Evan sat on his stool
staring ahead as if nothing had happened.
The guy looked over at
his friends—for moral support, presumably—then stuck his face into Evan's
personal space. Evan kept his eyes front, the smell of beer and potato chips on
the guy's breath washing over him.
'What the hell do you
think you're doing?' the guy said.
Evan ignored him. He
didn't want to antagonize the guy unnecessarily by pointing out that he was
having a beer. Or had been.
'I said, what do you
think you're doing?'
Evan knew it wasn't going
to end well; maybe he'd made the wrong call. The guy was getting more confident
now, taking Evan's lack of response as fear.
'Look at me when I'm
talking to you,' the guy said and poked Evan with his finger.
Evan tried not to dwell
on where that finger had just been—the guy definitely hadn't had time to wash
The guy jabbed again. 'I
said look at me.'
Evan took a deep breath
and swivelled on the stool to face the guy. He had long, greasy, dirt-blond
hair and smelled of beer and body odor and something else Evan couldn't and
didn't want to place. There was a dark smiley face of perspiration under his
left armpit, but not on the other side, as if he'd run out of deodorant half
way through his morning ablutions. That must make him left-handed if he sprays
his right armpit first, Evan thought as he lowered his left foot to the floor
so that he had both feet firmly on the ground.
'You were in my way,'
the guy said, jabbing Evan with his finger for a third time. Whatever might
have been left on his finger was now transferred to Evan's jacket. He looked
down at it but couldn't see a visible stain. That didn't mean every dog in the
neighborhood wouldn't be sniffing around it.
'Don't do that,' Evan
said pleasantly enough.
The guy smiled like he'd
finally got what he'd been after.
'Or what? You want to
make something of it?'
Evan shook his head.
'No, I just want you to stop doing it.'
The guy turned round to
his friends, a massive grin on his face. 'D'you hear that? The big tough
detective wants me to stop, but the pussy's too yellow to do anything about
Evan raised both hands
in appeasement. 'Okay, okay, it's my mistake; I shouldn't have been in your way—'
'Ha. Will you listen to
this yellow . . .'
'—but I didn't know you
were going to the men's room.' He shrugged an apology. 'I couldn't see your
momma here to hold your little peepee so I thought you were going to wet your
pants like you normally do.'
The guy's finger stalled
on its way for another jab and his mouth dropped open in astonishment. It opened
and closed a couple of times but nothing came out, his eyes bulging in their
sockets, like they were trying to escape.
At the end of the bar
his friends howled with laughter.
Evan grabbed the finger
in mid-air (he'd been right, the guy was left-handed) and bent it sharply
backwards, snapping it cleanly at the knuckle. He felt a hot, mean satisfaction
right in his belly as he heard the sweet crack of bone followed by a loud
scream. He jerked his hand downwards feeling bone grate against bone in the ruined
finger. He kept pushing down forcing the guy to lean in.
The guy was making an ah,
ah, ah sound, but a lot louder than that. Evan grabbed his chin with his
other hand, digging his nails in and squeezing the flesh along his jaw to draw
his face close. He let go of the finger and hammered the heel of his hand down
onto the bridge of the guy's nose. Bang. Bang. Bang. Same as the number of
finger jabs. Fair's fair, after all.
He stood up, feeling the
pull of something sticky on the seat of his pants, and snapped his arm out
straight sending the guy staggering backwards into the tables and chairs behind
him. Funny how he couldn't hear the inbreds laughing any more. He looked at the
guy in front of him, trying to disentangle himself from the furniture.
Not a chance.
He bent and picked the
heavy stool up by its legs, spun around and swung it through the air, catching
the guy solidly on the side of the head, sending him sprawling into a heap on
the floor. He kept the spin going like a hammer thrower in a track and field
competition and let it loose at the remaining two inbreds. It missed by a mile
but you can't win them all. He'd never been any good at track and field.
Behind him, one of the
pool players was coming on fast, the pool cue reversed in both hands. Before
Evan had a chance to react, the Hispanic guy who'd nodded to him at the bar
stuck his leg out and tripped the guy, sending him crashing headlong to the
ground. The cue flew out of his hands and clattered across the floor, coming to
rest by Evan's feet. The pool player tried to get his legs under him but the
Hispanic guy jumped out of his chair and kicked him hard in the balls. Game
over. He looked round at the second player and wagged a finger at him. The guy
showed him his palms and backed away.
Evan bent and picked up
the cue and backed towards the door but nobody else was up for it. He got to
the door, pushed it open with his butt, slipped out and pushed the cue through
the two door handles. It wouldn't hold up against a good kick but it was better
Way to go, Evan, way
Dixie was just about to get in the car
when his phone rang. On the other side of the car standing by the driver's door
was the guy everybody called Crispy. Dixie hadn't met his mother but he felt
sorry for her even so, because Crispy was the size of something you’d normally
climb with rope and pitons, not give birth to. His head sloped straight down
into his shoulders like a lamp shade. They called him Crispy because his
parents had named him Chris and then either been stupid or unkind enough
to give him the middle initial 'P'. Dixie didn't know what his last name was
but if there was any justice in the world it would be Bacon.
Crispy was a butt-ugly
recidivist who killed as if it were a reflex action. Nestled somewhere between
the too-small ears that perched on his head like warts on an egg his brain was
solely occupied, as far as Dixie could tell, by thoughts of the different ways
of hurting people. He liked to tell anyone who would listen that the real
reason he was called Crispy was because he'd set a guy on fire one time and
watched him burn to death. Ordinarily Dixie managed to keep out of his way but Chico had insisted he take him along him and that they take Crispy's car.
Dixie checked the screen and the name he
saw raised an eyebrow: Dave the bartender from Kelly's Tavern. He walked out of
earshot and answered the call. In the background he could hear country and
western music playing on the jukebox and the sounds of a bar starting to fill
'I thought you'd want to
know there was a guy in here asking about you,' Dave said.
'Did he leave a name?'
'He left his business
card. Hang on a minute.' Dixie heard Dave put the phone down as he went to
fetch the card. Anyone with half a brain would have picked it up before making
the call, but anyone with half a brain wouldn't be working at Kelly's in the
first place. It was probably the worst bar Dixie knew, but it served a purpose
for certain people to get in contact.
'His name's Evan Buckley,'
Dave said. 'He's a private investigator.'
'Never heard of him.'
'That's what I said when
he asked about you.'
'That's the way I like
it, Dave,' Dixie said in an encouraging tone. 'Did he say what he wants?'
'No. Just that he wants
to find you.'
'He didn't say why?
'Did you ask him?'
There was a long,
uncomfortable pause. Behind Dave's breathing Dixie could hear the music in the
background. It sounded like some idiot had put the same track on again. He
didn't think he was going to get much more out of Dave, who wasn't the sharpest
tool in the box. Face to face, Dave liked to watch your mouth in case there
were any difficult words, which put him at a disadvantage on the phone. Dixie often wondered who tied his shoes for him in the morning.