Last Fair Deal Gone Down (A Nick Travers Short)

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Book: Last Fair Deal Gone Down (A Nick Travers Short) by Ace Atkins Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ace Atkins
into colder night as the setting sun turned burnt orange over the Mississippi. Driving down St. Charles Avenue, mottled shadows played over my face. Leaves turned end over end from the knurled water oaks dripping with Spanish moss.
    I parked off Prytania, where Fat’s drummer lived in a rotting carriage house among mansions.
    He was stoned when he opened the door. Red-eyed, sunken-shouldered, giggly stoned. Tom Cat usually wore his hair in a greasy ponytail, but tonight it hung wild in his face. Clutching a bag of Cheetos in his skinny white arms, he wiped orange dust from the corner of his mouth and invited me in.
    “Hey, dude.”
    I pulled a crumpled pair of jeans and a foul-smelling T-shirt off a chair and sat down. The place reeked of marijuana. He’d be lucky if the paint didn’t start to peel.
    “Want a smoke?”
    “No, thanks,” I said, smiling and pulling a pack of Marlboros from my jean-jacket pocket.
    “Jesus, Nick, I’m a mess.” He started to giggle. “Why’d he do it, man? Didn’t he realize it wasn’t just him, man, that . . .”
    He laughed uncontrollably.
    I smoked my cigarette and looked outside. Two kids played touch football in the street.
    “I’m sorry,” he said. His laughing died like a cold engine. “I just can’t handle the shit now. Ya know?”
    “Your band need a drummer?”
    “Did Fats have a girlfriend?”
    “I really don’t want to talk about this. It makes me feel like I’m gonna throw up.”
    “I need to know.”
    “You ain’t a cop, man. Don’t be a hard-on.”
    “Did he have a girlfriend?”
    He dropped his head between his knees, black hair cascading into his face. In a few seconds he raised back up, looked at the ceiling, red-faced from the inversion, and said, “See, Fats didn’t have girlfriend. Fats. . . Fats had a whore.”
    Her name was Sarah. Petite hands, delicate face, soft brown skin. She probably was in her late twenties, going on fifty. Her lips quivered when she blew cigarette smoke over her head, and she liked to drink. Crushed ice, Jim Beam, and cherries. The closer I sat to her at the hotel bar, the more I smelled the cherries. The more I smelled her perfume. I see, Fats. I see.
    On her third drink, she looked over at me and grinned fully into the left corner of her mouth. Her lips were full and thick. Her small body tight and exposed in black hot pants and black shirt tied above her stomach.
    “You sure are big. You a Saint?” she said.
    “No, I’m a dancer. Jazz, modern, and some tap. I used to breakdance, but I never could spin on my head.”
    She laughed. And even from the six feet that separated us, I could tell she had been crying. Dry streaks through her makeup.
    She kept wiping her nose and eyes. She turned her eyes back to a book placed in front of her drink.
    “How is it?” I asked.
    She cocked her head at me and a thin strap fell from her shoulder.
    “The book.”
    “Oh,” she said and closed it and showed me the cover. Lady Sings the Blues . “A friend gave it to me.”
    As I was about to pursue the thought, two guffawing men walked into the deserted bar. Laughing, smirking. Drunk, with slow moving eyes and aggressive swaggers. One nodded at the bartender. He nodded back.
    “Ready?” the bartender asked her.
“Oh. Yes.”
    I put my hand over hers, that were cold and shaking. “You don’t have to do this.”
    She smiled at me with her eyes. “It’s gonna be just fine. Just gonna be fine.”
    I kept my hand over hers.
    One of the businessmen approached me. Maybe I was generalizing, but he sure fit the description. Brooks Brothers suit and a wedding ring. His hair was silver, and his expensive cologne clashed with his hundred-buck-meal onion breath. Big fun on the bayou in the Big Easy.
    “We already paid,” he said. “You’ll have to do it yourself, son.” He made a yanking motion with one hand.
    The younger businessman snorted. The bartender was wise enough to shut up.
    I looked for a

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