“Are you deaf?” He shouted with spit.
After his .38 went off next to my ear, I kinda was.
Said, “I kinda am.”
That earned me a slap. The bitch of it was, the gun was still in his hand and my nose opened up from the edge of the gun sight. Blood gushed down my face.
He had me by the collar with his other hand, and when he let go I hit the ground.
“I don’t know what you want from me,” I said.
He kicked me in the ribs. Something snapped. After that, it hurt to breathe.
Then he pulled the crumpled photo out of his pocket again and studied it.
“That’s not me,” I said.
He crammed the picture back in his pocket and locked me in the tool closet.
When Delores pointed him out in the hardware store that morning because he had asked about me, she said, “are you scared?”
I laughed. In hindsight I probably should have been.
He had filled a shopping cart with:
A hack saw.
A utility knife.
And finally…a shovel and a bag of lime.
He wore a leather coat and black biker’s boots and tattoos crept up his neck and down his hands. He looked like bad news all around.
When he came to the counter he said, “Hey Mick,” and let it hang.
The name meant nothing to me, so I didn’t answer.
I started scanning the items from his sinister shopping spree and bagged the stuff that fit in a bag.
“I said hey, Mick.”
“Sorry, you must have mistaken me for someone else. I’m Brian,”
“Last name McDonald?”
“No,” I said, not offering a replacement.
“Whatever you say, boss.”
“Fifty-eight dollars even,” is what I said.
He threw a crisp hundred on the counter; a little too crisp. I reached for the counterfeit marker and he snatched it back.
“Hang on, I got change.” He replaced it with three wrinkled twenties.
Then he filled his arms with his purchases and left.
“Keep the change, Mick.”
“Jesus,” Delores said. “What a weirdo.”
“You said he was asking about me?”
“Yeah, he described you but didn’t know your name.”
I didn’t think of him again…until I got home and found him hiding in my garage.
“I’m gonna kill your wife and babies while you watch,” he hissed in my ear when he caught me from behind in the dark.
Too bad for him that my wife walked out on me and I didn’t have kids. That didn’t make his threat any less unsettling. I imagined what he planned to do to me.
“Where is he?” The new voice said.
He unlocked and opened the door.
“You’re fucking retarded,” the new voice said.
“This is not the guy.” The newcomer wore a cheap suit and taped glasses.
The biker took the picture out again and winced.
“You goddamned nitwit.”
“Fuck you, Wylie.”
“No,” Wylie said, “fuck you,” and took out a gun and shot him. The back of the biker’s head exploded and his brains painted the wall of my garage.
The vein on Wylie’s temple was throbbing in time with his rapid pulse. When I was in the closet I had found the tire check I kept in there. It was like a mini baseball bat wrapped in a steel plate at the end.
I swung for a homerun, but I was low and to the left. At least it smacked the gun out of his hand.
Wylie shrieked and cradled his broken wrist.
I was about to catch him on the back swing when he yelled, “Stop! I’m FBI. Check my ID.”
His badge was in his jacket.
“Agent Paris, huh?”
“Yeah. We learned that your Witsec cover was blown. I came to get you out of here… just in time.”
“Yeah,” I picked up his gun. It was still warm.
His story had lots of holes. If I had to guess, he was a dirty cop.
I didn’t have time to guess. And the gun still had lots of bullets in it.