Flickering Out part V

'Close enough.'

A figure stepped from the shadow of a crumbling wall, a woman in black silks falling long over her thin frame. Freckled and pretty in the moonlight, her eyes were dark with more knowledge than her age seemed to justify. From within the folds of her wispy attire she was pushing forward a long rifle.

Billie thought the woman looked too young to be pointing a gun at someone, but the hardness of her glare cast little doubt about her resolve.

'We're just checking out-'

'Don't start floating a tale,' the woman said, cutting Jeff off. 'You don't want to cross over with guile on your tongue you read the good book yeah?' She motioned with the gun as if to emphasize its function.

Billie was aghast. What?

Jeff advanced a couple of paces.

'Is it your hearing that's broke or your eyes?'

Jeff's lips became a tight line, his brow furrowing. That's what he looked like when Bronco Tubin tried to take Billy upstairs at a party.

'You don't need that piece lady,' Jeff said.

The woman's face crinkled to a snarl. ‘You don't put your hands where I can see them, I'll show you some peace.'

Billy jammed her hands in the air. 'We were just leaving.'

Jeff said, 'We can work this out Ma'am if you'll explain the problem?'

Work it out?

'Problem is, you got a gun pointed at you,' the woman said through gritted teeth.

'Okay,' Jeff said, barely offering his palms. What's your name?'

The woman slid the hammer back. 'Ivory Gates.'

'Are you kidding me?' Jeff laughed.

He actually laughed. 'She looks pretty serious Jeff.'

‘Hear that voice?' Ivory said. 'It's your angel talking and it sounds like you outght to take her advice.' And Ivory pulled the trigger.

Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. Billie even thought she saw the hammer drop. The blast was deafening and the gun recoiled sharply. ‘Oh my god,’ she said, feeling panicked. Her ears were ringing and the air smelled of gun powder. ‘Clearly we’ve made a mistake,' she said, checking to make sure she wasn't shot. 'We'll be on our way.'

Ivory ran a finger down the barrel, smoke rising from the tip. 'I'd be quick about it.'

The dice were rattling in Jeff's hands now.

'What are you doing Jeff?'

Ivory's eyes narrowed. 'I think he's laying down odds.' There was a wicked smile on the woman's face and the barrel of the gun definitely wasn't pointed skyward now.

Panicked, Billie was about to run.



Ivory's face tightened, but she didn't turn or look back in the direction of the voice.

A man stepped into the moonlight from behind a darkened pillar. His hair was red and his rusty, narrow beard landed not far from his stomach. He was thick shouldered too, his sleeveless flannel revealing Popeye arms. Strapped to his leather belt was a large axe.

The man walked up and he grabbed Ivory's gun. 'Give me that.'

‘Excuse me?' Ivory said, pulling on the gun as he yanked it from her hands, her silken robes fluttering.

The man holstered the gun over his back. He pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and tapped it against his palm until one came out. He pushed the cigarette between his lips and flicked a lighter, running the flame. He took a pull and the tip went orange. 'Names boss,' he said through a smoky exhale. He dropped the cigarette and twisted it into the ground with his boot. Some sparks flared. Looking up, he said. 'Ivory bothering you?'

Ivory’s face tightened, but she said nothing.

Boss turned to Billie. ‘You two aren't very bright coming up here.'

'That's what your bimbo here was trying to tell us,' Jeff said.

‘I'm not sure name calling is a wise move right now kid. Look, I heard the woman telling you to leave and I wonder, maybe they don't speak the language. What else would explain your stupidity?'

'We were clearing that up dude. This is public land. As such you can't just ask us to leave.'

'I don't recall it being an ask.'

Ivory cackled and the sound of it was almost other worldly.

'Jeff tossed the dice and caught them.

Boss’ eyes lit up. Billy thought the big man looked almost friendly. 'Tell you what kid. You get snake eyes in three rolls, I keep this hatched sheathed.'

Billie didn't like the sound of that. 'And If he doesn't?'

'Doesn't what?'

'Come up with snake eyes.'

Boss chuckled and stroked his beard. Billie noticed pinup girl tats on his Popeye's. 'Actually, I like this so much nobody's doing anything to you two until the rolls come down.' He grinned, revealing bad teeth.

'Deal.' There was a sly look on Jeff's face as he shook the dice.

Ivory stood there looking at Jeff like he was going to lose something really big. 'I'd blow on 'em for luck.' she said. 'You're gonna need it.'

Jeff glanced at Ivory, then wound up. Both dice smacked Boss hard enough in the face there was an audible thud. His hands came up and he hunched over, squealing like a fat pig.

Jeff was rubbing his shoulder and looking at Billy with a smirk, as if to remind her of his brief run as high school pitcher.

Boss was rubbing his face as he stared at the dice. 'I'll be damned.'

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