It was eight o’clock when we finally hit the road for the Queen City. I didn’t figure we’d be there long, but it was a critical stop since we didn’t have any leads to follow on this Zodar fella. Not that we’d really looked yet. Actually, I didn’t really figure to pick up any leads there either, but I wanted a new Panther’s jersey and my mom lived close by so if we wanted a home cooked meal or needed to do some laundry we could score on that count.
And then of course, there was Stinky Pete.
There’s a little bar just out of downtown that I’ve used before as a source of hard to get mission critical information. I’ve also used it as a source of cheap mission critical booze, so it had the advantage of dual purpose. The bartender there was an ex-Navy Seal. A big biker lookin’ fella, Stinky Pete stood about six feet-four and weighed maybe 275 pounds soaking wet. Worked a second job as a jack stand at Jiffy Lube. Strange source of information, I know, but he was plugged into the seamy underworld of international espionage like a lava lamp.
“Okay, you got me into this thing, so where are we going to start?” Simon asked. Sounded like a question to me.
“Charlotte,” I replied.
“Charlotte? Why there?” he asked. Another question. Simon was starting to be a nosy little bastard. I started thinking maybe our trio was one too many. Lots of country road ahead, plenty of places to dump a body. But maybe killing him would be overdoing it a little. I decided to fill him in instead. That’s the kind of guy I am.
“There’s a little bar just out of downtown that I’ve used before as a source of hard to get mission critical information. I’ve also used it as a source of cheap mission critical booze, so it has the advantage of dual purpose. The bartender there is an ex-Navy Seal. A big biker lookin’ fella, Stinky Pete stands about six feet-four and weighs maybe 275 pounds soaking wet. Works a second job as a jack stand at Jiffy Lube. Strange source of information, I know, but he’s plugged into the seamy underworld of international espionage like a lava lamp.”
“Okay,” Simon said, “but do you really think he’s gonna know anything about a spy moose?”
“If anybody knows, he will. And Simon? If you ask me another question I’ll break three of your fingers.”
“Okay, okay, don’t get so bloody hostile.”
“Hey, man,” Jimmy piped up from the back, “why don’t we put on some tunage? Help everybody relax. Here, I brought my 8-tracks.” He passed a bright orange case up to Simon.
“The only thing more remarkable than you having an 8-track tape collection is that this car has an 8-track player,” Simon said.
“Well, you know, you can’t throw out, like, classics man,” Jimmy replied.
Simon opened the case and I took a peek. Typical Jimmy: The Angry Samoans, Violent Femmes, Black Flag, and, of course, the Sex Pistols to name a few. No Neil Diamond though. Simon would be disappointed.
Jimmy saw Simon studying the titles with a confused expression. “Didn’t think I’d have a collection of musik like that, did you?” he said.
“That’s ‘music’, with a ‘c’, and no, I must admit that most of this was beyond the realm of my Music Appreciation classes.”
“Yeah, it’s a royal collection alright. Here,” he pointed, “I haven’t heard that one in a while.”
Simon reluctantly complied and soon we were cruising to the melodious sounds of the Meatmen, the gentle rhythm of War of the Superbikes wafting through the night air.
Jimmy relaxed in the center of the back seat, arms draped out to each side, nodding with the beat.
Simon looked as if he were fighting the calling of a large bowel movement.
“Yeah, man,” Jimmy said, “I remember one night when we were opening up for the FPV’s, before STI got famous, - ”
“The who?” Simon asked.
“Naw, not 'The Who' man, the 'FPV’s',” Jimmy replied.
“What is an ‘FPV’?”
“It’s not a what, it’s a them, dude,” Jimmy explained. “You know, 'The Phantom Panty Vipers'. They were out of El Lay I think, had this real freaky looking dude playing lead guitar. Wanted everyone to call him Duke ‘cause he wore this big thick collar around his neck and thought he was a dog. We called him Johnny Forehead instead ‘cause he had this forehead that just kinda kept going back, and back, and back, you know? Used to piss him off a lot –”
“’Phantom starts with a ‘P’, not an ‘F’,” Simon informed us. “They should have been the ‘PPV’s’, not the “FPV’s’.”
“Yeah, whatever man. I mean, nobody said we were like English majors or anything. We played tunes, man, you know? We were musicians.”
“Another debatable point that probably wouldn’t hold up to cross examination.”
“Some people might make the argument that you weren’t musicians,” Simon clarified.
“Like anyone who ever heard you play.”
Jimmy was silent for a moment. Luckily, being in the backseat, he was downwind from me, or I might have gagged under the smoke that was no doubt belching from his ears as the fragile gears in his cranium ground together in a desperate attempt to determine if he had or had not just been ‘dissed’.
Apparently, he had.
“Oh yeah?” he said.
“Yes,” Simon replied.
“Well . . .well . . . you are.”
“Yeah, uh-huh. Don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about now, do ya? Wish you did though, don’t you? Huh? Don’t you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“See! See! It’s killing you, ain’t it?”
“Dick,” Simon said to me, “what the hell is he talking about?”
I looked at Simon and puffed thoughtfully on my pipe for a few seconds, surprised that I was smoking one and wondering when it was exactly that I had bought it.
“You are,” I said.
Jimmy started laughing so hard he threw up all over himself.
Simon retreated without another word to the far side of the car where the air temperature was now over 110 degrees.