Omar Jimenez — Hustle | Part One

*

Dont fuck with me Arnagan’

Arnagan, sitting across the table, shifted his gaze from the square to Slauson. The large dark eyes glaring into Slauson’s made him shift in his seat. His chair creaked. He abruptly collected himself, piecing together the confidence he'd built over the past 15 years that was just shattered in an instant by one look from the man he was sharing a petit bistro table with.

Slauson swallowed the shock that shook his grasp on himself, it rattled down his ribcage and settled in the pit of his stomach where he could digest it better, or at least pretend it didn’t exist like every time someone put a gun to his face.

His body was noticeably more tense, he could feel it. He was angry at himself for losing his footing. It made him feel like an amateur.

Meanwhile across the table in what Slauson considered to be an oddly effeminate blue three piece suit sat a rock of a human being, staring at him as calm as the ocean, with a glare that greater men than Slauson had drowned in.

The September sun was warm on his back and Slauson loosened his tie with what he hoped looked like he was losing his patience. The sun splashed across his face, Arnagan had once again rolled the tide of his attention to the fountain in the square. His nonchalance perpetually eroding the tension Slauson attempted to bring into the conversation.

He slammed his fist on the small table, giving it a permanent lean. The ceramic cups rattled and the silverware danced for a moment as curious eyes from other tables and passerby landed on him. He’d garnered the attention from everyone within ten meters but only a look of mild amusement from the man he was growing to hate and envy more with each passing moment.

* * *

The sound of a door down the hallway woke him up. The sun was shining through the window onto the ancient hardwood panels through which the smell of some eastern European dish emanated. His temporary landlord seemed to always be cooking. He’d been staying there for three weeks, paying by the day, working a story he felt was finally close to breaking.

There was a soft sigh over his shoulder as he leaned over to check the time; half past twelve. In bed with him was the landlord’s niece. A slender brunette with high cheekbones on an already angular face, like she was drawn by some mad architect with a passion for lovely women. She threw one of her long legs over both of his and pressed her chest against his shoulder, he was up, but it wasn’t time to get out of bed just yet.

* * *

‘Are you going to tell us where he is or not?’

After a long silence Arnagan turned his granite jaw towards Slauson. ‘You’ve given me no incentive. In fact, the only thing you’ve succeeded in doing the entire time we've been sitting here is making a show out of yourself like some kid.’

‘Go fuck yourself.’

‘No. Really. Everybody here, these people around us, think you’re a goddamn moron. And they're right.’ His voice, when he was sitting back, was a low rumble that sounded more like it just reverberated from his chest then came out his mouth. ‘Not only that, but we have an interested third party listening in on our conversation.’

Slauson followed the indication of the spoon Arnagan had been playing with in his left hand. A man sat by himself with a newspaper and a half eaten sandwich in front of him.

‘Not the guy with the newspaper’

Slauson again threw his gaze in the direction of the spoon and furrowed his brow, the only other person that he could have been pointing too was an attractive young woman who seemed to be drawing in a sketchbook.

‘That’s the one’

Arnagan picked up on the distorted reaction of doubt playing its way across Slausons face.

‘You know, I was wrong about you. You wouldn’t at all make a good film villain. No poker face.’

* * *

It was a sunny day and just past one o'clock by the time James managed to step out onto the street. He’d showered quickly after Anisa had pulled him back into bed but his clothes still smelled like borscht or whatever the hell it was his grandmotherly landlady was cooking in the morning.

He'd paid for another five days before walking out. He was beginning to get accustomed to his life there. Chasing leads, working on his story until evening, dinner prepared by a woman who reminded him of his father’s mother, and getting into bed with a woman with whom he'd only verbally exchanged a handful of sentences because of the language barrier. He just had to start getting paid.

He made his way over to the square, a couple of blocks down from where he was staying. A local source with whom he'd shared a mutual friend back home had told him Slauson would be at the cafe on the far end for some meeting.

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