The entire bar looked up when they walked in, and Ryo felt his shoulders tense in response to the passive hostility in the air. Then the moment passed, and the noise that had diminished at their entrance swelled up once more; yet despite all that Ryo still felt vaguely uncomfortable, and he shifted slightly, compensating for the weight of a weapon that he didn't have. Dee's hand at his elbow was more comforting than he'd have liked to admit, and he took a step away, the uneasy tension he'd felt shifting in its focus; from the cold stares to Dee's warm grasp, which fell away as soon as he moved. If he'd been some other man in some other place, he might have laughed over the fact that he was more frightened of Dee -- of his comfort, of his affection, of the way he managed to slide right in and make himself at home inside Ryo's personal space -- than a seedy bar full of seedy clientele, at least half of whom were probably packing heat.
"You good?" Dee asked him without moving his lips -- a talent that Ryo greatly envied.
"Yeah." He did a quick scan of the men seated at the bar or leaning over one of the pool tables, ducked his head into his shoulder like he was coughing, and muttered, "you see our guy?"
"Not yet, but O'Dell's snitch says he's supposed to be here tonight." Dee nodded his head slightly towards the bar. "Come on. I'll buy you a drink."
Ryo thought, briefly, about reminding Dee of the fact that they were both still on duty, but kept his mouth shut. They -- or more accurately, he -- would just look more out of place here without a drink in hand. He trailed after Dee, horribly self-conscious of just how badly he stuck out here, how he was too neat, too clean, too innocent; horribly fascinated too, if he was forced to admit, by just how well Dee fit in, in his dirty flannel and off-white shirt and torn jeans and two-day-old beard.
And that was a subject better left alone, so instead he sipped his beer and thought nice safe thoughts about being bait for a serial killer. He scanned the crowd while Dee worked his magic on the bartender, sounding just like all the other men here (sounding nothing like a cop, sounding like the guy he almost turned out to be) and there, in the corner, watching the pool tables. He let his eyes pass over the guy one more time, reassuring himself that this was their guy, then turned to Dee, fixing as petulant an expression as he could manage on his face.
"I'm bored," he said, in a voice that said he spent his summers in the Hamptons and his winters in Aspen. "I'm going to go play pool."
Dee nodded once, in understanding, then turned back to the bartender, and gave the man a 'see what I have to put up with?' grin. The heavyset man grinned back, leaned on the scarred countertop. Ryo pushed his way through the crowd. It looked like Dee was handling his part of the sting; now it was Ryo's turn.
There was a game just ending when Ryo reached the table nearest their man -- three sharks pretending they were dolphins to lure in a new prey. Ryo sauntered over, made sure the overhead light caught the gold Rolex he was wearing, shone on the silver money clip he pulled out of his pocket. In the corner of his eye, he saw their man look his way, sit up a little, take notice.
"How much to play?"
The sharks looked at each other, and smiled at him, trying to hide their teeth. "Five to start?" one asked, and Ryo grimaced.
"Sorry, I don't have anything smaller than a twenty."
His words made the sharks' smiles grow, and the same one handed him the pool cue with a, "That's okay, twenty is fine." The shark jerked his head at another one, the obvious low man of the group. "Rack 'em up Benny." He extended his hand, chalk dust on his fingers. "The name's Sam, pal."
They shook hands, and Ryo proceeded to play like he'd never touched a cue stick before; he scratched six times before Sam sunk the eight ball and disqualified himself. Ryo grinned, although inwardly he rolled his eyes at how obvious a set up this whole thing was. He looked at the money, but made no move to pick it up. His beer had gone flat, but he took a long swallow anyway, and leaned on the rails, slouched just a little until his shirt was rucked up and the pale curve of his stomach was exposed, the dark hollows of his hips peeking out over the low-slung waistband of his jeans.
Ryo couldn't decide if it was harder to not wince at the wedgie he'd given himself, or to keep himself from playing pool the way he had in college, when it'd been the fastest way to pick up a little extra cash on a Saturday night.
"The pool gods must not be with me tonight," Sam said with false regret. He pulled another twenty out and put it down on the two already on the rail. "Whaddaya say, pal? Double or nothing?"
He bent over the rails, played just as bad, and kept one eye on their guy who seemed to be enjoying the view. Sam strung him out a little longer this time, but took the dive again, and this time he didn't wait before launching into his next spiel.
"You're good pal. Really good." He chalked up the tip of his cue stick. "Wanna raise the stakes a bit? Say, forty bucks a game?" He grinned, oily and unconvincing. "Gimme a chance to win back some of my dough, huh? My old lady ain't gonna like it if I come home all tapped out again."
Ryo grinned back at him, just as slickly false. "Well, I wouldn't want to get you in any trouble."
He won two more games -- more ego padding for the mark, he guessed -- and then began to lose, narrowly at first, but then by a larger and larger margin. Bad as Sam was at setting up a sting, he was a good player. A good actor too, chiming in with the right words at the start, the 'gee, guess I got a lucky break this time' and 'that was a close one, buddy, you almost had me'. And then, later, 'well you know luck's a fickle bitch', delivered with a shrug and a wink and a smile, once Ryo was beginning to lose his own money. When he was a hundred down, Ryo saw their guy signal one of the background flunkies -- the big one, who hadn't given his name and whose only task seemed to be to keep anybody from interfering with their little operation. They had a whispered conversation -- their man whispering and the big guy grunting -- and then the flunky elbowed his way into the crowd. He was back before the next game started with a couple of beers -- two Heinekens and a Yuengling for Ryo.
And a note for their guy that Ryo pretended not to see.
He wondered what Dee had told their guy he was worth; wondered what Dee had promised to pay him to take Ryo off to some abandoned warehouse and execute him -- if the rape cost extra or if that was just a perk for their guy.
When he'd gone down another eighty, he jumped the cue ball over to their guy's table, and stumbled over to retrieve it with a laugh that made him sound like he'd had more than two beers.
"Sorry, sorry," he said, grinning like an idiot. "My hand slipped."
"You're taking quite a beating over there." Their man tossed the cue ball from one hand to the other, smiled at Ryo in a predatory way. "If you want, I can give you some pointers."
"Really? I'd appreciate that." Ryo leaned in closer, let his hand rest on the other man's shoulder. "I don't think those guys'll take an I.O.U., and I only brought a couple of hundred with me today." He took a step back, swayed a little, stuck out his hand. "I'm Randy, by the way. Randy Hall."
"Jim Brown." He stood up, let his hand rest in the small of Ryo's back, guided him back to the table, where the sharks were grinning again, but this time because they could smell the blood in the water.
Hurry up, Dee, Ryo thought, and he glanced over at the bar, looked for the familiar face that was no longer there. For a brief, frightening moment, Ryo thought they'd been made, that these men had known all along that he wasn't a rich kid slumming, and they'd already taken out Dee and he was next. He fumbled his cue stick, dropped it to the ground with a clatter, knelt clumsily to pick it up; it was a heavy piece of wood, and he figured he could take out maybe three guys before their buddies took him down.
A hand on his elbow made him tense, and then Dee's familiar voice washed over him and he dropped the stick again in his relief.
"Hey, hey, cuz, what're you doing? Throwing up?" Dee pulled him upright, his eyes asking 'are we in trouble?' even as his mouth continued to speak aimlessly. "Kid's a fucking lightweight."
"Dee," Ryo said and he wished he didn't sound quite so glad. He cleared his throat, gestured at the table. "We're in the middle of a game. Jim was about to show me some tips."
"Tips, huh?" Dee glanced at their guy, grinned in a pleasant way. "Well you sure could use 'em." He held out his hand. "Dee."
A quick glance at the bar from Jim, a small nod from Dee, Jim's answering grin -- a nasty grin, full of sharpness, part warning but mostly malice. Dee sauntered over, ostensibly to put down his drink on Jim's table, passing close by Jim to do so, pulling him along. A conversation in glances and gestures, and when Dee returned Jim's smile held less malice and more speculation.
Ryo supposed that he should feel glad that their little plan had gone so well, but he could only feel a dull sickness in his stomach. He coughed a little, tapped the butt of the cue against the floor, forced petulance into his voice to drown out the edge of fear. "Lend me some cash, Dee. I've only got a couple of bucks left." To the sharks, he shrugged, apologetically, "I guess I'm done after this game."
"You're out of money? Christ, I shoulda known." Dee glared at him, folded his arms. "Listen, I'm not paying for your cab, and you're not sleeping at my place tonight -- I got Susie comin' over later, and she don't like to fuck if there're other people around -- so unless you wanna walk back or take the train, you better get some of that money back."
"I'll pay you back."
"No you won't, you stingy bastard."
Ryo rolled his eyes, bent over and lined up his shot. As he'd planned it, the cue ball spun out wildly, bounced off of the back rail and managed to neatly avoid hitting any of his balls. Dee grunted with apparent irritation, took the stick out of his hands.
"Gimmie that. You're never going to win back your cash playing like that."
"Sorry," Sam said, as he sank two of his balls, then dropped the cue ball right behind the eight where it teetered on the edge of the upper right corner pocket. "No switching players in the middle of the game."
"I can give him tips, though, right?" Dee made sure to look at Jim, make sure he was paying attention.
Ryo hid his eye roll by staring down at the table. He felt Dee come around behind him, and didn't shy away when Dee pressed up against his back, arms coming up to trap him. He had lime on his breath, and tequila under it, and sober playfulness at the bottom.
"Dee?" he murmured, deep in his throat. "What're you doing?"
"He wanted to date you," Dee whispered back. "I had to do some fast talking, tell him you were a slut, push his buttons. Told him you'd sleep with anybody, even your cousin. So I'm going to give him a bit of a show. Just play along, okay?"
"What?" Ryo tried to turn, but Dee's arms held him fast, trapped him, and then Dee raised his voice, slid back into the rough speech of his youth.
"Your problem," Dee said, loudly and dropping his voice a couple of pitches, "is you're too fucking jerky. You gotta be smooth." He wrapped his hands around Ryo's, leaned into him, pressed up tight. "You pull back and push forward, nice and gentle, all one motion. And it's gotta be controlled. You can't just be thrustin' any which way. Gotta keep your eye on the goal, gotta aim, you know."
Ryo felt himself blushing, and he squirmed a little, until he realized what that was doing to Dee. "Uh, Dee, I think I got it."
"Hey, I'm just trying to lend you a little hand, bail you out here." Ryo could feel Dee's grin and he was so going to get the bastard back for this. "Now, you can't hold your stick to tight, 'cause if you do it'll fuck up your shot and you'll just end up with no control and a big mess; but if you do it too loose, then you don't got no power. So you gotta hold your stick gently, but firmly, right, and you gotta have a solid bridge and then you just pull back, and glide it forward."
The click of the balls sounded far too loud to Ryo's ears and he pushed Dee back and away from the table. "Thanks," he mumbled, trying not to focus on anything at all, but most particularly his erection. "I think I can handle it from here."
Dee stepped back, and pulled his cigarettes from his back pocket. "Just helpin' you out, man."
The game ended quickly, and this time Ryo didn't have to fake it to play badly, for every time he leaned down he felt the memory Dee's hands on his, the subtle pressure pushing against his ass, the feel of Dee's voice vibrating through their chests. The slide of the cue stick across his fingers was disturbingly arousing, and although it felt nothing at all like it did when he jerked himself off, he still twitched a little with every pass. He took a little while longer than was absolutely necessary to rack up his stick, taking deep breaths to try and he was still hard when he turned around, still hard and annoyed about that, and then Jim Brown grabbed his wrist and suddenly his erection was no longer an issue.
Jim pushed a piece of paper into the back pocket of Ryo's jeans, let his hand linger there just a moment too long. "Gimmie a call the next time you want to learn some 'pool'," he leered, let his hand run down to caress Ryo's crotch, leaned in even closer until his beer heavy breath almost made Ryo gag. "Leave your cousin behind."
Ryo managed to make the appropriate noise, to stay in character until he slid into the passenger seat of the unmarked car they'd parked a few blocks over. Then he let himself shudder and scrub at his arms as if he could rub out the feel of Jim's touch.
"You okay?" Dee asked as he started up the car.
"Next time," Ryo growled, punctuating his words with the click of the seatbelt sliding home, "you get to be the bait."