Toni walked in, scowling, and strode straight up to Nando who leaned against the bar with a glass in his hand.
“You son of a bitch,” he said and swung his fist. One of the patrons, an ex-bullfighter quick on his feet and even quicker to spot a threat, stepped between them.
“Enough!” He shouted as he parried the blow.
“Are you mad?” Nando put his drink down on the bar.
“Me? Mad?” Tears ran down Toni’s angry face and his breath came in short, sharp gasps. “You’re the one who’s mad. You’re the one who’s screwing her.”
“Screwing who, for God’s sake?”
“Raquel, dammit. You know: my girl. What are you doing here anyway? Waiting for her?”
“Waiting my turn; like everyone else. And I expect they’ll call my number pretty soon.”
“You got a ticket?”
“Of course. I always get a ticket. Why?”
“Because I want her before you get her. Here, give me your ticket.”
“I’ll buy it off you.”
“Why don’t you dice for it?” The ex-bullfighter sensing the possibility of both a truce and a bit of fun broke into the conversation. “I’ll be the judge.”
“Cards?” Nando raised his eyebrows.
“Done,” Toni dabbed at his face with a grubby hanky. “But win or lose: you’re still a son of a bitch.”
“Not if I win.”
The crowd made room for the two men at the bar and Nando asked for a green cloth and a pack of cards. Shuffle and cut. Deal. Frowns and smiles. The patrons looked on in expectation and shouted and groaned with each discard. Every so often, a number was called out and a man stood up, gave his ticket to the barman, handed over some money, and went upstairs.
They played the best of seven hands. Tied at three hands each, sweat drops beaded down both their faces. The ex-bullfighter roared approval with every card and checked each discard. The patrons crowded round shouting their approval in bullfighting terms.
“¡Música! ¡Olé!” They chorused as they clapped their hands and stamped their feet.
“Number 69,” the barman roared.
Nobody moved and a silence fell over the room.
“69,” the barman’s voice repeated, a hard stone cast into the silence.
“Well, I guess that’s me,” Nando rose to his feet, put his hand in his pocket, and drew out his number.
“Son of a bitch …” Toni’s voice rose above the uproar. “I’ll get you for this!”
“”What’s it all about?” A new bass voice rose above the crowd noise. “What’s happening here?” Pedro, the owner stood behind the bar, beside the barman.
“I’m next. That’s all.” Nando waved his ticket.
“He wants my girl,” Toni screamed. “I’ll get him … ” Toni struggled through a sudden thicket of arms to get at Nando.
“And who’s your girl?” Pedro’s deep bass voice rose up and conquered the room.
“Raquel,” Toni stood there, defiant.
“Raquel?” The owner of the deep bass voice sounded incredulous. “Raquel? Raquel!” He shouted. “Raquel, get your ass down here.”
All eyes turned to the staircase behind the bar.
A beautiful, dark-haired, brown-eyed woman walked slowly into the room.
“This Raquel?” The owner’s voice shuddered in disbelief. “My wife? The woman carrying my child?”
Toni and Nando stood there, staring eyes, mouths open.
“Get out,” the owner said. “I never want to see either of you here in my bar again.”
He drew a battle-field green Glock 21 from an inside pocket, pointed it at them, and shouted: “Run!”
Toni and Nando ran from the bar, their tails between their legs.