Mom headed home to the Bowles ranch. Her brother, my uncle B.J., aimed for the palatial digs owned by his soon to be ex-lover, Hardesty Collins.
Jack Hill and I took a third route, parking in front of the nearest U-Haul storefront we could find. Tipped the seats back in the Pontiac, got almost two hours of shuteye before the sun was up and the manager arrived to unlock the door.
From there, me leading and Jack driving the twenty foot rental truck, it was back to B.J.’s storage unit. The big man was scheduled to meet us whenever his face-off with Collins was finished, but we weren’t waiting for that, just went to work loading the cargo box. By the time we were finished, though, I was starting to worry.
I checked my watch. “It’s after nine, Jack.”
“Yeah.” The old man looked thoughtful. “We ain’t heard no police calls on the scanner for Hardy’s address, so that’s good, but–”
–and B.J.’s massive ’46 Hudson made the turn, just in time for the big man to avoid all the work. Jack and I were both grinning when the car pulled to a stop and Hennessey got out–
–but we sobered instantly when we saw that he was limping heavily on his right leg. His jeans on that side were soaked with what could only be blood. His blood, judging from the bandage crudely wrapped around his oversized thigh, a bandage that from the look of it had once been a long, white scarf.
White no longer.
The man was smiling, though, or at least sort of. One side of his mouth was twisted up. Despite being in obvious pain, his eyes twinkled.
“Did I manage to miss most of the work?” He asked. We could only shake our heads, Jack moving to fish the needed supplies from the back of the truck while I reopened the storage unit we’d been about to abandon. The two of us then hauled out B.J.’s big leather recliner, setting it back down in the storage unit out of sight of prying eyes. There weren’t any of those around at the moment that we could tell, but none of us believed in taking chances.
Knowing what was needed, our wounded warrior untied the blood soaked scarf, kicked off his boots, and shucked his pants before settling into the chair with a relieved sigh. His boxers were bloodstained, too, but we could see the injury to work on it. For the moment, that was enough. Jack locked up the truck and, with all three of us inside and the light turned on, closed the storage unit door.
If some evil idiot passed by with a padlock in hand, he could lock us in here, but the odds on that weren’t high enough to worry about.
There were two obvious puncture wounds, right in the quad muscle. “Looks almost like a damn rattler strike,” I observed, “but I’m betting you’ve got a better story to tell than that.”
“Oh, I do,” B.J. agreed cheerfully, his face graying a bit as Jack hit the injury site with spray antiseptic. “Guess you could say it was a viper that bit me at that, Tree. Hardy hammered me with a meat fork, clean to the depth of the tines. Jack, I doubt there’s much worry about infection. Those punctures bled out really good, as you can see.”
“I see, all right.” Hill was pouring a small fistful of antibiotic pills into his hand, either Zith or Cipro–we all kept a supply of both on hand–and reaching for a bottle of colloidal silver to use as a chaser. “I also know thin puncture wounds like these can surprise a fellow, and we don’t need any more surprises.”
“Can’t argue that,” my uncle nodded, accepting the meds without further comment.
“So,” I asked, “your woman scorned validated the old Hell hath no fury adage. Was she trying to kill you, or just mark you a bit?”
“Definitely trying to kill me.” He grimaced, obviously hit by a sudden flash of pain. At a guess, though the weapon hadn’t come close to the femoral artery–he’d already have been dead if it had–it had done a fair bit of nerve damage. He’d be feeling the after effects of this particular relationship for a while. “Tree, would you do me a favor? Slip out to the Hudson, that secret compartment in the back, there’s a six-pack of Heineken. I ain’t turned into no alky, and I do realize we got miles to go before we sleep, but right now I’m craving a beer something fierce.”
“Done,” I said, and went to get it. B.J. Hennessey could, in his day, drink any lesser man under the table. I never acquired the taste for alcohol in the first place, though, and my uncle was next thing to a teetotaler these days. Only drank on special occasions, like when a Democrat got his ass beat for the White House or my cousin got her full ride basketball scholarship or, apparently, when a woman stabbed him with a meat fork.
When I got back with the brew, he only drank one, though it only took him two tries to empty the bottle. “Ah! That hit the spot! Now, I suppose you two rounders gotta hear the whole bloody story before we hit the road, eh?”
“Eh,” Jack agreed, handing him clean boxers and jeans to go over the pair of oversized Band Aids. We turned our backs while he changed, pretending to study his boots. There wasn’t much to do about those; the right one was streaked with blood that was probably going to mark it forever.
“Well,” B.J. said, accompanying the word with the sound of his zipper going up so we knew it was okay to turn around again, “it went like this. First off, she started out cranky, wanted to know what was so all fired important that I got in as late as I did. So I told her, nothing mean or anything, just that she was a conniving bitch who’d got herself caught in the act and I was pulling up stakes. Plus, if she didn’t persuade her puppet company to drop the lawsuit against Rodeo Iron, I’d not only be testifying on the other side, but I’d also publish a few copies of her favorite bedroom bondage sessions, just for kicks and giggles.”
“You what?!” I exploded in laughter, Jack not far behind me. If anyone happened to be passing by outside of the storage unit, they’d be moving right out, convinced there was a pack of rabid hyenas inside. “You telling us Miss Rodeo Cowgirl Politician likes BDSM?”
He nodded. “She does.”
“So,” Jack Hill asked with a straight face, “which is her preference? She like to be tied up, or she like tying you up?”
B.J. grinned. “She’s a switch. She’ll go either way, and since being in chains doesn’t appeal to my particular African American nature, she played the submissive.”
“And you filmed it. And kept copies.”
“Well…it was her camcorder, but yeah, I did download a few dozen copies of various sessions onto a DVD, and then tucked that into one of the various hiding places in the Hudson.”
“A few dozen?” I felt my eyes blinking rapidly of their own accord. “Wow.”
“Yeah,” he agreed. “Wow. That part of our time together was fun, you know? But she really didn’t much like the idea of me blackmailing her like that. Of course, I did kind of throw a little gasoline on the fire. She was already sputtering like Mount St. Helens about to blow when I added the final straw to the camel’s back. Told her I’d make her fetish more famous than Anthony Wiener’s wiener. And…she lost it. Grabbed the first lethal weapon she could find, which happened to be a meat fork lying out on the counter.”
My brow wrinkled. “And she stabbed you in the leg?”
“Yeah. She was aiming more between ’em, I do believe. Only my lifetime combat reflexes saved me from singing soprano, gentlemen, I can tell you that much. But she was lightning quick, a lot faster than I’d ever realized, or I’d have been on my feet with at least a chair between us when I delivered that last line. Believe me.
“But she weren’t done yet. She left the fork stuck in my leg and dashed for the bedroom. I had no choice but to give pursuit, didn’t even have time to pull the fork back out, ’cause I knew she was going for her guns. One of them, anyway. And if she got hold of one before I could catch her, she’d shoot me dead. She’s all country that way, no child locks and they’re all loaded. So here I am, 300 pounds of six foot eight black man pounding down the hallway after this fast-moving athlete woman, that stuck-in meat fork just a-flashing and my leg screaming with every step.”
I shuddered at the image. “You caught her in time, obviously. So…then what?” It was all too easy to picture a really ugly outcome.
“Well…some of it is kind of fuzzy, you know? I mean, the action was pretty hairy there for a while. I do remember hanging onto her by the hair with my left hand, just hauling her back enough so she couldn’t reach the .357 Magnum she was going for, and finally yanking that meat fork out of my leg with my right hand. Hurt like blue blazes, but there was plenty of adrenaline to go around. She got twisted around, tried to punch me but couldn’t reach with my arm stretched out, then hauled off and kicked me.”
“With a cowboy boot?” Jack asked, mildly.
“Thankfully, no. Still had her slippers on. Still felt it, though, and I ain’t saying where.”
“Ouch,” I muttered, and B.J. cocked an eyebrow at me.
“Yeah, ouch some, but I had more than that to worry about. It took a while, and I got hurt a few more places before I was done, but finally I had her spread eagled out on the bed, wrists and ankles cuffed to the four poster. She was still cussing me, calling me every vile name in the book–the n-word being the least of it–so I got out one of her favorite ball gags and shut her up, mostly.”
“You left her that way.”
“Eventually, yeah. She’s got a housekeeper due around 1:00 p.m., comes in twice a week in the afternoons, so she’ll be getting loose soon enough. I’d like to be out of Idaho before that happens.”
I checked my watch. “Do we need to–”
He raised a hand in reassurance. “Nah. There’s no real rush. I’m just a little paranoid. She’s not going to want any publicity about this, believe me. Before I left, I set her camcorder up again and had a little chat with her. Put myself on film explaining exactly what had happened and why, got close-ups of both my injury and the meat fork in all their bloody glory, then filmed her on the bed there, ungagged her, and invited her to respond. Which she did, making up her story as she went along, trying to undercut the story I’d just told of the out-of-control, power hungry madwoman. But she made herself look stupid doing it, and then after I re-gagged her, I recorded my own rebuttal, even explaining that I’d be loading the conversation onto a disk and taking it with me. Which of course I did. I’ve got the only copy, just to make sure she can’t edit the thing to make me out the villain of the piece.”
Jack Hill finally got us going by raising the storage unit door. We had to reload the recliner onto the U-Haul, of course, by which time B.J. had limped his oversized carcass back to his Hudson and fired it up. Must be a tad painful driving that stick shift, though I wouldn’t doubt he could do it all left-footed if he had to.
Because of B.J. being wounded, we put him in the middle, the rocking chair, with Jack piloting the U-Haul truck up front and me covering the back door in the Pontiac. If I saw the Hudson start wavering, or if my uncle needed to pull over, I’d be right on it.
Of course, it was sort of a good news, bad news situation.
Good news: We had less than a hundred miles to go to get out of Idaho, via Monida Pass into Montana. That would make all of us feel a sight better.
Bad news: I suspected my uncle needed a pound of steak and a quart of orange juice–or something–to start rebuilding all those red blood cells he’d lost…and the first café we could hit would be at Dillon, some sixty or so miles inside Montana.
Good news: The weather was clear, the freeway bare and dry. We should make good time as long as the U-Haul held together. I’ve never trusted those suckers.
Bad news: President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were both still in power.
But then, you can’t have everything. With nothing much to do but toodle on down the highway and keep a weather eye on my rear view mirrors, I dug through the box of CD’s, found the one I wanted, and popped it into the slot. C.W. McCall’s classic Convoy belted out through the Bose speakers, and I sang along.
…Pig Pen, this here’s the Rubber Duck
and I’m about to put the hammer down.