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DYING ON THE TOILET was not how I envisioned leaving this world.
“Ray Quinn, you’re a dead man!” The behemoth’s rumblings reverberated off the bathroom walls like a fully throttled Harley-Davidson.
I locked the stall door and shuffled back against the wall, my good leg using the toilet to keepme upright.My balance was still suspect after the shooting that destroyed my hip and pelvis eighteen months before. I pulled out my phone and typed a hurried text message to my partner, Crevis.
Trapped in bathroom w/maniac. Get here now!
“Where are you, you gumshoe rat?”The goon kicked in the stall door three down from me. Keith Wagner, my large and socially challenged pursuer, didn’t possess much of a sense of humor. His wife suspected he was being unfaithful and hired me to follow him. It wasn’t a difficult job, as he possessed a predilection for young ladies and excessive amounts of booze. Easy money, I thought. Now it seemed Keith was going to extract from my body every dollar his wife paid me.
The lovely and gracious Mrs.Wagner hadn’t thought it important to inform me that she confronted Keith and blamed everything on me until after she went to the gym and met some friends for a brunch date.
I got her flippant warning call as Keith followed me into the restaurant where I was meeting Crevis for lunch, so he was now on a quest to separate my head from the rest of my body. I ducked into the bathroom to avoid him. Not the smartest move I’d made in a while, because now I was cornered. And in my hobbled condition, I couldn’t outrun anyone anywhere. I hoped Crevis got my message, or he would be looking for another employer soon.
“So you wanna ruin other people’s marriages, do ya?” Another stall door fell victim to Keith’s raging foot.
Pointing out that it was his serial adultery and boorish behavior that led to his personal problems probably wouldn’t help the situation, so I remained quiet.
“You wanna stick your face into other people’s business?” The walls rocked again as the stall next to mine endured his assault. I aimed the weighty brass handle of my cane toward the door. Whatever he wanted to do to me would come at great cost.
The door handle jiggled. “Thought you could hide, did you—Ray Quinn, private eye?”
The door exploded open, and I was face to face with Keith, who stood a solid six foot three with a thick lumberjack build that made me wonder if this whole private-investigator gig was worth it. He worked his hands in and out like he was warming up his forearms to throttle me. He smirked, and I hammered the handle of my cane into his bearded face.
A meaty thump filled the air as one of Keith’s teeth smacked the mirror behind him and swirled around in the sink. Keith staggered back, blood pouring down his chin. He snarled—minus a front tooth—and charged back into the stall and snatched me by the neck, smacking the back of my head against the wall. He growled as his beefy hands wrapped around my throat; his crazed eyes widened as he squeezed down hard.
While trying to break his stranglehold, I reached back to my waistband holster for my Glock 9mm. Magilla Gorilla thumped my head against the wall twice more, trapping my pistol between my back and the wall. An uppercut to his man-spot elicited only a groan from him. A follow-up shot caused him to release his grip and stumble backward, hunched over and clutching his groin.
I stabbed the brass tip of my cane down on his foot with both hands, coaxing another yelp from him. He hopped backward on one leg, then fired a cranium-rattling punch intomy cheek, knocking me down onto the toilet. He grabbed me by the shirt and jerked me out of the stall, launching me through the air and dropping me on the sink counter. My cane slid across the floor toward the bathroom door. One of the faucets snapped as we wrestled on the sink top, spraying water like a fountain.
As Keith raised his fist to pound me, the bathroom door smacked against the wall, and Crevis Creighton stepped in.
Crevis, in his gray suit and fedora, streaked toward us and nailed Keith with his shoulder, driving him into the wall and off me. He locked Keith in a bear hug, pressing him against the wall. Keith pushed Crevis’s face back and took a wild swing. Crevis broke away and bobbed under the punch, his much-loved fedora falling to the floor. He fired two deep uppercuts to Keith’s floating ribs, just like I had coached him. Keith gasped and looped another much slower, feeble swing at Crevis, who stepped back out of range as the punch sailed past.Crevis snapped a round kick to Keith’s jaw, knocking him back against the wall. He slid down to the damp floor, unconscious.
The water from the broken faucet drenched us as I lay on the counter like a slab of so much pounded beef, my hip throbbing in pain.
“You all right, Ray?” Crevis said as he snatched his hat from the floor and affixed it back onto his head. Oblivious to the torrents of water jetting around us, he was quick to my side, as usual. The kid was consistent if nothing else. The look of concern on his face was genuine, but he’d seen me battered and beaten before. I’d get up.
I always did—one of my many faults.
“I’ll make it.” I started to scoot myself off of the counter and swing my legs to the floor. A searing bolt of pain rocketed down my spine and hip. “Maybe I’ll wait here for a minute.”
The romantic notion of being a private investigator—righting wrongs, searching for justice, and all the other drivel that zipped through my brain on occasion—seemed a bit foolish as I rested on a bathroom counter, nearly drowning in cold sink water.
Crevis’s gray suit was now a sooty black as the sink continued to spit water at us. Drops poured off the lip of his fedora like a rain gutter in a hurricane. My already broken body cried out again, even more than usual. I hoped Keith hadn’t destroyed any of the doctor’s work on my damaged hip and pelvis. When I caught my breath, I’d try to stand and test it out. But for a moment, I was quite comfortable lying there, taking an unplanned shower. “You might want to call OPD before this goon wakes up,” I said. “I don’t think he’ll be happy.”
Sliding his arm underneath mine, Crevis tipped me up into a sitting position. He eased me off the counter, then stepped over Keith, who was still taking a tile nap, to retrieve my cane for me.
Crevis had packed on about twenty pounds since we’d started working together. The kid had been in the gym every day, lifting weights and doing heavy bag workouts. I’d been coaching him on his boxing and kick-boxing skills, which I recognized now as an investment in my own health. A 9mm bullet to my side had ensured I would never hit the ring again. “Whose idea was this PI thing again?” I asked.
“Yours,” he said.
“Remind me to never listen to myself again.”
From the Trade Paperback edition.