Once, for instance, this arrogant bastard floats in like he's the King of fucking England, though he's half-spick by name at least, Javier Reilly, Flossie's great nephew or some goddamn thing, all moon-eyed about the old studio photograph of Reilly and his wife and slut hanging on the lobby wall.

I don't have to smell your shit, he thought looking at the sad bastard. He was all done up in khakis and plaid shirt and campfire moccasins like he's mountain man, just a regular guy even though Ed can see his emerald green BMW in front of the inn. Even so he played it cool. There was always an edge to be had if you play it cool.

"Would you consider selling that photograph?" says the King of fucking England after he's been standing around for awhile looking at all the shit in the lobby.

"Not for a million dollars," says Ed, "It's part of my heritage. You can see it clearly here, the Blue Stag Inn is where you're standing. That picture dates to eighteen ninety something... I'm the proprietor now."

"I know that," says the weenie bastard, already half-crying by now. He's never run into someone he couldn't buy. "My great-grandfather is the man in the photograph. That is the only known photo of my great-grandmother. I can't believe you have this. We know almost nothing about her."

He's changed his tone now, all forlorn and full of feelings, as if Ed gave a shit.

His edge was he didn't care about anything.

"Then you knew that old bitch Flossie," he says, "Sat here all day long on her fat keester, looking down at people. Used to treat me like shit though I did all the work for her, from cutting the grass to cleaning out the fucking privies. I hope she's burning in hell, lard dripping from her blistered ass."

"She was my father's aunt, I hardly remember her," the bastard says. He'd sell her out for the picture.

"I have a daughter," the guy says.

I have a smelly asshole, Ed thinks.

"Is this one your grandma?" Ed asks. He points at the scullery maid, a wrinkled little toad in a long skirt and apron on the far end of the long porch.

"Oh no," says King Have-ye-air. "She's got to be this one here. My great-grandmother." He points to the woman with the dark eyes standing off under the tree in front of the house.

Ed knows her, he's studied her face in the picture for years, her dark eyes like the whore, Eleanore, upstairs. "Cold looking bitch," Ed says. "Back stiff as a ramrod. You'd never think of poking her, would you?"

Ed cackled. Javier didn't answer.

They agreed that the doctor could take the photograph into Roanoke and have a copy made at a photo studio Ed knew. Javier stood in the lobby and talked on a cellular phone to arrange with the studio. Ed charged him two hundred dollars for the privilege of taking the photo for the afternoon. "Security deposit," he said.

"How's it a deposit when you don't give it back?" Eleanore asked. She had come into the lobby when she saw the car outside, talked the doctor into a ride to Roanoke then run upstairs to change. When she came back down she was slutted up, a black satin miniskirt and black stockings with a hole in the back of one thigh, peacock blue eyeshadow.

"How do you get to open your fucking yap about my business?" Ed snapped.

She gave him the finger. The doctor looked worried, like the arrangement would all fall apart. He'd sell her out as well, Ed thought. He made him leave the cellular phone to make sure he'd come back with the picture.

"Three hours," he said. "Any later and I keep this and the money both."

When the two of them drove off, Ed called the photo studio, using the redial on the doctor's cellular phone.

"Charge him what you want," he told his sadass so-called friend at the studio. "He's rich as shit and he'll pay anything for this. I'll give you fifty bucks to make sure he never gets his copy of the picture. Tell him you have to mail it or something, then lose the negative or something. He's on his way home tonight and in a rush. By the time you call him it will be too late to do anything."

You had to have an edge. (Ed's edge over his friend with the photo studio was the kiddie porn which his friend sold and which could get him quality time in a federal penitentiary where guys would fuck him bad from behind.)

It's a long story. Life's hard in a hollow. Hard and dark.