing soft about him, he was tall and broad-shouldered with a slim waist, his features were sharp. He easily lifted the heavy sacks from the hand truck to the shelves.
When the truck was empty, he wheeled it up to the walk-in freezer, swung open the door and entered without bothering to put on his shirt. Fisher hesitated for a moment outside the freezer, but when Landy waved him in, warning him to watch his head, Fisher ducked under the low-hanging beam at the door, and entered.
Inside, Landy was filling the hand truck with open crates of dry ice. He asked Fisher if he knew anything about the restaurant business.
“No, other than, you know, I like to eat,” Fisher replied.
“It's one big sieve,” said Landy, while he loaded huge cuts of swordfish, mahi-mahi and tuna onto the ice. “Easiest business in the world to get ripped off in. Things come in, things disappear. Mysterious Bermuda Triangles where pounds of seafood vanish."
It was freezing in the walk-in.
Landy glanced at Fisher trembling.
“This too cold for you?” he asked, clearly testing Fisher.
“I'm all right.” Fisher could not longer feel his feet, but he wasn't going to show it. “You came in second in the Amateur last year.”
“Yeah.” Landy chuckled again. The whole world was too damn funny. “I could've won the thing, easy. But then I'd have to give away too many strokes when I'm playing for something more than trophies.” He winked at Fisher. “That's the truth. Don't print it, but that's the truth.”
A-a-a-asshole, thought Fisher, so cold he was stuttering in his mind.
“You're turning a little blue there, partner,” offered Landy. But Fisher shook his head. He'd freeze to death before giving in an inch to the prick. Landy loaded one more slab of fish on the ice, and stepped out of the freezer. In Fisher's haste to exit, he forgot to duck.
His knees buckled and he dropped into cold darkness.
Even before he felt the throbbing pain, or the ice water rolling down his face, Fisher saw a cold eye staring at him, a single black passionless eye.
The small basement office gradually came into focus. The room was crowded with filing cabinets, boxes of bar glasses and sugar dispensers. As the black desk, calculator and ledgers cleared in his view, Fisher realized he was sitting in a swivel chair with a pack of ice on his head. The cold dead eye staring at him belonged to a stuffed marlin hanging from the sheet rock wall. He could hear a voice asking him if he was all right."
“I'm fine,” said Fisher, but when he attempted to stand, the pain knocked him back into the chair as if he'd been punched.
“Easy there, sport,” Landy said. “Take your time.”
Fisher readjusted the pack on his head and wiped the dripping water off his face. “What happened?”
“You banged your coconut into the beam of the walk-in. I told you to duck.”
“Was I out?”
“Nah. You took the mandatory eight, and we dragged you in here.”
“Yeah, my wife came down to see what was going on. Thought we might be fighting.” Fisher turned his head slightly and saw Jo standing in front of a floor safe. “Joanna, this is Dave...”
“Yes,” said Jo. “We've met.”
“Ah.” Landy smiled and closed his eyes like a sunning lizard. “Old friends.”
“What was he doing in the walk-in?” asked Jo.
“He says he's writing an article about me for the local paper. About my golf. I figured, what the hell, long as I could get some work done. Place looks like shit.”
“Don't even start,” said Jo.
Fisher truly believed it was time for him to leave. He made a second attempt to get out of the chair by holding on to the desk for support.
“How's that head coming?” said Landy.
“Fine. I'm fine.”
“Don't want your little paper to sue me.”
“Would you knock off the 'little' paper business? We're the largest local on the Island.”
“I'm sure you are,” Landy chuckled.
Fisher counted silently to ten. He was a wounded bull and Landy was waving red. If only the room would stop spinning.
Jo bent to pick up one of the ledgers but Landy stopped her with his hand. “Did you speak to Sarah?”
“No,” said Jo.
“Money is going somewhere.”
“Sarah is fine.”
“How the hell do you know if you don't put her on the wheel? Stop bucking me and just put he fear of God in her for Christ's sake! Person wasn't born who wouldn't fuck you if you give them half a chance..." Landy suddenly turned and stared at Fisher with malice. "Right Mr. Fishman?"
Fisher remained poker-faced, giving away nothing as he slipped his hand into a box of sugar dispensers. But the intercom buzzed and the homicidal look faded from Landy's eyes.
He bent across Fisher and pushed the button. “Yeah?”
“It's Mr. Sante for you, Jack,” Sarah said over the intercom.
“Look, I've got to take this. You've got all you need, right?” He clapped his hands together. “It's been great. I'll try to read it this time.”
Fisher didn't realize he still had the sugar dispenser in his hand until he was half way across the parking lot. He spun on his heels and with all his might launched the glass container against the restsaurant's side.