The rest of the trip was uneventful and we arrived in Charlotte around midnight. A low haze from the steel mills blanketed the city, giving the lights an eerie lime green hue. Hue is also a village in Vietnam, but I think the slopes pronounce it “way”. Don’t say I never taught you anything. Cars drove up and down Independence Avenue and we almost hit a stray dog that came out from behind the Super Wal-Mart. Yeah, the Queen City was just as I’d remembered it.
Everything was looking good and going as planned until we arrived at our destination, the Roadkill Pub & Deli. That’s where we ran into problem #1. The whole essence of the problem, I mused, was that the Roadkill wasn’t there.
As we sat idling in a parking place where one of the eight pool tables had once been, the ever perceptive Simon seemed to perk up on the fact that something was wrong.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“The bar’s not here,” I replied. Never give them more information than you have to if you can make them beg for it instead.
“What do you mean, ‘the bar’s not here’?” Simon pressed.
“Like I said, it’s gone.”
“You didn’t say ‘it’s gone’, you said ‘the bar’s not here’,” Jimmy chimed in.
“Shut up, Jimmy.”
“The bar is gone,” I continued. “Apparently an overabundance of surplus asphalt coupled with the need for convenient downtown parking overcame the public’s desire for fine dining in a family atmosphere.”
“And strippers,” Jimmy added.
“And strippers,” I echoed. A desolate sigh rang out from all three of us simultaneously as we stared into the heavens and thought of what might have been.
“Such a waste,” I said. “So senseless.”
“Well what the hell do we do now?” Simon asked. Just full of questions, this guy. “I thought this was your “big source” of information, your “wired in” contact that was going to set us off on the trail of this moose guy. What do we do now?”
“I don’t know, Simone. I don’t know.”
“Don’t even start calling me Simone again. You know I hate that.”
“Sorry. I’m just a little shaken up about this. Annoying you takes my mind off of it.”
“Well you need to get your mind back on it and think of something fast. Three white guys sitting in a parking lot in this neighborhood at three in the morning is asking for trouble.”
“It’s midnight Simon,” I said. “Not 3 a.m.”
“How do you know?”
“Says so at the beginning of this chapter.”
“Alright, midnight then. In any case we might as well hang up a great big banner with flashing lights that says “ROB US”.
“Okay. Hey Jimmy, we still got that banner in the trunk?”
“Yeah. I think so,” he answered.
“Oh, stop it!” Simon said. It appeared that our playful jocularity was wearing thin. “What are we going to do?”
“Hey,” Jimmy said, “how did you find this place anyway? I mean, you know, in the first place?”
“Just dumb luck,” I said. “A couple of years back I stopped in for a drink. Got to talking to the barkeep & realized I’d stumbled on to a wealth of untapped information.”
“Well, why don’t we just go to another bar?” Jimmy asked.
Simon threw up his hands in despair. “What a bunch of idiots! What are the odds of finding another bar with a bartender who also happens to be an ex-Navy Seal computer whiz who keeps up on the current status of international espionage?”
I threw up my hands in exasperation. “Do you have a better idea?”
Jimmy threw up. “I don’t know about all that,” he said, wiping his mouth on his shirtsleeve, “I just wanted a beer.”
“Oh my God,” Simon said, “ I can’t believe I let myself get talked into this. I want out.”
“Out of the car?” I asked.
“No, out of this book!”
“Hey, hey, look, we went over all this earlier. You can’t go anywhere now. That case is closed. Besides, I think Jimmy may be on to something.”
“You’ve got to be kidding! The odds, Dick, the odds. It’s simply implausible that we’ll find another source of information in a run-down bar. It would be too much of a coincidence. No one would believe it. And no self-respecting author would insult the intelligence of his readers by implying as much. It’s just too ridiculous!”
“Actually it’s no more ridiculous than anything else that’s happened so far. But that’s not what I was agreeing with Jimmy on. I kind of liked his ‘getting a beer’ idea. And if we happen to run into a good bartender, all the better.”
“I can’t believe it. What am I doing with you two?” Simon fumed. “You don’t know how to run an investigation.”
“Like I said, you got any better ideas?”
“Actually, yes - ” he started saying, but before he could get any further Jimmy threw an Army blanket over his head and we spent the next few minutes beating the crap out of him.
Now, I know that sounds a little harsh. Maybe even a tad cruel. Possibly totally unwarranted. But . . . . . . okay, it was. Violence for the sake of violence, pure and simple. What’s your point? Hey, somebody shot Bambi’s mom for no reason too, so don’t go non-linear on me & Jimmy just for throwing a blanket party and kicking the snot out of some uppity Ivy Leaguer who, BY -THE -WAY, had it coming.
Simon decided not to share his ideas with us after all.
We cranked up the Impala and went looking for a bar.