What a book!
What a book!
Fairfax stirred his fireplace with his poker. The birch logs crackled. Sparks flew up. Glew slept on the sofa while an episode of Archer played on Netflix. Glew had insisted on watching something even though Fairfax rarely turned on his TV and had no subscription to any streaming service. So Glew started Fairfax an account and tacked it onto his monthly bill. Considering he was worth millions, he would probably be okay.
Fairfax stared out the window. The snow fell hard on his yard and on his truck and of course, on Glew’s car. Glew mentioned nothing about spending the night. He never checked the forecast either. Now he would pay for this. Fairfax smiled to himself. The city boy hated being stuck in the country. He could wake Glew up.
A pair of headlights made its slow way along the road. It couldn’t have been going more than twenty miles an hour. Good harsh conditions show people their own toughness or well, lack of toughness. He’d been stuck in the cold plenty of times. Of course, snow was not common in Tennessee- even in January. As a kid, a couple of dudes locked him out of a sleep-over one time. They giggled inside in the warm comfort of the house. Fairfax managed to build himself a small fire with a match he found on the bottom of one of his friend’s shoes. From there, he had a pretty good time for himself. Hours later, they checked on him and invited him inside. He smiled and slept like a baby while a few of them woke up with colds the next day.
From then on, Fairfax tended to spend some time out in the cold whenever the temperature dropped in a big way. Why not? He could gauge his own toughness. If nothing else, it’s so peaceful.
Glew grunted. “Oh, man. Archer’s at it again. He…hey! What’s that?”
Glew sat up and wiped his eyes. “That’s not…oh, man.”
He drew the “man” out for a few seconds.
Fairfax said, “You’re stuck with me, old buddy.”
“Aw, man. I was going to go out tonight. A client was getting out. This guy has all kinds of friends and lots of ladies hanging around. He invited me out and yet, here I sit with a blizzard on the way.”
Fairfax poked at the fire. “Sounds like a good time.”
“Yeah. Damn. Maybe I could call a wrecker. He could hook my car up and drive me to the bar. What do you think? Want to go?”
Fairfax set the poker down. “I had another idea.”
The two twin four-wheelers sat there side-by-side. A pair of cammo beasts ready to ride off into the night. Fairfax and Glew had protected a lady’s house from a couple of bums. She rewarded them with the four-wheelers she acquired in a divorce which stemmed from another bum trying to get into her house after numerous affairs. That man’s loss is their gain. One look at the machines switched Glew’s priorities like a light. Fairfax pulled his gloves on. Glew shook his head. “You wear gloves but no sleeves?”
Fairfax climbed onto his four-wheeler. “It’s called style.”
Glew slid onto the seat of his beast. “If you say so.”
He took off through the backyard.
The snow pelted Fairfax’s face. Glew wore a baseball cap but Fairfax wore nothing on his head. He’d never gotten into wearing a hat of any kind. The icy breeze covered his arms as he sped through the yard on into the woods behind them. He slowed his pace, picking his way through trees. Glew took a different route and got stuck by a frozen creek at one point. Fairfax waved to him and kept on going.
Once he got out of the woods, he crossed the snow-covered road to the other side where he passed through a field as the snowfall increased. The flakes covered his eyebrows and nose. He licked some flakes off his top lip.
He passed through another stretch of woods. Then he stopped and killed the engine.
A two-story house stood just beyond the woods. People talked and yelled and laughed. The lights blazed forth from the windows. Plumes of his breath floated up into the sky and then vanished. Glew rode up behind him. He revved the engine. “Get a move-on!”
Fairfax motioned for him to kill his engine. Glew did so and listened. “Wow. There’s a party after all! Let’s check it out.”
Micah walked upstairs to the first bedroom on the right. There were eleven folks present at this little get-together, including his friend Colton who kept watch. Micah peeked inside. The light was off. So he turned on his phone’s flashlight and kept the beam aimed at the floor. He walked through and searched until he found the goods- a Playstation 4 and an Xbox.
He detached them from the TV and slipped them into his bag. He bumped into the bed frame. He put his hand over his mouth. This would stifle any noise. Colton kept a good watch. He had these people where he wanted them. The snow provided the perfect cover. This is where his weather app paid off. He scanned the room with his light until he spotted an LG laptop.
Right on the money.
He scooped it into the bag.
Colton coughed downstairs.
Micah left the bedroom and shut the door behind him. Then he placed the bag in the hall closet. Colton kept on coughing. Someone walked around downstairs.
Micah walked down the stairs. Colton glimpsed at him and then walked into the kitchen. Micah followed him. Two of the women cracked open a bottle of wine and toasted to the two handsome men in the room. Colton grabbed his own glass and toasted to himself and Micah. They offered him a glass but Micah turned it down. He still smiled, though. It is best to keep these people at ease.
The women giggled and looked at them. The one said, “We’re not talking about you two dorks.”
Colton said, “Sure you are.”
The one said, “There’s two studs outside that pulled up on four-wheelers.”
This wasn’t part of the plan.
Micah walked to the window. Colton joined him. One lanky guy rode a four-wheeler in the yard, carving out doughnuts. Micah could kick him right off that ride.
The other guy though was stockier and wore no sleeves out in this icy rural hell. He sat on his four-wheeler watching the lanky guy but still. He watched everybody else at the same time. He would be tougher to deal with if it came down to it. He probably wasn’t a cop but he had been in combat of some kind.
Colton said, “What do you think?”
Micah watched the two women in the kitchen pause by the door. He motioned toward them. Colton said, “Y’all ain’t running back out there already.”
The one said, “Yeah we are! Dorks!”
They giggled their way outside.
Colton said, “So?”
Micah said, “I do not know. They may be up to something. I have the merchandise in the hall closet, secured safely behind coats.”
“You want to head out now?”
“No. Let’s step outside and determine the risk factor.”
“Um. Sure, dude.”
“You’ve got to loosen up out there. You’re too like, business sounding. We’re here for fun. Right?”
“Fun. Yes. Yes. You are correct. Okay. I will blow caution to the wind and have a good old time with these people. Or these, folks. That is it. Folks.”
They put their jackets and beanies on and stepped outside on the now white front lawn.
Glew spun the four-wheeler around yet again. When he stopped, he looked around. The snow had stopped. He howled into the air. The others joined him. And that brunette gave him the eye. He gave her the eye right back. He drove over to her. Then he revved the engine a few times. She laughed. “You sure know how to make that beast purr.”
Glew adjusted his cap. “Yeah. That’s what I do.”
She smiled and directed her focus up to the house. On the second floor maybe?
Fairfax rode over. The brunette looked at Fairfax and then at Glew. “So who are you guys? I’m Lori.”
Glew said, “I’m Wally. That’s Fairfax.”
Lori’s eyes bulged. “Wally. I like that. Fairtax?”
Fairfax shook his head.
Glew said, “Yeah. He catches hell over it.”
The other folks all stood around bouncing a beach ball across the yard in a circle. There were four guys and two ladies. Two other women made snow angels on the other side of the yard. Glew pointed at them. “So y’all are having a beach party in the snow?”
Lori said, “We are. Want to join in?”
Glew said, “You bet. Come on, Fairtax.”
Fairfax grunted and stepped off the four-wheeler. Lori took Glew’s hand. Glew winked at her. She led him over to the circle. He looked back. Fairfax stood over by Glew’s four-wheeler. “Fairtax! What are you doing?”
Fairfax ambled toward them.
Lori said, “Isn’t he cold with no sleeves on?”
“Nah, he’s one hell of a man.”
She said, “Kind of like you. Huh?”
Glew said, “Well, I-
The beach ball bounced off his face. A few of the guys laughed. Glew studied the group. Now there were six guys and three girls, counting Lori of course. The two guys laughing were new. Where had they come from?
Fairfax came up behind Glew and said, “Great defense, Walter.”
Lori said, “Walter?”
Glew rubbed his cheek. “It’s Wally.”
They bounced the ball around the circle. The other guys seemed younger from the way they spoke. Maybe early twenties or even late teens. The two guys over there though seemed different. They kept watching Fairfax and himself. The other guys just bounced the ball.
Fairfax jumped in and protected Glew from getting beaned again. He nudged him. “Get your head in the game, Walter.”
Lori stood close to him. She was warming up which was fine, but he needed to let Fairfax know about those guys. He always picks up on this stuff and yet here he played along with his focus on the ball.
They played the bouncing game for a while with Lori moving closer to Glew. He bumped her hip with his own. She bumped him back and smiled. Any other time, this would be great.
One of the guys spiked the ball into the center of the circle and yelled, “It’s beer-thirty! Who wants one?”
From there, the group broke into small factions. The two women who’d been making snow angels bounced the ball between them.
Lori said, “Do you two live around here?”
Fairfax said, “A few fields away.”
She looked up at the sky. “The snow may be coming back. Y’all want to go inside?”
Fairfax said, “Sure.”
Glew watched the other two guys who stood by the porch talking. He said, “Lori, you go ahead. I need to ask Fairtax here a question.”
“Secrets don’t make friends, Walter.”
Glew looked at her. “So we’re friends now?”
She said, “If you’re lucky.”
Glew said, “I’m always lucky.”
Glew draped an arm over Fairfax’s shoulders. “Walk with me for a second, pal.”
Lori said, “Well since you two boys want to be alone…”
She walked toward the door, holding her hand out for fresh snow.
Fairfax said, “What’s up?”
“Those two guys by the steps. They keep watching us.”
“No shit. Why do you think I got these?”
He held up both sets of four-wheeler keys.
Glew said, “Oh. Good work. We should keep an eye on them.”
“Will do. You go on inside with the lady.”
“I almost want to stay out here.”
“I know. Maybe the winter is messing with me. I’ll head inside but I’ll keep my eyes open.”
Thank you so much for reading. For the rest of this story and for four more Fairfax & Glew crime tales, follow the link below and check out Fairfax & Glew Volume 1. Thank you and happy reading!
Clarence walked up the path toward his three-bedroom Colonial-style home. His spread included forty-three acres. He stopped at the fence and bent over toward the ground. Little torches burned his joints. He grabbed the string of red lights and propped his hand on the fence timber. A handful of groans left him before he managed to pull the stapler from the back pocket of his overalls and then lean over and pull that old trigger, reconnecting the lights with the fence. He groaned again when he tested the light string. He moved on up the path.
When he entered his home, his wife carried a tray of cookies into the living room. Clarence bellowed, “Who’s in my house?!?”
His sons and daughter and in-laws greeted him with smiles. He didn’t see them too much except for the holidays. The grandchildren started in on him next with hugs in between bites of gingerbread cookies. He embraced them one by one and bit into a fresh cookie. His daughter suggested he have a seat and visit. Clarence glanced into the kitchen where his granddaughter stood by the counter. He smiled to his daughter and said, “Gonna get me a drink of something.”
Between eleven grandchildren, this young lady was the fourth born. She was his oldest son’s daughter but she resembled Clarence’s mother more than anybody else. He stepped into the kitchen and said, “Jilly?”
She wiped her face and turned to him. “Hey, papa.”
Clarence leaned on the counter. Jill never did offer hugs. It just wasn’t her nature. Clarence’s mother was the same way. Anytime she was forced into a hug, she’d roll her eyes. She would work harder than any of those hug-happy folks, though. She’s got substance, that girl.
Jill mixed more cookie batter with Clarence standing close by her. He said, “You know, honey, there’ll be other boys.”
Jill stopped mixing. She closed her eyes. Then she dipped a spoon into the gingerbread batter and handed it to Clarence who took a lick.
“I know, papa.”
Clarence grabbed a mug of hot chocolate and offered his hand to Jill. She shook it with vigor. He said, “They ain’t good enough for you anyway.”
“And I’m glad you’re wearing normal folks’ clothes again.”
Brian hunkered low outside the fence. He took a swig from his flask. The Jack Daniels burned its way into his gut. He winced. The lights in the main house went out.
Brian slipped under the fence and made quick steps but he didn’t run. Any of these animals out here could get spooked anytime. With that houseful up there, he’d be done.
He quick-stepped his way by the hog pen. The Christmas pig rooted in the dirt. He wore a Santa Claus hat and a wreath around his neck along with a sweater that read ‘Christmas Wee’. Folks had marveled at this for twenty years. It’s ridiculous. Folks pay ten dollars a head to cruise through this Christmas village and at the center of it all, stood the filthiest animal known to man. Of course, they were also pretty smart when it got down to it, too, but still. They’d all be freaking out soon enough. And all over a pig. It wasn’t like they didn’t eat bacon and sausage and pork chops on the regular.
Brian eased into the pen. The Christmas pig didn’t notice. The current pig replaced the older pig last year. Yet, that old hog lay back there in the far corner. Brian would need to exit through there when he grabbed the new pig and that old retired hog wasn’t moving but it could. He had to step lively.
Brian took one more swig from his flask and peered up at the house. One light shone in a window on the second floor.
He ducked down.
The Christmas pig kept at his rooting. Brian peered back up. The light went out.
Brian hopped over and picked up the Christmas pig. The piggy made no sounds. He’d been picked up no-telling-how-many times by old Clarence and countless others during this depressing season. So he thought nothing of it. So much for smart.
He bolted to the back fence where the retired hog lay. He stepped through the fence and chuckled.
The hog nipped his calf.
Brian covered his mouth.
Did it break the skin?
He wiggled away and stumbled. The Christmas pig didn’t make a sound. The retired hog stood looking at him. Brian carried the Christmas pig to his car parked on the road and tossed him into the back seat. Then he got in and sped down the road. When he got a mile away, he howled in victory in between sips from the flask.
Fairfax rubbed his eyes. Roberta had come over and they’d had quite the adventure in the bedroom. However, now she snored to the point that Fairfax could empathize with the ex-boyfriend she often complained about. He had a sofa for a reason.
He walked to his living room. After sitting on the sofa for a few minutes, he grabbed himself a cup of coffee and stepped out onto the porch. He sat there, admiring the wreath Roberta had hung on his door. She brightened up every place she went and well, his house could use plenty of light out here in the midst of the darkness in the sticks.
A car buzzed down the road.
Fairfax knew all the regular cars out here. He had no visible neighbors but he kept tabs on all the folks within a mile or so. This car didn’t sound like any of them.
He sipped his coffee. The car weaved down the road. It was a newer model but very small. The driver swerved all over the road. He howled out his window. Maybe a little too much eggnog?
The car swerved into the ditch and then the driver stopped and backed up and got back on track. This could get bad. And did he hear a pig squeal?
Fairfax returned inside where he grabbed his keys and slipped into some boots and then jumped into his truck.
Glew flipped to the highlights of the Predators game. Then he wiped his nose. He checked his forehead. No fever yet but it was on its way. Ah, this blasted cold. He should have moved to Florida years ago. Maybe he could take a trip down there. Things had been slow anyway. What millionaire wants to live in the cold?
The Predators lost.
Maybe he should be a Panthers fan?
To hell with this day. He poured himself a glass of water and shook a pack of Alka-Seltzer cold. Two tablets and then ten hours. Oh yeah. This cold would be gone. He’d be on the prowl again. Too many ladies awaited his return.
His cell phone buzzed. These late night calls spelled fun but tonight?
He set the Alka-Seltzer packet on the counter and checked his phone. He answered. “Fairfax? What are you doing, stud?”
“I was sitting on my porch and this drunk drove by. I followed him to a cabin. He got out and carried a pig into his house.”
“Wow. You know, I’ve thought of getting a pet pig myself. Name him Oscar Meyer maybe?”
“It’s the Christmas pig.”
“You’re on this one by yourself, stud. I’ve got a cold bringing me down. I thought I could shake it but you know how these things go.”
He dropped the Alka-Seltzer tablets into the glass.
“Glew. It’s the Christmas pig.”
“Germs are everywhere. I can see how a hermit would never…Christmas pig?”
“At the Christmas village. That old man Clarence owns it. You know.”
Glew watched the tablets turn the water orange.
“Oh, man. I haven’t been there in a while but yeah. I loved going out there when I was a kid. That’s the sweetest old man.”
“And yeah. Oh yeah! The Christmas pig! Wow, I can’t imagine that pig is still alive. How long do pigs live?”
“I don’t know, but I’ve got eyes on this kid who’s just taken the Christmas pig into his cabin. He stole it.”
“Why would he steal the Christmas pig? Like a prank?”
“I aim to find out. Why don’t you ride on out here?”
Glew had the Alka-Seltzer glass to his lips. Man, those were some good times, going out to the village. His Dad always smiled real big when they’d go. His Mom would get his Dad to buy her hot chocolate and pies. Even Molly had a good time out there. And somebody would rip the old man off?
Glew set the glass down.
He wiped his nose and snorted.
“Tell me where you’re at.”
Brian set the Christmas pig on the floor. The creature looked around. Was it smiling at him?
“That’s right, piggy. You go right ahead. Smile real big for Jill.”
He snapped a picture of the pig with his phone. Man, he’d tried to take dozens of pictures of his cat looking at the camera with a high failure rate. He’d spent countless times taking those pictures and getting them just right for Jill. She appreciated the effort at the time. She’d send him back “LOL” or smiley faces with cute little messages attached. Of course, that was before third parties got involved.
He gazed at the picture. It couldn’t be any better. He worked a crick out of his neck.
Just go ahead and send it.
The only way to make it in this world is to push back against those who push you. You can’t take anything lying down and expect to get what you want. Press send and let them all know who they are dealing with. Sometimes things are meant to be.
What was that smell?
A mix of both?
The man stood in his doorway. How did he sneak inside without him hearing it?
Brian stood. “Who are you?”
The stranger had a stocky build and a shirt with cut-off sleeves, despite the cold outside. He watched the Christmas pig who stayed by the fireplace. The stranger turned toward him.
Brian said, “Are you one of Dad’s friends?”
The man said, “No.”
“Are you a cop? Answer me, man.”
“What are you doing?”
Brian picked up the pig and ran to the front door. He got it open but froze in place. The man held him by his shirt. He set the pig down and swung back at the man’s face with a right-handed punch. He missed. The man punched him in the gut. Brian hit his knees on the floor. He gasped. The pig’s hoofs clattered across the porch. The man shut the front door.
Glew pulled his car behind Fairfax’s truck on the county road. He breathed in the Vick’s VapoRub on his chest. He wiped his nose. “What am I doing out here? There have to be better hobbies for me.”
He stepped out of his car and ducked down. He wiped his nose and checked his phone. No new messages or calls from his partner. He scanned the area. Nothing but woods with a little asphalt dividing these giant trees that were probably planted when he was a teenager. The cabin stood twenty yards ahead. Smoke rose from the chimney. He closed his eyes. Maybe Fairfax would kick this guy’s ass. Then he could nap in there by the fireplace. So warm and toasty. What could be better?
Something crunched the leaves nearby. He looked toward the cabin. The crunching erupted again. The creature trotted down the hill.
It was the Christmas pig in full garb!
The white ball on the Santa hat bounced with his movements. Glew wiped his nose. “Damn it. Warm and toasty will have to wait.”
He crept down the hill, weaving through the trees. “Here, piggy, piggy…”
The pig wee’d its way along. Glew stepped with caution. Pigs can bite. Right?
The pig changed directions. Glew wiped his nose and followed. The pig reached the bottom of the hill and sat down. Glew stuffed his tissue in his pocket and stepped around an oak. If he could just get a few feet closer…he could scoop the pig…right up…and…
The pig wee’d and turned the corner. Glew hit the closest tree and then turned the corner. The pig bolted down toward a lake. Can pigs swim?
He’s always heard they can’t fly.
He had to cut the pig off.
Glew ran toward the pig now. No use in playing around anymore. If he gets bit, it’s okay. He once dated a woman with jaws of steel from constantly chewing gum. He’d taken her bites after all. He galloped toward the pig who sniffed the water and looked back at him. He leaped at the animal with his arms spread. “Here, piggy!”
The pig squealed and ran into the pond. Once the animal reached some depth, it swam its way onward. Glew said, “No! Come on, pig. What are you doing? I’m not that ugly. Am I?”
The pig swam on. Glew sneezed into his tissue. He pictured himself leaping at the animal with his arms spread and how that must have looked to the pig. He chuckled. The pig kept on swimming. “This is so stupid.”
Glew removed his jacket and boots. Then he looked into the sky. “I know. This is stupid. But hey, it’s the Christmas pig.”
Glew waded into the water. The pig swam ten feet ahead. The water chilled his knees. It’s just a pig. Right? He could turn back and wait him out maybe?
Glew waded through until the water reached his chest. He coughed. “Here, piggy…”
The pig swam on but then it changed direction. Glew changed with it. Then the pig ducked its head into the water. That Santa hat stayed on along with the wreath around the neck and the sweater. The pig ducked its head in again. Glew followed it but it paddled on, keeping five feet between them. Glew reached for it. Just another foot and…
Glew sneezed. His throat ached. His eyes watered. “Geez. Come on, piggy.”
The pig dunked its head again. Glew paddled after him. The pig swam quick enough to stay ahead of Glew but it wasn’t in a hurry to get away from him. So maybe it wasn’t terrified of him at least. He reached toward it and touched its back. The pig swam back toward Glew. He stopped. It dunked its head. He smiled and patted its head. The pig swam in place and dunked its head again. This creature sure likes to dunk its head. Was it hot? How could it be out here? The pig swam in place with its mouth open. Glew examined the Santa hat. The pig stayed still. He pulled at it. A string kept it in place. Glew pulled the hat toward him. The pig closed its mouth. He pulled the hat off. The pig dunked its head. Its mouth fell open in what looked like a smile. He patted the pig’s head. “I see.”
He sneezed. “Oh, sorry.”
The pig stayed in place. He patted the pig’s head and then he removed wreath and the sweater. The Christmas pig now swam bare as the day it was born. It swam around in circles but not quick enough so that Glew couldn’t grab it. Glew steered the creature toward the shore and then picked it up. He sneezed and hacked his way up the hill and then got the pig into his car.
The man dragged Brian to the sofa and threw him on it. The cushions provided a concrete-hard landing. Dad had filled the cabin with old furniture on purpose. Here things were meant to be rough and tumble. Maybe it was to keep the nature of the hunt alive.
Maybe Dad was cheap.
Brian massaged his gut and kept his eyes on the man who walked back and stood by the door. Brian sucked in a few breaths. The man said, “Take your time, kid.”
“You…you saved the pig. Isn’t that all you wanted?”
“That was the main objective. When I see a kid like you doing something like this, I tend to wonder why, though.”
“You might have something going on in your head. Talking helps with the mental shit.”
“I don’t want to talk.”
The man sat in the chair by the fireplace. He stretched his legs and leaned back.
Brian said, “What are you doing now?”
The man checked his phone. He clicked a few buttons and then returned it to his pocket. Brian said, “Well?”
“Kid, it’s two o’clock in the morning. I’m sleepy.”
“You’re not sleeping here.”
“So you’re a thief and you’re hot even hospitable.”
Brian stood and pointed toward the front door. “Get out. I mean it. Now, get out.”
“And if I don’t?”
“I’ll call my Dad.”
“So you’re what? Fifteen?”
“Eighteen, pal. I’m eighteen.”
“Yet, you’re still wanting to call Daddy to help you out of a jam.”
“I don’t call him ‘Daddy’. And it’s just because this is his cabin and so…”
“The cabin that he paid for so you could use it. And now here you are and you can’t even protect it. This cabin was a wasted purchase. Your dad raised a weak kid.”
“What is your deal? I will call him.”
“Go ahead. I’ll tell him the whole story.”
Brian studied his phone. He could press send. He should have pressed send a while ago with the picture. Or should he?
He closed the phone and sat on the sofa. “Okay, scary man. Let’s talk then.”
The man kept his eyes closed with his head leaned back. “Why did you steal the Christmas pig?”
“It’s nobody’s business.”
The man raised his head up, staring right at Brian. Brian swallowed. “What?”
“It’s old man Clarence’s business. It’s his pig. I mean, damn. That’s how the Hatfields and McCoys got started. You don’t take another man’s property.”
“Yeah. I’m sure he’s already found out. He keeps a good watch over all of his property.”
What was this guy’s problem?
Brian shoved his hands in his pockets. “When I first met Jill, she dressed like Clarence wanted.”
“This is his daughter?”
“No, man. How old do I look? His granddaughter. We’re both college freshmen. Anyway, she wore all this stuff that was homemade. The old man’s big on that. No point in buying already made clothes. He’s got this whole self-sufficient fixation. It’s weird.”
“So when I met her, I got her to start dressing like she wanted. She wore jeans and T-shirts with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath on them. Stuff like that. She met some of my friends. The next thing you know, we were together all the time. She really liked being away and out with me. She’s been to the cabin fifty times I bet.”
“But not anymore.”
“No. She showed up at school a week ago, dressed in that crap again. She told me that Clarence insisted she stop dating me and that she focus on her studies. So she broke up with me.”
“And you were stealing the pig to get back at her.”
“No. The old man. I was going to send a pic of the pig to her and show them what I think about all this crap. You steal my girlfriend away? I’ll take your damn pig, then.”
“So it’s the old man’s fault.”
“Yeah. Who else’s?”
The man grinned. “Sounds like an excuse.”
“An excuse? No, I mean it.”
“From her. Did you see the old man say those words?”
“No. I’m never around him.”
“You ever met him?”
“No. Why would I want to? I know how he is.”
“Even though you never met him.”
“That’s right. She wouldn’t lie. I mean…she…”
Jill may be submissive to her family but she’d never lie. This guy was blowing smoke. That’s all.
“You just need to get out of here.”
The man stood. “My pleasure. Once I’m gone, you should go talk to the old man. Ask him about what happened.”
“Why should I care?”
“So you can say you tried.”
“I don’t need to try.”
“All right. I’m headed back to the village. We’ll return the pig. And we will be watching if you try again.”
The man opened the door. “Go ask the old man, son.”
Then he left.
Brian wiped his eyes. Thirty-five hours without sleep tends to wear on a body. He took a drink of coffee and then exited his car. He walked through the line at the village and paid the girl ten dollars. She gave him a ticket. He walked toward the trail. The main house stood to the left. He peered up at it. Some folks sat in rocking chairs on the front wraparound porch. One of them was the man from the night before. He leaned forward and watched him. Brian kept walking.
The first display was a manger scene. Candles lit up the scene like stars on a clear night. He smiled and walked on.
Tiny houses stood in the next display with fake snow covering the roofs. A Christmas tree shined in the center with ducks quacking around it. Clarence leaned on the post beside him. He took a deep breath and wiped sweat from his temple. “How about them ducks?”
Brian turned to him. The old man wore a light in his eyes. He stood several inches over Brian but he seemed like he was smaller in some way. Brian said, “Nothing better than a Christmas quacker.”
Clarence chuckled. “Yeah, buddy. Your first time visiting us?”
“Yeah. It’s real pretty.”
“Say, you’re Jill’s grandfather. Aren’t you?”
“She’s a great girl. Doesn’t she have a boyfriend?”
“Yeah. She mentioned that she was seeing a young fellow named…something. I can’t keep up with all that. Said he was a real nice fellow.”
“She spent a lot of time with him. Got to talking like him and dressing different. You know how people wear off on one another.”
“That’s what her mama told me. She decided that she needed a change and decided to break up with him. She had to get back to being herself. Do you know the fellow?”
“Yeah, I think I might.”
“I’m surprised she didn’t tell him that I disapprove and break up with him that way. I always told her she could use that excuse if she got in a jam. Just my way of looking out for her, you know. You got anybody you look out for?”
Brian leaned his head on the fence.
“You all right, son?”
He looked back up at the porch where the man from the night before sat. “No, but I have folks who look out for me. I think I need to listen to them.”
Clarence patted his back. “You sure should, son. Merry Christmas.”
Clarence ambled up the hill toward the house. Jill walked outside and greeted him with a tray of cookies. Brian smiled and walked by other displays until he reached the Christmas pig display. A few other folks stood by the fence. The pig sprang up from the back corner. Folks laughed and pointed and a few took pictures. A woman said, “Hey. He’s not wearing his hat or his sweater. Aw.”
Brian said, “Oh it’s all right.”
The folks turned to him.
He said, “He’s got to be himself.”
Fairfax pushed the garbage disposal up into the bottom of the kitchen sink. Chester and Glew yelled at the TV in Chester’s living room. The volume on the Titans game could run a body out of the state. Yet, Fairfax endured and screwed the new garbage disposal into place. They cut the volume down for half-time. Chester said, “Hey, boy! You got my disposal done?”
Glew laughed. “Yeah and get us a couple beers up here!”
Fairfax crawled out from under the sink. He pulled himself to his feet by the counter and placed his screwdriver back into his tool box. He said, “You boys deaf in there?”
The volume shot up above what it had been. Fairfax checked the fridge. A twelve-pack of Budweiser sat next to a twelve-pack of Coors which sat above a couple of Blue Moons. Fairfax grabbed a Blue Moon and walked into the living room. The volume died. Glew said, “Where’s our beers?”
Fairfax walked to the window and cracked open his beer. He looked at Chester. “Now remind me. Why are we here again?”
Chester looked up. “Um…to watch the game? Be worthless?”
Fairfax said, “No. Your neighbor complained about a robber in the area. We’re here to snuff him out.”
Chester used to work with Glew’s dad at a factory. He was now retired and had a generous pension but he kept his living conditions modest. After three failed marriages along with a son who lived across the country, he didn’t see any point in spending his life earnings on any kind of luxury just for himself.
A month or so ago, Fairfax and Glew had been hanging out with him just like now when they cooked up a good idea. They’d leave Chester’s garage open and make things seem like he wasn’t home. Chester’s tools and equipment would be there for the taking. Chester liked the idea at the time.
Chester said, “I don’t know. Do we have to? Do we have to, Glew?”
Glew grabbed them a couple of Buds and sat down. “I say we kill the TV and hang out and see if we get a bite. Really, Chester. This stuff can be pretty fun. Plus, you’ll know what kind of folks your neighbors really are.”
“I don’t want to know that.”
Fairfax said, “Why not give it an hour? It’s dark now and it’s prime time for folks to be passing by. Let’s have some fun, old buddy.”
Chester grinned. “All right. Let’s lock her down. Y’all did park up the street. Right?”
Glew’s brow furrowed.
Fairfax said, “Yes we did. Quit thinking so hard, Glew. You might have a good idea.”
Dudley left the grocery store at nine o’clock. He would have gotten out of there sooner if that one skank with the green hair had shown up. After putting in eight hours at the factory, he didn’t want to go into his second job but bills have to be paid. Don’t they? His stupid boss was never going to punish those idiots he worked with. A fellow works hard to move up but politics get in the way. It’s a vicious cycle.
He had a flat on the way home. He propped the old donut on there. How many times had it been now? Five maybe? He couldn’t afford a new one yet. Every dime he spent went to paying for that one mistake. And what a mistake.
He stopped by the store and stood in line for twenty minutes for gas. Those lottery players always hold up the line but this one knew the cashier and it was like a reunion. He shouldn’t have to do all this just to crawl home to an empty house. But then, what else could he do?
The mistake happened a year ago. He’d traveled to Tunica with a few buddies after work (back when he only had to work one job). They gambled and drank (they give them to you for free you know). He had a limit on gambling money set and he stuck to it.
When they dropped him off, he went inside his house and fell asleep in his recliner. Then he woke up.
He hurled into his toilet and sat there with a sweaty forehead and a gut turning flips. “Oh…oh lord…oh…never again…”
Someone knocked on his door.
Who in the world would be bothering him now? His buddies must have gotten bored. They can eat his socks after this shit.
He wiped his mouth and trudged to the door. When he opened it, he found a young woman standing there with her hands behind her back. She was shorter than Dudley’s five feet, one-inch frame. A midget maybe?
She whipped her hair behind her ear and smiled at him to the point that her white teeth gleamed in the darkness. Dudley sniffed the air. That perfume perked him up which didn’t seem possible after that bout in the bathroom. She talked but he couldn’t focus. So he reached inside and turned on the porch light.
“Well, uh…hello, there.”
The woman was the perfect height for him. Her blonde hair was thick and full. She wore a baby blue dress with matching high heels. She said, “Hello to you.”
He leaned on his doorway and said, “What’s going on?”
“I’ve seen you at work before.”
“You work at the plant?”
“I deliver supplies. I’ve seen you there a few times. I finally got up the nerve to ask your friend for your name and number.”
“Did you call?”
“No. I…used a little search app and found your address. You see, I prefer to meet people in person. I do apologize for it being so late.”
“Better late than ever.”
“I totally agree.”
Wow. He’d said ‘ever’ on purpose. Everyone corrected him on that, too. Except her. She just went with it. “What’s your name, darling?”
She said, “Dina.”
“Dudley and Dina. Now that sounds like a winning combination.”
“Oh, I definitely think you’re a winner.”
He stuck his chest out. The hangover shot right out of his mind. “Come on inside, Dina. You can check out my castle.”
She walked inside. She didn’t even try to step over the piles of clothes on the floor. She plopped down on his raggedy sofa and propped her feet up on a pile and then slid her shoes off. She sure shined in the midst of this hole. Dudley wiped his forehead and said, “Might I get you something to drink?”
She patted the sofa cushion next to her. “I only have a thirst for you.”
He grabbed the seat beside her. She draped his arm over her shoulder and snuggled up next to him. He said, “I’m sorry. I had a shower this morning but well…”
She sniffed his chest. “Oh you are all man. I like a strong musk.”
He pulled her close and kissed her lips. She said, “Oh my. Just like a plunger. I like you.”
“I like you! You ain’t no skank!”
They embraced in a long series of kisses, falling all over each other and then rolling in a pile of dirty clothes on the floor. She said, “Yeah. Get me dirty!”
Dudley took his shirt off and said, “Hell yeah! You ain’t no skank!”
She rolled around with him for half an hour. Then she pushed herself off him and dropped the blue dress. Dudley stripped off his jeans and drawers. She looked at the stained white socks on his feet. “Oh you have two toes sticking out, too. What a man. Follow me.”
Dudley followed her into his own bedroom. She pushed him onto the bed. She said, “You know what I love?”
“You tell me and you got it!”
“I love to lick peanut butter off a man.”
Dudley paused. “You do? Like all of the man?”
“Every damn inch.”
Dudley said, “Hold on.”
He raced into his kitchen, rifling through the cabinets. “Come on, damn it. You got to be in here somewhere.”
He found a full jar of a generic brand(that dumbass at work complained about it missing the other day, the idiot). “Oh sweet mercy.”
He dashed back into the bedroom and handed her the jar. She said, “Now get down there and prepare for ecstasy.”
She took the peanut butter and rubbed it all over Dudley, from his chest to his privates to even his butt. She licked him here and there as she went. Dudley howled. “Tell me I’m the man!”
“You damn sure are.”
“Naw. Say it.”
She took a lick and said, “You, Dudley, are the man.”
She spread the whole jar onto his body. Then she said, “I love to start in that special place.”
“Uh-huh. Here I come, big boy.”
Dudley closed his eyes and waited.
The bedroom light clicked on. Something else clicked. He looked up. She stood there, snapping photos of him there naked with his gut and privates and butt and legs covered in peanut butter. He said, “Wait now. What are you doing?”
She kept on snapping pictures with her phone. He leaned up. “What are you doing?”
She blew him a kiss and then left the bedroom. He took off after her. She pulled on her dress in the living room. A guy stood by his sofa. He looked like he stood seven feet tall and weighed like, four Dudleys. Dudley covered his privates. The guy chuckled through the smoke from his cigar as he flipped through the woman’s phone. “Aren’t you a sight, stud?”
Dudley said, “What’s this all about?”
“A reputation, friend.”
Dina got her dress on and slipped into her high heels. She turned and said, “Dudley, we’re going to send those pictures to all of your friends.”
“But? But why?”
“Unless you pay us.”
“What? What the hell’s going on?”
The guy said, “Ten grand or everyone sees you covered in goober butter, which in this picture, looks like shit. Like you had a shit party in your own bed.”
“But this is just…how can you…naw, you wouldn’t…”
He looked at Dina.
“How did you know where my bedroom was, Dina?”
She smiled. “Your lock on the door doesn’t work. You’re too cheap to ever fix it, though. It’s amazing that you haven’t been robbed but then, this place is such a hole that no one has bothered. And Dina’s not my name. It’s my sister’s name. You remember my sister?”
“Dina. Looks like me but chubbier and taller with glasses.”
“Yeah. And how you met her at TGIFridays and then ordered a steak and cake and six beers and claimed you had to take a leak and then you ditched her?”
“But she was a skank-I mean…”
“Like you’re something special? My dog is taller than you.”
“You were going to slobber all over my body!”
“That body?” She chuckled. “You smell like week-old mayonnaise. And luckily, my taste buds aren’t the best.”
“But this don’t make anything right. Shaking me down? This won’t get me to go out with her again.”
The man stepped toward him. “And my sister?”
“Oh lord. What?”
“You got the biggest steak Chilis had to offer and margaritas and apple pie and then ran out on the check.”
“Hold on, now. I don’t remember.”
The man backed him to the wall. He showed him a fist the size of a coconut. “You need a reminder?”
“No. No, sir. I don’t.”
“And you did the same to a friend of mine. And that friend’s cousin. And a widow woman who trusted you.”
“All right. Well so what?”
“So, now you’re going to make up for all that. We calculate that you have ran up ten grand around town to all these females.”
The woman produced a list and handed it to him. Dudley studied over it, the names coming back to him one by one. Shit. His goose was cooked. If he let them share the photos, he’d be ruined. His friends would never leave him be. If he didn’t have his pride, what else could he have?
So he scraped up the money, draining his bank account and then getting a loan for the rest. All so people wouldn’t see him in his peanut butter suit. They’d stuck to the agreement. No one at work laughed at him. Not for that at least. They did wonder why he took on a second job. In a year or so, he might just be paid up.
So when he turned onto his street and caught an eyeful of Chester’s open garage, he stopped in the street. A car honked behind him. He drove on home.
Those tools were just sitting there. Chester’s dumb ass had left them there for the picking. Dudley might as well cash in since Chester’s just another asshole.
Dudley drove back by Chester’s. He parked next to the curb and checked around. No one was watching on the street. Chester’s house sat empty. No one watched through their windows. Yes, sir.
Dudley backed his car up to the garage. He scrambled out of his car and tripped and fell into the grass. “Shit.”
He got back up and checked around again.
He grabbed up the tools he could find and stuffed them into his trunk. When he got them all, he stuck his middle finger up at the house and then drove away.
At home, he backed his car into his driveway. Then he got on eBay. He could make a quick pile of cash and catch up on his bills. Hell, the world owed him a favor after paying for all those skanks.
Chester laughed until he spewed Bud onto his carpet. “Dudley. That asshole. Of all the people on this street, I’d bet on him.”
Fairfax said, “Really?”
“That idiot came over here one time and showed off his tattoo. It said ‘Dud the Stude’.”
Glew said, “Stude?”
“Yeah. The artist told him that stud didn’t have an ‘e’ at the end but he insisted on it. I laughed at him for a minute. Well, I ain’t gonna lie. I pointed and laughed for a long time. Should have known he might try a little revenge. Let me show you something.”
Chester pulled up a picture on his phone. He laughed so hard that he doubled over and handed the phone to Glew who spewed his own beer. Fairfax took a look at Dudley there spread out on the bed with peanut butter all over him. He grimaced. “Is that shit all over him?”
Chester said, “Oh lord. My gut’s about to bust.”
Fairfax said, “How did you get the picture?”
“I still keep in touch with some of them old boys at work. Dudley works at the same plant I retired from. They got the whole story from this little gal that delivers up there.”
Chester filled them in on the story.
Glew said, “Did they give him hell about it?”
“Dudley paid her off not to tell. So they’ve been playing along. Her last day is next Friday. She’s moving to Texas with her boyfriend. Big old boy. They’re going to drop the hammer when she’s gone.”
Fairfax said, “Man oh, man. I almost feel for the guy.”
“Don’t. He liked to dine and dash the ladies, leaving them stuck with paying the check. Did that to several of them, including her sister. So he had it coming. He also kisses the boss’s ass and has ratted out a whole bunch of guys up there to him. Makes it up and tries to get ahead. But I know his boss. He just shakes his head and gives Dudley hell like the others do.”
Fairfax said, “Well, like I said, I ‘almost’ feel for him.”
Glew finished his Bud and stood. “Let’s go get him, then.”
Chester said, “Hold on. This requires a special touch.”
Dudley chuckled. That idiot Chester finally made his big mistake. He’d come back and see that his stuff was gone. Now, he could point and laugh at him. He’d wonder why. He might even suspect him but he wouldn’t know. It was about time he knew how it felt.
His phone buzzed.
He checked the text message.
It read ‘I know.’
He scratched his head. Then he set his phone down. He swallowed and stood up. He checked the number again. He didn’t know it. He paced the floor. The phone buzzed again.
The text message read ‘I’m willing to trade’.
“Aw hell. Not now. No. Come on, now.”
He paced around.
Just wait it out.
The phone buzzed again.
‘What have you got to trade? Or I start telling people’.
Dudley texted back. ‘Got some tools’.
A quick and easy fix and he wasn’t losing any money on it.
Come on now.
The phone buzzed.
‘Okay. Headed over’.
He texted back ‘Now?’
No. Come on.
This has to be a joke.
They swore they’d never tell.
He paid them after all.
Someone knocked on the door.
Dudley answered the door and then clenched his fists. “What do you want?”
A man stood there. He had a well-trimmed beard and a shirt with the sleeves cut off. He’d be trouble in a fight. He said, “The tools?”
Dudley leaned back. “What do you got for me?”
The man showed him his phone. There lay Dudley on his own bed with peanut butter spread all over him. He winced. “How did you get that?”
The man smiled. “Give me the tools and it’s forgotten.”
The man said, “You got my word on that.”
Dudley sighed. “Follow me.”
He walked to his car and popped open the trunk. “There you go.”
The man said, “Hhmm. Where’d you get these?”
“Doesn’t matter. Just take them.”
“Fair enough. I’ll pull my truck up.”
The man walked to his truck parked by the curb in front of Dudley’s house and then backed it into the driveway. Dudley handed the tools off to him. Either way, old Chester would still get his.
The man loaded the tools up into his truck bed. Then he showed Dudley the picture on his phone and deleted it. Dudley said, “All right, then.”
The man drove down the street. Dudley backed up to his front door.
Wait a minute.
The truck stopped just down the street. Hell, that’s Chester’s house!
The man parked in the driveway. Chester’s garage door rose up. The man returned the tools to Chester’s garage. Footsteps approached from the side of his house. Dudley turned.
A lanky fellow said, “Hey, Dudley.”
Dudley backed up. “Who are you?”
The fellow said, “I know.”
The fellow showed him the picture on his phone of Dudley in his peanut butter suit. Dudley said, “Aw, hell.”
Someone else approached from the other side. Dudley turned. Chester held up his phone with the same picture. “Hey, Dudley. Pick up some tools today? Now is that crunchy or creamy anyway?”
Dudley screamed and ran down the street.
Chester and the other fellow laughed.
When he passed by Chester’s house, the bearded man waved to him.
Dudley kept on running.
A few months later, Chester told Fairfax and Glew that Dudley never came back. A foreclosure sign stood in his front yard. The boys at work never heard a peep out of him. One of the guys put the peanut butter picture up as his Facebook profile picture. This drew hundreds of comments. Then finally, a woman posted a comment at the end that read ‘Wow. I met this guy on a dating website and almost went out with him. Thanks for posting!’ Her profile indicated that she lived in Tunica.
So Fairfax and Glew took a trip to Tunica one night. They visited a number of casinos but never found Dudley. They did find a name tag on the sidewalk in front of one of the casinos that read ‘Dudley’ though.
When they got back, they discovered that a jar of generic peanut butter had been thrown at the front window of Glew’s apartment and Fairfax’s house and Chester’s house. The jars failed to break any of the windows. They searched Dudley’s foreclosed residence but found no sign of him. However, the world has seen him plenty. His picture in bed became an internet meme which most folks call Diarrhea Dan.
Talk about a pay-off.
Wally Glew slipped over the fence. When he got to the back door, he placed his gloved hand on the handle. He turned it. The door opened. “Ah,” he said. “Thanks, Fairfax.” He got inside and shut the door. After taking a stroll through the house, he took a seat beside the wall and set his club down. He picked at his sweater vest. “Oh, man.”
He groaned. The top button on his vest was gone. He just bought the thing too. He puffed his stomach out. Could it be? No way. He couldn’t gain weight if he tried. The vest was medium-sized. Maybe they were making them smaller these days. That had to be it. Every manufacturer makes them differently. All the buttons were there when he put it on this morning. Right?
He checked his phone. The Cowboys were ahead. He smiled and shut his eyes. The turkey weighed on his bowels. Maybe he was gaining weight. Or maybe one of his nieces pulled the button off when he wasn’t looking. Yeah, that’s what happened. They were sneaky little devils. They did it…
Fairfax slipped his lock-picking tools back into his pocket. He took a tour through the house. Standard stuff. An easy target for sure. These folks sat at a relative’s house eating turkey and just leaving this place wide open. They even left their laptop sitting right there on the table for God’s sake. All just so they could sit around and eat and talk and get on each other’s nerves. Stuff to be thankful for. No thanks. Where’s the sense of adventure? No sense in idling away this holiday when he could be busting a thief in the chops.
Cathy had called twice earlier. He answered when she tried the third time. Same old invitation to visit with the family. Sure, she’d be fun but the others would mock him like always. Why did she keep trying? It’s like an unconscious thing. You just keep doing the same thing every year no matter what. Well, Cathy might force herself to do that but Fairfax didn’t have to. He hunkered down and waited for a thief to show up. To hell with tradition.
Clay closed the front door. He opened his car door and tossed the bag inside before his mom called after him. He turned. She said, “You going to see your girlfriend?”
He said, “Yeah, Mom.”
“Why don’t you tell her to come here?”
Phillip came up behind her. He squeezed her butt while looking at him. She responded with that goofy smile like she’d been caught at something. Clay said, “See you.”
He drove around with his bass thumping. Then he called up Rob. “Yeah?”
Clay kept the volume up on his music. Rob did the same to him when they spoke on the phone. They understood each other. Clay said, “Got something coming. Cool if I stay over?”
Rob said, “Bring the stuff. You down for the weekend? Got the crew coming.”
“Dope. I’m there.”
Rob said, “Bring your girl, too.”
“I’ll be like an hour. See you,” Clay said and hung up. He parked across the street from the house. He pulled the pick set from beneath his driver’s seat and then checked both ways. No traffic. No people. Just the goods. Waiting to be plucked like a turkey. Clay laughed to himself. Just like a turkey.
Fairfax answered his phone. “Yeah?”
“I have a situation here,” Glew said. “This guy is breaking in. He’s like three hundred pounds though.”
“All right,” Fairfax said. “Sounds like a good challenge for you.”
“For me? No, stud. This is at least a two-man job.”
“Can’t help you.”
“What?” Glew said. “Why not? What’s going…oh man. He’s almost in.”
Fairfax chuckled. “I’m on my way.”
Then he hung up.
Glew protected a house that sat a few houses down. He could make it in a couple of minutes at the most. The good thing about a three hundred pound opponent is that he probably doesn’t move with a lot of swiftness. So Fairfax had some time. Besides Glew should have to fight the giant off for a minute at least. The boy has a lot to learn.
Fairfax walked to the back door.
He ducked down. Someone approached the door. Fairfax hunkered behind the dining table. The guy stood taller than himself and maybe taller than Glew but he had the same skinny build as Glew. Some skinny guys can knock your head off, though. He picked at the door lock. Thank God Fairfax had thought and locked it back. He got into position. His phone buzzed. He put it on silent.
Clay returned the pick tools to his pocket. He slipped his gloves on and opened the door. Standard dining room. Wow. That thing on the floor. Clay picked it up. This isn’t a vase. It’s too heavy. Damn.
It’s an urn!
He shook his head. So Mommy and Daddy and Junior and Sis all eat at the table while Grandpappy’s dust sits over here in the corner. Clay patted the urn and set it down. “Cruel ass world.”
Clay walked toward the living room.
Someone grabbed him by the collar.
The person shoved him into the wall. Clay tried to shove back. The person drilled him in the gut with a punch. Clay fell to the floor. A flashlight beam took over his vision. So he closed his eyes. He gasped. “Hey…listen…whoever you are…we can work something…something…out…”
The flashlight beam vanished.
Clay opened his eyes.
The dining room light came on.
Clay closed his eyes. “Hold on. You’re going to get us busted, man. Listen-
“Oh my God,” the voice said.
Clay rubbed his eyes and peered up at the figure. He must have been shorter but he looked like Clay’s Dad. Ten feet tall right now. And broader than his dad. Thick through the chest and shoulders. A beard that was trimmed but not too much. A great hair-to-face ratio. The man said, “Clay.”
He wiped his eyes again. “Yeah? You’re…um…oh shit. You mowed our yard last summer.”
The man pulled a chair over to Clay and killed the dining room light. He said, “Sit down, you idiot.”
Clay sat in the chair and rubbed his stomach. Damn, he’d never been hit like that. He said, “Um, Joe? Joe Dulcolax?”
The man sat against the wall and turned on the flashlight again. It lit up a patch of the floor. This nearly had a campfire feel. The man said, “George Fairfax.”
“Oh, I was close.”
“Yeah,” Fairfax said. “Close to flushing your life down the toilet. What in the hell are you doing in here?”
“I know what you’re doing. For God’s sake, why?”
Fairfax’s phone buzzed. He read a message and then stood up. “All right. We ain’t got time for a heart to heart. But we will later. Now get your ass out of here and I mean, you don’t ever come back. You understand?”
Clay nodded and walked to the back door. Fairfax killed the flashlight and stopped behind him. “Go now.”
Clay walked out. Fairfax walked by him. “Get moving, son.”
Clay said, “Yeah. Sorry.”
Fairfax turned onto the next street.
Clay bit his lip.
Glew stood behind the front door. The big oaf left it open and now rummaged through the master bedroom. Glew had his club in hand. He tiptoed through the living room.
The oaf thumped, thumped, thumped, down the hall.
Glew hid by the fireplace. He sucked in a long breath. Let it out nice and slow. Easy, now. He imagined Fairfax’s voice calming him down. The oaf carried a jewelry box through the living room. Glew clunked the oaf on the shoulder with the club.
The oaf turned and faced him. Glew said, “All right. Drop it.”
The oaf smiled. One tooth showed. He said, “No.”
Glew drew the club back. The oaf grabbed him by the throat and pressed him into the wall. Glew dropped his club and kicked the oaf’s shins. The oaf laughed and shoved him down the wall into the fireplace bricks. He squeezed Glew’s neck. It would burst. Blood would fly everywhere. Glew had eaten his last Thanksgiving turkey. Goodbye, Mom. Goodbye, Dad. Goodbye, Sis. I tried.
Fairfax plowed into the oaf. The oaf let Glew go. Fairfax unloaded with a hundred punches, clonking the oaf over and over and buckling his tree trunk legs. Glew coughed and patted the floor for the club. The oaf chucked Fairfax into the wall. Fairfax bounced off the wall and rolled across the floor. Glew found the club. He braced himself to stand.
The oaf grabbed the jewelry box and thumped to the front door.
Something clanged against the oaf’s head. He collapsed to the floor. Glew forced himself to his feet. A guy walked through the front door. Glew wiped his eyes. Fairfax rose and said, “Damn it, kid! I told you to hit the road!”
The “kid” held an aluminum bat. He glanced at Glew. Fairfax snatched the bat but the kid pushed against him. “No! No, you don’t! This is MY bat!!”
The kid said, “My Dad gave this me on my birthday. You don’t take MY BAT!”
Fairfax held his hands up. “Fine. Shut the damn door.”
The kid closed the door. Fairfax turned on his flashlight and shone the beam on the oaf. The giant slept. A glob of drool clung to his bottom lip. Ugh. No sign of blood. Fairfax looked at Glew. “I’ll pull the truck around.”
Fairfax walked toward the back. Glew said, “Hey. Who is this guy?”
Fairfax stopped. “Glew, meet Clay. Clay, Wally Glew.”
“No. Who is he?”
“We ain’t got time.”
Fairfax got out through the back. Clay held the bat like he was at home plate. “It’s cool, man. I mean no harm.”
“Do me a favor,” Glew said. “Lower that weapon.”
Clay looked down at himself. “Oh, right. Sorry about that.”
The oaf snorted in his sleep.
“Fairfax mowed my Dad’s yard a couple of times. I never thought I’d see him…I mean, what are you guys doing?”
Fairfax’s exhaust rumbled outside. Glew wiped his nose. “Open the door. And grab his legs.”
Clay set the bat down. “Sure, Glew.”
Fairfax rushed inside. He nudged Clay. “Grab a leg.”
Clay grabbed a leg.
Fairfax grabbed another.
Glew grabbed the shoulders.
Fairfax shook his head.
Glew said, “Right.”
Glew grabbed the other leg and Fairfax grabbed the shoulders. They heaved the oaf off the floor. God. What a sack of garbage. Glew could see his own breath. Fairfax smiled but gritted down and kept on carrying the big man. Jay held his end. Glew placed the big man’s boot on the tailgate. Then he darted around to Fairfax’s side and got up under the oaf and shoved. Fairfax groaned. Clay yelped. Glew kept quiet. The oaf’s head bumped against the tailgate. Clay let off. Glew held on and kept pushing at the shoulders. His face grew tight. Fairfax took a breath. Was Glew working alone here? Fairfax shoved alongside Glew. Clay joined in. They heaved the mammoth into the truck. Fairfax shut the tailgate. He laughed and pointed at Glew. “You’re about to bust a spring.”
Glew sat on the ground and fought for breath.
Clay said, “You going to make it, Glew?”
Glew flashed a look at Fairfax and then left.
Clay held his bat up. “Where’s Glew going?”
Fairfax looked at him. Geez. What had it been? A year maybe? He said, “Boy, what in the hell brought you here?”
Fairfax studied him.
Clay looked at the ground. “Stuff happened.”
“Yeah, man. Stuff.”
Fairfax scratched his jaw. “Does your dad know about your new hobby?”
“Go to hell,” Clay said. “He’s gone.”
Fairfax spread his hands. “He took off?”
“He’s dead. Okay, smart guy? Three months now. They told him he had a tumor. A month later, they put him in ICU and he never came out. Okay?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“Yeah, well people always spout off and they don’t know shit. Besides you’re here in the thick of things. Why are you trying to give me a speech? Huh? Don’t you have a family? I bet you have a Dad. Huh?”
Fairfax said, “Sort of.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Fairfax pointed to the truck cab. “Get in.”
“What if I don’t want to?”
Fairfax climbed inside and started the engine. Clay got into the passenger side. Fairfax drove onto the street.
Clay said, “What if he wakes up?”
Fairfax pulled to the curb of the next street. He got out and pulled a long rope from behind his seat. “Whoa,” Clay said. “What are you going to do with him?”
Fairfax climbed into the bed and tied a handcuff knot around the oaf’s wrists and ankles. Then he stepped down and wiped his hands. He got back into his truck.
“Listen, son,” he said. “I hate to hear about your dad. He was a good guy as far as I knew him.”
“He was a great man,” Clay said. “And then Mom starts seeing Phillip. Phillip the accountant. Son of a bitch acts like I don’t exist. He gets all on her right in front of me and she lets him. Shit. Dad never did nothing like that. He didn’t like Phillip either. I heard them talk about it and here she goes and gets right with him. What a bitch.”
Fairfax looked around. Police cruisers rolled through here sometimes. He needed to get. Glew was already waiting. He said, “You’ve been dealt a shit hand. But you see, the world don’t care about any of that. You got to get yourself together.”
“Every so-called adult says that.”
“It’s true,” Fairfax said. “You’re lucky I caught you. The police would have hauled you in. Is that what you want? End up in jail? What would your dad think of that?”
“Yeah. Sure. Same old speech.”
Fairfax started the truck and drove over to Clay’s car. He said, “This is you. Right?”
Clay gave him a sideways look. “Yeah.”
“Oh,” Fairfax said. “You’re robbing a house and I’m the creep for guessing at which car you drive. That’s some logic right there.”
Clay said, “Look-
“I’m not your dad. I’m not your step-dad. I’m not much of an adult either. But I’m telling you this. I’ve got some cargo I got to unload and I don’t have time for this. So you’re going to straighten your ass up and stop doing this shit or you’ll go the same way this fellow is going. And next time, I will take you down. You understand me?”
Fairfax cut the engine. He walked around and opened Clay’s door. Clay grabbed his bat. Fairfax dragged him out by his collar. Clay swung the bat. Fairfax ducked and punched him in the shoulder. Clay sank to the ground. “Ahhhh….damn, man. I think you busted my blood vessel or something.”
Fairfax propped him against his car bumper. “Now. Go home.”
Clay whispered something.
Fairfax kicked his foot. “What?”
Clay said, “Yeah. I’m headed home. I swear.”
Fairfax drove away.
Clay got up and rubbed his shoulder. He picked up his bat and twisted it. The dents and scratches had piled up but he’d earned them. Dad must have pitched that ball to him a hundred times.
Still, Dad was gone.
He walked back down the block with his bat and picked the lock on the house. He entered and picked up the jewelry box on the sofa. Rob and the crew would welcome him. When he got to the front door, those words came back to him.
“The world don’t care about any of that.”
Clay licked his lips. Then he hunkered down and called his girlfriend. She made small talk. He said, “Listen, what do you think of Rob?”
“Your friend Rob?” she said.
“I wouldn’t call him my friend.”
She said, “Good. He’s not. He calls me and texts me all the time. I’ve told him you and I are together. I would have told you but I don’t know. You seem like you look up to him like he’s your role model or something. Rob can do no wrong.”
Clay set the jewelry box down. “God damn it.”
He put the phone on his leg. Rob didn’t talk to him in high school. He only got friendly after his dad died. She introduced them for God’s sake. The world really didn’t care about his problems. Rob wouldn’t be his dad. Neither would Phillip. Neither would Fairfax but Fairfax didn’t bullshit him either. He placed the phone back to his ear. “Baby?”
“Yeah?” she said. “You okay?”
“Can you meet me tomorrow? I know you can’t tonight.”
“I can meet you tonight. How about the Waffle House? You want to meet me there?”
Clay stood. “Sounds great, baby. I love you.”
“Aw, baby. I love you too. I’m on my way.”
He hung up and left the house. When he got to his car, Fairfax sprang up from the other side. Clay jumped. “Whoa, now!”
Fairfax grabbed him by the collar. “What did you get?”
“Nothing. I picked up the jewelry box but I put it back.”
Fairfax shined the flashlight in his eyes. “You sure about that?”
Clay squinted. “Yeah, man. I’m sure.”
“All right. Keep your ass in line.”
Fairfax walked away.
Clay said, “Is that big dude okay?”
“He’s in a ditch. Awake. And feeling very sorry for himself.”
“Kind of like me. Huh?”
“Nah. You ain’t got a pop-knot the size of a boiled egg on your head.”
Clay laughed. He said, “Hey. Hold on.”
Fairfax turned back to him.
Clay reached inside his car and then handed a him plastic bag. Fairfax examined it. Clay said, “It’s just leftovers. Some turkey and dressing. Happy Thanksgiving, Fairfax.”
Fairfax’s mouth hung open.
Clay said, “Okay. I have a date. See you.”
Clay drove away, leaving Fairfax staring at his gift.
Glew set the button down on his dining table. Then he removed his sweater vest and placed it beside the button. He threaded his needle. His doorbell rang. Glew answered the door. Fairfax stood there with a bag in his hand. Glew said, “Stud. What’s up?”
“Just wanted to stop by. Ain’t that what folks do on Thanksgiving? Stop by and sit and talk and shit?”
Glew pointed at him and resumed his seat at the table. “That they do.”
Fairfax removed a plate from the cabinet and then dumped the bag’s contents onto it. Turkey and dressing with a helping of English peas.
He grabbed a fork and set his plate on the dining table. He watched Glew. “What you got there?”
Glew pulled the needle through. “Just mending. My nieces ripped the button off.”
“Didn’t they do the same thing last year?”
“Um…I don’t think so.”
Fairfax took a bite of turkey.
“Where did you get that?”
Fairfax swallowed. “It’s not bad.”
Glew finished up the top button and tied it off. He held it up. “Like new. Right?”
Glew put on the sweater vest. He fastened every button with care. Then he sat straight in his chair. “There we go.”
Fairfax said, “You’re quite the seamstress.”
“You’ll make a fine wife.”
Glew said, “Okay. Keep going.”
“You think you could put a darn in my sock, miss?”
“What a Thanksgiving. Huh?”
“We protected two houses. Now those folks’ll get home and they’ll have all their stuff. Of course, the house you were in will look a bit off. I did go in and set the jewelry box back.”
“What about Clay? He wasn’t still hanging around?”
Fairfax swallowed. “Nah, he was gone.”
“Seems like he’s lost.”
“He’ll be all right.”
Glew put his feet up on an empty chair and placed his hands behind his head. “That’s good. You know, it was okay eating with my folks today but I don’t know. I never relax over there. I relax most after one of these jobs. The adrenaline rush gets me keyed up but then I just float on down, man.”
Glew said, “Good lord.”
Fairfax wiped his mouth and set the napkin on his empty plate. He leaned back and placed his feet in the other chair. “I hear you, partner.”
Glew sunk lower in his chair.
Fairfax said, “Say, maybe we could do this every year. Like a late night Thanksgiving.”
“You mean a tradition?”
“Hell no. Just like a meeting.”
“Sounds good. Need to get some women here for next year’s…meeting.”
Glew pictured it. A couple of women surrounding him and admiring his flat stomach. Fairfax eating his turkey with his own woman maybe. He opened his eyes. Fairfax slept. He looked a little like the big oaf sleeping on the floor back in that house. What was it like to be a big heavy-breathing mammoth? Glew didn’t want to know. It was best to keep his trim figure. Ah, a nap sounded good. Glew narrowed his eyes.
Something boinked Fairfax in the chin.
Fairfax said, “What the hell?”
He rubbed his chin. Then he inspected his chest. He picked up something and showed it to Glew. “Ain’t this your button?”
Minnie bit into a sugar cookie. Her guests chatted around her dining room table. Five of her dining chairs sat occupied. When had that happened last? A fine warmth radiated from these folks. Minnie closed her eyes and smiled. She opened them. The end chair sat vacant. Three months now. As of yesterday. She set the remainder of the cookie onto her plate and wiped her lips with her napkin.
Her sister, Barbara and her brother-in-law Wilmer spoke to their daughter and Minnie’s niece, Jennifer, about what she needed to look for in a new house. Jennifer had finally saved up the money to get a loan all on her own. At thirty with two children and no husband or father in the picture, she hadn’t made the best choices. However, she’d earned her nursing degree and worked long enough that she had some money and could get out of her crumby apartment. Not that there’s anything wrong with an apartment. Some great men work hard so their wives can live in a nice apartment. Jennifer’s was just run down. The other guest present sat there peering at the China cabinet. Sy-Jennifer’s boyfriend.
Sy smiled at Minnie and had used no cuss words so far. He wore a turtle-neck sweater and kakis. According to Jennifer, Sy worked as a bank teller and looked to be manager. He looked like he stepped out of GQ. Barbara and Wilmer loved him. Wilmer had played golf with Sy’s Dad and uncle for years. “Good fellows” he called them. Minnie had no reason to not like him…except for that.
Sy’s eyes drifted around the room toward the china cabinet and then to Minnie and then quickly away. That’s the third time. This guy would snatch something from here before the night ended. Her Moe would have known it, too.
Minnie said, “Well, let’s move to the living room. What do you say?”
The others nodded and started to stand.
Jennifer said, “Oh, Aunt Minnie.”
Minnie smiled. “Yes, dear?”
“Well,” Jennifer said. “I hoped you would…um…show Sy here…around your apartment?”
Minnie bit her lip. Barbara and Wilmer smiled toward her. Jennifer watched her. Sy looked at the china cabinet. And then he looked away.
Minnie said, “Y-yes. Yes. Of course. What am I thinking? Young man, you come right with me.”
Minnie walked to the kitchen entrance. Sy coughed behind her. She turned back to Sy. He smiled. She stepped around him. Barbara and Wilmer resumed the house discussion with Jennifer. They were in their own world without Sy. They could have fit into a snow globe. Sy could have fit into a prison cell. She sighed and turned. “Follow me.”
Minnie showed Sy her living room. He smiled the whole time. The TV and the Blu Ray player and the laptop and the little robot vacuum cleaner. Sure, add up all the potential loot in my home, you filth.
Minnie showed him her kitchen and the study. She returned to the hall and walked toward the living room where Jennifer approached. Minnie stopped. Sy said, “What’s this room back here?”
Jennifer smiled at Sy. Then she turned to Minnie. “Aren’t you going to show Sy your room, Aunt Minnie?”
Minnie said, “Um…”
Barbara and Wilmer walked up behind Jennifer. Wilmer said, “Who’s ready for a Sam Adams? Sy, old man. How about it?”
Barbara watched Minnie. Jennifer glanced at her mother and back at Minnie. Wilmer said, “What’s going on?”
Minnie exhaled. “I’ll show him. Of course, dear.”
Jennifer said, “Oh good.”
Jennifer blew a kiss to Sy who returned the favor. Then she went to the bathroom.
Minnie walked toward Sy who stood by her bedroom door. He wore that smile, too. Wilmer asked him about the beer again. Sy gave him a nod. That’s right. You don’t talk. Just keep plotting out the robbery.
Minnie showed Sy her bedroom. He looked at the bed and the walls. She reached for the light switch. Sy said, “My, my. This reminds me of my mother’s room.”
Minnie stepped back. “Oh really?”
And what mental hospital does she inhabit?
“Yeah,” Sy said. “She had the same color on the walls. That quilt is similar, too. Her mother made it for her. She made one for me, too. It’s good to pass things down.”
“That’s sweet, Sy.”
When she reached for the light switch, he said, “Oh, hold up!”
Minnie stepped back and balled up her right fist. “What?”
He stared into the aquarium on her dresser. “These guys. Oh my God. African Pancake Tortoises. Right?”
“Oh,” she said. “Right.”
“When did you get them?”
She picked at her blouse. “I…um. They belonged to my husband.”
He stared into her eyes. Was that a tear on the edge of his eyelash?
He said, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.”
How did he do that? Did he carry a bottle of Visine in his pocket? Surely he couldn’t really feel sorry for another person, being a low down rat. “That’s all right, Sy.”
Sy tapped on the aquarium but he did so in a gentle way, like Moe used to do. He didn’t want to alarm them-just get their attention.
She pointed to the aquarium. “He liked them a lot. I’ve been feeding them since he…I never really liked reptiles. Or are they amphibians?”
Sy said, “Reptiles.”
“Thank you,” she said.
Sy rubbed his index finger across his lip. “I can give you a hundred bucks for them. Right here and right now.”
“Oh,” she said. “That’s very generous. But I don’t think so. I’ll keep looking after the little stinkers. Moe would have want me to.”
He scratched his forehead. She turned the light off and stepped forward. He didn’t move. She said, “Well…we should get up front.”
He flipped the light back on. She took a step back. He said, “A hundred bucks is a fair price. Believe me. I know.”
She stared him in the eyes. He held the stare as if he’d just given her some fatherly advice. God, the stare lasted ten seconds. No, twenty seconds! She looked away and said, “I’m sure it is. I’m not interested, though. Let’s go on back up front now.”
She reached for the light switch. He covered it with his hand. Her heart thoomp-thoomped. Oh, Moe. If only you could be here and take care of this punk…
Jennifer popped her head in the doorway. “Hey, hon. What’re you guys doing?”
Sy fell into a big smile. Geez, those teeth. Her last boyfriend had held onto three or four teeth in his twenty-five years. Sy looked like he had fifty chicklets in there. Oh, the things the world does for a pretty face.
They enjoyed beers and wine over several hands of Uno in the living room for the next three hours while a Titans game played in the background. Minnie watched Sy but he kept his eyes on Jennifer for the rest of the evening. She could tell Jennifer what she thought of Sy but her poor mother warned her about them all. Jennifer never listened. Maybe they would break up. If fate can be awful and take Moe away, maybe it can be kind and kick Sy out of their lives.
A week later, Minnie lay in her bed at eight-thirty. She had broken plans to meet Barbara at Chile’s for their weekly margarita with chips and salsa. She didn’t know why. She closed her eyes.
The door handle rattled.
She slid out of bed and drew her robe from the hook on the bathroom door. She wiped her eyes and tied her robe around her. Then she slid under her bed and grabbed Moe’s .22 Remington five-shot revolver. She slid the cylinder out. Five chambers and five bullets. She shut it and tip-toed out of the bedroom. She kept low and stopped by her kitchen counter. From there, she peered around at the door.
The handle rattled again.
Someone wanted in. Minnie had her cell phone in the pocket of her robe. Moe would want her to call the police. But folks just think odd these days. They want to call somebody who’ll take care of them. Why not take care of yourself?
The door handle rattled again. Minnie pulled the hammer back on the Remington. Come on through. Just come on through and try to rob a defenseless widow, you big upstanding citizen. Bring everything you’ve got.
The would-be intruder ran.
The front door of the building slammed.
Minnie stood. “Aha!”
Something had spooked her intruder.
She pulled out her cell phone and keyed into the app that showed her doorbell camera feed on her phone. The guy wore plain black clothes but that face could not be denied. Sy had come back. He’d spotted that doorbell camera and fled. He was the dirty scoundrel she knew him to be.
Fairfax sat at the table beneath the park pavilion. He munched on a Barbecue sandwich but he sure took his time. Minne smiled. Moe’s tortoises moved with more speed. She stepped out of her car and walked over to him. He said, “Minnie,” before she got close enough for him to see her. She stopped. “Wow, that’s creepy, George.”
Fairfax wiped his mouth and held up a thick finger. “Is it creepy that I knew you were there or is it even creepier that you sat there watching me and waited seven and a half minutes before you approached me?”
Minnie slapped his shoulder. “Hush up, now. I have something to tell you. Something in your line of work.”
“My work? Roofing? At least, that’s what I’m doing this week.”
She poked his arm. “Just finish that sandwich and listen to me.”
She told him about Sy and the attempted break-in. He finished the sandwich. He removed his sunglasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Who told you about me and Glew?”
“My sister, Barbara. I couldn’t believe it at first. She told me about you two getting her jewelry back. I thought ‘My lord.’ I could not picture old George Fairfax doing anything like that.”
“What am I? Satan?”
She coughed and giggled. “No, you goof. You just, I don’t know. I didn’t think you hardly even talked to anybody. Now you’re going around and helping damsels in distress. It threw me for a loop. I thought you would be a quiet hermit from here on out. Does your mother know what you do?”
He replaced the sunglasses on his face. “When did you say you’re going out of town?”
“This weekend. He’ll try to get those tortoises. I told Jennifer. So I know she told him and he’ll try.”
He grinned. “You told her on purpose. Huh?”
She handed him an apartment key.
Fairfax pulled into the apartment complex at six o’clock. He carried some takeout food up the steps to the second floor and found number 224. He inserted the key in the door and opened it up. Minnie said, “Freeze.”
She held a Remington revolver although she didn’t point it at him. He said, “Easy, now.”
She giggled and held it out to him. “For your protection this weekend. Where’s your partner? Lou?”
Fairfax set the Remington on the coffee table. “It’s Glew. We work in shifts. He’ll relieve me sometime tomorrow unless I need his assistance first.”
She picked up her purse. “I’m off then. I’ll be back Sunday night at eight o’clock and not a minute later.”
“Have fun,” Fairfax said.
Minnie kissed his jaw and then left, locking the door after herself. Fairfax leaned back and listened to the sounds of the apartment settling. Come on, Sy. Come on and bite, little fish.
Glew walked up the apartment steps, counting each one as he did so. A wiff of something tickled his nostrils. He looked up. Nothing. He looked down. In between one of the steps, a vision gave him tingles. The young lady stopped and looked up at him. “Wally?”
He smiled. “Well, well.”
The young lady said, “Oh my God.” She clapped her high heels up the steps. Glew embraced her and inhaled the vanilla perfume. Then he buried his face into her hair. She tapped his arm. “You can let go now.”
“Oh.” He stepped back but kept his hands on her arms. She did not protest. “Cindy. Where have you been?”
“I live here. You don’t remember. Do you?”
“Yes, of course,” Glew said. “Through a rum haze, I recall that you lived in an apartment. Not sure it was this complex, though. What can I say? They all look alike to me.”
She toyed with his shirt. “What are you doing here, anyway? Coming back for round two? Only took you two and a half months.”
He opened his mouth.
“Get up here, you sumbitch!” Fairfax said.
Glew looked up. His partner stood on the balcony. The bags wore heavy under his eyes, even from down here. He turned to Cindy. “I’m sorry but I have some work to do.” He leaned down to her ear. “I can’t tell you which apartment I’m in but stay away from 224. Do not go in 224. Okay?”
She ran her tongue across her teeth. Then she took off. Glew galloped up the steps. Fairfax passed him and trotted down the stairs. Glew said, Okay, partner. See you!”
He strolled into 224.
An hour later, Cindy met Glew at the door. He picked her up in his arms and then carried her down the hall to the bedroom. Once he got the door open, he carried her inside and tossed her onto the queen-sized bed. She squealed. Then she sat up. “Wow, I think my mom has a quilt like this.”
He switched off the light and lit a candle. “Every mom has one of those.”
She kicked off her high heels. He jumped onto the bed beside her. She said, “And what does every private detective have?”
“A secret,” he said. “And the answer is always right here.” He steered her hand down low. She giggled and licked his lips. Then the explorations began. Glew groped and moaned and gripped and squeezed until Cindy shoved him over. He stared at her.
He turned to the door. The aquarium with the turtles. Where had it gone? No. Oh no. That quick? How was that possible?
He sprang up. She grabbed his arm. He slung free of her grip. “Sorry!” he said. He ran through the apartment.
When he reached the steps, he slowed down and hobbled as best he could. The guy wore a black jumpsuit. He jumped into a red sedan and sped out of the lot. Glew tripped over his pants around his ankles. He smacked the ground. “Shit!”
Fairfax’s ugly truck pulled up beside him.
“Stud!” Glew said. He scrambled up inside the beast. Fairfax took off after the sedan. “Pull your damn pants up.”
Glew looked down. “Oh right. Sorry. I was watching but-
“I know and I will say, she is a looker but damn, man. Why didn’t you lock the bedroom door?”
“I guess my urges just took me over.”
They followed the sedan through lots of traffic on out to the highway and through curvy roads until Sy pulled the sedan into a gravel driveway that led to a trailer. Fairfax pulled over onto the side of the road out of view of the trailer. He stepped out, followed by Glew. Sy carried the aquarium up to the front door and knocked.
A woman answered the door. She placed her hands to her cheeks. “You found them?!? Oh thank you!”
She closed the door. Sy stepped off her tiny porch and wore a wide smile. Who was this guy’s dentist? Glew might have to pay him a visit.
The woman returned with a boy by her side. The little guy looked like he was around ten years old. He wore glasses and looked a bit chubby. However, he probably didn’t get picked on in a physical way. He could handle himself.
The woman handed over a wad of bills to Sy.
Fairfax tapped Glew’s shoulder. “Let’s go.”
Sy handed the aquarium over to the woman. She thanked him. He walked straight toward the sedan. Glew stepped in front of his door. Fairfax grabbed him by the collar and shoved him back onto the hood. His smile vanished. “Hey, what is this?”
The woman set the aquarium down. “What do you two think you’re doing? Get your hands off of him!”
The boy watched the scene, grinning. He threw a few punches at the air.
Fairfax turned to the woman. Sy punched Fairfax in the lip. The woman gasped. Fairfax dragged Sy off the hood. Sy said, “I’m sorry” five times. Fairfax got Sy on his knees and then placed his foot into the center of his back. From there, he shoved him forward until Sy’s face was pressed into the sedan’s fender. Fairfax kept his boot on his back, holding him there. Glew turned away and chuckled.
The woman said, “Take your boot off of him.”
“Ma’am, do you try to teach your son right from wrong?”
She placed her hands on her hips. “Yes, sir, I do.”
“This guy stole those turtles.”
“Do what?” she said.
The boy said, “Tortoises. Not turtles.”
“He stole them from a widow.”
“What?” She looked at Sy. “Is that true?”
Fairfax dug the boot into Sy’s spine. Sy groaned and said, “Yes!”
The woman kicked Sy in the butt. Glew walked away laughing. Fairfax let Sy fall to the ground. Then he turned him over and pulled the woman’s money from his pocket. He handed her money back to her. He said, “Six hundred bucks. Good lord. Those are some pricey turtles.”
The boy said, “Tortoises.”
The woman took her money back. She pointed to her son. “Oh they’re worth it. He loves them. He’s been looking for some forever.”
Fairfax said, “Uh-huh.”
She looked at him. “So? I just pay you and then you pay the widow?”
Glew walked up beside Fairfax. He said, “That sounds like a good deal.” He looked at the boy. “Ready to play with your new turtles son?”
The boy smiled and said, “Tortoises! I’m ready!”
The woman held the money toward Fairfax who held up his hand. “Now, I can’t say.”
Glew and the woman stared at Fairfax.
said, “The widow didn’t tell me that she would sell them. So, I’m
afraid I can’t let you have them.”
The woman frowned. Glew looked at Fairfax. “Hey, come on, stud. I think the boy should get them. Just look.”
boy hung his head and stuck out his bottom lip. Fairfax looked at
Glew. “It ain’t that simple. Get in the truck.”
Glew said, “Look, man.”
Fairfax stepped closer to him. “Get in the truck.”
Glew walked away. After kicking Sy in the back, he got into the truck.
Fairfax turned back to the woman. “Listen, the widow woman is returning tomorrow night at eight o’clock. You come by with your money and make her the offer. She’ll probably say ‘yes’.”
The boy let go of a tear. The woman hugged him and wiped his eyes. She studied Fairfax who picked up the aquarium. “You think she will?”
Fairfax said, “I do. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
On his way back to the truck, Fairfax kicked Sy in the ribs. Sy crawled into his sedan.
pulled on down the road. Glew shook his head. “That kid looked so
sad. We should have just let him have them.”
Fairfax said, “We’ll see tomorrow night.”
“At least one of us cares.”
“Yeah, you sure cared all the way down the steps with your pants around your ankles.”
Glew didn’t say much for the rest of the way back. When Fairfax dropped him off he said, “And you can stay until seven tomorrow night.”
Glew reached for the aquarium. Fairfax swatted his hand. “Yeah, right.”
“What am I staying for, then?”
“That’s a good question. Why are you staying? In fact, why did you even come over to begin with?”
Fairfax drove away.
Minnie knocked on her own front door and waited. A voice spoke through the door. “Who goes there?”
She deepened her voice. “The master of the house.”
The voice (also deeper) said, “This is an apartment.”
Minnie shook her head. Then she cleared her throat and got into her deepest voice. “Open the door before I break it down.”
The door opened. A man stood there, eating Goober candies. Minnie looked him up and down. “So you’re the famous Glew?”
“Infamous,” he said.
She stepped inside and set her purse on the kitchen counter. She took in a deep breath. Then she turned back to him. “So-
The toilet flushed in the bathroom. Glew chuckled. Fairfax stepped out. “Oh. Howdy, Minnie. About time you made it back.”
She said, “I had a little traffic delay. So how did everything go? Did Sy stop by for a discount on some turtles?”
Fairfax motioned to Glew who told Minnie the tale. At the end, he said, “Now you think the boy should have the turtles. Right?”
Minnie’s smile faded. She looked at Fairfax. He watched her with steady eyes while seated at her dining table.
The doorbell clanged. Minnie blinked a few times. Fairfax nodded to her. She answered her front door. The woman from the trailer stood there with her son by her side. Minnie invited them inside. The woman confirmed Glew’s story. The boy hugged Minnie’s waist. Minnie turned red. She hugged the boy back. The mom said, “So, name your price and we’ll work something out.”
Minnie looked back at Fairfax. He kept those steady eyes on her. She said, “Does your mama know what’s best for you?”
She said, “Did it ever make you mad that she knew best and denied you things?”
She said, “You got over it, though. Right?”
“I did. And if I didn’t, who cares? That’s my problem.”
She turned back and took a seat at the table. She looked at the boy and said, “I won’t sell you the tortoises.”
The woman said, “What? Hold on, now. Why not?”
“You see, I have-
The boy stomped Minnie’s foot. Minnie drew back and yelled. The boy shook his fist toward her. “You give me those tortoises or else! Or else, grandma! You hear me? Or else!”
The woman stared at her son. Could eyes get that big without bursting?
Fairfax stood. “Don’t you ever be hitting a lady, son. Back up.”
The boy raised his other fist.
Fairfax said, “Back up.”
The boy drew his fist back.
The mother grabbed the boy’s fist and yanked him toward her. Tears collapsed down his cheeks. His mother hunkered down and pointed in his face, warning him with a low voice that escaped the others’ ears. She pulled him to the door, moving like the boy was a whip in her lion tamer grip. She turned back to Minnie. “My apologies, ma’am.”
Minnie massaged her toe. “That’s all right.”
The woman looked at Fairfax and then at Glew. She shook her head and looked back at Fairfax and said, “You a father?”
Fairfax said, “Not yet.”
“You should be.”
Then she left.
Minnie looked at Fairfax. “I think she’s right. Moe and I talked about having kids. We tried but I guess it just wasn’t in the cards for me.”
Fairfax motioned for Glew to sit down. Glew sat. Fairfax sat next to Minnie. He took her hand in his and said, “Who says you’re not a mother?”
Minnie laughed and hugged him. Fairfax pulled Glew into the hug. He dropped a Goober onto the floor.
At ten o’clock that night, Minnie’s phone rang. She wiped the sleep from her eyes and answered.
said, “Hello, Jennifer.”
“Um, what is this Sy has been telling me about you hiring some thugs to beat him up? Are you out of your mind? And don’t think I didn’t notice you giving him the cold shoulder at your apartment that night. I have to tell you-
“Jennifer, get your butt over here.”
“Do what?” she said. Her voice shook.
Minnie rose up in bed. “Get over here. I’m going to talk. You’re going to listen. Then we’re never going to talk about this again.”
“And if you don’t listen, fine, but I can say I tried.”
Minnie hung up on her. Then she made herself a cup of coffee in the kitchen. She blew the steam off the top and took a sip. Then she pulled the package of sugar cookies from the cabinet. She ate one whole and smiled at the chair at the end of the table.
Scott Lott sold all kinds of boats over the years. Along the way, he’d ran into some trouble with a few thieves. In the past, he’d conceded that he wasn’t seeing the boats again but when he told Glew about his latest loss, we ran the thief down and returned Scott’s inventory to him.
A month later, I got home and took a shower after a long day of roofing and sat in my rocker where I dozed.
“All right, damn it,” I said.
I stepped out and looked at the tree line across the road where a pink sun blazed forth. Yes, sir. Thank you to whatever woke me up. This is the best time for staring over that way. I blinked a few times. A truck sat in my driveway. A boat sat on a trailer behind it. Scott popped up beside my porch rail. . “What’s up, rough and ready?”
“Not much, slick and sissy,” I said.
Scott pointed to the boat. “What do you think of that little number?”
I whistled. “Just get it?”
“Nope,” he said. “Had it a while. To tell you the truth, I’m tired of it. How about you take it?”
I held up a hand. “Ain’t got the funds at the moment.”
He spread his hands out. “After you guys getting me back my other boats, you think I’d make you pay for this?”
I swallowed. “Well, I mean…Glew told me about the job and all. He should get it before I do.”
“I agree,” he said. “Only, he didn’t want it.”
“What? Why not?”
Scott shrugged. “He told me to bring it over here. So…here.”
I smiled. “Dang, Scott. This is real nice. Thank you. Really.”
Scott shook my hand. He backed the boat off the driveway into the yard beside my shed. We got her unhooked. He got back in his truck. I said, “Stay a spell if you want. It’s a good day to watch the sun set.”
Scott shook his head. “Got to get back to it. Enjoy the boat.”
He drove to the end of the driveway. Then he backed up toward me. I stepped aside. He stopped a few feet from me and handed me a cigar. “This goes mighty good with sunset watching.”
I took the cigar and grinned.
He said, “I really should. I’ll have my wife make me some tea and I’ll take it easy one day next week. I’ll think of you when I do, George. How’s that sound?”
I placed the cigar between my teeth. “Like a million dollar idea, Scott.”
He took off down the road.
I set up my lawn chair and stared at the gray fourteen-foot Polar Kraft Jon boat with a forty-inch bottom, sitting on a sixteen-foot trailer. I toyed with the cigar between my lips. The setting sun floated back there, like an early moon looking to peak through and keep me company. I rolled the cigar around. A Coors would hit the spot right now.
I placed the cigar on the porch rail and then walked inside. I grabbed my keys and then backed my truck up to the boat trailer. I hooked it up and then I rode on down the road a good piece, shifting my eyes between the road and the boat.
Maybe I could have a little fun here.
I drove to a little cove in the northern section of town. Some of these places sat vacant. None of them looked lived in. Don’t expect folks to answer within minutes of you knocking and if you’re expecting Halloween decorations, you need to drive away. I like to call it a blind street. Theft lingered in the air like week old trash. So I backed the boat up into the driveway of a vacant house near the dead end and then unhitched it. I slapped a GPS tracker onto the boat and parked down the street.
Glew sent me a text message, asking me about my whereabouts. I told him. Twenty minutes later, he stepped out of his car all decked out in his white suit and fedora. The guy looked like Colonel Sanders’ rich grandson. When he climbed inside my truck, the Polo cologne found my nostrils. I rolled down my window. He said, “So what’s going on, stud? Meeting your date here?”
“Yeah,” I said.
He snickered. “Yeah, right, like you’d have a date on a Friday night. That’s what weird folks do. Right?”
I said, “I suppose you do, of course.”
He smiled wide. “This one. Oh, man. My greatest conquest.”
“I’m happy for you two.”
“No, stud. Look,” he said. He showed me her Facebook profile on his cell phone.
I said, “She’s-
He tapped my arm. “I know. And it’s not just that. She just passed her bar exam. And her dad is loaded and already bought her a new house for passing the test. And she’s very attracted to my work. And she’s not looking for a husband. Career woman. No interest in kids. I mean, there is nothing wrong with her. You may never see me again, man.”
“I don’t know.” I scratched my chin. “You might miss out on all the fun we have running around.”
“Pshaw,” he said. “Did you not hear me? This lady will keep me plenty busy. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Maybe she’ll let me fight crime one night a week and give you a thrill.”
He chuckled. “Aw, don’t be jealous, stud. You’ll find a life one day. I’m headed out, though.”
He stepped out of the truck and walked around to my window. “I got to say, you’re on your own here. I can’t mess this date up. So unless you’re dying, don’t call. Okay?”
I peered in my rearview mirror at the boat. “Aw, I wouldn’t expect much, Glew. Go get her, buddy.”
“You bet, you son of a gun.”
He drove to the end of the street. Then he honked his horn twice and squealed his tires in the turn. I took a few slugs of coffee. Something landed on the power line up there. An owl?
A Jeep Wrangler rolled by at twenty miles an hour. The driver turned around in the dead end and passed back by the boat. Its tail lights disappeared in the growing darkness. I rubbed the back of my neck. I took another shot of coffee. The Jeep pulled back around and stopped behind the boat.
Here we go.
I ducked down, keeping a watch on my GPS device. Ten minutes later, the boat pulled away. I waited five minutes and then I got on the move.
The Jeep transported my boat twenty miles into the country to a property that had two acres of front yard with a white fence that stretched at least a couple of acres on back. Two men held the gate open while another one backed the boat through while a fourth man stood watching with his hands in his pockets. I slowed down. Then I shifted into neutral. The man with his hands in his pockets turned toward me. I killed the engine. One of the men at the gate pointed toward me. I rolled into the long paved driveway. The two holding the gate abandoned their position and ran toward me. The pockets man walked toward me but he pulled his hands out of his pockets. I waited. They jogged on. I turned the ignition but pulled back before it cranked. The men got closer. I banged on the steering wheel.
The two men slowed down but kept on toward me while Pockets walked on at the same pace. I shook my head and hit the steering wheel again. One of the men walked toward the passenger side of my truck while the other eased his way toward my window. I said, “Damn it all to hell, boys. I’m sorry for pulling over here, but she’s up and quit on me.”
The men looked at each other. Pockets walked onto the driveway. I nodded at him. He stared straight at me. I said, “I gotta call me a tow truck. One of you fellows have a phone?”
The two gate boys stared toward Pockets. He gave them one nod. The one near my window wore a buzz cut. He handed me his phone. “Thank you,” I said.
Buzz Cut said, “Not a problem.”
I tapped on the phone. Then I said, “You fellows mind if I step out? My back’s killing me.”
Pockets said, “Go ahead.”
I stepped out and then placed the phone to my ear.
“Yeah,” I said. “Yes, sir. I got a problem…”
Buzz Cut and his friend watched me. Pockets looked away but he glanced back a few times. The man in the jeep got out and walked toward us.
I said, “The problem? What’s my problem? Is that what you’re asking me?”
Buzz Cut and his friend inched toward me. Pockets took a step back while the other fellow quickened his pace toward us.
I said, “I got four assholes here who stole my boat.”
Buzz Cut and his friend rushed me. They pushed me against the truck and pulled their fists back. I lowered my face and then squeezed the button on my pepper spray can. They stumbled back. Buzz Cut fell down. The other guy leaned on my truck. Coughing and retching took over any other noise. The jeep guy ran toward me. Pockets said, “Stop!”
Jeep lunged at me with a kick as if he were kicking down a door. I sidestepped his attack. He bounced off the truck. I smashed him in the jaw. The impact sent him sprawling into the yard.
Pockets held up his hands. “Hold on, now. You can take the boat back.”
“Yeah?” I said.
He nodded while his eyes darted back and forth between me and his fallen men.
I said, “All right, then.”
I tossed Buzz Cut’s cell phone to Pockets. Then I climbed into my truck and backed it up to the gate. I secured the trailer hitch to the ball on my bumper. I drove to the driveway where Jeep and his friend remained on the ground. Pockets watched me. I waved.
Buzz Cut popped up at my window from behind a bush. I aimed my pepper spray at him. He pointed a pistol at my face. I stopped the truck.
Buzz Cut said, “That’s our damn boat. You’re leaving it.”
Pockets said, “Don’t do that, son!”
Buzz Cut kept his pistol aimed at me. “It’s our boat. You leave it.”
“Actually, it’s not,” I said. I stared at Buzz Cut. He wiped sweat from his brow and switched the pistol to his other hand. “But,” I said, “you do have the gun. Unhook it and I’ll go.”
Buzz Cut grinned at Pockets. “Unhook it.”
Pockets unhooked my boat.
Buzz Cut stared at me. “Just don’t come back around here. We don’t stand for thieves out this way.”
“Yes, sir,” I said. I drove down the road.
I turned around a mile up the road and parked the truck. After ten minutes, I cranked it back up and took off back toward the thieves’ house. When the place came into view, all four men stood in the front yard while the boat remained in the driveway. They toasted beer cans together. I bounded through the ditch and then cut across the yard toward them. The group scattered like a flock of birds do when a cat leaps at them. Even Pockets dove for cover. I spun around in the driveway. I stomped the accelerator and left a track of rubber on the concrete. Then I parked and stepped out with my own .32 revolver in my hand.
When I walked toward the yard, Buzz Cut patted the ground for his weapon. I fired the .32 into the night air.
Jeep and the other man hunkered down. Pockets stood with his hands slightly raised. Buzz Cut placed his forehead to the ground. I kept the revolver aimed at him. “This is my damn boat. Does everybody understand that?”
No one moved.
I shot into the air again.
“Does everybody understand that?”
Pockets said, “Yes! Yes! We do!”
The others raised their hands and nodded.
I climbed into the truck and pulled it back up to the boat. Pockets hooked me up before I could get out of my truck. I got back inside and left the boat thieves back in my rear view mirror.
When I got back home, I backed the boat into the shed. Then I returned the .32 revolver to my little hidey hole in my backyard, tucked safely beneath a patch of grass. No more than a minute walked by before Glew called me. “Where you at?”
“The house,” I said.
“All right,” he said. “I’ll stop by.”
Glew hung up before I could respond. I popped my neck and walked inside where I grabbed a Coors. I returned to my front porch and sat in my chair, drinking and resting my eyes. I nearly nodded off before Glew barreled down my driveway with AC/DC blaring through his windows. I wiped my eyes. He walked onto my porch and leaned back on the porch rail. I looked at him.
“Stood up,” he said. “I met her through a friend. The friend talked me up after I’d made a good impression. I mean, you know that I know what I’m doing when it comes to the ladies and yet, she stood me up.”
I said, “Well-
“I sat in that restaurant for an hour and a half, Fairfax. Ninety-three minutes of wondering. Just waiting. I mean, I felt like you I guess. Damn it. I can’t believe it. Me? Stood up? I love them and leave them. The finest women around and she’s going to stand me up?”
“No, man. I mean, she wasn’t even that hot, really. I called her after I left. Nothing. No excuses. She didn’t even try. I mean…I can’t believe it.”
I propped my leg on my knee and waited. After stewing a while, he said, “You ever been stood up?”
“Of course not. You’d have to actually get a date first. Right?”
I waited a while longer.
He chuckled. “Hell, maybe you’re right. Just sit and wait for some bad guys. Anybody show up, anyway?”
I removed the body cam from my chest and hooked it up to his phone. I played the tape of my boat adventure. He said, “Are you kidding me? I could have backed you up out there. Those guys. Man!”
I smiled and unhooked the cam and gave the phone back to him. He said, “Wow, man. I should have hung out with you tonight.”
“Nothing wrong with trying to find you a lady friend, Glew.”
“Yeah,” he said, “but I don’t know. I find them. I get tired of them. I leave them. It’s all a big cycle. You…you actually get things done.”
“We get things done,” I said. “I haven’t been acting alone this whole time. You’re fine and you’ll do well.”
“But aren’t you disappointed in me? I mean, I feel like I let you down.”
I said, “Nah, bud. You’ll ride with me on the next one.”
“Won’t you?” I said.
He nodded. “You bet I will.”
“Glad to hear it.”
He stood and stretched. “Well, I guess I’ll be going.”
The car came down my driveway blaring AC/DC. The oldies station must be putting on a tribute tonight. Glew said, “What the? Who is…”
The lady stepped out of the car with a smile. She waved to me and bounced her way up onto the porch. She brushed by Glew and kissed me on the mouth. I kissed her back and squeezed her thigh. She said, “Oooo.” She turned to Glew. Then she looked at me. “And who is this handsome fellow?”
I looked at Glew and smiled. “Wally Glew, meet Roberta.”
She hugged Glew. He stared at me, stunned.
I said, “Roberta here had a date a couple weeks ago at that bar out on the highway.”
Roberta said, “That’s right. The rat I was supposed to meet stood me up. And then in walked this stud. And let me tell, you, I’m so happy that rat didn’t show up. Because me and this gentleman have shared a lot…I mean a LOT of things since then.”
She patted my cheek. “Speaking of which, I’ll be in your bedroom, baby. See you in a few?”
I squeezed her thigh again. She walked inside. Glew turned to me. “My whole universe is shattering.”
I stood. “That’s what I can’t figure.”
“That woman,” I said. “She didn’t show up. And you come out here and complain to me? Where’s your spirit? When one doesn’t show up, you find another one. I thought every man knew that? Are you telling me you didn’t try to hit on any other woman in the place?”
Glew looked away. “No. I…I didn’t.”
“You get in too big of a hurry, Glew. Just take some time and stare at the sky. Take it all in and hold one thought in your head for a while. Slow it all down, buddy.”
He rubbed his forehead. Then he frowned at me. I grinned. He shook his head and pulled out his phone and started texting.
“I got to get inside.”
“Hey,” he said.
“You gonna be prowling tomorrow night?”
“Maybe,” I said. “It’s usually best to respond to those who want you around first.”
He said, “I think you’re right.”
Roberta’s voice echoed through the house. “There’s no TV in here, Mr. Fairfax. I need my entertainment!”
I said, “Welp. I gotta go. See you buddy!”
I walked inside and shut the door. Glew walked off my porch. I tore off my shirt and headed toward the bedroom. Roberta lay on my bed wearing next to nothing. I said, “Damn, woman.”
I held up a “wait a second” finger at Roberta and returned to the front door. Glew took a seat on my front porch and lit a cigar. He tossed his phone off the porch and stared off in the distance. I smiled. The old boy gets smarter all the time.