The Take [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Mike Dennis
eBook Category: Mystery/Crime
eBook Description: A small-time bookie is overcome by greed, lust, and extraordinary circumstances. Eddie Ryan operates in the rough-and-tumble East End section of Houston, and just lost a bundle on the World Series. For him, there's only one way out: a phone call to a local loan shark. This triggers a sequence of events which soon send him running to save his own skin. Complicating matters is the presence of two strong women. One is Felina, the Mexican beauty he has always desired. The other is Linda, his older sister and the power figure in his life since early childhood. There are no clear-cut good guys. Only the cop cars are black and white, while everything else swirls in a kind of gray soup. Eddie plunges into a morally treacherous world, from the inner city of Houston to the French Quarter of New Orleans. Get ready for a fast-paced, nerve-jangling ride, where no one can be trusted, and life expectancy is short.
eBook Publisher: L&L Dreamspell/L&L Dreamspell, Published: Spring, Texas, 2010
Fictionwise Release Date: November 2010
* * * *
Dennis writes true noir. The Take is a fast-motion train wreck from page one, twisting the reader's heart for the desperate souls on a ride they never chose. --Vicki Hendricks
The question was, of course, where could Eddie Ryan scrape up nineteen thousand dollars. From down here in the warm street, he could almost hear his cell phone bleating up in his room. The bettors wanted their money now, tonight, and the bookie was always expected to pay up on the spot.
The goddam Dodgers. The goddam lucky Dodgers. Cleveland was a lock, a mortal lock to win the World Series. So what if all the action was on the Dodgers? The more the better, he originally thought, because Cleveland couldn't lose. They were twice the team the Dodgers were!
He violated rule number one for any bookie: never, never, ever let your action get so one-sided that you wind up pulling for that team to win. That's not what the business is about. Of course, Eddie knew that. He knew he was supposed to even out the betting on both sides, then collect the ten percent juice. Sure, he knew that, but he went ahead and took all that Dodger action anyway, without even moving the betting line! And now, he needed nineteen dimes right away.
The damn World Series hadn't been over twenty minutes and already a stream of sweat had slinked its way down the gully of his spine.
Eddie tried frantically to think of a way out, some kind of angle or anything, but he came up dry. He thought about just splitting town right now, walking out and leaving his players holding the bag. Then he eyed his old orange Toyota parked around the corner, and he thought again, realizing the car was even money just to get him to the Houston city limits. Even if it held up, he didn't have the cash to go anywhere. He didn't have a hundred bucks to his name, so leaving town was not an option. Besides, if he did leave, Davey B, who had five thousand coming, would dedicate his life to finding him.
He knew of only one play he could make. Fishing some change from his pocket, he went over to the gas station and found a pay phone. He knew Raymond Cannetta's number by heart.
"Raymond? Eddie Ryan. I need to see you. Tomorrow? Where? Okay, Denny's at noon? Got it. See you then."
He detoured into the liquor store for a pint of bourbon, watching a sizeable chunk of his remaining estate go to pay for it. Bag in hand, he crossed the street and headed up to his room to let the brown bottle work its magic.
Eddie was no stranger to hard luck. He could usually feel it sticking to him, like black tar, while the big chips always fell just outside his reach. It was that way his whole life. But this World Series was going to turn it around for him. He was ready to pick up a nice piece of change from it, if only the goddam Dodgers hadn't gotten lucky.
If only, if only.
He gazed out the window from his booth at Denny's, until a sharp glint flicked across his eye, snapping him out of his misery. It was the sun reflecting off Raymond Cannetta's shiny blue Lincoln as it pulled into the parking lot.
On first glance, there was nothing scary about Cannetta. His medium size and soft-spoken manner didn't add up the beefy loan-shark stereotype. But when he slipped into the quiet booth across from Eddie, icing down the area with his volatile brown eyes, Eddie shivered. This close, he could see the dark streak, the violence lurking right under the surface, as though he'd held Cannetta up to the light.
He tried to still the nervous hand that stirred his coffee. Cannetta poured a cup for himself from the pot on the table.
"What's up, Eddie?"
"I had a bad week. I'm a little short, you know, and I-I need some cash to pay off my bettors."
Cannetta didn't reply right away. Rather, he gently sipped at his coffee, letting the figure hang out to dry, so Eddie would understand this was no ordinary loan.
"Where'd they make this shit?" His thin face contracted into a grimace as he set the cup back down. "My stomach's been telling me for some time now to quit this stuff. I ought to pay attention. But you know, I been drinking it for thirty-five years now. Six, seven cups a day. That's a long time, Eddie. Hard to break a habit that's been with you for that long."
Eddie mumbled something in agreement, still rattling his spoon against the sides of the cup.
"I'll let you have twenty," Cannetta finally said, his eyes burning into Eddie's. "Every Friday at noon you meet me here"--his index finger poked the tabletop--"and you pay me a grand plus another grand worth of vig. In twenty weeks, it's paid off." The expression on his face asked Eddie if he agreed.
"Agreed," Eddie replied.
"Let's go out to the car."
Cannetta retrieved a briefcase from the trunk of the Lincoln. They got into the front seat, where he opened it. Eddie saw a flash of stacked currency inside. Cannetta pulled out a few of the banded bundles, then counted out twenty thousand dollars.
He held out the thick handful of hundreds, as Eddie reached for it. But before Cannetta released it, he warned, "Remember, Eddie. One grand every Friday plus another grand in juice. No excuses. No bullshit."
"Right, Raymond. Two grand. You'll get it." Eddie surprised himself at how confident he sounded, as he took the money and stuffed it down his pants.
* * * *
Back in his room, Eddie returned the calls from his cell phone, arranging to pay off his players, as well as booking their bets for that weekend's college and pro football games. He encouraged them to make bigger bets. He had to. Clearing two thousand a week wouldn't be easy, but what was the alternative?
When all the bets were in, the action was divided more or less evenly on each game. He silently congratulated himself on doing it right, as he paid off the winners, collected from the losers, and kept the juice.
That next Friday, Eddie delivered his first payment of two thousand dollars to Raymond Cannetta in Denny's parking lot.
The following week, the action was a little more one-sided, especially on Sunday's NFL games. He moved the lines around, but the betting just wouldn't even out. He sweated out the Sunday games, but a couple of upsets saved the day, so he made his second payment on schedule.
The third week was rough going. A lot of teams failed to cover the point spread. In addition, there were no major upsets. Fortunately, however, one of his players had dropped thirty-three hundred on a middleweight fight, and Eddie was literally saved by the bell.
He knew his luck--and that's really what it amounted to--couldn't hold out forever, and for him, forever meant exactly seventeen more weeks. Even under ideal conditions, which were pretty scarce these days, he could barely come up with the two grand payment plus his meager living expenses. And of course, if it came down to a choice between the two, he'd have to make the loan payment, because if he missed it, there wouldn't be any need for living expenses.
* * * *
Eventually, the piano fell. After a serious run of one-sided losses, he had no money for Raymond Cannetta. Almost as bad, he owed his bettors over thirty-five hundred. The Monday night football game, which he hoped would pull him out, had just ended in disaster, and his cell phone was already going off.
Groaning, he flipped off his black-and-white TV, as he sank back into the thin cushions of his cheap couch. Truth showed itself now like a dirty little secret. He remembered what Raymond had said about excuses and bullshit. His future had started to decompose before his very eyes. All available options rapidly narrowed to one. Thinking about it made him sick. Seeing Val Borden's phone number on the matchbook made him sick.
He had never committed a crime in his life--not a real crime, anyway--but here he was, about to stick his head inside the jaws of a big one. He just knew this was crazy--his churning insides told him so. This is wrong! Wrong! they screamed. All wrong! His stomach shook and quivered, while he considered running to the john. The spasms backed up into his brain, as he wriggled in the grip of uncertainty. Then...why was his hand so steady as he dialed the phone?