Art courtesy of Jen Ferguson
This feature contains adult content intended for mature audiences
Note from author John Perrotta: This blog is the writer’s depiction of an imagined racetrack-based story, an ongoing saga, which includes some of the characters depicted in the ill-fated “Luck” series.
Cast of characters
Marcus - wheelchair-bound since falling from a tree as a child, he’s irascible but sensitive, and his world revolves around trying to pick winners at the track.
Jerry – Marcus’ best friend, a player in many senses of the word, he’s a clever horse handicapper with a weakness for Texas Hold ’Em poker and good-looking women.
Renzo - a sweet guy who’s not that great at handicapping but loves the familial relationship of a group of gamblers.
Lonnie – another good soul who has a load of self-esteem issues and deals with them by trying to be the “cool” one.
Ronnie Jenkins – a veteran jockey nearing the end of a career. He’s a former top rider and Derby winner but suffers from PTSD after a series of spills and wants one more chance with a “big” horse.
Joey Rathburn – longtime jockey agent, he has toiled in ambiguity for years and now has a shot at the gold ring.
Rosie Shanahan – the Irish import, she’s moved up from exercise girl to jockey and is proving she can hold her own with the boys.
Walter Smith – an old-school horseman, he’s come to California with his only horse to get away from bad memories in Kentucky. When the horse turns out to be a real runner, he gets more attention than he wanted.
Turo Escalante – a Peruvian misanthrope, he’s a skilled horseman with a big ego that gets tested when a talented horse with shady connections lands in his barn.
Ace Bernstein – mob-connected “businessman” who has done time for a frame-up, and now he is looking for revenge. Bernstein loves the track and has a dream of resurrecting the sport.
Gus Demitriou – Ace’s longtime driver, bodyguard and confidante. Winning a big slot jackpot fixed by Ace, he’s been the beard for the purchase of a talented Irish colt.
Mike Smythe – an evil mob guy who framed Ace and is obsessed with making his life difficult. Sometimes seems like the devil himself.
Goose – the “fifth wheel” of the Degenerates, he’s a lifetime racetracker who gambles every day and occasionally trains horses. He and Renzo bonded when they tried to claim Mon Gateau.
Bayou Bobby – the short-order cook in the Jockeys’ Room — a perennial wise guy.
Birddog – a shady jockey agent.
Chaz – Renzo’s little brother, done with a stint in rehab.
Moonbeam – Renzo’s waitress girlfriend from the diner.
Naomi – Jerry’s card-dealer girlfriend.
Kitti – one of Ronnie Jenkin’s ex-wives, she’s a former Las Vegas showgirl with a wild streak.
The modest desert hospital looks like a casting call for Men in Black IV - guys dressed in black wearing Ray Bans loiter in the hall, the lobby, the parking lot.
Gus is on his cell phone, nearly frantic.
“Yeah Harry, it’s me …
“Whatdayamean he never showed? Burbank private, yeah. The private airport. … “Holy crap, you sure as hell better find out where he is. They might wake Ace up and I don’t want to be the one to tell him we lost his grandkid.”
At the reception counter to the Executive Offices of the racetrack, two suits flash their FBI badges, one handing a slip of paper to the switchboard operator.
“I need to know who gets calls at this number,” he says.
“Just a second,” replies the operator, flustered. “That would be the Track President’s line.”
“Then that’s who we’d like to see,” snaps the other suit. “Pronto.”
The Flack trails the Old Man as he leads Gettin’ Up Morning around his walking ring.
“So you’re not taking him to the track again today?” says the Flack.
“I didn’t like the way he moved behind after that breeze,” answers Smith.
“Nothing serious, right?” says the Flack, nervous as a hen.
Goose sits on a tack trunk in Marylyn’s office.
“I can’t believe you let them put Carlos Crispino on this horse,” says Goose. “We call him the human anchor.”
“Give me a break,” she says. “You could ride this horse and he’d win. How many passes should I leave for your partners?”
“Don’t worry about it,” says Goose. “Twenty should do.”
Marylyn laughs, “I just hope the photographer has a wide-angle lens.”
One FBI agent pokes at some documents on a side table while the other questions the Track President.
“So tell me, if you don’t know Michael Smythe,” he says, “why he called this number so many times?”
Ace’s cellphone rings. The caller id reads “BLOCKED.”
“Hello?” Gus answers.
“Claire … Miss Lechea, yeah, you heard. Where you been, anyway?”
He listens for a few beats.
“Yeah, no, he’s doing great … well as can be expected. No calls right now, Doctor’s orders, but I’ll tell him you called.”
“Yeah, noisy, those airports. I’ll keep you posted.”
Joey Rathburn’s lawyer hands him a document.
“I guess your fellow agents got together and posted your bail,” he says. “Somebody named ‘Lionel Pointer’ put up the cash, five thousand.”
Rathburn eyes the receipt.
“Never heard of him,” he shrugs.
Through the glass door, Escalante can see Jo and Eduardo as his attorney hands him a document.
“They’re releasing you. The fingerprints matched those of Mulligan’s groom, the one he fired last week. Last seen heading for Mexico City,” he says.
“Your wife posted bond, pending your appearances for the unregistered gun.”
“What a surprise,” says Escalante. “But, anyway, she’s not my wife.”
Out of Luck Blog Archive
The Old Man and Anna, the reporter, are camped at a corner table, sharing lunch in the track kitchen.
“So many years, isn’t it too late to be bringing this up again, dredging through the mud?” says the trainer.
“Don’t you want the truth to come out?” she asks.
“Of course I do,” he snaps, “just getting tired of carrying it around.”
“I tried to get Luther for his version of what happened that night,” she says.
“Slight problem … he’s dead.”
“Oh my,” says Smith.
“But there’s no statute of limitations on fraud” she says. “Or murder.”
Renzo’s mom smiles at the young doctor across the desk, fiddling with her hair as he makes notes.
“No, I’m fine, no aches or pains at all,” she says. “Most people do think I look much younger than my actual age.”
The doctor tries to prompt her.
“Sleep problems?” he asks.
“Sleeping like a baby,” she replies.
“Gimme something here, lady. You must have some complaint,” he says. “Hot flashes, lightheadedness? Anything?”
“I ran into George Hamilton at the gelato place last night and had a palpitation,” she says.
“Good enough for me,” he says, stamping her application.
At the entrance to the jockey’s room, a technician hands Ronnie Jenkins a straw, points to the breathalyzer,
“Your turn to blow, big boy,” he says.
Marcus scrawls numbers on the motel note pad, hands it to Renzo, who’s waiting with Lonnie and Chaz.
“Try not to screw this up,” he says.
“If you do, make sure you win more money,” laughs Jerry from the other room.
“Fat chance,” snaps Marcus. “Just don’t get robbed.”
“I could fix this up, make it wireless for you,” says Lonnie, pointing to Marcus’ new computer monitors.
“Sure you can’t come, Marcus?” asks Renzo. “You haven’t missed one of Mon Gateau’s races yet. And Goose’s horse is running too!”
Renzo smiles, “I’m hoping to get my brother in the winner’s circle.”
“I’ll watch ’em both right here,’’ says Marcus,
“I don’t dare leave his highness alone yet. He might fall out of bed again.”
Renzo’s counting the cash in his manila envelope.
“I could have sworn I had more than this,” he says.
Rathburn’s at the door to the Jock’s Room.
“I’d like to see Rosie and Ronnie, please,” he says to the Security Guard.
“Ronnie came up positive, he’s going home,” says the Guard, “smells like a gin mill. I’ll get Rosie for you.”
“Positive for alcohol?” says Joey. “That’s impossible, he’s in AA.”
TO BE CONTINUED:
© 2013 John R. Perrotta