Frank sat near the top row of the covered grandstand, stroking his stubbly, gray goatee as he checked the odds on the tote board. He lit up a cigarette and read his Racing Form, trying to figure out if he wanted to make an Exacta bet on the next race. Finally, he decided not to play the race because he was already forty bucks down and fifty was his limit. There was a good-looking 8-1 shot on the morning line coming up later in the card, and a $10 win-ticket could get him even or a little better.

He settled back on the bench and took note of the patrons walking along the main concourse about fifteen rows down. One of them was a middle-aged blonde in a tight-fitting dress who was pacing back and forth while digging for something in her purse. She stopped and looked up to the grandstand toward him and then walked away.

He took another drag and reminisced about the all the fun times he had at this very spot—starting almost thirty years before—with his other betting pals, sharing bottles of booze and joints of weed; however, they’d all drifted out of his life, and lately out of their own lives as well. Black Cloud Sammy was the last of this wild bunch he’d managed to keep in touch with, but he passed away earlier in the year from emphysema. Now here he was, in his second year of retirement, and sitting in the same damn place, alone. This is what it must feel like, he thought, to be the last man left from a military outfit. That called for a drink. He pulled out a flask from his jacket pocket, took a swig, and briefly ruminated about his situation.

His retirement hadn’t gone quite as planned. First, he tried to take up golf, but could barely get the ball off the tee in the practice ranges. He took some lessons, but those didn’t help much, so he gave it up. What a joke that was.

During that time, he looked into buying a house with the help of an agent. He quickly found out how expensive all the places were within and around Seattle. The only places that were affordable were way out in the sticks and he didn’t want to live there.  After a year, he gave up on the idea. Besides, the place he’d been renting for twenty years was okay. One reason he went back to the track so often, he told himself, was that maybe he’d get on a run of luck so he could afford one of those places in the city.

He stubbed out his cigarette and noticed that same blonde along the concourse again. This time, she started walking up the stairway closest to him. He dug his head in the Racing Form and pretended not to notice. In the corner of his eye, he saw her stop by his row, hesitate a moment, then walk toward him. When he looked up, she loomed above him just a few feet away with a cigarette dangling from her fingertips.

“Excuse me, mister, but you got a light?” she asked.

He reached into his shirt pocket and handed her a lighter.

She lit the cigarette and took a deep drag. “Thanks. I saw you smoking up here. I must’ve ran out of matches.”

“No problem.”

“You mind if I sit down for a few? My feet are killing me.”

“Sure, go ahead.”

After she sat down, she dangled the cigarette in her mouth, took off one of her shoes, and rubbed her foot. There was a tear on one leg of her fishnet stockings.

“I just got these shoes, but I’m going to return them. The damn things dig into my heel.”

She then took the other shoe off and did the same. Frank guessed that she was in her mid-forties, judging by the lines behind her makeup. Her pixie-cut blond hair was probably dyed and her body looked lean and fit, especially her legs.

“Oh, my name’s Liz.”

“Hi Liz. I’m Frank.”

“Do you come to the track very much?”

“Every now and then. How about you?”

“About the same,” she answered. “I just moved up to Seattle a year ago. I used to go more often when I lived in L.A.”

“Oh yeah? I’ve hit all the tracks down there: Santa Anita, Holly Park, Los Alamitos.”

“When was that?”

“The last time was about twenty years ago, mostly at Santa Anita.”

“Ha! I was there a lot, and right about then. Maybe we’ve met before,” she said, followed by a shrill, piercing laugh.

“It’s a big place.”

Frank eyed her a little closer as she strapped on her shoes. She looked vaguely familiar, not unlike a woman with a Bettie Page cut who hung around the racetrack bars he frequented down there. She had about the same height and body style as this Liz too.

“Had much luck today?” Liz asked.

“Naw. Struck out so far.”

“Sounds like you could use a little lady luck.”

“I could always use some of that.”

“I’ve got an idea. Let’s go down to get a drink and pick a winner together.”

“No need to,” Frank said. “I’ve got something right here.”

He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the flask.

“Oooh, what’s in there?”

“Jack Daniels.” He took a swig and handed it to her.

Liz took a longer swig. “I like your style, Frank.” She placed her hand on his knee and stared into his eyes with a droopy, hypnotic expression. “Now, let’s talk about picking a winner.”

“There’s one in the eighth I like.”


That night, they went out on the town with their winnings. The crowd let his horse go at 12-1, so he collected just over $120. Liz put a ten-spot down as well and collected the same amount. They finished the flask, then went to a good steak place and hit a few more bars after that, spilling out more about their lives in each place. Liz had a hard and tough life: she’d been through two rocky marriages and had a kid she hardly ever saw who was in an out of a state college. She was now just getting by with an office job. She also confessed to him that she used to be a hooker—Frank figured that—and that she went through a couple of drug rehabs but had been clean for over three years.

Frank glossed over his life as well: the days he travelled to Europe and Mexico, his marriage and divorce (briefly), and the fact that recently retired after working thirty-five years as a manager of a hardware store.

They ended up in Frank’s place and had sex, or at least tried to in their inebriated state. It had been years since Frank had gotten it on with a real woman.

They saw each once a week afterwards, and then more often. Their favorite place to go was the track and the bars afterward if their luck was good, or even if their luck wasn’t that good.  She seemed to be the perfect woman for him. They liked to do the same things and—best of all—she managed to revive his lagging spirit and desires.


Frank knocked on Liz’s apartment door, trying to catch his breath. The elevator in the building was out of order, so he had to walk up three flights of stairs. She greeted him with a half-smile.

“Hi. Glad you made it so fast,” she said.

“So what’s the matter, baby? You didn’t sound so good over the phone.”

“I got a bit of bad news today and wanted to tell you in person.”

“I’m here now for you.”

“First things first. Did you bring something to drink?”

Frank pulled out a half-full bottle of Jack Daniels from his coat.

“My favorite. You’re so romantic.”

“Anything for you, Liz.” He watched her take a long swig. “So what happened?”

“I lost my job today. Just like that. No warning or anything. It makes me feel like shit.”

“Oh crap. That’s lousy. You can keep the bottle, of course.”

“You’re so sweet,” she said. “I feel better already.”

“Glad to help.”

“And you’ve been such a help already, with paying part of my rent after they raised it. But now, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

“You’ll find something else.”

“I know, but until then the unemployment checks won’t be very much.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“What do you mean?”

Frank took a long swig of his own before answering. “I could cover the rent for a while.”

She placed her hand on his knee and stared at him with the same droopy, hypnotic expression she had when they first met. “Really? The whole amount?”

“Yes, really. You know I’ve got enough stashed away for that.”

“I can’t tell you how relieved I feel now. I didn’t know what I was going to do.  You’re so good to me.” She pulled his head closer to hers and gave him a long kiss. During the kiss, she placed her other hand between his legs and felt his cock harden.

She pulled away from the kiss, but kept her hand where it was. “Ummm, that’s my boy.”

As he became aroused, he tried to recall the time, if ever, that a woman made him feel this way. He couldn’t, and certainly not during his busted marriage. She had him, alright, and had him good.

“Hey. I’ve got an idea!” she said, as she abruptly released her grip. “Let’s order some Chinese. And afterwards we can, well, you know.”

“I don’t know if I can do anything then. I usually crash after a big meal.”

“There’s always the morning.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

“Oh, and while we’re waiting, I’d really appreciate if you can run out and get me some cigs, and maybe a bottle or two of wine.”

“Consider it done, my queen.”


Two months later Liz still hadn’t found a job, so Frank continued to foot the bill for the rent. Not only that, he started paying more of her bills and for stuff like groceries, and even for some clothing items. He didn’t mind doing this at first though, because it made him feel good to help. The little money she got from unemployment she mostly spent on booze and cigarettes, and bets at the track. They had a few good days, but mostly had losing days, although never too much. They went there mainly to have fun.


After six months or so, he began to wonder what was going on. It seemed like she’d stopped looking for work; he was giving her more each month. It had gotten to the point where he was totally supporting her. Then one day, her car broke down. The clunker she had wasn’t worth fixing, so he bought her a newer one: a Honda Accord for almost $10,000 that was actually nicer than his own car.

He felt a sickening type of pleasure whenever he gave her expensive things like that and could clearly see what was happening, but felt powerless to stop it. Darkly, he began to think—usually when alone after a few drinks—that his money was the main, or only, reason she still hung around with him. Women like her could smell men with money a mile away, like sharks coming in for the kill, and only leaving after totally eviscerating the carcass. She probably detected his bloody money the first time they met at the track, and now was gobbling up more and more of his savings each month. Each time he got into a funk like this, however, he dismissed these thoughts. After all, they were still having fun and she genuinely seemed to enjoy his company.


After a year, Frank had burned through all his savings. He’d suspected that this would happen for months beforehand, but never bothered to check his balance out of fear of what the statement would reveal. When he told Liz about it, she seemed very calm and thanked him for everything that he’d done to help and that they would work it out.

One night, they decided to eat at the Thirteen Coins, their favorite restaurant and the place they went to for a late dinner when they first met. They liked the good, stiff drinks served there, and how the high-back booths always gave them a sense of complete privacy.

They’d just finished ordering and Frank poured Liz a generous glass of red wine. Before that, they chatted over all the fun they had the past year over two rounds of drinks and a calamari appetizer. They raised each other glasses for a toast

“It’s been a great year, huh, Liz,” he said.

“It sure has,” she said, and then guzzled down most of the glass.

“I just hope the ponies treat us better this year,” he said, “so we can keep on having fun like this. Maybe we’ll hit a fat Pick Six payoff. Christ, I remember how close we came to hitting one last month. We were alive all the way up to the fifth race.”

“It’ll happen, Frank, I just have a feeling we’ll get lucky soon.”

“All it takes is one of those Pick Sixers to set us up for life. Wouldn’t that be grand?”

“Yes, it would,” she sputtered, suddenly choking back tears. She grabbed a napkin to wipe away the runny mascara. “You’ve been so good to me. I don’t know what my life would be like without you.”

“It’s been a pleasure,” he said, also starting to get a little emotional as well.

“And the best part of it is that what you’ve done is not just for me, but for my daughter, Jessica, too. Some of the money you’ve given I’ve sent to her to help pay her tuition.”

“Oh yeah. How’s she doing? I mean, you hardly ever mention her.”

“Yes, well, we’ve been—what’s the word—estranged for years, because of the divorce and because she lives so far away on the East Coast. But lately we’ve gotten back in touch, through social media, and she really appreciated the little help I’ve given her. In fact, I just found out she’s going to graduate next week.”

“Wow, that’s great, Liz. What school is she graduating from?

“She lives near Baltimore…but, silly me, I forget the name of the school.”

“The University of Maryland?

“That’s it! How could I have forgotten that? It must be the drinks,” she said, followed by that shrill laugh that he had grown so accustomed to and fond of.

“That’s a good school. You must be proud of her.”

“Yes, I am.” She poured herself some more wine, and stared thoughtfully into the glass. “It would mean so much to me to be able to see her again, especially for her graduation, but I don’t know how I can.”

She looked up to him with a brave and hopeful smile.

“Maybe I could help,” Frank said.

“Oh, would you? It’s almost too much to ask, especially after all the things you’ve done already.”

“How much are we talking about?”

“Let’s see, I made some calculations the other day and figure the airfare, hotel, food and transportation would come to about $2,000.”

Frank sighed and poured the rest of the wine into his glass. “I guess I could draw some out from my credit card.”

“You’re the best, Frank,” she said, starting to tear-up again.

“How long will you be gone?”

“About a week. That’ll give us time to, you know, bond again.”

“It sounds like you have to leave soon.”

“Yes, the sooner the better. I can book a flight as soon as I have the money and let you know when.”

“I’ll get it to you tomorrow.”

The next afternoon, he knocked on her door, with an envelope of cash in hand.

She greeted him with a warm, wet kiss and then opened the envelope and fanned the cash inside of it. “Oh, this is going to help so much. And guess what? I was able to use the last of what I had and booked a flight for tonight.”

“Wow that was quick. Do you need a ride?”

“That’s nice of you, but it’s probably easier if I go by myself and get some cheapo airport parking. That way, I won’t bug you when I get back.”

“That makes sense, I suppose. I know: let’s go out for a quick drink before you leave.”

“I’d love to, but I’ve still got so much packing to do. Besides,” she said with a sly grim, “there’s no need to.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve got some right here,” she answered, with that piercing laugh. She then pulled out a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels from a kitchen cabinet

After the drinks, Frank wished her well and they agreed to stay in touch during the trip.

A few days later, he hadn’t heard from her, so he left a phone message. There was no response, so he tried again two days later, with the same result. He sent her an email the next day, thinking her phone might be dead; again, no answer. After over a week, he began to worry that something might have happened to her, or…

The following week, he asked her apartment manager if she’d been in touch with him recently. He responded, tersely, that she hadn’t and mentioned the fact that she was two months overdue on the rent. It was then that all of Frank’s worst suspicions about her enveloped him like a dark and heavy shroud.

The next month, he left her a few more messages, but then stopped doing so altogether. He never saw or heard from her again.