Los Angeles, California, June 7, 2009
They say that every poker player has a 'tell' an idiosyncrasy if you will, that gives away the hand they're playing. When I have a pat hand I inadvertently set my cards down in front of me, always horizontal with relation to my body and then lace my hands together, placing them under my nose to cover the shit eating grin spreading across my face. It drives all the players at the table to fold every time; which explains why I never seem to win a decent pot in these games! Since I had bupkis for hole cards in this current hand of Texas Hold-em I had folded in the first round of betting, earning the usual round of catcalls and expletive ridden remarks about my family tree. I looked around the table and suppressed a sigh so as not to invite anymore slurs from the rank and file. There were too many faces missing from our regular game. Too many friends, family really, had been taken from us by that jack-hole Jai Lai. What a clever bastard, may he rot in hell.
"You're not going to get into Heaven with that potty mouth Whitey," whispered the voice in my head.
"Shut up, the big boss in the sky is probably thinking the same thing," I muttered softly so as not to draw any attention to myself.
"Shame on you Whitey Roode, you'd better be careful you know. He hears everything and He keeps a list," cautioned the voice.
"Right, just like Santa Clause," I chuckled.
"Okay, it's your ass Whitey," the voice replied, capitulating to my bad attitude.
"Can it Ronnie, if he's really listening that'll be one demerit for you and your potty mouth," I snapped a little louder than I meant to.
"Who are you talking to Roode," Wally asked gruffly?
"Didn't I tell you back in Vegas to see a shrink about that trance shit?"
He did too, I remember that day. It was the day all of our lives changed. I still had trouble seeing Wally Price as the new Oscar Celaya? But, as fate would have it, acting "Chief of Police Oscar Celaya" had the pick of the litter after he moved up the ladder, skipping over the rank of Captain and going straight on to acting Chief, a feat only possible when you have the Mayor over the proverbial barrel, which he did. That little microchip was still opening doors for a lot of people, some going out because of it and some getting in because of it. I'm glad I never saw the whole list. And even more glad that Hassan turned out to be a stand up sort of assassin, a hired gun with a heart if you will, because he never did tell his Russian masters about Judy and I, go figure?
People will surprise you, I guess you never know, sometimes good people are sent down rocky paths in life for reasons known only to the Big Boss in the clouds. As for the rest of the crowd that were getting their just desserts, well, I get no pleasure watching others suffer. I think I would rather buy in to what the preachers quote, to error is human, to forgive Devine. I suppose that you could say that the older I get, the sappier I get, and I'll plead guilty to that, happily.
"Did I hear you say Ronnie," asked Judy as she folded her hand, tossing her cards into the pot?
"I think it's the corned beef he's been eating. I told him to stay outta the Jew's deli; it's gone down hill without Lu. Why you go there anyway when me and Angelo always got a table for you, huh," Fat Johnny said, tossing in his two cents as well as his crummy cards?
"Well I guess that just leaves you and me Rebecca," Iggie said gleefully as he drummed his fingers on his hole cards. That was his 'tell' apparently he had pocket aces!
"Fabulous," Becca said sarcastically, watching him drum his fingers for a nanosecond longer before tossing her own cards into the pot.
"Take it Iggie, I hope you choke on it," she quipped, leaning back in her chair and taking a long drink from her bottle of Chimay Blue, an upscale Belgian beer with 9% alcohol. The girl kept surprising me. She could fit in with our crowd without letting go of who she was. Meaning she could mix it up with the best of us losers and still go home the class act that she is, a true chameleon. That'll come in handy in her job.
The whole table was eyeballing me while Iggie raked in his winnings. They were waiting for an explanation. What was I supposed tell them, the truth? Negative, as soon as they heard me claim to be haunted by the spirit of my ex wife who also happens to be an ex female, it'll be off to Cedar's Sinai Psych Ward for good old Uncle Whitey! Nope, I think I'll keep that genie in the bottle for now. To be honest, I'm not sure I believe it myself completely, she's my first trans-sexual ghost. Wally was giving me a tongue in cheek look and Judy looked like she was getting misty so I needed to say something to throw the dogs off of the scent.
"I was just thinking about her is all, sometimes it seems like she's still around, you know," I said finally, opting for a partial truth versus a complete lie. Living in the light as the preachers also say is something I'm working on.
Anyway, it seemed to do the trick for now. Judy smiled with glassy eyes, and Wally waived me off like aircraft carrier LSO (landing signal officer) as he reached into his igloo for another cold one. Rebecca Tran smiled at me as well and clinked her beer bottle with Fat Johnny's glass of house wine. Iggie ignored us all, busily re-stacking and re-counting his chips, what a wiener! We weren't the same old gang, but we were healing nicely together, a nice mix of old and new faces. A flash of light suddenly came through the window from the street causing us all to get up and investigate. It was a little fender bender between a Mini-Cooper and bobtail truck that I had noticed cruising the neighborhood all week. It belonged to a movie production company that was filming around the corner. Maybe I'd walk over and check out what they had going on tomorrow? Everybody likes to see how they do things in Holly-Weird, I'm no exception.
"HEY GUYS, come on, are we playing cards or what," whined Iggie from behind his enormous stack of chips!
The ragtag gaggle of friends walked back to the table, giving him the business as they rejoined the game. I took one more peek out the window and noticed a small crowd of young people across the street. They were following after a man in a black windbreaker and a Dodger's baseball cap. It seemed normal enough until the fella turned for a moment to say something to one of the kids behind him. The man was wearing a collar, like a priest or preacher or something like that. What would a priest be doing out at this time of night, and in this neighborhood, leading a crowd of teenagers on a stroll like the Piped freaking Piper of Hamlin? I made a mental note of everything and tucked it away in my melon for later. Once a gumshoe always a gumshoe I guess…