A brief section of an unfinished story where our 'hero' just wants a drink.
|HUGO C. - CONVENIENT STORE|
Eight hours without a drink was about the same as the average man's work day. Hugo figured he owed it to himself to have a treat. Showing himself something more than self pity might even be considered personal progress. He drove through the desert for miles. Hugo unzipped the black nylon cassette carrying case and removed one of the tapes. Two decades locked away doesn't mean you get completely cut off from the times changing. Inmates had radios here and there, but nothing really stuck. Trying to hold on to the past and bring it into the future definitely wasn't in the cards so he figured he may as well start learning to like more about the modern era. He inserts Dark Side of the Moon into the tape deck. Immediately he can tell this is something very different. At one point while speeding down the road he turns off the head lights and lets the moon and stars light the road. For a while it was like magic to him. Coasting seamlessly through the darkness with a blanket of stars overhead. All the worldly bullshit and weight of the past twenty years felt lifted for the first time. The music swells. Maybe there was something current he could connect with.
Finally he sees the small lights of a yellow glowing arrow sign pointing down a hill. The challenger rumbles as he accelerates up and over it. Suddenly the road shows signs of life. Not but two hundred yards further was a single blinking yellow traffic light and at the corner of the intersection a small but very bright gas station. He pulled up around the darker side of the station, parked and walked in. As he entered through the propped open door he noticed just how bright it really is in the place. It didn't quite seem normal. He glances around and behind the counter stands a middle aged Asian man with a most pleased looked on his face.
Hugo squints at him and glances around the store. He wanted to appear as unassuming as possible. Nothing to have anyone really remembering too much about him when that faithful time came when he found Big Harvey. And having been out of the real world for so long he began to think that maybe this was just part of the future. America, the 1980s: faster cars, deadlier drugs, brighter buildings. Still this was new. To himself Hugo mutters "fuck it" and takes a couple of steps towards the counter.
"You guys are lit up like a Christmas tree tonight huh". Hugo applies an awkward and rushed smirk. The clerk smiles and his eyes widen. With much enthusiasm he blurts out "higher watts!" The accent is thick... Hugo remains quiet for a moment. "Higher watts improve brightness. Want to see best. We get special bulb import. Bulbs from Denmark. Very good, very good." Hugo stared at the man. His sight in this overbearing whiteness hadn't improved much. He nods and walks over to what he can make out to be the wall coolers.
The clerk places a slightly feminine cowboy hat upon his head and scoots his stool back some to continue watching his televisions. On one side is the security monitor; projecting a fairly clear, bluish-grey image of the store from the back and facing the counter. Next to it was a similar TV but with better color quality. He was watching the Saturday movie of the week.
Hugo looked around for that beer he had back at home just before he began this bloody trek. Looked like the usual junk. This was an occasion of sorts. He didn't want just some ordinary piss and swill in a silver can. Wait, maybe he's got it. He remembered the red tab on top... Yes! A crisp six pack of Auburn Fatterton ale. Someone had cammed the whole damn thing right underneath the bottom rack of individual beers. What kind of asshole lifts up a whole metal rack just to do that he thought. Hugo gets on his knees and starts removing beers to lighten the shelf.
Outside heavy foot steps are approaching. Without any hesitation a large "good ol' boy" pops from around the corner. He's dirty wearing old tennis shoes and a ratty NASCAR cap. His shirt is stained with god knows what but its enough to turn white into this brown, gray, orange Rorschach test; held together by a pair of beefy, filthy arms and legs. He slams his palms down on the counter. "How you doin' tonight buddy?" Asked the country boy. Even if you didn't hear or see him you'd be able to smell this guy after about eight seconds in fairly close proximity. Hugo continued carefully removing bottles and cans from the cooler, all while monitoring the front of the store.
"Lookie here mister, I need some Lucky Strikes and a box of them matches over there." The clerk looked him over with a questionable eye, but apparently saw no threat as he turned to get what the man asked for. Finally enough individual beers were on the ground that Hugo was able to lift up and pull out the six pack out. The bottom of the cans were slightly frosted over. This was good. This meant these babies were going to stay chilled long after he's passed out and slumped over the shifter. Jolting him back out of his head; back to the reality of where he was and why he was there was the large country boy. He's gone and done something stupid.
The clerk is now staring into the barrel of a crummy old pistol. "Now open that register up real slow and empty all the cash money in one of them paper bags." The country boy snarled and rubbed his eyes a bit. The clerk didn't move. He was nervous but this didn't appear to be his first stick up. "No cash tonight" he said. "Haven't... Haven't had customer yet. You first." The country boy looked slightly dumbfounded. "You look here Charlie Chan, don't go fucking around with me tonight, it ain't smart. Now put the cash in the bag." His fingers twist around the pistol's grip.
"I no joke..no joking, only change no cash yet." The clerk pointed down to the open register with his raised hands. "Goddamn it man, do you wanna die tonight? Stop fucking around and get me some cash! Ain't no place 'round here goin' be open all fucking night without having some fives and tens. Now stop bein' a smart as--
KA-POW!! blood sprays across the clerks face and the counter. The clerk stands motionless.. heavy breathing.. the country boy flops over on his back; blood gushing from his mouth. His fingers twisting and flickering around. The pistol still rolling around in his right hand palm.
Smoke was still lightly floating up from the barrel of Hugo's .45. He walked forward slowly and stands over the dying hick. He looks him in the eye.. just another rural junkie. Face was dirty and his eyes sunken in. Even with the blood Hugo could make out the unmistakable dried lips and cracked teeth of a base head. He' d seen it countless times in prison. Upon seeing this as well as him twitch and kick his legs around smearing blood on the tan linoleum he didn't appear that big. Definitely not the lug the lights led him to believe. Hugo kicks the rusty pistol out of his hand. It slides across the collecting pool of blood surrounding the man and streaks a thick curved line of blood over to the wall coolers. He starts making a gargling sound and trying to turn his head so he'll stop choking on blood.
The clerk still stunned looks down at the man as well. Hugo situates his gun in the back of his pants and faces the clerk. "Call an ambulance. Try to get him some help." he said coldly. The blood splattered clerk had a bewildered look on his face. Hugo leaned in closer. He removes a bundle of folded bills and opens them out flat. He eyes a fifty dollar bill and removes it. But instead of pulling it off normally, he uses the knuckles of his index and middle fingers as to not leave complete finger print on the bill. He then places the fifty on the counter and holds up the six pack of Auburn Fatterton's ale. Calmly he states"I'm going put these in the car and I'l l be back for the change". The clerk lowered his hands slowly and nodded. Hugo walked straight out the front door and headed for the white challenger parked around the darkened side if the building. He passes a pink child's bicycle propped up against the wall.
The clerk calmly speaks to the 911 operator. "Hello this is the Corner Stop Service station. A man is shot please send help". The globbing noise the man was making with the blood and bile erupting from his mouth had stopped. "Send police too." The operator tries for more info. "He tried to rob me, but a man shot him." Now the kicking and fidgeting has ceased as well. The clerk looked down at the cold dead eyes still open. Blood rolling back over his forehead. "Do I think he's dangerous? No, I think he is dead though." The operator responds quickly. "Oh, him... he paid for beer and took it out to his car." He peaks out though the window but doesn't see anyone from where he's standing. "Hold on let me look outside". The clerk sets the phone down and walks outside to look for Hugo.
The outside is empty. The sickly yellow neon sign and its electric hum fill the void of sound. It was like the man vanished. As he turned to walk back inside he noticed the pink bicycle and eyed it for a moment. The operator calling out from the receiver could be heard by the door. The clerk hurries back inside. She tells him police and ambulance services will be there within five minutes. "Five minutes OK" he hangs up the phone.
For a moment the clerk doesn't know what to do with himself. He catches his reflection in the glass scratch off case. With everything going on he completely forgot out the blood on him. He walks to the back room and turns on the cold water in the sink. The room was tiny and seemed to be a mop closet. He held his head under the tap for a minute and ran his hands down his face trying to clear off as much blood as a possible. The clerk blindly reaches around on the shelf for something to dry his face with but there's nothing.
He walks back out to the front and behind the counter. He tip toes through the bloody sections carefully and grabs a roll of paper towels from next to the two TVs.
While the clerk is drying his face he hears a light clicking noise. It almost sounds like paper being flicked up and down. His face now dry he stares down at the monitor overlooking the store. Just to the left of the security footage is black and faux woodgrain VCR. The clicking sound was the tape inside, it had just run out. Thoughts ran through his head. This meant everything was on the tape. His eyes cast up and over to the right on the bloody counter. He stared at the crisp, clean face of Ulysses Grant.
An hour and a half later.
Sirens and red and blue lights filled the area. Fire truck, meat wagon and two prowlers posted up by the fuel pump with their light reflectors endlessly rotating. Another car coasts up. Another police crown vic. But this one wasn't deputy car. This was the two consecutive term sheriff of Mabry county, Sheriff Patton Bright.
Bright was a older, heavy set man, but with a grandfather-ly face and voice. If he were your ambassador to the south you'd not only feel comforted by him, but equally secure with the hand cannon he carries on his side. He parked around the darkest side of the building away from the other vehicles out front. Most of the work was done by then. One armed vagrant on its way to the slab and a missing vigilante hero... possibly. The firefighters were just there to chew the fat with the officers working the scene. He didn't have time for whatever tonights gossip was between them. He waits a moment after turning off the car. He sticks his arm out the downed drivers window and motions to a tall deputy.
A young man no more than twenty four in a crisp and pressed tan uniform walks over to the car with his note pad out. His tag reads STEVENS. "Good evening sheriff, how's your night been?" asked the young man. Sheriff Bright groaned for a moment, "Well it'd a lot more damn nice if people weren't getting shot up on my night off I'll tell ya that much. What's the story in there?"
The deputy flipped back in his notebook, "well we got one DOA, its miss Pauline Sims boy, Preston."Oh hell I know that boy! What's it... Kellogg or something they call him." said Bright. "Munch I believe sir, on the count him always eating cereal. According to Mr. Feung he came in, stuck an older looking piece in his face and told him cough up the dough. But here's the thing Mr. Feung kept looking at the gun so long he realized it was dern play toy." The sheriff perked up, "a play toy?" "Yes sir " he repiled. "He also recognized Munch from around here. You know hanging around trying score smack, the usual. So when Mr. Feung figured it out he tried to stall him my telling there was no cash." Sheriff Bright smirked, "well there's a clever son of a gun." With a overly eager nod Stevens continued."Only there's a problem. Seems there's a Charlie Bronson hanging 'round in the back of the store looking to get loaded or something and blam-o blows old Munchy into next week. Then he disappeared into the desert."
Sheriff Bright rubs his stumbled chin. "This fella pay for the beer"? "Nope. He just said he'll be right back and walked out with the beer-- in hand he says. He never saw or heard no vehicle" Stevens replied. "I know the Chinamen has a damn camera in there don't he?" Clearly Stevens was ahead of the old man. "Already asked. He does but he forgot to load the VCR with a new tape. He just said he was a white fella wearing shades and a blue denim jacket". "That's it?!" the old man hollered. "That's it" he replied.
For a moment the men went silent. Stevens had been in pretty good control of the scene since he arrived with deputy Alverez. Truth be told it was a Friday night and it was about to be 10:30. Bright had a standing appointment at the local dive down the road from the motel. Every Friday after sundown his old ass is perched at the bar sucking down whisky & waters, picking arguments with other good ol' boys and hitting on any form of female that happens through that night. And Friday's in particular bring out the younger ones.
"How long you been with our little outfit Stevens?" Bright asked. The deputy leaned down some more to get a better look at the old sheriff's eyes. "About a year and eleven months sir." Jesus Bright thought. Two years is all he had to say. "Kid I think you've got your nose in this one. Got you a genuine murder mystery."
Deputy Stevens seemed to straighten his posture at the very mention of the words murder mystery. "We'll be getting to the bottom of this soon sir." he stated with much seriousness. "Oh I believe it son. I remember when you were first applying... you had a little something special. Something that we can use more of in our department. A case like this can really show off how far you may be able to go."
He could've cared less, but the kid was eating it up. "Well I sure appreciate you letting me handle this one sir and--" Bright cut the eager deputy off. "Don't worry about it, I have the utmost faith in your deducin' capabilities. Now is Mr. Feung OK? He's shaken up but fine. His wife is on the way to pick him up. They'll be closing for the rest of the night as you might bet." said deputy Stevens. Bright fished around in his back pocket and pulls out his wallet. He removes a faded looking twenty from his billfold and hands it to deputy Stevens. "Now this part is very important, I need you to take this money, go inside and buy be a quart of that Red Star and a jumbo orange Julius."
Deputy Stevens appears a little taken aback by the request. He pauses for a moment to consider what he knows. He'd never personally spoken to Patton Bright in the near two year span at the he'd work at their department. Yet here he stood now in charge of a murder case and his boss is asking him to hand a man who was just almost robbed twenty bucks for cheap vodka and an orange slush. He decided it must be a joke and laughs. Sheriff Bright is stoned faced serious. Deputy Stevens slowly stops chuckling and then even lowers his smile as he looks into the old man's round, sweaty face. Silence fell on the two again. Stevens slowly pulls the bill from between Sheriff Bright's fingers and turns to walk inside. One more time in a labored voice Bright yells out "its a quart and a jumbo Julius!".