Rifles for Halftrack
Tudo Street isn’t far from the Presidential Palace but to far to walk on a steaming hot day.
I hadn’t known that DB and Virgil had told Halftrack of their plans but when we arrived t the New Yak Bar it was clear they had. What was his role in all of this? What was his role in anything? It wasn’t clear to me then. It isn’t clear to me now. Halftrack was sitting at his usual table two thirds back from the door across from the bar with a clear view of the door but screened by the potted fern.
He’d become a fixture there in the past few months. He seldom held court as it were, though he could have. He preferred to entertain his clients on at a time. With each new guest the barmaid came by to settle up what was owing on the table from the previous client. She knew better than to leave an open tab for the table. Too many fights had started over who was responsible for the tab. One GI was shot over being asked to split a hundred dollar tab when he’d only been there for one round of drinks. Halftrack said the bar maid called the MPs who settled the disagreement on the sidewalk out front. “It wasn’t my table,” he was quick to point out.
As we sat down at his table, the barmaid came over and demanded payment. Halftrack fished out a wad of brightly colored piasters, peeled off a dozen or so and handed them to her. Based on the size of the wad, he must have been holding court before we got there. Unusual for him, Virgil later said.
“How’d your meeting go?” asked Halftrack to no one in particular.
“We didn’t have our ducks in a row and the alligators got a couple of them,” quipped DB with his usual sardonic humor.
“What the hell does that mean?” asked Halftrack.
“It means that the colonel didn’t bite on our proposal. He bit one of the ducks instead, at least partly because Allen here got cold feet in the middle of the discussion. But we did learn that they want to move a hell of a lot of money.”
“I didn’t get cold feet. I just can’t see how it could work especially when you start talking more money that the Central Jersey Trust sees in a year from all the officers at Ft. Monmouth. They think we’re talking about a bank in Atlantic City.”
“How much money are they talking?” asked Halftrack.
“Well, the number fifty million floated by at one point,” offered Virgil, raising an eyebrow for emphasis.
“Jesus,” said Halftrack under this breath as the barmaid approached to take our orders.
“You got American beer? No Bah Mui Bah. Bah Mui Bah number ten,” said Virgil.
“We got number 1 American beer. We got Rhinelander,” offered the barmaid.
Virgil winced. “Biere la Rue. No ice.”
The Barmaid looked at me. “Rhinelander,” I said.
Then DB. “Can of grapefruit juice and a bottle of soda water.”
As the barmaid walked off Halftrack muttered under the din of the bar, “How long to they think it’ll take to move that much money?”
“I don’t know what they think about that but they want to move it by the end of the year. That’s only five months.”
“That’s ten million a month!” Halftrack nearly shouted then caught himself mid sentence.
“Neva happin, Jack, replied DB.
“Allen, where are you in all this?” asked Halftrack, wiping his finger at the water condensing on his beer bottle.
“I think it’s nuts. There are just too many ways this could go sideways. It just seems to be way out of my league. I mean I’m not even in the minors farm team. For you guys, maybe,” I said looking at DB and Virgil.
“Yeah,” said Halftrack, pulling at the bottle of beer. “You guys need a plan B.”