Friday, January 30, 2009
I live in an old gas station near the edge of town. It’s big, three bays and a car wash. I rented the place from some old coot who had ran the station out in the middle of nowhere since the mid 50’s. One day he heard someone was buying up all the land around the station. He figured it was some developer who wanted to build houses. They finally approached him with an offer, which he turned down. Then he gambled, took most of his savings and expanded the station to its current monster size.
Turned out the developer wanted to build an industrial park and land fill, but it took some time and when business dwindled to almost nothing and his health began to fail, he closed up shop. He never did sell, “just to spite the lousy suit bastards.” He rented it to me for a song knowing I was too hard up to find a better place. Sometimes I would return home and find him sitting in front of the station, cursing the semis and garbage trucks as they drove by. He also let me use the tow truck and always laughed when he saw me pulling Betsy into the drive.
When he died, he put a clause in his will to let me continue living there rent free as long as I made no changes to the outward appearance. I don’t know who owns it now, but I guess he trusted them not to sell to the suits more than he trusted me. He did leave me the tow truck; probably to remind me how much trouble I had keeping Betsy running.
The place is starting to look run down, but I’ve done some work to the inside. I left one of the hydraulic lifts, it comes in handy. I left the car wash too, mainly because I don’t know what to do with it. The other two bays I turned into a gym where I do my strength training. I was able to turn the office and storage areas into a livable apartment, although I still have to go outside to use the can.
When I got home there were two people waiting for me. Mrs. Carlisle, a local housewife who wanted to get in shape and Chuck Watts. I let Mrs. Carlisle into the gym and told her to do her stretches and then start with the elliptical, same as last time, while I changed clothes and talked with Detective Watts. Chuck and I went into the apartment. “I was beginning to worry about you Vance, but it looks like you were holed up in some love nest with one of your “honeys,” Watts said. “No need to worry about Vance Manion, he can take care of himself. And what’s it to you, didn’t your wife come home last night?” I replied. Of course she had, and I wouldn’t have said so if I thought Chuck and his wife were having problems. I did like the guy and me does fix a lot of my tickets, which I seem to collect like spankings.
Watts scowled at me and said, “what did you see at the Come and Get It?” “Nothing, Vance was down the street when he heard gun shots, Vance didn’t see anyone leave the area. Who was the guy anyway,” I queried as a low rumble was heard in the distance. “Not real sure, we’re still checking,” Watts said as the rumble grew. “What about the four slugs?” I asked as I moved to the cupboards and tied a rope around handles at opposite ends, the rumble now a roar. “We found six,” Watts’ lips moved. “What?” I yelled to be heard over the freight train rolling at about 45 miles an hour just 30 feet behind the building. “I said we found six bullets,” shouted Watts, standing toe to toe with me to be heard over the train. “Vance thought he only saw four entry wounds.” “We dug two more out of the wall behind him. One matched, the other didn’t.” “Two gunmen?” “No, the odd one had probably been there a while.” “What kind of gun?” “Probably 7.65mm.” “Foreigners,” I muttered. “Why do you say that?” Watts asked, as a plate bounced off the counter and crashed to the floor. “This is western America, everyone here carries some large caliber piece. Only foreigners use metric,” I stated, hoping all the weights in the gym were secured. “You may be right, somehow,” Watts replied. “Did anyone see anything?” “Blind as bats, what do you know about Mike, Vance?” “Very little, Vance doesn’t ask questions unless he doesn’t know the answer.” Watts frowned. “Someone said the guy was carrying funny money.” “That might explain the clothes,” I said. “Maybe, we’re checking on that too. How much longer will this racket last?” “Oh five, ten minutes tops.” “I don’t know how you can stand it.” “Free rent is how Vance can stand it. Been nice talking Chuck, but Vance has to work with Mrs. Carlisle.” “We found another body early this morning out in the hills,” Watts added. “Another Samoan?” I asked. “We can’t tell. Everything on the inside was broken and everything on the outside was burned. That will keep the forensics boys busy for a while. They’ll probably have to go for a match on the dental records, if he has enough teeth left,” Watts said flatly. This was serious. If not for what’s her name I might be out of the picture too. “You’re probably better staying away from this one Vance,” Watts cautioned. “Don’t worry about Vance, he’s a big boy,” I smiled, flexing a tawny bicep. “Besides a woman called me last week, wanted to know what it would cost to have me follow her husband. Ought to be easy, he knows some of the same broads Vance does. Never met him though,” I replied. “I guess you have bills to pay, even in this place,” Watts chuckled, then added “is that peanut butter in your ear?”
Watts left and I finished changing. I spent the next hour or so with Mrs. Carlisle. She thought there was a demand for extras in fitness shows and videos, and was determined to be one. Although she was getting into shape, she would never realize her dream. She has two left feet and uneven breasts.