Marshal County, New Mexico
“Put your ass in your fancy new ride and haul it off my land.”
“I’m going but tomorrow I file the foreclosure papers; it won’t be your property much longer. I warned you but you wouldn’t listen. Hope you’ll like your new home – the county jail.”
Race Rutledge watched the red penumbrae of the Lincoln’s taillights as the banker drove away. Once the luxury car disappeared around the curve, the enraged giant jerked the front door of the dilapidated farmhouse open and flicked off the naked bulb illuminating the sagging front porch.
Acrid odors assaulted his nose; Mama’s Home-style Chili smoldered on the stove and garlic bread lay in cinders under the broiler. Race threw the ruined pot into the sink, grabbed a six-pack and stormed to his bedroom. It was blazing hot in the tiny space. He shucked his clothes and flipped the box fan to high as he pushed “Dora Does Denver” into the disk player. Furious, he leaned back in the king-sized bed to lose himself in his favorite flick.
The icy beers cooled Rutledge’s fiery rage, but whenever his thoughts drifted back to the banker’s threats, the big man burned once more. He wasn’t going to take the fall for his bosses; he knew enough about their business to make sure that never happened. Race crushed the can in his hand. Cold liquid spumed down his bare chest. He wiped away the beer, picked up his new pistol and aimed at the image in his mind. A smile crept onto his ugly face. One little bullet could solve his problem.
Morley, New Mexico
Sunlight streamed through the blinds and drenched my face. I stumbled to the window, closed the slats and stumbled back to bed. The phone rang and I groped for the receiver. A carnival barker’s cadence boomed in my ear and he began his spiel thinking I was my grandfather. The culprit disturbing my rest wanted to play twenty questions. I was not in a game-playing mood.
“This is not Theo Morley, it’s his grandson Ted. You can’t speak to him unless you’re clairvoyant, he’s dead. Thirty years ago. No, I am not interested in purchasing a thoroughbred racehorse. If I had the money to buy your nag, I’d invest in a new roof for my home – I’m tired of purchasing it one patch at a time!”
I slammed the receiver into the cradle, unplugged the phone and rolled over to return to the land of nod but last night’s drinks were demanding to leave my bladder. Once I accommodated that urgent request, I was up for the day. A fog engulfed my head and drifted down my body as I made my way to the kitchen. My tongue tasted like a rubber eraser. It had been a late night and I was paying the price. Every one of my years was present and accounted for this morning.
While coffee dripped, I burned an English muffin, spread it with cream cheese and slapped a slice of deli ham between the two charred halves. A ruckus in the back yard disturbed my solitude. My neighbor’s cat was stalking the birdbath; a stream of water from the garden-hose sent the feline marauder home. Tomas cursed me in cat-speak as he raced across the street to relate my attack to his mistress. Mrs. Lovato would understand his malevolent meows, being part cat herself. I poured a large mug of muddy caffeine, sat down at the table ... and then I spotted the car. A shiny navy blue SUV was parked in the driveway next to my kitchen. I hauled my aching body to the door and went outside to investigate. I saw no one in the auto and there was no response to my call.
I walked over to the car; a man lay in the front seat his head resting against the passenger door. Reaching through the open window, I tried to rouse the sleeping hombre. He wasn’t sleeping. His body was stiff and crusted blood covered his face. There was no pulse. Calvin Cobb, my former brother-in-law, was dead. I went inside, dialed 911 and poured another mug of mud, this one I fortified with brandy.