First stop out the door was going to have to be the bank. For most of you that probably means a nice brick building with well dressed young women and effeminate men distributing new bills in small white paper envelopes. For me though, the bank is what I call the pawn shop at the end of the street I live on. It doesn’t have a vault, but it’s got a cage and a sawed off shotgun so it almost the same thing. They’re not FDIC insured, but that’s okay because they don’t take deposits. You can cash checks sometimes though, for a 30% service fee.
I didn’t have a check today though, and I still owed on a loan I took out nine months ago, but I needed money so I was going back to basics. I had a pair of opal cuff links that my ex wife had given me on some occasion or other. I never understood why she bought me nice things. I didn’t like to go anywhere nice and I certainly never had the money to take her anywhere where nice things would be a requirement. Most of the holes that I frequented, nice things had better odds of getting you mugged than raising your status. On the other hand, that’s probably why she was my ex wife and not my wife wife. Anyway, I had these cuff links and I figured even with my outstanding balance they should be enough to get me what I needed for a couple of area rugs.
That’s mostly how it went for me between cases. I’d get paid, then pay enough of my back rent to keep from getting kicked out of my place, then I’d drink whatever was left and when that ran out I’d start pawning stuff. At this point there wasn’t a lot left to sell though. After these cuff links all I really had left was my watch and my wedding ring. The watch was an Omega Speedmaster. A gift, also from my ex in a failed attempt to get me to be on time for, well, anything I suppose. I think it cost her a couple grand when she bought it. I’d probably be able to get thirty bucks when the time came. I figured I could live with that. My wedding ring was platinum and circled with diamonds. If I went to a real jewelry shop I could probably get a couple G’s for it, but that wasn’t going to happen. I’d never sell it.
What I needed was more cases. My last gig was four weeks ago and it had only paid five hundred dollars. That meant I walked with three-fifty after the bank’s cut. Two-seventy-five went to housing and the other seventy-five bought four liters of Canadian Club and a stack of flyers that I tacked up to telephone posts around town leaving me four dollars and twenty-seven cents crumpled in my slacks. The upside of this was that it was two dollars more than I thought I had, the downside being that it was significantly short of what it would take to buy the rugs I needed.
The flyers hadn’t been much help so far, in fact, the only thing they had led to was my dead pals currently stinking up my place, and since I was having to spend money I didn’t have to get rid of them, overall I would call it a net loss on my end. It was tough getting work without a license. There wasn’t a lot of legit work in this town. Nashville isn’t big enough to need dicks looking into corporate crime or missing persons. Most of the legit work is divorce stuff, and even the skeevy stuff ends up getting farmed out to guys with their city P.I. card. I mostly get the dregs that are left after that. A little collection duty for a couple of the less respected loan sharks. Some gigs for low rent pimps checking in on their girls. Nothing heavy handed, just some shouting and waving around my piece. It’s not even loaded most of the time, bullets cost a lot of money. The work isn’t regular and it pays for crap, but I take it when it comes and when it doesn’t, well, I don’t need nothin’ five star. If it never rained I wouldn’t even bother with keeping up on the rent.
I got no one to impress. I don’t love no one and no one loves me back. Most people flat out hate me, and that’s alright by me. I understand completely. I hate me too, but something keeps me climbing out of bed each day, and until it doesn’t I’ll just keep doing the bare minimum I need to to stay mostly drunk and technically not dead.
At the end of the block I walked into the bank. The little springy bell above the door jingled and Bruno, the proprietor of the establishment, looked up from the sports page. When he saw me he dropped the paper and pointed at me shaking his head.
“No no no. No way Church. We ain’t givin’ out any loans today and I ain’t cashin’ no checks. The last one you dropped on me bounced, and the cops showed up lookin’ for the guy who wrote it. I lost six customers while they sat in their black and white outside my shop all day.”
I put my hands up defensively and sort of half bowed in concession.
“I know, I know, I’m sorry about that. Jackie told me that they came here and hassled you. I’m really sorry, I had no idea.”
“You owe me five hundred dollars asshole,” Bruno said.
“Whoa, Bruno, you only paid out three-fifty.”
“Five hundred dollars mother fucker.”
Bruno stood up and leaned aggressively over the counter.
“Plus, you still owe me two large from that loan last November.”
“Hey, I’ve paid some on that,” I argued knowing full well that I hadn’t.
“Do you have money for me?”
I nodded, then shook my head.
“No, no I don’t. I’m working on it though. I’m on a job. I’ve got a big payday coming at the end of this week and I’ll be able to set you straight, and in cash.”
He looked skeptical.
“Thing is,” I said. “I’m going to need a little capital up front.”
“No way,” he said shaking his head.
“I’ve got collateral,” I said reaching into my slacks and producing the cuff links.
I walked up to the counter and laid them on the Plexiglas surface. Bruno leaned in close and checked them out. He picked one up and slid on a jewelers loop to inspect it.
“Do you even know what you’re doing with that?” I asked mockingly.
He glared at me then went back to the cuff link. He took off the loop and stared at me.
“And the watch,” he said.
I took a step back.
“No way,” I said.
“Come on man, you’re gonna give it to me one of these days. You gotta be runnin’ out of shit to sell me.”
“Maybe,” I said, “but today is not that day.”
He crossed his huge arms and stared at me.
“Those are worth a lot,” I said. “You take those, give me two-hundred, and we’ll call it even for the check.”
Bruno gave a deep belly laugh.
“Church, you motherfucker, you crack me up. Fifty bucks and you still owe me juice on the bounced check.”
I looked at him offended like and he laughed again.
“You owe me a lot of money Church. If you was anyone else I’d already have your kneecaps hangin’ here on my wall. I’m not handing these jewelrys back, so either take the fifty bucks or walk out empty handed.”
I looked at him with my dirtiest face, then dropped my shoulders and held out my palm for the cash. Bruno laughed again and dropped the cuff links in a box of mixed men’s jewelry on the counter. He punched a button on the register and it clanged as the drawer slid open. He stuffed two twenties and a ten dollar bill in my open hand then slammed the register drawer closed.
“Now get out of here, and don’t come back until you have the rest of my money asshole.”
I tried to give one last tough look, then gave up and turned and walked out of the store.