Vegas: Two Short Interludes with Raymond Vecchio

Shay Sheridan

For the "Water" challenge

You wish it would rain.

You remember rain: dirty, grey coldness trickling down your neck, scouring your face. Damp lake-infused air. Winter snow. Autumn/spring fog. Summer sweat. You remember.

Above all, you remember the sweet wet taste of him, refreshing you, his mouth, cool as the North, wet and clean as snow against you, trailing down your sweat-slicked body, as rain sheeted against the windows.

You rub your dry eyes. Don sunglasses against the glare. Even inside, a tall glass filled with tinkling ice cubes beside you, the desert reaches in and sucks you dry.

You wish it would rain.

For the "Ice" challenge

"Need another, boss?"

He jerked around in the swivel chair, senses on alert. Nero was at his elbow, as eager to please as a cocker spaniel, but he'd learned it didn't pay to trust anyone, not even a lapdog like Nero. "Yeah, sure." He lifted the glass and the melting ice cubes clinked against one another. "Gimme fresh ice this time."

"Sure, boss." Nero moved off behind the mirrored bar.

Ray's eyes flicked to the mirror. Manny was coming in the door behind him and he swiveled to face him. Never let them get behind you, the Feds had advised. "Manny. Dica me."

Manny stopped ten feet away, waiting for the signal to approach. "It was like you thought, Mr. Langostini."

"Yeah?" Ray narrowed his eyes into the expression that had become second nature to him. The "Bookman squint," the Feds called it. "You find out who did it?"

"Yeah, Mr. Langostini. Paulie the Shnoz. We got him coming out of the can at his old lady's." He cracked his knuckles. "Thinks he's a tough guy."

"Huh, I bet. He say anything?" Nero was back with the scotch, and he accepted it, looking away for only a moment from Manny's ugly puss.

"Yeah, he admits he whacked Jimmy. Just like you thought. He did it for the O'Malleys."

"Fucking O'Malleys. They just never give up trying to move in on our territory." Ray shook his head and let a sneer, a Bookman sneer, twist his lips. "They never learn, do they, Manny?"

"That's right, boss. They never learn. Man, poor Jimmy."

"Jimmy was a moron. He screwed up, he paid the price, capisce?"

"Yeah, sure, I get it." A grin stretched over Manny's pig face. "I worked Paulie over good for you. Wanna see him? He's a regular work of art."

The Bookman would want to see that. "You didn't bring him here, did you?"

"Course not, Mr. Langostini." Manny laughed nervously. "Shit, I wouldn't do that. Got him at the warehouse. Just waiting for you, boss."

"Waiting for me." Ray took a long sip of the scotch. Though it burned going down, it didn't warm him. "Nero. Turn off the a/c." That wasn't going to work either. Not any more. Not after today.

He glanced over at Manny, who stood waiting for the Bookman's approval, a rabid dog on a very short leash. "You did good, Manny."

"Thanks, Mr. Langostini. So, boss?" Manny said, barely able to contain his blood lust. "You want me to ice him?"

Ray took a sip. The hand holding the glass trembled so slightly no one could have seen the tremor. Ice tinkled softly. It was a cold sound, a sound of winter. Ray thought about winter, how it never really came to Vegas. He felt the cold spot inside him; the winter within him wasn't clean like a Canadian snowfall, but sullied and gray like the slush of a Chicago January.

"Sure, Manny," he said, swirling the scotch. "Ice him."

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