Chapter 10


I told Lou to leave his Harley Davidson at the Handlebar, and we took my car. We'd stuffed the trash can into the trunk. The trunk wouldn't close, but we kept it tied down with an extension cord I'd found in the backseat.

We parked the car in front of Parker's house and got out. Lou had fetched the trash can out of the trunk and carried it under a huge arm. I decided not to comment. I knocked on the door, but I guess Lou figured four seconds was enough to answer because when nobody let us in, he smashed the door in with one good kick. The wood frame splintered, and the door flew into the living room landing with a heavy whump.

Two naked kids pulled apart from each other and scattered. She ran into the bedroom and slammed the door. He bolted for the kitchen in his socks, clutching jeans and T-shirt in his hands.

"I got him." Lou dropped the trash can and pounded out of the room after him.

I tried the bedroom door. It was locked but not as solid as the front door. I leaned into it good just once with my shoulder and it gave. I found her crouched on the other side of the bed with a sheet around her. She was big-eyed and scared, screamed a little when I hauled her up by a skinny arm.

I dropped her on the bed, and she said, "Don't rape me" in a weepy, little kid's voice.

She was maybe seventeen, slight, pale, short bottle-red hair almost burgundy and a gold ring in the nose. Her breasts were pointy fried eggs with raspberry nipples. "I'm not going to rape you, so take it easy. Shoot you in the head or smack you up some maybe, but not rape."

That didn't help much. Her eyes filled with slow tears.

"Aw, shit. Look, calm down, okay?" There was a half-empty bottle of third-rate bourbon on the dresser. I put it in her hands and told her to take a slug.

"I-I don't drink." She pushed the bottle back at me.

"I sure as hell do." I tilted the bottle back. It was cheap, but the harsh warmth coursed into my limbs. Just what the doctor ordered.

"In the first drawer," she said with a little more confidence. "A small wooden box with a butterfly carved on the top."

I found the box and gave it to her.

She opened it and produced a ziplock baggy and some rolling paper. She tried to roll a joint, but her hands shook too badly, and she dropped the paper. She looked up at me.

"Take your time."

"I'll use the pipe," she said. "That's easier." The pipe looked like it'd been carved from a miniature wooden figurine, a dinosaur maybe, or a dragon. She puffed it to life, inhaled deeply, and held it. Her eyes fuzzed over as she finally exhaled. I saw the fear drain out of her a little, and she slumped where she sat on the bed.

I opened a window.

"Is Thomas in some kind of trouble?" she asked.

"That's your boyfriend?"

She shrugged, looked away from me. "We just hang out. Did he do something? Cause if he did, I don't know anything about it."

"Take it easy," I said. "I just need to ask you some questions. What's your name?"


"Were you here last night, Lizzy?"

"I'm in and out all the time."

"When the band was here?"

"Spanklicious? The guys had a pretty big party. The cops broke it up after the fight."

"Tell me about it."

"The fight?"


"Shane's brother got pretty drunk."

Benny. "Go on."

"He kept going on about something that Shane was supposed to do for him, but Shane didn't want to. Shane was all like saying how he was an artist, and Benny was all like telling him how he was ungrateful and everything."

"Uh-huh." I took another swig of the bourbon, "Think for a minute, would you? How about some specifics?"

Lizzy puffed the pipe. "I don't know any. Really." She didn't look at me, puffed the pipe like she was blowing up a life raft.

I grabbed the pipe, yanked it away from her. She frowned and made a noise like a kicked puppy.

"I don't believe you, Lizzy."

Her shoulder slumped and she twisted the sheets between her fingers. Her eyes met mine slowly. "You're not a cop, are you?"

"Do I act like a cop?"

She shook her head.

"Okay then. What was the fight about between Benny and Shane?"


"Benny is the name of Shane's brother. The bald guy."

Her eyes drifted to the pipe. "Uh..."

I gave it back to her. She took a big gulp of smoke, held it, let it out slow, her eyes rolling back in her head. "They fought about the drugs. Not this stuff." She tapped the pipe with a skinny finger. "Major blow. Shane's big bro- Benny- provided a bunch for the party, kept saying he was giving samples. He told Shane he just got some good money and that they were going into business for themselves. He wanted Shane to deal the stuff from the back of his van."


"Because Shane goes around to all theses clubs with his band, easy for him to see the right people and sell a lot of the stuff."

"How do you know all this?"

"Me and Shane sort of hooked up for the night, so I was with him. They didn't seem to mind talking in front of me."

"Where are they now?"

"Beats me. The band got fired from the Handlebar, you know."

"I know."

"They probably went on to their next gig."


She shrugged, took another hit from the pipe. I shot back another mouthful of bourbon. It had been a long couple of days. I sat there with Lizzy quietly for a moment, her escaping into her vice, me into mine.

"Would Parker know?"


I took her by the wrist. "Follow me."

She scurried after, holding the sheet in front of her. We stopped in front of the trash can, and I pried the lid off.

"Man, I really got to take a piss," said Parker. Lou had pretzeled him into the big can pretty good.

"Parker? Oh my God!" Lizzy dropped her sheet and leaned into the can. "Are you okay?"

"I can't feel my legs."

"He'll be fine," I said.

"What's he doing in there?"

"It's like Biosphere."


Lou returned through the kitchen. He was breathing heavily and glistening with sweat. "That little naked bastard can run. I chased him six blocks and gave up." He got an eyeful of naked Lizzy and said, "Hope he had time to finish you off, honey. If not, just climb aboard the Lou Morgan express, and he'll take you home."

"What's he talking about?" said Parker.

"It's nothing." Lizzy shot Lou a hard look.

Lou grinned down into the can. "We caught Red here bumping uglies with some guy when we busted in."

"I knew it!" Parker yelled from the bottom of the can. "You cheap little whore. It was Thomas, wasn't it? You've been fucking him."

"Parker, don't. It's not like that." Lizzy erupted in teenage tears.

"Better check her ass for carpet burns," said Lou.

"Sonovafuckshitdamn- I'm going to kill him!" Parker threw a tantrum the best he could in his cramped space, shaking the can and nearly tipping it.

Lizzy ran tearfully and dramatically back into the bedroom and slammed the door. She let out deep moaning sobs between great gulps of air. It was all very moving.

I put my hand on Lou's arm and pushed him gently back. "Give me some room."

He went rigid, resisted for a second, but stepped back. He'd learn. I was still in charge. He was still New Guy in spite of what I'd told Danny.

I looked down at Parker. He had his little fists balled and pounded the sides of the can with feeble rage. His girlfriend was a slut. Things were tough all over.


"Can you believe that shit?" he said. "My own fucking roommate."


"You bitch." He raised his voice so Lizzy could hear him in the next room. "You fucking cunt!"

She launched into her sobs again with renewed vigor.


I grabbed a softball trophy off the end table and banged it against the trash can three times hard. "Parker!"

"Holy shit, that's loud."

I asked, "You want out of this can or not?"


"Where's Shane's band playing next?"

"Mudhog Sammy's."


"Wednesday night."

Day after tomorrow.

"What about tonight?" I asked.

"They're playing someplace in Ocala. I don't know the name. But I heard Shane say Ocala. Honest Injun."

"You know where they're playing. Think hard."

"I'm telling you straight, dude. I don't know."

"What are you worried about? Ratting out your pal? Forget about it. Your name will never come up." I held up three fingers. "Scout's honor." I nudged Lou.

"Huh? Oh." Lou held up three fingers too.

"I really, really don't know," said Parker.

"If you're lying, Lou's going to bite your legs off and shove them up your ass."

"I'm not lying," said Parker. A little desperation had crept into his voice. "That's all I know. I swear."

I put the lid back on. Tight.

"Come on," I said to Lou. "Let's go."

On the way back to Lou's motorcycle, I noticed the black Ford Tempo again, this time in my rearview mirror. I didn't believe in coincidences. I told Lou.

"Who is it?"

"Feds maybe." Or Mercury.

"Can you lose them?" asked Lou. He craned his neck to get a better look.

"Will you stop that, bonehead. Don't let on like we see them."

"Okay, okay." He sat still, faced forward.

I hit the accelerator, darted between a couple of cars, and cut off a jeep full of college kids who gave me the finger. I took a hard left from the wrong lane, leaving a wake of horn blasts and squealing tires behind. I did the zig-zag routine through a residential neighborhood, and by the time I found a major road again, I was satisfied we'd thrown off our tail.

I said we'd better ditch my car for a while. They knew what it looked like. Lou agreed and suggested I go to the regional airport and find a rental counter. Good idea. Avis had what we needed.

I used a stolen MasterCard and a fake Arkansas driver's license and rented the car under the name Borris Freeman. I wanted an LTD or something comfortable, but Lou had his own idea.

"You can't go slugging around the swamp in some big-ass pimp-mobile."

"I'm not slugging anywhere," I said. "I'm taking the Interstate."

"Four-wheel it, man. Let's ride high in that Suburban." Lou pointed at a ridiculously oversized sports utility vehicle in the fenced rental yard.

"Fuck that."

"I'm a big guy. I need a big ride."

"The thing drinks three miles to the gallon," I said.

"Man, you're renting the car. I got no problem springing for gas."

I gave up. "Fine."



He didn't look so happy when he filled up the truck in Ocala. Forty-two fifty for regular unleaded. We'd left the Interstate and were heading down State Road 200. Lou stuck a cigar in his mouth, lit it and filled the cab with a thick layer of gray-blue smoke.

"Will you roll down the fucking window? I've only got the two lungs."

He laughed. "Can't take it, huh?" But he rolled it down.

He found a country station on the radio and turned it up a notch too loud.

I turned it back down a little. "Let's take it easy, okay?"

"You don't like the twang?"

"The what?"

"The twang. Country music has that twang."

"Could you clam up for a while? I'm trying to think what to do next."

He shrunk into his cigar, taking slow, sulky puffs.

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