Charles could tell she was a whore right away. Nice girls didn’t respond that quick, even if they were wild. He’d never actually been to a real whore himself, but he’d read about them and considered himself quite the sophisticate. It wasn’t the first time he'd managed to lure a girl into the manikin storage room at Sweeger’s department store, however.
I couldn't figure how or why at the time, but I sure could see that things had taken a turn for the fucked. One day I was a guy climbing the ladder like a pro. A sweet, easy deal came along from Mr. G, and I grabbed it. How hard could it be to drive a few guys from New York to Los Angeles and keep an eye on them? Then next thing I knew, there I was, in some fleabag hotel in downtown LA, with one guy tied to the bed, one guy off on the lam, and one guy doing a pretty good job of squeezing off my air supply.
The house didn’t aim to impress. Little more than a shack, its bleached slat wood walls slumped in the middle of a dusty plot of land, surrounded by scrub brush and broken fences. A rusty pickup truck with a fresh scrape along the driver’s side was parked like a passed out drunk in the front yard.
Jake and Skad were drunk, but not so drunk they'd let Arnie get away without paying up. The cards in his hand were garbage, just like they had been all night.
He hadn't even wanted to play to begin with, but Jake had noticed that queer pack of cards sitting on the edge of the bar, the ones with the laughing crows on the backs, and the three of them had found themselves playing hand after hand like there was no end to the night. There was an end to Arnie's money all right, and he had come to that end real quick.
The two of them were having a high old time, yucking it up every time Arnie had to push his chips their way. The sound of their barking laughter, like a couple of hyenas in heat drove him to want to break a chair on their heads. He rubbed the sweat off of his forehead, looked down and saw a card on the floor, just laying there, bird side up.
He thought just then that he'd really like to have the last laugh –– a real big laugh just like the bird. As his hand went for his gun, he thought hey, maybe that's what the bird on the back of the cards had been telling him all along... maybe the bird was saying, "Arnie, sometimes you gotta laugh it up big and let the bullets fly!"