PREVIOUSLY ON POP CULTURE MYSTERIES…
Part 1 – Hatcher stops by the Pack N’ Sack Liquor Mart, where even the owner thinks our resident gumshoe has a problem.
AND NOW THE POP CULTURE MYSTERIES CONTINUE….
The kid was packing a semi-automatic pistol. He turned his attention away from me and pointed his weapon at Lou.
“Empty it!” the punk commanded as he pointed to the register.
Beads of sweat dripped off of Lou’s barren cranium, but he stayed cool. He nodded and without making a fuss, took every last bill out of the register and shoved them into a paper bag.
“Son,” I said.
The youngun ignored me.
“Son, I think you need to take a long hard look at what you’re doing here.”
The gun was back in my face again. The kid’s hand was shaking like a leaf being blown around in a swift breeze. He was more nervous than a hen at a fox convention.
Clearly, he was not a pro.
“Why don’t you put that thing away before someone gets hurt?”
The kid’s eyes were filled to the brim with fear.
“This is your first rodeo, isn’t it Jack?”
“Hatcher,” Lou said as he slid the bag of money across the counter. “Will you shut the hell up before you get us both killed?”
The gun was in Lou’s face again.
“DID ANYONE ASK YOU?!”
“Whoa,” Lou said as he shot his hands up into the air. “Easy. No problem. That’s all yours. Anything you want.”
“I think if he was going to use that thing he’d of clipped us both by now,” I said.
And once again, I was staring down a barrel.
“GIMMIE YOUR WALLET!”
I laughed. “Oh if it’s a payday you’re looking for fella, you’re barking up the wrong tree with yours truly.”
Lou went ballistic.
“HATCHER WILL YOU STOP SCREWING AROUND WITH THIS GUY AND DO WHAT HE SAYS?!”
Spooked by Lou’s fat cake hole, the kid spun around again, but this time I grabbed his forearm and slammed it down on the counter’s hard edge. He fired a shot that shattered one of the bottles on the shelf behind the counter, spraying a good year scotch all over the place. What a waste.
The pain forced the perpetrator to loosen his grip on his heater, which allowed me to take it from him.
I hauled back and smashed the scumbag’s nose with the butt of the gun, causing the him to hit the floor like a sack of potatoes. I brought my wingtip down on the guy’s ribs a few times for good measure, only stopping when I heard one of them crack.
Keeping my foot on the crook’s chest, I used my right hand to hold the kid’s own gun on him and my left hand to search around inside his jacket pocket.
“Now then,” I said as I pulled out the yahoo’s wallet. “Let’s see who you are.”
My captive spit a mouthful of blood all over Lou’s nice, clean linoleum floor. I flipped the wallet open and found myself staring at the suspect in custody’s driver’s license.
“Hello there, Craig Henneman,” I said. “Whaddya know, whaddya say?”
“I think you chipped my tooth.”
“Least of your problems,” I said. “The first one being you’re the only criminal I’ve ever met dumb enough to bring his identification along on a heist. Get on our feet.”
Like a fish in the bottom of a canoe, the kid flopped around on the floor until Lou finally came around and hoisted him up.
“Craig, I want to tell you a story. It’s called, ‘The Wrong Guy.’”
“Hatch,” Lou interrupted. “Let’s just call the cops, huh?”
I ignored my alcohol selling friend and carried on. The kid didn’t look like he was all that interested, but he didn’t have much of a choice but to listen since I was the one with the gun.
“You see my friend here,” I said as I pointed to Lou. “He did what most people would do. He gave you what you wanted. Most guys will do just that. Most guys aren’t looking for trouble. As much as most guys like to complain about how exhausting they find life, when faced with the possibility of taking the long dirt nap, they quickly discover they aren’t as tired as they thought.”
Lou returned back behind the counter. The kid clutched his aching chest and leered at me like he wanted to tear me apart.
“But then there’s the wrong guy,” I said. “The wrong guy is usually a real piece of work. He’s a guy who’s taken a wrecking ball to his existence. He’s given up on ever being loved by a woman after a lifetime of heartache. This guy has tossed his dreams into the trashcan where they belong and frankly, he’s taken so many lives that one more won’t matter a hill of beans to him.”
I pressed the cold steel right between the degenerate’s eyes. He closed them.
“You see son, the wrong guy doesn’t have anything to lose. You might think you’ll be able to spend your whole life pushing people around and taking what doesn’t belong to you but one of these days you’re going to meet the wrong guy and mark my words, when you meet this miserable excuse for a human being and get between him and his bottle, the last thing he truly gives a flying rat’s ass about in his cold, depressing life, he will not hesitate to take your gun away from you like the sissy mary that you truly are, beat you to a bloody pulp with it then blow your brains out all over the place.”
“Get it over with,” the kid muttered.
“Oh,” I said as I stepped back. “We’ve got a miscommunication here. Sorry to scare you my boy, but I’m not the wrong guy. I’m pretty close to being the wrong guy, but I’m not quite there yet. You see, I’m haunted by the face of every man I’ve put in the ground, even though every last one of them deserved it. It’s a helluva thing taking a life. It causes a torment to brew in your gut that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. You’d of felt it one day had you greased me or my friend over there. Sadly, you’re probably too stupid to realize that you should thank me for sparing you from the misery that comes with taking a life.”
“If I thank you will you let me go?”
“I don’t give the Pope’s pointy hat about it,” I said. “I just don’t need to be kept up at night with your butt ugly mug dancing around in my brain when there’s already a bunch of slimeballs taking up that valuable real estate.”
The three of us just stood around staring at each other like a trio of idiots.
“What now?” the kid asked.
“Take a walk,” I said as I put the gun in my coat pocket, not far from where Betsy was resting her in holster.
The failed stick-up man didn’t waste any time in making a beeline for the door.
“Kid,” I said. He stopped but didn’t turn around.
“This is a second chance,” I said. “They’re few and far between in life, if at all. Use it. Pull yourself out of the gutter before you do meet the wrong guy.”
The door bell dinged and the hood was gone. Lou bolted for the door and locked it, then returned to the counter.
“What the hell is wrong with you? You could have gotten us both killed ya’ moron!”
“By who?” I asked. “That wimp? Please. Rule number one of being a criminal is don’t pull a piece unless you’re ready to use it. One look at that kid’s eyes told me he wasn’t ready.”
“Yeah well, maybe not all of us want to take that risk,” Lou said as he pulled out his little beep boop phone machine.
“What’re you doing?” I asked.
“Ordering a pizza. What do you think jackass? I’m calling the cops!”
I took Lou’s phone out of his hand, hanged it up, and set it on the counter.
“Last thing the world needs is one more life lost to the clink,” I said. “Probably just some loser down on his luck who never had an adult in his life willing to teach him right from wrong and thought this would be a good way to make a quick buck. Don’t worry about it. I scared that kid straight.”
“You scared a skidmark into my undies is what you did.”
Lou opened up the biggest paper bag he had, put the tequila I’d purchased earlier into it, then added a couple extra selections.
“A reward for the conquering hero,” Lou said as he handed me the hooch. “Go home and celebrate.”
“Will do,” I said as I headed for the door.
“I still want to see you in that meeting Saturday night, mi amigo. Now I’m convinced there’s something worth saving in you more than ever.”
“Go wash your undies, Lou.”
Copyright Bookshelf Q. Battler 2015. All Rights Reserved.
Image courtesy of a shutterstock.com license.