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D. S. Jones
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scotch.jpg
Art by Steve Cartwright, 2012

A Little Scotch Will Help

 

by D.S. Jones

 

 

She came to my office above the Chinatown Palace Restaurant on a cold March day. I was drinking black coffee and smoking a corona maduro when she finally started talking. She said her daughter was missing.

 

I said, “Fine. I’ll look into it. My rate is three-hundred a day plus expenses.”

 

She said, “That’s a lot.”

 

“Do you want your little girl back?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“Well you have to pay for the best.”

 

* * *

 

Amber Jean walked past my car on the corner of Sherman Drive. She had on her furs and costume jewelry. She was shaking her ass like a heifer when the bull gets loose in the yard. I waved her over. Amber worked for the agencies but she also danced, and she also walked the streets. No matter what a provider may say, they work the streets—like any good businessperson, they go where the money takes them. She stopped.

 

“Looking for a girl named Becca Johnson. Ever heard of her?”

 

“She a stripper or something?” she asked.

 

“Too young,” I said.

 

“She doing dates?”

 

“I don’t know. You tell me.”

 

I took out my card.

 

“If you still work that club on Madison take a look for me. She’s a brunette with big green eyes and a flat chest.

 

“Sounds like Misty Rain to me.”

 

“Yeah, who’s Misty Rain?”

 

“New girl,” she said, “but she has bigger boobs. Bigger than mine.” She shook her breasts to show me the difference.

 

Amber Jean washed up in the White River less than a week later. She had wounds all over her body, lacerations and bruises, and her pinky fingers cut off, both of ‘em. Some monster had decided to take out his frustrations on her.

 

* * *

 

Club Cherry Bomb is a dark den of despair. The place hometown booty shakers go after class to make a few bucks, and where little girls mad at Daddy go to exact revenge. Misty Rain wasn’t the girl I was looking for. She was an old pro back home from California. She had acted in B-movies out there, and had made a name for herself in the adult film industry. She was now relegated to shaking her ass for the working-class patrons of Club Cherry Bomb.

 

“Have you seen this girl?” I asked. I showed her a recent photo of Becca.

 

She examined the photo closely.

 

“No. Who is she, your kid?”

 

“I’m not old enough to have a daughter that age.”

 

“You a cop?” she asked. “We don’t break any laws in here.”

 

“Do I look like a cop?”

 

“You smell like one.”

 

“I do? That’s not nice. I’m Billy Garrett, Private Investigator. I’m here to take a little girl back home to her folks.”

 

“You sure she wants to go home?”

 

“I don’t know what she wants,” I said. “You do private gigs?”

 

“You want private entertainment?”

 

“Maybe,” I said. I took out a Ben Franklin.

    

“Everything I do is booked through Tim.”

 

“Who’s Tim, your pimp?”

 

Across the room, a row started up. The bouncer had his pistol on two overzealous bikers. The police were being called to settle the dispute. Misty Rain stood from the table. The music died down. The house lights came up.

 

“That’s my cue to exit.”

 

“Mine too,” I said.

 

When I made the door, the boys in blue were standing around like they had nothing better to do. The bikers had split. The bouncer was showing his gun permit to the detective. The dick I knew.

 

“Billy Garrett, you SOB, fancy seeing you here.”

 

I nodded.

 

“You hear ‘bout those girls come up missing?”

 

He had my attention.

 

“Another one?”

 

“Sure as shit. Cute little sister, ’bout twenty years old. Was hooking up off Sherman. You here on a case?”

 

“I should be so lucky,” I said. “Here to stretch my third leg.”

 

I left the police to their work.

 

* * *

 

Something about Misty Rain rubbed me the wrong way. Running a check online, I found a few of her films, biographical information on her fan page, and a classified listing private entertainment. She was working through the HolySin Escort Agency, and on the agencies home page, was a picture of Becca Johnson in her underwear. Under Becca’s picture was the caption, BARELY LEGAL BRUNETTE.

 

Club Cherry Bomb was closed. It was before noon on a Wednesday. Only a couple of cars were parked in the lot. Inside, a couple of drunks were at the bar, drinking. The bartender was a young punk with a ring in his nose. He was cleaning up behind the bar.

 

“Bar is closed,” he said.

 

“You’re serving drinks.”

 

“These are friends of the owner.”

 

“Here’s my friend,” I said. I flashed my piece. “Where’s Misty Rain?”

 

“She’s in back. But you can’t go in there.”

 

I turned the corner, heading for the dressing room. I opened the door. Misty Rain was on her knees in the center of the room, a gentleman’s privates in her mouth. She must have bit down when she saw me. She stood up and the gentleman rushed off toward the restroom, screaming. She didn’t bother covering up.

 

“You lied to me.”

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“You said you didn’t know Becca Johnson.”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

 

“Becca works for an agency. The same agency that employs you, that runs this jackshack, that ships you back and forth between here and Cali like cattle, depending on demand.”

 

“This is over my head.”

 

I heard the door open behind me. I turned with my piece out, ready. The bouncer had his hand on his Glock, but he thought better of it. Good life choice.

 

“Drop the piece, nimrod. Slowly,” I said.

 

He dropped the piece and kicked it across the room, slowly.

 

“Good. Now let’s all four go back to the bar and wait for Tim.”

 

The bartender had split, along with the two drunks. The register had been cleaned out. Several bottles of liquor were missing from behind the bar, all the good stuff.

 

“Let me pour your drinks,” I said. “I’m a scotch and soda man, myself.”

 

As I poured the drinks, two fresh drunks walked in.

 

“Closed,” I said.

 

“Pour us a quick one,” one of the drunks said.

 

I flashed my piece.

 

The two drunks walked out.

 

It was after one o’clock when the owner showed. Tim Richards was a big man, in the adult entertainment industry. He owned a string of clubs across the Midwest, and he ran an escort service.

 

“Timmy, come over here,” I said.

 

He walked over.

 

“Who the fuck are you?”

“Billy Garrett, Private Investigator.”

 

“What the fuck are you doing in my place of business?”

 

“Whatever I want,” I said. I flashed my piece.

 

“Steven, do something,” he said to the bouncer.

 

I flashed the bouncer’s Glock. I said, “His hands are tied.”

 

“Fuck. What do you want? Is this about the coke?”

 

“This is about a girl.”

 

“Fuck girls. I’m drowning in whiny cunts. You can take all the girls you want. He reached in his pocket and pulled out his phone. Take it.”

 

“I just want one.”

 

“Name her.”

 

“Becca Johnson.”

 

“Who?” he asked, all squinty eyed.

 

“You know her.”

 

“Never heard of her,” he said.

 

“There’s an ad featuring her online, dates back a month. Says she works for HolySin Escorts, your firm. I tried the number. No answer.”

 

“That’s because she doesn’t exist.”

 

“Bad choice of words,” I said. I raised the piece to eye level.

 

“Name another girl.”

 

“Amber Jean Jones?”

 

“No,” he said. His eyes narrowed.

 

“How about Chianti Jackson, aka Chocobunny? Cute little sister with straight hair and a big bust?”

 

Before I could stop him, he dove across the bar. I fired and missed, wide right. When he came up, he was holding a sawed off. I had to fire again; two in the chest hit him and he went down.

 

When the homicide boys came, they took my statement. They searched Tim’s mansion and found a collection of pinky fingers. Another case in the books, but I didn’t feel right about having to call Becca’s parents for the money.

 

A little scotch would help. It always does.

 

 

 

D.S. Jones is a seer of visions and reporter of misadventure. Writing prose and poetry, and in all conceivable genres, his range is as endless as the highway he calls home. His work has appeared in Black Heart Magazine, Shotgun Honey, and the Told You So Anthology from Pill Hill Press. He is Director of Promotions at Decades Review, and his latest digital short “Interstate” is available now at Amazon.com. Visit thepoetdsjones.com

to learn more.

travelogue.jpg
Art by W. Jack Savage 2014

Travelogue

 

by D.S. Jones

 

DAY 1: It was warm spring day and the sun was beating down on the gray concrete porch. Jack Cain was standing back in his jeans and white t-shirt with the screen door open.

          “Is Sara in?” Jack asked.

          The man shook his head. “She ain’t. May I ask who's asking?”

          “Jack Cain. I reckon you ought to remember me, Johnny.”

          “I’ll be damned,” Johnny said, smiling. He opened the door wide. “Come on in.”

          “Much obliged,” Jack said.

          “I hardly recognized you. You ain’t ever looked so clean.”

          “Ten years in stir will do that to you. It will either take the fight out of you or make you meaner. Me it took the fight out of.”

          There was an old brown couch with the back cushions missing. Jack sat there, in the middle of the sofa, in the dark room. Johnny took a seat in the gray recliner across from the television console. Phil Donahue was playing on the big Zenith. The television set was three years old but still newer than anything Jack had seen in a decade.

          “Look at my manners, you take some coffee?”

          “Black if you got it,” Jack said. His attention drifted back to the television set.

          “Sure do. Will go and scare up Katy while I’m at it. She might be able to tell you better where Sara’s run off to.”

          The house was clean, cleaner than Jack remembered Katy keeping house. Back before the trouble started, when Sara was just a little thing and before he’d been locked up on the robbery charges, Sara had kept dishes piled in the sink, dirty, the floor would be caked with mud, and around the house, diapers would be stacked like a collection of jazz records.

          Jack was about to light a cigarette when Johnny came back in with his cup of coffee. He reached the steaming cup to Jack and crossed back to the recliner.

          “I done told Katy. Says she’ll be down in a minute. Word to the wise, you might want to go outside to smoke that. Katy don’t care so much for smoking in the house.”

          Jack sipped his coffee, sighed, and then said, “When did Katy become so proper?”

          “Sara got the bronchitis bad back in grade school. Katy started making me smoke outside then, quit smoking herself.”

          “She still got that bronchitis?”

          “No, sir, she cleared up back then.”

          “Well that’s good.”

          Jack sat his cup down on the table next to the sofa and saw the paper sitting there, read the headline. That’s when Katy walked in, small and clean with her brown hair a mess. She coughed in her hand and looked down at Jack harshly. Jack stood to meet her. He reached a hand. Katy shook him off.

          “You tell him no smoking in the house?”

          “He ain’t lit up once,” Johnny said.

          “Smells like he has,” she said.

          “Go fix me a cup of coffee like I like it, sugar. I need to talk with this man privately a minute.”

          Johnny crossed the room and Katy took his seat on the recliner. She tightened the belt on her robe and crossed her legs.

          “You look good, Katy,” Jack said.

          “Cut the shit. What’s brought you up here, Jack?”

          “Came to see Sara,” Jack said.

          Katy laughed. “Why the hell are you suddenly interested in your daughter?”

          “Sara and I have been exchanging letters the last three years. I figured she must have told you,” Jack said.

          Katy shook her head, no.

          “Well the letters stopped about two months ago.”

          “That figures,” Katy said. “That’s when she got mixed up with that hood, Jimmy.”

          “Where is she now?”

          Johnny came back then, handing Katy a coffee white as snow. Katy winked at him.

          “We reckon she took off somewhere with that boy,” Johnny said.

          “Why would she do that?” Jack asked.

          Katy sipped her coffee, lowered her cup, and said, “Why the hell do young girls get mixed up with good-for-nothing boys? Why the hell did I take up with you and you cooking crank and drinking all the time?”

          “I couldn’t tell you,” Jack said. “Just stupid I guess. Like we all were at that age.”

          “Way I look at it, talking to you must have put some ideas in her head.”

          “How’s that?”

          “Got her thinking it was something else running around with a wild man, so she had to go and find herself one like her father. She must have asked you plenty about us, what we were up to at her age.”

          “She asked some. That wasn’t the only things we talked of. We talked about her going to college and the like too.”

          “Well she done gave up on college, the way I see it. Jack, you look good and clean now but prison don’t soften men none. You had a baby and a wife and you had to go off and act like a fool and do a fool thing like rob that place. Well you can’t come back looking to play daddy.”

          Jack stood. “You wasn’t exactly no mother of the year candidate.”

          Katy stood from the recliner. She looked to Johnny and said, “Show our guest out since he’s already standing. I’m tired and going back to bed.”

          Katy walked out. Johnny turned to Jack and shook his head.

          “You know how these women get. Let me show you out, Jack,” Johnny said. 

          Johnny stepped out behind Jack and they stopped on the steps leading down to the street.

          “That boy has got family down in Indianapolis, if you want to go looking for ‘em. I wouldn’t know where to tell you to but they got some sort of funny sounding foreign name. Sounds Mexican to me but is Italian I reckon.”

          “Hate to go back to Indiana. I just spent ten goddamn years in that mess.”

          “Best I can tell you though,” Johnny said.

          “Much obliged,” Jack said.

          Jack was on the curb outside about to open the driver’s door when Johnny hollered down to him. He said:

          “Esposito is the name.”

          DAY 2: It was an ugly day, cold and pouring rain. Jack was drifting in and out of memory, not truly awake yet. In prison, he had tried to sleep as much of the time away as was possible. That was a practice frowned on by the guards. This wasn’t prison though, no guards to worry about here. He could sleep when he wanted. He rested in the small dark room until it was well after noon.

          The highway exit led to a gas station that jogged a bad memory inside him. It was a small little brick filling station with a big yellow canopy over the pumps like the one in Bloomington he had robbed. When he parked the Mercury, he half wanted to sneak in for fear someone inside would be suspicious of him, but when he hustled up to the counter, the woman working the register seemed friendly enough. She was an older woman with short gray hair and big false teeth. She reminded Jack of some of his aunts, the ones who had seen him inside, anyway. Of those relatives who had visited him, it was a short list; and of the others, who all lived in Kentucky, he hadn’t seen in years.

          Jack bought a cup of coffee, black, and two packs of Chesterfields. When he climbed back inside the car he turned the engine over and drank the coffee down fast and pulled on a cigarette. He was in no rush to get to Indianapolis, being this far into Indiana was bad enough. Traveling across the state had sent chills down his spine. It was like counting ten years’ worth of days down again, with every mile he clicked away.

          In Indianapolis, he had a lead on a Rocky Esposito, who lived near the suburb of Beech Grove. Rocky was the right age to have a son the same age of Sara. Drawing on a Chesterfield, he asked himself again what he thought he was doing. He smiled to himself, remembering Sara when she was little, just the right size for packing around. Then he saw her in the prison visiting room, almost ten, the last time he had seen her, when Katy had come in with Johnny the second time saying she was filing for divorce, that she was in love with Johnny and wouldn’t be back to see him with Sara. She only came back once on her own after that.

          The funny thing about it now was that he felt sorry for Johnny. Johnny had worked outside the mines in Harlan, growing up, never his friend but friendly.

          Jack started the car and thought about Queen Katy and her special coffee, and the way she liked the shower curtain left outside the tub.

          Yes, he felt quite sorry for him.

          DAY 3: It was a dead end street and the sun was shining down on the roofs of the houses. Jack was in his car with the radio dialed down, some idiot on the radio complaining about taxes. He finally switched the radio off when he saw the big man with the bad rug come jogging up to the house, sucking air like a broken vacuum on the stone steps. The man was top heavy, dressed in a gray tracksuit and his rug was on unevenly as if the wind had caught it. Okay, Jack thought, give it ten minutes, go in, and catch him before he jumps in the shower. Find out what he knows then blow. If it would only be so easy, he thought. A car pulled up then, a blue Chrysler wagon. A middle-aged woman in a church dress was driving. The woman climbed from the car and opened the trunk. The man came out of the house, the top half of his tracksuit off, just wearing a white undershirt now. The man and the woman started talking. An argument broke out, and then the man walked to the back of the car and unloaded groceries. All this was going on and Jack was thinking it was show. The man hadn’t been jogging, but he had been working out—with a neighbor’s wife, somewhere getting a quickie—instead of with weights.

          After that, Jack let his seat back. Let ‘em figure it out or fight it out, he thought. It was close to dinnertime anyway, and if he got them after dinner, he might find them in better spirits.

          It was getting dark, as it still does in spring after dinnertime in Indiana, when Jack woke. The big man was mournfully dragging two bags of garbage across the yard. When he came back around the front of the house, sucking air again, Jack climbed from the car and ambled over to meet him.

          “Are you Rocky Esposito?” Jack asked him.

          The man turned back and grimaced. “This would depend on who’s asking. Are you here about that boy of mine?”

          Jack nodded.

          “I done told the rest of Sam’s boys that I don’t know where the hell he is. Don’t care. He phoned me two weeks back and said something about a hick he’s dating, her having family down south somewhere. That’s all I know.”

          “I happen to be that girl’s father,” Jack said.

          “Congratulations. Did she steal from you, too?”

          “Wait a second,” Jack stepped back and said. “What’s this about?”

          “I’m going in, amigo. You want to know what she took, ask her. She’s your daughter.”

          “Talk to me,” Jack said. “I don’t know how you feel about your boy, but I want to see my girl, especially if she’s in trouble. If you know where she took off, whatever you know you need to tell me.”

          The big man was back inside the house about to shut the door when the lady inside walked up wearing her nightgown and stopped him.

          “Who’s that?” she asked.

          “Nobody,” Rocky said.

          “Is he here about Jimmy?”

          “Come on in,” Rocky said.

          Jack stepped inside the dark house, took a deep breath. The house smelled like shellfish.

          “Have a seat,” Rocky said.

          “You need anything? I can make coffee,” the woman said.

          “Just some information on what my girl’s mixed up in.”

          “Bad shit,” Rocky said. He sat across from Jack on the couch.

          “How bad does this shit stink?”

          “Pretty bad,” Rocky said. “The boy and your daughter there, they got in their heads to take something that doesn’t belong to them, some expensive illegal things.”

          “Cut the shit,” Jack said. “I just did ten years for armed.”

          Rocky cleared his throat, stiffened in his seat. “Well, since I know you aren’t so delicate, I may as well tell you.”

          The woman walked out and back in with a cup of coffee. She handed the cup to Jack. Jack sipped. The coffee was hot.

          “This was some serious drugs the boys up in Chicago just recently invested in. They didn’t used to mess with drugs. This is a new thing.”

          “Go on,” Jack said.

          “Well the kid was doing some street work for the higher ups. I ain’t naming names and you wouldn’t know ‘em anyway, but these are the big guys and he done stole from them. If I ever see the little bastard again I’m going to kick his ass so hard he won’t be able to sit for a week.”

          “So he left out loaded and my girl with him?”

          “No offense, but she didn’t sound so innocent when I talked to her,” Rocky said.

          Jack stood, said, “You don’t know her.”

          “You done ten years, you don’t know her so well yourself.”

          Jack cooled off. What the man had said was abrasive but true. He wasn’t a father to the girl, and he couldn’t pretend to be one now. Now he was just concerned. He wanted to find her, see if she wanted a father. She certainly needed one.

          “You don’t know where they could have gone?’

          Rocky shook his head. “Just like I done told you, Jimmy was talking about some family down in Kentucky the girl has. You would know more about that than I do.”

          Jack walked to the door. Rocky followed him. He reached his hand and Rocky accepted it.

          “Thank you for your time,” Jack said.        

          “I worry about my boy too, believe me, but if you only knew the damn trouble he’s caused this family, you’d understand why I feel the way I do.”

          DAY 7: Richard answered the door in his nightclothes. He was the older brother Jack hadn’t seen in fifteen years. The man looked as ragged as the property: his unkempt beard, his unkempt yard. It all matched. He invited Jack in and put on coffee, trash piled waist high inside the little house, the table and the counter barely visible. The two sat at the table with the morning sun shining in on them.

          “So you did see her?” Jack asked.

          “She and that boy came by. She told me I was her uncle and that she was just passing through.”

          “She mention any trouble?”


          “She didn’t let on there was any. That boy asked me if I knew where he could unload some cocaine. Said they were getting short on money. I told him I didn’t know anyone in Harlan could afford cocaine. Half the county’s living on social security.”

          “Did they say where they were heading?”

          Richard sipped his coffee, waited to answer. “That girl of yours looked rough in the eyes, Jack.”

          “What do you mean?”

          “I know you must be worried enough already, to pile into that old Mercury and come down here looking for her, but—”

          “What?”

          “But I reckon she may be using that stuff herself.”

          “Well that ain’t good.”

          “No, it ain’t. You take another cup?” Richard stood from the table. When Jack nodded, he took his cup with him and poured out two steaming cups of thick, black coffee. He brought the cup back and sat it down. He looked his brother over, smiled.

          “What is it?” Jack asked.

          “I believe prison took the devil out of you. You ain’t ever looked cleaner.”

          “Where's the missus?”

          “Took off. I got drinking that clear back a few weeks ago and she took off up the road with her momma and sister.”

          “June?”

          “That’s the one.”

“Still ain’t married I bet.”

          “Nope, and she’s still spouting the ills of liquor. Well Betty said she would come back when she sees I’m on the wagon. Going on two weeks now, sober, so I reckon she’ll be back for long.”

          Jack finished his coffee. Richard finished his coffee. The day grew brighter outside.

“You want me to fix you up a bed someplace? It ain’t any good driving all night and day without rest.”

          “I better hit the highway. So you don’t have any ideas where she might have taken herself?”

          “Not a damn clue. You could try K-town.”

          “Why K-town?”

          “Why not? It’s the biggest city around here.”

          “All right. I better make leave with myself.”

          “Don’t take fifteen years getting back to see me.”

          “That road out there runs both ways.”        

          DAY 9: With no better ideas, Jack walked the beach all day. It was close to dark and he was slipping his shoes back on and walking back to his car. He was going to find a liquor store, buy some beer, and go back to his room and plan his next move. Something inside of him was broken, some missing piece that his heart skated around like a needle slipping the groove.

          In the Food Lion lot, he was parking when he saw a girl about Sara’s age going in. The girl was tall and slim and had on a blue jean skirt and a gray plaid shirt. The girl also had a black eye. Jack was dismissive, he hadn’t started running up to girls Sara’s age asking their names yet, not even the ones who looked like her, and wasn’t going to start.

          At the counter, inside the store, he unpacked his beer and two bags of shelled peanuts. The girl he’d seen walked out as he slinked up to the register. The cashier, a short stocky girl, was named Sara. Jack studied her tag and half smiled.

          “What is it?” the girl asked.

          “Your name is Sara,” Jack said. “That’s my girl’s name.”

          “Must be a common name around here,” she said. “That girl just left was named Sara too. She told me when she saw my tag.”

          “She was?” Jack said.

          He took out a twenty and tossed it on the counter. He almost forgot his beer.

          “It didn’t cost that much,” the cashier said.

          Jack didn’t hear her. He was in the lot trying to find Sara when he saw her pulling away. She was behind the wheel of a rusted red Chevette. She was alone. He tossed the beer and peanuts inside the Mercury and started the car. He floored it. He caught up with the girl two stoplights down and about died laughing when he saw her pull into the hotel beside his own.

          He pulled the car next to the Chevette in a hurry and opened the door. The girl looked back and recognized him almost at once, she said, “Dad?”

          She dropped the door key and rushed to hold him. Jack gave her a long hard squeeze and stopped himself from looking at the black eye. When the girl looked up and saw him avoiding it, she welled up with tears. Anger rose inside Jack.

          “Where's that boy?”

          “He's out meeting with some friends on the beach.”

          “He left you here alone?”

          “Yeah.”

          “He did that to you?”

          “It was an accident,” she said.

          “What I do to him won’t be.”

          “Daddy, don’t get upset. You don’t know Jimmy, the kind of pressure he’s under.”

          “Let’s go inside,” Jack said. He took Sara’s hand in his own and they walked.

Inside, the room was clean, didn’t look lived in. Sara sat on the bed. Jack sat beside her. He didn’t know where to start.

          “I thought about you every day I was in there. When your mother stopped bringing you to see me it made time go even slower.”

          “Daddy, don’t cry.” 

Of course he did. How couldn’t he? It was the first time in ten years he had heard her say it. She wiped his face, gave him a kiss. He held her. He was holding her by her shoulders about to ask his hard questions when the boy Jimmy walked in. The boy was in cutoff jean shorts and had on a gray muscle shirt. He was sunburned and his young muscles flexed as he moved.

“Who’s this?” Jimmy asked Sara harshly.

“My father, he's been looking for me.”

“Yeah, well, we don’t need your old man butting in our business. We gotta split in the morning.”

“Why?”

“Shorty done told us to run this stuff down to Georgia.”

“You ain’t going nowhere with my girl,” Jack said. He stood from the bed. The boy kept his distance.

“Daddy, don’t. Let me talk with Jimmy alone a few minutes.”

Jack looked back, and then he looked to the boy disdainfully. He walked out. He waited in the lot for Sara.

“Jimmy needs to talk with you alone,” she said. “I’m going to run back down to the store to buy some pop.”

“Okay,” Jack said.

“Don’t fight with him,” Sara said from inside the car.

Jimmy was on the bed watching television. “I have a business proposition for you. I know you just got out. I know you’re tough.”

“What’s tough got to do with anything?”

“I have to take what I got to Georgia. I can’t take it down there alone. There has to be someone driving and someone handing off, the way they want it picked up.”

“So?” Jack said.

“So you want to go in Sara’s place, right?”

“Why's that?”

“You’re her father. You ride with me down there to keep her out of trouble. We ride we get to know one another better. You tell me about the joint, I tell you about your daughter.”

“I don’t want to hear what you got to say about my daughter,” Jack said.

“What you want is rid of me, right?”

Jack nodded.

“Okay,” Jimmy said. He clicked off the television set. He stood from the bed, slipped on his shoes and walked over to meet Jack. “Make a deal with you, you go with me, and when we come back I split.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah, I got down on the beach today and realized I’m too young and good looking to get married. I love Sara, I do, but I don’t want to get married and all that shit yet.”

“Spare me the speech. What time do we leave?”

“We go first thing in the morning. We take Sara to a new place in a new town and then we leave.”

“Okay,” Jack said. “Is she going to be all right by herself?”

“Yeah, we can register the new place in your name, and I’ll phone my friends and tell them to keep watch.”

“Okay,” Jack said. “I’m going to my room. Send Sara over when she gets back.”

#

          Sara came to Jack’s room after dark. She was in a short skirt and long blue t-shirt. She looked melancholy. Jack hugged her and together they drank Cokes from green glass bottles.

          “Do you love this boy?” Jack asked her.

          “Of course I do. We're going to get married when he gets back.”

          “Don’t you worry about him and his lifestyle? You done seen what it did to me, how it put me away and split your mother and me up.”

          Sara laughed, sat her Coke down on the little laminated tabletop beside the bed. She said, “Jimmy told me he's quitting all this as soon as he gets back. He’s going to sell this stuff and move us out to California.”

          “It ain’t that easy going out to California and making a life. I wish you’d reconsider fooling around with that boy.”

          “I love him, daddy.”

          “I don’t know about that,” Jack said. He took Sara in his arms and gave her a squeeze. When she left, Jack watched the neon lights outside playing against the curtains. He didn’t sleep a wink.

          DAY 10: They had delivered what they had to deliver and had picked up what they had to pick up, a boxful of crisp twenty-dollar bills. Jimmy was driving and Jack was sitting in the passenger seat looking down at the console. His eyes caught the boy’s hip, the gun, still tucked there, a small caliber automatic, and he winced. He said to the boy:

          “When we stop in a bit for gas you ought to put that gun up.”

          “Are you nervous?” Jimmy asked. His brown eyes flashed.

          “No, I just don’t want to see some cop ask you where you got it, what you intend to do with it is all.”

          “Okay,” Jimmy said, “good point. I’ll slip it under the spare in the trunk.”

          “Bad idea, amigo,” Jack said. “That’s the first place they would look after looking on you. I’ll hold it.”

          “Why's that any better?”

          “Because they won’t search me,” Jack said. “I’m not driving.”

          “Okay,” Jimmy said. “I get the point.”

          It was getting close to morning and Atlanta was near, so near the traffic was picking up and the radio stations were coming in clearer.

          “So where are you taking off to when we get back?” Jack asked.

          “Nowhere,” the boy said with a laugh. “Who said I was taking off?”

          “You did. You said if I helped you on this you would kick out and leave Sara behind.”

          “I can’t leave Sara. We’re getting married. We talked about it last night. Well, she did. She kept me up all night with it.”

          “So you’re going to stay with her, huh?”

          “Sure. She loves me.”

          “And you love her?”

          Jimmy nodded.

Jack thought it over. It was more than a conundrum, a serious problem because the boy couldn’t be with his daughter. He knew what it meant. He knew how it would end. He was worried now about his girl. Even in the new room in the new town under the new name, he worried. Whom had he stolen the drugs from? Whose money was it? Would they ever stop looking for the boy? Would Sara ever be safe if she was with him? No. These guys wouldn’t quit. In prison, Jack had seen guys killed, killed for past debts, hits paid for with cigarettes. There was no getting away. Sara would never be safe. Jack opened the glove box.

          “I don’t think you should take the highway through Atlanta, too many cops. I saw an alternate route that will take us around it.”

          “Good thinking,” Jimmy said.

          Jack smiled. “Turn a left when you see this next exit. I just got thinking that if we stopped and that money was found we'd have some tough questions to answer.”

          “We make a pretty good team, old man,” Jimmy said. ‘You’re the brains and I’m the muscle.”

          “Yeah,” Jack said.

          The car rolled on away from traffic, onto an old two-lane road that cut away from Atlanta into clear backcountry, into a place so thick with trees and bush it looked and smelled and felt like jungle.

          “Stop the car,” Jack said. “I got to go.”

          “Out here?”

          “Yeah, either out here or in the car. You want to ride back to Carolina in a pissy car?”

          “No,” Jimmy said.

          He slowed the car to a stop and killed the lights. Jack walked around to the driver‘s side of the car. Jack jumped. He turned to the boy and said, “Get out here fast, you gotta see this!”

          Jimmy opened the door as Jack pulled out the pistol. When he crossed in front of Jack, he turned to ask what it was and two shots cut across the Georgia dawn.

          DAY 11: It was a misty day. The lights on the big hotels along the shore didn’t show very far. The beach was empty. There was no traffic on the roads and no faces gazing through the tourist trap shop windows. In the motel lot, not quite seeing the ocean but feeling its power, Jack stepped from the car slowly and stretched his legs. At room 114, the door hung open. There were no sounds coming from inside the room, no lights on inside, either. Jack moved slowly, like a surgeon at work. Finding the light he saw Sara’s bloody hand stretched out across the bed, holding the telephone cord, the cord cut. Her arms were limp. Her body was limp, cold, dead. Jack took the girl in his arms and held her. He cried like a baby and then he cleaned himself up, left the room, and called the police from a payphone on his way out of town. When he reached Indianapolis on his way back to Chicago, he called her mother.


Enigmatic, outspoken, and angst-ridden, D.S. Jones is a writer published in Black Heart Magazine, Shotgun Honey, and the Told You So Anthology from Pill Hill Press. Visit thedsjones.com to learn more, or follow him on Twitter @thedsjones.

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