Sunday, February 13, 2011

Page Six

Lawrence's left leg was growing numb. The hard, wooden slats of the train station bench pressed persistently against his thigh and back, reminding him how long he had been waiting, and how much he wished he were somewhere else. Sammy is a sadistic son of a bitch. That was the only explanation. June didn't want to see Lawrence at all, let alone first thing after a long train ride to some mystery job.
The bulge in his pocket seemed heavy and obvious. He could feel each indentation of the barrel brush his thigh as he shifted on the bench. She was late by nearly an hour and Lawrence was not a man with an abundance of time to wait. Sammy knew all this. Sammy was half the reason he was so busy. What the hell was that business in the restaurant the other day? Good vibes on this job were not ample to start with, now they were almost nonexistent.
Lawrence knew he couldn't run from Sammy. A big part of him wouldn't want to if he could. He would wait, like always, and pick up the cards as they landed.
Lawrence looked down at his hands, meaty, hard, experienced. Something in him hoped June was wearing gloves. He didn't want to feel her skin again. He hoped Sammy knew that, too.

When he hung up the phone five days earlier, Lawrence had noticed an unnerving quality in Sammy's voice. Sammy always spoke with a sort of calm, organized confidence. No emotion, no equivocation, no uncertainty and no room for questions. Sammy knew a job, knew how to get it done and did it, with everyone else following Sammy's instructions to the letter. This time, for the first time, it seemed like Sammy needed this job to happen. It was the way he had paused before, "I think we'll ask June along for this one." Every job they had done since she left could have used June, but this was the first time she'd been mentioned as necessary in seven years. Sammy's voice had been calm, as always, but it seemed like the plan was not fully formed. That chilled Lawrence to the marrow. If Sammy wasn't sure, nothing was. Every job they pulled had been a hair's-width from chaos. Faith in Sammy was the only certainty and the only way out without a reserved seat under an electric hat.
Lawrence had seen men's eyes bulge, red-rimmed, that film of involuntary tears catching the light as the sockets tightened. He had heard stories of what happens under that hood, what happens to the pressure in a man's head when they turn on the juice.

Lawrence rubbed his thumb over the scar on the back of his left hand. He looked up from the bench at the sound of a train huffing its way into place in front of a crowd of wives and children and business partners. Each passenger appeared at the doorway, squinted into the sun, scanned the crowd. Eyes glinting when the hand they were seeking shot up from the mass of those who wait. A subtle nod from the fedora and briefcase who found his driver. A squeal and a tear from a fiancee. Lawrence caught a flash of rich, brunette as it moved quickly in and out of view. He focused on the feet of the throng of loud reunions and quiet porters. There. A pair of pin striped legs nudged a battered sample case forward. Those green heels. He followed them up past black nylons, stretched tight around long, sinewy calves, past a thick, tweed jacket to June, her still, nameless complexion framed in coffee-colored waves, as always. She stepped free of the crowd and met Lawrence's eye, a burning spark of recognition fading quickly to obvious determination. As she approached the bench where Lawrence now stood, she removed a glove and extended her hand. Lawrence's own drew slowly across the heavy object in his pocket, felt the crisp, autumn air, then the smoothness of June's familiar, fragile skin.

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