Sam sat in the back seat of his Uber ride staring at the ticket in his wallet. He couldn’t wait to get to the Buckaroo Inn and tell his old friend Vic about his lucky day. Now he’d be able to pay him back, as well as all the others he owed money to. With plenty left over to buy a new car and take a trip to Europe with Lena. And then he’d go back to a Community College and get a Culinary Arts degree and become a cook or chef. Just like he was going to do before, until—
He knew had to deal with his drug problem or else the money would be gone in a year. At least now he could afford a good rehab clinic to help him stay off the stuff. Once he was clean, he could handle his gambling habit better. He made a silent vow to do it. Chances like this only happened once in a lifetime.
Vic was on his third gin and tonic when Sam came up to him with a wide-ass grin.
“Glad you waited,” Sam said. “Got waylaid at the track. And my Uber ride was late”
“Have the money?”
“Didn’t have time to get it,” Sam said, holding that same damn grin.
“Why bother coming then? And what the hell is so funny?”
“I want to show you something.”
Sam pulled out a parimutuel ticket from his wallet with shaky hands.
“So, you got a winning ticket. And am going to pay me back when you cash it. Right?”
“For sure. With interest.”
“I like the sound of that. Hope it’s enough to cover the four hundred you owe.”
“Yeah,” Sam said, trying to suppress a smile. “With a little extra.”
“How much extra?”
Sam dropped his grin and leaned closer to Vic. “One-hundred-seventy-four grand.”
Vic stared at Sam’s deadpan expression. “Are you fuckin with me?”
“Hell no. I hit the Pick Six, man. That’s why I’m late.”
“Jesus effin’ Christ.” He sloshed down his drink. “Just you? Didn’t split it with anyone?”
“Nope. Just me.”
Vic hailed the bartender for more drinks.
Over two more rounds, Sam regaled Vic about each of the six winning races in a row that he picked on the ticket. As he went on, Vic couldn’t help thinking what he’d do if he had that money. He could put a down payment on a condo and be set up for life. But fucking Sam, he’d probably blow it all on drugs, hookers, and casino games. What a waste. Vic tried to maintain a cheery front but became increasingly resentful about it. During this time a dark plan got ahold of him that he struggled with, but couldn’t shake
“How about I give you a ride home now, old buddy,” Vic said. “And we can celebrate at your place with some good blow I have.”
Sam hesitated before responding. “I don’t know. I’m trying to kick now.”
“Oh, come on. Just this one last time.”
“Hell, why not.”
Vic parked in front of his apartment building and zipped up to his place. He unlocked his safe and pulled out a bag of the fentanyl he’d been mixing with other substances and selling on the dark web. He slipped the bag in an envelope and ran back to his car.
At Sam’s apartment, they talked about old times while chugging beers and listening to tapes of 1980s British techno-pop groups.
“I’m ready for some of that good stuff now,” Sam said.
Vic dumped the powder on the coffee table and shaped them into two lines with a credit card. They each took a bill from their wallets and rolled them into a straw.
“Let’s do it,” Sam said
“Go ahead,” Vic said. “I’ll get a couple more of beers first.”
Vic watched Sam snort in the line as he guzzled a beer in the kitchen.
“Wow, this is killer shit, man,” Sam rasped. He shook his head. “Whoa…”
Sam staggered, gasping, to his feet, glared down to the line on the table and then up to Vic with crazy, terrified eyes. He knew. And then collapsed onto the floor.
Six months later, Vic parked his sleek gray 2015 BMW X5 in a secure underground parking garage and took an elevator up to his condo. He flicked on the lights in his place and came to a dead stop; a hooded figure sat in the living room holding a bottle of beer. The figure turned and lowered his hood. It was Slade, Sam’s younger brother. Sam told him he’d been deployed in Iraq.
“Slade? What the fuck? How did you get in?”
“Special Ops training. Real nice digs you got here. Looks like you came into a little bit of money.”
“I’ve . . . been saving. What do you want?”
“Just have one question. Do you have it?
“Sam called me right after it happened, all excited-like. How much he’d won and how he was going to cut me in on it.” Slade set the beer down and stood up, arms akimbo. “And who he was meeting afterwards.”
Slade looked a lot bigger than Vic remembered. And with all those tattoos on his muscular arms. Vic wanted to run but his feet felt frozen to the floor.
“One more time. Do you have it?”
Vic shook his head, unable to speak.
Slade reached into his jacket, pulled out a knife, and strode forcefully toward him.
A.R. Bender is a writer of German heritage now living in Tacoma, Washington, USA. His short stories, flash fiction, and poetry have been published in numerous literary journals. He’s also seeking representation for his completed historical novel. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking off the grid and coaching youth soccer.