Tommy counted the bills in his ragged wallet, careful not to put too much stress on the threads hanging from the seams. The wallet had gone into the washing machine with his pants that morning, and the bills had yet to dry out. It wouldn’t do. He couldn’t give wet bills to Gina.
“Hey, Vic!” Tommy shouted, trying to make himself heard over the drone of drunken voices, all competing with the beat blaring from the speakers on either side of the stage. There was a woman on the stage, but Tommy didn’t care. It wasn’t Gina.
“What’ll ya have, Tommy?” Vic bellowed, leaning over the bar and cupping a hand against his ear.
“Think you could switch these bills out for me?” Tommy asked, dangling the soggy wad over the bar.
Vic shook his head. “Sorry, pal. I ain’t put’n that mess in my cash register. And don’t go bother’n my customers either. Nobody wants your toilet money.”
Tommy stuffed the bills back in his wallet and retreated to a booth in the corner. Gina was on next, and he didn’t have any money for her. What if she got the idea he didn’t care anymore? What if she found a new boyfriend? He couldn’t even buy himself a beer. He thought about the gas station down the street, but he still wasn’t allowed in there after he’d cursed out the old man behind the counter. It wasn’t his fault he couldn’t understand the guy. All he’d wanted was a quick pick on the lotto. If he’d won, Gina wouldn’t have had to dance for the bums at Vic’s. He would have had her all to himself.
He’d just about given up hope, when he saw a man in a long coat and a battered fedora take a seat at the bar. It was Robert Doverman. Rob had served in the Middle East with his brother. He’d help him out. A minute later, Tommy was punching Doverman on the shoulder.
“Hey, Rob! What ya doin’ here? You an’ Maggie on the outs again?”
“Something like that,” Doverman said, waving a folded bill at Vic.
“Think ya could help a guy out?” Tommy asked, sliding onto the stool next to Doverman while pretending not to notice Vic’s scowl. “I’m not look’n for a handout. I just need some dry dollars for Gina. Mine got all wet.”
Doverman’s hand disappeared into his coat pocket and came out with a wallet. He peeled ten ones out and handed them to Tommy. Tommy reached for his wallet, but Doverman stopped him with an upturned palm.
“You can pay me back later,” Doverman said. “Go show your girl some love.”
“You probably shouldn’t be encouraging him, Rob,” Vic said as soon as Tommy had loped off, all smiles. “Gina said he gives her the creeps.”
“Gina knows how to handle him,” Doverman said. “He’s harmless.”
A week later, Doverman was sitting in the office of Homicide Detective, Glenn Kraft, waiting to talk to the big man who’d been squeezing in this name between anguished wails since being picked up the night before.
“The guy won’t eat. All he does is sit on his cot, cry, and ask for you,” Glenn said. “If he keeps it up, he’s going to cause a riot. Even cons need to sleep.”
“You’d be a mess too if you were getting set up for killing the girl you loved,” Doverman said.
“What the hell makes you think he was set up?” Glenn asked. “We found Tommy’s prints all over her apartment, even on the glass ashtray used to beat her face in.”
“He look like the kind of guy who would use an ash tray to kill a hundred-pound woman?” Doverman asked. “With mitts like his, it would never had occurred to him to pick it up, especially if he’d lost control.”
“He had the hots for her. She didn’t reciprocate. He got mad and killed her. End of story,” Glenn said, “The bastard did a real number on her face too. We got one of the girls she danced with to identify the body. She didn’t look long before tossing up her breakfast all over the coroner’s shoes.”
“Tommy’s simple, and he likes to throw his fists around when he’s tied one on,” Doverman said, “but I don’t buy he’d attack a woman, especially not this one.”
“So, you gonna take his case?” Glenn asked. “He could pay you in empty beer cans. We found piles of them in his apartment when we searched it.”
“Take me to him,” Doverman said. “At the very least, I might quiet him down.”
Glenn shrugged and led Doverman to the room down the hall from the holding cell where they had Tommy cuffed to a metal bench.
“We usually use this room for overflow,” Glenn said. “Your boy is the only guest here now.”