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“To hell with you, Tommy!” Armless O’Neil shouted across the table, slamming down his fist in matching rhythm with that of the hook that made up the visible portion of his left arm. “If God in his infinite wisdom had seen fit to have you born the lame runt of a Bedouin’s mangiest goat, you’d have been at least twice as smart and four times as useful as you are now.”
“That’s unfair, and you know it, O’Neil.” Tommy stood tall and as handsome a specimen as O’Neil was ugly and squat—well, not exactly ugly, but at the very least undesirable in any modern romantic fashion. “And it’s certainly no way to speak of the man who is offering a quick way to make two thousand German Reichsmarks for little more than babysitting wooden boxes.”
“What’s her name?” O’Neil locked his eyes on those of the younger man and took a swig of cognac from a bottle with an Italian label. He tried his best to ignore that fact and pretend the lackluster liquor was the good stuff. “Well?”
“What makes you think there’s a girl involved?”
“Because if I was as young and as stupid as you, there’d be a girl involved.” O’Neil set the bottle down on the table with a loud clank. “And every time I bump into you, there’s a girl involved. If I were to venture a guess, I’d say you’ve left a girl aboard every ship I’ve paid for you to return home on.”
“Now that’s just not fair.”
Tommy huffed and coughed. “That’s different.”
“Kathy Van Heest?”
Tommy’s pale, youthful whiteness turned pink. “Her family had—”
Tommy stood up, slamming his open palm on the table top so hard that O’Neil had to steady the bottle of cognac. “I never messed around with anyone named Cleopatra.”
“And only because she’s a few thousand years too old for you, but God help Caesar and Mark Antony if you had taken a shine to her.”
Tommy started to say something, but O’Neil shushed him, and he sat down again.
“You’re a louse of a friend. You know that?”
“And you’re a bad investment, m’boy.” O’Neil offered the bottle to Tommy, but the younger man refused. “Don’t look so hurt. And don’t try to deny the times I’ve more than covered your return trip to the United States.”
Tommy looked at the floor.
O’Neil drained the bottle of the last third of liquor. When he finished, he put the bottle on the floor beside him and called out for another.
“You’re drunk,” Tommy said. “That’s why I’m not mad at you about all this mean-spirited nonsense you’re saying.”
O’Neil grinned. “I’m not drunk. You are a louse. And you do fall in love too easily.”
A dark-skinned man in a white coat and trousers brought a fresh bottle to the table.
“But enough of your shortcomings, my friend. “Tell me about the twenty-five hundred Reichsmarks.”