Jake sat at the bar nursing a bottle of Sam Adams. Ronnie slid onto a stool next to him.
“You got that hundred bucks you owe me?” Jake asked, without turning his head.
Ronnie patted his pal on the back. “I got something better, Jake.”
“What’s better than my hundred bucks?”
Ronnie signaled to Carlos, who at first pretended not to see, then took his time sauntering over. “Can I do something for you, Ronnie?” the bartender asked, all innocence.
Ronnie pointed at Jake’s beer. “You can bring me one of those.”
Carlos lifted the bottle. “Let me get this straight. You want me to bring you an empty beer bottle?”
“Quit horsing around, Carlos. I’ll pay you what I owe, real soon.”
Carlos shrugged and walked away, but eventually returned with a bottle of Sam Adams dripping wet from the cooler.
“You ain’t answered my question,” Jake reminded his friend. “What’s better than the hundred bucks you owe me?”
Ronnie took a long swig from the bottle. Wiping his lips with his sleeve, he replied: “A job.”
Jake frowned. “What kind of job?”
“The kind that will rake in a lot more than a measly hundred bucks.”
“If a hundred bucks is so measly, how come you ain’t paid me back yet?”
“You’ll get the hundred soon as we pull this off.”
“Whoa. We? What exactly is it we’re pulling off?”
“You noticed the price of lobsters lately, Jake? Way outa sight.”
“Don’t change the subject.”
“Lobsters is the subject.” Even though they were the two lone customers in the tavern, and Carlos stood at the far end of the bar, watering down the whiskey, Ronnie leaned into Jake’s ear and whispered: “I know where there’s three hundred, maybe four hundred, live lobsters ready for the plucking.”
“You referring to the lobster pound over to Bryant’s Point? You must be nuts. Security there is tight as a bull’s ass. You ain’t spent enough time at the county jail? You in a hurry to go back?”
“That ain’t the pound I’m thinking of. The pound I’m thinking of is unofficial.”
Jake hollered to Carlos for two more brews. Ronnie took this as a good sign. It wasn’t often his friend treated him to a round. After Carlos brought the beers and left, Jake said, “Okay, Ronnie, down to brass tacks. Just what is it you have in mind?”
“You know Joe the Rat?”
“Yeah, I know Joe. How’s he come into the picture?”
“Joe can’t hold his liquor. Couple days ago I was at Rosie’s having a pizza, when who do I hear in the next booth? Joe the Rat, drunk—bragging to some bimbo.”
Jake drummed his fingers on the bar. “Cut to the core, Ronnie.”
“Okay, Jake, don’t flip your lily pad.” Ronnie lubricated his throat before continuing. “Joe’s working for some guys outa Rhode Island. They have this gig going, taking lobsters illegally up and down the coast and stashing ’em, to sell later on the black market. Neat, huh?”
“Seems like a lotta unnecessary risk, just to make chump change. Why don’t they just get a lobster license?”
“You don’t understand, Jake. Licenses cost big bucks. And these guys don’t abide by the rules. Lobsters have to be a certain size, else they ain’t legal. And a big no no is taking females with roe. These guys don’t give a skunk’s butt ’bout size or gender or Roe vs. Wade. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. They also steal from other guys’ pots.”
“They’re stealing cooked lobsters?”
“What gives you that notion? ’Course they ain’t cooked.”
“You said pots.”
“Pots is the cages you catch lobsters in. You know, on the ocean floor.”
“Ain’t they called traps?”
“In Southern New England they’re pots. In Northern New England they’re traps.” Ronnie hesitated. “Or maybe it’s the other way around.”
“What’re they called in Canada?”
“How the hell would I know? What difference does it make?”
“You’re the one brought the subject up.” Jake polished off the second Sam. “Where do we fit into the scheme of things?” he asked, after signaling to Carlos for another round.