A Nick Kepler Story
by James R. Winter
......I sat in the parking lot
of Silky's, stunned. For a week now, I had tailed Harry Long,
a suburban husband whose biggest crime seemed to be a boring
life. His wife didn't believe that, but I followed him anyway:
to work, to a neighborhood bar in Lakewood, to the Masonic Temple,
and even to a church function he and his wife attended. The Masons
looked the most suspicious, if only because they closed their
doors to the public. I'd started the job on Monday. On Friday
night, for the first time since I became his shadow, Harry Long
......You didn't go to Silky's
just for a lap dance or to stuff twenties in Chastity's garter
belt while she humped a metal pole. Silky's was on Brook Park
Road, which meant Cleveland's red light district. There, the
clubs offered everything decency groups feared most. Talk to
the right dancer, the right bartender, or the right bouncer,
and pretty much any vice imaginable could be had for a price.
Brook Park politicians had to be taking money to let it flourish
like it did.
......Watching him move toward
the building, I shook my head in wonder. "Harry, Harry,
Harry," I said out loud, "you almost had me fooled."
* * * *
......I gave him five minutes
to get settled before going in myself. A fat linebacker type
manned the door, sitting on a stool and bulging out of his tuxedo
vest. I asked for Gypsy.
he said. "You want singles tonight, buddy?"
......I reached into my wallet
and slipped out a twenty. "I want to talk to Gypsy, if she's
......"People in Hell want
ice water, too."
......I pulled out a ten. "Yes,
but Gypsy will talk to me if you tell her Nick's here."
......He shoved the two bills
in his vest pocket. "Watch the door for me?"
......"Yeah. Sure. Why not?"
......He hopped off his stool
and headed inside. While he was gone, I let five guys from the
nearby Ford Engine Plant in without paying cover.
......Five minutes later, the
bouncer returned. "Anyone come in while I was inside?"
......"Nope. I think everyone's
catching the nude mud wrestling over at the Play Pen."
said as he squirmed to get comfortable on his stool. "I
keep telling Silk we gotta start getting the big shows on the
weekend." He jerked a thumb toward the showroom. "Gypsy's
upstairs in someone's lap at the moment. You can wait at the
* * * *
......Inside, Silky's looked
like any other strip club. Girls in scanty costumes milling about,
tempting male (and sometimes female) guests to join them in the
back booths for a couch dance or on the balcony for a lap dance.
At some of the tables, though, I spotted girls leaning in, whispering
to men, taking money from them but not heading to the back or
upstairs. The men would meet them in the parking lot later. Depending
on how much cash was exchanged, the deals would be consummated
in a car or at one of the motels along the strip. Silky took
a cut of any deals the girls made there, but he didn't permit
the whores on his staff to actually work inside the club.
......Auto workers, airline pilots,
and workers from Hopkins Airport made up most of the crowd. They
packed themselves tightly around the stage while a Hispanic girl
performed acrobatics on the pole to a throbbing techno beat.
I nursed a Scotch and water while I scanned the room. An Asian
girl named Jade, wearing a green evening gown, began talking
to me. Telling me how much I wanted to buy her a drink, how handsome
I was -- she'd say anything to separate me from of my money.
Meanwhile, I spotted Harry, somehow standing apart from the crowd
while in the middle of it.
......He was a pale man, fortyish,
with a bit of a paunch. He stood with his shoulders stooped,
his hands in his pockets. I suppose I should have photographed
him, but I'd once brought a camcorder into Silky's lot while
following another subject. My car and I survived. I still hadn't
replaced the camcorder. That was fine. I had my Nikon and a borrowed
Polaroid. They would do nicely if Harry decided to hire one of
the girls to escort him to a motel.
......Jade began telling me in
a bad Vietnamese accent what she could do while sitting in my
lap, I saw Gypsy come down from the balcony on the arm of her
most recent client.
......She was tall and slender.
Her red teddy stood out against her ebony skin. She spotted me
I said to Jade. "I have an appointment with someone."
......Jade's accent vanished
as she started swearing at me in a pure Rust Belt drawl. I pushed
my way through the crowd and met Gypsy at an empty table.
......"Well, hello, stranger,"
I said. "Busy tonight?"
......She gave me a hug. "It's
Friday. I'm always busy. How about you?"
......Gypsy knew who and what
I was. We met when I'd busted her during my waning days as a
cop. I'd used her as an informant since getting my PI ticket.
......"I wanted to see you
on the pole," I said, smiling. "And I'm tailing someone.
I thought maybe you could help. Do you still do that other
kind of dancing?"
......"You mean the tricky
......"Not out of here anymore.
I trick by referral now, appointment only, and for prices you
can't afford." She reached down and grabbed my package.
"But you know I'll give you a discount if you ever get lonely."
......"That a promise?"
We both knew I'd never do it, nor would I take what she offered
for free. "Actually, I'm following that guy and wondered
if you knew anything about him."
......She looked where I was
pointing and saw Harry. She wrinkled her nose. "Him? He
gives me the creeps."
......"What do you know
......"He's been coming
in for a couple of months now. I know his name is Harry. I know
he has roving hands. I gave him a lap dance last week, and he
spent the entire time squeezing my tits."
......"I thought you didn't
let the customers touch you."
...... "If they pay a little
extra, they get a little extra. But that only goes so far. Harry
paid extra. You know how paranoid Silky is."
......"Not too paranoid
to take his cut. So Harry's a regular?"
......"Every Friday and
Saturday. Sometimes during the week." She gave him a sideways
glance. "A couple of the girls are afraid of him, but they
won't talk about it. And Silky isn't the most sensitive guy."
......I watched Harry. He seemed
too timid to go near the stage. "Maybe he grabbed at them
or something? I assume some of the dancers here are just... dancers."
......"More than you think,"
said Gypsy. "The skin trade is dying in this part of town.
Silky knows it's only a matter of time before they shut him down
and run us out of here."
......"And you plan to be
out of the sex trade by then, right?"
......She took my hand and squeezed
it. "I'll be done stripping. As for sex, when the time comes,
it'll be a diversion instead of a living."
......"I promise. Now, what
do you want to do? Photograph us going to a motel?"
......"Nothing so elaborate.
What if I paid you to give him a lap dance? Maybe you can ask
him some useful questions while dry humping him upstairs."
......"What kind of questions?"
......"Ask him how he likes
the motel across the road. What kind of nookie does he like?
If he has a naked woman squirming in his lap, he's likely to
......She smiled at me again.
I'd have a tough time explaining that expense to Harry's wife.
......"The going rate is
thirty. For you, fifteen." She winked at me. "And that's
for getting me off the smack habit."
......Gypsy's smile became wicked.
"That you have to pay a lot more for."
* * * *
......I sat back and watched
Gypsy work her magic. She draped herself on Harry, whispering
in his ear, patting him on the ass. He had the most beatific
smile on his face as Gypsy led him to the bar. He was convinced
he wanted to buy her a drink. I kept nursing my Scotch. When
Jade returned to lure me upstairs, I told her I was gay.
......Gypsy took Harry by the
hand and guided him up to the balcony, out of sight of the floor
crowd. You could see the girls in back giving couch dances, but
lap dances were a private matter. The only way to watch was to
get one yourself.
......Gypsy and Harry came down
ten minutes later. Gypsy had her clothes rolled up under her
arm, clad only in a garter on her left thigh. The men cheered
and a few swatted her on the rump, which she took in stride.
She strolled right up to me, put one hand around my neck, and
kissed me. "Meet me for coffee after my shift," she
said. "Tell you what I learned."
......She walked back to her
dressing room to the cheers and catcalls of an appreciative crowd.
I glanced down the bar and saw Harry huddling with the bartender.
Money changed hands, but Harry didn't get a drink. He shuffled
on back into the crowd to watch Jade as she took the stage.
......"Did you really tell
her you were gay?"
......I turned to see the bartender
behind me. I smiled, reached across the bar, and stroked his
hand lightly with my finger. "Well, you know, this is
a great place to pick up guys."
......The bartender recoiled,
and I laughed. I threw a five down on the bar and left.
* * * *
...... I parked my car in the
lot at the Lancelot Inn across from Silky's. The location afforded
me a clear shot of the entrance to the strip club. With the right
film, right shutter speed, and right lens, I'd be able to shoot
Harry pretty well under the sodium lights of Silky's lot. I settled
in and waited.
......Half an hour later, Harry
emerged with a lady on his arm, a twentyish redhead. She leaned
heavily on him, like she was drunk or high. I snapped a couple
of photos. The camera shop I frequented could get them to come
out well enough to satisfy Harry's wife.
......Then again, if my client
could be satisfied, she probably wouldn't have hired me. I watched
Harry guide the redhead to his car. He drove across the street
to the Lancelot. I went for cover as he pulled into the parking
lot, but managed to get a shot of him leading the girl into his
......I liked that about the
Lancelot. As long as Silky employed hookers as dancers, the Lancelot
would do a lot of business. And as long as married men like Harry
hired those hookers, I'd do a lot of business at the Lancelot
as well. I checked my watch. Gypsy had a couple more hours on
her shift. I drove over to a little bar I knew by the airport.
There I had dinner and watched the planes come in.
* * * *
......"You really told Jade
you were gay?"
......The look on Gypsy's face
was priceless. I think she half believed it. "She interrupted
my surveillance. I didn't expect her to tell the bartender."
......"That's José. He's her boyfriend," she said. "He's nervous about you now."
......"He's not my type."
......We sat in an all-night
diner in Parma, about a mile from Silky's and two miles from
the airport. Gypsy had changed into jeans and a baggy sweatshirt
that did nothing to hide her body. She ordered a full breakfast.
I sipped coffee.
......"So what did you find
out about Harry?"
......"He's a very lonely
man. Silky's is his only outlet."
......"He has a wife."
......"Your client? I got
an earful about her. And you want to know why he's lonely?"
......She had a point there.
"I know. She's a control freak. Calls me three times a day
demanding an update. She paid me to follow Harry. It just so
happens he's cheating on her."
......She looked around and leaned
in toward me. "Tell me what you saw," she whispered.
......"Harry took one of
the girls the Lancelot. A redhead."
......"I snapped a photo
of them from across the street."
......I shrugged. "I do
it all the time. Low speed film, slower shutter speed..."
......She put up her hand. "I
get it. What happened when they left the club?"
......"He came right over
to the Lancelot. Marlena looked kind of drunk. She did get
her cash up front, didn't she?"
......"If she looked drunk,
I doubt it." She reached into her purse. "And if she
did, she won't remember it." She brought her hand out of
her purse and dropped four little pills on the table.
......They looked like ibuprofen
tablets. "What are those?"
......"Harry's magic love
potion. If Marlena's tricking, she's doing it for free tonight."
......I picked up one of the
pills and looked it over. It had the word "Roche" engraved
on one side. "Where'd you get these?"
......"I picked his pocket."
......I dropped the pill back
on the table with the others. "You do realize I can't give
these to the police, especially, since both you and I have handled
......"No, but you can put
a bug in their ear."
......I could already see how
well that would go over. "I'm going to need something more
than pilfered pills. Anyway, I'm only following a cheating spouse."
......Her eyes narrowed. "Well,
I'd say you found something more than that."
......I looked down at the pills
again. "I'll see what I can do."
......* * * *
......The bug went into the ear
of Deputy Rick Reese, who worked in Narcotics. We met for beer
a Flannigan's Pub downtown.
......"Where'd you get these?"
He poked at the four little pills in the palm of his hand. "Having
......"Dancer at Silky's
in Brook Park," I said. "She found them during a lap
......A tall black man in his
late thirties, Reese had a rubbery face prone to smiling. That
face got him by quite nicely during narcotics stings. He didn't
look like a cop, at least not until the smile turned into a scowl.
That served him well in drug busts.
......He was scowling now. "Found?
Don't you mean 'stole'?"
......I shrugged and took a sip
......"What do you want
me to do with this?"
......"The guy's a predator,"
I said. "Gypsy and I think..."
......"Gypsy? That the hooker
you've been using as an snitch off and on for the last three
......"Actually, the appropriate
term these days is 'call girl.'"
She can afford a better lawyer now."
......"I'm not saying arrest
the guy based on some pilfered pills. Just put him under surveillance.
Watch him. See where he's getting this stuff."
......Reese looked at the pills
again, dropping them from one hand to the other and back. "Rohypnol's
not really a priority with the Sheriff's Department."
......"Rick, this guy's
a serial rapist."
......"Maybe, but I saw
him take a girl into the Lancelot. She could barely walk a straight
......He handed me the pills
back. "Give me what you got. I'll talk to the lieutenant
I explained the case I took for Harry Long's wife, about how
Harry was everything he'd told his wife he was until Friday night.
"It's supposed to be a simple domestic case. Now I've got
narcotics and rape."
He handed me back the pills. "You yourself thought that
girl was drunk. Stolen roofies are useless. I can talk to the
lieutenant, though." He finished his beer. "Be nice
if that girl you saw can tell us if she woke up with the mother
of all hangovers. That's usually the end result of a roofie high.
Assuming she doesn't think she drank too much."
......I put the pills back in
my pocket. "Thanks, Rick. I appreciate this."
......"Thank me if we get
anywhere with this." He tossed a five on the bar. "We're
just the Sheriff's Department, Nick. In this town, that doesn't
count for much these days."
......Maybe he was right, but
with Brook Park letting the flesh trade flourish out in the open,
I'd be damned if I trusted them with this.
* * * *
......Monday morning, Reese proved
just how redundant the Sheriff's Department had become. Officially,
the Sheriff did not want to get into a pissing contest with the
Brook Park Police. Unofficially, the Sheriff had an election
to think about and wanted that Fraternal Order of Police endorsement
......Reese called me at my office
to break the bad news. After apologizing more than he needed,
he let me know he wasn't dropping the matter.
......"Get me his source,"
he said. "Find me the guy supplying Long with roofies, and
I promise you I'll take them both down myself."
......I looked over at the stack
of folders on my desk. TTG Insurance, my landlord and primary
client, wanted me to earn my free rent, not to mention a few
extra bucks. "That might take a while. Someone else wants
my time and attention, too. I can't really say no."
......"You're dropping it?"
......"Not really. I need
to regroup before I tackle this again."
......"And pay the rent."
I hung up and started thumbing through the claims files. An arson
case would pay my rent, and the two worker comp cases from another
division would pad my wallet nicely. Unfortunately, I had to
talk to Mrs. Long first. I checked my desk drawer for aspirin.
* * * *
......I also had to meet with
Gypsy. I ordered Chinese food delivered and commandeered one
of TTG's conference rooms. I'd need the privacy and didn't want
the phone ringing every five minutes.
......Gypsy arrived at noon sharp.
She looked good in her tailored pantsuit, her hair coiffed to
perfection. She was neither a dancer nor a call girl now. She
was a businesswoman. "They said what? No probable cause?"
......"Settle down, Gyps,"
I said. "Reese can't do anything on the basis of stolen
......"Nick, Harry Long
drugged and raped Marlena."
......"Did she say that?"
......"She told me. She
quit Silky's yesterday, cleaned out her apartment, and blew town.
She wasn't tricking with Harry."
......"Why didn't you say
that the other night? I could have told Reese."
......"I thought she was
tricking. I didn't know she wasn't until yesterday. And only
when I drove her to the bus station."
......"Where'd she go? If
we find her, she can give Reese the ammo he needs to pursue Long."
......"She wouldn't tell
me, and I didn't press her. So when do you follow him again?"
......"I don't," I
said. "His wife's case is finished. I gave her the pictures
......"So you're just going
to let him go?"
......"No, but I do need
to take care of business first."
......"Business? Nick, he's
preying on us. Do you think he pays any of us for a trick when
he can drug us? I talked to one of the working girls at the club.
She said he hired her over drinks two weeks ago. Next thing she
knew, she woke up in a motel room a splitting headache and no
money. Marlena probably had no idea what Harry wanted."
......"I understand, Gypsy,
but I also have clients to take care of."
......"Any of those clients
ever take a bullet for you?"
......She might as well have
slapped me. "That's not fair, Gyps. It's not like I'm abandoning
......"Yes, you are. Admit
it. I'm the only whore you ever thought of as human."
......"Gypsy, I never..."
......"Bullshit. Since I'm
not the victim here, you're going back to your nice, safe insurance
company with the perky secretary and the free rent to forget
about this. No one sticks up for us. No one cares. We sell our
bodies, so no one gives a damn what happens to us. If I hadn't
stepped in front of that shooter, you'd be dead now. That's the
only reason you ever gave a damn about me."
......I was glad I'd shut the
conference room door, though I'd heard shouting through it more
than once. "Will you keep it down? And don't forget who
got you off your heroin habit. I stuck by you because I know
what you really are and what you ought to be. Don't forget that.
It's the only reason I helped you out when you were still tricking
in parking lots for twenty bucks and a hit of smack. How many
times did I save you from an overdose?"
......She folded her arms and
looked away. "Point taken."
......I watched her for a moment,
waiting for her to cool off.
......"Guys like Long, we're
only meat to them," she said.
......"And how much longer
are you going to feed them, Gypsy?" I said. "Look at
yourself. You've got enough money socked away to go straight,
start a new life. Why do you still do this?"
......She closed her eyes. "I
knew you'd come back to that. You always do."
......"Well, you did take
a bullet for me."
......When she opened her eyes
again, she smiled. "When the time is right, Nick, I'll get
out." She reached across the table and patted my hand. "Not
much longer. I promise."
...... I squeezed her hand. "Look,
it's Monday. Harry usually prowls on the weekends. That gives
us time to think of something before he strikes again. We'll
find a way to nail him, Gyps."
......"Promise. Let me take
care of some clients first. Okay?"
......She didn't say anything.
She had a far away look in her eye that I didn't like. "I
have an idea."
......"What is it?"
......"I'll tell you Friday."
......I started to dread Friday.
* * * *......
......The rest of the week, I
worked insurance claims, tailed another cheating spouse, tracked
down a bail jumper for a Pennsylvania bounty hunter, and met
with equipment vendors. Friday evening, I tried to explain to
another bounty hunter why I didn't want to go to Sault Ste. Marie.
He had trouble grasping the concept of March weather in Michigan's
......As I started explaining
for the tenth time why I didn't want to go anywhere north of
Detroit this time of year, my secretary walked in, scribbled
something on a pad, and told me she'd see me Monday. I read the
pad as my bounty hunter friend droned on about the pay involved.
I stopped listening as soon as I read the note:......
Gypsy says get out to Silky's now, before the beast
starts to feed.......
......"Listen, Jake, gotta
go. Emergency." I hung up in the middle of Jake's story
and dialed Reese's cell.
......"This had better be
good," he said. "I've got courtside Cavs tickets."
......"Gypsy's going after
Harry Long," I said. "I need backup."
......After a long pause, he
said, "Oh, hell. Cavs are going to finish last again this
year anyway. Where?"
......"Silky's on Brook
Park Road. Thirty minutes?"
......"Better make it forty-five.
There's an accident on I-90 just before the airport."
......Christ, if it wasn't one
thing, it was another. "I'll try the side streets. Just
buzz me when you're on Brook Park Road."
* * * *
...... It took me forty-five
minutes anyway. By the time traffic cleared, I'd reached the
airport and was heading east on Brook Park Road. Reese wasn't
in Silky's lot. I didn't wait.
......I paid regular cover this
time, not wanting to deal with the bouncer's needy fingers. Inside,
I scanned the room for either Gypsy or Long then climbed to the
balcony unescorted. Three women writhed naked in the laps of
their slobbering male customers. One of them gave me a dirty
look for watching. I headed back downstairs and spotted Jade,
the Asian girl I'd blown off last week.
......"Is Gypsy here?"
I said, grabbing her arm.
......"Hey!" She pulled
away from me and brought her hand back to slap me. "Don't
ever touch the... Oh, it's you. Very funny with the gay shit
last week. What do you want?"
......"Gypsy," I said,
trying to sound calm. "Is she still here?"
......"I don't know. She
wasn't supposed to be in tonight, but she came anyway. I guess
she's trying to score a trick or two. As soon as she came out
to work the crowd, she made a bee-line for this dumpy looking
guy who comes in every weekend. She got him to buy her a drink
then left with him."
......"Maybe half an hour
......Shit. I was too late. Or was I? I ran over to the bar and flagged José. "Did you talk to Gypsy tonight?"
......José had the bar again tonight. "I thought Gypsy wasn't your type."
......"Cute. You should
do standup. Your girlfriend said Gypsy had a drink with a customer
and left with him. Do you remember?"
......He hesitated for a moment
then said, "What's your name?"
......"Ah!" He turned
around to the cash register and pulled something out from underneath.
"She was expecting you." He held up an envelope. "She
told me to give this to you."
......I took the envelope and
opened it. A motel key for the Lancelot across the street fell
into my hand. I pulled out a note.
......Don't ask questions.
As soon as you get this, get over here. Don't knock. Just come
in. I'm counting on you.
......I shoved the note and the
key in my pocket. "Thanks." I headed out the door.
.* * * *
......I grabbed my Browning 9mm
from the car, checking the chamber and the clip. As I ran across
Brook Park Road, dodging traffic, I called Reese on my cell.
"Where the hell are you?"
......"The I-90 split,"
he said. "A tractor-trailer tipped over trying to avoid
the accident. Now it's a real mess out here."
......"Don't you have a
flasher you can stick on your roof to get through?"
......"Gridlock is gridlock.
You should see how long it took the firefighters to get here."
......"Five minutes maybe?
Ten? I'm almost through this mess. The State Troopers have things
......I gave him the room number
at the Lancelot and told him to meet me there.
......I ran around the back of
the motel and up to the balcony. Gypsy must have picked a second
floor room to make escape difficult. I found Room 223 and put
my ear to the door.
......I heard a woman moan. It
didn't sound sexual, but then I didn't know what Gypsy sounded
like during sex. I also heard a smacking sound, like flesh hitting
This came from a man.
......I thumbed the Browning's
safety, put the key in the lock, and pushed open the door. Someone
had slipped the chain across it. I backed up and put my shoulder
into it, ripping the chain from the doorframe.
......Harry Long, clad only in
his boxers, stood staring at me slack-jawed. "What the...?"
On the bed lay Gypsy, stripped naked, her head rolling from side-to-side.
She looked like she had the flu. She moaned again.
......I had the gun up and stood
in three-point stance. "Freeze!"
......Instinctively, his hands
......"Hands on your head,"
I said. "Now!"
......Long did as he was told.
......"I can explain."
He was whining. It grated my nerves.
......"Shut up. Turn around."
......"She made me do it!
She said she likes to be..."
...... I put the barrel of the
gun in his face. "I've got one already in the chamber. I'll
tell you one more time. Turn around."
......He started shaking but
did as he was told. "Look, whatever you want, man, I'll
......"On your knees."
......"Please! I've got
a wife at home..."
......"We've met. You take
nice pictures. Now on your goddamned knees." I pushed the
gun against his skull to emphasize the point.
......Slowly, Long got down on
his knees. "That girl's a freak. Says she likes to be drugged.
Told me to put it in her drink."
......"Who's your supplier?"
I said. "Come on, Harry. I've got a deputy sheriff on his
way. Who's your supplier?"
......"She gave them to
......I poked him hard with the
muzzle again. "Last chance before the rescue squad finds
your brains all over the wall. Who is your supplier?"
......"She wanted to
be drugged!" He started sobbing. "Oh, please don't
let my wife find out! Please! Please!"
......This was getting me nowhere.
I thumbed the safety back on, flipped the gun around in my hand,
and swung the butt at the back of Harry's skull. He went down
face first into the carpet.
......I climbed onto the bed,
threw my jacket around Gypsy and rocked her. "It's okay,
Gyps. I'm here. It's okay. You're safe now."
......I doubted she was even
aware of me in her state. "I'm cold," she said, and
......When Reese arrived five
minutes later, he saw Harry. I gave him a weak grin and said,
"Damn shame he tripped like that."
......"Yeah, damn shame.
I'll make sure he remembers that's what happened when we get
* * * *
......They took Gypsy to the
ER. There, the doctor ran a test for rohypnol in her blood stream.
If it flagged positive, Harry Long would go be charged attempted
rape and possession of a controlled substance. He'd be looking
at probably three years in Mansfield Reformatory.
......Gypsy lay in one of the
examining rooms. She drifted in and out of consciousness, sometimes
able to talk, sometimes mumbling incoherently. Because of the
roofies, she most likely wouldn't remember any of what happened
to her that night.
......About an hour after we
had arrived, her eyes fluttered open. She saw me and smiled.
......I squeezed her hand.
......"Did you get him?
Did you get Harry?"
......"I got him,"
I said. "Cleaned his clock in the process."
......I don't know why I told
her any of this. She'd only forget it as soon as she fell asleep
......Her eyelids fluttered again,
then drooped. "I'm so tired... so tired..." Her eyes
closed. "Thank you," she whispered and drifted off
......I checked my watch. It
was after nine. I decided to leave Gypsy in the capable hands
of the hospital staff. I'd pick her up in the morning and take
......Reese waited for me in
the waiting room. He'd finished up with Harry Long less than
half an hour ago.
......"Harry gets to cool
his heels at the Justice Center for the weekend," he said.
"Pretty stupid stunt your friend pulled. What if you'd shown
up ten minutes later?"
......"I know it was stupid,"
I said. "And I promise when she recovers tomorrow morning,
I'll read her the riot act."
not want the case, given Gypsy's prostitution record."
......"They took her blood.
If that comes back positive for rohypnol, Harry's screwed."
......"Be a slam dunk if
you get Harry's supplier for us."
......"Did Harry talk?"
......Reese shook his head. "Nope.
......I thought about that for
a minute. "As a matter of fact, I do. Want to get into a
pissing contest with Brook Park?"
......"We already are, thanks
to Harry. Lead the way."
* * * *
......We stopped at an ATM, where
I cleaned out my checking account, then headed to Brook Park.
We made it to Silky's by ten. Reese flashed his badge and told
the bouncer to keep it quiet, or he'd bust him on obstruction
......Inside, I scanned the bar and saw that two bartenders were on duty now. José stood near the register counting out money. I strolled up to the bar with Reese in tow. Reese started admiring a couple of nearby dancers while I flagged José over.
......"Now what do you want?"
he asked. "Did you find Gypsy?"
......"Oh, yeah. Best piece
of ass in Northeast Ohio." I motioned him in closer. "Harry
says you're the man to see about roofies."
......I jerked a thumb at Reese,
who managed to tear himself away from a blonde in a black nightie.
"Him. We want to find a couple of girls to party with, and
Harry said you could hook us up with the pills."
......He looked Reese up and
down then looked at me. "You a cop?"
......"Oh, come on! I'm
with Gypsy on a regular basis and doing business with Harry Long..."
......He shook his head. "I'm
not sure I can help you."
......I opened my wallet, took
out five twenties, and counted them. "Andy Jackson thinks
......José looked at the cash in my hand with a hunger I'd seen in meth addicts and crack heads. He had a habit to feed; I could help him feed it. "What about you?" he said to Reese.
......Reese shrugged and gave
him that rubbery grin. "He's the dope guy. I go score the
......"And you're friends
......"Yeah, we both belong
to his lodge."
......"Oh. Shriners?" asked José.
......"Something like that,"
......"Cool. Harry's a good
customer. Put a word in for me? Lodge conventions bring me a
lot of business."
......"I'm sure Harry's
already done that," I said.
...... We followed him back through the kitchen and into a locker room for workers. The dancers had a dressing room back near the entrance. José looked around then closed the door to the locker room, cutting off most of the noise from rest of the building.
......He started working the
combination lock on his locker. "Could I interest you guys
in some weed? Fine stuff. They grow it down in Ashland County
inside the state park. Rangers don't have a clue."
......Reese's hand went into
his jacket pocket. "I've been looking for some good weed.
This isn't that hydroponic crap, is it?"
......"Nope," said José. "Finest kind."
......"Let's see the roofies
first," I said. "Come on. I've got my eye on a couple
......"Alright, alright." José reached into his locker and came out with a shoebox. Inside sat several brown pill bottles, each filled with white pills. He pulled out a bottle and handed it to me. "Take a look."
......I opened the bottle and
shook out a couple of pills. I poked at one with my finger and
turned it over. It said "Roche" on the side. I handed
it to Reese. "What do you think, partner?"
......Reese turned the little
pill in his hand then handed it back to me. "They're roofies."
......I put them back in the
bottle. "How much?"
......"Forty, since you're
pals with Harry and all."
......"Thirty. And a dime
bag of the good stuff."
......"Forty-five for the
bottle and the bag."
......"Forty for both."
I took out my wallet again and produced two twenties. "Take
it or leave it."
......José had that hunger in his eyes again. "Deal."
......I held out two twenties,
which he took. Reese moved quickly to slap the cuffs on him.
......"Hey!" he shouted.
"That's entrapment! I'm going to... Ouch!"
Reese had his arm up between his shoulder blades. "Are you
going to behave?"
...... "Yes! Yes!"
......I watched as Reese finished
the Miranda and sat him down.
......"That sonofabitch squeal?" said José.
......"Didn't have to,"
I said. "Last Friday, you huddled with Harry for about five
minutes. Money changed hands, but you didn't give him a drink."
......Reese called the Justice Center to request a cruiser and a night detective come down with a search warrant. When one of the staffers came in and saw José in cuffs, she started to protest. Reese flashed his badge and said the deputies would search more than José's locker if she made any trouble.
......I told Reese I needed a
drink, and since I wasn't a cop, I'd have one for him. I went
out to the bar and ordered a scotch on the rocks. As I waited
for the uniforms and detective to show, Jade came up to me. She
said nothing but slapped me. Word traveled fast inside a strip
joint, especially when it peddled more than dancing.
......Silky would fire Gypsy and ban me from the place. I didn't care. Harry was out of commission, and so was his supplier. Even if José got off, the Sheriff's Department would make his life miserable from here on out. I smiled and raised my drink to Jade.
a leech," I said. "I just stomped on him.".
Copyright (c) 2004 by James R. Winter.
J Winter allegedly published his first novel in 2005. He is a writer, comedian, web designer, insurance company drone, and formerly a skinny little boy from Cleveland, Ohio. An occasional contributor to January, his short stories and articles have appeared in Crimespree, Plots With Guns, Thug Lit and Pulp Pusher. He lives in Cincinnati where he enjoys Bass Ale, Reds' baseball, and weird chili.
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