BACK ROADS Story #2
So, I just updated the Troy Bodean Short Story Collection called BACK ROADS with a new short about Detective Joe Bond. He first appears in OCEAN BLUE and then makes a return appearance in BLIGHT HOUSE. I like his character almost well enough to do a standalone series about him... which I might do in the future. Until then, here's a great short story that gives you some background on him.
If you'd like to read it on your kindle, just hop over to Amazon and download it FREE CLICK HERE. You'll get the first short about Troy and this one about Joe and I'll update it from time to time with more characters! Enjoy!
Shot Through The Back
My name is Bond, Joe Bond. I know what you’re thinking. Shaken, not stirred. Right? Well, for starters, I don’t drink martinis. And, if I did, I wouldn’t order it with vodka. I prefer a decent scotch, Glenfiddich will do, Black Grouse if things are a little tight. But hell, a bottle will last me a month if things are going well… This month, not so much. I added a little water to the two fingers in the bottom of this month’s bottle yesterday and there’s still a week to go before payday.
The puns and jokes and gags about my name started back in middle school and haven’t let up. It’s so bad that sometimes I just don’t even give my last name. Joe, just Joe.
But then again, maybe it was this comparison to the famous super spy, 007, that led me to a life of law enforcement. And I wouldn’t trade my job for anything… except for another job… one that didn’t have me chasing idiots down disgustingly trashed alleys behind the local pawn shops that thought they could get away with lifting an iPad or a Nintendo console without getting caught. They always get caught.
Monday was a really crappy day. It was the day that everything went sideways. The NYPD itself had always been good to me and by good, I mean, they paid me regularly. Even though I considered myself grossly underpaid for the slime I had to deal with, I did have benefits and I’d get a pension… if I didn’t get shot first. Mondays are usually pretty hectic. Everyone is getting out of jail for what they did on the weekend, and anyone else that wasn’t in jail decided to start the week of with a fresh new entry on their rap sheet. In all that mess of garbage in and garbage out, I got a call from Mary Sanser. A sweet, little old lady who lived in my building. She made me dinner at least once a week when Peggy – my wife – was out at her book club… and by made me dinner, I mean, she microwaved one of her TV dinners and we watched Wheel of Fortune together. She’d lost her husband of fifty years and I think she would’ve fallen apart if she’d had to eat dinner alone every night. So, I choked down the salisbury steak and not quite cooked green beans – I never ate the tapioca, who the hell likes that shit? Apparently, Mrs. Sanser did, she always ate mine for me.
“Good morning, Joe,” Mary said, her voice shaking a bit, “I’m so sorry to bother you at work, but you always said if I needed anything, to just give you a call.”
“Mary,” I said, “it’s okay. Is something wrong? Did you have a fall?”
“Oh, no,” she answered, “it’s nothing like that. I’m okay. It’s just that Bill’s watch is missing.”
The watch. Her dead husbands watch. I had heard more stories about that watch than anything else from Mary. Her husband, Bill, had worked on the railroad for forty-nine years. And as everyone knows, the railroad industry just ain’t what it used to be. So, Bill got phased out… after forty-nine years of his life, he got downsized… one year before earning his retirement pension. One goddamn year. But, they did give him a pocket watch. A twenty-dollar Seiko with an engraving on the inside of the cover that read: Thanks Bill. Thanks indeed. Being a prideful man, Bill took the watch and displayed it with honor. He never carried it. It sat in a display case that cost more than the watch on the faux mantel in their apartment. I’d asked to see it one night when Mary was telling me the story and I got pretty pissed off. It was a cheap ass watch that wouldn’t even keep time. Damn railroad. This was the primary reason that Mary had to work at Walmart as a greeter. Her Social Security paid her rent, but that was about it.
How did Bill die? That’s the question on your mind, I know that, because it was the first question I asked Mary too. The railroad hadn’t killed him, what was it that had done him in? The flu. Yup, that’s right. Not only did the railroad screw him, but the influenza shot did too. He’d never had the shot in his life, but figured now that he was retired and getting older it would be a good idea. He got sick and figured it was just a reaction to the shot. You can’t really say he got the flu from the shot, but he got the flu while the shot was supposed to be protecting him… coincidence? Hell, I dunno. The department makes us get one every year.
“I came home from the Walmarts,” she said, adding the S to the end where there wasn’t supposed to be one, “and my door was unlocked and slightly ajar. It didn’t look like it had been broken into so, I just figured I’d had a senior moment when I left for work and forgotten to close it.”
I started jotting down a few notes on a yellow pad. If it hadn’t been Mary, this would’ve been a quick phone call. Is there anything else missing, ma’am? Did you search your house, ma’am? Are you sure you haven’t just misplaced it, ma’am? What is it worth, ma’am? All that jazz. There is no way the NYPD was going to let me pursue the robbery of a twenty-dollar Seiko watch.
“But when I sat down to watch TV, something made me look up at the mantel, and it wasn’t there,” she continued. “box and all was gone. I’m sorry to bother you with that, Joe… but…”
She broke down into tears.
“Mary,” I said, “I’m coming over. We’ll get to the bottom of this.”
I pulled my cruiser up to the apartment building, but I didn’t park it in my personal spot. I’ve never done that. Call it paranoia, but I don’t want anyone putting together that I was a cop and I lived in this building. Thugs around here like to make tires, wheels, radios, and anything else inside a cop’s personal car disappear. On the front stoop, I bumped into Manny, Moe, and Curly. I shit you not, those are their real names. Three teenagers from the building. They weren’t brothers, but they all dressed alike… they always had… ever since I’d met them. Baggy pants hanging down around their thighs, colorful boxers on full display, triple XL sized white shirts, leather jackets with bright red, green, and yellow logos from one urban brand or another, and the whitest high-top tennis shoes I’d ever seen. Curly was the youngest by a year, Manny and Moe were the leaders of this little gang. Gang… that thought worried me. The way this neighborhood was headed, a gang might be the only way out of here. But I tried my best to influence them onto another path. A legitimate path like mine, so they could grow up broke, miserable, and exhausted all the time. Living the dream. More than once I thought about picking up and getting out of here. Head south, someplace warm… really warm. But Peggy was born and raised in New York and said she’d never leave. The first time I’d mentioned it had been a real blowout. One of those fights that makes you think divorce doesn’t look so bad. And then the next day, everything was back to normal… or at least, a strained, quiet, awkward normal. Things hadn’t been the same since that, but I supposed it was like that for most couples for a while after an argument. I hadn’t seen the signs…
I walked up and stuck out my hand.
“Manny,” I said shaking the young boy’s hand, “what’s new?”
“Not much Mr. B,” he said smiling, “how ‘bout you?”
“Same old, same old,” I moved to shake Curly’s hand.
The younger boy shook my hand vigorously. I put it out toward Moe and he frowned. He made a point of looking away without shaking it. Hmm… this was new. With kids like these, it all started when someone told them that cops were bad and drug money was good. I let it go… for now.
“You boys now Mrs. Sanser?”
“Yeah,” Manny said, “Old lady up in fifteen. Why?”
“She had something taken between yesterday and today,” I said, “you see anybody coming in or going out that didn’t belong?”
It was a ridiculous question in a building like this. I’d lived her for years and still saw new people every day. The cheap apartments in New York got a lot of turnover from people moving into town and then getting broke and moving out of town. If I can make it here… and all that.
“Nah, man,” Moe spoke up, still frowning, “we ain’t seen shit.”
Manny and Curly both seemed a little surprised at this coming from their friend. I held my hands up in surrender.
“Okay, okay,” I said, “take it easy. I’m just trying to help a friend find something she lost.”
“Yo,” Curly said, “what’d she lose?”
“I’d rather not say just yet,” I said carefully, “but if you hear of anything, or see anything strange, you’ll let me know?”
“You got it boss,” Manny said.
“Sheeit,” Moe said flapping his hand down at me.
Yeah, a gang was the next stop for Moe. I hated to see it happening and wondered if there was anything I could do about it. I walked up to the door.
“See ya later, fellas,” I said pushing into the building.
I walked up the stairs into a hall I knew very well… my hall. I passed by our apartment door 3D and stopped at 3E – Mrs. Sansers apartment. I was about to knock, when she pulled the door open.
“I thought you’d never get here,” she was clearly flustered, “I just didn’t know who to call. I know the watch isn’t worth much, but I don’t know what I’d do if I never got to see it again. You know, having it there on the mantel is a reminder of… of my…”
She choked back tears.
“It’s ok Mrs. Sanser,” I said putting my hands on her shoulders to comfort her, “we’ll find it. Don’t you worry.”
I did a quick walkthrough, checking around the mantel and under the couch. I did a quick sweep behind the cushions with my hands. Nothing. There was no sign of the watch. I knelt down and looked under the recliner – Bill’s recliner – and found only dust and a few crumbs of whatever he’d eaten last… before he died. Mrs. Sanser followed me around like a lost child, wringing her hands in worry. When I was satisfied that the watch truly wasn’t here, I pulled out my notepad.
“Do you happen to know what the model name or a number or anything like that was on the watch?” I asked the grieving widow.
“Oh, my,” she said shaking her head, “I have no idea. It was gold or gold tone. And it had roman numerals on the dial. Oh, and it was a Seiko.”
Great, I thought to myself, that narrows it down.
“Do you suppose he had the box or the instruction manual that came with it, or any kind of papers on it?” I asked.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she said with new tears forming in her eyes, “I think we threw all of that away a long time ago. We’ll never find it, will we?”
“Mary, we’ll find it,” I lied, “Don’t you worry about it.”
With her permission, I rummaged around in Bill’s side of the closet. Besides a few mothballs, I found nothing to get me closer to the watch’s specifics. I pulled open the bedside table and besides a heavily read, dog-eared copy of The Message, I found nothing there either.
I comforted Mary one more time promising to find the watch and walked into the hall. As I passed my own apartment door, I heard a thump and a laugh. What the heck was Peggy doing in there? I turned the knob – locked. But that wasn’t unusual. I pulled out my key and slid it in. Opening the door, I heard the shower running in the bedroom. I also heard a man’s voice.
What the hell? I thought as I rushed into the bedroom. Oh, it was Dr. Phil… on the TV. I could hear Peggy’s voice now too. She was singing in the shower. I thought about telling her I was here… stopping in to say hello… but... I didn’t. I crept back out of our apartment and clicked the lock. I stood outside the door and wondered what had become of my beautiful marriage. My job. That’s what I was married to… But hell, it paid the bills, didn’t it?
At the end of the hall, the elevator door dinged open. Curly was standing there… a worried look on his face.
“Curly?” I called, “What’s up? Are you okay?”
He opened his mouth to say something, and then abruptly closed it again. He did this two times and then reached over and punched a button inside the elevator. I took a few quick steps toward it, but I could only lock eyes with him as the doors closed. The numbers clicked down and I ran to the stairs.
I wasn’t sure why I decided to go after him, but I was baffled by his odd behavior. He must know something… He had sought me out, knowing I lived on the third floor. But what was it?
I jumped down the stairs three at a time, wishing I’d spent a little more time in the gym. I’m not a fat guy, but my gut hangs over my belt these days. By the time I got to the bottom floor, I was huffing and puffing a little harder than I thought I should be. I made a mental note to schedule myself some time on the treadmill. I jerked open the door to the lobby and caught a flash of a multi-colored leather jacket through the front door. I ran, slamming open the door. I saw him run down the street a couple of blocks and then duck into an alley.
“Dammit,” I muttered to myself.
I noticed the other boys weren’t on the stoop anymore. I looked at my watch. I’d been here over an hour now, so I got into my cruiser and radioed the station. Nothing much going on that needed my attention, so I told them my location and said I’d be on foot for a bit.
I locked the car and walked toward the alley I’d seen Curly run into. I checked my holster. Subconsciously, I tugged on my Glock to make sure it would clear the holster in a hurry… just in case. I followed all the protocol… I did everything right… except for one thing. I was alone. But it was just Curly… a kid… what could possibly go wrong.
The snow that the weatherman had been threatening us with finally started falling in huge, white flakes. It was difficult to see very far… and everything got really quiet. I peeked around the corner, hand on my gun. Nothing. Nobody was in the alley. Apparently, Curly had been fast enough to run through the alley to the end and hop over the back wall, or duck into a door, or…
The bang and the pain were almost simultaneous. I felt as if a sledgehammer had hit my back. Thank God for the vest. But with the wind knocked out of me, I couldn’t move, couldn’t catch my breath. I was a sitting duck. The second bang rang out so incredibly loud that I knew the shooter had taken a couple of steps closer to me. The second shot hit my vest again and knocked me to my knees. I fully expected to be executed from behind, assassination style… a third shot to the back of my skull. The fraction of a second between the second and third shot allowed me to lunge forward. When I did, I felt the shot that had been intended for my head hit me low on the vest. And then the pain stopped. My legs went slack, my arms dropped by my side and I fell face first into the snow. I lifted my head… the only thing I could move and turned to look back. As I began to lose consciousness, I saw Moe standing there.
“Sorry, brah,” he said tugging on his belt and wagging his pistol, “I tried to get jacked in, but they said that shit-ass watch was a damn gold-plated piece of crap. So, I got the next best thing, your dumb ass in an alley alone, pig.”
So, that was it… Moe had tried to prove that he had what it took to be in the gang by stealing something valuable. He’d taken Bill Sanser’s watch, but it had turned out to be a joke and worthless. So, the gang leaders had upped the initiation requirement. And now, he’d lured me into an alley and shot me up. And at this point, I thought he’d paralyzed me. In hindsight, it’s probably best that I was stunned and couldn’t move… I closed my eyes, waiting for him to come closer and blow my head off. But the next sound I heard, wasn’t footsteps or more gang members coming to watch… it was a meow. A low, scratchy meow echoed from behind a nearby dumpster. It just happened to be in my line of sight, so I saw him stick his nose out.
Grey, curious, mangy and bony thin. It had walked over to me, rubbed my nose and then sat down to stare at me, as if to watch me die. From my prostrate position, I drifted into darkness with my last thought being that the wretched thing had six toes on each foot. Strange.
I woke to the doctors telling me that I was lucky to be alive, that I had severe spinal cord trauma, and that I was probably… not permanently paralyzed… I asked where Peggy was and they said she’d been here for over forty-eight hours while I was recovering from the attempted surgery. Upon opening me up, they found that they couldn’t risk taking out the bullet, or they might paralyze me permanently. So, I still have that 9mm slug in my spine and it hurts like a bastard when it’s cold… which is eight months out of the year in New York. And with the slug still in there, I was officially put on permanent disabled leave, which was good. That meant I still got a pension in my early retirement.
They dragged Moe into a lineup a few weeks later and I picked him out. He had gone completely to the dark side by then… and dragged Curly with him. Only problem was, Curly hadn’t been so lucky to go to jail. No, he got his own execution when he tried to leave the gang. That hurt more than anything. And I think the pain of it all made it hard to be at home with Peggy too. She didn’t understand why I couldn’t just let go of it and move on. So, I didn’t stay home much.
The local police bar was a place called Maggie’s and I’d hang out there most evenings after all the guys got off their shifts. It wasn’t bad. For a while they’d all buy me drinks and tell me what a hero I was… even though I didn’t feel much like one. And for a time, that seemed to make me feel better about it all. But the longer I was out… I realized I wasn’t in the loop anymore. The stories they shared had nothing to do with me. I stopped accepting the beers they bought and stopped being invited to pull up at the bar with them. The last night I dropped in… I looked around and realized I didn’t know a soul in there. I just didn’t have it in me to stay. I walked, or hobbled, back home as best I could and made the slow climb up the stairs… the elevator was on the friggin’ blink again. I could barely lift my foot the distance to the next step. I think it took an hour to get up all three flights and I was in excruciating pain by the time I made it to the third floor.
As I slid my key into the lock, I heard Dr. Phil from behind the door again. Peggy laughed at something on the TV and I smiled. Maybe this was a good thing. Maybe reconnecting with my wife was what I was supposed to be doing all this time. And I’d been spending it with the boys, down at the bar. I opened the door, threw my keys in the bowl by the door, and closed it behind me. I shook the snow off my jacket and hung it on the coat tree.
Then I heard Dr. Phil say, “Oh yeah, baby, ride me like a pony.”
What the hell? Ride me like a pony? And it struck me that this was not Dr. Phil’s voice. I walked into the bedroom to see my naked wife sitting on top of a man, who was also completely unclothed. They were getting it on and both sweating profusely. Peggy looked up and for just a second, she was happy to see me… I think. And then the shock set in. She jumped off the guy, wrapped the sheet over her chest as he stumbled off the bed trying to cover himself too.
“Honey,” she said running her hand through her wildly tangled hair, “what are you doing home so soon?”
I didn’t say a word. I turned around, grabbed my keys and my coat.
“Baby, wait,” I heard her call over the stumbling sound of someone trying desperately to pull clothes on.
I still said nothing. I had guessed something like this might happen. I mean, I was down in my back, so I definitely wasn’t satisfying her… but then again, I hadn’t been satisfying her before that anyway. It was true, we had become roommates and she had sought out the touch, the love, the satisfaction she needed elsewhere. Thank God, I hadn’t recognized the guy – I might’ve shot him. I had always thought it would be another cop I knew… someone from the force. But no… it was just some regular schmo she’d picked up somewhere. I waddled to the elevator, pushed the button and then swore to myself realizing that it was still broken.
Peggy called into the hall, “can’t we talk about this, Joe?”
“I’ve got nothing to say,” I answered her, “It’s okay. I’m not really that mad. Go back to doing what you were doing. I’ll be by in the morning to get my things.”
I climbed the God forsaken stairs down and ambled out into the cold. I walked intending to trudge over to Don’s place and see if I could stay the night. And that’s when I realized I was going to pass the alley where I’d been shot. I instinctively reached down and realized my pistol was no longer on my hip. But curiosity got the best of me… I poked my head into the alley. The snow was soft and deep and everything was quiet. I took two steps into the alley and stopped. I glanced behind me. Nothing. Nobody there. I was alone… well, not exactly alone.
I heard the soft mewing again. From behind the dumpster. I walked over and found him sitting there… shivering. I reached my hand down, which sent a sharp pain up my spine and I winced. The cat sniffed it carefully and then, stretching each leg out one at a time, he stood up. Arching his back under my hand, he let me pet him. He meowed and started purring. A wind gust hit me from behind, the air freezing the back of my neck. I figured if I left him out here tonight, he wouldn’t make it.
I put my hand under his belly and lifted him up, tucking him into my jacket. He curled up into a ball and nuzzled his head under my arm. Nice and cozy. I stood to go and I noticed a glint of something shiny underneath him. In another extreme act of defying pain, I knelt down again to pick it up. It was a gold tone pocket watch. I clicked it open. On the inside of the cover, it read: Thanks Bill. I slipped it into my pocket and left the alley.
The next couple of days, I grabbed my things from the apartment while Peggy stood around with her arms crossed. She went through several stages: crying, laughing, and shouting. But, I was gone. Mentally and then physically. And on Friday the thirteenth, I bought two plane tickets. One for me and one for… well, I think that’s when he got his name. I call him Lucky. That’s the day Lucky and I left New York forever and headed south… all the way south… to Key West.
Thanks for reading, more to come soon!