Axe Kick

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.

Yeah.

He could.

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.

Fairfax followed.

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.

Yes.

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.”

No.

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.”

“What?”

Colton chuckled.

“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.”

She paused.

“Secrets don’t make friends, Walter.”

Fairfax chuckled.

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.”

“You? Really?”

“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!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B084LBRR67/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_2?keywords=fairfax+%26+glow&qid=1581192688&sr=8-2-fkmr0

A Rewarding Career

I cranked the spark plug wrench on the weed eater while Glew’s phone played on speaker. I stopped and rubbed my shoulder. That catch might not ever go away. I cranked the wrench.

Ritch.

Ritch.

Ritch.

Glew said, “Easy with the wrench.”

I feinted a jab toward Glew who backed up with his ear pointed toward his cell phone which lied face up on my work bench. I set the weed eater on the floor and pumped the fuel bubble a few times. Then I grabbed the cord. Glew said, “Fairfax, please.”

He cranked up the volume on his phone. He’d placed a bug in the back of a dive bar that fed right into an app on his phone. We listened.

First Voice: Yeah. For real. When we walked in, I thought that dude was going to tip over and crack like a china plate.

Second Voice: Man, I know. I know. But you have to take advantage. I’ve been telling you that.

First Voice: Yeah. For real. We gotta take a week off and live it up now.

Second Voice: Nah. We should sell it, man.

First Voice: Not me, player. That Chippendale’s wide open. We can hit him again when we get low. What’s he gonna do?

I looked at Glew and mouthed the word ‘Chippendale’. Glew nodded and held his finger to his mouth.

Second Voice: Gotta play it smart, man. We can’t know that. And ain’t no way I’m hitting him any time soon. You know how it’s done.

First Voice: Yeah. For real. Let’s get to it. So we can get off and do our thing. The green dragon gonna take us places!

Glew lowered the volume. “Damn, man. I hope this isn’t true.”

I said, “Who’s ‘Chippendale’?”

Glew picked up his phone. “I’ll show you.”

I tried the weed eater a few times. I’d replaced the old gas with new and cleaned the carburetor and now I’d replaced the spark plug. The old girl still wouldn’t come to life. I huffed a few times and then I accompanied Glew for a country ride. Glew didn’t say much for a while, dabbing at his temples and puffing a thin cigar. “’Chippendale’ may and I stress that it may-

I said, “Right.”

Glew blew a smoke ring through the window. “It may be my buddy ‘Chipper’. I went to school with him. Really poor kid but he was smart. His real name is Chase Powell, but he had these buck teeth and everyone called him ‘Chipper’ like a chipmunk. He really didn’t mind, but you know, I felt for him.”

I said, “You would.”

Glew waved a hand. “I know, Fairfax. Bullies are good. They toughen kids up and yada yada.”

I smiled. “All right. So he was a smart kid. Now he’s a dealer?”

“Just pot. He works at some place out north on their computers. He’s a nerd who lives by himself and likes to smoke a little weed. It’s legal so many places now. Tennessee just needs to catch up.”

I tilted my head back. “Civilization is so convenient…until they attack something you happen to like. I mean, that’s what we’re talking about, right? Chipper’s your dealer?”

Glew turned up a Bob Marley song. I chuckled. Glew swayed with the rhythm and puffed that cigar like he was in slow motion. What all did he have packed into that cigar?

We arrived at Chase ‘Chipper’ Powell’s place. It was a quaint little blue house in the sticks. Kind of like something you might see in an old Claude Monet painting. Shrubs covered the windows nicely and the front lawn could definitely use a trim. Who knows? Maybe I could put the old weed eater to use once we got this done. After all this marijuana talk, “weed eater” gave me a different image in my head besides a lawn tool.

I followed Glew up to the front door. He rang the doorbell. No one answered. I peered through the shrub covering the front window as best I could but I saw no movement. Glew rang the doorbell again but nothing happened. I eased around the side of the house until I reached the back porch. Shrubs and vines concealed the back wall of the house, leaving a sliver of blue exposed. A sandal stuck out past a vine. Glew walked up to me. I pointed toward the sandal. Glew took off his hat and walked around. I followed.

The sandal shot back. Glew threw up his hands. “Hey. Whoa! Take it easy now, Chipper. It’s me, Wally.”

Chipper rubbernecked around a shrub at me. His auburn hair was trimmed very short. His face looked like a boy’s-incapable of facial hair. A pair of sunglasses with green rims covered his eyes. He stared straight at me like a cornered cat. I scratched my beard. “How you doing?”

Chipper said, “Not…um…just not…not so good…not cool, man. Not cool.”

Glew said, “Take it easy, Chipper. I was just out in the area and decided to stop by is all. It’s been a while.”

I stepped around for a better look. Chipper wore a long sleeve pullover. He pulled his sleeve down in a hurry but I spotted a bandage. Chipper kept his eyes on me. Glew said, “How’s it been going?”

Chipper rubbed the back of his neck. “Not so…not good, man. What do you want here?”

Glew said, “I don’t know. Maybe a little snack?”

Chipper pointed at me. “I don’t like this guy.”

Glew said, “Chipper. Come on, man. This is George. He’s my friend. You know a friend of mine is a friend of yours.”

Chipper looked off and lit a cigarette. I turned away from them, peering out over his backyard and then up at the sky. Glew made small talk. After ten minutes or so, Chipper said, “Hey, man.”

I turned back toward him. He held his hand out. I shook it and he gave me some kind of shake that required five moves. I went with it as best I could. Chipper looked at Glew while pointing at me. “This man right here needs a snack. Mellow him out a little.”

Chipper fell into a laugh that took off slow and sped up. Glew pointed at him and winked at me. We entered Chipper’s humble abode. Glew handed him some cash. Chipper studied me over. Glew patted his shoulder. “He’s cool.”

Chipper went to a back room, followed by Glew. Chipper came back out carrying a dragon-shaped bong. Glew said, “Oh wow, man. Don’t you have two of these?”

Chipper didn’t answer. They sat and enjoyed some smoky intoxication while I tapped my fingers on the arms of the plush chair I sat in. His house contained no beaded curtains or posters of Bob Marley and I didn’t see any Jimmy Buffet or Willie Nelson music although he did own quite a few old records. With their business conducted, Chipper thanked us and walked us out. With his sunglasses off, the sunlight revealed a small bruise developing under his eye. When we got back into Glew’s car, he said, “No doubt about it.”

We drove over to the dive bar. After an hour at the bar, I had counted two waitresses, one bartender and three fellows in the kitchen. Our voices on that recorder had to be two of those kitchen fellows. The bartender sounded like a grizzly bear with cold.

So we returned to his car and waited it out. When one of the fellows in the kitchen left, we walked over to him, putting on a drunk act and asking for directions to a motel. The guy told us everything he could. His squeaky voice did not match the voices on the recording. So we thanked him and retreated to a spot behind the dumpster in back.

We waited for over an hour. I moved my shoulder around, working out a cramp. “Damn.”

Glew said, “Why so stressed, stud? You should have toked with us…man.”

I shook my head and massaged my shoulder until it loosened up a little. The back door opened. I ducked down.

The other two kitchen workers headed for a white Camry. I pulled on my black ski mask. Glew followed suit. We stepped around the dumpster with only twenty feet between us and the thieves.

The back door opened again. One of the waitresses ran toward the kitchen guys. She jumped into the bigger one’s arms. They shared a long barrage of kisses while the other one played on his phone. We ducked back down. I removed my mask. Glew did the same. The two guys talked for a while. Without a doubt, these were our guys. However, they climbed into the Camry along with the girl and fired it up.

Glew stayed hunkered down and ran to his car in the next parking lot. I followed behind him, not looking at the kitchen guys. By the time we got into his car, the white Camry turned out of the lot.

Glew cut off a truck pulling in on his way out. The driver laid on the horn and yelled a string of cuss words at us. Glew lit a cigar and drove a comfortable distance behind the Camry. We traveled a few miles down the highway until the Camry pulled into an apartment complex on the north side of town. The shorter of the kitchen guys got out and walked up the stairs. I slid out of Glew’s car and headed on up. Glew followed the Camry back out onto the street.

I took my steps with a gentle motion. The kitchen guy reached the second story and walked to the first room on the right. I made it to the door. The kitchen guy held the door open, staring at me. There was no need in pretending anymore. I threw a jab at his face, figuring he’d step back. I actually caught him with it though, and then shoved my way inside. He drew back to hit me but I shoved him into the wall behind him. He pushed back with the strength of a mouse. So I gave him a big shot in his gut which dropped him to the carpet. I turned and closed the front door. A set of keys dangled from the lock. So I snatched them up and slid them into my pocket.

I dragged him to the living room and shoved him down onto the sofa. “Where’s the duct tape?”

He leaned over, holding onto his stomach. I grabbed his black hair and leaned his head back. “Duct tape?”

With his mouth ajar, he pointed toward the kitchen. I let him go and backed to the kitchen. Searching through the drawers with my hands, I prodded along until I felt a roll of duct tape that was nearly used up. I turned my eyes to it for a split-second. The kitchen guy rushed to the front door.

I bolted across the living room and grabbed his shoulder before he could get out. He wrestled away from me. So I dove onto his back. He went down just outside the door. He yelled, “Help! Somebody-

I dragged him back inside by his belt and then placed my knee into his back. From there, I took the duct tape and wrapped his wrists. My shoulder ached when I wrapped his mouth. I placed him on the sofa and pulled on the tape roll. It was empty. So I peered around the room. The guy said something underneath the tape. I grinned. “Naw, naw. You got rabbit in your blood, son.”

I found a lamp in the corner and unplugged it and wrapped his ankles with the cord. “I don’t blame you. If anyone tied me up, I wouldn’t think of anything but getting free. However, I wouldn’t take what isn’t mine either.”

Not anymore at least.

“So just point to the stash you took off of Chipper earlier today.”

He looked at me like I spoke Chinese.

“Don’t make a jerk out of me. Just motion with your head toward which room it’s in and I’ll get on out of your way.”

He didn’t change his expression. I sighed. “Okay. I’ll just tear the place apart then.”

Despite his mumbling and yelling beneath the tape, I entered the first bedroom down the hall where I found a pipe and a bong and a Bob Marley poster. Still, though, I found no stash.

When I came out, he yelled at me through the tape with large eyes. I took a few steps toward him. He nodded as if I were bringing him water after a trek through the Sahara. I turned and walked to the back bedroom anyway.

Inside, I found a queen-sized bed with his picture beside it. Another picture hung on the wall of him standing beside an older lady. A closer look revealed an undeniable resemblance. This was his mother’s bedroom. I chuckled. Ah, but he could have placed it in here. So I rummaged through her chest drawers and her closet and underneath her bed. I don’t see any need to tell everything I found in those places but I didn’t find any weed stash there either.

When I came back out, he beat his head against the sofa and stomped the floor, still staring at me with bulging eyes. I walked over and removed the tape.

Shrrriipp.

“Ah! Damn, man. That’s my mom’s room.”

I said, “Yeah. Now tell me where it is.”

“Dude, what are you talking about a stash? I smoke a little weed sometimes. Yeah, but I haven’t ever stolen anything. I swear, man. You got the wrong house, dude. I swear.”

I replaced the tape over his mouth. He leaned back and rammed his head toward my head with all he had. I drew back in time and then I jabbed him in the jaw. He fell back and then shook his head, stomping the floor again.

I checked the last closet in the place and under the sink and a few other places. Glew sent me a text message, letting me know he’d returned with a smiley face icon beside the message. So I walked to the door and looked at the guy on the sofa. “We got you now. And leave your dealer alone. Just smoke a little weed like a nice boy. Because if I come back, I’ll take a lot more than the stash back.”

He still gave me the same scared eyes like he didn’t know what I talked about. I bolted down the stairs and climbed into Glew’s car. “So he had it. Huh?”

Glew swallowed. “It wasn’t up there?”

“Damn it. You got to be kidding me.”

Glew rubbed his nose. “He went to the girl’s place and followed her inside but he only stayed a minute. Then I followed him to his apartment a few miles down the street. I searched the whole place but I couldn’t find a thing. There was barely any food in there even and the kid denied everything.”

I said, “Mine did, too. Are you sure they did this?”

“Hey, you saw Chipper.”

I said, “And the bug you had on was the one in that bar? You’re sure?”

“You heard the voices. They match up.”

I said, “Let’s hear it again.”

Glew played the recording on his phone again. I shook my head and had him play it another time. I cracked my knuckles. “Okay, they rob Chipper. Then they have to stash it somewhere. In the bar you think? The dumpster maybe?”

Glew pulled out of his parking spot. “We’ll go check it out.”

A fifties green Ford Fairlane passed us. The woman driving glanced our way. I said, “Stop the car.”

Glew stopped. “What is it?”

“Green dragon. The one guy said that they’d get there with the green dragon.”

Glew snapped his fingers. “The dragon bong. They took the other one.”

I said, “Did you see it at the guy’s apartment?”

“Um…no. Was it in there?”

I shook my head. “The green dragon is that car. That’s the guy’s mom. I saw her picture in there.”

I pulled the guy’s keys from my pocket. There was one old Ford key on there. The woman was nearly in the apartment. I ran out of Glew’s car over to the Fairlane. I shoved the key in the trunk lock and turned. When the lid rose, the street light illuminated the plastic that encased the stash in the corner of the trunk. I grabbed it and then shut the lid and tossed the keys across the lot. When I reached Glew’s car, the woman raced down the steps. Glew made it to the exit but a string of five cars rolled by. The woman raced toward us. Only her eyes looked a hell of a lot scarier than her son’s did. “Damn you, Glew. Get moving.”

“And get hit?”

The woman beat her palms on the passenger window, yelling, “What did you do to my son? What kind of animals are you? I’ll get you! I will get you!”

The final car passed. Glew tore us on out of there. The lady yelled after us and pulled out her phone, trying to take down Glew’s license plate number. Glew said, “So they had green dragon take the stash to them. That’s actually pretty clever.”

“And incredibly wimpy. Getting your mama to take all the risk.”

Glew coughed. “Well, yeah. Man, look at it just lying there.”

I turned my eyes to the brick of weed between us. “I reckon Chipper’s going to be a happy man.”

Glew said, “Shit. Like we’re giving it back.”

I watched Glew. He peered at me out of the corner of his eye. “I can take my cut. Right?”

I grabbed the stash and held onto it. Glew said, “Ah geez, stud.”

We rode out to Chipper’s house. At midnight, his house looked like a hovel eaten up by black vegetation monsters. When we handed him the stash, his mouth dropped. I thought he might have been having some kind of spell. Then he jumped into the air over and over like he had an invisible pogo stick beneath those sandals. He bowed before us like we were gods. We tried to leave but he insisted on giving Glew a cut of the stash. While he separated the portion, Glew wouldn’t look at me. “Don’t say it.”

I said, “Uh-huh. How do you feel now? The job is the reward itself, Glew.”

“Well, geez, stud. We help a lot of folks. There’s no reason we can’t take a little something for ourselves.”

Then Chipper returned with Glew’s reward and insisted on giving me something. I turned him down on pot, a cool rug and a few old records but when he showed me his brand new weed eater, well, I gave in. Glew dropped me off and said, “Feels good to get a little reward. Right?”

I admired my new weed eater. “You know, it actually does.”

I enjoyed a good night’s rest. The next day, I woke up at the crack of noon and after breakfast, I took a look at the weeds protruding from the ground around my shop and smiled. “It’s about to be all over for you.”

I primed my new weed eater and massaged my shoulder for a moment. I gave it a crank. Then I gave it several more cranks but nothing happened. I sighed. “I knew it.”

Featured

Metal Memento

I pulled my ringing phone from my pocket and checked it- Glew. I flipped it open. “What’s up, killer?”

Glew took a few breaths. “Hey, stud. I need your…assistance.”

“Shoot.”

He took a long breath. “A client of mine has a pest. This guy has stolen two packages off her porch. I swung by a while ago and watched it for her since she’s at work. I had a Nutty Buddy. You know, I think they’re making them bigger these days. They usually leave me feeling a bit-”

“Glew. What about the thief?”

Glew coughed. “Oh right. He just ripped off two packages I put there. Now she’s missing an I-pad and an Elvis Presley painting that he swiped two days ago. The idiot hit the same house in the same week. I’m on his tail on the highway. Gear up and call me back.”

“You got it.”

I hung up my phone and locked up my shop and house. I filled my thermos with coffee and jumped into my car. I called him back twenty minutes later and caught up to him. When he pulled into the driveway located one house up from the thief’s, I pulled onto the shoulder of the road and climbed out with my phone pressed to my ear. “All right. I’m circling around back. Just give me five minutes.”

Glew said, “Work your magic. He’s too busy putting up his loot to pay us attention just yet.”

The neighbor’s house sat vacant as far as I could tell. So I cut through their yard and pressed my back up to the side wall of the thief’s house. I hunkered down near the corner.

Glew pulled into his driveway ten minutes later. He sported a pair of coveralls and removed a seeder from his trunk. Then he pulled a baseball cap on his head with the words “Lonny Lawn Service” adorned on the front. After placing ear buds into his ears, he made three rows across the yard with the seeder before the thief stepped out of his house. He yelled, “Hey! What are you doing here?”

Glew kept at his seeding. The front door closed. I took a look at the neighbor’s house. A woman who looked around sixty watered a plant in the backyard. “Damn it.”

The thief came back out and walked onto the lawn. Glew kept at his seeding like nothing else in the world mattered. The thief looked back at the house. When he turned back toward Glew, I jumped over the porch rail and crept inside.

The living room looked standard- flat screen TV, sofa, love seat, a few pictures on the walls. He’d already stashed the loot somewhere out of sight. I peered through the window. The thief shook his head while Glew spoke to him. I darted into the hallway. A twin bed sat in the first bedroom. I checked the closet but found nothing. I slipped out.

In the second bedroom, I checked the closet and found two large brown packages. Right there on the floor beside them, the Elvis painting leaned against the wall while the I-pad lay on the floor, still in the box. I scooped them all up and crept out of the room.

One peek out the door revealed the thief pointing ahead while Glew scratched his head with his jaw gone slack. Sometimes Glew played the idiot part with too much conviction.

I rushed into the kitchen on to the dining room where I found the biggest window in the house. I slid it open and tossed the packages outside. Then I eased myself down and closed the window. I picked up the packages and stepped around to the side of the house where I bent down low, watching Glew still argue with the thief whose voice reached higher levels. “If you don’t leave, I don’t want to call the police. I don’t want to do it, man, but you best go now before I change my mind.”

Glew scratched his head. “Aw, you wouldn’t do that to me. Would you?”

The thief stood shorter than Glew but he squared up to him and pointed his finger in his face. “Get your ass off my lawn!”

Glew looked my way as he bent down and picked up his seeder. Then he turned his cap around to where it sat backwards on his head and got back in the guy’s face. “I’m going to take my business elsewhere, bub!”

A laugh escaped me. “Damn you, Glew.” A look toward the neighbor’s house choked me. The old woman pointed at me. She yelled but I couldn’t hear her. Damn, lady. Not now.

Glew loaded his seeder back into his trunk. The thief marched back into his house. When Glew turned on his ignition, I bolted across the neighbor’s lawn. By the time I got the packages loaded into my back seat, the little old woman made it to her front porch, pointing at me and yelling “Timothy! Timothy!” When I took off down the road in front of the thief or “Timothy’s”, house, he sprung onto the front porch, looking around. He looked over at the old woman and then at my car. He yelled at me and then ran back into his house while I pulled on down the road and turned left.

Glew pulled over a few streets down. I stopped and got out of my car. Glew popped his trunk. I moved the packages to Glew’s trunk and rapped on the fender. Glew took off. Then I popped my own trunk and removed the spare and the tire jack. I had the jack up under the car and the tire raised up off the ground when Timothy’s truck stopped behind me.

When Timothy reached me, I waved a hand. “Thank you, friend, but I’ve got this under control.”

Timothy spat at me when he said, “Where’s my shit?”

I picked up my tire iron and stood. After a twenty-second stare, Timothy averted his eyes. He took a few steps toward his truck and then peered back at me, squinting. I stared back at him until he found his way back into his truck and drove away.

After tossing the tire and tools back into my trunk, I took off down the road and called up Glew. “Howdy, partner. Looks like another job well done.”

Glew sighed. “I wish it was so, stud.”

“Damn. What is it?”

I stopped at a red light.

Glew said, “It turns out that she wanted a particular item back. A watch that her father gave her when she was a kid.”

“Aw now, Glew-”

“He gave it to her before he departed for Iraq. He never made it back.”

I sighed. A horn blew behind me. I took off in time to make the yellow light with the driver behind me stuck back there. I said, “We’ll wait a month and then hit him again.”

Glew said, “Looks like she needs it back by this weekend. Her mother’s visiting and it would break her heart to see that she didn’t still have it. And she will ask about it. She only visits now and then. In fact, she’s thinking her mom might have bad news.”

I said, “That’s a lot of conjecture.”

“I know it’s ridiculous, Fairfax. But we have done stuff like this before. What do you think?”

I scoffed. “Give me an hour. I’ll think of something.”

Night fell over Timothy’s house. I didn’t see any cop cars pull up or lingering around. The old lady neighbor might call a cop but Timothy wouldn’t. In fact, his truck did not sit in the driveway. Still, she could have called and warned the police and given them my description. A cruiser could be rolling around as we speak. I rode with Glew this time. He said, “I did a little digging. Timothy is Tim Moore. His folks ran a renovating business for years before retiring to Florida. Tim worked with them here and there but more or less seems content with doing nothing, along with the occasional theft. Maybe mommy and daddy are sending smaller checks these days.”

“Wow.”

He said, “Yeah. At least we’ve got the darkness covering us this time.”

I said, “If darkness doesn’t cover us, we always find it.”

Glew chuckled.

I said, “Circle around but don’t go far.”

“No, sir. I’m going to play interference. That old lady next door could be a problem.”

I said, “You know…I think you’re right. I’ll be up by that bush when I’m done.”

“You got it, stud. Should be out of there within an hour.”

I stepped out of Glew’s car, pulled on my mask and gloves and walked to Tim’s house. His gravel driveway sat empty. With no lights on inside, I figured that I could do as I pleased. However, I stepped around to each window first. Even a determined fellow can get bored enough to play on his phone and phones light up. After peering through every window, I saw nothing.

I removed my pick set from my belt and picked the back door lock with no trouble. I crept onto the third bedroom. Then I pulled out my own phone and cast the light across the floor. I searched the closet and then under the bed- nothing.

I returned to the living room where I looked under the sofa and the love seat and then I searched through his china cabinet. Still, I didn’t see anything.

In the kitchen, I searched through the cabinets and the pantry and then up under the sink as well. I’d been inside for fifteen minutes and turned up squat. So I eased the attic door down. I climbed the stairs but I paused at the top of them. A look outside revealed nothing. So I climbed on up. The attic sat as bare as the day he moved in. I shined my flashlight across the plywood slats all the way to the ends of the roof. This fellow sure knew how to hide a watch. That is, if he even still had the thing. He could have moved it by now without any problem. I climbed back down and eased the door on up. I leaned on the hall wall. Then I pulled my mask from my face and drew in a deep breath. I shifted my weight a bit. Then I felt it.

A bump protruded from the hall wall. A tiny imperfection in the drywall let me know all I needed to know. After all, Tim had a background in renovation. I removed a wallboard saw from my belt and felt around near the bump. I sawed through the wall until I formed a five inch by five inch square. I pried the mesh out and reached inside the hole. When I pulled the object out, I shined the phone light on it-the watch.

Plop.

I slipped the watch into my jacket pocket and bent over. I picked up a necklace from the floor there. A diamond dangled from it. This piece could bring a grand with ease. He went to all the trouble to hiding these but why? He could have moved them by now, I would think.

I slipped the necklace into my jean pocket and then slipped out the back door. Before I pulled it all the way to, the old woman’s voice creaked. “That’s right. Walk yourself right to us, young man.”

I turned. The old neighbor stood there with a revolver aimed at my stomach. Tim held Glew’s arm twisted up behind him. The old lady said, “Now you step yourself back inside, boy. You two have got yourself a heap of trouble now.”

Tim shoved Glew toward me. “They sure do, Aunt Rosa.”

Rosa said, “Get inside now!”

I stepped back into the kitchen. Glew followed behind me, whispering, “Sorry.”

I patted his back and stepped into the living room. Rosa said, “Uh-huh. Don’t you go any further than that. Turn on the light, Timothy.”

Tim did as she ordered. I stood there in the living room with my black mask covering my face and black gloves covering my hands but I’d never felt so naked. I said, “What’s the plan?”

Aunt Rosa took a seat at the dining table, keeping the revolver aimed at Glew. Tim crossed his arms and leaned back against the wall. “Look at you two now.”

Rosa lit a cigarette. “Show us what else you planned to steal off us.”

I said, “I didn’t-”

She aimed the revolver at my groin. “Just do as you’re told, young man.”

I swallowed. Then I blinked a few times. After a sigh, I removed the watch from my jacket pocket. Rosa snapped her fingers. Tim snatched the watch from my hand and gave it to her. Rosa examined the watch. “Oh my. This is a nice piece. You’re such a good boy, Timothy.”

I said, “This is a surprise. I thought you might call the police on me.”

Rosa chuckled and shook her head. “Shiiiiiiiiiiiiett.”

Glew and I shared a laugh. Tim’s smile faded. Rosa waved a hand. “The only time I called the law, that boy they sent out just tried to interrogate my bloomers. Law ain’t no law.”

She handed the watch back over to Tim. Then she smiled at me. “Now, young man. Give me the other thing you took.”

I opened my mouth.

She said, “Don’t give me that. There’s always something else. What else did you lift?”

Glew swallowed. I shrugged and removed the necklace. When I handed it over, Rosa paused. Tim brought his hands out of his pockets but he didn’t get any further, like a man walking through the arctic who’s just figured out he’s now frozen. Rosa stamped out her cigarette and clasped the necklace to her chest. She turned to Tim. “Timothy…oh Timothy…”

Tim said, “Aunt Rosa, I was keeping it safe. It was just-”

She set the revolver on the table. Then she peered at me and winked. I winked back. She smiled so big that I could swear twenty years left her face. A few seconds later, she gripped the necklace and the years all came back. She said, “You boys get on down the road.”

Tim said, “What? No way.”

He reached for the revolver but Rosa grabbed it first. “Go to your room, Timothy.”

“Aunt Rosa-”

She aimed the revolver at his foot. “Get to your room, boy. I won’t repeat it with words.”

Tim wore that same look from earlier in the day, like he wanted to do something but he knew he faced an opponent he would not defeat. With his head hung, he walked to the last bedroom and shut the door.

Aunt Rosa picked up the watch and held it in the air. “Give this back to whatever poor heart he broke.”

I walked by and grabbed the watch. When Glew and I reached the back door, she said, “Don’t you ever come back around here.”

We both said, “No, ma’am.”

In less than an hour, we reached Glew’s client’s house. She didn’t mind having late visitors. She still wore a shirt and jeans and smoky circles around her eyes. When we gave her the watch, she jumped and gave us each a kiss on the jaw accompanied with huge hugs.

She said, “Oh you men. You’re the best. But you can’t know how much a metal memento means to a lady.”

Glew said, “Well, um…”

I said, “Oh, ma’am. I’m pretty sure we do know.”

Thank you so much for reading!

Check out five more Fairfax & Glew tales in this collection…

Catch You on Payday

I washed down my last bite of gas station pizza with a hot gulp of black coffee from my thermos. That’s when the man came into view. He wore a bulky tan jacket, jeans and boots- the right sole flapping with each step. His breath plumed into the air while he kept his face in his phone. I scoffed. “Uh-huh.”

The poor slob’s breaths grew into thicker plumes like clouds from an old factory that had seen its best days decades ago. He stopped and peered at the gas station. Then he directed his steps toward it and took a seat on the sidewalk, leaning his old back against the wall.

“All right, hoss.”

I slid the gear-shifter into drive and pulled across the street. When I reached the parking lot, I stopped.

A man walked over to the older man propped against the wall. He must have stood about six feet four inches and wore enough muscle on him to give any attacker pause. He took hold of the older man’s collar. The older man dropped his phone onto the sidewalk. A movie played on the screen. The big man jerked him around a few times. I unlocked my door and pulled the latch.

A cruiser pulled a car over a ways up the road. Those flashing blue lights kept me in my seat.

The older man dug into his jacket pocket and handed a wad of bills over to the bigger man. The bigger man eased up and counted it. Then he patted the older man’s chest hard and walked away, saying, “I’ll catch you on payday, pops.”

The big man climbed into a Ford F-150 which sat high, thanks to a lift kit and forty-four inch tires. He rumbled away from the gas station and honked his horn. I shook my head and called up Glew.

A week later, I parked at the same spot across the street from the gas station. Glew sat parked at a liquor store adjacent to the gas station. The older man hobbled by at about the same time as last Friday night, staring into his phone of course. Glew pulled up beside him. So I drove across the street.

Glew parked beside the older man and opened the passenger side door. The older man spoke to him. Then the big man in the Ford F-150 pulled in next to the same pump he’d parked beside the previous week. He marched into the station, counting the money in his hand. The older man shook his head “No” at Glew. I parked the little car I’d picked up the day before and jogged behind the older man. I slid a fifty into his hand and said, “Just go, man.”

The older man stared at the money. Mr. F-150 walked out of the gas station. I nudged the older man into Glew’s car. Glew took off. So I took a seat up by the wall with my phone in my hands. I also wore a puffy tan jacket, jeans and boots. I kept my head down, waiting.

Mr. F-150 turned the corner. He stepped closer to me but he stopped. I watched his shadow out of my peripheral vision while exhaling puffy clouds into the night air. Come on, big boy. Come on. Reach in my pocket. It’s me-the kindly old man with his head in his phone. Come on.

Mr. F-150 clucked his tongue, turned and walked back to his truck. I swallowed. A wolf can smell a wolf, I reckon.

I crept over to the F-150. With the big man pumping his gas on the other side, I got down on my knee by the back driver’s side tire and removed the valve cap. Then I placed the tip of my flat-head screwdriver onto the metal pin inside the valve stem and pushed forward.

Wishhhhhh.

Mr. F-150 said, “Hey. Hey now. Hey.”

He bolted around the back bumper and grabbed hold of my collar. I reached into my pocket. He jerked me around until I faced him. I’d bet a big dollar that this old boy had bailed his share of hay. He wore a grimace at me but there in his eyes, he held a light of excitement. Oh yeah, big boy. This is what you live for. You and I. All the hum-drum daily life is just the down time until we meet like this. And now, meet this. I squeezed the trigger.

Fziiit.

The pepper spray flooded his face. He grabbed the can right after. Oh yeah. He had put lots of fellows on their knees with that death grip. That didn’t last but a second though. He doubled over, tumbling to his own knees. He rubbed the backs of his hands against his eyes and cheeks, making a low growl. I sprayed him again in the mouth. He spat and snorted and tried to blow out all of the chemicals. A sloppy soup of mucus splattered on the parking lot next to a mashed cigarette butt.

While he bent over, I slipped his wallet out of his jeans and reached inside- lots of hundreds. I slid the cash into my pocket and checked out his ID. I smiled and said, “Max Waxman?”

He changed his tone to a weaker one, rubbing his eyes. “Aw, please now. Come on now. I need that money.”

I said, “That old man needed his money.”

“Nicodemus is weak. I got kids.”

I said, “Don’t worry. I’ll catch you on payday, pops.”

I drove a few miles on down to the rat hole motel. Glew had followed the old man or, Nicodemus, for the past week at night and learned he lived there, paying the weekly rate. Glew then used his powers of research and found out the man had lost his wife earlier in the year and took to drinking and lost his house and his car. He still managed to hold onto his job somehow. I parked the little car I’d bought for five hundred bucks, hoping it didn’t die on me. Then I tapped on Nicodemus’ room.

Glew answered the door. “Hey, stud.”

A soap opera played on the TV. A couple of suitcases and piles of clothes sat on the floor next to the bed. Glew resumed his seat beside Nicodemus. He held a box of Goobers toward me. I shook my head and took out the wad of cash along with the keys to the car outside. I snapped my fingers at Nicodemus, getting his head out of the TV. He said, “Oh, hey.”

I handed him the money and keys. “This should get you by. The car outside ain’t much but it beats walking.”

He stared at his new possessions. Then he wiped his eyes and said, “Thank you, son.”

Glew handed him a prepaid cell phone. “You have any more trouble…just call the number in the phone. We’ll help you out.”

Nicodemus looked up at me as if I was a great monument. “This don’t seem real.”

I switched off the TV. Glew said, “Oh, come on, Fairfax. It’s just getting good.”

I looked at Nicodemus. “You won’t ever know what’s real until you get your head out of that box…”

I pulled back the window curtain. “…and start looking at what’s around you.”

Nicodemus watched us leave with his mouth hung open. Just before Glew drove us away, he took a seat beside the window and waved “good-bye” to us.