The Pool Hall King
Friday night, holed up in the basement of O’Malley’s bar. Corner of forty second and second, rock music blasting from next door. Dark corners contrasting with the flood of light over the pool tables. A smoky haze in front of the bar as punters drink the night away. The weekly pool tournament in full swing. Only five guys this week, on a good week maybe up to twelve or fifteen. Five bucks to enter, winner takes all, poor pickings tonight. Keeping a low profile after last week’s bank job, waiting for my pay out. That guy shouldn’t have tried to be a hero, what else could I do?
Stuck in a murky one room apartment on the Lower East Side, watching TV all day and making a couple of beers last all night in backstreet bars. Into the final of the pool, no sweat. These guys don’t realise I used to be a pro. Usually one or two hookers hanging round, ready to make a play for the winner, and his winnings. Since I crashed out here three weeks ago, I’ve cleaned up every week. What else can you do?
First week the blonde one chatted me up after the semi-final. Older than the other girls, maybe thirty something, taller, longer legs shown off well in her short red skirt. Difficult to see in the dark to see her face clearly, but pretty for a hooker. Twelve guys that week, a sixty dollar haul. Bought her a drink; she followed me back to my place, only charged thirty bucks. Boy, was it worth it! Called herself Lola, but I guess that wasn’t the name she was born with.
Second week there she was again, loitering in the shadows. Only six guys showed up for the pool, but it was like taking candy, again. As soon as I sunk the eight ball Lola was by my side.
‘Hi big boy, looks like you’ve cleaned up again.’
After I’d bought us both a beer she took the rest of my winnings. The money didn’t seem to matter to her.
Last week she never showed, thought I’d lost my touch. Another poor turnout for the pool, twenty five dollars winnings and five of those were mine to start with. Just on midnight as I walked downtown to my block, she appeared from a shop doorway across the road. She was stalking me now! Having bought a round of drinks for the guys I only had ten bucks left, but she was happy with that. How had I managed to find the cheapest hooker in town, who didn’t look as though she’d been hit by a tram? Afterwards we chatted, she was more inquisitive; wanted answers. Where was I from? What did I do for a job? How long was I staying? She left about three in the morning, said she needed another couple of tricks before she turned in.
Before the pool kicked off tonight I was watching the Nick’s game on TV in the bar. The news headlines in the break; they’re interviewing one of the NYPD cops about the Bronx bank robbery and shooting. A blonde female cop; DI Marie Tomkins, a mean looking broad, but it was definitely her. Winning tonight was tricky, I had too much on my mind. Looks like I’ve got to head west in the morning. Catch a train to anywhere away from here. No sign of her at O’Malley’s tonight, hope she doesn’t come round later.
Midnight back at the apartment, ten minutes and my stuff is packed ready for take-off in the morning. I can’t sleep, too many nightmares. I keep the revolver under my pillow. All quiet outside, not much traffic. Outside I hear footsteps … heels clicking … woman’s footsteps. I clicked off the safety, swearing that if she showed her face here tonight, my room would be the last one she ever entered.