Authors: Jamie Sheffield
© Jamie Sheffield, 2013
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author /publisher.
Cover photo “Cold Whiskey” by Yekophotostudio, used with permission through Dreamstime.com.
by SmartPig through CreateSpace and Amazon.com KDP.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
SmartPig Office, Saranac Lake, 1/21/2013, 3:07 a.m.
When the phone vibrated in my pocket, I had just broken into (
with some difficulty
) the locked den of a locked house as a favor for my latest client (
who needed some pictures back quite desperately
). I pulled the phone out of my pocket (
not many people have my current number, so I assumed that it was important
), saw that it was a “911” text from Mickey, turned around, and let myself out in much the same way that I’d let myself in. Sheila wouldn’t be happy, but I was doing her a favor for money, and Mickey was my answer to family (
since everyone genetically related to me on the planet had died eleven and three-quarters years ago
). I got back to SmartPig as fast as I could, and called Mickey.
“Tyler, why are you awake at this hour?” asked a voice that I
eventually identified as belonging to Mickey Schwarz. It took me a few seconds to be certain that it was Mickey because his speech was both labored and clumsy (
and neither was the norm for Mickey, regardless of the hour
“Mickey, if you thought I’d be asleep, why did you text me?” I stood up quickly, displacing
my rescue beagle Hope, who had jumped onto my chest when I lay down on the couch in the world headquarters of SmartPig, my office, and lair, and home, and bat-cave. As I asked, it occurred to me that Mickey had never called me (
or anyone, as far as I knew
) at three in the morning. I broke back in to cut him off as he started to apologize for the lateness of the ….
“Mickey, what’s the matter? Are you and Anne and the girls OK? Where are you? What can I do?” These were the four questions that I needed to have answered immediately
. His ability to process the questions and answer them succinctly would give me more information about the state of affairs (
within one of the few people on Earth who can elicit something like an emotional response from me
) than the answers themselves would.
Mickey was in the circle of my parents’ friends who chose to educate their children outside of traditional schooling, by taking advantage of all that they, and the city of New York, had to offer young and hungry minds. Twenty-some years into the experiment, I would argue that it has worked out well for me, as the communal approach was more responsive to my social/educational needs (
) than either public or private schools would have been. When all the other doors in my old life slammed shut on 9/11/2001, Mickey was the one left partway open. It was important to me that he be all right.
“Tyler, I woke up in a hospital-bed fifteen minutes ago with a policeman outside the door. Anne and the girls are home, and fine. I’m in Syracuse, New York. I’m not sure that there’s anything that you can do, but I was scared
and lonely, and can’t call Anne … not yet.” Mickey had answered all of my questions, in order and efficiently, so he was still essentially Mickey; but, none of his answers made sense given the kind of person that he was … is.
Mickey, everything will be fine. Start by telling me about your injuries … were you in an accident?” I wanted to ask about the policeman, but needed to know about his physical condition first.
“I was apparently in a fight of some kind. I haven’t spoken to the attending yet, but my nose is
badly broken, I’ve got a split lip, my right eye is swollen nearly shut, it feels as though a number of ribs are cracked, and I’m sore all over. The policeman said that they responded to a call about a bar fight, found me alone outside of some bar, and took me to the ER to get checked out.” Mickey mumbled this last part, not entirely because of bar fight soreness; he was both ashamed and lost at sea.
Mickey consults at hospitals all over the country (
and the world
) as an oncologist. I would bet (
if I was the kind of person who placed bets
) that he had never been in a bar fight in his life; to the best of my knowledge he has never gotten a speeding ticket or a been cited for jay-walking before, either. He was deep into the weeds in this instance, and far outside of his comfort-zone.
“The officer outside my room when I woke up said that they weren’t going to arrest me for punching one of the cops that brought m
e in, because I was in an impaired mental state. They could tell that I didn’t know what was going on; but I may have to appear in court for a bunch of other charges related to what happened.”
“What did happen? Why are you in Syracuse? I’ll be there in a few hours, but why haven’t you called Anne?” I popped open the coke-fridge, grabbed two cans, opened one, and chucked Hope a handful of homemade dog-cookies while I started making mental lists and checking them twice (
not too concerned, as is my way, with naughty or nice
). Syracuse is about three hours away from my base of operations in Saranac Lake, depending on logging trucks and winter-driving conditions.
… was … here for a cancer-conference, and I’m reasonably sure that I slept with another woman last night.” He stopped talking to let his last words sink in … to shock me as much as they shocked him.
They didn’t, not that it wasn’t shocking, (
Mickey worships Anne
and their marriage, both the concept and the reality
), but I just don’t shock much in the regular course of events. It was certainly noteworthy, as Mickey had often spoken with disdain about people with ‘disposable’ marriages and lifelong promises that meant nothing; but I was more surprised than shocked.
“It happens Mickey
… it happens all the time. You should call Anne. Call her and tell her everything, or you could call her and not tell her; you could make it work either way.” I prepared myself for his explanation about why he couldn’t lie to Anne, and further, why he couldn’t tell her everything just yet. In a way, I was looking forward to (
and had even set Mickey up to go into
) one of his complex logical discourses on why the right thing to do is the right thing to do, even (
) when you could get away with a falsehood. I had enjoyed and appreciated exploring these constructs of his over the years, even if I didn’t always abide by them, and I hoped that his launching into one would give him some comfort on what sounded like a pretty rocky morning.
“Tyler, it gets worse
… there was a … he might have been her pimp … and there was video … I think … my brain still isn’t functioning too well, but I keep getting disturbing memory-snippets and flashbacks to this woman and me in bed, and then this guy yelling at me and slapping me and showing me a little video camera and a movie of me and the woman.” When Mickey choked out this last bit he sounded like he wanted to cry.
“Mickey, I know you are sore and tired and foggy, but this is important
… when she showed you the video and camera, what did it look like?”
Christ, Tyler, my life is literally in the toilet and you’re interested in …”
Mickey, shut up and think
… I’m not shopping for a new camera, I need to know this … what did it look like? Was the camera tiny, like a cellphone, or big like one that my mother and father used to have? Did it look heavy? Can you remember anything?”
… sorry Ty, I just ache all over and feel so stupid and can’t imagine what I’ll say to Anne or my colleagues or the police. Let me think … it was bigger than a cellphone and smaller than your parents’ camcorder … more like the size of a brick of Bustello (
Mickey drinks lots and lots of cheap/strong coffee that he buys in rectangular vacuum-sealed bags a bit smaller than a box of tissues
). Wait! I remember that she took out one of those little cassettes, and shook it in my face, and said something … I can’t recall what she said … sorry Tyler.”
“Mickey, you did great
… that helps. Now don’t talk to anyone about anything until I get there … except your doctor. Tell me what hospital and room you’re in, and I’ll see you soon.”
He told me, I hung up, made three quick calls to facilitate my next moves, grabbed gear for a week’s car-camping in the cold, and was out the door ten minutes later.
Route 3, heading west, 1/21/2013, 5:28
Dorothy had been my first call, and was my first stop; to drop off Hope and pick up some supplies. Dorothy runs the Tri-Lakes Animal Shelter (TLAS), and introduced Hope and me the previous summer (
a perfect and lucky moment for both of us in what turned out to be the most exciting/dangerous/law-breaking two weeks of my life
). Dot wasn’t happy to get my early morning call, but she had her lights on and a hug for both Hope and me as she handed over the waterproof container that had been waiting above the acoustic tiles in her bathroom for five years.
“What the hell are you into Tyler, and can I come along?” She asked as she handed over the OtterBox. She’d probably looked inside it within five minutes of my giving it to her (
Dorothy is able to resist anything except temptation
), and ten thousand dollars ‘in case’ money in a mix of bills will always raise both eyebrows and questions. I’d given it to her to hold for me ‘in case’ something happened and I needed a lot of money instantly … like tonight.
“Nope, your mission, should you choose to accept it, and even if you don’t, is to stay in town with Hope, since she hates every human on Earth besides the two of us, and I have to leave for a bit.” She looked disappointed, but understood, at least the bit about Hope.
“Tyler, what problem do you have that ten grand is gonna fix?” she persisted.
“It’s better if you don’t ask, and I don’t tell, and it’s entirely possible that I won’t need the money (
or at least not all of it
), but nobody ever got to the far side of a jam and wished that they’d had less money to grease their way through the tricky parts.” I answered her in a way designed (
) to head off any further questions … it did. I already had almost two thousand from the cache I kept at SmartPig, but I could always put any extra/leftover back in its hidey hole if I didn’t spend it all.
Dorothy and Hope wished me well, walked me back down to my packed and gassed Honda Element
. They faded into the dark quickly in my rearview mirror as I headed further west.
My next stop on the way to Syracuse was just outside the Adirondack Park, near Fine, NY. Dan was waiting for me outside of the cleverly named Dan’s Pawn (
Loans and Payday Advances - Checks Cashed
), which did a booming business with the soldiers at Fort Drum, although his laissez-faire business practices occasionally landed him in trouble (
which was, in fact, how we had met nearly four years earlier
). While his problem had been interesting to me, I found Dan himself to be a repellent and immoral man, who improved his lot in life by preying on those in need … that being said, sometimes a repellent and immoral person is useful to know and/or have around (
especially one who feels that he owes you a favor
Dan motioned me around the side of his building, and had me back
the Element into the attached garage. Before I had gotten out of the Element, he’d already opened the rear hatch and shoved in two obviously heavy and clanking duffels, and then met me with a handshake and an all-purpose grin/wink/head-bob that took in everything and meant nothing.
“Glad you called Tyler, I hate owing a man, and with this I figure we’re about even
… I guess I thought you’d forgotten my number.” Dan said to me as we walked back into his garage to lean against a dusty workbench for a minute.
“How could I forget your number Dan
? It’s the thirty-third number in Fibonacci’s sequence … if I could get a phone number like that, I’d stop using the burners, and settle down with one phone for the rest of my life.” I smiled at the thought, Dan looked as though he wanted to hit me with the weed-whacker growing rust next to him, and quickly changed the subject.
“I got fifteen, like you wanted, mostly 12s, some 20s, a couple .410s, and a 10-gauge
… a few rounds for each …” I cut him off.
“Dan, I told you, these will never be fired, I just need them clean and not easy to trace back.” I reminded him.
“Yup, I heard you, but nobody ever kept or sold a shotgun without some ammo … adds verisimilitude.” He grinned a gappy smile at me and added, “My wife Doris gave me a ‘word of the day’ calendar for Christmas, and verisimilitude was January 10
… been waiting to use it for almost two weeks now.”
I smiled goggle-eyed at Dan, and left him to guess whether I was faking surprise at his vocabulary or the fact that there was a person who would spend time with him (
and even give him gifts
) by choice.
“So what do I owe you?” I asked, eager to be on my way, thinking about Mickey in the hospital, hurt and scared and alone made me uncomfortable
in a way that I was entirely unaccustomed to.
“Call it a hundred per
… none of them are in great shape, but they’ll do for what you said.” Dan responded.
He looked suspicious when I counted out twenty hundreds, until I explained, “Like we agreed, these don’t go on a bill of sale, aren’t in your books, don’t get mentioned to Doris or anyone
… even through a lapsus linguae.”
He nodded, and put the money in his pocket, moving his lips through ‘lapsus linguae’ a few times to remember it for later, and waved me off as I drove away.
I stopped off at the Kwik-E-Mart on the way out of Fine to top up on gas and cokes and road-food (
donuts and pizza-flavored Combos
) in sufficient quantities to get me down to Syracuse; paying, as I would be for everything on this trip, in cash.