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Man Down, Ante Up

“Where are you going? Come back here! Hey!”

What a chump he was. Phil had paid fifty bucks to be stripped naked, tied to the bedposts, and—nothing!

How was he going to get himself untied?

Then he heard the front door open. Sure—she’d probably gone out to her car for some equipment. A whip or something. He’d never tried that, but he was certainly open to experimentation. “Where did you go, Honey? I missed you.”

He watched the doorway for his sexy, young hooker. But instead, his business partner appeared.

“Ed. What the hell are you doing here?”

Ed grinned. “Having a little fun, Phil?”

“I don’t want you here tonight.”

“I can see that.” Ed continued to grin at Phil as he studied his old buddy’s out of shape body.

“What are you looking at? You’re fatter than me!”

“Why did you do it, Phil? I trusted you.”

“What are you talking about? What did I do? Steal your hooker?”

“I don’t need hookers, Phil.”

“Of course not. You’ve got a gorgeous young bride—half your age.”

“Yes, I do.”

“But when’s the last time you—”

“—shut up, Phil. Just shut your stinking mouth!”

“The truth hurts, don’t it?”

“You stole from me, Phil. You’ve been robbing me blind.”

“What?!”

“Don’t deny it, man. You’ve been cooking the books. Did you think I’d never notice?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Just this year alone you’ve stolen $40,000.”

“What!? Are you out of your mind, Ed? Look around. Does it look like I’ve got any extra money?”

“Probably spent it on gambling—or hookers.”

“You know I don’t gamble. And I’ve never hired a hooker before. Not until tonight. In fact, she approached me—at the bar. Wait—that was you, wasn’t it? You paid her to set me up—to come here and tie me up like this.”

“And you fell for it, you idiot.” Ed chuckled.

“Fine. I’m an idiot. But I didn’t steal any money. I would never do that.”

“Right, Phil. I believe you,” he said facetiously.

“Have you talked to your dear wife about this?”

“Oh, so now you’re gonna try to shift the blame to Rachel? How dare you!”

“Did you even ask her about it?”

“No. Of course not.”

“Why not? She’s the bookkeeper. It would be easy for her to manipulate the numbers.”

“If you say another word about Rachel—”

“—what? You’re gonna kill me?”

Ed stared at him, but didn’t speak a word. This made Phil nervous.

Finally, Ed said, “You need to take better care of your yard, Phil.”

Phil was confused by the sudden change of subject.

“Fire ants are overtaking your entire yard. They’ve built a huge mound against your bedroom wall. Right about there,” he said, pointing.

“So?”

“Fire ants can be deadly, Phil. Did you know that?”

“I know it hurts when they sting you.” He would play along with Ed’s crazy line of thought. Hopefully, Ed would get bored after a while, and untie him.

“Yeah. Did you know that when a calf is born, if a fire ant stings him while he’s on the ground and he doesn’t get up right away, he could be a goner?”

“You’re kidding.”

“No. I read about it. When that one fire ant stings the calf, it gives off pheromones that attract the rest of the colony. In no time at all, the calf is completely covered with ants. And those hundreds of stings eventually overpower the poor animal’s immune system.”

“You read too much, Ed. Now, untie me.”

“Fire ants are very resourceful, Phil. Did you know that if it floods, the ants band together to form a raft?”

“You’re making this stuff up.”

“No. It’s true. And the raft carries the queen ant to safety. It’s amazing.”

“Yeah, Ed. Amazing. Now, come on.”

“You know, I’ll bet that colony of ants right there outside this wall could easily make its way inside if it had a good reason.” He walked out of the room.

“Where are you going? Come on, Ed, you’ve had your fun. Untie me.”

Ed walked back in, carrying a five-gallon bucket. He removed the lid and began to sprinkle its contents near the wall. “What we need is a nice little trail.”

“What is that?” Phil was afraid to hear the answer.

“Why, it’s fire ants, of course,” he said with delight, as he continued to create a trail of dirt and fire ants across the floor and onto the bed.

“Stop it! Stop it, Ed! Okay, okay! I’ll admit to whatever you want! Yes, I stole the money! It was me—so call the police!”

“Too late for that, Phil.” He poured the remainder of the dirt and ants on top of Phil’s bare crotch.

“No! No!” Phil began to thrust his midsection up and down, sending much of the dirt into the air.

Ed jumped back to avoid the airborne ants. “It’s no use, Phil.”

“Please! Ouch! They’re biting me! Please cut me loose!”

Ed calmly put the lid back on the top of the bucket and walked out of the room with it, as his former friend began to scream. There were no other homes close by. Nobody would hear.

He walked out of the house and down the sidewalk toward his car. Would he get away with it? Probably. The small town sheriff was a good friend. And Phil had no family.

Ed’s only contact with the hooker had been via throwaway cell phone and two hundred in cash, left in Phil’s mailbox.

Ed smiled. It had been so easy.

The one thing he had not anticipated was the bullet. The one that caught his left temple.

Ed fell to the ground, bleeding. But he didn’t die immediately. He lay paralyzed, head resting on a large mound of soft dirt.

No, he thought. It couldn’t be. Please, no!

An angry fire ant stung his lip. The pain was excruciating. But worse than that was the realization that hundreds, if not thousands, of ants would soon attack his nose, his eyelids, his ears—everything!

And as he died in agony, he understood. His old buddy had not betrayed him.

Rachel! How could you?!

THE END

Copyright © 2009 Robert Burton Robinson

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