Читать онлайн "Before The Killing Starts" автора Harper James - RuLit - Страница 6


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Use short words, Evan thought.

He gave it a minute and then ordered a beer from the bartender's back. With an exaggerated sigh the guy turned away from the TV and pulled Evan's beer. Then he walked down and started talking to the three guys at the end of the bar. That sort of put an end to Evan's plan of having a quiet word in his ear. He might as well jump up onto the bar, clap his hands and ask for everyone's attention.

He heard the rattle of ice cubes in a glass beside him and turned his head. One of the guys from the table behind him had come up to the bar and stood a couple of feet away, swirling the last of his drink before tipping it down his neck. The bartender came back down and started serving him and Evan took the opportunity to get a better look at him. He was tall and obviously Hispanic, and Evan knew his first impressions were right; he definitely wasn't one of the regulars—one, he wasn't a loser and two; this place was strictly white trash. You could feel he was confident walking into a dive like this knowing there was nothing in here that he couldn't deal with. If the guy had bottled it, Evan would have bought some. The guy looked across and gave him a small nod, then carried his drinks back to his table.

The bartender was about to rejoin the guys at the end when Evan called him back. Automatically he picked up Evan's glass, then saw it was still half full. He looked at Evan with an aha look on his face: now we'll get to the real reason . . .

'I'm looking for somebody,' Evan said.

'Uh huh.' He cocked his head like he didn’t understand what that information had to do with him. 'Isn't everybody?'

'I think he comes in here.'

The bartender gave what he probably thought was a smile, his bright, mean eyes crinkling at the corners. 'I suppose there's more chance of me knowing him than if he'd never set foot in here in his life.'

The inbreds at the end had stopped talking again and were paying close attention to the conversation. The bartender looked down at them and winked. They grinned back. They looked to Evan like they'd have trouble spelling gum and chewing it at the same time.

'His name's Richard LaBarre.'

The bartender creased his forehead and tugged his chin as if he was giving it some serious thought; his eyes flicking sideways to the inbreds, then shook his head. 'Never heard of him.'

There was a titter of laughter from the end of the bar. The bartender gave Evan a big up-yours smile.

'Everybody calls him Dixie,' Evan said, feeling stupid as he said the name.

The bartender gave a half-hearted nod. 'That's nice. Still never heard of him.' He started to move away.

'I've got a photo of him.'

The bartender made a big fuss of stopping in his tracks and turning around. He came back and stood in front of Evan and spread his hands on the bar. He wore a couple of heavy rings on each hand, the knuckles criss-crossed with faded, and not-so-faded, scars. Evan assumed the display was for his benefit and felt like pointing out that the liver spots that were starting to appear spoiled the effect somewhat. He got a powerful draft of stale cigarettes. It made him think, between the guy's fists and his breath, he'd go for the fists every time.

'I've got you,' the bartender said. 'His name's Richard something, everybody calls him Dixie but I'—he jabbed his thumb at his chest—'might know him as Bill or George?' He looked at the inbreds at the end of the bar and got a bunch of you-tell-him head nods.

Evan wanted to come back with some equally smart ass reply but it wouldn't get him very far. Not that being nice as pie was getting him anywhere, either. The bartender was just one of those guys who wouldn't piss on you if you were on fire.

'Just take a look, will you?' he said wearily, pulling the photo out of his pocket.

The three guys at the end were really paying attention now. Evan couldn't blame them—in a place like this, when somebody puts their hand into their pocket it normally comes out with a switchblade.

Evan put the photo on the bar top. The bartender looked at it as if Evan had placed a steaming dog turd on his nice clean bar, but then his curiosity got the better of him.

'It's been cut in half.'

Evan slapped the heel of his hand against his forehead. 'I was wondering what happened to it.'

The bartender looked up from the photo and gave Evan a withering look. 'No need to be a smartass.' Clearly that was his job.

'Do you recognize him?'

The bartender took another quick look and pushed the photo towards Evan. 'Sorry.' Evan didn't think he looked sorry at all. 'Why do you want to find him anyway? You don't look like a cop.'

'No, I don't suppose I do,' Evan said. All your customers would be long gone if I did. 'I'm a private investigator.'

The bartender nodded as if that explained a lot. 'You working for his wife?'

'No, just someone who wants to find him.' Evan got out his wallet and pulled out one of his cards. 'Can I leave this with you?'

Evan could see him thinking it looked a bit small and inflexible to wipe his ass with but he didn't say it.

'What? In case a guy I've never heard of or seen in my life just happens to pop in one day?'

Evan looked around the bar and smiled. 'Who knows? Even if he doesn't, one of your customers might want to hire me.'

The bartender walked away and laughed over his shoulder. 'I think you'll find the people who come in here have their own way of dealing with problems.'


Chapter 7

Evan sat at the bar and wondered what to do next. He picked up his glass and was just about to down the rest of his beer when a shoulder slammed into him, sending the glass flying. One of the inbreds from the end of the bar continued on his way to the men's room without looking back. Behind him, Evan heard the others laughing. He turned to look at them and one of them raised his glass in an up-yours cheers towards him. He felt a hot little worm of excitement in his gut and reckoned he had about a minute—long enough for the guy to take a leak but not long enough to wash his hands—in which to decide what to do. He only really had two options; he could get up and leave or he could wait and deal with what happened when the guy came back.

The bartender walked slowly down the bar making a tut-tutting sound and made a big point of bending over and picking up the broken glass. He straightened up and his gaze snapped back toward Evan, his lips curled into a smile, eyes full of gleeful anticipation, like a fat, spoiled kid on Christmas morning.

Evan decided to stay; he didn't want to disappoint the guy. Apart from the damage to his pride if he got up and left with his tail between his legs, they might decide to stop him from leaving anyway. Besides he'd never been one to let prudence or reason cloud his judgement.

He kept his eyes straight ahead as he heard the door to the men's room open and swing shut. Along the bar, the remaining inbreds had stopped laughing, although they still had the stupid grins plastered across their faces. The pool players in the back had paused their game. The two Hispanic men sitting at the table weren't paying the slightest bit of attention.

Evan took his right foot off the rail and placed it squarely on the floor, bracing himself. He could feel the adrenalin sledding through his blood as he locked his right arm solid on the bar and tensed. The guy walked up, an ugly smile on his lips, and swung his shoulder into Evan on his way past. Or that's what he tried to do, because this time, instead of knocking Evan into the bar, he bounced off and stumbled against one of the tables. The shock on his face turned quickly into anger as his friends sniggered again, but this time at him. What a fun afternoon it was turning into.



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