"-- in Toronto 'cause we owed this girl for this thing in KC the year before and she'd already done the laydown and just needed some muscle to close it --"
Even in the murky lighting, the scruffy blond was shiny. It hurt Basher's eyes. He didn't want to think about where the burke had found a bag of crisps in Holding. And did he never stop talking?
"So the mark's primed, Danny's pounding on the door and I'm out in the parking lot waiting for the signal when I see Marie-Claude open the window, spiderman over to the rainspout, and hightail it out of there. Just gone. Now, I'm not saying it's impossible to do a Cuban Sandwich without a dead hooker, but it is pretty fucking difficult, you know?"
He offered the crisps to Basher, who prudently refused.
"Found out later she'd seen her actual ex heading for the motel office -- total coincidence, he was leaving a forwarding address for mail, if you can believe that -- and she freaked. Anyway, I gotta let Danny somehow know that there's no dead hooker in the bed anymore and --"
On and on it went, till the duty officer called out. "Mundy, Alex! Your bail-out's here."
"That's me." The blond stood, rolling up the bag and pushing it into his jacket pocket. "See you 'round."
He turned his attention to the officer letting him out. "This has got to be one of the cleanest holding cells I've ever seen. Do you contract your cleaning services out? Somebody here definitely takes pride in their work. Even the graffiti on the walls seems to gleam --"
Basher watched him stroll down the hall to where a dark-haired man waited. The two of them rounded the corner, out of sight, the blond's monologue finally fading in the distance.
Bloody Yanks. In love with their own voices.
Still. A Cuban Sandwich without a dead hooker?
A bit of all right.
What passed for the business liquid-lunch crowd had finally cleared out of the bar, leaving only a few dedicated drinkers and Basher. Still no sign of Dobbins, who had sworn up and down that he had a line on a vault full of bearer bonds and an absentee landlord. One more drink and he'd pack it in, curse Dobbins' wild goose chase, and write off the whole trip.
He was about to beckon the bartender over to his corner of the bar when the two men briskly entering the bar changed everything.
The blond from Holding -- what, two, three years ago? -- and the guy who'd bailed him out headed directly to the bartender. He wasn't as shiny as Basher remembered. In fact, his black suit, like his companion's, was as sober and respectable as the badges they flashed.
"Agent Walsh, FBI. Is your manager in?"
"Uh, no, he's off today." The bartender looked concerned. "Is there something wrong?"
Bail-guy -- 'Agent Mardukas' -- said, "We've been investigating reports of counterfeit bills being passed in the area. Have you taken in any twenty or fifty dollar bills this afternoon," his eyes dropped to the bartender's nametag then up again, "Bob?"
"Well, yeah. Pretty much all day." Bob shrugged.
"Could you open the register, Bob?" 'Mardukas' asked. "No, don't touch the bills, please. Just put the till up on the bar. Agent Walsh, would you administer the litmus configuration test?"
Basher watched in growing admiration as 'Agent Walsh' slipped on a pair of latex gloves and took a thick stack of twenties out of the till. Squaring them up, he then pulled what looked to be an ordinary pencil out of his breast pocket and rubbed in briskly over the top bill.
"We got one," he declared, holding the twenty up.
"Bob, do you remember who passed you this bill?" 'Walsh' continued his inspection, rubbing the pencil over each piece of cash and setting a number of them aside, as 'Mardukas' questioned the bartender. "Was there a tall guy here, maybe six foot, six foot one?"
"Aw, gee, I don't know. Hard to tell when they're sitting at the bar. And Helen, she's the waitress, she drops off a couple of tickets all at once and I don't necessarily know who paid with what." He raised his voice. "Hey, Helen, you remember a tall guy, paid with a twenty?"
"Got some fifties, too," 'Walsh' interjected, nodding at the new pile of bills he'd started.
Helen, who appeared to make up for her inability to walk and chew gum at the same time with an impressive figure and wide, if vacant, brown eyes, agreed that a number of men, tall, short, and average, had paid with twenties and fifties.
"We've had a number of agents making the rounds of likely targets in the area. Maybe Agent Mosely saw something," 'Walsh' suggested. "Mosely?"
Basher looked up in time to see everyone's attention, directed by the blond man's lead, turned on him.
He blinked, took a deep breath, and pulled out his best southern fried twang.
"Between noon and 1:30 pm there were three customers who matched the suspect's general description, sir. Two paid with twenties, one with a fifty."
Never let it be said that Mrs. Tarr's boy couldn't pick up on a cue.
"That's good enough for government work," 'Mardukas' said. "Tag 'em and bag 'em." He pulled a large envelope out of his pocket and passed it to 'Walsh'.
"Now, Bob, we need to take all these bills in as evidence and for further testing. Agent Walsh will give you a receipt and you tell your manager that an agent from the local office will be contacting him in the next day or two. You got that, Bob?"
"Yes, sir!" Bob practically saluted and took custody of the scrawled receipt with all due reverence.
"Your government thanks you, Bob. Keep up the good work. Walsh, Mosely." 'Mardukas' gathered Basher and the blond up with his eyes and gestured to the door.
Basher kept his mouth shut until they were a good block away.
"Litmus configuration test? With a Number 2 pencil? Nice."
"Hey, you work with what you got," 'Mardukas' said. "Danny Ocean, and you've met Rusty Ryan."
Rusty waved. "And you're Basher Tarr. Told you I'd see you around. Dobbins sends his apologies. The vault's a dud and he's gotta head out to Phoenix anyway -- wife's sister's having a baby. But he wanted to cover your expenses at least."
"So you two scam bars to do his payoffs?" Basher scoffed.
"Owed him one. Dobbins may be a bit of a flake but he's a good guy." Rusty held out the envelope to Basher.
He took it. "Don't you lot get a share? You did all the heavy lifting."
Danny waved him off. "Like he said, we owed Dobbins." He eyed Basher speculatively. "You're an explosives guy, right?"
"I have been known to make things go boom," he agreed modestly.
"You got a usual drop? Contact point? We wouldn't mind keeping in touch," Danny said.
Basher wouldn't mind either. It'd be good to work with proper villains.