Sumner waved the back of his hand at the guys playing poker in the corner.
“Look at them yo-yos,” he said. “That’s the way you do it. Sit on your ass and take the other guy’s money when the cards are right. Money for nothing. Course, the price for having their illegal game here is that they gotta do what I tell them.”
He turned a greasy smile on me. “You ain’t even got those cards. Shitheads like you gotta earn your money from me the hard way.”
The boss laughed at me and everybody in the almost-empty bar laughed along. He owned us all. John the bartender gave his boss the stink eye whenever he turned away, followed by a little kicked-dog smile when Sumner looked back at him.
Sumner pulled out a stack of Benjamins and put them on the table between us. No need to hide it here.
I nodded but left the money where it was, for now.
Another smile. “When the damned shyster is drawing his last breath, tell him this is what he gets for threatening to tell my wife where my money is.”
I raised my glass. John nodded and walked over to the door. The card players turned our way. John opened the door.
Sumner turned at the sound. “Keep that door locked tight. What the—?”
He stared at the Englishman wearing a lawyer’s suit in the door.
“Knopfler?” Sumner looked at me. “What the hell is my lawyer doing here?”
Knopfler walked over to the table and reached into his jacket. Sumner jerked but all Knopfler pulled out was another stack of cash. He sat it on top of Sumner’s stack and looked at me.
“Thanks for letting me make a counter offer.”
“And thanks for setting this up.”
I nodded again and the three poker players stood up.
“Hey!” Sumner looked at all of us. “I own you.” Two of the players yanked him up and pushed him towards the back door.
As the door opened, Sumner dug his heels in and gave a high wail. “I want my—”
The little guy with the earring and the makeup said, “Move-ah, move-ah” and shoved him into the night.
I divided the money into three piles. Knopfler pulled out some pages and put them in front of John.
“Told Sumner he was signing divorce papers when he was signing the deed for the bar. It’s yours, now.” John signed and picked up two of the piles.
“So I’ll pay the boys their third when they get back. They’re doing the messy work, putting the final sting on Gordon Sumner. I—” he put the other stack inside his shirt “—supplied the bar. What exactly do you get your money for?”
“Nothing.” I picked up my pile.
John laughed a big rock-and-roll laugh, like an angry guitar chord hanging defiant in the night, for no reason other than that he could.
Confusing on who’s doing what.
Michael Guillebeau’s book MAD Librarian (Madison Press, 2017) won the Foreword Reviews Gold Medal for Humor Book of the Year. Guillebeau has published five novels and over thirty short stories, including three in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.