Monday, July 28, 2014

THE EVER-FRIENDLY, AGNES CARMICHAEL

To me, a “character” is an eccentric with a dynamic personality. These individuals are not just oddballs but something about their positive or negative personality makes them compelling enough that it's difficult to take your eyes off them. Sometimes my South Jersey casino friends are insulted when I say that Atlantic City, compared to Las Vegas, has no characters. But out west, these walking entertainment centers were everywhere.

Today’s character laden offering is an excerpt from my short story, “AGNES CARMICHAEL, OF THE CARMICHAEL CALIFORNIA, CARMICHAELS.” It is the story of a couple and how the old saying; there’s a lid for every pot…didn’t apply to these two losers.

More importantly, you will soon find why the title is such a mouthful when you meet Agnes Carmichael. As well as other characters like, Dick Paynlewski, Ciro the Hero, (before he became Ciro the Zero) and Simon “Coat-Rack” Rhett.

In 1981, Ciro the Hero and I both worked at downtown Las Vegas casinos. On many occasions, we met for a drink at 4:00AM, at Binions Horseshoe Casino. Ciro had “money on the street” so on one occasion, I reluctantly followed him to Hotel Fremont where he was going to encourage a former coworker to honor his debt.

Ciro’s client didn’t come to work that night. While we were there Ciro and I decided to play craps. Armed with about forty dollars each, we had the table all to our self. Ciro shot the dice first. He got off to a great start and made me plenty of chump change. But Ciro left all his winnings in play and had over a hundred in play when a tipsy, giggly woman around thirty (four years older than us) appeared at the other end of the table.

On closer examination this slightly plump woman’s pale face was dotted wet-looking, purple berry-like zits. She wasn’t wearing make-up and a thick white band bunched her frizzy brown hair, unattractively straight up.

During a brief pause in the action, she took a badly crinkled dollar bill out of a small black clutch, tossed it on the table and said, “Dollar eleven.” The dealer bleated, “Buck yo.” She then called across the table to Ciro, “C’mon big boy, throw me an eleven.” Ciro was toying with the dice as he muttered for only me to hear, “I’ll give you eleven, eleven inches.” I was fighting off a laugh when Ciro called back to her, “Honey, forget about the fuckin' eleven, I shootin’ for an eight.”

Ciro threw an eleven. The woman jumped up and down as if winning those fifteen dollars was like hitting the lottery. She pulled out another single from her purse, threw it on the table and said with a big grin, “Press my eleven.” When her broad smile revealed a small chip in an upper front tooth Ciro whispered, “Marrone, what a train wreck...but she has big tits.”

She called to Ciro, “I know you’re talking about me. Just concentrate on throwing me another eleven and I give you a big kiss.” Ciro rolled his eyes, “Maybe I should reduce my bets?” I said, “Don’t get superstitious. I’m not changing anything...you’re on fire.” Ciro was still waffling until he threw the dice and said, “What the fuck.” He seven-out and we both lost.

Ciro sneered under is breath, “That goofy looking, ugly wench distracted me.” To our surprise, she approached. I focused on her frilly U-neck blouse and her stretch mark ravaged breasts as she arched her back to emphasize her trophy-like bust. She said, “Nice roll handsome, we all made money.” Ciro was disinterested, gently brushed past her and said, “Yeah, yeah whatever, we gotta go.” She ran ahead of us and playful blocked Ciro’s path. She was oscillating her torso to display her chest and said, “What’s the rush?” Ciro blasted, “Get your fat tits and fat ass out of my face!” She grabbed Ciro’s arm as he passed and squawked, “My father can make trouble for you. He’s a big man in Carmichael and everyone in Sacramento knows him.” Ciro said, “Well Dorothy, you ain’t in Kansas no more.” She said, “Father is a big man here too. He has a $40,000.00 credit line at the Landmark alone…everyone in Vegas knows the name Cyrus Carmichael.” Ciro was pretending to yawn as she continued, “When I finish BJ school, he’s going to ‘juice’ me in anywhere I want.”

Ciro was not impressed and was annoyed that she followed us to the cashier. Ciro sighed, “Look doll, I didn’t mean to insult you…” She interrupted, “That’s okay, I just like to be friendly. Let’s go for a drink and get better acquainted.” He said, “No can do, I got a jealous girlfriend. Besides, I gotta get this lightweight home before he turns into a pumpkin.”

Coincidentally, Ciro’s girlfriend (Shirley Birnbaum) was the assistant cage manager at the Maxim Casino, (Shirley was married with three kids. She and Ciro had Thursday afternoon delight for about a year).

Shirley had access to confidential records and thought nothing of sharing that information with Ciro. A few days later, he called me to say that Cyrus Carmichael was a real estate lawyer and indeed, a heavy-duty baccarat player, all over town.

At that time, I was a craps dealer at a crumby dive called the Vegas Club. I had lost my great job at the Stardust and now I was eking out a living until something better came along. One of my supervisors was an ignorant ass-hole named Ralph Winters. He thought he was a big man in a small place so like a tyrant, he stepped all over the inexperienced dealers. He and I clashed many times but when I exposed him as being incompetent and powerless, he clammed up around me.

Winters was horrible amongst his peers too. One of the blackjack supervisors, Edmund Khalifa, came into the pit to ask everyone to chip-in for a surprise birthday party for a terminally ill shift boss. The dealers all agreed to give three dollars. The supervisors were asked to give five. Winters was aware that Khalifa was of Turkish-Syrian decent, born in Dearborn Michigan and was as much a Catholic as he was. Yet he refused to donate and called the pleasant Khalifa, “A fuckin’ pushy camel-jockey.”

Winters was gloating about bullying Khalifa when he suddenly switched topics and bragged, “There’s new keno writer who loves to give head.” He rattled off five of his coworker cronies and said, “Last night, she took care of all of us on the roof of the Horseshoe. She calls it, being friendly.”

On my next break, I was surprised to see Ciro's train wreck from the Fremont sitting in the employee lounge. She wasn’t in a uniform and had a temporary nametag that read: CARMICHAEL. She didn’t recognize me, (maybe because she was sober). I pointed at her badge and asked, “Is that your real name?” She said, “No it’s Agnes. I hate it…so I get everyone to call me Carmichael. I’m Agnes Carmichael and I’m from Carmichael California. Get it, I’m Carmichael from Carmichael.”

I was being rather neutral when she started twirling her. Then she stood up and plopped next to me and said, “I’d like to get friendly with you.” That’s when I realized that this was the girl that idiot Ralph Winters and his posse “got friendly” with on the roof of the Horseshoe.

To be on the safe side, I asked, “What department are you in?” She said, “I just started as a keno writer. It’s a shit job, $4.15 an hour but as soon as I finish BJ school, I’m going to deal at the Landmark.” I said, “Wow, you’re lucky. It’s hard to get in there.” She was gliding her fingernail on my bicep and cooed, “I like you. You have manners. You seeing anyone?” I lied, “Yeah.” Carmichael said, “Shit! The good ones are always taken. The guys here are animals…and their language…ugh!”

Three months later, Carmichael was still at the Vegas Club. Her father bought a new car and a tiny condo for Carmichael and her daughter Harlene.  But his promise to use his casino influence on her behalf never happened. To make matters worse, despite daddy's many gambling sprees in town, he never dropped by, phoned or even acknowledged his granddaughter’s twelfth birthday. Carmichael was forced to survive on her own and soon sucked her way to the top of the dung heap, as a blackjack dealer at the lowly Vegas Club.

One night I saw an old friend Dick Paynlewski walking through the casino with a local hustler Simon “Coat-Rack” Rhett. Coat-Rack, in his late seventies sold table game systems to naïve gamblers, was a past-poster, short change artist and rail thief. He was also a walking pawn shop. He bought items from the down-and-out and resold what wasn't reclaimed. He was nicknamed “Coat-Rack” because he wore the same green polyester leisure suit every day. On hot days, he hooked a collapsible hangar through a shirt button hole, to hang the sports jacket. Regardless of how ridiculous he looked with that dangling jacket bobbing up and down, his dignified head remained held high.

Dick Paynlewski (42) was one of my boxman at the Holiday Inn in 1979. He was my mentor and a casual friend. Dick was famous for poor decision making. That trait was made worse by a drinking and gambling problem. So he wasn’t much of a catch. Therefore, the only thing he hated more that being reminded that he never had a serious girlfriend in his life was being the brunt of Polish jokes.

Later, I saw Rhett leaving and soon spotted Dick playing blackjack at Carmichael’s table. When I went in my break, I saw Dick at the snack bar eating a hot dog. He was sloppy drunk, slurring his words and holding the counter to keep his balance. I was about to tell him there was a dollop of mustard on his oxford shoe but he said, “Did you know I legally changed my name?” He had been fantasizing about doing it for as long as I knew so I was surprised that he saved enough money and actually went through with it. I said, “You really changed your name?” He was nodding as I added, “To what, Joe Paynlewski?” Dick said, “No ass-hole, you’re now talking with Richard Thomas Payne.” I said, “But everyone calls you Dick, that means your name is Dick-Pain.” He said, “You’re fuckin’ nuts. Only you think that way.”

Dick suddenly whined about Asian blackjack dealers being robots. He was getting too loud so I tried to shush to him. I said, “Hey, I work here.” But the moron ranted louder, “They shouldn’t let scum like that into our country. Hell, they ain’t even Christians!” I said, “I’m not Christian.” He pinched me cheek and laughed, “Don’t worry, you’re okay.”

I changed the subject by asking, “What did you hock with Coat-Rack.” “No, I bought a bunch of eight-track tapes off him for fifteen bucks.” I scoffed, “You got an eight-track player?"  He said, "Yeah in my car.  What do think, I'm an idiot?"  I said, "Use them well.” Dick said, “I heard he lives in a shack but it’s packed wall-to-wall with stuff, like a friggin’ department store. But I don’t wanna talk about him. What’s the story with that BJ dealer Carmichael?” I played dumb and said, “I dunno. She’s new.” Dick said, “You know what she said to me?” I had a pretty good idea as I shook my head. “She said she likes to be friendly.” I said, “That’s nice.” Dick said, “No there’s more. She also said; there’s going to be a party in my mouth…wanna come? " I shrugged.  Dick continued, "I musta made a funny face so she says; don’t worry about my chipped tooth, I know what I’m doing.” Dick wasn’t sharp enough to make that up...and I was still shocked. Then he said, “I’m tapped, can you spot me a twenty?” I said, "I'm broke too." Later on, he apparently managed to get some money because Carmichael and Dick became an exclusive couple.

On paper they were a perfect couple. Dick was the supportive father figure she never had and Carmichael provided affection and a fun-loving environment. But Carmichael’s presence couldn’t always override Dick’s depression that was constantly triggered by his combination of stupidity, gambling and drinking. And the emotional stability that Dick offered Carmichael was frequently derailed by the simple fact that she didn’t consider “being friendly” as sex…therefore she wasn’t cheating on him.

I worked the Vegas Club from February to August 1981. During that time my many attempts to improve myself were always thwarted. One night, a terribly inexperienced coworker told me he had just gotten hired as a craps dealer at the Horseshoe. On my next break, I snuck out of the building, ran through alleys two blocks and asked for an audition. I was denied!

On my way back, near the Vegas Club’s rear employee entrance, I heard violent shouting and crying. I peered around a stinking dumpster and saw Dick screaming into Carmichael’s face, “You’re a whore!” She cried, “You’re the only man I slept with since I hit town.” He said, “Admit it, I heard you sucked seven guy’s cocks yesterday!” “No,” she whimpered, “you’re fucked in the head, ‘cause that ain’t sex.” I thought Dick was going to punch her. Instead like palming a basketball he put his hand over her face and shoved her down onto the damp, filthy pavement. She shouted out, “I was just being friendly…” Dick quietly said, “If someone loves you, blowing one other guy makes you a piece of shit…” He stormed off down the alley and she slithered back into the Vegas Club. A minute later, I followed.

Ciro and Dick both worked at the Holiday Inn. A bunch of people from there decided to meet at an Indian reservation resort, sixty miles north, near the Utah state line. I went with Ciro. It was cloudy, windy and cool so few people were there. But we did bump into Dick and Carmichael and they were of course, arguing.

Dick was wearing slacks, a buttoned shirt and leather loafers. Carmichael was in a one-piece crimson bathing suit. She didn’t recognize Ciro and introduced herself. Then she said, “And this is Dick-Pain…and he’s a pain in my ass too.” Dick knew Ciro from work and floundered for a snappy comeback by saying, “This is Agg…it’s short for aggravating.” No one laughed.

Ciro and I spent an hour in the natural mineral pool. Later, in the pavilion that housed a lunch counter and a bar in an adjoining room, we saw Dick passed-out on his bar stool with a double scotch and a hamburger in front of him. The bartender brought Ciro and me two beers as Dick jumped up from his perch and bolted out. We were on our way out when Dick reappeared. In a drunken blush he confided in us, “You can’t trust a fart after forty.”

Outside, the place looked deserted.  A few people were still in the hot mineral spa and everyone else seemed to be heading to the parking lot.  On the far side of the empty tomahawk-shaped kiddie pool, there were benches and rows of lockers in front of the men’s and ladies changing rooms. In the far corner, we saw Carmichael. She motioned us over and said how great the resort was. Then she unzipped her bathing suit and without exposing herself, pulled down one of the straps. Ciro said, “A lady would undress inside.” She exposed one of her saggy breasts and said, “A gentleman would look the other way.” When Ciro advanced toward her, he took down the other strap. I walked away.

I was having a beer, facing Dick on the other side of the bar.  Soon, Ciro came in and ordered a shot of Jack Daniels.  Later, Carmichael in street clothes came in and stood between us. She said to Ciro, “If you buy me a beer, I’ll be your best friend.” A few seconds after chugging half the bottle down, she began fondling both our crotches at the same time. The bar blocked Dick’s view as he comprehended what was going on. Then he croaked, “You better not be giving Ciro a hand job.” Carmichael cracked, “How dare you make such an insinuation…I’m giving Ciro AND Steve a hand job.”

Ciro spent the hour ride back to Vegas ranting and raving about Carmichael. He said, "If giving head was an Olympic event, she’d definitely win the gold medal.  She's got talent from gobs of experience.  Plus, she puts Pop Rocks candies in her mouth and the little explosions feel great."

Later he said that Carmichael was fed up with Dick and was breaking up with him, that night. Then he said, “Remember when Dick said; you can’t trust a fart after forty. Well check this out, she said he farts during sex and once shit in the bed."

The next night, Carmichael was free of Dick. At work, she found out that weeks earlier, Ralph Winters gave away the surprise of the dying shift boss’s party by complaining about Edmund Khalifa’s strong arm tactics. She cut-off Winters and his buddies from her friendship and sympathized with the self-proclaimed family man, Khalifa. During the shift, she and the good-looking Khalifa exchanged some "friendly" sexual banter.

Carmichael was waiting in line to punch out when Khalifa came up behind her and gave her posterior an amorous squeeze. When she didn’t protest he whispered, “I want to make love to you.” In front of several coworkers she kissed him hard on the lips.

The next morning’s sun was reaching the horizon as Carmichael and Khalifa stood on the second floor landing of his brother’s unoccupied rental unit. Edmund wanted to get home before his wife woke up. He impatiently stared at the end of the street hoping to see the taxi he called that would take Carmichael back downtown. Carmichael was annoyed that he wasn’t driving her back but she was in the warm afterglow of having her world rocked like it’s never been rocked before, she didn’t complain.

Carmichael nibbled Khalifa’s ear and neck as she massaged his penis through his suit pants. She took down his zipper when he got hard. She recalled an hour earlier when he said, “I could spend the rest of my life with a girl like you.” She said, “Eddie, let’s go back inside…put it in my butt again.” Khalifa smiled, “See, you did like it.” She took down his pants and got on her knees. Half-heartily he said, “Stop,” as her head went back and forth. A minute later, the cab came into view and he said, “You’re crazy…I told you to stop…what will the neighbors think?” When the taxi stopped, she gave him a deep kiss, refused his offer of carfare and said, “You’re wonderful.”

The digital clock above the Mint Casino read 7:37 as Carmichael pulled her car out of the Horseshoe parking lot. She was happy because she had time to spare, to cook her daughter Harlene breakfast and drive her to school.

Halfway home, a wry smile came to Carmichael’s lips as she uneasily squirmed from the strange sensation in her rectum. She was heading south on Paradise Road with the car radio blasting.  She was making all the lights as she sang along with the Gilbert O’Sullivan song, “ALONE AGAIN, NATURALLY.” At the Charleston Boulevard intersection she innocently proceeded when a speeding drunk ran the red light.

Carmichael needed several surgeries. She was placed in ICU and with the help of a respirator clung to life for seventy-two hours. Harlene phoned her powerful grandfather but only left a series of messages. A representative of Cyrus Carmichael contacted the hospital and took responsibility for all the finest medical treatments. However, he never returned Harlene’s calls or flew into town. Instead, three over-sized bouquets (one for each day) adorned her room.

On the third day, Harlene got in touch with Dick. Despite binge drinking since their break-up, this lost soul pulled himself together and was at the nurses station in twenty minutes.

The bickering started when Dick wasn’t allowed in to see the patient. He wasn’t family and even when Harlene insisted that it was okay, they were told; rules are rules. Luckily during a shift change, the next nurse grudgingly let him in.

Dick openly sobbed as he stared at the feeder tube coming from her abdomen while a doctor informed him of the seriousness of her condition. In addition to head trauma, she already had her spleen and one kidney removed. The list of other injuries included a broken hip, internal bleeding and the news that she could never get pregnant again.

Dick nestled close to Carmichael’s ear. He dedicated himself to a valiant vigil of whispered encouragement. Hours later, she began breathing independently but remained in a coma.

He constantly rubbed her back or stroked her face. Dick also emptied and washed out her bedpan as he silently rehearsed a marriage proposal. He was contorting his body to clean her bottom as she stirred. Dick gave her one last wipe as she painfully moaned. He was scrambling to press the nurse signal as Carmichael murmured, “Eddie, put it in my butt…” Dick couldn’t believe his ears. He waited an eternity-like thirty seconds and cooed on her ear, “This is Eddie. I am here. What do you want?” There was a prolonged, agonizing pause before Carmichael gurgled, “You were right Eddie. I did like it. Put it in my butt again.”

Dick rose up and punched the wall. He feverishly paced a few seconds before lunging at Carmichael. He grabbed her throat and was choking her when his stomach seized-up on him. To avoid the ultimate embarrassment, he ran to the toilet. Luckily while doing his business, he cooled off. On his way out of the room, he smashed one of Mr. Carmichael’s bouquets to the floor.

Dick had a hunch that Eddie was Carmichael’s coworker. Like a madman, he sped downtown, darted through traffic and abandoned his car on Ogden Street. He jogged to the Vegas Club's entrance and plowed into the casino looking for vengeance.

Dick hid his agenda and asked random casino personnel, “Is Eddie working tonight?” He approached ten people until a roulette dealer said, “We don’t have any Eddie’s on this shift, unless you mean Edmund? He’s that floorman at the last blackjack table.” When this man fingered the boss, Dick drifted towards his prey.

Edmund Khalifa was an American but his heritage left him with a pronounced Arabic look. Dick stewed as he imagined his pure angel being defiled by a reprehensible heathen.

Nobody noticed Dick standing there staring with evil intentions, at the man he assumed was his rival. In frustration, locked by decision, he cursed himself because he couldn’t figure out how to address his anger. Suddenly he got an idea and stormed out.

Dick began searching every casino near Fremont Street. The depth of his mission was only outdone by his vigil at Carmichael’s side. Fruitless hours passed. He was exhausted as he staggered through the Golden Gate Casino for the third time. Dick saw a hustler friend of Simon Rhett and asked, “You see Coat-Rack?” The flea said, “No, he’s probably home…he only comes out at night.” “Night?” Dick wondered. “What time is it?” The low-life pulled out an antique silver pocket watch and said, “Funny, I bought this off Simon five years ago.” Dick said, “Yeah, yeah whatever.” The hustler said, “Hold your horses.” He donned a pair of eyeglasses with one frame missing and added, “It’s coming up on noon.”

Dick demanded, “Where’s he live?” The cockroach rubbed the stubble on his chin, silently extended his right hand and said, “Let me see…” Dick slapped a five dollar bill in his palm and snapped, “Scumbag.”

Dick took the information and hurried to his car.  He ripped the parking ticket off his windshield and raced to number thirty-five Cincinnati Street. He found Coat-Rack sitting in the shade, on a stump and drinking from an apricot brandy pint bottle. Instead of shaking his hand, he grabbed the old man’s elbow and got him on his feet. They brushed past the suit jacket dangling from the tree as Dick guided Coat-Rack, to the dilapidated garage he lived in.

Like a hoarder’s rat's nest, the floor was littered with mountains of merchandise. Dick didn’t notice the narrow, jagged path between the mess as he spewed, “You gotta gun for sale?” The old-timer said, “Whoa big fella. First, why do you look like such shit? Second, If I had such an item…and I ain’t sayin’ I do…what might you be needed it for.” “Lookit Simon, you know I’m okay.” Coat-Rack stared him down, “Well…” Dick wasn’t prepared for the third degree. He hemmed and hawed until he whined, “It’s kinda personal.” Rhett with the sobriety of a judge said, “Boy, y’all think I just fell off a goddamned turnip truck?” Dick was still flustered as he said, “Um, er…it’s for protection.”

Coat-Rack led him through his faux department store. In the corner that served as a makeshift bedroom Rhett stared into Dick’s reddened brown eyes and said, “Swear you ain’t lookin’ to kill nobody…” Dick shook his head as the old man pulled a .25 from a bureau drawer and preached, “Make sure my good name stays out of any police reports. If the shit hits the fan, remember you found it in an ash can.” Dick nodded and snatched at the pistol. Coat-Rack pulled it away and said, “Furthermore, they’ll throw the book at you if you fuck up. This piece might be hot, you got no license and you ain’t gettin’ no paperwork. Jesus H. Christ, I don’t even know if you know how to use it.” He swigged his brandy and groaned, “You got sixty cash?”

Dick turned to hurry away.  Coat-Rack said, "Wait one second.  You do realize it ain't loaded, right?  And I got no ammo for it."  Dick found out what he needed, where to get it and sped off.

Dick stopped on the way home and bought a box of shells. In his apartment he loaded three bullets, (for Carmichael, Khalifa and himself). In his bathroom, he childishly looked at his image in the mirror and practiced drawing his tiny six-shooter like a cowboy. Then he concealed the “Saturday Night Special” in his pocket and drove to the hospital.

Like a zombie, Dick trudged up the dimly lit corridor towards Carmichael’s room. At the nurse’s station, he was greeted like a rock star. He was mobbed by the ladies who claimed that it was his TLC that miraculously pulled Carmichael out of her coma.

In the shadowy room there was a fourth gigantic bouquet, a grinning Harlene, her friend and a lucid Carmichael. In her immobilized state, she sipped cranberry juice through a glass straw as she smiled at Dick. Dick asked the two adolescents for some privacy. They whispered and giggled on their way out.

Inside his pocket, Dick confidently gripped the gun and wrapped his index finger around the trigger. Carmichael gasped, “I’m so, so sorry.” Nervously, Dick withdrew his hand from his pocket…without the .25. Bountiful tears streamed down Carmichael’s cheeks as she coughed, “I strayed. I-I-I did it with another man.” Tears rolled down Dick’s face as she clearly stated, “I know what you did for me. They said I almost died and you never left my side.” Gingerly, he bent over and kissed her. She yawned and weakly kneaded his crotch. Carmichael was feeling faint as her pinkie slid along the shaft of the gun barrel. She stammered, “W-w-wow, you are happy to see me.”

A nurse barged into the room and announced, “Visiting hours are now over.” She looked into Dick’s eyes and said, “This one needs rest too…go home!” Carmichael called Dick near and moaned, “My own fuckin’ father never showed up or even called. None of my ‘friends’ did either…I’m never going to be ‘friendly’ again. I love you.”

Dick’s heart was pounding but before he could put together a marriage proposal, the nurse pulled the curtain around the bed shut, pointed at the door and ordered him out.

An hour later in Dick’s dark bedroom, he desperately tried to stay awake. He was consumed by revenge but needed to wait until Khalifa was on duty before blowing away that “sodomizing Arab bastard.”

To combat his fatigue, Dick splashed cold water on his face and stood out on his tiny terrace. The limp breeze and some stretching helped. Soon Dick needed to repeat the process. He felt a twinge of dizziness as he staggered back to the bathroom. He looked at his reflection in the mirror and said, “Ed, this town ain’t big enough or the two of us.” He drew the gun, fumbled it and discharged a round.

The reverberation in the small enclosure was deafening. But soon, his own painful wailing took over when he realized he had shot himself in the foot.

In minutes, most of the black and white hexagon tiles he could see were covered in blood. He was slipping in and out of consciousness as shock set in. He heard the sound of distant sirens getting near. Soon he was startled by the thunderous footsteps that vibrated the cheap, exterior stairway that led to his apartment. The last thing Dick remembered was pounding on his front door and someone shouting, “This is Metro police! Open up.”

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