Gnarly Bandit: Searching for the King of Cool

FedoraThe Gnarly Bandit considered the curious amalgam of rough-necks, goons and thieves that passed for clientele in this well-aged watering hole. Back home, they would have been at each other’s throats. Here, they conducted themselves as gentlemen; like siblings home for Christmas, quelling their differences, if only to smile simultaneously (and momentarily) for the family picture. It was a détente the patrons accepted for Bandit-Con, the leading conference and trade show for those of villainous intent.

Truth be told, the Bandit was rethinking his decision to act as the title sponsor. The morning seminar – “The 21st Century Stagecoach: Identity Theft Made Easy” – had not gone well. Half the time had been spent explaining to these Neanderthals how to turn their computers on – and digging Buffalo Nickels out of SD card slots. That problem solved, the crowd had quickly drifted to browsing John Wayne clips on YouTube. The final straw had been when Big Bert had discovered a video, “Twerking: A 30-Second Lesson”. The Bandit rubbed his eyes again; the vision of Bert shaking his moneymaker was a sight that just couldn’t be un-seen – not even after a full fifth of bourbon. The Bearded One sighed.

The bartender paused from cleaning glasses, working his way to the old phonograph sitting in the corner. Blowing off the dust, he set a disk in motion, and lowered the needle down onto the grooves. Between the hiss and pop of well-worn vinyl, a rhythmic mambo beat drifted across the room… and Dean Martin slipped in seamlessly, singing “Sway”.

“When marimba rhythms start to play, Dance with me, make me sway…
Like a lazy ocean hugs the shore, Hold me close, sway me more…”

“Ah, Dean-o.” thought the Gnarly One, “That’ll calm the nerves.” They had hung out together, back in those Rat Pack days. The King of Cool, he was. GB was convinced that had the gent entered an ultramarathon, Martin would have somehow emerged out the other end with his bow tie straight, holding a low-ball with ice cubes still intact. He was unflappable, and he knew good Scotch.

“Like a flower bending in the breeze, Bend with me, sway with ease…”

The Bandit let his mind drift, watching the disk as it revolved on the record player, a slight warp causing the needle to bob like a boat on the ocean.

Round and round, up and down.
Round and round, up and down.

The motion reminded him of something – but what was it?

Round and round, up and down.
Round and round, up and down.

Somewhere in the back of his brain, the tumblers of a slot machine fell into alignment. A sense of urgency came over him; there was someplace he needed to be – and a smile deepened the lines of that leathery face.

“Zumbro”, he grunted, “Of course.” The wiry man rose and strode purposefully toward the saloon doorway. He’d leave the afternoon sessions to be run by the politicians he had recruited. They had practically fallen over themselves to get here when GB told them they’d be talking to an underserved population of swing voters. Besides, he conceded they were better at separating “donors” from their money than he was.

The Grizzled One tossed a coin on the oaken bar as he passed by. “Keep the change”, he said, tipping his hat. The bartender watched the coin spin on its edge, then settle on the polished surface. Gold. Solid gold. The swinging doors creaked open, then shut. Meanwhile, Dean Martin crooned into another classic.

“Like the fella once said… Ain’t that a kick in the head?”

Oh, thought the Gnarly Bandit. It certainly will be…

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