The Non Electronic Bug – part two

fiction

The Non-Electronic Bug – part two

By E. MITTLEMAN

 

We didn’t annihilate the fish. They hardly felt they were being hurt, but we got a steady advantage, day after day. We did so well that we took on another man–I can take physical labor or leave it alone, and I leave it alone every chance I get.

That was where we first felt the trouble.

Our new boy was around twenty. He had a swept-wing haircut, complete with tail fins. Also, he had a silly laugh. Now, there are jokes in a card game–somebody taking a beating will sound off, to take away some of the stings, but nobody laughs because the cracks are never funny. But they were to our new boy.

He laughed.

He laughed not only when the mark made some crack, but a lot of the time when he didn’t. It got so the customers were looking at him with a lot of dislikes, and that was bad for business.

So I called him out into the hall. “Skippy,” I said–that’s what we called him, “lay off. _Never_ rub it into a sucker. It’s enough to take his money.”

He ran his fingers back along his hair. “Can’t a fellow express himself?”

I gave him a long, hard unhealthy look. _Express_ himself? He wouldn’t have to. I’d express him myself–express him right out of our setup.

But before I got a chance, this fellow from Chicago came in, a big manufacturer named Chapo; a wheel, and he looked it. He was red-faced, with hanging jowls and a big dollar cigar; he announced that he only played for big stakes … and, nodding toward the kid and me, that he didn’t like an audience.

Henry looked at us miserably. But what was he going to do? If he didn’t go along, the word could spread that maybe there was something wrong going on. He had to play. “Take the day off, you two,” he said, but he wasn’t happy.

I thought fast.

There was still one chance. I got behind Chapo long enough to give Henry a wink and a nod toward the window. Then I took Skippy by the elbow and steered him out of there.

Down in the street, I said, fast: “You want to earn your pay? You have to give me a hand–an eye is really what I mean. Don’t argue–just say yes or no.”

He didn’t stop to think. “Sure,” he said. “Why not?”

“All right.” I took him down the street to where they had genuine imported Japanese field glasses and laid out twenty bucks for a pair.
The man was a thief, but I didn’t have time to argue. Right across the street from Henry’s place was a rundown hotel. That was our next stop.

The desk man in the scratch house looked up from his comic book. “A room,” I said. “I and my nephew want a room facing the street.” And I pointed to the widow of Henry’s place, where I wanted it to face.

Because we still had a chance. With the field glasses and Skippy’s young, good eyes to look through them, with the transmitter that would carry an extra hundred yards easy enough–with everything going for us, we had a chance. Provided Henry had been able to maneuver Chapo so his back was to the window.

The bed merchant gave us a long stall about how the only room we wanted was assigned to a sweet old lady that was sick and couldn’t be moved. But
for ten bucks she could be.

All the time I was wondering how many hands were being played, if we were stuck on money and how much–all kinds of things. But finally, we got into the room and I laid it out for Skippy. “You aim those field glasses out the window,” I told him. “Read Chapo’s cards and let me know; that’s all. I’ll take care of the rest.”

I’ll say this for him, duck-tail haircut and all, he settled right down to business. I made myself comfortable on the bed and rattled them off on the transmitter as he read the cards to me. I couldn’t see the players, didn’t know the score; but if he was giving the cards to me right, I was getting them out to Henry.

I felt pretty good. I even began to feel kindly toward the kid. At my age, bifocals are standard equipment, but to judge from Skippy’s fast, sure call of the cards, his eyesight was twenty-twenty or better.

After about an hour, Skippy put down the glasses and broke the news: the game was over.

We took our time getting back to Henry’s place, so Chapo would have time to clear out. Henry greeted us with eight fingers in the air.

Eight hundred? But before I could ask him, he was already talking: “Eight big ones! Eight thousand bucks! And how you did it, I’ll never
know!”

Well, eight thousand was good news, no doubt of that. I said, “That’s the old system, Henry. But we couldn’t have done it if you hadn’t steered the fish up to the window.” And I showed him the Japanese field glasses, grinning.

But he didn’t grin back. He looked puzzled. He glanced toward the
window.

I looked too, and then I saw what he was puzzled about. It was pretty obvious that Henry had missed my signal. He and the fish had played by the window, all right.

But the shade was down.

>>>>>For part two, please visit sparrow-publishing.ca on August 25 2020<<<<<

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