Here's the second excerpt from Chasing Filthy Lucre. Our two heroes get to know a little more about each other.
In case you missed it the previous section is here: Excerpt 1
Once the door shut behind us one of the men waved smelling salts under Berger’s nose. He shook his head and his eyes blinked open.
Raul stood up from the desk in the corner. He approached with two stacks of cash. Berger’s was bigger than mine since he took the fall.
“Sorry it can’t be more, boys,” he said.
“It’s alright.” I spoke for the both of us. “It pays the bills.”
And it did. That’s why I did this, not because I wanted to, but because I had to.
I sat with Berger for a few minutes after Raul left. He’d given me the keys and asked me to lock up. We were in the basement below his store, a shop that sold a little of everything but specialized in nothing.
“Sorry that one was so rough,” I said to Berger as he pushed himself off of his back and onto his elbows. “I think I got carried away.”
Berger smiled and told me not to worry about it. “I’ve taken worse beatings,” he said. “At least I’m getting paid for it now.”
I agreed. At least we we’re getting paid for it.
Berger offered to buy me a late dinner and we left. At the restaurant, he barely fit into the booth, his gut fighting to get between him and the table. He was embarrassed so I tried to say something to break the tension.
“Before you were a fighter, what’d you do?” I didn’t really know Berger. We’d fought in Raul’s league a few times, but he was new. Still working his way up. All I really knew is that he could take a beating. That night was the third time I’d laid him out like that.
“Soldier,” he said. “A lousy one, but I was a soldier.” He studied the menu then laid it to his side. “When the government fell and they let us all go I started working the docks over at south bay. Did that for a while and hated it. Started delivering goods for a guy I met working there and that’s how I met Raul.”
“You should talk to him about winning. You’re good. Your body blow really rocked me earlier. You don’t need to be his butterball forever. It’s time you start moving up.”
Berger nodded and thanked me for the kind words. “So, what do you do when you aren’t in the basement?”
“Whatever I can to make ends meet,” I said.
Our food arrived – a club sandwich for Berger and a ham sandwich for me. They were served on thin sliced white bread and mismatched plates that were chipped along the edges and looked like they could use a good scrub. But they were what you’d expect from a place like that. The chairs and tables didn’t match either and the paint on the sign in the window had dripped to the wooden frame.
Berger took a bite of his sandwich then mumbled with a full mouth, “And what did you do before you got started fighting?”
“I was a cop. And before that a soldier.” I looked for the woman who took our order and asked her to bring us two beers. “These are on me,” I told Berger. He nodded his thanks then asked more questions.
“That where you learned to fight? The military?”
“That’s where they taught me how to throw a proper punch. Nobody teaches you how to fight.”
The redhead sat two plain brown bottles on the table. They were a home brew and I took a long drink. It was bitter and I shut my eyes tight as I swallowed, fighting to get it down.
“So, a soldier, huh?” I said to Berger and reached down to my boot. I pulled a pistol that I’d holstered to my ankle and put it on the table. “I guess you know how to use one of these.”
Berger smiled and said, “Yes, I’ve used a gun before.”