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Fiction excerpt: "Killing Time in Vegas" by Tony Black

Award-winning Scottish crime novelist Tony Black gets into the head of an American homosexual bodybuilder in this Gutter classic.

First published in Out of the Gutter 3

Man I was itchin’. The temp topped out at ninety-plus, but the humidity was the killer. Collar and tie weather it ain’t. Shit, you carry about a fifty-five inch chest in this—I was bench-pressing four-eighty and upping the reps daily—comfortable you ain’t.

My suit was linen. Navy blue, bought from Hugo Boss back in New York but not by me. This was a thrift store job. Time I can buy Hugo Boss off the rack I ain’t coming to Vegas for work.

“Can I help you, sir?” asked the blonde with diddy eyes and the whitest top row of teeth I’d ever seen. Bottom row lagging behind, musta been waiting for the top’s payment plan to finish.

“Francis Jarman,” I told her, “I’m here for the instructor’s job.”

“Excuse me?” She looked vacant. Like the chick on the Minute Maid ads, minus the smile.

“The, eh, fitness instructor . . . for the gym.”

She still didn’t get it, pointed me to sit with a long red fingernail. When she picked up the phone, I heard her get my name wrong, called me “Farnham.” I shook my head but I only got a look, one that said, “Please, like I give a shit.”

I sat back down and saw her cross her legs away from me, tug her skirt over her knees. Always makes me smile when chicks do this around me. They see the muscles bulging out all over and think I’m a real player. But I ain’t . . . chicks don’t float my boat.

“Stay seated, Mr. Farnham,” she said slamming down the phone. “There’ll be someone to see you presently.”

“Presently!” I said too soon, then realized I’d put the heavy-hitting intonation in there. I'd been blurting a lot lately.

She dipped her head, looked at me over long lashes, “That’s right away,” she spat.
I smiled one of my widest. Jonny calls it my stage school smirk. “Thank you so much, ma’am.”

I could hardly wait to meet my interviewer; just a joy to be dragging my ass across the country for this kinda shit.

***

Five’ll get you ten this guy’s a homophobe, I thought. Had queer-hater written all over him as he came in: Brookes Brothers’ shirt open at the collar, Gap Khakis and sweet loafers . . . Timberland or Sebago, something like that . . . way outta my price range.

He blanked me big time as he popped a Pocket-PC on the desk. A good ten minutes of office chat passed between Mr. Big Shot and Blondie as he tried to tell her to fish out something from the mail he wanted “upstairs on my desk by five.” She smiled and giggled. That ain’t all he was getting upstairs on his desk later, I thought.

I felt ready to bail when he finally turned to me, dropped eyes on a clipboard and said, “Mr . . . Jarman?”

“That’s right,” I stood up, tried to keep my size outta the picture, but I dwarfed him into shadows. “Pleased to meet you.”

“Would you walk this way, please?”

I thought if I could walk that way I’d be buying size 32 khakis off the rack too, as my thighs chafed together on every step.

“Take a seat,” he told me. I still didn't know the motherfucker’s name. Dang! Bad manners, that’s always been a piss-boiler of mine. I don’t allow myself prejudices, but bad-mannered people I just hate right out. I needed the job, though, so I battened it down fast.

“That’s some heat you got today!” I said, going for the small talk angle.
“This is Vegas,” he said, shooting a look that told me he wanted to end the sentence with “fuckhead.”

He handed me a form to fill out. On gray paper, real thick too. I fired through and when I tossed it back, it looked like I’d been mopping up shit by the sweat marks all over it.

“Sorry, I’m real hot,” I said, spluttering, “I mean, the heat, y’know, it’s hard being in the heat when you’re used to New York.”

I screwed up. I knew it. Could see the signs, but I’d have been way off the mark if I had to pick his next question. I just didn’t see it coming in a month of Sundays.

“Mr. Jarman . . .” he paused, leaned over the desk and locked his fingers together in a tent. “Are you a . . . homosexual?”

Read the rest in THE BADDEST OF THE BAD or OUT OF THE GUTTER 3, available here.