The prompt- "Ten bucks says you can't go a week."
The players- A-Blackwinged-Bird and myself.
The rules- at least 1,500 words
"Ten bucks says you can't go a week."
He could bite, snag the offered bait and play along, but he chose silence and folded arms, a posture of aloofness, indifference. The others waited.
"Ten bucks." Dean fished in his wallet and produced a crumpled, torn ten dollar bill. He thrust it forward, grinning spinach and whisky, then slapped it on the table, palm down. He giggled, belched, frowned, concentrated on doing something with his tongue behind closed lips then broke into another toothy grin. The spinach between his teeth had gone. "You'd make it five days, and that's not a week. A week is seven days: one, two, three... cluck, cluck, cluck."
It took everything he had not to smile, to break into giggles, to give in to the alcohol that threatened to reduce him to the same fishy-eyed, whisky-breathed, giggling Neanderthal as those he shared the table with. He wished to all hell that he had his brother's tolerance for liquor.
"Ten bucks." Another palm stamp and a second fist pummeled the table. It was not Dean's. "I'm in." A second followed, then a third until the five men seated around the bar's corner table had produced a ten dollar bill and smacked it down. So far, it was all going to plan. There was something to this, some psychological theory that would explain how five regular guys, average age, build, intellect, could be so effectively conned.
"How's about it, fish-noodle?" Dean kicked him under the table. "I don't see your greenback?"
Fish-noodle, what the hell? Sam kept his arms folded, his posture relaxed. "Maybe I don't want to play."
Dean narrowed his gaze, licked his tongue over his lower lip. "Stakes aren't high enough, huh?"
Sam shrugged, extended his legs and crossed them at the ankles. Brian, the oldest and burliest of the group, imitated the posture, folding his arms casually, his big hairy hands clutched at his barreled biceps. Captain and Tenille's 'Do that to me one more time' leaked out of the jukebox across the room, the wilting pop song on its fourth play since they had arrived. Any more than six repetitions and he'd shoot the speakers out.
Frank, the bartender watched them with a little too much interest. It made him nervous, as though the bearded beer-handler saw through their ruse. Had somehow figured them out, though that couldn't be possible.
"Twenty bucks say you can't go a week," Dean said. "Clucketty-cluck."
He needed more alcohol for this shit. "Not interested."
"Aww… poor little fish-noodle doesn't think it's worth his while." Dean feigned a pout, splayed open his wallet and tweaked out a fifty. "Make it sixty, six birds on a fence, shoot 'em all down. Bang, bang, bang."
The chairs groaned as the other men fumbled around for more cash. Brian hesitated, his broad shoulders stooped as he reached for something by his side. Sam tensed, straightened, unfolded his legs and slipped his right hand into his jacket. Brian righted himself before the tips of Sam's fingers had brushed past the jacket zipper.
"You playing now?" Brian said, his gaze slid to Sam's chest. "Or you just feeling yourself up?"
Dean spluttered an inebriated guffaw, smacked Brian on the shoulder and erupted into a fit of giggles, his hilarity interspersed with smatterings of 'feeling yourself up'. Soon the entire table rocked with laughter, though Brian's was more subdued and Sam's non-existent. Surely begging for cash couldn't be more degrading than this.
"I'm in," Sam said when the laughter had tempered somewhat. He thumped sixty dollars onto the table and arched an eyebrow at his brother. "And I'll last eight days."
Leroy, a balding red-head with a scar down one side of his face, whistled his appreciation for the increased stakes. "Then I'll go nine," he said, clamping his sweaty mitt around a bunch of twenties and hurling them on the table. One note fluttered off. No-one attempted to go after it. The challenge had sobered the group, maybe even scared them a little.
Dean's wallet, still opened to a fat stash of cash, lay on the table, gaping, daring. Its owner stared with glassy eyes, a Cheshire cat grin on his face as he considered each challenger with equal measure. Captain and Tenille quit shrieking, the last withered strains breaking into fragments across the quiet bar. Glasses clinked on nearby tables, and cigarette smoke hung in a misty haze. Frank idly cleaned glasses: a towel slung over one shoulder, a second shoved into a glass, his attention on them. Soon, it would be closing up time.
Sam scouted the room, reinforced in his mind where the exits were, one behind them, the other to the right, past two tables, around a third and, if necessary, a frantic vault over the fourth. Frank didn't look like a man who would shoot to kill, maybe he'd fire a warning shot over their heads, or blast the floor to get them to run faster. He looked like a non-combative kind of guy.
"Two hundred bucks says none of you can go ten days." Dean said.
"That's bullshit," Brian said. He leaned back, arms across his chest. "No-one could last that long."
"I can." Dean extracted the money, carefully counted it out but made no effort to hide the remaining cash that ballooned his wallet. Dressed in a sports jacket, cream slacks, a checkered shirt, polished shoes and his hair slicked down, he looked like a salesman who had struck it lucky, and believed his gold strike would last long enough to outsmart the locals. It was a small town, but not too small for the men to suspect that Sam and Dean were together.
Brian glanced at Sam then looked across the table to Leroy and the other three men. Looks were exchanged, silent communication shared and the atmosphere changed. No longer was there a drunken camaraderie, bets to egg each other on, wagers between newly made friends, it had become something more serious, more deadly.
Sam's fingers brushed the butt of the gun in his jacket pocket. A quiet lull fell over the bar, stony enough to put him on edge, to make his pulse ratchet up, to make him wish for Captain and Tenille's wallowing melody just to break the expectant silence.
Money lay out on the table, some of it their own, money meant to deceive, to win them enough to pay for another week on the road, for medical supplies, food, provisions so they could keep assholes like this safe. Somehow, Sam didn't think these guys would see it in quite that way.
"Let's go out there," Brian said. He nodded at Leroy who stood, swept the money off the table and onto the floor. The other men stood. None of them seemed drunk anymore, not even slightly tipsy. Brian turned to him. "You're coming with us."
"What's going on?" He flicked his gaze between them, feigning a dulled stupor while he slowly stood, stumbled on his feet, knocked the chair backwards, anything to distract and buy time.
Brian pulled Dean to his feet, steadied him and reached for his wallet as Dean fumbled to tuck it away. "No, no clucky-hands," Dean said. His words slurred. He batted at Brian and giggled. "I got it. Keep your flippers to yourself."
The men helped Dean toward the door, their progress watched by Frank. His keen interest heightened Sam's fears: had their drinks been tampered with, not by the men at their table, but by the bartender whom they had naively trusted, dismissed as being of no concern?
Sam followed along, and though they showed him little interest he knew they would not let him escape, not that he wanted to, not without Dean.
They stepped into the cold, it hit him like a blast, bit through his clothes, made him shiver despite the layers he wore. Apprehension gnawed at his guts, made him queasy and weak, like he could collapse and puke. Dean stumbled and muttered. He played a good drunk, always had, but what if he wasn't playing anymore? His brother had consumed more than he, a hell of a lot more, and though Dean could hold his liquor, if they had laced it with drugs, no way could he counter that.
Behind the bar, away from the lights and the cars, up near the woods that bordered the property, the men stopped, pushed Dean forward until he smacked into a tree and turned woodenly around. He wasn't grinning anymore, in fact he looked pissed.
Brian drew a knife (that's what he had tucked by his ankle), Leroy produced a set of knuckle dusters and the other three men bared fists. Sam let out a breath, whipped out his gun at the same time Dean did and that was that.
In the end there was no scuffle, no bloodshed, just loud curses and threats. Dean disarmed the men, tied their hands with twine from his pockets (who knew sports coats had such spacious pockets), rifled through their wallets and recouped the cash they had lost. He could have taken more, but didn't… it didn't seem right, honor among thieves and all that.
They passed Theodora's on the way out of town. The hand-painted sign by the gate made sensuous promises in cursive gold and red, ivy curls hugged the timber support post like a brunette's hair over a sun-burnished shoulder. Trees lined the avenue behind the wrought iron gates, and lights glowed dully in the double storey timber house. Not a house though, a retreat: a place of rejuvenation and restoration; of massages, loufas, men in white pants and single button down the front jackets who smiled saccharine smiles and performed colonic irrigations as though having a hose shoved up your ass was a natural thing. Sam shuddered. A place like that could emasculate a man in less time than it took for him to grow a five o'clock shadow.
"You wouldn't have lasted a week," Sam said as he accelerated out of town, and away from Theodora's modern day (and socially acceptable) house of hell.
Dean smirked as he propped his head up with one elbow. "Doesn't sound too bad. Bet the women there are hot."
"Raw food diet, no meat, no grease, and it's an all male staff."
Dean settled against the door, his head against the glass. "I'd have made it."
Sam snorted, punched the accelerator harder. "Yeah, sure you would."