Monday, October 17, 2011

Two Down Zero to Go

First published at Yellow Mama (2011) - read editor interview

I sat alone on a barstool at Mack’s waiting for the sudsy foam on my Guinness to settle. I hated beer with a head. Mack knew that, but he was pissed at me for turning his brother in for the bounty. It was a job to me, that was all. I liked Mack. I liked his brother, Jesse. I also liked paying the rent, drinking beer, and eating taco salads.

I'd known the twins since we played football together in high school. We were big for our ages and competed like it. Jesse had been the friendly one of his family until his third deployment to Iraq. He came home that last time an angry bastard. Too many good people died for nothing, he said. Later, Mack told me Jesse's best pal Javier had died in Jesse's arms after their vehicle ran over an IED. It made me feel good that all I brought home from the first Iraq war was a bum knee.

Jesse'd learned some nasty ways to kill people in the Marines and used one of them when he robbed the convenience store. He would've wrung the clerk's neck clean off his shoulders if his partner hadn't pulled Jesse away before he did any real damage. Not that I was there. My buddy in the police department told me about the heist. I liked to know what I was getting into, if possible, before I tried to apprehend a bail jumper, especially one as mean as Jesse.

I tracked Jesse to the junkyard across town and waited until darkness blanketed the neighborhood before climbing the chain-link fence. Using a penlight to make my way to the shack Jesse had called home since he'd gone into hiding, I sidled up to a grease-stained window and peeked inside. Jesse sat on a plastic chair in front of a TV, its rabbit ears held together by tape.

Jesse cheered on the Jets as I watched. "You boneheaded asshole," he said. "What made you think you could play quarterback?" He threw the bottle of beer he was working on toward the screen and missed.

I couldn't help but laugh. It was the same line he used on his brother when we lost the district championship. The only difference was this time he meant it.

The memory made me wonder what I was doing. Unlike the other criminals I'd tracked down, Jesse was a friend. After a few seconds--I wasn't one to over think a problem--I decided it didn't matter. I had to eat, and Jesse did the crime.

Shouldering the door open, I charged across the room. Jesse rose from his chair at the noise, and I thrust my fist into his face. A punch like that wouldn't have done much if Jesse was sober. The dozen or so empty bottles of Coors Light scattered on the floor told me he wasn't. I shackled Jesse and called the police. I would have taken him in myself, but he was too big for me to drag to my Explorer.

I stopped by Buck's Bail Bonds on my way to Mack's. I knew there wouldn't be any free drinks once I told Mack about his brother. I figured it'd be best if I told him.

Mack leaned forward, placed his hands on the bar, and looked at the floor when I told him about Jesse. Without saying a word, he grabbed a towel, wiped a spot on the bar, and moved away.

I considered finding a different job while watching Mack walk to the other end of the bar, but there wasn't much out there I could do. Some might say I wasn't much of a bounty hunter, but it paid enough for me. I wasn't about to buy a Mercedes or a fancy TV. They would ruin my image as a no good bum who hunted down his friends as if they weren't.

I finished my beer and left a ten on the bar to settle my tab. I wasn't sure Mack would touch it. It didn't bother me...well, not much. I was a loner. Except for Mack and Jesse, I didn't have any friends. Hadn't since high school. And now I was pretty sure I could cross them off the list.

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