Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"Poker Face"

"Poker Face" originally appeared in Powder Burn Flash

Well, there are curveballs and there are curveballs. And this? This is like the other seven guys on the playing field have decided that they want to pitch too…

…All at once.

…While the catcher is tying the batter’s shoelaces together.

“This was supposed to be easy pickings,” Pratt curses. He knew from the other kids that went to the same privileged high school as he did, that almost half of this neighborhood was spending Christmas vacation in Tahoe and the other half was in Hawaii . Pratt guessed that nobody explained that to the man of this house, Dougray Hiatt, that he should be some 2,300 miles away in Kauai.

Why just a minute ago, Pratt was just mulling throwing a party in what he believed to be an empty house and now he is cursing himself for not checking first or even bothering to have a mask on. He knows that his partner John won’t care either way, which is bound to make this tenuous situation even worse.

“You’re supposed to be in Hawaii ” Pratt says out loud. “Because we wouldn’t be here or at least we would be wearing masks” he finishes in his head. His partner John comes into the room holding a laptop inside a gray Tumi bag and is just as startled as Pratt was seconds ago to find someone home.

There Dougray is, sitting in the combination computer and exercise room that was formerly the bedroom of his eldest daughter, Deborah, who was currently in college, but was now in Kauai with his youngest daughter, Dana. He was sitting the same spot some eleven hours ago, but something work-related came up and he had to cut short his vacation. He had four files out on his desk and until Pratt’s intrusion, he was typing away on his desktop computer.

Pratt is trying to figure out just what the fuck is this guy doing at home and why didn’t he heard them come in. The burglar alarm’s chime made an awful racket throughout the two times it took Pratt to disarm it, because he was so nervous, that he momentarily forgot the code. He knew the code well enough; he spent many a night spying on Deborah to have seen it. Then Pratt hears the washing machine and realizes that Dougray probably was putting a load in and didn’t hear them enter.

And when Deborah moved out for college, Pratt’s eyes moved onto Dana as she worked out in this very room, five days a week. He couldn’t help but overhear about the Kauai trip, because Dana’s friends called her about it every three minutes, cutting short her dance routine and his fun. Now Pratt’s fun is cut short again, with a complication that seems completely nonplussed at the fact that he and John are standing in his house at three in the morning.

The silence between them and Dougray’s cool exterior get to John. He thrusts his chest out and pulls his shirt up, exposing the cheap Glock knockoff that was in his waistband of his baggy jeans.

Dougray responds by merely sitting at his desk with a face that any poker champion wishes they could own. He doesn’t seem scared or particularly perturbed; he isn’t happy or grim-faced. As a matter of fact, he is just sitting there with his lips slightly clenched.

Pratt looks over in askance to John as to what should be their next move, and John answers back with a scowl. Pratt winces as John reaches under his shirt with a snarl and pulls the nine millimeter out. Pratt almost pulls his gun out too, but he doesn’t like the math behind this. He wants to run away, but he stands his ground and resigns himself to the fact that nothing good will come of this. Yet Dougray just sits there, blinking every so often.

Pratt wonders if this is just a case of Dougray being as scared as he is and that Dougray is simply too damn scared to move. Finally, Dougray’s nose twitches and a nervous John almost pulls his trigger. His nose twitches again and Dougray takes a few, long, large gasps.

Huh-huh-ah-ah-ah-chooo!

Dougray sneezes hard and his dentures flew across the room, where they land inches away from John’s feet. John and Pratt both look down at the displaced false teeth and that’s when John flies backward into the wall with a crimson hole in his chest. Wide-eyed, Pratt looks at the last bit of life escaping John and turns around to see a still-seated Dougray. He had the same poker face, but it looks pathetic without any front teeth.

A small wisp of smoke escapes the barrel of the silver-plated hand cannon that Dougray has pointed at Pratt and the last thing that Pratt sees is that cannon roaring again.

Dougray shakes his head and thinks, there are sticky wickets and then there are sticky wickets. And this?

This is like the other nine fielders have decided that they want to be bowlers too...

…All at the same time.

…While the wicket-keeper bites your ankles.

Here he is a hit man of nearly thirty years of experience and he has let two amateur burglars get the drop on him as if he still was wet behind the ears. He has to be in Tahoe within the hour to take out somebody that is in the witness protection, before the mark moves to another safe house, and now? He has two bodies in his own house to contend with.

Well, he’ll have to tarp them and leave them in the garage; the paying job always takes precedence.

2 comments:

Quin Browne said...

like the story...

love this line:

Dougray responds by merely sitting at his desk with a face that any poker champion wishes they could own.

Cormac Brown said...

Quin,

A thank ya.