Free Fiction Thursday – Strike Two

Happy Thursday, everyone!

This week I’m celebrating the release of my newest story collection, EIGHT FROM THE SILVER STATE, which is available as an e-book from Amazon and Smashwords, and soon to be available in print. The eight stories in the collection, including this week’s free fiction Thursday Story “Strike Two,” are all set in my home state, Nevada. Enjoy!

STRIKE TWO

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press
Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed
Cover art copyright Sly5800|Dreamstime.com
Cover layout by Thunder Valley Press

Lenny Masterson knew better than to ply his trade with kids in groups, but sometimes life threw a curve ball so sweet it would have been criminal not to take a swing.

These kids, three girls barely legal enough for the round of drinks lined up on the casino bar in front of them, never spared Lenny a second glance as he brushed by behind them.  Women usually didn’t.  Most men would mind being treated like that.  They’d run out and spend a fortune on hair plugs and a personal trainer, but blending in was part of what made Lightfinger Lenny so good at what he did.

The other part?  Practice.

Lenny’d lived in Las Vegas for a couple of years now.  The place was thick with tourists and southern California transplants who walked around The Strip all googly-eyed, trying to take in the sights and sounds all at once.  Most of them never gave a second thought to the scrawny guy who bumped into them by accident, especially not if Lenny gave them the glassy-eyed stare of a lifelong alcoholic on a serious bender.  When he was working, Lenny drank only enough to put the smell of alcohol on his breath.  He could fake the look of a true souse when he needed it.  He’d spent years of his life drowning his sorrows in a bottle.  All that practice had to come in handy sometime, right?

Thanks to the school of hard knocks, Lenny had two rules he never broke.

One: No working kids in packs.

A kid by herself, her attention on her cell phone, why not?  Lenny would be long gone by the time she ended her call, and even longer gone by the time she noticed her wallet was missing.  But groups of kids were dangerous.  Gangs especially — nobody messed with the gangs that were taking over more and more territory outside The Strip.  Those kids would pull a knife on you for no reason, much less if they caught someone like Lenny in a middle of a job.  Lenny steered clear of any kid wearing gang colors or sporting a dead-eyed stare.  Lenny knew his limits.  He was no fighter.  He’d cut his losses and turn tail if he had to in order to save his skin.

Rule number two grew out of rule number one:  Steer way clear of anybody connected.

That meant stay away from anybody who was anybody who mattered to one of the guys in charge.  The city fathers might want the tourists to believe that Vegas was all cleaned up these days and the wiseguys were all gone.  But guys like Lenny who worked the shady side of The Strip knew that while the old-style wiseguys might be gone, they’d been replaced by guys who made the old school mobsters look like Tinkerbelle.

The tall kid at the bar, the brunette, she had one of those designer bags that cost more than a week’s rent at the no-tell motel Lenny currently called home.  That particular brand of purse was Lenny’s favorite, not for any esthetic value, but because the thing was basically one big, open bargain bin ripe for the picking.

(read the rest of the story here)

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