Authors: J.D. Rhoades
Tags: #Romance, #Thriller, #Mystery, #north carolina, #bounty hunter, #hard boiled, #redneck noir
He turned. Her hand was out the window,
holding a small piece of paper. He walked back and took it. It was
a business card, the type cops gave to victims and witnesses who
might need to contact them. The police switchboard number was
scratched out and another number written in blue ink.
That’s my cell phone number,” she
said. “In case you change your mind. Or, you know, if you want to,
like, talk about anything else.”
He smiled at her. “That’s not going to do a
lot to help your career, either.”
She didn’t smile back. “Yeah. Well.” She
didn’t go on. She’d replaced the mirror shades, so it was
impossible to read what was in her eyes.
Okay,” Keller said. “I’ll keep it in
mind. And my name is Jack.”
I’m Marie,” she said. She looked like
she was about to say something else, but she stopped. She put the
car in gear and backed out of the gravel driveway. Keller put the
card in his shirt pocket as he watched her go.
What about the neighbors, what they
gonna say, hey little sister got carried awayyyy,” DeWayne sang in
a loud, slurred voice. He reached over to crank up the volume on
the cassette deck.
DeWayne’s buzz had been veering
back and forth all day from catatonic stupor to manic lunacy. It
was the fifth or sixth time that he had played the song, stopping
it at the end to rewind and play it again so he could sing along
and play air guitar on the solos. It had been getting on Leonard’s
nerves since the second run through.
Damn it, DeWayne,” he said, “Shut up
for a second and pay attention. ”DeWayne lurched back in the truck
seat with his eyes closed, playing air guitar along with Stevie
Ray. His back arched orgasmically as he launched into the chorus.
Part of the beer in his left hand spilled on his shoulder as he
mimed the solo. “Hey, hey...” he wailed. “Look at little
DEWAYNE!” Leonard bellowed. He reached
over and turned the stereo off.
DeWayne’s eyes snapped open. “‘Eyyyy, man,”
he whined. “The fuck’d you do that for?”
I got no idea where we are, man.”
Leonard said. “You been to Crystal’s, I ain’t. You gotta tell me
where to go.”
DeWayne straightened up and look around
blearily. He squinted as if to bring the road into better focus.
“I’m gettin’ hungry,” he said.
One thing at a time, cuz,” Leonard
said. “We gotta--”
Wait, turn here, man!” DeWayne yelled.
“Turn right, turn right!”
They were almost past the turn. The tires
screeched as Leonard instinctively obeyed. The truck rocked up
slightly on two wheels.
Whoo!” DeWayne shouted. He laughed and
drained the last of his beer. “It’s down here at the
In the daylight, it was apparent that the
neighborhood was struggling against becoming decrepit, and
losing. Some of the houses were in good repair, others had
sagging roofs and trim that was badly in need of fresh paint. There
were small clumps of skinny, half-bare trees in some yards. In
others, the owners who had apparently given up on even mowing the
weeds that grew around the stumps where the trees had once
A red Corvette was parked in the driveway in
front of the house at the end of the street. It was the newest,
brightest object visible. There were still a few flakes of the
original white paint clinging to the picket fence in front of the
house. The rest had weathered to gray.
Leonard picked up the bag with the money in
it and got out. DeWayne followed. The two men got out of the truck
and walked towards the white house, with DeWayne leaning on
Leonard’s shoulder for support. He was singing again: “Heyyyy, hey,
look at little sisterrrr..." All of the shades were drawn. Had it
not been for the car parked out front, the house would have
Leonard pushed the doorbell button beside the
door. There was no sound of a bell inside and no answer. He
knocked. He knocked harder. No answer. Leonard began knocking
steadily, monotonously, like a man pounding nails in Hell. Finally,
a slurred female voice responded, “All RIGHT,” God damn it, I’m
coming.” There was a creak of footsteps. DeWayne stuck his face up
to the peephole in the door and grinned maniacally. “Oh, Jesus
fucking Christ,” the voice said. It sounded very weary. There was a
rattle of a chain, the solid snick of a heavy deadbolt, then the
snap of the door lock. The door opened a crack.
The hell do you two want?” the girl
C’mon, sis, let us in,” Leonard
whispered. There was a heavy sigh and the door swung wide. The two
men stepped inside. DeWayne wrapped his arms around the girl and
lifted her up off the ground in a bear hug. “Put me down, asshole,”
she said, the words muffled against his shoulder. There was no
anger in her voice, just a kind of weary amusement. DeWayne put her
down and stepped back.
She was a tiny woman, a little over five
feet. It was the breasts that men noticed first, an unfortunate
fact that had shaped most of her adult life. They seemed overly
large for her thin body and thrust against even the shapeless cloth
robe she wore, demanding attention. Her hair, cut short and parted
in the middle, was dyed a dark reddish-brown. The hair was rumpled,
as if she had just gotten out of bed. Her facial features were
small and regular, but just enough out of proportion to one another
that she missed beautiful by a narrow margin and had to settle for
cute. Her mouth was drawn in a perpetual affected pout that she
thought was sexy, but served only to give the impression of a sulky
child. The year since they had seen one another had not been kind
to her. Leonard noticed her pallor, the bags under her eyes, the
slight trembling as she took a cigarette out of the pack on the
hall table and lit it.
We need a place to stay for a couple
days, sis,” Leonard said. “Can we come in and talk about
You are in,” she said, then sighed.
“Okay, c’mon. I think there’s some beers in the fridge.” She turned
and walked back into the house. DeWayne and Leonard followed. A
short hallway led towards the living room. A door to the right
about halfway down the hallway opened into the kitchen. Leonard
dropped the bag on the floor across from the kitchen
Look like you’re sleepin’ late, Crys,”
DeWayne said. “Livin’ a life o’ leisure, huh?”
Fuck you, DeWayne,” she said. She sat
at the kitchen table, which was piled with newspapers. She gestured
at the fridge. “Help yourselves.”
There was no beer in the refrigerator, and no
food other than a jar of mustard and a can of cat food with a
plastic lid.Finally, DeWayne located a half-empty bottle of Popov
Vodka in the freezer. He made a happy noise and sat down at the
table across from Crystal. He took a drink straight from the
She looked from one to the other with a
mixture of resentment and resignation. “Well?” she said. “What’s
all this about?”
Leonard explained the situation to her. Her
expression never changed. He finished by saying, “So we just need
to lay up here for a couple days, till we can figger out where to
go. Okay, sis?”
She blew out a long streamer of smoke. “Yeah,
okay,” she said finally. “But y’all gotta be careful. This is a
quiet neighborhood. People work nights, sleep days. You start
raisin’ hell,” she looked at DeWayne, “and you’re gonna have the
cops all over this place.”
DeWayne gave her a lopsided grin and took
another pull from the bottle. “No problemo, sweet thing,” he
There was a muffled beeping noise from the
handbag hung over one of the kitchen chairs. “Shit,” Crystal said.
“What time is it?”
Leonard looked at the clock over the stove.
It was stopped. “Ahhh...about five-thirty,” he guessed.
Crystal swore under her breath. She pulled a
small black beeper out of the purse and looked at the screen. She
shook her head. She picked an old-style rotary phone up off the
floor next to the table and dialed.
Yeah, it’s me,” she said. She listened
for a moment. “I can’t tonight,” she said. “I got company.” There
was a burst of angry speech on the other end. “No, no, it’s
she was having trouble getting a word out.
Finally, the voice on the other end said something that caused her
eyes to widen. “Okay,” she said. “Okay, I’ll be there as soon as I
can. I just got up. I will. I will, I promise.” She hung up the
phone and looked off
into the distance for a moment, chewing her
lower lip. “I gotta go,” she said, and stood up. “I gotta go to
Leonard and DeWayne looked at each other.
“Hey, Crys,” DeWayne said finally, if your boss is givin’ you any
trouble, we can, you know...”
No, no,” she said. “It’ll be alright.
It’s okay. They’re just-- short-handed.”
?” DeWayne said.
Her eyes narrowed and snapped around to bear
on DeWayne. “You mind your own damn business, DeWayne, you
Both of the men put up their hands. “Easy,
Crys, take it easy,” Leonard said. He used the soothing tone of
voice he had developed through years of intercession between his
sister and their cousin. Crystal got up and walked out of the
The fuck’s eating her?” DeWayne
wondered. Leonard shrugged. “Whatever,” he said. “We need to get us
some food. And we’re outta beer.” He stood up, put his hands in the
middle of his back and stretched. “Gettin’ too old for this shit,”
he muttered. He walked into the living room, with DeWayne
The old farmhouse was in the middle of what
John Lee referred to as “Bum-fuck Egypt.” It fronted on a narrow
two-lane road and was surrounded on the other three sides by
tobacco fields. An enormous oak tree dominated the front yard. A
row of crepe myrtle obscured the lower half of the screened in
porch that ran along the front of the house. The crepe myrtle was
beginning to bloom, with long strings of bright-red and pink
flowers bowing down the branches with their weight. The thick
greenery had been allowed to grow long, so that the screen door in
the center seemed to peek out from a flowered jungle.
As the truck pulled into the driveway, an old
man came to the door. He was of medium height, with white hair that
stuck out in unruly tufts from beneath an ancient gimme cap from a
long-defunct seed company. The cap was as lined and creased as the
hand that rested on the jamb of the screen door, holding it
half-open as the man waited. In contrast, the old man’s bib
overalls seemed brand new, with a knife-edged crease in the
Stay here,” Raymond muttered. John Lee
nodded once. Sanchez looked worried.
Raymond got of the truck and walked towards
the old man, smiling like a door-to-door salesman. “Hep you?” the
old man said as he approached. His voice was neutral, but his eyes
flickered warily between Raymond and the two men in the truck. A
Latino traveling with a pair of Indians was an unusual sight
outside of the realm of manual labor. People tended to stick with
their own kind. Raymond was too well-dressed for picking cotton or
Nice farm,” Raymond said, still
Ain’t mine no more,” the old man said.
“Got too old to work it. Had to sell ever’thing but the home
Raymond nodded. “That’s too bad.” The old man
said nothing. “DeWayne around?” Raymond asked.
The old man’s face seemed to close up, as if
steel shutters had suddenly dropped down across it. “He ain’t here.
He an’ Leonard done took off somewheres. Ain’t seen him in a couple
Raymond had arrived at the door. He slowed
down rather than stopping, crowding the old man until he stepped
back out of the doorway. Raymond replaced the old man’s hand on the
door with his own. The old man looked at the rings on Raymond’s
fingers and back to his eyes, which were obscured behind his tinted
glasses. The old man swallowed nervously. “He ain’t here,” he
repeated in a smaller voice. Raymond continued to shuffle forward,
forcing the old man to retreat farther into the cool darkness of
the screened porch. “We kinda need to talk to him,” Raymond said.
“It’s about a job he applied for.” He put a hand on the old man’s
shoulder and turned him slightly, guiding him into the house. John
Lee and Sanchez saw the door close behind them.
What is he doing?” Sanchez
John Lee shrugged. “Gonna ask him where this
Puryear guy might’ve gone, I reckon.”
Sanchez shook his head. “I don’t like this,”
he said. “What will he--”
Don’t worry,” John Lee said. “Nobody’s
gonna do anything. Just relax.”
Sanchez looked at the house. His brow
furrowed. “Your brother is a dangerous man,” he said. “He is
, a smuggler,
John Lee’s eyes went cold. “Where’d you hear
Your father, he worried about this,”
Sanchez replied. “Sometimes I heard him talking on the phone about
how worried he was.”
And what the hell business was that of
yours?” John Lee said.
I have sons,” Sanchez said. “In
Colombia. I know what it is to worry. I felt bad for
Well, he don’t worry no more,” John
Lee said. “And you don’t worry neither. You just mind your