eddie catalina part 10

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lieutenant marvel january had been a cop for 26 and a half years. he always added the half or the quarter or whatever it amounted to. he thought it was important to do so. he wasn’t sure why. he just did it.

marvel found his partner, sgt mick johns, in the men’s room and told him they had to roll. eddie catalina had just called from ontario and the ontario pd were sitting with him. johns zipped up and said.

no shit? eddie called huh?

yeah. couple of minutes ago.

he say anything?

no. i did most of the talking and he just agreed to stuff.

man, this job is amazing at times.

the two men made it down to the street and their 7 year old crown vic. old but still newer than most of the other detective barges. marvel was a good cop who closed cases and he knew things. hence, the newer ride, plus he took care of the vic. he took it home a few times a year and hand waxed it himself. though he told the rest of the unit he paid to get it done at a car wash near his place. no one ever suspected a thing. the lieutenant got in the passenger seat. he rarely drove and he sure as hell wasn’t going to drive way out to ontario and back. not today anyway. besides johns was a good driver. the sergeant spoke.

lights? siren?

sure why not. we can’t have an ontario black and white tied up too long now can we?

both men buckled up and the car sped away from the curb. first the lights then the siren. johns also tapped on the horn as he made a wide left at the first intersection heading towards interstate 10 east. january smiled as the car skidded around the corner. they always got some looks when johns was in his mario andretti mode. marvel figured they must be a sight. an old shinny cop barge. lights. siren. screeching tires. a very large black man in the passenger seat more or less lounging and a big white guy driving while pounding on the steering wheel not unlike popeye doyle in the movie ‘the french connection’.

with half closed eyes january gave his partner a semi sideways look and said.

try not to kill anybody before we hit the freeway. ok?

i haven’t yet. and i don’t plan on it today. all i need is some room to move. take a nap. ok?

that was their standard and usual mantra whenever they first went code 3. after that they both settled in for the ride. lt january lost in his own thoughts and sgt johns ripping up the road and scaring the citizens. the lapd brass had given up trying to get the two of them to change. marvel january and mick johns got results. regardless.

once lapd figured out they had two dead mobsters on their hands. one of them an upper level hood the case had been handed over to lapd’s elite robbery homicide unit. lt marvel january and his partner mick johns in particular. two old hands at getting results and closing the book on lala land weirdness as marvel was fond of saying. though this one had eluded them so far but that was about to change.

when they hit the freeway the sargent turned off the siren and only used it occasionally to get people to move out of their way. the lights stayed on. by the time they made it through west covina the traffic had thinned out some and johns made up for lost time.

we’re flying low now, partner.

marvel just grunted and kept his eyes closed.

once over kellogg hill and down into the pomona valley johns was able to take the car pool lane again and stay in it. he blipped the siren once or twice to move cars out of the way.

almost there loot.

let’s see. take vineyard. not archibald. then hit a left at holt. i’m thinking you’ll see the place on the right. hit the siren as we pull into the lot. the patrol guys should bring him out then.

sure.

the crown vic left the freeway and made it’s way to the cheap motel. johns hit the siren once as they entered the parking lot. the two ontario officers walked eddie out of the room and down the stairs to the waiting lapd car.

thank you, officers. we’ll take over from here. sergeant, get your cuffs on mr. catalina so the ontario guys can get theirs and head out on patrol.

while that was going on marvel spoke again.

eddie. i’m lt marvel january lapd robbery homicide. this is my partner, sgt mick johns. you sure as hell made my day when you called. i was beginning to have visions of being transferred out to hollywood vice. ok. here’s the deal. you stay cuffed and we take you back to l.a. just sit tight and don’t say anything. ok?

ok.

you start talking and i’ll have to mirandize you. i don’t wanna do that just yet. capisco? we’ll chat back at headquarters.

sure.

sergeant, get eddie in the car and let’s get out of here.

the wind blew up a small dust devil as the crown vic sped out of the lot and headed west back toward downtown l.a.

this originally appeared here in august of 2014.

jmh

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eddie catalina part 9

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it was warm and the air clear due to a slight santa ana with the warm winds coming out of the east. eddie catalina stepped off the plane and back to the city from where he had come. he’d left years ago vowing to never return. well, never say never he thought. here he was back again. no where to go and almost broke. no prospects either. jesus, when things spiral out of control they spiral until the wings fall off. then it’s a free fall until the sudden stop. eddie was beginning to wonder when the sudden stop would come.

the airport had changed since he was last there. he could tell a new terminal had replaced the old one at some point long ago. when was the last time he had flown in or out of ontario? probably the flight to oakland after his leave home before vietnam. no, that didn’t make sense. had to be his flight from oakland after his return from vietnam. a long time ago.

standing out on the sidewalk smoking with no plan in mind wasn’t a good idea. eddie figured there probably wasn’t anyone still living in the area from the old days. and he couldn’t just grab a cab and ride around all day and night looking for something or someone that probably wasn’t there anymore. a cheap hotel seemed to be his only option at the moment. a very cheap hotel if he didn’t find some money soon. he walked out to the curb as a cab pulled up. eddie told the cabbie to find him the closest cheapest hotel or motel.

the cab dropped him off at a motel not far away from the airport on east holt. it was a run down joint that looked like it catered to hookers and druggies. eddie wasn’t surprised. some things never change even with progress. eddie paid the cabbie and went into the dingy office. it smelled of tobacco, stale sweat, a tinge of blood, and a lot of tears. gag reflex was the only other thing that came to his mind.

yeah, can i help you?

i suppose. i need a room for a couple of nights.

we got a couple. one up one down. take your pick.

up i guess.

214. take the stairs to the left. that’ll be $66 for two nights. if you decide to stay longer i’ll cut you a rate for weekly or monthly. take your pick.

ok. thanks. i’ll let you know.

sure.

eddie counted out the money which left him with somewhere near the one thousand dollar mark. when you’re on the run money seemed to just vanish. the thought of calling the lapd again flashed through his tired mind but he quickly forgot about it. he took his key and went up to his room. hopefully, it wouldn’t become his home.

it wasn’t much of a room and it smelled like a well used ashtray that had never been cleaned. a good thing eddie had started smoking again. there was also a shabby bed covered by an even shabbier spread with all manner of stains on it. several large holes in the dirty shabby carpet as well. he would have to be careful at night. his inspection of the bathroom was somewhat of a surprise. compared to the rest of the room it was a diamond in the rough. eddie tried the tv set next which worked and offered basic cable along with a free porn channel or two. yeah, hooker haven for sure. so much for quiet nights.

he lit up as he sat at the cheap table that over looked the parking lot while hoping the chair he was sitting in wouldn’t fall apart. as he sat there smoking a car pulled into the lot. an old beater for sure but the lady driving wasn’t.

the car parked in the spot directly under eddie’s window. a youngish black woman got out and came up the stairs. eddie had a thought and he needed to hurry. he was up and outside his door when the lady passed by.

hi, sugar. you looking?

i’m looking but not for what you have in mind.

really? so what you want?

i’m looking for a ride over to claremont. if you’re interested in that proposition i’ll buy you dinner later.

harrumph. i’ll think about it.

eddie watched as the lady walked down to her room. he turned and went back inside his room thinking, another fine mess to go along with his first day of hiding in plain sight. moving back to the rickety chair he lit another cigarette. eddie sat smoking, thinking, and staring into the distance. shambles. his life was nothing more than a massive shambles. lighting another smoke with the butt of the other one eddie picked up the phone.

he dialed 9 for an outside line. then 0 for an operator.

operator.

can you connect me with lapd homicide?

one moment, please.

eddie sat smoking while waiting for the call to go through. when it finally did he heard.

robbery homicide. lt. marvel january speaking.

this is eddie catalina. i believe you’re looking for me.

why yes we are, mr. catalina. we need to have a talk. where are you calling from eddie?

i’m in room 214 at the day night inn on e. holt in ontario near the airport.

marvel put his hand over the phone and told another detective to call the ontario police and have them send over a black and white asap to baby sit eddie until lapd could arrive.

eddie, i’m sending the ontario police to your motel. they’re going to sit with you until we get there. at this point eddie you’re just a material witness. ok? you won’t try and pull anything stupid now will you?

no, lieutenant, not a chance. i’m not armed and i’ll have the door open waiting for them.

eddie heard a police siren a short distance away.

good, eddie. that’s good. i’ll stay on the line until the officers are in the room with you. ok?

sure. whatever you say.

eddie lit another smoke as the ontario squad car sped into the lot. the arrival of the police took a small group of people by surprise. the group hurriedly began to disperse. eddie got up and opened the door then sat back down.

lieutenant, they’re here.

good. just relax and don’t do anything stupid.

eddie heard the cops running up the stairs. they paused at the open door with guns out and told eddie to show them his hands. he sat the phone down showed them his hands then stood up.

turn around slowly, sir, and put your hands behind your head. we’re going to cuff you for your safety and ours.

not a problem officer.

after eddie was cuffed the ontario cop picked up the phone and told lt january the situation was under control.

thank you, officer. we’re on our way. just sit tight. we’ll be there as soon as traffic allows.

the ontario cop hung up the phone then sat eddie back down on the chair. it was over. finally. it felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from eddie’s shoulders. eddie sat and watched the cigarette smoldering in the ashtray. the smoke drifted up and out the open door.

this first appeared here in august of 2014.

jmh

eddie catalina part 8

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eddie just kept on running until he turned the corner and into the supermarket parking lot. breaking hard he almost fell. winded but no worse for wear he walked around a bit trying to catch his breath. once he’d done that he walked into the store and bought a carton of camel lights.

after his purchase he went back outside to the sound of sirens. very close sirens. he lit a smoke and casually walked around a corner and up to idaho st. one of the main east/west streets in elko. he turned left on idaho. several police cars whizzed past with sirens and lights blazing. they all turned south on 4th ave.

when eddie got to 4th he looked around the corner. what he saw was a scene from just about any run of the mill riot. the bikers, and there were a number of them, had descended upon the hapless mobsters for tumbling into their bikes. the mobsters were seemingly being beat senseless. elko’s finest had just begun to wade into the fray to try and quell the beatings. it was madness.

eddie kept walking on idaho until he got to the next corner. he turned south. walked down to commercial and went into the parking lot of the stockmen. it seemed as if the hotel and casino had emptied out into the lot as hotel staff, paiutes, gamblers, and drunks had all come outside to watch the show unfolding over on the next street. no one paid any attention to eddie.

eddie found his mustang. got in. fired it up and pulled out of the lot. he slowly drove up to idaho thinking hard. he needed to get out of elko. and he needed some sort of a plan. a better plan this time around. he turned left onto idaho. he was going to take 80 again but this time back to the west. canada or san francisco had come to mind. he’d worry about that later.

before he got back on interstate 80 eddie stopped to fill the mustang up with gas. he grabbed a few candy bars and bottled water as well. then he made his way onto the quiet interstate. there few cars and eddie pushed the mustang up to near 85 then settled in for the drive.

twenty or thirty minutes later eddie was eating one of the candy bars while trying to figure out his next move. the figuring wasn’t going well when he heard a loud thud under the hood then steam began to pour out of the engine compartment. by the time he pulled over to the side of the road the temperature gage was pegged out in the red zone.

just what i need, eddie thought. he popped the hood and got out of the car. gingerly opening the hot hood he released more steam into the chilly morning air. man, i don’t like the looks of this, was another thought. as the steam cleared he could tell all the belts were intact. what was the problem? then he saw it. a gaping hole where the water pump used to be. the pump had self destructed leaving eddie catalina stranded out in the middle of nowhere nevada.

he spoke out loud, another fine mess.

sighing heavily he closed the hood and looked east and west. no traffic in either direction. he thought once the mobsters were able to travel again they would probably head west. getting a tow to someplace where the water pump could be fixed might take most of the day. and most of the money he had left. plus standing around on the west bound side of the highway waiting probably wasn’t a good idea. passing pissed off and beat up mobsters just might notice him.

eddie picked his stuff from the car and crossed the median to the east bound side of highway 80. he was going to try and hitch a ride back into elko. finding a small tree he stood by it. he might be there awhile and the tree offered some shade and hid him from the traffic traveling west.

one candy bar and a bottle of water later he got lucky. a rancher in an beat up pickup stopped and gave eddie a ride back into elko. the old rancher offered to call a tow truck for eddie but he declined saying he’d take care of it once they got to elko. luckily for eddie he had the presence of mind to toss the old .357 and the few rounds left into a ditch running past the tree. the ditch had water in it. it would be a long time before anyone found the pistol. if ever.

eddie stayed quiet until he had a plan. he told the driver to drop him off at the mountain city highway exit. he was pretty sure the elko airport was just a short walk away from the exit. maybe he could catch a plane and be gone by the time the mob got it back together. either on the road or by air.

the rancher dropped him off then headed back to his own business. eddie walked to the airport and into the terminal. searching the small arrival and departure board he found a flight to san jose that was leaving in half an hour. he bought a ticket for the half full flight. with only a carry on he had no trouble making the flight. sadly, he was going to leave the mustang behind. there was no time to fix it or sell it. eddie had to keep moving.

once in the air eddie fell asleep. fitful dreams of pissed off mobsters and angry cops left him tired when he woke up as the plane was making it’s approach into san jose. after landing he found another flight. he was fast running out of cash but he had saved some by stiffing the stockmen for half the room rate and his room service tab. there was still some money left maybe enough to keep him going for a week or so if he was careful. no time to worry about that now.

his flight number was called and he joined the line of fellow passengers walking into the covered gangway. after all the passengers were onboard a stewardess had them all buckle up then told them the flight to ontario would take about an hour or so. eddie was heading back home. what was that old saying? something about hiding in plain sight. just what eddie catalina was planning on doing.

this originally appeared here in august of 2014.

jmh

eddie catalina part 7

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as eddie began his trek across the parking lot he tried not to hurry or do anything to call attention to himself. he figured he was lucky he had gone into the commercial for breakfast. the mob guys probably didn’t think he would be coming from that direction. and by the way they were clustered up eddie thought they were just setting up for the job at hand. the job to find and kill him.

how had they found him so soon? simple really he thought. either the man at the sports book last night or someone in the cat house. or maybe even both. god, he was stupid and probably deserved whatever the mob had planned for him. maybe he should just go up to the suite and call the local law and take his chances with them. no, that was stupid as well. think eddie.

once inside the hotel lobby he saw only the paiutes and a few more leftover drunks from the night before. no mobsters. eddie wondered if they would actually come into the hotel to find him and take him. he took a chance and stopped at the main desk.

good morning. i’m up in 421. has anyone been looking for me?

no, sir. not that i know of anyway. i’ve been here for about an hour and a half.

ok. thanks. ah, some friends of mine mentioned they might stop by. if they do will you call me and let me know? i’d prefer to come down and meet them here in the casino.

not a problem, sir.

perfect. here’s a twenty for your trouble.

no trouble at all but thank you very much.

eddie made a beeline to the elevator. thankfully the wait wasn’t very long. he rode up to the fourth floor with several of the paiutes. he smiled but didn’t say anything.

once in his room eddie went to the window being careful not to stand to close to the opening. the mobsters were gone from where he had seen them talking. there must be one at each entrance by now. maybe others as well. he got his things together in preparation for a fast exit. then he called housekeeping and told them he didn’t want his room cleaned today. if anyone came to the door it would be the mob and not the cleaning lady.

from the side window he couldn’t spot any mobsters either. though on the corner there was a bar and a group of bikers gathered outside. eddie had noticed the signs yesterday about a poker run in memory of one of their fallen. today was going to be sunny and warm. a good day for riding a bike. was it going to be a good day for eddie?

eddie thought again about just calling the police but by now that option probably wouldn’t do him much good. he had run away after the killings. maybe if he had stayed in the apartment and waited for the cops back when it happened he might have gotten away with the killings. maybe. though the mob wasn’t going to forget. ever.

he pulled the last smoke from the pack in his shirt pocket. he crumpled up the package and tossed it towards the trash. he missed and it rocked a bit on the carpet before it settled. eddie looked for the carton of smokes and when he found the carton it was empty. he crumbled it up as well and tossed it towards the can. he missed again and the carton rolled to the wall and stopped.

eddie needed smokes. now was not the time to quit. yet again. maybe it was but he didn’t see it that way. he needed smokes to help him think. he was in a predicament and decided to take a chance and the stairs down to the lobby and try to find a machine for some cigarettes. and he hoped the mob guys were outside and not parked in the lobby or casino. from the side window he had seen the corner of what appeared to be a supermarket about two blocks away. he doubted he could manage to get that far with the mobsters around but it might become an option.

finding the back stairs eddie slowly made his way down to the lobby. the only people on the stairs were a few of the paiute kids playing kid’s games. they paid him no mind. once downstairs he slowly opened the door. he didn’t see any mobsters. eddie couldn’t actually skulk around in the casino without attracting a certain amount of attention. so he sucked it up and ambled as best he could out into the gaming area.

he asked a casino employee if there was a cigarette machine around. the man pointed to a corner by the coffee makers. eddie thanked him and walked over to the machines. he didn’t see any mob guys on the trip over. likely they were all outside, he thought. after all he would at some point have to leave. once at the machine eddie pulled a few dollars from a pocket and then realized the only smokes left in the machine were camel straights. unfiltered camels. this was not good. he needed cigarettes but not honest to god real live cigarettes. he hadn’t smoked one of them in many many years.

eddie walked back to the employee and spoke to him.

is that the only machine in the casino?

yes. why?

there are only non-filtered camels in it.

really? we were very busy last night. busier than i thought. sorry about that. it rarely happens. maybe once a year or so.

will it get filled up again today?

sorry, pal. the guy doesn’t come around till tomorrow afternoon. you can try the bar across the street but you’d probably be better off going over to the market down a few streets.

yeah, i’ve seen it. thanks anyway.

sure. nice day for a walk.

ah, yeah, right.

eddie returned to the machine and bought a pack of the camels. he opened it there and pulled out one of the short cigarettes and lit it. he immediately started coughing and thought, this isn’t going to work. he also thought since he was downstairs he ought to check the exits for mob thugs.

he picked up a free paper and walked around pretending to read it while he smoked and coughed. the unfiltered camel was making him a bit dizzy. he stood near the front desk and noticed two men smoking and talking out on the sidewalk. they didn’t blend in with the paiutes or the rest of the hotel crowd. mob guys. going back through the casino he noticed one mob soldier standing by the casino entrance door. two for two. probably at least one more at the side entrance by the sports book.

eddie was screwed. what the hell had he been thinking? why hadn’t he spent just one night in elko and then out on the road again? or better yet why hadn’t he just talked to the cops? hindsight. it always made you crazy. or in eddie catalina’s case, crazier.

back up in his suite eddie lit up another of the non-filter camels. he was going to have to figure something and fast. he needed smokes he could actually enjoy smoking and he needed to get the hell out of elko. as he stood smoking he noticed there were quite a few more bikers at the bar across the street. bikers and their biker harley’s. they weren’t your run of the mill sunday biker who took the wife for a ride and a brunch some place. no, these guys were the real deal.

eddie smiled and stubbed out the camel. picked up his stuff and went downstairs. he used the back stairs again as he didn’t want to pass the front desk with bag in hand. he was leaving but he wasn’t checking out.

once back in the casino he went towards the sports book and the rear side entrance. he got about three feet from the door and spotted the mobster on guard duty. eddie stopped. he knew this was his only shot at ditching the mobsters if only for a little while. eddie steeled himself. then he ran into the door and flung it open.

the mobster was startled and almost fell over. he steadied himself and yelled after eddie, who was about halfway across the street. the three other mob men were already turning the casino corner. eddie made it to the other side of the street and up on the sidewalk. he was running for his life.

the mob soldiers ran across the street giving chase. eddie rounded the corner of the bar and ran for the parked bikes. there were several rows of the shinny hogs lined up in the parking lot. it had been years but eddie catalina had once ran track and at one time was an accomplished high hurdler. he made the correct calculation inside his head and easily hurdled the parked bikes even carrying his ratty suitcase. hit the pavement on the other side and kept on running.

the mob guys weren’t so lucky. years of breaking bones and shooting people had left them way south of any athletic ability if there had ever been any to begin with. all of the mobsters crashed into the the parked bikes.

eddie didn’t look back. eddie catalina was in the wind.

this originally appeared in july of 2014.

jmh

eddie catalina part 6

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barely managing to get out of his clothes. eddie fell into bed. his clothing ended up in several piles scattered about the large room. too drunk to dream he was none the less woken-up several times by the large loud saturday night gambling and drinking crowd as they yelled, screamed, and carried on out in the parking lot. that along with the buzz of the hotel neon sign just outside his slightly open window which sounded, to eddie, like music as the inert gas pulsed through the glass tubing. suffice it to say, eddie didn’t have a restful night.

he was up before dawn and hung over. he stumbled about the suite looking for the coffee maker. then he realized there were no coffee makers in the rooms at the stockmen. instead they had several large military size and style coffee makers down in the casino. want a cup of joe? you had to go downstairs and score it yourself.

it took eddie several more minutes to find the appropriate clothing from the various piles in order for him to make the trip. after he managed to get dressed he went down to the casino for the coffee. he left the room door slightly ajar so he wouldn’t have to use the card key while carrying the coffee back into the room. eddie figured since he was making the trip he should get all the coffee he could carry. fortunately, the casino was empty with the exception of a couple of drunks asleep at two slot machines.

eddie dumped the first styrofoam cup of steaming coffee on the floor while trying unsuccessfully to add creamer to it. the drunks slept on. he tried again. this time he was more successful so he filled a second cup as well. he even managed to get both cups of coffee up to his suite without spilling anymore or burning himself.

he sat at the table by the front windows drinking the coffee and trying to get straight. about halfway through the first cup he noticed a commotion coming from a bar across the parking lot and to his right. a clot of people had stumbled out of a the bar and on to the sidewalk. it was just after 6:30am. the sky barely turning light. from what he could hear through the open window the voices seemed to be speaking spanish. the people had come out of a building with a simple sign that read, slots and bar. they must have spent the night drinking and gambling in the small bar.

he watched in almost dumbstruck awe as several of the people fell face first onto the sidewalk. they just laid there while the rest of the folks talked loudly and waved their hands wildly about. one of them, a man wearing a large cowboy hat, peeled off from the group and stumbled off to his car. stumbling and zig zagging across the parking lot he stopped in front of a pick-up. fumbled for his keys. dropped them. twice. then managed to finally get the driver side door open. it took several tries for him to actually get inside the truck.

eddie couldn’t take his eyes off the drunk. the man finally got the truck started. turned on the headlights and drove away. amazing, eddie thought. although he had probably done the same thing a time or three himself. in particular the night and morning before he’d killed the mobsters.

he was working on the second cup of coffee when two cabs pulled up in front of the bar. the crowd of drunks began to get in both of the cabs. the two drunks who had fallen face first on the concrete got up like nothing had happened and joined the people getting into the cars. bloody amazing, eddie thought. only in the world of drunks and gamblers.

by the time the second cup was empty eddie was feeling almost normal. he was even beginning to feel hungry. a good sign. dumping the empty cups in the trash he got up. used the restroom then made his way back downstairs. there was a coffee shop a few feet from the elevators. he got out of the elevator and bumped into one of the paiutes. the indians were up early and there was already a line for the restaurant. not wanting to wait and not wanting to be to be the only non indian in the group, eddie decided to go across the parking lot to another casino and eat breakfast there.

the walk in the cold morning air further sobered him up and increased his appetite. he stepped inside the commercial casino. it was almost deserted as well. he walked by the hotel’s claim to fame, a stuffed polar bear under glass standing on it’s hind legs. it had to be almost twenty feet high. eddie stopped to gawk at the dead animal just like everyone else did the first time they laid eyes on it.

pulling himself away he went into the semi busy coffee shop. he was seated and ordered a ham and cheese omelet and a large glass of milk. once it arrived and he started eating it he was sorry he had ordered it. he wasn’t as hungry as he thought and the food wasn’t very good. gagging he did manage to finish a third of the omelet along with the milk and half a piece of toast and jelly.

he paid his tab. left a tip. then made his way back across the parking lot that separated the stockmen and the commercial. luckily for him he noticed out the corner of his eye several over dressed men smoking and talking about fifty feet to his right. there was no mistaking it or them. mobsters. they had found him. holy crap, he thought as he quickened his pace across the lot. he began to wish they were the cops.

jmh

eddie catalina part 5

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the short walk to the basque restaurant was uneventful. however, by this time the small establishment was very busy. the staff was having a hard time keeping up with all the food and drink orders. eddie caught the eye of the lady he’d spoken to earlier and raised one finger. then he pointed to the bar. she nodded back at him.

he made his way through a large party waiting for a table and found an empty chair at the bar. eddie ordered a picon as he placed a twenty on the bar top. the usc stanford game had already started. eddie turned to watch it on one of the TV’s. he also further checked the room and things seemed to be normal.

the bartender sat eddie’s basque drink in front of him and took the twenty to make change. eddie turned back to the bar and sipped his drink. liquid ambrosia even after the vodka. he was going to need another one of these. the crowd in the bar cheered.

eddie turned back to the game to discover stanford had scored a touchdown. unless you were from southern california most folks didn’t care for usc very much. oh well. at this point in the day the only thing eddie catalina cared about was the final score and did he win his bet or not.

on the ensuing kickoff usc fumbled the ball after a hard hit at the twenty five yard line. stanford recovered the fumble. the way things were going didn’t bode well for eddie or his bet. especially after he noticed on the score crawl at the bottom of the screen that boise st had already scored 21 points in the first quarter. good-bye $3,200. or so it seemed. he finished his drink in one gulp and raised the empty glass to the bartender. who then set about making eddie another picon.

the sinking feeling of his $3,200 flying out the window made eddie think about his predicament again. he’d killed two mob boys in his apartment down in los angeles. the l.a. cops were more than likely looking for him so they could ask him a few questions. so, eddie, what’s up with the two dead guys on your kitchen floor? eddie shuddered involuntarily.

you ok, mister?

yeah, i’m fine. just a chill.

here’s your drink.

thanks. you can keep what’s left.

thank you.

sipping his drink eddie knew the mob wasn’t going to be anywhere near as polite as the lapd would be. the problem being eddie catalina was screwed if either of them found him. though he doubted the cops would be looking for him in northern nevada. not just yet anyway. the mob? they weren’t going away either but it was probably even money they were closer than the cops. eddie shuddered again. then he noticed the waitress beckoning him.

he picked up his drink and made his way back to the dinning room. the place was even busier. loud as well. filled with happy diners.

the waitress led him to a table with four chairs. there were already two ladies sitting in two of the seats. eddie knew that most basque places sat you family style. it wasn’t a problem. the two women turned out to be a mother and daughter from boise who were on a road trip and had stopped in elko on the way home for some basque food.

eddie ordered one of the specials. oven roasted lamb neck bones. along with a half liter of the house red. the dinner came with the usual sides. soup, salad, tongue, a vegetable or two, french fries, spaghetti, and sourdough bread. enough food for 4 or 5 people. the ladies ordered an extra side of a delicious blue cheese which they shared with eddie. the fine meal was accompanied by pleasant dinner conversation. or as pleasant as eddie could muster under the circumstances.

the roasted neck bones turned out to be outstanding. eddie was glad he had ordered them. he learned long ago to order off the specials board in a basque restaurant. even better was getting to know the owner who would throw in extras or let you request something off the menu or specials board. eddie was stuffed. the ladies declined dessert. though when eddie heard they served bread pudding, which the waitress said was to die for, he groaned and ordered one. the serving was huge and delicious.

the ladies said goodnight and eddie ate his dessert alone. when he finished he went back to the bar and ordered a frangelico and soda to help with his digestion. it would also serve to help ease the pain of his misguided football bets. by that time in the evening it was obvious he had lost his $3,200. the only thing that could save the money would be divine intervention. which was something that rarely happened. at least with eddie.

sated he somewhat stumbled from the restaurant and out into the street. it was noticeably colder now and there were fewer people out and about. eddie pulled his jacket tighter around himself and started walking. the last place he wanted to be was in one of the cat houses a block or so from the basque restaurant. but that’s where he found himself, several minutes later, in one of the houses. he sighed and mumbled to himself that he was pretty well fucked up and he had fucked up big time by wandering into the joint. he almost turned around but didn’t. instead he went to the bar. at least it was warm inside. the bartender spoke.

what’ll ya have?

ah, yes. ah…um…brandy rocks.

coming up.

the place was empty save for eddie and the bartender. as the bartender turned from eddie to make him his drink he rang a bell. crap. eddie thought, here they come. not long after that 3 or 4 ladies showed up. eddie wasn’t sure just how many there were. it may have only been two and he was seeing double. at any rate, he told the ladies thanks but no thanks. he was just having a drink then he’d be on his way. and no he didn’t want to buy any of them a drink. the ladies cleared out pronto.

eddie sipped his drink and talked college football with the bartender. one of the ladies came out again and sat at the bar. eddie ignored her. already drunk he at least knew compounding mistakes wasn’t going to do any good. he finished his drink. dropped a jackson on the bar and somehow or another made his way back to the hotel and his room. tomorrow or more to the point today was another day.

this originally appeared here in july of 2014.

jmh

eddie catalina part 4

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after a few drinks and south carolina had defeated the favorite, alabama, eddie decided it was time to move a bit. go outside, look around, take a walk. he left things as they were in the room. including the TV tuned to a football game with the volume loud enough for someone to hear the game if they stood just outside the door.

eddie grabbed a jacket and headed out to the elevator. the paiutes, if that’s who they were, where pretty much everywhere in the casino. he thought of asking one of them what was up and if they were paiutes. that thought was quickly discarded. better to just mind his own business and stay under the radar. everyone’s radar.

when he arrived at the lobby he stopped once again to read the newspaper articles that were posted under glass there about john wayne. it also gave him a few minutes to see if anyone was interested in him. no one seemed to care. he was still curious about the john wayne connection though. maybe he would ask when he checked out. that is if he didn’t just leave without saying a word.

as eddie walked through the small smokey casino the old lust for gambling hit him like a short left hook to the belly. in fact he almost doubled over. easy he thought, this wasn’t the time to get lost in a gambler’s haze. though something did catch his eye towards the back of the casino and the rear exit.

it was a tiny sports book. probably the smallest he’d ever seen. the book employee was even wearing a black and white football referee’s shirt. low end and campy but the board behind the man had all the college games and tomorrow’s pro games. a simple white board with numerous boxes on it. the games had been written in with a black magic marker. the spreads as well along with the over and unders. low end for sure. but none the less all above board and legal with everything you needed to know in order to place a bet.

he stopped to look at the games and the odds. of course, he should have kept on walking but what was the harm? the employee greeted him and eddie spoke.

how long will you be open tonight?

we close right after the last game starts.

hawaii?

no, hawaii is off the board unless they’re playing here on the mainland.

ok.

eddie was still looking at the board. there were a few games that were calling to him. usc stanford for one and boise st had way too many points to cover was another. maybe he could parlay some of the money left from the sale of the stolen caddie into something more. he shook that feeling off as quickly as it it had come on. what the hell was he thinking? maybe it was the vodka. he’d have to watch that.

he stepped outside into the almost late afternoon. it was cool but the air was fresh after the stuffy casino. he breathed deep. coughed. and lit another smoke. he stood there smoking for bit just watching the light traffic and the few people out walking around enjoying the fall afternoon air.

the basque restaurant he wanted to have dinner in was just a short walk away down on the corner. he made his way there and the smell of whatever was cooking inside made his stomach growl. they were already open so he made his way inside to check the specials. a smiling but harried lady asked him if he was going to eat. he said no he was just looking at the specials for now. the bar was almost empty and there were several TV’s on the walls all tuned to the usc stanford pre-game show.

eddie decided this was the place to eat. he almost told the lady he was ready to eat but the siren of the lonely little sports book was calling to him. he turned and left the restaurant. then quickly walked back to the hotel casino. the man in the referee’s shirt was still there. fortunately for eddie he was busy talking to another customer. eddie hurried past them and went up to his room.

once in his room he made himself a stiff drink and tried to settle down. that damn gambling jones. what a time to kick back in he thought. maybe a shower would help. the short hot shower did nothing to calm the siren in his head. the vodka wasn’t helping either. he put on his clothes and went back downstairs.

he should have gone out the entrance by the main desk and then taken the long way round the casino to the basque joint and his dinner. should have being the operative words. eddie walked through the casino and made a bee line to the small sports book. the man in the referee’s shirt was alone.

can i still put some money on usc and boise st?

yes, you just made it.

good. ok. i want to put $1,200 on usc and take the points. another $1,500 on new mexico and take the points.

no problem.

the employee efficiently took care of the money and the rest of the transaction. he handed eddie his betting slip.

i’ll be closing in a short time so if you win come back tomorrow and i’ll take care of you. or you can mail the slip in to the casino. either way.

thanks. i’ll do just that. either way. thanks.

not a problem. have a good evening.

eddie put the slip in his wallet and made his way back to the basque restaurant and dinner.

this originally appeared in july of 2014

jmh