Short Story Fiction
What are Friends For?

He owed money and he couldn’t pay up. His life was on the line and he was on the run. Would he be found? Only his bartender knew for sure.

short story fiction what are friends for imageImage by Scott Gese

Harvey Anders was a betting man. He was good at picking losers, but that didn't stop him. Making up his losses was as close as one lucky break away. That elusive sure thing was just around the next corner. He was sure of it.

This particular morning, Harvey walked into his favorite watering hole and took a seat at the bar. It was early. Other than the bartender, he was the only one there.

It was a cold day in January, and yet, Harvey was wiping beads of sweat from his brow.

"Max, give me a Scotch straight up. In fact, make it a double," ordered Harvey.

The bartender set up a glass and Harvey gulped it down. "Another."

The bartender refilled the glass. "What's up Harv.? You're all sweaty and shaking. You look like you've seen a ghost?"

"It's worse than that... I've seen Ira Masters."

The bartender set the bottle aside and leaned in toward Harvey. In a whisper, as if to keep the walls themselves from hearing, he asked for confirmation, "Ira Masters the lone shark?"

"Yeah, the very same."

Max straightened himself up as if the reply was contagious. "Harv, you don't want to be messing with that guy. He has a reputation you know, and it's not a good one. I heard he offed his own brother-in-law for not paying back a lousy two grand."

"Really???"

"Yeah. They found him swimming with the fishes. He had a bullet-sized hole in the back of his head."

"I don't get it," continued Max. "Why does seeing Ira Masters make you so damn nervous?"

"It's more than just seeing him. His goons grabbed me and roughed me up. He's calling in a loan."

"A loan??? You borrowed money from Ira Masters? Are you crazy?"

"Yeah, I borrowed money from him. I was supposed to pay him back yesterday. He told me there was no such thing as a grace period. If I didn't pay him back with interest by... yesterday, I wouldn't live to see the sun go down."

"Well, the sun went down and you're still here. You must have paid him back, right?"

"Pay him? No, I didn't. I don't have that kind of money. That's my problem."

"That is a problem. How much do you owe him?"

"Five grand."

"Holy shit, five grand! That's not good. Why the hell did you borrow five grand from Ira Masters?"

Harvey squirmed on his stool and once again wiped his sweaty brow.

"I bet it on a pony... It was a sure thing. A no-brainer. How was I to know that damn nag would pull up lame halfway around the track? I lost it all, and now I'm a dead man."

"You're only a dead man if Ira finds you. Why don't you leave town? Get as far away from here as you possibly can."

"I thought about that, but I was hoping I could come up with the money. I've been at the track all week trying to win it back. It didn't work out. I've been having a run of bad luck lately. I'm damn near flat broke. I don't have enough cash to buy a bus ticket out of town."

Harvey dropped his head and banged it on the edge of the bar several times. “I'm a dead man. Oh, shit. I'm a dead man.”

"Not so fast, Harv. Does Ira know where you are right now?" asked Max.

Harvey snapped his head up, startled at the thought. "Hell, no. I'm keeping my distance from him and his goons."

"Good, in that case, I'm going to help you out. Do you know where the Blue Moon hotel is?"

"Yeah, over on second street."

"That's the place. It's cheap. Get yourself a room and hide out for the day. Call me with the room number. I'm out of here at three today. I'll withdraw enough from my bank account to get you a ticket to wherever you want to go."

"Des Moines," interrupted Harvey.

"Des Moines it is," replied Max. "I'll even kick in a couple hundred for seed money. What do you say?"

"I'd say you're one hell of a friend if you come through."

"I'll come through. You just call me with a room number."

Later that afternoon, Max dialed the phone. "Ira, Max here. I understand you're looking for Harvey Anders. He's at the Blue Moon, room ten. Hey, no problem. What are friends for."

Copyright © 2023 by Scott A. Gese. All rights reserved.


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