as they were pulling out of the racetrack parking lot baldo bustamonte thought it would be a good idea if he asked jenny where they were going for dinner.
‘we’ve been all over the place talking about this and that i, ah, forgot to ask where we’re going to eat.’
‘make a right on foothill, old route 66, and head towards glendora. we’re going to the golden spur.’
‘ok. yeah, i’ve always wanted to go there. i hear the rack of lamb is outstanding.’
‘i’m surprised you’ve never done it. it’s not that far from the track. and the lamb is to die for.’
‘yeah, well you know. been by it any number of times. you want to know something else?’
‘i don’t know where you live. though i guess after dinner we could just drive around until you tell me.’
‘hahaha. that’s funny. and you’re right. i live in ontario. by the high school.’
‘no kidding? me too. i live downtown near the catholic church.’
it was odd that the two hadn’t spoken of where they lived until now but in the grand scheme of things the night was only going to get even more odd at best. dinner at the golden spur turned out to be as advertised. an outstanding rack of lamb cooked to perfection. baldo was impressed. the restaurant was someplace he’d be coming back to again. the dinner was leisurely and the talk still lively.
‘hey, look ms. jenny. before i drink anymore wine i think it’s about time i got you home. ok?’
the pair made their way out to baldo’s car and as they approached it jenny rider fell into baldo’s arms. they kissed deeply. when the embrace broke jenny smiled and spoke first.
‘you know baldo. i generally don’t do that with men i just met. especially men who could be considered father figures.’
‘thanks for putting that in such a nice way. let’s get out of here before i get some other ideas.’
the drive back to ontario was almost silent. the two content to just sit and be with one another. especially in bustamonte’s case. when they reached upland baldo made a right on euclid ave and headed south to ontario. jenny spoke.
‘i’m not ready to go home. i know of a dice game going down tonight. it might be fun. you interested?’
baldo thought to himself he was more interested in something else but said.
‘ok. sure why not? it might be fun. maybe i can parlay some of my horse money into a bigger bankroll. where is it?’
‘that’s the spirit, baldo. it’s at this guy’s house on ‘h’ st west of the iron skillet. north side. i know where it is.’
this really wasn’t something baldo wanted to do but he was going along with it if only for the fact he could spend some more time with jenny. even if it involved being around other people. he was thinking more along the lines of just the two of them in a more intimate setting. a dice game with strangers was far from his thoughts.
the night was dark and once they turned west on ‘h’ st it became even darker. the stately trees lining the street made it hard for the sparse street light to penetrate their foliage. what did manage to make it to the street could barely be called light.
‘ok. we’re almost there. two more houses. park anywhere.’
‘sure.’ was all bustamonte said. he was thinking other thoughts but didn’t want to say anything to jenny about them. he was afraid if he did his new found friend and the prospect of later fun would probably evaporate very quickly. thoughts like, who are these people? how did jenny know them and their game? were just a couple of the thoughts. as he parked his car jenny cuddled up close to him and lightly kissed him on the cheek.
‘this will be fun. i love a good craps game.’
‘ah, yeah. me too. let’s get going.’
once again baldo’s thoughts were on other things. he wanted only for the game to be over so he could possibly take on another situation with jenny rider. the two walked quietly hand in hand up to the home’s front porch. there were no lights on other than some at the back of the house. they cast stark shadows along the empty driveway. jenny rang the bell and after a few moments a very tall gentleman answered the ring.
‘jenny. nice to see you.’
‘hi, eddie. we’re here for the game. this is baldo. i hope you don’t mind.’
‘mind? nah, jenny. any friend of yours is ok by me. come on in. the game is in the back room.’
once inside the house jenny made the more formal introductions. eddie layne was the guy’s name. he and his brother danny owned the house and were running the game. it was something they did a few times a month for some fun and if they were lucky a little cash. or that was the story. baldo was thinking things didn’t look really kosher but his friend inside his pants was, at that point of the evening, doing most of his thinking for him. never a good thing to be sure.
there were a couple of other people in the back room when they entered. along with a good amount of cash on the floor. an old army blanket was in place as well and it was being used as the dice table as is were. there were three other men in the room.
‘it’s not vegas. but it works. hi, jenny.’
the man stuck his hand out towards baldo and said.
‘i’m danny. eddie’s brother.’
more introductions were made and baldo started to feel a little better about being there. he still wished he was somewhere else but decided to make the best of it. jenny went off to make them some drinks and the men resumed their game. the two other men had obviously been playing awhile and were not doing well. most of the money on the floor was theirs. which now belonged to the two brothers. when jenny came back with their drinks baldo had a very strange feeling once again but let it slide.
the two men continued to lose more money while bustamonte’s cash went up and down. mostly down. when he’d entered the game he had around $4,000 dollars. after a couple of drinks he was down to a bit under $2,000. this wasn’t working out like he had hoped. as for the other two men they got tired of losing and said good night. while eddie showed the two men to the door baldo stared at the money on the army blanket. there had to be a good 6 or 7 thousand dollars there. maybe even more.
he sighed and wished he was still a cigarette smoker. as he looked up he noticed a reflection in a picture on the wall. the reflection clearly showed eddie and jenny in the hallway locked in an embrace with eddie’s hand up jenny’s dress and hers on eddie’s crotch. what the hell? by this time baldo was fairly drunk but it didn’t take him long to figure out the score. he was being taken for a ride by miss jenny and her two friends. and he was fairly certain that the dice were loaded and the game was totally rigged in their favor. how had he gotten himself into this situation? yeah, right. his little friend.
jenny and eddie came back into the room and the dice game began again. as baldo lost a few more hundred dollars he began to get antsy. he wasn’t sure what he was going to do but he needed to do something. at that point jenny left to make more drinks and eddie went to the can. that left baldo and danny alone in the room together. time for his move. it was now or never thought baldo. sure, he wasn’t thinking very straight but that’s one thought that didn’t occur to him.
danny was sitting on his haunches counting the large wad of cash. suddenly, baldo grabbed a framed photograph on a table and struck danny in the head with it as he shoved him very hard into the wall. baldo scooped up all of the cash and headed for the front door. he was outside and on the run before anyone in the house knew what was going on. well, other than danny. he made it to his car and had it fired up as the front door opened and light streamed out onto the dark front yard. it was eddie layne.
baldo burned rubber as he left the curb then sped down the dark street without the cars headlights. at the corner he barely slowed down as he made a careening left and sped towards his home. eddie was in the middle of the street by this time and knew trying to catch baldo at this point wasn’t very likely. he went back into the house to check on his brother.
jenny had a wet towel and was holding it to danny’s forehead. there were a few drops of blood on the floor.
‘you ok, bro?’
‘yeah, the fucker cold cocked me. it’s just a flesh wound. i’ll be ok.’
‘he got all of the cash didn’t he?’
‘fraid so, eddie. sorry.’
‘me too guys. i…i…never thought it would come to this…’
‘well shit, jenny who did?’ it was eddie who spoke. he continued.
‘you did good in finding him, jenny. real good. you’ve got a real talent for that. did you find out where he lives?’
‘no, well, not really. someplace around st. george’s.’
‘ok. it’s a start.’
eddie grabbed the phone and called information and asked for baldo’s number. it was unlisted.
‘it’s not a large area but too big to start looking tonight. if he’s even going home. i’ll make a couple of calls in the morning. we’ll find him.’
baldo bustamonte drove south down vine with his lights still off. he ran the stop at ‘g’ st and kept on going south. when he reached ‘d’ st he ran the stop as he turned left. his luck was still holding as there was no one else out and about at that hour. not even the cops. when he reached his home on the corner of ‘d’ and fern he pulled his car into the garage in the alley. collected all the cash. got out of the car. closed the garage door and went into the house. sitting alone and thinking in the dark living room baldo bustamonte fell asleep on the couch tightly clutching the large wad of cash.