An excerpt, with the protagonist, Charlie di Paulo, and two friends--Carlos Munro and Clay Lapierre--in a bar scene.
“You think that’s really his name--Heater?” Carlos eyed a bank shot on the five ball.
“You don’t have the angle.” Charlie’s eyes were peering from the edge of the pool table.
“I think he’s got it.” Lapierre, with less interest, leaning against the wall.
“I’m telling you, the physics just aren’t with you.”
“Watch and learn.” Carlos tapped the five gently off the rail, just in front of Charlie’s nose, and watched it dribble toward the corner before losing steam a couple inches short of the corner pocket. “Damn. But the physics were there.”
“Nope. If you’d hit it hard enough to knock it in, you’d have lost the angle.”
“Piss off—it was easily makeable.”
They looked at Clay for a ruling. “Inconclusive,” he judged.
Carlos picked up his beer and joined Clay on the wall. “What do you think—is he a dangerous guy?”
“I don’t know. I tell you though, I wouldn’t want to get on his bad side.”
“Maybe our next movie should be about a bookie,” Clay suggested.
Charlie, lining up a shot. “Actually, you look a lot like him. Younger.”
“Gambling is one of the most ancient professions.” Carlos, retreating into speculation. “In fact, the argument could be made that it’s the oldest profession—not prostitution. Exchanging money for sex is a fairly advanced concept, but gambling. . . .”
“Gambling depends on money.” Lapierre noted.
“No, think about one caveman saying to his buddy, ‘If I can hit that pterodactyl with this rock, will you give me your share of mastodon?’ Rudimentary gambling, like kids.”
“What about, ‘I bet you your woman that I can hit that pterodactyl with this rock.’ Gambling and pimping at the same time.”
“Co-emergent professions—nice. But they’d have to have the idea of ownership first, so I think it’s unlikely.”
“What are you talking about? Men jealously guarding their women? That’s as ancient as mankind.”
“He’s got you there,” Charlie said.
Charlie sank a difficult angle shot, but missed the simple follow—twelve in the corner. Carlos smirked on his way back to the table. “Where were the physics there, Charlie boy?”
Charlie joined Lapierre on the wall. “How much work do you do for Heater these days?”
Without thinking, he answered, “Yeah.” He considered Charlie’s answer further. “You do other work?”
“He doesn’t call me for fares very often, but about twice a month he has me run collections for him.”
Carlos, poised over the three ball, straightened up. “Collections? You pinch hit as a bookie?”
Charlie shrugged. “Oh, for God’s sake, I’m not Vito Corleone.” He nevertheless took the opportunity to take a theatrical, Godfathery sip of beer. “When Heater’s car was broken down, I took him on his rounds a few times. Got to know the routine. Now, once in a while when he gets busy, he gives me a call, and I take a spin around his other businesses. It’s very small time stuff. A cashier at the towing business wants to put a ten spot on the Ducks, that kind of thing. I just run the meter and he pays me that.”
“Sure, that’s how it starts out,” Lapierre goaded. “But pretty soon you’re taking C-notes, maybe a car title. Before you know it, you’re out with Heater at 2 am packing a lead pipe.”
“He’s probably in too deep already.” Carlos cracked the three, rattling it into the side pocket. “He’s like a rat in one of those humane traps. He’s munching on the cheese, but he doesn’t realize there’s no way out.”
Charlie put down his beer, scratched his cheek, and did his best Brando. “What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully?”