Gamble on Blood Beach
by Kim Schuelke
Sweat drenched the dark curls on Vic’s forehead. Vinny threw him, again, against the cragged old bricks of the alleyway building. His snub nosed nostrils flared as his stomach soured. Heart racing, he gasped for a breath of air.
“Vinny!” Vic hissed, “Listen to me! Just listen! I know how much I owe you and I know it’s a lot of money!” “But-,” he paused for a breath, “ I-have-it.” He continued more slowly. “I just need today to get it cleared through my bank.”
The sharp tip of Vinny’s assault knife moved from the corner of Vic’s mouth out to his ear. “Yeah. Ya’ better. Or I’m gonna’ give ya’ a permanent grin.” Vinny moved his knife down to Vic’s groin. “And maybe a lil’ surgery, too.” Vinny’s cackle filled Vic’s ears as he felt a trickle of blood run from his mouth down to his chin.
“Okay, okay. Listen. It’ll be cleared by close of business today. I can have it for you by 5:00.
“Right. Tonight. 6:00. Blood Beach.”
“Blood Beach?” Vic said, “Why so far out?”
“I like quiet for my surgeries.” Vinny said. His icy eyes glared at Vic’s, now globules of dread. Vic forced himself to close his mouth and swallow. Vinny jeered, as he poked his MAK-76 into Vic’s puffy cheek. Then he pulled the knife out and strode away. Over his shoulder, he called to Vic, “Hey. Go into the cave there. I’ll be waitin’.”
Vic sank back against the fender of an abandoned Olds. A streak of rust, weary of trying to hold together, collapsed. Vic thrust out a hand to catch his balance and cut himself. “Sure. Now I’ll get tetanus,” he mumbled. His heart was still racing. He concentrated on slowing his breath, getting a grip on his shaken nerves. How was he going to wriggle out of this mess?
Several hours later, Vic knew it was now or never. If he didn’t leave now, he’d be late. If he was late, he’d be dead. He stuffed the $2500 into his wallet. It was far short of what he owed Vinnie, but it was all he’d been able to win at the tables today. Maybe it would buy him a little more time. If he could just fake Vinny out for one more day, maybe he could get lucky at the tables tomorrow. It was his only chance. Every gambler in town knew how vicious Vinny was.
As his dilapidated Ford sputtered to a halt at the edge of Blood Beach, Vic felt his stomach sour again. With sweaty hands, he left his door hang open for a quick escape. Approaching the cave entrance, Vic kept a constant check for signs of Vinny.
He had never been in the cave before, nor had anyone he knew. Everyone had heard the rumors, though. Local gossip said that whole skeletons littered the floor of the cave. Were they people Vinny had “operated” on? Vic shuddered and peered inside. He took a hesitant step into the mouth of the cave. He saw nothing in the pale light. With another step, he realized that he was standing on a sandy, sloping shelf.
“Help,” a voice demanded. Vic stiffened. It sounded like Vinny’s voice. Was this some kind of a setup? “Help,” the voice called again. Vic peered into the growing darkness. Below him, he saw Vinny, buried in the sand up to his shoulders. He started down the slope, then hesitated. What was that pungent stink? “I’m stuck!” Vinny called out.
In the semi-darkness, Vic could barely recognize Vinny’s form, arms thrashing in the darkness. Just then a dark wave swept through the cave. Bats! Thousands of them! Urine and feces sprayed through the air. A pungent reek of ammonia filled Vic’s nostrils.
He gagged and hunched down to cover himself. One hand brushed against the floor of the cave. In a flash, he understood. It wasn’t sand covering the cave floor. He was hunched down on a quicksand mat of guano!
Startled, he realized that the loud flapping of bat wings was gone. Slowly, he uncurled himself and stood up. In the darkness, he could hear Vinny choking. Then, everything was quiet.