The previous day, November 12, 1954, had been his 26th birthday and now he was staring at the ceiling in the Marbol Hotel. His name was Billy Lancing.
An old man’s body had been hauled from that same room three days before, but Billy didn’t know that. The graying sheets had been flipped, and air freshener had been sprayed.
Billy was a half-breed, but that term’s misleading because he wasn’t a 50-50 split. He was mostly white, but black genes showed in his full mouth and nose, the twist of his hair — like Malcolm X who found fame a few years later.
Two redheaded negroes, Billy and Malcolm.
Billy’s mama was an octoroon hooker in San Sebastian, but he didn’t mess with her anymore. He had, as he liked to think of it, gone straight, earned his own way. He was whale of a pool shark.
A couple years back he had such a fat wad from playing pool that he enrolled in college, but college was not for Billy. After a semester, he lost interest, plus he married a coed and spawned a child.
A classroom at 8 a.m. couldn’t compete with a pool hall at midnight, so he dropped out and found a job managing a 24-hour bowling alley that included pool tables. That’s where the trouble started.
A slicker shark, a fat man from Los Angeles, appeared one night with two young dim-eyed hoods with broken noses, and put Billy in the poorhouse.
Blame it on ego. Blame it on stupidity. Billy should have known better than to go so far, but he had a reputation to protect.
He played until he was broke, not even one buck in the secret lining of his suit. You wouldn’t believe how that fat man played pool, how the balls adored and followed him. Those slave balls couldn’t say no to the fat man.
As with college before, Billy was fed up with family life, so he used being broke as an excuse to run, and now he was alone in the Marbol Hotel with a fresh wad of money from a fake check he’d cashed at a package store the previous day.
Billy Lancing had never committed a bona fide crime before, and it scared him, that check scam. He had never been in jail, but this initial sin eventually led to his stabbing in San Quentin, killed by a black-headed homosexual negro with a colossal attitude and a throbbing lust.
If only Billy had stuck with the coed and his kid.
Lying on his bed in the Marbol Hotel, of course, he did not know that his life would be short and useless. But right now he wanted a woman.
He’d been dry too long. He was hungry for skin.
* * * *
He found her in the hotel lobby. She looked so young, but she said she was 18, and Billy wanted to buy that. She was inexpensive, and she loved to talk.
Her name was Kristanabel.
She related a crazy story about killing her parents, that the cops had nabbed her but lacked the hard evidence to nail her, so she was released the previous week in Mintablisko.
Kristanabel told this story as they sprawled on the bed with Chesterfields and marginal gin, and it made Billy nervous. He glanced toward her small sequined purse on the bureau and wondered if it hid something that would scare a pool shark who had just turned 26.
* * * *
There was a pounding. Police! Open the door! Billy jumped up and pulled on his pants. Kristanabel dove beneath the sheets. Two hard men with plainclothes and steel badges entered.
Billy never learned how they found him at the Marbol Hotel. He was tried and convicted of passing a bad check and soiling the morals of a child.
Billy went to San Quentin and his death while Kristanabel landed in the foster home of Mr. and Mrs. Myron Blade and their two normal children.
Kristanabel saw how Myron looked at her, and she knew it would work to her advantage. She remained on the shy side of 16.
(Note: This is an imaginary chapter, something that might have been but wasn’t, in the wonderful novel by the late Don Carpenter titled Hard Rain Falling. We will encounter Billy no more. But Kristanabel? Perhaps.)
* * * *
(One of a series titled The Marbol Hotel.)