RTA 19: Ian Has Had Enough

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I keep tasting the blood in my mouth, searching for it, licking my teeth as I am pushed, pulled, dragged, and shoved out of Mr. Pang’s office, the workshop-now-unknown-business, and onto the private ferry. I don’t care about this place anymore, or Grandpa Finster or even Mr. Pang. Or my inheritance, if it wasn’t that big. I don’t care about all Mr. Pang’s employees staring at me. I certainly don’t care about Grandma, carefully wheeled and aided by Beef Curtain Burke, player, traitor and goon. I don’t care why she’s suddenly so talkative or why she tricked me into coming here to Island Finster or if she was tricked.

And why was HE here? Is he still with us? Where did… he come from?

I spit the blood and saliva mix. My mouth is salt, like the sea we’re now on. My mouth is metal, like licking a pan or a penny.

I’ve been caught and punished. I’m ready to go home. I have a headache. No, a throbbing, miserable pounding, like a squirming rat in my brain. I feel the vessels and veins quivering and flooding. Or maybe it’s the sea.

I don’t care, because I give up.

“Don’t be shitty Ian. And sit up.”

Damn it. I look up. The ferry ride is smooth, the moon is out, and I can see Grandma in front of me.

Why is she like this? Look what they did to your boy!

“We have to get the dogs,” she tells me.

The dogs! I almost laugh: the dogs! But when I inhale, gobs of blood flood my throat and lungs. I cough violently, snorting and spitting and choking all at once. I’m deranged, a broken animal. Prey on the Nature channel.

“Take it easy,” she adds.

“Don’t use your nose. I find that helps.” It’s a familiar voice and coming from the bottom of the boat.

I may be imagining things at this point, but I look (with my now one good eye) to where the voice is and realize it’s my fellow victim, a man obviously beaten, tied at the hands and fee, and now crumpled on the deck of The Slicker. I had instantly recognized him as one of the most feared players of limit ever to grace the online felt, huge private and public games, and of course, the Endboss Casino and Cardroom stream.

It’s him. He is the package.

Yes, you knew him as well as I did, nor is it a dream: the one and only legend of the game, now bound at the hands and feet and looking a little too comfortable on the bottom of The Slicker. I never realized until this moment how tall and thin and long he is, like a poker ballerino.

Yes, it’s Tim Dawn. It’s bag-eyed, lanky Tim Dawn looking up at me and giving me advice on how to survive a beating. I only hope I don’t look as bad as he does, pale as the moon, bruised and yellow and deep ocean blue. His face looks like a dead fish head cast out of fisherman’s net. His famous baggy eyes look like pearls wrapped in slugs.

A sharp stab of pain flashes through me. I’ve bitten both insides of my cheeks, pathetically. The skin and gore flaps around in my mouth; now I remember the crush of my teeth into my flesh. I feel it out with my tongue, morbidly. Blood squirts from the cuts and dribbles out my lips. I wince and shut my, well, eye.

My first moment of recognizing Tim back in Pang’s office had been short. Mr. Pang, who had more or less politely run our little “meeting” here on the island was suddenly standing over the tossed and thrown Tim, yes, like a package. Pang had looked furious: this is personal, I had thought.

Pang then gargled up some fierce sewer bubble of mucus and projected a sobbing glob of spittle on the side of Dawn’s bruised and yellow cheek. It immediately dripped down onto his shirt, which I only now see is lined and stained with dark and black blood. Old blood, dried and toughened.

Still, I couldn’t help feeling self-conscious and want to say his name! Hey, I finally met Tim Dawn!

“That’s me.”

I had said this out loud. How often does that happen?

Pang’s words were bouncing around my head: Mr. Finster, you will deliver this thing to our contacts in Alberta and your part in this affair is forgiven. Fail, and you will regret.

“Fuck around, find out,” I had replied.

“Hmmmm?” Pang responded then zipped some more Chinese at his men. I knew to cower as the security guards and office dragoons rained blows on my head. Mr. Pang does not have a taste for small talk, it seemed.

And now we’re back on the THUMS ferry.

I open my eyes.

“Forget it Grandma, I’m going home. I need to sleep. You work out whatever you want. And forget your damn dogs.”

“You could do that,” Tim said. If he’s going to be cryptic like this, I’m going to be annoyed.

I notice how quiet the Pacific really is tonight. The roil is all in my brain. The moon is low and bright. This is all bullshit. Fuck Mr. Pang.

“You can’t walk away from this, Ian.” Grandma sounds perturbed for the first time all day. “We cut a deal with Pang, and he is not someone to… disappoint.”

I cough and hack up more blood and what feels like part of my upper palate.

“Nope, I’m done,” I spit. “Ian Finster is not built for this.”

“Uh oh,” says Tim Dawn, annoyingly.

“Shut up, Tim Dawn, you reprobate.” Grandma is mad. Burke, who has been sitting quietly next to her, looks around uncomfortably. I can tell he’s merely trying not to stare at Tim Dawn. He’s a poker legend!

“I put the pro in reprobate,” replied Tim. I noticed he was struggling to speak a bit as well. “And who are you?”

“Gloriana Melody Alaine Finster, and my grandson Ian is delivering you to the boys in Calgary whether he likes it or not. Or you like it or not.”

“Huh,” said Tim Dawn. “Let’s set a line on that.”

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