Authors: J.D. Rhoades
Tags: #Romance, #Thriller, #Mystery, #north carolina, #bounty hunter, #hard boiled, #redneck noir
THE DEVIL’S RIGHT HAND
All rights reserved
This is a work of fiction. Names, places and
events are either the product of the author's imagination or are
used fictitiously. Any similarities to real persons, places, or
events is purely coincidental.
To my wife, Lynn, and my children, Nicholas
She ain’t no damn lesbian,” the stocky
Sure she is,” the skinny one said.
"Didn’t you see that MTV show? Man, Madonna had her tongue right
down that girl’s throat.”
They were sitting in the front seat of a
dented pickup truck, pulled back into the woods. From there they
could see the trailer the timber company used as an office. It was
5:30 in the morning, and the sky was brightening. A few stray wisps
of fog hugged the grass, flowing sluggishly in the humid air.
Rusting log trucks loomed in field behind the trailer, looking like
ancient behemoths in the mist.
They had been in place since 4:00. Boredom
had finally trumped the need for stealth so they had turned the
radio on low. Britney Spears was moaning that she had done it
Man, you got to be crazy,” the big one
said. “She was goin’ with that guy from the who is it, the Backseat
Boys. She gave up her cherry for him. ”
Well, there y’are, then,” the skinny
one said triumphantly. “Ever’one knows those guys is all faggots.
It was all a cover, man. Like that Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford.
All them Hollywood homos cover for one another.”
An’ you believe that shit?” the stocky
one said. He ran a hand through his thick dark hair. He had kept it
trimmed short in prison, thinking it gave him a more menacing
appearance. Now it was growing back out, and it was taking some
getting used to.
There was a brief flash of headlights through
the trees. He reached down and snapped the radio off. “You sure
about this now, cuz?” He asked for what seemed like the fiftieth
Sure I’m sure,” the skinny man
replied. He recited the facts again, with the patience of a
special-ed teacher repeating a lesson for a slow pupil. He didn’t
get irritated; it made him feel good to be the one who knew
something for a change. All his life, his older cousin had gotten
to do everything first. Drink beer, get laid, get arrested. Now it
was DeWayne’s turn to lead.
The old man don’t hire nobody but
Mexicans to do his cuttin’and haulin’. They don’t work for nothin’
but cash money. They don’t pay no taxes that way, see, and neither
does the old man. I seen him in the bank the last few Thursdays,
gettin’ out a big bag of cash. He brings it back here, puts it in
the safe for payday Friday.”
I still think we oughta just break in
and take the safe out,” the stocky one said. “We can find somebody
to get it open.”
You wanta bring a stranger in on
this?” the skinny one demanded. “Id’nt that how you got caught last
time? We can trust each other, Leonard, ‘cause we’re family. But
anyone else’ll sell you out in a hot second.”
You don’t know, DeWayne,” Leonard
said. “You ain’t never done nothin’ like this before. Armed robbery
is serious shit compared to B and E, man. This D.A.’s got a real
serious hard-on for armed robbers. ‘Sides, you think that old dude
don’t have a gun, carryin’ around that much cash?” He shook his
head and looked out the window, his face glum. “This shit is
You wanna back out, cuz, ” DeWayne
said, “You better do it now. Here he comes.” Another pickup, this
one at least thirty years old, pulled up in front of the
trailer/office. An old man in coveralls got out. He looked to be at
least seventy, but his step was sure and confident. He went up the
steps of the trailer. He paused a moment on the narrow porch that
ran across the front of the trailer. He rummaged through a ring of
keys until he found the correct one. He opened the door and
When he comes out,” said DeWayne,
“he’ll have the bag. He takes it out to the job site so he can pay
the Mexicans off at the end of the day.” Sure enough, in a few
minutes the old man came out and walked to the truck. He was
carrying a large canvas bag.
The two men got out of their truck. DeWayne
let Leonard take the lead. Even though he had let most of his
muscle go to fat in his last stay in the joint, Leonard’s size
still made him intimidating.
Mornin’, sir,” Leonard
The old man stopped and turned towards them.
His eyes were pale green, and made a startling contrast to his
skin, which was a light caramel color. “Hep you fellows?” he said
in the flat nasal accent of the Lumbee Indian.
Leonard pulled his gun. He was carrying a
long-barreled .44, Dewayne a snub-nosed .38. “Let’s do this easy,
old man, and no one has to get hurt,” DeWayne said.
Just put the bag down on the ground,
and step away real slow,” Leonard said.
The old man didn’t move. He looked first at
DeWayne, then at Leonard.
Shit,” was all he said.
What are you talkin’ about, man?”
DeWayne’s voice was high, almost cracking with the strain of
adrenaline. He felt the familiar dizzy sensation of things slipping
out of his control.
Both of them saw the old man’s hand go into
the bag. “Don’t do it, man...” Leonard shouted as the hand came out
holding a small automatic. Both Leonard’s and DeWayne’s guns barked
at once, the sharp cracks muffled by the soggy air. One shot went
wide and struck the side of the truck. The other hammered the old
man back against the door. The only change in his expression was a
grimace of pain, then blankness. The automatic slid from his
fingers as he slumped to the ground.
God DAMN it!’ Leonard shouted at the
old man. “The FUCK’d you do that for?” The man didn’t
DeWayne rushed forward and grabbed the bag,
kicking the automatic further away with his foot as he did so. He
needn’t have bothered. The man looked straight ahead, not noticing
the bag, the gun, or the rising sun in his eyes. He was dead.
The young paratrooper was full of piss and
vinegar, pumped up on the Airborne mystique, and stumbling drunk,
as well. He looked like he was ready to make an issue out of Keller
talking so long to the redhead. Keller didn’t see what claim the
kid had on the girl, other than the fact she had been recently been
grinding her crotch on the kid's lap, but he didn't have time to
argue.He showed the kid a peek of the 9mm hanging in a shoulder rig
beneath his coat. It was enough to make even a drunk kid realize
that attitude and training don’t make anyone bulletproof.The young
soldier did a quick fade into the crowd and Keller turned back to
the dancer who called herself Misty.
A lot of people would find it difficult to
concentrate on an interview when the interviewee is a redhead
wearing only a transparent silk teddy. Keller kept reminding
himself he had a job to do and not a lot of time to do it in.Misty
helped take his mind off prurient interests by the way she cracked
her bubble gum and looked bored. She was no more aware of her
clothes, or lack of them, than if she had been in uniform behind
the counter at Mickey D's.
Crystal worked here for a while,” she
said. It was Saturday night, and the strip club was crowded and
noisy. Misty had to shout into Keller’s ear to be heard. “She was
cute, had a nice figure,” she went on “but her heart wasn't really
in it, you know? It was like she was half-asleep most of the time.
Customers want you to be, like, into it.So she left. I don’t know
where she went.”
Keller could see a big guy in a black tuxedo
vest and bowtie working his way through the crowd. He wondered for
a second how anyone with no visible neck could wear a bowtie. He
figured someone had tipped the bouncer off that he was carrying.
had all the right permits, but he didn’t
expect that to cut any ice with the neckless wonder. He flipped
Misty a business card.“If you hear anything,” he said, “Call me on
my cell-phone number.” He had to shout the last phrase, since the
music was increasing from the merely deafening to the truly
painful. It was time for the next show.
She looked at the card blankly and blew a
bubble. “You a bail bondsman?” she said.
I work for one,” he said. He sidled
through the crowd towards the door.
Keller stepped out into the humid night and
lit a cigarette. A summer thunderstorm had recently blown through,
leaving the parking lot scattered with puddles of oily water that
reflected back the red and blue neon lights of the club. The sudden
cooling brought by the storm had caused the waterlogged air to turn
to light fog. Keller blew out a long stream of smoke and watched
the Friday night traffic sigh past on Bragg Boulevard. A Ford
minivan pulled up and a group of young men in sport shirts and
khakis piled out. Keller noticed that one of them appeared much
drunker than the others, who gathered around him to prop him up.
They were whooping and laughing. Bachelor party, Keller thought.
There was an edge to their laughter, almosthysteria. “We’re having
fun,” the laughter said. “Really. We promise.”
There was the sound of footsteps behind
Keller. He turned and saw Bowtie advancing on him. He squared off
to face the big man.Bowtie stopped, his red face within a few
inches of Keller’s. The bouncer squinted, trying to make his small
eyes look hard. Keller looked back without expression. Finally,
You been asking a lot of questions
about one of the ladies,” he said.
Yeah,” Keller said. Bowtie began to
look uncertain. He was obviously used to being placated at this
stage of the game. He looked Keller up and down, obviously
measuring his broad six feet against Keller’s lankier six-two. His
jaw worked for a minute, then he said, “You a cop?”
Keller shook his head. “Bail
The term obviously threw Bowtie, and the
uncertainty was making him angry. His face got even redder and his
shoulders seemed to inflate slightly.He was
building up his rage for the next stage of the game.Keller
interrupted the process.“I’m going to reach into my pocket and get
my business card,” he said. He did so without waiting for
permission. He handed the card to Bowtie, who squinted at it.
H & H Bail Bonds,” he said
finally. “What, Crystal in some kind of trouble?”
Keller shook his head. “Her cousin,” he said.
“Name of DeWayne. They grew up together. He didn’t show on a B
& E down in Brunswick County. I figured his family might know
where he is.”
Bowtie stepped back a few inches and deflated
his neck and shoulders. “She don’t work here no more.”
So I hear. She quit?”
Naw. I fired her ass. She was, ah,
doing private shows after hours. Know what I mean?”
Keller tossed his cigarette on
the ground and crushed it out with his boot. “She was
Bowtie nodded. “I don’t need that kind of
Meaning, Keller thought, that she wasn’t
cutting you in on the profits. Or letting you sample the
Plus,” Bowtie went on, “She was
wasted half the time.” He tapped the side of his nose and tried to
look knowing. It didn’t work. “Know what I mean?” he said
Yeah. Any idea where she
Bowtie shrugged. “Escort service’d be my
Keller sighed. There were at least fifty of
those in the Yellow Pages alone. “Don’t guess her cousin ever came
around.”Bowtie shook his head. “No,” he said, “she never said
nothin’ about having a family.”
Okay,” Keller said.
Hey, don’t mention it,” Bowtie
said. “And, ah, sorry about gettin’ in your face like that. I gotta
look out for the ladies.”
Yeah,” Keller said. “You’re a real
knight in shining armor.”
What?” Bowtie said, but Keller was
already walking away.
He walked over to his car and opened the
door. The car was a former police cruiser, a late-model Crown
Victoria. He had had it repainted to remove the police markings,
but it still had a rack in the front seat in which a 12-gauge
shotgun rested upright. A cell phone nestled in a hands-free system
rose from the floor next to the rack. Keller leaned over and hit
the speed dial.