Monday, December 30, 2013

Clash of the Figments - Chapter 10

Someone had poured glue in my mouth and hit me in the head with a pipe.  Stainless steel schedule 80 by the feel of it.  My arms felt like they were full of angry bees and my stomach was currently on spin cycle.  To top it all off, I was blind – which was bad – although my sense of smell seemed to be just fine. 

Normally I would consider that a good thing, but judging from the smell of the fart that ripped out of my butt I wasn’t so sure, since it seemed to indicate that a small woodland animal had decided to take up residence in my colon and then promptly die there.  This kind of thing didn’t happen when I was nineteen. 

The angel of death approached and extended a fist towards me. 

“Here,”  Rok said.  “Eat these.” 

I held out my hand and accepted the offering.  Like I was gonna say ‘no’.  I took a moment to consider what to do with the half pound of pills, capsules, lozenges and suppositories that I was now holding when Rok placed a glass of water in my other hand.  I had almost made the connection of what I was supposed to do when he spoke again. 

“Come on, knock ‘em back.  They’ll make you feel better.”  Rok turned and walked back to the other side of the room. 

I glared at him for a moment.  I would have figured it out myself eventually.  Oh, well.  I started to lift the pills to my mouth when he suddenly turned. 

“Hey, is there a little white capsule in there?”  he asked. 

I looked.  There was. 

“Yeah,”  I said. 

“Okay.  Hey, don’t eat that one okay?” 

“Why not?” 

“It’s a suicide pill.  Cyanide.  You’d be dead in 15 seconds.  Flat.” 

“Oh,”  I said, plucking the intruder from the rest of the pills.  “Good safety tip.  Anything else in here that might be a surprise?” 

“Nah.  Not that I can think of anyway.” 

I put the cyanide pill in my pocket for safe keeping.  Wouldn’t want the little rascal to accidentally find its way into someplace dangerous, like, say, my stomach.  The rest of the pills looked fairly pharmaceutical so I swallowed them one by one and hoped for the best. 

When I had finished, Rok was sitting at one of the computer terminals typing frenetically.  Or possibly frantically, it was too early to tell.  Either something had happened or the deadline for submissions to this month’s Penthouse Forum was almost at hand. 

“What’s going on?”  I said as I struggled to my feet. 

“Bad things.  My contact in Japan has identified some local activity from our four legged friend.” 

I scratched my head.  “He’s in Japan?  I thought he was in Europe somewhere.” 

“He is in Europe.  In Norway?  You know, the country right across the border from Japan?”  Rok sighed.  “Duh.” 

Yeah.  Okay.  This all made sense. 

I pulled out a cigarette and fired it up.  It was nice for a change to consciously do this, although where I got a gold Zippo with “ZSM”  engraved on it I had no idea.  I took the last drag and ground the cigarette out on the floor.  Time had no relevance here. 

“So, Rokko, are you going to fill me in here or what?  All that typing you’re doing, there must be some major communication going on.” 

“Yeah, just finishing up.  Let me print it out for you.”  A few more keystrokes and several sheets of paper spewed from the laserjet.  Rok picked them up and handed them to me.  “See what you make of that,”  he said. 

I sat back in the heated La-Z-Boy, kicked my shoes off, took a sip from my Martini, and began to enter the mind of my foe. 

I’ve enjoyed reading the stories in your magazine for years, but I never thought they were true.  Until recently that is.  It happened on a Tuesday night several weeks ago.  I’m a college freshman, and I was in the dorm working diligently on my chemistry assignment when an insistent knocking on the door interrupted my studies.  I opened the door slowly and much to my surprise, two of the hottest looking ladies I have ever seen walked on in, devilish smiles on their faces.  Tight jeans and tighter sweaters let me know right away that their bodies were made to please.  As it turned out, Tracy and Lori (not their real names, of course) had seen me in class, and decided that they were going to unofficially welcome me to the university.  .  . 

My foe was a pervert.  I must have been as well because by this point I was well entrenched in the story and a Boy Scout troop had apparently erected a pup-tent in my pants.  I read it to the end, when Bill (not his real name either), Tracy, and Lori lay sweaty and exhausted on the floor.  I let out a long, satisfied breath. 

“Well.  What do you think?”  Rok said. 

“Not bad.  But I don’t think you explained very well when exactly it was that Lori pulled off her sweater.” 

Rok blushed and grinned slyly.  “Uh,”  he said, “sorry.  Wrong stuff.”  He snatched the papers from me and turned back to the computer.  His fingers flew over the keyboard for a few more seconds and the printer spat out a single sheet.  “Here, try this.” 

By now the Boy Scout troop had broke camp and I was back to business again.  I perused the sheet Rok had handed me.  It was much shorter and not nearly as sensual as what I had read before, but at least it was applicable to the story.  It read:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
I destroyed all the crops in Asia,
And now I’ll destroy all of the crops in Europe as well. 

I reread the note again and pondered it thoughtfully.  I don’t think you can ponder something any other way, but maybe I’ll try later.  I knew one thing for sure: Zodar couldn’t rhyme worth a shit.  Other than that, the message was hazy.  What was he trying to say?  Rok broke my reverie. 

“Interesting, isn’t it?” 

“Oh yes.  Tells us a lot.  Like the fact that he’s going to destroy all of the crops in Europe.  Of course, we already knew that he was in Europe and we already knew what he was going to be doing while he was there, but if we pretended we didn’t, this would be big.” 

“No, not that.  You can’t take the rhyme literally, it’s coded.  Means nothing as it is.” 

“But.  .  .  ,”  I said, leading him on. 

“But if you take every third consonant and multiply the numerical alphabetical value of each by the square root of today’s day, date, and year and then assign word values based on a coded index which, in this case, is found on page 78 of the March issue of GQ, you get the baseplate data from which you can then extrapolate the other consonants and all of the vowels and find the real message.” 

“Ah, yes.  So simple.” 

“Yeah.  He obviously wanted us to crack it or he would’ve made it a little harder.” 

“Obviously,”  I replied.  I looked around for a few moments.  “Darn it, would you believe I don’t have my March GQ?  I was sure I just had it.  Say, Rok, could you .  .  I mean .  .  .  since you’ve already done the math .  .  .”  I held out the message to Rok.  If I hinted any harder I’d break his nose. 

“Oh yeah, no sweat.”  Rok grabbed the note and scribbled underneath it for a few moments.  He handed it back.  Of course he handed it back.  What the hell else was he going to do with it? 

For the third time this morning – which is about three times more often than I prefer in any one month – I began to read:

Good day Mr.  Lassiter!  And it will always be Mr. Lassiter to me, for I am no friend, nor will I ever be. 

At least he was rhyming better. 

My mission is a simple one: Revenge!  Revenge against those who created me, for creating me to do battle and then pushing me aside once my reason for being no longer existed.  Revenge against those for whom my creators had created me to do battle against, for no longer providing my creators with someone to do battle against and thus causing my reason for being too no longer exist and subsequently then giving them reason to push me aside.  And revenge against everyone else, for looking like either those who created me or those who I was created to do battle against, just to make sure I don’t miss anybody.  Okay, I’ll admit, it’s a tad more complicated than I originally made it out to be, and I apologize if I misled you a little bit. 

Nevertheless!  That is my mission!  Again, in summary for those of you who may still be a little confused:  Revenge against the world! 
Zodar the Spy Moose, Esq. 

P.S. – By the way, I don’t have anything to do with that whole “crop annihilation”  thing that’s going on.  That’s just some whacked out scheme that Rok and Stinky Pete thought up to get rich.  My nefarious goal is a little loftier; I’m taking over Disney World!
P.S.S. – I look forward to crushing you with my mighty antlers. 

I lowered the note. 

“Strong words,”  Rok said.


Rok poured something into his mouth, noticed me looking at him, and held his hand out to me. “Chiclet?”

“No thanks.  Bad memories for me there.”

“Suit yourself.  I think they’re great.”

“Depends on your past, I guess.” 

I straightened my jacket and donned my hat.  I love donning my hat.  Love it so much I did it again.  And then two more times.  Getting my instincts back.  Felt good. 

“Listen, Rok,”  I said, “we’ve got a little bit of a problem here.” 


“Yeah.  Little bit.” 

He was now seated at the table, quietly filling a couple dozen shot glasses lined up in front of him with scotch. 

“I figured we might.  Let me guess.  Note tip you off?” 

“You could say that.” 

“Yeah.  In hindsight I guess it probably would have been better not to have included that part about me and Stinky Pete, what with me doing the translating and all.” 


He continued filling the shot glasses until all were full.  Then sat back and put the bottle on the table and looked at me. 

“You know, Dick,”  he said, “I wish it didn’t have to be like this.  I was just starting to like you.” 

“I appreciate that.  But it’s a little late for that now.” 

“Yeah, I know.  That’s why I’m gonna have to ask you to drink these.” 

I had a faint idea of what he was planning, but I had absolutely no intention of allowing it to happen. 

“And if I say no?”  I asked. 

“Then I’m gonna have to wrap my biceps around your head and crush your skull.” 

Hair of the dog or crushed skull.  Intentions be damned.  Suddenly, having a drink didn’t seem like such a bad idea after all.  Besides, it had to be 5 o’clock somewhere in the world. 

I sat down at the table across from Rok, looked him straight in the eye, and drank the first shot. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Clash of the Figments - Chapter 25

Cruising down I-95, top down, heading South.  I handed the envelope Burroughs had given to me to Simon.  It was full of money.  About 300 G’s.  Payment for services rendered. 

I was enjoying the drive; the monotonous drone of the engine, the steady passage of highway, and the cool wind blowing by were all working together in a peaceful alliance until Simon had to fuck it all up by asking questions again.  I really had to break him of that habit. 

“I still don’t understand how you figured it all out,”  he said.  “Can you explain it again?  I mean, from the beginning?” 

I didn’t see much of a reason not to.  We had a long drive back to Orlando and I could tell that neither Simon nor Jimmy were going to let me have any solitude.  What the hell.  

“Stinky Pete and Rok were old war buddies.  Rok told me as much when I spoke with him a few weeks ago.  They hatched a plan to make some big money, which, as I’ve already said, involved driving the price of grains up by reducing the amount of grains available.  That way, they could charge outrageous amounts of money for the booze they were serving.” 

“But if the price of grain went up, wouldn’t they be paying more for the booze in the first place?”  Simon asked, his Ivy League pedigree paying dividends.  

“Yes, unless they already had plenty of grain available, which they did.  In fact, they bought up several large farms in the Midwest during the past few years.  While they were destroying everyone else’s crops, theirs remained untouched, and the price skyrocketed.” 

“Wait a minute.  If they already had their grain, then why wouldn’t they just make their profit on the grain itself, rather than on the secondary product of booze?  Isn’t that kind of stupid?” 

“Hey, it was their plan, not mine.” 

“Oh, yeah.  Sorry.” 

“Anyway, the problem they ran into was how to wreak that much havoc in the agricultural community without getting caught.  During their years in covert field ops, they had heard rumors of this spy moose that the Soviets had dreamed up.  The Cold War was long over and no one had seen or heard anything about Zodar in years, so they decided to make their own.  That way, not only would it look like someone else was destroying all of the crops, it would look like there was a completely different reason for why they were being wiped out.” 

“Clever,”  Simon said.  “But why did Stinky Pete disappear?” 

“He didn’t.  Someone had to operate the moose, so Stinky took off around the world to do that while Rok stayed back at the bar and started turning the profit.  Say Jimmy, are you going to Bogart that whole bag of Doritos back there or what?” 

“Oh, sorry dude,”  Jimmy said, passing the bag up to the front. 

“No problem,”  I said, popping a couple chips in my mouth.  “Anyway, they knew that since they were using an old Soviet weapon as their angle, the spooks would eventually get involved, and that there was a good possibility that they’d come looking to me for help.  Stinky knew that I’d then come looking to him for some intel, so they torched the Roadkill and had it paved over to throw me off of their track.  And it probably would’ve ended right there except that by sheer luck we wound up at the Barking Spider, where Stinky’s partner Rok is holding down the fort and coordinating Zodar’s strikes.” 

“How did you figure that out?”  Simon asked. 

“It was the pins on the map of the world back in the situation room, although I didn’t notice it ’till later.  Rok said he was tracking where the spy moose had already struck, but there were pins on several countries that Zodar hadn’t hit yet, including Columbia.  Zodar didn’t go there until we were in Amsterdam.” 

“Well that’s kind of bullshit,”  Simon said. 

“Huh?  What’re you talking about?” 

“You didn’t tell anybody about any pins that were marked on countries that Zodar hadn’t been to yet.” 

“Yeah, so?” 

“Well, it’s a bullshit clue.  How are we supposed to figure out the mystery if you don’t give us all of the clues?  I mean, it’s great that you knew that, but it doesn’t do anybody else any good.” 

“Hey, lay off, will ya?  Sherlock Holmes did that shit all the time.  It’s absolutely acceptable.” 

“Well, last I checked, this ain’t no Sherlock Holmes.” 

“I swear Simon, I’m gonna just pop the fuck out of you if you don’t lay off.  Here I am, busting my ass and making you two look good in the process, and I’m catching grief?  You kidding me?” 

Simon crossed his arms and stuck out his lower lip. 

“Just seems kind of unfair is all,”  he said. 

“You want fair?  Play a fucking board game.” 

“Um, hey,”  Jimmy said cautiously.  “What was the whole Amsterdam trip thing about anyway?”  asked Jimmy.  “What did we go there for?” 

“To get us out of the way, pure & simple.  I mean, what the hell do they grow in Amsterdam, right?  Rok got us all drunk, put us on the plane, and then came along to give us some false clues so we’d think we were heading in the right direction.” 

“You mean .  .  .” 

“That’s right, he planted the hoof prints on the ceiling of the plane.  And when I got too close to him back in the coach section, he clocked me a few times to keep me from getting a good look at him.” 

“Makes sense,”  said Simon.  “Who better to navigate through the coach class of an airplane than someone skilled in jungle warfare.” 


“But it was us that destroyed those dude’s country, right?”  asked Jimmy. 

“Not a chance, my friend,”  I replied.  “Remember the little guy you popped in the nards with your board?  We assumed that he was the one holding back the dyke with his finger, and that by taking him out of action, the dyke burst.  But c’mon, think about it.  Holding back millions of gallons of water with your finger?  He was just a tourist attraction, that’s all.” 

“But then how .  .  . ”  Jimmy started. 

“Let me guess,”  Simon said.  “Rok again.” 

“Bingo.  Rok blows the dyke, we take the fall, and the next thing you know we’re tucked away all nice & tidy in a Dutch jail as far from the action as we can get, and no one has any idea that we’re there.” 

“But someone did know we were there,”  Jimmy said.  “That dude that bailed us out.” 

“Mr.  I.P. Freeley,”  I said, nodding. 

“Hey,”  said Jimmy, “is he the dude that wrote – ” 

The Yellow River, yes.” 

“Wow, that was a great book,”  Jimmy said.  “I didn’t know that was him.  I would’ve got his autograph.  He really wrote good stuff.” 

“That’s not all he did,”  I said.  “Remember that call I made to the library?  I did a little background on The Yellow River and guess what I found?  Turns out that the first edition was printed in Russian.  After that I talked to that nice lady in Montgomery, AL again, and after she finally transferred me to Burroughs, I got some more information on Mr.  Freeley.  Seems he was on staff at the Central Moscow Community College at the same time our friend Zodar was.” 

“You mean – ”

“That’s right.  Freeley helped train Zodar.” 

It was quiet for a moment while that sunk in.  Then Simon asked the obvious question. 

“But why would Freeley help us?  And how did he know we were there?” 

“Good question.  And I couldn’t for the life of me figure that one out.  Until I realized that the Zodar we were after wasn’t what we thought he was.  As it turns out, Zodar – the real Zodar – was keeping an eye on us all along.  Following us around.  He was at the airport in Amsterdam disguised as a cod vendor, and again in Orlando disguised as the barrier arm, the one we hit with the Porsche, remember?  Zodar had Freeley bail us out.

“The final piece that put it all together for me was the antler fuzz on the bumper.  Zodar couldn’t have been in South America and Orlando at the same time, and yet I had evidence to that effect.  That’s when it hit me that there must be two Zodars running around.” 

“Cool, dude,”  said Jimmy.  “Well, I guess that takes care of that.  Hey, you pass the chips back here again?” 

“Wait a minute,”  Simon said.  “That explains one of the Zodars – the fake one – but what about the real one?  Why was he following us around?  Why did he get us bailed out when we got thrown in jail?  What is he up to?” 

“Actually, I figured that out a long time ago.” 

Simon shot me a look.  “What are you talking about?” 

“Like I said.  I already figured out what he’s doing.” 

“Were you planning to share any of that information with us?” 

“Of course.” 

“Okay,”  he said after a few moments went by.  “I guess this would be as good a time as any.  Let’s hear it.” 

“I can’t tell you.” 


“I said, ‘I can’t tell you’.  Really, Simon, clean the wax out of your ears.” 

“I know what you said, but why can’t you tell us?” 

“Because I don’t know.” 

“What do you mean you don’t know?  You just said you figured it out a long time ago.” 

“I did.” 

“Then what is he doing?” 

“I don’t know.  Come on Simon, this isn’t that difficult to understand.” 

Simon looked at me hard for a minute.  “Okay, let’s say for a second that it is difficult to understand and that I happen to be the type of person who doesn’t do well with difficult things.  In other words, pretend I’m Jimmy.” 

“Duuuuude,”  Jimmy said, “that is so cool.  There’s gonna be two of me.  This’ll be righteous dude.  You’re gonna be like ‘Oh, man, it’s so cool to be Jimmy’.  And we can hang out together and order pizza and be pals and stuff.  I’ll teach you how to surf and – ” 

“Jimmy, will you shut up!”  Simon yelled. 

Jimmy sunk back into the seat, a hurt look on his face.  Simon let out an exasperated yet slightly sympathetic sigh, and after a moment of tense silence, tried his best to patch things up.  With Jimmy, this isn’t really hard. 

“Look,”  Simon said, “I think that’s a great idea.  But how about for our first ‘pal’ thing, we play The Silent Game.  You know, where we see who can go the longest without saying anything?” 

“Okay,”  Jimmy said, already noticeably happier.  Simon turned his attention back to me. 

“Alright, Dick, what’s –” 

“Duuuuude, you lose!”  Jimmy said excitedly. 

We haven’t started playing yet!  Simon yelled back. 

“Oh,”  said Jimmy. 

Simon took a deep breath.  “Talk to me Dick,”  he said to me.  Then to Jimmy, “Now we’re playing.” 

“Okay,”  I said.  “I figured the whole thing out back at the Barking Spider.” 

“But we were just there,”  Simon replied.  “You didn’t say anything.” 

“I win!  I win!”  Jimmy yelled to no one in particular.  “I am the greatest of all time!” 

“Not then,”  I continued, ignoring Jimmy, “the first time we were there.  After you and Jimmy were passed out.  Something happened; I saw something, or heard something – I don’t know which – and figured out what was going on.  The problem is, Rok knew I had figured it out too.  And he realized that if I knew what was going on with the real Zodar, the fake Zodar would be unmasked as a phony and their cover would be blown.” 

“So?”  asked Simon. 

I pulled out the manila envelope that Stinky Pete had given me and placed it on the seat. 

“So that’s why he stole Chapter 10.” 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Clash of the Figments - Chapter 24

We walked into the bar and took three empty stools.  Sat in them actually, since it’d be kind of stupid to take them anywhere.  I mean, what the hell would you do with them?  At any rate, we made ourselves comfortable and waited to be served.  After a few minutes, the bartender came down our way. 

“Hiya Rok,”  I said.  “Long time.” 

“Actually, it’s only been a couple of weeks,”  he said. 

“Seems longer.” 

“Yeah.  Maybe.  What can I do for you tonight?” 

I pursed my lips and shrugged.  “Just talk.” 

“’Bout what?”  he said. 

“I don’t know.  Maybe a spy moose or two.” 

“Not much to say.  Looks like they got him.  And without your help or mine.” 

“Yeah, well, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.  Your help, I mean.” 

“Look, Dick, this thing is over,”  he said, resting his anvil sized elbows on the bar.  “It was fun while it lasted, but there’s no game on anymore.  The moose is dead, the jig is up, and that’s just how it is.  I’m sorry that it wasn’t you that got him, but hey, that’s your problem, not mine.  Now, do you want a beer, or what?  I got a business to run here.” 

“Not anymore Rok.” 

I saw the first hint of fear in Rok’s eyes.  He squinted and moved his face a few inches closer to mine. 

“Just what are you trying to say?”  he said. 

“You said it for me, remember?  ‘The jig is up’ are the words I think you used.” 

“I think it’s time for you boys to leave,”  he said.  “Take a look around you.  This is a dangerous crowd.  Real easy for people to get hurt in here they say the wrong thing.  Hurt bad.” 

“Fair enough,”  I said, nodding but not moving.  “Say, Rok, what’s a beer going for around here these days?” 


“A beer, Rok.  How much you charging?” 

I had pushed him as far as he was going to let me.  Now it was time to push him further. 

“You’re right, Rok.  This is a tough crowd in here.  Wonder what they’d think if I told them all about how you’ve been cheating them by jacking up the price of your booze?” 

I let that sink in for a moment.  As big as Rok was, there was no way he could take on everyone in the bar, and he knew it. 

“What do you think Rok?  You want to talk to me now?” 

Just in case he wasn’t thoroughly on board, I directed his gaze to my hand, which was conveniently holding my mini-howitzer, which in turn was conveniently pointed right at his stomach. 

“Why don’t you three come on in the back,”  he said. 

The situation room looked very much the same, but it was dark and seemed quieter now that it hadn’t been used for the past few days.  Rok walked wearily to the back of the room and took a seat at the table, a man defeated.  In the darkness I could see another figure already seated.  I flipped on the light. 

“Dickie boy,”  Stinky Pete said, “How ya doing?” 

“Just fine Stinky, just fine.” 

“I don’t suppose this is just a social call to talk about old times, now is it?  Who ya got there with you?  Couple of federal types?” 

“My partners.” 

“Oh, yeah, I recognize them now.  Jimmy the burnout and Simon the Simple.  How you boys doing?” 

Jimmy seemed delighted to be asked and started to tell them, but Simon jabbed an elbow in his ribs to shut him up. 

“Where are my manners?”  Stinky said, “Ya’ll come over and have a seat, will you?  Take a load off and all that.” 

“We’ll stand, thanks,”  I said, not wanting to get anywhere near the biceps of either Stinky or Rok.  I preferred to rely on the 12 feet of open space and the muzzle of my gun between us to keep things cordial. 

“Suit yourself,”  Stinky replied, leaning back in his chair.  “So what now?” 

“Now I tell you a story.” 

“Oooo, good, I love stories,”  Jimmy said. 

“Knock it off Jimmy,”  said Simon. 

“It was all very slick,”  I continued.  “I’m really amazed that you guys thought of it.  Building a mechanical moose and sending it around the world to destroy every crop known to man.  Not for political reasons.  Not as an act of terrorism.  But for the simple motive that’s behind almost every crime ever committed:  Money.

“You two figured that if you could drive agricultural production to the brink of extinction, it would force prices of all agricultural products sky high.  The same agricultural products used in the making of liquor and beer.  The world goes hungry, but Rok and Stinky make a killing selling high dollar booze to the same poor saps that they’re starving to death.  I guess when you get down to it, it’s always all about the Jack, isn’t it Stinky?” 

“It was working too,”  he said, “and we would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for you meddling detectives.” 

“Duuuuuuuuude!”  Jimmy said, “that is so just like on Scooby Doo!” 

“Shut up Jimmy,”  everyone said in unison. 

“So how did you figure it out?”  Rok asked. 

“Took me a while, I’ll admit.  But I was trying to figure out one mystery when I actually had clues for two.  I couldn’t see how they all fit together.  The break came when I realized that they didn’t go together at all.” 

Stinky nodded at me, then at Rok.  “I knew you were going to be trouble the minute you showed up here asking questions.  We could’ve just killed you Dick.  But we never wanted to hurt you; we just wanted to get you out of our way.” 

“I appreciate that.  And I intend to do you the same favor.  Not killing you I mean.  All you need to do is give me what I came here for.” 

“Now, Dick, you know I can’t do that.” 

I raised the barrel of the gun and gave Stinky a good look at it.  He reconsidered, as I thought he would. 

“Alright, alright,”  he said.  “It’s in the desk drawer, over by the computer.  Doesn’t make much difference now anyway.” 

I looked at Simon and jerked my head.  He walked to the desk, opened the drawer, took out a manila envelope, and handed it to me.  I tucked it away under my trench coat. 

“Been nice seeing you again, Dick,”  Stinky said.  “I guess you’ll be on your way now.  If I ever need you for anything, I’ll give you a call.” 

“Don’t bother.  I don’t work for inmates.” 

Stinky started laughing.  “C’mon, Dick, it’s great that you know what happened and all, but you got no proof, my friend.  And since I don’t fancy me or Rok making a confession anytime soon, it’s just your word against ours and let’s face it, who’s gonna believe you?” 

At that moment the back door crashed open and six men dressed all in black burst through.  For a second I thought these might be the same Kung Fu guys from Jimmy’s place come back for more (with automatic weapons this time) until I saw Jackson Burroughs walk in the room behind them. 

“Nobody needs to believe him, Stinky,”  he said.  “We got it all on tape.” 

With that, I nodded to Jackson and took my leave. 

The parking lot of the Barking Spider looked very much the same as it had last time we were in town.  Jimmy & Simon were waiting for me, sitting on the hood of the Impala, which, as it turned out, had been parked here the whole time.  We were about to get in when Jackson emerged from the front door of the bar. 

“Lassiter,”  he called out.  “Need a word.” 

I told Jimmy and Simon to get in the car and then walked over to where Jackson was standing. 

“Yeah?”  I said. 

“Listen, I just wanted to say thanks.  This whole thing .  .  .  ,”  he said, looking away and shaking his head, “it’s not what we thought it was at all.  Just want to let you know we appreciate your help.” 

He held out the second manila envelope that I had seen in the past 10 minutes.  I took it from him. 

“You’re welcome,”  I said, and turned to go. 

“Dick, wait,”  he said.  I stopped and turned back to him.  Whole lotta turning going on all of a sudden.  Almost got dizzy and fell.  Didn’t though.  Wouldn’t be cool.  

“While you were in there,”  he continued, “I couldn’t help but hear.  What did he give you Dick?” 

“Nothing important,”  I said.  “Just my bar tab.  Want to square my bill.” 

“Bar tab, huh?”  he said, chuckling.  “Yeah, okay.  Get out of here Lassiter.” 

I started walking back to the car again but stopped halfway there and looked back. 

“Hey Burroughs.” 


“You might want to run a check on that Porsche over there.  I got a feeling it’s hot.” 

“Yeah.  I’ll do that.” 

The Impala cranked up on the fourth try and we blew out of the parking lot, leaving it covered with a shroud of exhaust. 

Next Week:  Chapter 25