WALL OF DEATH

Chapter 2

Alban Springs, Colorado

36 hours previously

Dean hit the cue ball hard, slightly left of centre and winced as the rack split into uneven chaos. It was a sloppy break, precisely executed and he leaned his head on the pool table, playing the moment.

He heard a snort from his opponent and looked up with a sheepish grin.

“Ain’t my night, is it?”

The dude shook his head. “You keep laying your money down, son, I’ll keep taking it.”

He was a stocky fellow, early forties with a full beard and blue eyes which twinkled when he smiled. Dean remembered his name was Al and he seemed like a nice guy. Part of Dean hated scamming a nice guy like Al but business was business and funds were low.

Dean picked up his beer and drained a third of the bottle in one hit, just to reinforce how he was halfway drunk as well as being a crappy pool player. Two guys at the next table finished their game and wandered across, amused by the pounding this stranger was taking. Al introduced them as Dave and Rick, work buddies and Dean guessed they all worked up at the lumber mill. Alban Springs seemed like a typical blue collar, redneck town and this bar was full of guys who looked just like them; plaid shirts, baseball caps and plenty of steam to blow off come Saturday night. It was the main reason he’d picked the joint.

Sam didn’t like it of course and he glanced to the front of the bar where his brother was sat in a corner booth, glued to his laptop, a barely touched beer in front of him. He looked like a fish out of water and that irritated Dean no end. Sam could fit in just fine when he wanted to but on this occasion he had a point to make, an axe to grind and was royally pissed on top of it all. He might seem lost in his geeky computer world but Dean was being watched closely. After the events of this morning he’d have a tough time fooling Sammy ever again.

Al took his first shot and potted a stripe, then another. He was a halfway decent pool player but lacked the killer instinct. Dean worked on his own strategy as he watched, throwing in enough winces and grimaces to keep it real. There was four hundred bucks riding on this contest but he wanted to make it an even five before getting serious. That meant letting Al win this game: not too easily or he’d smell a rat. Al’s third ball bounced off a cushion and Dean sent a couple of spots into their pockets; carefully calculated to look like dumb luck. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d played pool for the pure fun of it but forced a convincing grin anyway.

“Maybe my luck’s changing, huh?”

Al shook his head amiably. “No such thing as luck in this game.”

Dean missed his next shot and cursed roundly. “There goes tonight’s motel money.”

He straightened, pretended to survey the table critically and took another swig of beer. He’d started the hustle feigning inebriation but was getting there for real now. All it took was three beers and prescription pain killers to get the magic working, which was a cheap night out all things considered. Sam wouldn’t see it that way though.

Dean flexed his left shoulder as Al potted another stripe. It barely hurt anymore. It was stiff in the mornings for sure, but nothing which prevented him doing his job like a pro. He’d started using the pills when the pain was genuinely bad, then progressed to taking a couple when he needed to stay cool for a job or scam. The way Sam was running his life at the moment, staying cool had become a full time occupation. They didn’t keep the anger and frustration totally at bay anymore, but he still hadn’t been thrilled when Sam stumbled across them.

Dave headed for the bar, brushed lightly against Dean and murmured quietly in his ear as he passed.

“You don’t need to leave here broke…”

The dude went on his way like nothing had happened. Dean glanced at his buddy Rick, who tipped him a wink. They were both up for some action? That was convenient and it certainly wasn’t the first time Dean had been propositioned in a bar like this. He’d started out getting offended, used his fists to do the talking before wising up to the opportunities.

Al nailed his fourth stripe and Dean considered his options. If he worked this thing right he could walk away with twice the payload. He pretended to study the balls as he sauntered round the table and lounged beside Rick.

“What you got in mind?”

Rick looked straight ahead and his lips barely moved as he spoke. “Come outside with us. There’s two hundred in it for you.”

Dean kept his voice low. “I don’t get out of bed for two hundred. You want a piece of me, it’s two hundred each.”

“You got it, pretty boy, but we’re looking for more than a blow job.”

Dean sniffed. “Whatever you say, man, but you’re waiting ‘til I’m done here.”

Rick smirked “Make it snappy, hot cheeks.”

Dean milked the situation for all it was worth. He set up shots which had him leaning far across the table, stood right in front of them while waiting his turn, took provocative sips from his beer bottle and knew their eyes were on him at all times. They kept it subtle and Al was oblivious, or pretended to be. They both wore wedding bands and Dean figured Al was playing the prudent friend, which was the smart thing to do.

He let Al win by a couple of balls, reached into his back pocket and slapped down his last fifty bucks.

“What do you say? One more for the road?”

Al chuckled. “Good job it’s a warm night, son.”

Al broke efficiently. Dean saw at a glance how he could eight ball him but he’d learned the hard way how the best hustles were covert. No point rubbing their noses in it, they never liked it. Dean might have been spoiling for a fight, but Al wasn’t the guy he wanted to roast. He smirked at Dave and Rick and adjusted himself through his pants.

“How about another round, fellers?”

The game was over in ten minutes. About the time it took to finish the fourth beer. Dean kept it close, kept it lucky and pounded the table with fake delight when he potted the black. Al took it with fake good nature, though he seemed a little suspicious. Rick slapped him on the back and steered him towards the bar, offering words of support and sympathy. He’d only lost two hundred and fifty bucks after all, he could make it back on overtime.

Dave hung back, eyeing Dean as he counted the pile of money and stuffed it into his pocket.

“We had a deal.”

Dean nodded. “I ain’t forgotten. Where’s it going down?”

Dave jerked his head towards the fire escape. “Use the street door, meet us out back, got it?”

“After I take a leak.”

Dean headed for the men’s room and took his sweet time. Let the bastards wait on him. He checked the knife in his boot was secure then scrutinised himself in the mirror. Damn he looked good. Scruffy and scratched up for sure, but people dug the look. Rough trade always got the job done and in his case was rarely gender specific.

He would have preferred to get hit up by a couple of chicks but that didn’t pay for a tank of gas. He’d never in his life been offered money for sex by a woman, even the trashiest, and sometimes he pondered what he’d do if someone really wanted to buy herself some action. He was certain he’d take the cash and then some…

Dean smirked at his reflection. This situation was all out win-win. He’d make some extra money and get weeks of frustration out of his system. He’d come here to hustle and fight, in that order but an old fashioned, balls to the wall brawl was his number one priority. Anything else was a bonus.

He took one final look at himself then sauntered out through the bar. Dave and Rick were already gone but Al was still at the bar, drinking off his defeat. He saw Dean and turned his back, still playing the blind buddy to perfection.

Sam lifted his head as Dean slid into the seat beside him. He’d barely drunk a quarter of his beer. Dean picked up the glass and knocked back a few mouthfuls. He wiped foam from his upper lip, pulled the wad of cash from his inside pocket and passed it across surreptitiously.

“Five hundred bucks, Sammy. You impressed yet?”

Sam’s face was stony but he didn’t ask any dumb questions. He took the money and shoved it in his own pocket.

“Can we leave now?”

Dean grinned. “There’s another four hundred coming. Give it a couple of minutes and have the Impala running.”

“What are you doing, Dean?”

Dean shrugged. “Nothing I ain’t done before.”

“Those rednecks at the pool table?”

“Yahtzee!”

Sam’s eyes narrowed. “You’re scamming them? If you think you can handle that kind of fight…”

Dean interrupted. Sam was really starting to bug him. “I’ve been hearing this crap for nearly a month and I’m done with it. You ain’t my nursemaid and I feel fine.”

Sam glared at him. “Fine? You swallowed a bunch of prescription meds just to get through the night.”

This was taking too long and Dean was itching to get outside. It was a four week old bullet wound for Christ’s sake. Old news. Why couldn’t Sam just quit worrying?

“We’ll do this later, Sam. Get in the car and be ready to move.”

He strolled through the street door and made his way round back. It was dark and quiet and he headed towards the green light above the fire door. It cast a sickly glow over the cluttered yard. Dave and Rick were waiting and they looked riled.

“What took so long?”

Dean smirked. “Relax fellers. Good times are a coming.”

Dave moved forward eagerly and Dean put a hand on his chest.

“Back off, Romeo. Mister Franklin gets first shout.”

Dave snorted in frustration but dug in his pocket and handed over some bills. Dean counted them slowly, running his tongue provocatively over his lips as he did so, feeling the lust coming off them in waves. Rick spoke up.

“You tease us much longer, this’ll be full on rape.”

Dean pocketed the money. He leaned against the brick wall and winked.

“Let’s do it.”

They moved in quickly and he nearly gagged at the stench of smoke, whisky and body odours which invaded his olfactory senses. Rick clapped a hand against his crotch and yanked down the zipper of his jeans, Dave leaned in for a rough kiss and Dean shoved him away.

“One thing you should know though, I ain’t no friggin’ rent boy.”

The brawl was fast and ferocious. Dave and Rick were pissed and they had every right to be. They wanted their money back, they had every right to that as well but Dean wasn’t about to surrender it. He didn’t mind being misjudged by guys like this, was mostly amused by it, but he needed a fight badly and this was exactly what he’d hoped for.

They were strong, mean and pretty decent fighters. Even so it was one sided and way too easy. Dean took a few hits, barely felt them and he put them down in under two minutes. He took quick stock of his injuries: a shiner developing over his left eye, scuffed knuckles and a slight sprain to his wrist. Schoolyard shit. His shoulder didn’t hurt at all now.

He pulled ten dollars from his coat and threw the bill on top of Rick. He nudged him with his boot to get his attention.

“Buy your lady something nice.”

Dean took off. Incredibly Sam had followed instructions and was sitting in the car gunning the engine, high beams illuminating the parking lot. Dean threw himself into the shotgun seat and grinned.

“Easy money.”

Sam stared at his blackening eye and Dean braced himself for the lecture which didn’t come. Sam just pursed his lips, eased the Impala out of the lot and onto the blacktop. They were a good mile down the road before he spoke. Dean was too busy congratulating himself to bother with conversation.

“You got your fight, huh?”

Dean smirked. “Over too soon.”

“How much did you feel? Between the pills and the booze?”

Dean cocked an eyebrow. “Give me some credit; I know how to put down a couple of rednecks.”

He saw the lights of a Gas n’ Sip approaching and motioned sharply. “Pull over, dude. We need supplies.”

Flushed with success, buzzing from the physicality of the fight, Dean stocked up with junk food, whisky, beer and skin mags while Sam gassed the Impala. His brother’s mood didn’t get any lighter as they continued down the road to their motel.

“How much of that booze you planning on drinking, Dean?”

Dean glanced at his watch. It was barely 11pm. He was on a high and wasn’t about to let Sam’s prissy mood bring him down.

“Tonight, my brother, I’m gonna drink whisky, watch porn and surf specialist websites. You got a problem with that?”

Sam scowled. “You’re carrying a major injury, Dean. Why can’t you deal with it like anybody else? Rest up take it easy?”

Dean sniffed. “I ain’t anybody, Sam. And you ain’t exactly innocent in all this.”

It was a low blow but it shut him up. Dean was grateful for the silence; however short lived it might prove. They pulled up at their motel and Sam was out of the car and unlocking their room before Dean could even start gathering the shopping bags.

“This isn’t over, Dean. We’ll talk in the morning.”

Dean didn’t care. He had a whole night’s boozing ahead of him.



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