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Posts Tagged ‘Texas crime’

 

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After Waverly finished his beer Frank let him out the front door then stepped outside to watch Keith walk down the boardwalk to a rusty, mid-sixties Oldsmobile, the driver-side mirror dangling down to the middle of the door on thin wire cables. Already feeling the internal stirrings signaling the beginnings of his acid trip, Frank watched the big Olds disappear around the corner before going back inside the Metropole.

Wanting to get out of here before the LSD hit him full on, Frank quickly totaled up the cash register, checked it against the beginning balance and put the numbers on Betty’s daily income sheet. Next step was to put the night’s profits in a bank bag along with the form and bring it downstairs to Tom Meagher, manager of the Underground Lounge, the meat market on the lower level.

Frank got his jacket from the wall hook and went down the stairs. Going through the glass-paneled doors into the Underground, he noticed that the blue and red stage lights were still on and it was starting to look very weird in here. The bar was empty but yellow light was slipping under the door of the office in back. Frank went back there and found Meagher and Burt Oberst sitting on chrome-and-plastic chairs holding Michelob bottles, a small pile of white powder on top of the green metal desk. Meagher said, ”Hey, Frank, care for a toot? You look like you could use one.”

“No thanks, Tom, I’ll pass. One is too many and a thousand not enough with that shit.” Frank set the bank sack on the desk as far from the powder as possible. “Will have a beer, though,” he said, eyeing the torn-open twelve-pack of Michelob on the floor by the desk.

“Knock yourself out, man,” Meagher said. “Busy upstairs tonight?”

“Pretty much. ‘Nother pile of money for Betty’s retirement fund.”

“That old hag’ll never retire,” Oberst, the Underground’s other bartender, said. “She’ll keep working until she falls the fuck over, long as the place is turning a profit.”

“I don’t know about that,” Frank said. “She’s worried about these new dram-shop laws they’re talking about. They say they’re going to hold the bars responsible if one of their customers gets drunk and plows into someone on the way home. Betty claims the insurance rates are going to skyrocket and the DWI fines are gonna rise with ’em. She seems to think it’ll be the death knell for places like this.” Frank leaned over and plucked a Michelob from the pack on the floor, twisted the top, sailed the cap into the wastebasket next to the desk and had a swallow, feeling something strange happening in his neck now.

“Betty’s an old lady,” Meagher said. “Old ladies worry about shit all the time. Doesn’t mean it will come true. And if it does, it’s not like we’re losing the golden-egg-laying goose.”

Frank knew that was true but still had a thread of unease in his stomach thinking about changing jobs. Getting set in his ways. Not good. Too soon for that. “Nah, you’re right, Tom,” Frank said, “but not many bosses out there are as easy as Betty to get along with, either. Look at the shit she lets Sack get away with.”

Oberst said, “I hear that, man. Sack her goddamn nephew or what?”

“Nah, I don’t think so,” Frank said. “I don’t know why she puts up with him. Feels sorry for the bastard, I guess.”

“Wouldn’t let me get away with that shit,” Meagher said. “I’d be on the street in a heartbeat. Fuckin’ Sack must be on his fifth last chance by now.”

“No shit,” Frank said. “I had to come in tonight because of that asshole. On the day of my brother’s fuckin’ funeral.”

Meagher looked down at the floor. “Sorry about your brother, Frank. Ray had a hard time of it, man. It’s a sad deal.”

“Yeah, sorry, Frank,” Oberst said.

“Thanks, Tom, Burt,” Frank said. “You and my mother must think alike, Tom. She’s always saying, ‘Ray had a hard time of it.’ And it’s true, I’m not arguing that, but Ray brought most of it on himself. I don’t believe he killed himself though. You guys heard any rumblings?”

Meagher said, “Kevin Andrews told me Artie Autry and the Doughboy were with your brother at the Paul Bunyan on the day Ray was last seen. He said Autry and Ray were arguing but Ray left before anything physical started up. Also said the cops came to the Bunyan to ask him about it.”

“The Bunyan is one of the few downtown bars that would still let Ray in,” Frank said. “He was probably afraid to lose his privileges. Kevin, say anything about Ray’s physical condition? Bruised up or anything like that?”

“No, man, nothing,” Meagher said.

(To be continued)

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In late January of 1978, with football season over and hopeful Christmas tree lights throughout the vast northern winter darkness switched off in defeat, full-time cabdriver, sometime card shark Keith Waverly witnesses the violent abduction of a local street hustler. Later, when the man is found with his head ventilated by bullet holes, Waverly is dragged into a world of high-rolling gamblers, crooked politicians, violence and really bad weather, with only his wits and his new girlfriend to pull him out.

CHAPTER 8 Acid Reflux

Excerpt 5

     Back in the womb now I started it up and drove around until I found a street lonely and dark enough. I parked next to a big black oak tree whose branches seemed to point at me accusingly. Across the street a vacant lot divided a row of dark little houses with their shades pulled down. I took a blast on the bottle and the whiskey swirled into the bottom of my gut, hot and shivery at the same time.

I felt myself sinking down, giving up. But I needed a smoke. A man needs a smoke. My matchbook said “Relax and Enjoy” but it was empty. I flipped open the glove box and rummaged for matches because the car lighter didn’t work. A sheet of green pyramid LSD fell out onto the torn rubber floor mat.

What the hell, I thought. Why not do some right now? Could it make things any worse? Always sick, always in trouble, always guilty—don’t get much worse.

I tore off a strip of the acid, sixteen hits at least. Washed them down with Windsor and laughed a bitter laugh like everybody’s fool. Then me, and my friends Whiskey Man and Mr. Cigs, went for a little walk—or stumble, as it were, around the empty streets. I could no longer feel the cold and the icy rain soothed the wounds on my face.

But could I save face in outer space without a trace of sanity?

In a time that seemed like an hour but could have been ten minutes, I came upon a boarded up church, a small, white, clapboard building with a bogus steeple on the roof. I walked toward the rear of the building with the intent of relieving myself. There was a strange metallic taste in my throat. Glands in my neck were going squirrelly. My brain was shifting gears like a sixteen-wheeler rolling down hill in a snowstorm. Putrid smoke from factories was thick in my nostrils. Cars on the bridge whined in my ears and the universe vibrated through me in intermittent waves. Lights on the hillside—miles away—hurt my eyes. Pain always there to remind me.

Bad thoughts tumbled out with the rushing urine: The High Bridge would be a good place to end it all. It would be a big deal—women would cry. What a rush, just walking up to the middle, cars zipping by like you’re not even there and you not caring about jackshit. Every time they whoosh by your heart just about explodes and a chill of fear grabs your balls. Up on top of the span, the wind would be blowing and you’d look down at the dark and icy water below and the voice would be screaming Jump. Jump you miserable coward. Jump.

You’d just go numb—it wouldn’t be that bad.

     Come on, what are you waiting for? Take the plunge. You’re outta here. Gone Johnson. People would be yelling. Horns would be honking. When Johnny comes marching home again, hurrah, hurrah. The lights… the water… all around me they swirled. Inside me it swirled.

On the ground in front of me it swirled.

Jesus, it was a long goddamn piss.

I zipped up and pulled out the bottle and sucked hard on the whiskey.  Take me back to my daddy’s knee, sweet whiskey; take me back. 

     I knew if I stayed here much longer they’d have to change my name to Catatonic State. I could dye my hair orange….

 

(To be continued)

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CHAPTER 4, Excerpt 12

Just north of Corpus Cyn pulled to the shoulder to make a call, believing it was unsafe to talk and drive at the same time. Should she call Jean and seek sanctuary? Better than Daddy, but it was always the same at Jeannie’s house: First came the wine or beer, followed by smiling sympathy and understanding, and then eventually the unasked for advice and the cracks about naivety and being a pushover. So damn it; that was no good, either.

Cyn put the phone down on the seat and chewed at her lower lip. She was feeling a curious mix of apprehension and exhilaration. Wasn’t the Fourth of July yet, just early April, but today was definitely Independence Day. Taking a deep breath and letting her senses take over, something she’d learned in yoga class, Cyn felt the rush of traffic going by and the heat coming through the windows of the Toyota. Gazing out the windshield, she saw the big Northgate Mall sign up ahead towering above everything else.

Maybe something is guiding me, she thought. But there was still an empty space where her plans should be. She’d just have to keep the faith and take advice from that Kacey Musgraves’ song, the nice Texas girl singing about following her arrow wherever it points. But to follow arrows you need a little cash and Cyn only had fifty dollars in her purse—two twenties and two fives—and three credit cards she didn’t want to use because she knew from the crime shows that law enforcement could trace the receipts and see where you’ve been. The joint checking account still had the household money in it but she was hesitant to use that for the same reason—Trooper Dan might come looking.

Ten minutes later Cyn was drifting through the air-conditioned comfort thinking everyone in the mall looked strange today. She found an ATM and slid her card in the slot. A cash advance would keep her free from them all, Dan and Jean and Dad and Mom. And for now that’s what she wanted.

Needed.

Watching those crime shows with Dan, sometimes Cyn would imagine herself a character in the drama. What would she do; how would she feel? And now here she was, back in the car, cash advance safely tucked away in her purse and feeling strung out. Not exactly sure what strung out meant, thought it had something to do with drug addiction, and that certainly wasn’t the case with her, but still she felt stretched out and worn thin and on edge and directionless. “Strung out” seemed to capture the essence of her being at the moment.

Cruising aimlessly now, she was fighting off a little envy. Hard not to envy the people living in these beautiful homes surrounded by lush foliage. They had beach and water access, luxury cars in the driveway—what’s not to like?

Cyn didn’t like feeling envy, one of the seven deadly sins, and told herself it was only the surface of things she was seeing. One shouldn’t be fooled by superficial illusions because what went on behind closed doors could paint a totally different picture. And, in Cyn’s experience, often did.

She smiled recalling her first ride through Corpus Christi, nearly twenty years ago, the family relocating from Minneapolis for her father’s new job with the tire company. How the feelings of awe and envy started for her then, sun, water, sand and palm trees offering up a rich and colorful contrast to the bleak snow-covered plains of her former home in Minnesota. And no, Cyn hadn’t made it to her own dream house yet, but that kind of thing mattered very little to her. Six years ago, being Dan Henning’s wife and the mother of his child was all she wanted, having chosen Dan over her other suitor at the time, Roy Owen. Bunky, they called him. Biggest car dealer in Corpus now (Owen Toyota, Bunky’s BMW, Roy’s Royal Rides), and he owned one of the biggest, gaudiest homes in town.

Well, Cynthia had made her choice and vowed to make it work and tried her darndest for six years and now where was she? She would gladly do without the waterfront mansion if Dan still possessed what he had back then, although, to tell the truth, she could no longer identify exactly what that was. Maybe it was a lack of something? Seemed like Dan was carrying extra baggage lately. Yes, that could be it.

Possibly things had started eroding after Danny was born. And yes, Cyn had read the magazine articles about first-time mothers losing their sexual desire, young women refocusing their lives around their child at the expense of matrimonial intimacy, but she didn’t think that was her situation. What it was, Dan started coming home with the scent of other women on him. Sometimes faint, sometimes stronger. And then the stuff really hit the fan with the incident with the prostitute, the cell phone picture and Dan’s suspension, the incident putting a spotlight on the problem and making it hard to deny—although Cyn had tried really hard.

God.

(To be continued)

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CHAPTER 4, Excerpt 11

On her way to Corpus, traveling along I-37 in her ’96 Toyota Camry—same model that made the headlines about accelerators sticking a few years ago but she never had any problems with it—Cynthia was picturing her parents in their elegant home. Daddy moving with his stiff-backed posture and mother trailing behind him like a zombie, the poor woman seemingly reduced to only neediness now, independent thought having left her some time ago.

The image wasn’t very appealing.

No, she wouldn’t go to her parent’s house; she was thirty years old for God sakes. She needed to find someplace Dan wouldn’t think of right away. But it was kind of weird, because as much as she wanted to feel angry, Cyn couldn’t help but remember better times, seeing her and Dan together on the couch watching television cop shows like Justified and Graceland, Dan frequently hooting he’d like the freedom to shoot miscreants like that Raylan Givens on Justified. And Cyn saying Timothy Olyphant who played Raylan was sure a cutie, maybe a hottie, jerking Dan’s chain a little.

But those kinds of moments didn’t come around much anymore and you had to make the best of things. And sometimes wisdom comes from unexpected places. It was because of those cop shows that Cyn got the idea to purchase a prepaid cell phone at Walmart, (what they called a “burner” on TV). Now with the burner she could call people without fear of Dan getting to the phone company records. You had a possessive cop for a husband; you had to take steps. She’d gone into the Walmart with the idea of using an alias for the purchase—April Flowers—and was a little disappointed when the pimple-faced kid at the counter didn’t even ask for a name, taking her money and ringing it up without so much as a second look.

So, with her new phone, she could avoid being traced. But now the question was what untraceable act, exactly, should she commit, since she had the opportunity? Her sister kept insisting she get down to Padre Island and hit the beaches, Jeannie telling her, Pick up a bikini and a thermos of mai tais and see what comes along, implying, it seemed, strange men. But Cyn suspected Jean’s advice was the booze talking, her older sister possibly an alcoholic—a functioning one, yes—but frequently displaying some of the signs discussed at Al Anon meetings, Cyn having attended a few last year in an unsuccessful attempt at understanding her husband’s daily boozing.

They told you at Al Anon—kind of a class in Alcoholism 101—that boozers often tried to control those around them with shame and guilt and subtle attacks on self-esteem. Recalling past encounters, Cyn thought it sort of sounded like Jeannie. Like the time Jean called her Cynthia Moonbeam because she’d taken a Transcendental Meditation class, although she quit after only three sessions because Dan said they couldn’t afford it. Or that time Jean criticized her for not having a full-time job like “normal women.” And she’d sure never forget the time she saw a photo of Jennifer Aniston in a magazine and made the mistake of saying she thought Jennifer’s hair and hers looked alike, Jean then telling anyone who would listen that Cyn believed she was just like Jennifer Aniston. God, the way Jean could twist things. And the way everyone in the family seemed to accept what she said as gospel—it was enough to make you want to scream. Dan could play the same game, proving it by claiming he needed booze for job stress and telling Cyn, “Men are under real stress; not the neurotic crap housewives have in their heads.”

But, well, aren’t all men controlling like that? Make a case for her father too, truth be told, and he hadn’t had a drink in years. Still dishing out the barbs though. Al Anon also had a name for that: a dry drunk. Strange concept but it made some sense when you thought about it.

(To be continued)

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CHAPTER 3, Excerpt 10

Sam pushed redial and got a busy signal, his gut churning like a washing machine on spin cycle. He had no time to waste tracking down the pill bitch so he went in the bathroom and checked his supply, found five of the pills left. Definitely not enough to get through the entire ordeal. He dry swallowed one to push back the fear of running out and went to his computer, booted up and clicked onto Southwest Airlines.

Ah, Southwest, the Greyhound Bus of the airways, one more indignity to suffer through. Fucking Jimmy—why had he trusted the kid? But Jimmy had been straight with him in the past, part of Jimmy’s nature it seemed, and if what he’d said about the license plates was indeed true, then it really wasn’t Jimmy’s fault. Not Sam’s fault, either. And hard to believe that Bob Ryan messed it up, but what else was there? So it was a good thing that Jimmy escaped. Who knows what secrets he might’ve revealed if the jackbooted Texas fascists had got hold of him, hooking electric cables to his testicles and such.

Sam clicked through, found a seat available on a flight to San Antonio with connections to Corpus Christi, and, although he hated to use a credit card online, finalized the transaction with his Visa card.

Sam shut down the computer, went to his bedroom and started filling a bag, stuffing in clothes without much thought because his thoughts were like young flies scattering—hard to hang on to. Soon the pill would take over and everything would slow down and the thoughts would be lying there stuck in the mud and he could pluck them out at his leisure, leisure being perhaps the wrong word. If he hurried, he could still get a cab and make it to the airport in time for boarding. He glanced at the Browning 9mm in his sock drawer, wishing he could bring it along. But those days were long gone. In today’s world a toothbrush was considered a dangerous weapon for someone of Middle Eastern descent.

As he was zipping up his bag, the landline in the living room chirped. Wanting to get out of here fast, Sam let it go to the answering service. But then, before he knew it, his cell phone was dinging from the top of the dresser, screen showing R. Ryan. Sam picked up the cell, his hands trembling. He thought he felt the beginnings of the languid chemical onslaught coming through his veins. He put the phone to his ear and heard his name being snapped off like a hammer hitting metal: “Sam. Sam. Sam.”

Sam said to the hammer: “Bob, how are you this morning?”

“Aggravated, Sam. My man in sagebrush country just called to tell me the van hasn’t checked in yet. You were supposed to be making my delivery today. Fuck is going on here?”

“I was just going to call you, Bob. There’s been a little problem with the van. Nothing I can’t handle, you understand.”

“You were supposed to be down there with it, Sam. This is very disturbing news, not the kind of thing I expect from you.”

“What makes you think I’m not in Texas, Bob?”

“Because I’m standing outside your goddamn door, asshole. I hear you in there, goddamnit.”

“Oh.” Sam felt his throat constrict and his sphincter lock up. And on weakened knees he shuffled to the door and let Bob Ryan in. Ryan was big, six-two, wiry and wide shouldered, wearing loose fitting jeans below a brown suede jacket and white shirt, the man’s sharp-featured face gray and rough and scowling down at Sam, Ryan showing his particular fake-smile that resembled a dog baring its teeth. “Sam,” Ryan said, nodding.

Sam said, “I’m on my way to the airport right now, Bob. I know I told you I was driving the van down myself, but several emergencies came up and I was forced to delegate responsibility to my extremely trustworthy right-hand man. In fact I—”

“Not that degenerate wop Ireno, I hope.”

Ryan seemed to grow larger in Sam’s eyes. “As a matter of fact, it is Jimmy.” Sam getting short of breath. “But I swear he’s changed his ways. Jimmy’s actually quite responsible now. In fact he called me this morning, said the van had broken down and the repair shop wouldn’t accept his credit cards—some kind of mix-up concerning expiration dates, I gather. I’ve scheduled a flight down there to straighten things out. Other than that, everything is fine.”

“I appreciate you finally doing what you were supposed to do in the first goddamn place, Sam. But why don’t you just wire him the money or use one of your own cards over the phone?”

“Well, he’s stuck at some backward dust hole outside Corpus Christi, Texas, and they won’t do that. You know how things are these days. And since I’ve cleared up my local emergencies, I thought it only right I fly down and take charge.”

Ryan squinted at him, scowled some more and shook his head. “And I know doing the right thing is important to you, Sam,” Ryan laying on the sarcasm. “But don’t you think it might be wise to have somebody with their shit together as your right-hand? Too much incompetence makes a man unhealthy, unwealthy and dead, Sam.”

Sam wanted to mention the license plates, but didn’t, fearing Ryan’s legendary capacity for rage. Instead: “I’m sorry, Bob, I truly am. I’ll be straightening everything out quite soon. Just hold your faith a little bit longer and I guarantee everything will be fine.”

“Better be, Sam. Hate to attend your funeral. And just to be on the safe side, y’know, I’m sending my assistant Frankie Neelan along with you.”

This was not what Sam wanted to hear. “But my flight leaves in two hours, Bob. I don’t know if we have time. I—”

“He’s waiting in the car outside, Sam. I’ll run you two out to the airport.”

“You sure your man can get a ticket?”

“He can do it on the drive to the airport. These kids today can do anything with their goddamn phones. Maybe Frankie can teach you a few things.”

Sam hated the idea.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity, Bob,” Sam said, pulling at the loose flesh around his Adam’s apple.

(To be continued)

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CHAPTER 3, Excerpt 9

Sam had the pill trollop on the line when the call-waiting click hit his ear. Times like this, he wondered why he’d ordered the damn service. Leave this one waiting, you might lose her for days, twat sliding off to Sopor Land. Girl had all the new drugs the kids were getting hooked on these days: Oxies, Vics, Special K—that stuff—a new one coming along all the time it seemed.

Reluctantly switching over to the incoming call, Sam heard Jimmy Ireno’s nasal whine on the other end. Sam’s spirit lifted. Ah, sweet Jimmy, always giving you pause but then coming through in the end. The boy still like he was on the basketball court: making mistakes, being reckless, but coming through at the buzzer. “Eye” Ireno’s fourth quarter heroics had rescued Sam from financial disaster more than once, back in the day.

“Jimmy, my friend, good to hear your voice. I confess I was a little worried, but I should know better, shouldn’t I? Trickster that you are, always taking old Sammy to the brink. But everything is forgiven now that the vehicle has been delivered and you are all right.”

“You sitting down, Sam?” Jimmy said. “You better sit down and listen.”

“What is this Jimmy, more of your tricks? You haven’t given your old friend enough heartache already?”

“I’m afraid this is harsh reality, Sam. The van is now in the possession of the State of Texas. Fuckin’ license plates fell off somewhere along the line and the patrol pulled me over. I just barely escaped myself, had to run through the sagebrush for hours to get away.”

“Stop with the bad jokes, Jimmy, my blood pressure, you know.”

“No joke, Sam. Everything’s gone. But it’s not my fault. Whoever you had mount the license plates on the van, did one piss poor job, man. Must’ve been some real sharp guys. I know you’re a generous fellow, Sam, but did you have to hire the handicapped for this gig?”

Sam felt the heat rising to his face and his stomach acid jets blowing out volume. For a moment he feared passing out. Rubbing his forehead, he stared at the floor. This had to be a joke, yes, one of Jimmy’s pranks, the wop asshole just rolling him on the coals, seeing how much old Sam could take. But goddamnit, if what Jimmy was saying was actually true; they were both as good as dead.

Staring at the phone in his hand, Sam struggled to pull himself up from the nightmare. He tried to think but the thoughts just kept jumping around in his head like popping corn.

“Jimmy, you still there? Are these things you say really true? Maybe you’re trying to cut yourself in for the big payday? How can I tell, this far away from you? That vehicle was delivered to me by my client’s people. These are top-shelf people and not given to egregious errors such as you describe.”

“Doesn’t change the facts, Sam. I never would’ve been stopped if it weren’t for the missing plates. Never went over the limit the whole way. Your client must’ve hired temps that day.”

“You seem to be taking this lightly for a dead man, Ireno. You know I was responsible for that delivery. I told the man I’d be driving it down there myself. The only reason I didn’t was out of kindness to you, Jimmy. To let you make good on your markers.”

“And your charitable ways are known far and near, Sam. You think I’m taking this lightly? I’m stuck down here with no money, no clothes but what I got on my back, and more than likely a BOLO on me ringing across the police band as we speak. Consider yourself lucky that you weren’t driving. Really couldn’t see you racing through the briars and the brambles like I did.”

“If I was driving, maybe I would see the plates were loose. Were you high, Jimmy?”

“Fuck you, Sam. And no, I wasn’t high. Just a little speed for the driving. Toed the line the whole goddamn way.”

Sam was out of ideas. What the hell could he do, put in a claim with the Texas State Troopers? Call Bob Ryan and beg for mercy? Guys tried that became catfish food in the Mississippi. “Goddamn you, Jimmy, you have any idea who we’re dealing with? If Bob Ryan doesn’t hear from me or his man down there today, I’ll be the confetti in next year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. Drunken micks will be eating corned beef and Sammy.”

“I sympathize, Sam, but what the hell you want me to do? Seems to me the only play you got is claiming the van.”

“Claiming the van? You are high, Jimmy. Or are you telling me the highway patrol might not have found the money?”

Jimmy had an answer ready, his mind coming back to normal: “No way they didn’t find the money. A blind man coulda spotted the gap between the panels all the way from Mexico for fuck sake. Another amateur job done by your so-called top-shelf people. Way too much gap between the panels, dude. But think about this, as long as there was no dope in the van, why not cop to unlawful transfer of legal tender or whatever they call it and see what your legal sharpies can pull off. Might get something back that way. Shit, I don’t know. Only thing I know for sure is that I forgot my tennis whites and I’m beginning to stand out around here like the accidental tourist. I need to find a place away from prying eyes.”

“Don’t hang up, Jimmy,” Sam yelled into the phone. “I’m coming down there and you better answer your phone.” All Sam heard was a click and a buzz and emptiness ringing in his ears. He’d wanted to say to Jimmy that perhaps if he hadn’t run away the highway patrolman wouldn’t have looked in the van, but now the goddamn little dago rodent was gone. Made Sam momentarily forget the pill-pushing wench on the other line. Remembering, he clicked back, thinking he’d need a real good load if he had to fly down to the Lone Star State. But coming back, the line was dead; bitch was gone, Sam thinking she was off filling an anal syringe with Oxycodone… pill trollop floating away on a fantasy bubble.

(To be continued)

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CHAPTER 3, Excerpt 8

Jimmy was still in Tequila World. At least the parts of him that ached, throbbed or made him want to puke. His head was hazy but shit was coming back to him:

So he was sitting on that barstool last night rolling the ice cubes in his empty glass, waiting for another tequila sunrise from the bartender and wondering where he was going to sleep. Then the drink came and pretty soon he didn’t give a shit. Funny how the cactus juice makes your thinking change and it seems so natural, so right, at the time.

In the next scene he’s still at the bar, arguing with himself and looking at the remains of his money, a pathetic little pile in his hand. He’s wondering if he should get another drink or tip the bartender and crawl off somewhere to pass out. But before he can decide, Tequila World cues up a thrill ride in the form of a slightly drunk woman somewhere between thirty and forty Jimmy had an idea was a secretary from the Midwest, real estate or insurance. Soon she was on the barstool next to his, smiling at him and saying, “Can I buy you a drink?”

Well, Jimmy never had a problem with assertive women—even aggressive was all right if they were hot—and this one wasn’t half bad. And he did need a place to spend the night. So, as someone famous once said, exactly who, Jimmy couldn’t recall at the moment: “Buy your ticket, take the ride.”

Repeating that in his head he turned toward the lady and smiled as best he could, his face feeling rubbery. “You certainly may,” he said, looking in her eyes. Chick’s eyes were pale blue and glazed over, woman behind a wall of alcohol herself.

“You from Mexico, mister? I always wanted to meet a real Mexican.”

“I’m from anywhere you want me to be, darlin’. You can call me Julio.”

Then two more sunrises were sweating in front of him and she was smiling at him and everything was getting kind of warm and fuzzy. And maybe later there was a group sing-a-long with Jimmy leading the bar crowd through rousing renditions of Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise”. And that’s pretty much all he could remember before waking up hung over in a hotel bed—six a.m. on the bedside clock—what’s-her-name (Linda?) passed out next to him, makeup smeared, matted hair sticking to the drool on the side of her mouth.

Horror show, dude.

Jimmy snuck out of the room without waking her and now was on the sidewalk, sun beating down on him, Jimmy thinking how nice it would be if things were different. If Sam Arndt hadn’t hired incompetents to mount the license plates on the van, Jimmy would be enjoying a spring vacation free of the millstone of his gambling debts, as was his initial intent. But instead of enjoyment, Jimmy’s mouth tasted like bird shit, he was battling heartburn, and trying to think away a headache. The reality of his situation was a gauntlet of fear and suffering where making it through to the other side guaranteed nothing.

Was a lot here he couldn’t control.

The money was gone for good. Same with the van.

These thoughts ignited little explosions in Jimmy’s gut, the acid riding up his esophagus to his pounding scull, the hot sun he’d longed for all winter now an instrument of torture. Dirty old sun.

Coming to a busy four-lane street Jimmy stopped and squinted in both directions, trying to recall the route he took last night. Tequila had gone down real easy and now he was paying the price. But not as dear a price as he’d pay if Sam caught up to him.

A voice in his head, this one coming from his good upbringing, was saying he should give Sam a call. There were no drugs found in the van so maybe the state of Texas would give the money back. Was it against the law to carry a million in cash in your vehicle? Jimmy didn’t know the answer to that but thought it must be illegal, the way they were making just about everything a crime these days. But as much as Jimmy wanted to believe in the possibility of a positive outcome, something rang hollow with the idea of the State of Texas returning money to suspected criminals. You didn’t hide your cash behind the wall paneling if you were legit. Didn’t take off running through the weeds if you worked for Goldman Sachs or Bain Capitol.

No, you didn’t.

Now a dissenting voice in Jimmy’s head, the most dominant voice in his recent history, was preaching avoidance, as usual. Telling him it was time to start fresh with a new identity. He was familiar with the process, having read his older brother’s copy of The Paper Trip (a guidebook to obtaining alternative identity) way back in 2012.

So he had the dueling voices thing going. Add to that he was a scruffy vagrant type on the tony beachfront boulevards of Corpus Christi, Texas, someone likely to draw the attention of the local bum dispersers. Made him wonder if strolling without a destination was a violation down here.

Shit, he just had to keep moving.

With sweat dripping into his eyes and the sour odor from his armpits mixing with the chick’s stale perfume to form a nauseating bouquet, Jimmy spied a bench on the boulevard and headed for it. There, in the shade of two large palms, he breathed deeply, trying to disperse the pounding in his head and the growing nausea and dizziness. Didn’t work. So he slid his cell phone out of his stained khakis—tar balls on the beach down here, you believe that?—and punched in Sam’s number. Jimmy hadn’t forgotten that Sam Arndt gave him a break, gave him a chance to work off his old gambling debts, and for that he believed he owed the man something. The least Jimmy could do was get Sam on the line and bitch about the license plates falling off, put the situation in its proper perspective.

Here was the refurbished and responsible Jimmy Ireno putting his best foot forward, getting in the habit, giving Sam a heads up. But a worm of memory was beginning to wiggle in his head, something about another dude, a more dangerous one, an Irishman, some kind of gangster. Jimmy recalled Sam pissing and moaning about a ruthless dude from St. Paul would slice off his nuts if anything happened to the cash.

(To be continued)

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