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One Night Stand-Off

Reinventing wheels is all fun and good, but sometimes you need to kick it old school.

Don't matter much in the Gutter. Old and new shoes both land you in the same steaming piles of shit.

One Night Stand-Off by Anton Sims




It was just past eleven on a cold Tuesday in February when Duke Zabriskie called. In the background I could hear noisy music and scattered voices. Duke tends bar at Lost Weekend, a deliberately nondescript drinking hole in the East Village. I happen to live directly upstairs.

“Eddie, hey, can you come down here?” Duke’s not the sharpest pin in the cushion but he’s got a good heart. Looks out for his friends.

“Right now? What’s up?”

“Maybe a job. Guy here’s talking like he needs a bodyguard. I didn’t say nothing about you ’cause of I didn’t know if you was free. Uh, you free?”

“I’m available, if that’s what you mean.” No jobs at the moment. Slow week. Slow month. Shaping up to be a slow year.

“Wanna pop in? I’ll introduce you.”

“Be there in five.”

I’m the type that people think of when they think bodyguards. Or any job that requires bulky and menacing. During my fifteen minutes of fame as a wrestler—more like five minutes, really, and “fame” might be a bit of a stretch—I was billed as Eddie the Yeti. The wrestling didn’t last. The nickname did.

Down three flights I trundled to the street, past the busted glass door. Half a dozen steps later, I was at the dark entrance of Lost Weekend. I put on my tough guy face, the only face I’ve got, and pushed my way in. And bumped right into the business end of a Browning .22 T-Bolt.

“Inside,” said the gunman, waving the rifle. “Against the bar. Move.”

I moved, keeping my hands in clear sight. At the same time I took in the action. Two punks in ski masks, the second one holding a pistol. Altogether about a dozen customers. Three couples at tables to one side, their faces pale; half a dozen others still sitting on stools. Duke stood behind the bar with a rag in his hand, looking pised.

“Come on, fill it up,” said the punk with the pistol, waving a pretzel basket with his free hand. Inside were several wallets, a couple of watches and some jewelry. I made no move to add to the kitty.

“You, gimme the watch,” he said, singling out a balding customer in a dark suit.

“Sure, sure, take it,” the man answered, wrenching the band off his wrist and tossing it in the bowl.

“And the ring.”

“All yours,” said the main, yanking off a gaudy bauble, anxious to please.

“What’s in the briefcase?”

The man glanced down at the case and licked his lips. “Papers. Business stuff. Nothing important.”

“Give it here.”

“It’s only documents.”

“Give.”

I’d had enough. “I got a Rolex,” I said, holding up my left wrist. The punk with the pistol turned to me with his mouth hanging open. Not used to people volunteering their valuables. “You want it?” I asked.

He looked at the guy by the door and then at the customer with the briefcase. “Toss it here,” he said, holding out the pretzel basket. I took a step closer, keeping my left hand raised and working at the strap with my right. It was a Timex not a Rolex, but he never found that out. As soon as I was within range, I let go with a jab that cracked the cartilage in his nose like a raw egg. He tumbled backward and hit the floor with a thud that rattled the drinks on the bar.

“What the hell’s wrong with you?” said the thug with the rifle, moving toward me rapidly. “Get away from him, you dumb ox. Or I’ll blow your damn head off.”

I stood my ground and gave him the look. “You have thirty seconds to haul your friend out of here or you’re eating that gun. Understand me?”

He glared at me defiantly for a long moment and then abruptly wilted, glancing away and lowering the weapon. “I knew this was a stupid-ass idea,” he mumbled under his breath. I had to wonder what kind of idiots would try to rob a crowd with a bolt-action target rifle. Buttercup criminals, that’s who. Crouching to revive his unconscious buddy and finding it impossible, Buttercup slung the Browning over his shoulder and dragged the limp gunman toward the door.

Once they were gone I bellied up to the bar next to the balding guy and ordered a beer. “This the fella needs a bodyguard?” I asked Duke, tossing a thumb in the direction of baldie. His face was slack, drained of color.

“Sure is. You saved him a bundle, Eddie. He’s carrying jewelry samples from Chicago. If those guys got the case, he’d be sunk.”

“That right? Chicago, huh?” I gestured at the case. “What’s hot in Chicago these days?”

“I’m not, uh … I’m not at liberty….”

“Forget it. I understand.” The guy was in the jewelry business, that much was probably true. I could picture his conversation with Duke earlier, setting the stage, boasting about his expensive freight, must have dropped a casual jest about how he should hire himself a bodyguard, ha ha. Too bad for him Duke took it seriously and I stepped into the middle of his play. It was supposed to look like a random stick-up in an obscure dive with baldie just happening to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, got his baggage lifted, when actually it was an insurance scam. I had little doubt they’d try it again elsewhere, and maybe succeed this time, or maybe get popped by an overzealous bartender with an itchy trigger finger. Made no difference to me either way. As long as it didn’t happen in the Lost Weekend.

“This your wallet, Chicago?” I plucked a brown billfold from the pretzel basket. He nodded his head resignedly.

Inside were eighty-seven dollars. I extracted three twenties. “My fee,” I told him. “For one night of bodyguarding. Enjoy your stay in New York.”


In addition to recent stories in Oh Sandy (a humor anthology to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy) and Thuglit, Anton Sims has stories forthcoming from Yellow Mama, Stupefying Stories, and the British Fantasy Society Journal.