Authors: Joe R. Lansdale
“Hyenas” Copyright © 2011 by Joe R. Lansdale.
All rights reserved.
“The Boy Who Became Invisible” Copyright © 2010 by Joe R. Lansdale. All rights reserved.
Dust jacket illustration Copyright © 2011
by Glen Orbik. All rights reserved.
Interior design Copyright © 2011
Desert Isle Design, LLC. All rights reserved.
PO Box 190106
Burton, MI 48519
For Keith, my son, and a
Hap and Leonard fan.
THE HYENAS ARE HUNGRY—THEY HOWL FOR FOOD.
KING SOLOMON’S MINES
H. RIDER HAGGARD
WHEN I DROVE
over to the night club, Leonard was sitting on the curb holding a bloody rag to his head. Two police cruisers were parked just down from where he sat. One of the cops, Jane Bowden, a stout woman with her blonde hair tied back, was standing by Leonard. I knew her a little. She was a friend of my girlfriend Brett. There was a guy stretched out in the parking lot on his back.
I parked and walked over, glanced at the man on the ground.
He didn’t look so good, like a poisoned insect on its way out. His eyes, which could be barely seen through the swelling, were roaming around in his head like maybe they were about to go down a drain. His mouth was bloody, but no bloodier than his nose and cheekbones. He was missing teeth. I knew that because quite a few of them were on his chest, like Chiclets he had spat out. I saw what looked like a chunk of his hair lying nearby. The parking lot light made the hunk of blond hair appear bronze. He was missing a shoe. I saw it just under one of the cop cars. It was still tied.
I went over and tried not to look too grim or too happy. Truth was I didn’t know how to play it, because I didn’t know the situation. I didn’t know who had started what, and why?
Jane had called and told me to come down to the BIG FROG CLUB because Leonard was in trouble. Since she didn’t say he was in jail, I was thinking positive on the way over.
When Leonard saw me, he said, “Hey, Hap.”
“Hey,” I said. I looked at Jane. “Well, what happened?”
“It’s a little complicated,” Jane said. “Seems Leonard here was in the club, and one of the guys said something, and Leonard said something, and then the two guys inside—”
“You’ll immediately know who they are if you go in the club. One of them actually had his head shoved through the sheet rock, and the other guy got his hair parted with a chair. He’s behind the bar taking a nap.”
“That’s what he said,” Jane said.
“So…I hate to ask… But how bad a trouble is Leonard in?”
“There’s paperwork, and that puts me off of him,” Jane said, “but everyone says the three guys started it, and Leonard ended it, and well, there were three of them and one of him.”
“How come this one is out in the parking lot?” I said, pointing to the fellow with his teeth on his chest.
Leonard looked over at me, but didn’t say anything. Sometimes he knew when to keep his mouth shut, but you could put those times on the head of a pin and have enough left over to engrave the first page of The King James Bible and a couple of fart jokes.
“Reason that guy’s here, and the other two are inside,” Jane said, “is he could run faster.”
“But not fast enough?” I said.
“That’s where we got a little problem. You see, that guy, he’s knocked out so hard his astral self took a trip to somewhere far away. Maybe interplanetary. He’s really out of here, and he hasn’t shown signs of reentry.”
No sooner had she said that than an ambulance pulled up. A guy and a woman got out and went over and looked at the guy on the ground. The male attendant said, “I guess clubbing doesn’t agree with him.”
“Either kind of clubbing didn’t agree with him,” the female EMT said.
It took me a minute to get what she meant. To do their job, I guess you have to have a sense of humor, lame as it might be.
They looked him over where he lay, and I was glad to hear him come around. He said something that sounded like a whale farting underwater, and then he said, “Nigger,” quite clearly.
Leonard said, “I can hear that, motherfucker.”
The guy went silent.
They loaded him in the ambulance.
“Don’t forget his shoe,” I said, pointing at it. But they didn’t pay me any mind. Hell, they worked for the city.
“We got a bit of a problem here,” Jane said. “You see, once this guy ran for it, and Leonard chased him, it couldn’t quite be called self-defense.”
“I didn’t want him to come back,” Leonard said. “I was chasing him down because I was in fear of my life.”
“Uh huh,” Jane said.
“He turned on me when I caught up with him,” Leonard said.
“Just be quiet, Leonard,” she said. “Things will go better. You see, the part that’s hard to reconcile, as we in the law business say, is Leonard turning him around, and then beating him like a bongo drum. Leonard grabbed him by the throat and hit him a lot.”
“A few times,” Leonard said. “He called me nigger.”
“You called him asshole,” Jane said. “That’s what the witnesses said.”
“He started it,” Leonard said. “And there’s that whole deep cultural wound associated with the word nigger, and me being black and all. That’s how it is. Look it up.”
“No joke,” she said. “You’re black?”
“To the bone,” Leonard said.
Jane turned her attention back to me. “A guy watching all this,” she pointed to a fellow standing over by the open door of the club, “he said Leonard hit that guy a lot.”
“Define a lot,” I said.
“After the nose was broke and the cheek bones were crushed, and that’s just my analysis, Leonard set about knocking out his teeth, said while he was doing it, according to the gentleman over there, and I quote, ‘all the better to suck dick with, you son-of-a-bitch’, unquote.”
“So, Leonard’s going to jail?”
“What Leonard has going for him, is yon man in yon ambulance—”
I looked to see it drive off with the lights on, but it wasn’t speeding and there wasn’t any siren.
“—hit Leonard with a chair first, and he did call him the Nigger word.”
“You mean the N word. When you say Nigger word, well, you’ve said nigger.”
“Did I say the Nigger word instead of the N word?”
“If you’re quoting someone said Nigger, isn’t that different?”
“I think so.”
“Hey,” Leonard said. “Sitting right here.”
“Well, hell, I’ve pulled two shifts,” Jane said. “Another hour on the job and I’ll be calling everybody sweetie baby. Anyway, back to Leonard. Somewhere between the N word, and him chasing the track star out into the lot, he hit one of the other attackers with a chair and slammed the other guy’s head into the wall. Ralph, that’s my partner, he’s in there right now trying to get the fellow’s head out of the wall without breaking something. Either wall or victim.”
“Actually,” I said, “Leonard had to have been provoked. He’s normally very sweet.”
“No shit?” Jane said.
“I don’t think so. But here’s what we’re going to do. You bring Leonard by the station tomorrow morning, not the crack of dawn, but before lunch, and we’ll fill out some papers. I won’t be there. I’ll be snoozing. But I got my notes and I got statements, and I’m going to turn those in, so they’ll be there. And, just as a side note, I really did enjoy seeing that fellow’s head stuck in the wall. Before you go, you need to go in there and take a peek, if they haven’t got his head loose. They haven’t, then you don’t want to miss this. It’s a fucking classic.”
I DID TAKE
a look inside the BIG FROG CLUB before I drove Leonard home, and the cop trying to work the guy’s head out of the sheet rock was snickering. He looked at me and lost it, made a spitting sound, and let go of him and wandered off bent over and hooting.
Another cop, smiling, went over, and without a whole lot of conviction, pulled one of the guy’s ears—the other one wasn’t visible—said, “Come on out, now.”
The guy’s head was pretty far through the wall. It was poking into a bathroom. He must have turned his back to escape and found a wall, and then Leonard shoved the back of his head, pushing the front of it through the wall and into the bathroom. He was all scratched up, like a cat had been sharpening its claws on his face.
The bathroom walls had never really been laid out, just sheet rocked, so it hadn’t been too hard to push the guy’s head through. I took a good look at him. His chin had locked behind a support board, and the back of his head was locked behind another. He had fit in there easily enough, but in such a way he couldn’t get out, and the cops didn’t seem to be working that hard to release him.
I said, “You had some antlers, we could just leave you there and tell folks you’re a deer.”
“Fuck you,” he said, but it was weak and without conviction, so I didn’t take offense.
I used the urinal, which was just under him and smiled as I peed. I didn’t flush. I went back in the main room and saw the back of the guy. He was bent slightly with his butt in the air, standing on his tip toes, probably getting a good bracing from the piss in the urinal.
I went over to the bar, leaned and peeked over. The other guy Leonard had hit was awake and had his back against the bar. A broken chair was on the floor next to him.
I said, “You put your dick in a bee hive, my friend.”
“Tell me about it,” he said. “We was just funnin’.”
“Yeah, how fun was it?”
“Not so much,” he said.
I got Leonard and drove him home.