Authors: J.D. Rhoades
Tags: #Romance, #Thriller, #Mystery, #north carolina, #bounty hunter, #hard boiled, #redneck noir
Raymond heard the voice behind him, realized
that it wasn’t John Lee come to back him up. He whirled and fired
almost in the same motion. The dark figure in the hallway dropped
to the floor. When Raymond turned back, DeWayne was gone.
DeWayne didn’t know who the voice from the
hallway belonged to, and he was too terrified to care. When the big
Indian turned away and fired, he hurled himself towards the
kitchen. He scooped his own gun off the kitchen table as he passed.
He fumbled with the door, almost sobbing with frustration as his
fear-numbed fingers refused to work. Finally, he was able to yank
the door open and stumble into the back yard.
The tiny back yard was overgrown with weeds.
A rusting metal shed, barely six feet tall, sagged in one corner.
DeWayne ran towards it, hoping to hide out inside. He yanked at the
shed door. It was padlocked. Behind him, the kitchen door slammed
open. DeWayne shrieked in panic and fired blindly back towards the
sound. Glass shattered in the window. The figure silhouetted in the
doorway didn’t fall, but it did pull back.
As the man in the living room had turned,
Keller had instinctively dropped and sought cover. The only thing
to get behind was to be the body of the man from the doorway. Now
Keller lay full length on the floor, trying not to look at the eyes
of the dead man. The body was close enough to touch. There was a
sticky wetness under him and the familiar sharp metallic smell of
blood. Keller realized that he was lying in a huge smear of it
where the man had tried to drag himself down the hallway, his life
flowing out of him and onto the floorboards. There was too much
blood gone for any man to survive. Keller looked into the man’s
eyes. Those eyes were becoming more inanimate with each passing
second. The man had lost the strength to scream. At first Keller
thought that a blessing, but the pitiful sight of the man’s mouth
moving, trying to form words was worse. Finally a word came out,
expelled like a sob on the man’s dying breath.
Who...?”Keller didn’t see any need to
answer. There was no one left to hear. Keller heard faraway sirens
drawing closer. Someone had called the cops. There was a shot from
outside, then the sound of glass shattering. Someone swore from
inside the kitchen.
Keller took stock of the situation. Behind
him were the cops. Before him, there were two men with guns. He
wasn’t sure where they were. For that matter, he wasn’t completely
sure who they were.
Fuck this,” he said out loud. He
started backing down the hallway, sliding on his belly, the shotgun
held out in front of him.
He felt a sudden touch of metal on the back
of his neck. “Stop there,” a voice said in a soft Spanish
We didn’t mean to kill him,” DeWayne
called out. “I swear it, man. We didn’t know he was carrying a
The figure behind the door made no answer.
DeWayne crouched deeper in the shadows beside the shed. “You can
even have the money back, man, it’s in the bag in the hallway. Just
let me go get some help for my cousin.”
Your cousin’s dead,” came the voice
from inside the house. “I kilt him.”
DeWayne put a hand to his forehead. “Okay,
man,” he said. “Okay. So we’re, like, even, right? An eye for an
eye?” There was no answer.
His eyes were more accustomed to the darkness
now. There was a chest-high chain link fence at the back of the
lot, where the yard of the house behind backed up to this one. He
began edging his way back, then leaped up and turned towards the
fence. He threw one leg onto a narrow metal tube running along the
top of the fence and tried to vault over. The metal tube collapsed
under his weight. He landed atop the points of the chain
link. DeWayne screamed as the crudely twisted ends of wire gouged
him. He dropped the gun. The Indian came running out, firing on the
run. The muzzle flash of his pistol lit up the yard. DeWayne rolled
off the fence and the bullets passed over him. DeWayne sobbed in
fear and rage as he scrambled to his knees. His hand closed over
something hard and metallic. His gun. The shadowy bulk of the big
man was approaching the chain link fence. DeWayne raised the gun
and pulled the trigger again and again, barely aiming. He fired in
blind panic, the muzzle flashes ruining his night vision. “Leave me
alone, you sumbitch,” he screamed. “Just leave me the fuck alone!”
Then he was no longer firing. The firing pin clicked on the empty
chamber. DeWayne tensed, waiting for the bullet that would tear out
his heart or shatter his brain. It never came. There was silence.
His night vision began to return slowly. The big Indian was lying
on the ground. DeWayne leaped to his feet.
!” he crowed in triumph. “I killed you!
I killed you!” He heard the sound of approaching sirens. He threw
down the gun and ran.
I’m not moving,” Keller
Good,” the man behind him said. “Now
slide the shotgun away from you, backwards. I am tired of having
guns pointed at me.”
Keller shoved the shotgun away from him
across the floor. It slid in the pool of blood, leaving a ripple in
the rapidly congealing liquid.
Now,” the voice said. “Tell me who you
are and why you are here.”
My name’s Keller,” he replied. “I work
for a bail bondsman down in Wilmington. DeWayne Puryear disappeared
a few weeks ago and my boss got a little worried about him showing
up for court.” He paused. “And who are you,” he said, “if you don’t
mind my asking?”
There was no answer. Keller could hear the
man’s harsh breathing. Then the man chuckled. It was a strained
sound, the sound of barely tethered hysteria.
Right now,” he said. “I am a man with
a bag of money and a gun. Soon I will have a big truck. It is the
American dream, no?” Keller felt the gun pressed more firmly into
the back of his neck. “No moving until I am gone,” he said. The
pressure of the gun was suddenly gone. Keller heard the sound of
footsteps. After a moment, he heard the sound of a large truck
starting up and driving away.
Keller got slowly to his knees. His shirt
clung to his body, sticky and heavy with blood. His pants were
soaked as well. The smell of it filled the air, mixed with the
acrid stench of gunpowder. He fought down the urge to retch. The
sirens were much closer now. He staggered to his feet and stumbled
towards the door. He stopped there for a moment, hanging on, taking
deep breaths to clear his nostrils of the slaughterhouse reek
inside. After a few moments, he straightened up. He walked, then
ran down the walkway to his car. He passed the first cop cars on
the way out, watching in his rear-view mirror as they screeched to
a stop in front of the house.
He turned the corner, went down a few blocks,
turned another. He had no idea where he was going. After a few
random turns, he spotted an abandoned gas station. The doors and
windows were boarded up with graffiti covered plywood. But it was
the tall hedges on three sides of the building and the driveway
that led to the back of the building that got Keller’s attention.
He whipped the car into the driveway and pulled behind the
There was a jumble of old tires and parts
piled haphazardly in the narrow alleyway. Keller got out and pulled
a gym bag from the back seat. Quickly, he stripped off the bloody
shirt and pants and exchanged them for the pair in the bag. He
toweled the residue of blood off his face as best he could. He knew
he was probably missing some, but at least the smell wasn’t so bad
anymore. He leaned against the car for a moment.
he’s back there
was crazy to go back. He knew it. But he could almost feel the
nearby presence of his quarry. The siren promise of the takedown
sang again in his ear, overriding everything. He got in and started
Every nerve in DeWayne’s body was demanding
that he lie down on the pavement and curl up in pain, but he knew
that would only attract attention. He held himself upright by sheer
force of will as he staggered down the street. The distant sirens
had come closer and closer, then stopped. He wondered what they
would make of what they found at the house. The sudden thought of
his cousin made him stop. He crossed his arms across his torn
stomach, leaning over in pain. He felt the heat of tears on his
face. Leonard was dead. He had told himself at first that the
Indian dude had been lying, but DeWayne knew in his heart that he
wasn’t. And it was his fault. He never should have gotten them into
this mess. He stumbled along, weeping, no longer caring how he
looked. He wondered how they would break the news to Crys. And his
aunt and uncle. The thought made him cry even harder. They had been
good to him, and he had fucked everything up.
After a few minutes he reached the main
road. He was going to have to pull himself together, unless he
wanted to spend the rest of his life in prison. Or worse. The
thought of being strapped to a gurney in Central Prison while a
doctor injected him with poison stiffened his resolve. He
straightened up and wiped his eyes. A big car was slowing down. At
first he was terrified that it was a cop car, but there were no
lights on the top or radios on the dash. The car pulled to a stop
and a man got out. He was a big guy, dressed in jeans and a
t-shirt. He had shoulder length blonde hair.
Definitely not a cop
, DeWayne thought with
Hey, pal,” the man said. “You
I just racked up my bike,” DeWayne
Need a ride to the hospital?” the guy
Naw,” DeWayne said. “I could use a
ride home, though.” He wasn’t sure where he was going to say home
was; the important thing was just to get out of the
Sure,” the guy said. “Hop in.”
DeWayne turned towards the car. Suddenly he noticed something about
the blonde guy.
Dude,” he said. “Did you just have a
Why do you say that?” the guy said as
he came closer.
Because you’ve got blood on you.”
DeWayne said. “It’s, like, even in your hair.”
Sorry, DeWayne,” the guy said. “Didn’t
have time to shower.”
Hey,” DeWayne said, “how do you know
my--” he never got to finish the sentence before the guy slugged
him across the jaw. Everything went all blurry. When DeWayne’s
vision cleared, he was shoved face-first over the hood of the car
with his hands pinned behind his back.
Keller bound DeWayne’s hands with the duct
tape. DeWayne had struggled briefly at first until Keller had
smacked his face against the hood. After that, he was docile.
Keller pulled his prisoner to his feet and marched him towards the
back of the car. He unlocked the trunk.
Hey,” DeWayne whined. “You ain’t no
cop.” He seemed offended.
That’s right, DeWayne,” Keller said.
“I work for your bondsman. You forget your court date? Down in
DeWayne stared at him. “You gotta be kidding
me, dude,” he said. “You’re picking me up on a fuckin’ B & E?
That was, like, a million years ago.”
Three weeks actually.”
Like I said. Man, I ain’t gettin’ in
no trunk. I’ll suffocate.”
I drilled air holes. I do this for a
living, DeWayne. A lot of guys have ridden in there, and I haven’t
lost one yet. Now get in, or I’ll stuff you in. Your
Awww, maaaan,” DeWayne whined. Keller
took that as the choice. He grabbed DeWayne by the back of his
belt, grunting with effort as he lifted the smaller man off the
ground. Keller used DeWayne’s waist as a fulcrum to tip him over
and into the trunk headfirst. He stuffed DeWayne’s legs in next and
slammed the trunk lid. “Hey!” DeWayne yelped. “Hey, man, lemme
out!” There was a drumming of feet on the inside of the trunk.
Keller cursed. Normally, he would have the prisoner shackled down,
but he didn’t have his gear. Keller slammed his hand down on the
lid and the noise stopped.
Quiet,” Keller snarled, “or I’ll plug
the air holes. I mean it, asshole.” There was silence.
As Keller drove away, he picked up the cell
phone and dialed Angela. “I got him,” he said.
Any trouble?” she asked.
He thought of lying or minimizing what had
just happened, but he needed help. “Yeah,” he said. “Whoever was
after DeWayne got there before I did. There were three guys. Two
Indians and a Latino. One of the Indians drew on me.” He thought
about the man he had left lying beside the door. He took a deep
breath. “I’m pretty sure that one’s dead. I don’t know about the
other one. I saw him shoot someone, probably DeWayne’s
cousin. The Latino guy drove off.”
There was a brief silence, broken only by the
crackle of static in the cell phone. “You still there?” he
Yeah,” she said after a moment. Her
voice sounded choked. “Yeah, I’m here.”
Listen,” he said. “I need you to get
on the phone. Talk to some of your contact people. Anybody you know
who can find out what the hell is going on. Call me
Another brief silence. Then simply, “Okay,”
and the line went dead.
Keller drove carefully, keeping slightly
under the speed limit. He was heading south on Highway 301 near the
Coliseum when the police car fell in behind him. He swore under his
breath and reduced his speed slightly, hoping the car would pull
around and pass him. The only response was an explosion of flashing
blue lights. He gritted his teeth and pulled over on the