The whores had been going hard at it all night. Since after eight anyhow. End of month they get themselves busy. Bills to pay, like everyone else. So the constant foot traffic above my head and the thumping and scraping of the bed made it hard to get to sleep. The goddamn trucker convention they decided to have in the parking lot outside my door made it impossible. One of those fuckers must've breaker one nined all his good buddies about the whores. It was near 3AM when I finally sat up in the bed and said, Fuck it.
I took an extra long hot shower. It's been known to steady me. Left my hair wet, combed straight back. Put on the purple shirt the idiot cowboy left behind, his thinking, I guess, that I wouldn't come collect his marker. Fuck me, but people are stupid. I decided on the tight jeans and the giant belt buckle. Then the steel toed boots that could put a man's nuts into his chest, if need be. The black stetson. The black leather coat, even though it was hot as fuck out. This coat drops all the way to the knees. With deep pockets for carrying incidentals.
Fuck, but it's dark, was my first thought after stepping outside. The interstate maybe three stones throw away, all the lights there, and still it was so fucking dark here. The Turk that owns this joint had killed the lights in the parking lot. The outside lamps too. Cheap fucker, that one. So the darkness was real and not my imagination. I lit a smoke and decided I liked the dark just fucking fine. Took a long pull from the pint of Jack and sloshed it around like mouthwash before swallowing it down. I wanted all of me awake.
It's eight doors from my room to the staircase. There wasn't any hurry, so I walked like someone dressed like I was dressed walks when not in a hurry. I smoked and looked around, casually, like a watchman. Saw nothing in the dark. Listened to my footsteps on the cement. Had another smoke and eventually I got there. Seeing the staircase and the room under it reminded me of the time the Turk got over on me. Put me in the room under the staircase. "It is closer to the pool, and the soda machine too," he told me with a little too much smile and a little too much enthusiasm. Fuck, shit place like this, a room's a room, I figured. I figured wrong. Under the staircase when the whores are working full out is a cattle call for every fat fuck in town. Thump, thump, thump, all goddamn night.
The weight of the leather coat plus the heat of the night was wearing on me pretty good when he pulled up. I was sweating, which I strongly dislike. I pulled a cloth from inside my jacket and wiped away the sweat from my face, then the fingers and palms on both hands. He pulled up like he owned the goddamn place. High beams on, right into the parking space in front of room 108, the room under the staircase. Unoccupied at the moment. Even in the dark a shine from his maroon caddy. If something's beautiful enough the light'll find it. Then the door opened and he slid one leg out, then the other. Slowly. Unsteadily, like the drunk or infirm. Maybe both. Or maybe just an old one.
He got the door shut okay, lights off and doors locked, car keys in his pocket, got himself steadied and moving in my direction. He put out a foot for the bottom step without a word or a nod. He started up the stairs with a big fucking nothing, as if I was invisible, or as if I was going to just let him pass because he pretended it should be so. My foot was already on the staircase. Had been there first. And this was narrow passage.
"You pay down here." I put a grip on his shirt. Had a look at his old haggard face. Fifty years ago he probably got more than his share of pussy. Free pussy. But that was then. Old broads probably don't do it for him. "Two bills, mister. Fifty more if you want it bare."
He looked at me blankly. Like drunks and idiots do, everything processing a few clicks slower than real time.
Finally he reached a hand into a pocket, pulled out an impressive wad. A rubber band tight around it, like some gamblers do. Gangsters too. It seems they take special pleasure in removing the rubber band and then peeling off a few bills. The sound it makes is distinct, if done right. But the bills must be reasonably new and crisp. I know a bookie that won't take payment with an old bill. And he's trained up that degenerate lot. Go figure.
The old guy finally got the rubber band off and unwrapped two c-notes from the outside. Fumbled around trying to get the rubber band back around the wad. Four, maybe five grand, I was thinking. If it's all hundreds. A coin flip it is or isn't. Maybe sixty forty it is.
The old guy pushed the two bills at my free hand, my other hand still gripping his shirt, our transaction not yet finalized. Rather than just hand me the money, he was trying to fold the two bills, like for a tip stuffed in the valet's hand, or the maitre d's hand, or the shoe shine boy's tiny little goddamned hand. The folding of the money some sort of custom. Some sort of unspoken unwritten code that no boy can be expected to know. Here, kid - lad, boy, sonny, - for you, kid, two crumpled bills moved from the big hand to the little hand. The big hand a smile and then not another thought of the little hand. An almost pointless transaction. Meaningless. Except for the spectacle. Watch the little hand disappear the bills into his pocket. Quickly, too quickly. With the speed of the beggar. So well practiced at such a young age. Almost a prodigy. Look. Look. Look. Look. Look.
Again he tried folding and pushing the two c-notes into my free hand. Again he failed. Comically failed, if I had been in any kind of mood to find humor in a drunk old fucker acting the fool in a bad part of town in the middle of the night. My hand snatched the two bills, slipped them into a coat pocket. The other hand loosened the grip on his shirt. Alright. Off you go, old fucker. Room 216.
I watched him climb the stairs. A step at a time, like a fucking toddler. And he was still trying to get the rubber band back around the money. He's a determined fucker, I thought. Have to give him that much. I figured he would eventually get the money wrapped and all the way up them stairs and to the whore's room. Probably give her a better ride than she was expecting, him being old and drunk and all. Them whores tend to size up the johns quickly, form a quick first impression, and roll with it. Evidence to the contrary be damned. So the old fucker'd likely surprise her good. So much so that she'd think to tell the other whores tomorrow over pancakes and coffee at the Denny's. Then they'd all laugh. Where would they be without old fuckers.
Eight doors down, on the left. Not a shouted direction but more than a whisper. If he heard the words he didn't acknowledge. Likely focused on nothing but the finish line. My lips were within inches of his ear when I thought to repeat the directions but decided no point. I sapped him above his right ear with the slapjack that stays in the leather coat. The sound wasn't much. Twenty feet away and you wouldn't hear a thing.
The money he hadn't yet gotten wrapped fell free. Released. His hands opened like puppet hands, the strings being pulled. Slowly. So slowly. The same for his legs. They gave out, as if they had been filled with air before and now were deflating. And so the whole of him sunk towards the pavement. Like the inflatable clown when the music stops and the children run home. The old guy was out cold when he hit down. He landed gently, all things considered. I gathered up the money and stuffed my pockets. Then I sat the old guy up, grabbed a good hold of him with my left hand, made a fist with my right hand and blasted him a good one, square on the jaw.
I didn't like how his head recoiled from the punch, but them's the breaks. Nothing could be done about that. I had to punch him, and a good one, in case the law was ever to come around asking questions. The old guy came on to me, officer. Propositioned me. Asked me to blow him, or fuck him in the ass. So, yeah, I punched the old pervert, just one good shot to back him the fuck up, and he must've hit his head when he fell down. I don't know nothing about no money. Maybe you should ask them whores upstairs. What is he doing over here in the middle of the night anyway? Did you ask him that? Decent folk are home asleep. Sounds like the old fucker got exactly what he had coming.