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Two Nuns Walk Into A Bar

In the Gutter, even the best of habits are nasty.

Two Nuns Walk Into A Bar by Eric Beetner

“Listen up motherfuckers!”
Roy says it, but everyone in the bar was looking at us already. Six foot tall, scruffy beards, guns out and wearing nun’s habits from a costume store. Black robes thick as curtains and a headpiece that’s damn tight.
I held my .22 in one hand and Roy was beside me with the shotgun. Everyone in the bar was silent as if we were in church, which seemed appropriate.
Roy and me, we got mostly similar ideas on how to best accomplish a successful robbery, but there are a few areas of disagreement. One – go in quiet or go in loud. I’m in the quiet school. I think you go in and don’t say a word, don’t go flashing any hardware. You step up to the bar, hand a note to hand over the cash and you’re much more likely to get out clean. Roy disagrees. He wants to go in all shock and awe about it. Wave a piece around like he’s doing with the shotgun now, even though it ain’t loaded. Start screaming about how everybody better cooperate or you’ll kill them and skullfuck them after you blast a big hole in their head.
Second – disguises. I like the idea of wearing something for people to focus on. Even something as small as a hat or a fake mustache will get people to look at that rather than your face so when the cops come in after,  everyone starts with, “The guy had a crazy set of suspenders with all kinds of buttons on them and shit like he just got off a shift at TGI Fridays.” They’re not talking about your height or your weight or the color of your eyes.
Roy likes to go in wearing whatever he put on that morning and he figures they’ll all be looking at the gun in his hand and they won’t notice him at all.
So what we have here is a compromise. Disguises for me, screaming and gun waving for him.
Roy wasn’t happy when I showed up with two nun’s habits for us to wear. We fought like an old married couple about it for an hour. But you gotta admit, the first thing people are gonna say when they talk about this later is that two nuns tried to rob a bar. That description isn’t coming back on me and Roy any time soon.
So I handed the bartender my plastic grocery bag and said, “Fill ‘er up.” People didn’t even seem to notice the gun in my hand. They kept looking at the black headpiece pinching my face.
Roy stepped over to the pool table and kept up his shouting at people to get their hands up, lay out their wallets and open their purses. The usual routine.
But Roy, man, we also differ on the slapping people around thing. He likes to pick a victim early, lay them out and let everyone know he means business.
At the pool table were two women.
“C’mon you fuckin’ bitch, empty out that purse.”
He’s pointing the shotgun and really scaring the crap out of these ladies and it really rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe it was the costume cutting off the blood to my face, but Roy was pissing me off.
The bartender was dutifully filling my bag when I called to Roy, “Hey. Lay off.”
“These bitches better stop acting up.”
“They’re not acting up.”
Both women were in tears. One started to crumple to the floor, sobbing. Roy hit her across the cheek with the butt of the shotgun. The other bar patrons let out a gasp.
I left my post at the bar and went to Roy.
“Knock it the fuck off.”
“The fuck is your problem?”
“No one gets hurt.”
“Says you.”
“Yeah. Says me.”
“That dress is getting to you, man. You’re acting like a little bitch.”
I shot Roy in the stomach and just for having such a dumb, shocked look on his face, I shot him again. He fell, dropping the shotgun as he went down, and landed spread over the sobbing woman.
I leaned down and pulled him off her and was about to apologize when a deep, gravelly smoker’s voice sounded behind me.
“Drop it motherfucker.”
I turned slowly to see the bartender with a pistol in his hand that he must have gotten from under the bar. They always have one stashed under the bar.
I said, “Settle down now.”
One of the men at the bar, his hands still in the air, squeaked out a high pitched, “Settle down? You just shot a nun for Christ sake!”
I gave him a look like - Was he really that shit-all stupid or had the trauma just scrambled his brain for a second. Roy had a thicker coat of whiskers than I did.
“Nobody comes into my place and pulls a gun on me.”
Damn. The owner. That’s always rougher than just some bar back working for tips. He don’t give a shit what’s in the till, but the owner sees it as a personal slight when you try to rip them off.
“Maybe it’s the outfit,” I said, “but I seem to have found myself with a change of heart. You saw what I did to my partner there.” I pointed to Roy on the floor. The sobbing woman was trying to wipe Roy’s blood off her. “I do believe I have turned over a new leaf tonight. I think I may have even found God.”
My eyes darted around the room trying to see if my words were landing with anyone.
“Bull shit,” the bartender said.
“No. It’s true. It’s like a light came on in the dark. It was really Roy’s bad influence that got me to a place like this. He must be an instrument of Satan who led me down a–”
“I ought to kill you right now.”
“No,” said the woman at the bar. “You need to call the cops.”
“I need to shoot this motherfucker dead and then call the cops and say it was self defense.”
“I’m telling you, the light has turned on for me.”
“Prove it.”
I stared at the bartender a moment, not sure how he wanted me to prove my newly turned over leaf.
“Prove that I’ve changed? What else do I have to do?” I pointed again to Roy with the barrel of my gun.
“Jesus made his sacrifice. You make yours now.”
The bartender seemed to enjoy being in control with the big ol’ gun as much as Roy did.
“I assure you, once I leave here – and you can all have your money back of course – once I leave, I will dedicate my life to God.”
“Here’s what you’re gonna do.”
The bartender leveled me with a squint-eyed stare like he was trying to do Clint Eastwood for charades.
“Jesus got nailed to the cross through both hands. You need to bleed like him.”
I didn’t like where this was going.
“Take that little pea shooter you got and put a hole in your hand.”
The heavy black robes of the nun habit were goddamn hot and sweat ran down from under the headpiece over my face. I could see this guy was serious as shit so I figured getting out with a wound in one hand was better than ending up on the floor next to Roy.
I set my hand, palm up, on the pool table.
“Like this?”
The bartender nodded.
A moment like this, best not to think too long about it. I pulled the trigger and shot a hole through my left hand.
I screeched like a cat in a lawnmower. I felt real lucky I’d only brought my .22 with me. If I’d brought the .45 my hand would be ruined for good, but with the smaller round I had a chance of it healing up, mostly.
“Now the other.”
My eyes said it all. How the fuck am I supposed to do that?
The bartender nudged a guy at the bar. “Get over there and do it, Lyle.”
Lyle didn’t look any too pleased, but he was the only one in this conversation without a gun so he moved off his stool.
My hand was a mixture of numb and on fire, pulsing between the two. It was hard to concentrate. At least the blood didn’t show on the black fabric of the habit.
Lyle showed up to do the deed and I closed my eyes and let him. I set my hand down on the pool table again. I tried not to sway on my feet as Lyle pressed the barrel into my palm, dead center.
He tried to object. “I really don’t think–”
“Do it,” the bartender said.
Lyle pulled the trigger and he dropped the gun and ran back to his stool, squealing like a schoolgirl who’d seen a spider.
I held out my two bloody palms to show the room. Blood flowed from the twin wounds and tears fell from my eyes.
“Now get the fuck out and feel lucky about it. Go pray to Jesus or don’t, I don’t give a shit, but don’t ever come back here again. I’ll know who you are for damn sure.”
That was six years ago. My hands work about eighty percent as well as they used to. The scars get a lot of funny looks. I’d like to say it’s the last time I ever robbed any place, but that’d be a lie. It sure was the last time I ever dressed like a nun, though.

Eric Beetner has been described as "the James Brown of noir - the hardest working man in crime fiction" (Crime Fiction Lover) and "The 21st Century's answer to Jim Thompson" (LitReactor). He is the author of Rumrunners, Leadfoot (Anthony Award nominee), The Devil Doesn't Want Me, When The Devil Comes To Call, Criminal Economics, and many others. He is a 2017 International Thriller Award nominee and two-time 2017 Anthony Award nominee for best paperback original and best anthology for Unloaded: Crime Writers Writing Without Guns which he edited and created. His award-winning short fiction has appeared in more than two dozen anthologies. Eric also co-hosts the podcast Writer Types along with writer SW Lauden and he hosts the popular Noir at the Bar reading series in Los Angeles for six years and counting. For more information visit