Actuarial

A handful of little birds (he thought they were sparrows) peered up at his spreadsheets. The actuarial tables spilled from his hands, from the leather binder stuffed with the mob’s figures, in a long unspooling tableaux of partially legitimate endeavors, enough to merit the term “organization” and dismiss the “criminal” element as a remainder of calculations yet to be revised. To the birds hopping around his shoes, it was all one big piece of not bread anyway.

He threw them more bread.

He wanted to leave the leather binder on the bench, let it be used or abused by some homeless schmuck and turned over to bedding or the feds or whatever agency there was left in the city to right the wrongs. Where was the wrong part of this piece of paper? Yes, the games were fixed, they had a protection racket or two, but the games were gambles and the racketed went unmolested in bad, bad neighborhoods. It wasn’t legal but it didn’t hurt anybody.

Except when it did hurt a body. The sparrows cheeped at him.

It wasn’t for him to decide. He was the actuary, the bookie sometimes, the guy with the numbers who kept his nose clean and drove one car to work and one car on weekends. And he liked the city better than the stucco suburbs they stuck guys like him into for witness protection.

“Sorry, birds,” he said. “Gotta go back to work.”

The detective who arrived ten minutes after found half a loaf of bread and more birds. He puzzled over the vacant park bench for a few minutes, and then he went back to work too.

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