“Three-eighty, four hundred, four-twenty, four-forty, sixty, seventy, seventy-five ...” Ricky stared at the stack of cash on the bed. “Down to our last five hundred.”
“We wouldn’t be if the tracks weren’t your second home,” Daphne said.
Ricky got up and lit a used cigarette from the cheap motel ashtray. He opened the curtain a slit and looked out past the ‘62 Comet at the night. “You know what the deal is. It’s your turn.”
“My turn, my ass,” Daphne practically spat. She stuffed the take-out cartons in the greasy paper bag and threw it in the garbage. “It isn’t my job to pay the piper every time you get us in a jam.”
“Come on! I did it last time. You think it’s fun romancing old ladies smelling like medicine reminiscing about their dearly departed?”
“I did it last time. I did the sweet talking and got the money. That’s our deal. I go, then you go. You pick the mark and I close, then I do the same for you. We’re a team, that’s how it works.”
“So now you wanna pimp me out to some sucker with a bank account and a lonely heart,” she said bitterly. “Don’t you love me, Ricky? Don’t you want me all to yourself?”
“Hey, hey! That ain’t professional. We put our feelings aside. We got a good thing going. Don’t muck it up.”
“You still didn’t answer if you loved me.”
“Shit ...” He put out his cigarette and went back to her at the couch. “Don’t get soft on me. You know how I feel. I feel it every time you walk out the door. I feel it every time I think you might have a soft spot for one of those clowns.”
“That’s jealousy, Ricky.”
“Jealousy’s the symptom. It ain’t the disease.”
She pulled herself away and got up. “I wanna get out of here!” she practically screamed.
“It’s Atlantic City! Everybody wants out, but there’s too much old money!”
“It’s sucker’s money! You hear me! It’s sucker’s money!”
He went over to try and calm her down. “Shhh—shhh ... The neighbors’ll hear. They’ll start asking questions.” He held her, soothingly stroked her arms. “It’s a good thing we got. We had a good string of wins. We’re just getting started.” He turned her around and sat her on the couch. “Sit.”
“Sit!” He grabbed a chair and planted it opposite her, the backrest forward between them. He sat and leaned his arms on it. “I think I found a mark.”
“I’m gonna be sick.”
“Hear me out. You know I’ve been at the tracks. Well, I met a guy. He’s there every day. He loses, but he doesn’t mind. He’s a dabbler. It’s like a pastime. Anyway, I got to talking to him and he’s a real high-roller. He sold a hardware store chain and he’s enjoying an early retirement.”
“Early? He’s young?”
“He ain’t ancient. He’s got a wife, but she’s sick. Sick in the head, I think. She’s put away. He’s all alone in a big house and no one to tell him what he wants to hear, no one to whisper sweet poetry in his ear. This could be our guy. I’m feelin’ this one, I’m tellin’ ya.”
He hunched in a little closer. “This guy’s swimming in dough. He’s got so much you’re liable to lap it up just walking behind him. This could be our biggest payday yet. Then after ...”
He took her limp hand. “We’ll get outta here. We’ll go anywhere you want. Maybe even the West Coast—LA, San Fran—you always talked about going out west. I’ll make it happen this time. I promise.”
“It’s what I have to do that I’m tired of. I hate this.”
“In a few weeks’ time it’ll be a memory. And we’ll be free. Give this one a chance.”
Her hand gave him the slightest squeeze.
“To a wonderful evening.” Hal raised his wine glass just enough to show a Rolex peek under his sleeve.
“So this is what a five star restaurant looks like on the inside,” Daphne answered with a trace of bashfulness.
“It ain’t Kansas.”
“I feel underdressed.”
“Are you from there? Kansas, I mean.”
“No. Indianapolis. I just look like I’m from Kansas when I’m at the race tracks.”
“You didn’t look half bad to me.”