The enforcers had come for him. The shark wanted his money. Borrowed to the Bone.
July 19, 2013
A VG Serial: Borrowed to the Bone
Willy declined another invitation for a round of TGIF beers as he and his fellow workers walked through the gate in the chain link fence that enclosed the construction site. He whistled as he walked toward the almost new Chevy pickup he had bought last week.
He put his lunch pail in the pickup bed and was reaching for his keys when he saw the loan shark. The shark was no taller than Willy, just bigger around. He fancied himself a cowboy and always wore a big hat that even Willy recognized as ill-fitting and ill-suited to an urban crook. The shark walked between two much larger enforcers.
Willy tried to open the door before they reached him, but he was too late. The shark’s pitted, swarthy face and black eyes were angry.
Willy had never been told his name, only an address where he could be found when one was desperate for money. “Been trying to locate you boys to pay a little down on my debt. Did you move?”
Each of the escorts would tip the scales at over two hundred and neither was fat. They kept quiet while the shark answered. “We move all the time, but we’re not hard to find.” He ran a hand over the chrome rail on the pickup bed. “See you got yourself some new wheels.”
Willy saw no need for further pretense. “I ain’t forgot I owe you money. I’m just getting my feet back on the ground with this steady job. I can send you a little every week until we get it paid.”
His pleading tone was met with silence. Not even a grin from the three.
Willy unlaced and pulled off one brogan, withdrew the hundred he kept there and handed it over. “I can do one of those every two weeks.”
The shark took the hundred and passed it back to a big enforcer as if it were dirty. “A hundred every two weeks won’t cut it. We’ll all be old and gray before you get it paid off at that rate. Besides, we all know your word ain’t no good. We been patient. Time to pay up.”
“What’s it come to now, with the juice?”
Willy felt his insides drop precariously. “I think I can raise a thousand, maybe twelve hundred if you give me over the weekend.”
“You’ll raise two thousand or we’ll take it out some other way.” He turned and nodded toward the larger of his two companions. The man grabbed Willy’s wrist and took his keys out of his hand, then broke his little finger.
Willy screamed and walked in a circle until he could find his voice. “How the hell do you expect me to pay you if I can’t work?”
“You’ll figure it out. We’ll be back on Monday.” The man who had broken his finger started Willy’s truck and drove away. The shark and the other escort walked away in the darkness.
Willy dropped to his knees as tears came unbidden to his eyes. He was at least twenty miles from home, but only two from the Meatloaf Bar where he knew his friends were celebrating the end of the week. He took out his handkerchief, wrapped his broken finger to his ring finger, tied a knot with his teeth, and began walking.
Most of his co-workers appeared too drunk to drive by the time he arrived at the bar. Willy announced to everyone within earshot that his truck and his money had been stolen. He quickly downed four beers to kill the pain from his broken pinky.
Two hours passed before he finally persuaded the co-worker who lived closest to his home to give him a ride. Willy waited at the passenger door while the driver threw up his guts. He walked to the driver’s side and politely asked for the keys. “Why don’t you let me drive?”
The man spit a few times and looked up. “Hell, no. You as drunk as I am.” He fumbled for his keys. “Bartender took my keys again. I’ll be back in a minute.” As he left to go back inside, Willy felt a tap on his shoulder.
He turned to see a kind, friendly face. The man was handsome and about Willy’s age. Everything about the man seemed average. Average height, average build. He was dressed in one of the uniforms of the construction trade, the old-fashioned overalls of a journeyman carpenter, complete with a pair of pliers hanging from one overall loop and a claw hammer with an extra long handle from another.
His smile showed the only thing unusual about him, a perfect row of white teeth. “If my friend Weldon the bartender runs true to form, he ain’t gonna let your friend have his keys.”
Willy was wary after his encounter with the loan shark and his henchmen. “How’s he gonna get home?
“Your friend is Weldon’s brother-in-law. His sister would have his hide if he let him drive home that drunk. He usually sleeps it off in the back room.”
It was the last straw for Willy. His expression showed the desperation boiling inside him.
The man started to walk away, then turned. “You got your own wheels I could take you to?”
“Nope. I was counting on my buddy for a ride. Wonder if the bartender would let me have his keys to get home?”
The man twirled a key ring and keys on his index finger. “Where you headed?”
Willy told him.
“That’s a little out of my way, but I’d be happy to drop you off.
Willy began to relax as the man recounted stories involving the trials and tribulations of the construction trade on the way home. He thought he might have found a new friend, one who was not a thug, but clean-cut and sober. The man’s grammar was good, his conversation so intelligent that it sometimes went over Willy’s head, especially when he started talking politics and the national economy. If not for his clothes, the man could have been a college professor
But when the man mentioned Clark Mallory’s name, Willy felt trapped inside a moving vehicle.
Chapters of the serial are published on Friday.
You can learn more about Borrowed to the Bone and other titles by Jim H. Ainsworth on his Amazon Author Page.