“What’s the word, Rock?” Trip asks her favorite bartender as he plunks a Freezin’ Seamen in front of her. It’s only five in the evening, but it’s never too early for a Freezin’ Seamen. She drains it in one gulp. There are two guys at the bar, and a few scattered patrons elsewhere.
“What’s up, Trip?” Rock asks, giving her soulful looks. He turns on the puppy-dog eyes which succeeds in irritating her. “How come I haven’t heard from you since, you know.”
“Since we fucked?” Trip asks bluntly, not missing the wince on his face. “Rock, I had a great time, I really did, but it was just one night.” Her tone is matter-of-fact. She had made herself abundantly clear that night that she wasn’t a stand-by-your-man type of woman, but it appears that Rock hasn’t gotten the message. Of course, they’d both been bombed out of their minds, but she had thought he understood because he had nodded after she spelled out the rules. Right before she fucked the shit out of him.
“I thought you really liked me,” Rock says, his lower lip trembling. He’s older than she by three or four years, but seems more vulnerable. “I thought we really had something going.” Good god, not another closet romantic. Could it be for all his tats and piercings, he is a wilting flower at heart? She knows how to pick them, yes, she does.
“Listen, Rock, I have to ask you a question.” Trip changes the subject as she doesn’t want to waste time coddling the broken-hearted. “Did a man come in here the last week or so asking about me?”
“What, are you some kind of celebrity and nobody told me?” Rock laughs a bit meanly. The two guys sitting on their bar stools snigger, not even bothering to pretend that they aren’t listening.
“You tell her, Rock,” the older one who is missing a few teeth, not to mention most of his stringy white hair, crows. “You have to keep the ladies in check.”
“Let me rephrase that,” Trip says evenly, her dark eyes impenetrable. Rock shrinks back a bit, even though he outweighs her by a hundred pounds or so. “Has someone been asking for a repo man?”
“You’re not a repo man,” the younger barfly snorts, sucking down his Bud. He has a baseball cap jammed on his head, but his watery blue eyes are keen under the brim. “You’re a broad.”
“Rock!” Trip snaps, tensing her muscles. “I do not have time for this shit.” Her eyes lock onto Rock’s until he looks away.
“OK, yeah, there was this guy last week. Short guy, all sweaty. He comes strutting in like he’s too good for the place, you know? Like his shit don’t stink.” Rock sniffs, looking highly affronted. He’s a good working-class boy who doesn’t truck much with the bourgeoisie. “He says loudly that he’s looking for someone to help him with a problem and that he had been told The Savage was the place to go to solve his kind of problem.” Rock snorts again, wiping the counter in front of him. “The bastard hasn’t even ordered a drink yet, which pisses me off because I haven’t made my nut that night, and he’s scaring away the customers. I tell him to shut the fuck up or to take it outside. He doesn’t like that much, but what the fuck is he going to do about it?” No, DiCalvo would be no match for Rock, at least not physically.
“Did he give a name?” Trip asks curiously.
“Gave me a business card,” Rock shrugs. “Funny name. Wop, or something like that, I think. I dunno.”
“Renaldo DiCalvo?” Trip hazards a guess.
“Shit, yeah, that was the asshole’s name,” Rock exclaims, pleased with himself. “What kind of pussy name is that? Renaldo. Sheesh.” Trip doesn’t tell him it’s fake though she’s sorely tempted. “Anyway, Buzz tries to suck up to him, but give me a fucking break. Buzz hasn’t been in the biz for what, ten years now? Big as a fucking house. No way he could do the job.” Spoken like a true connoisseur. Trip wonders if Rock’s done a bit of repo himself, though she’s never heard tell. She dismisses the thought because she would know if it were true. Nothing happens in the business that she doesn’t now of. “This guy, the pussy, he’s not interested in the few guys who say they can do it. He finally orders a drink—a MGD, then asks about you.” Trip’s ears pin back at the news. She half-expected it, but it’s not pleasant, nonetheless. “Oh, not directly, no he’s too fucking subtle for that. Must think we’re all a bunch of jackasses or something.”
“Prick,” the older barfly mutters. They have been so quiet, Trip had forgotten they were there. “Man, if I were thirty years younger, I would have messed his shit up.”
“Not in my bar,” Rock thunders, causing the old man to cringe.
“I’m just kidding, Rock,” the old man whines. “Just a little joke.”
“DiCalvo,” Trip says impassively.
“Yeah, pussy-boy says so-casually that he’s heard about a certain repo man. Then he corrects himself and says woman. Says she’s a Chi—Asian, do we know her?” Trip knows what Rock was going to say, but she lets it slide as she’s sure it’s DiCalvo who called her a Chink and not Rock. “Says he was told she was the best at this kind of shit. He’s never done it before, blah, blah, blah. The usual bullshit. I can’t believe people actually say that.”
“So he asked for me specifically,” Trip says flatly. There goes her theory that he just wanted a fall guy and grabbed at the first repo man he could find. According to Rock’s story, DiCalvo asked for her, Trip.
“Eventually,” Rock admits. “I wasn’t the one who ratted you out, though. Someone else did the honors.” What he doesn’t mention is that DiCalvo bought the whole damn room several rounds of drink as they told him all the Trip stories they knew. Somehow, Rock doesn’t think Trip would approve even though she’s done the same thing herself. He’s not able to keep a straight face, however, and one sharp glance from Trip is all she needs to decide. Slowly, deliberately, she reaches across the bar and grabs Rock by the shirt. She pulls him towards her until his face is inches from hers.
“Rock, did you enjoy the other night?” Her voice is low so only the two of them can hear, though the barflies are straining their ears to catch anything they can.
“Uh, yeah, Trip, very much.” Rock’s face is turning red because Trip has twisted the shirt in her hand. Rock likes to wear his shirts a size too small to show off his muscles, so she’s cutting off his circulation. Even though Rock could bench press Trip with one hand, he makes no move to protect himself.
“There is a chance in hell it might happen again.” Trip says evenly, cranking up the pressure. “That chance drops to zero if you don’t tell me everything you know.” Just as quickly, she’s let go of him and is sitting back on her stool. “Shot of Jack.” Rock blinks furiously, his eyes watering, but complies with her request.
“Look, Trip, you have to understand. Most of the guys here are losers, you know? They hang out here ‘coz they got nowhere else to go. They don’t have any fucking lives, you know? Sad, but at least they got a place to stay for a few hours. We don’t kick ‘em out, you know, unless they fuck the place up. Then they have to go.”
“I know all that, Rock. Your point?” Trip slams the Jack and shudders as it works its way down her throat nice and slow.
“Point is, guy comes in, waves some money around, and they roll over like bitches.” Rock doesn’t bother to lower his voice, but the barflies don’t get offended. “He bought the whole damn place drinks for the rest of the night, and they were tripping all over themselves to tell stories on you. No pun intended. By the time the guy left, he knew everything there is to know about you.” Rock polishes vigorously at the bar, keeping his eyes down. His shoulders are slightly hunched to ward off the explosion which doesn’t come. Heartened, he lifts his eyes to see Trip frowning slightly.
“Let me get this straight. DiCalvo comes in here looking for a repo man, tosses bucks around the bar, and everybody sings like a canary. Do I got that right?” Trip stares at Rock, her eyes flat.
“Yeah, that’s about it.” Rock discreetly steps back out of her reach. “By the end of the night, the guys weren’t even bothering making shit up to sit next to him. Must have had ten guys talking to him in private.”
“You hear any of these so-called private conversations?” Trip’s eyes warn him of the consequences of lying to her. Rock weighs the hundred dollar bill the man had slipped him at the end of the night with the vision of an angry Trip, and there is no contest. Besides, what the fuck the man gonna do to him? Hunt him down and take his hundred back?
“He wanted to make sure you were Asian,” Rock begins, tucking the towel under the bar. He opens himself a Rolling Rock, figuring he needs the courage. “He asked one or two of the stooges. He even asked me. I didn’t tell him nothing, of course.” Trip doesn’t bother dignifying that with a response; Rock hurries on. “Shit, I need to smoke.” He pulls out a pack of Marlboro Reds and lights up.
“Give me one,” Trip demands, holding out her hand. Rock does, lighting it for her. She lets the smoke slip from her mouth as she motions for him to continue.
“He wanted to know how much of the shit the guys told him was true and how much was legend. He seemed very impressed with the Freezin’ Seamen. Had three of them. He liked that story a lot. Couldn’t fucking get over what you did. He made three or four of the guys tell the story over and over again. Then he left.”
“After that story?” Trip asks, fastening her stare on Rock’s face. “How long was he in the bar?”
“Hours, but yeah, he left right after that story. That’s it, Trip, honest.” Trip doesn’t stop staring, causing Rock to squirm. “All right! He gave me a hundred dollars to make sure you never heard he was asking about you. Satisfied?”
“How did he know the guys would keep quiet?”
“I think he spread the wealth. Motherfucker was like Santa Claus that night.”
“Pretty cocky son-of-a-bitch,” Trip comments. “He had to have known that someone would have mentioned it to me sooner or later.”
“Who knows?” Rock shrugs. “When you got money to throw around, deeper thoughts like that might not occur to you.” Trip smokes for a minute, moodily contemplating the smoke. It is clear that she is not pleased with the conversation. Rock can feel his balls retract into his body protectively as she turns her eyes his way.
“You’re not holding out on me, are you, Rock?” Trip’s body is tensed as she leans forward. Rock stands his ground, but is wary.
“I’ve told you everything, Trip. The fucking asshole came; he listened; he spent tons of dough; he left.” Trip thinks some more as she stubs her cigarette out in her shot glass. She gets up to leave; Rock breathes a sigh of relief. His manhood is intact for one more day. Every encounter with Trip makes him nervous as hell because he never knows what to expect. It’s one of the reasons he’s so infatuated with her.
“How much money would you saw DiCalvo tossed around that night?” Trip asks casually just as she’s about out the door.
“Dunno, Trip,” Rock says, shrugging his shoulders. “Money was flowing from him like it was Niagara Falls for sure. Must have been a couple thou, easy. Most likely more. Man, I’d love to know who’s he fucking for that kind of dough. Must have himself one sweet motherfucking sugar daddy.” Trip doesn’t bother commenting on this as she leaves. It gives her more to think about.