Authors: J.D. Rhoades
Tags: #Romance, #Thriller, #Mystery, #north carolina, #bounty hunter, #hard boiled, #redneck noir
DeWayne sat for a minute, the thoughts coming
slowly to him. He wasn’t used to reefer, and the thoughts seemed to
struggle upwards in his brain.
Who do I know in
? Then it came to him.
, he thought.
After a few minutes, Leonard came back in,
carrying a paper bag under one arm. He had a Budweiser tall-boy in
the other hand.
Leonard,” DeWayne said. “Crystal still
living in Fayetteville?”
Yeah,” Leonard said. “Shakin’ her ass
in some titty bar on Bragg Boulevard, last time I heard.” He took a
long pull on the beer. “Momma and Daddy don’t even mention her name
She might let us hide out at her place
for a while. I been there once.”
Leonard pulled a beer out of the bag, popped
the top and handed it to his cousin. “Not a bad idea,” he said
after a moment.. “Bet she’d introduce us to some of her friends,
too.” He grinned like a satyr. “Shit, we play our cards right, we
might not even have to pay for pussy. Now, you’re thinkin’ right,
Keller walked out into the motel parking lot,
blinking against the sun. The previous night’s thunderstorms had
blown away, leaving the world exposed to the hard glare of the sun.
The heavy, waterlogged air soaked up the heat until walking across
the parking lot was like swimming through soup.
As he approached his car, he saw a white
police cruiser parked crossways behind him. There was a big cop
leaning against the car, his arms crossed over his chest. His
sleeves were rolled up to accentuate his massive forearms. His
partner was standing beside Keller’s Crown Victoria, peering
through the window with one hand shading her eyes. She was a tall
woman, with the lean build of an athlete. Both cops’ eyes were
hidden behind the inevitable mirrored sunglasses. The female cop
turned as Keller approached.
This your car, sir?” she said. There
were a few wisps of light brown hair coming untucked from beneath
her blue cap, but that was the only hint of softness about her. Her
lips were compressed into a thin line when she wasn’t speaking.
When she spoke, her voice was the officious bark of a drill
sergeant. She made sure that the word “sir” contained not a speck
of actual respect or courtesy.
Keller took a deep breath. “Yes, ma’am,” he
said. “Is there some kind of--”
Mind telling us why there’s a shotgun
in the front seat?”
He kept his voice mild, inwardly cursing
himself for choosing not to bring the shotgun in with him. The desk
clerk at the last place he had stayed had seen him carrying his gun
into the room and had spent most of the evening coming by and
calling on various flimsy pretexts to make sure Keller had not
killed himself with it. “It’s not against the law to have a
shotgun, is it?” he asked.
The big cop straightened up. His lips
stretched over his teeth in a rough approximation of a smile.
The female cop looked annoyed at the
interruption. “Mind if we look in the car, sir?”
Keller did mind, but there was no way to win
the argument without a lengthy discussion, part of which would
probably take place at the police station. It was a discussion he
was sure he would win, eventually.Still, that would take time,
possibly a lot of time. Keller wanted to get back to work. He took
the path of least resistance.
Sure,” he said. He was still smiling.
He took his keys out and opened the doors.
The search was quick and sloppy. Keller
noticed that the male cop seemed to take particular pleasure in
leaving the contents of the glove compartment scattered over the
front seat so Keller would have to put them back himself.
Why do you have these metal rings
welded to the floor of the back seat, sir?” the female cop
Keller’s smile was beginning to pain him. “I
work bail enforcement,” he said. “Sometimes they don’t want to stay
in the car. The rings are for the handcuffs.”
What about the police scanner?” she
Like I said,” Keller replied, “I work
A bounty hunter,” the male cop said.
He pronounced it like a curse.
Whatever,” Keller said. There was no
overt insolence in his voice, but the lack of deference seemed to
anger the male cop. He got out of the front seat of Keller’s car
and stood up.
You got a--” he began. The female cop
interrupted him. “Can you open the trunk, sir?” she
Keller’s shoulders tensed, then he shrugged.
He popped the trunk. The male cop walked around to the back and
whistled in amazement.
Marie,” he said. “Come look at this.”
The female cop walked around to the back of the car. “Holy shit,”
she said. She reached in and pulled out a length of heavy chain.
Heavy leg cuffs were soldered to each end. She held it up and
looked over at Keller.
It’s all legal,” Keller
We’ll decide that,” the male cop
Keller’s temper had reached the limit.
“Bullshit,” he said. “There’s not a damn thing you can make stick
here. I’ve got permits for the handguns. The handcuffs and
restraints are all legit. All my licenses are up to date. So if
you’re going to arrest me, do it. But stop jerking me around.”
All right, smart-ass,” the male cop
said. “Hands on the car and spread your legs.” Keller shook his
head in frustration, but complied. The male cop frisked him quickly
while the other one, Marie stood back to give herself a clear field
of fire if Keller decided to try anything. Keller felt the male
cop’s hand at the small of his back, heard him chuckle as he
withdrew the 9MM from Keller’s waistband.
Looks like carrying a concealed weapon
I told you, I’ve got a carry permit--”
he was cut short by an explosion of pain across his lower back. The
cop had pulled his nightstick in a cross-body draw that would have
done credit to a samurai. He whipped the nightstick in a short arc
and smashed Keller across the kidneys. Keller arched his back in
agony and dropped to his knees.
And resisting arrest,” the cop said.
Keller heard his high-pitched giggle. He tried to roll over on his
back to stave off another blow, but he felt a sudden weight on him.
The female cop had thrown her body across his. One of her hands
grabbed Keller’s wrist. He heard the clink of metal as she
took the cuffs off her belt. “Stay down,” she muttered. “You can’t
win. Just stay down.” Keller tried to stand, then suddenly realized
that she had placed herself between him and another blow. He
relaxed and allowed himself to be handcuffed with his hands behind
his back.When she was done, she rolled off and yanked Keller
awkwardly to his feet. Her grip was very strong.
Keller looked at the male cop. The man’s
image seemed to swim in a red haze before Keller’s eyes. The cop’s
own eyes were dreamy and far away and there was a slight smile on
When this is over,” Keller said
through pain-clenched teeth, “I’m going to take that fucking baton
away and shove it up your ass.”
The cop’s smile widened. This was what he had
been waiting for. He drew back his hand for another shot. Keller
had no way to protect his head; he knew the next blow would shatter
his skull. The female cop interposed her body between them again.
“Get in the car, asshole,” she said. She put a hand on Keller’s
head to guide him through the open door of the police cruiser.
Without taking his eyes off the male cop, Keller slid into the back
The brown truck pulled into the parking lot
of the timber company office. The trailer was still surrounded by a
web of yellow crime-scene tape that appeared to have been strung
mostly at random. The three men got out of the truck and approached
the steps. Raymond took a curved Hawkbill knife out of his pants
pocket, opened it, and sliced through the tape. They walked up the
steps and stood before the locked trailer door. There was a moment
of silence. “John Lee,” Raymond said. “You got the keys?”
Oh, um, yeah,” John Lee said,
embarrassed. He fumbled for a moment in his pocket, then unlocked
The interior of the trailer office was small
and cramped. A metal desk sat facing the doorway and took up most
of one side of the room. There was a gray metal filing cabinet
behind the desk on their right. Raymond went around the desk and
tried to open the cabinet. It was locked. He rattled the handle in
frustration. “You got a key to this, John Lee?” he said.
John Lee shrugged. “Sorry, Raymond,” he said.
“Daddy always kept that one hisself.”
Raymond slammed his hand against the cabinet
in frustration. He turned to Sanchez. “He ever tell you where he
kept the key to this?”
Sanchez shook his head. “No,” he said.
Raymond turned back. He hit the cabinet again, as if he could
convince it to open by beating it enough times. He withdrew the
pistol from his belt and drew back the hammer. He carefully pointed
it at the latch on the filing cabinet.
Wait,” Sanchez said. He reached into
his pocket and withdrew a small plexiglass key ring. He laid it
carefully on the table. There were two keys on the ring, one
smaller than the other.
Raymond looked at Sanchez, his eyes narrowed.
“You trying to be funny?”
Sanchez looked back without expression. “You
didn’t ask if I had a key. You asked if your father had ever told
me where his key was.”
God damn it,” Raymond snarled. “You
knew what I meant.”
Me?” Sanchez spread his hands. “How
was I to know? ”
Raymond made a strangled sound deep in his
throat and pointed the pistol at Sanchez. Sanchez didn’t move.
I was your father’s foreman,” he said.
“He trusted me with a lot of things. If you kill me, there are many
things you will never know.”
Raymond slammed the pistol down on the desk.
John Lee flinched. “Then tell me, asshole!” Raymond yelled. “Quit
playin’ games! I need me some goddamn help here!”
Sanchez’ face clouded with anger. “You
have never asked. You have never asked me for anything, least of
all help. All you have done is wave your
around and shout orders.” He looked at
John Lee. “The two of you are out to avenge your father. All right.
It is a matter of honor. A man understands such things. A man might
be willing to help. A stupid ‘greaseball’ who must be ordered
around--” he shrugged. “Such a one will only do what he is told, no
Raymond stared at him for a long moment. “I
ain’t gonna beg you,” he said finally.
Sanchez shook his head. “That is not what I
ask.” They continued to stare at one another, neither one willing
to be the first to look down. It was John Lee who finally
Mr. Sanchez,” he said, “will you help
us find the man that killed our daddy?”
Sanchez smiled. “Si, I will help you,” he
said. “And call me Oscar.” He pointed at the desk. “When the man
Julio talked about came around, he left a phone number where he
could be reached. I saw your father write it on the pad on the
Raymond looked down at the desk blotter. It
was covered with ink stains, coffee rings, doodles and hastily
Finally he located something. “DeWayne
Puryear,” he read. “That sound familiar?”
Sanchez nodded. “That is the name that he
There’s an address and phone number
here,” Raymond said.
Sanchez turned around and walked out the
door. He was already waiting in the truck when Raymond and John Lee
Like most of the people who wore the black
robe, Judge Harold T. Tharrington was a former prosecutor. The
District Attorney had handpicked Tharrington to run for election to
the bench. He had run without opposition; none of the other
prosecutors would dare to buck the boss' choice. For their own
part, the lawyers of the defense bar declined to take the salary
cut that came with going on the State payroll. Defendants paid
better, and often in cash.
Tharrington looked over his glasses at
Keller, who was standing before him. He was a short, balding man
with a round face and a fussy demeanor. He clearly found Keller’s
presence in his courtroom distasteful.
Keller had spent the previous day and night
sharing a jail cell with a pair of Jamaicans. The two men had
totally ignored him. They spent the time playing a seemingly
endless game of cards and arguing in low, incomprehensible voices.
The argument and the fact that the lights had never been
turned off in the cells had made it impossible for Keller to sleep.
His eyeballs felt raw and gritty. He hadn’t been allowed to shave.
His hands were shackled in front of him and his ankles were
fastened together with a short length of heavy chain. His lawyer
stood by his side.
The lawyer’s name was Scott McCaskill. He was
an imposing figure, a full six and a half feet tall. He had thick
snow-white hair brushed back until it resembled a lion’s mane. His
face tended to remind people of someone they’d seen on TV, someone
playing a Senator or President. He had represented Keller several
times before. Part of the secret to his success was his massive
presence that seemed to draw all attention in the room to him and
away from his raggedy-assed client.