The Deuce – Chapter 4

“That was a good night,” Bishop said.

Elena leaned back in her chair and sloughed the jacket from her shoulders. All she could think about was the way that Bishop had just complimented the night. He could have mentioned how she had just worked her ass off. He could have focused on the thousands of accurate observations and guesses that she had just pulled off. Maybe one or two people had walked out unsatisfied. The rest were mystified by her abilities—at least they should have been. Not one of them had mentioned Vadoma at all, and all Bishop could talk about was how good the night was.

“I got pretty good at picking up on the marks in the line, too,” Bishop said.

He had, actually. Bishop had even gotten pretty good at pressing his ear to the peephole so that while she was reading one patron, he was gathering intelligence on the next person in line. More than once, he had closed the door and given her a name or a tip on what the next person was looking for. That information made her job really simple. There’s was no way that she was actually going to praise him though. He might deserve credit, but he wasn’t going to get it from her.

“I just want to get this makeup off and sleep,” she said.

“After the fire, though.”

She had forgotten about the fire. According to Bishop, there was a gathering every night, but it was particularly important on opening and closing nights.

“I don’t have the energy. You go.”

He was shaking his head and crossing towards her. She shrank back from his touch and he settled for taking a chair next to her.

“Elena, we can’t. I know you don’t want to buy into this whole carnival culture thing, but there are a couple of mandatory things. Tonight’s fire is one of them.”

“I have full confidence that you will represent us well.”

He was shaking his head again. “It doesn’t work like that. I’m just a hammer slinger. You’re running a wagon. We’re not even in the same ballpark, you know? Once Vadoma quit, that put you in the upper class.”

It was maybe the nicest thing he had said to her in a week, but it felt like a curse. It was another burden that she was going to have to bear because she had let him drag her into this silly fantasy of running away with the carnival. 

“Forget it,” Elena said. She turned away from him, getting up and stretching as she shed more of her mysterious silks. Underneath layers of material, she had been sweating all night. The showers behind the grandstand only put out a lukewarm trickle of water, but she was going to stand in them until all the sweat and salt were scrubbed from her weary body.

“You want to die?” he asked. His voice had dropped to a cold, unfriendly tone.

Elena squared her shoulders with him.

“Pardon me?” 

“Because that’s what’s going to happen if we get kicked out of here, Elena. You’re not taking this seriously. Can you think of a better way to hide out with no money and no credit while we put some distance between us and that trouble? This is the one place where we can duck under the radar long enough to avoid those guys from Jamesport. You want to put that at risk because you’re feeling a little tired?”

She sighed. He was regurgitating some of her own arguments to use against her. 

“You have to make everything so difficult,” she said. He turned every tiny thing into a life-or-death situation.

“This is difficult for you? I’m in a situation where my very survival depends on someone who seems perfectly ambivalent. Can you just think about someone other than yourself for once?” he asked.

Elena was too furious to respond.

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