Sunday, February 15, 2009


Chapter 8

**I don't think any of you understand "Viral story"... Little help here?**

Chapter 8

"Hello, housekeeping. Are you ok?" I opened my eyes and saw a woman standing over me. My jaw was throbbing, I felt like I might throw up. I laid my head back and steadied my breathing. "Are you ok, do you need a doctor?" "No, Vance is ok," I mumbled. I reached up, touched the left side of my jaw and winced. I checked my teeth with my tongue, one was loose and I could taste blood. I could feel my 1911 in the small of my back, my wallet was still there too.

The maid helped me to my feet and said, "if you are ok, I'll come back later." "Sure." She closed the door as I walked into the bathroom. I turned on the water and splashed some on my face. I took a drink of water, rinsed, spat, repeated.

I found a towel, and dried my face as I walked into the room. I had been close, but now I had lost my advantage - the brother knew someone was looking for him, and knew what I looked like. Well, as long as I was here I might as well look for clues.

The room had two queen beds, a couple chairs a small table, along with a television and sort-of desk. There was even a small refrigerator. I opened it. Damn, no mini bar. I was hoping whoever slugged me was going to buy me a drink.

The room was nice, mostly because it was new. The bed by the window had been slept in. The other was untouched. There was no luggage. The only thing in the trashcan was a water bottle.

I checked the bathroom, nothing there either. This guy left me nothing - well, except my life. I stared into the mirror, "Vance, you got lucky today. Take it for what it is." I checked my pockets, my car keys were there too. My jaw was discolored, and slightly swollen. I grabbed a hand towel and walked out of the bathroom, stepping on the dry cleaning as I left.

Out in the hall I looked right, then left. About 40 feet down the hall and across were the ice and vending machines. I stuck the towel under the dispenser of the ice machine and pushed the button. A pile of ice fell on the towel, I picked it up, dumping half on the floor twisted the towel into an ice pack, and pressed it against my jaw.

My head was pounding like a drum line as I rode the elevator to the first floor. I walked through the lobby and outside. Betsy was right where I left her. “Very, very lucky Vance.” I got in, put the key in the ignition and just sat there. This guy made sure he left no clues, and other than clocking me, did nothing to harm me. He didn't care that I was after him didn't respect me. "That's your second mistake asshole." Still, I had hit a dead end. He wouldn't come back to this hotel, and is probably out of town - for good. So where did he go? Would he go after Mike? Would he just disappear?

By now it was late morning and I was starving. I drove to an organic market that has a café attached. Their food is good, low in sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol and complex carbs. I went inside and sat in a booth off to the side. There were only five other people in the café, plus the waitress, a waifish hippie girl with mouse brown hair and no makeup.

She handed me a menu and told me what the lunch specials were, I chose the one with meat instead tofu, and the house blend of herb tea. Maybe some weed in this crap would ease my headache.

As I sat there I planned my next move. The lady at the Chinese laundry had recognized Mathisu’s clothes and connected them with someone else, and even said one of them was a good customer. Unless she was nuts, both brothers had been there before. And since they were staying in a hotel, probably neither lived in Reno. So why come back here after the hit? Surely the cops were watching Mathisu’s credit cards, nobody with any smarts would use them, so who paid for last night’s room? There was something here in Reno, but what? This is where a real private eye makes his living, seeing the clues when there is nothing in sight.

I climbed into Betsy and just sat. The Chinese laundry lead was cold. The hotel lead was cold. The gym lead is a long shot at best. That just left the contraband liquor angle. This one actually had a chance of paying off. It was an established long-term scam that probably had dozens of “accounts” like Mike scattered all over.

Which gave me an idea.

I finished my lunch and left. As I walked out I remembered I needed to take Mike some real food.

Several years ago I met a woman who ran a dive on the north edge of Reno. The best thing about dive bars is; once a dive bar, always a dive bar. The only thing a dive bar changes into is a bait shop. In fact some of the best bait shops were once dive bars.

I found the place I was looking for. The second best thing about a dive bar is it always looks the same, or at least never looks better. Even a fresh coat of paint only makes it look worse. I walked inside, relieved it hadn’t been repainted. Carol was behind the bar, as expected.

Carol is a loud gregarious woman, who really works a room. She trys to make sure nobody leaves her bar a stranger, that’s just her personality.

Carol is over 50 and is not attractive. Her face could be the before picture for a revitalizing skin cream commercial. Her teeth are crooked and yellow from a lifetime of Camel unfiltereds. Her hair – forget it. Carol loudly proclaims she is a bye-bye-sexual. She has sex with someone and then says bye-bye. She has a great sense of humor and a ton of loyal regular customers. She carries a small hand gun in her bra.

I walked in and sat at the bar. The bar was busy for early afternoon on a Friday. Carol walked down to me as soon as she got a chance. “Afternoon. We’ve met haven’t we?” “Yeah, some time back. Vance is a friend of George’s.” “George, right. How is he?” “You know George, going strong same as always.” “George is like a force of nature isn’t he? You’re Vinny, right?” “Vance.” “That’s right, Vance the detective. What brings you here?” “Business. The bar has been here a long time. Have you ever heard of anyone selling liquor with no tax stamps?” Carol, paused as someone down the bar called to her. “Excuse me,” she said “oh, do you want something to drink?” “Club soda.” She hurried off, returning a couple minutes later with my drink. She stood directly in front of me, paused and said “many years ago a guy came in here and pitched that deal to me.” “Did you take it?” “No, this business has more than its share of people looking over your shoulder. I decided it was trouble I didn’t need.”

She had a point, bars have all sorts of official agencies crawling up their ass. Mike was very lucky to make it this long without getting caught.

“Did anyone ever approach you again?” “Not that I recall.” “Any chance the salesman was a Samoan?” “I don’t think so, I don’t remember.” “Ok, let Vance ask this. Have you ever seen two Samoan guys here in town? One very big and dresses nice, the other smaller and probably not as classy. They may not run together.” “I get a lot of people in her Vance. Sorry.” She walked off to tend her other customers. I sipped my club soda.

Carol returned several minutes later. “Carol, do you know of any bars around here that might have taken that offer?” …

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