Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Dynamite Dukes" by Anonymous

Dynamite Dukes

Johnny Pastor danced around the ring and came back to tap Turk Brandt on the shoulder. Brandt rolled the blow.

"We're sparring now, Turk," Johnny gritted. "Like we use to at the Y, but it's only so I can talk to you. Pretty soon I'm going to batter you to a pulp, because I hate you for what you did to me."

Brandt ducked a stiff jab to the face. "Don't gripe, jailbird!" he snarled.

"I've got honest beef," Johnny snapped. "It doesn't matter that this is a state amateur championship."

Johnny sent a stiff right to Turk Brandt's middle. Turk swore under his breath. Johnny landed a left and right to Turk's head. As Turk reeled back, Johnny said: "Marcia Reed's rooting for you from the ringside. Too bad you're going to lose."

Turk rushed Johnny to the ropes. "Shut up and fight," he snarled. "If you're not yellow."

Johnny weaved away. "Because I was only a kid out of high school, driving for Excelsior Express and slated for traffic manager, you routed me off trail, where a load was stolen from my truck by a gang of hijackers. Then you lied about it and planted a wad of dough in my pocket."

The first round ended. Mike Tinan, Johnny's manager, said, "You look good, kid."

In the second, Johnny sprang to meet Brandt, landed a right that sent his head back, then a left that doubled him up and again a right uppercut. Brandt was dazed.

"Only a sample," Johnny said quietly. "Six month in the clink is behind these punches."

Johnny danced away and came back again. "You got the job, didn't you? And you hooked Marcia with your fast line. She doesn't like jailbirds."

Brandt was breathing hard. He kept grimly silent.

"Wait for the third round," Johnny whispered. "I'm keeping a promise."

Brandt came out fast in the third and landed a hard right to the jaw. But Johnny laughed and countered with a right and a left and another right to the midriff and an uppercut that sent Brandt to the ropes. Brandt worked out of it, but Johnny came in with rights and lefts again and Brandt went into a clinch. The referee broke them apart and Johnny landed a hard right to the jaw. Brandt's knees sagged. He sank to the canvas.

"...Seven, eight, nine," the referee counted. The bell rang and Brandt was saved.

Lightning struck Johnny in the fourth. Brandt's right landed like a pile driver against Johnny's mouth. As the canvas rushed up to meet him he had the presence of mind to spit out a tooth before all became black.

Mike Tinan handed Johnny the tooth he had lost. Johnny put it in his shirt pocket. "Drive you home?" Mike offered.

"I'll walk," Johnny replied. "I want to think."

The corridor led Johnny past Brandt's dressing room. Over the excited voices came the bellowing of Bat Rath, Turk's second. "I thought he'd kayo you before I could load your gloves!"

"Shut up," Turk barked. "These walls are thin. And get out, all of you."

Johnny eased into an empty dressing room and waited until Brandt was alone. Then he pushed open Brandt's door.

"I expected you," Brandt said calmly, leveling a small automatic. "You've got a record and even murder would pass for self defense."

Johnny sprang forward. The gun barked and he felt a thud at his ribs. But he closed in, knocking the gun across the room. Turk went down and Johnny's fingers found Brandt's throat.

"Admit it!" Johnny yelled. "Admit that you tricked me into a prison stretch and that you fought tonight with loaded gloves!"

As Johnny's grip relaxed, Brandt coughed out: "Okay, but let's see you prove it!"

Johnny turned. Standing silently in the doorway were Marcia Reed and Mike Tinan.

Johnny walked slowly down the corridor with his arm hooked in Marcia's. Suddenly Johnny stopped short. "Hey, I should be dead!" he exclaimed.

"Dead!" Marcia whitened. "Did Turk—?"

Johnny reached for his heart, then into his shirt pocket, drew out two pieces of tooth. He shook his head wonderingly.

"That was one tooth before Brandt fired," he mused. "Now there's two pieces. It deflected the bullet!"

They walked on silently for a few steps before Johnny spoke again. "Know a good dentist, Marcia? A guy can't expect a girl to go out with him if he's got a front tooth missing."

Marcia was smiling. "Let's go out first and worry about the dentist later, Johnny!"