Authors: Douglas E. Winter
ALSO BY DOUGLAS E. WINTER
THIS IS A BORZOI BOOK
LFRED A. KNOPF
Copyright © 2000 by Douglas E. Winter
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Distributed by Random House, Inc., New York.
Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following for permission to reprint previously published material:
Excerpt from “Cock the Hammer” by Senen Reyes, Louis Freese, and Lawrence Muggerud. Copyright © 1993 by BMG Songs, Inc. (ASCAP) and Cypress Phuncky Music (ASCAP). All rights on behalf of Cypress Phuncky Music (ASCAP) administered by BMG Songs, Inc. (ASCAP). Used by permission.
: Excerpt from “Hurdy Gurdy Man” by Donovan Leitch. Copyright © 1968 by Donovan (Music) Limited. Copyright renewed. Administered by Peer International Corporation. International copyright secured. Used by permission.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Winter, Douglas E.
Run / by Douglas E. Winter.—1st ed.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed
Constitution of the United States
Cock the hammer it’s time for action
So we’re shaking down this Dickie Mullen guy, and the guy’s your usual suburban shoot-shop owner, talks the talk about home defense and hunting season, spreads out copies of
Guns & Ammo
Soldier of Fortune
, sells crappy .38s to concerned hubbies and housewives, and all the while he’s dressed up in the red, the white, the blue, it’s the grand old fucking flag. They’re taking away our constitutional rights comes out of this Dickie Mullen guy’s mouth about as often as those fine patriotic words We take VISA and MasterCard. This guy couldn’t defend a house against cockroaches and he wouldn’t know a ten-point buck from a heifer, and right about now he’s talking his talk at the lee side of the counter, an overfed gnome with capped teeth and a lame smile, and I really don’t want to be here but the numbers didn’t add up for the third time in as many months, and this upsets Jules, and the shop’s on my beat so this upsets me. But what upsets me more is that this Dickie Mullen guy is talking a Hefty Bag worth of trash about this and about that, he is talking about anything but the numbers and why the numbers didn’t add up, and I wish he’d come out and say it. Just look up out of the lies and say:
Hey, all right, okay, I’ve been skimming here and scamming there, but I need the money, owe the money, got to have the money. I got a
wife, I got kids, I got a mortgage, and a little from a lot don’t matter, can’t matter, just should not matter.
Then he ought to say, and say very loud:
And after all, you are reasonable men.
I look at Trey Costa, who’s leaning into a hardwood trophy case at the back of the storeroom, right under the deer mounts and a rack of lever-action center-fires. Trey slips the sawed-off from under his raincoat, tips the barrel back over his shoulder, and starts cat-scratching its snout against the glass of the trophy case. Screech, screech, boom.
I look at Renny Two Hand, who just told this Dickie Mullen guy, owner and operator of Safari Guns in the Triland Mall in this bright little suburb of Dirty City, that there’s no time for new lies. That’s when Two Hand shoved the really meaningful part of that wicked Colt Python .357, a nasty handgun if I say so myself, to a spot two inches below the guy’s belly button.
And while I’m taking the time to look, I check out myself, courtesy of the mirror behind this Dickie Mullen guy’s head: solemn-faced and empty-handed. I do not draw down unless I’m going to shoot, but if looks could kill, dear Safari Guns, with its wondrous selection of overpriced foreign product, Taiwanese knockoffs, and well-oiled calendar girls in camouflage and string bikinis, would be redecorated in red right now.
The look I’m giving this Dickie Mullen guy, the stone-cold thing that looks back at me from the mirror, takes years of practice. If you can fake the sincerity, you’re halfway home. So when I try on the face, now and again, I do want to laugh. But today it’s there on its own, and I’m not laughing, this is not a laughing matter. Because, after all, there should be no doubt:
We are reasonable men.
Which is why I hit the spineless fuck in the face.
His head snaps back and red spit leaks out from between those too-real teeth. On cue, Renny hoists his pistol from gut level and points it down on this Dickie Mullen guy’s dome.
Now that we have his attention, it’s time to talk.
Hey, pal, I tell him. I say this one time. So listen up and listen good.
Here’s what I tell this Dickie Mullen guy.
I tell him:
You have the right to remain silent.
I tell him:
If you choose to speak, anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.
I tell him:
You have the right to talk to a lawyer before we ask you any questions.
I tell him:
You have the right to have a lawyer with you during questioning.
I tell him:
If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish.
You have all these rights, I tell him. And, if some cop says so, maybe even a few more. But what you don’t have, pal, is the right to fuck around with me.
That’s when I hit him again. And then I nod, and then Renny cocks the hammer, and then I happen to believe that Dickie’s little dickie just pissed his pants.
You got a nice business here, I tell him. And you ought to keep it that way. But hey, you’ve been selling off the books.
I look down into the display case of pistols and I cannot believe the crap this Dickie Mullen guy is peddling. Just like I cannot believe that Jules Berenger and I are selling it to him.
You want to keep out of trouble, pal. You don’t need this shit. If the state cops or the ATF come sniffing round here, then my friend with the gun comes sniffing round here, and sooner or later I have to come and pay you a visit. Not that I don’t like a friendly chat now and then, but I’m about done with the talking. So you keep things in order, pal. You sell your stock over the counter and you send in those little forms to Treasury. You know why?
He hesitates, shakes his head: No.
I cannot believe this guy.
Because it’s the law, dumb shit. It is the fucking law.
I pass him a handkerchief.
Now wipe your face off.
He looks at the hankie like it’s an alien life form. Then he gets the idea and starts mopping down. First the split lip, then the forehead, then he starts on his pants. Guess he gets to keep this one.
You got a wife, right?
Yeah, he says, but when I give him the look he locks eyes with me and says it right: Yes.
You got kids?
And a mortgage?
He looks at me funny but not for long. Then: Yes.
I point to the front door. So, I tell him. You don’t open up today. You leave that
sign hanging there, and you take the rest of the day off and you go home. You tell them all—the wife, the kids, the mortgage—that you love them. And then tomorrow—well, tomorrow you come in here and you turn that sign over to
, and, hey, it’s like they say: Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life. You got me?
Yes, he says.
I fucking hope so, I tell him.
But worms like this one never learn. Never. Guy probably cheats on his tax returns, cheats on his wife, maybe even cheats on his poker buddies. Next time this happens, and sooner or later there’s gonna be a next time, he’s gonna skim a little bit less, he’s gonna hide a little bit more, the guy’s gonna think he’s getting away with something, and you know what?
That’s when I’m gonna have to kill him.
Renny Two Hand’s in the hot seat, drinking Bud Light out of a bottle and snaking a new cigarette from the battered pack on the bar. Some achy-voiced rock-and-roller, a dead guy, is droning on and on and he’s not even in tune with these dentist-drill guitars. Five one-dollar bills are tented on top of the bar, and Two Hand is looking point-blank into the dancer’s snatch like there’s no tomorrow.
You ever pray? he says.
For what? I ask him, and he just looks right through me and says:
You ever pray?
Shawnee, that’s this dancer’s name, ha-ha, she lets down that witchy-woman hair, and she works her way over to me, and she wants me. I know she wants me because she smiles, a little sly smile, and then the little wink as she strides on past, high heels clicking in time to the beat. So she wants me. Yeah, right. She wants me to lay a little more green on the bar, and when I do, I get some good old hippy-hippy-shake, and then it’s walk on down the line to the next guy, and then the next and the next, still smiling, still winking, still shaking, still wanting. Sweet kid, probably studies psych or sociology at George Mason University and dates a fraternity boy when she isn’t giving blow jobs in the alleyway out back.
I’m leaning my head toward Renny Two Hand, trying to imagine
what he’s really saying to me through a night’s worth of cigarette smoke, drugstore aftershave, gutter rock guitar, and the cheap talk of the Dauphine Steak House, and that is when I hear the cough. It’s a nasty cough, the kind of cough that sort of stands right up and says: I’m a Glock.
Sitting on my cozy stool, nodding away to the music from the band with the dead guy, minding my own business and a lot of the naked lady who’s strutting her stuff atop the bar, trying to think real hard about Bud Light instead of tomorrow, and with that cough in my ear, I realize there’s no escaping a simple fact:
Guns are my life.
So I grind out Renny’s Chesterfield and take a spin on the bar stool and there’s this damn fool backpedaling away from one of the tables out on the dance floor. His chair’s tipped over, and he’s pushing a Spandex-bursting waitress out of the way with one hand and waving a Glock 19 with the other. Asshole.