“Well, if it ain’t Jimmy Fuckin’ McKinley. You got a hell of a lot of nerve coming here.” It had been a decade since I’d seen her, but she was still hot as fuck. A little more mature, a little rounder, but damn, in all the right ways. And with a mind to match.
“Hey Betty. I see your name is on the sign outside now.”
“Lots of things changed while you were vacationing in Statesville.”
“You coulda visited me.” I hadn’t sat down, and she hadn’t reached for the sawed-off under the counter. Meaybe we were going to be kinda mature about this.
“Ha! In your dreams. So you’re out, visiting the old haunts or something? This ain’t a place for you to hang out anymore. It’s respectable-like, with Robbie gone. We even get tourists.” I looked around at the nobody who’d been here when I walked in, and she scowled. “Well, we had a guy looking for the El who was lost. But he bought a beer, so that counts. Anyway, why are you here?”
Now I sat down. “I’ve always liked you, Betty.”
“Don’t give me that shit, you bastard. I know how men like you like women like me, especially after ten years with no one but Rosie to keep you company. In all the time I knew you, you never said boo to me unless you were drunk or setting Robbie up for some half-assed robbery.”
“It’s not like that, honest. You were Robbie’s girl. He’d have shot me twice if he’d thought I liked ya – once in my balls, and once in my throat. I saw what he did to Paulie, and all he did was say your ass looked good in your jeans.”
Betty laughed. “That wasn’t Robbie’s doing. He was a pussy when it came to that kind of thing. I always had to defend myself. But it got him more dough if people thought he was tough. Anyway, that was a long time ago. No one gives a shit about me or my ass anymore, and that’s the way it should be.”
She turned away from me and grabbed a beer from the cooler, popping the lid off and letting the head rise just enough. I’d been a decade without a cold one, and I would have been happy with bull piss, but this was some real microbrew shit. I sipped it in silence, feeling a buzz building way too quickly. I was a lightweight now.
Letting the warmth move through me, I worked up the guts to ask. “What happened, Betty?”
She sighed, grabbing a bottle of bourbon from the shelf, and then setting it down, unopened. “Ah, hell, Jimmy. I don’t like to think about the old days this much. You got popped, Robbie should have – he was a right bastard, we all knew that – and it was time to move on. But he wouldn’t, and he got loose with his dick and his fists. I’m not that kind of girl, and I took care of things. The DA bought that it was self-defense. Who wouldn’t have, with Robbie’s rep? I got probation and the bar. I thought the past was dead.”
I took a chance and reached out for her hand. To my surprise, she took it. “Not dead, babe. Just locked away for a while. And I’ve had more than enough time behind bars for this lifetime. I mean, I’m no Mr. Straight and Narrow, but that sucked balls.”
“So, what then?” I could see her getting skittish, and she pulled her hand from mine.
“I don’t rightly know. But I wasn’t lying before. I’ve always liked you. I ain’t got nowhere else to go, no one who even knows me. Would you mind if I hung around, at least sometimes? We could talk, or stuff.”
Goddamn, her tits looked good when she laughed. “Or stuff, indeed. You always had a way with words.” Betty paused, and looked me over – stem to stern, as it were, but mostly staring in my eyes. “We’ll talk. Talk. And if you’re going to be here, you might as well be useful. It does actually get busy in here ‘round five.”