The Slider, Chapter 6: The Bounty Hunter

MOUNT REST CEMETERY

There were more than eight hundred in attendance by the time the minister cracked his Bible and began to read. No rain, not a cloud overhead, sun glaring down with unmitigated hostility, harmonizing with the coiled fury hidden deep inside Kermit Cavanaugh. He was not known as the ultimate legal weasel for nothing; not a hint of his feelings showed. Not even top poker players could read him. There was no tell, no hint, nada, zip, nothing. He’d put out the word and they had come. Family members right down to great grandchildren so young they were carried in their mothers’ arms. Newspaper reporters with long distance directional mikes and cameras or, if they came from the bigger print outlets, separate photographers. TV crews with all the bells and whistles. Locals who considered Margaret Cavanaugh Jones the greatest celebrity their town had ever seen, mostly because of her well publicized efforts to find her missing daddy. Locals who had no use for Margaret Cavanaugh Jones at all and simply wanted to be sure she was dead.

And of course the bounty hunters.

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Most of the latter were easy enough to identify. Just look for individuals who were scanning the crowd instead of attending to the minister’s words. If you were a bounty hunter attending a funeral, it was because you thought the guy you were hunting might be stupid enough to show up at his daughter’s burying. Unfortunately for them, John Cavanaugh no longer existed. Most of them were stumped. The geezer was likely dead by now. Young men were capable of surviving as fugitives, some of them, but a man who’d been born clear back during World War I? Impossible.

Or so most thought.

Luke Solomon knew better. The sleepy-eyed fugitive apprehension agent had seen old men who were sharp, cagey, relatively fit, and capable of pulling the wool over almost anyone’s eyes.

Not that aged John Cavanaugh was classified as a fugitive. Not technically. Officially, he was a Missing Person. A Missing Person worth, if reports could be believed, multiple millions of dollars. Luke Solomon had done his own research before deciding to take a hand in this Cavanaugh card game. He looked forward to his private conversation with Kermit Theodore Cavanaugh, scheduled as a dinner business meeting at 8:00 p.m., at which time he expected K. T. C. to need more than a couple of drinks to unwind. If he ever did unwind.

The minister was wrapping up. Luke listened for a moment.

“…And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Sometimes, the bounty hunter reflected, his sense of humor came close to getting him into trouble. If he remembered his childhood Methodist Sunday School lessons correctly, that passage was part of Jesus reassuring his disciples. It wasn’t aimed at the whole of Christianity. Preachers were forever taking Bible verses out of context to suit their own purposes. Luke figured it was going to get mighty crowded in Jesus’s house if all the dead folks became his roommates, many mansions or not.

On the other hand, maybe not. Maybe a lot of those dead folks weren’t on Santa’s “nice” list and would take up residence with Satan instead. That was what had gotten young Solomon permanently kicked out of his parents’ church. He saw associations others missed and, young and dumb and with a big mouth, he spoke up about them. “Sir,” he had said, raising his hand for the Sunday School teacher to acknowledge him. Which she’d done reluctantly, knowing from experience that eleven year old Luke Solomon was serious trouble. “I mean, ma’am.”

“Yes, Luke?”

“Ma’am, why is Santa the same word as Satan except with the letters scrambled? Are they the same man in disguise? Like, some people call Mr. Claus, um, Old Saint Nick and the Devil is just Old Nick? Why is that? Oh yeah, wow, and Claus, like bloody claws on the demons from Hell. And hey, come to think of it, Santa Claus stuffs free stuff down your chimney even if you don’t have a chimney while Satan offers free goodies with tricks in his contracts so they both try to tempt you with cool toys, right?”

He wouldn’t have stopped. He was on a roll. But Mrs. Larsen had run from the classroom, the heels on her pumps clacking across the linoleum, clack-clack-clack-clack.

That had been the end of his formal religious training. Religious educators, he’d discovered, did not like hard questions.

He was among the first to leave the cemetery, too, noting the variety of vehicles in the parking lot. Three actual limousines. Cars and pickup truck ranging from brand new to classic models from the sixties, even one shiny-beetle-black monster ’54 Buick. A dozen or so motorcycles. Half that many ATVs. No golf carts, but a couple of battery powered scooters used by elderly drivers whose legs no longer worked properly.

All in all, he mused, quite a showing. But no John Cavanaugh. He hadn’t expected there would be; everything he’d learned about the World War II vet told him the old man was far too sharp for that.

Luke Solomon climbed into his big black Chevy Suburban and eased out into the street. Sheriff Raymond T. Dunmore had agreed to give him fifteen minutes, a rare concession from a busy lawman who had little use for bounty sharks. Luke did not intend to be late for the meeting. It was important to make the local County Mounties see him as respectable, early in the game. After all, he was all about control.

=====================================================

TOM SLIDER

Nineteen days had passed since Margaret’s death. Odd, but it seemed likely I was going to end up remembering the date of her exit from planet Earth better than I ever had remembered her birthday. I’d just finished my second long slog of the summer, the second restocking of Otis’s masterpiece pottery at outlets ranging from Watertown in the northeast to Wall Drug on I-90. The venerable tourist trap didn’t take many, but what they did take, they sold in a hurry. Most of the time they were out. I had a long way to go before I’d be able to produce a salable jug and Otis was, after all, but one man. Had he been a dozen such men, we could have thought about expanding into other states in a year or two. As it was, South Dakota provided all the market we’d ever need.

My final stop was the new Lucky 18 Truck Stop on I-90. Twelve excellent pieces reserved for Helmer Gribbit’s grand opening. Grib was a remarkable businessman. He would be expanding into other states someday; I’d have bet my best hat on it. I surely did hope Otis could get me up to speed on the pottery wheel during South Dakota’s long, cold winter. Even if we could double our production, Helmer would take all he could get for his gift shop. The two of us had hit it off immediately and the unique nature of Otis’s work fit right in with the Lucky 18 theme: All you need to truck on down the road, plus all you want to keep the little woman happy when you get home. It was hard to go wrong with a Lucky 18 gift shop item that told your wife, Saw this purty thang and thought of you, honey.

The food at Lucky 18 wasn’t bad. Best truck stop grub I’d had in a while. It was dark by the time I’d finished my blackberry cobbler. Dark and raining, lightning flashing in the distance. Thunder rumbling in from a ways off but headed this way. Good time to grab a few winks. I rose from the booth, paid the bill, and headed out to the parking lot, carrying the big bag that held one of Lucky 18’s more unusual offerings: A fold-up bicycle.

Naturally, I needed a bike like I needed a hole in my head. I just couldn’t resist the genius in this thing. It looked a bit like an old school, girl’s Scwhinn–I’m no expert–but there was a difference. In the middle of the frame, the pipes weren’t single pieces. Instead, the front halves terminated in rods that slid inside the back halves. The back-half pipes were threaded. A knurled nut spun the two halves tight, locking a small front-end collar against the rear pipe end. Snug fit; you had to keep the front rods greased. But when the halves were separated, bingo, you just folded one half flat against the other, being careful not to ding the brake cable. Then you folded the equally ingenious handlebars up like a pair of butterfly wings at rest and you were good to go. Everything fit nicely into the leather bag–yep, real leather.

Gross weight? Twenty pounds, give or take. Not hard to carry in the bag. Designed for easy storage in a motorized vehicle or maybe on a bus. And the bag? Empty, it could be rolled tight and lashed down across the handlebars. Like I said, genius.

Also nine hundred bucks, but who’s counting? I eased the beast into the Dodge Ram’s back seat, tipped the front passenger seat back, pulled my baseball cap down over my eyes, and was sawing logs within seconds.

The dream hadn’t hit me for decades. I was back in the Navy, stationed at Pensacola, when the powers that be “volunteered” me for Project E. A black ops sort of project, definitely not on the official books. Later, Army projects involving mustard gas were uncovered, vilified, and shut down. In Germany, there was Mengele and his horrific human experiments at Auschwitz, also exposed in the end. The Navy was either luckier or smarter. As far as I’d been able to determine, Project E never officially happened.

Certainly there weren’t many witnesses left who could have testified.

How many of us were subjected to the injections, I have no idea. Twenty-seven in my group, so at least that many. What was in the syringes, I have no idea. They told us nothing, using the excuse that they didn’t want to “taint the results.” What my fellow volunteers experienced subjectively, I have no idea, except that thirteen of the twenty-seven seemed to be hallucinating by Day Three, eyes wide as a rattler-spooked horse. Once they showed symptoms, they disappeared. We never saw them again. Transferred? In one way or another, yes, but alive or dead? I have no idea.

The doctors encouraged us–strongly, using every psychological pressure tactic in the book–to report what we felt. Most of the others did. Maybe all of them did. In the meantime, I was going through horrific changes, changes that startled me at first, but one thing I knew: To let the authorities become aware I was experiencing anything unusual would be signing my own death sentence. Did I feel like staring, wide-eyed? Yes. Did I allow my body the luxury? No way, Jose. I even managed to control the worst side effect (diarrhea) well enough to escape their notice. Gradually, our numbers dwindled until only two of us were left: A hulking brute, name tag BORDERS, and me. Neither of us reported symptoms of any sort. The doctors tested us seven ways from Sunday: Blood pressure, pulse rate, blood draw, math puzzles, language comprehension, and of course attitude toward government. Always that.

In the end, they let us go. Was Borders truly symptom free or was he, like me, wise to the trap? I never knew. Don’t know to this day. However, I did gradually figure out what the Magic Toxin (my silent term for it) had done to me. Numerous little things overall, but two big ones. One took decades to realize as I aged more slowly than most humans. Nothing immortal about it; I certainly wasn’t as muscular or quick as I’d been at age twenty. But fulfilling the Biblical standard of 144 years seemed quite possibly in my grasp. The other change…I call it the Comprehension Factor. Not I.Q. exactly. More like…how do I explain it? Knowing. There were times, many times if truth be told, when I suddenly knew things, how stuff fit together, what the bottom line might be. Like the War itself. Or what a group of guys were up to, over there in yon corner, when they were plotting to jump me and beat the crap out of me just for kicks and giggles.

That personal CF, the Comprehension Factor, helped me become one of the best machinists they had, later on. It underlay my various inventions. Perhaps most importantly, it enabled me to sense the shape and form of my children’s Commitment Trap, long before the jaws could snap shut.

One thing I knew then and now: If the Navy had a clue about my enhanced abilities, they’d have taken me apart to see what made me tick. One thing I suspected: Hulking Borders had been a powerful lot smarter than he looked.

I woke, sweating rivers. Lightning flashed, revealing a classic car on a flatbed trailer, being backed into the space two over to the left of mine. I blinked, unbelieving. I knew that vehicle. Not the towing unit but the classic. A ’49 Mercury, suicide doors, deep purple metal flake paint. Not lowered. I’d sold that Merc to a distant cousin on my mother’s side, didn’t really know him, never could remember his name, a good five years ago. Guy would be in his early eighties by now. Must have been entered at the big car show in Sioux Falls, now returning to his Washington state home over near Seattle.

Huh.

Again, I drifted off, ignoring my sweat-wet shirt. Woke up again after a while. Didn’t remember any dreams this time. Shirt still damp but my jeans would be more than that if I didn’t pee soon. Half asleep, I fumbled my way outside, donning my slicker as I went. I left the truck door slightly ajar, both to facilitate reentry and to avoid making extra noise around the other sound-asleep truckers. Not that they’d pay any attention. It’s just a quirk of mine.

One of the first things I ever learned a big rig was good for? Providing cover when a fellow needs to take a leak. I might be polite about sound pollution but that didn’t stop me from stepping between the neighboring Freightliner’s cab and semi trailer. Hidden from imaginary prying eyes, the relief was enormous. Pleasurable. Second best thing in the world.

I was zipping up when another vehicle arrived, backing into the space between my Dodge and my distant cousin’s one ton Ford, the one towing the classic Mercury. Every wet hair on the nape of my neck jumped to attention. I froze, utterly motionless. Trouble! Danger! Maybe my CF, Comprehension Factor, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to see something was very wrong.

For one thing, the big black Chevy Suburban wasn’t towing anything. The driver should have parked over in the Cars and Pickups area, not out here with the trucks and trailers.

For another, as revealed by yet another lightning flash–the storm hadn’t quit yet–the tinting on the rear and side windows was extreme. It was a four-door Suburban. Behind the driver, the rest of the giant SUV might as well have been a panel van.

A psychic I am not, but it was all too easy to imagine this mechanical beast exuding a roiling, jet black aura shot with crimson streaks.

The far side door opened and the driver got out. Couldn’t make him out very well through the rain, the only light coming from the distant fuel islands, but he appeared to be of medium height and a bit on the stocky side. Only then did I notice my poorly remembered relative. It had to be approaching first light. Maybe he’d gone to use the facilities, grab a bite to eat before hitting the road. Now he was walking back to his Ford dually, not a worry in the world.

Suburban Man stepped forward, just as Cousin neared his own truck door. I couldn’t make out the words but did sense movement as the distance closed between them. Followed by sounds that sent me squat-scuttling for my own truck door. Zzt! Urhk! Dragging….

My cousin had been stalked. Taken down. Why? CF said, Because S-Man thinks he’s you. Mistaken identity. Maybe faulty reasoning.

I had to do something. Kill? I wanted to. I really did. But a dead body would be hard to explain. Lucky 18’s people knew me. Knew I’d parked here. A corpse…not a good plan. Not a plan at all.

But the guy was armed to the teeth. I knew he was a shark full of bite. Less than kill meant what?

A plan. Sort of.

Opening the unlatched Dodge door carefully and quietly, I retrieved my blackthorn shillelagh, handcrafted in Ireland. What’s an Irishman without a shillelagh, eh? Curiously, I’d never owned one as John Cavanaugh. Go figure. Now I kept my recent purchase with me on road trips, ready to serve as either walking stick if I wanted to look a wee bit crippled or for fighting anything short of a firearm. I am not one to trust in the peaceful goodwill of his fellow man. There are a lot of predators in the world.

The rain was tin-panning off of vehicle roofs. I slid back, crossed over the horse trailer tongue, slipped silently past the rear of the Suburban from the Black Lagoon, and peeked cautiously around the corner. S-Man had dragged my relative to the rear driver’s side door of the Chevy, opened the door, and at the moment had his back to me as he bent to pick up the dead-weight burden once more. A kidnaping, then? Whatever, there would be no better chance. I strode forward, as quietly as one can stride but focusing mainly on speed, the shillelagh raised to strike. Not the knob end, which could crush a man’s skull, being a loaded stick with extra lead concealed in the “handle,” but primed for a sword-slash motion.

It’s doubtful the predator heard me but his animal instincts were wide awake. He sensed my rush, spun toward me, letting go of my cousin’s body and straightening up fast, right hand blurring toward a shoulder-holstered pistol. He’d done himself no favor. Instead of impacting high on his skull, my backhand whip-stick slammed across the right side of his neck, shocking the carotid artery. A carotid artery hit will knock any man out. Striking both, one on each side of the neck, will kill. Martial arts trivia.

Two men out cold. Now what? Gloves. I dug into my hip pocket, fished out the old, worn buckskin pair I used for most everything.

There was barely enough light to make out the interior of the vehicle. It was obviously outfitted for capture-and-carry. Heavy plexiglass sheets walled off the rear seat from front seat or cargo compartment access. There were no door or window handles; the doors could only be opened from the outside. And my oh my what a plethora of restraining devices have we here, my dear?

An entirely new plan leaped into my brain, fully formed. Hee hee. All I had to do was load Mr. Thinks-He’s-Tough into his own cage and….

At a guess, the dude weighed around 180 pounds, five or ten more than I did, depending on what I’d had for supper. Dead weight, an unconscious body, generally feels extra heavy. But not tonight. My adrenaline must have been sky-high. I picked him up and stuffed him into the back seat as easily as a housewife stuffing a turkey’s butt for Thanksgiving dinner. The guy had all sorts of deadly paraphernalia on his belt, not to mention that shoulder holster. I ignored all of it, just got him situated, sitting up in the center. The seat was clearly custom made on a steel frame, well upholstered but with handcuffs, belly chain, ankle cuffs, neck restraint, all of which combined to keep the prisoner firmly in one spot, his wrists well away from his body. Nothing up his sleeves because he wore a short sleeved black shirt over–get this–black shorts. I’ve always been repelled by men who wear shorts in public; most of the time, I try not to look at them.

He started to come to before I was finished. Nothing doing. A precise hand-chop to that same carotid artery put him firmly out again. When he did regain consciousness, he was likely going to be hurting. Might even die. Hoped not, but at least he wouldn’t be dying right here, right now.

The piece de resistance? A leather hood, the kind used by S&M fetish folks to hood their sex slaves, complete with nose hole and what I was pretty sure they called a penis gag that snapped in place. Before I tugged the hood down over his massive head and buckled it in place, I took one good, quick look at his face. And got something of a shock. Spitting image of the late great actor, Robert Mitchum. On top of a body resembling Dave, the most hated character on the Storage Wars reality TV program. Ew-w-w! A really disturbing combination.

It hadn’t taken me more than a minute to sling Weird Man–had to be a bounty hunter–into the vehicle and secure him, but when I straightened up and turned to check on my relative, the old man was gone. That is, gone from where Weird Man had dropped him. The octogenarian was staggering a bit but making progress, leaning on the hood of his big Ford truck for support as he worked his way around toward his own driver side door. Tough old Irishman; I felt a surge of pride in my family tree.

He didn’t look my way. Guess he figured I was best left ignored. Or his brains might be scrambled. At a guess, Weird Man had hit him with a stun gun. What happened to an elderly man when he was hit with more than three million volts?

No clue. I only knew I didn’t want to find out personally.

So I started checking out the driver’s area of the Suburban. Keys in the ignition; cool. I flipped the switch on, did not start the engine, just wanted to see how much gas–ah. Three quarters of a tank. He hadn’t filled up here, so hopefully there’d be no record of him on the fuel island cameras. I was guessing, but it seemed like he might have been tailing my cousin’s rig all the way from Sioux Falls. Maybe planted a transponder on it, figured to grab the old guy away from the population center.

My cousin, whom I watched through the corner of my eye without seeming to do so, did not make a cell phone call. I’d been afraid he would. He did not hang around, either. Instead, within seconds after gaining the relative security of his cab, settling into the driver’s seat, he fired up the Ford and pulled out. Getting outa Dodge. No fight or flight. Just flight.

I breathed a sigh of relief. Weird Man couldn’t have gotten a good look at me, just a glimpse of a yellow-slickered attacker looming over him, weapon slashing toward his head. Cousin would have seen only my back; he was carefully not looking my way by the time I turned to see how he was doing.

Okay, then. I locked up, went to my own truck, and drove the Dodge around to the north side of the truck stop, parking in the slot closest to the buildings. Went inside. 5:01 a.m. on the wall clock but Helmer was in early, doing paperwork in his office. As one of the privileged few, I found my way back and tapped on the door.

“Enter!”

When he saw it was me, he nodded to a chair. “Take a load off, Tom.”

I stayed standing. “Gotta get going. But with a friend this time. Asked for my help. What I was wondering is, could I leave my rig parked in that first slot? Where you can kind of keep an eye on it? Might be three, four days at most.”

“Sure.” He leaned back, lit up a fresh cigar. The only vice the man had, as far as I knew.

“Thanks.”

He waved me out. I went. But not straight across the lot to the Suburban. Instead, around the far end of the truck row, circling, getting lost in the rain. Didn’t want any Lucky 18 employee remembering me heading for that Chevy. I’d left the slicker in the Dodge after transferring the foldup bike bag to the cargo compartment–which was already fairly full of interesting stuff. I’d inspect all that, but later, once we were out of South Dakota and I could find a rest stop with enough space to keep my investigation away from prying eyes. The only things I kept with me, other than the bicycle, were several pairs of surgeon’s gloves I used to apply liniment when my legs cramped. Those, my billfold, and that was it.

If memory served, my destination was roughly 1,050 miles away, westward ho!

======================================================

UNDER THE HOOD

Lucas Paul Solomon was not a happy man. Whoever the $&*!*!! was who’d turned the tables on him…or whoever they were, he’d fix them. Once he could. In his entire life, forty-two years and counting, he’d never once lost control. Never been restrained. Restraint was for others, the hundreds of inferior specimens he’d captured and controlled over the years.

Not all of them fugitives from the law.

After all, what better disguise for a serial kidnaper-rapist-murderer than that of the fugitive apprehension agent, the bounty hunter? Even playing it fairly straight, the title was a chick magnet. He could walk into any bar in the country, let it be known he was a bounty hunter, and some good looking female would practically fling herself at him, breathlessly eager to be handcuffed and sexually taken by a -gasp!- bounty hunter. Bar pickups had gotten even easier after Dog’s TV show came out, though he couldn’t see why. Mister Goody Two Shoes Dog with his own prison record behind him and all that.

He never overdid it with any of the bar girls. Too easy to put a target on his own back that way. Yet he was more brutal than most when it came to legitimate, or quasi-legitimate, apprehensions. He loved knocking out the victim–uh, fugitive. Always started things off on the right foot. Let ’em wake up in the back of his Suburban, thoroughly cuffed and chained and blindfolded and gagged, it was amazing how eager most of them were to talk when given the chance. One of the, um, “unsanctioned” captures had involved a thirty-something heir to a considerable fortune. He’d ended up killing and burying that one, but not before extracting a wealth of information that allowed him access to more than five hundred thousand dollars in assets. The young talker had thought himself a shrink of sorts. Had asked,

“So, tell me about your childhood.”

Like he was old Freud himself and Solomon was on the couch. “Nothing to tell,” he’d said truthfully, disappointing the young future corpse. “My parents were so straight, you could have used them as yardsticks. Kind. Loving. Can’t point to my family tree, ol’ buddy ol’ pal. I’m one apple that hit the slope and rolled for miles.” Then Solomon had slit the man’s throat, taking great delight in the process. Delicious.

Man, he had to pee. The Driver–he refused to think of his abductor as anyone more elevated than a mere chauffeur–had better give him a potty break soon. He’d tell him just that in no uncertain words, were it not for the gag. A gag full of capture cooties at that. Lucas Paul Solomon had long since overcome his initial panic. It was all cold rage now. The Driver would make a mistake and when he did Luke would pounce. He was a great pouncer.

Not so awesome as a pouncee.

Much of his rage stemmed from the loss of John Cavanaugh. He’d had him. The old man thought he was so smart, fooling Kermit thoroughly, but you couldn’t fool Lucas P.

P. Oh, man. Pee. He’d just gone and done it. Add wet warmth and humiliation to his rage bundle. How many captures had he watched wet themselves? It was a lot more fun from the other side, that was for sure. You’ll eat my wet shorts, Driver! Most frustrating of all? He couldn’t reach the handcuff key that rested in his watch pocket, mere inches away it seemed, though he knew it was a foot or more. When he’d designed this capture seat, he’d designed too well, never once considering it might hold him as securely as it ever held a victim destined for either the hoosegow or some more private, titillating place.

He did not think the Driver intended to kill him. He’d never seen Driver’s face, just a dark blur in the rain. Driver never spoke, not even a whisper, though he did play abominable country music on the radio or listen to right wing AM radio talk shows, Hannity and Limbaugh and the like. Gag me with a spoon. In any event, if the man didn’t kill him, he’d make a mistake sooner or later and then…how long had they traveled? A bare hint of light filtered in under the hood, not enough to see anything by, just enough to know it was there. Judging by that, they’d driven through an entire day and well into another night, stopping to fuel twice–he could smell the gas, hear the pump handle clicking off–and pulled over briefly at several rest areas.

Which told him exactly nothing except that they probably weren’t in South Dakota any more.

Wait. What? He’d dozed, suddenly coming alert when the road sound changed under the tires. Off the freeway now? How far had they–stopping. Still dark. Doors opened and left that way. Rear cargo door opened but closed again. Footsteps, crunching away on gravel.

And…silence. Rarely, a distant noise that had to be freeway traffic, but here? Nothing.

Until…Car tires? Stopping. Footsteps approaching. Hesitation. Sharp breath intake. Retreating fast. “Call 911, Martha! There’s somebody in the back, all cuffed and hooded, and–” He couldn’t make out the rest.

More time. New wheels. Footsteps. Law enforcement type, talking into his radio, explaining to dispatch. More vehicles. More footsteps.

Finally, “You conscious, buddy? Wiggle a hand.”

Buddy? Not hardly, hayseed. He wiggled.

“All right. I’m going to get this hood off first.” Incompetence; the idiot tried to lift it free without removing the gag.

“Ngh! Ngh!”

“Oh. I see.” Gag unsnapped, pulled from his mouth. Blessed sweet air rushing in. Naturally, in their haste to help him, the officers were undoubtedly contaminating the scene, but he didn’t care. It seemed unlikely the Driver would have left fingerprints, and DNA? This wasn’t CSI. The hood next. He blinked at the gray morning light, stared in bewilderment.

“Wh-where are we, officer?”

“Right now, sir, we’re blocking the main entrance to the grounds of the state mental hospital at Warm Springs.”

Solomon blinked in confusion. “Warm Springs?”

“Montana.”

Ah. Cavanaugh’s home state. He knew this had something to do with that old S.O.B. Who was smarter than he’d given him credit for. Inventing a cousin and selling that ’49 Mercury to himself was kind of stupid, but other than that…just hadn’t figured he’d have a bodyguard looking out for him. That’s who the Driver had to be. A bodyguard.

Or, he thought with a shudder, another bounty hunter.

They did get him out of the Suburban, not even wrinkling their noses at his stench, but he was thoroughly confused when the deputies cuffed him all over again, this time with his hands behind his back. “What–?”

“You’ve obviously been abducted, sir, but we need a few questions answered. First, are you the owner of this vehicle?”

“Yes. Of course. I–”

“From Indiana?”

“Like the license plate says, yes. What–”

“If this is your vehicle, might you have any idea what that means?”

Luke Solomon stared at the sheet of paper scotch-taped to the driver’s door. No rain here, so the ink was legible. A sheet from my own notebook.

LAW ENFORCEMENT:

YOU MIGHT WANT TO
CHECK OUT THIS VEHICLE
THOROUGHLY. LOTS OF
INTERESTING STUFF.

DELIVERED COURTESY OF
HILLBILLY PROTECTIVE
ASSOCIATION, USA

Lucas Paul Solomon fainted on the spot.

7 thoughts on “The Slider, Chapter 6: The Bounty Hunter

  1. Wow, Ghost! You really didn’t pull any punches with this one. Here I was expecting Kermit’s mayhem, and you give us a bounty hunter from Hell being captured by Tom and delivered anonymously to law enforcement. But I do hope Tom is not planning to ride his folding bike all one thousand plus miles back to South Dakota… I also wonder what “goodies” Tom might have salvaged from the black suburban…
    Another great chapter!
    Hope you and the Mrs. are doing well in Arizona!
    Manny

  2. Heh! Thanks, Manny. But no, I don’t expect Tom plans to ride his bike all the way back to South Dakota.

    I’ve been back from Arizona since late Saturday afternoon. Tried to reply a “Thanks” for you best wishes to us but when I fired up the computer (here in Deer Lodge) it was slow-to-nothing and a whole lot of screen freeze. Took me a couple of days to get it back up to speed and by that time I’d somehow deleted your email. So, thanks now!

    We did, however, do well during my time in Arizona. Intense, up close Honey Do list, a number of high priority goodies that just couldn’t seem to happen until I was on the scene personally. Example (but only one of many): Took her problem kitten (with a brain wrongness that had him periodically low-yowling, frothing at the mouth, and sometimes attacking Pam) to a shelter–though he may have found a new home as the shelter guy promised to try even with the kitty’s problem. Then 5 days later on Mother’s Day I came home from PetSmart with two NEW kittens, older, both neutered with all their shots done. Beautiful, Maine Coon Cat babies. They got to see the vet again today for diarrhea problems–had it before, in the shelter, until antibiotics stopped it, but it could be a relapse. Awesome cats.

    I’m sure Tom snagged something from the Suburban, though he might have left most in place if it made Solomon look bad….

    My trip back from AZ was the roughest I’ve had in the van-type motor home. Hellacious crosswinds up through northern Arizona, 25-35 mph with 50+ mph gusts. Then in southern Utah, added to the wind, lots of rain (and I was driving that section at night, as usual). Napped at Nephi, UT (again as usual) and finished the run in daylight. Good to be there (AZ) and good to be back (MT).

  3. Update on Pam’s kittens: She took stool samples to the vet, who soon determined the problem was an intestinal parasite, no doubt picked up at the shelter. Now that the diagnosis is specific, said vet has put them on the proper antibiotics and they should be fine. 😀

  4. Ghost, I’m glad Pam was able to determine the problem, and that the kitten’s future looks better. I have to admit I miss my Siamese, though I also miss my dog, a Weimeraner. Both corresonded to different times in my life. 🙂
    Manny

  5. Weird how WordPress now converts our smiley faces to blank rectangles, huh? Maybe that will get back right the next time they update the program. One can hope.

    I once (5th marriage) had a brother in law who owned two Weimeraners. They were both aging when I knew them and he was feeding them mostly lamb and rice.

    Pam’s also relieved that her vet agreed to dose BOTH kittens as she was pretty sure they both had the parasite–the “less symptomatic” kitten, Cooney (as big as some adult cats already, at around 7 months of age) was healthier but not entirely up to par. Just talked with Pam on the phone; she says those two can’t wait until she’s up at 5:00 a.m., which is when they get their “wet” food. They practically inhale the stuff.

    With a couple of doggie exceptions who weren’t with me for long, I’ve missed just about every critter I’ve ever known (“owned”). Several horses (some of them owned by my father, not by me), two key dogs (one Norwegian Elkhound, one pure white German Shepherd pup), and a whole bunch of cats:

    Cindy, Mr. Kool, Frosty, Mini, Rusty, Sinbad the Sailor (a wandering, cross-eyed Siamese fighting tom), Tiz, Sugar, Angel, Smokey, Paws, Seekie, Callie, Bighead, Curly Girl, Cinder Bear, Tony, another Smokey, Kitten Little, Mokey Mon, Harvey (the first), Kitten Precious, Green Eyes…you get the picture.

  6. Good story, and turning a true bad guy over to police. Just never know who the bad guy is sometimes. You all talking about long gone pets is killing me. I miss several, and the most recently lost one the most. He was a great old boy, gentle, mannerly and with the most loving soul I have seen in a long time. Rufus will be missed hourly for quite a while yet. I am not ready to try again yet. The coon cat babies were a great find. Good defensive protection too. I had a friend that had one, and he fought off dogs without breaking a sweat.

  7. Heck, Becky, I miss Rufus occasionally and he wasn’t even my dog!

    I didn’t know about the Maine coon cat being good defensive protection. Pam will be delighted to hear that. Currently, she’s rassling meds down them daily–Kiki is easy, Cooney not so much–to defeat the diarrhea-causing coxsackie virus they no doubt picked up at the shelter. Definite diagnosis via microscope analysis of stool samples. They’d been treated once before–in the shelter–but the problem resurfaced about 3 days after they went to live with Pam.

    Glad you enjoyed the story. You’re right that it’s hard to know who the bad guy is sometimes. In or out of uniform. One of our weekly papers has an article detailing an obvious one, though. Judge sentenced him to 300 years in prison. Serial child rapist. He’s 45 (the felon, not the judge) and will get a chance at parole…but not for the first time until he’s 95 years of age, and hardly anybody ever gets out on the first go (or lives to 95 in prison), so….

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