Wednesday, May 25, 2022

You Do What You Have To - 7



Micky spent the rest of the day—after stocking up on what halfway edible snacks there were in the vending machines in the motel lobby—sitting on his bed munching on them while watching TV. He tracked every local newscast, uncertain if he was relieved or disappointed that there was no mention of someone attempting to kill Gary. He realized—again—that he should call work, but what could he tell them? That he'd be gone for the foreseeable future? His boss's response would be that he was fired. After all, Micky was just a waiter, albeit in a nice restaurant, and waiters were a dime a dozen.


By the time late afternoon rolled around, Micky was sick of crappy snacks and bored out of his mind.


"I need real food," he muttered. "And a new phone. One of those, what do they call them? Throwaways? And a few clothes would be nice."


He remembered, from the last time he'd stayed at the motel, there was a thrift shop somewhere close by. And the area was full of fast food joints as well. Figuring if someone was after him, it was still light enough out they wouldn't do anything drastic, he stuffed Gary's wallet in his pocket and took off—carefully, of course, checking the balcony and the parking lot again before scurrying, shoulders hunched, to the alley. He scuttled down it until he came to the last building, then cut across behind the building and two others, always alert for anyone who might be interested in him. Finally, clenching his hands, he eased down a cut-through to the street.


The thrift store was where he remembered. Trying to appear casual, he walked the half-block to it and was inside seconds later.


"Can I help you find something?" an older woman at the counter asked.


"Men's clothes?"


She pointed to the far side of the store. He discovered when he got there that there wasn't much to choose from. Still, he managed to find two pair of decent jeans, a couple of T-shirts, and a regular shirt. Then he spotted the sweatshirts. Going through them, he found a hooded one that would fit and added it to his pile. As he started to the counter, he saw underwear. While he wasn't exactly thrilled by the idea of wearing someone's cast-off briefs, he picked up three pair and some socks. The last thing he got was a backpack. When he paid for everything, he folded all the clothes except the hoodie, putting them in the pack. The hoodie he put on. Then, slinging the pack over his shoulders, he took off to find somewhere to eat, feeling marginally safer now.


As he passed a convenience store, he remembered he needed a new phone. He went in, found one that was cheap enough and didn't require a contract. Paying for it and a two hundred minute card, he pocketed it and moved on to the burger place two doors down.


While he stood surveying the menu on the board behind the counter, he wondered yet again if he was being overly paranoid. After all, if the guy somehow was able to track me by my old phone, wouldn't he have shown up long before now? I would have, if I was him. Take out the problem and move on. Obviously he has no compunction about killing someone—or trying to. Still, I'm not going back to my place until the end of the week, come hell or high water.


He was at the front of the line by then and ordered a burger, fries, and coffee. After picking up his order, he found a table and sat to eat. He realized as he did, whether from instinct or something else, he'd gone to one well away from the front windows. He chuckled softly. I'm turning into a superspy.


Finishing his meal, he stepped outside of the restaurant and saw it was beginning to get dark. That sent a shiver of fear up his spine. He stood where he was, trying to be covert as he looked at the people on the sidewalk. No one seemed to be paying any attention to him, so he stiffened his back and strode off, away from the direction of the motel. Just in case. Because who knows who could be watching that I'm not seeing.


Twenty minutes late, having taken a very circuitous route, he arrived back at his room. After unpacking the backpack and putting the clothes away, he settled on the bed, turned on the TV and found an old sitcom to watch.

Monday, May 23, 2022

You Do What You Have To - 6



"Would you have stuck around, if you were him?" Olivia asked. "He's there for a down and dirty fuck and gets caught in the middle of a gun battle. Speaking of which, where was your gun at the time?"


"Under the mattress. I managed to put it there while I was undressing, without Micky seeing me do it. Unfortunately I wasn't expecting extra company—or to be shot at. I didn't have time to reach for it, to say the least of using it."


"So presumably it's still there. That's good—unless the guy finally came back to see if he was successful. If he hung around until he thought it was safe and saw this Micky kid leaving, he could have followed him and taken him out, just in case."


"Are there any reports of people being shot and killed last night?"


"Night before last," Olivia said.


"You're kidding. I've been here twenty-four hours, give or take?"


"You were wounded, and by the time I found you, close to bleeding out, so yeah. Consider yourself lucky you awoke as soon as you did. The doc said it could take forty-eight hours." She grinned. "Guess your head is even harder than I thought. And to answer your question, this is Denver. Of course there were a few shootings. What does Micky look like?"


"Reddish-brown hair, long enough that he had it tied back. Well-built, if thin, umm, hazel eyes bordering on green. No scars or other identifying marks."


Olivia chuckled dryly. "And you'd know, having seen him in the buff. Let me call my contact at the morgue and check."


While she did that, Darren looked at the items on the table next to the bed. His phone was there, as were his keys and… "Where the hell's my wallet?" he asked as soon as Olivia hung up.


"You tell me. It wasn't on you when I found you, and it wasn't anywhere in the toolshed either. I backtracked to your place while I was waiting for Jax to get there and didn't see it."


"So it's either in the house, or the kid found it and took it."


"The latter I suspect, unless the shooter got it. I had Jax go to the house once we got you here and he said it wasn't there."


"Did he check for my gun?"


"Probably not, since he didn't know he was supposed to. There was no reason to think you'd have put either of them under the mattress, now was there?"


"Yeah, true. Last I remember, the wallet was in my jeans so it must have fallen out when I tossed them on the chair. Damn it. If Micky found it, he knows who I am."


"Who did he think you were?" Olivia asked.


"Just a guy called John."


She snorted. "Considering you picked him up at the bar, that sort of fits."


"I guess it does. Has his body turned up at the morgue?"


"Not so far, so either he's alive or his body is well hidden." She shook her head. "If he is alive, we have to find him. He just might have seen whoever shot you. It would be nice to know if it was one of Mackenzie's people or someone else."


Darren smiled wryly. "The list could be a long one if it wasn't one of his men."


"No kidding." She stood, looking down at him. "Get some more sleep, and don't even think about leaving until the doc gives his okay. Understood?"


"Yeah, I got it."


"Then remember it. I'd rather not have to come searching for you again because you passed out somewhere."


"I'm not too partial to that happening either, so I'll be a good boy—for now."



Saturday, May 21, 2022

You Do What You Have To - 5



"How in God's name did they find you, Darren?"


Darren Walker, aka Gary Freeman, aka John, closed his eyes against the sudden intrusion of light and the tight, angry voice of the woman standing beside the bed.


"Hell if I know," he replied sourly, finally opening his eyes enough to look at her. "Thank for coming to get me, Olivia."


She smiled—almost. "That's what I'm here for. To get your ass out of trouble, among other things," she said sarcastically while she pulled up a chair and sat, looking at him.


"How bad are the damages?" he asked.


"According to the doc, you'll live. The bullet scored your skull, but didn't enter it, so more blood than real damage. He ran an MRI, and your brain looks good." She smiled sourly. "Well, as good as normal, which in your case isn't saying much." When he flipped her off, she shrugged. "Just calling it like I see it. On the other hand, the shot to your side went in and out, fracturing a rib, which deflected the bullet outward without damaging any internal organs. You're well dosed up on antibiotics and painkillers at the moment."


"Great," Darren replied sarcastically. "How long until I can get out of here?"


"You should know the answer to that. You've been shot before. Two days, a week? It depends how fast you heal. So"—she tapped her fingers together—"tell me what went down—in detail."


He frowned, trying to replay the night in his mind. "Okay. I went to the bar. It was slow, so half-empty. None of Mackenzie's men were there. Neither was the man I was supposed to be meeting. I hung around for a while, watching guys dance to give me something legit to do. This kid and I got to talking. Okay, not a kid really, since I'm putting him at twenty-four, twenty-five. Anyway, one thing led to another and…"


"You took him back to the house. Damn it, Darren!"


He smiled weakly. "What can I tell you? He was cute? I was bored and horny? Shit happens. So anyway, we finished up. I was getting dressed. He was in the bathroom, and my friendly shooter showed up. He fired twice but, for whatever reason—maybe because he heard the kid and wanted to get away before he was seen—he didn't check to make sure I was dead. I managed to get out of there and ended up where you found me."


"After a lot of searching. A toolshed isn't much of a description in that neighborhood." She leaned back, staring at the wall over the bed for a minute. "I take it you didn't get a good look at the shooter?"


"Not really. He was silhouetted in the doorway. Tall. Dark hair, as far as I could tell. I was more interested in trying not to die than anything else when it happened. The only thing that got me out of there once he was gone was adrenaline."


"Could this kid have seen him? And does he have a name?"


"Micky, but that's all I know." Darren shrugged. "If he did see anything, he didn't come running to my defense."

Thursday, May 19, 2022

You Do What You Have To - 4



Resting his head against the wall, Micky stared off into space. Are you a good guy, Gary Freeman? Or a criminal? For sure, someone wants you dead. If the guy came back again, he must have been real pissed to find out you weren't a corpse. He probably thinks I helped you get away. I mean, damn, unless he was blind, he saw my clothes there, and yours. He'd have to be stupid not to put two and two together. If he took my wallet, like I thought earlier, figuring it was yours… I am so screwed if he did. There's no way I can go back to my place, or to… Shit!


Micky started to open his phone to call in to work then thought better of it. Not the calling in part, but using his own phone to do it. In fact, when he thought about it, he figured he'd better dump it somewhere instead. Have I seen too many cop shows? Could the shooter really track me down using my phone? Hell if I know, but I'm not taking any chances. He opened the back of the phone to take out the SIM card, because it had info on it he didn't want to lose. If it's not in the phone, they can't track me through it… I hope. With that done, he took the phone into the bathroom, set it on the floor and stomped on it until it was crushed. Gathering up the pieces, he tossed the smallest ones into the toilet and flushed, then wrapped the rest in a washcloth, intending to get rid of them in a Dumpster later.


Am I crazy, doing this? For all I know, the guy already traced me and is outside right now, waiting for me to open the door so he can take me out.


He scrubbed his hand over his face. "If he is," he said under his breath, "he's SOL, because I'm staying right here until…until my week is up. Yeah, right. I'll be a basket case by then, to say the least of starving to death."


That made him realize he really was hungry. Do I dare go down to the lobby again? There were a couple of vending machines with snacks. He smiled morosely. I guess I could survive on those cheese crackers with peanut butter.


Taking a deep breath, he went to the window, carefully inching the curtain back enough to peer down at the parking lot behind the motel. There were a few empty cars but that was it. Across the lot, there was a vacant alley then another parking lot. It looked safe enough for him to chance going to the lobby.


"Okay, okay, grow a pair," he chastised himself. "It's daytime. No one is going to take potshots at me. I'm being paranoid—and then some. Ruining a perfectly good phone because…of a damned nightmare." He shook his head and opened the door, checking the balcony before stepping out. "Empty. Duh. Just like the lot." For a moment he froze when a truck came down the alley. Then, disgusted at his cowardice, he made his way to the motel lobby.


Tuesday, May 17, 2022

You Do What You Have To - 3



Micky made his way to the center of the city, taking alleys, crossing the streets only after he'd checked to be certain no one seemed interested in him. Not that the guy would come marching down the street toward me, gun out and firing. I hope.


He had a destination in mind. A place he hadn't been at since he first arrived in the city, broke and friendless. Then, the motel had been his salvation. Now it could be again, he figured.


Or not. I'll need to pay for a room. He took Gary's wallet from his pocket, hoping against hope the man had money. When he checked, he whistled softly. Five hundred? Holy shit. And a gold card. Not that I can use it. I sure don't look like him. Still…


Putting the wallet back in his pocket, he continued walking, although he changed direction, heading to a bus stop where he knew he could catch one that would take him to the cheap motel where they didn't ask questions if you were willing to pay in cash. That had been his first…home, he supposed, after coming to the city.


It was close to two in the morning, but the bus he needed was still running. Fifteen minutes later he got off a block from the motel. When he neared it, he was glad to see the sign still said "Cheap weekly rates", although he had a feeling they would be higher than the first time he'd been a guest. He was right. A week would cost him just over half the five hundred. Still, it was a bed and a bathroom. What else could a guy in his position want? And it was on the other side of the city from where Gary had been shot. The check-in clerk was old, tired and at that late hour, happy to take Micky's money instead of having to go through the formalities of running a credit card. Micky figured that would be the case. It had happened the first time he'd stayed there.


Micky's room, such as it was, was at the back of the motel, on the second floor. He trudged up the outside staircase and along the balcony, found 201 and went inside. Stripping down to his briefs, Micky collapsed into bed and fell asleep immediately.


* * * *


He awoke—he didn't know how much later—drenched in sweat. He'd dreamed of blood and a masked man with a gun chasing after him. In the nightmare, it seemed as if he was running in slow-motion with nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. Getting up, he went into the bathroom, turned on the tap, and drenched his head in cold water. After drying off, he went back to bed. This time he slept without dreaming, awakening to sunlight streaming through the window.


After a long, hot shower, he dressed and went to the motel lobby to get a toothbrush and toothpaste from the vending machine along one wall. Going back to his room, he brushed his teeth, which made him feel almost human. Then he sat on the bed, his back against the wall, and tried to decide what to do next.


"Who the hell are you, that someone wanted you dead?" Micky muttered, picking up Gary's wallet from the nightstand between the twin beds. He flipped it open, looking at the driver's license again. Gary Freeman was definitely the same man Micky has been with last night. Although for all I know, that's not his real name any more than John was. He went through the wallet, looking for anything that would confirm the man's identity. The credit cards all belonged to Gary Freeman, as did, surprisingly, a library card. Both it and the license had the same address. Micky figured it had to belong to the house Gary took him to, though he didn't actually know for certain. At least it's on the right side of town to be.


He hadn't been paying attention when they'd driven over from the bar. He'd been much more interested in the man than the ride And when he'd run, after the shooting, all he'd been thinking was getting as far away as fast as possible, in case the shooter came back to finish the job.


"No fucking way was I about to become another victim. How the hell Gary managed to get out of there is…well, a miracle of some sort, I guess."