Old Crew Wine

graphix: spwilcen


Episode I  Episode II  Episode III  Episode IV  Episode V  Episode VI  Episode VII
Episode VIII  Episode IX

Episode I Planning Ahead – May 1, 2022

Wonder How Portnoy’s Getting Along?

Mailing list

I’ve started a list of those to be contacted when I check out.  It’s not a long list.

Short Story Long

Especially the last few years, but going as far back as sixty years, I’ve corresponded regularly with a few people.  Some I never hear from except when I initiate a conversation.  Which says something right there.  Well, no, some people are just lazy which doesn’t make them bad people, just, well, lazy, a trifle inconsiderate, but still buds, friends, interesting associates.

Here’s the deal

When I haven’t heard from someone after my last “reach out and touch,” I’ll reach out and touch again. Louder.  Knowing which ones take several “touches” to rouse them to respond, I’ll poke at those several times.  When I understand from a mutual friend one friend is still kicking ass, just doesn’t respond, I let it go.

Especially in cases of those from way, way, w-a-a-a-y back, there are no mutual friends I can ask for an update. We’re dying-off.  Going senile.  Networks are shrinking. Alternate sourcing isn’t an option.

That bugs me.

I get worried in most cases.  Just curious in others. Like they’ve run into difficulty.  Or worse.

If I’ve got a phone number, I rarely jingle-jangle. One, I’m from an age when a telephone call was avoided for expense or always connected with bad news.  Two, I’m inculcated by tours of duty, a ringing phone always meant a world of shit to be shoveled.  No one ever called to say, “Hey Sarge!  You’ve been promoted to General, stop by BOQ and pick up your O-Club keys.” Three, if the other end of the phone works and the body I’m interested in (on the debit side of communications) is capable of answering, I’ll respect that maybe they don’t want contact.  Happens.  Three-B, given a working phone, pitter-pattering heart, and okay with contact or not, {expletive} them, {expletive}, I’ve got better things to do than {expletive} beg people to know I give a {expletive}.

But {expletive}, after a while it works on you.  You know?


So I don’t want to cause someone else the same frustration or worry.

Again: so?

So. I’m making a list, two, actually, one killing electrons, the other on papyrus.  Leaving instructions for those drooling over my estate to disseminate news of my demise.  Some out there will greet such news with delight.

Others might be inclined to hoist a glass of red, drink an extra brewski, swallow a shot of Irish, or light up a good cigar in my memory. [Didn’t say anything about “honor.”]  If, that is, their keepers allow that sort of thing. [It’s my experience those charged with the well-being of oldsters take delight in forgetting “well-being” includes “quality of life” and that means you can’t deny little pleasures because some {expletive} thinks they will shorten one’s lifespan.  {Expletive}, you {expletives}! We got one foot in the hole now.  What’s one shot of hooch, one cig gonna do?

Almost made a mistake

Thought to write my own obit and file it so some dearly bereaved would only have to call it up and press “send.”  That would lead to a whoops!  The dork who’d mistakenly do that prematurely would be me. Major red-face.  Nah.  Better just put someone out after-the-fact. Elsewise, slipping-up, I’d be obligated to run around in life-camo lest I ruin someone’s joy over one lest pest.

So, excuse me…

I’m getting that list completed. Not as easy as you might think.  Some folks change email addresses and phone numbers more often than they change underwear.

Hmm.  That’s another tell. [Yutes and Internationals: “tell” as in “clue” or “hint.”]


SPWilcen, a.k.a. Espie, that {expletive}, just tucked it in.  Espie was known for, um, well, then there was his um, that is, he could surely, um, no, not that either. The old {expletive} succumbed to age and boredom.  Don’t send flowers, he can’t smell them.  Don’t donate to some charity, damned few he considered honest. There will be no memorial, he never had time for that {expletive}, sure as {expletive} won’t make an exception now.


Episode II Disheartening – May 2, 2022

You remember I wrote in “Planning Ahead” I was preparing a list of email and USPS addresses for whoever got saddled with tidying-up the mess I’ll leave when I go to the Forever After Cashier’s Window? So they could contact my correspondents to tell them to relax, I wouldn’t be pestering them anymore?

I finished.

Didn’t take long. The list wasn’t lengthy.  I must remember to keep it updated.

There has been a disheartening development.  No, not an included name no longer needed.

Word got out.  Isn’t that odd?  Can’t get folks to respond, as if…

“The answering machine has been acting all goofy.” Or

“My computer is on the fritz and my granddaughter hasn’t yet taken a look at it.” Or

“Dropped my phone in the toilet at the Legion Hall last month.”  

Yet these folk know about this list.

One had the temerity to send me an “unsubscribe” email.

Cheeky and damned disheartening.


Episode III – Old Crew Wine – May 3, 2022


Episode I

According to WordPress, one day ago you learned of my grand plan to unfrustrate my heirs. The same scheme designed to make certain those left to open that bottle of Old Crew Wine and others were notified of my demise in a timely manner. Make no mistake, I still would like to be one of the final three to see how that wine has aged. Life. It is what it is.

Episode II

Then, by my reckoning a day ago, WordPress, somewhat confused on the matter, thinking that mere hours ago, not accounting for the fact that at the stoke of midnight, human people believe one minute ago was “yesterday,” amused but befuddled, I explained one of the “old crew” sought to unsubscribe from my future-scheduled epistle of mortality. 1

You would have thought the absurdity of this had run its course.


Episode III – continuing…

No, not another “unsubscriber.”  Today, in my in-hopper, I discovered not one, but two folks asking to be added to the “News of My Passing” list.

I don’t know either of these people.  No clue as to where they live, where they work, whoda fletch they are. I’d publish them here hoping someone in WP Land could identify them, except for two reasons.2  One. I might violate their privacy.  Hey, I’m nothing if not considerate and security-aware. Two. Don’t want to slow you down. Already taken too much of your time.  You’re itching to go off in search of a spinning emoji.  Right?

Computer savvy-ish myself, I’ve investigated.  There are so many deep chasms out there, information black holes,3 it’s a little scary.  Fairly intrepid, I gave investigation a shot.  Fingertips now bruised, I’m going to need help.

I’ll recruit a cyber-dick3 to give me a hand.

1 One-sentence paragraph. Pretty Maugham-ian, huh?

2 Three. My readership [sarcasm] is so huge, not likely any of the three following me would recognize either of these nefarious souls.

3 Not sure, but this might be brand new.  I looked. Found nothing.  Depending on how much whatever electronic-shamus (cyber-dick) I find charges, might ask to have this validated, too.  Maybe a two-fer?


Episode IV Searching for a Cyber-dick – May 4, 2022

You’d think it would be easy.  If you have any internet presence at all, even only as a web-shopper,1 you are inundated with offers from people2 who are going to make you rich, make your life easier, find you true love, solve your back-yard mole problem, or sue every other bastard out there who has caused you grief.

You go to the website of a national big boy toy store, purchase a pair of professional grade lopping shears for $169.99, shipped free (standard shipping – delivery guaranteed within three weeks) because you opted for the 3-year unconditional repair or replacement warranty (terms and restrictions apply) for $259.99, which takes your order over $200.00.

Within 37 milliseconds of seeing your electronic receipt blip across your laptop screen, you have been entered into databases of approximately 375,000 companies [people] eager to make your acquaintance.3 They won’t all try to flood your email.  Some will trackback to partner buddies. The two of them will swap the straight poop each has on you, coming up with more information on you than even you have.  Then they at their leisure they flood you with telephone calls, text messages and emails. They all sound like the two of you are old buds and golly haven’t you missed them, but that’s okay, have they got a deal for you!  It’s so good you’re not gonna believe it.

You shouldn’t.  Just because they know your zipper size doesn’t mean you should be intimate with them.  So that’s the environment we now live in.  Isn’t technology wunnerful?

You know as a retired IT rookie, I searched the “names” of the persons asking addition to my end-times mailing list before I considered asking my WP community to lend a hand. Brick wall.  This was going to require professional assistance.

So I did a splatsnatch search for ‘electronic detective.’ Loads of results but nothing promising.  Cool pictures and a Caribbean time-share that looked pretty good.  Buddy skip trace.  No good.  Address detective. Nope. Old Addresses. Bookmarked a couple retirement homes but nothing else.

Wild Weird and Wacky wasn’t doing me much good.  Time to go low-tech.  Do you know how difficult it is to find a phone book today? Tough, but I found one.  Actually had something like an advertiser’s index. Mostly good for massage parlors, hourly-rate flophouses, escort services, walk-in tub installation, bail bondsmen, pawn shops, liquor stores, and salvage yards. Which gives you insight into where I found this tome. 

There were detectives with various “specialties.”  I guess I can imagine how they could make a living that way, but in some cases, it was a stretch. “AAA,” “Ace,” “Acme,” through “Xerxes,” “Youngblood,” and “Zenith.”  Started calling the least distasteful.  Nobody willing to take my case.

Disheartening.  Two I’d not talked to.  One had no phone number, just a wharfside address.  I wrote it down.  The other’s phone had been disconnected.  I wrote down “Over Banoola’s Bar & Grill, Beeker Street North.” I guessed an address. Two left to check.

Time for shoe leather.

— Notes –

1 Or meatloaf recipe hound, or want the latest scoop on the stars of “As the World Vomits,” or routinely wig-out on religious porn. One email address with mysecretemail.srv, one subscription to NAARGO (National Association for Adopted Retired Greyhound Owners) and man, you got a ticket to ride the wild wacky wonderful anywhere.  And there are folk (and companies) out there gonna make sure you don’t miss an opportunity.

2 People? Disguised as companies, sure, but in the end they’re all people.  Money-grubbing, lying, cheating, crooked bastids.

3 All perfectly legit.  They told you up front they’d only share information with their “partner” stores and suppliers. Who will share with their partners and suppliers. Ever hear of “six degrees of separation”? Imagine how quickly that plays out on the wild wacky, and ultimately webs down to Sammy Glundischindt, manufacturer of totally organic bat repellent and sonic wart removers.


Episode V Hush Investigations – May 5, 2022

Hungry when I left the office to visit PI’s searching for a snoop to track down the mysterious wannabe End-Times List subscribers, I thought to drive first to Hush Investigations, “Over Banoola’s Bar and Grill.” If the shamus wasn’t in or taking-on new cases, a bite to eat might salvage the trip.  Something of a healthy eater, not so much by choice but out of convenience, a good, greasy, loosen-up-your-bowels burger and some nasty fries were overdue.  I’d be away from Boss’s watchful eye, and given enough breath mints on the drive home, there’d be no telltale burger breath.

Twenty-five minutes later, Beeker Street showed its seedy side, which was both sides.

Parking was simple. There were two vehicles on the block, themselves in fact, on concrete blocks. Which meant those cars likely wouldn’t be targets for unauthorized borrowing.  That made my truck the hottest prospect on the street.  I snickered, thinking seriously about taping a five-dollar bill to the steering wheel with a note, “Here’s some gas money. If you’re gonna steal this clunker you’re gonna need gas soon, and ‘Good Luck.’”

Impressed by the neighborhood, I didn’t bother to lock the truck. It was a steep flight of stairs up to Hush Investigations. An exterior door opened into a short hallway with three doors leading, I imagined, to separate suites.  The first one had “April Juliann, Talent Agency” lettered on the ripple-glass door window.  “L Hushmann, Private Inquiries and Surveillance” was the second door.

Does one knock?  Or just walk in? I wondered.  The door wasn’t locked, so I walked into a single room from a 1930’s pressroom flick. Three desks, one for each wall not busy with the door, stood between wooden chairs and any audience.  Chairs either side were empty.  The one opposite the door held a man in a sleeveless t-shirt with exaggerated horse-blinders covering most of his face.  He sat motionless.

As swell as the place was to take a moment to enjoy the luxury there, I was anxious to see about my search.


“      ”


“Huh? What?”  Sleeveless ‘faced’ me, that face still hiding behind those blinders, or goggles.

“Hush Investigations?”

“Yeah. Wha’cha need?”

“You taking new cases?”

Sleeveless pulled the goggles from his face. W.C. Fields.  I swear.  Nose and all.  “Oh, sorry.” He held the goggles up for me to get a look and pronounced, “Virtual Reality.  Neat sh… unh, nifty stuff.  Ever do it?”

“No, I’m mostly into real reality.”

“Why not?  You can reach out and touch things, like they’re there, ya know?”

“Can you feel these things? With your fingertips?”

“No. Won’t be long though.  They’ll figger it out.  Smell, too. They’ll get that down, you’ll see!”

“Can’t wait.”

“Unh, why is it I get the feeling you’re smoking me?”

“Cause I am.”

“Ah. Well.  Lenny Hushmann. The ‘Hush’ of ‘Hush Investigations.’”

“You taking new clients?”

“Um. Depends.”

“On what?”

“You don’t want I should man-handle nobody or like that?”

“Need you to find someone.”

“Wife? Lover?”


“You do need help.  Can’t help there though. But I can find them. Where’d you last see them?”

“Not sure I ever have.”

“You are smoking me.”

“Deal is, someone sent me an email.  About something I consider serious.  Don’t think I know them. Want to find out who they are so I understand what it is they really want.  If they’re up to no good.”

“Most folks are.”


“Up to no good.  Email, you say?”


“Like electronic? Computers?”


“That’s all you got?”


“Don’t know’s I can do you any good.  Not keen on computers.”

“Same game as your Virtual Reality.”

“Nah.  Virtual Reality is for fun, for pleasure.  Computers come with risk.”

“So you can’t take the case?”


Before I closed the door, Lenny had his goggles back on.  I wondered what pleasure he was into. War games?  Super-sleuthing?  Probably neither.  I Left the matter open to speculation.

Banoola’s Bar and Grill was closed. I hoped the wharfside address was near a reasonably palatable-looking beanery.  That was another ten minutes’ drive, to a part of town even seedier than where I was.


Episode VI C. Warburton Agency – May 7, 2022

By the time I finished-up with Lenny Hushmann, of L Hushmann, Private Inquiries and Surveillance on Beeker Street, I was hungry enough to eat Brussels sprouts.   Don’t think if someone had run up with a steaming plate of the damned things, I’d actually eat them, but knowing how disgusting Brussels sprouts are, you have some idea how hungry I was.  Dealing with that major case of hungries, my stomach growled menacingly, scaring two stray pit bulls out of their skulls. They skittered silently down the alley, their bony little tails pointed south.

Though the condition of Banoola’s Bar and Grill left no doubt the place had been shuttered for a good while, I cupped my hands around the sides of my head and pressed my nose against the front window to take a gander inside.  Just in case Banoola’s was really a five-star joint cleverly disguised to discourage riff-raff Beeker Street walk-in luncheon traffic.

It wasn’t.

Climbing into my truck, I searched for the five-dollar bill I’d taped to the steering wheel. Remembering I’d only thought that would be a nifty deterrent, I gave up the search and twisted the ignition key.  My little beauty couldn’t wait to leave Beeker Street.  Apparently, it had seen things.

It turned-out to be a fifteen-minute drive from Beeker to the Wharfside district. Ponce de Toulouse Boulevard was completely closed because a forty-meter sloop slid off the trailer hauling it from drydock to, judging from its sorry condition, the nearest scrap yard. It was a relief to see Wharfside wasn’t as derelict as Beeker Street. Not as derelict and crowded with sailor-types of every description.

Half the storefronts’ signage was in Cantonese, a few in Korean, a few in a language I’m not familiar with and the rest in English.  The ad in the directory I’d researched was in English.  I was betting that’d be what I was looking for.

There it was.  C. Warburton Agency – Skip traces, property recovery, and personal security.

Hot and muggy on the bayfront by this time of afternoon, the second-floor office door stood wide open. Energy conservation in place would be my guess.   I walked in.

She stood at a file cabinet. Her back was to me.  Legs that went all the way from her high heels up to full, broad hips struggling to escape a tight black pencil skirt. A waist so tiny it suggested if she bent over, she might snap in half, gave way to a gray sweater emphasizing broad shoulders, with straight, long, blonde hair falling nearly back to that tiny waist. I would have been happy to wait politely while she finished her filing.  You know, so as not to interrupt important private-eye business. I figured the trip had been worthwhile even if I came up empty-handed at C. Warburton Agency.

“Excuse me.  Is this the Washburn Agency?”  Idiot.  What’d I say that for?  Who knows how long she’d have been at that filing?

She turned.  I was done watching. It was suddenly way past time to head home.  The woman was a facial doppelganger for Karl Malden.

“This is the Warburton Agency. Not Washburn.”

“That’s what I meant.”

“Can I help you?”

“I need someone to find someone, two someones, actually.”

“You need two someones to find one someone, or two someones to find two someones, or one someone to find two someones?”

“Don’t especially care how many someones it takes, but I want two someones found.”

“You’ve come to the right place.”

I wished she’d turn around.  Her voice did not match her face.  I could deal with her voice but not her face. 

“Well?” She asked.

The shock of her lop-sided lightbulb nose wearing-off, I noticed her sweater struggled to hold back natural resources every bit as much as her skirt struggled with hip real estate. Maybe a mask? I tried to focus on her face but gave up.  There was only one place I could focus. 

Yes, focusing on her lips, I recovered somewhat. “Um.  Do I need an appointment?  I mean to talk with your boss?”

“I am the boss.”

“No, a detective.”

“That too.”


“I’m C. Warburton. Connie Warburton, Private Investigations.”


Episode VII Terms Reached – May 8, 2022

C Connie Warburton stuck out her hand.  I guessed I was supposed to shake it.  Usually, like two dogs playing ‘you sniff me, I’ll sniff you,’ as far as I’m concerned, shaking hands is natural after “Bob, this is Elrod. Elrod, this is Bob,” but not so much when either Bob or Elrod hasn’t yet been named or looks to be a Bob or Elrod of questionable hygiene. Regardless of your liberated self, or how strong your impulse to latch on to any part of a drop-dead good-looking woman, shaking hands with a woman is awkward.

I shook “Karl” Connie Warburton’s hand.  It was warm and firm as you’d expect a man’s handshake to be.  It lacked calluses.  I let that go. It was surprisingly nice because fifty percent of men today don’t understand when shaking hands, it’s a contest: you’re supposed to try to crush the other man’s hand or at least bring tears to his eyes when shaking hands.  In Karl’s case, her masculine grip worked against every attempt I made to find a way she didn’t look exactly like Karl Malden.  I suspect she held back a bit on the “bring tears to his eyes” thing.

“Karl” C Warburton got right to work. She sat behind a large desk and pointed to a chair opposite hers. I sat. The old desk between us hid most of the Warburton Agency assets.  I found myself wishing she’d realize she had filing needing to be finished before some pressing deadline. She didn’t.

“So, these someones you want to find?  When’d you last see them?”

“Not entirely sure I’ve ever seen them. Not sure I even know them.”

“Sorry.  You’re going to have to explain.”

You know it’s a convoluted story.  I handed Karl a paper containing the names, my personal particulars, and told Karl my tale, start to finish. In the process, I got comfortable, accustomed to the face sitting across from me.

“Karl…  Unh, Sorry Ms. Warburton I meant…”

“Okay, I get that a lot.”

I feigned misunderstanding, “Get what?”

“Called Karl.  You know, Karl Malden.  I don’t see it, but some people think I resemble the man.”

“Well, I certainly didn’t…”

“Yes, you did.”

Hmmm.  Sharp.  C Connie “Karl” just might be able to pull this off. “I apologize.  I want to find out who these people are, if they are people.”

“No need to apologize.  Lived with it all my life. Comes in handy once in a while.  Shock value.”

“I see…”

“Well, yes, of course you do.  I’m stacked like a brick battleship.”

“Um. Ah…”

“I can tell when a man notices. Women too.”

“Well. That’s goo…”

“I’ll take your case.”

“That’d be great.  A retainer?”

“Not necessary. I have you pegged as a square shooter.”


“And to set your mind at ease and maybe give you something to think about – in enviable circumstances, in dimmed lighting, you’d have one hell of a tough time remembering I have a face that stops clocks.”

“I not sure I…”

“Understand? Sure you do.  Two-fifty a day and expenses.  If I have to shoot anyone, that’s extra.”

“Okay. I sign something?”

“No. Welch on me, bet your ass I’ll find you.  You don’t want that.”

“No problem there.”

“Or maybe you do.  Anything else I need to know?”


We stood.  C Connie stuck her hand out again.  I shook it.  It was damp. Solid. Warm.  But damp.

She asked, “Any other questions for me?”

“You know a good place to eat?”


Episode VIII Field Report – May 13, 2022

Mouseover. Assigned words today are violence, sleuthing, unbeknownst, harbinger, and trophies.  Best we dispense with these words quickly so as not to impede the flow of an otherwise delicious episode. Oh. For you lexiphobes – under 500 words.

C Connie Warburton suggested we have late lunch at a Thai joint two blocks from Wharfside, and, what the hell, put off sleuthing until tomorrow.  Offered to show me her Kai-Pu-Wok Karate trophies. I took a pass. Concerned her personal interest a harbinger of lurking danger, I fully suspected the woman capable of carnal violence. Besides, by then hunger took a backseat to other preoccupations.

Soon I’d know the unknowns keen on hearing of my kicking-off or more worried I might kick-off unbeknownst to them.  I hoped one was a long-lost flame from college.  Then, I fancied the idea of twins – twins maybe I’d never noticed in high school who back in the day had crushes on me and dreamt of making their dream reality. I was up for either.

Regardless, knowing who these unknowns were, I could safely ignore them or confront them and be done with it.

A looming danger was that the longer I was away from C Connie, the less I remembered Karl Malden, the more overpowering the memory of her filing cabinet profile.

Two days after I’d visited the C Warburton Agency, my cell phone vibrated.

“Hello, this is…”  I interrupted myself. 

Anybody calls me, roughly a ninety percent chance they know who they called.  The idiots who cannot dial correctly – and act like it’s your fault they have a wrong number – had no business learning who I thought I was.  Turned out it was not one of the ninety-percent and not one of the idiots, but someone in a hurry, prepared to interrupt anyway.

“Cee Warburton here.  Got a field report for you.”

“Wow! That was fast, Ms. Warburton.”

“Call me C W.”

“I’ll stick with Ms. Warburton. If that’s okay.”

“Suit yourself. But I thought we were, you know…”


“Close.  I felt we were like, sympatico.”

“I’m slow to get close to people.”

“Right. Let’s get this report put to bed.”

“Geeze. Only been two days. So you’ve found out who or what the two names are?”


“Four what?”


“No, pretty sure I gave you two.”

“There are four now.”


“Online first.  Got to the Dark Web.  Closing in on something when two spooks started dogging my traffic.”

“Don’t understand.”

“Make it simple. No resolution but two new ‘names’ are interested in you.  You piss off some shark?”


“Black marketer?”


“Import-export consortium?  Democrat?”

“Don’t think so.”


“I would know?”

“Whoever these folks are, they’re very interested. Gave me heavy on-line grief.”

“You can take care of yourself.”

“Not worried about me. Someplace you can go?”

“No. Unh. Hotel maybe?”

“You got cash for two, three weeks?”


“No card.  They’ll know where you are and have muscle there before you get a bag into your room.”

“Not good.”

“Hotel’s out. You’ll have to bunk at my place.”

“Isn’t that some kind of conflict of interest?”

“No conflict with my interests. You know where Loomis Park is?”


“Meet me at my office.”


Episode IX Darkside Tommy – May 15, 2022

Carrying a small duffle bag jammed with underwear, tees, socks, my shaving gear, and three pair of clean Levi’s, I pounded the button on the garage wall to open the garage door. Someone or something with a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit gravelled my name. It caught me by surprise.  Actually, put me in that precarious situation where both exhaust sphincters spasmed almost to the point of release. Probably, it being Tuesday, I had on clean tighty-whities, and laundry wasn’t until Saturday, natural urges lost out to good potty-training.

“Yeah, that’s me,” I replied out of reflex as one does when your strength is as the strength of ten because your heart is pure. Immediately reconsidering, I realized people are for the most part correct when they tell me, ‘You have shit for brains.’

Cigarettes launched into his sales pitch. “Jimmy Lewiston says I gotta bust both your kneecaps.  Capeesh?”

I could hear cigarettes but couldn’t see him.  I considered running. While I still had kneecaps.  I stalled, “Capeesh?”

“Yeah. Allus wanted to say that.  Eye-tal-yin you know, for ‘you dig?’”

“What!  Bust kneecaps? What for?” 

“Spoiled his niece’s wedding.  His favorite niece.” The most nondescript man you’d ever see stepped into the light of the open garage door.

Expecting anyone nefarious enough to smash kneecaps for a living to look at least a little sinister, I was disappointed Mister Lewiston had dispatched Tommy Nondescript to take care of business.  I also wondered if the dark web’s lackluster description of me was a good or bad thing. Tommy Disappointing giving away twenty pounds in my favor and looking like he’d hadn’t slept well in a week, I was foolishly encouraged.  “I never heard of the man. I’m thinking mistaken identity. This Lewiston guy give you anything besides a name?”

“Got a picture.” Tommy reached into his inside suitcoat pocket. 

I flinched.  An inside pocket was too small for a baseball bat but about the right size for a small caliber pistol. Kneecaps still intact, I could outrun a baseball bat but didn’t have much chance outrunning a gunshot. Then again, I supposed kneecaps could be broken by well-placed gunshots with less effort than using a 36-inch Louisville Slugger. I breathed a sigh of relief, sort of, when Tommy pulled out a photograph.

“Man, you don’t look nothing like this,” mused Tommy.  “Here.  Lookit. You know this guy?”

“That’s not me! That’s one ugly man!”

“Clearly not you. But do you know him?”

“Never seen him before.”

“Well, good thing for you.”

“You mean you aren’t gonna bust my knees anyway?”

“You think I do this for fun?”

“Well, dunno.  Never met a kneecap guy before.”

“Kneecap guy.  That’s funny.”

“Not to me.”

‘It’s a job, man. Well, that’s the breaks.  No pun there, fella.  Ah, well, shit.”

“Not ‘ah shit!’ as far as I’m concerned.”

“Understand. But look at it from my point of view.”

“How’s that?”

“I got expenses, you know?  Any idea what airfare is to this hick place?”

“From where?”

“From South… Um, let’s just say I ain’t local. Cost me a bundle.”

“Well maybe you can pick up a little odd job on the side?” Up close, Tommy smelled of garlic and Old Spice, but not of cigarettes. “Say, you don’t smoke?”

“Naw. Ain’t healthy, you know. Why?”

“Just curious.”

“Unh, yeah. Okay. About this ‘side job.’ Whaddaya mean?”

“Well there’s this woman, down at the state offices…”

“Don’t do citizen contracts.”

“Why not?”

“Pay stinks. I mean corporations and cabals can pay, you know? John Average…” Tommy shrugged. 

“Not so much, eh?”

“Right. Besides you said ‘a woman.’”

“Did. You interested?”

“No.  Woman. Too dangerous.”

“Oh, I see.  A sissy huh?”

“Nothing sissy about it. Gotta be more careful.  Women are pack animals. Hard to isolate, see?”

“Yeah, guess so.”

“So I’d rather not, all the same to you.”

“Too bad.”

“Love to stay and chat but I gotta check with Mister Lewiston.  See what he wants I should do next.”

“Sorry to disappoint.”

“At’s okay. Have a nice day.”


© spwilcen

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