In a rundown neighborhood in South Phoenix, Eddie Easy Deal Wilson parked his car in front of a shabby little house and swaggered to the front door. He heard violent coughing coming from inside. Good. Shifty Logan was home.
The front door creaked open and a short white man with a pale haggard face and squinty eyes appeared. Somehow he managed to cough without spitting out a burning cigarette that dangled from the corner of crooked lips.
“I came to collect the three grand I loaned you,” Easy Deal said as he shoved his way into an untidy living room that smelled like tuna fish. “If I don’t get my dough I’m going to ransack this fucking dump and take what I can sell. If I don’t get enough I’m going to break something. Maybe your kneecaps.” Easy Deal was twenty-eight years old, six feet, and a street-tough 190.
Shifty held his hands up as a peace gesture. “Don’t go crazy on me, man. Ain’t we pals?”
“No. I waited long enough. I want my money.”
“Listen, man. I invested it but I been too fucking sick to cash in. I can hardly breath.” Shifty took a drag on the cigarette and started coughing again.
Easy Deal rubbed his suntanned face. “Invested it in what?”
Shifty snuffed the cigarette butt out in an overflowing glass ashtray he shoplifted somewhere, bent forward, and put his hands on his knees. After awhile he stopped hacking.
“Stolen baseball cards, man.” He straightened and lit another cigarette. “There’s this Mexican who’s holding them for me. These fucking cards I can get ten maybe twelve thou for from a dealer. Most of it will be yours.”
“Take me to this Mexican.”
“I can’t, man. I’m too sick. You’ll have to do it alone.”
“Do it where?”
“Nogo, man. Mexico. Ask for Raul. The Hotel Montoya. Just tell him you’re my partner and he’ll give you the cards. A piece of cake.”
Three hours later Easy Deal left his car on the U.S. side and crossed on foot into Nogales, Mexico. It was dark when he found the Montoya, a seedy bedbug hotel a mile from the border and next to a rough looking bar.
A Mex woman with hair dyed yellow and fire red lipstick sat behind the counter in a dim dingy lobby.
“I’m looking for Raul.”
The woman sized Easy Deal up and down. Overpowered by her flowery perfume Easy Deal stepped back. A slow moving ceiling fan kicked dust around.
The woman gestured with a curt nod to the stairs. “Room 2. It’s unlocked. Kill him if you want, I don’t care.”
Raul sprawled on the bed naked except for piss stained jockey shorts. A needle, a spoon, and some powdery brownish residue were near him on the dirty mattress.
He didn’t answer.
Easy Deal spotted Narcan apparatus on a warped bedstand. He shoved a vial into an applicator and shoved the nozzle into each of Raul’s nostrils. Raul came around, barely.
“You fucked up my buzz,” Raul slurred.
“Where are Shifty’s baseball cards?”
“On the dresser.”
Easy Deal went to the dresser and found a pile of cut pieces of cardboard. “Who put the scissors to these cards?”
“That puta downstairs. We had a fight. Instead of using the scissors on me she used them on Shifty’s cards.”
Easy Deal noticed a dresser drawer slightly ajar. Inside the drawer, hiding under a Magnum .357 and a dead cockroach, he saw a lone baseball card. “Here’s one your girlfriend missed. I’ll take it.”
“That’s not one Shifty paid for. It’s for another guy.”
“Fuck the other guy. I’m taking it.”
“The dude’s psycho. If he don’t get that card he’ll kill me.”
“You probably lived too long anyway.”
With loud music from the bar next door invading the room through an open window, Easy Deal studied the baseball card. He recognized the player. An old timer, Honus Wagner.
“Holy fuck,” Easy Deal muttered. A rare Honus Wagner baseball card like this one just sold in auction for three million dollars. Shifty would get the cut-up cards. He’d keep this one for himself.
There were heavy footsteps in the hall. The psycho dude – maybe. Easy Deal picked up the Magnum and waited.