A Writing Exercise
|The Harleys lined up like horses outside a western saloon were the first clues to the type of establishment I was about to enter. The neon signs highlighted the fare. I adjusted the gun in the waistband of my jeans and pulled my leather jacket, borrowed from a friend, down to cover it. I took another look at the mugshot. The face looking back at me was one only a mother could love.
Every eye was on me as I sashayed through the swing doors. "Hey, Gorgeous, you looking for me?" The guy with the high opinion of himself was missing a few teeth, probably knocked out by the last girl he had propositioned. I chose to ignore him. Such a weedy specimen was no threat. I looked about for the guy with the scar I had come to find.
Through the haze of cigarette smoke I could make out the tattered remains of a sign; a cigarette with a red line through it.The floor was littered with butts and other assorted detritus. Heavy metal blared from the juke box and two long-haired rockers were head banging to the beat.
I had to push a couple of empty, rustic looking chairs out of the way to reach the bar. I guess they were used to a larger crowd.
"What can I get ya?" A dose of salmonella from the look of the towel hanging loosely round the thick neck of the barman.
"Coke, and some information." I pulled a hundred from my roll.
"The coke I can do, the information, heh ..." Ears were turning to the conversation, their owners moving to encircle me. I did my best to remain calm, at least on the outside.
"What's a nice girl like you doin' in a joint like this?" Two beefy arms rested on the bar with me the meat in the sandwich. I took a deep breath. Muscular legs pressed into my behind. Any minute now this man mountain was going to discover the gun.
"I'm looking for someone." I managed to hide the tremble in my voice.
"You a cop?"
"No, this is personal." I showed the guy the photo with a shaking hand. He took a step back and I turned to face him.
"And suppose I know this guy, what would you be planning to do to him?"
"That would be none of your business." I turned back to the bar. He grabbed my arm and spun me back to face him.
"It is my business, he's a friend. Now I wouldn't want anything bad to happen to a friend, would I?"
"If you're his friend you must know Mr. Brown." The guy who sent me used that name though I doubted it was his own.
"Eliot Brown? Of course. How is the old reprobate?" Surprise, surprise. So it was his real name and this guy knew him. With the mention of the name the room relaxed; I was among friends, well, sort of.
"Not so good. That's why he sent me to find his nephew."
"You're too late. Ozzie died in a bike crash last week. We're here for a kinda final farewell ride."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. I guess Mr. Brown has nobody to leave the business to then." And I might not get paid.
"You got an address for our Eliot?" What was this guy hoping for, a share of the old man's estate? "We need someone to pay the funeral bill or they might dig him up again. An' he stunk bad enough when he was alive." Several of the group laughed, while others stared glumly into their beer.
"Oh, I think Mr. Brown will be amenable to paying his nephew's funeral expenses. If you can let me have the invoice I'll take it back with me."
"So, you're not gonna tell me where he is?"
"Well, I wouldn't want anything bad to happen to him, would I."
"Touche." He looked me up and down. "Anyone mind if the chick comes along for the ride?"