Authors: J.D. Rhoades
Tags: #Romance, #Thriller, #Mystery, #north carolina, #bounty hunter, #hard boiled, #redneck noir
Angela was right. There was something screwy
going on here. He should cut and run. But he knew he wasn’t going
For years, Keller had felt like an
observer in his own life, as if he had been severed from himself
and he was watching someone else go through the motions of getting
up and walking through each day. He thought of a poem he had heard
in high school.
We are the hollow
, the poem read,
we are the
stuffed men, headpiece filled with straw...
made much sense to him in school, especially since his English
teacher had read it in a rich, fruity voice that was supposed to be
dramatic, but succeeded only in making the class snicker. Now, he
wished he hadn’t tuned out. He wished he could remember more of the
poem. Only two things made him feel anything anymore: being with
Angela and the takedown. Since it looked like the first one wasn’t
going to happen, the second one was really all he had left. He sat
motionless, like a predator by a waterhole, and waited.
He had been sitting like that for almost an
hour when he saw the brown pickup in his rearview mirror. The big
truck was crawling down the street like a tank rolling through an
unknown town. Keller could see the outlines of three men in the
front seat, but it was too dark to make out their faces. The truck
pulled down to the end of the street and parked across from the
Puryear vehicle. No one got out.
That’s the address,” Raymond said.
“Sanchez, that look like the truck the feller was
Sanchez shook his head. “I can’t tell,” he
mumbled. “I didn’t get a good look at what he was driving.Only the
Raymond drummed his fingers on the steering
wheel. “John Lee,” he said. “Get out and look it over.”
Sanchez got out first and John Lee followed.
Sanchez stood by the front fender as John Lee walked across the
street and peered in the driver’s side window. After a few moments,
he came trudging back, head down.
Can’t see nothin,’” he said. “‘Course,
I ain’t real sure what I’m supposed to be lookin’ for.”
Raymond was silent for a moment. Another set
of headlights appeared at the entrance to the street. A dented blue
Chevy Nova rattled its way down the street towards the three men.
There was a white triangular sign perched on top of the car on the
driver’s side. The sign was lit from within so it looked like a the
sign on top of a taxi, but running lengthwise to the car. The sign
read “Domino’s Pizza. Free Delivery.” The Nova pulled up and
double-parked beside the truck. A thin young man in a red white and
blue uniform got out, holding a large vinyl pizza-delivery
I got an idea,” Raymond
Keller had been watching the scene unfold
before him. He hadn’t moved because he was still unsure of what was
going on. He saw two men get out of the brown truck. One of them
stayed there while the other walked over and examined the Puryear
truck. Keller heard another car engine and saw a flash of
headlights. It was a pizza delivery car.
As the delivery boy got out, Keller saw a big
curly-haired man in a suit get out of the driver’s side of the
truck and approach. In the dim light of the lighted car-top
sign, Keller saw the man approach the pizza guy. There was a brief
conversation, and some money changed hands.
Looks like we got perfect timing,”
Raymond told the tall kid in the deliveryman’s uniform. The kid
backed away slightly as Raymond advanced. He looked
suspiciously from the big Indian dude to the other two leaning on
the truck. “Huh?” he said. Then he saw the wad of bills in the
Indian dude’s hand and relaxed slightly. It no longer looked like a
potential robbery to him. He had been robbed twice already, and
neither time had the crooks approached him with money in
Raymond gave the kid his most amiable grin.
“Guy who ordered this is a friend of ours,” he said. “Tell you
what, why don’t I get this, and we can take it in. He’s expectin’
A look of doubt crossed the kid’s pimply
face. “I don’t know,” he said. Raymond began pulling off bills. The
kid looked back into his car at the stack of pizzas still to be
delivered. “Twenty-two fifty,” he said. Raymond paid him and threw
in a five-dollar tip.
Wow,” the pizza guy said. “Thank you,
sir, and have a good night.” He got back in his car. As he drove
away, Raymond motioned to Sanchez.
Keller saw the pizza car drive off. The
curly-haired guy called a shorter Latino man over and spoke to him
for a moment. The Latino nodded, but from the slump of his
shoulders and the way he trudged towards the front door, pizza in
hand, he didn’t appear happy. As the Latino rang the doorbell,
Keller eased the shotgun out of its rack.
About damn time,” DeWayne said as the
doorbell rang. He looked out the small window next to the door and
saw a Mexican standing on the front steps holding a pizza. He
opened the door.
The Mexican looked him in the face for a
moment, then thrust the pizza forward. “T-twenty-two fifty,” he
You bring the beers?” DeWayne said.
The Mexican smiled and shrugged. “Twenty-two fifty,” he
The beers,” DeWayne said.
Cervezas? Dos six packs de
Another smile and shrug.
DeWayne sighed. “Damn it,” he muttered.
“Cain’t get decent service anywhere. “ The smell of the pizza
reached him and his mouth began to water. “Ah, what the hell,” he
said. “Not your fault if the order guy didn’t tell you about the
beer.” DeWayne reached over beside the door and picked up the
canvas bag full of cash. He reached in and rummaged around, finally
coming up with a fifty-dollar bill. He handed it to the Mexican
guy, grinning at the look on the guy’s face. “Keep the change,” he
said magnanimously. Before the guy could say anything else, DeWayne
took the pizza and closed the door.
They watched Sanchez as he came back across
the street. “Well?” Raymond snapped when he reached them.
Sanchez nodded slightly, his head down. “It
is him.” He looked back up, his face solemn. It was the face of a
man pronouncing a death warrant. “And he has a bag full of
Did he recognize you?” Raymond said.
Sanchez shook his head.
Raymond opened the door of the truck. He took
out his pistol and handed another one to John Lee. Both men held
their pistols down along their legs.“Come on,” Raymond said. "It’s
I will wait here,” Sanchez
I don’t think so,” Raymond said. “We
need you to get him to open the door again. Go back and knock. Tell
him you gave him the wrong change or something. We’ll be on either
side of the door.”
Wait,” Sanchez said. There was a note
of pleading in his voice.
Raymond smiled. “Don’t worry, buddy-ro. We’ll
be doin’ all the hard stuff.”
And then you will kill me,” Sanchez
said. “Like you killed the old man. So there will be no
Raymond’s face hardened. “You don’t
know what you’re talkin’ about,” he said. “I tell you one thing,
though, Sanchez. You don’t get a move on, I
Sanchez bowed his head. He turned back
towards the house, shuffling like a man walking in his sleep. He
was muttering something underneath his breath.
Dios te salve,
,” he was saying, “
eres de gracia
full of grace...
Keller saw what looked like an argument
between the three men standing in the street. Suddenly, the
argument seemed to resolve, with the Latino turning and heading
back towards the house. The other two men followed. He held the
shotgun across his lap, waiting to see what developed. He eased the
driver’s side door open and set his foot on the asphalt, ready to
As soon as I figure out what the
hell’s going on
, he told himself.
You go knock on the door,” Raymond
said. “He knows you, sorta. When the sumbitch opens the door, step
back. We’ll take it from there.”
Sanchez didn’t look up.
,” he murmured.
Ruega por nosotros pecadores...” Holy
Mary, pray for us sinners.
Raymond looked over at John Lee. “What the
fuck’s he talking about?” he whispered.
John Lee shrugged. He looked as nervous as
Sanchez. Raymond briefly regretted not bringing a couple of
professional hitters along, but dismissed the idea after a second.
This was a family affair.
They had reached the front steps.
Raymond and John Lee moved to opposite sides of the door, out of
sight of anyone inside. They raised their pistols. Sanchez reached
up and took a deep breath. “
Ahora y en la
hora de nuestra meurte.
and in the hour of our death
He knocked on the door.
In the dim yellow glow of the bug-light on
the porch, Keller saw the glint of guns in the hands of the men on
either side of the door. He realized at that instant that he had
waited too long. He swore under his breath and got out of the car.
He held the shotgun across his chest and began to run.
The knock on the door was loud inside the
house “Who the hell could that be?” DeWayne said. With a mouth full
of pizza, it came out as “oof ell at mee?”
I’ll get it,” said Leonard. He got up
and walked down the hallway. He peered out of one of the narrow
side windows that framed the door. “It’s some Mexican
Aw right!” DeWayne crowed. “He musta
come back with the beer. Let ‘im in, cuz.”
Leonard opened the door.
Keller was at the foot of the walkway leading
to the house when he saw the door swing open. He saw the
curly-haired man beside the door reach out and yank the Latino off
the narrow stoop. The curly-haired man stepped into the Hispanic’s
place. Keller saw a look of surprise cross the face of the man who
answered the door. There was a bang and the face disappeared as the
heavy-caliber handgun punched the man back into the shadows behind
the doorway. The last thing Keller saw of it was the mouth opened
in a silent “O” of amazement.
Keller yelled. It wasn’t true, but people instinctively knew what
it meant, unlike “Bail Enforcement!” which people had to think
Put the gun
The man in the doorway ignored him and
moved forward into the house. The man on the other side of the door
turned, his face registering the same shock as the guy who had just
been blown backwards into the hallway. He raised the pistol in his
hand. “Put it
bellowed. The man looked stupidly at him, the gun in his hand still
moving upwards towards Keller. Keller’s reflexes took over. The
shotgun in his hands roared. Keller couldn’t recall having pulled
the trigger. The blast of the gun was followed by the crack of the
man’s body as it met the wall of the house, slammed back by a full
load of #4 buckshot. Keller reflexively jacked another round into
the chamber and swung the shotgun to bear on the Latino who had
knocked on the door. That one was panting in fear and crawling away
on his hands and knees. He stopped crawling and vomited into the
. Keller swung
back to the man he had shot. He had slid downwards into a sitting
position, his back against the building. His entire front was
chopped meat. He stared at Keller. He shook his head as if trying
to shake off a hallucination. When Keller failed to vanish, he only
looked more bewildered.
The front door yawned wide open, inviting
Keller into the darkness beyond. He heard screaming from inside. He
swore softly and moved into the darkness.
DeWayne heard the door open, then the pistol
shot. There was a muffled scream, then the sound of something heavy
hitting the floor. Instinctively, he leaped to his feet, picking up
the flimsy coffee table as he rose. In the room’s dim illumination,
he saw a large man with curly hair come through the doorway from
the hall. DeWayne saw the dark skin and thought at first it was the
Mexican pizza guy. This man, however, was much taller and broader
and dressed in a suit. He was holding a pistol in his hand. DeWayne
heaved the table at him. The impact spoiled the man’s aim and
knocked him on his ass. The first shot went wide and blew out the
curtained picture window behind the couch.
A high pitched rhythmic sound came from the
hallway, like some great mechanical bird. It was Leonard screaming.
“Leonard?” DeWayne said. The curly-haired man was picking himself
up. He had lost the tinted glasses. DeWayne saw his eyes for the
first time. They were a pale green. As the stranger raised his gun,
DeWayne remembered the old Indian man they had killed. He looked
down the barrel of the upraised gun and saw his death there.
Keller advanced down the hallway, his
shotgun at the ready. He heard a crash, saw a confused tangle of
movement in the dimly lighted room. “
Freeze, goddamn it!”