Larrikin Gene

Larrikin Cover final 12-29-14 copy

Gene has a bit of a problem. Several actually. He’s wrapping up a year-long, high-end matchmaking scam that has proven to be most profitable but, in the process, he’s lost the love of his life to a billionaire. Now to help mend his broken heart, he’s back in Las Vegas finishing up another lucrative scam. But the FBI is on his trail and Gene discovers that the agent in charge is none other than the hapless Roger Gentry, a high school acquaintance with whom he shares a tenuous past. To make matters worse, Gene is soon sleeping with the other agent on the case who turns out to be Gentry’s fiancé.

To cool things off, Gene decides it’s time for a well deserved vacation Down Under. He brings his father along, an ex-convict whose biggest wish in life is to work one scam with his son before he dies. And before Gene can even get a chance to catch his breath and enjoy his time off, he finds himself running the ultimate con; one that threatens to irrevocably change his life. Fortunately for Gene, the Po$$e needs his help and Doc, Summerman and Merlin follow him to Australia to do a little recruiting and provide Gene with a possible way out of his current predicament.

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“Cold beer, beachfront property, elaborate double crosses and exploding pigs. What more could you want? Larrikin Gene delivers a touching but hysterical take on the question of nature versus nurture. This second installment in the Damaged Po$$e series provides additional testimony to what was said about the series’ first book, American Midnight; this is a series to watch out for.”

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Chapter 1

I stared into the mirror at the man in the dark blue suit. It could have been any man, any suit. Unfortunately for him, it just happened to be this man, that suit. And after three and a half martinis the man’s mood matched the suit’s color. I studied him as he stood, removed and folded the jacket, then draped it over the adjacent empty bar stool. He checked his hair in the mirror behind the bar, brushed some stray hairs back in place, and sucked in his stomach. He cast a slow furtive look around the bar then sat back down.

I almost felt sorry for the man in the blue suit. I often manage to find some degree of sympathy for men like him and, at first glance, it might appear to be one of my better traits. Actually, it’s just me looking for my good side.

Soon the man in the blue suit would firmly believe fate had brought me to this bar, at this time. In fact, not only would he believe it, he would tell me so. Somewhere into his next martini he would turn his head towards me, touch my arm, and speak in hushed tones in an attempt to display confidentiality and a sense of intimacy. But I would know that the softness of his voice was designed to conceal weakness. And fear.

He would profess genuine gratitude and pronounce eternal friendship in the manner that only sad drunks have truly mastered. He would be verbose, then morose. Charming, then sullen. One minute, a playful young boy. And then the next he would dissolve into a world-weary old man. And at the exact moment when he truly believed I was the best friend a man like him could have, I would order another round and make my move.

For I was far from becoming this man’s best friend. The savior role he had in mind for me, even at this early point in our friendship, was misplaced. But misguided men, driven by ego and a misplaced sense of their own destiny, make bad decisions all the time.

Perhaps, when surrounded by bank statements or the comforts of their chosen profession, they feel less vulnerable.

Perhaps, when surrounded by others of their own ilk, they feel more protected.

Perhaps, others surrounding them simply don’t notice.

Perhaps.

Mirrors offer self-reflection only to those searching for it.

I finished the last of my martini, sucked the pimento from the olive and ordered two more with a casual wave. The man in the blue suit slumped forward and ran a hand through his dwindling hair. The creative comb over on display earlier had disappeared and now two large bald spots threatening a merger shined under a bank of overhead lights. He wiped both hands with a napkin and sipped from his fresh martini before it even had time to get comfortable on the bar.

I glanced down at my own drink, lifted it by the stem, and savored the frigid stream that trickled down my throat. The first taste of frostbitten Grey Goose, like one’s initial encounter with any fresh object of desire, was always the most satisfying. No matter how much pleasure one took from the overall experience, after the initial sensory overload, from that point forward, everything was pretty much downhill. I carefully returned my glass to its place of honor on the bar and swiveled ninety degrees.

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“I know, John.” I nodded in sad agreement. “I know exactly what you’re talking about.”

John glanced over at me, forced a smile and refocused on his drink.

“Most people would spend all night debating that.”

“Debating what?”

I nodded my head at his drink. “Whether your glass is half full or half empty.”

“I always thought that it was a good question. Which is it for you?”

I smiled as he hit the hook. I decided to let him run and tire himself out before reeling him in.

“For me, John, that question has always been irrelevant. The real issue is about control. Most people go through life debating half-empty, half-full with pop culture concepts they’ve picked up from self-help books. And like George Carlin said, if you get advice from a book someone else has written, that’s not self-help; that’s help.”

“I loved Carlin. I saw him at the MGM in Vegas one time and he did this bit about-”

“Yes, I know John.” I placed a hand on his forearm. “But I want you to stay with me. Okay?”

“I’m with you, buddy. I’m with you.”

“Good. Now, as I was saying, most people don’t get what I’m about to tell you. Whatever amount is in the glass is completely under your control. Too much in the glass? Pound that baby back. Drain it dry. Not enough in it? Order a fresh one.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that.”

“Are you telling me it’s my round?”

“No, John.” I laughed and squeezed his forearm. “What I’m telling you is that you control everything. You have the power to control how much is in your glass. Except, of course, with one very big exception.”

He looked up at the ceiling, then glanced back at me. “Love?”

“Exactly. Love. In the end, it’s the only thing that really matters to people of substance. Sweet…but evasive. Tender…but heart wrenching. The eternal quest beaten back by the demands of daily life.”

“Amen.”

“Yes. Amen, my brother. But even prayers have failed you on your quest for love. Haven’t they, John?”

“Yes,” he whispered. He drained his glass and waved a finger in the direction of the bartender.

I looked away as he dabbed a napkin at the corner of one eye. This close to closing the deal, I didn’t want him embarrassed. I needed him strong and decisive. Let him feel weak and powerless on his own dime.

I waited until the fresh martinis arrived then recaptured his stare in the mirror. “And when everything, including prayer, fails, you’re forced under cover of darkness to confront the question all of us face at one time or another.”

He turned his head towards me and waited.

I took a slow sip of frostbite.

“What’s the question?”

“Is this all there is?”

“Yes.” He nodded and exhaled. “Yes, that is the question isn’t it?”

“And it’s at that precise moment, in that perfect moment of clarity, when the question of whether the glass is half-full or half-empty becomes meaningless. If you’ve got the wrong glass, John, why would you care how much is in it?”

“Fuckin’ ay.”

“Exactly. I know you, John. I meet men like you all the time. It’s my business to meet men like you. And when I meet them, do you know what I do?”

“No” he said, raising an eyebrow.

“I help them, John. I help them.”

“That’s very nice of you.”

“Well, thank you, John. That’s nice of you to say. Would you mind if I told you a little bit about yourself.”

“I wish somebody would.”

I slowly began to reel him in. I tested the hook. Secure. He wasn’t going anywhere. “Right now, you’re at a point in your life where you should be jumping out of bed at the crack of dawn every day.”

“But I do,” he said. “Well, actually I don’t jump. Lately, it’s been more of a crawl.”

“That’s precisely my point, John. You should be on top of the world but you feel like life has nothing to offer. Despite your success, you feel like you’re wasting away. You’re getting up at five because you feel you have to, not because you can’t wait to see what the day will bring.”

“How do you know that?”

“Like I said, John. It’s my business to know. You’re in your mid thirties, you’ve killed yourself getting to this point and now the people in your firm believe that, even if you don’t walk on water, you at least know where all the rocks are. You’ve got a nice place on the Westside worth in the neighborhood of three or four million. You’ve got the Jag or the 740 for work and the SUV in the garage for weekends just to show everyone you’re still a regular guy. You go to Vegas and stay at the Bellagio because they’ve gotten to know you and make you feel like a high roller. You usually take along some fresh wannabe starlet with juices sweet enough to put in your coffee. But in the back of your mind, you know she’s only there because it’s a free weekend and maybe, just maybe, you’ll spring for a boob job. So after giving her a couple grand to gamble then dinner and a show, she fulfills the unspoken demands from her side of the deal.”

“And cocktails.”

“What?”

“Don’t forget all the cocktails.”

“Well, sure. That goes without saying. Try to stay with me here, John.”

“I’m with you. I’m with you.”

“So finally you’re there for the first time. And it’s fresh and new. But mid-stroke you’re either trying to convince yourself she’s worth the effort or you’re fantasizing about Peggy Sue from high school who took your cherry in the backseat of your father’s Ford.”

“Chevy.”

“What?”

“It was a Chevy. Dad worked for GM.”

“Chevy. Got it. Stay with me here, John. So while you’re sipping your nightcap in solitary because she just had to have a shower, you smile to yourself and say at least she’s not a hooker. Because you’ve convinced yourself that you’ve never paid for it before in your life. Haven’t you, John?”

“Yes,” he said, nodding. “I’ve never paid for it.”

I smiled and sipped my drink. It was deteriorating rapidly. I motioned to the bartender.

“Can you please shake what’s left with fresh ice?”

The bartender nodded and left with my glass. Moments later he returned with a fresh glass of frostbite. I took a sip, found it lacking and turned back to my new friend. He, too, was in desperate need of fresh ice.

“Every one of those weekends, unless you get lucky at the tables, costs you around ten large. Maybe more depending on how much shopping you let her do. In a year those weekends, plus the other trips to Europe and Hawaii, end up costing you a hundred, maybe two hundred grand. I hate to say this, John. But you’ve been paying for it for a long time.”

I fell silent and went back to my drink. Through the mirror I watched him chew on his lower lip.

“But what you really want, desperately crave is one woman,” I whispered. “One woman you could be sure loved you. Someone you’d be happy to spend all your money on and spoil rotten.”

“Yes. I do.”

“I do.” I smiled. “Your deepest desire is to be able to repeat that phrase in the most traditional of settings. To find a woman of intelligence. A woman you can have an intelligent conversation with. A woman successful in her own field. Not a wannabe, but an already is. Someone mature. Someone who can captivate a room full of heavyweights over dinner, then take you back to the house you share and fuck you like a whore. Someone who wants you inside her, not out of obligation, but simply because she loves it. Needs it. That’s what you crave, John. That’s what you need. That’s what all of us need, John. And all you have to do is have the courage to change the glass.”

“Change the glass.”

“I have that glass, John.”

He suddenly turned all business and swirled his glass in front of him. I waited patiently. I was about to pull him into the boat and didn’t want any extreme movements that might snap the line or let him to wriggle away. I sipped my drink and waited out the silence.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Twenty-five thousand is a lot of money.”

“Yes, it is.” I placed a hand on his shoulder. “But tell me, John. How much money have you spent the past five years looking for the right woman?”

“Probably half a million. Maybe more,” he whispered.

I whistled softly. The bartender glanced up from his magazine and caught my eye. I shook my head and he disappeared back into the World’s 50 Most Beautiful People.

“Half a million? Jesus, John. If you’re looking for a way to blow your money on cheap thrills, cocaine’s cheaper.”

“So if I sign up what guarantee do I get?”

“You get a guarantee that I will personally identify three extraordinarily successful and beautiful women who fit your personality and lifestyle perfectly. You will mutually decide what type of first date the two of you would prefer over the phone and then, once I am satisfied that the logistics are finalized to both parties satisfaction, you’re on your own.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it? Let me ask you, John. How many women like the type I just described have you met, let alone gone out with the past year?”

“I meet successful and beautiful women all the time.”

“Let me rephrase it. How many have you met that are not only available, but are looking for exactly the same thing you are at this precise moment in time?”

“None.”

“None.” I drained my martini. “Change the glass, John. It’s time to change the glass.”

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