A Detectives Seagate
and Miner Mystery
Copyright © 2012 by Mike Markel, all rights reserved.
No portion of this novel may be duplicated, transmitted, or stored in any form without the express written permission of the publisher.
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This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and locations are fictitious or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or people is coincidental.
For many years, Leonard Woolsey had been a faithful and committed member of the Montana Patriot Front. When the Reverend Barry needed someone to teach a weapons or tactics class at a rally, he knew he could turn to Leonard Woolsey. And when the Reverend Barry needed someone to break some windows, tag some buildings, or rough up some brown-skinned people who perhaps did not realize they were frequenting the wrong clubs, he thought first of Leonard Woolsey. He knew that Leonard Woolsey would never disappoint him, never disrespect him, and never place his own ambitions before the goals of the Montana Patriot Front.
But the Reverend Barry was now almost eighty. He was tired. He no longer authorized even the most modest missions. For the last three years, there had been no public rallies or parades, no flyers under windshield wipers, not even a candidate for a school board. Instead, the old man sat in his drafty little cabin in the meadow at Lake Hollow, writing his little articles on notebook paper and mailing them off to be typed up for the Montana Patriot Front newsletter and Web site. Age had defanged the Reverend Barry and was draining the lifeblood of his organization.
Leonard Woolsey was a patient man, but now he was out of patience. He had requested authorization to carry out a mission against Dolores Weston. He had laid out the case against the Montana state senator. She had accepted money from a pharmaceutical company from New Jersey, a company that was researching stem cells to be used for human cloning. In exchange for the money, Senator Weston had sponsored legislation that gave enormous tax breaks to the pharmaceutical company to open a major facility right here in Rawlings, Montana. The papers had been signed and the blueprints drawn, and construction was about to begin.
But the Reverend Barry and the timid sycophants who surrounded him refused to authorize a mission to take out Senator Weston. It would be risky, the Reverend Barry said. There would be a federal response. There would be consequences. I’m sorry.
And the Reverend Barry sat in his drafty little cabin, writing his little articles.
And Leonard Woolsey decided to proceed on his own. Yes, he thought, there will be consequences.
Being a careful man, Leonard Woolsey devoted considerable thought to the mission. His first impulse was simply to eliminate her. Doing so would send the appropriate message to the Reverend Barry and his inner circle. And Leonard Woolsey was confident that eliminating Dolores Weston would entail little personal risk. He would set up outside the perimeter of her ranch, which sat majestically on thirty acres at the end of a private road adjoining a city park. There were no other houses within hundreds of yards. With his Weatherby deer rifle and his laser scope and bi-pod, she would be an easy target from two-hundred yards. Even two-fifty.
However, eliminating Senator Dolores Weston would be insufficient. The Reverend Barry would know who had done it and why, yet nobody else would. People would see it as another senseless murder. The public needed to understand that her death was anything but senseless. The broader mission of the Montana Patriot Front would not be advanced unless the public understood exactly why it was necessary.
In short, she could not simply be murdered. She needed to be assassinated. Only an assassination would force other legislators and the public to confront her sins. Once those sins were made public, America could begin the conversation that would lead to the revolution, which would sweep away the traitors and save God’s chosen people. Leonard Woolsey was certain of it, and he was a resolute man.
He had no doubt he could grab her, get her in his truck. His only worry was that he might be identified afterward. There was CCTV everywhere, in the shops, on the sides of buildings, hanging on traffic-lights. The statehouse would be crawling with them: near the metal detector at the main entrance, in the hallways, the individual offices. And cameras. Put two college girls at a table at a Starbucks, out came the cell phones. There was no way to be sure he didn’t appear in someone’s photo.
He had no illusions that he was invulnerable, that he was too smart to be caught, that everything would go according to plan. When you’re forty-two years old, you know better. And therefore you need to plan carefully.
He understood the importance of disguise. He had a cowboy hat, aviator sunglasses. He would wear a long-sleeve western shirt. He would shave off his mustache and trim his sideburns. He had an old set of Wyoming plates he had grabbed off an abandoned car in Casper six years ago.
He would lure her out of her house. He did his research, which wasn’t difficult since every magazine in the West printed on shiny paper had a story about Dolores Weston, about how well she was holding up after her husband’s death, how living in her five-thousand-square-foot ranch couldn’t make up for the tragic loss. He was disgusted but not surprised by the articles, one more hypocritical than the last. A few hundred solemn words about how money can’t buy happiness, then four or five pages of color photographs displaying the beautiful things money indeed can buy: the infinity pool, the home theater seating twenty, the gourmet kitchen with zinc counters and wenge wood accents, the climate-controlled barn, with its twelve horse stalls (four Arabians, six Thoroughbreds, two Morgans), and its adjoining paddock and ring.
No mention of the pharmaceutical company. Nothing about stem cells, about cloning. Nothing about which people would be cloned. Nothing about what she had done to get her money. About what selling herself made her.
She lived alone, after her husband died out at their estate on Maui. But there was little chance she would be alone in the house. There would be one or two people in charge of the horses. A housekeeper and a cook. And she had three adult children, all of them successful and prosperous. They were spread out across the country, but they were capable of just dropping by, especially since their father died only a few months ago. They would be concerned about how their mother was coping.
Leonard Woolsey decided to reconnoiter the ranch. He put the Wyoming plates on his truck and drove to Discovery Park, a hundred acres of rolling foothills, walking paths, and cheatgrass a mile south of her gate. He carried a backpack and a walking stick. Standing atop the tallest foothill, he listened to the silence and made certain he was not being observed. He wandered off the path and walked toward the Weston ranch.
Close enough to study the ranch through his binoculars, Leonard Woolsey surveyed the large steel electric gate at the entrance. He did not see a camera, but professional-quality security cameras are smaller than a coin and virtually invisible. His eyes followed the herringbone pattern of the pavers, two lanes wide, tracing a gentle curve a hundred yards, leading up to the garage and the main entrance of the house.
It was flat roofed, modern, constructed of dusky Montana stone and ten-foot high floor-to-ceiling windows. The glass mirrored the sky and the sun, making the house recede into the hillside. He couldn’t see in, but she could see out, which Leonard Woolsey assumed was intentional.
But he wouldn’t need to get inside. He saw a sign from Montana Security just off to the side of the flagstone steps leading to the wide double doors at the entrance. He looked for cameras but didn’t see any there, either. The inside would have a professional security system. But if she wanted to see what was going on outside the place, she would choose large, visible cameras, the purpose of which is less to record who is outside than to encourage them to stay outside.
Leonard Woolsey went home to think. There was no way to eliminate all risk. Still, it was a chance he needed to take. He asked himself if he was willing to risk his freedom—perhaps his life—on this mission.
He spent three days thinking about his responsibility. It needed to be done, and there didn’t seem to be anyone else who would do it. Yes, he concluded, he would do it. He would do it.
And when he had made that decision, a considerable burden lifted off Leonard Woolsey’s shoulders. His mind was clear and sharp, his spirit focused. He was ready.
He used a throwaway phone to call her at her home. He was the president of a wind-turbine company in Wyoming, he said, interested in talking with her about setting up a facility in Montana. He mentioned that he was impressed by the legislation she had sponsored last session about tax breaks for companies that create jobs. He asked whether she would be interested in sitting down to talk with him. He would be more than happy to offer generous considerations if she could help him understand the process.
That was all it took. “Generous considerations” was the magic phrase. He wasn’t sure whether he had heard that phrase before or whether it just popped into his head. But its meaning was very clear to her. Yes, she would be delighted if he stopped by. Of course, she’d be excited to meet him. And wind energy was such an important initiative. She would be thrilled.
And now she sat in Leonard Woolsey’s pickup, her hands pinioned behind her back by the plastic strips that the police use when they run out of cuffs. She was crying, her whole body shaking, asking him over and over what she did, as if she did not understand. And what he was going to do to her.
When she asked him if he would take money to let her go, his right hand came up so fast she didn’t see it, his knuckles tearing into her left eye.
She screamed in pain, doubled over, appeared to lose consciousness for several moments.
It was a still, clear May night, the temperature near sixty. It would drop another ten or fifteen degrees by midnight. The sun had already sunk beneath the wide western horizon, leaving only a warm orange glow. Faint, tiny stars were beginning to appear. Soon the sky would darken to a brilliant purple, revealing millions of pinpricks of light. Sunsets always made Leonard Woolsey a little melancholy. The end of the day always meant that a part of him was dying. But not tonight. He was fully alive tonight.
They were parked at the Prairie Industrial Park, a new development out near the hospital. Seven buildings were up and running, with a dozen more under construction.
He gazed around him at the piles of rebar and lumber, a couple of bulldozers, a pile driver, a leveler, generator trailers, three blocky construction trailers. The equipment sat still, the crews having left hours ago.
Leonard Woolsey got out of his pickup and walked over to her side. He opened her door, pulled her out. She was making noise, crying and screaming. “Shut up,” he barked, holding her up, and she complied. His eyes scanned the area, full of construction debris, scraggly weeds, crushed foam coffee cups. He saw what he needed. He let go of her, and she collapsed onto the ground. He walked a few steps, bent down, and picked up a brick lying on the hard-packed dirt.
Almost every day, for hours at a time, I sit no more than fifteen feet away from Wayne, but I hadn’t noticed he’s going gray. He’s maybe forty, a ponytail hanging halfway down his back, a rubber band a couple of inches south of his collar. Looking at him now, I see that most of those gray hairs are a foot and a half long. Some things get past me.
I’m not going to ask him about the gray hair. That’s because I really don’t give a shit. I realize that makes me sound like a bitch, which I don’t think I am. It’s more that me and Wayne don’t have that kind of relationship. Our relationship is very streamlined.
Wayne is here from five o’clock until two. That’s my assumption, anyway, based on me never being here earlier than five or later than two, and always seeing him here. I’m talking about weekdays. I’m never here on weekends, so I can’t say. Weekends there’s too many locals—guys, wives, girlfriends. Pitchers of beer, nachos, cheese. They watch sports, whooping and high-fiving and being all social. I prefer weekdays. More of the business crowd. Some are IT and marketing guys from one of the industrial parks nearby. But a good half are the guys in town for business just for a day or two. They’re the good half.
Wayne notices me when I come in. I can tell because his left eyebrow goes up. Just a little. I’m pretty sure nobody else notices. He’s saying welcome, or at least he’s acknowledging me.
I head down toward the end of the bar. I don’t exactly have my own stool, which would be pathetic. But ninety percent of the time, I end up on one of the last two stools. It’s just a coincidence that the whisky bottles are down at that end. I choose that end because it stays dark. The other end is near the door, which has a northwest exposure, and with the sun not going down till almost nine this time of year, the alternating bright and dark as people come and go strobes me out. So I like the dark end, and if I sit at a little angle to the bar, it doesn’t zap my brain so bad. Plus it sends a negative signal to anyone who’s thinking of coming over. This discourages the more casual hunters. Another positive.
One thing I like about Wayne is that he never wants to talk to me, and he’s good with me never wanting to talk to him. Of all the bartenders I’ve known, Wayne’s the least affected by bullshit TV shows and movies. He doesn’t think it’s his job to make a fuss over the losers seated in front of him. He doesn’t even think it’s necessary to offer a comment about the weather as I climb onto the wine-red stool. That’s very unusual here, where everybody is super friendly. In a superficial way, of course. Here in Montana, you’re crumpled on the sidewalk from your heart exploding, the first thing the paramedic says is, “Hey, how’s it going?”
Wayne understands that if you wanted to talk with him, get to know him, relate in a personal kind of way, you’d hang with him when he’s not working. The two of you would be out at the reservoir, maybe in a sixteen-foot boat, drifting along with a couple poles in the water, hoping you don’t catch anything. Then, when things slow way down, he’d say, “Lose any shingles when that wind came in Tuesday?” Then you’d say, “Nope.” That would be a meaningful interchange. Because if after he asked you that question you just sat there, looking at the water but not saying anything, that would mean you had something on your mind and didn’t want to talk, or you just didn’t want to get into shingles or windstorms. So he’d know to just let it be.
But if he asked you that question and you shook your head real slow, like that was the dumbest thing you’d ever heard, and then maybe you added “Asshole,” with each syllable distinct like a separate word, that would be a whole other kind of comment, and it would be up to him to decide whether to pursue the topic.
At the bar, when he’s working, that’s not really the best occasion for talking. For one thing, it puts him in a tight spot. You’re discussing roof shingles and someone comes in and sits down. Wayne’s got to decide whether to go over and take that person’s order, which would be rude to you, or keep talking to you, which would be rude to the new person. For another thing—and this is the bigger thing—who gives a shit about shingles? You weren’t sitting in your house, nothing to do, ready to toss a brick through the TV screen if you see one more pretend judge pretending to listen real close as one moron accuses another moron of blowing off last month’s rent—and you think, I need to survey a representative sample of citizens in town to find out if any of them lost any shingles in Tuesday’s windstorm. That’s not the way people act, at least not anyone I know.
If you go to a bar, you’re there for one of two reasons. One is the total ambiance, which is a real simple concept. The place should be dark, so you don’t see anybody and nobody sees you. It should be cool in the summer, warm in the winter. It should have some white-people jazz in the background. Personally, I like Kenny G. He plays enough notes to mask what people are saying, but the notes aren’t so interesting that I want to listen to them. Perhaps the most important part of the ambiance: Wayne gives me as much liquor as I want, whatever kind I want, in a nonjudgmental way. I give him money. He gives me drinks. A streamlined relationship.
The other reason to go to a bar: sex. In my experience, men are aware of this. So, when they want to get laid, they know to look in a bar, say, rather than a bookstore. Nothing against bookstores. I’m sure people are hooking up left and right in bookstores all over the place. But you’ve probably got a different agenda when you’re trying to pick someone up in a bookstore: you want to get nailed, then talk about cookbooks or vampires or whatever. Or maybe you feel your life doesn’t suck so bad if you convince yourself you were just going to a bookstore and—guess what? You ran into this really cute guy. That could be it. I have no idea. I don’t go to bookstores. But it stands to reason that there’s probably something about books in there someplace.
My bladder is my best body part. I can sit here for three hours—which I often do—without having to get up. Tonight, I’d been sitting here about an hour when the first guy came over. With my back turned a little away from the main area, like I explained earlier, I didn’t see him or hear him come over to me. That’s a bad sign. It means I smelled him. I can’t tell one cologne from another. To me, there’s Cologne and No Cologne. I turned toward him just as he was saying “Mind?” and gesturing to the stool next to me. I’m pretty fast at deciding whether I mind. Not that I always make good decisions. I’ve made my share of mistakes, although to be honest I don’t talk with other women to compare statistics.
Most of the signals this guy was sending were okay. He was the right age: somewhere between thirty-five and fifty. He was a normal height and weight, so nothing wrong there. He dressed all right: an actual suit, some kind of poly blend, but a dark color, no hideous checks or anything. He had shaved today, a good sign. He wasn’t trying to look like some twenty-five-year-old jerkoff with three days’ growth. He was starting to go bald, with the hair in front jutting out like a peninsula that could end up an island in a couple years. But, seriously, I wouldn’t see him again in two hours. Why would I give a damn what he’s gonna look like in two years?
When he put his left hand on the bar, just as he was coming in for a landing on the stool, I checked out the ring finger. No ring, but I could make out the indentation and the pale skin circle. I don’t have a problem with him being married. In fact, I prefer it. But this guy wasn’t yet comfortable with his adultery. Taking off the ring like that—to me that means he wants me to think he’s single, a good guy, interested in some kind of half-assed relationship. Or he thinks that’s what I want. Like I care that he’ll be coming into town every few months for the sales meetings, and maybe we could get together. I’m not into that shit. If he shows up again in a few months and I’m sitting here and I don’t remember him from being too gross or pervy, that’s good enough. But let’s just be honest: I really have no interest in whether the windstorm fucked up your shingles, if you know what I mean.
“I’d rather be alone, thanks.” It seemed to catch him off guard, him having most of his ass on the stool. Turning away, I didn’t catch his expression. The whole thing took four seconds. My version of speed dating.
Wayne came over and refilled my glass. There’s none of this “Can I get you a refill?” with Wayne. I’ve never seen him look at my glass, but he always seems to know. Maybe there’s a system he uses, like if he sees no more than a quarter inch left he just comes over and fills it up. He’s filled it up at least a thousand times, and I’ve had to call him over twice, three times, max. You’re wondering whether he’s ever started to fill it up when I didn’t want him to. Can’t recall an instance of that. That’s probably because if I don’t want any more it means I’m leaving, and, like all competent drinkers, I tilt my head way back and drain the glass. I don’t take ice, so I want to be sure to get every last drop of the JD. Another tipoff that I’m leaving? Probably I’m not alone.
For the next hour or so it was just me and Wayne. Pleasant enough. The sun had gone down, so when the door opened all I saw was dueling headlight cones in front of the purple sky. Much less disconcerting than the damn sunshine, which always wants to know why I’m not working or with my family or something. I never feel that pressure at night: it’s okay to be in a bar if there’s headlights.
People were starting to leave, so the background hum of conversation was way down. I could hear Kenny G or whoever. Some kind of clarinet, I think. I couldn’t make out a melody, but maybe that was me. Three or four hours on the stool at Callahan’s, I’d probably have trouble picking out the tune in “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” I was at the point where the notes were colliding and the people were starting to get fuzzy edges around them, like in that kid’s game, Wooly Willy, where you use a magnet to move the metal filings around on the fat guy’s face.
I started to feel real bad for Kenny G. After all, he’s very talented. I mean, it sounds good to me. Still, everyone’s always crapping on him. Maybe his music is lousy. Or he’s too white, or goofy looking. I don’t know what it is. But he’s out there, he’s trying, he’s doing his best. I’m sure of that. And when they make cracks about him, he’s got to be aware of it. It’s got to hurt. He’s a damn musician. So what if he’s shitty? He’s a person. That should count for something.
I started to cry, which I do a lot these days, usually all of a sudden and for no good reason.
Little while later, this guy came over, sat down on the stool next to me. I had gotten the crying under control. It wasn’t a big heaving cry, with my shoulders humping up and down and my face all twisted up. More of a trickle that I could brush away with my fingers. The guy didn’t ask permission. It was eleven o’clock, and he’d probably been scoping me out for a while, figured I was a regular.
He held up two fingers to Wayne, who came over and refilled us both. He turned to me, not saying anything. The light was too low for me to see his eyes. We drank for a while. “Do you want to go someplace?”
My kind of conversationalist. “Yeah,” I said.
“You know somewhere?”
Yes, I knew somewhere.
* * * *
Me and the guy drained our glasses fast and walked toward the door. Wayne gave me a small nod as I passed him.
“This way,” the guy said as he turned left and we started down Madison toward his car. The street lights were a little brighter than necessary. I looked past them to the gray clouds sweeping by in a hurry, flicking the stars on and off. Nights still got cold around here in May, down into the thirties, but coming out of Callahan’s with a good three-quarters of a buzz, I noticed it but it didn’t bother me. The cold was on the outside. Inside I was fine.
The guy stepped off the curb and clicked the remote control on his rental. I heard the door locks pop up but couldn’t quite tell which car it was. I watched him walk over to open the driver’s door of a generic pale blue sedan. He hadn’t come over to hold the passenger door for me. This wasn’t a date.
I picked the rental papers off the passenger seat and tossed them onto the dash. Locking the seatbelt, I breathed in the cheap plastic fumes. The guy started the car, didn’t bother with his seatbelt. “Which way?”
“Go straight,” I said.
He drove four or five blocks, past the bagel place, the candle store, a lawyer’s office. “Pull over here, will ya?” It was a state liquor store. “Double park. Put your flashers on. I’ll just be a second.” I opened the door. “Jack Daniel’s okay?”
“Whatever you want,” he said.
I ran in. The clerk, a dipshit named Tom with a short-sleeve shirt buttoned at the neck, saw me and reached on the shelf behind him for the JD pint. As he rang it up, I put a ten and a five on the counter and grabbed it before he could slip it into the paper bag.
I directed my guy down a few more blocks, to the Driftwood Inn, a small independent place that didn’t even make an effort about the driftwood. Nothing hanging from the ceiling or the walls in the lobby—no fishing nets or stuffed fish or oars or buoys or anything. No driftwood. Nothing in any of the rooms, either, not even a cheapo print showing a beach, a boat, or a seagull. Still, I liked the Driftwood. There were a few hourly places ten bucks cheaper, but they weren’t real sticklers about health codes.
The guy parked outside the neon Office sign. “I got it,” he said as he shut the driver’s door. I saw him peel off a few bills and hand them to the bored woman behind the desk.
She pulled a plastic card from a drawer and slid it across to him. He was back in the car in twenty seconds.
I said, “No paperwork?”
“Gave her three twenties and asked her to do it for me.” He started the car and drove us seventy-five feet, parking outside room 115.
We walked inside. What I like best about the Driftwood is that the rooms never smell. No Lysol, no cigarettes, no BO. The carpet and the curtains were old enough to not be putting out any chemicals but not so old they’d picked up that tangy funk of hard sex that slapped you when you opened the door at one of the hourly fuck joints out on 21.
The guy walked over to the TV, picked up the remote, and sat in what passed for a soft chair. “You want to use the bathroom?” he said. This was a good sign, him not pushing me up against the wall right away and ripping at my pants.
“Thanks.” I carried my big shoulder bag into the bathroom and turned on the tap to make some noise while I peed. I did a quick cleanup, leaving the toothbrush and mouthwash for him on the glass shelf above the sink. Most guys don’t think of things like that. I placed a condom there, too, and came back out.
When he went into the bathroom, I turned off the TV and put my shoulder bag on the floor next to the right side of the bed, which I prefer. I’ve found keeping it nearby means I don’t need to buy so many new wallets.
I picked up one of the two plastic cups from the desk, tore off the filmy plastic wrapper, and placed it on the night table near my side of the bed. Pulled the JD from my bag, broke the seal, and filled the cup. I stripped, hanging my clothes over the back of the chair at the desk, pulled back the covers, and got into bed. The ceiling was that popcorn texture, which is supposed to be good at keeping the noise down. Right over my head, the popcorn was stained. I scanned the rest of the ceiling, noting four other places.
I took a couple long swallows of the JD, preparation being key for activities like this.
The guy came out of the bathroom and turned out the overhead light. I heard him strip and walk over to my side of the bed. I didn’t smell any toothpaste or mouthwash. Maybe a bad sign, but maybe he just wasn’t planning on getting anywhere near my face.
He pulled the blanket and sheet off of me and slapped my hip, a little harder than necessary to get me to slide over. I did it. He straddled me. He didn’t want to kiss me, which was fine. Didn’t want to have anything to do with my tits, either. Also fine.
My eyes were adjusting to the dim light coming into the room from around the edges of the white plastic window shade. His dick was average, thick enough but a little short. I could see he was hard, which was good because maybe he wouldn’t make me suck him. He unwrapped the condom and put it on. He was on task, a man on a mission.
He slapped the inside of my right thigh, and I spread my legs as he moved his knees between them. The juices don’t flow for me anymore, so I had lubed up. It didn’t hurt much when he entered me. Nothing he did felt good, of course, but, to tell the truth, I can’t remember the last time anything down there felt good. But I was officially getting laid. Which, if I had to guess, was the goal.
He pumped steady, like a machine. He had his palms on the mattress and his arms straight, so he wasn’t touching anything he didn’t have to to get the job done. I could feel his prick going a little soft after two or three minutes, but I calculated that he’d likely have enough left to come before he went limp. I hoped so, anyway. It didn’t make any difference from my perspective, naturally, since he could have been swirling a toilet brush around in a bowl for all I was feeling. But it’s better if the guy comes. It’s a pride thing. I’d rather see him strut around afterwards like a fuck god than get all surly and want to explain himself. You don’t come to the Driftwood to talk to strangers.
Eventually, he did come. He didn’t lie down on the bed or anything, just pushed hard one last time, and the mattress stopped rocking. He pulled out and got right off the bed and went into the bathroom.
I turned over on my side, lifted myself onto an elbow, and drained the cup of JD. I lay back down, my right hand reaching for the familiar leather of the strap on my bag. I drifted off or down or out. Didn’t know where I was, except that it wasn’t room 115 at the Driftwood.
Later, I heard the guy coming out of the bathroom, walking around. Then I felt the mattress shift, like he was getting into bed next to me. That happens. He’d paid his sixty bucks, he was going to use the room a little bit more. I let my mind drift back to wherever I was.
I felt the mattress shift again, and I smelled him as he started to straddle me. I started to turn over to look up at him, figure out what was happening. Guys like this, who had to work real hard to come once, they don’t tend to tee it up again ten minutes later.
I was on my back, starting to sit up, when I felt his left hand on my throat. He had all his weight on me, holding me down.
“The fuck are you doing?” I said, panic in my voice, before the pressure on my windpipe shut me up. His hand was gripping my throat hard, cutting off my breathing. He tightened the grip. I fought to break it with my hands, but he was too strong. With my left arm I hit him inside his elbow. His arm bent for a second, then locked back in, tighter than ever. I was starting to see red circles. That’s when his right hand came out of nowhere and smacked me across the jaw.
I lay back, stunned, tasting the blood warm in my mouth where my teeth had cut the inside of my cheek.
Then I felt the hot liquid on my stomach and my chest. He was pissing on me. “Whore,” he said, his voice low and steady. He repeated the word a few more times as I tried again to break his lock on my neck. But his grip was secure. I couldn’t breathe. My arms fell to my side and the room went black.
Sometime later I regained consciousness. I could breathe again, although my windpipe was still sore, and my jaw hurt like hell from where he slugged me. I reached down with my left hand to feel for my bag. It was still there. I unzipped the inside pocket and pulled out my pistol.
I got out of bed, still naked, full of sticky half-dry piss, and cleared the bathroom. I came back into the main room and checked for my wallet. For some reason, he hadn’t taken it. I saw the plastic room key on the desk as I went over to the door and locked it.
I showered and got dressed. Wobbly, I walked back toward my own car, which I had parked a few blocks from Callahan’s. I brushed the parking meters with my jacket sleeve, staying as far as I could from the dark alleys between the old brick and stone buildings on Madison. I didn’t think the guy’s idea of a full evening’s fun included Jump the Whore, but I hadn’t expecting to get pissed on and beat up, either. The Colt tucked into my waist, hidden by my nylon jacket, felt good.
It was about one o’clock. Outside the bar, a couple of regulars were saying goodnight to each other, full of eighty-proof affection, giving back-slaps and hugs, like they were heading off to war and might not see each other again. Most likely, they’d meet up again at ten am, right here, when the bar re-opened, and salute each other with a boozy greeting after having endured eight hours apart.
That’s the thing about drunks: they get into patterns that are probably going to kill them, and they don’t even realize it.
I made it home, threw my bag on the coffee table, and walked into the bathroom. There were red spots around my neck, where he’d busted some blood vessels, and my left cheek had a girlish pink glow from where he’d slugged me. I looked in the mirror. I really didn’t like what I saw. I didn’t like it one damn bit.