VINCE was posturing at the mirror combing his hair. Leon was fingering a cigarette at his side. A morsel of ash fell to the floor. ‘We could cut in on Dennis’s poker night. He’s got a circle goin’.’
Vince coiffed a forelock without replying.
‘…but that chick’s still waiting; in the limo.’
Leon emitted a guffaw that rebounded against the porcelain enclosure.
But Vince retained his sobriety. ‘What sort of fuck name is Nora?’
‘I keep tellin’ you, it’s Nancy.’
‘She’s a yokel.’
Leon took drag. He held the smoke in his lungs before exhaling two streams through his nostrils like a dragon. ‘I was hopin’ to get one of the other two, you know, perhaps the one who flashed her tits, but they went off somewhere in a taxi.’
Vince’s expression remained sedate as he smoothed down the back of his hair. ‘Shame.’
‘So what do you reckon?’
Vince inserted his comb into his breast pocket. He crossed his arms without taking his eyes from the mirror. ‘Let’s see…’ Leon took another drag and listened attentively.
‘When the shots come out tomorrow, she’ll grab any offer going, right down to the seediest model agency. Her fat, self-appointed manager mom will tell her to play it cool as this could be the big time. After a week of floundering against the maws of obscurity, Nora will sack her and go public about how Mom ruined my life. Her mom will reply by airing some dirt, underage sex, drugs, alcohol abuse, after which, Mom and Nora will succumb to obscurity and eat humble pie to the manager of the local supermarket.’
Leon wedged his dog-end between his teeth and brought his hands together in a slow clap. ‘Very good, Mr. Jonas. Very good.’
Leon stubbed out his cigarette. ‘Well, I would have dittoed you on that one if I had bagged one of the other two. Given the chance, they would have gone out in a supernova of debauchery and loved every minute of it. This bird’s slow, she’s got a longer fuse…I kinda liked her.’
Vince merely shrugged at this. ‘Unless she goes dirty, the rags won’t have much to fill the columns with. After all, what’s there to write about yokels?’
Leon gave a wry snort. ‘She sells insurance for Christ’s sakes!’
Vince inserted his hands beneath the taps until the sensor released water. ‘Okay, so the yokel’s got somethin’ to hide, but I think it’s the same old hack that’ll make the tabs look tired.’
‘She’s a small town chick. I think the paper’s’ll take her to their hearts, y’know, the underdog shit, the outsider that makes good against all the odds.’
Vince yanked a paper towel from the dispenser. ‘Hmm. I believe you got me a dud this time, Mr. Fairchild.’
‘C’mon, I think she’s got some life in her.’
Vince proceeded to wipe his hands. ‘So you think she’ll go dirty?’
‘I didn’t say she’d go dirty.’
‘Oh, so if she goes dirty, do I win?’
‘Now, hold on a minute!’
‘You can’t have it both ways.’
Vince balled up the paper towel and lobbed it long range into the bin. ‘Remember that other chick? Er…Brenda… Brenda…’ He clicked his fingers.
‘Barbara. Now, don’t start on her again.’
Vince tendered Leon a look… that look. ‘You owe me.’
Leon’s smirk surfaced against his will. ‘May I remind you she sold that story about the doodah with the transvestite police officer after the two weeks I had specified?’
‘I said she’d go dirty.’
‘Yeah, okay, but not before the two weeks were up.’
Vince’s face remained deadpan. ‘Okay, let’s make a decision on this one. If the yokel goes out of print in a week, dirt or no dirt, I win. If she holds out for a month, you get double.’
Mirth dimpled Leon’s cheeks. ‘You’re pretty cocksure of yourself, Man. Just remember, it don’t matter how small the snippet, even if it’s on the back page of a parish magazine.’
‘No cheatin’, Leon.’
‘Hey, you should know me better than that.’
Leon’s paw disappeared into the back pocket of his trousers. Nancy expected to see a wallet; she expected him to dish out some twenties, or even fifties. Instead, he palmed up silver coins. He tossed a handful onto the marble top. Vince kept his eyes on Leon. With conceited economy, Vince slotted arrowed digits into the breast pocket of his coat and counted out a handful of his own. He chucked them onto the pile.
Leon seemed satisfied.
As Leon collected the pile and placed them into a small drawstring bag, she realised they weren’t coins, but beer bottle tops.