Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

I Was Bogarted into Writing This

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It was the kind of dive in which you’d expect to find a handful of has-beens and a dozen never-came-closes, the kind of place that serves nothing more appealing than Johnnie Walker Brown Label. My kind of place. I took a seat at the bar and ordered a sour mix, straight. The bartender gave me a coke. I paid him in counterfeit bills.

Quiet place, for a Wednesday night. They told me it would be. Just had to wait for my quarry to show. I picked my nose and wiped the half-dried glob under the table, where it could live out the rest of its existence among myriad others of its kind.They’d said eight o’clock; five minutes to go. I could wait. I was used to it by now.

Waiting is my game. Dane Brammage is my name. I’m a private eye.

A fella gets to do quite a bit of waiting when his job involves staking out an endless list of hopeless places for nameless people on worthless missions. A fella gets to do a lot of drinking, too, but we’d get to that later. For the time being, I nursed my coke and thought about simpler times, when all it took to get what you wanted was a pack or two of cigarettes for Thag in the next cell. My mark walked in, right on schedule.

He was gaunt man, with his age etched on his face in so many wrinkles and worry lines, lines I knew I shared with him. In fact I could almost make out the number 47 on his forehead, but maybe that was the lighting. He took a seat on the opposite side of the dingy room, and set his attache case down next to a spot on the floor that silently attested to years of vomiting patrons. I sipped the last of my syrupy coke and ambled over.

“I’m Butch,” I said, not sure what to expect in response.

He raised his head and gave me a once-over so token as to make me unsure he heard me at all. Then he muttered, his voice full of yesterday’s back lot gravel: “Coulda fooled Me. Looking kinda effeminate in those pants.”

He got me there. They were hand-me-downs from my aunt, who ballooned out to 300 pounds and never came back. Last I heard she was serving as target practice for naval gunners out of Pearl Harbor. Always liked the fluorescent look, my Aunt Ippethy did. But I followed the script.

“Too bad you prefer Butch, then, huh.” I put on my best fake Scots accent.

That surprised him, or at least annoyed him. It was hard to tell with his kind. He all but threw the attache case at me and growled something about room service. I paid him no mind; I knew my job was to get in, get out and get going without getting caught, sick, sidetracked or drunk. A few more minutes in that place might make me sick. I strode toward the door, which suddenly was blocked by two men in trenchcoats.

They could be twins. That would be funny, if it weren’t so damn funny. I moseyed toward them as nonchalantly as a fella can mosey with a thick attache case full of contraband Animaniacs DVDs. They stood shoulder to shoulder, blocking the door.

“You goin’ somewhere?” asked the one on the left. Or maybe it was the one on the right. He grabbed my arm. Good grip, I thought, the kind you might expect from someone used to grasping at straws. I knew the type all too well.

“Yeah. To New York. The Ogre is waiting for me.” I meant a certain in-law, but they didn’t have to know that. To them, The Ogre was Chris Anthemum, ringleader of a network of bootleggers. He wanted those DVDs, sure, but he wasn’t getting them. Not from me. The guy on the left, or the right, relaxed his grip and looked me in the eye.

“You better make sure you stay out of trouble on the way, punk,” he warned, giving my arm an extra squeeze just to show how much he cared. Then he all but threw me out the door. I walked without looking back, even though I knew I was being tailed. Dealing with that would have to wait. I had some DVDs to watch.

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Written by Thag

January 4, 2011 at 3:20 pm

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