Risky Choices: Chapter Six

Greg sat in a dark corner of the bar looking like every other alcoholic when his phone vibrated. It was Little Toni. He didn’t want to be bothered with her drama, but she was persistent. As soon as he said “hello,” she started in on him.

“Your bitch of a wife showed up on my doorstep! How does she even know you’re alive? Did you contact her?”

There was no getting a word in when she was like this; it was best to just listen until she wound down.

“Oh,” Little Toni took a deep breath, “and Babe,” a purposeful pause full of saccharine sweetness, “I don’t care if she’s pregnant, if your baby mama shows up here again—”

“What did you say?” Greg interrupted anxiously.

“I said. If. Your. No-good-WHORE-of-a-wife—”

“No, Toni. What did Vi say to you?” Greg asked. “Tell me her exact words.” There was impatience in his voice.

“She said, ‘Tell Greg I’m pregnant,’ so I was like, ‘Tell him yourself, he’s at Pete’s Pub,’ and she runs outta here before I can give her a what for!”

Greg hung up on her.

He had been watching the front door for his contact, and now he had to worry about Vi. His face softened at the thought of seeing her again; at least he would see her again. Vi had used the code “I’m pregnant,” which meant “I’m in serious trouble.” He always knew they weren’t over, and he let his thoughts carry him to the “what ifs.” A jarring noise startled him back to reality. Looking up, Greg saw a commotion in the doorway.

“GET OUTTA THE WAY,” boomed a big cartoon character of a guy, all buck teeth and no neck. It was comical how he pushed the man standing in the threshold quietly shaking his umbrella aside. Greg almost laughed, but this guy was all muscle and meaty fists. “HEY, PETE,” he yelled across the room. “What the hell is up with da tourists in this two-bit dive? Don’t theys know this is a dangerous place?” He leaned on the bar, ready for a beer.

The barkeep’s face twisted into a half smile. He pulled a pint for his longtime customer, and pushed it across the bar as he replied, “Good to see your ugly mug Bigs! When’d you get back? I thought you were gone for good this time.”

“Nah, they couldn’t make the charges stick without witnesses.” Bigs winked before he inhaled his beer.

Bigs didn’t notice Greg, didn’t even glance in his direction. But Greg’s eyes were glued on Bigs. This was just the sort of muscle Big Tony used to clean up messes, and the last 36 hours had sure been a mess for Big Tony.

“And what’ll you have?” Pete turned to tend his new customer who was stashing his umbrella and settling in at the other end of the bar.

“A clean glass and a pour of Jameson, no ice,” the man stated in a cool understated tone.

Pete raised an eyebrow. “You need me to wash my hands too?” Then Pete turned back to Bigs. “Get a load of James Bond,” he laughed.

The man didn’t take the bait; he just pulled a twenty from a roll in his pocket and handed it to Pete. “Keep it,” he said, then turned to causally survey the room. Dark and dank, with the underlying scent of stale urine and cigarette smoke; he spotted Greg in the corner, and without ceremony, he turned back to his drink and pulled out his phone. He read the text awaiting his attention:

on the way. hold tight. we can kill two birds tonight

Walking over to Bigs, Pete pinched each corner of the twenty and snapped the bill in Bigs’ face. “I’m beginning to like tourists,” he taunted. But Bigs wasn’t paying attention, his chin was down and his hand cupped a cell phone. “Yeah, I’m out, boss,” Pete heard just before he turned back around to mind his own business. He had learned long ago not to listen too closely.

Everyone saw Violet as she strode into the bar, but her attention was solely on Greg. She spotted him immediately and quickly found a chair at his table.

Vi hadn’t seen Bigs on the phone; she didn’t hear him say, “You’ll never guess what dame just waltzed into Pete’s,” as she walked past. Nor had she paid much attention to the assistant DA, Timothy Wallace, sitting with his back to the room, head buried in his drink like every other drunk as he covertly watched her in the bar’s dingy mirror.

Seeing Greg alive distracted Vi from the danger. She had known he would be alive; that’s how she had planned it. She had orchestrated the plan to use Greg’s affair with Little Toni to make sure Greg would be tipped off about the bomb. She knew Little Toni was just using Greg to get better positioning with Mable Swan and was easily bribed, by one Steven Hammond-Everette in particular. Deep down, she had been unsure if it would work, after all, the rest of her plan had backfired. But seeing was believing, and she sighed in relief, sagging in her seat beside her husband.

“Greg, how could you not tell me about the heroine?” Vi demanded. She rushed the conversation; Greg would need to catch up fast.

“You know why, Vi.” He looked her in the eyes. He wanted to grab her hickory locks and kiss her, but there was no time for that now.

Vi searched him for any of his usual tells; she knew them all and would see if he was lying to her. Finding none, her lips turned upward in half a smile. He really had done it for her. “But heroine?” she demanded in a harsh whisper, her fleeting happiness erased from her features.

“It’s just one more affront added to the pile we’ve committed, Vi,” he said in his defense. Then he asked, “What about your deal with the DA?”

“Steve?” Her laugh was a little wild. “He can’t help. He doesn’t know the half of it. Hell, I didn’t know,” she said. Frowning, she continued, “Greg, I agreed to the money laundering, but not to heroine.”

“Vi, now isn’t the time for this. I messed up, okay? You said you were pregnant? What kinda trouble are you in?”

“This is bad, Greg.” Vi said a little frantically. “It’s bad for all of us. Big Tony has in informant,” she explained, leaving out that it was most likely that skank Little Toni. “He knew about the fake hit, and he had no intention of paying me. I’ve been so foolish.” Tears stung at the backs of her eyes, hot and persistent, until one leaked down her cheek.

This was not like the Violet Greg knew. She was normally so composed, the first to come up with an actionable plan no matter how ludicrous, and now Greg was so caught up in Vi’s distress that he wasn’t paying attention.

Thus, neither of them noticed when Big Tony strutted through the door.

Vicie Ree


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