Ed Cleans Up
Ed dialed the next number on the list.
"Hello?" answered a male voice.
"Why good day, sir, this is Brian Walters from G and K Investments Limited. I'm calling you today to tell you about..."
Ed dialed the next number on the list. He slicked back his thick dark hair and cleared his throat. His Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed. This was going to be a live one; he had a sense about these things. He moistened his lips and prepared to deliver his spiel.
"Hello?" It was an older man, Ed guessed 50-ish, with a quick professional tone.
"Good morning, sir. My name is Brian Walters and I'm calling today to tell you about a fascinating investment opportunity that's just come across my desk here at G and K investments. We're the lead brokers on a brand new IPO issue, and are offering savvy investors such as yourself the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of this exciting company." Ed paused to let it sink in. "Would you be interested in doubling your money in the next month, sir?"
"Well, that certainly sounds interesting..."
Ed closed the sale — his third so far, and it wasn't even noon. Today was going to be a banner day.
The next number gave him a simple "Yes?"
About to launch into his sales pitch, he inadvertently inhaled his own spittle. He cleared his throat, embarrassed, but the female voice continued. "May I help you dear?"
The hair on the back of Ed's neck started tingling. The voice was old, dignified, and slightly cracked, quavering a little. "Umm... oh gosh, sorry ma'am, wrong number."
"Ok, that's fine dear. Bye bye now."
Ed put down his headset, shaking his head.
"Wrong number? How the hell does that work?" came from behind. Raul, his skeletal coke-head boss, was as likely to give him a compliment as he was to chew him out or slap him upside the head. "What did you do, like, dial 911 or something?"
Ed spun around and extended his middle finger. "No, your wife, jackass. I accidentally speed-dialed mistress instead of next call."
Raul's eyes sparkled as he guffawed. "Hey, I got some action on the Lakers, you want in?"
"Yeah sure, what the hell. Put me down for five large."
It was half past seven when Ed plopped himself down on the barstool at Charlie's Flying Pig. Molly was tending bar. She was one of the main reasons Ed had been coming to the Pig this last year. Today she wore a tight, royal purple vest with white frill edging, giving prominence to high, firm breasts. Her flaming red hair was loosely arranged around her neck and shoulders, stopping just short of her bare elbows. A green jade pendant with a mostly-hidden pentacle offset her gentle brown eyes.
"Here's your Jack." She placed a double shot of Jack Daniels on the dark stained wood of the bar. "Good day today?"
"Yeah, not too bad. Closed seven sales, and got a bonus on one of them. How about you?"
"Ah, well, you know. Not too bad, really."
Ed looked deep into her eyes, and caught a glimpse of an inner melancholy before she could look away. "Oh Molly, what's wrong?" His face softened. "Is it your dad?" Ed's dad died when he was just fifteen, leaving a crater where his family had been.
Molly straightened, and her hair seemed to take on a fiercer shade of red. "It's those insurance bastards!" she blurted. "They're refusing to pay for his treatments."
Ed patted her hands. "Poor you. Left all alone to sort through this mess." He gave a sad little smile. "Anything I can do to help?"
"Nah," she sniffled. "I'm going to call his other good-for-nothing children and get them to help." She brightened. "But thanks for offering, it means a lot."
Ed smiled back at her. "Any time, Molly, any time. Hey, could I get another round next time you come by? I'll be right back."
As Ed pushed on the door to the men's, he was suddenly subjected to a powerful force that shoved him into the wall. A deep, heavily accented booming voice said, "Ah, it is my very good friend, Mister Ed. How are you today?" It was Boris. Ed knew why Boris was here — there's only one reason why Boris visits.
"Uh, heh heh, hi Boris, uh... I don't have it yet." Ed braced himself.
"Now, Mister Ed. I'm very disappointed. You understand money was loan, yes? Not gift?" With that, Boris broke Ed's favourite finger. Ed was pretty sure that everyone in the bar heard his scream.
"This is warning. I come back tomorrow for money, yes? You add five more interest." Boris left the bar to spread his form of joy elsewhere.
Molly came running. "Ed, dear, are you hurt? Let me see."
Ten minutes, an icepack, and two double shots later, the pain had subsided to an almost bearable throbbing. Molly's homemade splint definitely helped.
As he was leaving later that evening, Molly handed him a lottery ticket. "Here, this is from me. For being so brave. Good luck." With a wink, she added, "maybe we can run away from all this."
Ed found himself another ice pack when he got home. He smelled the lottery ticket, her perfume lingering on it. What a sweetheart, he thought. If only he were worthy of her. Ed looked at the ticket. 6, 12, 21, 27, 34 and 41 were the "lucky" numbers the quick-pick selected. His drunken mind tried to sell him a story that the numbers were actually some kind of secret code. He peered through the fog at the first three - 6, 12, 21 - and thought, hey, that could be 2006, December 21, which was his 27th birthday, and 27 was the fourth number, but what did the other numbers mean? Two minutes into the code breaking exercise he was sound asleep.
The next morning found him nursing a massive hangover, and a finger that was still broken. He had almost forgotten, but the splint reminded him, as did the sharp, white-hot bolt of pain when he tried to move it. The radio was giving out the numbers for last night's draw. Ed ignored it, except for a 17, which stuck in his mind because he was in apartment 17. The other numbers seemed vaguely familiar, though. He had one of his feelings, like calling a mark who's going to "invest." But a quick glance at his ticket showed there was no 17. He shrugged, and recycled the ticket.
Even after a shower and a shave, however, the feeling nagged at him. Ed sighed, and fished the ticket out of the recycle box. He popped downstairs and bought today's Spectator. He stared at the numbers. He stared at his ticket. And back to the newspaper. And back to his ticket. The Spectator claimed 6, 12, 17, 21, 34, 41 were the winning numbers, and 27 was the bonus number. Ed had just won the second prize. The heady excitement, exacerbated by his dehydrated state, made him worry that he was about to pass out.
Back in his apartment, he checked the ticket again. And one more time to be sure. Ed Jenkins was now worth $302,114. Less the $85k he owed Boris's boss.
Over the course of the morning, his hangover and broken finger almost completely forgotten, a plan began to take shape.
Back at the Pig, Ed seated himself at the bar, looking over the pub.
"So, what'll you have, mate?" asked the bartender.
Ed spun around on his barstool. "Oh... uh, hi, I'm actually looking for Molly...?"
The bartender gave a sneer. "She's off sick today, gave me 15 minutes bloody notice, she did."
Ed knew approximately where Molly lived. He'd seen her on her corner balcony, and she'd seen him, and they had waved to each other. He turned down Hunter Street to the corner of Wellington, and looked up at the slate gray monolith, one of many dung-mushroom apartment buildings. Yes, that was it. Molly's apartment had a colourful green, white and orange flag in her window, betraying her heritage.
An elderly couple went in, and he preceded them, ostensibly to hold the door for them. He pushed the button for the fourth floor, and found her apartment. 434. Just like the 34 in the lottery ticket, he thought idly.
As he approached her apartment, he heard a male voice from within: "... move in with me."
Molly replied, "Yes, that's an excellent idea. You have such a spectacular view, and the gardens..."
Ed went white, and felt an overwhelming urge to be sick.
At the Silver Dollar Exotic Club, Ed was into his sixth Jack Daniels when a large man stood up in front of him, blocking his view of the floor show. "Hey, asshole, down in front!" slurred Ed.
The large man turned around, looking for the heckler. Panic seized Ed when he realized it was none other than Boris.
"Look who call me asshole. I thought we very good friends." Boris pasted on a massive grin as he grabbed Ed by the scruff of the neck. "You have money now?" he breathed into Ed's face.
Ed's broken finger started throbbing. As if cued by this, Boris reached out to Ed's good hand, and said, "No? Ok, I break now another finger."
The lottery ticket was burning a hole in his silver cigarette case, a Christmas exchange gift from Molly. Just give Boris the damn ticket, his finger was screaming, but to no avail — it snapped like a twig under the Russian's effortless pressure. This time, Ed passed out from the pain.
"Hey, look, stupid drunk man pass out. Ha, ha, ha," laughed Boris, and gave Ed a kick to move him out of the way of the bare-chested serving wenches.
Bleary eyed, disheveled, and now sporting two broken fingers, Ed came to in the Dollar's alleyway. He brushed himself off, and started to meander home. Turning the corner brought him back to Wellington.
Molly spied Ed from across the street. "Ed!" she yelled, giving a little wave.
Ed looked at her, and a wave of apprehension welled up inside of him.
Molly crossed the street. "What happened to you? Oh no, let me guess, it was Boris again, wasn't it? Oh you poor dear, let me take care of you."
Ed backed away from her, raising his arm accusingly. "I looked for you..." and then trailed off.
"Oh yes, Danny at the bar said someone was looking for me. My brother was in town, so I took a sick day. Come, let's get you fixed up." With that she grabbed Ed under the arm and started escorting him to her apartment.
Ed's addled mind was racing. "But... who are you moving in with?"
"I was at your place..." It was all starting to make sense. "Are you moving in with your brother, then? You said he had great gardens or something..."
Molly froze. She squinted her eyes and gave Ed a hard look. "And just what were you doing at my apartment, Mr. Jenkins, exactly?"
Ed looked at her, mouth open. She was a beautiful goddess, even when mad. Maybe more so. He stammered, "I, we..." Ed swallowed, " ... won the lottery and I..."
Molly's eyes grew wide as he talked.
"And well, you said we could..." Ed straightened himself, gathering his wits with a deep breath, and then said, "Molly, will you run away with me?"
Molly's face flushed. The widest little-girl smile Ed had ever seen blossomed on her face. "Oh Ed, yes, of course I will!" Molly hugged Ed, almost cracking a rib. "But let's get you cleaned up first, then, shall we?"