by Don Blinebry
Margot’s jaw muscles are working overtime. She’d take a punch at me if she was sure she wouldn’t break a nail. She’s sitting in the passenger seat staring into oblivion and I wonder if bringing her along is as good an idea as it seemed when I thought of it.
This isn’t what you want running through your head on a stakeout. I focus on the front door of the Bostwick Hotel fifty feet away. I check everyone. Some punk with a shaved head walks by and suddenly I’m thinking about ammunition.
“Excuse me.” I reach across Margot and open the glove compartment. Without taking my eyes off the hotel, I find the spare clip and close the glove box.
“Forget to load your little gun, Pike? I thought you were a hotshot detective.”
I smile. “Call me Hancock. All my friends do. This is a hot load. I’m not taking chances with ricochets on a crowded street.” She’s staring out the window again.
“You’re really going to kill him, just like that.” Her voice is matter-of-fact and it’s not a question.
“No, not just like that. That’s what you’re here for. You said he might listen to you. He’s an escaped felon. Tell him to surrender and nobody gets hurt. That’s the deal. If he puts up a fight, I’ll take him down.”
“Jake would kill you if he knew you dragged me here.”
“Nobody dragged you and who the hell is Jake? Oh, you mean Eugene? Yes, well, if I had a name like that, I’d change it too. Who you gonna scare with a name like Eugene?”
“He scares plenty of people.” I can’t tell if she’s trying to convince me or herself.
“Really? Like who? Children and small animals? You? Did he scare you when he gave you this?” I touch the scar near the corner of her eye. She jerks away and glares at me. It’s supposed to be her angry look but she’s close to tears.
“If it makes you feel better, you’re not the first woman he’s beat up. He did two years for battery in ’04.”
Silence. I check the hotel. She’s staring out the window but the jaw muscles are quiet.
“You didn’t know about the assault conviction, did you? When he got arrested for armed robbery, the judge came down hard because of the priors. What’s a pretty girl like you doing with that scum?”
She lets the question hang there like wet pantyhose draped over the shower rod. Shorty, my street snitch, walks out of the hotel, rubs his neck and goes back in. Nothing to report.
“I suppose you never had a bad day and went home and beat up your wife or your girlfriend?” Her question takes me by surprise. “All guys do that.”
“No, all guys don’t do that. Hell, even if I had a wife or a girlfriend…just because you fell for a creep doesn’t mean everybody’s a bastard.”
I can see the street lights reflect off damp eyes. I wonder if she’s feeling sorry for me or herself or Eugene. Probably not Eugene.
“Do you really think I’m pretty?”
“You don’t have mirrors?”
“Well, of course. I think I look okay, except for my nose and my mouth is too wide. You can’t hide that with makeup. Jake is the only one who ever said I was pretty until you said it, sort of.”
“He’ll tell you whatever you want to hear. Don’t kid yourself. When you’re not around, he says the same thing to somebody else.”
“Oh, like you’d know.”
I take my eyes off the hotel. “I’m the one who brought him in, so yeah, I know what he says when you’re not around. I’m just saying you could’ve done better. When Eugene goes back to the joint, he won’t be getting out.”
“They said that before. The next time he escapes, he’ll be looking for me.”
Shorty is in front of the hotel again. He adjusts his cap and walks into the deli next door. “This is it.” I chamber a round and open the car door. “Get out and stay close to the buildings. Wait for my signal before you tell him to surrender.”
I keep the car between me and the hotel and focus my attention on the entrance. From the corner of my eye I watch her cross the sidewalk.
Eugene pushes through the hotel door, resplendent in a cheap suit and bad haircut. I look at Margot. She’s ten feet away.
Her voice is shrill. “Jake, look out. He’s got a gun.”
Eugene does an imitation of a bobble-head doll, trying to look everywhere at once. I use the car roof to steady my aim while he fumbles for his weapon. Now he’s made me. I’m thinking there should be a warning as I watch the gun come up. “Don’t,” I feel the Colt jump against the heel of my hand, “…even think about it.”
The wall of the hotel breaks Eugene’s fall. Surprise hasn’t had time to register. People are screaming and running but his eyes have never left me. He tries to bring the gun up again.
Margot’s line about a next time comes to mind. The Colt jumps twice and Eugene goes limp.
I move around the car, keeping the .38 trained on my target. Shorty is in front of the deli dialing 911. The smell of Margot’s perfume tells me she’s close. Shalimar and gunpowder and the stench of the city are a heady combination. Her voice is shaky.
“Did I do okay, Pike? Did I get it right?”
“You did just fine, kid. Take a taxi. You’ve been home all night if anybody asks. I’ll call you in a couple of days.”
I listen to her heels click down the row of parked cabs. My toe nudges Eugene’s Glock away from him. The wail of approaching sirens mixes with the murmurs of a gathering crowd and from somewhere, the riff of an alto sax punctuates the night.
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