Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bugtussle’s Bike Bags (part 6)

-    Cigarette Smoke    -

Mel Jackson counted out sixty-five dollars, all in brand new, crisp bills to the couple standing on the other side of the counter, and then closed the register drawer. The young couple – probably no more than nineteen or twenty years old – had just pawned two wedding bands and a diamond ring. It was a cheap diamond but the gold itself was enough to bring Mel a tidy profit should they not find the means to make good on their loan. Mel’s best guess was that they were having a rough go at starting a family too early in life – with one or maybe even two kids back at home being watched by a mother or little sister or brother. Now they had just parted with the last bit of anything of value that they owned between them in a last-ditch attempt at making some sort of ends meet. As the guy stuffed the cash in his back pocket, they slowly walked out the door and past the rack of pawned mountain bikes and girls’ frame 10-speeds that nobody wants. Mel had just the slightest twinge of a caring feeling start to form in lowest sub-levels of his heart – but then quickly (we’re talking nanoseconds quickly) snapped back to his reality by replacing those feelings with thoughts of the four- or five-hundred bucks he’ll be able to sell those rings for in thirty days when those kids don’t show back up.

But Mel had other things on his mind at that particular point in time. He needed to get back to his friend in the back room – his friend that had gotten himself into a gigantic heap of trouble. Of course, Mel realized that he was that same gigantic heap of trouble also – maybe not quite as deep into the heap but definitely to a point that fell somewhere between his shoulders and chin.  He knew that the best plan of action at this point was for his friend to turn himself in to the police. Sure, Mel knew that he’d be implicated since the gun was from his shop but he would just have to find a way to deal with it. After all, the whole thing was just an accident. This was Mel’s planned advice to his friend as he walked to the back room but – upon opening the door he discovered that his young friend was nowhere to be found. He took a deep breath. Mel felt the heap get a good ten feet taller.

Back at the police station, Detectives Bass and Salamander were studying the contents of the newly discovered bike bag. Jimmy was at one end of the desk and Dolores stood at the other.  Sal wrote in his notebook as Arnold vocally itemized the contents of the bag: packet of cookies, sunglasses, twelve business cards (JP Bugtussle – phone number – email address), spiral notepad (blank – just like the rest), and a ballpoint pen. Out of a routine habit, Arnold took the pen and scribbled on the desk blotter. He added, “Blue ink ballpoint pen.” Sal duly noted it as such.

Sal also duly noted that his partner and Dolores were constantly making eye contact with each other – little looks that sort of lingered longer than normal. He also noted that their casual touching was starting to be a little more obvious.  Sal was a detective. He was paid to notice things. Arnold had been single for nearly ten years – and hadn’t been on a date in probably nine. Dolores was a good looking woman – about the same age as Arnold.  It’s obvious that they were attracted to each other. In Detective Mode, Sal would call those things “the facts.” Then he silently chuckled to himself, as he saw them standing next to each other, hands obviously touching out of sight beneath the top of the desk, and he thought, “Arnold can’t stand cigarette smoke.”

-( 1997 )----------

“Clevenger Skate and Ball Bearing, this is Sherry.”

“Hello Miss Castle. This is JP. Is Nathan in?”

“I’m sorry Mr Bugtussle. Nathan is out of town until Thursday. Is there anything I can help you with?”

“Oh, there were just a couple of issues that my lawyers brought to my attention regarding the sale. I wanted to discuss them with Nathan but it can wait a few days if need be.”

“Hopefully it’s nothing too serious that will jeopardize the deal. We’re all real excited about it here.”

“It just some minor details but something that needs to be addressed— Miss Castle, not meaning to change the subject too drastically, but— do you mind if I ask you a personal question?”

“Why no, Mr Bugtussle. What is it?"

"Do you happen to know where I could find a good witch doctor?"

(Back: Part 5  -  Shredded Styrofoam Cups)

(Next: Part 7  -  Porch Steps)

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